What can a donkey teach you? Oh, just lots of stuff.
This post first appeared in 2008, when doomsday talk dominated that election cycle. It's just as relevant today, if not more so:
"The end of the world as we know it...if the other party wins." ~ every other Facebook status
It seems like we hear nothing but dire predictions swirling around this election, and today I want to encourage you to, well.... put a lid on it. At least in front of the kids.
Yes, I know. I'm well aware that there are big huge problems facing us, and we have social issues up the wazoo. We must discuss them. We must vote.
But sometimes we get so wrapped up in talking about how bad things are and how much worse they're going to get, that we forget about the little listening ears that are taking it all in.
To kids, all this grown-up talk can be scary, frightening and depressing.
And it can leave them feeling hopeless about their future.
When you're ten, you should be dreaming of being an astronaut, or a doctor, or a fireman... not worrying about whether your family will survive an "imminent" holocaust. A six year-old shouldn't have to overhear talk that our country is going to hell in a hand basket. A high schooler shouldn't have to think "why bother?" because the world might end.
Trust me, I know.
Please, please listen.
We need to filter the information we allow in and talk about–so that it is age-appropriate and constructive.
Let's do a Small Thing today: Give your children (and everyone around you) the gift of hope.
I encourage you to refrain from talking about political catastrophes and instead, talk about your child's dreams.
What are his gifts?
What can she contribute to this world to make it better?
How can God help us be lights in our neighborhoods?
What can WE do to make a difference?
How can we show love and kindness to others?
What wonderful things would she like to do, and see, and be?
Oh, I know there is so much we can't fix around us.
The economy, immigration, unemployment....but none of that means anything to someone who just wants to color with you, or be pushed in a swing, have you watch them twirl or leap off furniture, or have you listen to a new song they found on itunes.
Don't rob your children of the joyfulness of life and hope for the future because you are caught up in the details of an ugly election season.
Speaking positive and hopeful words will communicate to your kids that you trust God to watch over you, no matter what.
Because He WILL watch over you! You will always be sheltered in God's love and care. There are wonderful, amazing things ahead...just wait and see.
And guess what? No matter who wins or loses, it won't be the end of the world.
God has mighty plans for the next generation of kids, and it will be exciting to see them rise up and take them on.
We NEED future astronauts and doctors, and firemen and teachers, and mommies and daddies, who believe in Him, and whose parents gave them the gift of hope in the midst of turbulent times.
I love this scripture:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
In case you missed my Facebook Live video, here it is (click the link below the pic):
I know those of you on the east coast may be dealing with Hurricane Matthew and will not be able to be part...I'm so sorry, please know we are praying for you!)
The rest of you, set an alert on your phone so you'll remember to join Flash and me on Facebook (https://facebook.com/flashthedonkey) at 7 pm CT.
We will be posting conversation starters, crafts, coloring pages, songs...and of course a book reading. The stage is set, the pillows and blankets are ready–now all we need is YOU! I hope you'll bring your favorite kids (or tell them about it!) and party right along with me!
When was the last time you went to a pajama party?
Well, that's too long.
WAY too long!
I would love for you to come to my PJ Party on Friday night (Oct. 7) at 7 pm!
Now, not everyone will fit into my living room, so this will be a VIRTUAL party, via Facebook Live! All you need to do is hop over to Flash the Donkey's Facebook page, and I'll be posting live video so you can join in!
There will be music, games, food, and a special book reading...and of course Real Life Flash will be there too.
So, gather your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and any other kids in your life, and let's have some fun together!
Please wear your jammies!
PS There's a video invitation on Flash's page with a sneak peek at the "party set" we've been working on! (hint: there are life-sized storybook characters involved)
The winner in yesterday's drawing for Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends is Robin Brantley. Robin, send me your address via email and I'll get a book to you asap!
Here is Flash, straight from his new book Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends:
It's been so fun to get to introduce my storybook characters to you in the past few days. I couldn't wait to bring Flash out of the wings and onto the stage!
Just like his real-life persona, Flash is curious about life and interested in everything! He has a penchant for collecting odds and ends that catch his eye and that might come in handy someday.
He is full of good ideas.
However, sometimes his good ideas don't work out the way he plans.
But also like in real life, sometimes plans that go awry are the exactly what bring about the best things.
That's how he meets his new friends, Jed, Carson and Ruby.
