Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy New Year!

How do you celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new?

Until 1999 our kids didn't know that people stayed up till midnight to see the year in. That year they were 14, 10, 9, and 5 and we figured that the change of a century and a millenium was something we wanted them to be able to remember so we went to a party at the home of another missionary in Bogota, Colombia where we lived at the time.

Colombians like New Years Eve. Fireworks and firecrackers are easily available to everyone. As it nears midnight the noise and light show heads toward an unbelievable crescendo, lighting up the sky and making the conversation impossible.

They also launch "globos"--paper hot air balloons that have their own little fire in them to send them sailing off into the night sky (or crashing into telephone wires). If you aren't terrified by the fire hazard, they are really fun to watch.

We had a great time bringing in the new millenium with our friends and kids and all their neighbors out in the street sending up a cacophony of light and sound.

When our kids went back to school they excitedly told their friends about staying up on New Year's Eve. I remember them coming home and saying, "Did you know that some people stay up till midnight every year to celebrate the new year?" 

But it wasn't just because my husband and I are morning people who don't like to stay up that we kept our kids in the dark about this tradition. It was because we want a more meaningful start to the year.

Probably the most meaningful part of the evening came after the food and games while the kids were in another part of the house playing and the adults were sitting in the living room discussing the future. 

At that time another crescendo was taking place in Colombia--terrorism was on the rise. As foreigners in the land we were tempting targets for kidnapping, and in parts of the country Christians were being targeted for persecution and even death. What did the new year hold for us?

None of us could have predicted what we would be doing 14 years later, but all of us were determined to stay where God had put us until "the cloud moved on". It was so good to talk this through, encourage one another to stay firm, trust God, believe that He is in control of our lives, to, as Hebrews says, "encourage one another to love and good works."

That's why I'd just as soon ring in Bermuda's New Year, or anywhere else that is 2-3 time zones ahead of me and go to bed early. I like to think about the year that has past, the highlights and the difficulties. And on New Year's Day I like to be awake enough to get up and have a good long quiet time with the Lord.

Here are some other ideas for a meaningful New Year:
  • My husband asks the Lord for a verse for the year each year on New Year's Day. He keeps that verse posted where he can see it, meditate on it, and pray through it throughout the year.
  • One of my daughter-in-law's family always has a meal out together on New Year's Day and they go around the table each telling what their goals for the new year are.
  • Use Around the Table's Conversation Starting questions at your gatherings. As you know, I'm a big fan of conversation starters and I've prepared a printable of questions for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. (Click the links below to get printable versions of the question cards. They are formatted to print directly on Avery® Business Cards 28878  (Avery®  Template 8371or print them onto cardstock and the guidelines will show where to cut to get cards of uniform size.)

May your New Year's celebrations be fun and meaningful!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just Enjoy

How is your Christmas season going?

A. Overwhelming
B. Cozy
C. Worshipful
D. Stressed Out

If you said "A" or "D" or "A and D" could you possibly just take the evening off to make it B or C tonight? Come on, this is supposed to be a happy, loving, joyful time of year. Pull back a little. Turn off the Martha Stewart recording in your head. Close down Pinterest. Put your to-do list aside for a few hours. I have some fun ideas for you.

Let's Be Tired Together
A few years ago my husband was traveling the beginning of December. My daughter was involved in a Friday night ministry and I was going to spend another December Friday night alone. 

So I decided not to. 

I wrote in my Facebook status "If you are reading this, you are invited over tonight to watch The Christmas Carol with me." I had some expected guests and some I wouldn't have guessed would come. We were a small group. I made popcorn and we just relaxed together and got into the season.

Cookie Baking Night

Are you and your friends behind on your baking?
What's that? You can't face the work and mess?
Besides you want some accountability on cookie dough snitching?

Whip up 2 double batches of sugar cookie dough, wrap them well and stick them in the fridge. Get a hold of some friends and ask them to come over and bake cookies with you. Bribe them by telling them they can take 2 dozen they choose home with them.

Play Christmas carols and cut, bake, and decorate. Your friends will help you wash the pans and wipe the counters I'm sure. If you don't have disposable plates, tell them to bring their own dish to take their cookies home in.

