How Our Family Celebrates Valentine's Day

heart with hands.jpg

Our family likes to celebrate. We celebrate holidays and people and babies who haven’t yet seen the light of day. Valentine’s Day is no exception. In the course of homeschooling, we taught our young girls about St. Valentine and the historical basis for the celebration, but we also focused on Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate the love of God and the love of family. 

Love is Giving

Our sweet little ones grew up and somewhere along the line, our gift of miniature heart-shaped boxes of chocolates morphed into bags of Lindt truffles and Valentine’s cards carefully chosen by Dad and signed by both of us. But that’s not what my girls are looking forward to this Valentine’s Day. 

Love is Sharing

I’m not even sure when our tradition began, but I remember thinking that girls want valentines. They want to feel special and valued and loved. I figured that if they didn’t get that at home, they would search for it elsewhere. So 10-plus years ago I decided to share my valentine. 

Love is Faithful

Yes, I think it’s important that our girls know that their dad and I are in love and that I am his #1 woman, but celebrating Valentine’s Day with overpriced restaurant dinners and red roses isn’t the only way to show our love. The girls see how my husband honors and prefers me every day of the year, how we serve each other, how we have faithfully planned date nights every month for the past ten years, and how we want to be together. Just the two of us. As much as possible. So I don’t mind sharing for a few years, because after that he’ll be all mine.

Love is Honoring

Since my birthday falls during the week of Valentine’s Day, we have a date to celebrate both occasions and then we celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. We try to honor the girls as we would someday expect their husbands to, by making it a special evening with dinner served in the dining room on china or our nicer plates. The menu usually includes a new recipe of something elegant, sometimes several courses, and always concludes with a delicious dessert. Sometimes the girls dressed up, sometimes dad cooked, and sometimes we moved a table into the family room. But the best is what happened after dinner. 

Love is Belonging

Every year Harold turns on the same CD, one that he and I often listened to while we were engaged, and then he takes a turn dancing with each daughter—yes, I get a turn, too! I love to watch the whispers, the giggles and the smiles as they each have their moment feeling special, and treasured, and loved. Sometimes the daughters went back for a second dance, sometimes they dressed up in my old bridesmaid gowns, sometimes sisters danced with sisters since our family is sorely lacking other male dance partners. But at the end of the night, each girl knew that they belonged to a family who loved them dearly.  

Love is Preferring

This year we were honored to be invited to participate in a special dinner event at our church on Valentine’s night. Of the two daughters at home, one was working late and we considered having the other join us at the event, but we realized that our youngest would probably only have two more Valentine’s Days with us. She was overjoyed to learn that we had chosen to stay home and that we will be continuing our Valentine Family Celebration tradition.  

Love is Timeless

Life changes so quickly but we never outgrow love.  Last year we celebrated with only the youngest. The other daughter living at home had chosen to be a part of an amazing regional event of Christian young people who were gathering for prayer and worship, another daughter was settled in Dallas, and another was serving as a missionary in Mexico. In April, our missionary daughter returned and that night, her Dad put on the “dancing CD,” held out his hand and said, “We missed our Valentine dance.” As I type this, I am still teary-eyed as I remember the love in his eyes and the tears on her face as she was once again reminded that she was special and treasured and loved by our family. Some would say that it was a little late, but love is always on time.

Simple Gifts

Purchasing Christmas gifts can be one of the most intimidating responsibilities of the Christmas season.  I love to give gifts, but I think shopping is as enjoyable as cleaning the oven.  Fortunately my love of giving gifts outweighs my strong dislike of shopping!  Here are some of the tips I use to simplify my Christmas gift list. Keep a list.

I haven’t fully embraced the digital age (or the prices of the electronics!) so I still use the notebook planner system.  When I am able to write down important dates and events, I don’t have to keep them in my brain and I can stay more organized.  In the back of the planner, I keep one section devoted to a yearly Christmas list.  When someone mentions that they need or would really like to have a specific item, I write it down in my “Christmas List” section.  When I go to my mother-in-law’s house and she says her cookie sheet needs to be replaced, I write it down.  When I am inspired with a gift idea for a daughter, I write it down.  When Christmas arrives, I have a head start on my shopping list.

Set a limit.

I remember the first time I heard about families who gave their children only three Christmas presents.  I never imagined I’d be one.  After all I love to give gifts, especially to my children, but one Christmas convinced me that my generosity wasn’t always best for my children.  The Christmas our oldest was four, she opened one present after another and loudly demanded, “What’s next?!”  We had sacrificed so she could have a remarkable Christmas and it seemed that she was less than grateful.  The next year we instituted The Three-Present Tradition—technically they receive four since there is something small in their stocking.  Though the number of presents has decreased, my girls are very grateful for what they receive.  The expectations are clear and no one is disappointed.  It also causes me to evaluate my purchases more carefully.  Recently the girls were talking about Christmas traditions and said they would like to continue The Three-Present Tradition with their families--if it was ok with their husbands.

Make a budget.

Before you go shopping, determine how much you plan to spend on Christmas presents.  No matter how many presents you buy for your children or other family members, it’s easy to go “hog wild.”  You see something that you know your family member would love and then you look at the price tag.  Well, it’s more than you wanted to spend but you rationalize that the recipient just has to have it.  Soon your Christmas budget has been thrown out the window and you’re paying for Christmas until March!

Know the rules.

If you exchange presents with your extended family, find out what the exchange looks like—individual gifts for everyone, individual gifts for children, or family gifts.  It is a little awkward, but you may also want to discuss a budget limit so that everyone is on the same page.  Again, communicated expectations make for fewer disappointments.

