We’ve got our annual winter youth group retreat this weekend. So far the numbers are in the high 80’s and counting, even at 10:00, the evening before:) Gotta love teenagers. Anyway, for all of you praying people, please pray that lives are changed during our weekend. Pray that kids are introduced to Christ, that they fall in love with His story of redemption, and that their stories are changed as a result. Please pray for Paul as he orchestrates the whole shabang, the speaker Travis Watson (one of Paul’s college friends), all of the counselors and workers (lots of college students helping as always:), me as I’m dialoguing with the girls about chastity (Lauren Winner’s book entitled Sex Talk is phenomenal – probably the best I’ve ever read on the subject,) and just for all of the other details to fall into place. Oh, and pray that the kids have a blast- tons of fun, laughing, crying, staying up all night, making fools of themselves, talking, learning, being ridiculous. Thanks so much:)
So it’s Christmas Eve and Selah and I run out to Dunkin D’s for some goodies for tomorrow. (Munchkins are right up there with tights and kitties in Selah’s eyes.) I’m thinking it’s going to be a quick trip, but alas, with mad traffic and a closed Dunkin D’s, our jaunt out morphs into an hour long venture. Selah’s lip is quivering as we leave the empty parking lot and the tears are quickly welling up in her eyes. I am fixed on bringing something – anything yummy – home for tomorrow and I don’t care how long I have to wait anywhere. So, we fight our way to Einstein’s and wait in a line stretching to the door. Selah maintains her composure in line fairly well, but bemoans our misfortunes to every customer within hearing range. “Dunkin Doughts close, Dunkin Doughts close. No muchkins. No muchkins.”
After what probably seemed like a five hour wait to poor Selah, we run out excitedly with our goodies. No munchkins, but yummy looking muffins nevertheless and a coffee to boot- which, I am all too eager to reward myself with for our venture out. (I am trying to get better at these coffee rewards, I really am, but I justify to myself that it’s Christmas Eve. I should get myself a coffee… oh, what ridiculous reasoning.)
Anyway, as we once again brave the Cranberry traffic to drive 3 minutes home (which proceeds to take 15), I am stopped at the busiest four way intersection ever. While waiting there, I see a disheveled looking man, holding up a cardboard sign that says, “Will work for Christmas presents. Family of four.” I don’t know how long he’s been there, but from the looks of his face, it has been an eternity. He is dejected and cold and I’m wondering how much longer he can hold up his sign. How much dignity does he have left? After all, Cranberry is not the sort of place that you ever see this. It probably took all of the humility in the world to stand there for hours on end, with everyone too busy or miserable to stop and help the poor guy.
At this point, I am wondering what we can do. I want to invite the guy into our van. However, I’m not sure that it’s the safest thing to do and I don’t know what we would do with him if we took him home. Then I see a well dressed man (from one of the stores in the plaza) approach this man and begin a conversation. I have no idea what words were spoken, but I watched this employee offer some kind of hope. Not only that, but the employee side hugged him, shook his hand, and gave him the wait sign. This guy whose shoulders were drooping so low all of a sudden stood up straight. He folded up his sign, his own chin began quivering, and he teared up. (He is right next to my car now and I’m probably holding up the procession of people waiting, but I can see tears in this guy’s eyes and I don’t really care who I’m holding up.) I am watching the beauty of hope extended and I want to beep my horn in delight (though my beeping at this moment may get misconstrued.)
I think it’s fair to say that this is what Christmas is all about… giving and receiving love, hope, and something (or shall we say, someone of immeasurable value.) Jesus entered into our poverty to make us rich in Him. He extended love on the cross and it made our lives beautiful. He defeated death and his empty tomb speaks of our hope. I am psyched that I caught a glimpse of beauty today in the midst of our yummy finding exploits. Thank God Dunkin D’s was closed so we could be there at that moment.
I pray that each of you reading this would also catch a glimpse of beauty, or maybe even much more than a glimpse in the next few days. Have a wonderful Christmas. All of our love!
Let me introduce you to Bud- my 85 year old friend. Bud is a follower of God who lives his faith out in restaurants around our area and in the quietness of his home. Since Bud doesn’t cook, he journeys out to a different establishment every day. When he arrives there, he brings a HUGE bag of candy for all of the employees to share. They call him the Candy Man. His bags of candy are eagerly anticipated (of course!) and have opened the doors for him to share his faith. He knows most (if not all) of the employees by name and knows their stories too. He listens to their joys, hurts, and everything in between. Then every morning, he takes those stories to God and prays. He has a prayer list of over 2,000 names and a special list of around 80 or so that he prays for more frequently.
