In Defense of Fun Food

Every time my kids go to their Grandma’s, they want to make “spiders.”

These spiders are made by spreading peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, sticking straight pretzels in for legs, and adding a few raisin eyes. They take about 45 seconds to put together. And my little ones think they are the best thing ever.

Is it because they truly adore crackers, peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins? Not really. Those are all foods they like. But the excitement comes from the whimsy. From the silly act of eating an arachnid.

Surprise – there is a lot of criticism on the Internet. And whenever someone shares a picture of a silly or creative food made for kids, there are haters. “Who has time for that?” “It’s tricking your kids!” “You obviously have too much time on your hands.” “Kids don’t care anyway.”

And if it’s not your thing, I get that.

But I love the light in my kids’ eyes when they have a “spider,” a pumpkin sandwich with candy eyes, a sandwich cut into a butterfly shape. It’s such a simple act that truly brings them enjoyment.

It makes me think of how Jesus said we should come to Him like a child. My little ones grow wide-eyed and giggly every time they hear a jingle bell, open a Christmas book during December, or see a wreath on a door. They just take joy in the little things. They are in awe of Jesus and the world around them.

I’m taking advantage of their childish joy while I can … and trying to grasp a little of my own through them.

Tomorrow we’re all having snowman pancakes for breakfast.

photo via Kraft Foods

Weekend Links

 

Some thought-provoking posts going on here this week. Let us know what you think. And as always, if you have your own links to share, leave them in the comments!

 

 

Winner Winner!

The five winners of the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift giveaway are:

Michelle La

Jenny Rapson

Jeanne Nation

Erin Fullam

Jill Anderson

Congratulations and thanks all for entering! We will be in touch via e-mail.

Friday Links

 

Enjoy the links this week! And as always, if you have something to share from your own writing, leave a link here in the comments for us to check out.

Added to Saturday Linky Love at jessieweaver.net

The Relief You’ve Always Wanted for Christmas by Ann Voskamp {GIVEAWAY}

The kids have Adore Him playing and they’re singing along and off key.

And the house wafts of sugar cookies and anticipation and names of neighbors to bless!

“You done drawing now, Mama?”

Kai’s leaning hard over my shoulder. “Can we just call it done?” And I’m thinking so, and we cut out this little hand drawn cookie envelope template. Shalom and Levi have angel and nativity cookie cutters all over the table.

And Kai cuts out these envelopes for each cookie. And Shalom slides in cookies shaped like angels and stars and a wee silhouette of that God-Baby Who came to the manger & the Cross & offers Himself as a Savior for the world — and who doesn’t need the gift of Him most, again and again?

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It’s written right there on the liner for every cookie envelope:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,

and they will call Him

Immanuel

which means “God with us”

Matt.1:23

God with us — is the only comfort for the wounds within us.

Kai looks up from his cutting out of the verse — “Mom? God really came, didn’t He?”

And I nod — He came.

He gave up the heavens who were not even large enough to contain Him and lets Himself be held in a hand.

He forsook the boundlessness of space and confined Himself to skin and He gave up the starfields and took on shape and wore the bones.

He gave up the River of the water of Life that flows from His Throne Room to float the nine months on the amniotic waters. And He who carved the edges of the Cosmos, He curved Himself into fetal ball in the dark, tethered Himself to the uterine wall of a virgin, and lets His cells divide, light all splitting white.

The mystery so large becomes the baby so small and infinite God becomes infant.

“Yeah, Kai,” I fold one of the cookie templates, “The story of Christmas is about a baby who came — for the greatest give-away ever. To be the Gift.”

This is what I tell the kids making up Christmas packages for the neighbors — He came, love come down.

Love that gave — but not to those who loved Him.

Love that gave — but not to those who could give back.

Love that gave — to those who were the poor, the bankrupt, the enemies.

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Love that gave even to the likes of us. “And I don’t know… ” I am telling the story again now to me.

Who will give away, and with their lives? Why is the world hungry when God’s people have bread? Are bread? What is there more to be in this life than to be bread for another man?

And Hope looks up from the oven. “Remember, Mama?” She turns off the timer. “We’re calling Christmas the Greatest Give-Aways — and Jesus is the Gift!”

