Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Silent Night is a Holy Night

This Silent Night is a Holy Night:
I love meditating on these first 4 words of the wonderful Christmas carol. Silent night, Holy night. Sometimes, the wonderful, earth changing, forever breakthroughs come during a silent night. Think of the silence. So many people went about their daily lives, eating, working, sleeping, without knowing that eternity had broken through to earth and changed everything forever. The Messiah had come. Defeat was at death's door. Hundreds of years of praying for a Savior had brought a baby King. The silent night was a Holy night.

I pray into any silence that surrounds you. May your silent night be filled with Holy breakthrough, angels singing, a new Kingdom come to earth. The silence is filled with Holy plan and purpose, with promise and breakthrough. Nothing will ever be the same for you again...

Luke 2: 6-7 (The Voice)

While in Bethlehem, she went into labor and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.


Hear the angels singing.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Does God Want To Be For You This Christmas

When I was growing up, I loved traditions at Christmas.  Lights, recipes, songs... all coming together into one magical experience.  As I grew, it was harder to bring every tradition into every Christmas season.  I remember one year, I went to Christmas service and the pastor spoke about letting this Christmas be what it is.  What is this Christmas to us?  Is it a mix of gift and grief?  Are we welcoming new things or saying goodbye to things passing?  

This year has been different, and I am re-deciding to let it be what it is.  We have had some illness, job stress, health issues... Is this what the people felt in Israel when Jesus was born?  

I am asking myself, "What does God want to be for me this Christmas?"  He is coming to be born into my life. Is He coming as my Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, or Prince of Wholeness?  I am asking Him.  I am inviting Him in.  I am letting Christmas be what it is this year... God is coming to the land of deep shadows.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (excerpts)

The Message (MSG)

A Child Has Been Born—for Us!

But there’ll be no darkness for those who were in trouble...The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—    light! sunbursts of light!...For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world.His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God,Eternal Father,Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow,and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Motor Sequencing and Planning: Games for Kids

My 8 year old son has been in Occupational Therapy off and on for many years related to his autistic spectrum diagnosis.  One of the things he often works on is motor sequencing and motor planning.  This involves his ability to put multiple movements together without having to think of each step first.  This can be an area of difficulty in the spectrum, and for many individuals with other developmental conditions and features as well.

Instead of just doing exercises, it is fun to use games that require sequencing. 

Lately, we have been having fun with hopscotch:

We are in mid-winter here, so we actually are using the inside tile floors as a grid for our footwork.  We often don't play exactly by the traditional rules.  We may change up the order of the feet or the number of tiles in between the feet.  We may sing a rhyme while we do it, or try to name colors as we jump.  There are so many possibilities, and it is fun to have him involved in making up a sequence that we try next.

We have also started play hand clapping games:
Remember those good old games where you would chant or sing-song while clapping in a variety of sequences.  They are great for this skill, and can be made as simple or complex as needed. I have been remembering some oldies but goodies, and introducing my son to this style of game.

Here is a great website for ideas and rhymes.  Check it out!

Fun Clapping

And last but not least, stair hopping.

If you have carpeted stairs, try doing hopping sequences up and down the bottom stair.  For example, your child can try right foot up, left foot up, right foot down, left foot down (10 times).  If you have an older child, they may have the strength to hop up with both feet and down with both feet.  Then you can combine for extra difficulty: up with both, down with both, up with right, up with left, down with right, down with left, and repeat. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Conflict Resolution: Bringing It Down A Notch

Everyone has their own way of dealing with conflict.  Some seem energized by the argument and love a good debate.  Others would rather slowly slink away and avoid the tension.  It is very difficult to stay in the middle of those two options in order to balance "staying" while still "working toward de-escalation."

This post is by no means the answer to conflict.  It is not the best advice for everyone and every situation.  But it is something in my toolkit that has been very helpful in interacting with upset or angry individuals in a variety of circumstances.

