Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Celebrate! All year long ...

Happy Epiphany!!!

We hope that you are celebrating the King of kings all day long today as we remember the time that the kings from the east visited Him, bringing their gifts.

We're going to end our little blog season where we began and walk out the door we opened back in the middle of November. What a blessing it has been to celebrate Christmas with all of you. Thank you for all of your pictures and posts and comments and emails. We had a feeling that if a group of women who love Jesus got together for long, He would do something very, very special. Our God is so good!

Even though the Christmas season is officially over at the end of today, we encourage you to keep celebrating Jesus all through the year. Remember that holidays are really holy days. And if you want to get technical, every day is a holy day when you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

When we think of holy days, we think of the ancient times when priests would lead the people in celebrating their faith. In Christ, we are all priests:

But you are
a chosen race,
a royal priesthood,
a holy nation,
a people for his own possession,
that you may proclaim
the excellencies of him
who called you
out of darkness
his marvelous light.
I Peter 2:9

As we go forward through the rest of the year, we pray that you will "proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Yes, that is our prayer for you. And we hope that you will take a minute and say that prayer for us too.

This blog will be largely inactive over the coming months, although we may surprise you with a post here and there. If you subscribe, you should get an email letting you know when new content is available. We hope you'll keep us bookmarked. Lord willing, we'll be back posting daily from mid-November through Epiphany again during the 2009 Christmas season. Believe it or not, we still have a few things our Friends have sent that we didn't fit in this year and we are looking forward to sharing them with you next year. And the ideas... we have had so many amazing ideas sent to us already for next year. You ladies are awesome with the ideas! Thank you!!!

Will you do us one tiny favor, though? We've got another little project in the works... a blog titled "Celebrate!" Check back here on February 1st for details and links that will lead you there. We're assembling a team of writers who will post periodically through the rest of the year, sharing devotional thoughts, crafts, decorating tips, traditions, organizational/planning strategies, party ideas and resources. We'd love to share the other holidays with you too. You see, we just can't help but Celebrate Jesus all year long.

See you soon! Many blessings and much love ...


Monday, January 5, 2009

Celebrating Epiphany...

It's not just a random end to the Christmas season, after which we can "officially" take down the decorations and go back to real life. Epiphany is a holiday celebration in its own right.

Going back to the book we mentioned in the second post of this little blog, 52 Ways to Make Christmas Special, let's take a look at what the author has to say about Epiphany.

Epiphany falls on January 6, the twelfth night of the twelve days of Christmastide. Indeed, Epiphany is sometimes called Twelfth Night.

"Manifestation" Epiphany literally means "manifestation" or "coming to light." It is the time set aside by the western church for celebrating the Magi's heeding of the message they perceived in a brilliant star in the east. The event is regarded as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentile world....

Epiphany is an excellent day to turn your meditative thoughts to the manifestations of the Lord in your own life.

Epiphany is also a day for recalling the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus, whom they regarded as a new king. They presented gold, a symbol of kingship; frankincense, the incense that symbolized His priesthood; and myrrh, the expensive embalming ointment that symbolized His eventual death...

Gift Giving on Epiphany Epiphany is a ideal day for giving a special gift to someone you dearly cherish. Make your love manifest. In many Latin American countries, gifts are not exchanged until Epiphany. You may not feel comfortable doing that in your family, but you may want
to hold back one gift for opening on Epiphany. It may be a gift of a spiritual nature--such as a new Bible, prayer book, hymnal, inspirational book or journal, or a piece of jewelry or art with religious symbolism.

You may want to make Epiphany your time for remembering the clergy in your church with a gift. Thank them for being "prophets, priests, and kings" -- those who preach the word, pray for and minister to the people, and have spiritual authority--in your life and that of your local

Epiphany is also a good time for making a trip to visit someone you haven't seenin a while. Bring tidings of great joy. Make your presence a gift to a friend or relative or homebound member of your church congregation.

Epiphany has many wonderful concrete and symbolic aspects to its celebration. Don't miss out by ending your holiday season too soon!

Since it IS a little late for holding back a Christmas gift until Epiphany, consider leaving a special written gift for someone you love... a blessing, a Scripture, a short note telling them why THEY are a gift from God to you.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

THE gift...

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! ~2 Corinthians 9:15

I don't think anything in life is random. There is nothing that happens by chance. I didn't always think that. I figured that if I got to a stoplight and it was green... well, it just happened to be green. If I bumped into a long lost friend at the grocery store... hey, what a neat coincidence. I certainly didn't see life as being intricately scripted by God. And yes, I was a believer at the time.

Then one summer in a very special Bible study, we studied the attributes of God. I walked away from that study with a sense that every moment of life is a moment of Divine intervention. Whether it is a check that arrives in the mail just in time to pay a bill that's due or a phone call that delays me five minutes, making me miss being in a major traffic pile-up, I know for certain that God is sovereign. (By the way... if you've never pondered God's sovereignty in your life, I urge you to do so. It will absolutely blow your mind.)

