2nd Ever Annual Family Day

We just got back from our second ever Annual Family Day. I got this idea from Sally Clarkson – you can read her version here. We have “cooperified” our version. If you choose to do Family Day, I would encourage you to personalize your version of it also.

We skip traditional church on Family Day and enjoy church outside in God’s country.

We started with a nice breakfast of french toast, where I teased my family for using syrup instead of peaches like my family did growing up. When I asked him what his family did, my husband sadly said “Who would I have sat around a table eating breakfast with? There was no one there.” He had cereal alone growing up. He said he didn’t regret any of his childhood, but how can you regret something you don’t know you’re missing. We have the fortunate opportunity to give our children the memory of togetherness. We read Joshua 4 and talked about why we are doing family day.

Then we packed for our big day in the woods. Last night on our date night, we stopped into the grocery store to get some treats: chips, cold cuts, & dessert… something we don’t always indulge.  We also went over our list of blessings from this past year (May to May).

On our way to the park, we recalled some of the memories from the family day the year before. What a year the Lord had given us!

When we arrived at the park, which took an hour to drive, we enjoyed a picnic. At the end of the picnic, I got out our notebook and video camera and we introduced Family Day 2018. The children put beads on a necklace for each blessing we could recall – I decided to use beads instead of stones because I was simply out of rocks – I know, this is amazing in a house with small children, two of them being boys. I worked from my list, and the children spontaneously mentioned things they were thankful for from this past year (and from any year before… I had to bring them back to trying just to think of this year). Our necklace became 62 beads long. That’s a lot of blessings and miracles for a family of 5 in just 12 months! Praise the Lord Almighty!

 

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When we were done we hiked into the forest. My kids decided hanging a necklace on a tree wasn’t good enough. They wanted to find stones like the tribes in Joshua 4 had done. So they both found piles of stones and built a monument at the base of a beautiful redwood tree. Our Family Day’s memorial stones were both beads in a tree as well as small stone monoliths.

We came home by 5:30pm, in enough time for my kids to enjoy a ‘bubble pool’ outside’ and the baby to get snuggles with me before supper.

Family Day is certainly something we look forward to doing, however it does require some work and preparation. Let me digress for a minute here. The Lord is rocking my husband a bit on the front of developing more family vision and decisiveness, and I’m glad about that. But I want to encourage you mamas out there who think that you are sometimes the ones pushing some spiritual agendas. This last year the Lord had been teaching me about submissiveness, and that was one of the testimonies in our last Family Day that we reread about today. Ian reported to me that he feels more pressure than ever to do the right thing, and it’s been since I became more quiet, submitting my wishes to the Lord. When my husband says something to me, I try not to second guess and question him. Asking the same question several different ways feels like a challenge instead of an inquiry, right ladies? My husband is understanding the urgency of our influence during these young years. This was largely the topic of conversation at our last date night. What a super night we had preceding Family Day. I think these lessons from God have been timely because Ian is taking on these responsibilities with more interest, and I get to do what the Lord told me to do: smile more and be a voice of encouragement. So I hope my words with Ian have been encouraging, always telling him what he is doing well.

Earlier in the week, I asked my husband to write down what he was grateful for and thought we should remember for Family Day this year. He did it, but I wondered how excited he was to stop life and think back so much. Then while we were at the park, we didn’t just explore freely like usual – we had a small agenda to fulfill in recounting our blessings. As our cameraman, my husband’s video is everywhere all at once, panning in and out on various children and scenery. Perhaps I did more of the talking than him, and I think he was more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. That’s okay, I’ll take it. This is what I mean about Family Day being work.

Tonight we will enjoy the leftovers from our shabbat meal from Friday: ribs and sauce, honey carrots, kale and spinach casserole, chicken soup, Challah bread, and salad. It’s really quite amazing.

I had to amend this, because the Lord gave my husband some words for my children. I asked him to see if he could come up with a scripture for each of them this year.

For our whole family, he gave 1 Samuel 2:2. “No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

For my oldest, Micah, he gave 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 which corresponds to the fire in his spirit: “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”

For our middle one, Kade, he gave Hebrews 10:22 which corresponds to the water in his spirit: “let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

For our baby, Hope, he gave Psalm 96 which corresponds to the ground, the Earth in her spirit: “Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty fill his sanctuary. O nations of the world, recognize the LORD; recognize that the LORD is glorious and strong. Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor. Let all the earth tremble before him. Tell all the nations, “The LORD reigns!” The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. He will judge all peoples fairly. Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the LORD, for he is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth.”

