Archives for December 2012

He Bought The Ticket

Written By Amy

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In my last post I shared about an “intentional Christmasing” time our family had together.  Today, I would like to share with you another intentional plan I had for my family this Christmas season that didn’t work out so well.  Let’s back up just a bit first. Last year, our family went to this wonderful Christmas performance at Cherry Hills Community Church called “Christmas at the Ranch.”  Maybe you’ve been.  I loved it, because it was a Christ centered event, with high quality singers, performers, and meaning.  The songs were all about the real Christmas, the focus on the birth of Jesus and the hope we have in that.  This is what I wanted to fill my children’s hearts with in the midst of all the bling and sparkle of Christmas.  I couldn’t wait to buy tickets for this year.

In my intentionality to make this happen, I was online as soon as tickets went on sale a couple of months ago, buying seats for my family (even paying a little more for better seats than we had the year before).  As the night of the performance drew closer, my anticipation was great!  I pictured our happy family, dressing up, going to a nice dinner out down by the church, and the enjoying the concert together, letting our hearts be filled with the joy of the season.   Ha ha.

As our family left the neighborhood that night, I had a joyful heart–a night out with our whole family together is a rare and treasured event.  About 15 minutes into the drive my children started arguing…and because we were in a two-row car that night, their close proximity escalated the situation.  Jon and let them work it out for a minute or two, and then attempted to de-escalate the situation.  They settled down for a bit and then out of no where a push from one, a smack from another.  Now I had two children crying (this would be more palatable if my youngest wasn’t TEN!).  I struggled to keep my spirits up as the kids settled into a quiet simmer at each other.  In the midst of this, traffic came to a slow crawl, and my hopes of our sit-down dinner were slipping away.  By the time we reached the area of the church, most of our moods were sour, we were hungry, the kids were mad at each other, I was mad at the kids for being mad, and we couldn’t decide on a quick restaurant to grab food (sit down out of the question at this point).  We spotted a Chipotle, and swung in there.  Somehow on the way from Chipotle to the church, Jonathan and I had a tense discussion between the two of us, which completely tanked any happy spirits I was holding on to.  We walked into the church a stressed, grumpy family.  I am not proud of this, but it took until the second half of the performance for me to find any joy as a mom in this situation.  I prayed as I sat in my seat that God would help me have a joyful heart in the moment.  I looked over at my family, and two of my children were asleep.  Wow.

I then had a woe is me pity party.  “Why as a mom do I put in all this effort to teach my family the real meaning of Christmas and this is what I get? Why did I spend all of this money?  This was a total waste of time.”  I was able to scrape my mood off of the floor by the end of the night, but would I do it next year?  Not so sure. I know now that I had overdone my expectations quite a bit, and that I had obviously put too much hope in this one experience for my family.  I also know this story above is real life.  It is what happens more often than the picture perfect scene I was hoping for.   I can even laugh about it now!

Here’s the amazing tie-in to Christmas.  In hindsight, had I known how the evening would turn out, I would have never bought those tickets.  However, God, in all of his intentionality, did know how sending his one and only Son to earth would turn out.  He knew it would end disastrously for his son. Yet, he still sent Jesus, in the form of a tiny fragile baby to this earth.  God sent his son, in the most vulnerable state possible, to lead the world into a relationship with him.  After 33 years on earth, Jesus would be hung on a cross in a brutal death.  Great suffering, anguish and pain.  And yet, God went through with it.  He still sent Jesus to teach, love and set an example for us.  He still sent his Son to die, redeeming us of all our sin, for all those who put their trust in Him.  God had hindsight, and foresight, and decided, because of his great love for us, to still buy the ticket.

Christmas is about love.  I am going to remind myself of that during this stressful time, filled with expectations that most likely won’t be met.  God bought the ticket because he loves me,  and that’s all that matters.

