Friday, March 18, 2016

The Real Meaning of Easter Ideas

When I was in first grade our teacher assigned us to write about Christmas. I wrote that Christmas was when Jesus was born. That was probably the whole "essay"--it was first grade, remember? 

The comments my public school teacher made on that paper led us to find out that she was a Christian. 

Spring came and she asked us to write about Easter. I wrote that it was about dyeing eggs, bunnies, flowers, and candy. Oops!

My teacher and my mom were friends by then and Miss Cleaveland mentioned it to my mother who set about finding ways to help me understand the true meaning of Easter.

As a result, when my oldest son was 3 I decided to create an 8 day Easter devotional to do together. Twenty-seven years later, we still use it with our kids and, when they are around, our grandchildren.



My Easter devotion is pretty easy to copy and I have instructions in my book, "Around the Table".

Here are some other ideas to allow Easter to draw you and your family closer to the Lord.


  • Start a family Easter week tradition. How about having any member of the family say something and the rest respond. Some possibilities:
    • Caller: "Attitude check!" Response: "Praise the Lord!"
    • Caller: "Resurrection Practice!" Response: Everyone jumps in the air. (Warning, do not try this at the table or in a car!)
    • Caller: "He is Risen!" Response: "He is Risen Indeed!"
  • Pick a person, any person involved in the first Easter and learn all you can about them. One year I took a deeper look at Mary Magdalene and then I spoke in character and costume at our ladies' meeting telling her testimony from from former life through conversion to the empty tomb. I found it incredibly moving. Wouldn't your kids love getting into the act?

  • Memorize a hymn (or several hymns) that have to do with Christ's resurrection. Sing them with your family, even if you don't have the best voices. We certainly don't, but our kids really belted them out when they were small! Some of our favorites:
    • He Lives
    • Christ Arose
    • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
    • Because He Lives
    • I Know that My Redeemer Lives

  • Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-20 together. Ask some discussion questions like:
    • Of what three things did Paul want the Corinthians to be convinced?
    • What proof did he give of the resurrection?
    • How many people would have to tell you they saw something amazing before you would believe it was true?
    • How many eyewitnesses does Paul say there were to Jesus' resurrection?
    • In what ways do you depend on Jesus' resurrection being true?
    • How would your life be different if it weren't true?
  • Make "Empty Tomb Cookies" with your children on the Saturday night before Easter.
    • Visit The Garden Tomb website and read some of the articles under the link "About". Look at the photos in the "Galleries" link. Whether this is the true site of Jesus' tomb or not, the thing that is true is the tomb is empty!


    That's what our tour guide told us when we had the opportunity to visit on a ministry trip to Israel. "Now you will discover that you have come all this way to see...nothing. Because the tomb is empty!" The Tongans whose group we had joined erupted in a chorus of "Amen! Amen! Praise the Lord! Amen!" 

    And that's the reason for Easter. Talk about it around your table the next couple of weeks.


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    Thursday, March 10, 2016

    St. Patrick's Day Round Up and Trivia Questions

    I love a celebration.

    When my kids were little, I celebrated everything I could think of--George Washington's birthday, Groundhog's Day, Valentines, St. Patrick's day...and on and on. Since we lived overseas, far from extended family, we celebrate all their birthday with a cake, candles and a song on the day!

    Celebrations create joy, happy memories, and--usually--dessert!



    So why not celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year? It not only adds to the fun, but there's a missionary story involved that's worth letting your family in on.

    Here are some ideas I've found:

    Breakfast
    For the Littles (and not so littles)Green Milk--Every year when my kids were at home, we would have cereal for breakfast on St. Patrick's Day. Since our milk came in bags, I always poured it into a ceramic old fashioned milk jug. On St. Patrick's day I added green food coloring. The first one to pour them milk was usually surprised! I had fun watching their reactions. As they got older, they knew to expect it, and my oldest son repeats it with his children now.

    Grown-UpShamrock Eggs--I tried this and it actually works! It probably requires a grown-up palate, but my husband and I loved it!



    Snack Time
    For the KidsLucky Charms and Green Milk--My grandkids love eating little snacks where you pick up one at a time, so how about serving Lucky Charms cereal in a muffin cup (extra points if it's green!) along with milk (maybe green, too)?

    Activities
    For the FamilyLeprechaun Photo Shoot--With these printables your family will have as much fun as a barrel of leprechaun's taking pictures together!

    For the Bigger KidsA Treasure Hunt! --When my son was a freshman in high school we hosted a St. Patrick's Day party that included running all over the neighborhood for a treasure hunt. This link has pre-written clues for an indoor treasure hunt. If the weather is warm enough, you can have the kids go further abroad. The prize? A "pot" of gold (foil covered chocolate coins). 

    For the LittlesShamrock Stamping--even my young granddaughter had fun with this one! When my kids were little I had them paint shamrocks on the kitchen window for me. They had a great time and washable paint is so cleanable.



