“We’re throwing open our front door
and inviting you in, as we invite Him in.”

Why I still make my kids’ beds (at least sometimes)
Je suis Christian
Is your New Year already feeling Same Old? This is for you.
Christmas shopping that makes Jesus happy
What to do when giving thanks feels out of place
True confessions of a left-handed giver
4 things to tell yourself when you feel like time is too short
Trees vs new townhomes? My vote may surprise you.
You can change the world — just start with a shoebox
If God wired us to move, why does he make us wait?

Why I still make my kids’ beds (at least sometimes)

By Abigail McConnell

A while back a little checklist circulated around Facebook about age-appropriate chores for children.  It listed the different jobs kids should be trained to do around the house by ages 2, 4, 6, 10, and so on.  I skimmed it and moved on.

Last week, as I was making my 14-year-old’s bed one morning, I remembered The Checklist.  And how bed-making, experts say, is one of the first chores a kid should be given.  Any toddler can do it.

Why on earth, then, am I making the bed for this boy-man of mine, the one who is a full six inches taller than me and capable of doing his own laundry, washing mountains of dishes and chopping wood?  Or for my nearly-grown daughter, who drives and works and will be in charge of her own bed and life in 18 months?

Can’t they make their own beds?  Of course they can.

Do I still do it?  Yes, I confess I do.  Not everyday, but enough to prove I’m no Tiger Mom.

I don’t do it because I’m a neat freak (which is evident). I don’t do it to cater to them, or even to teach them to do nice things for others. And I really don’t do it because they deserve it (what they deserve is a grounding for how messy their rooms are right now, even as I speak).

Why then? Read More

Je suis Christian

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, reasonable people are decrying the dangers of religion. I’m for not throwing le bébé out with the bathwater.

When I was in college, my freshman sociology professor explained matter-of-factly how God came about. Would you like to know? Here it is: People made Him up.

A funny passage in The Good Earth illustrates his point. A Chinese peasant and his wife are walking along, chatting about their recent string of good fortune. She’s had a baby boy. No good-for-nothing girls for them! And his work has produced a plentiful crop. Then the man stops short, remembering the gods. “What a pity our child is a female whom no one would want!” he shouts. “And covered with smallpox as well!”

He’s just covering his bases.

The man knows that a good deal of his success depends on dumb luck. But if gods exist, he can gain a measure of control. He can humble himself before them. This sure beats the alternative: eating from a cruel, indifferent can of No One In Charge. Read More

Is your New Year already feeling Same Old? This is for you.

By Leigh Sain

We celebrated the coming of 2015 with a bang this year.  Literally.

Neighborhood friends gathered at our house early on the evening of Dec 31st to ring in the next 365 days. It was a celebration full of food, kids, dart guns, laughter, hot chocolate, warm fires and, of course, fireworks. We are a fireworks-loving block and every year the kids lay claim to the fact that it is tradition to shoot them off.

This year the contraband was purchased by Alabama-bound friends, and as darkness fell, the dads filled the cul-de-sac with one awesome (and perhaps not quite legal) pyrotechnic show. The kids clapped, cheered and covered their ears. It was a magical way to announce the beginning of 2015. It felt new and awesome; loud and laughter-filled. And as I stood in the cold winter night snapping pictures of the show and the people, necks craned trying to take in the display, I was overwhelmed with how grateful I felt for my place, for this time and for this chance to step into a new year. My own neck craned forward a bit, toward new challenges and new days. Light streamed down from above and I was ready for anything.  Until the next day.

Until the banging that filled my ears was not sparkling fireworks but slamming doors as boys fought over lost screen time and missing Lego pieces. Until the hours of rainy-day entertainment eluded me and grumpiness enveloped us all, driving me to my closet just to find some quiet. Then I was not so sure that I was ready for any part of this new year. Everything just suddenly seemed the same. The same kids fighting the same fights. The same food to cook, mess to clean, clothes to wash. Exactly the same. But I was looking for new. Something that felt different. Like it did when the cold air was whipping around me, light exploding over me and the fire burning in front of me. Read More

Christmas shopping that makes Jesus happy

By Beth Hartt

Christmas snuck up on me again this year. I swear I was still finding pine needles in October from last year’s tree, and yet right now I’m looking at a brand spanking new evergreen in my living room. That means it’s time to buckle down and do some shopping!  And I’m here to throw a monkey wrench into your holiday buying habits. You’re welcome.

You may be surprised to hear that many of the Christmas gifts we buy are made in factories that depend on forced labor — that is, by slaves.  These products are easy to buy because they’re readily accessible, cheap and in stores you and I shop at every day.

