Monday, January 30, 2012

A *Super* TV Dinner

Once in a while you have to break the rules.

The general rule is no television during dinner. But once in a while there's a special reason to break this rule. This Sunday one of those reasons is coming.

Even for someone like me who doesn't follow football at all (remember I lived outside the U.S. for 24 years), getting together with friends and having a snack-y dinner while watching the Super Bowl is can be great fun.

And I have a game plan to suggest!
Photo credit: juggernautco

I may just be too late as statistics show that on average people make their Super Bowl plans 41 days in advance! Our family must bring those stats way down because we just were invited to a friend's house yesterday. But, if you don't have a family plan, I'll tell you my ideas.

For family and kids, you may need more than the game on the screen going on. Here's some game ideas for you:
Photo credit: US Army Photostream
  1. Sing the Star Spangled Banner. Stand up. Hats off. Hands over the heart.
  2. Super Bowl Bingo. Choose  words or phrases you will hear during the game from the list provided and create your own bingo cards. Give each of the kids one and have them listen for these words, mark them off to see who gets the first Bingo, Double Bingo, and Black Out. 
  3. Super Bowl Pictionary. Make your own list of football words to be drawn. If you have enough people around who are willing to play, divide them into two teams. Each team sends one person to the person with the list who whispers the word they have to get their team to guess by their drawing. When they both know the word, say "Go" and they run back to the table and race each other to get their team to guess correctly first. This game has some action to it to keep the wiggles away.
  4. Finger Football. Draw a football field on a large sheet of green poster board. Teach the kids how to fold a piece of paper into a tight triangle football. Using this have them play finger football taking turns "kicking" the football by flicking their fingers. 
  5. A Movie. If the kids can't keep occupied with these ideas, have a way to show them a movie they will enjoy.
For halftime--skip the entertainment that's happening at the stadium. It's generally not family friendly. Consider ordering Power to Win to show during half time. It is a DVD that features testimonies from current and former NFL players. It's meant to be an outreach for the unsaved, but even if you just have your family, it's good for them to hear the testimonies of men who keep the faith in the public eye.

I also have a recipe for football empanadas (meat pies) which I will share with you on Wednesday, so be sure and come back to learn how to make those!

Have a Super Sunday!

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 Remember there are still two drawings pending to win a copy of my book:
  • “Like” the Around the Table Blog facebook page. There will be a drawing between the first 100 people to like it for a free copy of the book.

This drawing will take place as soon as we have reached the required number, so don’t be number 101 or you will lose out!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Fleming's Annual Valentine's Party!

I love a celebration!

I'm not quite sure how I got started on my Valentine's celebrations, but love is always a good thing to express in tangible ways, so I wanted my kids to learn that. I also wanted to show love to people who might not have a "significant other" to give them romantic love, but they need to feel love, too.

In our house, we have a Valentine's mailbox. These used to be works of art by the combined efforts of my four children. We made them on or near February 1. And we made them BIG! Every year I'd think, "We don't need a box this big," but every year by Valentines we had cards spilling out and piled up beside the box!

What the box needs is to look Valentinsy--red, pink, purple, white, lace, hearts, glitter.

And it needs a mail slot in the top or side.

After the mailbox was made, I set up a "Valentine's Central" on a corner table in the kitchen. I left supplies of construction paper, wrapping paper, glitter, lace, glue, tape, markers and crayons. This was where anyone who had a minute or two would come and make a Valentine for someone else and "mail" it in the mailbox.

I told my children to think of something they love, appreciate, or admire about the person they are making the card for and to tell them in the card. This could be a challenge when it's a brother or sister!

Since I wanted everyone to be sure they got a Valentine from everyone, I made little charts for each child to check off when they had made a Valentine for someone. But...organization has never been high on the list of characteristics of the Fleming children, much to my husband's dismay. (Yes, they get this from their mother.) However, in fairness, I'm happy to say that as they've grown older they have developed this quality...I digress.

Then we decided to include their unmarried teachers from the school for missionary kids that my children attended in Bogota, Colombia. So I sent invitations for a Valentine's dinner. The first or second year, I got a phone call from one of the teachers saying I had invited every unmarried teacher except one, could I include her? Of course! And thus the Fleming's Annual Valentine's Party tradition began.

