The Sparkle Box: A Christmas Tradition

The Sparkle Box: A Christmas Tradition

Kristin J

I am a girl who loves to sit with a cup of coffee and daydream. I am most passionate about Jesus, my family, and family ministry. My husband and I live in Oklahoma with our two precious daughters. I spend my days with my girls, discovering and growing alongside them! You can usually find us either in our sunroom, the park, or taking long walks through Target. :)
Kristin J

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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.”

Sitting on the Porch with Pam J.

Sitting on the Porch with Pam J.

Pam J

Hi! I grew up on a farm in Kansas but moved to Oklahoma when I got married and have been a city girl ever since. I’ve been married for 36 years to a generous, loving, hardworking Christian man (who is currently an elder in our congregation), and we have been blessed with 2 children, a son and daughter. Both are married, and our son has 2 little girls (so much fun being a grandmother!). I enjoy running, hiking, reading, playing the piano, and singing. I’m passionate about my family, personal spiritual growth, teaching God’s word, mentoring, and serving others.
Pam J

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Sitting on the Porch with Pam

Sitting on the porch and enjoying the company of others as we talk and get to know each other better is an absolute joy. Although we might not all be able to get together physically, we can do it virtually.

So grab a cup of your favorite drink and let’s get to know Pam a little better. In the months to come, she will be encouraging our hearts by sharing what God is putting on hers.

1. What is your favorite Bible verse?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– 
Philippians 4:6-7

2. Who is the most relatable Bible character to you and why?

John Mark.

He messed up so much that Paul didn’t want him to go with him on his missionary journey, but Barnabas stood up for him and took a chance on him. John Mark didn’t squander this fresh start, and Paul later commends him for his service.

I’ve been like John Mark and have had people like Barnabas in my life, who’ve stood alongside me and encouraged me, spurring me on to do better.

4. What is your favorite go-to easy meal?

Roasted chicken with potatoes/carrots

5. What are your hobbies?

Running, Hiking, Reading, Playing the piano, Singing

6. What is your favorite T.V. show or movie?

Monk

7. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?

Read a book

8. Who is your role model?

Sue G.

9. Would you rather vacation at a mountain cabin or a beach house?

Mountain cabin

10. What is the best thing about yourself?

I’m an encourager.

11. What is one of your favorite books and/or what are you reading right now?

Francine Rivers’ “Mark of the Lion” series (inspirational fiction).

I’m currently reading “In His Image” by Jen Wilkin.

So That the World May Know: The Path to the Cross

So That the World May Know: The Path to the Cross

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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Have you ever gone through a Bible study that just blew you away?  You came out with such a changed perspective, more love for God and his amazing gift, and a realization that God is just more awesome than you could have ever imagined?

Ray Vander Laan’s series of studies That the World May Know is like this for me!  Several years ago, our associate minister introduced us to this amazing video series and I highly recommend it.

As a historian and Bible teacher who studied in Jerusalem, Ray Vander Laan helps us connect the Biblical principles of each Bible story to the cultural context by showing us the places where the Biblical events happened and explaining their significance.

It’s so much more than a Bible study

There are many great Bible studies out there, so what makes this study different?

What sets Ray Vander Laan’s series apart is that you don’t just pop the DVD in and watch him talk.  You pop the DVD in and then you set out on a Biblical adventure of exploring the text while exploring the Bible lands.

What’s the Significance?

Have you ever read a Bible story and thought, “Why did they do that?” or “Why is that detail included?”  I have many times.

This is where Ray Vander Laan takes time to not only physically show you what these details would have looked like at the time but what they represented and what their significance in the Bible stories was. Understanding these details help us have a better understanding of how to apply these truths to our lives.

For example, understanding “the cup” that Jesus picked up and said, “Take this in remembrance of me” takes on a whole new meaning when you understand that that particular cup has a symbolic meaning too!  Jesus didn’t just pick up any cup.  You see every single cup taken during the Passover Seder signifies something.

