Give because WE have been given much

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This time of year makes me truly reflect on the many things I am grateful for. I think my heart gets to a place of deeper meaning, of stepping more outside of myself and wanting to do more for others. I think we all begin to feel this sense of holiday spirit. We gather with our families, grateful to have family. We see fall colors and are grateful to be given the gift of seeing. We see the seasons change and are grateful for change within our own lives. We sit together and give thanks.

I know for me, I especially want to do more, to serve, to be an instrument in God’s hands, so I decided that I wanted to create a list of opportunities for all of us to GIVE, because WE have all been given much.  I hope you will look at this list and find an opportunity or two that your family can embrace together. I hope you will find a little more service this holiday season, so when you are sitting down with your family, your heart will be even more full of giving, of love and grateful for the abundance in your own lives.  Peace to all of you this beautiful holiday season.

Some fun ideas to share with your families:  Spread the LOVE. If there are some ideas you like—share them with your friends and family and make the chain of LOVE even bigger.

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Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child.  I LOVED this idea because it is not hard to do, benefits children around the world and will bring smiles to all who open.  You literally fill a shoebox with small gifts for children and then send it. You can even pay a little extra $ to track it and discover the destination it is going. I think it would be a great project to do with your family just before Thanksgiving. The drop off dates are just before Thanksgiving Nov 16-23. Check out the link to this great project. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/

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Create No-Sew Fleece Blankets for groups like Project Linus, Wrap them in Love, Stitches from the Heart, Binky Patrol to name a few.

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Make cards to send some LOVE: make cards for kids in the hospital http://www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com/make-cards.html  Write a letter to a woman with breast cancer at http://www.girlslovemail.com or fill out a letter online to servicemen at http://www.forgottensoldiers.org/write-a-soldier/

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Donate items for The Hugs Project: They are looking for a variety of items including handmade christmas ornaments and stockings, food items, socks, etc. They create care packages for troops http://www.thehugsproject.com   here is a link to the full item list of what they are looking for http://www.thehugsproject.com/care-package-items/

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SoleHope: Makes shoes out of jeans for Kids in Uganda. http://www.solehope.org/who-we-are/

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Make a dog treats for a local shelter: here is a recipe from the Humane Society http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/eating/recipes/animal_treats/bowser_biscuits.html

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Make place mats or decorate lunch bags for Meals on Wheels http://www.doinggoodtogether.org/bhf/blog/six-ways-to-help-meals-on-wheels  Make sure you contact your local area to find out their specific needs.

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Make something homemade to help: Here is a list of handmade items that are accepted by a variety of charities.  http://www.handcraftingwithlove.net/charity/hcharity.html

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Make a bird feeder to feed the birds in your backyard–that is giving too!  Here are some directions: http://www.marthastewart.com/270700/pinecone-bird-feeder

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Well, I hope these ideas get you started to giving of yourselves even more during the upcoming holiday seasons. Remember, it is easier to give with a grateful heart.

Peace to you. -H

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Show THANKS in GIVING

The beautiful week that is often over shadowed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads is upon us and my gift I hope to bestow upon you is this…to do one simple thing to show your thanks. How? Here you go…

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For your FAMILY:  A simple gesture of LOVE. Write a note, a line, a blurb of something you LOVE about them. This morning I have been creating two flip books for two of my siblings. I have two siblings that were born between this giving holiday, so we decided to create a bday book to celebrate them. It was humbling to see my parents notes and my other five siblings write memories, send pictures, send funny thoughts, feelings, etc. about two great people. I think you always appreciate family, but you definitely take them for granted. It was beautiful to read the memories and see these people through other lenses. What a gift. I don’t think we can open our hearts enough, even though sometimes it is harder than you think. So go beyond yourself this week, share a thought, a love note, a fun pic, something that connects you to those closest in your giving circle.

 

For your CHILDREN: Help them get in the habit of finding things to be grateful for. Each night we either write in a journal or share them out loud, at least three things we are grateful for from the day. Children are never too young to learn gratitude.

Toddlers are by definition completely egocentric. Still, children as young as 15 to 18 months can begin to grasp concepts that lead to gratitude, says Lewis. “They start to understand that they are dependent; that Mom and Dad do things for them,” she says. In other words, toddlers comprehend that they are separate human beings from their parents, and that Mom and Dad often perform actions to make them happy (from playing peekaboo to handing out cookies) — even if kids that age can’t articulate their appreciation. By age 2 or 3, children can talk about being thankful for specific objects, pets, and people, says Ryan. By age 4, children can understand being thankful not only for material things like toys but for acts of kindness, love, and caring.

How to Teach it? Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Lately, we’ve been trying to weave appreciation for mundane things into our everyday talk — When you reinforce an idea frequently, it’s more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: Make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation or make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.

