Savor The Season

Christmas was always my favorite time of year.

As a child, it was “magical” as I would gaze in awe at all of the twinkling lights and would anticipate the simple but delightful gifts I was given.  I loved sitting with my family while Mom read Christmas stories to us.  I loved the tasty food, curling up on the sofa with a good book, the days off from school, and enjoying my new gifts.

I remember my first Christmas as a new wife.  My husband and I drove to this simple “tree” farm, and we found one of the cheapest and scrawniest trees in those woods.  My husband cut it down, and I carried it back to the car on my shoulders.  It was that small.  My husband and I joked about our “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree, but it was our first tree, and we loved it.

I remember hanging our chiffon, white pew bows from our wedding on that tree and decorating the tree with beautiful, Victorian ornaments that my husband had bought for a good price.  I remember the cranberries and popcorn we strung.  I remember the excitement I felt to celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple in our first home!

Then, there was another new home to which we moved and the addition of babes.  Christmas was so special, seen through the eyes of our little ones!

Somehow along the way, I began to feel sad about recent Christmases.  …and I wondered why?  What had changed for me?

I realized that perhaps it was that my focus all along had been off and thus not satisfying.  I had focused on making my home beautiful for Christmas.

I still love decorating, but budgets limit our abilities.

…and…

Christmas is not about the decorations.

Christmas is about love, expectation, worship, and adulation.  It’s about sacrificial and welcoming love.  It’s about treasuring things that truly matter — like family and God, most of all.

This Christmas, I find that even though my house is decorated, it’s the simple things that matter most to me — having a deeper appreciation for Christ’s love for me and sharing in that love with family.

This season, let’s savor the things that really matter and offer our homes and most of all our hearts to those that really matter.

What The Wise Men Teach Us About Worship

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=5763381&searchId=eeb88ec99493842a38cd3a6fd0543e96&npos=11)

I have read and heard on numerous occasions the story of the Magi bringing their gifts to the young Jesus.  The wonder of these rich and wise men traveling for miles and following a mysterious star has produced many a good story.  Yet in our familiarity of it, we often miss its impact.

This past Sunday, a brother in Christ shared during our worship meeting some of the significance of the gifts of the Magi and how they displayed a greater meaning.

The life work of these Magi was to study the stars and their meanings.  They understood that God had written His story in all of creation so that for the one with spiritual understanding or faith, their own story could and can be understood in His story.

You see, our story is found in His story — in the One who made us and ultimately knows the purpose for which we were created.

As I listened to this brother share, I immediately realized something significant I hadn’t seen in the story before.  It is the fact that these gifts represent a key part to what constitutes worship or what worship looks like.

First, the Magi saw Jesus.

Worship first starts with actually seeing Jesus.  This is more than physical sight but involves a spiritual awareness or recognition of Who Jesus is.

Faith is the “door” to our spiritual sight.  God shines His truth into our hearts, and we must respond by faith to it.

Seeing happens when the hearing of the gospel is made effective by the Spirit.  — John Piper in Seeing & Savoring Jesus Christ

Then the Magi gave the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Christian brother shared how gold was a gift for royalty and represented the wise men’s understanding of the importance of this child to which the star led them.

  • Gold was used for gifts for royalty.  The Magi’s gift of gold symbolized their recognition of Jesus’ divinity and royalty as the “heir” to David’s throne and Son of God.

Worship recognizes the “kingship”and divinity of Jesus.

The Christian brother shared that frankincense often represents the prayers of the saints and that our prayers and lives are to be a sweet savor of worshipful service before God.

There are several possible different meanings to the Magi’s gift of frankincense, but perhaps one of the best meanings is that of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth and His position as the Great High Priest.

  • Frankincense relates to worship and the service of the High Priests that was a continual worship before the Lord in the temple and tabernacle.  The Magi’s gift of frankincense acknowledged Jesus’ position as the Great High Priest who would offer his life once and for all of mankind.

Worship recognizes the holiness of Jesus, as God the Son.

Our lives are to be a service of continual worship before God.  That’s what true ministry is: the results of being in fellowship with God produces a work within us that is His work.

