My 2011 Year in Review

bye 2011. nice knowing ya

I feel compelled to do a year in review. I don’t journal and I don’t remember things when I try to. Only when something triggers a memory do I smile or cry over it. These facts are not very promising for a good review. Only a few key things come to mind.

The biggest event of our year was the engagement of my oldest daughter. I knew she was getting engaged that day but she didn’t. I was at a homeschool conference, waiting all day for the call that finally came. “Mom! I’m engaged!” I stood on the curb of the conference center and cried with my girl, the one who grew up while I was growing up. We were both happy and you can’t ask for more than that.

I turned 40 in 2011 and I think what they say is true. Forty is fabulous, except for the weight gain, hormonal shifts, eye-sight struggles, and well, nevermind. During this year, the most hilarious good news/bad news situation has presented itself. My dark chin-hair that I have to stay after has turned gray. I’m just not sure how to feel about that.

Another big event of my year was a performance of Messiah that I got to be in. It was such a highlight of my years of singing. It was also a huge growth experience that let me see what I could do if I practice and practice and pray and cry a little and beg for mercy and practice some more. And then pray again.

That positive experience sprang from all I learned in a small group I participated in this past spring. The study we did in that group significantly changed me. The book we used is called Changes that Heal. I will blog about it more later because I am going through it again. I will forever see this time as pivotal in my spiritual growth. The changes I went through as a result have netted me new friends, new perspective, even a new me. Now that I have hyped the book beyond belief, I will move on.

My husband and I had a great anniversary trip to Asheville NC this past summer. This anniversary trip stands out because we got to meet up with the couple who has become or great friends. You know who you are and we will never forget watching the evening primroses open so beautifully and standing for hours talking to you both.

The most recent big news is my husband’s new job. He got a great job as an electronics technician for a local company. After two years of running his own business to keep us afloat, God has gifted us with a much less stressful job with good hours and great benefits. The new year will be very new for us with stability and paychecks and everything!

Of course there were bad things in this past year. They seem fuzzy now. I vaguely remember some fights, some failures, some fatigue and some frustration. Surely there was all of that, but the God that loves us has smoothed so much of that over. What was meant for evil has turned out for our good and what was not smoothed over is still covered in the ever-present hope of His redemptive plan.

Now we look forward to a new year, a new job, and a new marriage! Fresh starts are everywhere and I am ready to see what’s next. What was the highlight of your year? Take a few minutes to reflect and share it too! Happy New Year!

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To Those Who Never Left Home

he never did use that suitcase

I only live one block away from where I grew up. I have never lived in anywhere else and I’ve never had the desire to move away from this small town. One great advantage of this is always being home for the holidays. I’m so glad that seeing my extended family never means having to do a long, traffic-filled road trip. With that back story, you will understand why I love the story I’m sharing with you today. So, for all the ones working hard to get home and for the ones working hard to make home the inviting place it is, here’s to you!

Let’s Talk About Santa and Elf on the Shelf

He looks like a nice enough guy, right?

A friend recently asked me what my family does about Santa. I usually don’t talk about this because it can be such a hot-button topic. As I was answering her, I realized I had learned a lot as a parent about the link between Santa and our children’s spiritual well-being. The older I get, the more God has freed me from my tendencies toward legalism. He has not released me from my firm view on Santa however, and I will tell you why.

At first it was our youthful legalism and perfectionism as new parents that kept us from playing the Santa game. Christmas was about Christ. No discussion.  When my husband and I did talk about it, we felt dishonest setting up all the back story that comes with Santa. Also, we knew that we couldn’t do “naughty or nice” based presents. We knew we would give our kids presents regardless of their behavior. We also found that we liked letting them know we had thoughtfully and lovingly chosen their gifts. If it is the thought that counts, the thought was ours, not Santa’s.

My opinion on this doesn’t matter one bit compared to what the Bible teaches. I know it doesn’t say anything about Santa, but if we look at  our calling as parents, certain problems present themselves.

We are called to lead our children to their Creator and His plan for being reconciled to Him.

Exactly.

That plan is found in the person of Jesus Christ; a man they can not see with human eyes. We tell them they have to believe and have faith. This is the same kind of talk that comes with Santa. Only one day, they will find out the life-altering, innocence-shattering truth; you can’t really see Santa because he is not real. He couldn’t see you when you were sleeping and he had no idea if you were bad or good. He doesn’t exist. It is easy to see how their childlike faith in an invisible Jesus, an extremely precious treasure, can be confused by this revelation. Atheists already use this argument to plant doubt in the minds of whoever will listen. The posters in this article are produced by Atheists and they would exploit any angle to “free” your children from the religion you have “brainwashed” them with. To me this amounts to a foothold for the Enemy. 

Now for the naughty or nice issue. If you are trying to raise your children to respond to the

just awful

Gospel of Jesus Christ, this issue is so important. We are saved by grace through faith. Grace means the gift of God is not earned by behavior nor prevented by bad behavior. It is merely accepted or rejected by humans but always freely given to us, while we were yet sinners! Connecting your approval of your child to your child’s behavior teaches the exact opposite. Both you and God love your child unconditionally. The rules of Santa fly a huge sleigh right in the face of all we want them to believe. Grace is so hard for humans to grasp anyway. The concept of grace is important enough to let it shape the details of how you raise your children. This is especially true for a holiday that is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus and God’s plan to extend his amazing grace to us.

