There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens: What do workers gain from their toil?I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Let me (very quickly) comment on the last line, and the ‘fear of the Lord.‘ I used to struggle with this. If Jesus is my friend, why would I be afraid of him?
Now, skip to my most recent shopping adventure with three young children, where I am out in public. One child is screaming and throwing My Little Pony umbrellas on the ground, while the other two are playing a very rowdie game of hide-and-seek. I try to act like a better mom, getting down to their level and talking quietly to them. (All the while wanting to shout and tell them to knock it off.) Why not shout?* Because I don’t want people to think I’m a terrible mom. That is the kind of ‘fear’ we are talking about. I’m so worried about other people’s opinions, I change my behavior.
Now God sees us all the time. What if I worried about His opinions more? What if I cared about other people’s opinions less and instead trusted in who I am in Christ?
Fear of God is reverence and esteem for Him. It is doing what He would want you to do. Partially because He is so holy and awesome and mighty and powerful, but also because we should be so in love with Him, we want to do things His Way.**
That being said…
You may have not realized this, but this web site is part of our journey relating to the ins and outs, and ups and downs associated with writing a series of books. This blog, while not always about the books, highlights our thoughts along the way. Which is its own story.
I am excited to report, that our book team has met. We have made our final edits. We have divided up the last of the work… and… all I can say is, “It’s coming!”
May the Lord, who made you unique among all people, bless you today. May He show you the way, illuminate your path, and give you the strength you need for one more day. In Jesus name, Amen!
*In this example, fear of the Lord lined up with worrying about other people’s opinions. God doesn’t want me to be a tyrannical mother. But my point is, I was not worried about what God would think. I was worried what people would think.
**Ta-da! The fear of the Lord! This is an abbreviated version of all my thoughts on this subject. Mostly, I want to encourage you to let God’s opinions of you determine your worth, not other people’s. Because He thinks you’re pretty amazing!
***Ecclesiastes 3**** is something to read! The whole thing, not just the above, abbreviated version.
****Ecclesiastes is also nearly impossible for me to spell.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17 (NIV)
This is one of my mom’s favorite pictures of her granddaughter*. We call it the ‘Cinderella’ photo. We were at the children’s science museum. And what does a 3-year-old wear to the science museum? The same thing she insists on wearing everywhere else- her princess dress. And what does a little girl want to do at the science museum? Well, everything. Which includes washing the dishes and sweeping the floor. So- ‘Cinderella’, because she is a princess doing the dishes.
Isn’t it a cute picture? Is your cute-o-meter on overload? Or am I just biased?
Now here is something I tend to forget while I am doing the dishes and sweeping the floor. I’m a coheir with Christ.
Do you know what that means? I am a sister to the prince, a daughter to the king. I. Am. A. Princess! I might not rock a lot of Disney Playwear like my daughter, but whether I look the part or not, I am a princess. Not the snooty kind, but the beloved princess. The apple of her Father’s eye. Yep. That’s me.
And that’s you too!!**
I don’t know if you have a daily devotional (I would recommend getting one, though). But I tend to get my ten minutes in the morning, and then I’m like, “Thanks, God. You’re the best. Help me today!” and I’m off to the races. The dishes, laundry, feed children, wash something, get to work, is the curling iron still on?, overdue books, when was that bill last paid?… and on we go. Drowning in the mundane.
You are a princess. Nothing you do is mundane.
God is not in the background all day. He is with you. Every moment you draw breath is shrouded in glory and holiness because God is dwelling with you, and you are his princess. The trick is pulling God past the morning devotional, and into the rest of the day with you. No, that’s not quite it, because He is always with you. So, I suppose, it is becoming aware that He is with you. It is making your meetings with God more than just a moment in the morning, but a continual conversation throughout the day.
When I see this picture, I don’t see a silly little girl. I see my princess. I know her strengths, I have plans for her future, I want to be there with her in that moment, and I want her to know how very much I love her.
And that’s how God is looking at us.
He wants to be a part of everything. The amazing, the hard, the mundane.
Jesus came as Emmanuel, God with us. And He still is today. The God who was, and is, and is to come with us!
Thank you, God, for adopting us. Thank you that you want us in your family, and that you have a purpose for us. Thank you that you love us so much, and that You just want to be with us. Open our eyes again to how You are in every circumstance, big or small, easy or hard. Bless us to feel You along side us throughout the day. And help us to trust more in Your Love. In Jesus name, Amen!
*Let’s be honest, EVERY picture of a grandchild is a grandmother’s favorite picture!
**Unless you’re a guy… then, you are, obviously, a prince. Swords. Dragons. Still very cool.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
~Psalm 89:15 (NIV)
It happened again.
I got the giggles in church.*
Whenever we sing a song about the goodness of God’s presence I get the giggles. Don’t get me wrong- God’s presence is beyond good. It’s just I always remember something my older son once said.
