Kindness Matters

It has actually been quite a while since my last post.  My New Year began with a bang!  A urinary tract infection, that was resistant to 3 antibiotics, that eventually turned into a kidney infection,  laid me flat on my back.  Not quite how I expected to greet the New Year!  Sometimes life throws us a few curve balls and we have to just roll with the punches.  Nevertheless, in the midst of my health hoop-la, I was unable to write posts on my blog.  Therefore, it is wonderful to finally be feeling better, to be on the mend, and to get back to writing.

Now, onto a topic that is dear to my heart- KINDNESS.  What is kindness?  Webster’s Dictionary defines kindness as having a loving, helpful and considerate nature. In my mind, kindness goes hand in hand with the word RESPECT.  The definition for respect is: showing esteem, admiration, courtesy, and proper acceptance.

I grieve that as a 64 year old grandmother I see kindness and respect evaporating from the society and culture that we currently live in.  I was familiar with the time-honored tradition of looking people in the eye when passing in the market place, smiling and saying hello and receiving the same response, many times even engaging in small talk while waiting in lines at stores.  In today’s world, most people won’t dare make eye contact.  Everyone is in such a rush.  Eyes are most often diverted to cell phones as people rush to get on elevators where heads are lowered and a word is not spoken, unless it is to mention what floor is their destination.  Respect previously was shown to teachers, pastors, police, and to people in positions of authority.  No more.  Actually there seems to be no comprehension of what the word “respect” means.  No understanding of what manners are.  Now, I acknowledge that we have had many reasons to have had our concept of “respect” shattered with all of the scandals with public figures who we have trusted, having their ivory castles dissolve into sand.

Yet, we as a society, nonetheless, have to stand up for what is right and stand on Biblical principles that we need to teach our children as the next generation that will be leading our land.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Jesus states that the greatest commandment is in Matthew 22:37-39                                            “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Therefore if we are to base our values on these verses; loving God and loving our neighbor as ourself- being kind and compassionate to others and forgiving them because Christ forgave me, we have to purposefully take steps to live out our lives as adults modeling these concepts.  

It is of utmost importance that our children know that they need to lead with kindness and respect for all people.  So how does that play out?

We as parents and grandparents have to be the ones who teach our children kindness and respect.  In the article “The Art of Teaching Children Kindness and Respect” from the blog, Dirt&Boogers, Amanda states that when she and her husband began dating that they set values for their relationship.  The two main ones were being respectful and showing kindness.  They chose to respect each other in private and in public.  They would not speak bad about each other.  They would respect each other’s feelings, time, and space.  They would love each other, so they would respect each other.  They would also be understanding of each other and show kindness to each other.  They would do kind things for one another and respond to each other with kind words.  When their children were born, they attached these words to their family in a deep way.  “Our family is kind and respectful.”  That became their mantra, it became how they described their family and everyone in it.  Those 2 words became the foundation of their family.

Every interaction that the family has with each other is run through the filter of “Is this kind and respectful”?  If one of their children does something that is not kind, he is reminded that “Our family is kind and that what he did was not kind.”  Then they problem solve together and figure out what he can do next time, or what he should do now to repair the situation.

The parents are held to the same standards.  If mom and dad make mistakes and are not kind and respectful, they apologize that they yelled and admit that it was not the kind and respectful thing to do.  This shows that everyone lives up to the same standards set for them.

On another blog, “Sleeping Should Be Easy, Everything I’m Learning About Being a Mom” is an article about “The Healing Power of Kindness”.  The article by Lloyd Dean and James Doty, MD speaks about a growing body of scientific evidence at Stanford University that indicates that kindness holds the power to heal.  The Dignity Health/CCare Scientific Literature Review shows that when patients are treated with kindness--when there is an effort made to get to know them, empathize with them, communicate with them, listen to them and respond to their needs–it can lead to the following outcomes:  faster healing of wounds, reduced pain, reduced anxiety, reduced blood pressure, and shorter hospital stays.  The research also shows that when doctors and nurses act compassionately, patients are more likely to be forthcoming in divulging medical information,which in turn leads to more accurate diagnoses.

Kindness does matter.  It does make a difference in people’s lives.

Proverbs 16:24 states “Kind words are like honey- sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Biblical principals back up what the scientific research is showing us today.  Likewise, shouldn’t we open our eyes and see the truth?

Nina Garcia writes in her blog Sleeping Should Be Easy, an article entitled “How to Raise a Kind Child”.    In her article she lists 8 Ways to Raise a Kind Child.

  1.  Show gentleness– Our kids need to know how to be gentle, whether it is hugging a new baby sister or petting the cat, or playing with a stuffed animal.
  2. Don’t tolerate rudeness towards you or anyone These are manners you shouldn’t tolerate in your kids.  Nip it in the bud.  Raise kids who don’t talk back.  Enforce rules consistently, regardless of circumstances, don’t let them excuse him from being mean.
  3. Encourage helpfulness- and don’t reward it–   Genuine helpfulness should come from within.  Kids should be kind because they derive internal joy from being so and because it is the right thing to do, not because they get attention and money.
  4.  Praise their character, not behavior  You want your child to associate kindness as part of their makeup.  Saying “You’re so kind”, would have more impact than “You did a kind thing.” In praising a child’s kind character instead of his kind behavior, you are helping cement the idea they he is indeed a kind person.
  5. Don’t focus so much on achievement  Winning isn’t everything.  When everything is about competition your kids lose sight of other more noble pursuits: teamwork, effort, challenging oneself.  They might grow up narcissistic instead of empathetic.  Aiming so high at all costs leads your kids to focus only on themselves and see others as mere props or competitors.
  6. Point out kindness– Whether theirs or others- point out acts of kindness you see.  When reading books or watching movies, discuss good deeds the characters are doing.  Talk about how their kindness made others feel.  Also point out when characters aren’t being kind.
  7. Model kindnessParenting starts with us.  We need to model the values we want our kids to emulate.  Be genuinely kind in actions and words.  Your actions will teach your child more than any lecture or lesson could.
  8. Express empathyIt is even more important for your kids to be able to show empathy for what others must be feeling.  Empathy allows us to see beyond ourselves and therefore opens us to kindness.  The Golden Rule- “Treat others like you want to be treated.”

When I was teaching I had a poster in my class that we would refer to when needed.  This was what the poster stated:

                                                   Before You Speak  

                                                            THINK !

                                                       T – Is it True?

                                                       H – Is it Helpful?

                                                       I – Is it Inspiring?

                                                       N – Is it Necessary?

                                                       K – Is it Kind?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

It was very helpful in teaching children that they don’t have to say everything that comes into their mind.  For instance, if a child comes in with a shirt or hat that another child views as ugly, that child should keep his comments to himself.  If the shirt has a character on it that another child does not like, he should not poke fun at the child for wearing the shirt, but stay silent, because that could hurt the child’s feelings.  The same goes with eating food at lunch.  We have a multi-cultural group of children these days, who eat a variety of foods.  Some children eat sushi or seaweed for lunch.  Other kids should not make comments about another child’s food.  That is inappropriate and unkind.  The bottom line is the Golden Rule.  Would you like someone doing that to you?  Everyone is different.  You don’t have to like what they like.  It is o.k. if they eat or wear something different than you.  Some kids have allergies and can not eat what other kids eat at lunch. We need to have respect for each person’s differences and show kindness to all people.

I still believe in the magic words.  You may be wondering what the magic words are.   Please and thank you.  I so rarely hear them anymore.  The dinner table is the perfect place to begin to work on manners.  If Ben would like some more potatoes, then he may ask:  “May I please have some more potatoes?”  Then after he has been served his potatoes, he is to say:  “Thank you.”  Kids should say “Thank you.” to Mom for preparing the meal.  When a child is finished eating she may ask:  “May I be excused?”   In some families the kids take their plates and clean them off and put them in the dish washer, or put them on the counter, as part of their chores for the day.  The child also pushes in her chair.

When using the bathroom, to show courtesy and respect, the child should make sure that the seat is down.  If the child left any sprinkles on the seat, he should make sure to wipe them off.  He should also make sure to flush the toilet and make sure all of the toilet paper is in the toilet.  Then, he is to wash his hands and turn off the light before leaving the bathroom.

Teach your sons to be gentlemen and hold the door open for the ladies.  Help your kids to see that it is kind to help an elderly person with her heavy bags or with taking a cart back at the store.  Model that behavior, as a behavior that you want your kids to emulate.

By sharing kindness and respect with all who we encounter in the world today, we can make this world a better place.  We can spread the light within us and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

                                                             This Little Light Of Mine

                                     This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.                                                                                                                                              

                                     This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  

                                     This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.    

