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what love really means

firetruck The door to the bakery jingled as I opened it. Inside the bakery were many signs that Valentine's Day was almost here. Heart-shaped balloons and stuffed teddy bears the size of small children greeted the entrance and iced cookies personalized with "I Love You" lined the glass shelves, tempting me in all their sugar glory. Love was all around, that was for sure.

Approaching the cashier, I told her my name and what I had ordered. She came back with four sets of Valentine's cookies for my kids teachers and two large boxes of assorted cookies for our doctors. I added one cupcake for a family member as she rung up my order. We were ready to share some love.

When our girls were babies and we lived in Montgomery, we'd always go visit the NICU on Valentine's Day with homemade cupcakes. One year I made red velvet bars that tasted better than they looked. Last year, Ridley was born two days before Valentine's Day and I had a box of cookies delivered to my OBGYN's office, thanking them for taking care of us during my pregnancy. I enjoy giving Valentine's treats to people that have serviced us as a small way to say "I notice that you care. Thank you."

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This year, I thought it would be fun to have the kids tag along to deliver Valentine's Day treats. We decided to gift our pediatrician's office and my OBGYN since Ridley was about to celebrate his first birthday (more on that!). We had to wait until one o'clock to deliver the gifts so we played at a playground for an hour after school. I thought this would be a good idea but it backfired, making us all tired, hungry, and ready to go home. But I promised the girls we would be quick.  You can guess what happened next.

Major meltdown.

Yep.  You know the kind. The kind where one child pitches a fit over putting her shoes on and where the other one wants to take every-single-toy-that-she-owns inside with her and the kind where your baby arches his back refusing to be buckled into his car seat. The kind where mommy loses her patience and says in a tone a bit too sharp to "Stop crying! We need to go."

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But instead of admitting defeat to the meltdown, we unbuckle and try to make our sticky faces, wild hair, and smelly diapers presentable before we walk inside, smiling like the happy family we appear to be. While walking, I can't help but think to myself, "Am I really teaching my kids about love right now?"

My intentions were true. We were doing something out of love, from our hearts, for someone else. Delivering cookies is a great way to teach kids about loving their neighbors. But, if we miss out on honoring one another with a loving attitude...we are missing the point. So, while love is an action, it does not need to become a performance that we put on for God, for our families, for each other.

Ridley

In Romans 12:12, we are encouraged to be joyful, patient, and prayerful. I think that even if our actions have pure intent, if we do not serve one another with loving words and less anxiousness, then we are missing the true lesson of doing something in love. Might we take a deep breathe to steady our melt downs? Instead of melting down, may we look up to receive the calming presence of Love?

Looking up in prayer brings us back to loving our people joyfully and patiently. It brings a perfect balance to love being both an emotion and an action.

Let us love one another with brotherly affection, holding fast to what is good, and being genuine with both our actions and our words.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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the truth about Easter

The azaleas are blooming bright white and magenta pink here in the south.  Grass, prickly and green, shoots up making way for bare feet to graze. Our days are getting longer, warmer. Easter is almost here, reigning in the sweetness of spring.  girls chickens

Children enjoy baby chicks, coloring eggs in soft pastels, hunting. They wait for a bunny to bring them gifts of chocolate, a new dress, toys. They learn about Jesus and a cross; how he died for us then came back to life three days later. The real is mixed with the make believe;  coloring their perception of the holiday. 

Why do we combine a sacred act with secular activities? 

Two thousand years ago Jesus gave up perfection for our imperfections. He suffered death on the cross so we could live.  This was ugly, painful, sad. But, you know what was the ugliest, painfulness, saddest part of it all?  Many people still did not believe that he was the Chosen King, the Redeemer, the Son of God. 

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So, somewhere between then and now, those that did believe mixed in the hard Truth around a holiday that celebrates spring; rebirth.  Because maybe, just maybe, a child may learn the symbolism of Christ's rebirth too.  Or, a mother might dress her family up for church this one time of the year and hear some good news that she didn't even know she needed to hear. While eating the Easter spread of ham and casseroles, some might bow their head and genuinely say thanks.

