Monthly Archives: October 2016

Is tradition worth all this crazy??

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  Mark 4:39

I am a girl who loves tradition. I like to have things done the same way every year…especially when it comes to holidays. In fact, I remember the very first time it was casually mentioned by my mother-in-love (I think) when Shane and I were first married that maybe we should have Christmas at a beach house. I don’t remember much after that because I’m pretty sure the room went dark, I may have hyperventilated a little, the room started spinning…you get the idea.

I like my holidays just so. Thankfully, my folks and Shane’s folks get along really well and are all very understanding and so alternating holidays was more the exception and just all getting together as one, big, happy family was the rule when we all lived in the same state. When that didn’t work out for some reason, we were all very content to do Thanksgiving here and Christmas there, but it was still very traditional and very predictable. 

Growing up, my holidays were steeped with tradition and predictability. I knew where we were spending Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years on any given year. I was an only child with no cousins of my age. And I didn’t mind at all. I loved the quiet, cozy holidays that my family shared. Without fail, I could expect End Times prophecy discussion and politics around the table and quiet snuggles afterward with my grandparents on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Come Christmas Day and the days that followed, we would drive to the beach to my Mom’s folks’ house where I could expect loudness, chaos, tickling, laughter, a dog that hated me and pantyhose Christmas stockings. And I loved both family celebrations equally.

Then one year, when I was in middle school, I was invited to go to Sun River for Thanksgiving with a dear friend of mine. It was SO MUCH FUN! But I remember thinking, This is really differentIt felt so foreign to me.

To a point, tradition can be a really good thing. When we first adopted our boys, establishing family traditions of our own and creating memories was very important and they genuinely loved it. From cutting down our own tree to setting up our heirloom nativity scene, from the Grinch family movie night to ZooLights, from the Advent calendar to new Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve…the list could go on and on.

We have recently added a new Christmas tradition that we’re loving called the “Jesse Tree” and I’ll be sharing with you throughout the month of December how it works.

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The ceramic Nativity scene my Grandma made

But somewhere over the last decade, be it ever so gradual, my compulsion for tradition has subsided. And I am…quite pleasantly…relieved. 

Maybe it started when the traditions of my childhood were replaced with ones of adulthood. More family through marriage, less family through death. The family holidays shifted greatly after both of my Grandpas passed away. My Patriarchs were gone and with them, certain ways of doing things held less meaning.

Maybe it started when we sold our house and we couldn’t host everyone at the same time anymore.

Maybe it started when a large part of our family moved out of state.

Maybe it started when Nutkin was so terrified of the Grinch that we had to cancel our third annual Grinch family movie night.

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First annual Grinch family movie night

Whichever way it started, I think it culminated when we decided to drive cross-country for Christmas in 2014. It was…Truly amazing. Full of memories. Adventurous. Packed with sight-seeing and stops to see friends and family along the way. Exhausting. And very, very different from our “normal.” And we were all OK with it. In fact, we were more than OK with it. We all  absolutely loved it. That year, our only traditional family holiday was Thanksgiving (my favorite anyway) and it was relaxing! Because we knew we’d be gone for the majority of December, and that we were getting new carpeting while we were gone, decorating was nixed. There was no pressure to decorate for Christmas at all. No pressure.

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A highlight of our 2014 Christmas road trip – standing next to the poplars Pa Ingalls planted in DeSmet, SD

There it is. When I think of what I am trying to instill in our children as they move into their teenage and adult years, I want them to hear the words “No pressure,” when they think of the holidays. I want them to hear the words, “relax,” “enjoy,” “cherish,” and “content.” If tradition helps us achieve those thoughts of peace, then it’s a useful tool. But if I feel driven and bound by tradition to the point where my kids get left in the dust while I’m screeching around going from here to there, wrapping this and shopping for that, baking this and decorating that, then what good is it, really?

I’ve been pondering this as I sit in an un-decorated living room writing to you dear friends in the end of October. In a typical year, there would be pumpkins and leaves strewn all about my house starting the first week of September. I have two totes FULL of stuff just for Thanksgiving and autumn, because it really is my favorite time of the year.

But this year, we’ll be breaking tradition once again to be with close friends and family for Thanksgiving out of town. And I have two totes FULL of filing to get done. And other projects to do. And honestly, I could do it all and still have a decorated house. But my kiddos would suffer and my husband would suffer because of all the pressure I would be placing upon myself. 

It’s just. not. necessary. 

Years from now, should the Lord tarry, my kids won’t remember if our house was un-decorated for Thanksgiving in 2016. But they will remember that one really miserable Thanksgiving where Mom was really stressed and we didn’t even have dinner at our house!

