A Library Find: Cultivating a Child's Christian Faith through Fine Art

Art, Children and The Gospel

 

During our two month absence the library relocated the Spanish children’s books which my daughter loves to check out though rarely reads. We never found where they put them because instead we discovered a collection of coffee table picture books, you know the kind that cost way too much at museum gift shops?  As it turns out they actually let you take these beauties home for two weeks (6 if you keep on renewing them). My daughter picked out one on parrots and I found this gem, The Life of Christ in Masterpieces of Art.

I doubt this book was created with children in mind but my daughter asked for it incessantly once we brought it home. It features paintings, mosaics and sculptures paired with Scripture readings that tell the story of Christ from Annunciation to Ascension.  She was captivated by the images and I was able to introduce her to great works of art, ancient Christian symbols and the story of the gospel all at the same time.

Art, Children, The Gospel
Meditating on the stations of the cross (in case you wondered she picks out her own outfits these days).

 

Sitting in front of this book with her I realized I have a tendency to underestimate my daughter’s capacity for complexity. I give her simplified stories and coloring books with Bible characters that she can understand but where the rich meaning of the original story is lost.

Now I’m not advocating for always giving kids information that is above their level, that would be frustrating and probably a big turn off for most. But I am suggesting that we find new ways, or in this case old ways, to tell the stories of our faith. We need to stop sharing our faith as if it were a piece of data, a spelling word to memorize. Instead we need to bring our children into the richness of their Christian heritage  in a way that inspires wonder and curiosity.  And the cool thing about great art, whether paintings or sculptures, architecture, hymns or whatever, is that like our faith it is mysterious.  The more we understand it the deeper it seems to go.

You don’t need to get this book (though it is for sale on Amazon for around $3 second hand) but if you are like me, you may need to re-examine the way we communicate our faith to our kids. If we teach them that the Bible is a text book, a place to go for facts that can be proven or dis-proven, or that that it is a collection of characters or stories to be memorized, we are missing the point and so are they. We need to engage our kids into a living faith, a beautiful heritage and to encounter the living person of Christ.  It may start with something as simple as a trip to a local church or museum or in our case a regular visit to our local library.

 

Happy Easter Friends!

 

 

Why I don’t mind looking my age

I am 31 years old when my 27 year old co-worker says to me,

“I swear, you just do not look like you are over thirty.”

I smile.

At the time of this conversation I was pregnant and two years into my residency, pale from living inside a hospital, gaunt and greasy from cafeteria food.  If anyone, looked their age  I certainly did.

Yet I would have said the same thing four years prior, feeling sure that reaching your third decade meant  immediately becoming arthritic and shriveled, breasts drooping to your ankles. I too was surprised, I remember turning 30 and unexpectedly I still looked a lot like I did when I was a youthful 29.

.    .    .

I am  16 years old, when after spending the first part of my teen years dripping with baby oil and baking in the sun  (whenever we saw the sun in Ohio) I’m told I must spend the rest of them slathered in sunscreen. I wonder how I can still mange to get a tan, but I heed the warnings, not of cancer, but of wrinkles, or worse, sun spots.

 

I am 35, I have a daughter in preschool. Everyday we marvel about how big she is getting. “Soon you will be 4,” we say and giggle.

 

I am 14 and hear my grandmother say to my mother, “it’s really time to start dying your hair” (early gray runs in the family), soon after she did.  Prior to that moment I had never noticed a gray hair on her head.

 

.    .    .

 

One of the gifts of childhood is that you always find your own mother beautiful. Or perhaps I should put it, one of the gifts of motherhood is that your child always finds you beautiful.

.    .    .

 

Yet somewhere along the way we start to doubt. We look around for reassurance and instead find impossible images of endless youth crammed into every nook and cranny of our lives.

 

Of course if the Beauty Industry let us think that we were actually beautiful they would quickly put themselves out of business.  Instead they set the unachievable before us and we become their perpetual consumers.  Make up, hair dye then micro-derm abrasion or Botox and finally we can go under the knife risking sedation and infection, spending our savings to get a  lift and tuck.

 

And after all this do we feel any better about how we look?

 

To be clear I am not against all things cosmetic.  There is power in beauty and it can be a joy to look our best, to primp or wear a new dress.  But it should be “our best”.  Not a made up ever evasive youthful version of ourselves or worse of someone else.

 

Beauty is God given, it need not be a burden of time, money or energy. If it is, we are doing something wrong.

 

When I was younger I always assumed I would go to whatever extent to look as much like a Barbie Doll as humanly possible.  If I put on an extra pound I swore I’d be at the gym working it off and would give up eating pie entirely.  The way I looked felt more important than almost anything else.  I couldn’t imagine having any intrinsic value if my appearance wasn’t all that it could be.  Still today when I feel sad I could just as easily describe it as feeling ugly.