                                           Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.    

                                           by Avis B. Christiansen and Harry D. Loes

Here are some resources that you may enjoy.

20 Ways to Teach Kids About Respect

Teaching Respect to Children

How to Respond When Your Child is Disrespectful?

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith     

Making All Things New

There is something about the New Year that is clean and refreshing, vibrant and robust.  It is where I can symbolically push old baggage to the side and get a fresh start trying something new.  I always have an excitement about the New Year because it is as if I have been given an empty sheet of white paper where nothing has been written.  I am the one who has a choice of what is to be written on that paper.  What will it be?  How shall I begin my year?

Choices.  Shall I begin my year calling all the shots?  Will I be the one who is in control?  Honestly, I will have to confess that I am not my best master.  In fact, I am a horrible ruler of my own soul.  I make countless mistakes, if left to my own volition.  Therefore, I am not the best lord of my own fate.  Yet, the thought of making positive changes to make certain aspects of my life or the lives of those around me better bring me great joy.  I am always ready and willing to dash and clamour to climb up onto the bandwagon if I believe that I can even begin making some minor change in my life that will actually be an improvement that will benefit myself and others.  For I see change as a constant process that is continually happening all around us and within us.

Many shy away from the act of making resolutions in the New Year, often due to the fact that most people actually don’t keep the promises that they make. surveyed over 5,000 people on their New Year’s Resolutions for 2016.  The top 6 resolutions were the following:

  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Live a healthier lifestyle
  • Lose weight
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Save more, spend less
  • Pay down debt

These resolutions are given as the top resolutions to make for 2016, yet I came upon another list that laid out the Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions.  They are:

  • Lose weight and get fit
  • Quit smoking
  • Learn something new
  • Eat Healthier and diet
  • Get out of debt and save money
  • Spend more time with family
  • Travel to new places
  • Be less stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink less

Why is it that we have such grand ideas at the beginning of the year that gradually putter out and vanish into thin air?  One study below, suggests that it is the way that we “phrase” our resolutions.  We should ask ourselves, instead of making a statement.

From a study just published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology researchers analyzed findings from 104 past studies, all of which looked at the question-behavior effect” or how answering a question about a specific behavior influences whether or not you’ll engage in that behavior.   According to the researchers, you’re much more likely to influence behavior using questions instead of statements.    Thus, researchers encourage people to use questions as New Year’s resolutions as motivators to trigger a psychological response by prompting people to remember why something is important.

Others might say that our resolutions aren’t specific enough.  They need to be written more like goals, with steps that you will take to meet that goal, and a target date when you hope to meet your goal.  For children and families I think that this is very important.  Life is constantly changing.  Children and parents, alike, are in the perpetual flux of going through one stage into the next.  Their wants and needs adjust as they grow and mature.

Hence, with all of that said, I believe that the first step in making New Year’s Resolutions needs to be a quiet time with you and God and your clean sheet of white paper.  You need to go before the Lord acknowledging that you know that He has plans for a hope and a future for you.(Jeremiah 29:11).  He has created you and given you the gifts and the talents that you have.  He also knows the weaknesses and shortcomings that plague you.  Ask God   where He wants you to change and how He wants you to do that.  What goals does the Lord desire for you to work on?   He is the one who can guide you and instruct you.  

Maybe God desires you to:

  • Spend more time with Him daily in having a quiet time.
  • Be more positive with the kids.  A critical spirit can be like a poison in a family or organization.
  • Not spend as much time on your “hand-held” devices.  They can literally drive a wedge between you and your family members, with your kids feeling that your phone activities are far more important than they are.

Psalm 119:10 states “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

Romans 12:2 states “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we spend time with God daily He renews our mind as we read His Word, the Bible.  Then we know what the right and wrong way to go is for us.  We know what His will is, and that aids us in fulfilling any goal that we have made.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Philippians 4:6-9, 13,19 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, of anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me- put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

When we feel that we are weak or unable to fulfill a goal or expectation, we have a helper to aid us in giving us the strength to meet the goal.  God will help us when we go to Him in prayer.

The Teacher Treasury has some wonderful tools that can be used when making your resolutions and in goal setting.  Adults, parents, and children alike can brainstorm and fill in goals or resolutions to the following prompts.

  • I will be better at…..
  • I will try harder to….
  • Before the end of the year I want to……
  • I will practice…..
  • I will learn how to….
  • I will think about….
  • I will not be afraid to…..
  • I will always remember to….

Other grids that can be used are the following:

My goal is:                                                                                                                                      

My target date is:                                                      

To reach my goal I will do these 3 things:                                                      

I will know I have reached my goal because:                    

                                                        I am good at….

                                                        I need to work on….

                                                       My plan to improve is….

                                                       If my plan doesn’t work, then I’ll…

                                                      I’ll know my plan is working when…. 

My goal for________is_____

These are some things I will do to get to my goal……………

Rebecca Gruber shared a fantastic post for New Year’s Resolutions for Parents on her blog, POPSUGAR.

  1. Save on the small things so you can do the big things.
  2. Go on a family tech diet.
  3. Be a better parenting team.
  4. Become cleaner eaters.
  5. Erase the mom guilt.
  6. Break the common bad-parenting habits.
  7. Boost your kids’ self-esteem.
  8. Be in the picture…literally.
  9. Reinstate the family dinner.
  10. Live in the moment (not on instagram).
  11. Don’t judge other parents.
  12. Simplify; remove things from your life that you do not need.
  13. Be positive.
  14. Keep your family healthy.

(I have this as one of the resources, where you can get more “How-to’s” for each item listed.)

God’s Word tells us the following:

Colossians 3:12-14, 17  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Putting on love.  Think about that for a moment.  For this New Year of 2016 making a goal of putting on love.  Choosing to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Choosing to tuck away that critical spirit, and set free a spirit of love and grace to all who live around you.  Choosing to let the spirit of Jesus, shine through you.  If we all did this we would be a part of working together with the Lord in making all things new.

Revelation 21:5  “I am making everything new!”

Have a blessed and wonderful 2016!

Here are some resources for a fantastic 2016!

New Year’s Resolutions Kids Can Make

Parenting Resolutions

Reward Charts 4 Kids

15 New Years Activities for Kids

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

How to Make Lasting Christmas Memories

I remember the eager faces of my sons as they sat at the top of the steps with bated breath yearning to dash down the stairs in breathless expectation to finally view the long-awaited Christmas tree with the gifts from Santa, and the many other presents that they could finally open on Christmas morn.  What a thrill it was to see the happiness etched on their faces as they progressed from opening one gift after another!  Yet, a few months later, most of the toys were at the bottom of the toy box.  They had lost interest in the new toys, or the clothes that they received were outgrown in 3 to 6 months.  Gifts are wonderful items to accept, an excitement to wonder what is inside, and a delight to open up.  They are many times articles that we desire or need.  However, for this Christmas, when I was limited financially in what I could give, I began pondering on how to make lasting Christmas memories.   How can I give something that is more than a gift?  It has to be something that I do that makes a memory that will last forever.  I guess that as a grandmother, who has just turned 64, I yearn to make memories that will be planted in my grandchildren’s hearts.

Consequently, the first step that I took in making memories was that my daughter-in- laws and I organized for all of my grandkids and my niece to come and make sugar cookies together.  We had such a delightful time.  The kids drank their hot chocolate, while the adults had their pumpkin chai tea.  We rolled out the dough and then cut out all of the cookies with angel, tree, and star cookie cutters.  Then we placed the cookies on cookie sheets and baked them.  Finally, we dunked them in icing and decorated them.  Cookie sprinkles were strewn everywhere as chocolate faces busily designed their perfect cookies.  What joy!

Secondly, my daughter-in-law introduced us to the idea of acting out the Nativity story.  Therefore, all 14 of us are going to get dressed up in character and act out the Christmas story. Of course, we will have baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, and a narrator to tell the story.  We will also have a photographer who will be filming our endeavor.   This will definitely be a memorable event!   I also found some Nativity coloring pages that I have stapled into booklets for my 8 grandchildren to have when they come to Nana and Poppy’s house.  This will be another means of communicating the real reason for the season to my babies.

