Tis the Season…

Tis the Season…

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

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Tis the Season…

..to be lonely.  Everyone is shopping and spending time with family and friends.  It is such a busy time.  But, the holidays can be a very difficult time for so many people.

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I lost my grandfather eight years ago right after Christmas.  I was extremely close to him and was his caregiver during his last two years.  When he passed on, I was devastated.  I did not deal well with it so I went to a grief support group to help me better deal with it.  I still attend on occasion, mostly around the holidays because that is when it is most difficult for me.  I also continue to attend these meetings because it has become a time of fellowship with a wonderful group of mostly older ladies.

The most important lesson I take from these ladies is that with our loss things change.  We do not always like it, but it does.  When we lose someone, it changes our routines and our traditions.

For some people, this can even mean the loss of their remaining family, a wife that loses her husband and they have no surviving children or an child that loses his last remaining parent.  These are the people that can feel particularly lonely.

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The Bible even tells us several times to care for the widows and the orphans.  During the holidays, this can be as simple as visiting someone Take some cookies or fudge.  Have your children make a homemade ornament and take it to them.  Take a group of friends and go caroling.  Invite them to go look at Christmas lights.  There are so many little things that we can do that would mean a lot to someone else, something that would help them to feel not so lonely.

 What are some things your family has done?

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The Tradition of the Silver Box

The Tradition of the Silver Box

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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One of the most sentimental memories from my childhood is Christmastime. The glow of the Christmas tree on the night of Christmas Eve. Candles lit throughout the house, special trinkets on display, festive music filling the air. The glowing fireplace filling the room with warm air, stockings hung on the mantel. Such beautiful traditions took place in this setting. Under the tree were beautifully wrapped packages–our family gifts, of course, as Santa had not yet visited. The sweetest gift we had to offer each other, however, could not be wrapped, but was symbolized by a small silver box that hung on our tree.

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Proverbs 16:24 tells us that kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Words of affirmation and life are something we all need from others and something we should be able to sincerely express to those around us.
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Family so often gets our worst. They are the ones on the front lines when life is stressful or frustrating. How beautiful it is to take a moment to say something lovely and life-giving to each other.
Our family had a special tradition of passing a silver box around on Christmas Eve, and with it, saying something kind to each other. We each took a turn to speak about every person. While it’s important to speak encouragement all through the year, there was something extra special about doing it at Christmastime. Our remarks to each other required time and forethought. Our kind words truly were a gift to each other. A sweet and precious gift.
Our silver box tradition was based upon the book Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer. In this book is a special poem that we read each year before we exchanged our kind words.

“Silver Boxes,” by Michael Bright

My words were harsh and hasty and they came without a thought.
Then I saw the pain and anguish that my bitter words had brought.
Bitter words that I had spoken made me think back through the past;
Of how many times I’d uttered biting words whose pain would last.
Then I wondered of the people I had hurt by things I’d said;
all the ones I had discouraged when I didn’t use my head.
Then I thought about my own life. Of painful words I’ve heard;
and of the times I’d been discouraged by a sharp and cruel word.
And now clearly I remember all the things I might have done;
but, by a word I was discouraged and they never were begun.
Lord, help my words be silver boxes.
Neatly wrapped up with a bow; that I give to all so freely, as through each day I gladly go.
Silver boxes full of treasure, precious gifts from God above;
that all the people I encounter might have a box of God’s own love.

On a night where God’s love is at the forefront of our minds as we are thinking about the babe Jesus, it is a beautiful thing to share God’s love in the words we say to each other. Oh, that our words might be silver boxes!

As we are mindfully preparing for our Christmas this year, let’s look for ways to speak life to each other, and to encourage each other with words as sweet as honey. The best part about this tradition is that is costs nothing, yet it is truly meaningful!

Merry Christmas, friends!

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Standing Tall with Purpose

Standing Tall with Purpose

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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My daughter and I were recently reading The Scarecrow’s Dance by Jane Yolen. In this story a scarecrow gets blown off his post and in his happiness of freedom he takes off dancing from the cornfields. He comes to a window at the farm house, where he looks in on a little boy saying his prayers.

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“And bless tonight
Our old scarecrow
Who guards the fields
And each corn row
So that tomorrow,
When we reap,
There will be lots of corn to keep.”

 

Touched by hearing his purpose he danced all the way back to those fields, and feeling proud of his duty to defend the corn leaped back on to his post.

Everyone needs encouragement to stand tall with purpose

From a mother’s perspective I held back tears. For how many times does the job of a mom feel thankless and trapping? I’m so thankful for the times my family have let me known why I’m important to them. Knowing what we mean to our family will give us purpose and joy as we fulfill our maternal duties.

