Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fire Safety at Home--A Dinner Conversation

When I was a little girl a smoke alarm salesman came to our house to give my parents a demonstration of smoke alarms. I was playing in the other room when he lit a match under the alarm and it went off jarringly. I came running to see what was happening!

I was probably 4 or 5 when this took place, but I remember another thing about his visit. He gave me a "Smokey the Bear". This teddy bear had a hard plastic hat with an elastic band, a badge attached to his chest and his legs were made of denim with furry feet sticking out. He was my teddy bear my whole childhood.

I don't remember if my parents bought smoke detectors from that salesman or not.

But I remember years later when we lived in two story houses, after fire safety prevention lessons at school, thinking about how I would get out of my upstairs bedroom in case of a fire.

When we were married and moved to Peru as missionaries, I remember being concerned because all of the windows that opened in our house had bars over them screwed into the house. No way to get them off. My American safety conscious mind decided I had to to trust God. Thankfully I never had to jump from an upstairs window or try to break a window that didn't have bars so I could get out of my house.

But a good dinnertime conversation would be about family fire safety. Here are some good conversation starters:

1. If our house were on fire, and you were in ______ room, tell me two ways you could get out. (Eventually discuss all of the rooms in your house.)

2. What are some good ways to prevent a house fire?

3. If a fire starts in a pan because of grease, what is the best way to put it out?

4. Where would be a good place for all of us to meet outside if there were a fire in our house? 

5. How do you call the fire department when there is a fire?

These are just some starter discussions. It would be a good idea, and actually a fun game, to have some practice fire drills at your house. You could buy a whistle or turn on a smoke detector alarm to be the signal. Tell  your family after your discussion on fires that you will have a fire drill that evening and what the signal will be. Get everyone to go about their regular after dinner activities and at the time you decide start the signal. Time yourselves to see how long it takes everyone to get to the meeting place.

Over the next week or so, have a couple of more drills and see if you can beat your previous times. Then put it on your calendar to do this at least twice a year so everyone remembers what to do and where to go. 

Below are a couple of websites that have more information and even printouts and games you can use to help your family prevent fires and be prepared in case of one. 

Keep your family safe!

Fire Prevention Week Teaching
Fire Safety as a Family

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

National Do Something Nice Day

Did you know that tomorrow, October 5, is National Do Something Nice Day?

Recently I've had two reminders about being kind to people whether they deserve it or not.

The first came from a podcast about ADD. The speaker, who definitely has ADHD, talked about one of the ways he helps himself is by making connections with people. He said that even in the grocery store he plays a little game with himself to try to connect with the other people shopping there by looking at them as they pass and when they look at him he smiles. He gets a point if they smile back. His ADHD had made him feel unconnected from others because people couldn't follow the leaps he took in subject matter, his hyper behavior, and his impulsivity. Learning to be kind to people and connect was one compensation he developed to deal with his difference.

The second was from another podcast where a woman talked about "The Kindness Challenge". This was a way she had developed for people in difficult relationships to help them become better, and even good, relationships. (I found it funny that this woman is a statistician by training so she tried this experiment with something like 780 people and 89% of them reported that their relationships were better after trying this.)

The Kindness Challenge is basically fourfold:
Every day for 30 days--
1. Do something kind for the other person
2. Say something kind to the other person
3. Say something nice about the other person to someone else (even if they don't hear it)
4. Refrain from saying anything negative to or about the other person

By doing these things you change your own opinion of the other person and they see you being nice to them and most will return in kind and change their attitude toward you.

Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) have been around quite a while, something like paying for the toll of the car behind you, buying a case of water bottles and giving them out to construction workers on your street, or holding the door open for someone. In fact, in some places this has become a thing--at a Starbucks in Pennsylvania not too long ago 160 people in a row paid for the coffee of the person behind them!

But I think that more meaningful than random acts of kindness is doing something for someone you know. Show love to the people around you. And I'm warning you, it might cost you something. Remember when David was going to make an offering to God and he wanted to buy Araunah's threshing floor and oxen to do it. Araunah offered King David his possessions as a gift, but David said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing." (2 Samuel 24:24) Acts of kindness should "cost" as well to show true kindness.

What are some things you could do tomorrow to "do something nice" to celebrate the day?

