Time for a New Shell?

When I was younger, I had a pet hermit crab. I’d found the sweetest little salt-water crab on the beach, but my parents told me that I couldn’t keep “Hermie” since we didn’t have a saltwater fish tank at home and weren’t about to invest in one. Instead, they bought me a fairly large-sized, land-abiding hermit crab and a little plastic carrying case at one of the island souvenir shops. I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand why anyone would want a hermit crab for a pet, but at this time, it was all the rage, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

At the store they explained to me that as hermit crabs grow, they need to change shells. The shell is like their permanent home and they have to find one that fits them just right, so it would be important for me to have a couple of different-sized shells around so that the newly-dubbed “Hermie the Second” could make the transition when the time came.

When I got Hermie home, I was filled with the excitement that any new pet brings. I enjoyed watching him crawl along the living room floor or across the bottom of the bath-tub (which is where I would leave him to play for extended periods since he didn’t require supervision.) Per the advice of the man at the souvenir shop, I would leave the bath-tub filled with shells of different sizes, just waiting for the day when Hermie would make his move.

But as I suppose happens all too often with small pets, soon the novelty of Hermie wore off. I was too busy to fill up the bath-tub with shells and little cups of water whenever I had to leave, and it became increasingly easier to just leave him in his cage, forgotten. Then one day, a friend of mine came over to play and I thought how cool it would be to show off my pet hermit crab.

“Would you like to meet Hermie?” I asked, as I ran to the bathroom to pull his cage out from its hiding spot. But to my surprise, when I held up the cage, I found Hermie dead, his body detached from his shell. I was horrified. It was the first time I had seen Hermie out of his shell, and he looked so delicate and fragile. Of course, I had my friend to think about, and it was quite embarrassing to show a friend your dead pet, so I tried to redirect her attention and tuck him away as quickly as possible before she knew what a horrible pet owner I was. And that, my friends, was the end of poor Hermie.

This week I had cause to think about Hermie as I paused to think about spiritual growth. As Christians, we are meant to be in a state of constant spiritual growth. We should not be content with the same degree of faith for 5, 10, 20 or 50 years, any more than Hermie was content to stay in his same shell for the brief period of his lifetime. Instead, we should be seeking to have our faith enlarged and deepened each and every day.

It’s interesting to me how much stock we put in physical growth. We have all sorts of measures that help us to determine if a child or adult is on pace physically and/or developmentally. And if a child shows signs of being behind, it’s often a major cause of worry for the parents who wonder what other difficulties this lack of growth might foreshadow.

But rarely do we become so concerned with our spiritual growth. In fact, there are many Christians who have grown very little in the many years since they accepted Christ. This truth is reflected in the fact that oftentimes our churches are filled with spiritual babies when they should be filled with the spiritually elderly. There are people who have known Christ for their whole lives, but somehow they never began to feel like their “shell” was too small — like there was more for them to know and experience of the Lord. And so, I imagine, they became complacent, and later, stunted in their growth.

I don’t know about you, but as I consider my own spiritual growth, sometimes I think that I should be in a much bigger “shell” than I am by now. I should trust more. I should have a deeper, more unshakable faith. I should pray and commune with God more, and more naturally than I do. After all these years, it seems like that would only be right. But spiritual growth takes work and discipline. It also requires desire. As Oswald Chambers said: “The time that elapses between new birth and total sanctification depends entirely on the believer.” This is certainly something worth pondering.

I believe that we need to begin looking at lack of spiritual growth as a cause for great concern. After all, look at what happened to poor Hermie the Second. When he couldn’t grow, he died. And I think sometimes the same is true in our faith. If our faith isn’t growing, then maybe, just maybe, it’s dying. (Don’t misunderstand me on this – I’m not talking about seasons of faith here. Certainly we go through seasons where believing is easy and free and other seasons when the circumstances of life make believing feel like a chore – but growth is taking place in both of these seasons.)

So the question is: What step will you take today toward your own spiritual growth? Also, is there someone in your life who you could encourage on the journey and spur on toward greater growth? Perhaps it’s your child or a child at the church. If so, ask the Lord to give you the right words and actions to help them in their spiritual growth.

Whatever you do, don’t get complacent! God has more in store for us than we could possibly imagine – so why are we content to stay in our tiny shells of faith when greater ones await?

A Rabbit Tale

Something about bunnies fascinates children–and children’s authors and illustrators!

A quick list includes Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, Du Bose Heyward’s Country Bunny, Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s Little Nutbrown Hare, Kate DiCamilo’s Edward Tulane, and Margery Williams’s Velveteen Rabbit. OH, and of course the mother and toddler pair in Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s Goodnight Moon.

