Archive for Holidays

The way to gold

It is St. Patrick’s Day in a couple days.  Time to celebrate a little green Leprechaun who chases after gold under rainbows, right?  No?  Okay, then.  Time to kiss the Irish, pinch those who aren’t wearing green, find some four-leaf clovers and marvel at St. Patrick banishing snacks from Ireland.  No, again?  Well then, how do we have a whole holiday in our country – full of parades and craft aisles of plastic décor made in China if we don’t know what the heck the holiday means?   Though I confess that Guinness and soda bread may be worth a holiday all its own, St. Patrick’s story is rich and beautiful.  It is worth passing on!

If you don’t want to do any research of your own into a more extensive version of Patrick’s history, then watch the Veggietales flannel-graph version – it is surprisingly accurate.  Patrick was just a boy when he was kidnapped by the Celts from British (yeah – Patrick isn’t Irish at all – he’s English or Scottish).  He was taken to be a slave to serve the pagan Celts who worshipped the Earth, Sun, Moon, etc (in Veggietales…it is twigs).  Eventually God gives Patrick a means to escape and he does, returning to his homeland.  Patrick grows up to be very educated and serves the church as a Bishop.  It was then that things got inconvenient.  He began having dreams….night after night.  He had dreams of the people from Ireland calling him back to Ireland for they were dying without Jesus.

Can you imagine?  Being called back into the land you were a slave to the people who had taken your freedom and surely abused you.  How would you respond?  I fear my first reaction may be one of hate – one of spite, glad that those evil people were indeed dying in sorrow – not unlike Jonah refusing to go to Nineveh.  But, Patrick obeyed.  We don’t know to what degree he wrestled with God about it – perhaps the book of Jonah was a comfort to him or a conviction to him.  Perhaps verses about forgiveness moved him.  Verses like: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14) Perhaps he just knew God’s great love and allowed Him to change and move him.  Either way, I’m so grateful he obeyed for the countries of Ireland (and Northern Ireland now) contribute their Christianity initially to Patrick.  The message of Jesus changed the land.  Churches, festivals and children will forever be named in honor of and memorialized after Patrick now as a Catholic Saint and merciful missionary.

So….where do I need to forgive?  Who?  Some people and some situations come to mind and though what that looks like in action can be different, the fact that it must happen remains.  I don’t consider myself an unforgiving person or one with a grudge, but when I compare myself to St. Patrick – giving my life to serve those who have most hurt me, I am humbled.  I hope to find a way to explain this well to my children on Sunday – St. Patrick’s Day.  I want to explain forgiveness with this example.  I want to explain why St. Patrick was such an awesome hero – way better than a jolly man dressed in green (though I do love Lucky Charms).  They might ignore me or they might just catch a little of it, but if they see me living it (struggling with it even) then my hope is that it will refine us all.  That gold is a whole lot more work, but it doesn’t leave when the rainbow is gone.

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TOMORROW is NATIONAL FREEDOM DAY – What are we doing to ensure freedom?

Hitting the Steps of Capital Hill:

At the end of last year(due to our learning about Civil War Abolitionists, Missionaries like Amy Carmichael, and Modern Day Slavery) my kids wanted to do something about slavery.  Though of course I didn’t reveal to them the horrors of sex trafficking, which is one of the sickest forms of slavery, other slavery is enough to sadden and anger my kids.

Was that bad?  We don’t normally, as parents, think it is great to intentionally throw our kids into situations that make them sad and mad.  However, sadness and anger about things that we should indeed be sad and mad about is holy…we should hate slavery, poverty, cancer, sin.  I welcome this kind of sadness and anger in my home (unlike sadness over not having candy or anger if a child doesn’t get to play video games as long as they want – which also happens, much to my frustration).

Are they scared knowing these things…things like slavery?  If I am honest – the answer is yes – a little.  However:

  • Unfortunately children need to know to not trust strangers, so I am glad they are a little scared.  My daughter in the past could have too easily trusted strangers, putting herself in danger.  My son doesn’t pay attention to if he is close to me in public places.  A little healthy fear is okay with me.
  • Kids usually only remain in fear when 1 – they don’t understand that God is bigger and stronger than it all this evil…that in the end God wins….and 2 – when they are left with no power to change it.  Relying on God’s protection and empowering my kids to be the change of the evil in this world are 2 things that I want to do now – while they are young.

