Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Fall, Y'all!

"O,it sets my heart a-clickin'
like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin
and the fodder's in the shock."
James Whitcomb Riley

Autumn is such a beautiful season. We've had a Harvest Moon the last few evenings--awesome!! The leaves will soon be turning colors, geese will be flying south, pumpkins and mums are everywhere. The smells of wood smoke, burning leaves, hot spiced apple cider, and pumpkin pies baking make fall special,too. At my house on the edge of a small town,the sounds of fall are: farm trucks heading to the elevator full of corn or soybeans,snatches of the announcer and band from the football field at the other end of town,and the honking of geese as they fly over.(we're near Quivira National Wildlife Refuge)
Enjoy this season with those you love!! It's time to "cozy up" your world--see Home Matters blog for more on that.

This is also a good time to:

-carve jack-o-lanterns with your kids--or just by yourself.
This can be a great lesson for kids-cut out the eye, nose and mouth openings and then scoop out the goopy stuff and seeds--explain that this is like sin in our lives and the light of God's love can't shine very well in us with all that mess inside.Save the seeds,wash off and roast in the oven with a little salad oil drizzled over and some salt. (You can sprinkle other seasonings over the seeds,too) This is a good way to teach kids the verse that says "You are the world's seasoning(salt)to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world?" -Matthew 5:13
The Bible also tells us we are the salt of the earth. Salt adds flavor,stops decay or preserves, and heals(soaking in salt water).

-make pumpkin pancakes,cookies, pies, bread--yum!

-Take a quilt outside after dark and look at the constellations. The big dipper will be just above the northern horizon.

-Serve warm apple juice or cider with cinnamon stick stirrers and a pinch or brown sugar and cloves.

-Go on a "fall gathering" walk--collect leaves to press,and weeds to dry--make arrangement or display.

-Go for bike rides--roads out in the country are great,or around town to check on the prettiest trees.(Wear your bike helmets)

-Roast hot dogs, brats and/or marshmallows over a grill--or better yet,a small fire in a fire pit. I grew up having lots of fun roasting lots of hot dogs and marshmallows, as my family enjoyed eating outside-- and in southeast Kansas,there's always wood that needs to be cleared and burned. I always wanted a fire pit and my husband got me one for Christmas. We have had such great times sitting around a small fire in our backyard,talking,singing and roasting marshmallows for s'mores. We invite the neighbors or friends and there is a feeling of warmth from sitting together around the fire that doesn't come just from the burning wood!!

-Let your inner cheerleader out-Go to a football,volleyball game,cross country meet, school play or musical, church youth group function and cheer them on!! We all need support and recognition, someone to recognize our efforts and accomplishments--you can be that someone,a cheerleader, for people around you--especially young people!
I just read the book Our Boys by Joe Drappe,the story of the Smith Center Kansas Football team and their winning season(s). (if your class 2A high school football team is good enough, you will eventually play Smith Center in playoffs--my son's team did in 2008--a lot of character was built by our players that game!)The author explains what those of us in small towns already know: kids are encouraged by the support of the people around them--win or lose! Many years ago, our town newspaper had a letter to the editor by a newcomer who was pleasantly surprised by the townspeople who cheered on the teens in town instead of complaining about them.

-Plant some spring bulbs--tulips or daffodils--to remind you that beauty comes in some pretty unusual packages--teach your kids this also.

I know that our theme is Changing Seasons of a Woman's life, but God wants us to enjoy each and every season--with those we love. Enjoy Fall!!

"From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature...Romans 1:20

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When will I ever learn?

In the great classroom of life, I am often sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap. This was a punishment in the old days when a student did not learn their lessons. Or maybe I would be standing at the blackboard writing "I will trust God no matter what" 100 times. In some things,I am definitely a slow learner with memory problems. No matter how many times God has proven Himself faithful in the past, I have trouble remembering--and trusting, and letting go.
God just let me have a remedial lesson in trusting--read on.

Whether you're sending your kids off to school as kindergartners--or college and post grad students(me), some things remain the same.
Three weeks ago, we sent our youngest son off to school--in Brazil, at the University of Santa Maria. This is an exchange between the Ag colleges there and at KSU. As we prepared him for 5 months overseas in a country where he does not know the language, I was struck with how it really was like sending him off to school when he was little.(Or high school, or college for the first time,etc.) Do you recognize the process?