Next, we are going to have a birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  I want to make sure that my grandchildren know why we celebrate Christmas.  Jeannie Cannon in her article “What Your Kids Really Want for Christmas” states:                                      I want them to remember the anticipation, the thrill, the joy of celebrating the Christmas miracle.  Christ has come.  The greatest gift has been given.  We can tear up the naughty and nice lists.  Jesus has done for you and me what we could never do for ourselves.  We now have God’s unfailing and forever love.  So, come let us adore Him!  I want to give my kids a Christmas that is all about the miracle, not the material.  This means drawing nearer to the heart of Christ, choosing memorable experiences over fleeting tangibles, and serving and giving to those in need.  Because no matter what their lists are asking for, what every child really wants is LOVE.  To love and be loved.

Jeannie continues saying that here are a few simple ways that we can give and share that love with gifts that won’t end up at the bottom of the toy box.

  1. The Gift of Jesus         We can let our hearts draw nearer to Christ as the calendar draws nearer to Christmas.  We will gather, we will read, we will talk, we will pray, we will play.  We will celebrate the coming of our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
  2. The Gift of Presence      We can lean in.  Listen.  Create simple moments and memorable experiences.  Spend more time and less money. Yes, less doing and more being.  Our presence is the present is what they want.
  3. The Gift of Giving          We can give and serve and love.  We have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party.  For the presents for Jesus, He wants our love, our trust, our hearts.  He wants us.  He wants us to love Him and love one another.  We can love Him by loving one another.  Jesus said:  Truly I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.    I have seen joy in my children’s eyes as they  have come to experience loving and serving and giving as Christ has first loved and served and given to us.  Our children long to know that they are part of something bigger than themselves that they have been created for a purpose.

Finally, I have collected so many ornaments that my tree is heavy with them.  I am going to let my grandchildren select one ornament from my tree that they can claim as their own and take home and put on their own tree.   Another memory maker,  that they will be reminded of each year as they place the ornament on their own Christmas tree.

One of the most important messages that I want to impart to my grandchildren is that Jesus is Immanuel God with us.

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us“).

God sent His son Jesus to be with us.  He is not a God who is far away and unapproachable.  He is a God who loves us and cares for us.  He is a God who listens to our cries and a God who comforts us.  He is a God who encourages us and who strengthens us. He enables us to persevere through the troubles and storms that occur in our lives.  He is our friend and comforter who never leaves or forsakes us.  He offers us hope when we are depleted.  He extends peace in the midst of discord and chaos.  He embraces us  with His love where there is hatred.

Therefore at Christmas time we can not help but fall on our knees to worship this babe who was born in Bethlehem.  This baby, who is our Lord, our Savior, our God!

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord or Maker; for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.”  Psalm 95:6-7

Here are some resources that you might enjoy this Christmas.

Ten Minute Christmas Skit

Nativity Preschool Pack

Advent Coloring Book

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith


Naughty or Nice

“Oh, you better watch out, You better not pout.  

You’d better not cry, I’m telling you why,

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list.  He’s checking it twice.

He’s gonna find out, who’s naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good.  So be good for goodness sake.

So, you’d better watch out.  You’d better not pout.  You’d better not cry,

I’m telling you why.  Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Do you remember these familiar lyrics?  I do!  The song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots seemed to be played frequently during my childhood.  I suppose it was written as a deterrent for naughty behavior at Christmas time.  I also remember hearing stories of Saint Nicholas leaving coal in stockings of “bad” little boys and girls on Christmas morning.  For me, these reminders were all that I needed to keep my behavior in check.  I was certain that I was going to be good so that I received nice items in my stocking on Christmas morn.

How does that same refrain work in today’s culture?   As a teacher for 25 years I have been amazed at how children’s behavior has changed over the years that I have been teaching.  When I began teaching in the 1970’s, students had a basic respect for authority figures.  Even though I had a few students with rambunctious behavior, mostly all of them respected authority and understood boundaries.

In today’s schools that has actually flip-flopped.  There are many students who enter school with no respect for authority figures and no understanding of boundaries.  In fact, I have recently heard that many pre-schools do not utilize any kind of behavioral plan using a consequence for negative behavior, and allow children to do anything they desire to do during the day, not enforcing any kind of boundaries.  No wonder it is so difficult getting children to sit still, listen, and focus on a lesson in kindergarten and first grade.  Children have been programmed to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.  Everything revolves around the big ME.

Children need to be an integral part of the process of creating a set of  home rules that all kids in the family will follow.  Then, they need to see positive behaviors modeled before them so that they will know what is expected of them.   It is important for kids to be recognized for performing the correct instructions.  Positive comments or rewards for being good pay off lasting benefits.  This makes other kids want to do the same.  Good behavior spawns more good behavior.  If you choose to focus on what a child does wrong and on negativity, it ends up being a downer for that kid, and for the rest of the family.  More negative behavior will occur.  Praise is a winner every time.

Maybe your child has a specific area where he or she has their naughty behavior.  Let’s say it is tattling or lying.  Make sure that you praise your child for the other good qualities in his or her character.  Maybe your child is very giving, or very helpful.  Give lots of praise in those areas, but tell your child that everybody has one area that they need to focus on, and that this area is his.  You can talk about the specific behavior and why the child does it.  Is the tattling because she wants your attention when you are working with the other kids?  Talk about how you can carve out special time with her each day, or an extra special time each week.  Make a chart where she gets a star for each day that she doesn’t tattle.  When she gets so many stars she gets a reward.  For the lying, discuss if he was lying because he was afraid that he was going to get in trouble.  Talk about why lying is wrong, and that you would rather have him tell the truth, when he does something wrong, than lie.  Discuss how that takes real bravery, and that brave boys get extra time with mom or dad.

I can’t accentuate enough the power of praise over negativity in changing behavior in children.  If a child always hears that she is doing things wrong, or that what she does is not good enough, then she begins to internalize that she must be bad and begins to feel bad about herself, thus acquiring a poor self-esteem.  This can lead to the child not wanting to try anymore, and wanting to give up, because she has begun to believe that she can’t do the work that she is being asked to do.  The child may then begin acquiring “acting-out ” behaviors because she is anxious, depressed, and doesn’t know what to do in the deepening crisis that she is in.

Let’s turn that situation around and use praise instead of negativity.  When a child is hearing praise about the accomplishments that he makes, he begins to gain confidence in himself, one brick at a time.  Each word of praise is like another brick that is building up his belief in himself and his abilities to try new things and learn.  His self-esteem blossoms and   his ability to learn increases.  He doesn’t even think of misbehaving, because he wants to make the right choices; he desires to have a good character.

For young children, Christmas is a time when the normal routine and schedule often gets tossed aside because of all of the added holiday activities.  Even though these activities are exciting and fun, they can often cause a lot of stress and anxiety in little ones.  Being on- stage for a Christmas pageant, or musical production can be fear-inducing in kids and cause tears or melt-downs and even loss of sleep in our children.  Many Christmas parties have cookies and candy that many kids don’t usually eat and they come under the influence of a “sugar-high”, often running around and acting more impulsively.  Staying up later than the normal bedtime will make kids more fatigued the next day, so they are not as alert and as well-behaved at school, and then they’re tired and grouchy when they get home.

On the blog, Toddler Approved, Kristina writes that children crave consistency, stability and routine.  She gives 15 Tips on How To De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

  1. Stay with your routine as much as possible.
  2. Give warnings of transitions.
  3. Spend at least 15 minutes a day of one-on-one focused attention on a child.
  4. Don’t over schedule.  Leave time for naps and rest.  Be realistic about what your family can do.
  5. Communicate.  Sometimes children feel frustrated but they don’t have words to tell you.  Be aware of visual clues and give your child words to use.  Such as “I’m tired.”  “I’m hungry.”  Listen to them and answer their many questions.
  6. Toys.  Take their favorite toys with them through transitions or time away from home.
  7. Music.  Calming music helps children relax.  Dancing to fast music helps them release stored up energy.
  8. Laughter.  Act goofy and find humor in situations or start “tickling”.
  9. Massages.  Rub your child’s back or feet while talking soothingly to them or while listening to calming music.
  10. Deep breathing.  Say:  “Breathe in.  Hold it.  Breathe out.”  Repeat this several times.  While your child is doing this say something like:  “I feel relaxed.  I feel happy.  I feel good.”
  11. Movement.  Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce stress and ensure that your child gets a good night’s sleep.  Play outside when possible.  Roll around on the floor and roughhouse.
  12. Blow bubbles or blow up a balloon and toss it around.  Offer a squeeze ball to tighten and relax muscles.
  13. Stay on a healthy and familiar diet.
  14. Bedtime ritual.  Share books and cuddle time before they go to sleep.  Have your child tell you what they did today.  Help them express their “walk through the day” remembering the positive, happy things that they did.
  15. Gratitude Meditation.  Help your child express gratitude for all the things they have, such as family, food, home, friends, toys, and books.  I will add- praying to God about these things.

