“Crafts” or Creativity?

Don’t fret over what they can “take home” in their hand. 

A few will be so proud to carry that coloring sheet with googly eyes glued on Noah’s animals, or glitter falling off Abraham’s stars, or Popsicle sticks taped to make shepherds’ staffs.

But really, most of your crafts will not make it safely home to the refrigerator door. 

More will be trash for the sextant to clean off the sanctuary pew or for the car wash attendant to vacuum out of the minivan’s seats.

You want to spend time on what will go home in their hearts and minds.

More tomorrow on my study of memory making.

Today I challenge you to brainstorm creative toys and materials. 

Timehop reminded me that I was searching for a bargain on some years ago.

Free play will encourage careful thought of the daily subject matter rather than efforts, sometimes very frustrated efforts, to copy your symbolic prototype.

And we want our children meditating on bible stories and spiritual truths.

Free play will promote genuine conversations with, rather than repeated craft directions to, your students.

And we want relationships to be forming in our classroom.

Last year I discovered quickly that my small class loved play dough. 

Consider adding one of these to your supply wish list this week. 

And don’t be ashamed to ask for donations.

  • Blocks
  • Puppets
  • Wooden peg people
  • Tea set
  • Magazines (safe previewed ones) for collage making

What creative free play items would you add?

Adventure Week Fifteen

It’s still Easter.

My friend Jocelyn did Ukrainian eggs Easter weekend and posted on Facebook.

I was in awe.

So I invited myself over to do them two weeks later. She obliged.

To “adventure” well requires a little initiative. Dare to be rude once in awhile.

The boys played Wii and we crafted.

She had it all.

The book.

The supplies.

The practice knowledge.

The confident cheering on.

Even the egg for me, already blown.

“I think it’s going to look fabulous,” she kept saying.

And, I think it does.

There are fancy words for it and the utensils and such.

Google it.

No words left today.

But, look…

Thanks, Jocelyn!


Bees wax and “heat source”
Applying a wax layer

Wax removal


Wax removal


Toys, Tech, and Labyrinths

This post is really brought to you by Abraham Pace!

 I enjoy Facebook.

And Instagram.

And for a bit I even did Snap Chat.

It can all be time wasters and gossip creators. But, you know, so could the television and the telephone.

I love social media for the connections. People are amazing.

And so this post is simply my Facebook find of the day.

There was once a boy who sometimes came to Church of the Apostles in Columbia, SC.

That boy’s name is Danilo.

Miss Melanie hardly knew him.

But she remembers his face – his eyes and his hair. And his behavior easily qualified him as a good kid.

Danilo moved away.

Miss Melanie heard about him from his dad’s Facebook posts.

Together, he and his dad and his younger siblings did this:

This is a Lego labyrinth.

The dad’s corresponding post described labyrinths:

Teaching the kids about “Prayer Labyrinths” a labyrinth is different than a maze in that it only has one entrance and no wrong turns. It was developed as a prayer tool by the Knights Templar and one of the most famous ones is at the Chartres Cathedral in France. The idea is that one walks the path in contemplative prayer. On the way in is the prayer of asking forgiveness or cleansing. Once at the center one prays for enlightenment and as one walks back out the way they came in the prayer is one of doing. The Lutheran Seminary in Columbia, SC has a beautiful one. This lego one my kids and I built last week.


I liked the post. I commented.

I added several friends to the conversation, ones who had spoken of Legos or labyrinths.

I said, “I want that on my blog.”

Notifications popped up.

When the dad replied to someone else, I discovered there was also a mine craft labyrinth.

After we built this one Danilo and I built one in Minecraft. We enhanced it with an elevated sun room at the center with a tree growing on top and instead of being a pattern on the floor we created it with high walls.

Oh, I asked a bunch of questions.

And I got a private message.

I was told it didn’t have to stay private.

So here it is, straight from Danilo’s dad. The story of Legos and Labyrinths.