Deception on the Shelf

This rant must be extended to the Elf on the Shelf. Do you really want to teach your children that the eye-in-the-sky is watching them and Christmas is all about whether it sees them do good things or bad things? Do you want their motivation for being good to be the promise of presents or the fear of less presents? Have any one of us ever given our child a lump of coal? You know their behavior will not affect your list or it certainly shouldn’t. Gifts are unconditional. That is why they are called gifts, not rewards or wages.  Teach them this biblical economy and you are sharing the unconditional love of God. It’s really beautiful when you think about it.

I know it is easy for me to say all this when I never started pretending about Santa in the first place. If you already play Santa, prayerfully consider how you can do it without the conditional presents and the convincing tricks. We do the Tooth Fairy, but very tongue-in-cheek and with a wink. Everyone has always known she is me because she falls down on the job so often. I don’t deceive them but we play at it. So, let your elf on the shelf get into mischief in the night if you want (by the way, why doesn’t he have to be good?) but don’t let him be their conscience or the family stalker.

If you are just get started with your Christmas traditions, consider not doing Santa at all. The only real trick to that is making sure they never tell other children. That’s not their job. Above all, keep Jesus the focal point of your Christmas. My mother always hosts a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve. This is a great way to have fun and point out to your children that the Giver of all good gifts lets them blow out the candles and open the presents on His birthday. He’s just that awesome. You can not go wrong driving home that message while you are raising His child.

In keeping with the title of this post, please share your views on Santa and how you work it out at your house. Don’t hold back your opinion but be good….for goodness sake.

The Coolest People in the World

all 20 of them

The first thing I remember to thank God for on Thanksgiving is that there is only one minute of travel involved in going to Grandma’s house. When I say Grandma, I mean my mother. She only lives around the block. Every time I get in the car to go there for a holiday, I thank God sincerely for not having to travel on the holidays. God bless all of you who get out there on the roads for your families. I would if I had to but I’m so glad I don’t have far to go. Gma’s is where the coolest people in the world gather – The Cousins.

By Thursday The Cousins will begin arriving.  We, their parents, are still plenty cool of course but this is not about us, this time. Almost all of the cousins are teenagers and young adults now and they are funny. Not funny peculiar, but straight up hilarious. On Friday they will be wiping out the leftovers and playing games or going to the movies. As with all things cool, it is hard to say what makes them so cool, but I will tell you what I love about them.

They come from different cities, different schools or homeschools, different economic

the beautiful girls. the youngest is sleeping

brackets and they did not grow up together. Only on holidays and occasional visits do they see each other. With all these reasons to be stand-offish and uptight with each other, they all just jump right in where they left off, because where they left off last year was more than likely a fun place. The big kids still play with the little kids. They don’t gripe when the ones who can barely read struggle through a few hands of Apples to Apples (the best game ever by the way). They have been known to ditch the little ones by telling them they are going to the woods where the caribou are. Caribou hunting is a tradition now.Clearly, it is too dangerous for small children.

The Boston cousins taught us the whipped cream toss – whipped cream sprayed into your

turns out, looking up "whipped cream game" is not a good idea

hand then launched by smacking said hand with the other hand from underneath in an upward motion. Sorry, I will try to find a picture for this. Trust me it is fun. I think mine ended up on the ceiling. Gotta put some english on it next time. Yep, they don’t mind the old people playing along sometimes. At least they are very good at acting like they don’t and that counts.There have been other epic food tosses, like the bread into the mouth battle that left a minefield of bread for Grandma to find later.

And these kids don’t roll their eyes and complain through picture time either. As you can see, they make the most of taking 112 pictures in what starts to feel like 112 degree heat. In sweaters. They can do this with anything; Legos, Catchphrase, fighting over pie – whatever is going on is fun because they are fun. These kids could make or break the holiday they are given and they choose to make it great.

the very cool boys

This post has no big message, no words of wisdom on how this was accomplished. I’m sure Grandma prays over the whole thing every year. Other than that, I have no idea. I only want to let them know, in the biggest forum available to me, that they are the greatest and I look forward to seeing them every year. I’m sad about the ones who can’t make it this year. I’m so thankful for the chance to see whoever gets to come. Maybe some of that cool will splash on to me. A girl can dream.

Happy Halloween?

Will there be tracts instead of candy?

I really don’t like Halloween. I’m not really opposed to it on religious grounds, I’m just lazy. I would rather just buy my kids some candy and be done with it. But I see how much they enjoy dressing up and going out for candy so we have been doing Halloween or Trunk-or-Treat at a church.

I read an article this week with an interesting perspective on being a Christian and celebrating Halloween. Please take some time and click here to read about an adjustment of attitude that is needed on both sides of this debate. Then have a safe and happy October 31st, no matter what you do with it!

Friday Fun – Halloween Costumes

In my effort to blog more often, I want to share fun stuff on Fridays. No heavy news articles or disturbing third-world trends on Fridays. Today I will share some fun Halloween costumes I found on Pinterest. Pinterest is the best place to go for costume ideas, or ideas of any kind really.

I Love Lucy – You would have to have a pretty cool circle of friends for them to appreciate this one, but the execution on this is perfect.

Mermaid – This one looks easy to do and still easy to walk in and doesn’t involve your little girl wearing a seashell bra.

Gypsy – very easy to achieve with things you already have on hand.

Lego characters – one for the boys.

Wheelchair costumes – Pinterest will show you everything for everyone. Here’s another idea and another.

If these ideas don’t work for your kids, just leave a comment, with your email address, requesting an invite to Pinterest. I will send you one and you can look around at all their ideas. Have a great weekend!