Practicing Joy: Week 3 – Sharing Joy

GPC parent, Natalie Jorges-Castellanos did an awesome job of illustrating sharing joy by talking about a birthday party. She asked the kids what each one liked the best about a birthday party. They said things like balloons, cake, games, party hats and finally presents. 
Natalie then told a story about a girl she had known when she was little whose parents would always send a gift for her to open when the birthday girl or boy was opening theirs. She reminded us that when we are invited to a birthday party part of our job as party goers is to be excited for the person whose birthday it is. They get to open all those great presents, and we share in their happiness. For that time at the party, our attention is focused on our friend and how happy we are for them. We are sharing their joy, not thinking about our own.  

Sharing joy isn’t always easy to do. In fact, sometimes it’s very hard, especially when someone gets something that you really, really want. But that is one of the jobs God gives us, that is part of loving people. God puts us here and puts us in families, in neighborhoods, in schools to love and care for each other. Part of that loving and caring is sharing joy (when it’s easy and when it’s hard) and sorrow or grief.    


Practicing Joy: Week 2 – Joy in Sadness

This is a hard concept for adults let alone for children. There is a Japanese practice called Kintsugi,  it involves repairing something broken with gold. The idea is that when something that has been treasured is broken, ignoring the break is almost disrespectful.  So rather than try to repair the break so that it doesn’t show, the repair is made with gold. The history of the piece is included and treasured. 
We are all a bit broken in one way or another. If we are brave, and don’t merely acknowledge the break but embrace it and lift it up as a treasured part of who we have become, we too become pieces of Kintsugi. 

Children will, I think innately understand the idea of Kintsugi – it is very concrete, and they are concrete thinkers. As you speak with your children about practicing joy in sadness, you might consider watching: I Walk with Vanessa (


It’s a lovely story about kindness and about sadness. I think your children will be able to see how Vanessa felt a lot like the bowl pictures above and understand the idea of joy in sadness. They may not be able to use words to explain it, so you might ask them to draw a picture and tell you about it or see if they have words to describe how the story makes them feel.  I suspect you will be amazed at your child’s depth of emotional understanding. Another book that you might consider, though it is much longer, is The Velveteen Rabbit.                                              



Practicing Joy: Week 1 – Seeing Joy in God’s Creation

Many parents have had the incredible experience of taking a 2 or 3-year-old for a walk and rediscovering the riches of the natural world in your very own neighborhood – whether it be watching a trail of ants as they diligently go about their business, or the wonder of watching a Praying Mantis hunt, the pure delight in a garden filled with flowers of different sizes, shapes, textures and colors, or the unmitigated joy of hugging a puppy or kitten. 

We really don’t need to do much of anything to encourage a children’s reverence for and joy in nature other than to let their joy rub off on us, and to remind them that God created everything, including them, and created everything for good.  You won’t really be telling them, they know it on some deep instinctive level, and that gives them joy too.


Practicing Joy for Families

Practicing Joy doesn’t mean necessarily feeling really happy all the time, in fact you can practice joy and feel pretty sad. Feeling joy is like an outside thing, you FEEL JOY when something that happens.
Practicing joy is a deeper, inside thing and is there whether you are happy or sad. You practice joy when even on a terrible, horrible, awful day you still KNOW that God created everything for good, including you and that God loves you and wants only what’s best for you and that this terrible, horrible awful day will pass.
Practicing joy is what happens on a day in the autumn, early in the morning, and the sun catches the dew covering a perfect spider web and you take a minute to just be amazed.
Practicing joy is what happens when  your very good friend  gets  a kitten that they have really, really wanted and you are so happy for them that your heart is so full it hurts.

Practicing Joy isn’t hard, but you do have to think about it, you have to practice.


Easter for Families

Easter Blog for Families
“He is risen! He is risen indeed!” or “Jesus Christ is risen today. Hallelujah.” What does this really mean to the average 5-, 6-, 7-, or 8-year-old? Though on one hand really very simple conceptually – God made Jesus alive again. And on the other hand, the resurrection is a HUGE and somewhat overwhelming, even for adults.
So, how do you talk to your kids about Easter? First you start with your own comfort level with Easter, how comfortable are you with the enormous complexities? Could you explain Easter to another adult? If the answer is yes, then you’ll do ok with your kids. Next, consider your child’s age and stage as well as who they are – how sensitive they are and to what kinds of things.
At it’s most basic the Easter story is John 3:16, “This is how much God loved the world: he gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed, by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life…He came to help, to put the world right again.” The Message, pg.1561
If appropriate, read the Easter story aloud with your child: Matthew 26:14-28; Mark 14-16; or, Luke 22-24:12. These all tell the story from just before the Last Supper through the Resurrection. Just read through it, if you are calm and relaxed, they will be too. You don’t need to dwell on the gorier parts, but they are part of the story, Jesus suffered and he did so because he loves us. And then God made Jesus alive again – there is your focus.  
God loves us so much that God sent us Jesus, God’s only son, to show us how to love God, how to love each other and how to love the natural world like God does. God sent us Jesus so that we could be reconciled to God. When we believe in God – creator, sustainer and redeemer we are forgiven, we will have eternal life.
Young children are concrete thinkers and using activities that tie the idea of resurrection to something concrete will help them understand. Children in Montgomery County are all very invested in the ideas of recycling and composting – these are concrete examples of transformation – maybe try melting old broken crayons in the microwave and turning them into brand new crayons; try your hand at composting, it doesn’t have to take a lot of room, uses up your vegetable scraps and makes great new dirt for growing your vegetables later in the year; plant some seeds, or spend some time poking around creeks looking for tadpoles, and later in the year keep your eyes open for chrysalis, all wonderful examples of transformation.
However you approach it, let your focus be on God’s amazing and transformative love for each and every one of us – and that we just need to open ourselves to that love. Whatever and however you talk to your children about Easter, I encourage you to end with a simple prayer something like:

Dear God,

Thank you for loving us so much that you sent us Jesus.

Jesus thank you for showing us how to love God, each other and the natural world.

Please help us to be the people you put us here to be

Help us to love you, other people and the world like you do

And help us be Kingdom builders here on earth.