By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way, says Barbara Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids ”On the flip side, kids who aren’t taught to be grateful end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed,” says Lewis.     -Parents.com article

Jeffrey Froh, PsyD research shows there are plenty of good reasons to try to teach gratitude  He recently asked one group of middle school students to list up to five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks, while a second group recorded daily hassles and a third only completed a survey. “The gratitude group experienced a jump in optimism and overall well-being,” reports Froh. “Furthermore, they were more satisfied with school even three weeks later.” Likewise, a Harris Interactive survey of more than 1,200 kids between the ages of 8 and 18 found that those who were grateful for what they had were also more generous, even if they were fairly materialistic.  -Familycircle article

Be a Role Model of Gratitude: As parents we need to understand that we can’t expect our children to be grateful, if we are not examples of this ourselves. Find gratitude in the little things and you will also find it in the bigger things.

Say Thank you: Just the simple act of helping your children learn to say thank you will make a big difference in the energy they carry and the people they touch with their smile.

Explain to children why gratitude is important: The strategy: Explain why it’s important to be grateful when someone helps you out. “Kids sometimes have the belief that people ‘should’ do things for them,” says Froh, “so it’s helpful to point out that people’s kind deeds are often done out of the goodness of their hearts.” -Familycircle

Gratitude tree: I have seen this done with a simple tree made to hang on the fridge & paper leaves were then attached, an entire wall created into a tree in your home, something to add to the dinner table, etc. You could buy silk leaves, use paper tags, stickers…the ideas are endless. Just google, “gratitude tree” and look at the many images and ideas you could create. Have fun with this. When family comes to visit, have them write something for the tree. Have your children create a special leaf each day

Write Thank you notes: The strategy: Write appreciative letters to the important people in our lives. “Acknowledging your feelings on paper makes them more conscious and concrete,” says Robert Emmons, PhD, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin)   -Familycircle

Find a goodwill project: Whether it is volunteering at a local charity, collecting old toys for a toy drive, sending post cards to soldiers or making blankets for someone in need–find something that your whole family can get excited about.

Here is another idea I found: “We put our change in a ‘Pennies from Heaven’ jar,” says Barbara Owens, mother of four, ages 10, 12, 16, and 20, in Manalapan, New Jersey. “Every time something devastating happens in the world, we sit down and talk about how blessed we are, then send a contribution.”

 

Hope this helps you find one simple thing you can ‘GIVE’ to those you LOVE.

-Peace & blessings to you this holiday.  -H

 

 

STOP for just a moment & look around you.

ImageIn all the rushing to make a beautiful thanksgiving—finding the best way to roast, brine, deep fry…the perfect turkey, whipping up dishes and dishes of yummy goodness, I beg of you to stop for a moment & look around you. Look at the people in your life, the stories you tell, the history you have together & take a moment to hold hands & have grateful hearts. We have so much to be thankful for—even if you just have a warm roof over your head, freedom to pray, an abundance of food that makes you full, the laughter of your children enjoying their cousins, clean water to drink, pies of every kind, and most of all, the children in your life, the love held within your family, the connections—one of the many reasons to give thanks. 

Happy week of THANKS.

 

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Ways to get a Little more GRATITUDE, with a little less GIMME

Next week is the beginning of the beautiful holiday seasons, a time when families gather, friends enjoy one another and there is a special feeling in the air. The holidays are always a very special, magical time in our home and I am always looking for ways to bring in a little more peace, a little more giving, a little more gratitude to avoid the “gimme” attitude.

I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas to get you thinking of some things you can do to bring your family a little closer this holiday season.

To find a little more Gratitude and Thanks this Thanksgiving:

ImageLegacy Letters: Have each member of your family write a nice letter to one another & gift it to them for Thanksgiving or keep it until Christmas. My parents usually have each child create a scrapbook page of history from the year full of images and highlights from a few of their favorite memories throughout the year as a gift to them.

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Family time capsule: My sister-in-law just did a time capsule for her one-year-old, so this idea could be used on a variety of occasions. You could have everyone bring something that was impressionable from the past year–news this year, a picture of their family, a piece of jewelry that holds charms symbolic of each member, favorite stuffed animal or toy, letters, a magazine, something that would tie this year together & mean something to each individual. You could do this as individual families or with extended family. Make sure to include a list of questions like “What was your favorite thing that happened this year?” “What wishes do you have for next year”  “What is a meaningful memory you have from this past year”…

ImageFun Random Acts of Kindness Kit: this looks like a lot of fun. I found it on uncommon goods.com but you can buy it on amazon or other retailers.

ImageGIve said the little stream: I don’t know why I always think of this childhood song when I think about giving. Just last year I came across the actual book that shares this beautiful song.

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I was then looking for a inspiring video of this song and came across a beautifully done version in Korea. I wanted to add it here because it was done during a time of turmoil and war–to me it has a loving, peaceful message. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMNSChEydSo  Help us pray for peace always. Help us give peace and love freely.