Here are some suggestions:

- visit an elderly person or shut in

- tell a young mom to take a nap or go get a cup of coffee while you watch her kids for an hour
- rake your neighbor's leaves
- make a meal for a harried friend and take it to them in disposable containers 
- write someone a thank you note, maybe someone from the past in your life, the person who preached on Sunday if the sermon touched you, someone who had a kind word for you when you were down
- take a bouquet of flowers to a widow
- send a care package to a college student or soldier you know
- give a new neighbor a map of your neighborhood with the names of various neighbors, your name and phone number, and a list of plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, dentists, etc. that you recommend
- bake a loaf of pumpkin bread and bring it to work or a Bible study to share
- pray for a missionary and then write them an email to tell them you did (believe me hearing that someone actually prayed for you is an amazing encouragement)
- put encouraging notes in your husband's or kids' lunches, briefcases, or backpacks
- watch the show someone else wants to watch, even though it's the same time your favorite is on
- take a friend out for coffee
- offer a senior a ride to the doctor or the grocery store
- look up a high school friend on Facebook and reconnect

Don't brag about what you do on social media, (Proverbs 27:2) but if someone does something nice for you, tell the world and use the hashtag #DoSomethingNiceDay.

How can you do this with your family?

How about each person drawing the name of another person in the family tonight at dinner and tomorrow they have to do something nice for that person, maybe do one of their chores before they get a chance, warm up their bath towel in the dryer while they are in the shower, or leave their favorite candy on their pillow. The next night at dinner have each person tell what was done for them and guess who did it. Enjoy the laughter and love of your family.

Even if the National day has passed, take time to do something nice today!

Tell me, what was done for you today?

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Friday, September 22, 2017

My Rotating Audio Prayer List

When we were missionaries in Colombia my husband and I tried to take time each day to pray in depth together. We both wanted to get some exercise, too, so we loaded our youngest into a stroller and walked around and around our neighborhood, praying outloud with each other.

Photo Credit

At one point he came down with mononucleosis and couldn't walk with me for about a month, so I did our prayer walks alone--although I prayed silently. Stepping out of our gated community became synonymous with prayer for me and I would often find myself praying as I walked some where before I even realized I was praying. Oh to be like that always!

When we moved back to the states my husband started keeping office hours, so, if the weather cooperated, I could walk the mile to the office with him and then back praying by myself. But I found that whenever I was alone my mind would often wander and I would waste some of that precious time I could have spent in prayer.

That's when I got the idea to make an audio prayer list. Besides, I had that old MP3 player that I didn't use for anything! So I wrote down lists of people, places, and ministries that I wanted to pray for and recorded them in sections of 14 or 16 names. I would say the name and then pray silently for about 30 seconds and then say the next name.

This way when I went for my walk, I would listen. I knew I only had 30 seconds to pray for this topic before the next one would come, so I used those seconds well.

Since we have the privilege of traveling as part of our ministry, I believe I have the responsibility to pray for the places and people we meet along the way. So I have more things to pray for than I could get through in a 30 or even 45 minute walk. I wanted to pray for my family members every day, so I copied that list multiple times and interspersed it with the other lists.

 Now every day I pray for my family first and then two other prayer lists. Because there are many lists now, my prayer list "rotates." I don't always pray for the same people on the same day of the week, but I get through most of the list in a week and pray for my family every day.

I recently had to reboot my phone. Although I followed all the directions to save everything, most of my audio prayer lists were lost, so I have been re-recording them. This involves coming up with the categories and lists of about 16 names for each one. Then I record them watching the time while I do it so each one gets about 30 seconds. I started putting on soft instrumental hymns in the background and find I enjoy that very much. Another change I've made is to say "End _____ list," and then let the music play a few more seconds as I gradually fade it out. This way there is time to think, perhaps continue to pray, and transition to the next list that comes up. I've been taking walks that are longer than the family list plus two, so I use the time after that to pray for things that are currently on my mind and I enjoy that, too.

This "system" has worked well for me for several years now. I'm always looking for ways to improve my prayer life, so I don't expect to stay with this forever. But perhaps it will help you whether you exercise or not while praying. I have a friend who listens to her prayer list when she drives!

Let me know the best way for you to pray!

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For more of my ideas on prayer, 
click here for 7 qualities to pray for, 
here for ideas on giving thanks vs. being thankful, and here for ways to teach prayer through example.