I had the chance to meet with Bud today for lunch. It had been a long time since we had gotten together – maybe a year or so – too long. He still looked the same, still gifted the employees with candy, and still personally connected with them. He told lots of stories today – about the family he loves, his health, his church, and his restaurants. He talked about his wife and how she’ll have been gone now for 17 years. It was hard to believe that it had been that long, with the way you could still hear love in his voice when he spoke of her. I really wish we could have stayed to talk longer. I love listening to his stories, but the kids had other plans, which included a much needed naptime for both of them.
Anyhow, Bud’s story is a sweet one. He meets needs the way he knows how- with candy, with listening, and with prayer. Life hasn’t always been sweet for Bud, but he knows that his God is good regardless, and he lives out these convictions. I would venture to say that many – who would’ve never stepped foot in a church – have come to know God because of this man and his bags of candy. Now that’s a story worth telling.
At my mom’s group last week, a speaker shared some great truths about loving kids. The information is applicable to anyone who has a child or teenager in their life. I know it will help me with expressing love to my own children, as well as the kids in the youth group (though that will look different in some aspects for them!) I hope it’s helpful to you as well.
She talked about speaking genuine acceptance into your child’s life (or in scripture, they refer to it as “the blessing.”) The best defense against a child (or teen) seeking acceptance in self-destructive ways is for them to grasp their worth in their parents’ eyes and in God’s eyes. Basically, you want to attach high value to each of your children in very tangible ways – not for what they do, but for who they are.
There are five basic parts of the blessing (as described in scripture.)
1. Meaningful Touch: communicating warmth, personal acceptance, and affirmation – whether it be holding hands, back scratching, a high five, playing with their hair, whatever.
2. A spoken message: speaking words of truth into their lives – children will live up to the words used to describe them. I have seen this over and over again, especially in teaching. Words carry tremendous weight, whether spoken or written. I have seen kids labeled as “trouble” turn out to be the best kids in my class- not because of anything I actually did – just because I attached a different meaning to them.
Along these lines, make sure kids know what God says about them…
That they are fearfully and wonderfully made.
That God does not make mistakes, even if people do. We are designed exactly the way we are for a reason.
That God has a purpose for our lives and we have the capacity to live a life of eternal significance.
That God is for us and not against us.
That He will never leave us.
That He loves us immeasurably and the cross bears witness to that.
3. Attaching “high value” to the one being blessed: spending time with our kids, without distractions. If you’re in the car, talk to them. Shut off the music, don’t spend time on the phone. At home, turn off the tv or the computer – whatever takes away your focus and attention from your kids. Include them in family decisions. Spend time individually with each child. If you have more than one, never compare them – this will only lead to one of them failing in some measure and will set the stage for rivalry, jealousy, etc.
4. Picturing a special future for the one being blessed : NOT on the basis of what we want our child to become (in order to fulfull or satisfy something missing in our own soul,) but picture a special future for who God has created them to be. Focus on what they do well and then picture a special future around THEIR strengths.
5. An active commitment to fulfill the blessing: It is one thing to say all these things, but it is another to support them with action. Know your child’s world, get on their level, do what they love to do, and speak their language. Find your child’s sweet spot and develop it. Remember to strengthen their talents and not your own desires for them. Pray God’s word over their lives, every spare moment of every day. And last of all, live God’s word out in your own life. Adore and pursue Jesus and see if they don’t follow along:).
tender and sweet, both in your crying and your sleep
you radiate a sense of hope
and I have seen the most amazing sights
in my travels on the earth
misty seas and amber harbor lights
and other things of matchless worth
but next to you all of the beauty seems so plain
you would think I’ve never seen a beautiful thing
this is the song you hear all day long
My friend Courtney just finished creating this website. It is informative and proactive and it will break your heart. I am so proud of her and her husband’s unwavering commitment to fight against this injustice towards the children of our world. They are giving these kids a voice. Please visit the site and do something – anything. She has ideas on there of ways that we can help. Thanks.
Hey ya’ll. Just wanted to let you know that I am down for the count. I did come down with whatever the rest of the family had (though we think Selah may have just been breaking her incisors.) Thank God she is still running around scot free from whatever this is. I am so achy that it still hurts to just lie down, I am exhausted, quite overcast, cankers are beginning to rear their ugly little heads, and I’ve got this freakish nose growth that is very painful and is taking up residence in my entire left nostril. Please forgive me for my full disclosure. It would be very funny if it didn’t hurt so badly!
As far as the rest of the family goes, Adden is getting better every day, but poor Paul is relapsing I think. We believe he may have had one strain of the virus and now he’s got another. Please pray for all of us to be back on our feet soon. I did manage to go out with the kids today to Target to purchase necessities. It was fabulous to see the light of day, but our little venture has wiped me out again. Am going to try to grab a nap now while the kiddos are still snoozing.
Paul stumbled across this website today – http://www.adventconspiracy.com/. It clearly communicates our hearts this year towards Christmas. Please please please check it out. It’s beautiful.