The Christian brother shared that myrrh represents suffering and was used to embalm the dead.  It was prized for its scent and preservation qualities.

  • Myrrh represents the suffering.  The Magi’s gift of myrrh represented the priceless value that Jesus’ death on the cross means to all of mankind.  He offered His life, and His offering was not only accepted and cherished by God the Father, but it is also a sweetness to those of us who believe.  It is of priceless and matchless worth!

Worship recognizes the glorious work that Christ did on the cross on our behalf.

Christ gave His all so that we might have His all!  Our inheritance is matchless!

Worship recognizes the gift of lavish love that Jesus is to a hopeless, suffering, sinful world.

His glory is displayed through our joy in it.  …we were made to experience full and lasting happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of God. — Seeing & Savoring Jesus Christ

The cross is the place where we first see Jesus — where we recognize the glories of Christ in the light of the Gospel.

This Christmas, may we truly see Jesus, and may our worship “spring forth” from that glory.

The Whole Gamut: The Past Two Months In Review

IMG_0458 (Large) IMG_0477 (Large)(Smiles From Baby and A Date With My Son)

It really has been almost two months since I last blogged.  I admit disappointment in that because I had made it a goal to blog at least once a month.  Considering the fact that I have five kids, ages 9 and under and that the youngest is 2.5 months old, well, I choose to give myself some slack (or is it more aptly stated as accept more grace).

You see my life is far from perfect, my husband is far from perfect, my kids are far from perfect, and yes, I am far from perfect — perhaps farther than a lot of you.  🙂  As much as I want to hurry my growing process along, I recognize that it all takes time.  A wise produce grower knows this.  He also knows when to prune, how to prune, and that pruning takes repetition.  It’s not a once-done deal.  I am like that.  I need repeated “prunings,” and I have a Master Gardener who knows just how to do that the very best way for my own personal growth.

My life is far from perfect, but it is full of grace.  Even when I don’t acknowledge or recognize the grace, it surrounds me every day and in so many ways — from the coos of a baby, to the warmth of my house on a cold January day, to the happiness on my daughter’s face as I make snow-castles with her, to the laughter shared with a son as we make silly faces together in a mirror, to the happiness of playing Checkers with another son…  My day is full of so many demonstrations of grace.  Sometimes, grace is also displayed when life isn’t all smiles, coos, and happiness.  Sometimes, it’s found when my daughter publicly humiliates me or a son tells my husband and I we need to go on a date so we have better attitudes.   (Those things really did happen: the good and the bad.)

So, here’s a look into my imperfect life that is “perfect” for me — being where God wants me to be and surrounded by His perfect love:

December arrived with cold germs spreading throughout our family.  I spent less than 1/2 an hour outside on a wet and snowy Saturday, decorating for Christmas and wound up with a sinus infection and bronchitis.  After battling almost a week’s worth of a fever, asthma, and a nasty cough for weeks afterwards, I finally improved.  (My lungs are still healing from my sickness.)

Stomach bug germs replaced the cold germs right before Christmas.  Being sick a week before Christmas meant my husband and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morn the week of Christmas, wrapping presents.  We made it fun by watching Christmas movies, sipping Sparkling Blueberry juice, and eating chocolate while wrapping presents.

We then spent the next week entertaining and being entertained by company for the holidays.  It was a busy but fun-filled time!

I disliked removing our Christmas decorations but finally admitted it was time when our tree had piles of needles beneath bare branches and was turning brown.  Nostalgia brought tears to my eyes, and I told my husband that I am going to really miss the sight of small coats hanging in our foyer in another decade.  I lovingly gave one more glance to my children’s handmade ornaments before stowing them away in the attic.  (Those ornaments have become some of my most-prized collections!)

January arrived blistery and with more snow days.  I have learned snow days mean extra work for me but many happy moments too.  I love to watch my kids playing in the snow!  I may enjoy staying inside in the warmth these days, but I am willing to stretch myself in order to bring happiness to a child.

