Traditions – Happy Birthday Jesus!

Some traditions that we hold dear in our family are the ones that revolve around birthdays. It is so important, in fact, that Loraine has written a book about it.

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40 Birthday Celebration Ideas

(Like the shameless plug?)

One tradition that we have is the birthday dessert. We would say cake, but not everyone likes cake. Our son, for instance, doesn’t like cake unless it is an ice cream cake or in the form of Twinkies (which we did one year).

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The birthday person gets to pick what dessert they want. We have had many things, ranging from regular birthday cake, to pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, ice cream cakes, cookies… Well, you get the idea. If it’s sweet and we can find a way to stick a birthday candle in it, we do it.

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When our children were very small, even before our remarriage, we added Jesus to the birthdays that we celebrated. What a great way to get your family involved in the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior. This tradition has carried on into our remarriage.

First we bake a cake. Yes, the cake for Jesus is usually a traditional cake. Not that it has to be, just that we pick something that is liked by our whole family. Jesus doesn’t typically get chocolate since our son does not care for it, but we believe that with all of the wonderful flavors that God created, He probably doesn’t mind that we don’t use chocolate. And yes, we make the cake. Making it involves more effort on our family’s part so this is part of the gift that we are giving Jesus. Our Christmas schedule dictates when we make the cake. Some years, we have done it on Christmas Day and there have been years when we have made it before.

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We always celebrate Jesus’ birthday on Christmas, no matter what our schedule is like.

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Our celebration entails all of us gathering at the table. We light the birthday candles and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and then we blow out the candles together. Then everyone gives Jesus their gift. Our gifts are not material, they are heart gifts. Some gifts are different types of promises, like the promise to show our love to others more or to read our Bibles. Some gifts are declarations of things like our love for Him or our gratefulness for all that He does for us. When our children were little, we had everyone say what their gift was out loud, but as our family has grown and matured, we have become more private with those gifts. We now write our gifts out on slips of paper, no names (Jesus knows who is giving them) and put them (unread) in a designated gift box for Jesus. Then we enjoy the cake and our fellowship with each other and God.

Does your family celebrate Jesus’ birthday? If so, share your celebrations with us.

Traditions – The Christmas Tree

Christmas tree decorating has been a long standing tradition around our household both before our remarriage and now. The past few years this tradition has been met with mixed emotions. Two years ago, our oldest son, who lived with his mom in another state, was killed a few hours after we did our traditional Christmas tree decorating. So now this ‘feel good’ tradition is tainted by the grief that we feel over his loss. It has been tough to keep the tradition up, but time does heal and this tradition has become even more important to us since.

Every year each family member buys (or makes) a new ornament to put on the tree. After quite a few years, we have amassed a large collection of ornaments that have special memories attached to them. We put up our tree, get out our boxes of ornaments and separate them so that each family member can put their ornaments on the tree. As you might imagine, with so many special ornaments, it takes quite awhile to put all of them on the tree. There are so many “hey, remember this one?” moments and so many stories. We will put on Christmas music, make hot chocolate and just enjoy each others company as we decorate. It is also at this time that we have added another tradition to our repertoire: After we have finished decorating our tree, we now light a special candle (with our sons name and passing date on it) in his memory.

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Traditions – Operation Christmas Child

A tradition that we have carried over from our former marriages is making boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Since we have a blended family, this is a great tradition to continue. Our children enjoy picking out items to pack in the boxes. If you are interested in adding this tradition to your family, here is how you do it (see also http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/ ) :

1. Get a box.

When Operation Christmas Child (OCC) began years ago, it started with shoeboxes. Now, OCC has special boxes that you can purchase. Our church donated to OCC so that they could offer us the boxes for free. We have heard that some of the Christian book stores are also offering those boxes. If you don’t have a shoebox or can’t get one of OCC’s boxes, a plastic “shoebox sized” box works just as well. In fact, many people prefer to use the plastic boxes so that the children will be able to keep them for later use.

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2. Pick the child that you will be giving to.

Boy or Girl. Ages 2-4, 5-9, 10-14. We did three boxes this year. Typically, we have each child do a box and then the adults do one. Our children picked a Girl (age 5-9) and a Boy (age 5-9). We chose to do a Boy (Age 10-14), as that is the group that receives the lowest amount of boxes every year.

