Monthly Mission: Paper for Water

Remember my fun blogging friend, Amanda (aka OhAmanda with the cute pixie hair), who invited me to be a part of the Little Praise blogging tour for Yancy? Well, Amanda always has great God-sized ideas for helping parents impress God’s love on the hearts of their children (things like Truth in the Tinsel…).

This newest idea of hers is fabulous. Truly.

monthly-missions-skinny-header-520x204

Each month this year she will highlight a different service project families can do together. Last month, Erin from Home with the Boys hosted the Nickels for Nets project. Her boys collected enough nickels to purchase 10 mosquito nets to protect children in Africa from contracting Malaria. So cool!

I’m thrilled to share Paper for Water as the March Monthly Mission.

paperornaments

I love the family behind this ministry (not just because of our awesome carpooling situation…). (If you don’t remember their story…read this article from Yahoo Finance: Little Sisters, Big Hearts & Incredible Charity. or watch this video with your kiddos:)


Basically Isabelle & Katherine learned to fold orgami from their father who is half-Japanese. Around the same time they learned about the water crisis in the world…

11% of the world’s population do not have safe water to drink and coupled with poor sanitation, this results in 4,000 children dying every day.” (wateraidamerica.org)

They heard about little girls in Africa and India who spent time hauling water instead of playing and going to school. In wanting to help in some way, they started folding origami ornaments and selling them, donating the money to Living Water International.

When we met the Adams sisters they had raised $17,000 to build 3 wells. In the past year,  (with the help of a very generous matching donor) these girls have raised over a hundred thousand dollars to build water wells. Very, very cool. 

adamssisters

What inspires me is their focus on this project. Spending hours during the week and weekends folding origami ornaments, teaching others to fold and spreading the word about the need for water around the world, choosing service over self. 

Like Erin wrote last month, “Monthly Missions are all about teaching our kiddos to do the “hard things.” Serving, giving, making a difference for those who are in need.”

And yes the Adams girls are receiving awards and meeting ambassadors and making television appearances, but they are also giving up some of their comfort and conveniences to save lives across the globe. They found there is great joy in serving others.

If your family would like to join us in helping out Paper for Water, here are the weekly project ideas/challenges for March:

1st week: Go through your craft supplies and collect paper to donate. Then Isabelle & Katherine (and their helpers) can fold the paper into ornaments. The ideal origami paper comes in squares of 3×3, 4×4, or 6×6. (no card stock or tissue paper; patterns welcomed).

2nd week: Go through your jewelry box or craft supplies and collect beads or charms the girls can add to hang on the origami ornaments (see examples of charms below).

Paperforwatercollage

3rd week: It’s World Water Day on March 22nd. This week any time you would normally spend money on a soda/coke/pop/icedtea/coffee, consider saving that money & donating it to Living Water International (make checks payable to Living Water International…send to address below).

4th week: The Adams girls used their talent of folding origami to help others. Brainstorm with your children what gifts/talents/resources you could use to help others. For example, I thought my boys could make duct tape wallets to sell and give the proceeds to Living Water International. Or maybe since it’s spring cleaning time, have a garage sale and donate the money. Be creative!

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Mail your donations (paper/beads/charms & checks made out to Living Water International) to: Paper For Water P.O. Box 720999, Dallas, TX 75372-0999.

Let’s help provide water to the thirsty through our few simple gifts!

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What (& How) We’re Reading {Exodus}

By the time you’re reading this post, I’m hopeful the last minute of 3,000 minutes will have been read *update…we are at 2,876 minutes…with 3 days left*. (exhale)

This month has been a doozy (having two weekend conferences and getting a weeklong cold didn’t help our efforts).

I’ll tell y’all I haven’t had the best attitude when reading aloud to the boys. It wasn’t like I expected them to listen so perfectly they could write a 20 page book report afterward. But I did hope for quiet and few distractions. Trying to read when you can’t hear your own voice isn’t my definition of “quality family bonding”.

