Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

But that’s not the movie I want to watch!

As I was sitting on my couch on Monday night, watching the NCAA championship basketball game (so sad Michigan lost by the way) I was thinking, this really isn’t what I would choose to watch. This happens all the time in my home – especially when there are sports on tv. My husband enjoys watching baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf….and of course the countless hours of sports center on ESPN.

I, however would choose to watch shows on HGTV. And while my husband is really great most of the time when there’s Love it or List it or Property Brothers on, and I will watch a U of M game, Bills or Sabres game (Let’s go Buffalo!)….we have issues in choosing  the entertainment that we watch sometimes. And we don’t even have kids yet! This most definitely gets more difficult as a family expands. (and we need to filter our entertainment even more than we do already!)

After reading an article on the Focus on the Family website, this is what I’ve gathered:

Obviously, when we have disputes over what to watch we know that we need to make a plan. Something that worked for my husband’s family growing up was making a tv schedule: each person can watch 1 hour of tv a day, with their choice of what to watch. So, say you have 4 kids; Alan, Dan, Leah, and Morgan. You would schedule each kid for an hour a day, and they would rotate times. (This doesn’t have to be the way you do it….some families like more informal rules. It doesn’t matter.)

But, when it comes to content, that when things can get messy. Say it’s Friday night. The long-awaited, box-office-smash starts playing every 30 minutes at the local theater. Your oldest is begging to go because “all” his friends will be there. Your daughter’s been invited to a slumber party where some romantic comedy is the big draw. Your youngest is raving about a hot new band his buddies like. You just want to kick back with your spouse, pop some popcorn, and watch a new pay-per-view movie.

How do you and your family make decisions about these entertainment opportunities and know in your heart you’ve made the right ones? Is there a straightforward guideline all of you can agree to follow?

While there are factors like age appropriateness, spiritual maturity, and the possibility of being a “stumbling block” to a brother (Romans 14:13). Basically, as corny as it may sound…we need to ask ourselves What Would Jesus Do?! I actually prefer an expanded version of the question, something like this: If Jesus were walking the planet today with His 12 disciples, how would He respond if Peter, John, or Matthew asked, “Can we go see or listen to [fill in the blank here]?” Or “How about if we play this video game?”

These are questions we should always ask before choosing entertainment. And they’re questions we need to train our kids to ask as well.

Help your son or daughter understand that Christ’s answer to these questions would be based entirely upon His love for His disciples, not on a desire to squelch their fun. None of us knows what Jesus would do or say in every situation, but it’s our job to train our kids to prayerfully seek what He likely would do based on His holiness and character.

Here’s an easy place to start. Go to http://www.pluggedin.com or http://www.kids-in-mind.com and search the movie or music your kids want to see/listen to. Go through the list with your kids. Explain the violence, sexual content, and language that may be inappropriate for them. Explain what elements we believe Jesus wouldn’t want us to view or hear. Do this every time your kids ask to see or hear something. Even when it gets tiring and annoying. As your kids get older, you can have them review the material for themselves and see if they make the decision you chose for them. Once they reach driving age, have them read the material and make the decisions on their own. This is a practice that my husband and I have done for every show and music we’ve wanted to be entertained by. IT really helps to keep you on the right path!

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He is Risen!

He is risen, He is risen indeed! It’s Easter. Time to celebrate that triumphant morning when our Savior rose victorious from the grave!

According to the New Testament, during the Jewish Passover season, Christ was tried for treason by Pilate, the Roman appointed governor, and then by Herod, King of Judea, and again by Pilate, before being sentenced to death on a cross. Though declared innocent by the authorities, Christ was crucified and laid in a sealed and guarded tomb. But on the third day He rose from the dead, with the power to save mankind from their sins. This event is commemorated every year in the spring as a holy day for Christians around the world.

