Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spirit or Flesh; Which One Are You Feeding the Most??

Have you ever watched an entire show on tv, then when it was over you said, "Why in the world did I waste an hour of my life watching THAT!! David and I wasted not only one hour, but 2 hours Saturday night and when he turned off the tv he said, "Wasn't that just plain stupid?"

Sunday morning as were getting ready for church, he brought it up again and made the point that we should have changed channels or turned it off altogether. And of course he was right, but something else began to nag at me; on Saturday night, before we prepared for church on Sunday, before I taught a Sunday School class of women who were looking to me to "rightly divide the Word of truth", I had sat  mindlessly, half asleep and watched not 1, but 2, shows that I would not have let my grandchildren see. And it occurred to me, I had spent more time feeding my flesh than I had spent feeding my spirit.

I have often said that the word "holy" is a word that scares me. But a word that is equally scary to me is
"virtue". And maybe it is such a scary word for me because we associate the word virtue with the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, and oh my ladies...isn't she intimidating? We go from trying to be like her to hating her, but one thing I learned about virtue this week is this; virtue is the total package. It is who we are on the inside after beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ that spills over into every area of our lives. And the more we feed our spirit and starve our flesh the more virtuous we become. Being virtuous is attainable to every woman who has put her faith and trust in what Jesus did for us at Calvary, and it becomes attainable by feeding our spirit the good food of spiritual truth and starving the flesh by removing any and everything from our lives that does not line up with God's absolutes.

I've done this with my class a few times over the years and those silly tv shows reminded me that I needed a refresher course; I need to take the test again. So here it is, you fill in the blanks with the word flesh or spirit.

Does this feed my flesh or does it feed my spirit?
1. Reading my Bible every day. _______________.
2. Being faithful to church services._____________.
3. Watching reruns of Desperate Housewives?._______________.
4. Spending quiet time in prayer.____________.
5. Taking notes during the sermon on Sunday, then meditating on what my pastor said.____________.
6. "Discussing" with my best friend my husband's faults and "how he makes me soooooo mad."________.
7. Telling the latest news on the woman down the street and all her marital problems._______________.
8. Participating in the Lord's Supper with my church family.____________.
9. Reading the latest trashy romance novel. (I won't give titles or authors!!)_________
10. Listening to music that glorifies sexual relationships outside of marriage, drinking, crude language._____.
11. Looking over things in our children's behavior that we really need to address.__________.
(yes we can actually feed our flesh and starve out the spirit in not only our lives, but theirs, when we fail to parent in even the "little things".)
12. Letting our mind linger on the compliment from a man who is not our husband, brother, son.________

(and I won't mention Facebook...that would be a whole other test!!)

I think you get the idea. Take stock of the things that you accept as your "normal" way of life and ask yourself; when I participate in this am I feeding my spirit or is this feeding and weakening my flesh?

It is a constant battle and sometimes it is just easier to give in and go with the flow. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It's hard to turn off the tv when your kids are asking, "Why do we have to be different from everybody else?" And what woman wants to get together with her girl friends and just sit there while they discuss the latest episode of Devious Maids, or do a little hubby bashing, after all, your husband isn't perfect, right? And what woman doesn't enjoy the compliment of a man and feeling appreciated for who she is?

And the flesh gets fatter and fatter and fatter and before long the spirit is as skinny as a rail!

So today I challenge you, look for ways to feed your spirit and starve that sinful flesh! And the heavier the spirit gets, the more virtue others will see in our lives.

And David says........"Next Saturday night we ARE NOT watching anything stupid!"

Let me hear from you and have a very spirit-filled day!

Penny

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Agreeing Together in Prayer

I am a visual learner. I love to read and I learn a lot from what I read, but like most people, I remember what I see explained to me. And I remember one particular lesson I learned about prayer that no amount of reading about it could have taught me.

As a child growing up, our family was the first to arrive at church on Sunday morning. Daddy was the church custodian and he was responsible for unlocking the door, turning on the lights, etc. And he was always faithful to his job. Living in the country, he would leave the front door of the church unlocked from the ending of the morning service until after the evening service. (life was much simpler then!!)

