Christmas, Favorites

What Should I Give?*

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 (ESV)

For me, November used to be when I finished Christmas shopping, not when I started. Throughout the year, I scoured stores for ideas and vacation gift shops for memorable reminders of family times. I wrapped gifts as they were bought so they were ready to place as soon as the tree was decorated.

One child’s favorite wrapping paper.

As much as I felt organized, I wish I had known the ditty below. I might have made better choices.

Give your children

Something they want,

Something they need,

Something to wear, and

Something to read.

What do your children want? What do they need? What should they wear? What should they read?

*Another version of this blog appeared November 15, 2020.

Favorites, Friendship, Parenting

I Need Holding Help (From June 21 2020)

A republished blog for the third anniversary of 100 words.

For weeks, I listened to a tough, tender former Army Ranger instruct his children.  “Do not say, ‘I can’t.’ Instead, say, ‘This is hard. I need help.'” 

He drilled his children. “Yes, you can. It may be hard. You may need help, but you can do it.”

One Saturday, I was hiking in a rain forest in Brazil with this cousin and his four children. We had strayed from the main trail in order to explore, and the miles were adding up. The almost-four-year-old turned to me and said, “This is hard. I need help.”

“What kind of help?” I asked.

“Holding help.”

I picked him up and carried him for a while.

Trails in Guaratiba, Brazil where my cousin’s preschool son required “Holding Help.” (Below, I am in the pink top.)

I took hold of my cousin’s response to “I can’t.” It acknowledges the hard we face. It avoids the argument about whether something can or cannot be done. It supplies a solution.

Do you need holding help for your hard? Does someone need your holding help for their hard?

Favorites, Parenting

Mundane Rules (From June 5th 2020)

A republished blog for the third anniversary of 100 words.

I asked my five-year-old cousin what was his favorite part of my visit to his home in Louisiana. His answer? “You waiting for me when I got off the school bus.”

Three years later, he was asked his favorite times with his mother who was dying of cancer.  His answer? “Mommy playing games with me while we waited for the school bus.” His favorite game involved counting colors of passing cars.

Being met at the school bus. Waiting for the school bus. Both outweighed adventures such as sunset boat rides, trips to Avery Island to watch alligators, and playing on the ever-changing beach of Rio de Janeiro.

How are these answers relevant to parenting and educating our children? Along the way, I learned that day-to-day life matters more and will be remembered more than elaborate vacations, carefully planned birthday parties, science fairs, team sports, and field trips.

The mundane stays in our children’s memories because of the repetition and the emotions attached.  I wish I had known earlier to make the most of the smaller moments.  Mundane rules, which can be very good news.

Which mundane moments are your favorites?

Favorites, Friendship

Exceptional Hospitality

Along the way, I learned much from experiencing memorable welcomes in homes.

In 1974, my Sunday School teachers—a married couple with young children—invited my class to their modest home for a sit-down dinner. Excluding bathrooms, every room was set for food—TV trays and card tables abounded. Their goal was to feed college students, not impress. I was impressed.

During dinner, Carol jumped up from her table, snatched a vase, and said “I forgot that I promised to return this yesterday.” Off she went. Laughing, she returned minutes later. “My neighbor forgot I had it.” Carol and Mike’s realness ministered to this teenager.

In 1982, an elder and his wife invited our entire church—hundreds and hundreds—to their farm for games and a potluck. Their property was massive. Their house wasn’t. The women stood in line to use the master bathroom. The room was clean, but cluttered. We navigated piles of neatly stacked books. The bed contained loads of clothes to be folded. Surfaces overflowed with carefully arranged papers. The woman in front of me turned and said, “Now this is what I call hospitality.” Her words stuck.

Oh, to welcome people so freely!