I’m not saying  that non-tradition in my new tradition. I’m sure I’ll decorate my house in future years, and when I do, the nativity scene will always have its place of honor right up on the top of our bookshelf. We’ll probably give our kids new jammies every Christmas Eve for many years to come, maybe even into their adult years.

No matter what traditions are broken, or how pared down our Christmas looks, there are certain traditions that we will never, ever set aside. We will always have Christmas-themed devotions throughout the season and we will always read (or recite) the Christmas story on Christmas morning. Some traditions are at the very core of who we are and cannot, and should never be, laid aside. But I find that those traditions weren’t the problem anyway.

I’m just saying that IF I have to break from tradition to keep myself from having a breakdown, I’ll do it and I’ll give myself grace when I do.

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New Christmas jammies, 2013

And, so…I’m enjoying my one pumpkin filled with flowers on top of my piano, and a teeny little gourd that Nutkin picked out at the pumpkin patch on Monday that he has leaning against a lone Yankee candle burning on my dining room table.

And there is a great calm. 

Please know that as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been praying for you, dear Mama reader. I’m praying that during this busy upcoming holiday season, the Lord will speak peace to your soul and that there will, indeed, be a great calm.

What traditions do you hold dear? Have you had to lay any of them aside recently for your own sanity or that of your family? Or are you the type to break with tradition altogether? I’d love to hear from you!

But don’t worry. No pressure.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

Ye Shall Teach Them…

“And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates…” Deuteronomy 11:19-20

When Shane and I were finally approaching parenthood, (the long journey for us took 11 years,) we discussed for the umpteenth time what we wanted to do in regards to teaching biblical truths to our children. It has only become a stronger commitment as our oldest approaches the teen years and both of our boys are in the public school system this year.

I was recently asked to share some ideas of practical everyday ways to teach biblical truths to children and I was struck with the fact that God really has given us such a manageable way to teach our children. And one that will stick. One that will last. He commands us to live it, to teach it every day, to teach it in the little things, in the mundane, in the routine.

As parents, we care about our children’s nutrition. We want to be sure they get the right amounts of everything they need and we make sure they can digest what they’re given. Just as we bottle feed our babies and then give them baby food and then cut up their food in little pieces with physical food, we can — and really must — do the same with spiritual food for our children.

Here are some ideas that I came up with when asked. I have since added a few things to it that have recently come up as well.

“WHEN THOU SITTEST IN THINE HOUSE…”

Prayer time – We’re trying to encourage each of our kids to pray in a group AND individually. Our kiddos get really overwhelmed with the desire to remember needs of others, perhaps more than is even usual, and can get almost panicky that they will miss someone. So we came up with two solutions that have worked.

  • One is to just talk about all the needs we know of, similar to our church prayer room-style, and then pray for “all the needs mentioned.”
  • The other thing that has worked is to make a permanent list to hang of needs/people that we need to pray for every day and then have them look for stickers that they can put by the names to remind them of what they are. We have a fluent reader, a beginning reader and a non-reader. No matter who is praying out loud and needs to see the list, they can all remember those we want to pray for. (Little Miss’s situation has been at the top of our list for nearly three years, but since her name is on it, I’ve edited her name off. The sticker the boys chose was a baby bottle at the time.)

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Games – On occasion, we use Bible trivia games in lieu of devotions.

  • We found a couple of really inexpensive card games, I think at a garage sale, one which is similar to UNO, but has trivia on every card. Even our 3-year old can play.

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  • I have an old-school game called , “The Book Game for kids,” that my parents bought  and used to play with me back in the dark ages. I’m so glad I kept it! But even if you can’t find it on e-Bay or the like, you can make your own variation! It’s basically “Chutes and Ladders” with trivia. It gives you chances to climb the ladders by answering questions, (you get to climb some ladders for free like the “grace” ladder). There are also knot ropes, like the “temptation” rope that you have to get the answer correct or you slide down. There are also “reward” and “setback” cards. Lots of fun!

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“WHEN THOU WALKEST BY THE WAY…”

Out and About Time – We are on the road a lot, which means a lot of van time to fill. I have found that giving up on “my music”, though edifying, so that they can listen to Sunday school songs and audio books and drama has paid off so much. The conversations that blossom from especially the radio dramas have been SO VALUABLE!