This means my family will commit to learning these verses this year.

The Lord also gave my husband a word for our children. He said “Siphon. The water will be there, and the children will be like a siphon to draw it out. And the Lord gave me another picture. Imagine a cup with the liquid cupped over on the top held together by surface tension. It spills when you just tap the cup. So there job is to tap the cup.”

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!! The Lord is good!! Praise Him forever!

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Dear Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day! I love this day. But not all of us do. Those of us who have lost children either from the womb or after birth, or some even after many years of life, or just a few years of life lament this day. Others of us have grief because we have lost our mothers. My heart extends to yours. And still others feel unappreciated, unrecognized, or passed over. Some of us are not going to experience a celebration. Others will experience a celebration on the outside but not on the inside. I wanted to write this post because I see you.

I was laying here thinking that in almost 14 years of marriage, and over 6 years of being a mother x 3, that I love this day.

I love this day because I have children. I love this day because I have a husband who loves me. And I love this day because I have a mother. I have it all. The Lord took my grandma, and I only knew one grandma, but He gave me another one through my husband and we love her dearly. She is wonderful. And we also have his mother. She is also beautiful, inside and out.

My normal celebration was bringing my mom breakfast in bed. Then as I got older, I added a tradition of taking her on a picnic. I always bought her a corsage – always tried to find a pink iris with a pink ribbon. And if we were with other women in our family I got one for them too. Now I live in another city. I am sad I can’t celebrate her in person. We did the best we could from afar.

As for my own celebration, I’ve evolved. Over these relatively short years of marriage (I hope we can pass 60 years together… we would be centurions!) I’ve learned how to be less selfish. Yes, I meant to say it that way… less selfish. Sure, it’s a day to celebrate motherhood. What does that mean?

For me, it has become giving my children an opportunity to prepare a gift for someone else: me and their grandmas. It is a moment to teach them how to affirm someone else and make them feel special. So this is what I told my husband was important to me: help the children learn this lesson. I have two boys who are old enough to glean from this opportunity. And it’s our chance to show them honest gratitude.

A key to enjoying this day is to know yourself. It’s very advised to help your husbands be successful. Tell them how to help you feel special. Some of you don’t want to have to tell your husbands what to do for you… but you should get over that! Sometimes they need some direction, and they appreciate it! But warning, if your husband doesn’t like input, then don’t tell him!

Here’s how I do this: “What do you have planned for Mother’s Day?”

He says: “What would you like to do?”

I say: “(insert some suggestions)”

Listen, I know not all husbands will ask. Some will say, “I haven’t thought about it;” “I haven’t planned anything;” or “it’s a surprise”.

Then after the event, or during, give specific compliments. Did you know men do better with very specific compliments? Such as,

  • “I love how you thought about (insert this)”
  • “That took a lot of planning and juggling on your part;”
  • “That food was delicious!”
  • “You lost sleep to prepare this for me!”

What do you do if your man does nothing for you?

Then treat yourself. Take yourself somewhere, buy yourself a book, go have a coffee or tea, give yourself permission not to work for a day and declare a No Work Day for yourself to your family, spend all day playing with your kids, declare a YoYo food day (you’re on your own), make a plan to go out with a friend — you get the picture. But I think my favorite idea is you could serve another mother (whose husband isn’t gifted in this area) by treating her and her family over for brunch or lunch or dinner. And you can still pay compliments to your spouse. Here are some compliments you can think about saying that have nothing to do with a man’s special preparations for you for Mother’s Day – they are just truths I hope are true for you:

  • “You work hard to provide for us an excellent life – thank you;” (this is true even if he is a stay at home dad; this is true if he is currently laid off; this is true if he is not providing much right now… be specific about any small thing he does for your family)
  • “I wouldn’t be as successful in my mothering without your support” (this is true even if his contributions are minor in your eyes)
  • “It seems like you made our child look extra nice today!” (Unless he didn’t get them dressed… but maybe he has corrected some behavior or a heart issue, or taught them something)
  • “You look so handsome for me!” (Even if he looks the same every day!)
  • “Everyday when you do your thing, you enable me to do mine.” (Still true in every case)
  • “Our kids benefit so much because you spend time with them.” (Even if the time is little).

