Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Singing I Go

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above.
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
~Thomas Chisholm

The other week I was talking to my sister on the phone. Here in the upper Midwest, we've been having "record-breaking" bitter cold temperatures as well as a few bouts of snow even before winter has officially hit us yet. The snow descended prior to all of the leaves falling off of the trees, and we found ourselves shoveling before we managed to rake the remainder of leaves from the ground! That, combined with the time change and the "early darkness" sparked the conversation that my sister and I had. We both grew up in New England, where the winters were shorter and "cozier" (shorter-lasting and with less bitter cold, if that explains it properly). 

I joked, (with a serious truth behind it) that I've been singing hymns to keep my spirits up amidst this brutal weather and the long, dark days. She quipped, "Which one? Abide with Me? (Look up the words to that hymns to see the humor behind her choice ;-)). I laughed and answered, "No! George Beverly Shea's "Singing I Go Along Life's Road . . . " to which she wryly replied, "Bek; didn't he live in the South?"

Sometimes it's difficult to find a song in winter days (or in this case; the middle-of-fall days ;-)). For me, it has been hard to adjust to the difference in climate here in the Midwest from what I grew up with in New England. In New England, the seasons were generally very distinguished and separate from each other, each one attached with a certain amount of nostalgia. One was surrounded with a lot of people and quaint shops, with coffee and the overwhelming sense of "coziness." Here in the Midwest, things are different than what I grew up with and knew and loved, and I have found myself looking for grace and joy through the differences--but it's just not the same-- Here, I do find sparks of happiness in my garden, in the anticipation of spring, in planning for the warmer days, in homeschooling my children and reading books in front of our fire, in visiting thrift shops in the area, and in the occasional trip to the "big city" of Dubuque (in the state near to us) where there is a Hobby Lobby. :-) These things bring happiness to my heart and lift me out of the "humdrum" of the often bleak fall/winter climate here in the rural Midwest. But many times, it has been very difficult for me. 

Now please don't get me wrong. :-) I love the "deep country." I love the quietness, the beauty of the land, the absence of huge buildings everywhere, the sweet cows and sheep and rabbits and possums, and even the cute little field mice that speckle our snow with their tiny feet. I love the soil and the streams and the long grasses and the wildflowers. I love the beautiful deer racing and bounding across the fields and looking at me with their great, deep, soft  eyes.  There are things that I love about the Midwest

But the weather honestly wears upon my soul. I know that this is often true with other believers as well--sometimes it brings with it depression and anxiety as the long days stretch on into months and the spring is long in arriving. As believers, we are often hesitant to talk about things like depression or anxiety. We are "afraid" that other believers will think that we are "less spiritually mature," that we are unable to "handle" the different stresses of life, that we are not clinging to the promises of God, that we aren't joyful, "positive" Christians. But I have come to believe that the seemingly "less mature" believers are often (not always, but often) the ones who are more heavily relying upon God's strength--their weakness drives them to the Rock of Ages. Their anxiety and depression make them sense more keenly their need for a saving God and for His personal intervention in the day to day happenings of their lives. That depression and anxiety may be the goad that drives a believer to the Great Shepherd of the sheep. 

We need to remember that not everyone is made "the same." That the Lord's commands are true and relevant and that His promises are firm and trustworthy for each one of us individually, but that not everyone is made the same. Not everyone is able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and push their face into the wailing wind with joy even as the chill gale wraps itself around their shoulders in negative degrees! Some people have weaker constitutions; some people struggle with depression in the darkness and cold. Some people, especially the elderly, may combat anxiety in the winter as they wonder how they will get around and have concern for falling and slipping on the ice. As believers, we are called to have hearts of compassion and understanding. 

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted . . . Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

We also need to remember that some people are built physically "stronger" than others. Some people's bodies handle cold better than others. Some people take medications that help them in varying ways to deal with the stresses of cold climates and in other areas of life--that make them "feel better" physically, which in turn impacts their outward response towards the weather. We need to remember these things before making quick judgments about people who seemingly "complain" about the weather. 