This month, I have been enjoying having my turn at taking each of the kids individually on a “date” with Momma.  My kids love the undivided attention, and I love the opportunity to be undistracted and relaxed with my kids!  There are so many demands on a mother’s time and attention that it is challenging to find and make the time to get much one-on-one time with each child.  So far, I have gone on a date with each of my two oldest sons.  We have gone to the restaurant of their choice, bought a small keepsake, talked, laughed, and just enjoyed the fun times together.  During our talks, I was able to ask the boys all kinds of great questions.  It was a neat time to get to know them better and find out their goals, desires, sorrows, fears, frustrations, and joys! 

These have been a busy past two months.  The first month with our newborn I spent more closely at home and put a lot of things on hold.  As January approached, I decided it was time to get caught up on insurance shopping (getting new quotes for auto, home, and life and making the changes).  I was also finally able to get some of our health insurance issues resolved.  My husband also began to work longer hours at the office.  The added stress of caring for five children by myself, ill health, long hours at work for my husband was indeed lending itself to stress that could either make or break our marriage.  As my son noticed, we were starting to give in to wrong  attitudes, and it was time to make necessary changes to halt the negativity.  (I guess our son had noticed our temperaments improve when we are able to get some couple time.)

Last Sunday was also one of those times when grace can become very evident even in the midst of unpleasant circumstances.  I had left our baby and 2.5 year old with my husband while I finally found a minute to attend to personal needs.  🙂  When I returned to reclaim the baby, my husband informed me that I would also need to get our 2.5 year old, who was standing in front of the congregation, pretending to sing.  My husband was occupied at the time since he has responsibilities in the sound room.  To my discomfiture, I had to approach the front of the auditorium and reclaim our daughter.

As I approached her, I realized this was going to be even more embarrassing.  It was obvious this was going to be one of those occasions when our daughter was going to test her limits and the limits of our patience and pride.  As I motioned for her to come to me, she ran the other way.  Her escape route took her straight up the stairs and onto the platform.  I was in a conundrum.  I wasn’t going to chase her across the platform, but neither could I leave her there.  I quietly approached the stairs from the side and motioned to her again to come, displaying my stern “Mommy means business” face.  With a toss of her blond curls, she ran the opposite way, down the stairs on the opposite side of the platform.  What now?  My daughter was not going to obey, and I could not leave her to her own devices.  Somehow, I had to get ahold of her, but do it in such a way as to diminish the distraction for our audience.  It was at this point that my husband saved the day.  Before I could take a second look, he had quickly marched down the middle aisle, swept in and grabbed our daughter up in his arm while holding our baby in the other arm, and just as quickly exited the auditorium with a sobered daughter in tow.  (She was much more serious about obeying after that.)

May I share that watching my husband determinedly take his daughter in order and rescue an otherwise distressing situation was one of the most “romantic” things he could have done.  Romantic?  Yes!  I was so appreciative and admiring of his taking leadership and responsibility in protecting and guiding his family where needed.  My husband is a kind and patient man.  He normally speaks calm words.  When he speaks with firmness, we respect and take notice.

Afterwards, grace was even more evident when a number of people approached us and kindly shared their own stories of how their children had done the same thing or similar.  Their humility and compassion were greatly appreciated.  I had been humbled by it all — parenting has a way of doing that to us on a regular basis — but their graciousness had comforted me.  Oh, and my husband and I have decided we need to play some “obedience” training games with our daughter.

Life goes on…  Lessons are learned, and hopefully new growth is occurring on a regular basis.  In the midst of it all, may I cherish not just those precious times, spent like today (making snow-castles with my daughter), but also those times when I am given the opportunity to humbly extend forgiveness and grace to my children when they exert their own wills and sometimes do the opposite of what we desire for them.  God is so quick to forgive me!  May I be just as quick in forgiving my children who have “wronged” me far less!

A Letter To Luke

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(Picture taken by courtesy of Becca Davis Photography.)

Dear Luke,

You asked me a month ago if I would write a blog just for you.  I told you I would around your birthday.  Well, it’s a few weeks after, but I have not forgotten your request. So, here’s my blog just for you:

I remember the first time I held you in my arms.  You had the largest eyes.  They were so alert and seemed to be wise beyond their years.  You had this way of just looking at someone and seeming to take it all in.

