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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wonderful Christmas religious books for kids!

   A couple of years ago, we started a tradition of wrapping 25 Christmas books and unwrapping one each day of December.  We all love doing it and the kids are older this year (8 and 6) so they actually helped me wrap!  I wrap the religious ones in a different color wrapping paper than secular ones so that we can balance them out...secular, religious, secular, religious, etc.  I was pretty disappointed this year at how many religious ones I had :-/  I think I may have misplaced a few in the move.  I think it's real important to keep the focus on Jesus and not Santa and one way we can do that as parents is to control what we do at home.  They are going to get bombarded with secular Christmas stuff outside the home, but you can control what is IN your home.  So this is an easy way to do it.  We also read secular Christmas books...don't get me wrong...but it's so much easier to find those!  Religious Christmas books are harder to find, and sometimes not completely apparent that they are Christian (or have a great Christmas message)! Anyway, I decided to go on a mission to find more good religious books!  I'm a Christian educator and figured I really should know more than I do, but I am a member of a great group on Facebook of Christian Educators and I knew that if anyone could help, they could :)  And they did!!  I got tons of ideas :) Thanks guys :) So, here are some absolutely wonderful, tear-jerking, humorous, insightful, informative Christmas books for children...that are all about the REAL meaning of Christmas!!  They are grouped by age range and each title is a link to if you see something you like :) There is also a short description of each one from amazon.  Enjoy! Unintentionally, I ended up with 25 recommendations :)  One for every day in December!  Perfect!  But on Christmas morning we will be reading directly from our Children's Bible...the best book of all :)


Who is coming to Our House?
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"Who is coming to our house? Someone, someone," says Mouse. 
As Pig makes room, Lamb cleans up, Goose stacks the hay, and Duck lines the crib with eiderdown, Mary and Joseph are on their way by donkey. All the animals welcome the baby Jesus to their home."

I love this book and even wrote a reader's theater to use during our Christmas Eve service children's time :) My daughter still likes it and she's 6 :)

Room for a Little One
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My daughter just brought this one home from the school library :)  It was very sweet and she enjoyed it...I can see reading it with very young children as well.  Simple story, great pictures and the 90+ positive reviews can't be wrong ;)

(Peter Spier's) Christmas!
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I saw this one in our church library and almost didn't include it...but then a review made me see that I judged too hastily.  It is only illustrations - no words - which I LOVE.  I thought they were a bit "busy" for small children, but the reviewer talked about all the details that their mother would always point out when they were young :) It shows the family giving to the needy, going to church and other religious aspects of the season.  It even shows them "cleaning up" after Christmas.  The cool thing about no words is that you can make it age appropriate for any aged child!

Berenstain Bears Get Ready for Christmas
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My parents had this at their house for my kids when they were little.  It's a very cute book for preschoolers.  It's a lift the flap book and you have to "find" all the pieces to their manger scene...taking time to explain each one :)

The Parable Series: The Pine Tree Parable
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From what I gather from the review here, this is not a religious book, but does teach the importance of having a giving heart.
"The Pine Tree Parable tells the heartwarming tale of a farmer and his family who nurture tiny seedlings into fragrant Christmas trees.
When the trees are tall enough to offer to their neighbors, the farmer's wife plans to keep the most beautiful pine tree for her family, until one snowy December night when a child teaches her the true meaning of Christmas".

Ages 4-8

Animals Christmas Carol
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This says 4/5 year olds and older but I think you could probably read it to your 2-3 year old...depending how you read it :)  I read pretty much anything to my kids when they were real little...I just changed the words to fit their age.  This is a song that was written centuries ago that this author sort of re-wrote.  I love the song and my children have both sung it in church choir.  So when my daughter saw it in her school library (!) she couldn't wait to bring it home and "sing" it with me :)  I can see making this a powerpoint and using it in church...
"Inspired by a French carol that can be traced back to the 12th century, and written in the spirit of a traditional Nativity play, each lyrical verse retains all the resonance of its medieval origins. Drawn in painstaking detail, and with the addition of gold printing throughout, it is a visual feast"

The Legend of the Poinsetta
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I took a class in seminary where we read children's books and then reviewed them.  Evidently, the school started a web site to "house" all of the reviews (after my time though ;).  Thanks to a fellow CE for showing me this!  I got a few ideas from this site as well and this is one of them.  The in depth review is here if you want to read it.
"In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside.
This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child."

