Tag Archive | faith

A Child’s Original Design

Having five children, ranging in age from 14 through 25, I learned a long time ago that they are all VERY DIFFERENT. What’s important to one means nothing to another. What works for one does nothing for another.  And they ALL have unique interests, personalities, and ways of relating to the world around them. Getting to know each one of them personally, in the special way God has designed them, has been one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of Doug’s and my parenting journey.

Do you know how God has uniquely designed your child, or the children in your life? Have you looked for unique characteristics that give clues to what that design might be—personality traits, character qualities, talents, abilities, spiritual gifts and life callings? Better yet, have you ever prayed and asked God to show you His design for your child?

You can start praying for a child’s design and destiny at any age: when they’re in the womb (as I’m doing now for my coming granddaughter), when they’re in school, when they’re in high school, or even when they’ve left your home. It’s never too early—or too late!

Then, through prayer, blessing, encouragement, and training, you–parent, grandparent, teacher, or other mentor–have the amazing opportunity and privilege to partner with God in seeing His original design for a child come to fruition as that child grows into adulthood. You can help children become who God destined them to be!

“Train up a child in the way he should go,” says Proverbs 22:6, “and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Raise him or her, that is, according to the child’s “natural bent.” The Hebrew meaning of the phrase “in the way he should go” is literally “according to his way.” The Hebrew word for “way” is derek, which means “bent” It refers to a unique inner design or direction. In fact, when referring to our children’s natural bents, I like to use the term “original design.”

As our children grow and mature, and find their way in life and in God’s plan, praying for them according to their original design is one of the ways Doug and I have learned to “let go and let God.” Kids, as they become adults, will inevitably make some decisions or take paths that give parents white knuckles from time and time. We were no exception when we were young adults, and neither are own kids! Interceding for our teens and adult children has helped give us the reminder and confidence of who God says they are, and that He ultimately determines their steps, regardless of what we may see with our physical eyes in the moment.

I want to be sure the prayers I pray for my kids (and soon, grandchildren) will find their way to God’s ears, and then back into their lives by way of a tangible answer. So, with that in mind, I try to align those prayers as closely as possible to God’s heart and will (and not my own)! Finding out and endeavoring to cooperate with His original design for my children is one of the best ways I know to do that. 🙂

Be encouraged.

It’s a journey!

And God is outside of time and space.

He sees the whole picture, for you AND for your children.

You, and they, are in His hands.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

(Adapted from my book Prayer-Saturated Kids, co-authored with Cheryl Sacks, (c) 2007 NavPress.)

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Merry Christmas 2011!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 10: CHRISTMAS MORNING, CINNAMON ROLLS, AND FAMILY ALL DAY LONG
“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays, let them overtake me unexpectedly, waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why this is Christmas Day!” ~Ray Stannard Baker

Everyone has their memories and expectations of what makes Christmas special, don’t they?  And more often than not, those memories are built around home and family and food. At least, for our family. Activities, too. But first and foremost I think food is the hands-down winner!

My daughter-in-law recently got me turned on to Pinterest, which is where she found a photo of a new twist (pun intended) on cinnamon rolls and asked me to make them. Another winner! Mom’s Homemade Cinnamon rolls are a family favorite, but this idea made them even more fun for Christmas. (Photo above; thought you might like to see how they turned out.)

I loved the quote I found for today’s blog. It’s true. We do tend to have too high of expectations of Christmas Day (and other family holidays) sometimes. The reality is that family ALL DAY LONG is an exercise in patience for even the most loving of families (which ours is, but still …). It’s a great opportunity, though, to learn to wait for each other, honor each other, be forbearing toward one another, to be consistently UNoffendable … and to laugh easily and not think to highly of ourselves.

We did THREE rounds of present exchanging, TWO rounds of full-on holiday meals, and ONE round of an over-the-top spread of Christmas desserts. Not to mention multiple games, walking the dogs in the park (whew, so great to get out of the house and get some fresh air!), and now cleaning up the aftermath … so crazy. So fun. So rewarding. So grateful and happy.

I can’t believe I blogged EVERY DAY for ten days at the busiest time of the year. Wow. I don’t have an excuse now for not doing it any other time, do I? 🙂

Joy and Christmas blessings to all … and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~Ephesians 4:2

Carolers on My Doorstep

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 9 – CHRISTMAS EVE: JESUS, GINGERBREAD, AND CAROLERS ON MY DOORSTEP

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.” ~ Eric Sevareid

Church this evening – the kids sang, there were cookies and carols, it was great to see friends, and we remembered together why we get to have such a tremendous celebration every year.  IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. Even those who don’t really believe get to benefit! Christmas is for everyone. 