1. Get the paperwork in order--health and immunization records,shots(for Josh a yellow fever shot),enrollment,list of supplies(VISA,Passport) Teach emergency phone numbers and contact names if they need help.(I put Josh's contact phone numbers for his professor and the boy,Diego,who was picking them up at the airport,with all his other information in a notebook)

2. Acquire the needed supplies--book bags, paper, pencils--clothes. If you haven't already,this is a great time to go through each child's closet and drawers-gifting outgrown items to someone else or a thrift store,making a list of what is needed. (Like underwear/socks that aren't gray and/or full of holes) When you can only take one 50 pound suit case, a book bag, and a small carry-on, you pare it down to the essentials--he wore his boots and packed his sneakers!

3. Rehearse problem scenarios and make Plan"B"s. In grade school, we talked about not lying or cheating, what to do if you're bullied, not to ride home with people other than your parents unless told, and which streets to take to walk home. We warned about "stranger danger", and staying out of "bad" neighborhoods. We talked about those things again with Josh--even printing out bus schedules of the town he would fly into, which was 5 hours away from the university. But what do you do when everyone is a stranger, even the person sent to pick you up at the airport, and very few even speak English? Instead of what to do if you miss the bus at school, we went over being bumped from your airplane flight (which happened!)

4. Pack book bag with needed items--besides school supplies, tissues,l ip balm, and snacks,and love notes!! A little extra money may be needed,too. Josh ate all snacks in the airport in Sao Paulo due to an unplanned 10 hour delay. I also snuck some Bible verses into his information notebook--love notes from home. When they were little, I sometimes wrote love notes or a "hi" message on napkins in their sack lunches on field trips.

5.Celebrate the first day of school! We made a special granola for breakfast, laid our clothes out the night before, packed supplies and took pictures. For each of the kids' graduation from high school, we displayed their first day of school picture and their last day of school picture. (Too cute--but about the undoing of their Mother!) We took pictures of the boys at the airport, and they sent pictures at their new school in Santa Maria.

6. Pray!!! Because no matter how prepared you think they are, no matter how many bases you try to cover--the unexpected happens--whether you're 5 or 21! About everything that we warned about happened to Josh and his friend Derek--they were bumped from their flight to Brazil,which messed up their arrival time in Port Alegre where they would be met. The emergency telephone numbers we had did not work--no one was in either college office to get our e-mails about flight changes. (All of my pride in organizing that information for Josh was for nothing--God once again proved He could manage without me!) Thankfully, Diego waited many hours for them--and then their truck broke down in the middle of the night in a bad part of town. People in the neighborhood came to the truck, (stranger danger!) the police came, and the boys spent the night in a questionable motel. Yet--at every step of the unknown and unplanned God was with them, protecting them and sending them the help they needed. (Which was what I really prayed for.) We didn't know where they were for about 48 hours--yet instead of frantically worrying as I usually would, I realized that God knew where the boys were and what they needed.

I opened my devotional that morning and it was called "At Home with God." What a truth to hang on to--wherever we are, wherever our children are, we are "at home with God".

Back to my corner and the dunce cap--last summer our daughter traveled to South Africa with a group on a mission trip. On her return trip, she was bumped from her flight with one other member of the team and re-routed through Paris instead of directly to Atlanta and then Wichita. We did not know this and went to Wichita to pick her up. The airline's computer was down and huge lines of people were waiting to fly to Atlanta. We met the next two flights from Atlanta--no Laurie. It was afternoon now, and only one more flight coming in. We began to be a little anxious about what had happened, then she called. I asked where she was--why wasn't she in Wichita? She then told me she was just getting back to the States and was in Atlanta hoping to get on the last flight back to Wichita. She had been awake over 24 hours traveling and was tired and alone. I was worried about her having to stay the night there. We were still talking when she said-"Oh,my gosh--the Holmes's are here." The Holmes's, Mitch and Michelle, are a couple who attend our little country church. I said,"Oh,honey--it must just look like them"--and she said,"No,mom--they're coming over!" It's true. They were in Atlanta for a State Representatives meeting and their flight had been delayed. What an awesome God to send people from home to my tired daughter in the Atlanta airport--she and I both relaxed. Laurie was able to get on the next flight but Mitch and Michelle had to stay the night and come home the next day.(Sorry, guys) This answer to prayer just blew our socks off!!

