The Sparkle Box: A Christmas Tradition

The Sparkle Box: A Christmas Tradition

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Last year I wrote about a tradition I grew up with called, the silver box. The idea behind it is that with our friends and family we exchanged words of kindness. Our words were like a gift, wrapped up in a silver box with a silver bow, edifying and encouraging. Our sweet tradition came from the book Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer. You can read more about this idea here: The Tradition of the Silver Box 

The Sparkle Box: A Christmas Tradition

Last year for Christmas my mom gifted our family with a precious book, The Sparkle Box as a way to continue the tradition with my husband and daughters. It was written by Jill Hardie and the beautiful illustrations are by Christine Kornacki.

In The Sparkle Box we meet Sam, a young boy who learns about the needs of others during the Christmas season. As his family helps others, they write these moments down and place them in a sparkle box. On Christmas morning Sam opens the box with his parents and they talk about their gifts in honor of Jesus’ birthday.

Tucked behind the pages of the story is a sparkle box that you can put together and use with your family.

We have assembled our little sparkle box and have it placed in our living room. We are already excited as we talk about our gifts for Jesus. Sponsoring gifts for a child through our church, bringing a hot meal to a busy family, cards for someone who could use some cheer, quarters in the red bucket outside of Hobby Lobby, donations to a local thrift shop where those in need can shop for free. These are just some of the ideas we’ve thought about for our family to do. I am also excited to blend this new tradition with our silver box tradition by acknowledging that our words of love and encouragement are also because of love for Christ.

The scriptures that inspired this story are:

“You are the light of the world- like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see.”- Matthew 5:14

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”- Matthew 25:40

It is such a blessing to discover opportunities to honor Jesus throughout the holiday season. I’m so glad that our family will be using the sparkle box as a way to focus these festive weeks on the sort of love and kindness Jesus wanted us to show others.

To learn more about this fun tradition visit TheSparkleBox.com and read the book for free online through December 31, 2018! The website also has gift ideas and activities. This sweet story can also be purchased on The Sparkle Box

I’m going to close this post with the opening note from the book:

“Dear reader, you are the light of the world. Make it sparkle.”

Goodness and Beauty

Goodness and Beauty

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” 

Psalm 34:8 NLT

Goodness and Beauty

Do you think of your life as one full of goodness and beauty?

We all face struggles of many kinds, and it would be easy for those crumbling times to take over our song, our expression of life. I have learned that looking for moments of goodness and beauty in my life have helped me to see God’s hand in my life. Reflection on these moments lift me up and stir up gratitude in my heart.

Let me share a few of these glimmers of beauty~

Excuse my pun, but I fall for fall every year. As I look out my window right now I can see the leaves of my crepe myrtles turning a brilliant shade of orange and red, the hovering trees are turning golden.  The cool and crisp air make it more enjoyable to be outdoors and I love the sound of the wind rustling the leaves.

In this shift of nature, I see the hand of God. I see his goodness and beauty, and I am grateful.

It’s afternoon time, the girls are getting restless for their daddy to get home. I let my 4 year old climb up on the step stool and together we mix up a batch of spiced applesauce muffins. She carefully carves a well in the dry ingredients so we can pour in the wet. She watches me scoop the batter in, counting as we go. We share a quick kiss before she hops down to play in the other room.

In this time of togetherness, I see the hand of God. I see his goodness and beauty, and I am grateful. 

It’s a quite morning, which is a rarity in our home with two young children. I open the blinds to watch the morning sun shine through, and sit down with a cup of coffee. I pull out my prayer journal and I pour out my heart to Lord. I admit my sin, I remember his mercy. I share concerns and thank him for blessings.

In this still moment, I see the hand of God. I see his goodness and beauty, and I am grateful. 

Embrace a Heart of Gratitude

This is the time of the year we like to embrace a heart of gratitude. We count up our blessings, and try to focus on what’s most important in our life. These moments of beauty, are glimpses of God’s goodness. They are moments to share and celebrate.

You might find yourself in a valley right now. Perhaps your circumstances are wearing you thin and you feel inadequate. It might be that you are in a season of grief and sorrow. You’ve lost someone close, and are coping to figure out life without this person. Maybe it’s a diagnoses. Money might be tight. Your children are struggling. Oh, there are some who find themselves in great pain. If you are reading this and find yourself in a painful season please know that you have my sympathy. My hope for you is that even through these dark times you will be able to find moments of God’s goodness and beauty.

God’s Greatest Act of Goodness

The greatest act of God’s goodness and beauty took place long ago. A small babe was born and he was beautiful. He lived a life that beautiful. He suffered an agonizing death but was raised up from the grave. Through that death, burial, and resurrection God showed his goodness to us. He offers us his grace and his spirit and the hope of eternal life with him. Even when all of the places of our life feel grim, may we always remember this ultimate act of goodness and beauty.

