Tag Archives: Joy

Giving Joy & Gentleness

Christmas conversation promptsOur family has a Christmas activity we weave into our mealtime hubbub: answering questions from a tin of Christmas-focused conversation prompts. Even though we’ve been through these questions several times over the years, the answers vary as children get older and more introspective.

JoyOne of the recent questions was about the reason behind gift-giving during this season. The discussion included the gifts of the wise men and our gift of a Savior, then narrowed down to the mere joy of giving to others.

Probably one of the main stressors of the busy holiday season revolves around gift-giving: the generation of ideas, the investment of time and money, last-minute shopping, and eventually the late-night wrapping.

teacher giftsWhen we find something “just right” for a special person on our list and see genuine delight spread across her face as she opens her gift, we experience the joy of giving.

It’s in this moment of giving that we turn toward each other, share eye contact, and feel a closer connection to one another…we share a mutual tug on our hearts.

Imagine how much love God had for each of us as He gave His One True Gift to us by sending us Jesus. Through Christ we are pulled closer to God and may dwell in His Presence.post office drop

As I trudge through these last days before Christmas, grocery shopping and dropping cards into the mail,  I’m trying to hold onto this image of the Ultimate Giver offering His most precious gift.

This helps me let the details of the hustle-bustle fade a bit and focus on the interactions around me.hot cocoa

Being gentle with those around us and being mindful that this holiday’s joy may be smudged by loss or pain is an extension of God’s love toward others.

silver conesWhen our expectations of the holidays don’t come packaged with a jaunty red bow…

When disappointment piles up like crumpled balls of wrapping paper on Christmas morning…

When loss and grief drop around us  like pine needles fall constantly off the Christmas tree…

When rough spots in our relationships are highlighted during family gatherings…

God is with us in these tender moments, offering hope.
70s childhood ornament

boy in tuxAs as we share coffee cake with neighbors on a cold wintry night…

As we gaze at each other in the warm glow during Christmas Eve candlelight service…

As we watch eager children tear into their presents Christmas morning…

As we observe grandparents smile in remembrances of the past…

God is with us in these joyous moments, embracing us in love.candlelight communion
When stress begins to creep in again, I try to remind myself:

empty gift box

It’s not what is under the tree.

It’s who is gathered around it. 


It’s not what is in the box,

but WHO fills our hearts.

God is with us through it all, however this season unfolds for our families this year. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas!

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace…

-Luke 2:14


Nerf wars

When you hear the phrase “Nerf war” do you envision hoardes of kids running through your house and yard shooting orange darts all over creation?

Or…do you imagine all the times you’ve been frustrated by the growing piles of dart guns scattered all over your house and have the urge to declare war on all things Nerf?

(I once found a dart in my ice maker…Whaaaat? “Somebody” had to have the freezer door hanging wide open while another “somebody” blasted him with darts?!?)

pile of dart guns

boy with nerf dartsWe have a little bit of both going on over here. With some inspiration from an old Pinterest post, we put our heads together to create some neutral territory.

Step 1: Claim some unused pegboard and attach it to the back of closet door in the garage (thanks to my hubby for some carpentry assist)

Step 2: Gather all the Nerf dart paraphernalia, relish in all their glory (btw: one of us partook of this step more robustly than the other)

Step 3: Scavenger hunt all over the garage for pegboard hooks of various sizes (sorry, broom: your resting place is now on the floor)

Step 4: Puzzle through all the different dart gun shapes and hang them within easy reach of active boysboy with dart pegboardStep 5  – Kids: Call your buddies over to launch a Nerf war! Parents: bask in the fact that all the Nerf stuff is OUT of your house. Woohoo!

*Optional steps if you want to up your game:

  • Visit your local hardware store and get some dart-orange paint (Valspar 2010-2 “Island Orange” was our choice. We got a sample can for $3.)

  • Use painter’s tape to mark off a pattern

  • Let your kiddo paint away! Let paint dry and then do a second coat.

    boy painting pegboard

  • After paint is thoroughly dry, carefully pull off painter’s tape to reveal your kid’s design.