Unwrapping the Christmas Creche
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I haven't read this one and amazon doesn't let you "look inside" this book...and there are no comments, but a fellow CE recommends it :)  It sounds like a neat book to read while you set up your nativity set with your child :)
Where's my favorite box? Here it is. . . the Christmas crèche. "Rise and shine," I say in my good morning voice . . . "It's time for you to tell the story once again. Places everyone."This engaging and delightful books follows a child's thoughts and actions as the Christmas crèche is unwrapped. Each figure comes to life in this Advent adventure! Share Unwrapping the Christmas Crèche with your children as you create memories and traditions of your own.

The Joy of Giving
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I grew up reading the BB and I just LOVE them.  The newer ones aren't as well written I admit, but
they are religious which I like.  This is a nice one my kids and I enjoy reading.
"In The Berenstain Bears and The Joy of Giving Brother and Sister Bear can’t wait for Christmas and all the presents they’ll open. But during the Christmas Eve pageant, something special happens! The Bear cubs learn a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others."

Great Joy
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  There was not a description on this book, and I have not personally read it, but there was a comment that said, "This is a tenderly written story with gorgeous, rich illustrations. It is about a girl who is preparing for her Christmas pageant, but recognizes the sadness and poverty of an organ grinder and his money, and reaches out to them kindly." And she gave the book 5 stars :)  Plus more than one CE recommended I trust them :)

Mary's First Christmas
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The premise for this book sounds wonderful.  This is one that I would like to go out and buy.  I think my children, 6 and 8 would enjoy it.  It is written in four parts and can be read all at one time, or broken up over 4 nights.  It says for ages 4-8 but I think, after looking at the pictures and words on amazon, that some 4 year olds may have a difficult time sitting through this. Your call.  The CE that recommended this book especially liked the pictures :) Here's part of the summary from amazon:  On the night you were born the whole sky exploded with love, and the angels shouted, and more than a thousand hearts were in love with my baby Jesus on his birthday! Gather near and listen to the wondrous bedtime story, told long ago by a special mother to her very special son. Listen as Mary tells five-year-old Jesus of the first Christmas -- of his own birth and the remarkable events that surrounded it...artist Timothy Ladwig brings to glowing life the people and places of Jesus' young life. Listen. Look. And you too will experience the wonder and glory of Mary's First Christmas.

Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas
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(for ages 5 and up) This was recommended by a CE and I was intrigued as I read through some of the pages on Amazon.  Obviously this is a different kind of Christmas book, but I believe, from what I read, that it is based on a true story?  Perhaps.  Either way, it sounds like a great "bridge", and if your kids are anything like mine, their public schools teach them every holiday under the sun to be politically correct so they have many questions.  Here is the summary...Michael and Elijah are friends, but when Elijah gives Michael one of his special carved angels, Michael doesn’t know what to do. How can he possibly take home a Christmas angel, a forbidden graven image--especially on Chanukah? “A strikingly illustrated story that tenderly bridges the boundaries of age, race, and religion.”--American Bookseller

Wombat Divine
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As a preschool teacher I think I would like this one for my classroom :)  From reading the few pages on amazon I think Wombat gets to be baby Jesus (spoiler;)
"Wombat loves everything about Christmas--especially the Nativity play. He's wanted to be in it for as long as he can remember. At last he's old enough to try out. But at the auditions, the first part goes to someone else. So does the next. And the next . . . Will there be a part left for Wombat?"

The Nativity
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I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read this one.  It was by far the most popular recommendation with the CE group!  The illustrations are what makes it I think...that, and turning the story into one that would relate to modern day.  It's recommended for prek-3rd grade but I think everyone enjoys it! :)
"The biblical story of the Nativity is one about faith, love--and a miracle. With illustrations that are enchanting and unexpected, Julie Vivas reveals the human side to Mary's story, beautifully imagining the Angel Gabriel delivering the news to her, the exhausting journey with Joseph to Bethlehem, and at last the deliverance of the baby Jesus."

Voices of Christmas
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I would like to read this one.  There are less words per page in this one so it may be good for the littles. "Gabriel “paced the halls of heaven” as he memorized God’s message to Mary. He wondered what she would say. The Christmas story unfolds, as never before, through the voices of those who witnessed the Messiah’s birth. Listen to Joseph’s struggle. Rejoice with Elizabeth and Zachariah. Worship with the magi. Hear the fear in Herod’s voice. Receive the blessing of Simeon and Anna. And, like the shepherds, shout for joy!"

The 12 Prayers of Christmas
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This says recommended for 3-7 but each page has someone from the Nativity scene and there is a prayer in prose for each character.  Some of the wording is pretty complex for a preschooler.  I don't think I'd use it in my class...but I do like the idea of the's amazing how many different ways this story can be told :)
"Many were present the night Jesus Christ was born. Joseph and Mary were there, their hearts filled with peace. So were the donkey, the lamb, and the three Wise Men. Even the Star of Bethlehem looked on, casting a single heavenly beam of light upon the scene. This book gives voice to every creature present on that miraculous night and shares their twelve special prayers to the Christ Child."