But, did you know Easter was never intended to be just one day? For most families, including Christians, God gets an hour on Sunday, and we get the rest of the day to hunt eggs, think of cut little bunnies and lambs…and eat lots and lots of chocolate. Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with traditional Easter celebrations; it’s just thatwe can’t focus all of our attention on those things.

“The shame isn’t that we are celebrating Easter Day; it is that we are missing Easter Season. It’s like scraping off the icing without realizing you could have had cake too. That may be hard for most of us to comprehend in our culture that prizes a hurry-up and move-on attitude. But God, who specifically called his people to times of annual celebration and festival, did so because seasons of celebration accomplish significant things in the lives of His followers.” (Kim Wier)

How about your family? Ready for some cake? Try these faith-filled activities that go beyond Sunday morning as you usher in this Easter season.

Ages 0-3

Help your little ones stuff hollow plastic eggs with one chocolate heart, because Jesus came to give us a new heart toward God. Then allow your little one to hand them out to friends, neighbors, or people you meet during the day. You might include a note inside with the passage from John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus

Ages 4-7

Hold a neighborhood egg hunt, but award the large basket filled with candy for whoever finds the one empty egg, representing the empty tomb. When the child finds the empty egg he or she must call out, “He is not here he has risen, just as he said.” Be sure to conclude the hunt with an Easter story on the lawn. I’d recommend The Very First Easter, by Paul L. Maier. (If you go to my church, I can lend you a copy 🙂

Ages 8-12

Sometimes the greatest joy is in the giving. Visit a nearby hospital or retirement home and greet one of the residents with a fresh Easter lily. You may want to attach a card with some encouraging words about the hope we have in our risen Lord.

Age 13-18

Children this age might enjoy a surprise field trip for a sunrise service at the park or a nearby lake. Be sure to bring a Bible, hymnbook or maybe even a guitar for a worshipful early morning celebration.

All Ages

Since there are many new visitors attending church for the Easter service, make a point to greet and invite someone to lunch afterwards. Then remember to make plans to sit together next Sunday at church.

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Is it spring yet?!

A lot of the kids in our church have the week of Easter off, making it their spring break. Parents can get bogged down and overwhelmed with having the kids running around the house all day (because a lot of our parents take that week off, too)…and that just doesn’t help anyone! So, I thought I’d give you a list of 10 fun things that you can do with your family over spring break. Be adventurous, and do a different one every day! (thanks to all pro dads)