So... today when we were taking down our Christmas decorations, we took a little break to sit down as a family and watch a little bit of a totally crazy old movie. Our Christmas tree stays up through Epiphany, so there it stood in the corner of the family room, untouched by the undecorating frenzy that was going on throughout the rest of the house. My daughter commented, "Oh no... I think we forgot a Christmas present." Sure enough, there was a present in a small box, wrapped in blue paper, still lying under the tree. I stared at it and then I remembered that it was one of the gifts our first grader had made in school. The tag said, "To Jesus." It was symbolic of our gift to Jesus for His birthday... our hearts. It struck me at that moment that Jesus wants us to give Him our hearts each day.

A little later in the day, someone had moved the present from under the tree and left it lying in the middle of the floor. I picked up the present to put it back under the tree and noticed writing on the wrapping paper. When I read the writing, I had another "epiphany." The wrapping paper said, "Jesus is the greatest gift." And, "Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving." Wow. I thought it was all about our giving our hearts to Jesus daily. Then I realized that it is all about Him giving Himself to us. How kind of our Lord to take me beyond myself and focus my heart on Him. It was no coincidence we didn't notice that present until today. It was a well-timed lesson from the heart of a loving Heavenly Father.

So tonight as I type this post about the days leading to Epiphany, the day of gift-giving, I treasure His gift to me that allows me to give my gift to Him. And another verse comes to mind...
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Three Kings Day...

In Latin America, the Epiphany celebration is called Three Kings Day. Although the exact tradition varies from country to country, what remains the same is the idea that the Three Kings visit children on the eve of Epiphany, bringing the good children candy and toys, while naughty children get dirt or coal. In some countries, children place boxes of hay or straw under their beds as a treat for the Kings' horses as they travel from house to house.

Earlier this week Walmart announced that the Three Kings would visit their stores in certain areas. Walmart is stocking toys for the holiday and children who shop at those participating Walmart stores will be able to have their pictures taken with the Three Kings on Janurary 3rd and 4th.

Not only is Walmart celebrating Three Kings Day, but Nickelodeon is premiering a special Three Kings Day episode of Dora the Explorer on Tuesday night, January 6th.

To read more about Three Kings Day, check out these sites:

~Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico

~Three Kings Day Traditions

~Dora's Three Kings Party

Friday, January 2, 2009

Getting together with friends...

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received the food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people... ~Acts 2:46-47
What a blessing it is to get together with other believers and celebrate faith and friendship. Christmastide traditionally was a time for parties and visits from friends and family. Even in modern times, kids are out of school and many people take the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day off of work, making it a great time to socialize.
Of course, if your week between Christmas and New Year's is like ours, it is usually filled with organizing and cleaning and resting from the frantic pace leading to Christmas Day. The last thing in the world we would do is bring others into our "transitional" homes... homes that are in transition from the holidays to the daily routine of life in the winter. But let's take a challenge. Let's purpose in our hearts to fellowship with other believers sometime during the month of January.
It doesn't have to be at some one's home, but there IS something special about coming together in a home. Make it simple. Let the guests help. Here are some ideas...
~Host an ice cream sundae dessert. You provide the ice cream and paper products and drinks. Ask your guests to bring their favorite sundae toppings. Enjoy a couple of hours of fellowship in the evening.
~Game Night. Invite guests to bring their favorite sweet or salty snack. You provide drinks, paper products and games. Set up different games in different rooms and play for about 45 minutes, then rotate 2-3 times. Games like Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, Catch Phrase and Mad Gab are great for large groups of people.
~Movie Night. This popcorn-filled night is perfect for anyone. Select 5 or so movies appropriate to the guests you invite and place them in a non-see-through bag. Ask the guests to bring their favorite soft drink or juice and you provide the popcorn and paper products. Draw a red star with a Sharpie marker on the bottom of the paper cups. Whoever has the starred cup gets to select the movie of the night out of the bag.
~Keepin' Warm Night. Ask guests to bring new winter scarves, gloves or hats for a local charity like the Rescue Mission. Serve tea, hot chocolate and coffee with a variety of creamers along with warm brownies or cobbler and ice cream.
~Pizza Night. Prepare pizza dough and sauce and ask guests to bring toppings. Let the guests take turns creating their own mini pizzas and sampling each other's. You provide paper products and drinks, in addition to the pizza "bases."
The only thing that would limit your celebrations is your own imagination. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you entertain:
1. Think about what groups of people would be a natural fit. You don't want to create any awkward situations if you can help it.
2. You don't have to have a full dinner party to enjoy food and fellowship with friends. Make it simple so that you can focus on your guests.
3. Guests generally want to do something to contribute to the evening, but not all of them want to have to stay in the kitchen all day cooking to be there. Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring something to the gathering, but be careful to make it something easy and inexpensive.
4. If you plan activities like a movie or games, incorporate natural breaks in which people can leave if they need to go early. Otherwise, make certain to specify a start and end time for the evening.
5. Inviting families to evening events can be tricky. Make sure you have available a place where smaller children can go to change into jammies or even drift off to sleep. Diaper changing and nursing areas are also a nice way to make families feel welcome. Many high schools now require students to have a certain number of community service hours to graduate. See if you can find 2-3 high school girls who would be willing to earn community service hours by supervising a kids' room during the party.
We would LOVE to hear the ideas you have for fun, simple entertaining opportunities. Please take a minute to share...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation.
The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17