The Box of Dolls and Belonging


Every Christmas, we did not come downstairs until we heard the first song on the record player, Joy to the World! Then, and only then, did we have permission to bound down the steps. It was a tradition. That Christmas, when we pushed open the stair door and bounded into the dining room, Mama told us to go into the kitchen. [Click on this link to hear how this tradition came to be.]

Mama’s kitchen was always warm. The floor was warm to our feet because water pipes under the door to the bakery in the next room kept the floor warm, even in the winter. Mama’s kitchen was a happy place to be.

Window panes held designs from Jack Frost on the insides of the loosely-sealed panes, but the floor was warm. A simple breakfast was served on the table with siblings scootching along a bench to make room for one more, but the floor was warm. In our house, I never thought we were poor. By today’s standards, we were. Yet, the kitchen floor was warm. Everything is better when we are warm! Mama’s kitchen floor was always warm and there was plenty of food for the table.

dollsUsed dolls in a box

There, in the kitchen, we found the box. Inside the box were six dolls – one for each of us. It didn’t matter that they were unwrapped, used, and from Goodwill. We didn’t care, for the dolls were new to us. The Christmas we got the dolls was one of my favorite Christmases, yet the dolls were used and worn. Mama purchased them at Goodwill and our aunts made clothing for each one of them.

It was a favorite Christmas, and I think I know why. The dolls, though used, now belonged to us, and we belonged in Mama’s house with the warm kitchen floor. I remember the excitement of waiting my turn to get my doll. There was one doll in that box just for me. I do not remember quibbling over who got which doll. Nor do I remember for certain how it was decided who got to choose first (although consensus says that age order was used since there was a tradition of “the last doll” when one reached a certain age).

Christmas is not about gifts. It is about belonging. Christmas is about being part of a family and creating memories together in every season, year after year. Christmas is about sometimes (especially as we grow older) being separated – then coming back together again because we belong.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Messiah. We also celebrate the wonder of family – where, no matter how rumpled or ragged, we belong.

Pinterest Box of Dolls

Helping Kids Want to Comply

want to complyLearning to want to comply

The grandson was quick to shirk responsibility. In desperation, the father talked to his father (the boy’s grandfather) and asked his advice. The grandfather knew what the problem was because he’d been around the kid –and he was a father himself.

“I told him,” the grandpa told us, “You have to make it worth his while to obey, and not worth the consequences to disobey.”

By the time our kids are teenagers, we can’t force them to do what they don’t want to do. By the time our son is a teenager, he towers over us, daring us to demand his obedience. He knows we cannot physically make him obey. We can’t. 

So we need to do what this grandfather advised. Let him choose whether he obeys or not – then let him experience the reward of cooperation or the consequence of uncooperating. Let him learn to want to comply.

This happened in our home this summer. A teenager staying at our house refused to go to bed on his last night with us. When he finally decided to head upstairs (because he did not want to face Dave whose arrival was imminent), he left his MP3 player on the rug in the living room – and it became “mine”.

He decided the consequence of losing his MP3 player for his trip on the morrow was not worth staying up an extra thirty minutes. No matter he bought it with his own money, and no matter the songs he wanted to listen to on the trip were on that MP3 player, he lost it for a long time. Now when we talk about the incident, he recognizes the consequence was not worth his belligerence about going to bed.

Rewards of complying

When a child complies, he not only experiences satisfaction of a job well done, he also learns the pleasure resulting from a good attitude about work. He reaps the rewards of applause and compensation. 

Until a child learns the deep down satisfaction of success of his work, he doesn’t miss the reward of that feeling. He also learns the satisfaction as a result of his choice to comply.

Certainly, a child needs to learn to work at home because he is a member of the family. He does not always need to receive monetary compensation. At the same time, when there are projects that benefit the family financially, he can receive a benefit of that financial compensation. 

Make it worth his while to help, and he will more quickly choose to comply. Verbal appreciation and applause go a long way in helping a child gain self-worth in a job he does. Applause will not make him proud; go ahead and applaud!