Winter's Gift
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This is not a religious book, but a great book about hope at Christmastime. 
"It may be Christmastime but on a small, forlorn farm the holiday season is best forgotten, along with painful memories of loved ones lost. Mother Nature has other plans, however, and a chance snowstorm brings together two unlikely hearts, one human and one beast, yet both yearning for comfort, companionship, and that most elusive gift of all, hope."

Humphrey's First Christmas
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You won't need tissues for this one like some of the others :)  This one had me at the cover.  lol  This book has tons of great reviews but a few very harsh ones.  You have to keep in my when you read it that it isn't meant to be a serious book...but a funny one that teaches the importance of giving at the end :)
"A beautifully illustrated Christmas story...We've all heard the story of the three wise men who brought their gifts to Baby Jesus. But what about the camels who carried them? Here is the story of Humphrey the camel and his long, cold journey to Bethlehem. Humphrey has lost his blanket and schemes to acquire a new one. When the party reaches its destination, Humphrey is so drawn to the love surrounding Baby Jesus that he finds himself selflessly giving his new blanket to the Christ child."

The Last Straw
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This sounds like the Humphrey book above...just a bit different...and just as cute :)
"Everyone has heard the Christmas story before, but THE LAST STRAW is a unique and unforgettable new telling. Voices roll across the desert sands to Hoshmakaka, a curmudgeonly old camel, whispering that he has been chosen for the great responsibility of carrying gifts to the new baby king. With reluctance, Hoshmakaka accepts his task. Every day in the heat crossing the desert, his pack grows ever more burdensome as the crowds of people, anxious to welcome the new king, give him their gifts to carry. He is as strong as ten horses as he proudly tells the younger camels. But, oh, his gout! Oh, his sciatica! Nevertheless, Hoshmakaka plods on until he reaches Bethlehem. In the end he realizes the great honor of his task and never again is there a burden too heavy for him to carry."

Ages 6-9 (or older)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomy
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Our library at church had this one so I got to read it.  I'm glad I was alone when I did...but it made me cry :)  Beautiful story.  I read it to both my children and they liked it as well.  A great story that shares hope and joy but also manages to include bits and pieces of the Christmas story...
Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer. But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a gentle request that leads to a joyful miracle. The moving, lyrical tale, gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has been widely hailed as a true Christmas classic.

An Orange for Frankie
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Another one I might get for my kids.  This is not a religious story per se, but the message, according to the numerous comments, is very clear.  This story (at least partly true), is about the spirit of giving and sacrifices.  A good lesson at Christmas.  Many of the comments said they were in tears by the have some tissues handy ;)  
"The Stowell family is abuzz with holiday excitement, and Frankie, the youngest boy, is the most excited of all. But there's a cloud over the joyous season: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Pa hasn't returned yet from his trip to Lansing. He promised to bring back the oranges for the mantelpiece. Every year there are nine of them nestled among the evergreens, one for each of the children. But this year, heavy snows might mean no oranges . . . and, worse, no Pa!
This is a holiday story close to Patricia Polacco's heart. Frankie was her grandmother's youngest brother, and every year she and her family remember this tale of a little boy who learned--and taught--an important lesson about giving, one Christmas long ago"

To Whom the Angels Spoke
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Yet another way to tell the Christmas story.  This time, from the point of view of three shepherds.  The cool thing is, according to the reviews, all three see it a different way - showing how all of God's children are different and see God in different ways :)
"TO WHOM THE ANGEL SPOKE tells the story of Christ's birth through the perspective of three shepherds outside of Bethlehem. Distinctively different in every aspect of their personalities, the three hear a voice one night, and because they believe what the voice tells them, they are alike. In witnessing the Christ child, each understands the event in his own special way. In this touching tale, Kay gets to the heart of the Christmas story, while also acknowledging the differences among Christians. We are all different people, we all feel different things. Here we have something to bring us together."

Christmas Tapestry
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This sounds like a very touching story (again, have tissues ready :), but I'm not sure they have the age recommendation correct.  It says 6-8, but many of the comments talked about older children enjoying as well as middle schoolers and adults.  It refers to the it may not be something you would want to read with your younger elementary children.  However, I haven't read it...just going by the description and the 30 comments left...after reading the few pages on amazon however, I am hooked and now I want to know the end!!
"When a leak ruins the sacristy wall in his father’s church, Jonathan Jefferson Weeks thinks Christmas Eve service will be ruined. Luckily he and his father find a beautiful tapestry, perfect for covering the damaged wall and giving the church a festive look! But then, an old Jewish woman recognizes the beautiful cloth. Her discovery leads to a real miracle on Christmas Eve."