You were one of the easiest babies!  You were content to sit wherever I put you.  You never fussed when riding in your stroller and would just sit and observe the action around you.  With two older brothers, there was always lots of that.

Skip ahead five years, and we have a little boy who recently celebrated his fifth birthday!  You are no longer the quiet little boy you were for the first two years of life.  Now, you are full of energy and enthusiasm!  You love to play sports!  You are quick to defend someone whom you think is hurting or being hurt.  You’ll stand up to a kid much bigger than you if you think someone needs your help.  You are generous with your hugs and kisses, and we all benefit from them.  You are bold with your words — sometimes too bold.  We are working on helping you learn what is appropriate to say and what isn’t.

When we were deciding on what we were going to name you, we picked a name that means “Light Bringer” for your first name and “Warrior” for your middle name.  It seemed very appropriate since you were born three weeks before Christmas.  Your name is also where a lot of the Christmas passage is recorded in the Bible.

Precious Son, you have been a “bright light” to us with your bright smiles, engaging personality, endless chatter, boundless energy, and delightful hugs and kisses!  We are so thankful for you!

Before naming you, we prayed about what we were to name you.  We believe that a person’s name should have a positive meaning.  We wanted you to have a name that would be significant and would even give you a sense of purpose.

The combination of the meaning of both names is: “One who strives or puts forth effort to bring light to the world.”  The light referred to in the Christmas passage was what the star that rested in Heaven’s curtains signified.  It was a greater light than the star.  It referred to a light that could permeate into the darkest of places and darkest of nights and darkest of hearts to bring light.  Is there really a light so powerful?  Yes!  That light came in the form of Jesus, the Babe who would become a man.  He would be a man who would change thousands of lives while He walked on Earth and would change countless lives throughout thousands of years since his tenure on Earth.  And He still continues to change lives!

Jesus came to bring a message of redemption to lives ruined by the havoc created by sin.  He came to bring hope to a world full of hurt and hate.  He came to bring love to those who only knew lust and loathing.  He came to bring peace to a world bent on achieving power by crushing all opponents.  He came to bring significance to the simplest.  Into a world full of darkness and despair, Jesus brought a message of deliverance and destiny.  He offered salvation in exchange for the rags of sin.  He gave His all so that we might know the full measure of the gift of His grace. 

He was born in a stable to a poor peasant girl and first welcomed by Shepherds.  He demonstrated in this that His grace finds us not in our own ideas of perfection but reaches us in our chaos, our craziness, our imperfections.  He then reaches out His nail-scarred hands and lifts us.  He doesn’t condemn us.  He doesn’t condone us.  He comes to redeem us!  He desires to show us what our true destiny is as His sons and daughters!

Luke, precious son, my prayer is that you first grasp from where your light comes — Who is your LightMay you know your source and may you then understand your destiny!  You are given the privilege of being His “Light-bearer”!  May your life shine brightly with His light so that you will be a source of light in a world that is desperate for it, even if it doesn’t know it.

Son, open those precious, beautiful eyes of yours.  See a world that is hurting and hating.  They live in darkness but don’t even know it.  They seek hope but turn to mere mirages of it.  Son, you do know the One who can help and heal them.  They may reject you — just as they did your Savior.  Your life may not be easy.  It may be full of suffering, but may it be with a steadfast hope, faith, peace, and joy as you know that you have a greater eternal purpose than what this world has to offer.

Luke, I wish I could protect you from the hurt and hate that you will see and hear as you seek to bring “light” to a dark world.  Son, keep your heart pure and sweet and trusting as you walk in close fellowship with the One Who made you and gave Himself for you and loves you more infinitely and completely than any other.  If you have that kind of faith, I can be at peace.  I know that you may still suffer, but I know that you will be okay — truly okay.  When we have God at our side, He’ll walk with us through any horrific tragedy that may come our way.  He’ll give you the grace you’ll need for each moment. 

And Son, know that this is one Mommy who loves you, who is proud of you, and who knows that God has wonderful plans for your life!

So Son, hold your head high, open your eyes to this hurting world, and be a light to them, reflecting He Who is our eternal Light of love, peace, salvation, redemption, healing, and hope!