My oldest boy, Danilo, is 9 now and his sister, Natalia, is 7 and their youngest brother, Elias, is 5. I have been telling them about prayer labyrinths for a while now but I do not think that I had shown them a picture. Last weekend was cold (its always cold in Michigan) and so I was looking for an idea of something to build. We have built spiders, Star Wars toys and the last thing we built was a bridge. That does not include the constant building of the small projects. I did not have a picture of the labyrinth when I built the lego one so I had to do it as best I could from memory. It took us at least two hours and we stopped at some point in the middle to do other things. My kids had to sacrifice a lot of their structures so that we could collect enough square blocks. I designed it on paper before starting. There is only one path in and no wrong turns. In this case I did not consider it praying while I was building it but it definitely was more meaningful than just build a random thing. After we finished the lego version I put my two youngest to bed and then Danilo and I built the one in Minecraft. He did most of the work because he is really good at it and he had a lot ideas. It definitely bonded us and was fun for him to have more time on Minecraft. I may leave the lego one up for another week and then we are starting to think about build the tabernacle. I am tech and minecraft challenged but I just asked Danilo and he said that other people would not be able to access it because it was done on “pocket edition”. In the minecraft version the prayer room in the center is just the ideal place I would love to have to pray. I have been teaching my kids about the “tree of life” and the “giving tree” so it also is a prayer tool. In the warmer days of the year we have been known to find a big tree to sit, look, meditate and pray by. I am trying to teach my kids the art of being quiet and to listen to nature. At the same time to let nature lead them to praying to God.

I’ll be waiting for the tabernacle.

Advent at Home (with children!) guest post with Jennifer Goebel

So, how do you do that?

I like asking questions. Several years ago, my church had an inter-generational mom’s brunch. A neighbor hosted. I love women who host food events. I shared a couple of my favorite children’s books and a panel of moms fielded a few questions. Our priest’s wife advised me to prepare the questions beforehand rather than allowing an open forum. She said that lots of mom topics are divisive. I was still naive. I’m grateful for wise women.

Several moms submitted questions that made the cut for the morning. My question did, too, after revision. I’d wanted to ask, “How do you do family devotions?” But the panel decided that the question should be, “Do you have family devotions?”

I’m glad they reworded that thing because the answers were all over the place. And a few of the answers were, “we don’t.” That was from the panel of respected moms, not from the crowd.

Honesty is refreshing.

We heard real answers that day.

I want you to hear real answers today. You’re about to be bombarded by at least two things in the next week – the world’s Christmas rush and the church’s Advent wait. And you will not do either of them perfectly.

For my family, my Advent desire to wait to celebrate Christmas will take a back seat when our ten year old wants to get out the tree. Ours is artificial. Get over it. Allergies here. For all my thoughts of putting up a tree and leaving it bare until Christmas Eve when we will go to Midnight Mass and return home to decorate it, it will not happen that way. It will not.

Because often the holiday season brings depression and the smiles of a boy reminiscing about so many tree ornaments and their back stories will make me smile, no matter what. And I need to smile before December 24th.

And when the church down the street does a drive through Bethlehem on the second weekend of Advent, I will go.

Because I like drive through Bethlehems and that’s when they do it.

I look at all my friends that say they do a proper Advent season with longing. I look at them and wish I could do that, too.

Wait. No, I don’t.

I don’t have any friends that really do what someone said was the proper four weeks of waiting for everything.

But I do have friends who make little steps to be different.

Jennifer is one of them.

She has a husband and two girls. Just look at them –

Family Pic

I’m about to share with you her thoughts on her Advent. Mine will not be like hers. For one, I have a ten year old boy. For two, I do not have a husband who would do this –

advent decor

That dad is coloring an Advent wreath. Ain’t gonna happen in this house. And you know what? My husband is still pretty darn awesome.

