Monday, December 31, 2012

52 Weeks of Giving: Week Two


That was the challenge for last week and boy was it a challenge! You'd think in this season of good cheer and hope that living a week as an intentional peace maker would be a breeze. You'd think the kids would be nothing but peaceful when they were showered with gifts and sweets for seven days straight.

You'd think. But no.

Living peace at Christmas was tough. Family commitments, crowded houses, tight time lines, lots of sugar and little sleep made an already unnatural concept seem completely unattainable. By Boxing Day (December 26) we were totally undone and Mr. Awesome and I realized that we needed to regroup - desperately - so we hunkered down in my parents' guest bedroom and had a family meeting.

We discussed the meaning of peace and why discord can so easily sneak into our relationships. We explained to the kids that Jesus promised to leave us peace because He knew that life has the tendency to be anything but peaceful. They seemed to 'get it' and I was optimistic ... for about 37 seconds. That's how long it took them to walk from the bedroom to the family room and start arguing again.

This time it didn't take a thirty minute conversation to quell the flames of irritation. This time all I did was walk into the room and ask, "Are you going to choose to be a peace maker or a peace stealer?" Immediately Mischief piped up, "A maker!" and the other two reluctantly agreed.

There were many more moments of chaos and stress during the week but having the term 'peace maker' become part of our family vocabulary made it easier to work through squabbles. With all of us understanding the meaning and importance of peace and the offer of Godly help to find peace, we were all on the same page and well ... that's a start at least.

Personally, studying peace this past week has been a much needed tune up. I have felt out of control and angry for weeks but the more I focused on the meaning of peace the more my anger, discontent and frustration melted away. The more I opened my heart to goodness, the more goodness I saw.

We're not done with peace. We are going to continue to pursue it but to our pursuit of a life of peace we are going to add this week's challenge ...

Week Two: Be Prayerful

Make a list of people you can pray for, people beyond just our family ... you can list people you know or people in far away places that might need prayer. Put the list in your bedroom and remember to pray for them each day.

1 Timothy 2:1 
I urge you then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.

Let's Chat:

1. What does 'petition'  and  'intercession'  mean? 
2. Why do we need to pray for people and be thankful for them?
3. Can you think of a time when praying helped you?
4. Make a list of a few people to pray for, you can add to the list later if more people come to mind.

The greatest gift we can give to others is our prayers.

Monday, December 24, 2012

52 Weeks of Giving: Week One

So it started with this ...

I stumbled across that video while I was looking for something Christmasy to show my Sunday School class. About 10 seconds into the video I was all in. This 'conspiracy' resonated with me so deeply, it was exactly along the lines of conversations Mr. Awesome and I were having about our family and the values we were imparting.

That night Mr. Awesome and I decided to do 24 Days of Giving. Instead of giving our kids advent calendars with treats or toys we gave them a calendar that had daily challenges to give. Some things were as easy (or as difficult) as an attitude adjustment, like the days the kids were asked to give their attention or cooperation. Other days had the kids doing random acts of service or blessing like handing out candy canes to friends and teachers or choosing one chore to do well without being asked. Still others were giving something tangible to those in need, like taking groceries to the food bank or donating winter wear to a shelter. Each day we challenged our kids (and ourselves) to remember what this season is really about. Each day we challenged our kids to look beyond themselves.

Honestly, it was a slow start. They missed their Lego and chocolates but within a few days they began to look forward to their new challenge. They loved finding ways to help others and they loved telling us about how they executed their advent each day.

That's when Mr. Awesome and I decided to kick this up a notch.

We support the ideals and the campaigns of Free the Children and we are trying to shift our family's focus from Me to We. We feel very strongly that the answer to less bullying, less teen depression and less societal angst is not a bunch of 'anti' campaigns but a shift of focus, a return to a village mentality. We feel that if we empower our children (and ourselves) to recognize a need and to fill it where they are with what they have they will develop a healthy sense of self and their place in the Bigger Picture. It was with all this in mind that we decided to give our children less this Christmas so that we could give them more.

We intentionally spent much less on gifts this year so we could plan to support them as they step into a year of giving, 52 Weeks of Giving, to be exact. We came up with 52 different challenges that we will be tackling this year as a family. Each Sunday we will open another challenge and work together to complete it. And just like our advent, some tasks are a change of heart, some are small acts of kindness and others are huge things that we're going to need help to pull off.

And now, I invite you to join this conspiracy. Join us as we change the world, change ourselves with one deliberate choice of kindness each week.