 

 

Talk of the Town

Written by Jen

Drama!  “She is pregnant and they are not even married!  On top of it, they are TEENAGERS!”  Bring on the gossip.  Been there?  There are a whole lot of moms and dads who have.  Just ask, it’s not easy.  I just saw the bravest young girl in her teens have an unplanned child and give it up for adoption.  The pictures of her holding that baby in her hospital bed still makes me teary.  She was brave enough to carry that child and face the judgement of the world.  To publicly announce what happened one night.  She loved and carried that baby and anguished through the birth.  Then, gave it to someone who had been longing for a child.  All without a daddy by the bed.  Let the talk of the town loose.  If only everyone knew everything I did in the dark the town would have enough to talk about for days and days and days.  In this story, I see God’s hand.  It’s not easy to be a pregnant teen.  It sure isn’t easy to be a man, a teenage boy, who stands up and becomes a man.  Of course the Christmas story is different from this one, however, I think that young man Joseph, stood up.  He rose to the occasion.  Joseph was COMMANDED in a dream by an angel, and did EXACTLY what the angle said (with out swearing or questioning).  For the record if you think an angel looks like those flying statues in Night at the Museum, I challenge you to picture warriors.  Whoever told Joseph was no pansy.  He spoke truth into an unbelievable situation, commanded him to do something brave against society and maybe even his own instinct, and Joseph did EXACTLY what the angel COMMANDED him.  Joseph’s part in the Christmas story is pretty unbelievable.  He shows amazing leadership, trust in God and strength for his family.  This young man is doing what is right and I just wish I knew him.

18-19 The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

20-23 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

24-25 Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

 

In closing, this is a young man who stood up and followed God, without kneeling to the talk of the town.  What about when he takes his family to Egypt later.  Courage.  Strength.  Maybe fear?  What is he thinking as he watches his son turn into a man.  How does a dad watch his son, the Son of God, who God put under his household, become a man and bear a cross.  As you read Joseph’s encounter and as you go on reading, remember this step of faith Jospeh took when He did EXACTLY what the angel commanded him.  To me it seems a heavy load, but I think in our life, we can see him as an example.  When we look at the big picture it can seem impossible.  Look at the responsibilities God brings to you.  Be faithful in what He has put before you.  One little step at a time. Immediate obedience is so much easier.  I appreciate when my kids respond with immediate obedience.  Joseph did not delay or only do half of what he was asked. He believed God and trusted him.

“Intentional Christmasing”

If you’re like me, life whizzes by at lightening speed, especially this time of year…I mean, there are only 12 more days until Christmas and  I am still digesting my Thanksgiving meal!

It is for this reason that a few years ago I decided to slow things down for our family.  We began the tradition of a weekend in the mountains to stay in a simple but quaint cabin, without technology, and a ultimate focus on Jesus being the reason for the season.  My intention was to help all of us take a deep breath before hitting the pavement of sales, flashing lights, songs about Rudolph, and wish lists that grow each week.  If we went away, into the quiet of nature and family, maybe we could instill in our children’s hearts a perspective other than “me, me, me!”  We could talk about the gifts and talents Jesus gave them, and how we can use them to give back to Him in this life.  Stories from the bible, and crafts that reminded my children of Christ, warm meals together and maybe a Christmas movie snuck in somewhere became the agenda.

A couple of years into this tradition, we invited close family friends that we had known for twenty years.  It quickly became a standing tradition of theirs too.  This year, we all headed up to Snow Mountain Ranch again, hoping for a little breather before the race to the 25th began.

This is the view! Peaceful!

Our activities this year included…..um, a lot of this…

 

And this…(decorating cookies)

 

And this…(puzzles)

We did get out and go on a hike.  Notice the mailbox name:

On Saturday night, after filling our stomachs at a taco bar, we invited the kids to gather around for a time of teaching.  I read from The Advent Book, a wonderful story of Jesus’s birth presented in a book with doors for kids to open and beautiful illustrations.  I got this book years ago at a MOPS convention, but you can still find them on Amazon here.

We asked the kids to share what the birth of Jesus meant in their lives…it was very sweet to hear their responses.  A lit candle stood on a table, and  we shared about how we can be a light to others since we have Jesus in our hearts, and asked the kids to reflect on this each time they saw a candle flicker this season.