I love you, darling boy!  Kisses and hugs, Mommy…

My Million Kids

Baby goats

(FreeImages.com/IrumShahid)

If you have more than the typical two kids and for sure if you have more than three kids, you have probably heard some bizarre comments.  (I am being kind when I say “bizarre.”)  I am amazed how people think they can negatively comment on the size of your family.  Truly, it is a personal decision for each couple.

A friend of mine is in her ninth month of pregnancy with her fourth child.  She just received an extremely rude comment from a bystander.  My friend responded well on the spot but later shed a few tears.

I too have personally heard many comments that are definitely not polite.  I’ve heard everything from, “You kept going ’til you had your girl (more innocuous but definitely not nice around my sons),”  “Good thing they had a girl, or they would have kept going,” “Do you have any more at home?”, “Are these all yours?” and my family has been introduced to strangers with, “… and their million kids.”

Society currently considers two children as being the acceptable and standard number to have.   If a family really likes kids, they might have three.  Anything more than that, you must be overly religious or belonging to a specific religion (Mormon or Catholic).  In such a current state of popular opinion, our family of four children is considered excessive.  I want to laugh in response because I grew up, knowing quite a few large families.  I babysat for some larger families (six kids or more).  Some of my best friends came from larger families (7-11 children).  The families seemed happy, got along fairly well, and were clothed, fed, and healthy.

If though you want a fairly quiet and controlled environment with limited arguments, a smaller number of children is definitely recommended.  If you want to keep a higher standard of living, again a smaller number of children is recommended.

So, why do some of us have more than two children?  Are we “gluttons for punishment,” uneducated (not understanding how children are conceived as people have said to some of my friends), or insane?  Seriously, why do we have more than two?  Our home is often full of noise, chaos, and disagreements between siblings.

For me, it is partially a reaction to how society seems to dictate everyone’s lives — even to how many children they have.  I didn’t want to just do what everyone else does — as if we are the blind following the blind.  I want to think for myself and to do what is right, regardless of society’s dictates.

Is there a specific number of children that is right or wrong?  Absolutely not!

So, how do I decide on what is the right number for my family?  Do I need to even decide?  Is this my decision?  I have friends that would argue that we don’t need to decide based on Scripture that says,  “Be fruitful and multiply” and also “Blessed is the man who has his quiver full.”  They would say we just need to trust God and that He will provide for every child He gives.  There are also verses in Scripture that state that God opens and closes the womb, indicating that He is in control of the number of children we have.

God creates life.  It comes from Him.  Children are always considered a blessing in Scripture — not a curse.  Death is a direct result of sin.  Barrenness in ancient Biblical times was considered a curse.

Our early forefathers faced many challenges.  Children were the heritage, the future of their parents.  They were necessary for humanity’s survival against extinction.  Infant and children mortality rates were high.  It was necessary for parents to have quite a few children in order for the human race to survive.  There was also the issue of having more hands to do all the necessary tasks it took to survive under harsh conditions.   Children were the hope and future of their parents.

In the Western world, our culture is prosperous and can actually provide much better living conditions for future generations.  Yet, in our culture, we actually have fewer children.  In fact, studies show that most wealthy couples not only choose to have fewer children but actually are forced to have fewer children due to declining fertility levels.

The poor often have more children and greater fertility.  I could definitely argue that some of the poorer are having children for all the wrong reasons (Welfare benefits, etc…) and many are not responsibly or lovingly raising their children.  That is indeed a tragic scenario into which a lot of children are entering.

Yet, I am not one of those.  I am married to my husband.  My husband has an adequate job.  We have a decent home — not extravagant but not poverty level.  We feed and clothe our children.  We spend one-on-one time with each of them.  We do special things as a family.

So is that why we have more than two children?

Yes, I did want to have more than the average two children — just because I seriously dislike having my personal life dictated by society.  I also wanted to have more than the average because I do believe children are a blessingI also believe and have personally witnessed how God does provide for each of them.  We don’t live prosperously but we live comfortably.

To be perfectly honest, my comfort level would probably be more like two children.  I rarely ever, if ever, get stressed when I have just two kids with me.  They are so much easier to handle/manage.  It’s much more peaceful.  Yes, I love my peace and comfort and quiet and order!  So, why did I have more than two?