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We combine Jesus' sacrifice with bunnies and baby chicks as an act of celebration.   Finding chocolate hidden in Easter eggs can be a way to teach kids about finding Christ.  Picking flowers and wearing sundresses reminds us to be joyful for the life that we've been given.

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This is the beginning of Holy Week and the end of the Lenten season. May we enjoy all of the celebrations of the season while remembering the cost of the first celebration. Might we use the secular activities to teach the sacred act. Let us be joyful and thankful as we are reminded of the mercy we are continually shown.

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Happy Easter week sweet friends.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

 

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when to be grateful

So, last week I mentioned that we got an offer on our house and that I was thick in planning our Vacation Bible School.Since then, our offer fell through and I became contagious with strep throat. Oh, how things can change ever so quickly.

When Raleigh called and told me about the offer not going through, I was too busy to really get disappointed.  I guess God knows me well enough that I needed to have my mind occupied so I wouldn't dwell on that bad news. But, I think I worked myself a little too hard because I came home exhausted every night and woke up on Saturday unable to swallow without crying and could barely move because my body was so achy.  After a morning at the doctor, it was determined that I needed to go home, rest, and not be around anybody for 24 hours to give the antibiotics enough time to kick in.  Did I mention that today starts VBS?

I felt awful physically and I felt awful for not being at the church the day before a major event. Stations had to be assembled, decorations had to be put up, and last minute decisions had to be made.

But, I couldn't be there to do it.

Thankfully, I have an army of people that could. My always faithful husband became my knight in shining armor: greeting parents on Sunday morning, teaching kids during elementary worship, and staying at the church all afternoon getting VBS set up.  My co-workers, Jessica and Jessica, helped everyone find what they needed and our awesome VBS co-chairs Christie and Angela made decisions and gave people direction.

For them, I am ever grateful.

I am one, but I'm part of a body of people that believe in the same thing.

For that, I am abundantly grateful.

As for the house not selling, I'm bummed but I believe God's going to work everything out.  Before we went to bed, I asked Raleigh if this was a God issue.  I was genuinely confused as to why we keep having this as a roadblock. Do you ever ask those kind of questions or am I the only one?

On Sunday, I watched our church's live stream on the couch. (It was so weird not being at church! But, I'm so glad I got to "go" to church from home.)  Hays shared the story of the Israelites at their forty year journey through the wilderness.  He said that it was only supposed to have taken the Israelites eleven days to get from the Sinai peninsula to Canaan.  Eleven days turned into 39 years!!!!!  I thought that was amazing.  His point was that God is not in a hurry and that learning his will starts with our hearts.

Man, did that hit home. We've been so consumed with the "Are we following God's will?" and "Why won't our house sell?" and "Why are things not going according to our plans?" questions that we haven't fully trusted God with our hearts.  We are asking God big questions and you know what his answer continues to be?  

Wait.

Hays said that we should wait actively and live dependently.  For our house situation, waiting actively does not include stressing out about the future.  It is being grateful for having a roof over our heads today. I just can't worry about tomorrow or next month or next year or forever for that matter.  I just need to be grateful for today and I do that by living dependently on God. As for my question to Raleigh about this being a God issue? The answer is most certainly yes.

God does care about our houses, our finances, our marriages, our health, and all the other things that make up our daily lives.  He cares about the big things and he cares about the small things.  He gave the Israelites food and clothes during those forty years.  He gave them a home too.

Today, be grateful for all that God has given you.  It might not be how you wanted it to be or happen exactly when you wanted it to but know that God loves you and cares about you.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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life in full swing

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Today's going to be one of those fill-you-in-on-what's-going-on type of posts.  Because, you like need to know what is going on in our lives, right? :)  Seriously, I want to share because I have some really great news that is a direct result of you!!!

Remember a few weeks ago when I asked you all to pray for us to see God's will with our house?  Well, I just have to let you know that we got an offer on our house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Crazy amazing, right? Before I asked y'all to pray for this, we were seriously discouraged about not selling our house yet.  We had some of those prayers that were defeated but still hopeful that God would work all things according to his good will. We believed that even if our house didn't sell, he was providing for us.  To sell a house in Montgomery right now is only something God can do.