The little guy in the photo is Pepe, a handsome Dutch rabbit with a silky coat and a curious mind. Pepe lived with us the past five and half years, since he was two years old. Sadly, we had to say good-bye to Pepe recently.

Pepe was always happy to be petted, always ready with a dance around our feet when it was time for dinner, always willing to make up quickly when we came home after an extended time away. And often willing to “binky” down the hallway just for fun.

The back three rooms of our home were “his”–with electric cords encased in plastic and off the floor. His 4 x 4 crate in my office remained open from the time we got up until bedtime, and he could go anywhere he wanted in his three rooms. Stretched out at my feet while I worked at my desk was one of his favorite spots.

I’ve been thinking about our time with Pepe. Though our lives changed a lot, Pepe remained a constant. Here are five things I learned from this little four-pound wonder that I hope I always remember.

1. Enjoy what you’ve got. House rabbits are just that–HOUSE rabbits. Some owners do create outdoor pens so their house rabbits can enjoy fresh air and sunshine, but most house rabbits, or “urban rabbits,” stay indoors. Well cared for and well provided for, Pepe enjoyed his life and never complained.

I have MUCH to be thankful for, and each new day offers many gifts, even if I never do some of the things on my “if money and time were no object” list.

2. Ask for what you need. Rabbits are social animals who often bond for life. Whenever Pepe wanted his nose stroked or his ears scratched, he’d be right underfoot, nudging us until he got the attention he wanted. He came running to his crate whenever it was time for pellets or greens, and if I was late about putting them out, he stared at me until I complied.

Knowing what we need and being able to ask for it is a good grown-up skill to have. Other people are not mind readers.

3. Pay attention and ask questions.  Pepe observed what went on around him, and he loved to explore. When the TV room became a bedroom and play room our grandson’s sleepovers, Pepe investigated every inch and every item. When we traveled and neighbors came in to care for him, Pepe sized them up quickly, decided they were OK, and came running to meet them from then on.

Live in the present–not the past or the future. Stay attuned to the people and situations around you today.

4. Stretch yourself to help a friend. During Pepe’s illness, I had to stretch–a lot. I learned to wrap him up in a towel–the “bunny burrito”–to force feed him when he wasn’t eating. I learned to give injections, meds by mouth, and fluids under the skin. I didn’t think I could do any of these things, but I could and I did, and they helped make things a little easier for Pepe.

Sometimes we just don’t know what we are capable of until we try.

5. Say “I love you” every day. I said this a lot while Pepe was sick. Then I wondered if I had said it enough while he was healthy and strong. I think I probably did not. I think he probably knew he was loved, but I wish I’d said it more, just the same.

Consider your actions. Live with purpose.

Despite all the bunny love in children’s books, bunnies DON’T make good pets for young children. They are easily frightened by too much noise, quick movements, and aggressive handling. But for older children and adults, if you’re willing to invest and learn and stretch yourself a bit, you just might find yourself loving and thankful for an intelligent, soft, furry creature with very big ears!

How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.–Psalm 104:24 NIV

We adopted Pepe from the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of the House Rabbit Society, a wonderful rescue and education organization. We also were blessed to find a veterinary practice offering specialized care for rabbits, Glenway Animal Hospital.

DIANE

Visit Diane at www.abibleplace.com
© 2012, Diane Stortz

 

Memory Makers – Summer Service Projects

It was a real eye-opening Sunday for me recently when our pastor’s talk at church focused on priorities.  Be it consciously or subconsciously, he explained that we do make time for things that are priorities in our lives.  Looking back over the last couple of days or weeks, what were your real ‘priorities’ based on how you actually spent your time.  Want to spend more time reading to your children, fostering friendships or building your relationship with God – do the hours of your day reflect this?

As parents it often feels like you are running from one necessity to another, and I have found that without thoughtful planning days can easily just slip by without time spent on the things that I really want to do.  Is spending time with your kids serving others something that you have been meaning to do?  Has it just not seemed to find it’s way to the top of the list?  Start now!  I encourage you to try one family service project activity a month this summer, I will be doing this same.  Be deliberate, plan, put it on the calendar, make serving others this summer a real priority!

Not sure where to start?  On my blog, the little hearts project, I recently posted a Super Six service project idea post which can be found here.   Want two of my favorite ideas perfect for summer, how about these:

Look out for your neighborhood mailman and garbage man.  Today as the temperatures soared into the mid 90’s in Michigan it was pretty brutal on those people who have to walk around outside for a living.  So my 3 year old and I gathered several cold drinks and distributed them to our mail carrier, the UPS guy and a person fixing the cable lines.  Such a simple unexpected gesture was truly appreciated by those that received it.  My three year old couldn’t believe how happy they were just to get a cold drink and was eager to find others we could help out!