On Sunday evenings, we would get there 45 minutes to an hour before the service began, and often when we came into the church, there would be 2 ladies, dear friends of my Mom's,  kneeling in the altar, praying together. We quietly sat down, not wanting to disturb them, but as soon as we, or anyone else came in, they would get up from the altar, come and talk with us and the others who had come in, and said nothing about what they were praying for.

Sunday evening after Sunday evening I saw these same 2 ladies together in the altar, eyes tightly closed, heads bent slightly toward each other, hands clasped together, tears rolling gently down their cheeks........ and I watched.

One Sunday night after we got home from church, I asked my Mom what those 2 faithful ladies were doing;
I knew, of course, that they were praying, but I was curious about why they were always in the altar, together. And why did they come so early to pray?? And this is what my Mom told me; "Their husbands are not Christians and they are agreeing together in prayer that they will be saved. Each woman is praying for her husband and her friend is agreeing with her for his salvation. Then the other lady prays for her husband and she agrees with her in prayer for his salvation." Such faith. Such trust. Such taking God at His word. Such valuable instruction for a little girl who had such a hunger for all things spiritual.

It took years of faithful praying in that altar and of course privately, but I saw both those men come to faith in Christ. Fast forward many years to a time when David and I had 3 little boys at home and the news came that he would be facing a lay-off at work. I knew what Matthew 18:19 and 20 said; I had read it many times, hi-lited it many years before that, and had witnessed it personally as a child. I knew what the word "agree" meant and even though David and I didn't always "agree" on things back in those early years, I knew that we would agree together about this!!

I got my Bible, read this verse to him and said that I believed the promise in this verse; he said he did, too. We got down on our knees beside our bed and he began to pray for his job and I began agreeing with him in prayer. And ladies, I am not exaggerating one bit; before the day was over he received a call from his work that there had been some changes and he was to report to work that night. Coincidence? I don't think so. God knew we were young and inexperienced in spiritual things and we needed Him to build our faith and did he ever do a great job of building the faith of 2 scared "kids".

Now fast forward many, many years later. We've learned a lot, spiritually, grown a lot, spiritually, (and we have much more to learn and a lot more growing to do) but we've never forgotten the supernatural power of those 2 verses, and we have never forgotten the faithfulness of a loving God. Most nights before we go to sleep we agree in prayer together for our kids, our precious daughters-in-law, our grand kids, each other, our church, our friends, you name it, if it's important to us, we agree together in prayer that God will step into the situation and His precious holy will be done. Are there things we're agreeing together for that we still have not seen fulfilled? Yes, several things. But do we believe God will answer? We sure do! Maybe not exactly like we hope, ask or think, but if not, it will be much better than we hope, ask, or think? (Eph. 3:20)

Dear friend, is your husband a believer? Is your teenager drifting farther and farther away from you and away from God? Are the bills mounting and no job in sight? Is your health a concern to you?

I don't know why I have felt so driven this week to write this post, but I believe God has a purpose for it. And this what I hope you will do:
If you have a need today that is so big it seems impossible for even our Omnipotent God to work out, read Genesis 18:14; "Is anything too hard for God?"

Then

Read Matthew 18:19 and 20. Hi-lite it, tell God you are believing His promise.

Then, ask someone you love and trust to enter into agreement with you for your need, and regularly meet and agree in prayer for the burdens of your heart. Agree together, and don't give up until you see God answer, or see Him move you in another direction.

The 2 ladies in my church knew they were praying in God's will. (1 John 5:14,15)
They took God at His Word. (Matthew 18:19,20)
God proved Himself faithful. (1 Thess. 5:24)

Prayer will change things. I know because it changes me.

Let me hear from you! I love getting your questions. I'll do my best to answer, but if I can't, I'll find someone who will!!

As of this week, we have viewers from 39 countries who regularly visit this blog!! Amen!!

Penny

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How Can I Develop a Better Self-Image??

I've been hearing the words, "cabin fever" quite a lot lately, haven't you? Our boys were small during those really bad winters of the late 70's and early 80's and oh the stories I could tell! But now that they are grown, I will refrain from sharing tales of snowball fights, snow forts, snow tracked from the back door all the way to the basement and beyond, David hitching the sled to their pony, wrestling in every corner of the house, fights over brownies and hot chocolate, and oh the broken things...we really won't go there. And from what I am hearing, Moms are just as affected by cabin fever today as I was, oh so many years ago.

