Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year's End - update on 2014 resolutions

 I love the week between Christmas and New Year's.  It's a welcome change of pace from the hectic pace of the preceding days.  We usually spend most of the time taking down decorations, watching bowl games, and eating leftovers. No big festivities.  Just tying up loose ends and looking ahead to whatever the new year holds. 

At this time last year, I excitedly blogged that our family set some individual goals and shared them with each other.  I naively (proudly?) anticipated in my post about this that I looked forward to sharing with you at year end how the goals went.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Spirit of Christmas

All season long we talk about "the spirit of Christmas".  There's an excitement in the air, friendliness, generosity.  It's wonderful!

But is it really "the spirit of Christmas"?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The 5 traits kids needs to be successful adults...and how to cultivate them

What does it take to be a successful adult?  How can we get our kids to that place?

What does "successful" mean, anyway?

The dictionary defines "success" as "accomplishment of one's goal".  However you define success, I think that all parents want our children to be happy, well-adjusted, independent (at least of us!), grownups who bring value to the world around them and live for a purpose greater than their own pleasure.  To Paul and me, that is success.

The question then becomes - how do we parent in the time we have them under our roof to better their chances of such success?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas - P

No one sets out to be a Grinch about Christmas - not even the Grinch!  But somehow, the pressures and demands and expectations of the season can shrink the  heart of  even Cindy Loo Who into  Grinch-sized proportions.  A heart that views the holiday with dread and angst instead of joy and anticipation.  A heart that secretly wants to "stop Christmas from coming, somehow!".

So we've taken a few days to examine ways to change a Grinch heart into one that spreads Christmas cheer instead.  To one's own self....and to those all around.  We're learning how to S-T-O-P Christmas so that we won't want to stop Christmas :)

S- simplify.  Realize that less really can be more.  That the stress involved in some of the season's expectations simply do not have to rule us.  Simplify.  And enjoy!

T-thankful.  This conscious change on the inside shows up in delightful ways on the outside.  Cultivating a heart of thankfulness requires being intentional about it - indeed it's a choice.  One that must be repeated over and over and over.  But eventually, a Grinch heart gets stretched into a Who-heart by the exercise of thanksgiving.  And the result is the spreading of genuine joy to all those around us.

O- opt out.  Admittedly, this one is hard.  "FOMO" ("fear of missing out") is a very real phenomenon that can paralyze us into overactivity, overcommitment, and an under-sized heart.  If we want to enjoy the holidays, we must choose to limit our choices.  For our kids, for our selves, and for our wallet.   Opting out of even some good things can result in opting in to a season of more significance and value.

What about P?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas - O

So, in our quest not to be Grinch-like, we are striving to S-Simplify and T-have a thankful heart.  What is "o" for?

Opt out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Christmas Message

It's Tuesday night.  Wednesday's Word hasn't been written yet.  A gaggle of girls from Betsy's small group are in my kitchen decorating cookies.  And giggling and singing and making me smile.  I was tempted to skip my regularly scheduled blog post.  But then I had a thought to share.

As I listened to them laughing with each other, I told God "thank you".   Thank you for my kids.  And my kids' friends.  And my church.  And THE CHURCH. 

THE CHURCH.  I think that's the message of Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas - "T"

Hopefully you've read the first two posts in this series and realize I'm not all about being a Grinch!  If not, please take a moment and read them here

I don't want to "stop Christmas" - I want to S-T-O-P Christmas!

First, there is the concept of "simplify".  It really can make a difference in what you are trying to do and what you are letting stress you out.  Simplify instead of stressing - oh yes!

The next thing to S-T-O-P Christmas is something that goes on inside.  In the heart.  A seemingly small choice that will work its way from the inside out.....into big results.


For "thankful".

Wait.  Don't stop reading.  This really will make a huge difference in how you view Christmas. How you approach your "to do " list. How you treat other people.  And especially how much you and yours enjoy the season.

It's all too easy to pretty much skip over the spirit of Thanksgiving and slide right into "stuff to do, and give and get" .  I mean, really , think about how "Black Friday" has practically eclipsed the day set aside for gratitude!  Instead of a time for thankful reflection, we spend it packing our stomachs and unpacking our wallets.  Hardly a way to set the tone for a grateful heart.

An lack of thanksgiving shows up as impatience.  Fretfulness.  Irritability.  Disappointment over unmet expectations.  In short, the Grinch.