So – what did we do in light of this knowledge of slavery.  Lukas wanted to “Do a Boston Tea Party”  What the heck was that?  Well, he wanted to take all the chocolate, coffee, tomatoes and so on that were made by slaves in our house and throw them in the river – to let our leaders know that we didn’t like that they let slavery happen.  However, due not wanting a huge fine for pollution, we decided to write letters instead (perhaps not as exciting…but it goes along with my government homeschool project too).

So, they did.  They wrote letters to President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and their Senators and Representative.  Adelaine’s letter was sweet – dictated to me by her and then she copied the words I wrote down, due to her 5 year old writing skill progression.  Lukas just wrote what he thought – which meant bluntness and a Sonic the Hedgehog drawing on each letter.

The Response:

I did call and write to my own representatives as well.  Since the TVPRA didn’t pass at the end of 2012 like it should have, I was completely convicted on the lack of my own voice.  This bill protects victims of trafficking.  It is absolutely ridiculous that it didn’t pass as 25 million around the world are in slavery.  So, if my kids could use their voice, so could I.

Well – We did hear from Obama – granted it was just a form type letter and 2 large pictures (1 of him and 1 of his dog…neither of which do I think will find themselves on our walls), but my kids feel like they got a letter from the White House – which they did.

We have gotten postcards from IJM (that some of you may receive from us to send to your representatives) to urge senators to put the TVPRA at the top of the list of things to do

Tomorrow on Freedom Day, we will be reflecting on the different forms of slavery, putting our fingers on those places on the globe and praying.  (We may even throw a piece of chocolate in a stream if we are crazy enough to do a mini-Boston tea party).

We are also going to DC at the end March.  We’ll have short meetings with our senators as the kids are slowly gathering packets of info to give to them about modern day slavery, their thoughts about it, inspiring quotes, etc.   I’m not expecting anything incredible, but I’m expecting to feel like I’m not (and my kids aren’t) bystanders.  We will visit the Holocaust Museum where in the front of it is the quote “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”   Yehuda Bauer

Call yourself:


Have your kids write to your senators!

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THE RACE CARD – Still pondering Martin Luther King Jr.

As we have approached the topic of race in our family because of our upcoming adoption and because of its nature of justice/mercy, I’ve become more aware of voices in this world of Race.

Obviously leaving Martin Luther King Jr Day, it is hard not to be amazed by that man…for some reason this year more than ever for me.  The thing that strikes me most, and that I want to impress on my children, is that he didn’t just fight for equality for African Americans, but equality for all people.  It was his faith in Christ and his understanding about who God was that led his movement and was his Rock. This topic of oppression that we still must face, as today it is particularly our geographic coordinates (where we live on the globe) that determines our future (as the distribution of wealth, resources and justice is so vastly uneven).  A child born in central Asia to a poor mother will likely have an extremely oppressed  life – merely because of where she was born.  My daughter being born to me in America is different.  This is a justice issue.

The other thing that strikes me, as I live in a house that was built during the civil war in 1863, is that Martin Luther King’s Dream speech was in 1963.  That was 100 years after the civil war – 100 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation – naming slaves as free, yet Martin Luther King, Jr. is proclaiming that one day they will be Free At Last.  Watching a documentary titled “Slavery by another Name” revealed the horrific treatment of African Americans after the civil war – way beyond just the racism that makes our stomach turn in movies like “The Help”.  100 years! We couldn’t get it together in 100 years and while “free” through amazing efforts of people like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass, they still weren’t given fair treatment – for 100 years (and beyond).

There are so many areas that we must rise up and teach our children about the freedom of others – other races, other countries, etc.  The most effective way to teach our children is through the connection.

  1. They need to connect through the stories of heroes; Abolitionists, Civil Rights Heroes, Missionaries, Those fighting poverty and oppression.  Freedom Day is February 1st: printables found at   My favorite MLK you tubes are :his prophetic voice of his own life: and America:  A kids’ MLK youtube:
  2.  They need to connect to other races: Everyday interactions with people who look, sound, act different – intentional (if your everyday life isn’t very multi-cultural) relationships.  This is an interesting article on how young children make judgment on “other”  There are great resources at:   (And a cheesy, but great Christian movie for adults is Grace Card)

We can do better than 100 years of partial change – only to say that the oppressed in our world haven’t been yet freed.  We owe it to our children to give them that chance to be a part of it Freedom too.  God is taking note of how we are responding to these issues of the oppressed.  As my son said when he was watching an animated video about a church not helping the poor and doing wrong, “I bet God isn’t going to bless that church”

Indeed.  So, what are we going to do?