1. Verbalize the Emotion
Whether you are interacting with a child you parent or with an angry customer, it can be helpful to name their emotion, before you jump into problem solving.  For example, if you have an irate customer, it may be helpful to listen and then say "This has really been frustrating for you."  If you have a child who is stomping their feet, you may want to say "You REALLY want that toy.  It is so hard to wait." 

This accomplishes a few things.  First, it identifies their emotion if they don't realize what it is.  For adults, the person may be reacting to a difficult situation, without realize they are losing control or so irate.  Sometimes verbalizing the feeling let's them know how they impact you and also helps them know that their underlying struggle is identified and heard.  With a child who is just learning about emotions and self-control, you are teaching them what the word is for that emotion and how they could communicate it verbally rather than losing control. 

2. Bring the Word Down a Notch
Once you have identified a word for their emotion, you may wish to bring the word down to a somewhat calmer state.  For example, if the customer is irate, you may wish to say "You are very frustrated right now."  Very frustrated is somewhat calmer than irate, but not so far away from their emotion that they are apt to dismiss your comment.  If they continue to shout but perhaps are calming somewhat, you could say, "I see how upseting this has been.  Let me first address your concern about X."  So, you are now calling them upset, which is a step down from very frustrated. 

Will this help the situation all the time?  No.  Is this the only tool you should have at your disposal?  No.  But sometimes having some ideas for responding helps us avoid either pushing back (and making things worse) or slinking away (which makes things worse too!).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Work Morale: Random Acts of Kindness

After coming into a leadership position at work a year ago, I have tried to focus on work morale.  Some things I have tried have not really seemed to make an impact, while others have seemed fun for a short while but then died out. 

One of the challenges I was having, was activating the staff to take ownership of the work environment themselves, without having much of the focus and energy coming from myself. 

In October, we had an office "retreat" day where we focused on themes and projects that needed our attention as a group.  We usually have 1-2 retreats per year.  At this retreat, we worked on workplace culture.  We developed a culture statement that we have on our bulletin board.

One of the points of the culture statement has to do with generosity.  We talked about the importance of generosity defined as "We withhold no good thing from our patients, colleagues, and community."  We also talked about the value of people: "We recognize the value of individuals, a value that is separate from performance or behavior. People do not 'earn' value by performing with perfection."  This was important in our setting because we work in a highly regulated environment and had also spent quite a bit of time developing expectations for performance.  We needed to separate any thoughts that we value employees only because of "bottom line" issues. 

Random Acts of Kindness
One thing I challenged everyone to do in the office this year, is to do random acts of kindness for their colleagues.  I wanted these to be small acts that were "unearned" by any performance, and that were anonymous.  There would be no dynamic of needing to "repay" someone because they did something nice for you. 

Like some other ideas, I wasn't sure if this one would be embraced by the staff, or feel burdensome.  But, embrace it they have!  This idea has taken off like wildfire.  Not only are people feeling the impact of unexpected kindness, but it has stirred everyone's creativity and innovation.  Employees are thinking of inventive acts of kindness and also inventive ways to "deliver" their kindness.  For example, one employee came in early and used string to rig up a hanging gift for someone as they opened their door. 

What ideas have found successful in your workplace?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Home Decoration Idea: Kid Friendly

My parents have a large window facing the street in front of their home.  When we were growing up, we would tape a message cut out of Christmas wrapping paper: "Happy Birthday Jesus."  Each letter was cut the size of one of the small windows, and when assembled, could be read from the street.

This year, my parents made a Thanksgiving decoration for the window.  They put pictures of family members on each limb of the Thanksgiving tree. 

This is a great idea for decorating your home for the holidays, either in a window, or on a wall in your home.  Little ones can help with the cutting and taping of this project.  You can use many different types of paper such as brown shipping paper, construction paper, tissue paper, or holiday wrapping paper to make your design. 

For Christmas, you could do an idea similar to the Thanksgiving tree, using a Christmas tree and putting family pictures inside the presents under the tree. 

Be creative this year, and involve the kiddos in some great family traditions!