(Cheat: Buy ready made cookie dough at the grocery store!)

Carol Sing

Our brother-in-law started this. There was a very musical college student attending our church whom our brother-in-law invited over along with anyone who could come for a carol sing. But even if you don't have a musician handy, you just need someone who's not afraid to start the song and can basically carry a tune. Get copies of the words from somewhere (we sometimes borrow hymn books from church) or only sing first verse. 

Ask everyone to bring along some plate of snacks to share if they can, but come even if they can't. Provide coffee, tea and water if you can. Remember, we are trying to relax here!

And sing yourself into the joy of the season!

Do you find yourself saying, "But my family..." Get into the spirit yourself, get some other people over who enjoy it, too, and you'll be surprised what your family will do.

You might not be around the table, but you'll be connecting in a great way!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Real Christmas Story

My ever serious three year old son was concentrating hard. As my husband pointed to each figure on our cross-stitched advent calendar he recalled who they were. 

"John the Baptist. He came before Jesus to tell people Jesus was coming."

"Mary. An angel told her that she would be Jesus' mommy."

We were reviewing the days we had already done before our devotions that night moving on to Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born.

Fast forward twenty-five years.

This year his two year old daughter will have her own grandma-created cross-stitched advent calendar. Three years ago before she was even born I promised her parents I would make one for them and they told me what they wanted in it.

I really didn't expect the project to take this long, but it is finally finished (with the help of a friend). I am excited to think of those adorable toddler hands placing the pieces on the calendar each day and learning the story of that first Christmas. I'll even get to be with her next weekend to help her do that and sing a carol or two.

What are you doing around your table to help your children get to know the Christ of Christmas? For more ideas on how to tell the story in your family see this post.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making a Memory Instead of a Wish List

This letter from my daughter-in-law started our family on a new chapter in our lives.

We set about thinking of ideas for the making of our memory and settled on a 

Team Competition Photo Scavenger Hunt!

Here's the plan --
Goal: To find and photograph the most “F”s you can on our memory making outing.

(See below for exact rules and scoring.)

We chose the letter "F" because it is the first letter of our last name. We also had a destination about an hour out of town where they make the Worlds Best Malts. We ended up there together and shared five different flavors of malts between us and then headed home to show our pictures on the "big screen" and keep points. We decided to do the teams girls against the boys.

We found a lot of "F"s on signs...

But it was more fun (and more points) to find them other ways like making them ourselves...

This photo is not placed wrong--we turned it sideways to form an "F"!

We made sure to include everyone...

And we even found some in nature...

Was the outing a success? Well, there's no scramble or stress now for gift giving. And we had a great time. Our granddaughter didn't have a clue what was going on, but she was a great sport and chattered the whole way. We laughed. Lots.

And the rest of Thanksgiving weekend we heard things like:
  • Next time we should look for every letter of the alphabet!
  • Next year we could make a list of things we have to do in photos!
  • We could do a treasure hunt!
  • Next year we should play "Bigger or Better"!
If they want to do it again, I'd say it was a success!

Oh, and the girls' team won!

  1. Every photo must have the face of at least one team member. 
  2. “F”s can be on signs, license plates, carved into buildings, occur in the design of a structure (for example bricks or a picket fence), or naturally occurring in nature (as in laying sticks on the ground to form an “F” does not count as natural). We will vote on dubious “F’s seen”
  3. You may make a human “F”, but each one must be different (as in you can’t photograph each team member holding out their arms to form an “F”. You can only do that pose once per team.)

1 point for every “F” on a sign or license plate
1 point for every human “F”
3 points for “F”s occurring in the design in structures
3 points for an “F” engraved in a building (or worked into a wrought iron fence, actually part of the of the building, not written on it)
5 points for “F”s naturally occurring in nature
+1 point for every face of team members in your photos (each photo with 2 or more team members gets extra points)

+5 for one most creative photo voted on by everyone 

Here are other ideas: 

  • Give each team $10, find the most unique items with that money that start with each letter of our last name!
  • Get "photo booth" props for family photos or to take around and use in the most creative ways.

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