Frequently it took an hour for me to read 20 minutes…seriously. Just as I would settle down to read, an announcement would be made from the bathroom someone needing…ahem… “assistance”. Then I’d grab the book again only to see the baby climbing into the entertainment center cabinet. Back again to reading just as a fight would start over a Lightning McQueen car. I’d start reading a sentence just as one son asked a question about how birds fly.

y’all.

So here are some ways I avoided out-sourced transferred my reading duties. Bruce often read for 30 minutes at bed time. Or Quade read as we drove home from school. Or we took a trip to Sonic. After passing out slushes to everyone I would begin reading (although that only lasted 20 minutes before Watts crushed a hole in his styrofoam cup & the baby needed a diaper change).

I just wanted you to know when I write about these books we’ve been reading don’t picture in your head four boys sitting quietly by my side hanging on my every word and halos hovering over their heads.

It’s a mess over here. But they are developing a love of books…only by God’s grace.

exodus

Here is the beautiful book I wanted to share with you today:

Exodus by Brian Wildsmith

exodusbook

Summary: 

-For Kindergarten thru 4th grade (our 3yo likes it too!)

-“Wildsmith recounts Moses’s saga from his rescue in the bulrushes by Pharaoh’s daughter to his death on Mt. Nebo overlooking the Promised Land. The writing is straightforward and simple; the story is brief but accurate. The artwork is a visual feast. The double-page illustrations, framed in gold, are panoramas of activity, crowded with the figures of the Hebrew multitudes suffering in slavery, streaming out of Egypt, traversing the Red Sea between walls of water, wandering in the brown hills of the desert, and at last, triumphantly entering the verdant Canaan.

Filled with meticulous and decorative detail, glowing with rich colors, and arranged to maximize dramatic impact, the paintings show the awesome events with excitement and beauty. The pillars of cloud and fire are shaped like huge pointing fingers. Animals, birds, and sea life abound. God’s presence is shown by a multicolored, starry shape superimposed on a sphere. The endpapers present the Ten Commandments printed on monumental, gold-decorated arks against a background of intense violet and rose.” -(Amazon.com)

Why we love it: 

Just like the Amazon summary said, it’s a visual feast. The boys will flip through the pages and retell the story…even if they can’t read. Apparently this author also has an Easter story which would be worth checking out as a gift for those easter baskets (this is how we handle easter baskets).

Today I’d love for you to share some tips in the comments on how you read aloud to your kids…go!

The Weekend I Babysat my Boys

The first time Bruce mentioned going duck hunting with guys from work I said “no way”. I actually used harsher words than that, but “no way” was the generally theme of my response. There are only so many weekends leading up to Christmas and I didn’t want to “waste” a single one.

This particular weekend we were invited to a fun Christmas party on Friday night with the kids and then a real-deal grown-up Christmas party on Saturday night. My desire to go to those parties trumped my desire for my husband to go hunting (btw…hunting does not fit the normal profile husband. He has never actually been duck hunting before…just so you keep the right image of him in your mind. ;)).

But when Quade woke up sick Friday morning, my plans for the weekend changed…completely. There would be no fun parties. If there would be no fun parties maybe Bruce should get a fun weekend away. So I made the offer and he took me up on it. Phone calls were made immediately. I watched him excitedly pack a bag and figure out what he would need for a “duck hunt”.

While he packed I decided that in order to enjoy my next 48 hours with the boys I would need to take on a temporary persona. I would no longer be “mommy”…I would be “the babysitter”. Because babysitters play games. Babysitters don’t have to worry about the way kids turn out. Babysitters have fun & keep kids safe.

When I picked up Price from school I shared the news with the crew. While daddy was gone I would be their babysitter. The boys decided to call me “Megan”, because Megan is my friend who showers them with love…and candy. 😉

As Megan my first move was to get fast food for lunch. After naps we played games. That led to the oldest two boys writing the books “How a Car Works” & “How a Dinosaur Got Born”…which they then illustrated and “published”. writing books

The next meal scheduled was pizza (because a babysitter is not concerned with dietary needs). While eating we watched the “Christmas Carol”.  Day one completed. 