In one of his Bible Studies, “Path to the Cross: The Fifth Cup: Our Way of Hope,” he explains the significance of each Passover cup and how the promises declared with each cup impacts us as Christians taking communion today, as well as how they impacted the Israelites when God brought them out of Egypt.  Christ fulfilled these promises, and they are something we can cherish and remember now for encouragement until He returns!

The Path to the Cross

Last year as Easter approached, as many Christians do, I dug deeper into the Scriptures.  I wanted to understand more than I ever have before. Truly, all we need to understand is that we are all sinful and that Jesus sacrificed himself, taking all our sins upon him so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.  It’s really that simple.

What am I missing?

But so many times, I look at the days leading up to the Last Supper and think, “What am I not getting?  What would someone from the first century have noticed that I just can’t comprehend?”  Did the disciples sitting around that table, walking day in and day out with our Savior understand more of what was meant, even after the fact?  Jesus said they wouldn’t understand it all at the moment but later it would become clear.

We have the fortunate ability to look back and understand a little more than they did in the moment, but we miss what their cultural context made evident to them because that is not how we live.

As an answer to prayer, I stumbled across Ray Vander Laan’s video lessons called “The Path to the Cross,” which is volume eleven in the series called So That the World May Know. (It was on Amazon Prime!)

This five-video lesson set blew my mind.  I look at the Last Supper in an entirely different way now.

Not only did he discuss the last supper but the Mount of Olives, which is very different than how I pictured it, and brought to life the absolute understanding and anguish that those hours and days before the crucifixion held.  Not only that but because Ray Vander Laan teaches these studies in the places or as close to the places where the stories actually took place, the visuals bring the Bible truths to life in ways I’d never experienced before.

These are perfect to watch as you prepare your family’s heart to celebrate and be even more in awe of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection this weekend!

The best part is they are FREE on Amazon prime!

Watch the first in this volume by click on the graphic below.


Win the “Path to the Cross” DVD study and the Discovery Guide

Thanks to a donation by Zondervan you can enter to win this study as well as another!

Path to the Cross Giveaway

Enter for your chance to win “A Path to the Cross”

The Death and Resurrection of the Messiah

I purchased this “Death and Resurrection of the Messiah” DVD and Discovery Guide from Zondervan a few weeks ago and have been excited to go through it.  It contains ten lessons and can be used for groups or individuals.  We enjoy watching them as a family.  I love how my kids can see where these stories happened and understand that these places still exist today!

Previously, I’ve only watched the DVDs and had short discussions with our bible class or our small group.  This time I’m actually going through the discovery guide as well, and let me tell you, it is great!  I’m loving digging deeper with the discovery guide…taking time to soak in the lesson, chew on it a bit, and then enjoy it more.

When Storms Come

The first video lesson in this volume, “When Storms Come,” is only about sixteen minutes long.  Enjoy it and be encouraged by seeing this story we’ve heard so often in a new way.  Then enter to win it as well!

Win Ray Vander Laan’s “Death and Resurrection of the Messiah” DVD study and the Discovery Guide

Enter for your chance to win “Death and Resurrection of the Messiah” DVD study and the Discovery Guide
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Have you seen any Ray Vander Laan lessons before?

 What are your favorites?  

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Unasked Prayers: A Prayer Life Challenge

Unasked Prayers: A Prayer Life Challenge

Lori S

I'm Lori! My husband and I have been married since 2008. We adopted our son in July and live in Memphis, TN. One of the things I love about Creating a Great Day is that it is focused on inspiring women to the woman that God wants them to be. Every woman is different, and we all have talents to honor God and walk alongside each other in this spiritual journey called life. Have a blessed day!
Lori S

Is Your Prayer Life Flourishing?