And this (plus many other examples) is why I need to remember to trust God, no matter what! "Oh ye of little faith, why dost thou doubt?"--Jesus reminds me, just as He did His disciples, to have faith in Him whatever the circumstances.

I am trying to let go--we can't follow our loved ones and make their paths smooth, but we can rest in knowing God is there with them.
Pray not only for your children (and do a dedication prayer for the new school year)
but pray for your schools,too. You may even want to start a Moms In Touch sort of group where you pray for your schools and communities.

For all you Moms sending chicks out of the nest, give'em a hug,a kiss,a smile and a prayer! No matter how old they are (or we are!)"first days" are hard.

Other lessons learned: Reduce Back-to-School stress
Set up a Staging Area-a place for book bags, instruments, shoes, jackets, etc. Something as simple as a board with hooks, an ottoman(with lid for storage), or chairs would work. Lay out clothes for the next day the night before. (This serves to alert you to no clean clothes,underwear,etc., plus saves time in the morning)

Have a routine--morning,after school and bed-time
List any morning chores or just what needs to be done-dress,wash up, brush teeth, get book bag.
After school--train your kids to empty book bags with you--look at homework, graded papers, and especially check for school letters or permission slips that need your attention. Sign and return permission slips, enter dates of activities on your desk calendar,etc. Do this while having after school snacks--you'll know what to schedule for your evening. (How many math problems, spelling words, reading pages or cupcakes you have to do!!)

Bedtime--here a routine will really save you arguments. Take baths, lay out clothes, find what's needed for tomorrow, read aloud, and have bedtime prayers.

Whew--this was a long one! May God bless your "lessons" this month--pay attention and learn them well the first time--don't be a slow learner like me!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Are Your Branches Groaning?

If I had my friend Kim Fritzemeier's (Food for Thought blog) photographic abillities and techno-savy, you would see a picture of my peach tree with its limbs dragging the ground, loaded with peaches. Unfortunately,you'll have to imagine it--branches so laden with fruit that I had to prop them up with boards. Our Lovely Branches Ministries is celebrating a year of harvests, too, and we're praying that we can all abide in Jesus to bear more fruit.

How about you? How's your harvest? Being a gardner, I've got too much of a good thing right now. We just picked sand hill plums to make jelly and jam. I have corn, cucumbers, green beans and blackberries to do something with also. But in my spiritual life, or in my relationships with others, my harvests aren't so impressive. I'm not bearing much fruit because I'm not abiding with Jesus as I should.
One of my grandmother's favorite hymns has lyrics telling of meeting with Jesus in a garden alone in the morning, the chorus says: "And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we linger there, none other has ever known."
Spend some time with the One who tells us that "apart from me, ye can do nothing."

Gardening season is also a great time to explain these Biblical principles to children. One of my favorites is the parable of the sower and also that you reap what you sow. (plant)
Clearly, if you plant watermelons, you don't get green beans. This is the tie-in to show children that what we "plant", our actions, thoughts and words, will be what we reap, or get back. If we plant kind words and deeds, that's what we get. If we plant selfish deeds, that will be our crop, too.
This is also how you can introduce the concept that what we "plant"or let into our minds is what we "reap" or have to think about. The book of Proverbs tells us that, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." We become what we think about.

I am a strong believer in the GIGO concept, Garbage in, garbage out. If what we and our children see and hear is garbage, that is what we have to think about . My kids knew I was a real stickler on this--fortunately, they understood the concept and didn't really test us, even as teens with music or t.v. Movies, maybe. It's hard to go against the culture, but so much of what we hear and see is not encouraging or uplifting, let alone portraying values we should have as Christians. I can't tell you how often I would come into the family room and one son would change the channel--he knew he was watching something not worth his time.

If that is a form of censorship, then I was guilty. I tried to read good books to them, and we watched some movies and shows together. We would discuss whether choices were God honoring or dishonoring and the results. I would even read some of the books they were reading if I was unfamiliar with the author. Only once did I ask one to not read the rest of the book--I explained why, and he was o.k. with it.