Flash is charming and cute, with a slightly wistful air about him. After all, he had been looking for a place to belong, and just hadn't found a place to fit in. When Jed, Carson and Ruby enter the picture, he can only imagine how nice it must feel to have his own bed, and be part of a mismatched "family" of sorts!
When I imagined Flash's character, I thought about my son, Grayson, who is now 22. As a kid, he was always asking questions, always engineering things, always entertaining us with his ideas. I'd say there is more than a little bit of him in Flash! I had such fun creating him in my art studio, and it is beyond exciting to get to introduce him to the world in this new storybook.
Now that you've met everyone, I want to say thank you for a great first weekend of the book release! Several of you have already left Amazon reviews, which is wonderful! If you have a moment, I'd love to keep those reviews coming, as they really do help sell books! Don't forget to that the adult book is still available and makes a wonderful companion to the children's book!
Friday's winner of a signed book (and tea!) is Anna Lipinksi!
Today, tell us about someone who would enjoy reading Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends. Is it a grandchild? a nephew or neice? Your daughter or son? I'll draw a name and will send a book to your to share!
We are counting down to Release Day of Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends by meeting the quirky characters in the book.
Some people make you sit up straight and think about proper grammar, and how lovely it would be to have a cup of tea right about now.
Allow me to introduce Carson. He is just such a person, er, pig.
(I may or may not have photoshopped this cup of tea into his portrait, for effect.)
You know, it's very important to have that friend who always knows how things should be done.
Should you put your feet on the coffee table?
Oh, goodness, no.
Should you wait until the hostess picks up her fork before you begin to eat?
Why, everyone knows the answer to that! Of course you should.
Should tea be poured into the cup before the milk, or after?
Should this even be a question??
Carson is a stickler for rules, a bastion of gentility, a wealth of knowledge, and a defender of the semi-colon; properly used. (Unlike in this instance).
He is predictably punctual and perfectly pressed.
But for all his stuffiness, Carson has a heart of gold. Yes, he might have the highest score in Jeopardy ("Porcines, for $500, Alex"), but he would gladly share his last crumpet and generously give the vest off his portly shoulders to anyone who needed it.
You can count on Carson's calm voice of reason to help you see your way through difficulties, and you can be assured that there will always be a steaming cup of tea waiting for you on the other side, mostly likely on a lovely tray.
In honor of Carson today, let's talk TEA!
Leave a comment telling us about your tea habits: a beloved flavor, a special memory, or your favorite place to drink a cup! Maybe even your opinion of whether milk or tea should go into the cup first!
Are you a tea drinker? This is your chance to win a book....and a box of tea!
Yesterday's winner is:
Mary Sue Owens
Mary Sue...drop me an email with your address so I can send your book to you!
Well, what can I say about Jed? This guy...
Jed....well you could say he wears his heart on his sleeve.
You never have to guess what he is feeling because it's written all over his face.
And then there's his body language:
When Jed is excited, he leaps on top of tables.
When he is mad, he harrumphs up a pile of hay bales.
When he's annoyed, he crosses his arms and looks away.
When he's happy, he grabs a ukelele and belts out a tune.
Jed is the goat who shoots from the hip, speaks his mind, jumps to conclusions, and commands the room.
He's just like that "annoying little brother" that reeeally drives you crazy sometimes.
But you can't live without him because, after all, he's the one that brings the party with him wherever he goes.
Today, we celebrate the "Jeds" we know and love. Who is it that makes you laugh, drives you nuts sometimes, and lives life to the hilt?
Please share your own special "Jed" story today for another chance at a signed book!
I loved hearing about all the special "Rubys" in your lives yesterday! I got emails, blog comments, Facebook comments and tweets, telling me about the wonderful mother-hens who take care of everyone around them. The winner of the signed Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends book is:
Jane, honey...send me your address and I'll get your book to you!
You know how awesome it is when you get to introduce people to each other that you just know will be instant friends?
That's how I feel about my friend, Ruby–and you.
See, when I wrote Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends, I knew that Ruby had to be a central character. A mis-matched collection of companions MUST have someone who's in charge!
Everyone should have a chicken for a friend, right? A mother-hen type who seems to know just what to do in any situation.
Ruby will direct you to a chair so you can sit down.
Have an injury?
She will produce a bandage and ice, almost out of thin air.