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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Family--It's What I Do

I was recently the guest poster on a friend's blog. She asked me to write about "something that embodies who you are, what your blog is and who Christ is in you." It wasn't till I started writing that I realized how that all comes together in my life. 
Summer is a godly single woman who seeks to be all she can in Christ and encourage other women to do the same. I hope you enjoy what I wrote and check out her blog to read her writing as well.

When we were newlyweds, I remember listening to two sets of new grandparents try to outdo each other about how long they had each held that new grand baby. “I just held her for 45 minutes!” “Well, I got to hold her on Tuesday for two hours straight!” I turned to my husband and said, “We are never living in the same city as both sets of parents!”

That was a safe bet, my parents were in California and my husband’s in Chicago and we were headed to South America as missionaries
Fast forward thirty-five years: All six of us live in a small city in Iowa. Also in town are my youngest daughter and son, his wife and daughter—soon to be two daughters! That’s an age range of 0 to 91!
When we moved back to the states after twenty-four years on the mission field we came to a ministry based out of the college where my father-in-law was a Professor Emeritus in a city only fifty miles continue reading click here

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Budding Photographer

Taking pictures is so much more fun now than it was before digital cameras. You get to see them right away, you can take tons and it doesn't cost any more than taking a few, you can pick which ones you want to print or post and delete the "shabbies" as they were known in my husband's family.

Before we went to the mission field my husband worked in a camera store and had a side job of wedding photography. That gene has been passed on to our kids and our youngest, Christina, is starting to do photo shoots. We got to be one of her "clients" to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. 

It was really fun to walk around downtown on a quiet Saturday afternoon and find fun places and poses for the pictures. She had a lot of great ideas. 

At one point we were trying to take a picture in the middle of the old street car tracks, but cars kept coming up the road. We finally gave up and walked to the side when one car slowed down, opened his window and said, "That's a great shot! Don't give up!" We're glad now we didn't!

Christina posted these photos and more on her blog with a quote from First Corinthians 13 as a tribute to our marriage.

It's an honor to have your children see you as an example of love and marriage. Not that we've been perfect partners, but we do strive to follow the principles God has set up to make a marriage work.

So often we think we marry someone to make us happy, and I probably thought that to a degree before we married (and, to be honest, have acted like I thought that at times since) but we don't. We marry someone to serve them, to love them, and to serve others together. 

Jim and I are grateful for the example we have in our parents' marriages--married now 67 and 62 years!

And we pray for our children's marriages--and have prayed for them since they were babies--to honor God in the same way.

To see the rest of the pictures Christina posted, go to her blog post at My Cup of Ginger Tea.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Interviewing Myself!

Recently I've been doing some interviews on my blog of women at various stages of life and their family mealtimes. Just for fun, I thought I'd interview myself. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might think you know what I'll say, so why not read the question and, before you read my answer, guess what it will be. At the end let me know how well you really know me!

Who is usually around your table?
It seems like anyone from anywhere in the world might be at our table. Our four kids are grown and out of the house, but the nest is seldom empty. Although my husband and I have breakfast and dinner together every day, we are often joined by one of our two children who live in town, a daughter-in-law, and granddaughter and/or one or both sets of our parents. When it's not family, we have missionaries, neighbors, people from church, or contacts my husband has from his ministry/job as International Coordinator of Emmaus International.

What was the first thing you learned to cook?
Does baking count? It was chocolate chip cookies and even though I'm not supposed to eat sugar any more, chocolate chip cookie dough or partially baked cookies is still my favorite guilty pleasure food! (Kids, don't try this at home.)

Good manners are designed to make everyone comfortable and help them enjoy a meal. What did your mom have to repeatedly remind you of at the table?
On the rare mornings we had cereal, my brother and I liked to take three boxes and make a "fort" around our bowl. This drove my mother crazy. She wanted to talk to us! As a mother, I understand her point of view, but as a kid, I thought it was fun to hide in a corner once in a while.

If I came to your house for a meal, what unique thing would I notice?
We sit at the table for a long time. If it's just the two of us, we might be at the table for three-quarters of an hour, but with others we may sit there for two hours enjoying the conversation

How do you handle cellphones and electronics at the table?
Being "Mrs. No Electronics" this is an embarrassing question to answer. When the kids were growing up we didn't answer the phone while we had dinner. The computer was in the other room, so it wasn't a factor. But when we had a question someone ran for the World Book Encyclopedia for more information. Now my kids are grown and often have their phones at the table. They might answer a text or two, but if they were on it continually we would ask them to be more present. But my husband and I often have our phones or tablets there. The thing is we aren't conversing with someone else unless we are all included in the conversation. It's probably there for music, to check the weather or the calendar, and, yes, sometimes to look up the answer to a question. 