Moms, you are the "gatekeeper" of your home. You (and your husband) decide what can come in and stay--be it magazines, books, music, movies, t.v. or computer/videogames. It's like an obnoxious or evil person passing by your house--you don't have to invite them in!
This means we have to be accountable in our own habits as well--we turned off programs we might have wanted to see because we knew they weren't the best. You have to hold yourselves as parents to the same standards! Your kids will be watching and listening to see what you watch and listen to.
When our kids were in grade school and started going to other homes, we had a special arrangement. If they were watching a movie that was scary or they didn't think was o.k., they could call me and say they had a headache or didn't feel good and I would come get them. Maybe that wasn't completely honest, but I didn't expect them to explain their discomfot at that age. (And it made for a quick solution--most moms are glad to send a little guest home if they don't feel good--which they didn't, if they were scared by a movie!) This only happened once.

Keep reminding your family and yourself that we can't bear much fruit unless we're abiding in Jesus and His word, and not filling our hearts, homes and minds with the garbage of the world.

Summer vacation is winding down, so aim for a harvest of good times and memories before the rush or school again.

May we all be "groaning" under the weight of a huge harvest of fruits for God.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Free Spirits

Happy Fourth of July! The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776 and it proclaims that God gives every person a birthright of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The original document is housed in the National Archives in Washington D.C.

Talk with your family about what "freedom"means. Look at the Home Matters blog for some of my ideas about freedom--especiallythe freedom of choice we enjoy as Americans and as

Freedom is never free, it always has a cost. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence paid dearly by putting their signatures out there for everyone (the British) to see. Some were killed, others imprisoned, their families imprisoned, their homes/farms/businesses destroyed.

Reading aloud their stories, and the Declaration of Independence is a good way to explain the importance of the 4th to children.

Here are some other ways to celebrate the 4th:

-Stage a parade/plan a neighborhood party--we decorated bikes, wagons, strollers with flags, red/white/blue, gave the kids kazoos or drums and had a parade up and down our cul-de-sac. Neighbors can bring food for a potluck. We would make homemade ice cream in the evenings and line our lawn chairs up near our alley to watch the fireworks all over town. (Plus let kids shoot off some with supervision.)

-Wear red,white and blue. Fly flags on your porch. Eat red,white and blue food- make red jello and blue jello in 9x13 pans, then cut into cubes.Serve in layers in clear glass bowls with whipped cream on top, or use blueberries and strawberries with ice cream, or on top of a cake.

-Do some"porching". No kidding, this is a bona-fide new word coined by Dr. John J. Buchino in his book written to praise the benefits of sitting on the porch. It lowers blood pressure and prolongs life!!! Serve ice cream, root beerfloats, or ice tea! (with mint and lemon)

-Have water wars. Fun in your back yard

-Hum"Stars and Stripes Forever" while twirling lit sparklers (makesurenooneisnear!)

-Play patriotic music, have everyone sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and explain its origin

Here are some other fun things to do in July:

-Celebrate July 20-the anniversary when man first walked on the moon in 1969. Serve moonpies, star-shaped cookies, Milky Way floats( ice cream and fruit juice) Go outside under the stars and lie on a quilt and do some star and moon gazing. Look for the man-in-the-moon!

-You celebrated Outer Space, now celebrate your family's Inner Space. Give the kids a trash bag, send them to their rooms, and see how much "Space" they can reclaim!!(check contents before giving away/pitching!)

-have a Christmas in July day--my kids loved this! We watched Christmas movies, wore a Christmas shirt, ate eskimo pies or other type of food.

-Go to your county fair--oooh and aah over exhibits and eat some fair food

Keep enjoying summer and your family--thank God for our freedoms !!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer..."

Those are the only words I remember to that song--aren't you glad? I thought our theme this month was to be vacation and summer break and then Edna, our coordinator, sent me an e-mail saying our theme is "Take a Rest". What??? Are you kidding? I love summer, but one thing it isn't is restful- -and maybe not so much at your house either. The kids are home from school needing direction, the house/yard/garden needs attention, and getting ready for a vacation is enough work to make you wish you could stay home...take a rest, you say? Right.