Non-compliance in a child

When a child refuses to help or do a job, he must find the consequences are not pleasant. You know your child and what matters to him. Leverage that to help both of you. Usually when a child knows he will lose a privilege if he refuses to cooperate, and when he knows the consequence will be firm without negotiations, he will comply.

Make certain you choose consequences that can be dealt out fairly and quickly. Withholding a privilege three months down the road is not fair to a child. Use real consequences in a timeline he understands. That, of course, is based on his age and his understanding. 

Sometimes when a child is asked for his opinion in this matter, he is harder on himself than his parents (or mother) might be. When he is allowed to come up with a plan for work and play and consequences, he is sometimes more receptive to the plan. You are the parent, and that must be recognized. Yet coming up with a plan that encourages him to do better will certainly receive more support. It will also make him more willing to comply if he is given a voice.

The key to helping a child want to comply

I remember the day my son asked me which of us was going to spank him if he did this “one more time.”  Apparently, my spankings were not enough to persuade him to obey. Learning that, this time, his father was going to administer the discipline made him choose to obey.

When you’re struggling with how to help your child want to comply, remember two things.

  1. Your child needs to know it is worth his effort to comply.
  2. Your child needs to know there are consequences not worth experiencing when he does not comply.

Use what you know about your child (and yourself) to develop a plan that works. That’s what good parenting does.

Pinterest want to comply



Secrets Hidden in our Genealogies – and Christmas

The family names of Jesus – and me.

Her name was Magdalena. Were it not for Magdalena, I would never have been born. Jesus had women like her in His genealogy, too. There is no need for it to bring us shame. Instead, we should look at these secrets hidden – and forgiven – as redemption.

The paparazzi of today would have a hey day with the lineage of Jesus. From the moment of His birth and throughout His ministry, they would have found the secrets of His past. Women who were guilty of adultery, but found redemption, were part of His maternal past: women like Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba. In addition, these women who were not “church folk”, who functioned as a prostitute, committed adultery, and deceived family, march right in line with the “righteous” folks in His lineage.

There were also men who deceived, lied, committed adultery, and murdered. In addition to the women, these men are listed in that same lopsided, sinful lineup in the genealogy of Christ.  The paparazzi would showcase every bit of tarnish across the world because the information is so easily accessible today. Those stories, drudged up again and again, would now be given such a spin that only the worst could be heard while the story of redemption was shushed. You can be certain there would be no secrets hidden!

Jesus knew His genealogy. He also knew His genealogy did not define who He was. He had no secrets hidden, and that is how He was able to minister and meet the needs of others. His past did not define Who He was or Who He is.

secrets hiddenThe past of my ancestors – and secrets hidden

My family has a few stories of its own. For years, I did not know about these secrets hidden because it was not important that I know. That is because the past was behind us and we were living in today.

We don’t broadcast it loudly, but the stories are there, written and admitted in books that tell the stories of our ancestors. My great-grandmother was the product of fornication.  Magdalena, the women who birthed her, never married. Magdalena’s father, Samuel, repented of his sin as a youth and later connected with his grandchildren even though he never married their grandmother. Samuel became a pillar in the community and patriarch of a large family.A person deemed a pillar in the community, experiences redemption, for certain. It did not mean he could wipe out the wrong he committed. It did, however, mean that forgiveness and redemption is real and our past does not need to define us.

The fact that, growing up, I never heard his family spoken of disparagingly even though I went to school, attended church and participated in community events with his descendants, tells me that forgiveness was genuine. The fact that I did not even know about this transgression tells me it was forgiven. That’s redemption.  

The past is not who we are

There are those of my kin who want to make certain everyone knows the sins of the past. Only, the sins of the past are not mine to proclaim. Others are so embarrassed and full of shame that they don’t want to bear the family name. There are also those   who embrace the ancestors of the past and their mistakes, recognizing that all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. In doing so, we embrace the redemption that followed secrets hidden in shame. 

The wonder of the Christmas season is that God chooses and uses those of us who are imperfect; those who inherited a sin nature like our ancestors. The wonder of Christmas is that redemption comes through imperfect but redeemed women – and men – who move away from their sin and become new creatures of Christ.