  • Adventures in Odyssey – The kids LOVE listening to these in the van. We own one set that we bought from the Focus on the Family store while visiting their headquarters in Colorado Springs. We You can check your local library, or I think there’s a membership that you can purchase direct from Focus on the Family. Visit Odyssey Adventure Club here.
  • “Out loud” Bible reading time – Our oldest son in particular is getting to the place where he’s reading circles around us. The world could be burning down around him and he wouldn’t notice. We are thrilled with his love to read! But we did recently set a guideline for him to help use that gift for his spiritual good. For every hour of free reading time he has, we ask that he give 1/2 hour to Bible reading. He actually really likes his Bible reading time, but is intimidated by the big words. So while I’m driving, he sometimes reads out loud and stops when he needs more explanation. It’s  truly become a precious time that we both look forward to!
  • Sunday school song CD’s – We play them OVER AND OVER AND OVER. We’re particularly fond of Cedarmont Kids, (but there are many others out there!), and you can purchase their CD’s for a relatively inexpensive price. And they’re worth their weight in gold, in my opinion. Visit Cedarmont Kids here.

WHEN THOU LIEST DOWN…”

Evening devotions – This is the time where our entire family really focuses on singing, Scripture memorization, and the Sunday school lesson for the week. We usually do this right before bedtime.

  • Songs – On a typical night, we let each kiddo pick at least one song. They range from Sunday school songs to hymns. It’s nice to own a hymn book for this reason. We also have a Wee Sing Bible Songs book. For more modern songs, believe it or not, there are a lot of Sunday school songs available to view on YouTube. We sometimes ask the kids ahead of time for a list of songs they want to sing for evening devotions and then Shane or I search for and queue them up. They love this and we’ve discovered many new fun songs this way.
  • Memory verses – We try to introduce their weekly Sunday school memory verse early in the week. One fun thing we’ve discovered is that there are many free coloring pages online and we can cut and paste their memory verse to it before printing so that they can color a picture in relation to their memory verse.
  • Sunday school lessons – Because we have three kiddos at three different age levels, we usually pick a Sunday school lesson a night. Our church, the Apostolic Faith Church, creates its own curriculum and it is excellent! If you are looking for something like this for your kiddos, it’s available, free of charge, on our headquarters website. Visit the Sunday school curriculum link here.  
  • Bible stories – For the other 3-4 nights when we aren’t reading the Sunday school lessons, we read from our old Children’s Bible. Realistic pictures are very important to us. We want our kids to know that the stories in the Bible are true accounts. So we avoid cartoon-y books. Honestly, the older the Children’s Bible, the better. Ours was printed in 1971. Thrifts shops and antique stores will yield great finds for old devotional books and Bibles for kids. They’re more likely to be KJV this way (our preference) and we find they treat the Bible with much more reverence than more modern Kid’s Bibles do. Another good source are the Bible stories like you find in the doctor’s office. We have a set of those as well.

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“WHEN THOU RISEST UP…”

Morning devotions, thankfulness and prayer – This one was difficult to maintain in the summer, but we are back on track with this school year. We read a quick devotional (see additional resources), say at least one thing we’re each thankful for and pray for the day ahead of us. We usually do this during breakfast and in the van on the way to school.

“THOU SHALT WRITE THEM UPON THE DOOR POSTS OF THINE HOUSE…”

I’m going to be honest with you. I used to see folks’ homes that had Scripture posted everywhere, similar to the way some people post positive affirmations on their bathroom mirrors and such and thought, Seriously? Maybe a little overkill…

But now that I’m a Mama, I get it. I totally get it! It is so good to have Scripture where you can see it, read it, absorb it. Do I have Scripture posted all over my walls? No. But maybe I should. I’m working on it.

One way I’m already practicing this is to look up each memory verse for the week (including Mom and Dad’s verse, which is good for the kids to see, I think) and print them all on one sheet that we have hanging on our front door. (Little Miss has a verse, too, but her name is on our copy, so I cropped this shot.)

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Another way we’re trying to do this is to have verses posted in the kids’ rooms. Some friends of ours gifted us a beautiful framed, hand-done painting of Proverbs 3:24 for the boys when they first came to be a part of our family.

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I have had it on the wall almost continually in one of their two rooms or another and kind of forgot about it. But today, I found a note from Nutkin hanging on the fridge for all to see. It read: “To The Famuly…One vurs is my faveret…it is Proverbs 3:24… it make me sleepy.”  (I left the spelling as is and just punctuation for clarity.)

The Scripture on the wall is indeed making an impact.

In addition to hanging verses on their walls here and there, I’ve been trying to tie godly values into whatever they’re into and use it to decorate their rooms as I can. For a long time, Pickle was really into knights and swords and Prince Caspian. So I found pictures of the Armor of God to frame and hang around him room. It’s fun and super inexpensive.