Being stuck in the house has an effect on our children's behavior, and how we parent. But I also found out that me being stuck in the house can affect my behavior, my discipline, and my self-image. Wearing your flannel pj's all day is great for the 1st snow day, but after a few days, we pass by a mirror and realize it's time to trade in the flannels, fix the hair and put on a little make-up for heaven's sake.

I love my Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible. Throughout it's pages are principles for daily living and lessons from stories of great people that are impacting my life. Lately it seems I've had a combination of cabin fever, melancholy, worry, and too many flannel pajama days. Recently, while reading my Bible, Dr. Stanley placed this question on the page where I was reading: How can I develop a better self-image? Most women I know have or have had issues with our self-image. And as mothers of daughters or granddaughters, we are all too familiar with the standard of beauty and physical perfection that they are bombarded with on a daily basis. As Christian women, we want the girls in our lives to derive their self image from their relationship with Christ; we want them to see themselves as He sees them. The problem is, too often we don't follow our own advice. Dr. Stanley used this story about Franklin Delano Roosevelt to teach me what God sees when He looks at me and my life.

"On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt was sitting for his portrait, when he suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The "Unfinished Portrait" as it was called, still remains on the easel, looking just as it did the day he died. The artist, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, laid down her brush when she saw the president collapse and never picked it up again. The portrait she had been painting shows a man with great inner strength, calmness, and confidence. But the photographs that had been taken just days before and placed beside her easel showed a much different man. Those photos showed the real face of a national leader who was completely worn out by the heavy political strain of the great depression and World War 2.

Later, Madam Shoumatoff returned to her work on the president's portrait, but she chose not to complete the watercolor, because she saw it complete, just like it was. Instead, she began and finished a new portrait, this time in oils, and it is a beautiful portrait of a strong President Rossevelt with no signs of fatigue, worry, or flaws.

Have you ever wondered how God views your life? Do you worry that He sees your flaws and mistakes and loves you less? Do not worry! God knows you perfectly and loves you completely just the way you are. You are His masterpiece, His workmanship of grace and love, His work of art. He continues to paint the colors of your life in such a way that you will glorify Him." (end of passage.)

Don't you love that? I, like most women I know, need those positive, reassuring words that God loves me just as I am. I cannot make Him love me more and I cannot make Him love me less. That is unconditional love.

Women are natural born worriers. David says I can find more to worry about than anyone he knows, and I don't want him to know he's right, but he is. If I can choose between worrying and not worrying, my mind naturally navigates to the worrying side, every time. And sometimes I do worry that God sees my flaws and my mistakes, and is it possible that He could love me less because of them?

In Eph. 2;10, the apostle Paul says this: "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

So on those days when too much cold, too much snow, your cabin full of small children (and some not so small children) seems to be getting smaller and smaller, let Ephesians 1 remind you that when God looks at you and me He sees His beloved child who has been "blessed, chosen, holy, (yes holy) loved, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, and sealed." We can choose to get our self-image from tv, Hollywood, social media, or from a hundred other places, or, we can choose to see ourselves as God sees us. I choose the latter.

Only 2 weeks till spring and underneath all this snow and ice are Easter flowers!

Read the book of Ephesians this week; tons of real encouragement, just when we need it most.

Penny

Friday, February 7, 2014

Win Their Hearts

Last weekend, David and I went to the Imagine Children's Conference in Bardstown, Ky. I had a table set up in the Expo area  for my children's book, and was privileged to meet lots of really nice people with a heart for children and children's ministry. John Bennett, the director of the conference shared this with the audience; "Many families are "outsourcing" their children's spiritual training to the church." The purpose for the conference was to learn how the local church can involve parents in leading their children to Christ, and then discipling them in their home. And I do know this; when parents and churches work together to spiritually educate their children, they become an unbeatable team of caring adults in the lives of those children.

I am a fan of the Duggars. And even though I never had any desire to have a large family, I greatly admire Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar for their commitment to God and their strong family values. And their family and family values contrast greatly with the other shows on families that depict family life in America in 2014,
wouldn't you agree?? If you have watched the show, 19 Kids and Counting, then you know that Michelle is diligent in training her children and her philosophy is very simple; a Mom must first win the heart of her child before she can be effective.

