Sunday, November 30, 2014

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Wash Some Feet

It was a frigid, snowy day, typical of Columbus, OH at Christmas time, and I was overdue winterizing my car for yet another treacherous winter season to come.  The tread on my tires was becoming dangerously thin as I juggled and manipulated my scant budget to try and find a way to purchase a new set of tires.  It just was not possible any time soon.  Being a single mom living on a teacher’s salary at the time kept finances rather skimpy.

The anxiety in my stomach tightened as I maneuvered my way through the falling snow on my way to church, hoping my tires would hold out just a little longer. 

While I was at church, a very dear couple in the choir greeted me with a sheepish grin and said they had a big surprise for me.  They asked me to meet them at the Walmart Tire Center the next day.  Could it be?   I had not said a word to anyone!

When I arrived, they were already there waiting for me.  Jerry rolled up in his wheelchair, and Jan walked closely behind, and they greeted me with great big smiles and hugs. “What is going on?” I asked.

They said that God had put it in their hearts to put all new tires on my car for me.  What? I knew that they had enough financial challenges of their own, with Jerry’s battle with cancer and their mounting medical expenses.  However, they refused to focus on themselves.  They loved to give generously, and it brought them so much joy to bless other people.

“What can I do in return?”  I asked.

Their only response was to “Pay it forward.”  They asked me to bless someone else when I get the chance, and that would be all the payment they would accept. 

They helped me understand that when we strive to be like Jesus, we find joy in giving generously, as He first gave generously to us.  He paid the ultimate price for us!  He left the splendor and majesty of Heaven and humbled Himself to live on earth as a mere man for our sake. He gave His life and paid the price for our sin so that we could be completely free and live eternally with Him.  He was the perfect example of generosity, and it pleases Him when we extend generosity to others.

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in John 13, He commanded that they follow His example and do the same for others.  That is what Jerry and Jan did for me.  They “washed my feet” and asked me to go and do the same for someone else.  Whether we wash feet figuratively or literally, we are fulfilling Christ’s command and representing His character to others.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15 NIV

What are ways we can give generously to others and show the love of Christ to a lost and needy world?  Here are some examples I have personally experienced.  Can you think of more?  What can you do?

  • My mom paid for the person’s check in front of her at the grocery store when the young mom came up short on cash.  My mom would not allow her to have to put items back. 
  • My neighbor brought us a huge pan of old fashioned banana pudding just to be sweet.
  • I took my kids out to a Mother’s Day dinner, and someone anonymously paid for our meal.
  • Donna stayed up all night with me praying for me and supporting me when I went through a horrendous trial.
  • I arrived at church to find a gift bag with my name on it from a “sister in Christ.”  It contained a gorgeous necklace and earring set.
  • My son was in an accident, and it was clearly the other person’s fault.  It was raining, and my son gave his umbrella to the other driver so she wouldn’t have to stand in the rain while talking to the police.
  • When we moved into our house, the ladies in the church came over and cleaned, applied shelf paper, and brought food for all the men who helped move.

Now, let us go and do the same!  Let us wash some feet!

Today’s truth is speaking to me…

We have such a powerful opportunity to show the love of Christ and be salt and light in this world when we extend kindness and generosity to others.  Instead of trying to pay everyone back when they are kind to us, we can keep the chain of love growing when we “pay it forward.”  As we have been blessed, we can bless others.  However, we don’t have to wait.  We can be the ones to start the chain!

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He commanded that they follow His example and wash the feet of others.  We have the same opportunity to show love and generosity to others in practical ways.  When we humbly reach out to serve others, we are washing their feet.  This is God’s plan for the body of Christ to show love and care for each other.  In that way, the world sees our kindness, love, and hospitality, and ultimately, they see Christ through us.

When we give, we are demonstrating the character of God.  He blesses us in return, and we always reap more than what we have sown.  If we are to be like Him, we will give generously to others of our time, material possessions, money, care, love, talent, etc.  We do well to observe a need and find a way to fill it without expecting anything in return.  In this way, we can make a real difference in this world!

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:3 NIV

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Making a List and Checking It Twice - IT'S TIME!