In my own life, there are times when I am on the "stronger" end, and then times when I am on the "weaker" end. Haven't we all experienced this in different areas of our lives? I believe that the Lord teaches us through both of these extremes so that we can have sympathy or empathy for those around us, rather than forcing a positive attitude upon our friends and acquaintances who in our understanding may not be able to "handle" something that we think that they should be able to immediately  through the Lord's strength. I do a lot of gardening in the warmer months and often lift "heavy" things or do intensive yard work on our 4 acres of land. One of my sisters, who has severe allergies and asthma struggles in the warm weather--she loves the outdoors and to garden, but sometimes just physically can't do the "heavier" work that I may be able to do. A "strong" person may look at her (not understanding the physical limitations that she has) and think proudly, "What a weakling!" or they may-in a spirit of understanding--remember that the Lord makes people different and that often a physically weaker brother or sister in the Lord may be doing an immense amount of "quiet work" for the kingdom of God--only the Lord knows the extent of it. 

On the other end of the spectrum, after I gave birth to my second child, I was physically weak. I had my two children 19 months apart and experienced very difficult deliveries with both of them. My body was tired; I felt "broken." For those of you who have experienced something similar, you understand what I mean. I have seen the looks of joy on mother's faces as they hold their babies for the first time, and I can honestly tell you that when my son, my second child, was placed in my arms, I was in a daze of pain and couldn't even think. I saw the joy of other mothers when they talked about nursing their babies and I was so physically "weak" for the first 5 months of my son's life (after I had nursed my daughter for over a year) that I continually had the "shakes" during the day and often had a difficult time lifting myself from the floor when I sat down on the rug to read to my children. There are times in our lives when the Lord renders us physically weak so that we may understand what it is like to experience other people's daily struggles. I had to give up nursing my son so that my body could heal. And I had to realize that my joy came from the Lord in the midst of my struggles, not in having a "positive" attitude, but in clinging to the Lord and in letting His joy strengthen me in my weakness. 

The important thing is not necessarily embracing the circumstance itself as joy, but in embracing the One who allowed it in our lives and gave it to us in love that we might draw nearer to Him through it. 

The important thing is not necessarily rejoicing in the bitter cold itself, but in rejoicing in our Great Father, who uses the bitter winds to drive us toward the truth of the warmth of His love and the realization that spring always comes after the winter. 

In all things, we give thanks, but there is no sin in admitting that they are hard things. The Lord does not require that we enjoy the hard thing itself--only that His joy flows through us in it. The cross itself is a thing to us of beauty now, but only because it brought redemption. The bitter winds of winter and the hard as nails ice and snow are a means to prepare the ground for the softness and warmth of the spring. 

Yes; of course there is a beauty in winter, but we have to admit, if most of us are honest, that month after month of cold and ice and hard ground and frozen trees  do wear upon the soul and we long for the warmth of the new season. I think that the Lord places that longing in each of our hearts; didn't He, friend? 

It is just as C.S. Lewis's characters lamented in the beloved Chronicles of Narnia under the evil witch's rule: "It is always winter and never Christmas!" And when Aslan came, so did the melting of the snow and the birth of spring and rejoicing after the long, glacial winter. 

We are quick to cast judgments. 

We are quick to throw a stone in areas where we don't struggle. 

Positivity is the new "go-to" word in secular and Christian circles and we've all heard others tell us not to surround ourselves with "negative" influences (i.e. people). 

But we need to be careful when we embrace the world's thinking in areas like these and put a "spiritual" spin on them. 

We glibly remind our brothers and sisters to have a positive attitude while quoting verses such as "Give thanks in all circumstances" or in reminding them that others have it "worse" than they do--

John Newton's relationship with poet William Cowper is a powerful example of how we might treat our brothers and sisters who struggle with depression or anxiety or who may in God's wisdom, have a a "weaker" constitution than we do and whose bodies may literally have a more difficult time handling the things that we are able to with greater ease. 

William Cowper was a godly man (probably equally godly as his pastor-friend John Newton) who struggled immensely with anxiety, depression, and with continual haunting thoughts that he wasn't really a saved child of God. He was a very sensitive man who wrote beautiful poetry and provided the church with the timeless hymns, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, and God Moves in a Mysterious Way, among others. 