  1. Hit the beach!
    For many people Spring Break = The Beach. For good reason. Winter has been cold and gray. Work and school have been rough. No place on earth relaxes the spirit like the coast. Bright sun, crashing waves and feet in the sand. Your family will have nothing but smiles. (If it gets warm enough during spring break 🙂
  2. The big parks
    The Grand Canyon. Yosemite. The Great Smoky Mountains. America is full of natural wonders and beauty. Somewhere within driving distance lies a national park offering endless opportunities of fun and exploration. Get out there and show your family the world is more than strip malls and endless concrete.
  3. Baseball
    Starting in March, America’s great pastime begins another season. The states of Florida and Arizona host teams from all over the nation. Spring training offers fans a much more intimate experience with the sport. Small stadiums. Access to the players and coaches. Great weather. Smiling faces. Hot dogs. What could be more fun? And, you don’t have to travel to Florida or Arizona to get the same thrill.  Minor league baseball has teams all over the country offering the same thrills!
  4. The big rig
    How many times have you been on the road with your family and you all see that big motor home next to you and wish you were in it? Make it happen. RV dealers rent those big rigs for surprisingly reasonable fees. There are special resorts all over the country that cater to big motor homes. Research an itinerary that works for your family and get out on the road!
  5. Backyard fun
    Traveling is not the only way to have a great time with the family on vacation. Turn your backyard into your very own resort destination. You can play all types of different sports such as ultimate Frisbee or volleyball. Maybe you will put down an old fashioned slip n’ slide. Even a sprinkler can keep young kids entertained for hours on end. Think outside the box and come up with your own unique backyard fun.
  6. Grill Master
    A skill your child should have as an adult is the ability to cook good food.  The popularity of outdoor grilling is bigger than ever. Get in on the fun. Spend the week with your kids challenging and expanding your abilities. Become a grill master. As a family, research and find recipes of food you have never attempted. Try a new one each day. Have your kids involved every step along the way. Not only will you all have fun and eat well, you will be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.
  7. The outdoor project
    Yard work on vacation? Sure! It’s the perfect time to add beauty and function to your home. Take this time to add that long talked about gazebo. That fountain. Maybe your wife wants a garden. Get the whole family involved with the vision and planning. Then get out there with your family and make it happen!
  8. Volunteer
    Spring break is a perfect time to give of yourself. Spring is the time of new life and renewed hope. Your family can join in giving nature a hand. Clean up litter in your neighborhood. Pick up trash around ponds and creeks that harm wildlife. Help an elderly neighbor with yard work or house maintenance. Let your family choose the cause and then be the solution.
  9. Wacky destinations
    America has millions of strange and odd attractions. Most times they are free or very low-cost. The “Blowing Rock” in North Carolina. Dinosaur World in Florida. These types of places are all over. So much fun and so very silly. They offer a balance to the massive and very expensive theme parks. Yet strangely, they give the same thrills and smiles. Don’t forget your camera. That picture of your daughter standing next to the 40 foot tall Paul Bunyan will be a timeless keepsake. A great source for this type of experience is:www.roadsideamerica.com.
  10. The food tour
    We all love to eat. What is your passion? Seafood? BBQ? Southern cooking? Plan a road trip hitting some of the very best of the foods you love. Maybe you will drive all over Texas sampling the best of their unique beef BBQ. Or it could be a trip up the New England coast for classic seafood. How about sitting in New Orleans eating jambalaya in an open-air café? Nothing brings a family together better than food.
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How to make the Bible fun for kids through age 3

How many times have you tried to read Bible stories to your little ones and thought – they have no idea what I’m saying! Or, they fall asleep before the story is over. Why don’t we make the Bible more realistic for kids? Why don’t we make the Bible fun?!

Here’s a story I found from a mom on focus on the family; “It was Bible Time, which meant my children were curled up on the couch with their blankies, ready for naptime. I read to them the story about Noah, and when I came to the part about loading up the animals, I paused. “Don’t you wonder what it would be like to float in a boat with all those animals?” I asked. My sleepyheads shrugged. Grinning, I pulled the cushions off the couch and shouted “Let’s go get all of our stuffed animals and find out!” Cheers followed my suggestion and before we knew it, we were floating in our living room with creatures great and small.”

Here’s three things that you can do to bring some creativity and fun into your Bible time with your kids:

Play

Toddlers love to play, so incorporating imagination and excitement into your Bible time helps little ones with learning. You’ll first want to purchase an age-appropriate Bible, beginning with a toddler version and progressing toward a children’s study Bible. Be sure to add a full dose of fun into your Bible reading. This might mean using action figures to reenact the story of David and Goliath, or clanging homemade musical instruments to one of the Psalms.

Learn

Although parents might wonder how much understanding occurs at this age, a new study at has discovered that children may comprehend words sooner than previously suspected. Cognitive science experts have reported that kids ages 12-14 months may be using a technique labeled “data mining” to acquire language. This is where “the human brain accumulates large amounts of data minute-by-minute, day-by-day, and handles this data processing automatically.” It then sorts “through massive amounts of raw data to find relationships, correlations, and ultimately useful information.” This “system” approach to language learning would explain the ease with which 2- and 3-year-olds can learn one word at a time. We have some 2 and 3 year olds that are amazing at Bible Verse Memorization! Sometimes, they’ll memorize a verse quicker than my fourth graders!

