A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

Holiday Rerun: 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’e 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!

  1. Wow them with simple science. During our recent school break, I picked up 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments: Awesome Things to Do with Your Parents, Babysitters, and Other Adults.
    The book sits on our counter, and my kids have been thumbing through it every few days to try something new: the CD hovercraft, the paper airplane launcher, DIY pulley system, Pencil Arrows, Marshmallow Molecules. Most of the stuff was in our junk drawer!
  2. Also from the book above: T-shirts colored with permanent ink (like a pack of colored Sharpies), then sprayed with 70% rubbing alcohol. This dissolves the ink, and the colors morph into a colorful explosion!
  3. Get them building with something different. In case it’s not obvious, I get a kick out of my kids thinking in crazy new ways. My current favorite is this rollercoaster for ping-pong balls, constructed out of straws! Try newspaper rolled up into spears and connected with masking tape to make a tepee or fort; popsicle sticks (my kids like building bridges and buildings!); pasta (like lasagna, fettucine, and wagon wheels); pillows, blankets, cushions, and furniture (i.e. “fort day! Let’s spend the night inside!”); your recycling bin. My son recently built a boat out of foil and recyclables–and delightfully surprised me when it floated. If you dig this kind of stuff, search on the internet or Pinterest for makerspace for kids.
  4. Make food out of snow! This page has great recipes for snow cream, maple snow candy, and real snow cones. No snow? Check out this easy recipe for DIY ice-cream in a Ziploc–with ingredients you probably already have! (We used regular salt, and replaced the milk with half-and-half.)
  5. Don’t forget local calendars. Look on your city or town’s online calendar for what’s going on in your area that’s free or low-cost. A lot of libraries, too, populate their schedules with crazy-fun stuff you don’t have to prep–like making gingerbread houses, a movie afternoon complete with popcorn, or a Lego night.
  6. DIY TY’s. Seize the downtime to have your kids send out thank-you notes for Christmas gifts. For younger kids, here’s a simple printable thank-you note (help them circle the adjectives they want)! Print it FREE here. (I’ll post it on the Freebies page, too.)Perhaps older kids would like to pick out their own notes at the store or make their own. You can make a template for them, with a goal of, say, one note per day (or the option to bang ‘em all out at once). A sample template…suitable even for gifts kids aren’t thrilled about:

    Dear _____,

    I wanted to thank you for the (great/cool/huge) _____ you gave me. It was really (thoughtful/generous/kind/sweet) of you! I (can’t wait to use it at ___/have already used it to ____/think of you every time I see it). I’m grateful. Hope you have a happy New Year!

    (Sincerely/Love/Your __(granddaughter/grandson/niece/friend…etc.),

    [name]

  7. For younger kids: 50 Role-playing ideas.
  8. Mix up a quick Christmas treat that packs a big punch. We’re talking thirty minutes or less from start to glorious finish–and you’ll get a handful of treats to schlepp over to the neighbors or leave out for the postman (post-person?) and sanitation workers. A few of my faves:
  9. Plan one day–or just one project–to serve others. It can be a lot easier than you think! Here are 25 low-prep ideas–like tying a fleece blanket for Project Linus, baking something from #9 above for a lonely neighbor. Do you know anyone who might not be able to share Christmas with family this year?
  10. Have an easy family night. Here are 30 ideas!

GOT MORE IDEAS OR EASY RECIPES? Please share them in the comments section!

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An Open Letter to a Mom of Young Kids

Hey.

I don’t know how you found time to read this. But then again, it’s possible you were hoping for a sliver of personal time. (The short people in your house are maybe sleeping.) Maybe you wanted to be reminded you’ll make it through this. Um, and that everything in your house will not always be sticky. That there is a REM cycle in your future.

And that you’re not alone.

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Freebie Friday: FREE Printable: Instruments of Your Peace

Today I’m in the mood for something meaningful. So this free printable is for both of us. A professor in college had us read this together as a prayer to begin every class–and it’s not a bad way to direct my mind.

Enjoy a free printable today of this ancient prayer by St. Francis of Assissi.

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Deeper: 12 (Printable) Journaling Ideas for a Christmas of the Soul

One thing I picked up from my Christmases in Uganda: All the glitter and hype of Christmas does have a purpose beyond the secular.

God created seven feasts for the Old Testament Hebrews, which clues me in; these occurred in the same seasons. Maybe the Israelites knew Hadassah made the best matzoh, or Great-Aunt Hephzibah made the best lamb broth, or that the air was filled with chaff after harvest. Heck, Jesus’ big debut was making wine from water for a wedding. The Bible ends with His own wedding. God’s the pinnacle of our joy, of our feasts and revelry. And I think He uses our senses—the whiff of evergreen; the clam dip (it’s a Breitenstein thing); the twinkle lights; Jack Frost nipping at your nose—to cement our minds to what we can’t see.

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Guest post: Raising Christian Kids to Think

It was my senior year in my public high school; World History. We’d been assigned a debate with ties to Christianity in history. A lot of the brightest students from our school were involved. And here’s the brilliant logic that spiraled from my mouth: “So many people have given their lives for Christianity. They wouldn’t give their lives if it wasn’t true.”