“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 KJV

Is there anything that can wreck your Christmas spirit like the stress of rushing around at the last minute?  Who has time to treasure those special moments with your family when you have last minute presents to buy and wrap, cards to mail, cookies to bake, plays to rehearse, parties to host, children to taxi to all their holiday activities, and at the same time you have a house to clean and meals to prepare for out of town guests.  While strolling through the crowded malls full of grumpy people just as stressed as you are, trying to find the perfect gift amongst the picked over merchandise, your stomach churns in knots because of your drained bank account and limited time.  You’re out of money, out of time, and out of patience!

Yeah, that sounds like the ideal way to commemorate the coming of our Lord and Savior into the world in human flesh to redeem us from our sins and give us eternal victory over sin and death!  Yeah, that sounds like a fun way to bond with our families and provide precious holiday memories for our children! 

Unfortunately, that is Christmas for far too many people.  The greed of commercialism and the loss of focus on what we are actually celebrating has robbed many of us of a meaningful and joyful holiday.  Lack of planning and expending massive amounts of money and energy on all the unnecessary fluff can distract us from enjoying the “good tidings of great joy” and “peace on earth and good will to men” as proclaimed by the angels on the night Christ was born.

There is hope!  I have a few basic ideas to help you prepare for a blessed and joyful holiday season without collapsing into a withered pool of exhaustion by December 26th

My first bit of advice is to plan early and thoroughly.  I like to use a notebook with a separate page or section for such things as a calendar with parties and activities written in, gift lists, a card list, budget, meals and baking plans with shopping lists, and other plans and lists that would be meaningful to your family.  

It is so easy to become overwhelmed and feel like you must do it all to have the “perfect Christmas.”  No, you don’t!  Don’t make yourself miserable!  As a family, decide which activities mean the most to you, and focus on those.  Just leave out the rest!  Keep it simple, and then you can truly enjoy the things that mean the most to you.  

Calendar:  Start planning your calendar, and be sure to include some free nights to enjoy driving to see the Christmas lights, watching Christmas specials, baking, and family game nights.  Planning activities ahead of time will help you choose what you really want to do and to ensure no conflicts.  If you or your family chooses to be involved in a Christmas play or musical, be sure to write in all rehearsals into your calendar so you can be faithful to your commitment yet not miss out on favorite holiday events.  Have a family meeting and discuss what each person’s favorite holiday tradition is, and be sure to include those on your calendar.

Activities:  Besides planned events on the calendar, I like to make a list of every activity I want to be sure to include, such as crafts, reading books, lights, movies, caroling, serving in soup kitchens, visiting the ill and the elderly, family togetherness, etc. I especially make a point to include spiritual emphasis.  To me, Christmas is all about worship and being reminded of the purpose of Christ’s advent to the earth, and I make a point to plan a special night in reminder and special devotionals throughout the season.  We have always had communion as a family at Christmas as well because I want to remind them that Christmas is only the beginning of the story.

Decorating: What a ginormous chore sometimes! My only advice is to divide and conquer! One day is devoted to my china cabinet and my snowman collection. Another day is for the mantle and the rest of the house.The outside has a day all to itself. The trees are last, and we do nothing else the entire day because we like to make an event out of hunting for a real tree as well as putting up a couple of artificial ones. Once they are decorated, we rest! As matter of fact, rest is key. Start decorating early so that you are done before all the other demands pull at you. Do a little at a time and then rest between. Don't get overwhelmed, but have fun filling your home with joy! Set the atmosphere!

Christmas Specials:  One of my favorite traditions during the Christmas season is to watch my favorite Christmas movies.  I check the TV listings and circle the ones I want to be sure not to miss.  You might want to include this in your Christmas notebook as well.

Shopping Lists:  A huge time saver is to shop online for Christmas presents.  If you do not trust having presents shipped, browsing online will still save you a heap of time before trekking to the stores. Make a thorough list of everyone to whom you will be buying gifts, and check each off as you complete the purchase.  Please begin early and try to finish as early as possible.  The only way to avoid the last minute rush is to plan and get busy ahead of time, and then pace yourself.  Besides, the sooner the presents are wrapped and under the tree, the more you can torture your kids with anticipation!  

Budget:  Be sure to plan your budget ahead of time and stay within the confines.  You may have to settle for a little less than you hoped, but managing your finances well during the holidays will reduce your stress level by leaps and bounds.  Money is one of the biggest sources of stress and arguments at Christmas, but it is not worth it. Christmas is not about spending money you do not have to give presents that people do not really want.  Plan well, and you can make it work.  You can save money by shopping flea markets, auctions, and yard sales, using free gifts from purchases throughout the year, and taking advantage of holiday sales.  