The next day started with more Christmas movies (this time “Santa Clause”). While they giggled at Tim Allen antics, I cooked a big breakfast. Unfortunately it took a little longer than I’d planned. They became a little hungrier and grouchier. By the time I presented them with these fun pancakes, they quickly ate them rather than praised them.

starwarspancakes

(But you think they are cool, right? That feeds my “super mommy” ego.)

While Knox napped that morning we had hot chocolate and cookies…at 9 am. Sure did.

But I usually don’t let hot chocolate moments go by without a little Bible lesson. As we picked out mini-marshmallows from our cups, I read the four days we had missed from our Jesse Tree devotions.

One thing I really wanted to do with the boys that Saturday was an idea of first learned about while researching for an article I wrote for the MOB Society blog–> “Better to Give than Receive” (over there today).

Last year, Courtney DeFeo, a mom of two little girls, decided she was fed up with all the expectations and busyness of the holiday season. She didn’t love the message she was sending her daughters about what Christmas was all about. So she decided they would focus on everyone else around them and “light up” a stranger through kindness. She started“Light em up!” (Families Light up the Community with Kindness). 

She has a list of 100 different activities to do with your kids. The boys and I sat down at the table and looked through the list. We picked out the couple we wanted to do. I printed off labels and gathered supplies.

Then I made the crazy decision to take all 4 boys to Toys ‘R Us…on a saturday…before Christmas. Um, yeah. I’m not a huge fan of the attitudes that emerge when surrounded by shelves and shelves of toys. Suddenly they become “I-want-give-it-to-me-now” monsters. Each time they asked for a toy I said, “add it to your list” (a list I prayed they would never remember).

toysrus

After an hour of picking out Christmas gifts for nieces and nephews, birthday gifts for friends and ways to spend their own money, my head hurt from all the consumerism. Standing in line to check out I kept reminding Watts not to run out the automatic doors. As I counted the big boys’ dollar bills and quarters to pay for their toys, Watts started pushing Knox in the cart out those same automatic doors (grabbed him just in time).

With receipt in hand we made our exit from Toyland, Then I remembered the “Light ’em up” ideas we had prepared for. I reached in my diaper bag and pulled out our kit. Suddenly the boys “give me” attitude changed. They were fighting over who got to tape the money to the gumball machine. 

moneyonmachine

quartersonride

Then Price said, “I want to give a candy cane to the lady we paid our money to.” He snatched the cane from my hand and ran towards the cashier. I caught this picture afterward. I love not only the smile on her face, but the looks of those waiting in line. You see how kindness grows? How it surprises people? Because “selfishness” is the norm and giving is surprising. 

candycanetocashier

The same boy who was standing in line in the picture, came out to see what we were doing. He asked, “Why are you giving away money?” I told him, “God gave us the greatest gift when He gave us His Son. So at Christmas we thought we would give gifts.” 

When we walked to our car at the far end of an over-crowded parking lot, my boys were beaming. Not from the toys they had purchased but from the joy they just witnessed. They had been bit by the giving bug…and they wanted more. “Mommy, can we give him a candy cane? When can we do that again!” 

“Remember my name isn’t mommy, it’s Megan.” 😉 

How Christmas Transforms the Mundane {Advent Ideas}

Last week we celebrated Christmas with my husband’s family. Matching Christmas pjs. Visiting Santa with cousins. Waking early to open stockings. Exchanging presents by the lit tree. Finishing with a wonderful steak & potato Christmas dinner.

Every activity just as it should be on Christmas day. But it didn’t feel like “Christmas”. There was no build-up. No counting days from turkey to a candlelit service.

Because Christmas is more than a day. It’s a season. More than giving gifts and eating good food. It’s a period of time to adjust hearts. Redirecting my focus from self to God. Reminding me there is more to living this life than the day-to-day tasks. 