With the mad rush of this season, there’s no time to think about the blood, sweat and tears of the people who make the things we buy. But modern-day slavery is real and it’s ugly. Some estimates report one out of every 280 people in the world is enslaved — through bonded or forced labor, child labor, domestic servitude or human trafficking.

But the good news is that we have the power to change it. Ending slavery starts with you and me, consumers with purchasing power. So let’s start right now. This Christmas.  We can say enough is enough, and decide to quit buying products that enslave workers in an endless cycle of poverty. Read More

What to do when giving thanks feels out of place

By Leigh Sain

There is this pumpkin still sitting on my back deck and a boy who thinks that we can carve it up, pull out some old superhero garb and have our own little re-do of that holiday, the one with all the candy. He’s drawn the face on it already and if I will go get the pointy knife, he’s just sure we can call tomorrow Halloween again.

And there’s this other boy, still sneaking Halloween’s loot, but working hard on a list a mile long for the guy with the beard and the red suit.

And I stand somewhere in the middle, trying to sweep out the crumbly leaves that keep blowing in the front door each time a kid trudges in from the windy cul-de-sac. I stand and stomp my feet a bit at it all, demanding that we must first be thankful.

First, we must give thanks. Read More

True confessions of a left-handed giver

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

Growing up, when my family would sit down to a nice dinner, my dad would often sigh and sentimentally say, “Well, I wonder what the poor people are doing right now.”

I am not exactly sure why he would say it.  My father wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  His was a family that might go days without meat when money was tight, a family that would welcome his contributions of small game to the table.  But years later, when meat was a staple and only purchased at the store, he couldn’t help but ponder about the poor people.  I don’t think he was celebrating his success either.  Rather I think the tension of knowing the poor were out there — and knowing what it’s like to feel hungry — made it hard for him to fully enjoy our feasts. Read More

4 things to tell yourself when you feel like time is too short

By Abigail McConnell

There are times of the year when the contours of our calendar take over the contours of our hearts. Ladies and gentlemen, we have entered such a time.

I saw a friend at the gym right after Halloween. She asked how I was doing and I heard myself answer her, “Fine, fine. Just starting to feel that slide toward Christmas, you know?”

Why did I say that?  I hadn’t even been thinking about Christmas. But there is this calendar rhythm that runs all the time in our heads — it’s not something we consciously choose. But we can let it choose us. Read More

Trees vs new townhomes? My vote may surprise you.

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

Recently, a neighborhood friend emailed me an online petition. The document explained that a developer has purchased a parcel of land—14 acres of trees—in our community. He plans, of course, to cut down the trees and build on the land, but a current zoning law limits the number of homes he can build. So he’s attempting to get the property rezoned. He wants to build 96 townhomes there. The petition is quickly filling with names of people who want to block his efforts.

In our house, we’re big fans of The Lorax—you know, the guy who spoke for the trees, “for the trees have no tongues.” It bothers us that, in the four years since we moved into our leafy community, it’s become significantly less leafy. Dr. Seuss’s cautionary tale seems to be unfolding all around us. Everywhere you look in our suburban town, it’s trees falling, and McMansions rising.

This happens to me sometimes. I get so wrapped up in my own needs and interests, and in those of my children, that I forget about everyone else.
I read through the petition, noting that the land in question is on my highly trafficked route to the kids’ after school activities. I imagined how 100 more homes might affect this frustrating congestion. I signed the petition, and then I complained about the whole thing to my husband.

Guess what he said?

“I think the rezoning could be a good thing.”

I narrowed my eyes. I looked at him sideways. But I heard him out. And then I had one of those moments when I realize that suburban living has thrown me off course. Read More

You can change the world — just start with a shoebox

By Beth Hartt

If you’re like me, an empty shoebox might mean you just replaced old running shoes. Or maybe your kids outgrew theirs and needed new ones. Or maybe you treated yourself to new pair just because.

But what if your whole life you never had anything to call your own until a shoebox landed in your hands? What if, for the very first time, you felt like someone really cared about you when you opened it? What if that shoebox actually held hope, love, and maybe even salvation?

That’s what millions of children have found in simple shoeboxes delivered to them through Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse that has delivered shoebox gifts to more than 113 million kids in over 130 countries since 1993. But those are just numbers. To get to the heart of Operation Christmas Child, you need to hear the stories.  The stories move me tears and fuel my passion for this amazing ministry.