Listen, some of you have a hard life. I am trying to show you a way of gratitude. When you treat men like men, they act like men. When you treat men like boys, they act like boys.

Know yourself though. Your joy comes from the Lord. If you don’t have joy, study where it comes from! The Bible shows the way!

I will close with a Happy Blessed Mother’s Day with for you!! Xoxo

The perfect homeschool week

I’m imagining the perfect homeschool week for my family next year.

We would start every day with a healthy breakfast and clean up the dishes right away. We would brush our teeth, and make our beds. Then the kitchen would close.

We would worship God, read the Bible, and do a character study. Then we would go on a walk and picnic somewhere outside.

We would come home by 2pm for rest time. My baby would take a nap. Family story time would begin, with memory work, and art lessons. Clean up to the CC Timeline Song. Prep dinner together, and kids set the table. A little more schoolwork done.

At dinner, tell Dad about our character lesson, play “stump Daddy” with memory work, recite scripture, listen to Dad’s lesson and devotion.

Clean up dinner and table to timeline song.

Reading time before bedtime. Memory work. Reading lesson for our middle child would happen again.

Grocery shopping would happen on Wednesday afternoons. Kids will get lessons in counting money and reading food labels. Meal prep and house cleaning would happen on Thursdays with help from children. Friday we would have afternoon showers and bath, with a last minute spruce up, and the table will get set nicely for a Christian version of Shabbat dinner using easy disposable ware, Saturday’s meal would be prepped and put into the crock pot, and Friday’s roast would go into the oven in a disposable tin. We would entertain friends on Friday night and see how we can minister to others.

Saturday we would have a prepared breakfast such as fruit, and quiche or bekoras. We would skip making our beds. We would go play outside somehow, and we would enjoy a large afternoon meal which I had already prepared the day before.

Sunday, we would start the week refreshed and ready to start again. I would use Sunday afternoon for homeschool prep, meal planning, and bulk item grocery shopping.

Easter Devotions, Traditions, Food and More

Hi all,
As you’re preparing for Easter Week, I thought you might enjoy some ideas. Don’t let them overwhelm you, either. I rarely send emails like this, however, Easter and Christmas are the most important holidays of the year.
1. DEVOTION
See the attached devotion from Billy Graham. As your kids get older and older, they will grow in their appreciation of devotions. If you want to make it more memorable, read it after the sun goes down in candlelight. We tend to read these things during dinner, while everyone is a captive audience.
2. MUSIC
Seeds Family Worship’s “Seeds of Easter” songs – what a great way to hear the Easter story and memorize the Word. See this sample. (You would memorize Rev 5:12, John 14:6, 1 John 5:11-12, Rom 5:8, Rom 6:23, John 3:16, Rom 8:38-39, and 2 Cor 5:17)
The Harrow Family’s CD: A New Commandment includes John 3:16 in “For God so Loved the World”, and John 14:6 in “I am the Way”, and John 14:23 in “If anyone loves me”
The Harrow Family’s CD: All Nations Shall Worship includes John 10:7-8 in “I am the Door”
In general, the Harrow Family and Seeds Family Worship are the two go to music choices for our family, and has helped all of us store God’s word in our hearts more joyfully and effectively. We play these every. single. day. in the background, or watch the videos during breakfast sometimes. Seeds Family Worship has videos with hand motions to some of the songs.

3. FOOD

Resurrection Rolls – melt butter and dip large marshmallows in the butter. Dip the marshmallow in equal parts cinnamon sugar. Wrap in a crescent roll. Bake according to the crescent roll directions. When your kids take a bite, they will see the tomb empty.
Resurrection Cake – Cut the tombs entrance out of the side of a cake. Make the tomb big enough to put a battery operated tea light inside.  Turn the light on right before you serve the cake after sundown. Take turns saying what Jesus’ sacrifice has meant to you this year. Each person should take a turn. Little kids who are too young for that, can tell you for what they are grateful. Close by saying a prayer thanking Jesus for dying on the cross for us and conquering death and sin so we can live forever with Him in freedom.
Easter Bread – http://www.laurainthekitchen.com/recipes/italian-easter-sweet-bread/ I add anise sometimes, but it’s not what everyone loves… it’s a licorice flavor.