Many times, William Cowper would fall into a spirit of despair and it was his friend, Pastor John Newton's encouragement that the Lord often used to keep him afloat. John Newton was what we might think of as a robust Christian and instead of looking down upon his friend William Cowper for his "negative" spirit, rather encouraged this dear man to take joy in the Lord, to write hymns for the glory of God, and to be strengthened with might in his inner man by clinging to the promises of God in his deep depression. 

Who knows what good John Newton did for the soul of William Cowper, his dear and constant friend? What if Newton dismissed Cowper as a "negative" influence upon his life? 

Perhaps we would not have Cowper's beautiful hymns today . . . 

We need to remember that the William Cowper's among us may be the instruments that God is using for His glory . . . perhaps the sensitivity that often leads to their depression and "negativity" also leads to the profound feeling expressed in the works that the Holy Spirit accomplishes through them. 

I know many people like this; you probably do as well. 

Living in the Midwest is teaching me that I don't need to be happy about months and months of frigid cold and snow. 

But I can sing as I go . . . 

As Corrie Ten Boom did in the dreadful prison of Ravensbruck . . . singing hymns audibly and from the quiet depths of her heart when she was told that she could not sing out loud or would be punished--as she did when she saw a single flower through her window there and rejoiced in the hope that her Savior was near and dear to her and with her . . . 

As William Cowper did when amidst his severe spiritual depression he took up his pen and wrote hymns to the Author of his salvation. 

As many missionaries and Christian workers do as they confront loneliness and climates that they are not accustomed to, and cultures that are difficult to acclimate to. It is not easy; one cannot be a Pollyanna always--

But we can sing as we go. 

We sing in our hearts--we sing audibly. We pray and confront the depression and anxiety that at times takes residence in our hearts.

We ask other believers to pray for us that we may be strengthened with might in our inner man. 

We sing as we go.

We lift a quiet song of joy up to God in our hearts; we cling to His promises. 

We look at the bitter winds and the ground covered with snow for month upon endless month and we plant seeds of joy in our hearts, knowing that spring will inevitably come, that our hands will some day feel the beautiful grains of garden soil sifting through them, that flowers will bloom again, that birds will not be huddled together, but singing free and unhindered and full of the the life of spring, that worms will come up to the surface of the earth again, that the warm breeze will blow upon our cheeks. 

Even if this is in the sense of a spiritual spring--especially in the sense of it. 

I will not delight in the hard thing--whatever it is--

But I will sing as I go

Sing to an ever-loving, ever-caring Savior--sing to the God who cares about my anxiety and depression--and who lifts me above them in His grace--

Sing of the joy of spring. Sing of the victory that is in Jesus alone, not in a spirit of positivity--but in the joy that is our strength in Him

Singing we go. 

Singing I go along life's road
Praising the Lord, praising the Lord
Singing I go along life's road
For Jesus has lifted my load. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Each Perfect Gift~~Book Review

What do you do when the sins of your past rise from the dead? 

Ben Picoletti’s conversion astounded the little town of Chetham, Rhode Island – and no one more than the pastor’s daughter, whose heart Ben seeks to win… despite his shameful history. After all, the cross of Christ has removed Ben’s sins as far as the east is from the west, hasn’t it? 

Yet, as Christmas 1937 draws near, Ben’s past returns to trouble him – and to force Ben to grapple with the practical meaning of forgiveness and grace in his own life… and in the lives of those around him. 

A story for anyone who has ever been haunted by the consequences of choices they once made, Each Perfect Gift brings a message of the true redemption that is found in Christ alone. 

Each Perfect Gift is the first story in the series A LEGACY OF GRACE, an off-shoot of the original A TIME OF GRACE series, featuring beloved Grace Picoletti and Paulie Giorgi. If you crave emotional, old-fashioned stories with strong spiritual heart, a reaffirmation of God's continual work in everyday people's lives and hearts, and memorable characters whose redemption is deep and realistic, you've come to the right place!


From my sister's desk comes another beautiful, deeply moving novel just in time for the Christmas season. If you have read her A Time of Grace Series, you will recognize the characters from those books as their story continues to unfold in Each Perfect Gift. For those of you who have grown to love Paulie, Grace, Sarah, Dr. Giorgi, and Ben, this book perfectly draws Ben's story to a painfully swelling and then beautifully satisfying close while including those other characters that we have all come to love from Alicia's previous books as she offers us glimpses into each of their journeys. 