Jennifer is one of those women who actually does a few of those pinterest crafts that she posts. Look at that decorated tree by the fireplace. It’s felt and one of my favorite pins. I thought about doing it last year when I was doing a long term sub job in kindergarten. (Yeah, I didn’t.)

But Jennifer is still like you and me. She doesn’t do all the pinterest crafts. I’m sure of it. Just listen to her response that she gave when I mentioned Advent and asked,

How do you do that?

When Miss Melanie asked me to write about my life with my girls who are four years old and seventeen months old, I wasn’t quite sure I had anything to offer.

I instantly thought, “how honest can I be without sounding like we do nothing more than watch Disney Jr. and eat snacks?”

(Oh, Jennifer, Go ahead. You can be honest. Completely honest.) 

Yes, there are days when all we do is watch Mickey, Sofia, and Miles, but then there are days when my oldest asks for us to do a project. For her, that means painting, cutting, gluing, and proudly writing her name on whatever masterpiece she whips up.


(We love the masterpiece!)

There are also days when we read books and play dress up or go to the park.


(And now we all want to be pulled to the park with you. We do.)

I have to say even on the days it feels like we do nothing of importance I find there was at least twenty minutes when I feel like the girls and I connected.

That’s what I am shooting for these days. I want moments with my family that I know were spent getting to know them a little better than I already do.

It is with this goal in mind that I approach the season of Advent.

In our family, Advent has always been a kind of restart for us to grow closer together as we grow closer to God. This started well before we had kids. I am looking forward to our planned activities that create family time each night as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I anticipate our girls will be a bit squirmy during devotions and not totally understand why we have to wait to turn the next page in the Advent Book.

(It’s OK, girls. Miss Melanie gets squirmy, too.)

(Hey, y’all, I asked. They use this Jennifer’s Family Advent Book)

I foresee my oldest wanting to display more decorations than I usually put out for Advent which will lead to a lovely conversation about the celebration of the Season of Christmas.

I expect my husband and I to contemplate not doing devotions one night because we are tired (happens every year).

(One night? Let us know. It will make us all feel so much better!)

With all my expectations of how our observance of Advent may go, I know for sure we will make some memorable moments and our girls will understand a little better the hope found in the birth of Christ.


ME: Can you share a couple of your planned activities that are family time each night?

JENNIFER: For each Sunday in Advent we color part of the nativity scene and glue it to a piece of poster board.  We save baby Jesus until the Sunday before Christmas.  One night we have an indoor snowball fight with paper balls.  One night we have a dance party.  We color a picture of an advent wreath and talk about the symbolism.  After each activity we do devotions.

ME: Oh my goodness, Jennifer, an indoor snowball fight? A dance party? What about a tickle monster visit? That’s more a McGehee possibility. Seriously, though, do you use a specific format or book for devotions?

JENNIFER:   Rob and Aaron Burt worked together to write an Evening Family Devotion for each season. That is what we use and I made follow along cards for the girls.  For the reading we use THE ADVENT BOOK.

ME: We will certainly be waiting on the link for those Evening Family Seasonal Devotions 🙂 Tell me again about the decorations in your home and contrasts between Advent and Christmas.

JENNIFER: We keep decorations to a minimal and pull out all the stops for Christmas. We do our best not to listen to Christmas music. We wait until Christmas to go see the Christmas lights or to make cookies. In Advent, we keep it simple. Christmas is a big party for 12 days including family activities and devotions. We really focus on waiting during Advent.  During Christmas we focus on celebrating.

ME: I get it. There are so many traditional Christmas activities! I’ve enjoyed waiting to do some of them until after Christmas day and spreading them throughout the 12 Days of Christmas. We often make our gingerbread house the week following Christmas Day and go to our local zoo’s light extravaganza then.

I think what I heard Jennifer say is that Advent isn’t that hard, but it is intentional. And I love her goal of getting to know her family and the Lord better. How do you do Advent? And, which twenty minutes of today did you connect with your people …


Picture Reminders

This is how I often define a symbol to children.