4. TRADITIONS

SOMETIME BEFORE EASTER
Organize or attend a children’s Easter Tea Party where they can celebrate a Passion Lunch and hear some Easter stories (find one fun Easter story and 1 Easter story that tells the real story to kids, decorate cookies, have tea, and do an egg hunt (if you’re into that, but I can tell you the kids LOVE it). Eggs represent rebirth and new life through Jesus Christ.
ON GOOD FRIDAY
Christian Passover Dinner – Directions below which also came from my mentor, Sandy Tallo. Do this on Good Friday! Hang a red rag on your door outside.
ON EASTER MORNING
SIN WIPED CLEAN – Leave a pile of rocks in a jar as you leave for church. The jar is the tomb Jesus was laid in. This represents sin. Cover it with a red cloth. This represents Jesus’ blood. After you load the kids into the car, someone has to sneak back into the house to empty the rocks and cover the tomb back with the red cloth. When your kids come home they will find the tomb empty. Celebrate with a quick music parade, sing hallelujah, shake a tambourine and ring bells! I like this song: https://youtu.be/JuQFGWAd7wQ AND this is joyful! https://youtu.be/Q4bJ8D6lvrk
GENERAL TIPS FROM MY MENTOR, SANDY TALLO
“If possible, use this time to have your children help with deep spring cleaning. Wash windows and floors, get cob webs down, give stuff you don’t use away!
 
Attend a good Friday service, talk about why this day is called good. 
 
The day before Easter finish cleaning, cooking, set the tables,  lay out prepared outfits for church, shine shoes, get fresh spring hair cuts, have bible time with little ones after dinner highlighting the resurrection. Pray together. After kids are in bed, prepare Easter baskets (bags)
 
Sunday- play Easter music, eat a quick, healthy breakfast, (go to a sunrise service), dress and get to church early, it’s the best part of the day! Don’t allow fighting and tardiness to ruin the day!
 
Invite family and friends for dinner, eat, talk, play and rejoice together.”
Love, Robyn
___________________________

Christian passover
1. Light candles- Jesus is the light of the world. ( oldest woman in the house)
Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe,
Who sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us to be a light to the nations
and Who gave to us Jesus our Messiah
the Light of the world.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4 KJV)
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46 NKJV)
2. The wine-
After the candles have been lit and everyone is seated around the Seder Table, we are ready to begin the Passover Seder by  pouring the “Cup of Sanctification” 
which means to set apart or make holy. When the LORD said that He would take the Israelites out from Egypt, He separated them and therefore sanctified them.
The Four Cups of wine used in the Seder symbolize four distinct promises made by God as told in Exodus 6:6-7. These are traditionally referred to as follows:
Cup of Sanctification – “I will bring you out (i.e., hotzeti: הוֹצֵאתִי) of Egypt”
Cup of Deliverance – “I will deliver you (i.e. hitzalti: הִצַּלְתִּי) from Egyptian slavery”
Cup of Redemption – “I will redeem you (i.e., ga’alti: גָאַלְתִּי) with My power”
Cup of Restoration – “I will take you (i.e., lakachti: לָקַחְתִּי) as My people”
   
Which cups did Jesus  drink during his early Passover Seder with his disciples? He drank the first two cups in the traditional way. At the third cup, the Cup of Redemption, he said: “This is my blood” (Matt. 26:27-39). Jesus told his disciples that He would not drink the fourth cup (the Cup of Restoration), but promised to do so with them in the coming Kingdom (Matt. 26:29), after the Great Tribulation when “all Israel shall be saved.” 
3- washing hands
The second activity of the traditional Passover Seder is to wash your hands before you eat.  
Q: “Why do we wash our hands?”
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalms 24:3-5 NKJV)
   