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie:Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth
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"It’s the Christmas season during a time when people had little money to spend. Cookie jars held pennies, not Christmas cookies. So when Jack smells something delicious coming from the kitchen, he can’t believe his nose. Cookies! But his excitement turns to disappointment when he learns the cookies aren’t for him. Instead, Mother is baking them for the needy people at their church. While Jack helps roll out the dough, his mother tells him the legend of the Christmas cookie. In a captivating interplay of simple words and beautiful illustrations, The Legend of the Christmas Cookie tells a tender story of giving—not just cookies, but gifts of the heart that last forever."

If You're Missing Baby Jesus - A true Story
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I love true stories!  I want to read this one :)  It says for 2nd grade and up.  There isn't much of a description on amazon, but the seminary review website I mentioned earlier has one here


If you have a suggestion - please share!  I will include my readers' faves below :)

Mortimer's Christmas Manger
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The Legend of the Candy Cane
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The Crippled Lamb
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The Tale of Three Trees
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The Littlest Angel
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Monday, November 10, 2014

It's that time again...Stewardship Sunday!

Why do we need to give?  Should we give?  How much should we give? There are so many organizations out there that do wonderful things...why give to the church?  Why even go to a church...Why not just worship in your house?  

So many questions...all of which I've heard.  Some of which are legitimate questions that deserve real answers.  I heard a sermon once at my home church in greensboro that really stuck with me.  I'm not sure why it did...but at the time it obviously meant a lot.  Many sermons have touched me through the years, but my memory isn't great and unless I write it down, I usually don't remember them.  But this one I do.  I think it helps explain why we should give and pledge on Stewardship Sunday.

I think it goes without saying that churches can not function without donations.  The building, staff, grounds, programs, classes and activities can't happen without donations.  For most churches that is the main, if not only, source of income.  Some churches are lucky and host many weddings or other such events and some money can come from this.  
This answers the question of - why do we need to give?  What about - should we give and how much should we give?  I asked one of my pastors once, "Why should I pray?  Why should anyone pray?"  His answer surprised me...mainly because I was expecting something pastoral, theological and deep.  He thought for a second and simply said, "Cause the Bible tells us too."  The conversation did end up going deeper, but it remains a simple answer.  The Bible tells us very plainly that we should give.  The Old Testament says to give 10%.  The New Testament, which is where we take most of our "laws"...from Jesus' teachings, does not give a certain amount.  I found this on the christianbiblereference web site...

"However, Jesus made it clear that we are obligated to be generous to those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV, Matthew 5:42)
Giving is to be done cheerfully, rather than as an obligation (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and not for the purpose of public recognition (Matthew 6:1-4). The amount to give is not necessarily ten percent (Matthew 19:21Luke 18:2221:1-4Hebrews 13:161 John 3:17). Generous giving is an acknowledgment that everything we have is a gift from God, and is to be used in His service (Luke 12:33Acts 20:351 Timothy 6:17-19James 1:171:271 Peter 4:10).
Rather than give a certain amount as an obligation, Christians are urged to share generously of whatever talents, abilities and wealth God has entrusted to them."

But the church uses the 10% from the OT as a guide to help us know how much we should give.  So this helps us understand that yes, we are to give and it gives us an idea as to how much.  On a personal note, I never used to give 10%...there was always an excuse.  After I got married though and lived in Peru a few years, my faith and outlook changed.  I realized that there will never be a time that is right.  Just do it :)  We never thought we'd have enough but somehow we always do.  God is good :)