I think that I love Alicia's books not just because they are so very well-written and researched, but because she writes with conviction and with compassion; I don't think that I have read one of her books without crying at some point or without relating to at least one of the characters in her books on a deeper level. She writes with conviction in the sense that her books are deeply scriptural and based on scriptural principles without being "preachy." She writes with compassion in the sense that there is always mercy for the sinner in her stories as well as mercy and compassion for those who are often the "outcasts" of Christian "society." 

As usual in Alicia's books, a beautiful thread of redemption runs through--and Each Perfect Gift is no exception~both for the newly-born saint (Ben) and for the sinner (Annie)~~ a thread of redemption that glistens red like Rahab's rope hanging from a window in Jericho. 

The book follows their stories (Ben's and Annie's), giving exquisite attention to detail and drawing the reader's mind and heart back~~again and again~~ to the hope that is found in Jesus Christ despite the mistakes that have been made in the past or the sins that have been committed. 

There is always a way . . . perhaps not a way "out" in the sense of running away from the consequences of sin or from past mistakes, but a way of redemption~~

This book is laced with the truth that God takes even our sinful choices or the choices that we have made in ignorance and works good in and through them when we come to Him in a spirit of humility and repentance and with submission to His perfect plan for our lives in and through our mistakes (not despite them). 

The Lord is able to redeem, restore, rebuild . . . and this is seen in the lives of both Ben and Annie. 

Things that I loved about this book~~

~Ben's struggle to do what is right and his willingness to face the consequences of his past sins rather than running away from them.

~Annie's "hardness" at the beginning of the book that turns to softness near the end at the time of her conversion.

~The characterization of Betty, the Pastor's daughter; I really enjoyed her "inner dialogue" and the glimpses into her mind and heart throughout the book-- I loved the way that the softening of her heart somewhat reversely mirrored that of Annie's softening. 

~The very clear, scriptural salvation message and that message's implications for a believer's everyday choices expressed throughout the decisions that Alicia's characters make throughout the book. 

~The historical accuracy and careful attention to detail.

~The ending of the story and the way in which Alicia beautifully ties all of the details together in her book. 

I won't give away too much of the story, but I would encourage you to read Each Perfect Gift . . . even if you haven't read the A Time of Grace series, Each Perfect Gift may be read as a stand-alone. 

So go on! Pick up a copy and make your self a great big mug of steaming hot chocolate and read this beautiful book . . . it will deeply bless your heart. 

The softcover may be purchased HERE and the Kindle is available HERE

Purchase HERE:

Monday, September 30, 2019


On Saturday, my son went to the barber for the first time. He is five years old, but I've cut his hair up until last Saturday. I thought that it would be a good experience for him to go to a "real" barber and he was very excited. He half-nervously, half-excitedly sat up in a booster chair in that old fashioned barber shop and relished the haircut. The barber was a kind older man who is probably in his early 80's. His is the only barber shop run by a male barber in the county in which we live that is open 5 days a week; there is one other barber shop that is open for just a few days a week. He told us, in between haircuts, that many men do not go into barbering anymore--the hairdressing profession has been overtaken by women since the requirements to become a barber were changed and men were expected to attend beautician school with women. Many men simply weren't interested in going into the profession after that, and barber shops have become few and far between in favor of "hair salons" and beauty shops. He informed us that the number of barber shops had gone down from 17 in our county to 2 since he began his career as a barber. 

I sat in that little barber shop, that old fashioned barber shop with the squeaky leather seats and looked at the elderly barber's certificate for barbering on the wall. And I felt a sadness come over me as I left, and after I heard the barber's story of how barber shops were fast becoming obsolete. And I thought to myself; What will happen when this man dies? And what will become of his little barber shop with the red, white, and blue barber's pole turning at it's door? 

Will it even be remembered?

This feeling has come over me a lot lately, maybe because I'm turning 37 in a few weeks, maybe because I "feel" older, maybe because so many things have changed even from the time that I was a little girl. Technology has moved so quickly --things have really changed--and sometimes, I just don't want them to; I want things to stay as they are for just a few more moments in this speck of eternity--but the world whizzes fast, and moves forward at a frightening speed. 