How is your prayer life? I definitely have some room to grow in mine. When I have a lot on my plate, I tend to schedule everything but God into my day. I do make attempts to read Scripture at night or pray before I go to bed, but most nights I am unsuccessful. I don’t really know why I don’t make prayer more of a priority. Sometimes, childhood teachings creep into my heart, telling me to only pray for God’s will because His will must be accomplished. Other times, my anxiety and stress level paralyze my heart and mind, causing me to stay in the here and now and not pray for the future.

A couple of years ago, I knew that my prayers (when prayed) were shallow. Even when I asked God for things, I knew that what I asked was meager and infrequent. So in order to challenge me and to stretch my concept of prayer, I selected the book The Circle Maker.  Several statements and passages resonated with me, including this quote:

“The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.” (p. 19)

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Analysis of My Prayer Life

This made me analyze my prayer life. Why do I pray? Why do I ask what I ask? Do I only ask for select things because I question God’s power or interest in my life? Is it a lack of faith, or a lack of trust? Am I putting up emotional and spiritual barriers between me and God so I won’t get hurt? If that is the case, do I not trust God to carry me through whatever trials I may experience?

The follow-up passage to the quote listed above speaks to some of these questions.

“He will answer. And His answers are not limited by your requests. We pray out of our ignorance, but God answers out of His omniscience. We pray out of our impotence, but God answers out of His omnipotence. God has the ability to answer the prayers we should have prayed but lacked the knowledge or ability to even ask.” (p.19)

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What prayers of yours have been unanswered because they have been unasked? Where are you holding back in your prayer life? Your family, your career, maybe your involvement in a project or an organization? God may not answer your prayer exactly the way that you want him to, but He will listen and respond. Be still and know that God is with you.

 

Here are some Scriptures to meditate on…

1 John 5:14-15
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Ephesians 6:18
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Jeremiah 29:12
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

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Sacrifice the Truth or Sacrifice Ourselves

Sacrifice the Truth or Sacrifice Ourselves

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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There are some books that are light fun reading and others that challenge us to think about what we would do, if put in the same situation. Would we be willing to sacrifice the truth for ourselves or sacrifice ourselves for the truth is the challenge that came with a historical fiction book I finished reading. This book initially grabbed my attention with the word “spy” and then fought for my attention for several years.
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I always have 5-10 books that I am “reading” or at least trying to read.  However, as a homeschooling mom of five kids under the age of nine, finding time to read for pleasure is tough.  I started this book while I was still working part-time and had a lunch break.  Lunch and break don’t really go together anymore.

My point is, even though it took me a while to finish this book, I do highly recommend it.  It is not a work of Christian fiction, but nonetheless, I believe it is a good read because of the lessons we can pull out of it.

You see, the novel An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris is based on an actual occurrence in history.  The Dreyfus affair rocked the world to its core at the time.  This political scandal took over France in the 1890s and then gained international attention as well.

Lessons to be learned from the Dreyfus Affair

The Dreyfus affair brings up so many questions and lessons that we as Christians need to look into and teach our children as well.

  1. When a mistake that can make us look foolish is made, do we tell the truth or cover it up?
  2. When it becomes evident that a person has been wrongly accused, do we fight for the truth to be told?
  3. When given the opportunity to maintain a certain high-level status, job position, title, or wealth, are we willing to give it all up in the name of honor, justice, and truth?
  4. Are we willing to suffer the consequences of living for the truth?
  5. When the government is bound and determined to maintain that their wrong is right, and punishes those who are not in agreement, will we give in?
  6. Do we take people at their word in order to make decisions or do we investigate things for ourselves?
  7. Would you be willing to do all this for someone you don’t even like?

Sacrifice Truth for Ourselves or Sacrifice Ourselves for the Truth

The main character, Georges Picquart, had to determine the answers to these questions, in the course of discovering whether or not Dreyfus indeed was a a spy and a traitor or had been wrongly convicted.  As evidence mounted to Dreyfus’ innocence, Picquart faced taking on the entire Ministry of War cabinet, which had promoted him to Colonel and given him this investigative position. With the threat of facing the same traitorous accusations and living a death sentence, Picquart sacrificed himself for a man whom he did not like and who he was ethnically against.