So that leaves us with the question - "there are so many organizations...why give to the church?  we can just worship in our homes...why put money into the church?"
This is where that sermon I heard comes into play.  When we go to church we worship.  We sing.  We pray.  We fellowship with others.  When we go to church we participate in programs and activities.  We laugh.  We meet new people.  We dine together.  It's a community of faith.  The NT talks repeatedly about needing a community of faith.  Why?  Because at some point in your life, there will be a moment or a day or a week that is painful.  You may be sick, you may have suffered a loss of someone close to you, you may be lonely, exhausted, stressed out, burnt out, sad, doubting, in a financial crisis or depressed.  It will happen.  And when it does, you will need your community of faith.  That's why God created churches and fellowship - to help us through those times of need.  It can provide shelter for the needy, love for the brokenhearted, friendship for the lonely, food for the hungry, laughing for the sad and support for the weak.  
It's hard to imagine this when we are in a good position in life. Most of us want to be strong and take care of ourselves.  We don't want to admit weakness or a need for others. That's why many people rebuke God - you say, I don't need Him.  But the next time you are in church and all is good in your world, take a look around you.  Look at those in front of you, on your left, on your right and sitting behind you.  I promise you that at least one of them is hurting, or sad, or lonely...
perhaps anxiously awaiting the results of a test, perhaps waiting for a looming lay off at work, maybe going through a divorce or family problems.  Whatever the problem is, someone around you needs this time of worship and fellowship.  I had a professor once that lost her adult child.  The other professors got together to show their support for her and her family.  She told them, "I can't even pray right now...I can't even believe".  Sometimes it gets that bad - you don't have the words to pray or the frame of mind to even try. You don't know how to help yourself to start getting through whatever it is that you are experiencing.  So what did her colleagues tell her?  "That's why we are here.  We will pray for you so you don't have to.  We will believe for you."  And isn't that what we are truly here for?
So the next time you are worshiping in church - sing louder, pray harder, listen more intently and pay attention to those around you...Because someone around you needs to hear you sing and needs to hear you pray, because they can't.  They are suffering, hurting and need to hear you sing praise to God and hear your words of affirmation.  They need to see you believe because they can't.  And they need your attention because they are seeking their community of faith.  
This is why we give...and not just our money - but our time and talents.  We give because we need each other and the church.  We give because we need a place to go that offers safety, love and support that no other place offers quite like the church...We give because others can't...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Having Patience with God

I'm feeling the need to be honest and real today.  I've heard the word patience - and have used it - what seems like a thousand times in the last week.  "In God's Time", "God's plan", "just be patient"...all so true, but when you are the one waiting, wondering and hoping for something, God's time is not always a comfort...especially if you have a personality that likes to have things planned :) So, it got me thinking about my life, especially after I graduated college and how God has always come through...and many times at the last minute :)

I'm not sure why God likes to put us through that...the waiting, the wondering, not knowing what's going to happen in the next month. One of my theories is that God likes to make sure that you are relying on Him and not the world, and that perhaps, you need a little lesson in patience :)  Personally, I think I've had enough tests and I wish He'd stop already :)  But again, as I look back at my life I see a series of challenges and tests that I or my family has been through and I'm reassured.  I'm reassured that God loves me, that God is taking care of me, that God has a plan for me and that it WILL happen in His time...just be patient.  It will work out.  It always has and always will.  You may not see it in your lifetime, but that's where faith comes in.  Let me give you some examples...

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

It's hard living month to month - many people here and around the world have to deal with that reality.  If you've never gotten to one week before the end of the month and had $0 in your account, then you can't possibly understand what it's like.  It's a stress you don't want to deal with and sometimes can be downright frightening.  It comes with a feeling of helplessness that is overwhelming.  But I thank God, that in our 11 years of marriage, we have had to, on occasion, deal with this problem.  Why be thankful? Because the majority of people deal with it daily and now I can relate.  And because I have gotten to see God pull us out of it time and time again.  We have seen people come out of nowhere to help.

Through getting married and moving to the US, through struggling to find a job when we first got here, through going to seminary for three years and Noe going longer, through having two children, through multiple surgeries, through different jobs, through moving and through unexpected issues, we have never felt anything other than God's peace in our lives.  Sure, there were times of trouble, but even though we struggled financially, we never felt like we were doing something other than what God had planned for us.  In other words, the challenge of Noe working full time in the public schools but not even getting paid a teacher's salary, while I worked part time, while we had our first child, while I had an unplanned surgery, all while paying for seminary...we never made it to the end of the month.  Ever.  So why didn't I quit and get a full time job? Why didn't Noe look for a different job...why didn't we do something about it, why, why, why?  Simple. It was where God wanted us at the time.  I knew that I was working in a ministry where God called did Noe.  We both knew we were supposed to be in seminary.  We knew it was time to have a child. We would not risk what God was calling us to do for all the money in the world - because we knew that we could not be truly happy if we are not doing what God called us to do.  It was hard at times, especially once we had a child and realized that we wouldn't be able to afford what other parents could for their children.  But God saw us through and still is.  How?  Check this out...

Habakkuk 2:3

For there is still a vision for the appointed time;

    it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
    it will surely come, it will not delay.
We had no where to live when we got married and moved to the US because someone was renting my townhouse.  But my sister had to move to Colorado and needed someone in her house to help with rent while they decided on their next move of whether to sell or not.  Problem solved.

I was having trouble finding a job when we came back to the US and then a spot became available in the program where I used to work before I went to Peru.  Problem solved.

When Noe finally got his license and working permit, he needed to be able to get around and we couldn't afford another car.  Our townhouse then became available which was right by the bus stop. When the bus was no longer enough to help get him to where he needed to be, someone at the church donated a car and they gave it to Noe.  Problem solved...twice.