There are some things that we want to forget . . . some things that are painful, or that burden us in our walk with the Lord, that weigh us down. There can be a "good" forgetting--

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)

But there are many things that ought to be remembered. 

It is good to remember. 

In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord reminds His beloved people to remember how He led them out of Egypt, how He brought forth water from a rock, how He fed them with manna (Deuteronomy 8:15 NKJV). 

He reminds them to teach these things to their children (Deuteronomy 6:20) and of the importance of remembering all the works that the Lord had accomplished for the Israelites in bringing them out of the land of Egypt~~

“When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. (Deuteronomy 6:20-23 NKJV)

Time after time in the Scriptures, the importance of remembering is stressed. We are called time and time again to remember God and his works; here are a few examples--

Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me . . . (Isaiah 46:9 NKJV)

I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 

Psalm 77:11 NKJV

and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (I Corinthians 11:24 NKJV)

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5 NKJV)

God also remembers us--

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
(Isaiah 49:15-16 NKJV)

Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him,
I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:20 NKJV)

For He remembered His holy promise,And Abraham His servant. (Psalm 105:42 NKJV)

A few days ago, we were driving home and noticed two crosses under a tree around a strong curve in the road in the country close to where we live. There must have been a car accident there, and two lives had been lost, finished in a moment--someone had placed two crosses there--someone who had wanted to remember. Again, a sadness passed over me--how long would anyone remember? How long before the weather and the huge plows that clear the roads here in the Midwest would sweep the signs away?

But God remembers. 

Every life, every drop in the bucket of eternity. Every sparrow that falls. Every tiny ant that crawls over a leaf in the spring when days are new and every cricket that dies after singing his last song in the fall.

God remembers. 

He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust.

Our days are short here on this earth. 

Only one life, twill soon be past--

Easily forgotten, easily eaten up by the quickness of the passing years--but there is one thing that is important--

Only what's done for Christ will last. 

And so we remember--

We remember God in the days of our youth; we remember His work--we seek to walk in the ancient paths where the good way is and there we find rest for our souls (Jeremiah 6:16). 

And God remembers. 

Every hair on our heads, every tiny breath, every sigh, every tear, every good and perfect gift that brings our hearts joy and that points back to a remembering Creator. 

And so I look back on those "olden" days, those old fashioned times that I cherish and they remind me that there is value in remembering, in holding on to the good things of the past, the things of value. 

My old farmhouse reminds me of that. Every time I smell the old scent of it's 1860's foundation when I plant flowers around my house, when I walk into the aged barn and think about the animals that lived there once--when I try to preserve the beauty and memories that linger on the beloved land that God gave me to take care of and to share with others. 

I remember. 

God remembers. Even at the end of all time, the Lord will take out His great Book, His book of remembrance when He gathers the saints to Himself--

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.

They shall be Mine," says the Lord of hosts,
On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.
Malachi 3:16-17 NKJV

And He will remember--when sorrow is forgotten; when tears are past--when all things that were unjust or crooked or tainted with sin are made right. 

Even when He makes all things new, the joy of His remembrance will reign. 

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Friday, September 13, 2019

Teaching Children Sensitivity Towards God's Creation

This is my Father's world;
The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their Maker's praise.

We were supposed to re-model our dining room late this spring and into the early summer. We live in a very old farmhouse and many of the rooms need to be refreshed and repaired. I had been waiting to tackle this particular project because of the extensive work that was involved. We needed new windows and a new back door as well as re-insulating the walls and "gutting out" all of the old horsehair plaster that had been there previously. The south side of the room needed to be completely re-insulated and vinyl-sided on the outside of the house where vines had been growing against bare wood. The room is freezing in the winter (and the winter is cold to put it mildly ;-)) here in the upper Midwest. My husband gutted the room with a local Amish boy who helped him. They removed so much debris from the room~~we carted it off to the dump, burned what we could, and vacuumed  from top to bottom. I was increasingly excited about finally finishing this room~~our home is intended to be a place of hospitality and this was the room that I needed to complete before I could really have families over on a regular basis. 

We were planning on having the Amish company that my brother in law works for part time finish the job. The room was completely gutted and ready! And I was excited~~we called them and they agreed to come for the next two days (it was just before their really busy season and they could squeeze us in and spare a few of their men)~~the Amish do things incredibly efficiently and quickly~~we had almost all of the materials and we were ready~~

And then I went outside. 