If you could bottle anything up and spray it over your table what would it be?
Laughter. Not constant, "canned" laughter, but real enjoyment laughter. Laughing at quirky things, funny jokes, someone's quick wit, and the thing that "you had to be there" to truly enjoy. I believe laughter is a great way to connect.

What would you say to someone who is afraid to try hospitality?
I'd ask them what scares them--inviting (with the possibility of rejection), cooking, having a house good enough, being able to converse and give a good time, non-matching dishes, all the work involved--whatever it is, who is that about? The hosts. But hospitality is about the guests. Most people don't mind any of these things if someone just invites them over. And it's a great way to make a new friend.

Do you have a standard question you like to ask guests?
No, I love a variety of questions, but one that has always interested me about people who didn't grow up hearing the gospel is, "Who do you know that was praying for you before you got saved?" Everyone has always been able to point to at least one person.

What is your go-to meal these days?
It's summer so it's been a nice piece of grilled fish and grilled veggies or a green salad. My husband and I have reached the age where we have to really watch how much we eat, so this is a meal we enjoy. The other one is a $5 rotisserie chicken from Sam's! So easy and so good. I never thought I'd be the person who cut the corners cooking like that, but I guess it comes to us all.

Describe your ideal dinner:
It would include our four generations, with all of my kids and grandkids there. Everyone would be able to hear and even the one-year olds would be calm enough to sit a while. The food would be simple, tasty, and plenteous and there would be lots of chatter and laughter. After the meal everyone would heartily and meaningfully join in a spontaneous hymn sing. I'm praying this meal will happen one day soon.

How do you bring Christ to your table?
We give thanks before the meal and read a chapter from the Bible or a devotional after and pray again. Sometimes we sing (when there are a lot of us.) And we talk about the Lord, about the church we go to, about ministry.

How about you? What's unique about your mealtimes? How do you bring Christ to your table? I'd love to hear what about your family mealtimes! Write to me at:


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Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Week In My House

This week my house is quiet. My daughter and her 13 month old daughter were here for a month. We had lots of family get togethers and a week at the lake with all 16 of us, three of whom are 1 year old! So yes, this week at my house it is quiet.

What else is going on?

Our 35th Anniversary
By the grace of God we have been married for 35 years! My husband gave me these two roses to commemorate the day and here they are over a week and a half old, still in all their beauty. As is our love for each other.

I decided I wanted water goblets to dress up our table so that has entailed several visits to our local thrift store and I have found two different kinds in sets of four. I'm pretty excited. I plan to mix and match when I need more than four. See how great they look?

I decided I wanted to look through my old journals. This is only about the last 20 years worth. I'm afraid I have another 20 years worth somewhere in the attic. I love getting a new journal. When I get one I want the old one to be done so I can start scribbling in the next. But I don't find them very interesting to read. I write my thoughts during my Quiet Times with the Lord, so they aren't what I did, but what I learned. That would be okay, but I'm usually fairly cryptic and then I don't have any idea of the context or full meaning. It's just that if I don't write it, I feel like I haven't actually thought it. I should probably get rid of these, but they might or might not go back into the attic. Maybe my kids will feel guilty about throwing them out one day!

Zulu Door Knocker
My in-laws were missionaries to the Zulus in South Africa for 25 years, where my husband and his siblings were born and grew up. When they moved back to this country to teach at Emmaus Bible College, they brought their Zulu head door knocker with them and it graced the front doors of the three homes they had before they moved to a retirement community. Six years ago when the moved they gave it to us. It sat by the front door for a while and in various drawers. The other day it appeared again and I decided it was beautiful and we needed to use it somehow. Our door is not one we can put a knocker on, so this is what we came up with. I love the way it turned out.

All things Asian (well some anyway)
One night we hosted a Korean brother and sister, who grew up with missionary parents in Cambodia, the day before they could move into their college dorm. To attempt to make them feel more at home I put out my Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Burmese knick-knacks, some seen here in my most recent coffee table vignette.

So what's going on in your house this week?

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