A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Month: November 2016

Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 10 Practical Ways to Teach Simplicity (…and just in time for your crazy holiday!)

One of my favorite aspects of my African lifestyle is a lean muscularity of simplicity. Forget keeping up with the Joneses. You are the Joneses, when your kids are going to play with kids whose families (who may or may not be literate or have lost a child) live in one room, which may or may not have electricity and running water.

So people expect my light fixtures to, say, look like I swiped them from my church in the eighties. They anticipate that when I serve lemonade, it will cascade from an ugly plastic pitcher.

Perspective is everything.

Randy Alcorn explains in his (highly-recommended) The Treasure Principle, “The more things we own—the greater their total mass, the more they grip us, setting us in orbit around them.”

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10 Prayer Tools and Printables for Families

In light of the series on Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families, I’m hoping this easy, often printable tools (some old, some new!) will help weave prayer into the fabric of your family.

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Throwbackpost: Thanksgiving memos from a bunch of refugees

Author’s note: This post, originally posted around last year’s American Thanksgiving, is not at all intended to be a political statement regarding the recent controversy over refugees (see this article for a Christian point of view on the tension between security and compassion). It’s simply a memo to myself as I look at Thanksgiving any time of year, in light of what I’ve learned from the crazy-fun group of refugees I teach on a weekly basis in Uganda.

Sometimes I’m as much a student of them as they are of me, as they sprawl in their chairs there in the sticky heat or the lazy afternoon sun.

refugees 1Sometimes when they stand next to me, I have nothing to do but laugh out loud at the picture we must make: me with my German build and American clothing, my skin that best stay out of the sun after fifteen minutes, sky-colored eyes—and them, some even built like ebony marionettes, towering above me at six feet-two or –four, their toothy ivory grins and an arm around my shoulder, their tribal language to a friend resounding like African drums.

 

And so I think of them this year, even as I look online for the best recipes for our feast with family. Thanksgiving is a bit of a personal journal on the year for me. It seems like a good occasion to contemplate the year stretching behind me: What has God done? How do I remember Him being faithful? What must I be vigilant not to miss?

 

So my friends who have fled here from all over East Africa have reminded me, just from their own stories, the journal of their own lives. Don’t forget. Count every single one of your blessings.

 

Count, they would tell me, your ability to speak fluid English—the doors it opens for you, the jobs it gets, the ease it provides you in so many places around the world.

Teacher, count that you have been born in a time of relative peace in your country, not war. That justice is often done when you go to the police or in your courts; that people do not have to take the law into their own hands. Justice in your country also means most of your friends and/or relatives are still living; thriving, even.

And that because of all this, you have received an education—and not just any education. You went to a school that has books and lunch and can make photocopies and has less than thirty students per class!

Count that your basic education means you know basic first aid, means you have a certain degree of reasoning and logic skills. That you have a mass of essential knowledge that, even finding yourself in a place of sudden poverty (the developing-world kind), would not leave you there for long.

You can be thankful, Teacher, that your life expectancy is beyond 49.[1] That in your country, if someone steals, they keep both of their hands.[2]

My friend, count that your home has a floor, that you have a car and know how to drive it, that you have been to a dentist in your lifetime. Remember you can easily find doctors who know what they are doing; the money to pay them and not draw it from something else you need, like your child’s school fees.

Thank God, Teacher, that you got to choose your husband! And he is a good man, with a job, who has never laid an angry hand on you. That you got to choose your job. That you have driven on smooth, safe roads. That you don’t worry much about your children dying; that malaria is no longer in your country, or typhoid, or cholera, or ebola. You have clean water—in your own house, right from your own tap!

You might think these are simple things, Teacher. But to me, they are not. Thank your God for these things on Thursday. They are sweet things, Teacher. So sweet.

 

[1] This is life expectancy in the Congo. South Sudan is 54; Somalia is 55.

[2] See Sharia law.

 

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Guest Post: Is Insecurity Robbing Your Family?

I guess you could say that because of my story, which I shared last week–I’m pretty passionate about giving insecurity the boot. Maybe it’s much more so in parenting because I watch how my kids Xerox my values.