Indeed, this is the wonder of Christmas: there is hope for the secrets hidden in our past. There is redemption through the Savior. That’s Christmas!

secrets hidden


David I. Miller, Homecoming, edited by Gertrude Slabach, printed by Lulu Online Publishing, 2012, page 3.


When the Christmas Gifts We Chose Were not a Hit

not a hitGifts not a hit

One Christmas we chose gifts that were not a hit. We had three boys under 6 and it was time to buy Christmas gifts. How happy we were when we found three yellow, metal Tonka trucks. Perfect gifts, we thought. There will be no fighting over who gets to play with which vehicle. They can all play together, and they’ll have a blast.

We failed to consider the interests of our boys. We thought more of the decreased hassle we would deal with than considering what our boys would enjoy best. [I’m not saying we must always negate what helps us just to give a kid what he wants.]

While our boys enjoyed their trucks and (even then) expressed appreciation and excitement over the gifts, we found out later we had messed up. Oh, I only found out a year later, when it was time to shop for Christmas gifts.

One son informed me, ‘I certainly hope this year we won’t all get the same thing!”

“Oh?” I asked. “You didn’t like your gifts last year?”

“Well,” he drawled out, “They were o-kaaay, but it was sooo boring!”

“You have had a lot of fun playing with those trucks!” I told him.

“WELL, but if they were different, it would be sooo much more fun! You can only do the same thing with the same trucks. We could have had different trucks or tractors or things that did different things instead of just the same thing all the time. That would be sooo much more fun!”

Well now. I got the message. That year, we made sure they did not get identical gifts. We made certain they had different things to add to their toy stash. They were happy, and so were we.

I remember

Every time I see a yellow Tonka truck, I remember. ‘Funny the things we remember when we look back on raising kids. I still think that when it comes to raising kids and having toys, less is more. Yet this time, less choices of trucks were not a hit. The same amount of trucks, but different trucks, would have been a better choice.

You live and learn – and keep learning in parenting, that’s for sure. 

Pinterest Christmas Gifts we chose

Photo credit:

“Stand By Your Man!”

stand by your manThe words. 

“Stand by your man.” Tomorrow it will be thirty-eight years since I vowed to stand by my man. Happy Anniversary to us!

The board members and their wives ended the meeting in the restaurant, and we headed towards the door.  I was new to the area, new to folks in the community, and new to my role as the manager’s wife.  We’d been married less than a year and my only “job” was wife of the cooperative manager. I supported in secretarial needs, hosting needs, and welcoming new folks to the community and the Co-op. 

One of the board members (many years my senior) held the door open for me as exited the restaurant.  I thanked him, and he  spoke four words to me – words I have never forgotten. 

“Stand by your man!”

He smiled when he spoke, and his eyes held a twinkle. Yet, he was serious. The agricultural season we were heading into was going to be rocky. The cooperative was a new beginning and only speculation predicted its future. That’s because farming is as unpredictable as the weather. The end results would show months down the road. Would this ship sink or sail? We didn’t know.

This I knew. I had my marching orders and I intended to follow them.

What it means to stand by your man.

Standing by your man does not mean you defend him when he’s wrong. Standing by your man means you are his staunchest supporter, his bravest critic, and his firmest pillar. When the storm rages, you become the calm in the middle of the storm. Standing by your man means you applaud his strengths and admit his weaknesses.  You speak truth even when he does not want to hear it, because truth must prevail over loyalty. That’s what it means to stand by your man.

Thirty-eight years later, I have not forgotten. There are days I hear those words again, whispered in my mind. I remember and I stand by my man.

The question

When the chips are down, do you choose truth over loyalty?  That is standing by your man. And when he needs to hear what he needs to know, are you his bravest critic? That is standing by your man. When he needs your support, do you give it or throw in the towel? Do you stand by your man? When he needs your affirmation for his strengths, are you there, giving him your best as you stand by him?

How well are you doing in standing by your man?

pinterest stand by your man!