Later that week, our Realtor called to let us know he was showing our home. He called Raleigh back later that afternoon and said we had a verbal offer but there were a few things we needed to do and a few things that had to work out for the couple to live in Montgomery from where they were moving. So nothing official yet, but praise Jesus it is a step in the right direction.

Seriously, praise Jesus.  I really had this amazing peace come over me that day and I just knew we were going to be okay.  What I realized on the day we got an offer is that God cares about our homes.  When I prayed, I recalled scripture from the Old Testament about him taking his people to the promised land and how he provided for them until they got to the land filled with fruit and honey. God loves his people and wants his people to have shelter. Realizing that God truly does care about something as small as where our family will live has made all the difference to me.

I know this offer can fall through. I also know that praying for God's will is not the same as praying for our house to sell.  So, I'm not going to ask you to pray for our house to sell but continue to pray for God's will.  I'm praying specifically for this family that loves our house as much as we do...that everything works out and it becomes their new home. I'm also praying to believe that God is working things out for us to begin the initial stages of looking for a new home here in Dothan. But, most importantly, I'm praying for his will and to not be disappointed if this couple doesn't buy our home.

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The other big thing I wanted to share with y'all is next week is Covenant's Vacation Bible School. I've been working super hard since summer began with my co-worker Jessica and our lovely VBS volunteers Christie and Angela and I can't believe it is next week!  I'm excited, nervous, anxious, and ready. This week we are doing the last minute decorating and coordinating. I don't think anybody realizes how much goes into preparing for a VBS and I'm praying that this experience will truly reveal Jesus' amazing love to the kids that come. We are having Yancy perform at our VBS all next week and she is performing a family concert {free!} on Wednesday night at 6 pm in our gym. If you are in Dothan, bring your fam!

Needless to say, I might be a little more sporatic around here this week and next because of VBS.  But, I'll be posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so be sure to check out what's going on in those places.  Also, Adeline and Maralee will be attending VBS for the first time this year so I'm pretty pumped about that.  Say a prayer though...they don't really understand that mom is "working" when they see me at the church and will make a mad dash toward me whenever I'm in their view!

(Also, sorry for the sidebar but I'm turning 29 soon.  Just thought y'all should know. I'm thinking of getting side bangs. Thoughts on this? I'm ready for a new 'do but not ready to cut all my hair off.)

So, please keep our family in your prayers and pray that God's will be done over the next few weeks. Thank you sweet friends!

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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Easter Ideas for Families

IMG_1726 One of my favorite reasons for working in Children's Ministry is learning fun ideas on how to share Jesus with kids.  With us being in the Lenten season, there are so many creative ways to teach our children about Easter in the church and at home.  Here are a few fun crafts, baking, and stories about Easter that parents can share with their kids at home:

Crafts:

Bury the Alleluia

This craft was shared by one of our wonderful volunteers, Mandy: "I know the Traditional Church service does traditional Lenten music during Lent but it's tradition that you don't sing Alleluias during Lent because it's a time of reflection and it's supposed to make it that much more impressive when you break forth with all that music and alleluias on Easter Sunday."  One activity for parents to do with kids at home to reflect on this tradition is to have your kids each make a banner - using yarn and triangles of construction paper - each triangle has a letter from the word Alleluia or Hallelujah - however you want to do it - then tell them to hide it (you can make one and hide as well) and Easter Sunday they can find it and hang it somewhere prominent like their front door or on their bedroom door. On Easter Sunday, make a game out of how many alleluias they hear the church saying or singing.

Draw Jesus' Empty Tomb:

This idea from Totally Tots is simple and easy (the kind of crafts I love!). Make a picture showing Jesus’ empty tomb! Draw two half circles (one small and one large) for the tomb. Draw a circle for the stone that was rolled away. Let your little one cut out the pieces. Glue to tomb onto construction paper and attach the stone with a brad.

