Saturday, December 30, 2017

You've Been RACK'd!!!

Right at the beginning of December, I was looking for a new activity
to make our season of Advent more meaningful this year.

For several years now, we have assembled a small tree that we use
as a "Jesse tree," and we use this material for beautiful family devotions
as we ponder the "waiting" for the coming.

Advent began on the first Sunday of December,
and just a few days before, I stumbled across this beautiful idea!

I quick printed off the first stack of these cards
and we were off!!

RACK'd = Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

We had such a blast leaving these cards with candy canes tucked
into the windows or windshield of unsuspecting shoppers at our local
grocery store!!
My girls loved trying to sneak them onto different vehicles before 
the owner came out.
Sometimes we almost got caught!!

One morning, we handed one of these treats to the kind cashier
who we see weekly at our local Aldi.
As we were bagging our groceries, he came over to Aryn
and handed her the can of Pringles potato chips he heard her begging me for
but which I had made her put back on the clearance rack.
He said, "It's the least I can do," with a smile!

Another morning, we took a package to our local post office to mail internationally.
Our post office is not known for its speed or efficiency,
and I was bracing myself for a long and arduous wait.
To top it off, I did not have any packaging tape at home nor
a mailing label, but seemed to remember that the postal employee
happily supplied those items for me when I previously mailed packages.
We jumped out of our vehicle, popped some RACK's cards with candy canes
onto nearby car doors, and got in a surprisingly short line in the post office.
But alas, my glee was short lived.
Upon arriving at the cashier, she looked down her nose at me and told
me I would have to buy the packaging tape before she could help me.
So I got out of line, grabbed the tape, taped up my box, and began
filling out what I thought I remembered as the necessary documentation
for my taped package.
Standing in line, fuming a little, I heard another lady being told
by another postal employee that they did not provide packaging tape anymore.
I piped up, "You can use mine!" as I held the roll high in the air.
She thanked me and passed it back to me.
By then, I was back at the cashier with everything I needed.
Or so I thought.
No. That form did NOT double as a mailing label.
I needed to buy a mailing label from off the rack before I could mail the package.
So I got out of line again, grabbed the label, stuck it on my package,
and got back in line.  
This time not so cheerfully.
As we stood waiting for the third time, another lady was told
they did not have packaging tape for customers to use!!
I held it up again, and said, "Here!!!  Please use mine!"

By this time, I was up at the cashier again where she told me she didn't
mean for me to wait in line again, but that she appreciated my patience,
and the other clerk offered very publicly to pay for my tape
because I had offered it to so many people.
I simply raised my arm and waved, and said,
"No need!  Merry Christmas!"
My two youngest girls were with me this whole time
and after we climbed back into our van,
I used that opportunity to point out to them how a little
kindness can turn a sour situation into something fun and bright!!

We had a great time making up some goodies for Sunday School teachers
and quietly leaving surprises for other folks who mean so much to us!

Several times, we taped quarters to our little cards,
 and then subsequently taped them to some unused carts at Aldi.
The most interesting thing happened.
Not one time did we see anyone use the quarters,
but several times we saw people toodling around the store with the card
and the quarter still taped to the handle.
It was almost like they chose to not read the card and accept the gift,
but yet were fine with walking around with a very colorful card stuck
on the handle?
We couldn't figure out why, if they felt awkward using the gift,
why they didn't just grab a different cart?

Nevertheless, this was a super fun activity that my children truly enjoyed
and we are already stocking up our supplies for next year by checking 
after Christmas clearance sales so we're ready to start early
and able to bless as many as we can!!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmastime Family Service Project 2017

The Christmas Holiday really is "the most wonderful time of the year!"
People are typically more willing to be generous with their money
and open their hearts to those in need.
There are so many needy families in our own community!!

We want our children to look for ways to help those who need a helping hand
and a great teaching tool we landed on comes through a community project
 already set up for Christmas.
Last year our family helped wrap presents collected at several drop-off stations
throughout town and later delivered to needy families.
It was an incredibly satisfying experience, and one that
each of our children wanted to participate in again this year.

How amazing to hear the squeals of the children as we stack the presents
in their homes (some with a Christmas tree and some without),
and to see the wide range of emotions from the parents/guardians
as they are presented with a turkey and other goodies for their Christmas dinner.
The Mom in our favorite home this year had tears streaming down
her face as she told us she had 8 children
 and no way of affording presents for them!