Kristina also speaks about the issue of anxiety that many kids face at this time of the year.  We often do not realize how overwhelming it can be for children when they are in new situations where there are new people that they do not know, or with people that they don’t see that often.  Many times it can be really scary when Uncle Ernest wants Susie to sit on his lap and Susie hasn’t seen Uncle Ernest in a year.  Or Aunt Lillian won’t stop hugging Johnny and Johnny really doesn’t liked being hugged.

Kristina shares that in such situations parents should:

  • Stay in close proximity when around new people.
  • Recognize that new faces, routines, situations can be uncomfortable/stressful/scary and acknowledge that verbally and offer emotional support.
  • Be realistic with the amount of time you spend with new people/new situations or in situations that cause anxiety.
  • Bring a familiar object or find a comforting activity when you arrive at a new setting.
  • Encourage people to give your child space and wait for him/her to come to them/initiate interactions with them.
  • Don’t require expressions of affection offer choices-hug, high-five, don’t push it.  Be respectful.
  • Prepare ahead of time.
  • Take breaks.

My final point to mention is that there is nothing like having a hug from mom or dad.  I have always been big on hugging.  I still hug my 6 ft. tall sons.  They will always be “my babies”.  A hug is powerful.  Sometimes a child just needs to be hugged- no words are needed.  A hug doesn’t need words.  It communicates love, acceptance, and that the parent is “here for you”.  On the blog, Home Grown Friends, Meredith has created The Hug Jar.  It is a jar with stuffed hearts in it.  A child can go and select a heart from the jar and hand a parent the heart, whenever the child feels that she needs a hug.  What an awesome idea!

As always the Bible gives us the best advice to aid us on the road of parenting.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on your doorframe of your houses and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:5-9

In other words, if we introduce our child to God and make Him a part of our child’s life, He will make a difference.  Knowing God’s laws, the Ten Commandments is important.  Even more important is that a child knows that God wants to be his friend and desires to be with him in every circumstance in his life.  A child needs to know that Jesus was born to save him from his sins.  He was born to have a personal relationship with your child that will last into eternity.

Here are some resources that I hope that you will enjoy.

Holiday Parenting Tips

The Hug Jar

4 Tips for Better Holiday Behavior

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith





Visions of $$$ Danced in My Head

Christmas is a magical time of the year for children.  Everywhere you travel there are elaborately decorated homes strung with glittering lights of every color.  Blown up figurines of Santa and his reindeer adorn front lawns, as well as Frosty the Snowman.  Spotlights illuminate Nativity scenes that are on display in the front view of a church.    Doors are bedecked with ornamental wreaths. As you walk into the Mall you hear familiar Christmas carols and feel as if you are in a fantasy land as you view the elegant decor and the allure of the merchandise.  It is as if every item is crying out “Buy Me, Buy Me!”  And….if you happen to be going to the Mall with your kids during the Christmas season, then you’re in BIG TROUBLE, because the entire time that you are there, they are desperately trying to drag you to the toy, electronic, or clothes department to show you what they desire on Christmas morning.  All I can envision is part of the poem “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Moore where he states…  “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”  I reinterpret the words as  ” Visions of $$$$ dancing in my head!”

Yikes!  It seems like the real meaning of Christmas can so easily be eclipsed by all of the gift buying, spending money on making everybody happy, and all of the work of getting ready for the big day. My goodness, the tasks can be quite overwhelming!  There is buying all the presents.  Next, wrapping them.  Then, writing Christmas cards.  Next, baking cookies.  Of course, there is decorating the house for Christmas, after the family time of putting up the Christmas tree, and bringing up of all of the Christmas boxes, the lights, the candles, and getting up on the ladders to install the outside lights.  Then, there is planning menus and cooking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Finally, there is writing thank you notes and cleaning up.   Whew!  I just got tired typing this paragraph!  Getting ready for Christmas is exhausting!  Add to that, the Christmas musicals, kid’s performances, the parties you attend, and the extra events that you want to take part in.

The bottom line is that all of the decorations, all of the activities, all of the gifts, the baking, the cards, and the clothes for the parties cost money.  Christmas is expensive!  Santa Claus isn’t real and he doesn’t leave free presents under the tree.  It’s parents who spend all night putting that toy kitchen set or train engine together.

I have always enjoyed buying gifts for my family.  It has been a joy to buy matching dresses and pants and shirts for my grandchildren.  Unfortunately, this year has to be different.  This year I can’t buy the dresses and the matching outfits.  This year I can’t buy all of the gifts that I would like to give to my family.  Why, you may ask?  I retired. With budget cuts and restrictions due to a more limited income, Christmas buying and giving this year has been viewed with a different lens.  Amazingly enough, it has simplified things for me.  I haven’t had to get out into the craziness of the marketplace and wait in lines and be allured by this sale item or another fantastic deal.  I have had to learn to give creatively from what I have.  I have always been a bargain shopper.  If I see something on sale at a really good price and I know that it is something that one of my grandchildren or children would like, then I will buy it and save it to give to them at a later time.  Fortunately, I have some of these items saved up, and I am making use of them for this Christmas.  As a retired teacher, I have treasures of books, stuffed animals and games that my grandchildren will adore.  I am also doing a lot of baking and giving baked goods as gifts.

Maybe, you are seeing “Visions of $$$ dancing in  your head” and there is not enough money to go around for all of the expenses that you have at this time of the year.  As hard as you want to admit it, you have to cut back.  You can’t buy all of the gifts that your kids want under the tree on Christmas morning, and it breaks your heart.  You know I am beginning to see that less is better.  It’s o.k. to limit the amount of items that kids will receive.  Alison Wood  has created the blog, “Pint-sized Treasures”.  She writes that as a mom that she often struggles with giving her kids too much or not enough, and that she often wonders what the balance should be.  Can you relate?  She wonders if she spends too much money could she be causing her child to become materialistic or would she simply be showing her love.  So, to help her with this situation she created a Christmas Wish List.  It is a list that helps parents and kids keep the right attitude and perspective during the biggest gift-giving and receiving time on earth- Christmas!

The Wish List is a list that the kids are given to fill out themselves.  It also helps kids to distinguish what an actual need and want is in reality.  Parents can also fill out a list.  The list contains the following items:

  • Something to wear:____________________
  • Something to read:____________________
  • Something you want:__________________
  • Something you need:__________________
  • Something to give:____________________

For the Something to Wear item this would be something that would be a very special clothing item.  Maybe a really nice sweater that your daughter had been longing for, or those hiking boots that your son had been eyeing in the catalog.

For Something to Read make it an amazing book that your child would grow in knowledge or have joy in reading.  Maybe your son loves sharks, so you go and purchase an awesome shark book with phenomenal photographs.  Your daughter loves dancing, so you find a book about dancing, and ballerinas, that is absolutely mesmerizing.

For Something you Need ask your child to name something he or she needs.  With kids there is always something that they need.  A friend of mine always got new underwear under the tree.  I always bought my sons new socks and put them in their stockings.

For Something You Want, this is the difficult area, because your child can only write down one item.  Other relatives can purchase want items.  This can also be a time when your child can learn patience in waiting until his or her birthday to receive the other items that he or she would like.  It can also be an opportunity for a parent to begin giving an allowance for chores done in the house and your child learning to save money, learning to tithe money to the church, and learning to spend money.  The money saved can go in a piggy bank and be saved up for one of the “wants” that the child has.

For Something to Give this is the area where Alison wanted the kids to focus on others.  Christmas is more than just receiving gifts.  It is a time of thinking about others.  There are needs all around us.  Many kids won’t have a Christmas like you or me.  Help your child brainstorm about who to give to and what to give.  If money is an issue you can make a gift or a card for someone or bake cookies or cranberry bread to give to someone.  Christmas coupons can be made as well.  Giving to the Salvation Army outside of Walmart could be an example or making a bag full of items for the homeless and giving the bag to a homeless person could be another idea.  Maybe there is an elderly lady or man in your church or neighborhood.  Your child could rake their yard, bake cookies, or make a Christmas card for them.

I have the Wish list as one of my resources at the end of my post.

Oh my, have you noticed what has happened?  We have been so busy frantically putting up the tree, decorating our homes, baking the cookies, writing the cards, preparing for the programs, buying and wrapping the gifts that it has been so easy to forget what the real reason for the season is.

                         JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Jesus was born on Christmas Day.  The Messiah, God’s son came to earth to die and forgive us of our sins.   Jesus was the greatest gift ever given to mankind.  He was born for you and for me to be our Savior.  What a wondrous gift!