Despite not knowing much English, Noe was blessed with a job at a church starting an Hispanic Ministry.

When the above car stopped working and we needed a new one because we were going to have a baby, Noe decided to take it to the junkyard to try and get a couple hundred dollars for it.  On the way to the junkyard a car side swiped Noe totaling our car.  We got almost $5000 from the insurance company.  Not a coincidence.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

11 He has made everything suitable for its time;

Once I had Paul, I knew that God was calling me to do something else.  I was no longer happy or at peace with where I was working. So I resigned and gave 3 months notice with no prospects.  Stupid or brave?  Faith.  And peace. Two weeks before the end of my job I had an interview with what ended up as my first call at a church in Reidsville.  God loves to wait until the last minute :)

One December, after we had Ella, and Noe was still in seminary, we got a call from the pastor of our home church.  He said that someone had brought in a trash bag full of Christmas presents for our kids.  Amazing.

We couldn't afford for Noe not to work while he searched for his first call after seminary and his job at the school system was no longer secure.  Right when we were starting to get worried and wonder what we would do, Noe was accepted into the chaplaincy program at Duke which gave us a full year to look for a call. Awesome.

When that year was half over and he still didn't have a call, he found the "For such a time as this" program that landed us in Fort Lauderdale.  The process ended and the call was extended less than a month after the end of his chaplaincy.  God is good.

While we were in Fort Lauderdale, Noe's car broke down and it was more expensive to fix it then it was worth.  We decided to not get a new one because we were already tight each month.  We would just ride it out and share one car.  Was it a coincidence that two days later my mother called and said that my grandmother decided she no longer needed a car and, since she had already given one to her other two children, she gave it to my mom...and did I want it?  Of course it was no coincidence.  It was God working things out the last minute :)

After a year of being in Fort Lauderdale, I was still trying to figure out what my calling was.  As a pastor's wife, I have realized that we will always go where Noe is called.  It's the nature of the work. So, once we follow his call, I will have to figure out where God is calling me.  It took a while in Fort Lauderdale, but God came through as He always does.  After getting on my knees and begging God to please show me the way, days later I was called to an interview at another church to start a Mother's Morning Out Program.  I did...but at our church :) We also got a grant so I could get paid to help with the Christian Education at our church.  All in God's time...

And what about those times that friends or family chipped in a few hundred here or there to help us out...and always at the right time? Or those wonderful people who offered us or our kids amazing opportunities that we would not have had otherwise.  God's timing.  

Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

So now here we are in Lancaster and I am again looking for my calling. Unlike Fort Lauderdale, I have had a few different possibilities land in my lap.  So all I have to do is wait and pray until God shows me which path to take.  

Life may give you challenges, like not being able to pay a bill at the end of the month; but if you are doing what God wants you to be doing and you are walking down the path He has chosen for you, it will work out.  Just have faith.  It won't always be easy - it can be frustrating, you can call out and feel like God's not listening - but the saying is God's will all work out.   

One day...after we close on our house and after I start working and we are settled in to our new life here in Lancaster, I hope that we can pay it forward and return some of the kindness that we have received.  I was reading the birth story the other day and it had never occurred to me how many angels were in that story...Zechariah's angel, Mary's angel, Joseph's angel, the shepherds' angel(s)...they were all there to make sure everyone knew what was going on and to reassure them that all was good. Then Noe told me of an "angel" that helped his family once in Peru one Christmas Eve (he tells the whole story in the devotional the church will give out for advent :)  There are real live angels all around us.  We have experienced many and I thank God for it.  If we had never been put into the situations we were in, then we would have never known what it felt like to need and then want for something and then be blessed with it. And if we had never known the social difficulties of living in a society that is money-driven we would have never learned how to be sensitive to those that don't have as much.  God has probably used you as an angel for someone else and I'm sure you can think of a time when angels have helped you.  Have faith that whatever trials you are going through will work out - maybe not how you planned or even what you wanted - but just be patient and trust in the Lord.  

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Proverbs 3:5

Going through difficulties and trials will enable you to feel sympathy and to help others who will also go through them...and possibly without the faith that you have. You can be the light for them that brings God's joy and peace to their lives.  Through your trials you can be an angel to someone else :)

God bless.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Little Man...Thank you for being you!!

It's easy as a parent to see yourself in your child - their personality, physical features - eye color, hair; attitude, smarts, etc. This means we tend to jump to conclusions or assume that our child can or can't do things that we can or can't do.  For example, I am musical and my husband is musical so our children should like and play music.  Or into sports, or math or blah blah blah.  Fill in the blanks. Then sometimes our children remind us that they are going to be talented in areas where we have no skills, they understand things at their age that we didn't ten years later, they aren't interested in the things that most interest us (ha!), that our best subject is their worst and that we should always be careful never to underestimate them...because they will constantly surprise and impress us.  