Ruby happens to have a pot of soup on the stove.
There, there. Ruby knows just how to cheer you up.
Has someone done you wrong?
Well, that ruffles her feathers just thinking about it.
Ruby fusses. She clucks. She talks to herself as she bustles about.
And always stylish, she is never without her earrings and necklace.
You can be assured that Ruby is a fine feathered friend, who will forever believe in you, worry over you, and make sure you've eaten a good breakfast. She's always got your back.
See, I knew you'd love her!
Since I'm counting down the days until you meet Ruby in real life, (when my book releases on Oct. 1,) I'd like to do a little PRE-CELEBRATING!
One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends today.
Simply let us know: who is a "Ruby" in your life? Do you have someone who fusses, clucks and bustles about your life, making sure she knows all the details?
Let's cheer for all the Ruby's of this world! Where would we be without them?? (Mine is my daughter, Lauren - a first-rate mother hen of the finest sort!)
My friends, I'm so excited I'm about to bust.
My brand new book, written especially for children and starring my dear friend Flash, will be out on October 1!
(Pause for nervous giggles!)
Here is the official synopsis:
"A Stray donkey with a penchant for inventions is taken in by a mismatched collection of barnyard friends. Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends is the heartwarming story of a not-so ordinary donkey who needs a special place to belong. Flash is the inquisitive type who loves to invent things and solve problems, but his curiosity sometimes gets him into trouble! With the help of his new-found friends–Jed the goat, Carson the pig, and Ruby the chicken–Flash manages to turn problems into adventures and learns valuable lessons along the way.
Inspired by Rachel Anne Ridge's memoir, Flash, names one of Publishers Weekly's Best Summer Books of 2015, kids will fall in love with this endearing donkey as they learn to appreciate the value of true friendship."
This book was both harder (and more fun) than I could have imagined. As a mural artist, I went into it thinking, "Pfff, how hard can it be to create 9x10 inch pages?"
Turns out, pretty hard.
I drew and re-drew. I painted and repainted. I Photoshopped and re-Photoshopped.
I obsessed. Fretted. Gave myself hip bursitis from sitting in my chair for weeks on end.
And of course, I fell in love with my characters.
Above all, I wanted to create a story that kids would genuinely LIKE. One that pulled them in and made them laugh. I wanted a book that parents would enjoy reading out loud, possibly over and over again. You know how that goes, right? LOL
Between now and October 1, I'll introduce you to the characters and tell you why I chose them!
Until then, here is one of my favorite pictures of Flash:
You can pre-order Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends on Amazon – and I'll be honest, I'll love it if you do! Buy it for your kids, grandkids, students, and friends. You can even buy it for yourself, just because you know Flash personally and should probably have one of your own!
Here's a link to a bit more about the book. Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends.
I tell you what. These people who are campaigning for public office right now are just tireless. Honestly, I don't know how they do it.
Up at the crack of dawn, they travel, give stump speeches, rally their troops, try to stay on message, kiss babies, organize people and budgets, give interviews, take selfies, tweet, and make promises. Then they go to bed at some ungodly hour, only to get up and do it all over again.
The tenacity! The relentlessness! The courage! The audacity! The unshakable confidence in their platforms!
I've got to say, I'm impressed. No matter which side of the party aisle you're on, you've got to admit that it takes total commitment to a campaign to work this hard.
I applaud you, Donald and Hillary. Your stamina astounds me.
Watching the presidential candidates each relentlessly pursue their vision for our country, and boldly ask for the people's support, has gotten me to thinking about my own little "nation-state," which is considerably smaller than the whole U.S. of A.:
Of course I'm talking here about my home and family.
What vision do I have for this place, and for these beautiful people who are entrusted to me?
What am I willing to tirelessly work for?
What kind of "platform" am I running on here?
Well, that's easy to answer. My campaign has always been about sanctuary.
I've run on this message for a couple of decades now.
Making home a sanctuary for the people I love has been my guiding mission. It's the thing I return to over and over again.
Peace. Order. Beauty.
A soft place to land.
Now, I've logged a few stump speeches to my bored constituents over the years. I've kissed babies. I've organized people and budgets, made promises, tried to stay on message, and I've made my own "unforced errors" along the way. Probably done a bit of mud-slinging, which I'm not proud of.
But my point is that it's necessary to have a vision. It's important to have a platform you can always come back to when you get off track.