One stipulation was that every guest also had to make a Valentine for everyone who would be present. It took some doing to get a firm list of who was coming in time for everyone to create their Valentines. 

Our guests were  the best sports. Some of the Valentines they brought were:

  • A poem written especially for each person
  • A coveted peanut butter cup (had to be imported!) for each one
  • Drawings
  • Paintings
  • Each person's favorite kind of candy (this took serious research!)
  • An origami swan for each one
  • A personal note to each person

We very seldom had cheesy kids Valentines. When everyone arrived, they "mailed" their Valentines in the box.

After a meal of as many red or heart shaped things I could think of and before a dessert of something gooey and chocolate, we played "Valentine's Games".

Some of our ideas:

  1. Starting with one person, they had to sing the line of a song that has the word "love" in it (everyone joins in if they can). Then the next person had to come up with a different song. And the third person still a different song, going around until someone couldn't think of one. There are two ways to continue here--just jump over that person, or have them be "out" and keep going until there's only one person left.
  2. Have everyone tell their favorite Bible verse that has the word "love" in it.
  3. Get some to share about their first crush way back when.
  4. Have a few tell about a time someone made them feel truly loved.

Then we read a version of St. Valentine's story. There are many and I'm not sure which one is true, but they all have reason provoke thought on true love.

Finally, came the moment everyone had been waiting for: 
The Opening Of The Valentine's Mailbox!

My kids delighted in passing out the Valentines. At first people seemed pleasantly surprised that they got a Valentine or two. But as the pile grew, we often heard them say, 

    • "I haven't gotten a Valentine since grade school"
    • "Oh, thank you! That's so kind of you to say that!"
    • "This is the best Valentine's I've ever had!"

Remember, if we had 15 people, each one got 15 Valentines!

Then came the gooey chocolate dessert (I'll give you a recipe for an easy dessert my family loves on Friday, February 10!)

Everyone, even the "macho" male teachers, took all their Valentines home. One of the teachers would take the box back to her classroom for the whole class to get in on the love.

I have more "in house" ideas for family members to show love to each other that I'll share next Friday, February 3. Don't miss it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And the Winner Is..

Twenty-five people filled out the survey on my facebook page about what they would like on the blog. I promised that when there were 25 "entries" I would hold a drawing for a book. Using to give me a number, Jodi Anderson won a copy of the book! Congratulations Jodi!

Jodi is a mother of seven, three born to her, two adopted from China and two from Ethiopia. You can read more about Jodi and her family at her blog.

There are still two more giveaways going. To enter:

For the first giveaway we need 100 people to "like" the Around the Table Book Facebook page. So far we're up to 93. Only 7 more chances to enter that one.

If you have already entered, tell a friend so we reach 100. Better yet, tell all your friends!

For the second giveaway, become a “member” of my blog. One of the first 100 members will win a copy of my book. The second giveaway has lots of opportunities, so post this blog on your Facebook page, tweet about it, put it up on Pinterest, and tell everyone you think might be benefited from it so they can join and I can give away that third book!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Around the Sink Meal

Did you know that one of the five factors Focus on the Family has identified which develop a thriving family is the family meal?

As you know, I’m a big proponent of sitting down together around a table for that meal together everyday. But not too long ago, I learned that once in a while a family meal can be something totally different! 

That day as I started clean up from a late lunch with friends, I turned on the faucet, heard a funny noise, and looked to see it spraying sideways from the base. Not a good thing. Underneath the sink I discovered it was dripping onto the spare garbage bags stored there. Also not a good thing. After placing a bowl to catch the drip, I did what most wives do in this situation: I called my husband. He'd be home soon.

About this time Christina arrived home from school and asked if I had a pound of ground beef and could we go buy puff pastry for empanadas (meat pies) she had to make for Spanish class for the next day? (She had asked if I’d be willing to buy the “food” for this earlier, but nothing further had been specified.) So we headed off to what ended up being a trip to two grocery stores.

Meanwhile back at the house, Jim arrived home and began watching YouTube videos on how to replace a faucet. After our tour of the local grocery stores, we found Samuel under the sink and Jim above pulling the faucet out. After asking me what kind of faucet I’d like, they left for the hardware store.