I have listed some resources below that you can use for gift giving in this Christmas season.

The Best Christmas Wish List

Christmas Coupons for Kids

Gorgeous Gifts Kids Can Make

Light ‘Em Up

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith




Christmas is the holiday that is filled to the brim with anticipation for what is to come.  It all commences on the first day of December or the first day of Advent in counting down the days until Christmas Eve and then finally Christmas!  Realistically though, in our culture today, the anticipation begins far before December the first.  Christmas decorations and advertisements for the newest toys, gadgets, and gifts begin in October and November.  In fact, it seems as if Christmas on the retail level kicks off more prematurely each season.

                 “O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

Advent literally means to prepare for the coming of our Savior- to prepare for His birth.  Each day of December is a countdown until Jesus’ birth on December 25th.  Many families have celebrated the Advent season in a variety of ways.  When my sons were growing up, we participated in many different activities to make the Advent season come alive to them.

The first activity that I would have ready before the first day of December was that of hanging up our Advent calendar.  The calendar consisted of a large felt Christmas tree and 25 numbered pockets.  In each pocket there was a felt ornament to put on the tree for each day of Advent.  The boys would take turns placing an ornament on the tree daily for our Advent countdown.  They would always have fun wondering what kind of ornament that they would be pulling out of the pocket each day.  They thoroughly enjoyed placing their choice on the tree.

“The first Noel, the angels would say was to certain poor shepherds in fields

                                                        where they lay.”

The second activity that we focused on was our Advent wreath.  The wreath would be a greenery table wreath with 4 red candles and 1 white candle in the middle.   Decorations that ornamented the wreath were red bows at the base of each red candle and then tiny figurines of the characters in the nativity story: Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, lambs, the wise men, and the angels.  I also trimmed the wreath with tiny figurines that represented something that the boys and that my husband and I enjoyed.  My husband was a football fanatic, so I tucked a tiny football in the leaves.  The boys adored playing baseball and soccer, so I placed a tiny bat and glove and a soccer ball in the greenery.  I loved music and reading, so I adorned the wreath with a musical note and a miniature book for me.

The wreath had 5 candles, one for each Sunday of Advent and then the last one was for Christmas Eve.  We would light a candle each Sunday and have a devotional about that candle and re-tell a portion of the Nativity Story.  The first candle was the Prophecy Candle.  It was the Candle of Hope.  We were able to have hope because we believed in a God who was faithful.  The second candle was the Bethlehem Candle, the Candle of Preparation.  God kept His promise of sending a Savior, who would be born in Bethlehem. To prepare meant to get ready to welcome Him.  The third candle was the Shepherd’s Candle.  It was the Candle of Joy.  The angels sang a message of joy when the Savior was born.  The fourth candle was the Angel Candle, the Candle of Love.  The angels announced the good news of a Savior.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16  The fifth candle was the Christ Candle.  Jesus was the spotless lamb of God, sent to take away our sins.

                  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive its King.”

I still have poignant memories of our Sunday evening times around our Advent Wreath.  It was so meaningful to me, knowing that somehow my husband and I were teaching our children the true meaning of the season, amidst all of the hustle and bustle in the world outside of our home.  Amidst all of the clamor for more of this and more of that, we were getting down to the true significance of the holiday.  I was so thankful for the modeling and assistance that I had from friends and family in making Christmas come alive for my kids.

“Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see the lie.  Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.”

Of course one of our favorite traditions for getting ready for Christmas has been decorating the Christmas tree.  My poor husband has always had to carry up crate, after crate of all of my decorations.  But, for me it has always been such a festive time to decorate.  We began purchasing an ornament for each of the boys every year that they would have for their own tree one day.   When the boys were small we would go to the Christmas tree lot together and pick out the perfect tree.  Then we would come home, put on the Christmas music, and make hot chocolate and apple cider and then decorate our tree.  What wonderful memories I have of those days.  What fun we had together decorating our tree!

As Christmas gifts for me, the boys gave me piece after piece of the most beautiful Nativity set, that always held center stage in our decorating scheme.  The set looked as if it was made of exquisitely hand carved wood, but interestingly enough it was made from plastic. I was overjoyed by that fact, because I wanted my sons to have a Nativity set that was touchable,  one where they could move the pieces around and play with and talk about the characters.  I was thrilled when I finally had all of the characters and the stable so that my collection was complete.  I wanted this Nativity set to impact my sons and for them to realize that Christmas was at the heart about Jesus being born in the manger and not all about getting toys from Santa Claus.

“Away in a manger no crib for a bed.  The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”

Another one of my favorite decorations to place on one of our living room tables was a music box that played “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him”.  The music box was a figurine of Santa Claus bowing down to baby Jesus in the manger.  My sons loved the music box.  They always wanted me to play the song and they would watch with wide and sparkling eyes as  Santa and baby Jesus spun around to the tune.  I would hold the boys with tears in my eyes, thanking the Lord for giving the artist who created the music box and song, his vision.

Since I have become a grandmother, one of my daughter-in-laws has found the most phenomenal books to use with the family for Advent.  It is a handcrafted book, entitled The Advent Book, published by Jack and Kathy Stockman.  The book has exquisite artwork on each page and a door that your child opens.  Inside of the door is some more elaborate artwork with part of the Nativity narrative.  The book is a large book with thick cardboard pages that are well-constructed and will not tear easily.  My grandchildren are mesmerized by the book and can’t wait to read it every night before going to bed.  Even though the book is costly, it is well worth the money spent.  It is sturdy enough to be an heirloom that you can pass down in your family.

Here are a wealth of resources that you can use for the Advent Season.

12 Ways to Have a Christ Centered Christmas

Advent Printables

The Christmas Story According to St. Luke

150 Advent Activities

Advent Wreath

The Advent Book

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

Thanksgiving Memories

As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, memory after memory have been flashing in my head, recalling events that have been indelibly impressed on my mind, never to be forgotten.  For the Smith family, Thanksgiving was the holiday that was always eventful.   When our boys were younger, before my husband went into the ministry, we always traveled to South Carolina to be with family for the holiday.  It was a joyous occasion for us.  We would all gather at grandmother’s house with all of my husband’s family and all of the grandchildren.  It was quite a crew, with 5 children and spouses and then around 12+  grandchildren, plus Great Grandmother Easterlin.  We all had a great time being together.

“O give thanks to the Lord for He is good for His steadfast love endures forever!”                1 Chronicles 16:34

One Thanksgiving the refrigerator was not cooling properly and everyone staying in the house, except Aunt Ann, who had not eaten the turkey, contracted food poisoning.  My husband and I were upstairs with all of the cousins.  I recollect that there were 8 of the kiddos with us.  One by one they woke up scampering to the bathroom to throw up.  I remember helping one of the kids throw up in the sink, while another was at the commode, as another was at the bath-tub throwing up.  I felt as if I was living in a nightmare coming to life.  It was unbelievable!  I just prayed that my husband and I wouldn’t get sick, because we needed to take care of the kids.  No such luck!  I was thankful that the scourge hit us last.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is God.  His love endures forever.”  Psalm 107:1

Another year during Thanksgiving, we were having a wonderful time with the family and suddenly I started coughing and shivering.  I didn’t have a cold, so it was very bizarre.  I took my temperature and it was 104.  My mother-in- law called her doctor and we hurried to his office.  He listened to my lungs and said that I had pneumonia.  He immediately sent me to the hospital.  I was seriously ill.  The hospital couldn’t find an antibiotic that would be responsive to my infection.  Finally they found one, but I was in the hospital for a week.  My husband needed to get back to NC to work, so he found an ambulance that would take me to the hospital in our hometown.  We decided that he would drive the boys home, while the ambulance was transporting me to our hometown hospital.

As I was led out to the ambulance from the hospital, I was shocked to see that the ambulance was an old hearse!  The two men who were to be my transporters did not seem like that they were skilled technicians.  In fact, I felt that I was back on an episode of Andy of Mayberry with Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle.  The men rolled my bed into the vehicle with me facing the back window.  As we started driving down the road and were on I-95, I was terrified that the back door was going to open and that I was going to roll out and slide right into one of the sixteen-wheeler trucks that I was facing.   All I could do was pray that God would get me home safely.  I had no phone to call my husband, since cell phones were not in existence at that time.