A symbol is a picture reminder.

When referring to our Children’s Church table, I would point and say, “This cross is a picture reminder of Jesus.”

Of course there are other symbols, other reminders. And all reminders are not merely visual.

“When the cross is carried down the center aisle,” I will explain to children, “then we see it – it is our picture reminder of Jesus. But Jesus did not stay on that cross, did he?” I will wait for them to boldly answer, “NO!” and sometimes there will be extra explanations from many. I will continue, “No, he came to life again, proving that He is King over crosses and death and all the world.”

I will ask, “What would we do if the King of all the world walked into this room?”

Our children, because this has become routine, would both answer “bow” and also do it as they said it. Bowing. Perhaps even kneeling.

Bowing can be a picture reminder for us. When I see those around me do it, then I am reminded that I am in a place where we are remembering that Jesus, who died on a cross, is the King of all the World.

But when I bow, then it is more than a picture. It is an action. It is worship in movement.

I love liturgical worship because it is all engaging. I see and hear. I smell. I move and feel. I taste.

And yes, somewhere in the Eucharistic service, the reminding and remembering becomes the very presence of God. Sometimes in water. Sometimes in bread. Sometimes in wine.

Holy Week provides many opportunities to remember. In some of our services, there is touching and doing and smelling and tasting. There is the great chasm of emotion …

from triumph and joy to fatigue and despair,

from shouts of hosannas to cries of fear and blame and name calling,

from trembling to silence,

from dark to light,

from shock to delight,

Ash Wednesday and Lent and Palm Sunday and Holy Week are the seasons where I abandon all my disgust (from inadequacies) for crafting and plunge into the world of making. Making picture reminders.

Or, buying one 🙂

I’d love to invite you to my pinterest board and ask you to send me some pins to add of your favorite picture reminders.   

And if you’d like to win something from my new favorite etsy shop – jesse tree treasures – see them here –


Then share this blog post (not the etsy pin, but you can do that, too!) with a friend via email or facebook and comment below

In the comment, tell me who you shared the post with and where you would display your Holy Week ornaments if you won. I’ll try to get your set to you by Holy Week this year. I’ll try!

One random winner chosen at 8pm this Monday, March 16th!

Blessings, friends!

Introducing: PINTEREST

So on a whim I signed up for this and now I am somehow automatically following a lot of people – and, some are following me. One day I’ll learn how to use this,

Seriously. That’s my Pinterest. Oh my gosh! Was I overwhelmed in the beginning. Did I shy away from it or did I? Yes, I did. And then, I don’t know when. But I know it was one night when I was already in bed – I got hooked.

And every once in awhile, when I have insomnia – oh, please – I do not ever have insomnia.

Every once in awhile when I’m waiting for my husband to come to bed, I kind of, well, I kinda overindulge.

And I’d hardly ever admit that to anyone. Especially my best friend. (She hates the WORD.)

But there was this friend who’d moved away. A lot of people move away from me. A lot of people. And it makes me sad. And there was this way that I could connect with her that was different than email and different from facebook. I could connect with her via her Pinterest Boards.

You are laughing now. I know you are.

I am not completely naive. I know that Pinterest Boards are a lot of fantasy. Ok, majority fantasy.

But she had a baby right before she moved and I watched that child become a toddler and I got to see her ideas of what she wanted to do with her daughter. All on Pinterest. The cool thing is, because I do actually have a facebook account also, that sometimes she posted real photographs of those Pinterest ideas on facebook. As in, she actually made some of those “Pinterest crafts.”


She started having these boards called “LENT” and “ADVENT” and all of a sudden, I realized that this was my jackpot.

You have had those kinds of nights propped up on pillows in your bed. I know you have. The ones where you think, “Oh my word. That is AWESOME. I am going to do that!”



You’ll find the good stuff here 

Ok, Ok. Once I get that friend to help me with it …