Christina and I chopped onions and browned ground beef. I looked through my bowls and plates to find the right size circle to use for cutting out the pastry and finally came up with one, appropriately from Colombia. I rolled the dough and cut it out while Christina did finishing touches on a PowerPoint for the presentation to the class.

About this time Jim and Samuel came home with a beautiful new faucet with the hose in the spout and began putting it in. Samuel started by reading the instructions. I was impressed. J

Christina and I scooped meat into the pastries, folded them over and sealed the edges with a fork. When Christina saw my first finished product she exclaimed, “Mom! You are so intelligent!” Boy, that felt good!

Christina had Christmas music playing and when “Feliz Navidad” came on, Jim came over and twirled me once. (I can’t say we danced as we have no idea how!) I took the funny leftover shapes of pastry and sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on them (well, Splenda and cinnamon so I could eat them too.) I also put the extra meat into 4 of the larger odd shapes and baked those for us to eat.

The kids discussed singers and Christmas songs. Christina put on eleven year old Jackie Evancho singing Nella Fantasia for us to hear. Amazing! Jim and Samuel took turns under the sink working. We laughed and talked and munched on cinnamon pastry and burned our tongues on the meat pies.

When the faucet was successfully installed we realized we still had time to get to prayer meeting. Christina had to finish the PowerPoint so she stayed and cleaned the kitchen—perfectly, I might add!—and the three of us went off to meeting where Jim’s dad was teaching on Joshua.

It wasn’t a meal, but it was definitely family time and involved food (enough food since we’d had a late lunch and Christina had extra food during that day’s Spanish class presentation) and, it was definitely a fun family time.

So I learned family “mealtime” doesn’t always have to be sit-around-the-table to be a good time for connecting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot off the Press: Around the Table

I'm pretty excited to be holding in my hand copies of my book Around the Table: Connecting with Your Family at Mealtimes which has recently been republished by ECS Ministries. Here's Mark Wainwright, the man in charge of publications there, presenting me with a copy of the book. 

These are available through ECS Ministries. And if you go to that link, you can even read a chapter of the book.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   

 Valentines Day will soon be here and it takes some forethought to make it a fun family time. I'm going to be sharing some of my ideas and some of your ideas, so please send me an email and tell me how you make Valentines special at your house.

Email me at: aroundthetableblog[at]gmail[dot]com

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Treasure Hunt Birthday

What's better than pizza and a movie?

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt
Better than pizza, a movie, ice-cream and cake, and another movie.

Even better than pizza, a movie, ice-cream and cake, another movie, popcorn, and another movie.

Those sound like a typical tween or teen party. It’s easy planning, not real expensive, and the kids like it, so why not?

Because it can be: So. Much. More. Fun.
Here's the deal:

The setting: When we lived in Bogota, we lived in a gated community of 75 houses inside a gated community of 900 units. Most of the time we were there anywhere from 2 to 5 other missionary or Christian families lived in the larger community. This was great as our kids had carpools for school, classmates who (sometimes) remembered to bring textbooks home, and friends.
Our neighborhood in Bogota
We liked it because we had friends, too.

One of the things friends do for friends is keep secrets. Specifically treasure hunt secrets—also known as clues.

The idea: We had treasure hunt parties for each of our four kids while living there.  

It took more planning and work than pizza and a movie, but it was just as much fun for me as it was for the kids. Plus, it gave them some exercise, a chance to talk, a need to think, and a lot of laughs.

The plan: I would plan for 2 or 3 teams of kids—usually 3 or 4 on a team. Then I figured out where I would hide the clues and wrote up enough for each team. Usually they all went to the same places in the same order, but started at different points in the hunt. This made writing clues and keeping track of things a bit easier.

For example: everyone would go from
                Brougher’s house to
                            The playground to
                                        The back fence to
                                                    Afanador’s house to
                                                                The guard house
But one team would start at Brougher’s, one at the back fence, and one at the guard house. The tricky part was to get the right team’s clue for The Hidden Treasure in the right ending point. It took a little thought. But, hey, I've been coordinating a family of 6 for years! I managed. 

Writing the clues was fun.