What makes Christmas entrancing is how the ordinary transforms into the extra-ordinary. Lights on trees. Trees situated in living rooms. Sprinkles on cookies. Sparkles on  clothes. Parties on weeknights. Normal gets turned on its head.

The changes shake me from the mode of the mundane. 

Even conversation changes. Time around the table pouring over His story. Sweet questions during car rides about the words, “King of Kings”. Discussing whether lyrics say, “the Lord has come” or “the world has come.”


When I start to feel the stress of all the expectations of the season, it’s good to remember I need the change. I need to break from my rhythm. Just like I need to wake up each morning and proclaim, “You are king of my life.” I need to end my year with the proclamation, “You are King of Kings…who came to earth in the form of newborn babe.”

Advent, which means “coming” prepares me for the coming of Christmas, Gives perspective for His future coming. But it takes intention to do advent activities.

Last year I shared 5 tips for enjoying Christmas with young kids. Including two different ways we focused our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas. One, we crafted adorable ornaments from Truth in Tinsel. I loved having a fun craft to do while dinner was cooking. Each day discussing a new detail of the New Testament story of Christ’s birth.

The other way was “The Family Promise Tree” (based on the Jesse Tree), a set of felt ornaments my sister sewed. With each ornament there is a little devotional, starting with Genesis, directing us through God’s promise to send His Son to deliver us from sin. Each day tells a story from the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist) leading to the arrival of Jesus…the Promised Child. It’s a simple advent and it works for us.

Unfortunately, “The Family Promise Tree”, is no longer available. But my church friend, Jacki Rucksdashel, felt a calling from God to create an updated Jesse Tree Devotional for families. Here is what she shared with me:

“As we started looking at what we would choose as a family to focus on what Christmas was really about, we had a hard time finding something specifically for young children.  Our kids relate so much to the power of narrative…a story.  That is when the idea for this devotional was born.  After two years of trying this and trying that, my husband and I decided to sit down and with the Lord’s help, create a devotional book for our kids in this stage of life.  Thus, The Jesse Tree Project was born.  We are so happy to share it with you for free.”

Did you catch that last line? For FREE! The devotionals are awesome they include:

  • Verse of the Day
  • Bible Reading for THE STORY-for adults to read or for older children.
  • THE STORY– the Biblical account written in narrative form for young children.
  • Questions —to check for understanding.
  • Prayer — feel free to pray your own prayer!
  • Worship–songs, poems, videos or books to inspire praising Him.
  • Extended Activity–Extra activities to do with children to help solidify what they learned.  (All optional of course!)

If you don’t want to have to make the ornaments for each day, Jacki & her husband have created printable ornaments.

I haven’t put up our tree yet. I haven’t printed out ornaments. I haven’t hung up the felt Christmas tree. But there is still time. It isn’t even December yet.

I will make time this weekend to decorate my home. To print off ornaments. To hang up a felt Christmas tree. Because it’s in celebrating the “coming” of Christmas that my heart turns from self to God & I replace “me” with “He”. 

like trying to fly a kite with no wind

Bruce was out-of-town. I thought I would play the role of “fun mom”, at least for one afternoon. The boys had begged me to fly their kite. After finding each boy’s sunglasses (hard to see a kite with the sun blaring in your eyes), we loaded the car for the park. Do they look cool or what?

As I drove towards the park I glanced at the trees. Instead of branches bouncing in the breeze they remained unmoved. Hmmm. Flags hung limply on poles. Uh-oh.

So I prepared the boys, “Hey guys, just so you know, it’s not very windy today. So the kite may not fly.” Immediately Price began whining, “NOOOOO, I waaaant to fly a kite. Whyyyyy won’t it work?”
“Dude, I want to fly a kite too, but we can’t control the wind. I can’t tell the wind to blow. But we will give it a try, okay?”