This post is to say Happy Birthday to my now 8 year old son who constantly surprises me and reminds me that I should always expect more from him.  Yes, he was born on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 (that was an adventure) and  I love all these things about him...(his last birthday post), I want to thank him for keeping life interesting :)

Paulito, thank you for... 

- not caring what other people think about you.  I love that you do what you want and don't worry how people see you.  I pray you keep that uniqueness!

- remembering everything I say I'll do and holding me accountable. lol.  I need the help :)

- being sensitive and caring about other people and animals.

- remembering every rule in everything always :)

- not being afraid to try new things.

- your sense of humor and helping me not take things seriously all the time :)

- making me feel loved and needed :)

- taking learning seriously...even though you don't always want to.

- loving your family and making them a priority in your life.  I pray you always do.

- showing me that even though you are introverted you will step out of your comfort zone when you need to.  You help me do the same :)

- having big dreams and trusting that God will help you achieve them.

- not being afraid to share your faith and belief in God

- doing little things to help out - like cleaning without being told, or emptying the dishwasher when I'm not least the things you can reach :)

- holding yourself accountable - I pray you always accept responsibility for the good and bad things that you do.

- being a loving and thoughtful son who brightens my are incredible.  And as I've told you since you were will always be my little boy :) even when you're 30 ;)

God bless you buddy!

With love always,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To our School Food Services...

I'm not a squeaky wheel and I really don't even know where to start to be one...but for some things, I will step out of my comfort zone to object to openly.  This is one of them. 

My child has a peanut allergy - we didn't ask for it, we didn't cause it and we don't like it anymore than you.  I won't go into details about how we found out and reacted or how we have dealt with it as she has grown, because I posted a blog a year ago about that very thing when she entered kindergarten.  

This is different.  When she started kindergarten, her school had a peanut free lunch line.  The cafeteria itself was not a peanut free zone, but this worked fine for us.  Why?  Because I knew that no peanuts entered the food area where her food would be prepared.  That meant that not only was every child eating food from the cafeteria peanut free, but she could eat there as well.  The only problem would be the children that happened to bring peanut butter in their lunch boxes.  However, we drilled into her constantly to never share food...and she seems to understand (especially since having her first reaction...which she can't forget).  

However, the school system where my children attend now serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...everyday.  This is ludicrous to me and here is why - take a look at the most recent statistics on food allergies...

About 6 million children have food allergies - that's roughly 1 in 13 children...or possibly two per class in the US.  This is no longer "uncommon" or "rare"...this is real and at every school and in almost every classroom.  More specifically, the two more common allergies in children are peanuts and milk - peanuts causing the most severe and deadly reactions.

I know there are a lot of different food allergies out there and the schools can't cater to each one - especially if that food is prevalent in the majority of the lunches that are prepared (like gluten).  I'm not asking schools to do something that severe - something that would affect every child in the school.  I'm asking something very simple - consider the majority of severe food allergy sufferers...the ones allergic to peanuts.  It's not hard - peanuts are only served in ONE lunch offered in your cafeterias...and it can be replaced very easily and most of the time unnoticed by children - with school safe soy butter.  So instead of ordering peanut butter this year to make your sandwiches, order soy butter...problem solved.  Why is this not done at every school?!  Why are our childrens' lives being put into danger?  Parent's of children without allergies who may be shrugging their shoulders at this...did you know this? (I didn't) - not only can allergies develop at any time during your life (my sister just developed one at 39 and has to carry an epi-pen) but 25% of children who have a severe allergy have their first reaction while at school.  We need to protect all of our children.

Please don't wait until a child dies before something is done.  Why did Amarria have to die at school in 2012 for a bill to be passed requiring every school to carry epi-pens? (School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.) Since that was passed at least two lives have been saved when the children ate something at school that triggered a reaction.  Who knows how many more were saved that haven't been reported?Can't we foresee and predict what is going to happen?  It doesn't take a genius...Why do we have to wait for something tragic? Especially when it can be easily avoided?

Cafeterias don't need to be peanut/nut free.  That can't happen and can't be enforced anyway.  But our School systems can stop serving peanut butter and other nuts.  That alone will eliminate most of the peanuts in the cafeteria and my daughter can go back to sitting with her classmates instead of being segregated at a separate table because of a medical condition.  We can't do this to our children.  We can't punish them for something they have no control over.  Do we make the ADD children sit at a separate table?  Do we make deaf or blind children sit at a different table?  Of course not - that's insensitive, heartless and traumatic for the child.  As a friend so eloquently put it with some satirical humor...