Do you wish your home felt like a sanctuary? Do you long for change, for the freedom to live and grow and flourish within your four walls?
I propose that you start your own campaign. Throw your hat in the ring and get in the race.
Campaign for that sanctuary.
Run on that vision.
Ask for your people's support.
Be bold. Relentless. Tenacious, even.
Put a goal on some paper, and then start taking some steps to make it happen.
Listen, sanctuary is a worthy goal.
Your soul needs a place to breathe free. Your children long for a safe haven from the storms outside. Your marriage deserves a chance to thrive. Lord knows you could use some better pillows and some organizing bins.
In light of that, I hereby nominate you for President of Your Sanctuary! Cue the balloon drop! Start up the band!
B-b-but...where, oh where to start, you ask?
Well, let me give you some reading material for your platform development. Here are some blog posts that I hope will inspire you.
And hey. I believe in you. I will vote for you. I'll stick your sign in my yard.
You can make your home great again, or, maybe even great for the first time ever.
You just needed the right campaign.
A question for you: would you be interested in me reviving the daily Small Things here on my blog to help you create sanctuary? I'm thinking about it for 2017. I'd love to know your thoughts. Comment here or drop me an email!
God uses ordinary events to reveal His extraordinary purposes.
Just when you think you're going in circles in your everyday life, He can intercept your plans and make His ways known to you.
There's a story told in the Bible–1 Samuel 9–of a young man who is engaged in ordinary family affairs. His father's donkeys have gone missing, and he is given the task (along with a helper) to go and find them.
The young man's name was Saul...and he had no idea that his search for a band of renegade donkeys would start a chain of events that would eventually make him king of Israel.
The mission takes the pair of young men on a frustrating journey all over the countryside.
I'm sure they were thinking, "where on earth could these pranksters be?" They would have been familiar with the inquisitive nature of the animals, and probably realized just how much ground the sure-footed creatures could cover.
After three days of looking high and low, they finally give up and decide to head back home. Without cell phones to use to check in, Saul knows his father will be worried. In one last-ditch effort to find the donkeys they seek out the prophet Samuel, who just so happens to be in the area, in order for him to inquire of the Lord of the their whereabouts.
Unbeknownst to Saul, God had spoken to this prophet the day before, preparing him for their encounter. He told Samuel exactly what would happen and how the young man would come looking for him, and that this tall teenager was the one He'd chosen to be king.
The scene unfolds just as God described it.
Samuel invites Saul to feast with him and then just before they part ways, he anoints Saul's head with oil. This sacred action marks Saul for God's purpose in a tangible way.
Saul, however, is still concerned about his father's donkeys, to which Samuel reassures him.
"Those donkeys? Pssh, don't worry about them. They've already made it safely home on their own."
The donkeys didn't even really need to be found.
Because God had had something else in mind.
You see, the real purpose of Saul's journey was not to find a group of runaway animals. It was to get him to a place of encounter with God.
The task he was doing for his father was simply a means to move him into the right place at the right time.
It was when he was out of his comfort zone, his familiar surroundings, that God brought him face to face with what would be his true mission in life.
He was anointed for kingship right then and there.
I wonder if you, too, are on a seemingly insignificant journey?
Maybe your job is one that feels like it is going nowhere. You're wandering in circles, looking for your purpose, and yet somehow you know this is where God wants you. It all seems like such a waste of time and you're tempted to give up.
Perhaps God is moving you to place of encounter.
Perhaps, like Saul, God is leading you to moment of divine appointment. A place where your vision and purpose will suddenly come into full view!
Let me encourage you.
Watch and see: His purpose WILL unfold.
People and events will cross your path through divine appointments as you journey onward....things that would never happen unless you just keep going. Keep taking that next step.
God uses ordinary events in extraordinary ways.
He is able to take a "seemingly insignificant" job and boom! use it to put you right where you need to be.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a person can think he's planned his ways, but God is working behind the scenes to direct each step.
I love that.
Tell me: have you ever encountered God's purpose in the midst of the regular affairs of your life? Have you ever said, "so THIS is why I've been on this journey!" ? I'd love to hear about it.
Do you feel like you're going in circles today, trying to follow God's leading but can't figure out what His purpose is? Let me pray for you, that you'd encounter Him in a way that will clearly show His care and design for you.