He was younger, and we had just gone through a time where he got lots of gifts. Either his birthday or Christmas? I can’t exactly remember. But I was praying with him before bed, and I said, “Thank you, Lord, for your presence-” And this little pajama clad child leapt out of bed, bouncing up and down, and joyfully yelled, “WHERE ARE THE PRESENTS!?!?”
And I can’t sing about the goodness of God’s presence, without remembering that wonderful parenting moment.
And I can’t sing about the goodness of God’s presence, without remembering that it really is one of His best presents to us.
Thank you God, for all your presents, but especially for your presence. And for children, and the joy and laughter they bring. Amen!
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”
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV
Last week I promised a list of Non-Toy Christmas ideas. I’m here to deliver. This is by no means a complete list and I must admit, most ideas are borrowed from friends and family. But here’s my list for meaningful gifts that are not stuff-ful.
One more comment before I get to the list: if you feel the need to give a toy then go ahead and give it! How about a small $10 Lego set, a match box car, stickers (always a favorite at our house), a small doll/figurine of a favorite character- you choose. My kids are as excited with one small gift, as they are with a large gift. I’m not saying it’s bad to give toys, but let’s stretch our horizons and consider giving something precious: memories, time, financial support…
Date: Give the gift of your time. Make this as expensive (a movie, dinner at a restaurant) or inexpensive (play date with you) as you want. Introduce a child to some of your interests (how about an afternoon baking with Grandma?). And there is always the grand-poobah of date gifts: the sleepover. The point is to give the gift of your time, build memories, and relationships*.
The Choose-A-Date: Stealing this idea from a sister-in-law, she did ‘the date’ gift in grand style. The gift was a picture frame that said “Choose a date” at the top. Then there were two options for where they would go, where they would eat dinner, and where they would eat dessert. The child got to choose. And at the bottom it said they would take a picture on their date, and then the picture would go in this frame (bonus points for heartwarming cuteness).
Operation Christmas Child: This is a chance to help your kids experience the joy in giving and talk with them about children around the world who have so little. O.C.C. usually collect gifts in mid to late November, so you have to be on the ball to participate. If you haven’t heard of it, just do a web search. Operation Christmas Child is done by Samaritan’s Purse and they have plenty of material to make the event more meaningful for you and your child.
Sports/Activities: Sports fees seem to increase every year, and then you have equipment you need to buy too… But what child doesn’t benefit from participating in athletics, cooking classes, theater, or even calligraphy (my mom put me in calligraphy class as a child. I was the youngest person in the class, by… oh, about twenty years!). If you want to make it more “gift like” give a soccer ball with money for soccer lessons. Talk to the parents ahead of time, to match family need with child interests.
Memberships: A great family gift is a membership to a local zoo, museum, or other attractions. You are giving mom’s a chance to take kids somewhere educational/fun and kids a place to learn/create/explore. Again, if you want the “gift like” appearance, give a zoo membership with a big stuffed animal.
Homemade gifts: What!? Ok. Don’t go out and buy a sewing machine if you’ve never used one and try to make a ballgown for your granddaughter. BUT, if you have a talent, make something for them. Wood working? Knitting? Sewing? Cooking? These are the gifts that hold sentimental value and retain their value. My husband has a little wooden car his grandfather made for him. It has his name painted on it, and our children play with it. So much more precious than any Hotwheels car we’ve ever received. My mom can sew- she’s made everything from pillowcases (actually a big hit when they have the kids’ favorite characters on them, and this is a pretty simple sewing project) to an Elsa gown.
The Practical Gift: Oh dear! Don’t say it! But YES!!! It’s what mothers everywhere want! Give them beach towels, school supplies, backpacks, sleeping bags, shoes, goggles, and even underwear! If you think they don’t want these gifts, you are mistaken. My daughter just asked for Elsa underpants for Christmas. She didn’t care what they were, she saw them, they had her favorite character on them, she wanted them. Of course… if she were a bit older that would be an embarrassing present to open in front of everyone. So be reasonable, but also- dare to be practical!!
Sentimental gifts: A friend recently showed me a bible with writing in it. Her mother had the idea to buy a bible when her grandchildren were born, and then she would read it, pray with it, and write notes in it for years, before finally giving it to the child when they reached a certain age. Did your heart just melt a bit? Mine did. Another idea I saw someone give was an “affirmation jar.” They had decorated a mason jar to look really cute, and filled it with notes containing thoughts about that person, and prayers they’ve said for them. You are creative. Can you think of something along these lines? Would it bless someone? A child you know?
Tickets: Is this like a date? But tickets to plays or sporting events would be awesome! You could give them to the family, or you could set a date and go along. I still remember dressing up and going downtown to a special dinner and play as a young child. I don’t remember the play or the food. I just remember my grandpa, and how I felt like such a “big girl.” I also remember the time we got tickets to see a basketball game, and we were so far up in the nosebleed section that I thought we were watching ants running around! But again- there I remember all the laughter, and Grandpa.