Actually, while summer is still busy it does bring a change of pace and a variety of new challenges and activities. So, I offer you "Suzanne's 3R's of Summer Survival", or "How to have a Sane and Sensational Summer."

1. Relax. Relax on the porch and outside, relax your schedule and relax your standards. (Sometimes my standards are so relaxed you'd have to get a backhoe to retrieve them) Summer fun is going to get messy--welcome some mess as a sign you're busy, happy people--dirt will be tracked in--embrace it! I'm probably the worst offender at my house because of my gardening, but we had a sandpile for the kids, too--if you don't have a sand pile, make one. This is one of the great pleasures of childhood--I still enjoy putting my bare feet in the cool sand! (A sand pile seems redundant here where we live as most of our ground is sandy!)
While we're on the subject of summer fun, I do have some standards by which a backyard's fun quotient is measured. This is not the place to relax standards. Besides the sand pile, you also need a wading pool or lawn sprinkler to run through, trees or ropes to hang sheets over for tents and forts, a tree swing and/or a hammock. (We postponed the joy of a hammock for years because we thought they were $200--wrong! We got one at a sporting goods store last year for$50) A fire pit or place to build a small fire is also a big hit--maybe not so much in the summer, but we have used ours(my Christmas present) many evenings to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. We invite the neighbors or friends over and there is no substitute for sitting around a fire, under the stars talking. These are small investments in making big memories! Comfortable porch or outdoor furniture invites sitting and relaxing also.
I have mixed news for you about relaxing your schedule--cut down activities some so you can hang out in the backyard, but summer also provides opportunties for your family. I grew up in a town of about 12,000 with a great Recreation department. My mom didn't believe in children sitting around the house all the time, so our mornings were spent in swimming lessons, summer band, the library reading program(always a fabulous place to be--this year's reading program theme in Kansas is "Make A Splash"), children's theater, modern dance and Vacation Bible School. (We did our church's and then spent 2 weeks with my Grandma going to her VBS) As we got older, we added 4-H when we moved to our farm and had project meetings and the fair to get ready for plus summer camps! Strive for a balance between unencumbered time and things to do. Either way, children and even us adults, need and appreciate a routine. We had a morning routine of breakfast, doing chores, playing and activities.The afternoons were for quiet reading/rest in the basement(where it's cool)or swimming, and in the evenings we were back outside doing yard work, gardening or porch sitting--with root beer floats! As my kids got older,we had 4-H and sports, too.
Relax whatever you need to so you can enjoy summer. (A random thought--"relax"is a verb--a word that shows action, but can it still be a verb if when you relax you show no action? Hmm.).
Also while we're talking about 'relaxing" standards, running through the sprinklers at the end of the day before bedtime is a great "shower", and an ice cream supper is a memory maker,too!)

2. The next R is Rejuvenate!
Besides embracing more dirt and messes, summer is also a great time to embrace creativity, new projects, interests and sights. Redecorate the kids' rooms--let them choose a new paint color(with some boundaries) and paint the room together. Do artwork together, have water wars, go on field trips to interesting things nearby. ( I took my kids to Yoder on a Saturday morning and we parked in the park and watched the Amish families come to town in their horse and buggies) Learn something new--I read about a family that required everyone to come to the supper table with an interesting fact they had learned that day--they had to look one up if they hadn't learned anything! Go biking, hiking, canoeing, bird watching, put a quilt on the ground and lay out and watch the stars, play flashlight tag, catch fireflies(catch and release!) take a night walk around your neighborhood, celebrate the longest day, have movie nights with food that matches(Westerns, Italian, etc). To rejuvenate, get out of your rut and drag your family with you!!

3. The last "R" is...Reconnect!

Re-establish a feeling of closeness by spending time with your Heavenly Father and your earthly family and friends. Intentionally make times to seek out those closest to you. Some men/teens/children share best when you're engaged in an activity, others when you're sitting on the porch or at bedtime. The key thing here is to be there and pay attention! We always had bedtime stories together with Bible stories and then "chapter books" on a theme. Family trips are also opportunties to see each other in different ways and to share and talk. (Limit iPods, DVD players, etc.) Make a scrapbook/journal to record your trip. We have great memories of trips together--some good, and some not so good at the time, but funny now! Enjoy God's creation, whether on a trip or camping in your own backyard !