One reason I have more than two is because I realize that two is my comfort level, but four is my grace level.  It is where God shows and teaches me every day to walk in grace.  Grace is found in the imperfections of life, in the messy chaos.  Grace is found when I am able to laugh when my natural and selfish response would be to be annoyed and angry.

Two is my comfort level, but four is my grace level…

My children have a way of teaching me what it means to walk in grace.  I don’t think I could have learned grace any more perfectly than in walking through life with my kids.

All children have a way of teaching us about God’s grace.  Any number of children we have — whether one or eleven have a way of teaching us more about God’s grace.

I may have more than two children, but my friends who are expecting Baby # 7 would think that I have very few children.  A specific number of children doesn’t equate to a specific level of spirituality or spiritual maturity.  I am not more spiritual because I have more children or because I have fewer children.  I am not a better parent because I have more children or because I have fewer children.

Do my husband and I need to decide on how many we will have?  Perhaps…  Perhaps not…  The issue is really our hearts.  How do we perceive our children?  Upon what do we base the number of children we will have or do have?  Is it about control, fear (because we still think we are in control), selfishness, legalism, pride, etc…?  None of these motivations are right.  Neither will produce the fruits of the Spirit or are the fruits of the Spirit.

Christmas is drawing close, and I am reminded of the Christ Child, lying in a manger.  I am also reminded of the verse in Scripture that says that whatever we have done to the least of these, we have done to the Lord (paraphrase).  How much more “least” can we get then children — especially in a society whose laws rule them as “expendable”?  As we gaze at the Babe lying in a manger, perhaps we can “welcome” Him by welcoming children into our own lives.  They might be of our own flesh and blood or perhaps they will be through adoption or foster care.  Perhaps, it will be by sending Christmas gifts to needy children in our own country or other lands.  Perhaps, this year the miracle of Christmas is to be a miracle within your heart and my heart — the miracle of opening our hearts and our homes to some of the least of these.  In doing so, we are doing it unto Him, the Christ Child.

Perhaps, this year the miracle of Christmas is to be a miracle within your heart and my heart…

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Gift Ideas For The Couple of Young Children

Since Christmas is not that far off, and I am already starting to think of Christmas gifts, I thought it might be helpful to give a list of gift ideas for the couple of young children.  Here’s the list that they don’t have the courage to give you but would love nevertheless.  The list contains everything from free to expensive so surely there is a gift idea in here that you may have never thought of you but that your adult children have.

1. Option A: Gift certificate to their favorite restaurant with $ for a babysitter.

2. Option B: Gift certificate to their favorite restaurant and you offer to babysit (if you can physically and live nearby)

3. Gift certificate to the young mother’s favorite hair-dresser and spa

4. Gift certificate for a pedicure

5. $ for Blockbuster Express rental and box of popcorn and option of adding a warm fleece blanket (couple size)

6.  Offering to babysit while they Christmas shop. Another option: $ to pay for a babysitter so they can Christmas shop and have a date night.

7. A homemade gift certificate for ironing their clothes (You could make a few of these to be redeemed at their choice.)

8. A homemade gift certificate for mending

9. A homemade gift certificate for weeding their gardens (if physically able)

10. A gift certificate for flowers and mulch. Additional option: A homemade gift certificate, offering to plant the flowers for them.

11. A homemade gift certificate offering to watch children while young mother cans fruit, jams, or veggies (if she likes to can)

12. $ to pay a babysitter so young mother gets a day off to clean, run errands, sleep, or do whatever

13.  Gift certificate for the young mother’s favorite clothing store (Moms need a new wardrobe piece every so often to feel energized.)

14. Gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret (for young mother).  Your son or son-in-law will be thankful.

15. $ discreetly given to your son or son-in-law to buy a piece of jewelry or roses for the young mother

16. $ for your son-in-law to attend a game of his favorite sport’s team

17. Gift certificate or $ for a Bed & Breakfast stay for the young couple, along with an offer to babysit or $ to pay a babysitter.