As a Mom, I feel that I had the hearts of my sons when they were children, and if we are going to be effective Moms, we have to experience the "tug of that heart".

A few years ago, I spoke to the MOPS group at 1st Baptist in Henderson, Ky. The Mom who contacted me asked if I would speak to them about how they could do a better job training their children, spiritually. Here are 3 things I shared with those Moms (there were others, but these are the 3 I felt were most important) and I hope if you have small children in your home, they will give you some fresh ideas about capturing the heart of your child.

Our personality is a reflection of what we believe. Here are 3 ways to develop a belief system in your child that will shape his/her personality and honor Christ.

1. What your child believes about God will define who he/she becomes as a person.

There is so much mis-information and false doctrine trying to woo our children away from the truth of Who God is. As soon as your little one is old enough to put 2 or 3 words together, she is old enough to begin to memorize scripture. Mom, how much scripture have you committed to memory? Set the example and memorize scripture with your kids. Here are 4 Bible verses every child can memorize by the time they are 3 or 4 and they are foundational scriptures in defining the Person of God. (they will also win his heart!)
God is love. 1 John 4:8
God is good. Nahum 1:7
God is patient. 2 Peter 3:9.
God forgives. Psalm 85:5.
Love, good, patient and forgives; that is Who my God is and those are personality traits about God I wanted my boys to know and I want my grand kids to know. And when we teach these 4 things about God to our children, we are on our way as a Mom in defining the person they will become. Take the time today to teach 1 of these verses to your child. It is so worth it!

2. Mom and Dad, show your kids through your relationship what God intends love to look like.

As a couple, read 1 Corinthians 13 and list the 15 characteristics of love that you find in those verses. Then, make a commitment to live them out in front of your kids. It won't be easy......disagreements will come...you won't always feel "patient" and you sure won't always feel kind, self-less, and hopeful, but just make that commitment to have a great marriage and to do and be the best you can be; for each other and for your kids.

3. A doctrinally sound, New Testament Church gives children a firm foundation for life.

Don't be shy about checking out what your kids are being taught in Sunday School. (and please, for Heaven's sake take them to SS.) Get to know their teacher, ask them what they learned in the class that morning, look at the story paper, check out their artwork, make a big deal out of it and watch them develop a real love for the Word. Mom, your enthusiasm for the Word will be contagious for them. Come on, get excited about Sunday School!! And make sure you are getting from your class what you want for your kids.
The most important thing that goes on in any SS class is that the Word is taught by competent teachers who have the spiritual gift of teaching and a passion for sharing their gift. Bible stories and songs make a great SS class for kids. A small craft relating to the lesson and maybe a snack are great, but nothing, absolutely nothing takes the place of a Bible story told by a gifted teacher and kids singing to the tops of their lungs "Zacchaeus was a wee little man!"
Children's church is great if the emphasis is on Jesus. But personally, when children are old enough to sit still, (relatively speaking) what better place to be than in the auditorium, squeezed in tight between Mom and Dad, participating in the choir singing, and hearing the pastor preach the Word. Will they understand it? Probably not, but Philippians 3:1 reminds us that we learn by repetition. And Sunday after Sunday, sitting under the sound of good ole Bible preaching will make an impression on those tender hearts and minds and bring them to the place of accountability at an early age.
Know the doctrinal stand of your church on things like, salvation by grace, not works lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:9), baptism and other doctrinal issues. And when you and your husband have prayed and know that you are in the church where God wants you to be, immerse yourself and your family and commit to being faithful and faithfully bring your children there every time the church meets together.
Church plays an integral part in the structure of a child's life, and a great place to see love in action. A doctrinally sound church re-enforces the teachings of the home and together, the home and the church can lay down a firm foundation of belief in God, His Son Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit, and that shapes the personality of our children, and guess what?? It helps you win his heart!

And this is so totally off the subject matter of this post, but may I add just a little side note here, Mom? (I just feel the need for some reason.)
Be careful what and who you talk about in front of your kids. When we are discreet in what we talk about in front of our children, we will keep down the stress level and tension in our home. Even the smallest baby can feel the stress of loud, angry words. And children don't need to know every detail of the misfortunes in the lives of our neighbors and members of our church family. (read what Titus 2 has to say about being "discreet".)
A child's brain is not wired to deal with negative circumstances beyond his control.