For more practical tips, see the Home Matters blog.

As for myself, I do plan to relax (tea on the porch in the mornings is great),rejuvenate(I'm getting a Kansas State Parks pass for myself and my husband to hike/canoe, plus learning about Brazil as my son is headed there for school next fall) and reconnect!

But for right, now, I've got strawberries to pick, my daughter to pack to move to KansasCity tomorrow morning, VBS crafts items to finish and the laundry to do--I'll rest some other day!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rock Solid

Rock Fans Unite
I'm a big rock fan. Not heavy metal, blow-your-hair-back loud kind of rock fan, but a fan of real rocks. I collect rocks from places I've been. Rocks are amazing--they are all so different and many are beautiful. (I enjoy rock jewelry, too--lapis, quartz, turquoise, and others)
God did some pretty creative things with rocks--Kansas limestone, New England granite, Florida's beautiful white sand beaches made of quartz particles, and even silver and gold flecks and veins in rocks.
When I think of rocks, I think of strength that will endure. The Bible speaks of God and Jesus as being our rock. Consider Psalm28:1, 7
"To you I call, O Lord my Rock...The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in my song."

Speaking of songs, some of my favorite hymns are rock-themed: On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, Rock of Ages, and The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock. One of my best moments doing AWANA object lessons is demonstrating the parable about the wise man who built his house on the rock, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. I use a bird house on a rock foundation and poured water over it, and like our lives, if we build on the foundation of Jesus the rock, we'll stay standing on firm ground, even when the storms of life hit us. Then I put the bird house on a sand base and pour the water, and sure enough the sands erode and the house falls. This is what happens if we build our lives on the shifting sands of what the world says is important--money, fame, etc. When the storms hit and troubles come, everything we built on falls apart. A pretty powerful lesson for all of us!

Rock Pile
This month's theme is prayer, and I really am getting there. Besides calling out to the Lord, our rock, in prayer; rocks are used to remind God's people of what He has done for them. When the Israelites were finally crossing the Jordan river into the promised land, God told them to have a man from each of the twelve tribes pick up a rock from the dry river bed and make a pile of them on the river bank. In the future, whenever their children would see the rock pile and ask about it, they were to tell and remember all the Lord had done for them.

What would your "rock pile" look like? This is a tangible way to see the way God has answered prayer and worked in your family's lives.
Here are some of the "rocks" of rememberance for us: a scrap of fabric from a shirt my husband was wearing when he was piloting a single-engine plane and crashed on take-off. A wind gust caught the wing and flipped them at about 90 miles per hour. Of the three men on board, my husband was the only one injured when the radio came out and hit him in the chin--just a little blood on his shirt. All three men also had pregnant wives, and God knows the heartache He spared us when protecting the "daddies". (That shirt has been hanging in our closet for 22 years, the age of our daughter, and I won't part with it !) A hospital ID band belonging to our youngest son would be another "rock". He had an emergency appendectomy last fall, his freshman year at college. His appendix had ruptured and he had severe infection. After a week in the hospital, he was released--God knows how scared we were and how grateful for his recovery. There would be other items, too, not all as traumatic as these, but symbols to remind us of God's provision and answer to prayers.

Make your own "rocks of rememberance" pile so your family can praise God for His love and care.

This is for all the young moms out there. Several years ago, our church secretary had made copies of prayers for mothers and had us each take one home on Mother's Day. This faded, crumpled little scrap of paper was my prayer for many years, taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet door where I'd see it everyday. May it serve you as well.

A Mother's Prayer
Oh give me patience, when little hands
Tug at me with ceaseless, small demands.
Oh, give me gentle words and smiling eyes,
And keep my lips from hasty, sharp replies.
Let not weariness, confusion and noise
Obscure my vision of life's fleeting joys.
And when in years to come my house is still
No bitter memories its rooms may fill.
Happy Mother's Day!

Rock It Out--Family Prayer Ideas
-Teach your children to pray. Listen to their prayers(they will amaze you!) and pray with and for them. We had a lengthy bed-time routine--pick-up, wash up, then we all gathered for bedtime stories, then tuck-in bed and prayers with each child. Something about holding hands and praying with and for your child in the dark brings you closer than at any other time. You will learn things they would never tell you during the rest of the day--don't miss it! (I also sat in the hall between their rooms and sang bedtime songs, but that is optional--I had one who would get up and prowl around if I wasn't there!)