18. $ for them to hire a professional cleaning service to clean their windows once-a-year or offer to do this yourself

19. $ for hiring a professional cleaning service to come once-a-year to scrub hard areas: ceramic tile floors, light fixtures, radiators, fridges (behind them), stoves (tops, behind, inside) or Option B: Offer to do this yourself.

20. Offer to do touch-up painting.

21. Homemade gift certificate, offering to help your son or son-in-law with whatever household projects he wants to get done on a Saturday.

22. Homemade gift certificate, offering to trim bushes and hedges

23.  Spending $ for both — a lot of young couples don’t have any extras to feel like they can buy stuff like flowers, mulch, clothing, games, movies, toys, shoes, accessories, decorations, hobbies, books, etc…

24. $ for grand-children’s college accounts.

25. A well-written note of encouragement — no criticism is allowed.  In fact, avoid criticism as much as possible or altogether.  At this stage in the game, you are a resource for them to seek when they have questions.  If they come with a complaint, sympathize, very carefully offer advice, give lots of support and encouragement.

26. Notes of encouragement to your grand-children, along with specific prayers.  Avoid criticizing or “parenting” them.  Your relationship will stay positive as you do what grand-parents should do: “spoil.” “Spoil” in the sense of being generous with your time, resources, praise, love, physical affection, words of encouragement, prayers, play-time, and gifts.

27. Avoid any gossip about your adult children or grand-children among other family members or among outsiders.  “What goes around comes around.”

28. Homemade pre-mixed cookie ingredients (minus cold items) for easy making and baking or Option B: Pre-make cookie dough that they can freeze and use at their discretion.

29. Avoid giving grand-children over-doses of candy and sweets.  Some sweets are okay though (like homemade cookies).

30.  Offer to take a grand-child on a special outing (e.g. ice cream or to park). Even one less child can make a mother’s day easier.  Plus, it is connecting with your grand-child.

31.  Always affirm your adult children and never correct or criticize their parenting in front of the grand-children.  If there is an area of major concern, pray heartily and then with much wisdom seek to positively help in the situation.

32.  If there are major discipline issues, when parents are talking about it, you can offer to pay towards counseling sessions if they feel that would be a help.  Again, avoid any implications that you are criticizing them or their parenting or their children.

33. The dry ingredients pre-mixed or prepared for a soup meal, along with $ for meat to add if the recipe requires it.

34. $ towards a family vacation for them

35. Gift certificate for their favorite pizza place

36. Gift certificate for a game of mini-golf (couple or family)

37. Gift certificate for ice cream (Ritas, etc…)

38. Gift certificate for bowling (couple or family)

39. Gift certificate for a new set of towels and wash cloths and her favorite scent of body wash and lotion

40. $ for a new electronic gadget for the young father

41. Gift basket of fresh fruit, snacks, and chocolates

42. A new set of sheets for them (You’ll have to know their bed size and what colors/styles they like. Don’t go for the cheapest.  Go for quality.  They’ll appreciate the difference when they crawl between the sheets.)

43. A family Bible if they don’t have one.

44. $ for family pictures.  Go professional — not the cheapest available.

45. Pay attention to any comments about furniture, rugs, whatever that they apologize about.  It may mean they feel badly about that item and would really appreciate a replacement.  You’ll know whether this is something they could use or not. Offer $ to replace, if this is within your budget.

46.  Homemade gift certificates to offer babysitting (there could be a few of these for them to redeem).

47. Homemade gift certificate to make supper for them sometime (if you live close-by)

48. Homemade gift certificate, offering to do a day’s worth of laundry

49. Homemade gift certificate, offering to clean bathrooms

50. “His” and “Her” mugs, with hot chocolate packets or tea packets.

51. A packet of 10-20 crafts or more.  You assemble the supplies, cut, paste, whatever needs to be prepared, type instructions, and then put them in Ziploc bags with titles written on them.  This is a great idea for the busy mom who would love to do crafts with her kids but dislikes shopping, preparing, planning, and paying for them.