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Why He Came…a slave’s view (Emmanuel – God with Us)

Jesus baby jesus protects

So, I’ve been overwhelmed with sorrow the last couple of weeks.  A week ago it was a renewed anger, disgust and just anguish over sex trafficking and slavery in general.  After last Friday, when the Sandy Hook disaster happened an hour from me (though the whole world feels close and noone can truly comprehend the sorrow of the families involved), I’ve lowered into my sadness.

I think sadness can be good.  Anger too.  They serve a purpose.  They remind us that the world isn’t what God intended and they honor God with our anger and our tears.  Gifts of mercy come out of it – prayer and action too, but I felt stuck this time.

Each year at Christmas time, I feel like Christmas came too soon and that I didn’t get my act together to reflect and do the waiting/hoping/cleaning of my heart that I desire to do for the arrival of Christ.  However, each Christmas, I am reminded that it is all of that…and so much more, that Christ came for.  He came for the dirty, the dark, the sadness, the years of waiting, the confused, the broken.  His arrival was announced first to the dirty, lonely shepherds.  I knew that.  I expected I’d find myself there again this Christmas, but admit I wanted a different story a little – a different twist on my pathetic-ness perhaps.

Yesterday, I watched Amistad.  My kids are learning about the Civil War and Abolition.  Though at least I recalled enough about the movie to not have them watch it (thank goodness I saw the ratings too), but I decided to watch it.  Again, I was broken by it.  Like Amazing Grace – it is a movie about the court system, about abolition and the horrors of the trans-atlantic slave trade.  However, the explanation of what happens to the slaves on the ships is more graphic – which is horrible, but real.  It was more horrible, knowing such treatment of humans has not ended.  However, one scene in the movie blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.  One of the slaves was trying to understand the pictures in a Bible he was given by an abolitionist.  A couple of the photos (from that Bible) are above.  The scene is written below: 

Yamba: [looking at a Bible]
Joseph Cinque: You don’t have to pretend to be interested in that. Nobody’s watching but me.
Yamba: I’m not pretending. I’m beginning to understand it.
[outside, a priest blesses himself]
Yamba: Their people have suffered more than ours. Their lives were full of suffering.
[turns to a picture of the newborn Jesus Christ]
Yamba: Then he was born, and everything changed.
Joseph Cinque: Who is he?
Yamba: I don’t know, but everywhere he goes he is followed by the sun.
[turns to a picture of Jesus healing a man]
Yamba: Here he is healing people with his hands…
[shows Jesus defending Mary Magdalene]
Yamba: protecting them…
[shows Jesus and the children]
Yamba: being given children…
Joseph Cinque: [sees Jesus walking on water] What’s this?
Yamba: He could also walk across the sea. But then something happened. He was captured, accused of some sort of crime.
[shows Jesus with Pontius Pilate]
Yamba: Here he is with his hands tied.
Joseph Cinque: He must have done something.
Yamba: Why? What did we do? Whatever it was, it was serious enough to kill him for it. Do you want to see how they killed him?
[shows the crucifixion of Jesus]
Joseph Cinque: This is just a story, Yamba.
Yamba: But look, that’s not the end of it.
[shows the disciples taking Jesus’ body down]
Yamba: His people took his body down from this… thing… this…
[signs the cross in the air]
Yamba: They took him into a cave. They wrapped him in a cloth, like we do.
[shows the Resurrection of Jesus]
Yamba: They thought he was dead, but he appeared before his people again and spoke to them. Then, finally, he rose into the sky.
[shows the Ascension of Jesus]
Yamba: [the priest prays in the background]
Yamba: This is where the soul goes when you die.
[shows a picture of Heaven in the clouds]
Yamba: This is where we’re going when they kill us. It doesn’t look so bad…


Again…my hope for this life, for death, is in Him.  Again…I am reminded that EVERYTHING CHANGES at Christmas for there, He came for us.

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Who is St. Nicholas?

Many times we stretch in Christian circles to either include or exclude Santa from Christmas.  However, a look into the history of St. Nicholas indeed reveals a man that loved the Lord.  However, as we look into his character and what is life was, he would likely be dishonored by the position his legend now has in the world as he stood and suffered himself against heresy and lived against overabundance. Considering that many call him Kris Kringle, we can see how much Christmas has been over taken by his image since that term, Kris Kringle, is actually originally and Austrian/German word for “the gift giver” – referring to the Christ Child, NOT Santa. How sad that we have allowed a misunderstanding of who “Father Christmas” is to be our gift giver this season. I am not telling anyone whether or not you should your kids there is a Santa Claus (that is each family’s decision and is none of my business), but I found it fascinating to learn more about who he was (weeding through fact and legend), as well as how “Santa” came to be. Perhaps once we know all this, we can each best decide what to do with St. Nicholas – use him as a role model or make him Santa.