3. Make a list of what you want to include in the box.

This began as a wish list. We listed the obvious things, such as the necessities like toothbrush, toothpaste or soap and the nonessentials like toys. Then we began to put ourselves in the shoes (pun not intended) of the children we were giving to. What would they like or need. Those items that we felt were absolutely necessary to the box, we marked with an asterisk. The great thing about this is that there is lots of information on the web to help you with ideas.

NOTE: One of the most moving things we read when researching what to put in our boxes, was a child’s thank you for receiving simple white underwear. It was from a upper age boy who talked about the embarrassment he felt not having underwear and how he cried when his box included some. We had not even considered the idea that the pre-teen children would benefit from things like underwear, deodorant and feminine products (for the girls)

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4. Go shopping.

Do this as a family. Dollar stores are great places to begin. Here is a list of things that we purchased for our three boxes: For all three boxes, we got pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, solar calculators, pencil case, combs, toothbrush, toothpaste, toothbrush case, wrapped hard candies, wash cloth, mild soap, flip flops, underwear, socks and marbles. For the younger boy, we added hot wheels car, ball and stuffed animal. For the older boy, we added playing cards, hot wheels car, deodorant, ball, and tools. For the girl, we added stickers, notebook, doll, and stuffed animal.

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5. Assemble your box.

Even though we purchased new items, we took almost everything out of its wrapping so that we could fit the most things possible inside the box and so that the children would not have a lot of trash to get rid of.

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We put pencils, pens and erasers inside of pencil cases and tucked hard, wrapped candies into the little crevices.

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We rolled up clothing.

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We took the bars of soap out of their boxes, put them into sandwich bags and wrapped them in wash cloths.

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Basically, we stuffed the boxes.

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6. Add a label to the top of the box.

Check mark a boy or girl label for the age group that your box is for. You can get these labels in the pamphlets with the free boxes, or they are available to print on the OCC website.

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7. Close up your box.

Close your box and put rubber bands around it to keep it closed. You can wrap your boxes with wrapping paper, but if you do, wrap the lid separately from the bottom because the boxes have the be opened by the staff of OCC before they can be shipped.

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8. Donate for shipping costs.

Each box costs $7.00 to ship. You can write a check for the shipping and put it inside the box or you can pay it online – it is considered a donation. We chose to pay it online because that option allowed us to print off labels with tracking on them. When our boxes are shipped to the children, we will be emailed to tell us what country our boxes went to. It’s just an added bonus!

9. Pray.

As a family, pray over the boxes. Pray for each of the children receiving them and for God to use the boxes to draw these children to Him.

10. Drop your box off.

Take your box to a collection site. You can find one online at OCC’s website. Our church is also a collection site so we will be taking our boxes there.

Carrying on the Tradition

Coming upon the holiday season, we are preparing to celebrate with family and friends. This is the time of year when many traditions are observed. It is important to have traditions, especially a remarriage and blended family. There are so many obstacles in a remarriage because of the baggage that exists from the previous marriage. One way to overcome those obstacles is to establish traditions that draw your new family together. If you must carry over traditions from your former marriage, perhaps because you have children from that marriage, you must find ways to include your spouse in them. The good thing about traditions is that they can be tweaked and changed to accommodate change in your relationships. Over the upcoming weeks, we will highlight some of the traditions that we have in our family, we encourage you to create your own traditions.

Thanksgiving 2013: We are thankful for…

As a remarried couple with a blended family, there are always things to be thankful for.  Here are a few of the things that we are thankful for on this Thanksgiving Holiday:

  1. Jesus Christ, our salvation
  2. Each other
  3. Our children
  4. Strength in our marriage
  5. A sense of humor
  6. Date nights
  7. Slap happy conversations in bed late at night
  8. Memories to reminisce about
  9. Gentle touches when stressed
  10. Supportive words

Memorial Day – May 27, 2013

Today, we take time to celebrate and remember the lives of people who have passed away during their service to our country.  This is important because the freedoms, safety and blessed lives that we have today are due to those very same people who gave their lives so that we could have them.  The Bible says: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13 NIV).  That is what we commemorate on this day – those people who laid down their lives for us.  As we have emphasized in our remarriage ministry, it is important to be thankful for those people that God has blessed you with and to let them know you appreciate them.  Whether that is your spouse, your children, your friends or the unknown stranger that you celebrate today, always show your appreciation for God’s blessing upon you. 

“Heavenly Father, please pass along our gratefulness and love to those who have given their lives for us and are now with you.  Amen.”