Suddenly I looked down at my I-V and I saw that it was backing up with blood.  I motioned to one of the men in the passenger seat in front and pointed to the I-V.  The men pulled the “ambulance” off of the road to look at the I-V.  When they scoped the situation out, and began discussing the circumstance among themselves, I came to the realization that they had no medical training and that they had no idea what to do!  I was absolutely horrified!!  My prayers were intensified that God would take care of me.  He did.  We were close to Burlington, NC , where they took me to the hospital emergency room. When we got there, the nurses, and doctors were fussing at the drivers, about their negligence in treating me.  I truly saw the reality of my danger at that moment, and how God had taken care of me.  I also was whisked back to Mayberry again and visualized these drivers as the two bumbling men, Barney and Gomer, attempting to do a task that they were in no way qualified to do.

The doctor and nurses at the hospital attended to me and we were quickly back on the road.  Within minutes I was in the arms of my husband at one of the hospitals in my home-town.  God had taken care of me in the worst of situations.  I had so much to be thankful for.  I remained in the hospital for another week and a half, but the time that I had in recuperation was time that I will always fondly remember.  It was a time when I feasted on God and His Word and drew closer to Him.

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.”  Psalm 95:2

One recollection that I have had this year was that I would always read my sons books about the first Thanksgiving, about the Pilgrims and why they came to America.  We would delve into the history about what really happened long ago and then talk about why we still celebrate Thanksgiving today.  It is even more important that parents read and discuss this now with their children, because in the public schools today, there is very little time to  teach about holidays and the history of them.  Therefore, parents need to do the teaching on this important topic, especially Thanksgiving, because of its religious roots.  There are a lot of different books that are good for different ages.  Here are the names of a few:

  • Thanksgiving Day-                by Gail Gibbons
  • Magic Tree House Book –  Thanksgiving on Thursdayby Mary Pope Osborne
  • Pilgrims  Research Guide- by Mary Pope Osborne
  • On the Mayflower-                 by Kate Waters
  • The Story of the Pilgrimsby Katharine Ross

Another tradition that the boys and I established was that we would chat about all of the things that we had to be thankful for:  all of our clothes, our toys, our house, our food, everything that we owned.  We discussed that God had given us all of these things.  Then I talked with the boys that there were other kids who didn’t have all of the things that we did.  There were other kids who didn’t have enough clothes to wear, who didn’t have enough food to eat, who didn’t have enough toys to play with.  I asked them how they felt about that.  They were very sad about it.  We talked about what we could do about it.   Together, we came up with the idea that we could give some of our clothes, some of our food, and some of our toys to other kids.

Accordingly, what we set out to do, was the following:

  1. We sorted through all of our clothes.  Some clothes we knew were being passed down to our brother.  Some were too worn out to give.  Some clothes were almost like new and never worn much because the boys didn’t particularly care for the style or color. Those were the ones we decided to give away.  We also decided that we were going to choose names from the Angel Tree at church and buy new clothes and toys for the kids we chose.
  2. We looked through our pantry and chose cans and boxed items to give to the Food Pantry at church or to the one at their school that was collecting for families in need.
  3. Then the most difficult job of all!  The boys categorized all of their toys.  They chose the toys that they would keep.  There were some toys that they wanted to give to specific people.  They collected other toys that they were going to give to kids in need.  This act of going through toys also gave the boys an opportunity to get their toys organized and get game pieces back in the right place.

As we engaged in these different activities we would discuss how we were thankful for the clothes and toys that our grandparents had given us, or our aunts and uncles had given us.  We had enjoyed wearing the items or playing with them.  But, now some of the items we had outgrown, some of the toys we had enjoyed playing with, but now we were going to give them to other children so that they could enjoy wearing the clothes or enjoy playing with the toys that we had.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

In my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young, the author writes the devotional from her quiet time with God.  The part she writes is Jesus speaking to her as she has read His Word.  Her writing about thankfulness is very inspiring.  She states:         Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything.  You give Me thanks(regardless of your feelings) and I give you Joy(regardless of your circumstances).  This is a spiritual act of obedience.  Those who obey Me are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.  Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts.  You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective.  It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting of adversity. 

The following resources may be useful during the holidays.

Thankful Jars

Blessings and Giving Thanks Printables

Count Blessings Tree

May God keep you in the palm of your hand.

Debra Smith

Transformation Through Gratitude

Last week the focus of my post was on grief and loss.  The motivation in writing on the topic was not only my own issues, but the fact that there were many people surrounding me that I was aware of who were grieving some type of loss.  Never in my wildest dreams did I fathom that such a horrific event would take place hours before my post was published; the terror attacks in Paris, France!  Talk about grief and loss in gargantuan proportions, not only on a national level, but a world that was left shattered in shock and mourning.  A world waking up to the stark reality that ISIS is not just a problem in the middle east, but that ISIS has waged war on the West, and has threatened to do the same to Washington D.C. as it did to Paris.

Consequently, how are we to make sense of all of this?  Grief and loss are overwhelming.  The threats of attacks from ISIS can make us fearful and filled with anxiety.  Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, and partying, to try to forget their fears and worries.  Some turn to sports, exercise, gaming, or some kind of addiction to lose themselves in.  Some to busyness and work.  I tried the busyness route, and it isn’t a quick fix.  I found that my only rescue is God. I can only turn to God, for I am not in control, but He is. Nothing else truly takes away the grief, the fears, the sadness.  He is the only one who can give me direction, take away my fear, and give me peace, in the midst of a storm.  One of my favorite verses is Deuteronomy 3:22 “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”   God is saying that I need not be afraid, that He, Himself will fight for me.  What comfort that gives me.  Another favorite is John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you:  my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  These are Jesus’ words to His disciples and to us, as well.  He desires to give us His peace, in the midst of the chaos that is going on in the world today.  We can only have that peace by keeping our eyes on Him.  And by seeing our role of praying for our world leaders that they will rely on God to direct them in the decisions that they make on the world stage.  

Amazing transformations can occur when we choose to focus on our blessings instead of our losses.  To focus on the positives instead of the negatives.  To have joy for what the Lord has done for us, instead of sadness for what He has not done.  Gratitude is a gift that not only uplifts our own spirits, but the spirits of those around us, and gives joy and encouragement to all.  Don’t we all need some of that right now?

In the blog, “Inspired by Familia”, Mari states I truly believe that gratitude can be contagious, so let’s shake off the whiney and grumpy mood we can get in, and for the next 21 days become beauty seekers. Let’s train our heart and mind to look for beauty that surrounds us, the big and the small moments.  My hope is that you will find beauty and blessings in the mundane, in the beautiful, in the ugly, as you: change diapers, wash dishes, sit in holiday traffic, stir the pot of soup, look into your loved one’s eyes, hold your child in your arms…We are constantly surrounded by small miracles.  Let’s open our eyes and embrace them.  We can discover joy when we discover gratitude.”  Joy, that is, in your child’s sleepy smile, even in the midst of a world torn with killing and hatred.  Joy, of a small hand in yours, instead of focusing on the fears.  Joy in seeing the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

Mari has 21 Days of Gratitude Prompts that you can use with your family.  You can stop, reflect, and engage in a moment of thankfulness one day during the month using the prompts and actually double up on some of them, since we are getting a late start.   It can be big or small moments that you have of gratitude.  You could let your kids snap a photo or draw a picture that goes along with the prompt.  The kids could write in a journal or type on a computer. They could write on a paper and make it into a card.  Make it as simple or as creative as you like.

21 Days of Gratitude Prompts

Thankful for:

  • Little hands
  • Smiles
  • This moment with________
  • Our health because……….
  • For my spouse
  • For my child___________
  • For my child’s ability to………..
  • For my spouse’s desire to………
  • Today because……….
  • My spouse’s help with………
  • What am I taking for granted?
  • Who am I taking for granted?
  • I appreciate________for______.
  • I am proud of myself for……..
  • I am proud of _____ for ………
  • I conquered the fear of________.
  • I love____about my home.
  • My car is awesome because……
  • _______because it’s beautiful
  • For my child’s_____________.
  • My favorite memory of__________is…………..