Each Monday I will give a recap of how our previous week's challenge went and give you the challenge for the coming week. For those who are interested, I will also include the Bible verse for the week that ties into the challenge and a couple of discussion questions about the theme. If you choose to participate in one during the year, one a month or each one with us please let me know. Let me know how its going and how its changing your family's world view.

I am excited for this year, for the lessons we'll learn as a family and for the changes and growth that will happen in each one of us. Follow me on Instagram to track our progress and don't forget to leave comments here, too!  Let's change our world with kindness!

Week One: Give Peace.

This week walk away. Walk away from arguments, walk away from meanness. Compromise. Don't get mad, don't get even. Be a maker of peace.

John 13:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hears be troubled and do not be afraid.

Let's Chat:

1. What does 'peace' mean? What does it look like or feel like?
2. Why is it so hard to walk away? Why do we always feel like we have to prove that we're right?
3. What is the opposite of peace? How do you feel when you're not peaceful?
4. How can we make peace? Make a list of 5 intentional ways you can be a bringer of peace this week.

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
~Mother Teresa

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas: Ungrinched

I haven't posted in a while and it was intentional. I've written posts but I haven't published them. They were not the kind of thing I want to put out into the world. They were dark, complainy rants. Not exactly what you've come to expect from me.

This dark, complainy me has sucked the joy out of Christmas, too.

Usually I can't wait to deck the halls, make Christmas cards and watch a few Christmas flicks. I take extra pleasure in my fuzzy Christmas socks. I fill the house with guests and music and good cheer. I am an ambassador of Christmas. Usually.

Not this year.

This year I have cocooned myself away, grumbled about gifts, complained about cards and snarked about holiday traditions. I have given the Grinch a run for his money this year. "You're as cuddly as a cactus ... You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile ... Your soul is a dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots!"  Yeah, that's about right.

I've not been enjoying this holiday season and in fact, as hard as I've tried to capture the real virtues of Christmas, y'know stuff like hope, joy, peace and goodwill, I've only succeeded in making myself (and anyone whose had the misfortune of encountering me recently) miserable with my rants on consumerism and selfishness.

So, this afternoon as I sat Christmas crafting with a very grumpy heart my iPad chimed. Someone sent me a message. When I opened it up, this is what I saw ...

Ahh ... this is it.

This is what I had forgotten. This  is what this season is all about. Its not about gifts and trees and concerts. Its not even about giving to others or spreading good cheer. Its about The Good News. Its about the moment Hope entered the world and changed everything. Its about declaring from the mountain tops and mall escalators that Christ has come and we are no longer alone or lost. We are no longer in the dark because He is the light.

So, this season, right now, know that you are not alone. Know that as dark as things may seem there is Light. Know that hope and peace and joy can, too, be yours. Know that God so loved you that He came to find you, to know you and to bring you comfort. Know that you are not alone.

I sing because I’m happy , I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me (He watches me)
~Civilla D. Martin

Monday, December 10, 2012

Choose Freedom

"You will never get the life you want if you continue to be negative about the life you have. Negativity is the shackle that keeps you bound to the very thing you want most to be free of."

That's the thought that woke me up at 2 this morning. I heard it like someone was saying it in my ear. I tried to ignore it but I couldn't. There it was. The truth.

I consider myself to be a fairly positive person but this last month has put me to the test. We've had a lot of stuff, yucky, junky, useless stuff, come our way in the last month and frankly, its been starting to get to me. I have become weary. I have become touchy, snippy and sarcastic. I have become someone I don't really like to be around.

And I guess, last night I had enough of myself.

Last night I needed a wake up call, literally. I need a good stern talking to and there it was. I needed to get real and get perspective. The truth is that some of the stuff that's happened bites. Its maddening and frustrating and I feel very powerless to change it. The truth also is that its not up to me to change anything. Its not my will that must prevail.



My only responsibility is to live my life the best I know how. I need to be kind, patient and live joy. I need to freely give forgiveness. I need to walk in love and shroud myself in peace. I need gentleness to be my trademark and hope to be my guide. I need to let go of the things that hold me back and drag me down. I need to move forward. I need to enter into the goodness that is waiting for me. I need to remember why I am living this life, who I am living it for and the truth that echoes inside my heart.

Nothing can separate me from The Love because I have been chosen, made worthy, made righteous and equipped to live this life. This One Life.

Today I choose to let go of the negativity. Today I choose to be more than I feel, to be more than the circumstances that surround me, to be more than I think I can be. Today I choose hope and love and laughter. Today I choose to be free.

Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.”
― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free