That’s really all we have to get ready for Christmas – our hearts. We need to get our hearts ready to welcome Jesus into every part of our lives.

And guess how you best get your heart ready for Jesus? Come to Him just as you are.

God gives Himself as the greatest Gift, and He doesn’t keep any truly good thing from you. Because the greatest things aren’t ever things!

God never, ever withholds the greatest Gift from you – Jesus!

Jesus is all good, and He is all yours, and this is always your miracle – your greatest Gift.

Jesus is the Gift and we keep giving Him away, down the road and around the corner and the world — He is the best Christmas to give — because when we share Christ, we most have Him.

And on the backside of that little verse liner, we write a Christmas note to our neighbors and tape up the back of the little cookie envelope — and tuck The Greatest Gift cookie envelope in with a little love-something for the neighbors — a hot chocolate mix, a bag of coffee, a good book, a little candle, a loaf of bread.

“Look at how many cookies we have got done now!” Kai grins from the table.

And Shalom, she counts a bit giddy, this giving away that gives the Great Gift...

 

 

 

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Weary mamas? Wound-up kids? This December? Could be The Greatest Christmas! This is the relief you’ve always wanted for your Christmas.

Open this book & your Christmas will begin where you never expected — and it will end where you only dreamed.

A book that is like your own larger-than-life Advent Calendar, opening up to 25 wondrous stories that tell the family tree of Jesus, from Creation to His Coming.

Because if we want our Christmas tree to really stand full of wonder & real meaning? The tree we need to understand & be astonished by —- is the wonder of the family tree of Jesus! Because this is your family’s real family tree, your real story.

Each day’s story has its very own ornament, one for each day of Advent — all unwrapping a bit more of a story that’s far better than the greatest fairy tale you’ve ever read —- because this story is all true. So come Christmas day — your kids, and your Christmas tree with all 25 ornaments, will be telling the full love story of Jesus’ coming, right from the very beginning!

Full colour, vibrant 2 page spreads. Romping, shimmering words — for every kid from ages 4- 94.

Known through the ages as the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree, named after Jesus’ ancestor, Jesse, the father of King David, this is one Christmas experience your family will never forget — that they will be passing down from your Christmases to their Christmases — because this is the gift we all want.

What better gift to give the whole family this Christmas — than the wonder of the full love story of Jesus?

Check out all the Free Resources available, free ornaments, free cookie envelopes for the kids, free Jesse Tree ornaments for the kids, all over at www.TheGreatestChristmas.com

Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mother to 6 children. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts.
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Want to win a copy of Ann’s new book for Advent, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift? Enter using the Rafflecopter below. (Subscribers may need to click through.)

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What Is Special Needs Parenting? by Ellen Stumbo

specialneeds

I heard someone say, “All children are special, and all children have needs.” While parenting children with disabilities does present an extra set of challenges, I do think it is helpful to think about the commonalities of parenting.

Many special needs parents feel isolated, but I have discovered that isolation is not reserved for special needs parents. I have heard from many young parents, single parents, and those with young children in the home that they too feel isolated. Maybe we can help each other feel a little less alone.

Special needs parents need friends. But so do parents of typical children. Friendship is a need we all have, and we all want to have meaningful relationships, friends that we can call up at any time and share life with.

Special needs parents worry about their kids constantly. Yes, our worries are exponential, especially if we have medically fragile children. There is no comparison, but all parents worry about their children too. I have friends who worry that their kid is hanging out with the wrong friends, or that they’re experimenting with drugs, or that their teenage daughter could get pregnant. While our worries might be different, we all worry. Maybe we can pray for each other, lift our kids up to God, and ask for wisdom and guidance as we parent.

Special needs parents worry their kids won’t have any friends or that they’ll be picked on. Yet I have talked to so many parents of typical children that worry about the same thing. And I have seen their tears and watched as they try to protect their kids. We love our kids fiercely, not one of us has more love than the other.

Special needs parents don’t have a manual or road map to know how to parent their kids. Parents of typical kids don’t either. We are all doing the best we can.

We are all parents, just parents, trusting that God will guide us in this lifetime adventure.