Baking:

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Carrot-Shaped Goldfish

My girls love goldfish, and I’m sure your children do too.  Purchase a clear, plastic bag from the party section of your home goods store and tape the back so it is in the shape of a cone.  Fill the bag 3/4 full with goldfish.  Tie it off with some pretty green ribbon and your child has their very own carrot snack to enjoy!

Easter Fruit

To make fruit a bit more fun, try cutting it out with some Easter-shaped cookie cutters.  I found a mini cookie cutter package filled with shapes such as eggs, crosses, bunnies, flowers, and ducks at my local craft store that made the perfect size treat for my children.  Let your child pick out the shape that they want and help them press the cutter into their favorite fruit.  We used cantaloupe, pineapple, and honeydew as our fruits and they were just as much fun to eat as they were to make!

Bake Pretzels

This is another wonderful idea shared by our volunteer, Mandy:  "One of the traditions of lent - which some religions still practice - was fasting. This was very strict in the Middle Ages." Tell your children the story of how the pretzel began (see below). You can either make dough and let them make home-made pretzels, buy them soft pretzels or a bag of the regular kind and pass out.

A very long time ago, (in the early 600’s)  there was a man who worked for God. His job was being a MONK. A MONK does everything in his life for God. He lives in a special place with other MONKS, who pray and read the Bible many times during the day. They usually live in a building or group of buildings for this purpose. It is called a monastery. MONKS usually make and/or grow their own food.

This MONK  had been in the kitchen where other monks were  baking a special bread for LENT, and he saw some leftover pieces of dough. This monk decided to use the leftover pieces of dough for something special. The Monk formed the dough  into thin strips crossed  into a looped twist to be like  the folded arms of children in prayer.

pretzel

Look at the picture. You will one of the few people who know which way is really UP! That was how children held their hands to pray in those days.

child crossing arms

Let’s all try crossing our arms like the children in the early church. (Like a pretzel for prayer.)
This treat was given to the children as they learned their prayers. They began calling the treat "Pretiola", which means "little reward" in Latin. (a common language of the monks) (a different version of the story calls them bracellae, a German word that eventually became pretzel.)

Soon it was known the world over as a pretzel. The simple shape of the pretzel, arms folded in prayer, reminds us to pray every day. Every time you see a pretzel, remember prayer! What do we do with our hands and arms when we pray? We should fold our hands and bow our heads! Would it be ok to pray with our arms folded? Yes it would, but some people who do not know what you know might think it was strange!

baked pretzels

photo courtesy of athenasplichta.com

The pretzel really has its origins as an official food of Lent. Lent is known as the 40 days before Easter.  Lent is a time when we should be thinking of what Jesus gave up for us – his body and blood – his life – so we could go to heaven. Lent is a time when we could think of what we could give up in honor of  God or Jesus. Long ago, in some churches, you had to decide on something to give up for the 40 days of Lent. (A personal sacrifice) Some ideas would have been chocolate, or candy or cookies or pizza!

The monk in our story lived in a time when you could not eat meat or milk or eggs during Lent! So he and his brother monks had to figure out a special bread that did not use eggs or milk. The monks were preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt – which is what pretzels are still made out of today. Pretzels then began to be enjoyed by all people. They became a symbol of good luck and long life. They were also a common food given to the poor and hungry. They were cheap and easy to make and satisfied hunger.

Questions:

  1. Have you ever had a pretzel like this?
  2. Who can tell what it tastes like?
  3. If you were asked to give up a favorite food from now until Easter, what would it be? (Ask each child)
  4. Would it be easy or hard not to have that food until Easter?

Let’s pray with our arms folded like the pretzel:

Dear God,

We thank you for your son Jesus. We thank you for caring about us and loving us. Amen.

 Stories:

This video is from the Jesus Storybook Bible about God's Wonderful Surprise.  Perfect to watch with your kids on the iPad before bedtime!

Trail to the Tree is a devotional book written by Ann Voskamp full of devotions, how to make your own Jesus tree, and teachings about Lent.  Great to share around the dinner table (especially with older kids!).

 

I hope you can share some of these Easter ideas with your kids!  Do you have any Easter traditions that you can share with all of us?

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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