Shop all year.

Since I don’t like to shop and rarely find myself at a retail establishment that doesn’t sell canned food, I shop for Christmas all year long.  If I happen to be in a store in February, I look for winter clothes sales.  During the summer, I found a great deal on Christmas plates to hold my homemade goodies.  Consider seasonal sales, going-out-of-business sales, or home parties as great opportunities to do some early Christmas shopping.  When we’re on vacation, I keep my eyes open for unique gifts.  Gift shops are sometimes expensive, but may have the perfect gift.  On our vacation this year, we spent a day at Springs Folk Festival where we found handmade items from wood, leather, textiles, pewter and other metals.  I picked up several pewter Christmas ornaments that were significantly less than Hallmark prices.  Several years ago, I purchased cloisonné jewelry during a missions trip to China.  Shopping year ‘round can save money and ease the December budget by spreading expenses over several months.

Be creative.

Handmade gifts are unique and personal.  It just doesn’t seem like Christmas to me if I’m not making some of my gifts.  In last year’s December newsletter I wrote an article entitled, "Gifts from the Heart," a collection of handmade gifts that I’ve made over the years for family and friends.  You may also find ideas for handmade gifts at organizedchristmas.com.

Simplify.

One way to simplify is to give family gifts.  Two families have been the inspiration for simplifying some of our gift giving.  Each year the Bowen family gives us homemade cinnamon twists, one for each member of our family and the Shedd family, originally from Ohio, makes homemade buck-eye (chocolate and peanut butter) candies, one for each member of our family.  Each family has gifted us these same treats for nearly ten years and yet we still anticipate these treasures.  Recently, we started our own tradition of giving homemade peppermint bark to families.

Another way to simplify is to buy in bulk.  When I find something that I really like, I sometimes buy a bunch!  When giving gifts to everyone in a group, like a Bible study or a group of Sunday School volunteers, it works well to give the same gift to everyone.  This year I found a great sale on a leather-bound devotional book, so my husband will be giving it to all of the men he is mentoring.  Last Christmas, I made a dozen pair of star earrings for my friends.  Giving the same gift saves planning time and shopping time.

Prepare to wrap.

I love to give gifts that look beautiful but I hate to wrap and I’m opposed to using gift bags for everything.  One way to make things easier is to be organized and prepared.  Before Thanksgiving, I purchase boxes, tissue paper, wrapping paper and matching wired ribbon from a $1 retailer.  Sometimes I buy the sticker gift tags and other times I use decorative scissors to cut gift tags out of cardstock.  At home, I have a large plastic tub to store boxes, gift bags, tissue paper, and gift tags—the front for year-round and the back for Christmas.  I keep an extra pair of scissors and scotch tape with the wrapping supplies so that everything is easily accessible.  When I have to wrap, everything is in one place.

May your Christmas shopping and wrapping be full of peace and joy!

Merry Organized Christmas

Long before there were organizing experts or special stores devoted solely to organizing, my mom had set up my dresser drawers with separate shoe boxes for socks and “unmentionables.” She color-coded the photo albums, school folders, and even bath towels. Christmas was no exception for her organizational skill.  Mom made lists in September and had her shopping done before Thanksgiving.  Nearly 80 Christmas cards were hand-addressed, signed in her perfect penmanship, and sent on the Friday after Christmas.  The every box of Christmas decorations was clearly labeled and the wrapping was finished long before Christmas Eve.

I am grateful that some of that organization has filtered down to her daughter, but I sometimes wish that my Christmas (and my closets!) were a little more organized.  I believe the key to organization is prior planning and lots of lists (so the information doesn’t have to stay in my head!).  If you’re looking for some tips to better organize your Christmas celebrations, check out organizedchristmas.com. You’ll find a Christmas countdown with a daily assignment, holiday tips, recipes, and printable forms for a budget, gifts, Christmas cards, menus, and lots more. (There are enough forms to keep you busy until next Christmas!)  Certainly it isn’t necessary to fill out each form, but I find it helpful to choose forms that apply to the most unorganized areas of my Christmas celebration.  When I make notes, it helps me better use my time and resources to accomplish my goals.  This year I plan to use the Ornament Journal to record the history of special ornaments that hang on our tree and the Holiday Menu Planner.

Most of all, don’t let the enemy of our soul use disorganization to steal your joy and paralyze you.  Choose not to compare yourself to anyone else and remember you are a precious daughter of the King of Kings.  His love for you isn’t based on your organizational skills.  Ask God to give you direction and help you make a plan.  Do the best you can with the time and money you have, but don’t forget to choose to be fully present in the moment.  Find joy in the chaos of decorating; find joy in the long (and sometimes loud!) trip to visit relatives; find joy in being with friends; find joy in remembering Jesus who was born to give us life, and life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

 

Remember and Reflect: Celebrating a New Year

The beginning of a new year is a great time for new beginnings: new eating habits, new exercise programs, new personal goals, and new projects.  For my friend Karen it means a new Bible, since she buys a new one each year so that old markings don’t distract her and she can receive fresh revelation.  For the past 25 years, I’ve celebrated the new year by making resolutions. Last year, I began a new tradition.  One of our pastors introduced our family to Remembrances and Revelations, a discussion guide worksheet to help us reflect on the past and intentionally plan for the year ahead.  Some questions are directed to the family, such as “What great works of God have we experienced this year?”,  “What has God taught us this year?”,  “What scriptures have we memorized?”, and “What mission is God calling us to in the coming year?”  Some questions should be completed with each child individually, such as “What was the greatest disappointment of the year and why?”, “What do you wish was different in our family?”, and “What was the most special event of the year and why?”  As your child answers these questions, it will give you a window into their heart and soul.  The thought-provoking questions helped us to reflect on the past and to prioritize and be more intentional about our goals for the coming year.