“The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.”

“Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).”

“Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.”

“Miraculous folklore and legend surround the mysterious St. Nicholas. Among the more popular legends of St. Nicholas is the rescue of three poverty-stricken girls destined for prostitution. These girls were poor and did not have the dowry for marriage. St. Nicholas saved them from a life of shame, by providing marriage dowries of gold. They then were able to get properly married.”

“Next, according to legend, Santa magically appears in the Netherlands around the seventeenth century. During this time, Sinter Klaas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) was officially born. Dutch children began the tradition of placing their shoes by the fireplace on December 5, for the mystic fourth century Bishop, Saint Nicholas. (Note: In the Dutch language Saint Nicholas is “Sint Nikolass,” which was shortened to “Sinter Klaas,” of which the anglicized form is “Santa Claus.”) The next morning, the gleeful Dutch children quickly awoke to gifts and goodies in their shoes, left by Sinter Klaas. Like today’s Santa, Sinter Klaas,  miraculously, traveled from housetop to housetop, and entered through the chimney.”

“As early as 1163 it was observed in Utrecht, the Netherlands. During the same time span, the 12th century, French nuns began leaving candy and gifts outside the doors of children in need. The St. Nicholas Day children’s gift-giving custom spread through the Low Countries, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and England. It took root across most of northern and central Europe, as far east as Romania. Henry Machyn described the 1550s London feast day processions, led by people dressed as St. Nicholas, that “went abroad in most parts of London singing after the old fashion,” and were “received among good people into their houses, and had much good cheere as ever they had in many places.”15th century Swiss writer Hospinian wrote:

‘it was the custom for parents, on the vigil of St Nicholas, to convey secretly presents of various kinds to their little sons and daughters who were taught to believe that they owed them to the kindness of St Nicholas and his train, who, going up and down among the towns and villages, came in at the windows, though they were shut, and distributed them. This custom originated from the legendary account of that saint having given portions to three daughters of a poor citizen whose necessities had driven him to an intention of prostituting them.'”

The custom in 16th century Germany, as described by Thomas Naogeorgus:

“Saint Nicholas money used to give
To maidens secretly,
Who, that he still may use
His wonted liberalitie
The mothers all their children on the eve
Do cause to fast
And when they every one at night
In senselesse sleepe are cast
Both Apples, Nuttes, and peares they bring,
And other things besides
As caps, and shooes and petticotes,
Which secretly they hide,
And in the morning found, they say
That this Saint Nicholas brought.

“Our next stop on the Santa highway is the year 1626 in the New World called America. Searching for the “American dream,” Dutch settlers sailed from the Netherlands and established the Dutch colony called New Amsterdam (today called New York). The Dutch colonists quickly settled into America, bringing their customs, and of course, their beloved Sinter Klaas.”

“In December 1809, American essayist Washington Irving published a popular satire of the Dutch founding of New York titled A Knickerbocker History of New York. More than any other event, it was Irving’s Knickerbocker History that is credited for creating our modern day Santa Claus. The following history-making words from The Knickerbocker History became the public inauguration of Santa Claus. Who could have possibly imagined the significance these simple words would soon have?”

“And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream,–and lo, the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to the children. . . And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared.”(Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 50)

“Next stop on our investigative journey for Santa, surprisingly, comes from the pen of a New York theology professor named Dr. Clement Clarke Moore. In 1822, inspired by Irving’s popular, Knickerbocker History’s portrayal of jolly St. Nicholas, Dr. Moore quietly wrote a trivial poem titled, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his own children as a simple Christmas present. Dr. Moore had no intention of publishing his poem, but in 1823 it was published anonymously, by a friend, in the Troy Sentinel. Moore’s extremely popular poem was the spark that lit the Santa Claus wildfire. Santa quickly began flying through America. Dr. Moore’s poem was later renamed the famous, “Twas’ The Night Before Christmas.””

“The finishing touches for Santa occurred around 1863 from the artistic hands of cartoonist Thomas Nast. Inspired by Moore’s popular poem, Nast illustrated scores of Santa pictures in Harper’s Weekly and the world was officially baptized with the face of Santa Claus. Nast’s early Santa was burly, stern, gnome-like, and covered with drab fur, much unlike today’s colorful and jolly fellow. But make no mistake – it was Santa.”