After we felt we had sufficiently rewired their hearts to the true Christmas spirit (he he), the kids got to do an ornament exchange–and I don’t think we had any tears this year!

 

 

Our final event of the weekend is always a Christmas tree hunt.  We bundle up and treck  through the forest, in search of the very best Charlie Brown tree.  It is a tradition our family loves.  After all the families have hauled their trees out of the woods, we serve hot chocolate to the kiddos and wine and cheese to the adults.

It’s a wrap!  We headed home with a competition.  Whoever had their tree up and lit first that night would get $50 off next year’s lodging (we won).

More importantly, we came home with hearts in the right place, as the wave of materialism and presents seemed a bit smaller than before we left.  I have named this “Intentional Christmasing,” and if I’m not on top of it, it won’t happen.  Being intentional does not easily go with the flow of life, whether it’s making a date night happen, calling your out of town family to say hello, or setting a little time aside to focus on Jesus.  But, it is worth it.

Show Me Your Strength

Written By Jen

I really do want to see how strong you are!  That sounds fun!  Isn’t that why we love the amazing race, the biggest looser, the voice, I even like P90X videos.  Show me your strength.  Show me what you can persevere through.  Show me joy that comes from trial.  I want to see you work and really I want to see what work accomplishes.  Show me your strength.  Let me see your character as you work.  What role does forgiveness  mercy, grace, perseverance and sweat play in your accomplishments.  Can I trust you?  Would I follow you?  Who are you?  I want to watch your story.  How do those stories change us or do they?  When I see others who have lost tons of weight do a work out, I think, surely I can get through this hour if they can.  How does the strength of another give us the courage and the strength to take another step?  It’s pretty powerful.  I admire leadership that leads others to somethings better.  There are a whole bunch of leaders out there who are leading people nowhere or dragging people down.  What good is that?  What kind of stories do you follow?  What kind of leaders influence you?  What kind of everyday peeps impact your life?  Relating back to the Christmas story, Mary had been following some stories. Mary knew who her God was.  She knew His character, she had been watching His strength as it was seen through generations before her.

Joy is an amazing gift!  Sometimes it comes from sorrow or is coupled oddly with anguish, like in child-birth.  It is interesting to me how sometimes I can grieve and yet be so thankful for the one I am grieving for the love we shared that I also feel joy.  Mary is in awe here.  She and Elizabeth are simultaneously experiencing the unbelievable.   Mary responds with praise and thanks to God.  She KNEW who God was.  She knew who He said he was to Abraham.  She knew his promises.  She believed him.  She knew His Strength.  Check out her response to God.  I put it here in the Message version because I fell in love with it.  I really want to highlight and bold all my favorite parts for you, but maybe you can find your own.  Here’s what she said to God.

46-55 And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.

 

I told you I fell in love with this translation of Mary’s response.  I could see God a bit through her eyes and I could see why she believed, why she followed, the strength she admired and the God whose name is above all other names!  The following are a few of my thoughts as correlated with the verses as I read!  All I have to say is Hallelujah.

Is giving Mary and Elizabeth children showing His strength?  Part of His story?  Part of His trial?

Is HIS holy name set apart from all others a glimpse of His strength? (Thank you that Your name is not like any other name!)

How does His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him show His strength?  (Wash over me.)

When He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts did He not win our love? (Isn’t this the hero in every movie we love?)

He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. (Admirable indeed.  No one is beyond His reach.)

He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.  (He knows and loves His people.)
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.  (He is caring forth a plan.  A redemption plan.  A hero, in a movie we love.  Hold onto your seats, the Word is becoming flesh and about to dwell among us, Immanuel, God with us.  Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Joseph and the whole world is in for a wild ride.  The  hero is about to shake things up.)

 

 

Free Melted Snowman Printable

Written by Jen

HI!  I was asked to bring water for the class party this year.  Easy enough.  My girl friend saw a melted snowman label to put on the water bottles.  I loved the idea so I made one of my own.  All you do is print the labels.  Cut them.  Remove the original label and then replace the label with the adorable melted snowman label. I wanted to share it with you so you can print them and use them too if you like!  Have FUN!!  Click here to Print.

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