Remember that this guide is only a tool, not a biblical mandate!  You can use some of it, part of it, or none of it.  Ask God to give you a plan for your family.  Since our family will be traveling on New Year’s Eve day, I plan to bring the Remembrance and Revelation guide so we can discuss the family questions together.  In January, I hope to carve out some one-on-one time with each child so we can complete the individual portions together.  No matter how you use this tool, I hope it will be a blessing and help bring your family closer together as you begin 2011.

Quick and Easy Christmas Brunch Recipes

I enjoy cooking but I don’t want to spend Christmas morning in the kitchen! Because we save these recipes for Christmas morning or overnight guests, everyone looks forward to this special meal. Not only are these recipes family favorites and Christmas standards for our celebration, but each recipe is simple, can be made in advance, and tastes yummy! Menu

Easy Oven Omelet

Overnight Coffee Cake

Quick Fruit Salad

White Grape Peach Juice (our juice of choice for family celebrations)

Easy Oven Omelet

Ingredients:

16 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese

3 T. all-purpose flour

4oz. can of chopped green chilies, drained

½ t. salt

16 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 eggs

1 ¼ c. milk

8 oz. tomato sauce or salsa

Preparation:

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

Grease 9x13 baking dish.

Layer Cheddar cheese, chilies, and Monterey Jack cheese.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

IN THE MORNING:

Beat milk, flour, salt and eggs.

Pour over cheese mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until set in center and top is golden brown, about 40 mins.

(Note: If baking Overnight Coffeecake simultaneously, add 10-15 mins. baking time.)

Let stand 10 mins. before cutting.

Heat tomato sauce until hot; serve with omelet.

Serves 8-10.

Overnight Coffeecake

Ingredients for cake:

2/3 c. butter or margarine

1 c. granulated sugar

½ c. brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 t. baking powder

1 T. cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

2 c. flour

1 c. buttermilk

Ingredients for topping:

½ c. chopped nuts

3 T. flour

¾ c. brown sugar, packed

3 T. melted margarine

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

For cake, in large bowl, cream butter and sugars.

Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Mix dry ingredients.

Add alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture.

Pour ½ of batter in greased 9x13.

Mix all topping ingredients.

Sprinkle batter with ½ of topping.

Pour remaining batter. Top with remaining topping.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

IN THE MORNING:

In the morning, bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

Serve warm.

To serve as a dessert, garnish with whipped cream.

Serves 12-15.

Fruit Salad

Previous fruit recipes I tried were limited by the types of fresh fruit available during the winter. The ingredients in this recipe are always readily available, even in the winter. I sometimes add strawberries or kiwi for color, if I can find them.

Ingredients:

1 large bunch of grapes, cut in halves

14 oz. can mandarin oranges, undrained

20 oz. can of pineapple chunks, undrained

2 bananas, sliced

Mini marshmallows, optional

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

In serving bowl, combine grapes, oranges, and pineapple. Cover and refrigerate.

IN THE MORNING:

Add bananas and mini marshmallows just before serving.

Serves 8-10.

Cranberry Orange Relish

I fondly remember many childhood Thanksgiving celebrations at Grandma Ebersole’s home in Lancaster County, PA.  Even as a child I recognized Grandma’s gift of creating incredibly delicious food with such a calm and quiet spirit.  I especially looked forward to the yummy cranberry dish with dollops of cool whip.  As a new wife, I tried unsuccessfully to duplicate the cranberry relish, but fortunately found a similar recipe that has become a tradition in our Thanksgiving menu. Ingredients:

4 c.      cranberries 2          oranges 3          apples 2 c.      sugar

Preparation:

  1. Wash berries and grind through chopper or grate with food processor.
  2. Wash and core apples.  Chop very fine with food processor.
  3. Peel oranges and remove seeds.  Grind.
  4. Combine all and add sugar.
  5. Let stand in frig 12-24 hours.

 

 

Happy New Year!

I was born to celebrate—birthdays, holidays, and major or minor accomplishments.  I celebrate New Year’s Day like many other Americans and make a list of Yew Year’s resolutions, but in my heart I’ve always felt a sense of new beginnings in September.  So many things in my life have transitioned or begun in the month of September.  Several years back I contemplated why I value September as a season of new beginnings.  I concluded that it was owing to the school schedule that I’d followed for so many years, first as student, then as public school teacher, and more recently as homeschooling mom. This year our family was privileged to join a local celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish New Year, known in the Bible as the Feast of Trumpets.  I was riveted as I heard about the celebration of the birthday of the world, as Jewish tradition calls it.  Though we had studied Jewish feasts a few years back, it was as if I had never heard the traditions and meanings connected with the Old Testament celebration.

I was especially drawn to the tradition of “casting off the sins of the previous year.”  I love the idea of a time of cleansing and starting anew.  It was an epiphany moment for me.  God had planned this season to celebrate new beginnings, which confirmed what my heart has felt for years.

I appreciate my heritage as one “grafted in”, but I also recognize that we are no longer under the law.    When Jesus came to this earth in the form of a man, everything changed.  Through His blood we can “cast off our sins” any day of the year. Praise God we don’t have to wait a whole year to be forgiven!