Do

Teaching your child the Bible also involves what you do outside the home with your little ones.  Here are some ideas:

  • Rock your child to sleep at night singing praise songs and hymns.
  • Dress up as Bible characters.
  • Invite other children over for a Bible story time with treats afterwards.
  • Turn up the music and dance to specially recorded toddler songs like Psalty’s Songs for Li’l Praisers or Bob and Larry Sing the 70’s.
  • Deliver handmade cards to nursing home residents.
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Human Trafficking

This is going to be a more grown-up blog than usual. And has a very outward focus…

Something that has always weighed huge on my heart was human trafficking, or sex trafficking. This is a practice started hundreds of years ago, and unfortunately still exists today. We, as a society  have been able to accomplish many great things – women given the right to vote, abolishing slavery in America, helping with clean water and food distribution in war-torn and impoverished societies. But, we’ve not solved the problem of sex slavery and human trafficking. This horrible problem comes down to our greatest human sin – selfishness. Because of selfishness, we desire money, power, and sex. And as humans, we would go through any lengths to get these things. So how can we address this problem?

“Over two hundred years ago, British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce tirelessly crusaded to protect innocent humans from forced bondage. His efforts led first to Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and finally to a prohibition on slavery in 1833.

The United States ended slavery with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Or so it would seem. By the beginning of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt warned against the “white slave trade,” which involved the abduction and forced prostitution of young women and girls. Although Congress passed the Mann Act in 1910 forbidding the interstate transport of persons for immoral purposes, the forced prostitution of women and children continues in the United States – and globally – to this day.”

The definition of sex trafficking is:

a specific form of human trafficking in which a victim is induced by fraud, force or coercion to perform a sex act for payment. One common scheme to seduce women is to promise them jobs overseas as waitresses or domestic servants. Once out of the country and away from their family, traffickers take victims’ passports and subject them to beatings or rape to force them into their new “job.”

In the United States, victims of sex trafficking are often young girls who have run away from abusive situations at home and are quickly picked up by pimps who coerce them into prostitution by promising food, shelter or clothing. Pimps tighten their control over the girls by getting them dependent on drugs. Other recruiting methods include befriending vulnerable-looking girls at malls, movie theaters and even schools. The recruiter could be a young man posing as a doting boyfriend or another girl who appears to be friendly. (FOF)

Here’s some stats that I think might shock you:

Global

  • In January 2006, Interpol announced that human trafficking generates $32 billion annually.
  • The United Nations claims that the trafficking of human beings has surpassed the drug trade to become the second largest source of money for organized crime after the illegal arms trade.
  • The U.S. State Department estimates at least 600,000 to 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year. Numbers within national borders are much higher.
  • Among all trafficking victims, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.
  • Seventy percent of trafficking victims are forced into sexual servitude.
  • UNICEF reports that more than 1 million children around the world enter the sex trade every year.
  • Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood to sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.

United States

  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually from other countries.
  • Congress reported its findings for the Trafficking Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 that between 100,000 to 300,000 American teens are at risk for sex trafficking annually.

Despite an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available. (FOF)

What can we do?

This is a had question to answer. When we look at stats like the ones above, we can become overwhelmed and get a huge feeling of helplessness. But, here’s some things we can do and some organizations that we can support:

– Educate your kids, families, and friends. The more people know about the secrecy of the sex trade, the better.

– Buy “fair trade” merchandise. What is “fair trade”? It’s merchandise made by people who were rescued from the sex trade or other difficult situations. Fair Trade means that the money you are paying goes straight to the maker of the merchandise. For example, if something costs $3…the person gets the profit (aside from the shipping cost). There is not a huge mark-up of the price from the retailer. https://admin.tenthousandvillages.com/index.php/storelocator/category/view/id/festival/ is a reliable fair trade retailer that’s been around for a long time. You can find others by searching “fair trade” online or asking your church about their knowledge of fair trade merchandise. (if you really like coffee, check this out – http://landofathousandhills.com)

– support organizations who are fighting to save people from the sex trade, and keep them out of the trade! here’s a few that I know of:

– PRAY! Those who are in the U.S. and other countries directly fighting trafficking by undercover operations are in a dangerous line of work. These people and their families need our prayers desperately!