This book made me want to learn more about the history behind it all and like I mentioned above, it drives home what we as Christians have to choose to do daily.  Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves daily as Christ did? If not, then we are choosing to sacrifice the truth. 

Are we willing to risk our:

  • source of income
  • our comfortable lives
  • our physical well-being
  • even our mental sanity

for the truth?

Will we be courageous and stand tall for our faith no matter the cost? We get to decide to hold on to Jesus’ truths and all that entails.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32

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At first, I was a bit put off by the selfish nature of the protagonist, Georges Picquart, but the fact that this was based on history kept me intrigued. How could so many be willing to sacrifice the truth? I wanted to understand how it all worked together and piece it together in the process.  (Warning: The main character does have two main affairs, one of which lasts the course of his life.  I don’t recall any explicitly detailed descriptions, but know that the affairs are talked about and a few times it is mentioned that they are going to bed together. So, obviously, this isn’t a good bed time story for kids.)

From small to big ways, Satan continually tries to get us to sacrifice the truth in favor of ourselves. In this particular story, many chose themselves over the truth. One man in the midst of them clung to the truth. His insistence on clinging to the truth encouraged others to dig in and see the truth too.  This is how we need to be. We need to cling to Christ’s truth so much so, that it inspires others to dig into His truth as well. 

 

Be encouraged by these posts as well!
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Faith-filled Reading

Faith-filled Reading

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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Do you enjoy reading?  Do your kids enjoy reading?  If you said yes, to either of these then I have some great resources for you.

If you enjoy reading but do not have kids, jump down to Books for Adults.

If you enjoy reading and have kids, go to Faith-fill Reading Program for Kids and then read on to Books for Adults.

Faith-filled Reading Program for Kids

This summer I learned about an awesome reading program for kids.  Of course, there are a ton of great reading programs, but what set this one apart from the others is that it is geared toward building the faith of our kids. How great is that!

It encourages children to:

  • Read books on their level that contain Biblical wisdom.
  • Memorize scriptures.
  • Apply Biblical wisdom to everyday life.

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you about it now…well,  because, unlike other reading programs, this one does not end until August 31.  So, there is still time for your kids to jump in and participate.

Anytime we can encourage our children to memorize scripture and learn how to apply it to real life is an opportunity we don’t want to miss.

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Our oldest daughter with the two books she chose after finishing her faith-filled reading program. She has enjoyed digging in them.

What do you need:

All you have to do is either download the reading journal or pick up a free copy at your local Lifeway store. (I would recommend calling the store to make sure they still have copies on hand.)

Your child needs to read 6 books. There is a recommended reading list in the reading journal or they can choose their own based on their reading level.

Your child will need to memorize the 6 Bible verses in the Bible journal.

Every time they finish a book, they need to fill out one of the journal pages, which asks a question about a character in the book and the Bible verse on that page.

Once they’ve completed the journal, simply take it to the nearest store. Upon turning in the completed journal, your child will receive two free books. One book from a list of 6 different books and either a devotional book or Bible.

 

Adult Books

So, of course, I can’t talk about reading without sharing some books that I’ve read recently or want to read. I will read any genre so what I’m sharing below is a sampling of a few books that will challenge your faith and/or have faith intertwined in the story lines.  Because, let’s be honest, a book lovers wish list can NEVER be too long!

Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage by Gary Thomas

 

 

A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion) Book 1

 

 

 

 

Face to Face with Jesus

 

 

 

 

The 20 Hardest Questions Every Mom Faces: Praying Your Way to Realistic, Biblical Answers 

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Against the Tide

Two Little Old Ladies

Marriage God’s Way: A Biblical Recipe for Healthy, Joyful, Christ-Centered Relationships

 

Who’s Using You? Making Yourself Available for God’s Use

What is on your book list or what have you enjoyed reading?

 

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