You know, in the culture that we live in, particularly here around Washington, DC, everything is rush, rush, rush.  Hurry, hurry, hurry.  When I was teaching, I felt like I got on a treadmill in the middle of August and didn’t get off until the middle of June.  Work was never-ending.  I could never get it all done, and then I had my home-life and my church-life on top of that.  When life is lived on the fast-lane, gratitude can fly right out the window.  You are living on the fly, rushing here and there, often like a chicken with its head cut off.  You do what you have to do to get by.  Life is set on survival mode.  There is no space left in the brain to process the qualities of gratitude.  Ann Voskamp makes a candid statement:  “Hurry always empties the soul.”    My goodness!  Hurry empties the soul!! You mean when I hurry I don’t have time to think about what I have to be thankful for?  Nope.  When I am hurrying do I have time to spend with God?  Not much.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states:  “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Living with grace in the imperfect is how we find gratitude.” states Ann Voskamp.  “That wobbly table where we gather together with our people is a gift, a holy place to break bread. The old kitchen where we prepare the meals in a stove older than we are is still a gift that will nourish and bless our family.  Those dog smudges, the wet and slimy noses, and joyfully wagging tails waiting on the other side, a gift to remind us to be joyful in all things.  The smashed sofa cushions that don’t seem to improve with fluffing are evidence that this place, this home is a gift because it is lived in and loved on.  Grace grows gratitude so we can see the beauty of what we already have- a home that is a sanctuary, not a showplace.”

What lovely sentiments from the pen of Ann.  God has given her eyes to see the beauty of the things that she has right in front of her, even if they are old and worn.  They have been lovingly used and lived in by her family, so they are something to be grateful for, because they have served a high and holy purpose of raising a family and nurturing a family.  Those are purposes that the highest of praise and gratitude should be extended to.  Even to the most loyal member of the family, the dog, whose wet nose and wagging tail always exude joy.  I know that I have the utmost gratitude this November for my dog, Bella, who has given me such joy and companionship.

Melissa Michaels tried to instill in her kids an attitude shift by practicing the habit of gratitude at home.  She found 3 practical ways to transform attitudes in each room of her house.

  1. Gratitude in the Kitchen                                                                                                                                                                           The kitchen has traditionally been considered the area where nurturing takes place, so as the family prepares food, and cleans up, they can be reminded that the joy and care that they show in taking care of the kitchen that God has provided will establish an atmosphere of gratitude, grace, and love.
  2. Thankfulness in the Dining Room                                                                                                                         See the dining room table as a sacred space to bless your loved ones.  Clear off all of the school supplies you have used for homework, putting all of the clutter away.  Then get a big soapy rag and wipe the table clean.  Kids could help make a seasonal centerpiece.  Arrange candles to set the mood as everyone sits down.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just have fun with it every night.  Take a moment to look at each face around the table and thank God for them.
  3. Grace in the Living Room                                                                                                                                       Practice a new habit of looking for opportunities to show God’s love to people right there in your living room.  At the end of the day when everyone is tired, offer grace instead of griping.  Say a prayer of gratitude for the mess makers in your home and if necessary, invest in training and correction at a more productive time.     “Dear Lord, thank you for this home and for Your precious Word upon which I can build a solid and beautiful sanctuary for my family.  May gratefulness be ever-present in my heart and home to the glory of Your Name.  Amen.

Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

In a very sweet and poignant moment on the news a reporter taped a French father  explaining  to his young son why he was putting flowers on display among the array of hundreds of others that could be seen along the street.  He stated that it was a way of showing gratitude for those who lost their lives, and that all of the flowers showing thankfulness and love was more powerful than the hatred of the evil men who were committing the killing.  The beauty of this scenario was that the father was modeling for his son the art of having gratitude for lives that he didn’t even know, yet he was bestowing an act of love and thankfulness for them.  Teaching our children to have gratitude is in itself making our children more tender-hearted and sensitive to the needs of others  and gives them the gift of joy in their lives.  In this world where kids are bombarded with materialism, I am finding that less is really better.  

Here are some resources that I hope you will find beneficial.

21 Days of Gratitude for Families

70 Ways to Teach Your Kids Gratitude

Teaching Kids Gratitude

May God keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

Angel’s Tears

Fall is such a wondrous season when the world becomes filled with a tapestry of colors.  It is almost as if God has touched the earth with his paintbrush and with each stroke vividly shown a vast array of hues that permeate the landscape on a clear autumn day.  As a part of all of the beauty is the wind-spun dancing of the leaves as they fall from their branches and the hilarious joy that children have in jumping on those colorful mountains of leaves.  There is also the never-ending task of raking and bagging the leaves as they have descended to the ground.  The leaves change color in the process of dying and cascading off of the trees, as fall is readying itself for winter.  The process of life, we could say.

Even the radiant beauty of fall, cannot make it my favorite season.  Too much has happened in the months of October and November to make it so.  Too much pain.  Too many losses.  Both of my parents died in October.  Kip’s father and my grandson died in November.  So, when these months approach, I just want them to hurry on by.  Can you relate?

Many of you have gone through losses.  Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one through death.  Possibly it was the loss of a child through miscarriage.  Maybe it was a loss of a marriage through divorce.  Possibly it was the loss of a relationship through a break-up.  Maybe it was the loss of a beloved pet.  Perhaps it was the loss of a best friend through a betrayal.  Possibly it was the loss of wanting to have children and not being able to have them.

No matter what the loss was, grief can be all-consuming.  Parents and children alike can have grief.  Parents need to be aware that children often grieve differently than their parents, and that parents need to help their kids through their grief as they are dealing with their own.  Children experience grief differently determined by their age.   T. Suzanne Eller states  that:

  • 0-3 year olds–  Children under age 3 do not understand death, but they do understand the concept of “here” and “not here”.  Children at this age need to know that they will be cared for and safe.
  • 4-7 years oldsChildren this age often become verbal asking where the person went and why.  They may believe death is temporary and that the person will return.  Children this age may become clingy, throw tantrums.  Kids need time to figure out how to express their grief in a positive manner.  Give them an opportunity to express their grief creatively by making a book of photos where they can write words and talk about the person.
  • 8-12 year olds Children this age often personalize the death of a loved one.  It is important to let the child know that the loved one didn’t die because of the child’s lack of attention or that it was the child’s fault.  Parents can help the child celebrate the life of the loved one by planting a flower or a tree in their yard in memory of the person.
  • TeensWhen a teen loses someone he loves, he often assumes the adult role.  Explain that it’s o.k. to not know the right words, to feel lots of different emotions and to mourn his changing world.  Make sure he knows that you are available when he is ready to talk.  The first few days and holidays are difficult for teens.  Give teens a video camera to video tape people’s favorite memory of the loved one.  Start a new tradition during the holidays that honors the loved one.

Going through the stages of grief can be a tricky thing.  People move through these stages in their own time and when they are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready.  No one can prompt them and rush them through one stage to the next.  There is so much about grief that we do not understand.  We many times don’t know what to say or do when someone has had a loss, because we know that we can’t fix it or change the circumstances.  So often we say nothing and act like nothing happened.  Sometimes we talk about our own grief, or we try to talk and say that things will get better.  Well, none of the above comments work.  By saying nothing, the person experiencing loss feels that we don’t care.  When we talk about our grief, that has nothing to do with the other person’s own sorrow. By saying you will soon feel better, the grieving person can’t imagine that for a minute in the melancholy state that they are in.

The best response is:  “I am so sorry for your loss.”  or “I love you.” or  “Let me call you later to see if there is anything that I can do to help you.”  Lots of times at the funeral the grieving person is in the stage of shock.  The person is just trying to make it through the services and she can’t take in much at that time.  Calling or going by later when she is in a different state of mind is helpful.  Then she is able to think more clearly and can more accurately tell you what she may need.  Some people do close down for a period of time after a death.  That is natural.  What is needed is for friends to keep in touch with them.

There are so many different kinds of loss that affect us in our lives. I will mention a few of them:

  • loss of a loved one
  • loss of a marriage
  • loss of a relationship
  • loss of a friendship
  • loss of a job
  • loss of a child when he or she leaves the home- “empty-nest”
  • loss of a child when he or she gets married
  • loss of parents
  • loss of parents to dementia and altzheimers- where you lose them before they have passed away
  • loss of health
  • loss of abilities- can’t do what you once were able to do
  • loss of control and power in your life
  • loss of roles that you have had in your life
  • loss of a dream that you had
  • loss of expectations you had for your life, or in a relationship, or in your family, or in a job

I could continue on and on.  The losses could pile up like suitcases stacked high upon your backs, until you were so weighted down, that you collapsed in a heap, weeping on the ground.  Losses do that to us, don’t they? They literally suck the life and energy out of us, until we feel that there is nothing left; until we are an empty shell of a person, bereft of emotion and feeling as if we are the “walking dead”.

When we are at this point we ask all of the wrong questions, such as the “Why” questions, which never have answers that we will receive on this earth.  We often look to the past for answers, and many times end up piling guilt and shame upon grief, which is not a pretty picture at all.