Ellen Stumbo Head Shot

 

 

 

Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com

Why Making a Mess Can Help Your Whole Family Learn God’s Word {GIVEAWAY}

Kids are the ultimate doers.

They come home from school with a backpack full of papers they’ve colored, figures they’ve drawn, and crafts they’ve made. Before their bags have even had time to make an impression on the couch, they’ve raced to the backyard or to the park with their friends where hours pass as they build castles out of sand, rainforests out of monkey bars, and as-yet-unseen worlds seen only with the eyes of their imagination.

When we grow up, it’s easy to look back at all of this activity and dismiss it as childish play—fun, certainly, but not educational. By middle school, we come to believe that real learning comes from sticking our nose into a book until knowledge mysteriously transfers from the ink-splattered pages into the recesses of our brain. The problem is that this simply isn’t true.

Don’t misunderstand: book-learning is good and necessary for a well-rounded education. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians that learning through doing is equally as important for adults as it is for kids. After all, Jesus taught with hands-on lessons and illustrations.

Of course, the Gospels tell us that Jesus was a stand-out student of the Hebrew Scriptures, and He would frequently quote or paraphrase those Scriptures to His followers in order to reinforce or remind them of what God has said. But just as often, Jesus chose to teach those around Him by doing.

He walked on the water. He broke bread and fish into thousands of pieces. He raised Lazarus from the dead. He cleared the Temple. He died and rose again.

Even when Jesus taught with His words, He often used parables, metaphors, and illustrations instead of simple statements of fact. He created mental playgrounds for His followers where they could feel the surroundings and circumstances of the characters. They could feel the outrage of the older, faithful brother when their father welcomed his repentant brother home and celebrated with a feast.

It will always be important to read Scripture. But as Jesus demonstrated by His own teachings, it is equally important for kids and adults alike to do Scripture.

hands-on-bible

That’s what makes the Hands-On Bible so special. The Hands-On Bible uses this same type of experience-based learning to communicate God’s Word in an active, understandable way.

With hundreds of fun, memorable activities, the Hands-On Bible is packed with activities and experiences that invite kids (and maybe even their parents!) to crawl inside the Scriptures and do God’s Word! There are over 102 Hands-On Bible Experiences, 52 Key Verse Activities, and 16 Bible Bonanza Experiences that serve as jumping off points to learning God’s Word by doing.

Whether you use it for family devotions or for your kids’ not-so-quiet time, the Hands-On Bible is the only children’s Bible that teaches and reinforces the lessons of the Bible in the same way Jesus taught—by seeing, experiencing, and doing. As James says, “Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says,” (James 1:22, NLT).

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Want to win a copy of the Hands-On Bible, newly revised by our friends at Tyndale House? We have FIVE copies to give away. To enter, just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below.

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Let’s-Pretend-It’s-Still-the-Weekend Links

I hope you’ll enjoy these helpful, interesting, and idea-generating posts this week. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!

 

Five Turkey Crafts for Thanksgiving

What is about turkeys that are just so cute? Despite the fact that most of the turkeys at Thanksgiving are, well, no longer looking adorable, it’s fun to celebrate the holiday with some turkey crafts.

turkeycrafts

 

1.  Handprint Turkey Placemats / Meaningful Mama

2. Paper Loop Turkey / Free Kids Crafts

3. Tissue Paper Stained Glass Turkeys / Happy Clippings

4. Give Thanks Pinecone Turkey / Creating Couture Parties

5. Paper Bag Turkey Craft / No Time for Flashcards

Books on Praying for Children

parents book of prayers

 

On November 1, B& H Publishing Group released A Parents Book of Prayers by Tony Wood. This padded hardcover volume is a daily devotional, filled with Scriptures and prayers to pray over your children. Wood is an author and songwriter who has touched many, and this book has received accolades from the Christian community. It would make a beautiful gift this Christmas for a parent you know, or the perfect addition to your quiet time!

Recording artist Francesca Battistelli says, “Tony is one of the most prayerful and thoughtful people I’ve had the privilege to know and work with over the past decade. I’m grateful to call him a friend and thrilled to recommend this beautiful book of prayers for parents.  As a busy working mom, this is a God-send!”

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Here are some other titles to pick up if you’re interested in learning how to pray for your children: