Family Culture

Family Culture

From the Authors

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” Philippians 1:9 (NIV)

I wish I had a penny for every time I said the phrase ‘family culture’ during the last few months. I’d have at least a dollar. It started when we visited my father’s extended family last September. Just my parents, my brother, and I. This gave me a chance to experience uninterrupted adult conversation… which was a real novelty for me (a mother of three small children).Lphone july to oct 2014 392

We talked about family culture, our roots, our heritages, and the way our parents and grandparents were raised. We visited the hometowns of my great-grandparents, stopped at graveyards with tombstones of family, saw houses once lived in, but no longer, and the barn my dad helped roof when he was young. We noted the similarities in our heritages, but even more, we noted how families are so different. As a child, we make the assumption that all families are like ours.

But they’re not! And it’s shocking. And it’s a good thing. And sometimes you might think it’s not that great of a thing… (because you may be biased about your family? Or was that just me?).

Here is an easy way to sum up (my mom’s side) of our family:

My uncle recently said, “Well I reacted as we all do. The Norwegian in me kept my opinion to myself, until the German got so upset about it, that the Irishman just had to go and let it all out!”

On a whirlwind tour of families this Christmas season, I tried to appreciate our differences. And to remember that ‘different’ does not mean wrong. Different just means different. Because in our differences, we find strengths. We find blessing.

I also tried to remember that family culture is complex. It’s not just how a family acts, it’s their shared values, traditions and norms (those unspoken rules). No wonder families vary greatly!

Learning your own family culture takes time. We learn our family culture through many, many shared experiences. For example:

My family has one norm which indicates we should communicate clearly by saying what we really think and feel. This is good… and sometimes, maybe not so good.
We have another family norm that indicates that at times we should not say what we are thinking and hold our piece to keep the peace. This is good… and sometimes, maybe not so good.

Learning what to do, when, is part of the great family experience.

So, taking time to travel and visit family helped me think about our shared family journeys and our blended cultures. I have a greater appreciation for the differences which make for different strengths.

So here’s to a new year. A year filled with the ability to appreciate our differences, to take note of one another’s strengths, to recognize our own strengths, and to keep the shillaly* to a minimum. Let love abound! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Not a great picture, but this is the trestle bridge my great-grandmother had to walk across to get to school.
Not a great picture, but this is the trestle bridge my great-grandmother had to walk across to get to school.

*My mom says ‘shillaly’ a lot. It means, to our family, ‘silliness’ or ‘ridiculousness.’ Especially if we are talking about actions. For example, when we were little and my siblings and I were causing a ruckus, my mom would come in and holler, “What’s all this shillaly!” At other times, when there was bickering between us over insignificant details, she would say, “That’s enough of this shillaly!” Because what was causing us to argue wasn’t even important. When I looked up the word, I found out that it has to do with an Irish walking stick or club? Not sure where the connection is… or if my spelling is way off. But, if you need a more specific line, then let us say: may your reasoning and actions be those of a well formed mind, and not a bitter heart.

The barn on our family's homestead
The barn on our family’s homestead


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

From the Authors

 So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. When they had seen Him, they made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:16-20 (MEV)



Children From the Authors

saying, “Where is He who was born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
Matthew 2:2 (MEV)

We are moving.

We are moving, with three small children, in the middle of winter, with snow on the ground, in the middle of the holiday season.

We have had better ideas.

But through it all I keep hearing murmurs of ‘change your perspective.’

A movie with the kids tells them to look at their problem from a different angle. A friend who moved tells me to look at moving like an adventure. My husband reminds me to choose my attitude. A song, a book, a devotional, a whisper…

And it’s not always easy to look at things in a different light; to change. But it can be beautiful.

My older son recently received two gifts, and my daughter only one. He was feeling pretty good. Until another gift appeared for my daughter. And this gift contained three small gifts. Suddenly my daughter had twice as many gifts as my son. Any parent can tell you what followed. He was pretty stuck in the circle of but-it’s-not-fair, until I said, “What if I took your presents and gave them to a little boy who hasn’t gotten any gifts yet this Christmas? I bet he would be very happy to receive two gifts.” And I was so thankful and amazed as I watched something new dawn on his little face. Something that has more to do with time, and experience than any parenting tricks. And suddenly the two gifts were ok, because they were better than none.

A new perspective.

And so as we box up our entire house and experience a Christmas season without lights or trees, no prettily wrapped packages, no manger scenes, no cookie baking (ok… limited cookie baking), and on and on. I am looking at Christmas in a new light. How do I make Christmas special for my kids (and myself) without all the bells and whistles?

A new perspective.

It’s beautiful really. When you strip away all the stuff, and there is just new fallen snow on the ground, lights in the distance, carols on the radio, you are able to focus on the warmth in your home and your heart.

I have a devotional.
It helps me remember,
I am seeking Him who set the world in to motion.
And really that’s all I need for Christmas; for every day.


Wise men sought him 2000 years ago.

Wise men still seek him today.