Volunteer to take care of a neighbors flowers.  Part of our summer routine includes my almost two year old and I watering our potted plants everyday.  She loves to tote around her watering can, which is so small it requires about a dozen refills just to water 3 pots!  As your neighbors take off for summer vacations, offer to take care of their plants while they are gone.  While teaching responsibility and serving others, nothing goes together better in the summer months than kids and water!

I hope these ideas inspire you to make some great family memories this summer and to spend some time on your real priorities!

www.thelittleheartsproject.blogspot.com

www.hollyskeltonbooks.com

 

 

How I Got to Auntie’s House
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Many ask me how I became a writer and I always answer, “I’ve always written.”

When I was a young girl, I found writing a natural form of expression. I kept journals as early as fifth grade, but I never considered writing professionally until college. I first pursued radio and T. V. journalism, but found news writing boring. Then, I discovered a creative writing class where I learned the power of words; how word choices and their arrangement evoked specific emotions in my readers. Until five years ago, I didn’t know what to do with this skill beyond personal journaling.

Recuperating from a serious concussion and forced to leave my job in 2007, I found myself unable to do anything except read, write, and pray for months. During this time of physical healing God not only taught me the art of abiding in Him, but also the freedom that comes through offering forgiveness – freedom that released my passion for writing.

Within two years, my personal writing hobby turned into my calling – what I knew God created me to do from the beginning. Children’s books were not on my radar, but God dropped a story into my heart and Halo published my first children’s book, Auntie’s House, on February 14, 2009 – God’s personal Valentine’s gift to me. This endearing picture book, inspired by my great niece, Maya, addresses childhood separation anxiety through a nonthreatening, rhythmic verse that engages preschoolers and primary students alike.

Beyond Auntie’s House, I’m writing an adult, nonfiction book for daughters of divorce. Here, I relate my personal faith journey of forgiveness and encourage other daughters of divorce to start their own journey toward healing, forgiveness, and freedom in Christ.

Currently, between home, sharing Auntie’s House, and my new part-time job, you’ll find me blogging four days a week on Dawn’s New Day, an inspirational blog that tells of God’s unfailing love and occasionally contributing stories to Encouragement Cafe and right here on the Christian Children’s Authors blog. Please drop in anytime! I just love making new friends.

There’s also a few more children’s stories running around in my imagination that should resolve themselves soon, so stay tuned!

Blessings,
Dawn Aldrich
Twitter: @DawnAldrich
 

It All Belongs to Him

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 24:1–The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Can any statement be more simple and yet more powerful? King David sums it up in a nutshell. No room for debate—just the plain and simple and powerful truth! It all belongs to Him—and so do we.

I have always been a lover of nature—and the Creator of it all. Even as a little girl, I saw God’s presence in the vast, endless sky, the colorful flowers, and the mighty roar of Lake Michigan’s waves. In the fall I used to watch busy squirrels gathering acorns and hiding them away for the long, cold months ahead. I never wondered how the squirrels knew when it was time to prepare for winter. It was obvious to me—God told them! And the first snowflake of the season was almost as fun as Christmas morning. My childlike faith was once again affirmed—only God could make a snowflake.

As an adult, one of my favorite activities is going for a walk—all by myself. Whether I walk the neighborhood streets, or the sandy shores of the Atlantic (I now live in Florida), I see God all around me. The sky, the clouds, the birds, the trees, and even a wiggly worm on the sidewalk, all remind me that God made it and He owns it all. I love to talk to God as I take my stroll. I call it my “walk” with God. It’s so natural and easy to talk to Him when He feels close. One day when I was walking in my neighborhood, the sky was thick with white and gray swirling clouds. A tiny break in the clouds allowed a narrow sunbeam to touch the earth for just a moment. It was one of those divine moments when I felt like God was revealing His glory just to me. I was humbled and thought, Who am I Lord, that you would show yourself to me? God replied, You are mine. I love you.

This past Memorial weekend, we spent some time at a quiet beach with our grown children and my precious granddaughter. As I relaxed in the warm sunshine and felt the sand between my toes, I soaked in the pleasure of being surrounded by nature. I also had the joy of watching my grandbaby take in the sights and sounds and textures of God’s creation. As she sat in the sand, the Psalmist’s words came to my mind—The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Here’s to seeing God in His world.

Crystal Bowman