A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Category: Holidays; Occasions (page 1 of 2)

Guest post: 30 Activities for Kids in March

Has your family started the spring break countdown? We want to make our time with kids intentional. But where to start? Over on EverThineHome.com, I’ve got 30 ideas to try this month. Hop on over and check ’em out!

Happy almost-Spring! (And BTW–if you like this, you might love the Relationships page, full of tons of ideas.)

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Friday quotables #5: For a Devoted New Year of “Open Windows”

friday quotables

 

“To be able to look backward and say, ‘This, this has been the finest year of my life’–that is glorious! But anticipation! To be able to look ahead and say, ‘The present year can and shall be better!’–that is more glorious! I have done nothing but open windows–God has done the rest. There has been a succession of marvelous experiences of the friendship of God. I resolved that I would succeed better this year with my experiment of filling every minute full of the thought of God than I succeeded last year. And I added another resolve–to be as wide open toward people and their need as I am toward God. Windows open outward as well as upward. Windows open especially downward where people need the most!

“…There is nothing that we can do excepting to throw ourselves open to God.”*

-Frank Laubach (1884-1970), missionary to the Philippines, estimated to have been responsible for teaching half of the 90,000 people in his area to read and write, and to have reached out to the Mohammedan Moros, who regarded the Christian Filipinos as enemies

*As quoted in Foster, Richard J. ad James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups: A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal. New York: HarperCollins (1993), pp. 101, 105.

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Prayer in a Broken Christmas

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was walking against the wind so much of the day: straining uphill, my too-thin sweater tugged around me as I grimaced, head down. As my husband and I lifted down plates for dinner, I recounted the parts that made me want to tear my hair out. (Or maybe a small tuft of my children’s. …Joking.) In the course of things, I did remember some good points. Somehow, as I relayed them, they grew a little. I tucked my head with a smile.

He put his hands on my shoulder, leveled his hazel eyes with my blue ones. “I want you to know,” he said, “that you are incredibly blessed.”

Somehow, those words triggered that out-of-body sort of viewpoint I needed, to survey my life not from the perspective of loss, but of gain. Of beauty. Incredibly blessed?

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I am.

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11+ Low-prep ideas to occupy kids on Christmas break (with FREE printable!)

Already tried the Christmas-movie-night-while-stringing-popcorn tack? Exhausted your board game tournament ideas? Sent your kids outside till they’ve sledded their little hearts out? Here are a handful of easy-peasy ideas to abet Christmas Vacation Chaos.

  1. Have an old-fashioned taffy pull. When we tried this with my kids and their cousins, I was delighted to hear my mom—who was admittedly a little skeptical of the potential mess—remark that this was a lot easier, cleaner, and faster than she thought! We used this Vinegar Taffy Recipe, but you might also enjoy adding those leftover red and green sprinkles, as suggested in this recipe. If you’ve never been to a taffy pull, this video will help! Continue reading
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Tackling My Inner Grinch

Ever feel like your heart’s two sizes too small for the Christmas season?

I may have recently given my radio the stinkeye for its heartfelt counsel for me to have a holly-jolly Christmas this year, when I really felt like sulking, washed down with a swig of wassail and one of those little chocolate-dipped pretzels with sprinkles.

The Grinch stealing Christmas stockings

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Interview-your-Child Fridays: The Christmas Interview

For ideas on how to make the most of these questions, see the first interview.

interview your child fridays

  1. In the Christmas story from the Bible, what character would it be the coolest to be?
  2. What’s one of your favorite activities to do around Christmas time?
  3. What’s one of your best Christmas memories? What did you love about that time?
  4. What is your all-time favorite Christmastime snack?
  5. What do you think the world would be like if God never sent Jesus?
  6. What do you think God would want for Christmas this year? Parents, this is a cool time to talk with kids about God wanting our hearts. My kids also repeatedly ask to use What God Wants for Christmas, a book with surprise gift boxes to open that tell the nativity story. You could use Micah 6:8 to guide you: He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: To do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Rather than just pushing “good behavior”, this is a chance to show that Jesus is the One who creates this in us!
  7. If you could have one Christmas wish, what would it be?
  8. What one gift would be the most meaningful to you this year?
  9. What’s one of the top gifts you’ve ever received for Christmas?
  10. What gifts has God given you this year?