1931:” Haddon Sundblom, illustrator forThe Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.”

1949: “Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn’t let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose”

Thus we have our players.

Awesome poem comparing our Santa Claus to St. Nicholas: (I got info from many sites, which all mostly said the same thing…mostly supporting St. Nicholas Center)

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Giving MORE at Christmas

Gift Giving
Once again – I was reflecting on lots of things about gift giving for this holiday and then read something from Jen Hatmaker that was better said and even more what I wanted to live by….so…please read here:
However, in addition, I offer:

My thoughts:

I had to work at Barnes and Noble for my job (non-profits can wrap presents there in order to tell people about their organization and get donations), but it was actually one of the harder few hours. I watched people buying insane amounts of things and then rudely asking me to wrap them (while making comments about how they didn’t even care if it was a good present or not, they just had to get something…or the like) and then either giving a few coins, a dollar or usually no donation to foster children who will get little Christmas this year. So, my heart was sick…at the commercialism of Christmas – about the lie around me. I want to be free from it more than ever, yet I’m a gift giver. What do I do?

First off: We’ve started making gifts in our family – it has already started and the kids are already super excited about it – working hard on their projects for each person.

Secondly: We are trying to give gifts in honor of people. My favorite gift magazines (that also give you cards to give your recipient) are from World Vision, International Justice Mission, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse.

Third: I confess I am only beginning this journey of fair trade. I am embarrassed that I know so very little about it all.  I have looked into the book The Better World Shopping Guide…which looks into the goods and evils of lots of companies (though not at all complete and not Christian – it is a nice little handbook on hand when I can get overwhelmed). If I am educated by my impact on the world…how I directly affect others:, then I have to respond. I’m more than ever grossed out by Walmart and Oriental Trading Company and others  But, besides choosing to vote with my dollars to NOT buy things at some places, I can buy gifts that are both fair trade and support issues I care about:
(Easiest issues to change buying habits are in chocolate:  and coffee)
Besides Jen’s list…I add:

Anti-trafficking products:

Resources from YWAM, Voice of the Martyrs, Compassion, World Vision (I have a wishlist a mile long from these things…as do my kids)

Also, – let us also not forget the ever green and thoughtful idea of giving used items – your favorite book, your child’s favorite toy – something you find at Goodwill that you know someone will love (I KNOW I’LL LOVE IT).

I have LONG WAY TO GO in all of this…but Baby Steps…(though the Lord is welcome to shove me once in a while).

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Advent – Putting Christ back into Christmas….and taking the crap out of it too (did I just say that?)

Dare to read some words with me: “The traditional Christmas that we have grown up with is about a feel-good, insulated, holly-jolly Santa Claus Jesus who leaves us isolated from the needs of the world.  We are detached from the servant Son of God who would not be exempt or insulated from pain, suffering, or death.  Jesus experienced the injustice and unfairness of life in its extremes when, beginning at age two, he lived with his family as refugees in Africa to escape the Judean genocide.  He was executed as a criminal of the state around the age of thrity-three.  So will someone please tell me:  Where is the disconnect between Jesus’ birthday, refugees, genocide, and Africa?”  (Mike Slaughter in his book Change the World)

So, because this quote rocks me to the core…each year we are trying to take a step closer to “putting Christ back into Christmas”, but the reality is that Christmas is to stuffed with tradition of holiday Santa movies and irrelevant expensive mumbo jumbo (all stuff I LOVE by the way) that there is no space for Jesus to fit in to my Christmas.  Sorry dude, there is no room for you at this inn … again.  Seems to be a little too cliche.  So, guess that means I have to dump my crap.  That’s painful, because it doesn’t look like crap – it looks like some serious amount of fun (and pounds) making Christmas cookies.  It looks like me not getting gifts for everyone in the world (which is my love language by the way).  It looks like I won’t be able to make every production in town of anything with “Christmas” in the title because “Hey – tis the season” and “It comes but just once a year”.

SO – my first LOVE of this challenge is from Advent COnspiracy:

Free Advent Study from World Vision:

LOADS of cool ways to make is practical (know lots of cool ideas from different families from random acts of kindness to more extreme giving/serving)

Other awesome advent calendars in general are:  or

Let us just recall what it is all about (I gotst me some Charlie Brown up in here)

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