Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

All Dressed Up for the New Year!

Team Singapore fireworks display from Singapore Fireworks Festival 2006

Singapore Fireworks Festival, image credit: Ngoh Seh Suan (Creative Commons)

Happy 2016!  I hope you enjoyed your celebrations of our Savior’s birth.  I myself did have a merry Christmas.  However, even though it’s only the second day of the new year, our decorations are already down. I’m pretty sure this is a record for me. I took them down this morning, quite happily. With each string of lights unwound, and every ornament returned to storage, I was putting 2015 behind me.

It’s not that 2015 was a bad year, really. Sure, there were challenges, but the year also brought many, many blessings. Still, I found myself struggling with sadness throughout the year. Come December, I had little appetite for decking the halls. I have to confess that my kids had to drag me into the Christmas season. (I thank God for them!!) Pretty much the only reason the Christmas tree made it up is because they started begging to decorate as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over. So, the first weekend in December, I relented and brought in the decorations from the garage. I left the kids in charge, but I have to say, once they got started, I did start to feel more festive. I pulled up last year’s Christmas playlist and danced around the living room while my elves adorned the tree.

But not every night leading up to Christmas was so jolly. To be honest, celebrating Advent was a struggle. One night when my daughter came looking for me, I tried to negotiate:  if we could skip Advent that night, I would make it up to them with jumbo deluxe activities the next night. Well, she wasn’t having it.  😀  But I’m glad she did not take no for an answer. (And I’m extremely glad for the list of Advent activities that I so cheerfully posted back in 2014; also somewhat incredulous that I had the energy to cut and paste 25 little red and green envelopes.  Fortunately, some activities require little to no planning, which came in handy on the nights where I had the least energy. I also gave myself a break and did one hands-on/food activity per night, instead of two).

Anyway, I’m so thankful that we took the time to read the Scriptures about the birth of Jesus, even when I did not feel like it. It did me well to sing, “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night,” when my preference was to stay in bed.

Things started to turn around a few days before Christmas. I was alone in the car, listening to a news program on the radio, and a song that played briefly during a transition caught my attention. I intended to check the station’s website to find out the name of the song. It was a melancholy tune, and I realized that the reason I wanted to download it is because it would make great wallowing music. I could picture myself listening to it loop over and over again. And it seemed to me like I was making a plan, a conscious effort, to reject joy. I was choosing despair. It’s not merely that I was overly focused on my problems (though I probably was). Or that I needed to focus more on my numerous blessings (though it probably would have helped). The joy of the Lord is independent of my problems and my blessings, and I was paying no mind (literally) to joy.  Joy depends only on Him.  Along with love, peace, gentleness, and more, the fruit of His Spirit—that lives within me—is joy. And here I was selecting a playlist for an anti-joy party.

But God has my clothes picked out for a much better party:

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61:10

This is not to say that I merely flipped a switch that afternoon, and I expect to be sadness free forevermore. Or that every day of 2016 I will feel as hopeful as I feel today. I know that some days, I will have to make a conscious effort to choose joy. But I don’t ever have to find joy, conjure up joy, or create it.  It is always available to me because He is in me.  And He will never, ever, ever forsake me.

Thank you for stopping by,

Susan

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Oh, How He Loves Us

Pages of a Bible folded into a heart

image credit: honorbound

Yes, it is Valentine’s Day, but today my mind is on Christmas. That’s because, this past Christmas I felt so thoroughly loved through the gifts I received from my family members. Each gift was so special and well-suited to me, but also reflected something about the giver’s character or my relationship with him/her. My husband is an extravagantly generous giver.  He usually spends more on me than I would even consider spending on myself. Christmas 2014 was no different. When he asked what I wanted, I hesitated to tell him about the expensive camera I had been eying, because I knew he would probably buy it. But when he found out that it might be discontinued soon, he decided to purchase the next model up. No big surprise. 🙂  (He takes after his parents, who were also very generous with their gifts.)  I’m so grateful for my mom, who knows what clothes look good on me and seems to delight in shopping for me.  And I delight in her selections! One of them, a very flattering sweater, is captured forever in the family photo we took the day after Christmas. I also think about the gifts for which my children sacrificed their allowances and gift money, a gift card to a favorite home decorating store from my brother’s family, and gorgeous handmade gifts from my creative sister-in-law.  My niece gave me an assortment of treats from Starbucks, indicating that she knows me very well indeed.

Later, as I continued to think about it, I was reminded of 1 Peter 4:10. With our different spiritual gifts, we are able to demonstrate God’s manifold (layered, mulit-faceted, varied, diverse) grace. Then I thought, it’s as if each one of those Christmas gifts demonstrates, in a small way, one of the infinite facets of God’s love for me. Which makes them even more precious.

God loves lavishly.
~~ See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1) ~~

He loves intimately.
~~ You have searched me, Lord, and you know me … For you created my inmost being. (Psalm 139) ~~

He loves sacrificially.
~~ And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:2) ~~

He loves faithfully.
~~ Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23) ~~

He loves patiently.
~~ But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15) ~~

He loves unconditionally.
~~ But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) ~~

He loves eternally.
~~ For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5) ~~

God’s Word has so much more to say about the ways that He loves us.  I pray that, whether or not you are sharing this day with loved-ones, you will know and believe how much God loves you.