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Dads are important

Fathers parent differently.

It’s crazy that, while planning for weekend services and parents’ resources for their kids, we always seem to have mom in mind. The moms at our church tend to be the ones that will make sure they get their parent cue, God Time Cards, and other weekly resources for our kids. They’re most likely to like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, and read our blog. Honestly, this can get frustrating to me sometimes. I actually thought last week; “why don’t our dads seem more involved?” And then it hit me. Just because our dads don’t do everything that our moms do in terms of following our social media or making sure they grab their tangible teaching resource for the week, doesn’t mean that they’re not involved or that they’re not being great dads. (in most cases that is) So, I thought I’d write this blog, with the help of our focus on the family resource to show the great things that dads do for their kids!

Dads have a distinct style of communication and interaction with children. By eight weeks of age, infants can tell the difference between their mother’s and father’s interaction with them.This diversity provides kids with a broader, richer experience of contrasting relational interactions. Whether they realize it or not, children are learning, by sheer experience, that men and women are different and have different ways of dealing with life, other adults and children. This understanding is critical for their development.

Fathers play differently.

Dads play catch, run around the yard, tickle more, they wrestle, and they throw their children in the air. Fathers chase their children, sometimes as playful, scary “monsters.”

Fathering expert John Snarey explains that children who roughhouse with their fathers learn that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable. They learn self-control by being told when “enough is enough” and when to settle down. Girls and boys both learn a healthy balance between timidity and aggression. (So moms, all that rough-housing isn’t Always a bad thing!)

Fathers build confidence.

Go to any playground and listen to the parents. Who is encouraging kids to swing or climb just a little higher, ride their bike just a little faster, throw just a little harder? Dads. They push their kids a little farther and encourage them to try just a little harder.

Now, this could be unhealthy…it can tend toward encouraging risk without consideration of consequences. But, as long as dads are making sure kids know not to act or react beyond their limit, and remind kids to be careful, sometimes as well…this is a huge benefit to kids.

Fathers communicate differently.

“A major study showed that when speaking to children, mothers and fathers are different. Mothers will simplify their words and speak on the child’s level. Men are not as inclined to modify their language for the child. The mother’s way facilitates immediate communication; the father’s way challenges the child to expand her vocabulary and linguistic skills — an important building block of academic success.” I remember my dad always asking me to speak like a person, not like an animal or a baby. He always praised me when others took notice of how “grown-up” or respectful I acted. I think this is a huge thing! If your kids aren’t praised for their appropriate behavior and language (and disciplined for their inappropriate behavior and actions) they won’t respond to authority or be able to act properly in a situation that they would be expected to do such. (an important dinner, during holiday celebrations, or in public places)

Fathers discipline differently.

“Educational psychologist Carol Gilligan tells us that fathers stress justice, fairness and duty (based on rules), while mothers stress sympathy, care and help (based on relationships). Fathers tend to observe and enforce rules systematically and sternly, teaching children the consequences of right and wrong. Mothers tend toward grace and sympathy, providing a sense of hopefulness. Again, either of these disciplinary approaches by themselves is not good, but together, they create a healthy, proper balance.” Discipline is SO important! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids who come from really good families, but they don’t respect authority. Then I notice parents constantly warning kids and never following through with disciple, or telling kids that hat they’re doing is wrong and not explaining how their behavior affects others.

Fathers prepare kids for the real world.

Involved dads help their children see that attitudes and behaviors have consequences. For instance, telling their children that if they are not nice to others, kids will not want to play with them. Or, if they don’t do well in school, they will not get into a good college or secure a desirable job. Fathers help children prepare for the reality and harshness of the world.

Fathers provide a look at the world of men.

Men and women are different. They eat differently. They dress differently. They cope with life differently.