It was a warm day and I walked around the house where we have a trellis that holds the vines that previously grew against the house. The trellis sits literally almost right next to the house and we have been training the vines onto it for the hummingbirds. 

There was a nest~~right up against the house~~exactly where the old windows would need to be torn out and replaced and the vinyl siding put on. Oh no! I thought and then immediately hoped that there were no birds in it~~The Amish are willing to come tomorrow! I had just about all of the materials at that point~~my husband was going to run to the hardware store for the remainder of things that we needed before they began the job in the morning~~ but a nest! Right where they would need to work~~right there--a nest!

Oh no. My heart sank. I thought and paced; I eventually looked closer at the nest~~a little head popped out. 

A sweet little chipping sparrow . . . nesting in my trellis. I knew that she might be on eggs or babies at that point. And I knew in my heart of hearts, even through my disappointment, that I would put off the much-anticipated project. It wasn't worth it to me~~and it didn't make sense to destroy her home so that I could make mine more attractive~~it was more important to wait--to teach my children--who were with me and watching how I would react to this situation-- mercy and compassion towards God's precious creation than to improve our living space. 

It was more important. 

When we make decisions about how we treat the Lord's creation, we say something to our children. Our actions and our words and interactions will send a very clear message to them about how they should in turn treat God's creation~~either with respect and tenderness and compassion, or with ambivalence or roughness and a lack of caring and concern. 

I believe that it is important to teach a child from the time that that child is very young to be sensitive towards God's creation~~towards birds, animals, even insects. I have a clear memory of sitting on our wooden steps in Rhode Island while my mom gardened nearby. I must have been about 3 years old. A bumblebee landed next to me. My mom read my sisters and I many, many books when we were little, and a great deal of them focused on sweet little friendly creatures such as this bumblebee. Innocently, I reached out my hand to pet the bumblebee that I perceived in my childish heart as friendly. It stung me, and I learned a lesson that bumblebees were not the kind of insect one could pet :-) but I write this as an example to show that children can be taught from a very young age to be sensitive towards God's creation. I thought of that bumblebee as a friend--like Babbity Bumble in Beatrix Potter's classic stories; no thought came to me to harm it or to shoo it away. 

Growing up, my Mom's attitude towards birds, animals, and even bugs helped to shape my thinking in this area; as parents, we have this awesome responsibility and opportunity to influence and to shape our children's thinking as well. 

My Mom spoke in a caring, sensitive way towards birds when they were hurt or attacked by a cat. Sometimes we took them in and tried to restore them to life. We fed the birds in our backyard and she banged pans to keep the hawks away when they came. Our elderly dog was treated with kindness and compassion even as she aged and wasn't able to walk down our steps. We carried her up and down the steps for over a year. Toward the end of her life (she was 17 when she died) we took turns sleeping downstairs with her as she would wake up in the night and become disoriented, getting stuck under the chairs near our kitchen table. We slept downstairs with her in order to free her if she got stuck! We took in rabbits, feeding them when they were orphaned and trying to restore them to life. My mom would tell us to kill a bug in the house quickly (she hated to see anything suffer) or to put it outside if it was a cricket or a harmless beetle. We trapped mice in safe traps and then released them far from the house. I learned through all of these things that God's creation was not something to be trampled over or irritated by, but respected and loved and enjoyed and dealt with in a caring rather than a cruel way. There were times when one would need to spray bugs to keep them away from the house, but it was not something that we took pleasure in. My mom even preferred that flies died quickly! She would tell us to make sure that when we swatted them that they were dead--not, as she would put it, "half dead and half alive!" :-) I learned through my Mom's caring, sensitive example, that creation was given to us by God to protect and to cherish. 

I strongly believe that teaching children this kind of sensitivity towards creation will aid them and enable them in other facets of their lives when they relate to people. In fact, I believe that it is integral. 