May this fall be a time of new beginnings for your family—a time to renew your passion for your Father, the Lord and Savior who has bought you with His blood.  And, as the Hebrew greeting says, “May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good new year.”

Under Construction: Our New Online Store

Some of you may have noticed that our online store is temporarily under construction while we make some adjustments.  When our new store opens, you’ll find some changes.  After much prayer, Harold and I believe that God is leading us to make some adjustments to our ministry. First, we are discontinuing all products that aren’t exclusive to Daughters 4 God.  We will continue to carry our self-published titles such as Lady Day, The Gift of Purity, the audio products, and our sterling silver jewelry.  It is impossible for us to offer the other products at prices to compete with Amazon or CBD.  At this point, I’m planning to review new products for raising daughters, but we will not be offering them for sale.  Fewer products mean less time managing inventory and more time for writing and for ministry at our local church.

Second, we anticipate that our new store will have audio and pdf downloads priced less than a hard-copy product.  Some of you have asked for a “Cleaning Game” download so you don’t have to pay shipping.  We think that’s a great idea and we’re working to make that a reality.  We’re also hoping to add more audio teachings as well as some other books that are in development.

Third, we will not be traveling to homeschool conventions as we have in the past.  (We still haven’t decided about MACHE for 2011…)  It has become more difficult for us to travel together.  Harold took on a new role as Associate Pastor last October which means he can miss fewer Sundays, and the oldest two will be in college in the fall but still living at home.  Yes, we could leave Harold and our two college students behind, but that’s not what the Moore family does.  We’re a team and we minister together.

We believe that this is God’s plan for this season.  We will still look for opportunities to share our heart and our experiences, but just a little closer to home.  That’s a tough one, since we’ve made so many friends over the years.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.

Ruth Bell Graham once saw a sign along the road and asked that it be epitaph.  Her tombstone reads:  “End of Construction.  Thank you for your patience.”  I suppose I feel the same way, like I’m always under construction.  There’s another flaw, another weakness, another insecurity that my Creator lovingly reveals to me.  But I’m so grateful that He also shows me His complete sufficiency for every area of my lack.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)  His construction process is not always easy or pleasant, but always necessary and beneficial.   Our construction, both personally and for D4G, continues but thank you for your patience.

A Father's Love (By: Harold Moore)

By: Harold Moore February – the month of love.  At least that is what we are told.  Funny how one day of the year, February 14th, can become a reason to buy cards, candy, flowers, etc., to show how much we love those in our lives.  Shouldn’t we have a life-style of showing love throughout the year?  The obvious answer is, “Yes!”  The way we show true love must go way beyond the purchasing and giving of “things” on a special day.

As a father I’m often challenged as to what to give my wife and daughters on Valentine’s Day to express how much I truly love them.  I will again this year give the ladies of my life cards, candy, and maybe a little gift for my wife.  But all of those gifts are meaningless and futile in expressing love if my wife and daughters do not know in their hearts the love I have for them throughout the year.  I believe they know in their hearts how much I do love them, but it didn’t just happen by accident.  I was intentional.

How can a father intentionally express his love to his family in ways that reach the heart?  I asked God that question one morning and I believe He answered my questions with a very simple acrostic of “FATHER.”

F:  Faithful

A father’s love is shown in faithfulness.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God, our Heavenly Father, shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still in our sin, He died for us.  A father is faithful to show love no matter what.  His love is not conditional or provisional, nor is it based on the performance of those whom he is called to love.  A father is faithful to provide for the needs of his family.  He provides security.  He is faithful to provide appropriate affection to his wife and children so that they have no need to search for it from any other source.  A father is faithful to keep the covenants and commitments to his wife and family so that his word is true and dependable.

A:  Accessible

A father’s love is shown in accessibility.  Hebrews 4:15-16 tells of our Heavenly Father who understands us and cares for us, even in our weaknesses and vulnerability to temptation.  He bids us to fearlessly and confidently draw near to Him and find help for every need.  A loving father is accessible to his wife and children.  He makes time for them and gives his time to them.  He creates an atmosphere of accessibility and openness.  He loves them; therefore he is accessible to them.

T:  Tender

A father’s love is show in tenderness.  Isaiah 40:11 and other scriptures give us a picture of how tenderly the Lord cares for his own.  Jesus looked over unfaithful Jerusalem and spoke of a tender desire to “gather her under his wings”.  He wept.  He had compassion over the sick, broken, and hurt.  A father who truly loves his family will be known by his tenderness toward his loved one’s emotions, hearts and spirits.  He will be tender with them physically, particularly his wife and daughters, and not treat them as “one of the boys.”

H:  Honoring

A father’s love is shown in the honor and value he gives to his family.  They are not just his; they are daughters and sons of God.  He treats his family with respect and honors their thoughts and feelings because they are created and valued by God.

E:  Excited

A father’s love is shown in an excitement about the things that are important and exciting to his family.  In Zephaniah 3 there is a wonderful picture of God dancing and singing over you with joy and excitement.  What an awesome picture of God and his delight over His children!  A loving father shows an excitement and enthusiasm over the things that are exciting and valuable to his family.  He celebrates and shows excitement about their life and their destiny.

R:  Relational

A father’s love is shown through an abiding relationship with his family.  We were created by God to be in relationship with Him – to be His sons and daughters – so that He could bestow on us the inheritance of His Kingdom.  God’s greatest desire was to show His love toward us by giving us a relationship with Him, not just gifts and pleasures.  Sin separated us from that relationship but God’s love for us was so great that He gave Jesus to restore that relationship with Him.  A father who truly loves his wife and children loves them through relationship.  It is relationship that wraps it all together.  Love must be given through relationship and not just an event or a check mark on “to do” list.

FATHER

In looking at this acrostic I realize that this doesn’t just apply to fathers but to all who call themselves Christians.  I also realize the many times that I fall short of these ideals.  Only our Heavenly Father fulfills these attributes perfectly and constantly.  Yet even in our weaknesses and shortcomings, He still calls us to show acts of love beyond a card or gift on a special day.

My prayer for you is that in this month, and the months that follow, that you will be filled with both giving and receiving love.  I pray that you reach the hearts of those you love with your faithfulness, accessibility, tenderness, honor, excitement, through genuine relationship with you.  And the card and candy are a nice touch.  =)

Christmas Traditions

Traditions are very important to our family.  We all look forward to events and celebrations, especially during the Christmas season.  I believe traditions are important to God.  God gave the children of Israel specific instructions for annual feasts of celebration.  He asked them to start the New Year with repentance, to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest with thanksgiving, and to remember the Passover and His salvation of the Israelites in Egypt.  Each celebration was designed to remind the Israelites of their identity and the identity of God.
Today, our celebrations aren’t called feasts, we call them holidays.  The word holidays comes from “holy days,” days that are set apart.  The purpose is still the same—to remind our families of our identity in Christ and the identity of our Holy God.  Here are some things that our family does to celebrate Christmas and set this season apart from the rest of our year.

Deck the Halls The day after Thanksgiving our Christmas season begins.  We turn on the local radio station that plays all Christmas music, haul the decorations out of the attic and begin to transform our home.  The first decoration to be put up and the last to be taken down is the baby Jesus in the nativity.  I want our family to always keep in mind why we are celebrating.  Harold puts lights up outside and the girls and I decorate inside. One of my favorite things is hanging the stockings.  Several years ago, the girls sewed their own stocking as a sewing project.  Each stocking is made of different fabric and represents the girls:  Victoria’s is Asian satin with a bead fringe, Elisabeth’s is gold felt with a horse patch, Anna’s royal blue stocking has a curled toe with white snowflake buttons sprinkled throughout, and Abigail’s is red with a snowman complete with a carrot button for a nose.

Away in a Manger In our culture it’s easy for the true meaning of Christmas to be lost amidst all the commercialism. When Victoria was about three years old, I bought a plastic nativity complete with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, sheep, wisemen, and an angel.  (Would you believe that fifteen years later we still have all the pieces?!)  As Daddy read a child’s version of the birth of Jesus, little Victoria made the people do whatever the story said.  As the girls grew, the youngest one took the role of moving the people and we graduated to reading from the Bible.

O Christmas Tree The tree is the last thing to be decorated, which brings us to one of my favorite traditions.  Before we decorate the tree, each girl receives her ornament for the year, based on what has happened in the past twelve months.  We have quite a collection:  many musical instruments, ballet dancers, a stuffed tooth, a girl with braces, a girl on roller skates with a cast painted on with nail polish, a license plate, frames with photos, and more unique ones that would take much longer to explain.  Some are homemade and some are from a gift shop.  Often, we purchase ornaments while we’re on vacation. (After all, I have to have something to put on the tree after the girls leave and take all their ornaments!)  Our tree doesn’t look like anything from a magazine, but I love looking at the ornaments each year and reflecting on the memories they hold.  Now that the girls are older, each girl puts her own ornaments on the tree.

Angels We Have Heard on High There are so many special events going on in our area during the month of December.  One family I know always goes to the see the Nutcracker ballet, another goes to a Handel’s Messiah sing-a-long.  Our family enjoys cultural events (and of course the girls love to dress up!) so Harold and I look for a cultural event to celebrate the season.  Through reduced rates for homeschoolers and generous grandparents, we’ve been privileged to attend the Nutcracker, another ballet from a local Christian ballet company, the stage production of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the symphony, just to name a few. One thing we never miss is the Grand Illumination in Williamsburg, VA—about an hour from our home. We love to walk through the restored area any time of the year, but at Christmas time it is especially beautiful with decorations on each house made from God’s creation—dried fruits, flowers, and even oyster shells.  On the first Sunday in December, they light electric candles in the windows of the houses, there are various musicians playing, bonfires burning and the then the finale—grand fireworks in three locations and synchronized perfectly.

Over the River and Through the Woods As a girl, we traveled nearly every Christmas morning so we could be with my grandmother, about five hours south of us.  We did get to celebrate Christmas early, but I missed being home.  When we got married, Harold and I established that we would travel to my family the weekend before Christmas (about 6 hours north) and to his family the weekend after Christmas (about 5 hours west).  We get to see everyone and we get to enjoy Christmas in our own home.  It hasn’t always been easy to pack up the kids and travel, but I know it has been a blessing to our parents.  Someday, I know I’ll be on the waiting end of those grandchildren running in the door just waiting to give hugs.

Here We Come a Caroling Christmas just isn’t Christmas without carols.  For the past ten years, Harold and the girls and I have caroled to our neighbors.  We used to carol on Christmas Eve, but many of them weren’t home.  Now we keep an eye out during the week before Christmas to see when our neighbors are home.  The neighbors really seem to look forward to it.  It’s a great way to keep connected to people that we otherwise rarely see.

O, Holy Night Christmas Eve has always been a family time, but each year has looked a little different.  When the girls were very small, we were part of a church plant that did not have a service on Christmas Eve.  Instead, we baked cookies in the afternoon, had a quiet dinner and took the girls to a live nativity scene.  We put the kids to bed early so Harold and I could wrap and assemble presents. Years later, our little church merged with an established church (that’s a story for another article!).    This new church began a Christmas Eve celebration with music and worship dance that continues to this day.  We traded our quiet Christmas Eve dinner for being a part of celebrating our Savior’s birth with our church family.  Over the years, our family has played handbells, the girls have been angels and dancers, and Harold, Victoria, and I have been narrators—thankfully not all in one year!  Many years we’ve had two different services and left church quite late, but we always take the long way home and admire the lights in the city.

Birthday of a King My mother comes from a family of eight children who continue to get together every Christmas.  Some years there were as many as 80 uncles, aunts, and cousins at the reunion.  Though many of the families were following Christ, my grandmother made sure she made the most of every opportunity to continue to plant seeds in the lives of her family.  Each Christmas baby Jesus was removed from her nativity and put on the cake she had made.  Then all the children would gather round as she lit candles and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  My grandmother now celebrates Christmas with her Lord, but my Aunt carries on the tradition for the great and great-great grandchildren. When the girls were younger, we made a special, very symbolic birthday cake for Jesus from information that my friend Lucinda gave me.  I have posted our special “recipe” in a separate document. (click here) I’ve used this cake for our family Christmas celebration, for Sunday School groups and Bible study groups.  This year, one of the girls asked if we could do it again.  You’re never too old to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

From March of the Toys to Simple Gifts I will never forget the year of the ungrateful Christmas.  God had blessed us immeasurably.  Harold, our two oldest girls and I had moved into a new home and we were excitedly expecting daughter #3.  Money was tight, but Harold and I sacrificed so the girls would have a great Christmas.  (Read:  lots of presents to open)  On Christmas morning, Harold reminded the girls of the baby Jesus we were celebrating, why we were giving them gifts, and then we prayed together.  From that moment on, they were out of control, running from one present to the next, calling out to us, “What’s next?” “Is that all?”  Harold and I were dumbfounded.  Whose kids were these, these ungrateful preschoolers?  We knew something had to change. After much prayer, Harold and I decided to try something new.  We would open one present at a time while everyone watched.  Then the girls had time to thank whoever gave the present.  And the big one…each girl would receive only three presents to open.  It was hard for me because I like to give presents, but it helped the girls to know how many presents they had to open and no one asked, “Is that all?” (Truly, the girls had more than three presents to open, since they bought presents for each other that we also opened on Christmas morning.)  It also helped me to choose carefully and to set a limit instead of picking up just one more thing.  Today, we still carry on the tradition of three presents to open, but now we’ve added one in the stocking so technically that’s four.  (Sometimes we’ve included two closely related items wrapped in one package such as a doll and a doll outfit or a boombox and batteries.)  These aren’t three expensive presents, like ipods or other electronics.   Last year, Anna and Abigail each received a red felt cape that I made.  Elisabeth got a cookbook I made.  Victoria got a scrapbook of pictures from her trip to Asia.  Simple, but the girls loved them.

Click here to read more about the Three Gift Policy…

Now it’s your turn… Our family looks forward to our Christmas traditions with great anticipation.  We love to tell stories of our traditions and we love to hear the stories of other families.  If you have a tradition that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you.  Please post your ideas to this article.  May God bless your family, however  you choose to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Gifts from the Heart

I love to give gifts--not just any gift, but gifts that touch the heart.  Finding the perfect gift for someone is not always easy.  Often it requires a little more effort on the part of the giver.  Making a gift is a guaranteed way to give someone a one-of-a-kind present.  When we give someone something we’ve made, we not only give them the tangible treasure, but also the gift of our time that we gave to create the precious gift. I come from a long line of women who were incredibly gifted at creating things with their hands.  I have a lace doily that was made by my great-grandmother; both of my grandmothers made beautiful quilts to give their grandchildren for weddings or graduations.  My mom passed down the value of creating things for others.  She sewed the tiny clothes she took to baby showers and crocheted clothes for my doll for Christmas.  Deep in our hearts I believe we want to make things with our hands—even if we consider ourselves challenged in skill or in time available!  Unfortunately my skill level and available time have been in short supply for many years, so for years I have searched for the simple, the quick, and of course the relatively inexpensive gifts that would be special to my family.  Here are some gift ideas for Christmas or any time of the year.

Cradle and Blanket When Victoria was two, her Christmas present was a homemade doll cradle.  It is a treasure that has found its way to Victoria’s corner of the attic, saved for the next generation of Moore’s.

1.        Purchase an unfinished wooden cradle from a craft store and paint suitable for wood.  You could spray a coat of polyurethane, which would make it last longer.

2.       Sand the cradle, especially the edges.  Then paint the cradle with two coats of paint.  You can get fancy and paint flowers or even get rub on transfers.  Victoria’s cradle had a heart cut out on the headboard portion, which was decoration enough for me.

3.       Purchase two different coordinating cotton fabrics.  I chose one fabric that had lines so I had help in sewing straight lines on the quilt.  (Look in the quilting area or remnants for an even lower price.)

4.       To make the mattress, cut two pieces of fabric.  Each one should be the measurement of the bed area of the cradle plus 1 ¼ inches extra in width (the narrow side) and 1 ½ inches extra in length (the long side) which allows for the batting and for a half-inch seam allowance.  With wrong sides together, sew around three sides.  When you turn the fabric inside out to show the right side of the fabric, it will look like a bag.