We came home to a pan of lasagna nearly the size of my dining room table, which we hardly made a dent in. (That’s okay, I think I’ve got one more good day left in me then I’m going to crash and say “Get me out of the kitchen!” So when that happens it will be nice to have leftovers.)

The checker at the grocery store today wanted to be sure to wish me a “Merry Christmas” today and not a “Happy Holidays.” In a day and age when so many communities are throwing the nativity and “Merry Christmas” out the back door as quickly as they can embrace the more neutral “Happy Holidays” and a panorama of ornaments and snowflakes as representative of the real meaning of Christmas, my community has retained the nativity in the public park downtown (see photo).  I love it! I also love that fact that a group of twenty-plus carolers in Santa hats showed up on our doorstep this evening singing everything from Joy to the World to Frosty the Snowman to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We gave them all cookies, joined in the singing, and went with them to carol at our neighbors across the street.

Fun to celebrate with family. Fun to celebrate with friends. And fun to celebrate with community.  Christmas is a celebration of God’s gift TO us, Jesus’ life FOR us, and the Spirit’s joy IN us.

Today, I got to experience all of those. Ended the day with gingerbread in the oven filling the house with a delicious smell as it baked and then cooled.  Decorating it will give the troops something to do tomorrow afternoon after presents are done and they’re waiting for ham and turkey. But that’s another blog post … now it’s time to go to bed, and dream of sugar plums and what we all might find under our tree in the morning … 🙂

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Chinese Food and Remarkable People

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 8: CHINESE FOOD AND REMARKABLE PEOPLE AT MY CHRISTMAS TABLE

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Problem: we wanted to eat good food tonight but no one wanted to cook.

Inevitably when that happens we head for Thai Hut, teriyaki, or Chinese food.  Tonight it was a combination of the latter two: YUM! I don’t think there’s been a Christmas yet when Chinese food wasn’t on the menu either Christmas Eve or the day before.  That’s just the way the (fortune) cookie crumbles around here!

That reminds me of the Christmas Doug and I spent in Hong Kong. It was the second year we were married and we were living in Japan at the time. Doug was in the Marine Corps and I was teaching English at a Christian school. We were long on dreams and short on money so we came up with a great plan to save enough money to take a fabulous Christmas vacation to Hong Kong.

For the month before Christmas (maybe longer, it’s kind of fuzzy now), we bought no groceries and pretty much ate “c-rats” (commuted rations). This was in 1984, back when military c-rats were the old-fashioned kind–in cans, like in the movies. (Who knows, some of them may have been left over from Vietnam.  After all, we were in Okinawa … you never know …)

Anyway, we pulled it off and managed to spend Christmas in a beautiful five-star hotel in Hong Kong. Christmas Eve we ate at a exotic restaurant called the Pink Giraffe, way up high (like thirty some-odd floors) overlooking Hong Kong harbor and the AMAZING Christmas lights bedecking the city. The way they decorate their buildings in Hong Kong at Christmas is extraordinary. (Totally commercial, mind you. Not a hint of the real Reason for the season that we could see. But beautiful nonetheless.)

We spent Christmas Day and had Christmas dinner with some friends of Doug’s parents … missionaries there who had gone to seminary years before with Mom and Dad and stayed in touch. There were other guests there, too … some remarkable people around that table … including other missionaries who had spent years of their lives serving in Hong Kong and mainland China. I will never forget one of them … her name was Agnes … she must have been ninety and had served with Gladys Aylward in China. I was fascinated, inspired, humbled.

(Gladys Aylward is one of my all-time heroines and her story was memorialized in the Ingrid Bergman movie, Inn of the Sixth Happiness, one of my most favorite movies EVER.)

Not sure how I got on that rabbit trail … I guess it was because I started talking about Chinese food.  Funny how the oddest things bring back the most random (but delightful) memories.

Twenty-eight Christmases later finds me eating Chinese food at Christmas in quite a different location than in 1984… but still with remarkable people around my table. 🙂

“Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”  ~2 Timothy 2:22

The Great Send-off

(even if they won’t arrive by Christmas)

“If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.”   ~George MacDonald

I can count on one hand, if that, the number of years I have actually mailed Christmas cards IN TIME for them to be received by Christmas.

But timing is hardly the point.

One my MOST FAVORITE things about Christmas is the cards and letters that keep us connected with people whose lives and paths have crossed ours through the years.  Of course, these days with Facebook and all, some might argue that we don’t need Christmas cards anymore … we can chatter with far-flung friends 24/7. But you can’t hang a Facebook post on your bulletin board, your refrigerator, the garland on your stair bannister, or your kitchen window (my newest way to display photos of dear friends; thank you Lisa G. for the idea!). Facebook posts flash across your screen, seen once then (pretty  much) lost forever in cyberspace.

You can send a generic Facebook post in thirty seconds on your phone while waiting in line at a fast food joint. Sending a Christmas card, on the other hand, says …

… you mean enough to me that I stopped my busy life for a few minutes to put something in writing (how old-fashioned!).

… I care enough to spend time, money, and thought to send you a personal message and something tangible to let you know you’re being remembered and thought of warmly.

… I am grateful for the deposit you made in my life at some point, many years ago or maybe just last week.

… Christmas is special and so are you!

So that’s what I’m doing this evening … putting on a movie, munching on Doug’s spicy rendition of Mom’s Nuts ‘n Bolts recipe, and addressing envelopes … maybe with you in mind!

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers…” Philemon 1:4

Last-Minute Advent

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 3: LAST-MINUTE ADVENT

Let’s approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush.”  ~Anonymous

I was an abysmal failure at Advent this year.

In years past, when our kids were younger, celebrating Advent as a family was the way we stayed connected to the “Reason for the season” throughout the holidays. Around the dinner table each night we’d light the candles, read Scriptures, and sing Christmas songs. We made our own wreath. We read fun Christmas stories. The kids colored pictures and argued over who got to light and blow out the candles.  It was fun (except for the arguing).

But with the kids getting older and starting households of their own, busy lives and schedules these days just don’t seem to lend themselves to the whole family being together every evening. Not to mention, one of the kids spent most of the Advent season an ocean away! This year, anyway, Advent just kind of fell by the wayside…

So, tonight we simply lit all four candles at once. (After all, it’s about the heart, right, not about the ritual?) And with any luck, we’ll be able to do the same each night this week, as every day our household swells with more family (and friends) coming home for Christmas.

Want to join us in a last-minute Advent? You just need five candles (each one represents a different aspect of the Christmas story), an evergreen wreath if you can find one (to us it symbolizes the eternal life we have in Christ), and a Bible to look up the verses.

Candle #1: The Prophecy Candle (Anticipation and Longing) – Isaiah 9:2-4, 6 – O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Candle #2: The Bethlehem Candle (Preparation) – Isaiah 40:3-5; Micah 5:2 – O Little Town of Bethlehem

Candle #3: The Angels’ Candle (Rejoicing) – Luke 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:8 – Angels We Have Heard on High

Candle #4: The Shepherds’ Candle (The Good News) – Luke 2:8-20; Romans 10:13-15 – The First Noel

Candle #4: The Christ Candle (for Christmas Eve) – John 1:1-18 – Joy to the World

The word “Advent” literally means “coming.” How perfect! We celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ to this world. And we’re so excited about kids and new spouses and extended family and friends who are coming to our home this season, as well. A last-minute Advent will help us get our hearts ready. It will be fun. And hopefully no arguing. 🙂

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; for those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine. ~Isaiah 9:2

Yay! for Christmas Cookies

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 2: FAMILY COOKIE RECIPES

“A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand.” ~Anonymous

I am Scottish on my mom’s side–which makes me predisposed to love things like Celtic music and dancing (love the bagpipes and the Highland Fling!), plaid, argyle, woolen scarves, and SHORTBREAD.  (The tightfisted-with-money part of being Scottish somehow escaped me, which I’m a little sad about because I think that might have been a helpful quality. Oh well, you can’t have everything.)

Today I am baking Christmas cookies with my girls. This shortbread recipe has been in my family since who knows when and is my earliest memory of a FAVORITE Christmas cookie. And the dough tastes great, too! Hayley made this batch.

Whipped Shortbread: 1 c soft butter, 1-3/4 c flour, 1/2 c icing sugar, maraschino cherries. Cream butter thoroughly. Combine and add dry ingredients at low speed on blender. Roll in small balls, press in a piece of maraschino to the top of each. Bake @ 325 for 13 minutes.

I believe it’s important to not just make DELICIOUS foods on holidays, but to make them with MEANINGFUL recipes. The kind that evoke memories of special people and special times–or that make you feel connected to whom and where you came from. For our family, that means the Lawrence family’s ubiquitous Chocolate Crinkles and Snickerdoodles. Muddy Buddy’s a la Auntie Deanna.  Grandma Magner’s Nuts ‘n Bolts. And for Christmas dinner, Aunt Ethel’s Cranberry Christmas pudding (simmered on the stove top in a coffee can to be especially authentic).  With caramel sauce.  Num.

Family traditions are important. Family is important, period. Whom and where you came from is an important part of who you are, whether you like it (or them) or not. It keeps you connected to the bigger picture in life.

I am grateful for a family who loves God, loves each other, loves me, and loves Christmas cookies.  🙂

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother … and your mother …  And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” 2 Timothy 1:5