   "Our students can either choose to sit at the rattlesnake-free table, or around their friends who may or may not bring a rattlesnake to school.  Honestly, it's up to the children [and parents] whether or not they want to endanger their actual lives or their social lives."

Let's not do this to our children.  Help them all feel included.  And if there's a student in your child's class who has a more obscure allergy - be sensitive to it.  If they could possibly die from eating an apple (I have a friend who could...), then when you send apples with your child at lunch or see apples on the lunch menu - tell your child to not sit near his friend that day...for their safety.  All the children in the class need to understand the severity of a food allergy - because most likely there are 1-2 in their class.

So what can you do?  Find out who the food service people in your school system are and forward this to them.  Let all of the school systems that still serve peanut butter know that there is an easy option out there...and that all parents are in support of it.  The more parents and adults they hear from the more likely they are to change it...because one of the only reasons they haven't yet made this decision is because they don't want to start trouble with parents of students with no allergies.  So let them know it's ok, that your child will settle for a soy butter and jelly sandwich...and even if they can't, you can send one from home - just tell them to not sit next to their buddy that day.

Don't make a mountain out of a molehill...this is a huge problem with a tiny solution - so let's do it!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A prayer for my children before school starts...

I realize this isn't their first day of school...they are going into first and second grade.  So yes, I have done this before. But that doesn't make it easier.  It won't be easy next year, or the next, or when they graduate...or get married.  This is for every parent that's having to let go.  It's hard, as a parent, to express how you feel when sending your kids off to school or on a new adventure. I tried to express it in a prayer...God bless you and your children during this transition.

Heavenly God,

Reluctantly I leave my children with you, in your care. I trust you with all that I am, but I have watched over them with you, night and day from the moment they were born.  We' ve heard every cry, wiped every tear, I’ve changed diapers, potty trained, watched the first step, heard the first word…
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  (Deuteronomy 11:19)
You have been with us and our children through every experience they have had – the good and the bad.  I saw them ride their first ride, I’ve seen them lose their first pet.  Everything they have experienced I have had the privilege to witness.  I thank you God.  I thank you from my innermost being because it is something I will hold on to forever.  The memories will always be with me when they graduate, get married and have their own children. 

Now summer is over.  We have built more memories, gone on trips, seen new things and watched their little faces light up when seeing their first fireworks.  We’ve heard the laughter when staying up late goofing around.  We have had wonderful conversations about life, moving, leaving the old and embracing the new.  We’ve talked about You, God.  We’ve questioned, we’ve answered, we’ve discussed and we’ve pondered Your awesomeness.  Thank you for our experiences and for giving us the chance to go through all of them together. 


“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."  Isaiah 43:18-19

So tomorrow we let go.  I will no longer know what they are experiencing as they go about their day – meeting new friends, learning new things, shedding tears and sharing giggles.  I will only get the stories afterwards about what happened at PE or what someone said in math or what someone did in the library.  For the first time I no longer get to share in the experience with them…I only get to hear about it from them.  

It is difficult Lord to let go…but we know you are near.  We know that we can’t go with them everywhere, but You can.  You will get to share every experience with them as they grow.  I pray that You help them understand that you are indeed always with them.  If they get bullied, if they forget their homework, if they get hurt, when they mess up or get frustrated…be with them.  Hold them close in your arms just as I would.  If they get 100 on a test, get first place in a contest, meet a new friend, help someone who is upset or hurt…pat them on the back.  Give them a high five and a hug just like I would. 

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Letting go always comes – daycare, preschool, kindergarten, high school, college, marriage.  It will come whether we are ready or not.  Help us through each transition.  Help us enjoy the moment and not dwell on what’s to come or the memories that have gone by.  Help us prepare our children just as you prepared us.  Help us to let go gently and gracefully and guide our children on their new walk.  
Protect them from danger, from people who mean harm, from children who bully because they have been bullied.  Give them the drive and focus to learn…give them the desire to grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.  Help them be Your light to others – their friends, classmates and teachers.  Give them compassion to help the new child in class, the hurting and the children who have been wonderfully made different.  Help them to never participate in jokes that hurt others and stick up for those being hurt.  Bless the teachers – that they not only teach, but love our children.  That they show our children how to learn and live in community. 

Thank you God for our blessings.  Thank you for our opportunities.  Thank you for our challenges.  We embrace them with our whole hearts no matter how difficult they may be.  You are our Rock and Redeemer, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end.  Bless our children as they leave our arms and enter Yours alone…

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”  (Mark 9:36–37)