5.       Insert a piece of batting the same measurement as the bed area of the cradle.  Take the remaining unsewn edge at the top of the “bag” and fold it down twice, so the raw edge is not showing.  Pin the folded edge and sew the bag closed.  You’ve finished the mattress!

6.       Next, make a “quilt” by sewing two pieces of fabric together with the same process as above, except without the batting.   These fabric pieces should be the same length as above (cradle area + 1 ¼ inches extra) but the width should be 2 times the width of the cradle area, plus 1 inch extra for seam allowance.  Before you sew the “bag” closed, iron the seams to make it lay flat.   Stitch “stripes” across in both directions, making it look like a checkered board, which gives it a quilted look.  (If your fabric doesn’t have lines, you may want to make your own lines with chalk.)  You have finished your quilt!  Congratulations!

Fleece Blanket Directions at:  http://www.fleeceblanket.org/No-Sew-Fleece-Blanket.html

This is so great because you don’t need to know how to sew, only how to cut a relatively straight line.  The basic idea is that you have two pieces of fabric, cut fringes around the edges, and tie the fringes together.  I used prints for each girl based on their interests.  I even found fabric that coordinated with the comforter in one girl’s room.  Be sure to watch for sales at your local fabric center.  They often run fleece for 50% off.

Fleece Poncho Directions at: http://www.ehow.com/how_2049852_make-fleece-poncho.html

A few years back, ponchos were all the rage.  My friend Theresa and I got together to make these ponchos for our girls, who were then 7-10 years old.  I then used the extra pieces of fabric to make ponchos for their dolls and my little niece.  I ended up knotting the fringes, simply because I liked the way it looked.

Red Colonial Cape Directions at:  click here

I’ve made capes for our two younger girls, but I’ve also made this cape and given it as a gift.  In fact, as I’m writing this, we are returning from celebrating our friend Brianna’s 12th birthday in Williamsburg.  She was thrilled with the cape.  The pattern requires very little sewing, only connecting the hood to the cape and sewing on the ties.  (I suppose you could pin the ties on, if you had to.)  The fabric I use is red felt instead of wool and I take two small tucks near the center of the back.  You don’t have to take the tucks, but I found I liked the look better.  I use 1 yard of 1 inch red grosgrain ribbon for the ties (cut in half) and a ton of zigzag stitch to attach them since there is a lot of stress on the ties to hold the cape up.  The hood is a little pointy at the crown, but most of the time the girls keep it down anyway.  The capes have been a big hit at our house!

Pearl and Heart Necklace Directions at: http://www.jewelrysupply.com/index.php?main_page=1/vid_tech_crimping.html

I saw a picture of this necklace in a magazine and it caught my eye.  This is a simple project for those who are already beading or who are interested in starting a new hobby.  (The pliers are a minimal investment of about $8.)  Choose glass beads or other beads to create the look you want.

1.       Purchase, crimping pliers, pearls, 2 or 3 mm silver beads, one clasp (I used a lobster claw),  one “o” ring, 2 crimp tubes, 2 crimp covers, a heart pendant, a length of wire four inches longer than you want the necklace.

2.       Watch the video from the above link.  Attach one half of the clasp using the technique from the video.

3.       Divide the pearls and silver beads into two separate piles.  String half the pearls and silver beads on the string, alternating.  Add the heart pendant.  Continue the pattern with the remaining piles of pearls and beads.

4.       Repeat the crimping step from the video above.  This time, weave the extra wire back through several beads and trim the excess with small scissors.

Since I made an identical necklace for each girl, I added a 4mm Swarovski round crystal birthstone bead as the last bead before the clasp so the girls could tell which necklace was theirs.  No one would ever know that these necklaces were homemade!

Keepsake Cookbook Recipe Template: click here

Again, there are no directions because this is so simple—time consuming, but simple.  Several years ago I took our favorite family recipes (from moms, aunts, and grandmas) and decided to turn them into the cookbook I always wanted.

To assemble:

1.       Purchase a large three-ring binder (with a pocket to slide in a cover), plastic dividers with pockets (from an office supply store, plastic sleeve pages, and cardstock.  I coordinated the cardstock with the color of the binder.

2.       Enter the recipes into the computer in a standard form.  I saved each recipe under its own name, but all in one file folder.  If the recipe is short, you could add two on a page.

3.       Choose names for the dividers.  I copied the dividers from my favorite cookbook.  Handwrite the name or print if there is a template included.  I used a Dynamo labelmaker.  (Now there’s a great gift idea!)

4.       Print the recipes on cardstock, one side only.

5.       Slide the recipes in plastic sleeves, back to back, one on each side of the sleeve.  The two layers of cardstock make the pages stiff.  I love the sleeves because if you drop food on the recipe, you can easily wipe it off!

6.       File the sleeves in the notebook according to the divider title.

7.       Add a personalized cover.

It was a ton of work to do the first time, but I love having the recipes.  When someone asks for one, I can easily email it or print it out.  One year I printed some of the recipes and bound them in a small cookbook to give my friends for Christmas.  Best of all, when I wanted to give my second daughter a cookbook, all I had to do was print.  It’s a great heritage to pass on.

Name Frame For a template: click here

Many times in scripture the introduction of a character includes the meaning of their name.  I believe that when we name our children, it is a spiritual act declaring who they are.  Every time we speak our child’s name, we speak who they are.