-Meal time prayers, or saying Grace, is also a way to remind your family to be grateful for God's provision. My husband prayed the same prayer he heard growing up, as had his father--only in German. This prayer is a lot more common than I realized, or maybe we just have lots of people with German heritage around here.
"Come Lord Jesus, Be our Guest. Make this food to us be blessed."
You can have your own family prayer team, as well. We still call and remind each to pray for one another in certain ways and times.

-Praying Hands
For little ones, a fun way to learn to pray is to hold up their hand, palm facing away from them. Spread their fingers--their thumb should point toward their heart. Pray for those you love, those close in your heart- family and friends. The index finger will be called the pointer finger. Pray for thosewho point you toward God and good--pastors, missionaries, teachers. The middle finger is the tallest--pray for leaders like our president and others. Your fourth finger is the weakest, so pray for those who are weak--the sick, grieving, lonely. The pinkie finger is last--that should be you! Pray for yourself, that God would help you and forgive you.

-As a mother and wife, the best and sometimes only thing you can do for your family is pray. It gives your family a certain security to know they have people praying for them, calling their name before God. Start your own prayer group. I have 3 other friends who meet at my house weekly to pray for our children, our schools, churches, communities and country. We've been agreeing in prayer for 12 years now, and 2 have prayed longer than that. We've prayed our children through high school, college and relationships--and spiritual growth. Our kids are used to us asking them their prayer needs. Keeping a family prayer journal is another way to see how God has answered prayer over the years.

Rock Garden
I have an area where I pile the rocks I've collected on trips. (Some people buy post cards, I haul rocks--it's another one of those quirks we all have, or in Christianese," God made us all special"!) They remind of fun times and places, or times when God was indeed my rock, getting me through a hard time. (Such as a very small rock I carried down from the top of a mountain I climbed) Here are some other ideas for fun gardens to make for yourself or with kids.

These Gardens Rock
-Plant a pizza garden. Clear and work-up a circle of ground and divide into pizza-shaped wedges. Plant basil in some, little tomato plants in some, oregano in some or even salad greens. You can make this into a salsa garden by planting different pepper plants.

-Another cool idea is a salad garden--work up some dirt, then trace kids' names and plant different lettuce seeds in the tracings to spell out their names!

-Sunflower house or tunnel--plant sunflowers every 10" apart to make walls of a tunnel, or the four sides of a house. You can tie the tops together to increase the shade/wall feeling. This is really fun.

-Plant a garden in your sneaker--really easy. Choose an old shoe or boot, fill with potting soil and add an easy care plant. You don't have to worry about drainage if the shoe is old enough and has holes in the bottom! We planted some cacti plants in an old hiking boot.

-Did you know plants can tell time? Show your kids how amazing God's creation is that He made some plants that only bloom at certain times. Find a trellis or wire fence and plant morning glories (bloom only in the (guess) morning), and moonflowers(bloom only at night).In front of them, plant some Four O'Clocks. (Bloom in late afternoon or earlier on a cloudy day--you can confuse them into blooming earlier if you hold an umbrella over them!)

-Touch and sniff garden. Plant lamb's ears plants (they're drought tolerant and have fuzzy leaves like, well, lambs' ears), different types of mint to smell and taste, (mint is very invasive, so plant in pots or buckets!), and other herbs like lemon balm.

-Don't forget to celebrate May Day--have the kids roll construction paper into cones, staple the bottom shut and add a handle. Tuck a cookie or two, mints, etc. plus a flower and hang it on a neighbors' door knob--ring the bell and run!

(See other ideas for May in the Home Matters blog)

Pray about summer plans for your family--and now, go play in the dirt--and the rocks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrate Easter!