We always head home with such gratefulness for what we have
when the last bundle has been delivered,
and an increased desire to find more families that we can encourage
with the love of Jesus.

What are some ways you look for people who need
encouragement and help them in a tangible way during the holidays?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas with Worth Baptist Church

We just love our church family and the many opportunities
we are afforded to serve our Savior together!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas traditions

We've been on Christmas break all this week
and are having a great time together!

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Every Wednesday evening (barring Divine intervention)
we travel through the dusky sunset to our church
to participate in mid-week programs for children.
For several years now I have been assisting
in different age groups of our Master Club program.
This year, I'm a helper in the 2nd grade class.
As we work our way through their books, we always 
come to project that is required to earn the "Good Servant Badge."
As a part of this project, each child is required to earn some money
at home and bring in a minimum of $1 to give as a missionary offering
to help an overseas or home missionary.
One dollar.
Sometimes it takes of weeks of sending home reminders
to parents and reminding the children before they come
back with a crumpled up dollar bill or a handful of change.
As leaders, we try all manner of communication to encourage
this to happen sooner, but often it never happens, and in the end
the teacher will contribute the dollar so the child is not refused  their
badge for simply a one dollar project.

Last evening, as I once again reminding a sweet girl who was missing this
one thing to complete her badge requirements, I looked up at another
leader who has been encouraging the children in her group as well.

She looked at me and said, "One of the girls here brought in {as she leaned in
to whisper} one hundred dollars."

I couldn't move.
"Excuse me?"  I gasped.
"Did you say one HUNDRED dollars? One, zero, zero??"

It takes a miracle of God most of the time for any of our children to remember
to bring just one dollar.
But one hundred dollars?

"I had to ask her Mom if that was right,"  my friend said.
"Her Mom said that she {her child} had chosen not to receive any gifts
for Christmas this year, but instead to give her Christmas money
toward the missionary offering.  Her sister did too."

My mind could not wrap around the extravagance of that child.
I called her over to where I was sitting and gave her a big hug and thanked her
for what she did!
I swallowed back tears.
I had heard of stories like this before, but had never really looked into the eyes
of a child who of her own free will decided not to get gifts this year.
To witness the easy willingness to forgo their own pleasure
to encourage someone they didn't really even know.
I had assumed she asked the money to go toward some missionary children
but no.
She hand picked a couple special to her and gave what was coming to her.....
to them.
Well, that pretty much made my Christmas.
I totally did not see that coming.
A tiny child so willing {and somewhat surprised at my reaction} to give
so much for someone else.

But what a precious picture of God's love for us.
"God so loved the world....
that He gave."

And with what extravagance.
No holding back.

Extravagant love.
Extravagant mercy.
Extravagant grace.

Jesus "Who thought it not robbery to be equal with God,
made Himself of no reputation,
took upon himself the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of man." 

To die for us.
To be the answer to every problem we have created for ourselves.

I think of Mary Magdalene who was forgiven so much
and in an effort to mirror her gratitude
poured out an extravagant fragrance to use to wash the feet of Jesus.
She was accused of being irresponsible for such extravagance.
Yet, she got it.
Mary understood that His love and mercy and forgiveness
will always trump what little we can do to try to thank Him.

I love that Christmas is a beautiful time to reflect the extravagant love
of God to send His Son to us, for us.
That we can truly experience the joy of His presence (presents.)
Emmanuel ~ God with us.

How can we not give to those who need special encouragement
or a helping hand?
When we have been given so much.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Children's Choir Christmas ~ Jesus is the Light

On the Sunday evening that I was flying home from my weekend trip to Michigan,
Aryn's junior choir at our church presented their annual Christmas program,
Jesus is the Light. 
We spent time the week prior figuring out her costume which
was to represent the country of India.
Thankfully, her oldest sister came to the rescue for us and came up 
with something from her closet to save the day.
She also ended up being Aryn's transportation that evening
as my husband came down with a nasty case of the flu that day.
Aryn's elaborate braids were courtesy her other sister, Abby.
I'm so happy that when I'm away, my older children can step in
and help with their younger siblings!!
This is the first year ever that I had to miss this annual children's choir presentation,
so these pictures are from other kind sharing parents!!
Christmas blessings right there!!