During this Thankful season, I encourage you to think about what you are thankful for, and also to look for a glimmer of beauty every single day. Take a picture! Document it! Write about it in your journal. Find God in the small things, big things, and everything in between. Embrace the goodness of our Lord! 

A Prayer Over Our Hearts

Father God,

You are beautiful and good. Thank you for the ways you display your goodness through your creation, and especially though your son Jesus. Give us eyes to notice your blessings and to see your hands at work. Help us to have hearts of gratitude no matter our circumstance. 

In the name of Jesus,

Amen 

 

Changed by God’s Word

Changed by God’s Word

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:8

Changed by God’s Word

In our part of the country the changes of season are in the air. The wind chills the cheeks of my girls as we play outside in our front yard. The leaves of our three oak trees are falling from the busy squirrel up above. The mums and pansies shine bright, but most of the other flowers are wilting away. The blooms of my crape myrtles have all blown off. Leaves in the trees surrounding us are turning golden. In a few weeks our grass will be dry and brown. Autumn has come.

While Isaiah 40:8 is about much more than the turning of season, I can’t help but be reminded of it this time of year. There is something that doesn’t pass away. The living word of God. As autumn progresses we will find ourselves in the holiday rush, a time of year that is so easy to become consumed with matters of this earth. Thoughts about our holiday outfits, our Thanksgiving table, sports, the pumpkin path, the Santa picture, lights, our decorations, our greeting cards, the parties to attend… while none of it is wrong, it can be overwhelming. So what a breath of fresh air to be reminded that the matters of this earth aren’t as important as we make them out to be. How important it is to be reminded that the word of God is eternal, that his promises are true.

I love the song,

Ancient Words.

“Holy words long preserved

for our walk in this world,

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart. 

Words of Life, words of Hope. 

Give us strength, help us cope

In this world, where e’re we roam

Ancient words will guide us home

Ancient words ever true

changing me, and changing you.

We have come with open hearts

Oh let the ancient words impart. 

Holy words of our Faith

Handed down to this age.

Came to us through sacrifice.”  

The Power of God’s Word

Not only is God’s word eternal, but it contains the power to change us- really change us.

God’s Word Creates Action

If you’ve never watched the movie, Monumental by Kirk Cameron, I encourage you to do so! It is a wonderful documentary about the Christian roots of America. This film begins with the story of the Puritans, and goes into great detail to share the hardships they faced as they broke away from the Church of England and fled to Holland, and later the New World. These were men and woman who were deeply changed by God’s word. These were people who had grasped the concept that God’s word stands forever, and that the needs we have on this Earth are trivial compared to salvation. Oh, what sacrifices they made, many even loosing their life. God’s word mattered to them, and they wanted to preserve it for future generations. The movie is centered around the National Monument to the Forefathers in Boston, which shows how much they prioritized the word of God. The Bible was worth sacrificing everything for, and it was important to preserve it and pass it down to future generations.

Yes, these men and women had been truly changed by God’s word.

How has God’s word changed you? 

Personally, one of my greatest battles is insecurity, and I have been changed by God’s word time and time again when I go to Him in my distress. At times my eyes are opened to changes I need to make, and other times I’m reminded of who I am to Him. Over and over, he blesses me through his word.

Let me honest with you though- I’m not always allowing it to work in my life. I can’t tell you how many mornings I finish my reading only to become easily angered with my family, or selfish in my time, greedy in my wants, or wallow in my insecurity. I am human, I confess. I must choose to be changed.

God’s word is powerful, and if we want to reap it’s benefit, we must be willing to accept it, to let it cut us to the heart. We must allow the comfort in his message give us grounding peace. We must act upon the the convictions these words bring. We must be willing to as James so boldly put it, do what it says! (James 1:22)

There will always be more to learn, we will never grasp it all. Yet no matter where we are on our spiritual journey, these ancient words can convict and change. No matter the trends of culture, they are relevant. His word stands forever.

This time of the year can be quite full. Let’s not forget to prioritize time in our Bible, and to truly let it convict our hearts. Let us not be afraid to be deeply changed by God’s word!

 

 

 

 

Looking to Him

Looking to Him

Looking to Him in Our Shame

David is known as a man after God’s own heart, but if you study his life, it won’t take you long to realize that he wasn’t without blemish. While known for his courage, he also faced moments of fear. One of these times is recorded in 1 Samuel chapter 21.

“That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish, king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ” ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”

1 Samuel 21:10-13, emphasis mine

Afraid…David?

I’m a little taken when I read that David was afraid. Is this the same man who so confidently defeated Goliath? I can only imagine the embarrassment our strong and confident David felt after giving such a display. The Bible doesn’t really tell us that David felt shame over his actions. I have to wonder though, how would he have handled the situation if instead of fear, he’d felt as confident in the Lord as he did when the giant came down?