Christmas card list:  A good idea that my mother did every year as long as I can remember is that she did her Christmas cards on Thanksgiving night.  While we all watched a holiday special, she sat there and got it all done.  One stressor checked off the list before the season was fully underway!

Baking and cooking:  Way ahead of time, I like to have my menus written down in detail for every holiday meal, including the shopping lists.  This makes it so much easier when the time comes!  I also like to buy a few things at a time for my holiday baking and cooking for weeks beforehand to keep my budget intact.  Be sure to include baking in your calendar so you don’t become stressed trying to get it all done at the last minute.  

Cleaning house for out of town company:  I usually have out of town family visiting during the holidays, and I perpetually fight the temptation to knock myself out trying to clean my entire house just before they arrive.  One thing that has helped me is to include a house cleaning list in my holiday notebook.  I organize my cleaning according to what can be done ahead of time and what needs to be done at the last minute.  I go so far as to write down exactly what I need to do each day for several days before they arrive.  For example, I always clean floors last because if I do them ahead of time, they are dirty again before my family arrives.  However, I can thoroughly clean the guest room ahead of time, and it will stay clean.  

Here are some things you can do now to make next year’s Christmas season even more smooth and enjoyable:

  • Set up a Christmas club account so that money will be in the bank collecting interest rather than making credit card payments in which you are paying interest.  Having a nice chunk of cash available by next Thanksgiving will launch next year’s holiday season off to a more peaceful start.

  • Store ornaments and decorations neatly and grouped by room so that next year’s decorating will be easier to do one room at a time.  You can even store colors separately in case you like to alternate color themes throughout the years.

  • When you finish addressing Christmas cards, go ahead and update your list before putting it away for next year.

  • Shop clearance specials after Christmas to stock up on wrapping materials, cards, and decorations.  You’ll be set way ahead of time and save tons of money!

I know it is still November, but it is never too early to plan well before the holidays sneak upon you and you are thrust into a whirlwind of stress and misery.  Please do not let this happen to you this Christmas.  Begin planning now so that you will not be caught off guard.  You will begin the holiday season armed and ready for action!

I hope this puts you in the mood to enjoy the most wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas memories this year with your family! 

God bless you and your home!
Shari Lewis

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 21 of Our Fall Home Challenge: Enjoying Our Children, Adult Children, and Grandchildren

31 Days to Bless Your Home, and How to Have Fun Doing It Too!

Week 4: The Fun of Home: Enjoying Our Families

Day 21: Enjoying Our Children, Adult Children, Children In-Laws, and Grandchildren

Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3 NLT

My boys when they were little

As we continue with blessing our homes by building the relationships within, we will focus today on our offspring. Books have been written on the subject, so I won’t attempt an exhaustive dissertation; however, I want to share some ideas that will help you enjoy God’s precious gifts to you.