 

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You might also enjoy my free ebook, Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture!

 

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Throwbackpost: Thanksgiving memos from a bunch of refugees

Author’s note: This post, originally posted around last year’s American Thanksgiving, is not at all intended to be a political statement regarding the recent controversy over refugees (see this article for a Christian point of view on the tension between security and compassion). It’s simply a memo to myself as I look at Thanksgiving any time of year, in light of what I’ve learned from the crazy-fun group of refugees I teach on a weekly basis in Uganda.

Sometimes I’m as much a student of them as they are of me, as they sprawl in their chairs there in the sticky heat or the lazy afternoon sun.

refugees 1Sometimes when they stand next to me, I have nothing to do but laugh out loud at the picture we must make: me with my German build and American clothing, my skin that best stay out of the sun after fifteen minutes, sky-colored eyes—and them, some even built like ebony marionettes, towering above me at six feet-two or –four, their toothy ivory grins and an arm around my shoulder, their tribal language to a friend resounding like African drums.

 

And so I think of them this year, even as I look online for the best recipes for our feast with family. Thanksgiving is a bit of a personal journal on the year for me. It seems like a good occasion to contemplate the year stretching behind me: What has God done? How do I remember Him being faithful? What must I be vigilant not to miss?

 

So my friends who have fled here from all over East Africa have reminded me, just from their own stories, the journal of their own lives. Don’t forget. Count every single one of your blessings.

 

Count, they would tell me, your ability to speak fluid English—the doors it opens for you, the jobs it gets, the ease it provides you in so many places around the world.

Teacher, count that you have been born in a time of relative peace in your country, not war. That justice is often done when you go to the police or in your courts; that people do not have to take the law into their own hands. Justice in your country also means most of your friends and/or relatives are still living; thriving, even.

And that because of all this, you have received an education—and not just any education. You went to a school that has books and lunch and can make photocopies and has less than thirty students per class!

Count that your basic education means you know basic first aid, means you have a certain degree of reasoning and logic skills. That you have a mass of essential knowledge that, even finding yourself in a place of sudden poverty (the developing-world kind), would not leave you there for long.

You can be thankful, Teacher, that your life expectancy is beyond 49.[1] That in your country, if someone steals, they keep both of their hands.[2]

My friend, count that your home has a floor, that you have a car and know how to drive it, that you have been to a dentist in your lifetime. Remember you can easily find doctors who know what they are doing; the money to pay them and not draw it from something else you need, like your child’s school fees.

Thank God, Teacher, that you got to choose your husband! And he is a good man, with a job, who has never laid an angry hand on you. That you got to choose your job. That you have driven on smooth, safe roads. That you don’t worry much about your children dying; that malaria is no longer in your country, or typhoid, or cholera, or ebola. You have clean water—in your own house, right from your own tap!

You might think these are simple things, Teacher. But to me, they are not. Thank your God for these things on Thursday. They are sweet things, Teacher. So sweet.

 

[1] This is life expectancy in the Congo. South Sudan is 54; Somalia is 55.

[2] See Sharia law.

 

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In praise of Sabbath: On letting go

And…we’re gone.

By the time you read this, my family will likely have wrangled our carry-ons into that taupe-colored hum of a 757, bound for six months stateside. (After the lunacy of this week, preparing to abscond for six entire months, I surely hope we make it to the plane.)

I feel conflicted over this.

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Thoughts on a few good men

I am okay, I think, with not being my sons’ hero. I am even more okay with this because that spot has been occupied by their dad—since, oh, I finished nursing.

My husband is a wonderfully different kind of Good Dad to my brand of Mom-ness. When we moved to Africa, one of his first priorities was a rug for the tile floor—for wrestling, of course. He’s the kind of guy who grabs the Nerf football every once in awhile when he gets home from work, who initiates a family dance party, and yet who leverages that rapport to turn a child by the shoulder, look them in the eye, and state calmly, You need to speak respectfully to your mom.

John and boys

I thought of him as I was reading this morning: “our calling [as parents] is to be the smile of God to our children, gladly spending and being spent (2 Corinthians 12:15) for our children’s deepest and most enduring joy.”

John and boys crazy faces

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Isaiah 53, The Message (Or, how this Friday became Good)

cross, religion, night, sky, evening

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
    Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

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