We have our children with us for just a short period of time; let's win their heart, develop a strong spiritual belief in them that God is Who He says He is, and do all we can to keep the stress and tension levels down in our home by being discreet in what we discuss in front of our children.

If anyone would like to discuss this further, leave a comment, (so sorry some of you have had difficulty doing that, I hope it is fixed) or email me; pnoff@hughes.net

Thanks for reading and have a great day!!

Penny

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Don't Worry About Understanding it; Just Read it!!

Hello Ladies!

I hope your New Year is going well and I hope you are somewhere warmer than it is in Kentucky! Snowy, windy, and oh so cold.

As I checked the stats for the blog today, I was thrilled to see that we have 4 new members from the Ukraine and 1 from the Chec Republic!! I know y'all are a whole lot colder than Kentucky! But hang there; it is just 6 weeks till March, and that means spring, and it won't be long until the Easter flowers are up and the robins are building their nests in our wreaths on our front porches!

The one thing I hear most often in Bible Study, or when I am blessed with the opportunity to speak to a MOPS group is this: "I have a really hard time reading the Bible, then understanding what I read." Well ladies you are certainly not alone, I don't know of anyone who understands every single word of that Holy Script, but this I do know:
the Holy Spirit sure does, and with Him as my Guide and my Teacher, He will explain to my spirit everything my Father wants me to know about Him.

I read my Bible with a plan. I try to read a chapter from the Old Testament, a chapter from the New Testament, and usually a Psalm. I have a journal and I write down the book and chapter each day and how those "words that were written in Heaven before the world was spoken into existence" speak to me, or apply to a situation in my life. I often use a particular passage to pray back to God, the words He has spoken. (for me, that is the most powerful way to pray) When we keep in mind that it is not our job to understand the Word, just to read it, it changes the whole "Bible reading experience." It is the work of the Holy Spirit to interpret the written word to those who have accepted Christ as Savior. If I don't understand something I read, no problem; His job is to "guide me in all truth" (John 16:13. Great verse to hi-lite in your Bible) and make the message crystal clear. So don't worry about understanding it, just read it! As we make reading the Word a priority, the Holy Spirit begins to develop our understanding and before we know it, we (and those around us) begin to see real spiritual growth in our lives.

Back in October, I read the book of Phillipians. It has only 4 chapters and each morning as I read a chapter, I wrote down what I learned. Here is my entry for Oct. 3, 2013. Please forgive my penmanship; I certainly didn't know when I scribbled these thoughts that morning, that I would expose my writing to the blog world, but here it is, as only I can read it.

So this is what I encourage you to do; if you want a deeper, richer, more fullfulling and intimate relationship with your Heavenly Father, get serious about getting to know Him on "the next level." And reading His word with purpose and a determination to understand what you read will elevate you to "the next level."
Try this in your quiet time each day and see what a difference it makes in your relationship with Him by the end of the week;
each day read a chapter in Psalms or the New Testament, and write down what you learn.

This is what I learned from Phil. 3, on Oct. 3, 2013:

1. I am to "rejoice in the Lord" no matter my circumstances. There is always a reason to rejoice in Who God is, that He loves me with an unconditional love, He will never leave or forsake me.
2. Always, I am to be aware of false doctrine, false teachers, and those "who pervert the purity of the Word of God."
3. God teaches me His Word through repetition. (I love that!)
4. The most important thing is Christ.
5. I want to know Christ better. I cannot possibly understand the "power of His ressurection" in this life, but when I experience ressurection myself, it will be clear to me.
6. I don't want to settle for the past, I want to "press on" with all confidence, knowing in my heart that there is always something MORE to be found in Christ! (this is huge for us ladies. Do you often get hung up (stronghold!) in the past? Past mistakes, past sins, past failures. Are you still re-living high school for heaven's sake, or an argument you had with your husband 6 months ago? Paul said, "PRESS ON!)
7. I am a citizen of Heaven and I wait expectantly for the return of my Savior.
8. Jesus has "subdued all things to Himself."
Thank you Lord that You are all-powerful over all things, and You are Absolute Authority! Thank You for Your word and what this chapter has taught me. I love You so much!