 

Now twenty years later those dreaded fine lines are starting to appear around my eyes, my hair is going gray, I have acne scars (and new acne at the same time), and every now and then I pluck a wiry whisker from my chin. I no longer own a tube of mascara or lipstick (though I do wax my eyebrows and use hair gel). All my fears about being a little soft or saggy  don’t matter any more.  In letting go of an impossible standard I’ve embraced a reality, that we are all beautiful expressions of God’s love for the world. And that doesn’t change if we are 85 or 35.

 

I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.                      I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.                        I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.

I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.          I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.            I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.

 

I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.      I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.    I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life. I don't mind looking my age. Liturgy of Life.

Portraits by Courtney.

 

 

 

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My Yiayia

She lays on her horn as we yank combs through matted hair and stretch cotton tights over scrawny legs.  Like clockwork every  Sunday she wakes us and the rest of the neighborhood, I suppose she figures they should be up for church too.

 

Sweat beads on her forehead as she leads the line of dancers. It’s my wedding and no one but her knows the steps but we spin to the rhythm of the old Greek tunes that I learned as a kid dancing in her basement.

 

Shoulder to shoulder we are hovered over pasta, feta cheese, olives, sausage and wine. “I didn’t have much,” she says, “this is just what I threw together.”

 

I open the door to find brown paper bags filled with potato casserole and rice pudding. Years later in Texas I continue to discover these sorts of packages express mailed across the country bringing me a momentary taste of home.

 

My Yiayia is the caretaker of many, first my mother, aunt and uncle, then me and her other grandchildren,  recently her own mother, brother and husband. She works the church festival and serves meals every week for the homeless.  In her I see what it is to put the needs of others before oneself.

 

The smell of sauce bubbling on her stove has the power to stop time, one whiff and I am both 5 and 35 in the same moment. She continues to feed everyone in her life. Around her table I learn who I am and what it means to be a family, to have a people and history of my own.

Today she turns 80 and I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

Happy Birthday Yiayia.

 

My Yiayia. Liturgy of Life.

7 Quick Takes Tips and Tricks for Road-Tripping with a Preschooler

Well friends we have set out on a 2 and a half week, five destination, 3,000 mile road trip, apparently also into a monster of a snowstorm.

Living in Texas with family in Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, Montana and Colorado we do a lot of traveling. Thankfully our daughter loves to hit the road with us.  Here are some tips that have made the travel work for us.

 

1. Pack an activity basket:

  •  Stickers. You can buy little labels in the office supply section and get 400 stickers for $1.75. You can also substitute band-aids or scotch-tape or anything sticky.
  • Pipe Cleaners. Great for making letters, people, animals, headbands, hats or anything. When you get tired of them stretch them out and start over. Take along large pasta pieces or cardboard with holes punched out or even an old colander and older kids will love weaving pipe cleaners in and out.
  • Marker board and chalk board. We keep a zip lock bag of markers and chalk (markers have been a recent addition, until recently they were too messy).
  • Lots of paper. We give her a few crayons but usually she either puts stickers on paper or tears it up. I use coloring books but have also included old catalogs, magazines or just old drawings and scrap papers.Road trip tips with pre-schoolers

 

  • Books. I try to pick ones that  I don’t have to read, either with no words or that she knows well.  Here are a couple of our favorite traveling books:
Road trip tips for Pre-schoolers
This is a beautiful book with landscapes and all sorts of things to count. I’ve actually had our copy since I was a little girl.

 

Road trip tips for pre-schoolers
This is a seek and find book with beautiful engaging pictures. You can look at these all day long and keep on finding new things.


2. Make the most of your stops: Our stops are usually quick, but if we can we try to squeeze out a few minutes of fun. Even if there isn’t anything especially exciting, looking for pine cones at a rest stop or jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk at the gas station can easily become a game for a 3 year old.

3. Gadgets: Mini Magna-Doodles, toy camera, magnifying glass or a small flashlight. Occasionally we will let her take along a singing teapot or some other music maker but we try to limit anything that makes noise.

4. Music:  We insist on doing some of the trip without music which has been a good practice for us. Then when the music comes on it is a treat and we all listen together. We alternate between doing our own”grown up” playlist, with her “kid music”. I’ve also picked up cd’s, mostly old musicals at the Goodwill which are a big hit. This girl knows the Sound of Music soundtrack backward and forward.

5. Snacks: I let everyone pick out one or two favorites and then bring a bunch of healthy treats, apples, oranges, dried fruit, crackers, rice cakes. It saves us money and we all feel better packing as much of our own food as possible.

6. Books on tape: Downloads are free with Overdrive through your local library.  The Winnie the Pooh series has been a hit with the grown ups in our car, sometimes my daughter looses focus but she is starting to get the hang of it and at least listens enough that she stays quiet whenever it is on.

7. Surprises: I bring these out in those last 30 minutes of a long drive when everyone is having a hard time keeping a good attitude. Mainly I use glow bracelets, but any sort of special treat works, keep something hidden in the glove box for those moments when everyone needs a little boost.

 

 

 

road trip tips for pre-schoolers    road trip tricks for preschoolers     Road trip tricks with preschoolers

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.

Happy Travels.

 

 

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