Help Along the Way

Help Along the Way

On April 5th, I am beginning a blog series on how to help children thrive, entitled Help Along the Way. Years ago when I began this work I told a dear friend of mine that I would never write or speak on anything close to parenting. (I also said my kids would never have a phone before they were sixteen. Humble pie tastes like old shoes.)


Labyrinths, Lent and Children (a re-blog)

Lent is a few days; it begins on Valentine's Day this year. There are endless ways to mark our lives by the life of Christ during Lent and one way many churches have engaged is meditation and prayer using a Labyrinth.

Labyrinths have been around for thousands of years. People have used them for various reasons, but Christians have been using them for prayer since the Middle Ages. Labyrinths have the wonderful possibility of moving prayer into our bodies.

Children are notoriously good at expressing all things with their bodies. Just take a toddler into a lively worship service and their joy will leak out into their bodies and maybe on the floor, but that's another matter.

Today I’m sharing an attempt at a Guided Prayer: The Way of the Cross for children.

Some ways and places for this meditation might be-

·      As a guided conversation with God (prayer) while walking a labyrinth

·      As guided prayer while engaging the Stations of the Cross

·      Older children can use this meditation alone while walking a labyrinth or Stations of the Cross

·      Younger children can share the time and meditation with an adult who loves them while walking a labyrinth or Stations of the Cross

Please feel free to print out this guided prayer , fold it in half and offer it to children within your sphere of influence and take a conversational walk with God.

One last reminder, the conversations of children with their God can be private. It’s helpful to keep the words of George MacDonald in mind,

“A parent must respect the spiritual person of his child, and approach it with reverence, for that too looks the Father in the face and has an audience with Him into which no earthly parent can enter even he dared to desire it.”

If a child shares their conversation with God with you, you are on sacred ground indeed. Respect the holiness of that moment by not sharing the conversation with anyone else, unless you receive the child’s permission.

If a child doesn’t share anything with you, you are on sacred ground indeed. Surely we remember from our FFA class that seeds germinate in the rich, secrete space of hiddenness. There is no space where the Spirit is not working up something, even if adults can’t see it.  

Yes. Let it be so. 

Imposition of Ashes for Families

Many of us think of our families as tiny monasteries used by the Spirit to deepen our relationships and form us into the likeness of Jesus. As such, setting our life to the rhythm of the Seasons of the Church helps us to mark our life by the life of Jesus. This rhythm has seasons of celebration, seasons of monotony and even seasons of lament. Lent is a season of lament. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of our season of lament.

We open the door for lament when we begin with the knowledge that God created all things good and for good. As we hold the knowledge of the good God intended with the knowledge of how that goodness has darkened, we lament. We lament darkness on all levels of community: worldwide, nation wide, local community, family, and personal. We take a step deeper into lament when we reflect on when we have forgotten that we are God’s beloved, when we have forgotten God’s mandate for good. We reflect on the ways we have not lived into our true identity as the beloved of God, purveyors of good. We also reflect on the ways we have forgotten that other people are God’s beloved. We reflect on when we didn’t give the honor due to a beloved of God.

Keep in mind, lament often leads to more lament. When we make space for grief, our other losses may rise to the surface. This is an opportunity to offer those losses to God, to grieve them with God and then seek the healing.

What would it look like in your family to make space for an ongoing conversation about loss, to give voice to lament, to grief?

What would it look like in your family to ask the Spirit to heal darkness at every level of community?  


Ash Wednesday in many churches is marked by the imposition of the ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross. The person giving the ashes rubs their thumb in the ashes and then makes a cross on the forehead of the person receiving the ashes. 

You may choose to attend an Ash Wednesday service in your local church and receive the ashes there or maybe you’d like engage this sacred tradition at home.

Ashes are created from the palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday. The fronds are burned and then mixed with olive oil to make a paste. See the following Youtube video for creating your own ashes.  If you do not have palm fronds from last year, you can purchase them from a florist and put them in the oven on very low heat to dry them out. Then burn them and mix 2 part ash to 1 part olive oil. The ashes symbolize our grief and sorrow. The olive oil symbolizes the Spirit’s healing of wounds.

Talk about the significance of the ash and oil. Then on Ash Wednesday gather together and light the Christ Candle. Read Genesis 1: 26-27, talk about how God created each person in his image to reflect God’s likeness. Discuss what God’s likeness looks like. (Hint: It looks like Jesus.) When have you forgotten that you are God’s beloved? When have you forgotten that someone else is God’s beloved? 

