Poof! Summer has Vanished!

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I know I’m not the first one to say this, but seriously — I can’t believe school will be starting August 6.

If you’re like me, you remember LONG summers as a child. Three months away from the classroom, the dress codes, and any form of structured activity. It was a season of free thought, free play, and freedom.

Every summer, I spent five mornings at Vacation Bible School snacking on Kool-Aid and butter cookies – the ones you could slide onto your fingers and wear as diamond rings. My mom piled us into the car every Tuesday to join friends at their aunt’s swimming pool. And each year, we’d make the five-hour trek to Destin, Florida for a full week of sun, sand, and surf.

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Other than that, my mother, brother, and I were at home, mixing pitchers of lemonade and turning on the sprinkler to avoid melting in the vicious Louisiana heat. But I never once felt bored. In fact, I loved every minute of summer. I played with friends in the woods, fields, and ditches around my house. And when afternoon storms forced us under the carport or into the forbidden zone of “indoors,” we acted out scenes from our favorite films, pretended to be in a band, or made ourselves content with games of cards, Yahtzee, or Monopoly. Time was a gift, and we knew enough to appreciate every second of it.

Maybe I’m being a little too sentimental, but in those days life was simple. Life was good.

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Now, no matter how much we insist we’re not going to over plan our summers, our children end up racing from church camp to science camp to ecology camp, with art, piano, tumbling, and sleepovers scheduled in between. Add to that a week in Hawaii, a week at their grandmother’s, and a few short road trips — and before you know it, summer has vanished. Poof! Nine weeks have flown right past us, and I have no choice but to accept the fact that I am now old enough to be a mother of a middle-schooler! (YIKES!)

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Nothing scares me more than sending my sweet baby girl off to the wolves of junior high. I remember those middle school years. Girls can be cruel. Boys can be relentless. Life’s temptations and trials are thrown at you from every angle, and you aren’t even given time to develop a defense. You walk into battle unarmed and naïve, a drummer boy on the front line.

I just hope and pray that we’ve given her enough strength to have a true sense of self, a real value of individuality, and a clear vision of which relationships are healthy and which are not. She’ll make mistakes – we all do. As parents we just hope (and pray, pray, pray) that those mistakes are ones that don’t end her life, or ruin it.

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As we send our children off to school again this year, I feel a little like the animals in my books. Afraid. Unsure. Full of doubt. I have to remind myself – many times a day – that there is no reason to fear. That God is with them, even when I’m not.

Blessings to you and yours this school season. May you all have a happy, healthy return to the classroom.

j

In Jesus’ Name We Play

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Every night, when my children and I say our prayers, we end with the phrase, “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

When my son was two, he mistakenly replaced the world Pray with the word Play. The altered phrase stuck with me and carried a special message. Perhaps my toddler understood much more about faith than I had given him credit for. Was it a simple phonetic substitution, or was he telling me something I needed to hear?

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The next day, as I played with my young children at the park, I stepped back, and watched a sister and brother share the slide, play hide-n-seek, and venture out into the world at each other’s side.  I cherished every giggle, as they played together in a zone of perfect peace. Pure joy. Delight.

Delight – one of my favorite words. It makes me think of being so happy, so overjoyed, that we take on a special glow. We become one with the light – the supreme power, the essential energy that keeps the universe in sync. It is, in essence, the effect of touching God – or at least the closest we can come at this stage in our being.

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The point of the story is this — it’s not just when we pray that we should be reverent and respectful of our faith, but at all times – even when we play. And perhaps, in those jubilant moments, when we open ourselves up to true peace and happiness, it is then that we are closest to God.

How did I get all of that out of  a toddler’s simple twist of the tongue? I know it may seem a bit hokey. But I try to absorb the many lessons my children teach me. I hope I never let myself get too busy to stop and listen. To look them in the eye and process the connection of the moment.

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I truly consider my children to be the greatest blessings in my life, sent to teach me all I need to know about giving and growing. They have been placed into my hands to stir my soul, to strip me of all selfishness. Thankfully, they never fail to remind me that it’s the simple moments, the little glimpses of time I get to spend with them, that are the greatest gifts of all.

Enjoy every moment of your day. Find your joy. Be delightful. And remember, in Jesus’ name we play.

j

Creativity — Message from God?

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If you haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, you should.  Her blazing honesty is refreshing and uplifting as she takes you on a journey across the world and across the realm of what it means to be human.

Now, I’ve only written two little picture books. I’m in no way comparing myself to the brilliance of Elizabeth Gilbert. Still, I’ve heard time and time again, “Aren’t you afraid people won’t like the books?” or “Isn’t it scary to write?”

True, throwing your soul to the wind can be a bit nerve-wrecking, but I believe we were born to create. We were born to contribute. We were born to enlighten – and to be enlightened by others who were born to share their gifts with us.

Do I have some special gift — heck no! I wrote these books to make kids happy, and to help them overcome their fears in this ever-so-frightening planet. Did I worry that people wouldn’t like the books. Sure I did. I mean, I still do. But I’m finding that children actually DO like the books. And that has been so worth the risk.

Will these books ever win a Nobel prize. No indeedy.

Will they be read at bedtime while a child snuggles safely in the arms of a loved one. Yes, they will. And to me, that means everything.

I hope you’ll enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on the creative genius – and that you’ll start creating something right away! I dare you!

To view Elizabeth Gilbert’s excerpt, visit: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/453