Girls with involved fathers are more likely to have healthier relationships with the opposite sex because they learn from their fathers how proper men act toward women. They know which behaviors are inappropriate.

Boys who grow up with dads are less likely to be violent. They have their masculinity affirmed and learn from their fathers how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways.  “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers — especially biological fathers — bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”

Now, obviously everything that a dad can do should be done in balance, just like moms should balance their parenting skills. Dads who are too harsh can ruin their child’s self-confidence and dads that push too hard will make their kids hate them. Obviously, use your judgement. And if you’re scared to become involved in your child’s life or are unsure how to, consult a family counselor and be open with your kids. Always let them know you love them and support them. Don’t ever feel like you’re a second-rate parent or that you need to take a back seat role to your wife. You play such a vital role in your kids’ lives! Be there for them and help train them up to be strong and Godly adults!

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New Years for Christians?

Christmas is OBVIOUSLY a great time to talk to your kids and start fun traditions about their faith in Jesus Christ. But, what about New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day? What can we do to focus on God during the start of a New Year? The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up and get our bearings. For starters, here are 31 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God as you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month. (Focus on the Family)

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to become more intimate with God?
  2. What’s something miraculous that you can ask God for this year?
  3. What’s the most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. Which spiritual discipline do you want to develop the most this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. Whose salvation will your pray for this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What one thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
  11. What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
  12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
  13. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
  14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
  15. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
  16. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
  17. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
  18. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
  19. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
  20. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
  21. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
  22. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
  23. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
  24. What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
  25. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
  26. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
  27. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
  28. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
  29. In what area of your life do you need to change, and what will you do about it this year?
  30. How will you live a more sacrificial life this year?

And we can help our kids with these ideas, too. We can talk about what good achievements they’ve had and what shortcomings they’ve experienced. We can talk about goals to set for the New Year and can help them to make plans in order to achieve these goals.

One great goal to set for this year – Spend 15 minutes reading the Bible everyday, and then pray to God that He’ll show you what you need to change, or do each day to become more like Him.

Have a Great New Year Everybody!

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What can I do with my family?

Since we’re in the middle of December, and we all want to do special things with our families…but the time just gets away from us – I’m going to challenge you to take one day a week and devote that day to your family for the rest of this month. Really make your family a priority; turn your phone off, don’t go on the computer, and forget about work and school (once homework is done, of course). Now, I know what you’re thinking. My family is WAY too busy to take a day away from all of our scheduled activities! But again, I challenge you. There are even some churches (mine included) that has canceled mid-week activities so that families can spend more time together during this month. Make your family a priority this Christmas season.

Since I’m giving you this challenge, it’s only fair that I give you some ideas for your family to do together. So, here it goes

– Visit the zoo. A lot of zoos across the country do something special for the Christmas season. And if you’re having an unseasonably warm winter like we are here in central Indiana, the zoo can be a really fun place!

– Find out about your area’s community center and/or park activities. Where I live, there’s a park less than 5 miles from my house that has a huge Christmas light display. You can drive through the entire park! (so you’re nice and warm while enjoying the beauty of the lights) A season pass only costs $5.

– Have a family slumber party. It is so much fun when the whole family takes blankets and pillows into the living room, and watches movies, eats popcorn and just spends time being silly together…..and the kids will think it’s so cool that they’re able to stay up late!

– Build a fort. (Use large appliance boxes outside, or pillows and sheets inside.)

– Get out the the family photo album. Show your kids photos of you and your spouse. Tell them about how your relationship grew. Show them baby pictures and tell them how much you love them and what makes them special!

– Play board games! My family loves to play apples to apples or the game of things. If your kids are older, you can play card games as well. The wii, xbox kinect, or playstation move are always a huge hit!

– Go on a family trip/historical excursion. This can be a week, week-end, or day trip to anywhere from a historical site to Disney to grandma’s house.

– Did it snow? Go sledding and make a snowman. You can even have a snowball fight or make an igloo together!