What a difference it can make if we are intentional about cultivating a thankful heart!  Instead of focusing on what we want to get, or even give, if we concentrate on the blessings we already have, our heart is soothed.  Enriched.  Content. 

A grateful heart changes the atmosphere not only of its resident but also of those around it.  I vividly recall one time a group of wives were sitting around complaining uh, sharing, about their husbands and one woman completely changed the whole conversation by gently praising her man.  Nothing showy.  Not even a rebuke of her friends.  Just a quiet humble giving of thanks for something she appreciated about him.  Every single woman changed her tune.  It evoked in all those around her to realize the things they, too, were thankful for.

Being thankful is possible, even in the most difficult  of circumstances.  Some of the most thankful folks I know have experienced the greatest of all heartbreaks.  They have hurt and grieved and wished things could've turned out differently....yet they still have chosen to give thanks.  To find blessings in the midst of pain.  Intentionally.  In so doing, they have found contentment.  Satisfaction.  Even joy.  A thankful heart,

How can we be thankful, genuinely?  How can we cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

John Piper says that "gratitude rises in proportion to how undeserved we perceive a gift to be".  Wow. That's a lot to ponder.  Think about the converse.  If we are not grateful, it is likely because we think we deserve the good we get....and more.  And if we don't get all the good that we think we deserve, not only are we not thankful, we are likely angry and bitter and envious.

How to S-T-O-P Christmas?

Not only simplify.....but be thankful.  Thankful to God for His indescribable gift of Jesus.  For His unmerited favor.  For the countless blessings of life and relationships and beauty.

Thankful also to the people we encounter every day.  In little ways and big ways.  Give thanks.

And change the atmosphere of the season for those around you!

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to S-T-O-P Christmas -- "S"

In case you didn't read the previous post and are about to report me to the Christmas police elves, please STOP and check it out here

And now, let's talk about what we do to S-T-O-P Christmas........

"S" is for SIMPLIFY.

Before you quit reading and say you already know that, let's think about what you can really do to simplify the season.  To make it more enjoyable.  More meaningful.  BETTER.

"Simplify" can apply to all areas:

1.  Food
If you spell "LOVE" like my family does (F-O-O-D) then this is hard.  But it's possible.  You really don't have to serve prime rib, 8 side dishes, homemade rolls, and 6 hour prep desserts for Christmas dinner.  You really don't. Even if the spread makes a great instagram post.......  Sometimes we assume everybody wants all this stuff and we feel obligated to make it so they will all be happy when, in reality, that's just not the case.  We are feeding their gluttony if it is!  I have a friend who says her grandma stresses herself out every Christmas making a huge spread for all 30 family members and then is so worn out she can't even enjoy having everyone there.  And they eat it just to keep from hurting her feelings.  Not good.  For anyone. 

Simplify your food plans.  When my fourth child was born, I scratched the crown pork roast dinner I was used to preparing and served lasagna instead.  Since then, I've stuck with simple meals and lately we've decided to go to Steak n Shake or Waffle House!  On Christmas morning, I serve overnight coffee cake (which is a cinch to prepare the night before ) and a couple of casseroles that I've stashed in the freezer. 

If you can't give yourself permission to simplify food, then I'm giving it to you.  Cut it out!!!

2.  Gifts
This area might be harder than food.  Gift-giving.  But we make things harder for ourselves (not to mention our finances and the hearts of our kids.....) when we are excessive in this area.  It takes a lot of courage to make a change here but it's worth it. 

When it comes to extended family, consider drawing names or doing a family gift or limiting gifts to those under 18 only.  (If this is something you'd like to implement, I suggest you broach the subject in, say, July - not during the holiday season.  Emotions are usually more objective a few months away from the Black Friday fever!)

For your immediate family, you do not have to foster greed by piling up a mountain of gifts in an attempt to create a happy holiday.  You need to muster up enough self-control to limit the presents.  You set the example!! I borrowed an idea from my friend Kimberly a few years ago - "something to wear, something to read, something you want, and something you need".  I'll admit it was difficult to limit myself but it wound up being very freeing once I committed myself to it.  Other folks do three gifts, like the wise men brought to Jesus, even letting them symbolize the gold (something valuable), frankincense (something spiritual - like a worship CD or a book or a journal) and myrrh (something practical such as clothes, etc)  What a great opportunity to teach great truths!

Consider receiving no gifts for yourself at all - instead ask that donations be made in your honor to a charity of your choice.  This has been something that our family has treasured.  I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see your children gladly choose to give to others instead of receiving something themselves.  Now that's a gift I want to get!