GIVE: GIve to feel peaceful. Give to get healthy. Give to spread love. Give because it helps you feel GOoD (helps you feel GOD).  Here are some ideas to get your giving: Donate clothes. This is a great time to go through the closets and get rid of summer clothing, old shoes and coats that don’t fit any longer. Give warmth! Help someone. Do you have elderly neighbors that need leaves raked or may need a warm blanket with a side of hot cocoa mix. Make a snuggle care package for someone in need. Put together a pair of warm socks, gloves, water bottle, granola bar & a message of hope. You could also buy a few sleepingbags and donate them to a local organization or someone on the street. Help out a single mom. My sister is in the middle of a divorce & she is always in need of a break. Reach out to someone near you that is a single parent and offer them a break. Bake something for your local awesomeness. We love firefighters and police men who take care of our neighborhoods, so we enjoy baking up something and taking it into the dept. for everyone to enjoy. Make someone smile. You could just smile–that is always a good thing. But you could also have your kids draw a smiley face on a piece of paper and leave them on random cars. Create a crunch pack for college kids. My two nieces just moved to the area and are starving students, so they loved and appreciated the small snack pack I gave them. Find out from the dorm office or school if there are some kids in need & leave them a bag of snacks to help them get by. Get Artistic. Have your kids create works of art to donate to the elderly homes. Think of how much they will love the decorative trees and christmas scenes your kids will create.

Here is a good link to some additional ideas that are GREAT to get your family serving for specific organizations. Great info. http://www.newdream.org/blog/fun-holiday-service-projects-for-you-and-your-family

ImageGratitude rolls: I do love this idea. I am doing it this year!! We can never be too thankful for food and sweet wishes of thanks. Here are a few links for different directions and recipes: Enjoy  Dinner Rolls  http://www.howdoesshe.com/delicious-dinner-rolls/       Sweet Potato Rolls http://www.lifewiththecrustcutoff.com/sweet-potato-gratitude-rolls/

ImageFood: Food is always something that brings family together, so pull out some yummy recipes and get your family cooking together. Find recipes online and begin to dabble with your own culinary artist within!! Try new things and make it an occasion. It can be a Monday night “Mom & kids stir up something good night” or a  Tuesday “Try something new night”…it doesnt have to be JUST Thanksgiving. Make any meal an occasion just being together. I have been working harder on this area—because I am NOT a cook, but I am trying to make it a cooking adventure!! and I have been including my little girl in on the fun. Whether it is one night a week or seven–make it special!! It has been proven that sitting down for a family meal helps families, and especially helps our children.  Here are ten benefits from webmd of having family dinners: Everyone eats healthier meals, Kids are less likely to become overweight, Kids are more likely to stay away from cigarettes, drink alcohol, use drugs or try marijuana, School grades will be better, You & your kids will talk more, You will be more likely to hear about any serious problems, Kids will feel like you are proud of them and there will be less stress and tension at home.      *picture is Banana Bread pudding—just sounds yummy!! here is the linkhttp://3boysandadog.com/2012/11/banana-bread-pudding-thanksgiving-recipe/

Well, that is all for today. I will keep posting some more ideas to help us with gratitude and not gimme attitudes.

Happiness to you today.  -Heather

Traditions & Rituals for the Holidays

With the holiday season in the air  I thought I would do a special post to address the holidays. This is a time of hurry, mixed feelings of commercial vs meaning, creating memories and making it a special time of year for everyone.

Taking the time to create meaningful traditions at this special time of year will help ensure happiness for all!

Cheers to the holidays…

Holidays…means ”Holy Days”

Thanksgiving is filled with football games, turkey dinners and pumpkin pie, but you could also take pictures of all the guests and have them write down ‘five things they are grateful for’ and share them with the family around the dinner table—OR have a fabric tablecloth & have everyone write what they are thankful for & keep it for the next Thanksgiving feast. Another fun idea—make a hostess gift for the person who hosted the dinner & have a special apron that everyone signs in thanks. You could also pack a special dinner for a local fire/police department (or someone who doesn’t have family nearby) & have the family deliver it

Gratitude book of love to each child…go to Walmart, Snapfish…and create a 20 page picture book…include pictures from the year and some of your favorite artwork from the year…write a special note & give for Thanksgiving.

I AM GRATEFUL for you…love you…xoxo You can also give for birthday or Christmas or any holiday.

 Another idea I began last year, our ‘giving tree.’ My husband travels a lot during the month of November & December, so we put our Christmas tree up around the week of Thanksgiving. Since the tree is up I started to have every guest (for thanksgiving or any visit) write down something they are grateful for on a paper link. I then link them all together to create a chain that I hang on the Christmas tree.