When the king saw his unsound state, he insisted that David leave. David fled to a cave. It is believed by scholars that at this time David wrote Psalm 34.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
Psalm 34:4-5

Their faces are never covered in shame. 

Shame

I wonder if David felt shame while drooling and scratching at the door. I wonder if he was looking back at his past actions and wishing he’d looked to the Lord in his fear. Be my thoughts inline with David’s thought process or not, I find comfort and direction in his psalm.

I so often feel ashamed with myself.

Ashamed for opportunities missed.

Ashamed for comments said or judgements made.

Ashamed for my idleness.

Ashamed for my shortcomings.

The shame is heavy and holds me down. In this pit, I’m only looking inward at what I can do. In this pit, I feel inadequate for kingdom work. In this pit, I’ve forget who I am in God.

Never Covered in Shame

I believe that David forgot who he was when he was faced with this fear. He forgot that God had chosen him to be king, that the battle was the Lord’s. But as he later says, those who look to him are radiant and their faces aren’t covered in shame!

Oh how, I love David’s declaration!

In Romans 8:1-2 Paul tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

When I look inwardly it’s no wonder that I feel insecure. When I focus on God, and what He’s done for me I don’t have to feel ashamed. I can move on and be empowered to take advantage of the opportunities He gives.

We must remember to look to Him and see that we’ve been forgiven, and that our flesh might be weak, but the spirit is powerful!

David was able to move on from his lowly encounter. He gave praise to God for delivering him and continued to seek God’s will. Yes, he would stumble, but David was a man of worship. He continued to look to God and seek His will. Oh, that we might do the same!

A Prayer Over Our Hearts

Father God,

We praise you for the mighty God that you are, and for delivering us from sin! In all circumstances, may we look to you. Draw us to your presence and help us to remember who we are in you. May our lives not be liven selfishly, but instead for your glory. Use us to advance your kingdom! 

In the Name of Jesus, 

Amen 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger

Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger

Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger

How often do you find yourself feeling angry toward your children? This is hard question to ask myself. I make significant effort to be gentle, but truthfully, it is quite often that I notice myself raging inside as my eldest, almost 4 years old, is becoming more familiar with right and wrong.

My moment of internal strife might play out in this way:

Why won’t she just listen and obey? What if someone gets hurt? What if she behaves like this in Bible Class? 

I can’t let her act like this! I have to show her who’s boss! 

In my anger, I lash out. The power struggle begins.

I make irrational statements in awful tones. I give ineffective punishments.

I feel horrible. She feels horrible.

Later on I hear her talking in the same ugly tone. Hmm… where did she learn to speak in that way?

Why is it that anger is the first instinct for so many of us, especially in regards to parenting? I believe most parents have good intentions. We want our children to act respectfully and we burn inside when we can’t convince them to cooperate. We are desperate. I believe that James, the brother of Jesus, and servant of God, speaks to the heart of this issue.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20

Anger Won’t Bring about Righteousness Living

In our Bible Class we recently studied this passage, and though James doesn’t specifically mention parenting, my heart couldn’t help but hear these words from a parent’s perspective. How often am I angry with my daughter because I want her to live righteously. Yet anger won’t bring about this righteousness- in myself or in my daughter. It is my experience that hasty anger often only brings about shame.

Let’s read on to hear the solutions that James offers.

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:21-22

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27

Righteous living is something that our children will learn through a lifetime of observation and loving instruction. James makes it very clear that being religious is about guarding our hearts and humble service.

Do our children see that in us?

Do our children see that we are humble and compassionate, ready to listen, and slow to become angry?

Do we have a tight rein on our tongue when we speak to our children?

There are many different styles of parenting, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. Often parenting requires direct and assertive responses, but I believe this can be done gently and in love. It is my conviction that the instruction to be slow to anger also applies to our interactions with our children. Does this mean that we will never be angry? No, of course not!

It means that our instinct will be patience,  kindness, and gentleness rather than anger.

We will have open arms and listening ears.

When it is time to be direct, we will try to stay calm. We will be our children’s “safe space.”

This type of parenting does not come naturally for me. I pray multiple times each day for the Lord to help me. I boldly pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed as I interact with my daughters. This passage in James was a strong reminder that I need to make a conscious effort to tame my tongue and be slow to anger in my responses to my children. I absolutely can’t do this on my own. I need Jesus to work through me as I train up my children in the way they should go. We all need him to!

Praying Over Our Hearts

I’d like to end this thought with a prayer.

Father God,

You are our Heavenly Father and we praise you and thank you for wonderfully making our children. Work through us as we train them in the way they should go. In us, express your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Help us to be slow to anger, with tongues that are tamed through faithful dependence on you. May our children see glimpses of you in our interactions with them. Forgive us for our selfish ways and for the times we respond poorly to our children. Give us strength and help when we need it. Soften our hearts and help us to find your joy every day. 

In the name of Jesus, Amen 

 

 

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