He settled down as I pulled into the parking lot.

After fighting over who would hold the string and who would hold the kite to help launch it in the air (string being the preferred role), they settled on a solution. Three turns holding the string then switch.

We found a large piece of grass,fairly free of kite-grabbing trees. Quade held the kite while Price took off running in the opposite direction. Low and behold, the kite stayed up. We yelled out, “Let out some string! Let out some string!” Slowly the kite climbed higher and higher.

Price made a quick u-turn as his open space ended in a row of trees. The kite kept flying. That is, it kept flying as long as he kept moving his little feet. Back and forth he ran across the grass until his three turns were over.

Once he stopped running, the kite gently lowered to the ground. He slowly dropped to the ground in exhaustion.

They took a couple of turns. But the experience lost its charm when they lost their steam. Soon the kite lay on the ground while they ran off to play on the tire swing.

Oh the parallels to ministry. And motherhood.

Serving without the Spirit is like flying a kite without wind. It’s possible, but it’s exhausting. I run back and forth. The kite lifts and “things” get done, but it’s all in my effort. I wear down quickly.

The kite gets left in the grass. I get distracted with other amusements. Assuming service isn’t for me since it was so “hard”.

What if I looked for where the Spirit is moving, or where God is working. Wait for the wind to move. Once I see Him moving, join Him. Let out the string and watch the kite soar with little effort. (*see author’s note below*)

My sweet (fellow boy mom) friend, Erin, tweeted this verse yesterday and seeing it was part of His message to me:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

As I begin today, I want to pray for His Spirit to open my eyes to see Him. The same Spirit who was in Elijah, Moses, Joseph, Jesus...lives in me! God’s power can lift my ministry with ease if I chose to join Him where He is already working.

What “kite” are you trying to fly in your own effort? Are you keeping company with God and resting in His power so you can live freely and lightly? 

(Anyone else have the song, “Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height. Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring it. Up to the atmosphere. Up where the air is clear. Let’s go fly a kite!” Just me? well alrighty then.)

*author’s note: I do understand ministry, even with the Spirit, can be challenging and exhausting. We can’t stand holding the “string” forever. Just like my boys took turns, we need to trade off our responsibilities, take turns holding the line. Not view flying the kite as a competition but as a community effort. May you be encouraged today in whatever “kite” you are flying. May you find others to help you hold the string. *love*

Folding Paper for Clean Water {some girls I’d like you to meet}

First of all…the winner of the “Be Still” video is…Helen! I’ve sent you an email Helen, let me know if you got it. For those of you who didn’t win, remember you can go to the online store and for $1 you can watch the 20 minute video, for $7 you can download the video, for $9 you get the DVD. Not bad! Okay on to the post…

Pulling into our driveway I heard a honk behind me. My first thought was, “Oh no, what did I do this time.” I looked out my side mirror and saw a kind woman smiling back at me from her minivan. I rolled down my window & she said, “I saw your school sticker! We go to the same school and live on your street. Would you be interested in carpooling?”

Um, yes please. And Thank you Lord!

This sweet family has lived only a few blocks away for the past 7 years. They have 3 girls…3rd grader, 1st grader, and 2-year-old. Before school started and carpooling commenced, we planned a playdate at our house (this is not a picture of my house…).

Watching the girls walk up the sidewalk my boys made marriage plans. I was just as enthusiastic when the first words out of their mom’s mouth were, “Your house is so organized!” (hadn’t I just complained that morning about my home?). At the end of the playdate she commented on how calm I am with the boys!! (didn’t care if she was lying…needed to hear it).

Over the past month as I’ve gotten to know this family more and more, my heart has grown more and more in love. Let me count the ways…

One: Their help. At 7:20 a.m. I simply send Quade out the front door dressed in his uniform with his backpack and they load him up and take him to school! All this while I’m still in my pjs, the baby is still in his crib, and the other boys are just finishing breakfast (in their pjs). SOOO much better than the alternative…hurriedly loading sleepy boys & a hungry baby into our car and barely making it to school on time.