And that's my entry, unedited, for that day. I wanted to give you a transparent look into my personal Bible study because I know many of you struggle with understanding this blessed Book of Books. So here's a little homework; (I actually heard back from some who asked for homework!)

Choose a chapter and as you are reading, write down what you feel the Holy Spirit impress upon your heart. I promise it will be exciting and amazing and you will experience a surge in your spiritual growth immediately!

Let me hear from you and what you are reading and what you wrote about what you read.

Do you really want more from reading your Bible than just reading your Bible? Then Press On!!

Have a great day and read the Word with purpose.

Penny

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!!

I love the beginning of a new year. I love the first day of the month, the first day of the week, and I really enjoy a new morning. And what do we usually do just before a new year begins? We make lots of resolutions, we identify things in our lives we want to change or do better, we reflect on the previous year, and depending on the events of the past year, we hope for a better one.

Well I've had a few "reflections" this past week and I've identified several areas of my own life, spiritual and physical, where I see lots of need for improvement. (there will always be those everlasting 10 lbs, right ladies? Funny how they always seem to be there every Jan. 1!)
And spiritually, I have identified several areas where my enemy has a really good "stronghold" on me.

In an earlier post I defined a stronghold as "an exalted thought in our mind." (2 Corinth. 2:10). And while Satan cannot know us intimately, as God knows each of His children intimately, he sure does know our weaknesses and he tailor makes a stronghold that attacks us at our most vulnerable point.

Back in the 60's there was an expression that became a popular way for someone to explain away their unusual behavior. If someone didn't like flying in an airplane or getting into an elevator they would simply say,
"I have a "hang-up" about that." Well, ladies, a stronghold is an exalted thought that we get mentally hung up over. It becomes an obsessive way of thinking that influences our behavior, and literally does what it says;
it gets a stronghold on us and often a very destructive hold on us.

In a previous post I dealt with the stronghold of unforgiveness and I received some really good feed-back from some of you about how unforgiveness has negatively affected your marriage, your family relationships, and even in your church life. So this year I hope to re-visit the issue of strongholds in our lives from time to time and address some of the issues that we can get "hung up" on and that keep us in satan's "stronghold." And let's face it ladies, we can sure have us some issues going on, can't we! And what better way to get a new year off to a good start than taking authority over the strongholds in our lives that keep us fearful and silent and longing for things like;

a good night's sleep
a better marriage
being a better mom
eating better and feeling good about the number we see on the scale
being more knowlegable about the word of God (strongholds don't stand a chance against the knowlege of God)
our spiritual growth.

Not every post will be about the strongholds in our lives, but feel free to leave a comment or send me an email about something that has a stronghold on you and you are sick and tired of it and ready to fight back!!

In future posts I want to deal with fear and anxiety, jealousy, envy, pride, and rebellion. Would you like some homework? My Sunday School class knows all about that..........

My hope, my prayer for each of you in 2014 is this;
that you may grow more in love with our precious Savior this year than ever before,
that you will have a stronger, more Christ-like marriage this year than you could ever hope or imagine (Eph. 3:20),
and that through His power He will conform your will to His will.

Happy New Year!!
Penny

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What's Your Family Identity?

I love this time of year! As soon as November 1 makes its debut, the Noffsinger family kicks into high gear for a very busy holiday season. With 5 granddaughters playing basketball and 3 grandsons keeping David and me on our toes, we seldom have a quiet moment until January 2. But we love it. And what makes the holiday season so special to me is.......tradition. Now I know tradition has gotten some bad press lately but humor me; for us, tradition and family go hand in hand.

All we have to do is look around us and watch the news to know that children today are suffering from a lack of what I call "family identity". Family bonds are formed very early in a child's life. We know that children learn best from repetition. (why did your teacher insist you write your spelling words 10 times each for homework on Monday night?) And what better way to give your kids a sense of family than those family traditions that we practice year after year?

Here are 6 things you as a family can do this Christmas season (some cost nothing and some cost very little) that will develop your child's family identity and start traditions they will want to carry on in their own families some day.

1. As a family, visit a live nativity.
In our area we have some really good ones that involve lots of animals, and scenes of that blessed night in Bethlehem. Most children are visual learners, especially small children, and seeing the story of the birth of Christ unfold right before their eyes, (camels, donkeys, sheep, and hay) will make a lasting impression. A big
THANK YOU to all the churches who so creatively give of their time, finances, talents and spiritual gifts to bring the nativity to life.