 

But it’s not just moms. Everyone needs words of encouragement and life spoken to them! All of us long for purpose. The single woman who lives away from her family, the widower or the retired couple, the teenager, the parents of the teenager, the young couple couple without children. All of us!
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:24 

 

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Preparing for Thanksgiving

As we are preparing to gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving might I offer a suggestion? Let’s use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to let those we love know why we value them. It doesn’t have to be a formal ceremony! You might make a comment to them about how they are making a difference, or perhaps a short handwritten note to them as they leave. You could publicly share your thoughts at the Thanksgiving table, everyone taking turns to talk about someone.
However it’s done, let’s fill our Thanksgiving guests not only with food but also with purpose so that when the weekend is over and they return to normal life they will know that they matter. If you are the host or not, I encourage you to find a way to speak words of purpose to those you are celebrating Thanksgiving with. Would’t it be wonderful to know they might stand tall like the proud scarecrow on his post, filled with honor for the duties they hold? What do you say? Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving by honoring the precious people God has put in our lives!
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Remembering with Grieving Parents

Remembering with Grieving Parents

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 4 crazy, homeschooling children ages 9 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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As you may know, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month.  Filled with bittersweet memories, it’s a time to openly honor those whose lives have made a big impact even though their time with us was so tragically short. It’s a time to comfort the grieving parents who have endured this loss and remember the children who are no longer with us physically but are always in our hearts and with us spiritually. Remembering with grieving parents on other occasions is comforting as well.

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More than likely, hearing the words “infant loss” sparked the name of a child, mother, and/or father in your mind. Someone you know, maybe even intimately, has endured the pain of losing a child. I’ve heard it described as a lonely suffering. Since some of the children went to heaven before birth, there is no funeral. There is no public gathering of mourning and comforting each other.

Many of my friends and family members have lost children. It’s impossible to talk with them and not remember their precious child(ren).  I’ve been pondering the best way to honor their children’s memories, and then two ideas came together.

This week, as I listened to two different women share their stories of miscarriage and loss, one of them shared how she honored her child. She gathered with other families who have walked this road, and lit candles in their honor.

During the month of October, many gatherings are held where women can assemble with others who have experienced this same loss.  Thinking that you are the only one that has ever suffered this loss is a cruelty Satan casts on our hearts. But when families come together in their suffering, many are comforted. This is so wonderful, but there is something else we can do for these families as well.

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The Greatest Gift to Give a Grieving Friend

As I envisioned the lit candles, one for each child, a thought that H. Norman Wright shared came to mind. The idea he conveyed was this:

One of the greatest gifts we can give someone who has lost a loved one is to remember that loved one with them. Remember them on their birthdays. Remember them on the anniversary of their death. Speak of their lost loved ones. Yes, there might be sadness but the joy of knowing they are remembered is treasured. 

Each of these precious children, no matter how short their life, made a huge impact on this world. They are loved. They are treasured and they have left their angel print behind. As the precious gift from God that they are, they should be honored. Their light still shines here on earth as well as in heaven. When we take the time to talk about each child and remember their impact, we fan the flame of light.

Norman Wright’s idea is something to keep in mind. But in honor of those who have lost children, let’s keep their children’s memory alive in our hearts as well. I’ve created a calendar specifically to remember these children’s heavenly birth dates, so that I can send a love note on their anniversary and cover them in prayer. I’d like to share this with you.

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No Matter How Short, Their Life Made a Difference.

Have you lost a child? If so, leave your child’s name along with his/her heavenly birthday. We will remember that child as well as pray for your family.

 

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Jesus is Needy

Jesus is Needy

Julie W

Julie W

I am a certified fitness instructor and have been teaching group fitness classes for over 22 years. I am also a board certified holistic health counselor with a degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. I am 48 years old with a 25 year old daughter and a 23 year old son. My husband Chris and I have been married for 28 years. I have been a member of the Church of Christ my entire life as well as my mother, father and both sets of grandparents. I am the owner of a local food service based business and currently teach conditioning classes here in the Edmond area. I have been a strict vegetarian for many years but I will walk 10 miles barefoot in the snow for a good piece of chocolate! ;)
Julie W

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What Would Our Reaction Be?

Many of us attend congregations where members’ various needs are brought publicly before the church. At times there are prayer requests. Other times, families in crisis bring their financial burdens before the church, having nowhere else to turn for assistance.

I often feel the tug of the Holy Spirit during those moments and an ache in the pit of my stomach. These are human beings, God’s precious creation, and my need to help is compelling.

What would our reaction be if Jesus himself walked down the aisle, stood in front of His people, and proclaimed His own neediness?

Would we even know it was Him?

If we did recognize Him, would we all wonder what possibly the Son of God might need from us?

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Are We Benevolent or Judgmental?