And the stories are miraculous. There are the ones of children who had been praying for one simple item — the very thing that ends up in the shoebox they receive from halfway around the world. Like this story  posted on the OCC Facebook page recently:

Nebojsa had epilepsy and often went to the hospital for treatment. When he received his box in the hospital, he opened it impatiently. Inside, he found a hat and gloves, candies and a school set including a compass and ruler. When he saw this, Nebojsa started crying. His mother explained that he was failing math class because he told the teacher he forgot his supplies, but the truth was that his family didn’t have the money to buy them. He held the supplies in his arms for a long time, with tears in his eyes.”

There are stories of redemption and forgiveness, like Alex Nsengiman, who received a shoebox as an orphan in Rwanda after the genocide. The shoebox reminded him that he was loved at a time when he desperately needed that reminder. Then there are children whose lives were so changed by the gift of a shoebox, that they now fill and donate shoeboxes of their own to kids who were just like them.

The truth is it’s not the gifts in the boxes that alter the lives of these children forever. It’s that many of them hear about Jesus for the very first time when the shoeboxes are handed out. The local ministries who deliver the boxes share the Gospel with the kids, and then walk them through a discipleship program. Now they not only have small gifts to call their own, but they have the true joy of discovering Jesus Christ and his redeeming love for them. Very often, those children take the good news back to their families, sometimes even their community.  All because of a shoebox.

These are things on my weekly Target list, not indulgences. But when basic survival is your main priority each day, these things are extravagant.

When I read these stories and watch these videos, the childrens’ gratitude humbles me. I know what goes into shoeboxes. My family puts several together each year, and I’ve volunteered at the processing center where I’ve peeked inside hundreds of shoeboxes. We’re not talking high dollar items here — simple toys, a toothbrush, a bar of soap, lollipops, coloring books, crayons, pencils, socks, a stuffed animal. These are things on my weekly Target list, not indulgences. But when basic survival is your main priority each day, these things are extravagant. Read More

If God wired us to move, why does he make us wait?

By Leigh Sain

“Waiting rooms and baseball dug-outs are a lot alike.” My oldest makes this observation glibly as we race into yet another doctor’s office, late.

“How do you figure, that?” I question, wrangling the five-year-old, who has somehow entered the waiting room without his shoes, and with a whistle?

“Well, in both places people have trouble sitting still,” he nods towards his brothers already blowing that whistle and chasing each other around the room.

The waiting rooms and the dug-outs of life are a lot alike. They are hard places to be when you’re wired to move.
“And no one ever really wants to be in either place, plus you never know how long you’re going to have to stay!” he concludes. I confiscate the whistle, grab one running boy by the elbow, and agree with this profound analogy. The little one escapes my grip, though, and heads for the glass bird cage that decorates this particular waiting room. He begins pounding on the glass. Panicked chirping suddenly breaks the silence of the room, and that’s when I notice a huge sign on the outside of the cage: DO NOT TAP ON THE GLASS.  Oops.  I try to redirect my glass tapper. But he’s determined to entertain these frenzied feathered friends and an all-out meltdown ensues, agitating the birds even more. Apparently pitching fits in front of the glass cage should also be prohibited.

This circus is interrupted by my middle son who asks loudly: “Hey Mom, how old do I have to be before I can shoot a gun?” He holds up a magazine picture of a hunter and points to said gun, “I want to shoot deer like that guy, that would be awesome!” Seriously? I let go of the crying five-year-old and shush the loud mouth. The quiet glares of the patiently waiting people intensify. One poor lady with an enormous leg cast even lunges forward, gently trying to keep my little guy from continuing his harassment of the crazed birds, who are now flying head-on into the glass, screeching like mad.

“I think the dugout might be quieter though,” the older one muses. Thankfully, the nurse calls our name just before the middle one asks if you could shoot people or just deer with this particular gun. I have no words to answer that question.

The past six months have been full of waiting room debacles like this one, due largely to a plague of injuries that’s besieged our oldest boy. A freak sledding accident last winter broke five bones in his foot, a bad pass in a basketball game broke his finger, and a barefoot kick to a metal stake cracked his toe.  Add these to the normal ailments of three kids, throw in two sets of braces and, yes, we have spread our chaos into many a doctor’s office waiting room lately.

And these injuries, they have happened in the middle of two consecutive baseball seasons for my 11-year-old sports fanatic. So, much of his waiting has been done on the lonely, dusty bench of a baseball dug-out. It has seemed endless. This waiting. This healing. And his observation is right on: The waiting rooms and the dug-outs of life are a lot alike. They are hard places to be when you’re wired to move. Read More

Copyright 2014 The Cul de Sac.

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