Sometimes I wrote a decidedly uninspired but funny poem like this:

There once was a lady so able
Who always, always was cheerful,
At her house you’ll find
The next clue of this kind
This wonderful lady principal.

(Mrs. Afanador was the director of the school where my children attended.)

Or a hint like this:

Up and down
Up and down
Where would you go
To go nowhere
But up and down?
That is where you will find your next clue.
Be sure to look high and low.

(The teeter-totter)

Some were math like this:

Go to Sector 2 x 8 – 11; House 4 + 9 – 8 + 6 – 5

Or a step counting clue like this:

Start coming out the Fleming’s front door.
Walk to the street. Turn right. (Note that these were not real streets, just the driving area inside the community.)
Take 20 normal steps.
Turn right.
Take 25 giant steps. Stop.
Take 3 large sideways steps.
Take two twirl-around steps forward.
Ask the man nicely for your team’s clue.
He is watching and will send you back to start over if you do not take the right kind of steps!

(This was to the guard house.)

Or word jumble clues:

Go to ­­­___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (ctroes) ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (neelev) to the white ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (cefne) by the ___ ___ ___ ___ (teag) to the ___ ___ ___ ___ ___  (alnca).
* (Answers below)

Or a verse clue:

When you get to the place, look for: Matthew 6:21

The sign marking "the spot" would be a heart that says, "Yours."

I adjusted the difficulty of the clues to the ages of the kids. I also made sure each team had at least one really enthusiastic person and one child who knew the neighborhood. If they were grade school age, I had an adult or responsible older teen accompany each one—maybe on a bicycle so they could keep up. 

Another fun part was making them do something before they could get their clue. When they got to someone’s house they might have to

  • sing a children’s song with motions in front of the house
  •  “ride” all together on a broom up and down in front of the house while neighing
  • wash the front window to the owner’s satisfaction
  • do 25 jumping jacks while counting off loudly

The “treasure” wasn’t usually anything big—a box of candy or other goodies. The point was the fun along the way!

The event: Since Jim was always home in the afternoon, but had meetings in the evenings, he'd be out there to keep an eye on the kids and help if they couldn't get a clue right. I can remember being back home getting things ready for the next part of the party and absolutely itching to get out and watch the kids. As soon as I could I'd hop a bike to get to where they would have to sing a song or do cartwheels to join the hilarity.

You don't have to live behind two gates to do this (let's face it, you probably don't live in a third world city with 8 million people and one of the highest crime rates in the world!) but be creative about finding a safe place to do this. It is possible.

When they got back they were ready to settle down (a bit) for something to drink and the present opening. Then we had lunch or dinner or just cake and ice cream.

And then, yeah, probably a movie.

*Answer: Go to SECTOR ELEVEN to the white FENCE by the GATE that goes to the CANAL.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Remember the Giveaway!

I have three copies of my book waiting for new homes.
And two of the giveaways are almost to the number to do the drawings!

For the first giveaway we need 100 people to "like" the Around the Table Book Facebook page. So far we're up to 83. Only 17 more chances to enter that one.

If you have already entered, tell a friend so we reach 100. Better yet, tell all your friends!

For the second giveaway we need 25 people to take 5 minutes to fill out the survey of what you would like to read on this blog. So far we have 18 surveys. Only 7 more chances to enter that one! And you have a 1 in 25 chance of winning. (More if any of the entrants are related to me or work for ECS. Sorry, they aren't eligible!)

The third giveaway has lots of opportunities, so post this blog on your Facebook page, tweet about it, put it up on Pinterest, and tell everyone you think might be benefited from it so they can join and I can give away that third book!

It's so fun to see these names of people "joining" my blog! I'd love to have you comment on my blog when something is helpful to you. Even if you disagree, let me know and we can talk about it. I'm writing to help families connect, so I want to know you are out there reading and hopefully getting inspired!

Again, here are the three giveaways:

  • “Like” the Around the Table Blog facebook page. There will be a drawing between the first 100 people to like it for a free copy of the book.
  • Respond to the survey on Facebook about what you want. We will be drawing a name from the first 25 people to fill out this survey.
  • Become a “member” of my blog. One of the first 100 members will win a copy of my book.