– Tell stories around a campfire. (Or in front of the fireplace). It’s even fun to tell a story in parts (one person starts and tells the story for a few minutes, then hands it off to the next person who continues the story and hands it off to another person…etc)

– Write letters to grandparents or a missionary. You could make home-made Christmas cards, or take photos to turn into a Christmas postcard.

– Attend community concerts or listen to a local band. There are some really exceptional concerts and plays during this time of year.

– Make Christmas cookies or other treats. You can deliver some to neighbors or friends!

– Go to a basketball or football game together.

– Organize a community clean-up.

– Visit the library. This was one of my favorites with my mom. We’d spend hours together at the city library looking at magazines, reading books, and sometimes even taking a class or two.

– Go ice skating. There are both indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks in most cities, and prices range depending on the city.

– Paint a picture, a mural, or a room.

– Join a family choir. You could even go caroling to different neighborhoods in your city!

– Start a family journal. My husband’s family and I did this when we were in Australia. We were there for five weeks, and though my mother-in-law wrote in the journal daily, we all made sure to write in the journal at least once a week to document our favorite activities, our struggles, and our new experiences.

– Go to a museum. Most cities have art, science, and history museums. Be sure to check into what things are on display before going. For example – a museum in my home city used to have an exhibit in the science museum once a year about the human body. It was made up of different real muscles, organs, bones, and other elements of the body. These were real body parts of people who had left their remains to science. It would be appropriate for a mature high school student, but not for a preschooler!

– Play cards. (Try phase 10, Canasta, crazy eights, Euchre, or scripture cards.)

– Start a family exercise group. You can do things like; run, aerobics, or zumba!

– Make Christmas ornaments or other crafts together.

– Have a culture night. Make a meal and learn about another culture. This would be great if you knew a family from another culture. I was fortunate enough to know two refugee families; Burmese and Congolese. It was great spending time learning different cultural recipes and games!

– Take photographs together and of each other.

– Go around the table after dinner and have everyone say what they love best about each other.

– Go dancing, have a family dance, or take a dance class together.

– Watch the sunset. Watch the sunrise. Figure out when the sun will rise and set in your location.

– Have a big party and celebrate a TV free week.

– Have a picnic. (If it’s too cold or bad weather, have a picnic in the family room on a blanket.)

– Visit an elderly person or someone shut in. You’ll be surprised how many awesome stories they’ll tell you!

– Learn home repairs for an activity. Make sure the girls learn too.

– Start a family collection. (Coins, rocks, stories, dress-up, clothes, treasures.)

– Watch an old movies together.

– Make a family goal chart.

– Make a grocery list, set a budget, divide items, go get pizza with the money you save.

– Make a family cook book. Try out the recipes!

– Have a family treasure hunt, or go Geo-caching.

There’s a huge list of things to do with your family! This is a great time of year to show them how much you love and care about them!

 

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Finances…how to tame the beast!

There have been many great wars; the war of 1812, civil war, world wars 1 and 2. But families have been waging another war in recent years. That war is with their finances. You see, when your family operates without a financial strategy, when you don’t communicate to each other about money management or when you don’t trust that God will provide Sunday through Saturday, you inevitably set the stage for a financial defeat.

Consider this:

  • Only 1 in 5 people use a monthly budget.
  • Families carry 2.1 trillion in debt, up from 351.9 billion in the late 1970s.
  • About 50 percent the families surveyed spend $2,500 to $5,000 a month on debt payments.
  • Savings are at an all-time low, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Analysis. We tuck away only 1.2 percent of our income. (Focus on the Family)

Now let’s assume for a moment that your family has a realistic budget and a sound financial strategy. You’ve cut out the morning Starbucks run and weekly Amazon or Ebay purchases, and you are among the 22 percent of Americans who claims they waste no money. Still, after paying off expenses, your family is left with only pennies to spare. Despite your best efforts, saving for emergencies is out of the question.