And I know how much it’s robbed from me.

I told you how insecurity—for far too long—was a giant, life-sucking Hoover in my marriage. It was as if I’d wrapped a leash around my neck, panting to be led by someone’s opinions. …Even complete strangers.

If you’re asking, “What’s the big deal about a little insecurity?”–maybe I can only tell you what I’ve seen it control.

I’m guest-posting today on my friend Kristen’s site, weareTHATfamily.com. Hope it encourages you parents swimming upstream today!

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 10 Simple Ways to Teach Solitude

There’s a bit of irony in this post for me. Currently my family and I—yes, all four children—are residing at my in-laws’ during our stint in the States. I’m still schooling them during the day. Yes, that’s just about as “alone” as it sounds.

Some of you with kids wrapped around your kneecaps might be thinking, Solitude. I think this could be my favorite discipline yet.

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Out of Insecurity: My Story

 

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He’s loved me through a lot, you know.

When we married 16 years ago—I at 19, he at 20—I was cripplingly insecure. It was as if I’d wrapped a leash around my neck, panting to be led by someone’s opinions.

The quick-and-dirty version of my downward spiral: I’d always been an achiever, loved appreciation; admiration. I was good at it. (Most of us are good at hunting what we crave.) My opinion of God, even, became tightly braided with what others saw and praised.

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Election 2016: How can I talk with my kids about all this?

america-wonderingMaybe your chest is as chock-full of emotion as mine over the results of November 8, 2016. As my friend Kristen Welch wrote in her excellent post, America is Stunned. God is Not: 5 Things We Can Teach Our Kids in the Wake of Change: I don’t even know what to say, but just between us: I wasn’t with her and I wasn’t for him.

From the moment we got off the plane, my kids have marveled slack-jawed (with the rest of us) over the news shows and internet headlines of the rabbit hole that is the 2016 elections. Perhaps like I’ll never forget the Challenger exploding at liftoff or where I was on 9/11, they will never forget these last few months.

Some of my kids have dealt with no negligible amount of fear. They’re rife with questions, and looking to a lot of places for hints on how to make sense of this brouhaha. And, as my mom used to say, I can assume they’re even smarter than I think they are. They’ve picked up on a lot. (Though I had to grin yesterday, when during a wrestling session I heard, “Can’t Dad just run for president?”)

What can we say today?

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Questions to Know Thy [Stressed] Self

Remember that moment when Bruce Banner suddenly morphs into the Incredible Hulk? His pupils start glowing; pretty soon his shoes are splitting off his expanding green feet.

Perhaps if my favorite blouse was ripping at the shoulder seams, my own stress identification would be a bit more astute. As it is, sometimes my husband sees my inner Hulk-ette beefing up a lot sooner than I do. (Irritating.) Can you hear me growl, “I’M…..NOT…..STRESSED!”

When I’m under stress, as much as I hate to admit it—people get a completely different me.

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 13 Easy Ways to Teach Meditation and Contemplation

Missed the first post in this new series? Catch it here.

If you’re like me, you might just be fascinated by the idea of this post because it’s hard to think of your kids meditating on anything than, say, Minecraft.

Meditation’s for quiet families, right? Maybe those who, say, needlepoint together. Not the kind of boys like mine, who I have to remind to remove all Nerf weapons from the dinner table.

Still: Even a rowdy crew like mine needs to cultivate quiet; to create space to chew on God’s Word. And that’s really meditation in a nutshell for me. (We’ll tackle solitude in a later post).

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The Nerve! Ideas to Hijack Your Relationship

hijack-relationshipEver find a relationship off-roading completely from what you longed for?

Yup.

Maybe, like me sometimes, you feel like the person isn’t listening or getting you, or isn’t open to alternate opinions. Of course my primal reaction is to just duck and cover. I’m completely willing to be kind and generous—but so much for an authentic relationship.

And that part’s my own fault.

But principles from my husband’s professional books are leaking into my perspective on relationships. They talk about hijacking your job, or “managing up”: It’s being proactive in the areas of your job you don’t like so much, so you can slowly take on more of the responsibilities you want, which the company also needs.

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