Each of these drawing will take place as soon as we have reached the required number, so don’t be number 26 or number 101 or you will lose out!

Friday, January 20, 2012

An Unusual Guest

My parents took to heart the command, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2 I don't think they think they ever had an angel in their house, but they did have people over for meals and as overnight guests that they didn't know before they came. My dad was transferred by IBM five times while I was growing up. The guest my mom talks about in this post came to our house just after our last transfer. I'm thankful for the home God put me in and the example my parents were to my brother and I and others who observed them. Now I'm thrilled that my very first guest post is written by my mom, Kay Hamilton.

A few months after we moved back to California, we had an unusual guest.  One Wednesday evening at our Prayer and Bible study meeting at our chapel a tall man, about 50 years old, whom we had never seen before, got up to pray.  His prayer was wonderful, but his voice sounded different. We didn't know why until after the meeting was over when we found out that he was totally deaf.  He read lips quite well, so could carry on a conversation with us.  
Photo credit: garryknight
Talking with him, we learned that that his name was Ben and he was an artist who came to our area for a showing of his oil paintings. When we found out he was planning to sleep in his car, we invited him to stay with us a few days while he had the showings.  Ben's paintings were exquisite!  He used a magnifying glass to show us that he had painted individual blades of grass. 

Our son was 7 at the time and Sharon 12 years old. When he came back from the show, Ben would pick out a game from our shelf and motion to the children to come to the table and play it with him.  Although cautious at first, they were gracious and really did have fun with this talented man who had such a big handicap.  

Another thing he would do was ask me to phone his wife. When I got her on the line I handed the phone to him, and he would say "Hello Sweetheart.  How are you today?" Then without a pause, because he couldn't hear any answers, he would proceed to tell her what he was doing, how the exhibit was going, and about our family where he was staying.  After he finished he gave the phone back to me.  I talked to her and she told me anything she wanted him to know from home.  Since he read lips so well it was easy to give the information to him.

I think our kids learned from this guest that everyone is special and interesting no matter how serious a handicap they have. Maybe they learned a bit about not being prejudiced. Ben came a few more times and we always enjoyed his visits.  I hope we were an encouragement to him as well.

Kay Hamilton and her husband, Phil, will celebrate 57 years of marriage this May. They have two children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. While Phil worked for IBM for 35 years and served as an elder and Bible teacher, Kay was a Girls' Club leader for two decades, in Ladies' Bible Studies, hospitality, mentoring and discipling younger women, and being an honorary grandparent to children and young people in their church. Recently at a Pal-Gal Hawaiian Party, Kay walked up to the Limbo bar to go under it and was relieved when they "raised the bar" because she was over 70!

For more information and ideas on how to make your kids "disability aware" see Joni and Friends website and especially their Kids Corner

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I AM not too Young to Learn

I remember one of the early devotions Jim and I did with our first child, Daniel, was memorizing the “I am” statements of Jesus in the gospel of John.
Daniel "Pwaying", age 2 1/2
 Daniel and I looked through magazines for pictures to represent the different statements

  • I am the Bread of Life he who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
  • I am the Light of the world whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
  • Truly, truly, I say to you I am the Door of the sheep. (John 10:7)
  • I am the Good Shepherd the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
  • I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. (John 11:25)
  • I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
  • I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Most of the things weren’t too hard to find. I think I ended up drawing a shepherd and a vine. I may have used a butterfly to represent the resurrection, or tried to draw an empty tomb. Then we glued the pictures to a piece of poster board which we hung on the kitchen door where we would see it often.

Daniel was old enough to be able to say the words and understand the natural meanings, if not the spiritual meanings of the verses, but he couldn’t read. We would point to a picture and talk about the verse that went along with it and explain as much of the meaning as he could understand and then repeat the verse over and over until he had it memorized.

We might have added a new verse every few days or maybe just once a week if we didn’t have a lot of review time.

After meals we would go over the verses. Sometimes we would point to the pictures and Daniel would say the verses and sometimes he would point and we would say the verses. He was sure to correct us if we got them wrong!

Long after we had finished these verses as our devotions, we left the poster up and reviewed them with him from time to time. It is amazing how much a young, uncluttered mind can remember!