Easter is one of the best times to celebrate and share our faith with family and friends. There are many historical traditions in observing this holiest of days. Many people observe Lent with some type of self-sacrifice and fasting to prepare for Easter. The church I grew up in passed out little Lenten boxes for us to put money in each day from giving up something so the money could be given to a good cause. Does anyone else remember the Easters gone-by when we as little girls (and ladies) wore new dresses, gloves and hats? Easter Sunday,the church would be beautifully decorated , the music was wonderful, and you knew this was a very special day. Coloring and finding Easter eggs was also a big part of Easter. (Those chocolate bunnies that were big and hollow inside were amazing!) A big Easter dinner with the best dishes, family and an egg hunt would follow. I was fortunate as a child to have been taught the amazing story of God's love even to sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross--but coming back to life to live with us always!

Easter is the key to our promise of new life. God puts signs all around us of resurrection--life coming out of the cold, dark dead of winter. Spring flowers, budding trees, birth of little animals and birds are evidence that new life is His plan. I love that God has put such extravagent beauty around us to celebrate His Son's resurrection and the new life we can have in Him!

Help those around you, little and older alike, reflect on the meaning of Easter and new life using some of these ideas.

Palm Sunday-(This Sunday, March 28) Make or order palm branches from a florist for the elementary students at your church. My church did this when I was a child, and I try to do it for the kids at our church. If you can organize them singing Hosanna or waving their branches before church, it really reminds everyone of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (Be discerning about when to pass them out--no "sword" fights during the service)

Easter tree-At home, find a tree branch with lots of little branches and "plant" it in a decorative or spray painted can held with rocks or plaster of paris. Leave the branch natural, or spray paint it white. You can hang little eggs, ribbon bows, Bible verses, and small silk flowers from the small branches. This makes a great Easter decoration or centerpiece.

Easter Eggs--one of my favorite Easter traditions! I loved doing this with my kids. If you want eggs to last, blow the "insides" out of holes you put in raw eggs, dye in egg color, then tie with ribbons on Easter tree or place in a basket. Use hard boiled eggs for kids to color--you can write their names on the eggs with white crayon first before dyeing and use them for "place cards" for Easter breakfast or dinner. Talk about eggs as a symbol of new life and why we use them at Easter. (Check out Kim's Food for Thought blog for her ideas on the Easter tree and Easter eggs.)
Resurrection cookies-this was a recipe I received over the internet several years ago and though I can not find the original, it is a great object lesson and fun to do with kids. Use a meringue cookie recipe. Gather the kids/students and proceed. (It helps if you've already read and explained the events of Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday first)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Separate the whites from 2 eggs into the appropriately sized mixing bowl.
Give one of the kids a wooden spoon to beat the whites. Explain that this symbolizes the beating Jesus suffered when He was arrested and tried.

Add cream of tartar (1/4 tsp. per egg white, so 1/2 tsp.) and say that this is a bitter substance like the vinegar soldiers gave Jesus to drink on the cross. (Have more kids beat this in)

Next, add 1/4 tsp. salt reminding us of the tears of Jesus' followers upon His death.
(For flavor purposes, you can add 1/2 tsp. vanilla)
Beat egg white mixture with electric mixture until stiff peaks form, then add 1/2 c. sugar. This symbolizes the white of the linen grave cloths and the sweetness that was to come from the grave.

Drop meringue by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.

Put cookie sheets into oven, which is like putting Jesus body into the dark tomb.
Turn off oven, and put a piece of tape across oven door opening to "seal it shut", just as the stone was rolled in front of the tomb to seal it. (The cookies will continue to dry out in oven overnight)
The next morning, open the oven door after unsealing the tape, and pull out a sweet Easter surprise. Explain how Jesus' followers got a wonderful surprise when they saw the opened tomb and Jesus alive!

Good Friday-many churches have special services to commemorate Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. I read once that you can't really have the full joy of Easter until you reflect on the events of the cross and mourn. This is a somber service and a good time for self-examination--what things should you lay at the cross that are keeping you from experiencing the love and joy of Jesus? One idea to observe Good Friday is that evening in your home, everything is quiet and dark, just as Jesus' believers were quiet and their world was dark upon his death. No t.v., computer, ipods, random cell phone conversations, just silence. Light candles, turn down or off regular room lights and gather together to read the Biblical account of Holy Week. Doing this for an evening,or even an hour or two, makes the joy of Easter morning more meaningful.

On Easter moning, be sure to greet each other with the traditional greeting:"He Is Risen", and the response: "He is risen indeed".

Check out other Spring ideas involving kids/family in the Home Matters blog.