The topic of benevolence in the church is one thing, but benevolence to strangers seems to be a real hot-button issue with Christians today.

  • We are inundated with homeless people at every street light and corner.
  • We come face to face with some sort of cardboard sign at least once a week. If you live in a big enough city, a stranger with a need might even approach you directly.
  • What to do in that split second, what to do with that uncomfortable opportunity, what to say or not to say…sometimes you only have the length of a red light to make your judgment call.

How often do we find ourselves passing judgment on someone? Have we ever said these words to ourselves?

  • If that man can stand out there all day in the scorching heat, surely he can get a job.
  • This is just one of those scams, all these corner people working together to swindle honest people out of their hard-earned money.
  • If I give them money, they are just going to turn around and buy alcohol or drugs.
  • She is wearing nice clothes and those shoes don’t look like a poor person’s shoes, so I am going to pass.

As the Bible clearly tells us, God chose individual, unique spiritual gifts to give each of us. Benevolence happens to be one of mine, and He also chose this specific gift for my father.

Learning Benevolence from my Father

I could never tell all of the many things I have seen my father do to help total strangers. However, I can tell you that his complete lack of judgment in each situation leaves me in awe and constantly striving toward that same goal. 

Breakfast at Denny’s

Once, our family was eating breakfast at a local Denny’s.  After we paid and were heading to the car we realized my dad was no longer behind us. We found him sitting on the curb next to a very fragrant homeless man with a bicycle. My dad talked with the man, then patted him on the back and started walking toward us. He asked us to find something to do for a few minutes because he was still a little hungry and wanted another breakfast. He then took the man inside, ordered him a huge meal, and sat with him while he ate.

Playing Santa

Another time, near Christmas, my dad came home and asked my sister and me to gather some of our very best toys. He said that someone else could really use them. We bought a Christmas tree at a nearby tree lot, tied it to the roof of our car, and headed to a stranger’s home.

When we arrived, a young girl and a grade-school-aged boy answered the door and invited us in. The small house had nothing that looked like Christmas to my sister and me. My dad brought in the tree and some much-needed decorations as the kids’ mother came around the corner. My sister and I were startled to see that the mother’s arm was amputated just below the shoulder, but my dad hugged her and acted as if he never noticed. We put up the tree, left some of our toys, and my dad gave the mother some “secret” money to buy some things for her kids for Christmas.

Over the years, my dad helped many people. 

The people and their needs were never the same–but my dad’s attitude and enthusiasm always remained constant.

I think of the very few times that my earthly father has been in need and I can promise you that on those few occasions I have moved heaven and earth to help him! Why? Because for me he is the giver, he is the need-meeter, he is the symbol of hope and love to the people he helps so when it is his turn to be in need, I run to his aid.

Helping Others as if it were Jesus

Now, let’s go back to our church service with our Lord standing front and center proclaiming His neediness. 

We may think of it in hypothetical terms but according to Jesus himself it is NOT. Matthew 25 starting in verse 45 (NlV) clearly states:

And he will answer, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”

I know what some of you are thinking and it’s an OLD argument. When Jesus states “brothers and sisters” we take that as only Christians and Christ-followers.

Scripture Speaks to Us All

As convenient as that might be and more comfortable for us, it simply is not true. Let’s ask Jesus what He means and HE will clear things up. Verse 44 says:

“Then they will reply, Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?”

This scripture is all encompassing and speaks to all mankind.

Just like my father did, next time you come face to face with a cardboard sign or a dirty, smelly person you would rather not help, try to see them through the goodness of Christ.

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See Christ Himself in need.

Run to His aid as fast as you can!

Why?

  • He stopped in a crowd and touched a sister and healed her.
  • He noticed when others were hungry and fed them.
  • He wiped a tear from a sister’s eye and His own when His best friend lay in a grave.
  • He touched ten diseased men with healing, knowing only one would be grateful.
  • He looked a humiliated, desperate, sinful sister in the eye and defended her without condemnation.
  • And then He opened His arms and gave us His life.

How could we not run to meet His every need?

Putting Words into Action

I am very passionate about helping others, but it’s also a subject I work on. Keeping my heart and mind right while meeting the needs of strangers is anything but simple!

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A few weeks ago I was heading to work. I noticed a woman standing at the on-ramp with a sign. I was going the opposite direction so I said to myself, “When I go home, if she is still there, I will stop and see what she needs.” Of course, my meeting ran long and she was gone. The next day I saw her again. This time a man in a suit was talking with her and handing her a card of some type.

I thought maybe that was a good sign and she might be getting some assistance. I hoped he was able to help her because I didn’t want her to have to stand out in the 100-degree heat all day.

Determining to Help

At the end of the day, my heart melted when I saw that she was still at the on-ramp. Quickly, I drove home and told my husband that I wanted us to head back over there with some food and see what we could do.