1.    Routines. One way to build happy memories as well as to prevent many power struggles is to have routines during strategic points in the day. When they know what to expect, they will be more compliant. For example, instead of sending them off to bed with a video, devote some time with them to build their cognitive and memory skills as well as to bond with them. Read together, do devotions and pray, sing songs, make up silly stories or games, or play “Tickle Monster.” Have a special “thing” that is just between you. Do it the same way each night, and they will look forward to their time with you. Then, when it is time for lights out, be firm. Some of my best memories with my children are the bedtime routines we had. One silly thing I used to do was to act like the armoire from Beauty and the Beast. In the movie, she sang operatic and then jumped on and squished the enemy. I did the same to my kids. I would sing a high note and then pretended to fall on them on their beds. They would laugh and laugh! I know, silly!
2.   Structure. When my children were little, I found that they were happiest when we stuck to a basic schedule. I’m not talking about a strict timeline, but in general, allow them to eat, nap, and go to bed about the same time every day. Don’t take them to a hot, crowded store at nap time, for example, and expect them to be cheerful if they are hungry or sleepy. When you capitalize on their best times of the day, you will enjoy being with them more. Be flexible, however, or you will stress yourself out!
3.    Don’t entertain them all the time. Children in this generation have so much stimulation coming at them from every direction, and generally, they cannot seem to be able to stand boredom. Every moment of their day seems to be scheduled, and they are often given the role of being the center of the universe in their homes. This can create self-absorbed monsters. While they do need some undivided attention from us on a daily basis, they also need to learn how to entertain themselves constructively. Don’t overwhelm them with lessons or sports every single day of the week, but allow them some free time to exercise and relax. Be so careful that your children do not become idols.
4.  Discipline. Often we equate the word discipline with punishment; however, it really means training. Take the time to train them in the way they should go. If we give in to their demands as toddlers, we will create disrespectful teenagers. If we love without discipline, we create messes. However, if we discipline without love, we lose our relationship with them. Discipline, or train them in love, and you will enjoy them when they are grown.
5.    Family Fun Night. OK, we have talked about that one already this month, but it is worth saying again. Choose one night per week and have a blast together!
6.   Love Languages. Learn your child’s primary love language and look for ways to communicate love to them that they will truly understand. If your child needs words of affirmation, give them sincere praise. If they need physical touch, let hugs and back rubs abound. Most children are a combination. Learn yours and experiment with expressions of love that seem to really get the message across to them that you love them “bigger than the sky.” For more, I recommend Gary Chapman’s book, The FiveLove Languages of Children.

Lunch date with the kiddos when they were young. My how time flies!

Adult Children

My one and only piece of advice here is balance. Give them space to be grown-ups, but don’t forget that they still need their parents. Allow them to be independent, but it is OK to be a safety net while they launch into the world on their own. Be willing to listen and help them talk out problems, but don’t insist that they do things your way. Allow them to make mistakes and learn some things for themselves. Be involved in their lives without interfering. Stay close, but don’t smother. Accept them and be proud of them, but don’t enable or praise bad choices. Don’t harp or nag. Continue to insist on respect, but do treat them like adults. Be generous, but don’t pay their way. They need to build skills to be self-sufficient and independent. Make a habit of getting together regularly. Don’t let too much time go by without talking to them on the phone, but don’t expect to be the center of their world. Now, enjoy your children as adult friends!

Our adult children, their spouses, and one fiance'

Children In-Laws

You are not always going to see eye-to-eye with your child’s choice in a mate, but it is your son/daughter’s choice. Don’t lose the precious relationship with your kids because they aren’t choosing the path you envisioned for them when they were little. They have to make their own way. Welcome son and daughter-in-laws with open arms. Be involved, but give them space at the same time. Show respect and encourage them. Let them do things their own way, even if you don’t like it. Don’t jump on them or speak up every time you disagree. Be kind and treat them the way you would want their parents to treat your own children.

In our family, we have the two Matts married to our daughters, and they are like sons to us. However, we know that they are the heads of their homes, and we must respect that. Our son Bryan is engaged to Ann, and she is my soon-to-be-daughter-in-love. I really love her, and I can’t wait to welcome her into our family! I try very hard not to be overbearing on one end or too stand-offish on the other. Our relationships with our adult children and their spouses are much more important than being right. Stay close.

My precious grandbabies


I am new to this one, but I love being a grandma! When sweet Parker calls me and says, “I love you, Nanny,” my heart simply melts! Here is something that I have learned that helps our relationship. We have a few things that we do every single time he comes, and he has learned to associate it with me. He walks in the door, looks for the sidewalk chalk and wants me to go draw in the driveway with him. We always have to do bubbles and read the book, Dog Breath, too. He knows I will have cookies in my cow cookie jar and suckers in the pantry. When I cook, he loves helping me. I let him add the ingredients. He can always count on a bike ride too!

Those are our things, but you find what your grandchildren enjoy and give them something to associate with you. Maybe it is to have the same kind of cookies each time in a special cookie jar, or it is a favorite game. Having a “thing” is the key to bonding with them.

Grandchildren can really sap your energy, but if they do not get to visit very often, it is so worth it! When they come, it is all about them! You can take Advil and rest when they leave.

Week Four Challenge: Set aside time to invest in and enjoy each relationship in your family.

Today’s Challenge: Tell your children you love them.

Tomorrow I will be sharing from my heart about enjoying our in-laws. I know that is a tough one for some of you, but this will bless you!

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Thank you and God bless!
Shari Lewis
image via The Time-Warp Wife