    Orange pegboard for nerf guns

  • Load up the pegboard with Nerf guns (and maybe a light saber or two)

Gear up:

Nerf gun pegboard


boys talking dart strategy

+++++ AIM +++++

geared up

boys and Nerf guns

Fire away! —————–>>>

boys geared up with Nerf guns

…and, good luck finding all the darts before the lawnmower gets them first! 🙂




choose joyWhen we think of joy, we often think of a child’s beaming face on Christmas morning. All of the anticipation that has been building is finally at its peak. That little body is all atwitter ready to leap into the magic of Christmas. Each of us probably has some keen memories of Christmas mornings past, some that were fulfilling of all the hype and perhaps a few that were found lacking.

How long does that intense feeling of full joy last? Are we able to summon that same level of anticipation to see what our heavenly Father has in store for us each day…

or does our joy feel like it’s in bits and pieces?

Joy brokenAs adults we seem to catch glimmers of joy yet somehow that robustness of childhood joy eludes us. There are many references in the Bible about having a child-like faith. Perhaps the concept of unbridled JOY is a natural unfolding of that child-like faith: grab it with intensity and don’t let go!

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14

Maybe we need to follow our children on this one…

–to discover the joy unfolding all around us, in the big and small details of everyday life

–to embrace the messy

–to surrender our agenda

–to adopt a child-like curiosity and anticipation of good things to come…the walkbig walking stick

Seeking joy throughout the year…

in the ordinary days,

not just dusted off at Christmas timeadvent cardwhere can you find YOUR joy today?

mom tackle

Fruits of the Spirit

Sometimes you don’t know when a simple craft activity is going to have a big impact. You’re just trying to keep those little people in your house engaged in something productive so they aren’t tearing the house apart!

Several years ago I led my boys through one of those Make-a-Plate kit projects and then actually managed to get it mailed. Some days the simple completion of a task is a major accomplishment, right, busy Mommas?” Since we were working on table manners and talking about how the kids could show kindness at school, I chose the Fruits of the Spirit verse and let them pick which concept they wanted to illustrate. Rainbows, trees, and stick figures emerged as those wriggling bodies slowed down to color and carefully write out these powerful words.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Fruit of the Spirit plate

We were all excited to receive the package of our completed plates! Each week we would choose one Fruit of the Spirit  to be our focus. We set that plate on a stand as a colorful reminder as we passed by it throughout the day. At dinnertime we enjoyed hearing about the gestures the boys made with friends, teachers, and soccer teammates to show that particular character trait. As parents, we shared examples from our workdays or stories from our childhood. Sometimes we used the plates as ice breakers for teaching moments as we redirected boyish antics at the table. When setting the table, we often shared knowing looks with each other as we placed a certain plate in front of a specific person, acknowledging “he sure needs a little extra self-control tonight” or “she needs some PEACE today.”

Fruits of the Spirit plates - devotional

When we signed up to go on a mission trip with our church and were asked to share a family devotion, we took our plates on the road — literally traveling 2,000 miles roundtrip to visit a children’s home in Mexico. We used the plates to illustrate our story of trying to put the Fruits of the Spirit into action in our daily family life. We helped lead the craft activity for those children to make their own plates. Many kids chose the phrase “Dios es Amor” = “God is love.”

Although we weren’t present when the Children’s Home received their shipment of plates, we Fruits of the Spirit platesheard it was a time of great JOY as these children received something tangible with their names and drawings featured. The following year our family returned to the same Children’s Home and we saw how much these plates were being used and treasured by children who had little of their own.

When we returned home from the mission trip, we made a poster to share at our local school and had another chance to share the Fruits of the Spirit in the context of a mission trip report. Several of the students were unfamiliar with the verse, but it became “real” to them when they passed the plates around during show-and-tell.
Fruits of the Spirit - sharing at schoolI was humbled as I realized how God had created an outreach of ministry from one small family project. Our family’s craft activity was shared with our church’s mission team families, about 100 Mexican children separated from their own families and then again locally with children at our sons’ classes at school. God is faithful. He reveals His GOODNESS to us through our small actions that He uses in big ways for His glory.

Fruits of the Spirit plates - missionsFruits of the Spirit plates - loveFruits of the Spirit plate - Jesus me ama