Painting of tree by S. J. Little in background of title

Have you done much art? I enjoy art, but with everything on my schedule, I rarely make it a priority. Recently, however, when Covid-19 restrictions were lifted enough that I could visit some relatives, we enjoyed having a paint night together.

I decided to do a landscape, since painting people is far more difficult.

We used acrylic paint. When using acrylic, the typical strategy is to start with the furthest back part of the picture. From there, each new layer can be added on top.

In my case, the furthest back thing was the sky.

I knew I planned to put a tree in the foreground. I hoped my tree would resemble an Elm. I knew the sky would be visible through the leaves and between the branches of the tree. Therefore, I wanted more than just a flat blue sky.

I took my time, trying several times until I was satisfied with the gradient from deep blue at the top of the sky, to light blue at the horizon. Then it was time for clouds. I added wispy white clouds.

That done, I moved on to the next layer – mountains. At first I made them flat, but that was too boring, so I added shadows and highlights. Much better.

Time for the grass. I spread plain green across the space. I added a little more variety to the green, then left it at that for the time being. Later I would add more details.

Stepping back, I examined my painting. The bright colours and my hard work had paid off. I was pleased with my background.

The next question: where to put the tree? I frowned. Did I even want to add the tree? The background had turned out so beautifully. Would adding a tree in the foreground harm the beauty of it? What if I did a poor job of the tree?

Despite my fears, I knew the picture would look empty and incomplete without something in the foreground.

I squeezed some brown paint onto my palate. Taking a deep breath, I added a tree trunk. Then I added branches and leaves. Finally I added texture to the grass.

Eyeing my painting, I considered adding something else to the foreground on the other side. Perhaps a road or a creek? Yet those same fears crept up again. What if I did a poor job adding it. All my work on the background would be negated.

This time I decided that my painting was complete.

As I considered the process of creating this painting, I marveled at the importance of background. Much of my time and effort had gone into forming the background with great detail. Had I neglected the background, it would have been an entirely different painting.

Indeed when watching a pro artist, it can be astounding how much detail they put into the background.

Is there a life lesson I can learn from this?

Yes, I believe there is.

Sometimes it seems as though so much of life is background stuff. Washing dishes, doing laundry, writing emails, buying groceries… the list could go on.

At times, I feel anxious to get on with the “big stuff.” I want to do things that feel important and belong in the foreground.

At moments like that, I have to stop and remind myself of the importance of the background stuff.

In Luke 16:10 (ESV) we read, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

I find it helpful to switch the words “faithful” and “dishonest” with other words to help drive home the point. Am I being diligent in the very little things? Am I being intentional and wise in how I handle those little things? Am I a good steward of what I’ve been given, no matter how small or background it feels?

In the Bible, I see lots of the “big” moments – David defeating Goliath, Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, Jesus’s time of ministry. If I pay close attention, though, I can also see snippets of the background stuff that enabled these “big” moments to be handled well.

David faithfully tended his father’s sheep, including fighting off bears and lions (1 Samuel 17:34-37).  Moses was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22 ESV). “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23 ESV).

Each of these had years of little stuff that served as a background to the big moments of their lives which the Bible tells about.

Sometimes, I find the stuff that might seem big, is indeed a compilation of many small things that add up to a big thing. To be a pastor or Christian camp director, for example, is largely made up of doing lots and lots of little things well.Tree painting by S. J. Little

What about my life? Is all the daily background stuff going to one day culminate in an unmistakably big moment? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that God has called me to be faithful with what He has given me to do here and now, no matter how menial.

As I am faithful with the little things, He will unfold His plans for my life. Perhaps there will be a “big” moment in my life, but perhaps not. Regardless, may I seek to be faithful that one day I may say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)

Flamingos behind the title: Flamingo Preschool Song

 

Not long ago, I created this brand new preschool song. It fits well with themes such as: Summer, Birds, Zoo, and Pink. The actions include standing on one foot which is a valuable skill for preschoolers to practice as they strengthen their gross motor muscles.

Did you know?

  • Flamingos sleep while standing on one leg.
  • Flamingos get their pink colour from their diet of shrimp and algae.

As this is an original song, please be sure to include my name as the songwriter any time you share this song.

 

The Flamingo Song

Words by: S. J. Little

Tune: Are You Sleeping

 

Flamingos flapping, flamingos flapping,

Big pink wings, big pink wings.

Flying through the sky, flying through the sky.

Time to land! Time to land!

 

Flamingos standing, flamingos standing,

On one foot, on one foot,

Sleeping while they’re standing, sleeping while they’re standing,

Time to wake! Time to wake!