52. Two new dishcloths and two new dish-towels, with a homemade gift certificate attached.  The gift certificate should be an offer to wash a meal or day’s worth of dishes.
These are just some ideas.  Don’t feel that you have to do these or you are a terrible parent/grand-parent.  Just do what you can and are able to do/give.  The giving is all about the joy it brings to the receiver.  Give with an attitude of love and joy.  The best gifts you can give are your love and encouragement.  Have a Merry Christmas!

A Genie Or A God?

The other day as I was considering Jesus’ time on Earth, I thought it was interesting how He had the power and abilities that fairy tales try to imitate and of which dreams consist.  How many fairy tales are about a fairy godmother, genie, prince, magic frog, magic fish, magic wand, etc.?  The dream is that some ordinary person is transformed into someone extraordinary.  Why do we all gravitate towards those stories?  Because, we all want to imagine it happening to us.  Why do people spend money at the lottery?  Why do people fill out sweepstake’s forms?  It all comes down to that we hope to have that one-in-a-million winning lottery ticket or have that one-in-a-million winning sweepstakes.  Why?  Because the thought of being a millionaire sounds like the answer to all our present woes.  Right?  Doesn’t money solve most problems?  Ask the former winners.  They just might show you something different.

If it’s not wealth, we all wish we were extraordinarily beautiful.  But wait!  Why then do the celebrities, if they marry, have marriages that normally end within the first year, if that.  Those who act like they have it all have so little in what really counts.

So if happiness isn’t found in beauty, fame, or fortune, what then?  Why then do we seek it so much?  Why then is wealth, prestige, and beauty what fairy tales present as the answer to “living happily ever after”?

Compare fairy tales to what Jesus did on Earth.  He had the power to grant those human desires of everyone.  I found it interesting though that nowhere is it mentioned that Jesus bestowed gifts or money upon the adoring crowds.  He did send Peter to find a coin in a fish’ mouth to pay taxes.  He did feed the hungry.  Mostly, we read that he healed the sick, dead, and maimed.  Above that yet, he always sought to heal the crowds spiritual needs.  By observing what Jesus did, we find what He found truly important and necessary to man’s true well-being.  Jesus showed that our spiritual well-being is the most important.  He also demonstrated that in order to meet spiritual needs, you also have to meet genuine physical needs often.  He didn’t spend all His time meeting physical needs, but He did a lot of that in order to then meet the individual’s spiritual needs.

Perhaps, we can learn from this that it’s not about the gifts we receive, it’s not about who has the best job, it’s not about having the nicest things, it’s not about being the prettiest or most popular.  Perhaps, it’s time, we made the change from fictitious fairy tales about genies to faith in a living God.  What do our dreams and priorities reveal about us?

As Christmas rapidly approaches, may I be reminded that my happiness is not found in the gifts I receive but in the best Gift of all — the Lord Jesus, my Savior and God!

Feeling A Little Humbug

I am wondering if any other mom is feeling like I am — that I wish I could just skip all the craziness that comes with Christmas: decorating, cleaning like crazy, trying to find gifts for everyone that we can afford and that the recipient will appreciate, trying to find time to wrap presents, trying to find time to write a Christmas letter and then mail them all, and the list goes on.  It’s not that I don’t like this stuff.  It’s just overwhelming since my life is busy enough already that I wish I could skip all the extra work and keep it really simple.

Since it wasn’t that long ago — I think my youngest sister would disagree — since I was a child, I do remember the fun and wonder of the beautiful Christmas decorations.  So, I know that I will somehow find the time to clean a portion of my attic so I can pull out our Christmas decorations.  Then, my already allergy-overwhelmed body will shut down on me for a little while, and I will wonder why I went to all the trouble.  Yeah, I am feeling a little like Scrooge.  I just want to actually be able to relax a little and enjoy it all.  It’s just not relaxing when my house is dirty and extra dirty from the dusty ornaments, pine needles, and spiders that find their way out of the tree and onto my ceilings.

Time to cut this short as I have some more pressing responsibilities.  🙂

Christmas

I was reading some neat books about Christmas the other day, and Will said, “I love Christmas!”  I told him that I do too.  We then started to name the things we love about Christmas.  Will’s final response was, “Most important thing about Christmas is God.” I gave him a high-five and told him that he was very right.