When imposing the ashes it is often said, “Remember that you are made from dust and to dust you will return.” Feel free to say this while imposing the ashes.

As children are just building upon their relationship with God, the following may also be said to remind them, to remind all of us, of our true identity.

“God has said, ‘You are my beloved. Chosen and marked by my love.’”

Helping Our Children Develop a Conversational Relationship with God

What follows is recent guidance offered to a homeschooling Mom about what it looks like to help a child develop a conversational relationship with God.

What does it look like for my child to build a relationship with God? Honestly, sometimes I’m not even sure what it looks like for me.

For all of us, children included, this looks like getting to know someone. As you are teaching your child the stories from the Bible you are helping her get a sense of what God is like, who God is. Part of that knowledge is how much God loves her and wants to be in a relationship with her. I know it’s cliché to say, but God really does want to be her friend. God wants friendship with persons.

You can help introduce her to this friendship by helping your child to pray- to talk with God, as she is learning about God. Maybe after each lesson, ask her, “What did you notice about God?” “What would you say God is like?” or the simple, "Tell me what you think or feel about God." Then invite her to respond through writing or drawing something she’d like to share with God. It is important to choose stories that she can understand. For the first decade of life I like to focus on the gospel stories of Jesus. You will enjoy getting a peek into her thoughts and feelings, into her developing relationship with God. As with all things of great value, hold this with tender hands. Never pry, or manipulate or cajole. 

However, a relationship with God is more “caught” than “taught.” She will “catch” or grow into her relationship with God as you do. Allow yourself to talk with God aloud throughout the day and she will follow you. When you are frustrated or need some help, ask God aloud for it. “Hi God, I’m tired, my head hurts and dinner needs to be made, could you help me?”

When your child is struggling invite her to talk with God. Invite her to share her thoughts and feelings with God.

Part of talking with God rather than at God is the practice of listening. Invite her to listen to what God is saying. Allow her to peek into your listening life with God. When you feel God prompting you to do good or be kind, say aloud something like, “I hear you God asking me to .....”

This moves a portion of your internal life outside of yourself, where she can “catch” your relationship with God. Soon enough her relationship with God will take on it’s own character and form, but in the beginning as with most things- she will mimic you.

AND that’s good.

You’ve got this dear Mama.

God picked you to be her Mom, because God trusts you.

God is with you and within you. 

Mani/Pedi: Horse Care-- The Tarzana Posts

Trimming horse hooves is not my favorite thing to do. It is a back breaking process that takes over an hour per horse to do correctly. It is even harder when you have a horse like mine who is putting on weight for the little one in her belly. Lady is very heavy and loves to make the process even harder by not holding her 1500 pounds on all her hooves. My grandpa says it’s just how she is, but secretly I think she enjoys seeing two people struggle to hold up one foot.

The other horse Pepper is very well behaved. She is content to hold her foot up for you. She would like you just leave her alone, but if it must be done she will help you get it over with quickly. Here are my instructions for Horse Mani Pedis.

            First, you can arrange clippers, file, and nail polish in a bucket.

            Second, tie your horse up short so she doesn’t move around while going through the irritating process.

            Cut around the circle of the edge of the hoof, careful not to cut of too much or too little. Often during this stage, the horse will try to pull the foot away from you. To counter this you need to hold the foot harder or ask someone to hold it for you.

            After you have gone all the way around the hoof you can use the file. The rougher side of the file will make it harder to file so I recommend using the smaller side if this is your first time.

            Horse hoof are like human fingernails they will chip and break if they do not get the nail polish that you should put on them. The polish is clear and will make the hoof look shiny at first but once it dries it will look like the rest of the hoof.

            Once this process is complete then you may untie the horse. I like to take them out to the yard and let them mow the grass while I clean up. After about ten minutes I take the horses and release them back out into the pasture to play. Even though it is back breaking your horses will say thank you with a snuggle for the beautiful nails.

Little Blue Flower-- The Tarzana Posts

Little Blue Flower-- The Tarzana Posts

It is the first of September and I find myself wandering down to the pasture of my family’s farm. I like to go down there during this season and watch the goats and my two horses Pepper and Lady munch on the grass. They often play no attention to me. If I pet them I will occasionally get a tail swipe. I not only like to go down there for the animals but also for the splendid flowers.