But after I had all the verses written on the poster, I noticed how many times Jesus spoke of being the life: the Bread of life, the Light of life, the Resurrection and the Life, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I spent some time thinking about that.

He’s the Author of life and the first born from the dead—the only one to raise Himself from the dead! And He gives that life to us, to me. I found that something worth meditating on.

I learned another valuable lesson through those devotions: even the simplest tool to teach children God’s Word and God’s truths can impact us if we are open to the work of His Spirit.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Welcome to the Around the Table Blog!

I am so excited for this new ministry God has given me, mentoring mothers (and dads) on how to connect with their families at mealtime! This has been a vital part of my life and my husband’s life, both growing up and with our four children. They are all almost grown now and we are so glad we spent many hours around our table together.

First, let me introduce myself a little: I’m Sharon and I always wanted to be a homemaker and a missionary. God gave me the desires of my heart! It has been a wonderful life, a real adventure of faith! We have four children, three born to us, one adopted, ALL OURS. We also have a daughter-in-law and a beautiful little granddaughter born in May 2011. We lived in South America for 24 years and find it unbelievable that we are currently residents of the Midwest of the United States. For more about me click here.

This blog is a companion to my book, Around the Table: Connecting with your family at mealtimes available from ECS Ministries. The book tells the stories of our family mealtimes during my years growing up, our stories of raising our four children, and stories my friends have told me.

In the book I talk about:
  • The art of sitting together over a meal
  • Chores
  • Manners
  • Learning to have meaningful conversations
  • Family devotions
  • Rejoicing in daily life
  • Using one’s table as a ministry

And that’s what I plan to do with this blog. In addition to inspiring you to really connect with your family around your table, I’ll give you very practical ideas for 
  • Menus
  • Recipes
  • Centerpieces (they matter!)
  • Conversation starters
  • Ideas for different ages of kids
  • Guest posts from mothers who are still in the thick of it with babies, toddlers, grade school children, and teens (or all of the above!) If you are interested in writing a guest post please see the guidelines here.
  • Hospitality
  • Family Devotions

 All designed to make your family mealtimes fun, enjoyable, and purposeful.

Please take some time to look around this site at what is already up--articles about conversation starters, family devotions, recipes, hospitality, how to make meals a ministry and more! 

Come back often as I’ll be updating regularly. Become a “member”. If you find something you really like, please “pin it” on your Pinterest board and/or the facebook button at the bottom of an entry and post it on your wall. Also “like” my page on facebook to get more info.

There will be drawings for three free copies of my book on the blog and the facebook page! Here’s how to enter:

  • “Like” the Around the Table Blog facebook page. There will be a drawing between the first 100 people to like it for a free copy of the book. (This drawing took place February 2.)
  • Respond to the survey on facebook about what you want. We will be drawing a name from the first 25 people to fill out this survey. (This drawing took place January 25.)

Each of these drawing will take place as soon as we have reached the required number, so don’t be number 26 or number 101 or you will lose out!

And remember, please comment at the end of my articles in this blog and feel free to ask me questions. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will do what I can to answer and I will call on my panel of experts: my mom, my mother-in-law, and my kids!

I want to hear from you and make this blog something that will inspire you to get your family together around YOUR table.

So do you want to get together around your table tonight? Great! You can do it. You just need something to eat. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. What do you have on hand to make a meal?

      • a can of soup--put it together with some sandwich bread toasted and some salad greens with fruit
      • flour, eggs, and syrup--pancakes! If you have enough eggs to serve them as a side, or some sausage or bacon, that dresses it up. Add some orange slices and you have breakfast for dinner.
      • frozen hamburger patties or bacon wrapped steaks--add boxed potatoes (or baked potatoes) and some frozen veggies
Get it on the table, call everyone and you have a family meal! See, it is a reachable goal to get your family together around the table.

Photo credit: Andrea Black (Lacuna)

Please feel free to email me with any suggestions you have for this blog.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Hope I Never ...

I had an idea for a conversation starter I wanted to try and suggested it after Thanksgiving dinner, while we waited for our stomachs to settle a bit so we could fit in some pie.
My thought was to have two slips of paper each and write on each one the end of the sentence, “I hope I never…” Then we would each draw two slips and read them and tell which we would prefer to do. Someone suggested that instead we write our two on one slip of paper and guess who said it. I thought that sounded good, too. Finally we decided to guess who wrote the two things and tell which we would prefer to do.