May the all powerful Lord, who came as a baby in the lowest of circumstances, open your eyes to new things. To new ways of seeing others, of seeing yourself. May He bless you this Christmas season, and always! In Jesus name, Amen.


Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs.
Talk about changing your perspective about Christmas!
The song is by Jason Gray, and his son sings the song.
The song is titled “Christmas for Jesus”



Encouragement From the Authors

But let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Matthew 5:37 (MEV)

I quoted this verse to my kids today. Then I was left staring off into space as a few things occurred to me.

I said something like, “God wants us to say yes, when we mean yes.” At the time, I was talking about being truthful. But before I go on a parenting tangent about speaking blessings into my children’s lives, or my thoughts on quoting biblical scripture to our kids…

Let me just stop and say it again, “God wants us to say yes, when we mean yes.”

And while my kids waited for me to make my point, I realized something, I usually think of this verse in two contexts:

  1. We speak the truth, and
  2. If we say we are going to do something, then we follow through and do it.

But there is something I’d been missing.

It’s that time of year again. The very best time of year, but also a very busy time of year with more than the usual amount of too-much-to-do. And there is a group of us who tend to say “yes” to everyone, even when on the inside we are screaming, “No! How will I ever have time to do that too!?” Or, sometimes in my case, “Ugh, I really, really do not want to do that, but what will this person think of me if I say no?”

God wants us to say yes, when we mean yes. Not say yes, when we are screaming no in our minds.

When I say yes too many times, especially when I didn’t mean to agree, I become overbooked, stressed out, and frustrated. And I turn into a really not fun person to be with; a scrooge. Just ask my kids.

Now don’t fall off the other side of the horse here! This is not our free pass to say “no” to everyone. Some of us (still me included), need to pray for a more willing heart. A daring prayer that God will help us step out of our comfort-zones and be the person He created us to be. Saying, “no” to everyone because you don’t really feel like doing something is not the answer.

So how do we find the balance?

Oldest Son, sledding like a penguin.
Oldest Son, sledding like a penguin.

As I am constantly telling my older son, “practice!”

Start with prayer. Pray for wisdom, for God’s heart, for understanding of yourself and others. Pray that you will be ok with feeling like you are letting someone down (because that’s how I tend to feel when I say no).

And then be practical: know your limits, know your commitments, know what is reasonable, and know where you need some “stretching.”

And finally be kind to yourself and others. People aren’t asking you to do things to be cruel. And you aren’t saying no to be cruel.

God wants us to say yes, when we mean yes. And to say no, when we mean no.

So, to recap. Go to Him first. Pray. And then practice. Practice with safe people. Practice with a ‘soft’ no. Don’t say a flat out, “No. Nope. Never going to do this. This is a terrible idea. I’m way too busy for this junk!”

Instead, try saying,

  • “Thank you for asking me, but I can’t make that work in my schedule.”
  • “I’m really grateful you thought of me, but this is not something I am interested in.”

Most of all be honest. Kindly honest.* And don’t give a ‘maybe’ answer unless you really mean maybe.

Anyways, if you will excuse me, I have to go apologize to my kids for being a scrooge, pray to my Good Father about what this season should really look like, clear up some time with my kids, and practice saying my ‘no’ when I mean it. And practice saying ‘yes’ when maybe I’m a little nervous to try something new. So, I have a pretty full plate for the rest of the day. Sorry to say, I gotta scoot!

May the Lord, who created you for a purpose, bring you the wisdom and strength to do the good things you were created for. And may He bless you to say yes, when you mean yes. In Jesus strong name! Amen!


*But, speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, Christ Himself Ephesians 4:15 (MEV)


A Waiting People

Encouragement From the Authors

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. You know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4


Sorry, about that. Didn’t mean to “yell.” I just get so excited…

We are a waiting people. A people waiting for the return of our savior. Most of the year we don’t feel it. Or at least, I don’t. I let the business of life consume me. A poor excuse. A trick of this world is the perception that all this stuff we are doing is so important. And sometimes it is, but most of the time… maybe it’s not quite as important as we think.

This is the time of year when the waiting intensifies. We realize there is more. And it is coming. We start looking for it. And we can find it in the form of a small baby, who leads all the way to a cross on a hill, and then to an empty tomb. But the story doesn’t end there!

We are part of the story. We continue that story. We share in that story.

I’m sorry if you are not someone who gets excited about Christmas. I hope you will find some peace and joy in this season. I hope you will feel the quickening, the anticipation of the coming Christ. He has come, He will come again.


Not in Santa Claus, or consumer-driven-Christmases… but believe in the One who created you, loves you, and died for you. Believe He will come again. Believe there is better. Believe you can be better. Believe that Love is still alive. Believe in the person you were created to be. Believe in Hope, Grace, Faith…


May the Lord increase your faith this Christmas season! May you draw near to Him, as He is surely drawing near to you. And may your eyes be opened like those of a child, to the wonder around you. In Jesus name, Amen!