Two. Their hospitality. The first day I drove carpool, Katherine, the 1st grader, invited us over for lunch. I thanked her and suggested she should ask her mom first and perhaps another time. The next week she asked again. Then her mom texted me and formally extended an invitation. Amazingly kind. Just the other day we received a 2nd lunch invitation because they had extra food they wanted to share (brave woman to invite 3 boys into her home to eat lasagna!).

Three. Their hearts.  Last year, while waiting in carpool with their dad, the two older girls learned the japanese art of origami (their dad is one-half Japanese). Each day they folded paper and created ornaments.

Later that year the girls heard about how a child dies every 15 seconds for lack of clean water. They couldn’t allow children to die for lack of water or children to miss school because of how long it took to get clean water.  So they decided to sell their origami ornaments and give 100% of the proceeds to Living Water International to build wells for clean water access. At their first event they sold all their ornaments and raised $700!

In less than 8 months, these two girls raised over $17,000!

There is no such thing as a “junior” Holy Spirit.

I’m in awe of the God-sized dream placed on these girls hearts. Also the willingness of their parents to come alongside them and make it happen. They’ve already built 3 wells in India are and halfway to the 4th! Here is a clip of the girls on Good Morning Texas last week:

(won’t let me embed the video so here is the link: http://www.wfaa.com/video?id=168933726&sec=552757 )

The girls were also given the opportunity to speak about “Paper for Water” at the UNWomen in NYC (the largest chapter) and shared this Scripture,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

So true. My “God-Centered Mom” challenge, from knowing these girls & their story, is to stop thinking my children are getting in the way of what God has for ME. Frequently I assume He has big plans for me AFTER the kids leave the house. But God could be working right now in my kids & in our family. Perhaps His plans are for my boys to do and I’m supposed to encourage and facilitate them. Instead of being “self-centered” in approaching God’s will for my life…I need to take a step back and see our whole family fulfilling His will. 

I want to show my boys what is going on in the world. I want to teach them interesting skills. I want to guide them to know God & see where He is working & join Him.

What God-sized ideas have your kids suggested lately? Are you willing to empower them to make it happen? How are you drawing your children closer to the heart of God?

Here are a few ways to help Katherine & Isabelle reach their goal of building 28 more wells:

  1. “Like” their Facebook page: Paper for Water (www.facebook.com/paperforwater
  2. Donate to Living Water International (www.water.cc)
  3. If you live in Dallas their ornaments are for sale in the gift shop at the Trammell Crow Center for Asian Art.
  4. Mail them two-sided paper to use to make ornaments. If you cut it into little squares (3×3) even better…it takes 30 pieces of paper to make one ornament. (email me–> button on sidebar if you are interested)

The Best Way to Use a Couch

Bruce graduated from college 3 years before me. During that time he worked hard, saved money and slept on the floor in an apartment with 5 other guys. By the time we got married his furnishings included: a circa-1973 fuzzy orange recliner, a kitchen table with 4 chairs, and an air mattress.

Assuming the role of homemaker, I needed a “bit” more furniture to make ourselves a little home. So the day we returned to Wheaton, IL from our honeymoon in Hawaii, we bought a king-sized bed, a couch, love seat, and a coffee table. All. in. one. day.

Back on March 15th, 1999 I had NO idea our carefully chosen couch would someday be used for this:

The synchronized diving practice (thank you Olympics for all the new and interesting inspiration) is only one of the best ways to use a couch. Our boys have also piled cushions in mountain-like fashion and played king of the hill. They’ve placed the cushions on their sides around the couch, and sailed the high seas in search of treasure.

Thinking back to the reasons why we chose this couch-the perfect color, deep seat cushions for my 6’3″ husband, and sturdy wooden feet-we never considered how well a 4-year-old bounced from its springs. How could we have known we would be blessed this greatly?

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.” 

Psalm 127