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

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Advent Activities

For the final post in my Advent series, I’m sharing some of the activities that I’ve planned for this year or that we’ve done in the past. Two of my kids love arts and crafts, the oldest is a budding chef, and we all like to eat, so I try to include something for everyone. We may have a treat and an activity, or some days we just have one or the other.  And if the craft is on the youngish side (as in, too young for a tween), I assign my oldest the job of helping his little brother. And so without further ado, the list!

Homemade and Vegan Peppermint Bark!

Homemade and Vegan Peppermint Bark!

  • Make peppermint bark—This one’s both a craft and activity.  We left out the peppermint extract from this recipe, but our bark was sufficiently minty. It’s so exciting when we find something delicious that no one in our family is allergic to.
  • Make paper chain tree—I remember making these in elementary school. I try to schedule this activity early in Advent, but this year we didn’t do it until December 4 or so. So we just made fewer loops.
  • Eat candy canes
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Call Grandma—I promise that we will talk with my mother and mother-in-law many times before Christmas. It’s just fun to get everybody all together to make the phone call.
  • Drink warm cider—We added cloves and cinnamon and warmed it on the stove for a comforting treat.
  • Make Christmas cards—The older kids chose two friends to make a card for. I helped the youngest make one card.
  • Paper Nativity scene—This is the set that we used two years ago and it’s still one of the cutest I can find online. I printed the black and white version, then we glued the sheets to cardboard from cereal boxes.  Then we colored them in.
  • Christmas coloring page—I printed out a few different sheets and let the kids choose. The girls chose both chose this and my youngest chose this. I didn’t ask my oldest to do this activity.  🙂
  • Watch a Christmas movie—I don’t have a movie picked out; we will just search NetFlix and maybe discover a new favorite together.
  • Trail mix—We will toss together cereal, chocolate chips, and marshmallows, then eat the mix while watching the movie.
3-D Paper Snowflake

3-D Paper Snowflake

  • Make paper ornaments—In previous years we’ve made this one and this one. I haven’t decided for this year, yet. There are too many beautiful choices.
  • Bake cookies—This is a Saturday activity that we’ll start earlier in the day. Every year I let the kids pick a cookie recipe to bake. Now that they’re getting older, they can handle this pretty independently. Yay!
  • Decorate the afore-baked cookies.
  • Paper plate angels—We made these last year.
  • Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”—Linus actually recites the Luke account of Christ’s birth, which is amazing for network TV don’t you think??
  • Drive around the neighborhood and admire the Christmas decorations.
  • Christmas tea party—I haven’t actually done this, but it sounds like a cute idea!
  • Christmas word puzzles—I printed several last year, including this one and maybe this one? I’m on the hunt for a really tough puzzle, worthy of a 12-year-old’s respect.
  • Christmas dance party—Music was provided by my “All I Want for Christmas is You” channel on Pandora.  I am not ashamed.
  • Watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

I’m already wondering what we’re going to do next year, when the kids will range from kindergarten to full-fledged teenager. If you have any fun Christmas traditions for kids of all ages, please share!

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

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Envelope Advent Calendar

Two years ago, I was inspired by another mom at our homeschool co-op to plan some activities for the nights leading up to Christmas. It has turned out to be a wonderful way to focus on the true source of our Christmas joy: Jesus. And it makes my Mommy heart glad that the kids enjoy it so much. My younger daughter, especially, asks throughout the day what we are doing for Advent that night. Here’s what we do:

  • Read an Old Testament prophecy about Jesus, a New Testament passage about His birth, or other Scripture about Jesus
  • Sing a Christmas carol, or contemporary song like “Mary Did You Know?”
  • Make a craft (e.g., paper angels) and/or have a treat like warm cider

The first year we celebrated Advent, I wrote the activities on slips of paper and the kids took turns pulling the slips out of a calendar I had made out of cardboard and wrapping paper. Last year, I cut up file folders to make the activity slips, as well as little pockets to hold them.

Box of Advent activities

Advent activities

As I said, the kids enjoy Advent and I’m pretty sure that they don’t care what the calendar itself looks like. But this year I wanted something a little cuter :). So this week (after Advent had already started), I spent an inordinate amount of time cutting, folding, and taping red and green cardstock into tiny envelopes for another new calendar.
Envelope Advent calendar

I wrote the activities on 2.5 x 3.5″ pieces of white cardstock.

Advent activity cards and envelope

The way I’ve justified the time spent is by telling myself that we will use this one for at least another year. I can just make new cards as we outgrow activities and think of new ones. I hope that my kids will enjoy this time together for years to come.

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

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Christmas Cheer

It is supposed to be the season of joy and giving. But it can easily turn into the season of duty and obligation. We may feel compelled to decorate the perfect tree, orchestrate the perfect gathering, and create perfect memories for our families. And while trees and cookies and parties can be wonderful, what pleases God is a heart that gives cheerfully. May I remember that over the next two weeks and beyond.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

image credit: wikipedia.org

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