Hand Washing Procedure
The seder leader calls out, “U’rchatz!” and then everyone present will begin the ceremony of washing  their hands. 
Fill a cup or vessel with water and pour some over your right hand three times, then over your left hand three times. It is customary for children to present the towel to the guests as each person performs the ritual.
Jesus and Urchatz
It is possible that the Jesus washed His disciples feet at this point of the early Seder he had with the disciples. Imagine the disciples passing the urchatz pan from person to person for the ritual cleansing of hands. Then,
“Jesus laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” (John 13:4-12)
4. Parsley dipped in salt water
Why do we dip parsley in salt water?
The salt water represents the tears of the Israelites in bondage and the tears shed in our own lives at the remembrance that it’s our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. 
Parsley represents the hyssop that the Israelites dipped in the blood of a lamb to paint the door post of their homes so that the angel of death would pass over it. 
Jesus is the lamb of God who was sacrificed for us and it’s by his blood we are saved.  
Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord In the land of the living. (Psalms 116:7-9 NKJV)
5-  matzo bread- 
The Seder leader takes the matzo, and breaks it in half. He then takes the larger piece and carefully wraps it in a linen cover. The leader then tells the children present to close their eyes and he hides the bread somewhere in the room.
Unleavened bread was taken by the Israelites the night of the exodus because there was no time to wait for bread to rise. They left in haste. 
Look at the bread it has stripes and holes. 
Jesus took 40 lashes/ stripes for our punishment and there were holes punctured into his body at the time of his crucifixion. 
7-bitter herbs- Maror 
Q: Why is this night different from other nights?
God told us to teach these things to our children. This is the night we’ve chosen to remember all that God has done for us.  
Serve bitter herbs in cracker. 
The most common vegetables used as bitter herbs are horseradish and romaine lettuce. Romaine lettuce is not initially bitter, but becomes so after the first taste, which is symbolic of the experience of the Jews in Egypt. 
Q: Why do we eat matzo and Maror?- bitterness of slavery both in Israel and in our own lives as we remember or own bondage to sin. 
“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:3-7 NKJV)
4. Mortar- (find recipe in Evernote!)
Q: Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once,
but on this night we eat them twice?
A:  We eat bitter herbs and Charoset to remind us of the bitterness of our slavery turned into the sweetness of freedom. The chopped apples and nuts look like clay used to make bricks for Pharaoah’s buildings. As We did parsley in salt water to remember the tears of our captivity.
Q: Why is it that on all other nights we eat sitting but on this night we eat in a reclining position with pillows?
   
A:  We lean on our pillows to remind us that we are now free and no longer live as slaves.
2 Cor 4:4 
7. Egg- symbol of new life in Christ. Everything needed to create life is in the egg. It also represents the triune nature of God. 
Slice eggs eat them dipped in salt water. 
8. The lamb- lift the bone as a reminder that
They would slaughter all the lambs brought to the courtyard. The blood of the lamb would be caught in a pan and then passed from one priest to another until it reached the priest standing at the altar, who would pour it out on the lower part of the altar. While this was happening, the Levites would be singing praise to the LORD.
   
Afterward, each lamb’s hide was pulled off, the flesh was salted, and certain parts were burned upon the altar to the LORD. Finally, the remainder was given to the offerer who took it home to be roasted whole over an open fire. The family would gather and eat some of the meat of the passover lamb with matzah and maror.
Jesus was found to be the true Lamb of God  without spot or blemish.
Like the original Passover in Egypt, the sacrifice of the Lamb causes the wrath of God to “pass over” those who are trusting in the LORD’s provision for redemption, but in the case of the sacrifice of the everlasting Son of God, this redemption delivers us from the cruel bondage of Satan and causes the everlasting wrath of God to forever be put away from us. Indeed, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
9. Finish the meal – after the meal Find the hidden matzo wrapped in linen. 
Q: why was the cracker wrapped in linen? Burial cloths
Q: Why was it hidden? Like in the tomb where Jesus’ body was hidden away. 
Before Jesus death he celebrated a passover meal with his disciples and when they were finished 
   He broke the bread and gave each one present a piece. “And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me'” (Matt 26:26). 
Jesus had told His disciples that He was the Bread of Life (John 6:48).
He also had told them:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).
We hold the unleavened bread and consider its purity (leaven is a symbol of sin, and Jesus was sinless). We look at the stripes and pierced holes in it. We remember that Jesus was without sin, striped by the Roman’s whip and pierced by nails and the soldier’s spear. 
Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement was for our sins so that we might have peace with God. When we eat of the broken matzah, we remember that He allowed His body to be broken as our sacrifice for sin, and we thank God for that He was willing to be the Lamb of God who came to bear the sins of the world. 
10. The wine- 
Since the New Testament says explicitly that Jesus  took the bread and wine “after (the Passover) supper” (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25) it is clear that this cup, the Cup of Redemption, is the one He raised when He said, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you” (Matt. 26:27-39). The Cup of Redemption commemorates the shed blood of the innocent lamb that brought redemption from Egypt, but it even more fully commemorates the greater redemption provided by the shed blood of Jesus.
For the believer in Jesus, this cup also symbolizes our participation in the  (marriage contract) of the New Covenant, in which the groom signified his pledge by sharing a cup of wine with His bride, therefore, it was originally intended to be the model for the Christian practice of Communion (or the “Lord’s Supper”).
Jesus had earlier said to his disciples, “I am the Vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). When we trust in Him as our Savior, we become the “fruit of the vine” and become a part of his body. 
Note: Jesus told his disciples that He would not drink the fourth cup (the Cup of Restoration), but promised to do so with them in the coming Kingdom (Matt. 26:29), after the Great Tribulation when “all Israel shall be saved.”
The leader says: “This cup represents our great hope that someday soon the messiah is coming back to both take His followers to be with Him and to fulfill his promises. In that great day, all Israel shall be saved and the followers of Jesus will reign with Him in the millennial kingdom of God upon the earth. 
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the shofar blast of God: and the dead in Messiah shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Balance