I pulled up to an old gas station and walked to where she was standing. I told her that I brought a bag of groceries in case that might help in any way.

She practically jumped into my arms, wrapping both of her arms tightly around my neck. She said that they had broken down and were just trying to get enough gas money to get back home to Colorado. I asked her where her car was and she said it was in the gas station parking lot. I told her to walk back with me and we would fill her car up.

The Ground Shifted

As we walked behind the station, the scariest van I have ever seen came into view with two equally scary-looking men inside.

We had brought our puppy with us. Worried that the puppy would overheat, I grabbed her out of the car. That’s when the ground shifted under my feet.

She turned and saw the puppy and said, “Oh! Would you please let my kids pet your puppy?” KIDS??? I said “sure” as we walked toward the van. Two boys and a little girl, heads sopping wet with sweat, squealed delightedly as the puppy licked their faces.

One of the men even started talking in a cute voice and got a couple of licks. As they were finishing up on the gas I walked back and put the puppy in the car. The lady followed me with an old, cover-less book in her hand. After giving me a third huge hug, she said the book was one of her favorite things. She had read it cover to cover many times but begged me to take it. That she was willing to part with such a treasured possession almost broke my heart!

Lesson learned for me!

It looked like just another dirty, sweaty person with a sign but underneath was a desperate mother with three children baking in an old, filthy van for three days just needing someone to see past her and see the real her, the JESUS her!

Have you ever been in a position where you had to set aside your judgments to help someone?

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Kindness Cookies

Kindness Cookies

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 4 crazy, homeschooling children ages 9 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

Latest posts by Kristi F (see all)

We know that every good gift comes from God and the gift of kindness is no exception.

Kindness makes our heart smile. It gives us warm fuzzies. Receiving kindness makes us want to give kindness too!

Kindness Cookies

That’s where these fantastic kindness cookies come into play.  You see, this month’s Family Time Training Activity, “Kindness”, is not just a one day activity. It’s about intentionally creating the attribute of kindness in kids and adults of all ages. (Truly, even we as adults need this reminder in our lives…like during rush hour traffic.)

This Kindness Activity includes:

  • The Kindness Activity Script, which has all the Bible verse references and important thoughts to share during the activity.
  • Act of Kindness Worksheet, which include great acts of kindness ideas.
  • Act of Kindness Calendar, which is used to show which acts of kindness you’ve completed.

Click here to download this month’s FREE activity!

 The idea is to write the Acts of Kindness ideas provided in the worksheet on slips of paper and even brainstorm your own, then choose one of these each day to fulfill.  An extra fun way to choose your Act of Kindness for the day is by turning it into a Kindness Cookie, which of course looks like a fortune cookie.

Don’t miss the end of this post, where we share how else we used these Kindness Cookies.

Making Kindness Cookies

I found this easy to follow video tutorial by Red Ted Art that shows you how to make paper fortune cookies. I used these fortune cookies and put our Random Acts of Kindness inside each one.  This way the kids will take turns each day choosing a brightly colored Kindness Cookie that will reveal one way our family can focus on being kind.

Our next to youngest got to choose the first Kindness Cookie, because without prodding, he helped his sister clean up water that was accidentally spilled on the floor.

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Going Beyond the Activity

There are so many ways that we can implement the ideas given in this “Kindness” Activity.  One idea that popped to mind was to fill these Kindness Cookies with what we love and appreciate about somebody else. Giving the gift of recognition is sweet!  

Our girls, along with one of their friends, filled out the slips of paper that go inside the cookies, ran to their fort, and gifted them to each other. The anticipation grew as they picked up each cookie, gently pulled out the slips and read the kind words written about each of them.  Of course, their mile-wide smiles expressed what the kind words meant to them.

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There are so many people in our lives who do not know how much we value them.  We will one day speak of how wonderful they were at their funerals but why not take a few moments while it still matters, to share with them the jewel of a person they are? Make a batch of Kindness Cookies that they can enjoy and be encouraged by over the next several days or month.

However you choose to use the Kindness Cookies, we know that you will not only make someone else’s day a little brighter but you will delight God with your kindness.

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
– Proverbs 12:25

Prayer over Your Heart

Part of the prayerencouraged in the script is to…

“pray that God would give you a kind heart like His.”

How beautiful is that?

Lord, we humbly come before you now.  We want to serve you with all our hearts and want to serve others too. Help us open our hearts to you and see the opportunities you put before us, so that we can cheer others up with our kind words and actions. May we lay down our hearts so that you can pluck out the selfish nature that lies within it and allow you to mold our hearts to express your attributes including the attribute of kindness.  In the One who displayed your kindness and love by stretching out his arms on the cross for us – Amen!

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