The teacher swallowed and even rolled her eyes. My team, of course, was hung out to dry in the debate. Looking back, the flaw in logic was as clear as a Windex commercial: Who can tell all the people throughout time who’ve given their lives for lies?

Unfortunately, I stepped into a stereotype of Christians in that instance, which (God’s sovereignty aside, which it never is) affected the testimony I’d worked hard to cultivate among my unbelieving friends. In their eyes, I joined the ranks of the Christians who, for example, insisted Scripture supported the sun was not the center of the galaxy.

All that to say–I am pretty passionate about raising kids who can respond to life thoughtfully: and not just think well, but understand the heart questions the world’s asking. I want to demonstrate over and over and over that God and His Word are an anchor as deep as our culture’s most penetrating questions.

I’m jazzed to be guest posting again today on weareTHATfamily.com: Raising Christian Kids to Think. Hop on over and check it out!

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Guest post: What makes you remember?

As we flick the page over to 2016 tonight, I’m posting on EverThineHome.com again: What Makes You Remember?

With grateful permission, I’ll post the beginning here.

In my dad’s garage are stashed a few items that would be of little significance to anyone else, but that mean the world to him: a charred license plate. An old mechanic’s shirt—the kind he wore daily in his farming years—with the back torn away entirely.

These, he’s told me, represent the days God saved me and my family.

 

The charred license plate was removed from a 1977 Cadillac Seville.  The driver? A slightly more youthful version of my mother, pregnant with me, her firstborn. Only a half mile from our farm house, she’d yielded at the intersection. But it was summer, and the field of corn stretched green and high. Another car was charging through somewhere around the posted 55 miles per hour.

Read more here.

 

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9 Practical ways to savor the Christ in your Christmas

savor the Christ in your Christmas
  1. Don’t do something. To an already-packed schedule, Christmas can feel a bit like “more bricks, less straw.” Cut out a few of the “have-to’s” that aren’t (could we do photo Christmas cards rather than hand-signed? Could I forego making frosted Christmas cookies for the reception?)—and allow a little more margin for a devotional, meditative state of mind rather than one sprinting to keep up. Think Martha versus Mary here.
  2. Listen. If you’re moved by music, spend a few dollars and a few extra minutes on iTunes for songs that will get worship rolling around in your head and your heart.
  3. Subtract. Pray that God will open your eyes to what entangles and distracts your heart from really soaking in the Christmas message this year—and that you’ll have the courage to cut it loose. For me, sometimes the disappointment and sadness of being away from home and the festivities replete in the Western world sometimes mean I keep Christmas at arm’s length, steeling myself. But I also know that when I’m in the developed world during Christmas, my schedule and all the trimmings of the season tend to clutter my mind and my heart from the one person who matters.
  4. Download an advent devotional, like this one from Desiring God.
  5. Hijack your traditions. Consider an advent calendar that—alongside the ubiquitous sugar—leads your family closer to Jesus. I like this printable one from Faith Gateway. We’ve also been gifted ornaments that clearly remind us of Jesus whenever we look at our tree, like these from Ever Thine Home. Younger kids may enjoy making Jesus a birthday cake and singing “Happy Birthday” on Christmas.
  6. Hone in. Pick one name of Jesus (“Prince of Peace”) or verse (“I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said”) or character from the Christmas story that sticks out—or ask God to point out one. Meditate on that as you go through the season, and listen as God fleshes out its meaning.
  7. Add a slice of service. Choose one area for your family to give itself away this Christmas—one that pushes you beyond “sacrifices that cost nothing,” pressing you into worship that gives uncomfortably, extravagantly, and/or inconveniently in your expression of love for God.
  8. In what ways do you worship? Author Gary Thomas writes
    of the various ways we worship as individuals: through nature, restoring justice, through our intellect, etc. Carve out time for the ways you worship, like a walk through the snow, a prayer time in the quiet of the Christmas tree lights, or shoveling a neighbor’s snow.
  9. Ask Him. You’ve heard the old warning: If the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. This may seem like a “duh”—but consider a question like this one: God, I know how everyone else thinks I should spend my day today. How do you want me to spend it, to be faithful to you and love well? And Help me to know how my holiday can be about increased worship of You—and keep the main thing the main thing.
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Guest post: Letter to a Discouraged Mom

Hi! Contributing on weareTHATfamily.com again today, on a post I flat-out needed myself this week: Letter to a Discouraged Mom.

If you’re having one of those days/weeks/seasons, I hope it encourages you.

Praying for you today, readers.

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White as snow

white as snow#isaiah1:18 #whiteassnow #agenerousgrace

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Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture, #83-94

questions to understand subcultureAuthor’s note to newcomers: Our family of origin—or the culture in our own homes—has a considerable impact on our work, our rest, the lens through which we interpret relationships, our kids, our conversation, our spirituality, even our sex life (betcha didn’t think you’d find them in there!).

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