3.  Activities
You just plain do NOT have to do every activity that is available.  You just DO NOT.  It is better for your healthy, your spirit, and everyone in your world for you to ensure that your calendar is NOT FULL.  Even with good things!  Honestly, church can be the chief culprit when it comes to over-activity.  Just don't let yourself participate in every activity offered - the same goes for your kids.  And don't let yourself believe you have to provide "meaningful" activities at home for every moment you are there.  Kids and parents alike benefit greatly from "down time", especially during a season that is so stimulating.  Be intentional about making that happen.

So that you can authentically enjoy the things that you do participate in!

If you are serious about wanting to "S-T-O-P" Christmas so you won't have to dread its coming, the best place to begin is to simplify.  But most of us are afraid to do so.  We fear that we will somehow cut out the enjoyment if we dare to cut back.  And since we women seem to universally feel responsible for everyone's holiday happiness, we keep piling on the food, the gifts, and the activities.  As though we think there's some magical amount that will ensure satisfaction for our people.  When actually, it's the converse that is true.

 Some years you might have the time (and the desire and the wherewithal) to adorn every surface in your home with festive lovelies.  But that doesn't mean you should every year.  And you get to make that call!  Last year, when little Mary Alice was due to make her debut at Christmas, I knew I'd want to be in Albany then and for days after.  Which meant I would need to relegate the task of taking down and putting away decorations to other family members.  (While I got to stay with Katie and read books to Jonathan and snuggle Mary Alice :)  Well, somebody has to sacrifice!!!) I knew that simpler would be easier/better.  So our Christmas d├ęcor last year consisted of a tree, stockings, and outside garland/bows. Takedown was a breeze for my capable peeps.  (And the fact that all boxes were already labeled with what went where helped immensely.  Just sayin....)

Simplifying the season means that we can focus and relax and engage.

And that's what makes for happy people.

Let's "S" together, shall we?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lessons learned from The Grinch

When my Katie told me that Jonathan wears his Grinch shirt and walks around the house whispering "I must stop Christmas from coming!  I must stop Christmas from coming!" I thought about how many times I have felt the same way. Although it's one of my family's all time favorite movies, it has been known to evoke terror in my heart.  Like when I was a little kid and my brother would terrorize me with his "Grinch" voice all season. (After Christmas was over, he tormented me with his "wicked witch" voice and I was the only kid in my town who was afraid of "The Wizard of Oz".  Gotta love big brothers.)
Anyhow, back to The Grinch.

I just love that story. The songs, the characters, the message. It's timeless.

I've come to appreciate different things from this classic through the years.(The cartoon one is my preference, by the way.  The updated one leaves something to be desired)  As my love for Christmas has morphed and aged, the things I observe and appreciate have altered. I eventually outgrew my fear of the Grinch voice, but I always saw him as mean and pathetic and bad.

  Now I think perhaps I understand him.

Maybe he was just tired and dreaded all that Christmas seemed to demand that he do.  I can relate.


Now don't ban me from your inbox.  Don't shake your finger at me and remind me of what Christmas is all about and scold me to enjoy it. 
I get that.

I love the story of Christmas.  The meaning of God's plan being unfolded and my Savior leaving Heaven to come rescue us all.  I not only love that, I cling to it with desperation.

What I'd like to "stop from coming" is what we've done to Christmas.  Or what I can so easily let happen to it in my heart.

Things to do.  Places to do.  Stuff to buy and plan and fix.  Expectations to meet.
That's what turns me into the Grinch.

Although I can easily downsize my heart and miss the joy of Christmas as quickly as snowmen melt at the beach, I realized this season that I have learned some things through the years.  Some things that help me truly enjoy the season.  Some things that keep my heart the right size and in the right place.  Some things that "stop (the wrong) Christmas from coming"......

How to S-T-O-P Christmas..........

Over the next few posts, I am going to share some concepts that help me "STOP" Christmas and enjoy it instead.  I hope you'll stick around......

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Warning: Poison if Spoken

Continuing with our study in the book of James....
James 3:1-12
 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b] For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

I am grinning as I type - when I open my Bible to this passage, it is so well-worn that I have had to tape up tears in the pages.  Apparently, I have been in need of this instruction so many times that I have worn out this section of God's Word!  I can only pray that this Truth is wearing its way into my soul and leaving its mark on my life......

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faith that works

James 2:14-26

 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Faith.  Works.  How do these two go together?