2. Involve your kids in your church Christmas play.
Oh my goodness, I could not begin to tell you all the sweet memories I have of my boys in their shepherds costumes, fighting with their staffs in the church basement before their play, head pieces falling off, and children tripping on their long robs, angels crying for their Mamas, and Mary and Joseph fighting over the doll that was supposed to represent baby Jesus. Church Christmas plays are a great family tradition and the memories will last a lifetime.

3. Teach your children the importance of giving to others.
This is a tradition that will shape their attitude toward those in need and develop in them a compassionate heart. I learned this quite by accident as a young Mom. My Mom and I were coming out of KMart one day when my son Bryan, who was about 3 years old, reached into his pocket, took out some loose change that he had been carrying around for a while, walked up to the Salvation Army kettle and put it in, no prompting from us. You better believe I made sure every year after that, my boys put money in that kettle, helped fix Christmas baskets at church, AND participated in delivering them. When I hear Moms speak negatively about the lack of gratitude in their children, I have to wonder where they learned it. You see, a thankful heart is a "learned thing" that is taught to children by parents who demonstrate a thankful heart in their daily lives. Ephesians 5:20 commands us to "give thanks always for all things."

4. Encourage your children to choose a gift for a family member, buy the gift (or gifts), wrap the gift, then personally give it to the person they bought it for.
This really teaches them the art of gift giving and teaches them to put some thought, effort, time, and their own resources into giving to others.

5. Teach them to remember the senior adults in your family and in your church family.
So many people, especially those who are alone or who live in nursing homes are vulnerable to depression this time of year. It is amazing what a plate of home baked cookies, candy canes, or fruit will do for the over all sense of well being of a senior adult. And the benefits to you and your children in years to come will be pricless.

6. Make Christmeas Eve or Christmas morning something unique to your family.
My sister-in-law serves spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas Eve and that has been their tradition for many, many years. My Dad, (not my Mom) always fixed the hams for our Christmas Eve dinner. We choose a different family member each year to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 BEFORE gifts are opened!! Whether it's pizza for Christmas dinner, opening half the presents on Christmas Eve and the other half on Christmas day, or singing Christmas carols before you open your gifts, start a tradition that sets your family apart from every other family and establishes your family identity in your kids. They'll love you for it when they have their own families!

And may I add one more tradition??? I call it a "husband and wife tradition."
When our boys were small, Christmas was all about them. And I think most parents focus all their attention
(and money) on getting just the right gifts for their kids, even to the extent of getting less for each other. And there certainly isn't anything wrong with that, because we get so much enjoyment from seeing the "awe" on the faces of our children on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve night was the one night out of the year that we had no problems getting our boys to bed early. After an exciting day of eating and opening gifts at both grandparents, seeing their cousins and anticipating Christmas morning, they were exhausted and asleep almost as soon as their heads hit the pillow.
And that is when David and I would exchange gifts with each other. We knew that the next morning we would be involved with the kids, so we began early in our marriage having our own Christmas, minus the kids, on Christmas Eve night. We, (he) would put together train sets, race tracks, star wars stuff, GI Joe headquarters, bring in the go-kart, you name it, he put it together, and then we had our quiet time of opening the gifts we had for each other, and reflecting on God's goodness to our family the past year.

This is David and me with our 8 grandchildren. We took the picture AFTER our Thanksgiving dinner instead of before as we usually do. It may not be picture perfect, but after all, I never want to forget that no family is picture perfect. Sometimes we get caught up in that idea and miss the most important moments of all.
I am holding our newest addition to the family, Isaac, next to me is his sister Olivia, his brother Alex, David is holding Tate, and left to right are Sarah, (Tate's sister) Katie, Emily, (Isacc, Olivia and Alex's sister) and Kara, Katie's sister. We are so blessed and so thankful for each precious one.

So...have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, remember the Christ-Child Who came to earth as a tiny baby, born to a humble mother in a humble stable, Who grew to be a Man and gave His sinless life for us that we would never know the sting of death and the eternal separation from our Heavenly Father.
He truly is "Immanuel, God with us." Matthew 1:23.

Penny