I find myself in the space between a wind tunnel and a vacuum. There is so much life happening, represented by air waves flowing through the sieve.

The deep cavern in my heart is longing to be filled more and more, and to belong. I’m celebrating my oldest son’s sixth birthday today and tomorrow. I gave him some screen time while my husband and I were prepping things for his party tomorrow. He chose to listen to some worship music. I am grateful the seeds I’m quietly sowing are bearing some fruit. I’m not bragging. Daily, I’m brought to my knees for some reason or another in motherhood. This same child asks me, every night, to worship God with him.

God has used this time to hold me accountable to praising Him. He also gives me a chance to speak into Micah’s life. We can have deep and uninterrupted conversations. Micah has been wanting to listen to the names of God lately. So we do. But then I get to remind Micah that the same God created him. I asked Micah if he knew what God thought of him. He said “He thinks I’m sick.” I asked Micah, “Sick as in awesome, or sick as in blechhh?” He giggled and said “the first one!” I hope my children feel this way their whole lives.

We don’t win God’s approval by being right, or perfect. We talk a lot in our home about being righteous before God, meaning that we are won over to His ways, wanting to be like Him, and repenting of our sins. When we pray at night, I ask God to forgive me for my sins. I ask God to forgive my children for their sins.

My son is still learning how to pray. I help him by talking him through a framework. You can use it too. It goes like this “Praise God – tell Him what you think of Him. Tell God what you’re thankful for. (Pause for your child to answer in-between each thing). Is there anything you need to say sorry about? (Pause.) Do you need God’s help for anything? (Pause.) Who else needs some prayer?” (Pause.) NOTE: When I’m praying out loud with my oldest son, my prayer follows the same framework so he can hear it too.

When my kids are two, they repeat after me “Dear Jesus, thank you for today. Help me love you and other people better. Amen.”

At three, they are saying what they are thankful for also. And we build from there.

I was talking with a neighbor yesterday about how I want my kids used to a pace of life in which they can accomplish much, but also stop to smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t want us running. I want us to sit down to family meals together. And have time to clean up after dinner, to soak in good books, and have time to pray and worship at night without hurry to get to sleep to meet a super-early next day. I want my children to soak in the Word and to find truth beyond the world, to be able to slice through modern philosophy and know reality based on what they can’t see with their eyes.

So now let me come back to the cavern in my heart. As a non-native Californian who is far in distance from family, birthdays have a sadness to them for me. For my son, I hope he’s filled to the brim with love. But I know who he misses too. And I’m not lacking love whatsoever, but I definitely know who I’m missing.

But in that space between a vacuum and a wind tunnel, the Almighty is calling my name. And I feel the greatest depth of belonging there. There is no cavern He leaves empty. There is no hole He doesn’t fill. I have deep and eternal significance with my Creator. And I hope this is the same endless acceptance and approval my children and husband and family and friends feel their whole lives too. There is no greater feeling than that. And this love exists beyond death. Love is stronger than death.

Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!