    Devotions
    For the Family: The True St. Patrick's Story--My daughter-in-law wrote this story to explain who the real St. Patrick was to her preschool class. It is one of my most popular pins on Pinterest! But I think it would work with any family for a change of pace family devotion.




    I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day.
    As they say in Iowa:

    Kiss Me
    I'm Iowish


    St. Patrick's Day Trivia Questions

    I know that the world thinks this is a day to drink (green) beer or Guinness, but then the world pretty much thinks that any celebration requires drinking, even to the point of getting drunk, but I really can't imagine that's fun. It's so much more fun to laugh and talk and connect with the people we love.



    So my St. Patrick's Day gift to you is St. Patrick's Day Trivia Questions in the form of printable cards. You can take turns asking these questions to your family or friends around your table on St. Patrick's Day.


    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    And don't forget to wear green.

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    Thursday, March 3, 2016

    35 Books to Read Aloud to Your Children

    When my oldest son was five I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to him. Every night, after I put his little brother and sister to bed, we would lie on my bed and I would read until he fell asleep. At first it didn't take very long for his eyes to close. But it was amazing to watch him grow right in front of my eyes and before we finished the first book we could read a whole chapter and he would still be awake. It took us months to finish the series and I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, him or me. But I had four children so got to read it to them two more times (the middle two kids are very close in age and more than 3 years either way from the oldest and youngest), plus I read it to my oldest son's second grade class when his teacher got Bell's Palsy and was no longer able to read to the children. I'm sure I read it at least two other times on my own, once as a child and once more as an adult.

    In case you haven't figured it out, I love to read! One of my parenting goals was to help my children love to read, too. I think my oldest is the only one who caught it as "bad" as I have it, but I don't think the others are opposed to reading! And I know they all enjoyed the books we read together.



    This list isn't anywhere near exhaustive, but these are some of the books we read to our children, some we read three times to our three "groups" of children--oldest, middles, youngest. I hope you read to your children even when they get past the picture book stage. Maybe some of these perennial favorites will get you interested!

    Little House on the Prairie--the whole series! When we were reading this with our "middles" I had just discovered the Internet (so had pretty much everyone else in the mid 90s) and I looked up Laura Ingalls Wilder and discovered that she died only a few years before I was born! I had no idea that someone who had lived in the days of pioneers could have been someone I met as a child! Of course, my kids still thought it was ancient history.  Regardless, we all loved the stories.

    The Chronicles of Narnia--as I've already mentioned, we read this one several times. I enjoyed it every time! They are not only well told stories, but they can provoke deeper thoughts as you consider the theology C.S. Lewis is teaching through his stories. 

    God's Smuggler--this story about a boy who, unbeknownst to his parents, did his part in the Dutch resistance, who ran from God, and eventually was used greatly by God behind the Iron Curtain, has enough excitement and action to interest almost any boy or girl! There's also history, the gospel, and ministry. This is one of my favorite books which I have read many times, yes, including to my children.

    From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--I first read this book when I was in fifth grade and loved it. I couldn't wait until my children were old enough to enjoy having it read to them! My favorite genre is biography, but I am always amazed at what there is to learn in fiction too. This is a fun book about a bossy big sister and a sharp thinking little brother who run away from home and live in a museum and solve a mystery!

    The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking--My husband found a copy of this book in our home library and read it to our six year old redhead. Her older brother and sister listened in and thought it was great fun, too. 

    Anne of Green Gables--and the whole series were more books we read because of our redhead. Being the youngest, I enjoyed having this time with her when she was probably in fourth and fifth grades. Sometimes the things we talk about with the others she says she didn't get in on, but she can't say we didn't read to her!

    The Phantom Tollbooth--another book I remember reading in grade school, I knew my oldest son would love the numbers side of this story. But there's enough silliness and fun about a boy who receives a mysterious package that has a car he drives through a tollbooth, also in the package, that he puts together and ends up in another land, for all my kids to have enjoyed it. 

    Alice in Wonderland--this classic along with Through the Looking Glass are just thing to start reading to your kids on an evening when they can't go outside because it's raining or they are sick. You will all probably go around saying, "Off with her head!" for months to come.

    All Things Bright and Beautiful--and the other books in this series. Whether your kids are animal or science lovers they will enjoy the humor and stories in these books. Who knew a veterinarian could write so well?

    Charlotte's Web--before my kids had the video, I read the book to the three oldest ones. My youngest had it read to her in second grade by a teacher who did a whole unit on spiders around it, thus giving my seven year old daughter a love for spiders and she brought home a jar full of them that escaped all over the house...but that's another story.

    The Hiding Place--this is my all time favorite book. I don't know how many times I've read it. Before we had kids, I even read it to my husband on a car trip! I read it to each of my children as well. A single woman, the first licensed watchmaker in Holland, and her father risk their lives to save Jews in World War II and end up in concentration camps. It's an amazing story of faith and God at work.

    Any book you love qualifies for reading to your kids. And when you are already together around the table might be a good time to start reading. Just remember, stop reading at an exciting part so they will want to hear the next part tomorrow!








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