Mamas, I believe that as unique as each family is, the variations for teaching our children the Gospel are almost limitless. But if you feel stuck, feel free to take the ideas I’ve shared with you to benefit your family!

In turn, PLEASE share with us here what you are already doing! I’d LOVE to hear what you are doing to teach biblical truths to your children!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

Additional Resources:

  • Pinterest – I’m rarely on Pinterest, but when I am, it’s usually for ideas for Sunday school and devotions. All you have to type in is “Sunday school” and the results are endless! You can narrow the search by the Bible story or even memory verse as well.
  • Jesus Calling for Kids – great devotional for kids that we are currently using in the mornings. My only complaint is that the key verse is not in KJV so I look it up and read it from the Bible instead.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible – though the art is more cartoon-like than we normally go for, this is a great devotional that we used last Christmas-time that went along with our “Joshua Tree.” If you haven’t heard of it, stay tuned!! I am going to be detailing ours this year for you to follow along. I plan to post the information ahead of time so that you can do it with your family, following the advent calendar, too!

 

 

Befriending my children

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  ~ Matthew 19:14

I was listening to a sermon a while back and something the preacher said pricked my heart. He said, “My Mom…was truly my friend.”

As I sat there and pondered those words, I asked myself, How many times have I heard someone say, “You’re not your child’s friend. You’re the parent.”

Believe me. I get it. I get the logic. I get the dangers that it is trying to avoid. The problem is, I’ve lived this “you’re not your child’s friend,” motto so very literally, that I believe my children may be suffering for it.

The weird part is, I have always been a lovey, touchy-feely, huggy type of person. I was so excited at the prospect of having kiddos that I could love on. So when these two precious little guys entered my life, I thought I would be lovey, touchy-feely and huggy.

But I wasn’t.

I was guarded. My kiddos were extremely manipulative in their affection because they had to be. They had to watch out for #1 because their birth mom did not. Perhaps because she couldn’t. And so for the first year especially, my kids, especially Pickle, were hugging me only when it suited their needs. This was not how I had pictured motherhood.

As a result, I started becoming distant with my children. I would still speak comfort to them, kiss their owies, and rock them at night, but I always did these things while shrinking back, fearing I would be hurt.

During a particularly bad day a couple of years ago, I was pouring out my heart to God, feeling downright sorry for myself. And I heard Him so gently say, “It’s awfully hard to snuggle up to armor.” 

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Wow. Right between the eyes.

IT IS…It’s AWFULLY hard to snuggle up to armor. It’s heavy and hard and cold.

You see, I was so busy guarding my own heart in fear of being hurt and rejected that I was protecting myself against the two little people who needed me most. They needed to be allowed into the safe haven of my heart. The Enemy of my soul, who is the Father of lies, had been trying to divert my attention and was actually succeeding in fooling me that they were my enemies.

I am so incredibly thankful for that AHA! moment.

Mamas, our armor was designed by the Captain of our souls to protect against Satan and his wiles alone. It was never designed to protect us from the pain inflicted upon by others. Jesus’s life and ministry bears this out. We will experience pain if we love like Jesus does. But if we wear the Armor of God correctly, we can be assured that the pain that we experience will draw us closer to the Lord, rather than away from Him.

That evening as the preacher was talking about his mom, he wasn’t talking about being her pal. They didn’t hang out together, I’m sure. But she was warm, approachable, and caring of his soul. She prayed for him, counseled him, and was the listening ear he needed. I know this preacher, I know his Mama, and I know the rest of the story. You see, right after he called his mom his friend, he said, “True friendship exists only in the gospel.”

We have such a high calling as mamas who serve Jesus. We can be an approachable example of Christ’s love to our children so that they can understand the verse:

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

Have you ever seen the film, “Anna and the King”? I don’t remember much about that movie. But the one scene that will forever be burned into my mind is when the king was in the throne room. People were repeatedly bowing to him. They were careful to never look into his eyes. They were sure never to turn their backs on him. They had to be announced and approved before they could approach the king. Right in the middle of one such audience, the doors burst open and in ran his littlest and most cherished child. She dashed right past the people who were so terrified of their king, climbed up the many steps and crawled onto her daddy’s lap who was on the throne. She held his face in her hands. She had no fear of him because, although he was a great king, he was her father first.

Oh, how I want my children to know that they can approach Jesus this way! But in order to teach this, I must grasp this concept for myself. As I do, they will be comfortable coming to me for help and I will then be able to  ever point them to Jesus!

Dear Heavenly Father, may my children always know that when they need a friend, I will be there. And so will You.

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Blessings and much love, 

Mama

Friends, I’d really like to hear from you! How do you practice approach-ability with your kids?