Games: Giving a game is pretty close to a toy… but I always forget about games. Kids love games. Family games are the best. Also educational games. My son learned his consonants from Consonant Bingo! And our family still talks about some of the charades games we played at holiday get togethers.
Recipes: Give family recipes to a child. Put it in a cute cookbook. A friend gave me a recipe book for my wedding, it was in a simple photo book. She paired hand written note cards with some really ridiculous pictures of us. (Give the gift with a baking date?) Or give them a recipe + the ingredients?
Ok, this list is getting long. So now we have hit the rapid fire portion of our list:
Give a girl a ‘big girl date‘- manicures, and tea?
Have an artsy child? Project bin full of art supplies.
$ towards college– they will thank you later, trust me, they will!
A watch! Do you know how few kids can tell time? Also, watches are cool. Especially if they have dragons.
Calendar– my kids are always checking the calendar, they like to keep track of what is going on too.
BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS!
Subscriptions! The gift that keeps showing up every month!
Learning tools/objects. Kids think learning is fun, until someone tells them otherwise. Don’t be that someone!
And on and on the list could go… But I hope that will get you thinking. Gift giving and generosity- these are good things! At Christmas time, we are reminded of God’s generosity and His greatest gift to us – Jesus Christ!
May your Christmas season be filled with joy, love, peace, hope, and meaning**. May your Christmas not be stuff full, but heart full. And may your hearts overflow with the love of Christ as you give to others. In Jesus name, Amen!!
*We recently gave a date as a gift to our niece, and she reminded me about it. And I do believe she was hinting that she would like to get another date this year. A sleepover.
**Do yourself a favor- get a devotional this Christmas season. If you need direction, I highly recommend The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp.
I will praise the Lord God with a song and a thankful heart. Psalm 69:30
I start playing Christmas music on November 1st. This is partly to humor my husband. If I had my way, I would play Christmas music all year round. But I am lucky, he can handle about four months of Christmas tunes (yes four, November through February) before he loses his cool. (And yes, I recognize, I have a thing for Christmas music)
This year’s Christmas will be a little different. We will be moving. Right now we are in the process of packing and let’s just say- stuff is everywhere. And since I’ve been packing the toys, and being (frankly) amazed at the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated, this post came about naturally.
As I look around at all the boxes, I’m reminded of a recurring conversation I have with a good friend. Each year we talk a lot about Christmas gifts. Well… we talk a lot period, but this particular conversation is about gift giving and gift receiving. What kind of gifts do we want our children to give? What kind of gifts do we want them to receive? And while we are not hipsters, we are trying to brainstorm gift ideas that aren’t… exactly… toys.
Why do we think so much about this topic? Partially because of monetary needs. Some family and friends cannot afford to purchase big ticket items. Partially the desire for our children to build stronger relationships with their relatives through rich experiences, not big presents. But mostly to focus Christmas on a baby in a manger, not a box under a tree. And then of course… if I’m completely honest, because of all the stuff. There is just so much of it!
So, if you are looking for gift ideas that aren’t for sale at the nearest store, you’ve come to the right place! I don’t have a complete list, but I hope to spark an idea or just give you something to ponder. But my list is too long for right here and right now… so you’ll just have to wait*.
Until next week!
May God bless you and keep you. May He show you that His love for you is so great that He sent the Ultimate Gift to you in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. In Jesus name, Amen
*I’m not trying to be difficult, but I want to keep the posts short and simple (my middle names). Also, I may not have finished the list quite yet…
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Psalm 34:11 (NIV)
I recently visited the tiniest, most precious gift- a newborn in the NICU. She was premature, and gorgeous. So tiny, and yet so strong.
I am not exaggerating. She was so strong I commented about it, and her nurse said something amazing to me.
“It’s incredible how resilient [premature newborns] are, what they are able to come back from. Most adults would check out when facing the recovery these tiny babies have ahead of them. But it’s like they don’t know how to give up. They just know to try.”
I looked down at the baby, who was strong enough to push adult hands away (we were trying to get foot prints, and she was having none of it). And I was in awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness. He brings us into the world and prepares us to face the challenges ahead. He is always beside us. Though we may be shaken, God can never be moved. He is the rock on which we stand. There is no hardship too difficult, no pit in life too deep.
But somewhere along the way we forget. We put our faith in the wrong things. We forget that God sent us Jesus and Jesus is more than enough.
A friend of mine always reminds me, “Children are born knowing how to love, it’s hate that has to be taught.”
So I thank God for this precious life, and the life of my three healthy children. In everything I do, say, am- my children are watching and learning from me. And no matter how great the difficulties I face, God is faithful to me. Even when I am not faithful. Jesus is more than enough. And the Holy Spirit intercedes for me.
A good reminder. From a very good Father.
They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. Psalms 78:35 (NIV)
Thank you, Lord, for this new precious life! Thank you, Lord, for children! Bless the children that are sick and hurting, protect and strengthen them. Bless us to be the adults in their lives who point to You and Your Ways. Remind us of who You are, and who You have made us to be! Amen