In the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 God tells us that “There us a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die…..a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  Just like the seasons change and the fall turns into winter and then new life emerges in the spring; so do our lives flow.  Unfortunately for us, we do not get to choose the time that we are born or the time that we die.  That time is in God’s hands.  He is the only one who knows the time and day that we each will depart from this world.

You know in His original plan when God first created Adam and Eve, they were perfect and all of creation was perfect, until it was marred by the original sin in the Garden of Eden.  Since that time all of creation has been affected by sin; not just the sins that each of us commit ourselves, but the sins that have been committed throughout the world since the beginning of time.  They have all affected creation.  Paul says it in Romans 8:22 when he states, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” I believe that he was speaking of creation groaning under the oppression of sin.  My rheumatoid arthritis has been genetically passed down to me, and my husband’s heart issues have been genetically passed down to him. Our genetic codes have been affected by sin.  I believe that cancer, and diabetes and the allergies, autism, ADHD, and I could go on and on, are all the effects of sin on God’s original creation.

So, you may ask, what does that have to do with my own grief and my own losses?    Everything!  Romans 8:28 tells us ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purposes.”  Death and grief are a part of life on this earth.  That is a fact.  I can cherish the memories of my loved one and honor that person’s life in my life and in the life of my family.  I can also thank God for the loved one’s life and for how that person made a difference in my life and the lives of others.   I can also know without a shadow of a doubt that God will bring something good out of the tragedy of death, grief, and loss, for that is His promise in Romans 8:28.

Then we have to ask the right questions.  Questions such as:

“Who is with me when I am experiencing grief and loss in my life?”  GOD  

Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.  He is weeping along with us in our grief.  I can imagine that the angels are shedding tears, as well. 

“Where can I go to get help when I am grieving?”  To my church, to family and friends who care for me 

“What can I do help me when I am struggling?”  Read my Bible, pray, listen to music, call a friend, 

We can have the assurance that is told us in Romans 8:35-39  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have some additional resources that I hope that you will find helpful:

I Will Carry You

When God Doesn’t Fix It

How to Help Your Child Grieve

I know that this was a difficult topic this week, yet I felt led by the Lord to address the issues of grief and loss.  My prayers are with any of you who are grieving.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith


“Shiver Me Timbers!” It’s Report Card Time!

Goodness gracious sakes alive!! It is the end of the grading period and that means: REPORT CARDS are coming home soon!!  Students in kindergarten, first, and second grade have been reading one-on-one with their teachers, working on reading assessments, and sight word, letter, and phonetic sound recognition.  Upper elementary kids have been taking reading tests.  All elementary children have been evaluated on how well they are able to write their own personal narratives.  In math many fundamental number concepts have been reviewed and tested, along with addition and subtraction facts and word problems.

Reading, writing, arithmetic– as it was stated long ago are the basic subjects being taught, but the elementary classroom teacher also teaches social studies, science, and health to her students.  During the week each student is instructed in media, music, art, p.e., and technology as subjects that we call Specials.  Therefore, the report card will include grades for all of these subjects that are given instruction.

The Learning Behavior section on the Report Card is the most telling part, and thus the most important part.  If a child receives a lot of 3’s or Need’s Improvement in this area, it explains why he or she is having difficulty in the academic areas.  For instance, if your child gets 3’s in Listening attentively and Responding appropriately to directionsthis may very well explain the reason why he is having trouble in his core subjects.  The teacher may note that he plays around during lessons; that he can’t stay in his seat, that he can’t stay on task, that he talks when he is supposed to be working.  If a teacher states this on a report card, then it is a problem.  Your child is missing instruction during the times he or she is not listening.  The teacher marks this grade to help you see where your child is currently developing and to show you where your child needs to make progress.

Let me shoot straight with you.  As a teacher for 27years, it has always been a very difficult job for me to do my first quarter report cards, very difficult indeed, particularly for first graders.  Being a positive person, I have wanted to write that all of them are doing fantastic and passing with flying colors. Many of the students are.  Yet, all of them are not.  Some of them are struggling in different areas.  Some of them are immature and seem to need more time to grow and develop.  Some of them seem to want to get by with doing the least possible work.  Some of them often want to give up before they have even tried, when they are capable of doing the work.  Some of them have learning problems that make it challenging for them to learn.  Some of them have ADHD, which makes it difficult for them to focus on a lesson and pay attention and follow directions.  Some of them have language issues, that make it hard for them to comprehend and understand.   Some of them are working as diligently as they can and have the perfect learning behaviors, yet they still struggle with learning.

The goal of the report card is to show the parent exactly where the student is functioning.  The parents, student, and the teacher form a partnership in aiding the student if any assistance is needed to help the student  in any area, whether that is in behavior, reading, writing, or math.  Sometimes the teacher meets with the parents and formulates a behavior plan to see if that will help curb the learning behaviors that need to be tweaked.  Other times the teacher may give the parent vocabulary cards to promote a child’s use of sight words or math strategies to use for a math concept that was difficult to grasp.  If a student is really struggling a teacher may suggest a parent look into tutoring.  Sometimes a student’s problem may not be academic, but social.  Teachers may suggest for a student to get involved with sports groups, cub scouts, brownies, or other social groups to assist a child who needs support in learning to interact with others.  Often guidance groups are suggested by teachers.  These groups are fantastic! Lunch-bunch groups for kids who need organizational aid, assistance in listening and following directions, a Friends group for how to make friends, and a changing families group for those kids whose families have gone through a death or divorce.

As parents, be pro-active; you are your child’s best advocate.  If you think that your child is falling behind, ask the teacher what you can do to help him or her catch up.  Ask what reading benchmark your child is on and what the normal benchmark is to be on at that particular time.  Go to the library and check out books that are on that particular benchmark and do extra reading with him.  Ask your teacher for a sight word list to review with your child,  or if there is anything else to specifically work on.  Maybe it is writing in complete sentences.  Get a journal and have your child write responses in the journal to the stories that he has read and draw pictures of that response.  If the class is working on personal narratives, write a personal narrative at home.  You could write one about Going Trick or Treating or My Halloween.  Have your child write a letter to his grandmother.   He could even do it on the computer!

Report cards are to be private.  They are reports written and shared between student, teacher and parents.  That’s it!  I made it a point to tell my students each year that report cards were not to be opened on the bus or at After-School Care and read by their buddies.  Report cards are private, and intended to be read only by students and their parents.  My oldest son found out how true that statement was when he was in kindergarten.  He was so excited about getting his first report card.  He got on the bus to come home and some 5th graders talked him into opening his report card up and letting them read it.  After reading it, they began taunting him and whispering to others that he had made bad grades.  My son burst into the front door crying his little eyes out that he had a horrible report card, when in fact he had a really good report card. The 5th graders had just decided to pick on and bully a little kindergartener that day. Shame on them!!  I have told everyone of my classes that story, trying to make the point that no one has any business knowing what is on their report card, but mom and dad.

I have also told everyone of my students that very few of my students will ever have a perfect report card, because everyone has something that they need to work on.  No one is perfect, and no one is supposed to be perfect.  We all have our areas where we are strong, where we do well. Maybe it is reading. Maybe it is math.  For some kids it is p.e.  For others it is art or music.  Everyone has an area where they have a strength.  Likewise, every child has an area where she or he has to put in extra effort to succeed.  It may be difficult, but try, and try again, and progress will be made.  It is o.k. to make mistakes, for that is how we learn to improve.  We look at the positive steps that we have made and see how those steps have helped us to become a stronger and better student.

You have heard me say before that school was difficult for me when I was in elementary school.  Nothing came easily to me.  I mean literally nothing.  I had to work many long hours, burning the midnight oilwith the help of my parents and teachers to get me through those years.  I cried many tears and remember saying “I just don’t get it”, “You don’t understand.” I really believed that I couldn’t do it.  Yet, I really could.  Things for whatever reason just did not click.  It is so easy for kids to get in a trap where they start believing that they can’t do it. So, they won’t even open their minds to the possibility that they can.  When I began teaching, I forbade the use of the word can’t in my room, because can’t never could.  Having certain teachers later on in my life, showed me the truth- that I could do it!   

Yet, it was the presence of Christ in my life, that actually made all the difference.  I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior at the age of 9.  Even though I continued to have struggles as we made several moves at crucial ages, I had Him encouraging me all along the way.  What a difference He has made in my life!!  Two of my favorite verses are:

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Philip. 4:13

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Cor. 12:9

With Jesus I could face the next day.  I could face the subjects that were difficult for me.  Where I was weak, He could make me strong.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful.

Helping Parents Help Their Kids

Why Can’t My Child Stop Reading 20 min. a Day?

Report Card Thoughts

May God keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith