Sending ‘Hand’made Hugs

Project Overview:  This project requires paint, paper and yarn or ribbon.  Depending on the ability of your child they may need help cutting out their hand print

If you have young children at home you are no stranger to painting I’m sure.  Recently I started letting them take their watercolors into the bathtub just so they could paint each others faces before getting clean (and I could avoid the unbelievable mess that seems to always accompany 3 little ones armed with paint brushes!)  Yesterday I was looking for a painting project that could double as a service project when I came across the idea of these “hand-print” hugs.  As you can see from the image above, the girls painted their hands and stamped them onto card stock.  We then cut the hands out, measured yarn to the girls’ wingspans and they taped the yarn to the dry hand-prints (tape – another toddler fav!)  Super simple.

But what to do with our hand-print hugs?  I needed look no further than Facebook for a little inspiration.  Sure I look at my friends kids, or follow some of my favorite TV shows, but Facebook can also be a great source to find those in need.  Recently a friend of mine participated in a polar bear plunge to raise funds for a little girl with cancer.  His post contained a link to her website which my girls and I went on.  Through pictures and journal entries, my girls and I started to feel a bond with this sick child and we all agreed that though she never met us, maybe getting a special package in the mail filled with ‘hugs’ would make her smile.   We decided to add some cards and a copy of my book and set off for the post office.

I think this experience highlights one of the keys to developing empathy in your child and having successful service project experiences.  It isn’t all about one major event, but a series a little ones where your children are personally involved.  From each small step in the process – making the hands, looking up the child online, making cards, packing them up, going to the post office – my girls understood a little more that there are other people out there that need help and we can try to do something about it.  In the end you hope that it made an impression on them.  When I heard my 6 year-old telling her friend after school about her “new friend that I sent a present to that has a football size tumor in her tummy” I was pretty sure I had.


Recognizing Jesus’ Voice

O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” Luke 10:21 

Our four-year-old granddaughter joined us for the Maundy Thursday service last week and I wondered if she’d last through the entire service. Between playing with her Littlest Pet Shop toys and the discomfort from a noticeably painful sty on her eyelid, I wasn’t sure she’d glean any wisdom. 

The music started and she hopped into my arms, ready to worship. Half-way through the first song she pointed to the inlaid cross above the baptistery and said, “Jesus died on that cross, you know, Grams.” “Yes, he did,” I replied. “That’s why we’re here tonight–to remember him and say ‘thank-you’ for dying on the cross.”

The next morning the swelling and redness caused by her sty dissipated. I mentioned how much better her eye looked and she immediately responded, “Yes, it is better. Last night in church I heard someone whisper, ‘Look at your sty. I’ve made it better.'”

“Who do you think whispered in your ear?” I asked. As any preschool girl with an overactive imagination might respond, she said, “I don’t know. I think it was Hello Kitty.” Hmmm. Now what? Obviously, she wasn’t making this up. Her eye was remarkably better, so I seized this teachable moment and continued the conversation.

“No, sweetheart, Hello Kitty isn’t real or alive. She’s just a cartoon character, but remember you mentioned Jesus died on the cross? Well, he is real and he didn’t stay dead. God raised him from the dead on Easter, made him alive again. He’s alive, with God, in heaven and he talks with us, just like he whispered in your ear last night. That voice? That whisper in your ear? That was Jesus. Jesus made your eye better.”

Throughout the day, I watched her eye for any reoccurring redness or swelling and periodically asked her if it still hurt, but her eye kept improving. When her parents arrived later Friday afternoon, the first thing her mother said was, “Wow! Your eye is all better.” She looked up from her artwork and answered, “Yes, Jesus made it better.”

Although she didn’t recognize Jesus’ voice at first, does not negate the fact that she heard him whisper, “I’ve made it better.” Rather than dismiss a preschooler’s seemingly imaginative comments of a Jesus-encounter, recognize its reality and validity. We say that Jesus is alive. We sing it. We teach it to our children. Then let’s be quick to help them identify those Jesus-whispers in their lives.

Jesus has an irrefutable affection for children because they’re uncomplicated and transparent and possess a stronger, simpler faith than ours. It’s not surprising he still spends time with them, is it? Wasn’t it Jesus who said, ““Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)?  

Teaching Little Ones About God

When I was teaching preschool, a mother of a four-year-old boy asked me when she should talk to her son about God. Since I was teaching in a Christian preschool, the question surprised me. And since I was recently married with no children, I couldn’t speak from experience.  I can’t remember exactly what I told her, but I know I assured her that her son was ready to learn simple spiritual truths, and that she could certainly talk to her son about God. Now that I am a mother of three grown children, as well as a grandmother, the answer would roll off my tongue: You begin teaching your children about God from the day they are born.

It begins in the rocking chair—singing Jesus Loves Me while feeding your precious pink bundle, or praying over your infant son as you tuck him into his baby blue swaddle.  It continues with boardbooks and picture books about God, Jesus, and the Bible. As babies grow into toddlers, outdoor walks give many opportunities to talk about nature and our Creator—the sun in God’s big sky, the pretty flowers He makes, and the birds who chirp His praises.

Time spent in the car running errands can include praise songs for little ones to listen to. Mealtime prayers and   bedtime stories are other opportunities for children to learn about God throughout the day.The key to teaching your little ones about God is to be consistent and to incorporate prayer and Bible stories into their daily routines. Children thrive on routine, and once you establish a regular time, your children will not let you skip no matter how tired you may be!

One of my books for little ones is The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers (Tyndale). This small, chunky book contains 366 short devos for little ones. Each daily reading includes a very short, age-appropriate devotional, a Bible verse, and a short rhyming prayer. This book is a part of Tyndale’s  Little Blessings® line, and is illustrated with the adorable art of Elena Kucharik, the creator of the Care Bears. 

I am thrilled when parents tell me how much their children like Devotions for Preschoolers, and how they read it over and over again. But another blessing is that the parents who read the book to their children are also taking in some good reminders for themsevles. When God’s truth is in simple language, it is often the most powerful.

It’s never too early to talk to your children about God, and it’s never too late to begin the discipline of having daily devotions with your children. 

Love your little blessings. Hug and kiss them often. Pray with them every day.


(It’s Not Such) a Brave New World

[Part I of 2 parts on the Sexualization of Our Children: Entertainment Media]

The phrase, “It’s a brave new world,” is often used to extol the virtues of our ever-changing culture. Technological advances of the past 100 years seem to dwarf advances made during the previous 1000 years. Even changes in the past ten years have our heads spinning. (On a personal note, I’m still struggling with using a smart phone that often seems smarter than I am!) Adults and children are bombarded with a variety of media methods and content.

But it’s not all brave…or even good. The content of much of our entertainment media has been sexualized – either overtly or covertly. And our children are not immune to its influence.

I recently participated in a webinar conducted by Elizabeth Smith, professor in the Children’s Ministry and Youth Department of Moody Bible Institute. She offered these statistics:

–  8- to18-year-olds average 7 hours and 38 minutes daily in using entertainment media.

–  Since they multi-task (which means they often use more than one medium at a time), they actually consume 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content in those 7 hours and 38 minutes.

–  Sexual content appears in 64% of all television programs.

–  Music videos contain an average of 93 sexual situations per hour.

A report from The Child Study Center of New York University notes that we are raising a generation of “super-sexualized” young people. Children around the country are being exposed to an onslaught of sexual messages that come at them with the speed of light from all directions and on an on-going and daily basis. They can come from print media, television, movies, videos, music, the Internet, the child’s neighborhood or home. Even news stories about the latest political scandal.

Exposure to sexual messages may delay emotional, spiritual, and social development and result in immaturity and/or irreparable damage. All because a child is so impressionable.

Our children are in the cross-hairs of an entertainment industry that does not have their best interests at heart. Rather than wave the white flag of surrender, we must be intentional about our response.

Smith offers the following suggestions:

1.  Promote truth in our own lives.

Rather than allow the culture to make us defensive or apologetic, we must use every opportunity to live out the truth of God’s Word in our own lives. Children don’t just listen to our words, they watch our actions, too. If the media we take in is too “mature” for children, we need to ask ourselves if it is appropriate for a child of God of any age!

2.  Proclaim truth in the lives of children.

Take every opportunity to proclaim truth to children. Be alert to teachable moments described in Deuteronomy 11:18-20.

3.  Deal with the sexualization of children from a biblical foundation.

Theological concepts are not always easy for adults to process, but there are ways to present biblical truth to children. Process the following questions for yourself, then consider how to introduce these questions to your children:

–       What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

–       What does it mean that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

 How can we care for our bodies to reflect this truth?

 –       What does Scripture say about sexual purity – physically and in our thought life?

Of course, there’s one more thing we can do – and it’s the first and most important thing we can do. We can pray for our children.

We can’t afford to be ostriches with our heads in the sand. It’s not always a brave, new world. Sometimes it’s a sad, depraved world. But we have the comfort and assurance of knowing that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4)!

How are you building a biblical foundation into your children?