Karen, our well-prepared hostess, appeared immediately with small pieces of paper and a handful of identical pens. While we were thinking about what to write, we agreed to keep away from the morbid.

We all thought and wrote silently for a few minutes. Someone produced a hat to put our papers in. Then we passed the hat again, this time each one drawing a paper.

The papers were insightful and fun. Here are some of the combinations written down:

I hope I never:

  • Eat poo or work on construction of a high rise building
  • Ride a Harley or go rock climbing
  • Go to jail or sing a solo
  • Farm turkeys or kill a centipede
  • Cut 10 acres of grass by hand or do brain surgery
  • Eat a cockroach or buy a car on my own
  • Have to travel a lot or go bankrupt
We laughed a lot as we learned what people dislike or what frightens them and we had some good-natured arguments about which of the two would be worse. Can you believe one person actually chose to eat poo over working on construction of a high rise? 

Several commented that this conversation starter would be especially fun to do as an ice-breaker activity or with people you don’t know well, but most of us were related and we still had a lot of fun.

With younger children you could ask each one to name two things each one hopes they never have to do and ask her why they never want to do these things.

If you have enough people around the table, and want to integrate the choosing-between-the-two idea, you could have the person on the child’s left tell which of the two he would rather do. He’ll probably explain why without you even asking. Then it would be his turn to tell two things he doesn’t want to do.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Live it Out. Pass it On.

Family devotions are hard. Wiggly children, ringing phones, tight schedules, bored teens—they all keep us from having family devotions. Besides that, what are you supposed to do?
Illustration of Jim and Daniel during Family Devotions 2003 edition

There’s no definitive answer.

I want to encourage you to have devotions with your family. Whatever you do, do something. If one idea falls flat, try another. Keep trying things. Nothing will work for all the years you have kids at home, but some things will work at certain times. And the important thing is that you model the importance of being in the Word and praying on a regular basis to your children.

But not only that, I want to encourage you (and me!) to live a life of devotion to God in front of and along with your children. Devotions take, what? Five to fifteen minutes? Does what you read and do there go along with what you do and say and watch the other 23 ¼ hours a day?

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we've left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

--Steve Green      

Throughout my childhood, my parents had four Bibles near the table that we read from after dinner. We took turns reading through a chapter every night. Chapter by chapter we went through the Bible books—not in the order they are in the Bible, but one Old Testament, one New Testament, perhaps the book that was being preached through on Sundays.

That’s not all they did. When we were little, they read Bible story books. When we were older we sometimes read simple commentaries along with the Bible. There was probably more variety than I remember, but the point is we read the Bible together almost every day.

But the rest of the day, I watched my parents live out their faith:

  • Dad has loved mom (and vice versa) faithfully for 56 years now. He used to care for her when she periodically was bedridden with dizzy spells, now she takes care of all the details of life as his memory fails. 
  • Sundays (and Wednesday nights and just about anytime the doors were open) were for going to church. It was a privilege, a joy, and a place to serve. 
  • Dad taught adult Sunday School classes and served as an elder for almost 30 years.
  • Mom fixed meals and made up beds for many guests over the years—missionaries, friends, and people they didn't know until they stayed at our house, as well as leading Girls’ Club for many years.
  • Dad’s brain calculated totals faster than cash registers and he always told them when something had come out wrong in our favor.
  • When Mom didn’t want to talk to someone on the phone, she never told us to say, "She's not here right now."
  • They gave away so much money to the church and missionaries that the IRS audited them every year until Dad started sending photocopies of his giving checks in with his tax returns.
  • If Mom overheard some juicy news about someone, I didn’t hear it from her and neither did anyone else.
  • We weren’t allowed to watch certain TV shows—and that was back in the day. 
  • Mom and Dad were always up before us and we could find them reading their Bibles or praying. 
  • I have never heard either of my parents swear.

When Mom reads this, she'll be embarrassed. But that’s the way we pass along our life’s devotion: We help our children learn what the Bible teaches and we live it out.


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