I was particularly moved when I looked up Victoria’s middle name, LaNelle, her grandmother’s middle name made up by Victoria’s great-grandmother.  From my French studies, I knew “La” means “the”, but I wasn’t sure of Nelle.  I looked it up and found it means “witness.”  Pretty cool for a girl who has a heart for missions!  I stood in the store and cried.  God knew our daughter and put in our hearts the perfect name for her.  She, and each of our girls, have a name frame in their room to remind them of who God says they are.

Instructions:

1.       I bought The Name Book, by Dorothy Astoria, at a local Christian bookstore.  It has meanings of names including the spiritual connotation and coordinating scriptures.

2.       Purchase inexpensive 4x6 or 5x7 frames.  Keep your eyes open for a good deal on frames.  I even found some lovely gold-leaf frames at Dollar Tree—really!

3.       Purchase paper or cardstock in the color of your choice.  This should be based on your recipient.  I often use parchment paper because it looks so nice.  I found a mixed pack of parchment paper (pink, blue, grey, and natural) at Walmart.

4.       Using the template, fill in the blanks for name, language of origin, spiritual connotation and scripture.  I change the font based on the recipient—a fancy script for my dear friends, a more juvenile font for a baby’s room, a contemporary font for a dear friend who likes things a little more simple.  Mostly I use a black font on the parchment, but a colored font on plain white paper/cardstock.

5.       If you aren’t great with computer margins and settings, use the paper in the frame as a guideline for sizing your name page correctly.  Be sure to center the guide paper, trace around the edges, and then trim the name page to the correct size.  Place it in the frame and admire your work!

There are so many ways to customize this gift—frame, paper, font and for whatever style of person you’re giving to—masculine, juvenile, formal, contemporary.  The name frame makes a great gift for a baby shower, if you know the name of the little one.

Small Scrapbook Capturing and documenting life is important to me and there is no better way than through pictures and videos.  About ten years ago, I made my first scrapbook—which was nearly the last!  It was something I really enjoyed, but my busy schedule wouldn’t allow for such a time consuming hobby.  Two years ago, I discovered a great alternative in Walmart’s scrapbook section—a scrapbook kit: a 10x10 scrapbook with  pages, background paper, precut coordinating paper designs, stickers, and detailed instructions for how to create each page, all packaged in keepsake box that matches the finished scrapbook.  The kit lacks only an adhesive and can be purchased in either a red-or blue-colored theme.  In about an hour your scrapbook can be assembled and ready for your pictures.  It’s a perfect gift for grandparents!

Share Your Ideas So now you know some of my gift-giving secrets.  If you are confused by any of the instructions, please post your question to this article and I’ll respond with a post so it will benefit everyone else, too.  I know these aren’t the only great homemade gift ideas out there, so post to this article and share your own homemade gift ideas!  May these ideas inspire you to make some of your own gifts, if not for Christmas this year maybe for celebrations in 2010.

Birthday Cake for Jesus

(Scripture references from the International Children’s Version) The cake should be round to represent the world.  It should be chocolate to show the sins of the world. Romans 3:23  All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. Genesis 6:5  The Lord saw that the human beings on the earth were very wicked.  He also saw that their thoughts were only about evil all the time.

The icing should be white to show Jesus’ purity covering our sins. I John 1:7  God is the light.  We should live in the light, too.  If we live in the light, we share fellowship with each other.  And when we live in the light, the blood of the death of Jesus, God’s Son, is making us clean from every sin. Psalm 51:7  Take away my sin and I will be clean.  Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

An angel should adorn the cake as the first bearer of the Good News. Luke 2:10-11  The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, because I am bringing you some good news.  It will be a joy to all the people.  Today your Savior was born in David’s town.  He is Christ the Lord.

Add a star as the bearer of glad tidings. Matthew 12:9b-10  The wise men heard the king and then left.  They saw the same star they had seen in the east.  It went before them until it stopped about the place where the child was.  When the wisemen saw the star, they were filled with joy.

Twelve red candles show Jesus’ blood covering us all the time, twelve months of the year Ephesians 1:7  In Christ we are set free by the blood of his death.  And so we have forgiveness of sins because of God’s rich grace.

Evergreens should surround the cake to represent everlasting life. Isaiah 9:6  A child will be born to us.  God will give a son to us.  He will be responsible for leading the people.  His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace. John 3:36  He who believes the Son has eternal life.  But he who does not obey the Son will never have that life, God’s anger stays with him.

Light the candles to show that Jesus is the light of the world. John 8:12  Later, Jesus talked to the people again.  He said, “I am the light of the world.  The person who follows me will never live in darkness.  He will have the light that gives life.” Ephesians 5:8  In the past you were full of light in the Lord.  So live like children who belong to the light.

Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blow out the candles!

Recipe: Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

This recipe comes from a dear family friend, Louise Short, and has become a family tradition for our Thanksgiving celebration.

 

Preparation Time:  30 mins.
 Yield:  1 pie

Ingredients:

¼ c. honey or brown sugar ¾ c. canned or cooked smashed pumpkin 1 qt. vanilla ice cream 2 graham cracker crusts ½ t. cinnamon ¼ t. ginger Dash of cloves Dash of nutmeg ¼ t. salt

Preparation:

  1. In saucepan, combine honey or brown sugar with pumpkin.
  2. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil.
  4. Cool.
  5. Beat pumpkin mixture into softened ice cream.
  6. Pour into pie crust.
  7. Cover and store in freezer.