Actions

  • Flamingos flapping – flap your arms
  • Big pink wings – flap your arms bigger
  • Flying through the sky – tilt your body while flapping your arms to suggest soaring through the sky
  • Time to land! – Stomp and emphasize the word “land”

 

  • Flamingos standing – stand on one foot
  • On one foot – stand on one foot and hold up one finger
  • Sleeping while they’re standing – pretend to sleep while still standing on one foot
  • Time to wake! – startle awake and emphasize the word “wake”

I hope you and your children enjoy this original flamingo song. If you do, don’t forget to join my email list to stay tuned for more unique preschool songs.

Looking for more animal songs? Check out If You Want To Be A… (Preschool Animal Song)

Sunrise illuminating cloud behind title: Staying in Right Relation to God

 

One morning a while back, I sat for a few minutes to watch the sunrise. It was an especially brilliant one.

After a few minutes, the pinks and oranges and yellows faded away as they always do.

That particular morning, something caught my eye. Two or three clouds still glowed brightly. While all the clouds above, below, and beside these two or three clouds had lost their glorious hues, those two or three had not.

The sight left me wondering. Why didn’t they fade as well?

It took a few moments of pondering to conclude that those two or three clouds were likely closer to the earth than the ones that, from my perspective, surrounded them. The sunrise rays of the sun no longer reached the further clouds, but still lit up the lower ones.

Then I wondered if there’s a lesson to be learned from these clouds. It didn’t take long to realize that there is.

Whether or not the cloud still shone was to do with the cloud’s relation to the sun. There was no way that cloud could shine on its own. It had no light in itself. Only when it was in right relationship with the sun, could it shine.

In Matthew 5:16, I am told to shine so that people would glorify God.

How can I shine? Is it of my own accord? Do I muster up the light myself?

No. It is the light that Jesus gives. I must be in right relation to Jesus so that His light may shine through me.

Interestingly, shortly after the sun had risen, I opened my Bible for my morning devotional time. I’d been reading through Numbers recently. That morning I was at Numbers 25.

As I began reading, the theme of right relation to God, or being tuned into Him, continued.

In case you haven’t read Number 25 recently, let me re-cap the story for you.

Israel was approaching the Promised Land. God had warned them not to get too friendly with the enemy nations in the area. He knew these nations would draw the Israelites’ hearts away from Himself.

Nonetheless, in chapter 25 we find the Israelites prostituting themselves with the women of those nations and going after their idols.

God was furious! Yet again, His chosen nation had sharply turned their back on Him. The people had been so out of touch with God, that they did the very thing that most inspired His righteous jealousy!

But wait. It gets worse.

As many of the Israelites gathered to grieve what their nation had done, an Israelite man, Zimri, passed by with a woman from an enemy nation. He publicly and unashamedly took her into his tent.

Zimri’s timing was terrible. He was completely out of touch with what was going on. Why were all those people gathered at the Tabernacle? To grieve over and take action against the very sin he was publicly committing.

Zimri’s actions earned him capital punishment. 

Now, that story is an extreme example. Thankfully we are no longer under the Law but are under grace.

Regardless, as I read that story, I couldn’t help but blatantly see how very critical it is for me to be in right relation with God.

When I am walking rightly with God, not only will I be a light for Him, but I will know what pleases or angers Him. Only then can I live a life fully pleasing to God.

No, it is not that I must earn my salvation, but out of thankfulness for God’s great mercy on me, I desire to please Him. As a Christian, God has instructed me how I ought to live – in right relationship with Him. He knows that such a life is the very best possible thing for me.

So, like those two or three clouds, may I make it my goal to live in right relation to God.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:1-2 NASB

 

A preschooler reading a book

 

I have collected a list of books that teach preschoolers they’re special because I know children face incredible pressure from all sides. Some types of pressure encourage them to grow and thrive, but other types of pressure urge them to try to be like someone else. These stories remind preschoolers that they don’t need to change who they are. They are special just the way they were made.

3 Books to Teach Preschoolers They’re Special

Still A Gorilla by Kim Norman

Still A Gorilla

Written by Kim Norman, Illustrated by Chad Geran

Not only does this story have an important lesson, it’s fun and engaging too. My children loved answering my questions along the way. “Does he look like a walrus?” “Do you think he makes a good crocodile?” Your children will doubtless enjoy the author and illustrator’s humorous portrayal of the gorilla’s attempts to be like the other animals at the zoo.

Elephants Can't Jump by Jeanne WillisElephants Can’t Jump

Written by Jeanne Willis, Illustrated by Adrian Reynolds

Did you know elephants can’t jump? In this picture book, the elephant longs to be able to join in his friends’ fun, but he can’t. Why? Because elephants can’t jump. His friends make fun of him until one day his natural elephant strength saves them all from trouble.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric CarleThe Mixed-Up Chameleon

Written and Illustrated by Eric Carle

When the chameleon visits a zoo, he finds himself longing for the strengths of each animal he sees. His wish comes true! He gets flamingo wings, a giraffe neck, a turtle shell, and much more. Eventually, he starts getting hungry. A fly comes by. The chameleon tries to catch it, but finds that he has gotten so mixed up wishing to be like all the other animals that he can no longer do what he used to be so good at – catch flies.