If this sounds like your household, a change in tactics might be in order. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate spending habits for necessities like housing, food, transportation and insurance. Even small savings can add up over a year.

Another option is to examine your attitude.  Are your budget battles all-consuming, or are you embracing Christ’s instructions in Matthew 6:25: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

Maybe you’ve never developed a solid financial strategy. If so, sticking to a monthly budget is a good start, but it’s only the beginning. Wherever you place yourself on the money management scale, the following advice from Crown Financial Ministries may relieve some of the stress and help prepare you for financial battle.

I have a HUGE amount of student debt. In fact, I almost laugh at the statistic that says most college students leave college with about $25,000 in debt. I hold more than three times that much in college debt, and this does not include my husband’s college loan debt! Though it’s going to take us a very long time to pay it off, thankfully, though, it’s the only debt we hold.

We’ve decided to follow the Dave Ramsey plan for finances and I would suggest the same for your family. Even if you aren’t struggling financially, a plan like this could help your family substantially. Please go to Dave Ramsey’s Website to read about a plan to follow, books that can help you, and the way to set up a proper budget.

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I’m Thankful

This Thursday is one of the best family days of the year- Thanksgiving! Unfortunately, so many families forget that it’s a day about being Thankful and being with family. More and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day and more and more people are choosing to forego dinner in order to get in line at stores and get the latest and greatest thing. Now, I love a good deal as much as the next person, but as they say on ESPN…C’MON MAN!

Let’s continue our family traditions, or start some new ones this year. Cherish your family. And, be Thankful for everything that you have been blessed with! Here’s some ideas:

1- The Turkey Trot: Whether your ‘trotting’ pace is a stroll or a sprint, the ubiquitous Turkey Trot is a fun way to offset that extra slice of pumpkin pie. And on such a day of gratitude and appreciation, you can’t argue with a community-centered event that often raises funds for charitable causes. (my aunt and uncle always have their kids trot with them…ages 6 and 8 – never too young!)

2- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Watch the parade! This is a great time for the family to gather in your PJs and experience the joy and excitement of Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas Season!

3- Let the kids cook: Bring the kids in the kitchen with you so they can “help” (or you can show/teach them) how to prepare a part of Thanksgiving Dinner. Kids can do something easy, like pouring the cream of mushroom soup in the casserole dish for the green bean casserole, beat the mashed potatoes (with your help of course), or set the table!

4- Play your own game of football: This was always a tradition in my husband’s family and with friends. Go outside and run around! Play catch, tackle each other, and see who’s going to win…boys or girls!

5- Make a wish: This is a tradition in my family. Known as a “lucky break” the tradition of tugging on either end of a fowl’s bone to win the larger piece and its accompanying “wish” dates back to the Etruscans of 322 B.C. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England and the English colonists carried the tradition on to America. You’ve gotta break the wishbone, and of course…make a wish!

6- Pre-meal prayer and Thankful wishes: Say a family prayer. After doing this, everyone around the table shares one thing that they are thankful for. It really makes you remember how much you really have and how blessed you are!

7- Football: If your family likes sports (as mine does) take some time to snuggle up after eating Turkey and watch one of the big games of the day. If you’re like my family, most of you will end up falling asleep!

8- Serve: There are people in our church this year that are spending their Thanksgiving with those who are less fortunate – by preparing a meal for them and sharing it with them. Take your kids and show them what serving is all about!

9- Show your gratitude to an unsung hero: Get together with your family and decide on a person or a group in your
community who could use an extra pat on the back; firefighters, soldiers, police officers, volunteers. Put
together a special plate of goodies and deliver it (or pack it up for shipping) as a family.

10- The day after Thanksgiving: You may be a family that does black Friday shopping…but after that – put up the Christmas tree. You don’t have to decorate it, or the rest of the house either (unless you want to) but putting up the tree (or the manger) the day after thanksgiving will help your family to remember what the Christmas season really is all about.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Spend time with family and friends, and remember all you have to be thankful for this year!

 

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