This doesn't mean in any way that every person needs to be an "animal lover" or a "tree hugger." I believe that the Lord gives different people different personalities and ways that they relate and interact with creation in general, but I do believe that when we become Christians, Christ transforms our hearts to see everything (and especially in some ways) His creation with new eyes and hearts. He opens to us realms and rivers of sensitivity and caring that we never had eyes to see before we knew Christ~~the kind of sensitivity that stops and helps a turtle across a busy street~~the kind of sensitivity that urges us to pet an animal for a few moments longer than we normally would have~~the kind of sensitivity that reaches out with compassion rather than with detachment when we see a bird or an animal suffering and we try to alleviate that suffering in whatever way we can. 

Lately, and throughout my life as a believer, I've been disheartened by the attitudes shown by other believers towards creation. Often, our attitude mirrors the world~~that God's creation is merely something to be trampled over and treated in many ways, with contempt. Our children, observing our behavior towards creation, will pick up and imitate the attitudes that we hold. If we laugh or take it lightly when an animal or a bird is hurt, this says something to our children and speaks about the state of our heart. If we ignore suffering or wink it away in the world, on any level, this speaks to our children about how they should relate to suffering and treat those who are suffering. 

Teaching children to love and to respect and to care for God's creation in a sensitive way encourages thoughtfulness and understanding in other aspects of following the Lord and in their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

How does it do this

Sensitivity towards the weakest members of God's creation encourages understanding towards the weakest members of humanity--the elderly, the infirm, those going through suffering or trials, those disregarded and labeled by society as "worthless," the mentally retarded, the blind, the lame. It nurtures the kind of sensitive attitude toward suffering and pain in the world that mirrors Christ's acceptance, compassion,  and love towards the "least of these." 

Sensitivity towards God's creation teaches children that it is better to preserve and to protect rather than to tear down and to destroy. When we teach children care and protection towards God's creation, this attitude follows into other facets of their lives. We live in an age where all of the foundations and values that we cherish as a nation are crumbling, and an attitude in Christians of preservation and protection and of fighting for what is good and true is so desperately needed. When children learn from a young age that it is important to cherish and to protect~~and that it is worth it to do so, it enables the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ to be poured out through them to His glory. 

Sensitivity towards God's creation teaches children early in their lives to listen to the Lord's quiet, still voice, and to become less distracted by all of the allurements of this passing world. Taking nature walks, pointing out birds and animals and insects to small children and teaching them their names and behaviors opens a child's mind and heart up to the wonders of God's created world around them. Bringing children up in a "quiet" way rather than in a busy, distracted manner will yield benefits for them in terms of their walk with the Lord later in life. A child who grows up connected to the natural world will have less barriers and distractions preventing them from connecting with the Creator of those things. Take walks with your children; point things out to them; demonstrate a sensitivity toward trees, flowers, birds, etc. and then connect all of these things back to their glorious Creator. children will reap the benefits of those actions as they grow and relate to God. 

Recently, my children and husband and I were at a nearby lake swimming. Many tiger swallowtails were flying over the sand and landing periodically on it near the water. All of a sudden, a group of children, probably around 10 years old, ran across the beach hurling handfuls of sand at the butterflies trying to knock them down and to kill them. My kids stared, wide-eyed at the children; we had been talking about how sweet the butterflies were and here these tiny destroyers--who had probably never been taught to do differently (and this is key) blazed across the beach. 

The children continued hunting the butterflies, even after my husband approached them and asked them to stop. They weren't satisfied until one lay dead in the sand. And then they lost interest. 

How sad that these children took delight and pleasure in killing things rather than protecting, appreciating, and preserving the beautiful things of God's creation. How sad that their parents either encouraged this kind of behavior or never taught them to do differently. 

As believers, we have sanctified hearts that can see things differently. We can teach our children to love, preserve, and to protect rather than to destroy. We can teach them by our example; we can teach them through our words. Jesus Christ gives us the power not to be apathetic, ambivalent, and unconcerned even about the little, seemingly insignificant things in life such as these beautiful butterflies. Their little lives point toward the majesty of a Great Creator. His creation should be appreciated, respected, enjoyed--and on a deeper level, preserved, protected, cherished in that it points back to Him. 

May we learn and may we teach our children to be sensitive towards His creation. Remember that our Savior didn't mind the sparrows and swallows nesting in his house--even in His altars. May we have the same mind--and teach it to our children . . . 

Even the sparrow has found a home,

And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.

Psalm 84:3 NKJV