 

Have Older Children?

Check out:

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Dr. SeussI Wish I Had Duck Feet Written by Dr. Seuss, Illustrated by B. Tobey

Or for a Christian book:

You Are Special by Max LucadoYou are Special Written by Max Lucado, Illustrated by Sergio Martinez

 

What other books do you know that help teach preschoolers that they don’t need to try to be like someone else – they’re special just the way they were made?

Looking for more great books for your preschooler? Check out these 7 Fantastic Animal Guessing Books for Preschoolers

A Moose standing on a road

 

Encounter With The Moose Who Wouldn’t Leave 

About a year ago, as I was driving back from a visit to the country, I enjoyed the warmth in the air and the fresh greenness of the trees.

I was on a winding country road just wide enough for two vehicles.

As I wound my way past open fields and wooded patches, I came to the top of a hill.

Suddenly, I hit the brakes hard. My wheels skidded on the loose gravel.

There, in front of me, standing in the dead centre of the road was a moose.

The moose stared at me. I was grateful to have stopped so far back. It had no antlers, but, boy, was it big!

I assumed the moose would soon move on, but it didn’t.

At length, the moose turned, though it didn’t leave the road. It looked at the fence to the right of the road.

It took me a moment to notice movement on the other side of the barbed wire fence.

First I thought “coyote”, but that wasn’t right. Soon I realized it was a baby moose.

Gradually the mother moose wandered down the road ahead of me, keeping one eye on the young moose on the other side of the fence, and one eye on me.

I trailed her down the hill at a distance. She was still mostly on the road, and, being in a small car, I didn’t try to pass her. We always talk about the dangers of a mother bear with her cubs nearby. Would a mother moose be dangerously protective of her little one? I didn’t want to find out.

Once or twice, the young moose tried sticking his head through the barbed wire, but pulled back. It seemed he was stuck. I wished I could do something to help, but was pretty sure the mother wouldn’t be pleased.

At the bottom of the hill, the fence continued straight while the road curved away. The mother took a few steps off the road following the fence.

Was this my chance to pass?

I relaxed the brake enough to roll forward slowly, very slowly.

The mother moved back into the middle of the road. I was still stuck.

Then suddenly, movement caught my eye. The little moose climbed through the fence and hurried to join his mother on the road.

Quickly, I switched into reverse to give them some extra space.

When I stopped again, I watched intently. The young moose was so little beside his enormous mother!

They crossed the road happily.Moose - Mother followed by baby

At the other side of the road, there was another barbed wire fence.

The mother stepped over the fence without the slightest hesitation.

The little one wasn’t so sure.

As the mother walked back up the hill on the far side of the fence, the little one followed along my side of the fence.

With my window still open from earlier, I could hear the little one’s bleating as he passed me. I could nearly have mistaken the sound for a low bird’s chirp. He was so small, very much a baby. He wanted to be with his mother on the other side of the fence, but it was challenging to get through the fence.

As I drove away, I wasn’t worried about the little one. He had gotten through the first fence. Once he got up enough determination, he would get through the second one too.

That mother of his, she wasn’t going to leave him. She would continue to wait patiently for him to finally decide to climb through the fence just as she’d done with the first fence.

God Won’t Leave His Own

What a privilege it was for me to witness that scene. Yet it wasn’t an accident. Indeed, there is a lesson there for me to learn. As I drove home, the image burned in my mind.

I am like that little moose. God is like the mother moose.

Sometimes God leads me through obstacles, such as fences. Those fences can be taller than me and have sharp barbs on them. There may be no way around them, and they may seem impassable.

God, however, has a goal in mind. He steps across the barrier and says, “Come.”

Like the little moose, I might try to stick my head through a few times, but pull back. I might try to follow the fence to the left or right, but I won’t get anywhere.

Thankfully God waits patiently, like the mother moose, with a fierce protective love. A love that, though it could let me stay where I am, wants to lead me further to something more wonderful.

Surely that little moose felt intimidated by the fence. Surely his pleading with his mother included “Come back,” and “I can’t do this.”

At last, the little one wanted to get through desperately enough that he did it.

Thankfully God can do more than the mother. While the mother moose could do nothing more than wait and watch for her little one to cross the fence, God can, and will help us cross it.

Still, we have to want it enough.

Once the little one had made it past the first fence, the mother led him to another fence to cross. Yet throughout the process, she never left him.

God will never leave us, no matter what seemingly impassable obstacle He asks us to climb through. Beyond that, He will give us the courage we need to follow Him through it.

We see an example of this when God sent Joshua and the Israelites up to conquer the new land. They had to move forward against very intimidating enemies, but God was with them and helped. As He said to Joshua,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

Today, may I take courage and trust God as I follow where He leads me.