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Birthday Cake Story: every christmas eve we go to grandmas house and she reads this story with a basket full of goat cheese, a candle and a birthday cake. It is a favorite tradition that we have done since I was young.

Christmas eve pajamas: have special pajamas that can be opened christmas eve

So many things to do…Read or watch Luke 2, make gifts to give to neighbors and friends, go to the salem pond lights and enjoy the carriage ride while singing Christmas tunes, participate in some sort of giving tree, make a turkey dinner for someone in need, download and share some of your favorite holiday tunes, putting out birdseed and bread crumbs & reading the book “Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” is a nice touch… Make a list of all the things you would like to include this holiday season. Is it making gingerbread houses, visiting a local old folks home to sing carols, visiting temple square, going to see a production of the Nutcracker, seeing holiday lights, drinking eggnogg by candlelight after a winter walk in the snow, making homemade gifts for family and friends, celebrating the advent, lighting luminaries and making wishes, sharing the story of the nativity on the eve of Christmas, watching the nativity, visiting a live nativity, visiting family Christmas day, making snow angels, making ornaments and garland for the tree, having a special tree for Jesus with adornments made with love, ice-skating at the park with homemade hot cocoa, playing games on Christmas day, a special story read the night before Christmas,talking about the history of Christmas and learning about the real St. Nicholas, cutting down your own tree, buying a a live tree and then planting it after the holidays, planting herbs to share as gifts, going to church services, lighting a special candle every day for the month of December, having the 12 days of Christmas, or giving the 12 days of Christmas, making homemade soup and bread bowls, serving dinner at a local shelter, go on a winter sleigh ride, make christmas birdseed balls for our feathered friends, etc. Choose activities that will be memorable for everyone. Have a good balance of personal family time with holiday activities.

12 days of Christmas books, stories or Movies: Pick your 12 favorite holiday books and put the titles on pieces of paper & place in a jar—draw one each evening. (Polar Express, Twas the Night before Christmas, God gave us Christmas, Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect, The Grinch who stole Christmas, Who is coming to our house?…create your own or check out Amazon.com and buy your first book and each year add to the collection)

Christmas guest: a little magic comes to visit to remind little children that they need to be on their best behavior—have a special elf, christmas bear…come with a special note, holiday book, holiday yummy… and have the little visitor watch over the family. If someone is not listening…the visitor leaves to report to the north pole. This little guest does help keep the peace & is something every child looks forward to.

Christmas games: Christmas morning have santa leave a special game created just for this special morning…dice game with stickers (make a giant dice out of cardboard or use a larger toy dice & have stickers on every side–the stickers match the presents), price is right, scavenger hunt, Christmas to do drawing (have someone choose a special thing to do before opening a present–yell ‘Merry Christmas’ out the front door, sing a christmas tune, say something you are grateful for, etc), Christmas around the world—(Its a small world song, bought a little wood globe with people from all over & shared a little trivia & info. before opening a present). Have a string run throughout the house that everyone has to follow to find the family gift.

Break up your day: Have a special holiday breakfast, open a few presents, then break at a specific time to make holiday treats to share with lonely neighbors or someone who needs some holiday cheer, then come back and open another present, have a nice lunch together…spread the fun and festivities throughout your day.

From Family Fun:

Inspired by Eve Bunting’s book Night Tree, the Watermans get together each year with friends and family and trek into the woods to decorate a tree for the animals. The evening begins at home, with the preparation of appropriate goodies: pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, popcorn and cranberry garlands, orange and apple slices suspended from pipe cleaners. Once the feast is complete, the assembled throng bundles up and heads out into the night. Tree-decking is followed by sharing hot chocolate, holiday cookies and Christmas carols.

Recycle Toy Shop: have your kids pick a day to go through their old toys and fix them up to give away. There are many charities that need items, so clean-up old trucks, brush the dolls hair and spread some cheer.

Light a candle & share the joy to those not near: For family that is not close to home, send invites and have a special day and time where everyone across the country lights a candle, shares a poem, hot cocoa, special chrisstmas tunes and sends out special holiday wishes and cheer.

Surprise someone local: Firefighters, police officers and many other public servants give up their holidays to make sure that ours are safe and happy. Do something nice for someone local–take cookies, dinner…

Putting Christ back in to Christmas

Having a hard time balancing Santa Claus and Jesus?? Turn the holiday season into a season of giving.

Explain the reason for the Season (Jesus), but also include the story of Saint Nicholas and his giving heart.

Talk to your family about having a balance of holiday gifts (to represent the gifts Jesus was given)

and being ‘present’ with the giving heart and true meaning of the season.

Ask What Would Jesus like us to do to celebrate his birth?

Would he like us to have a ‘gimme.gimme. I want attitude’ or would he want us to be more like

Saint Nicholas and create an intentional giving holiday full of family, love, giving and gratitude.

Have a special tree for Jesus. Adorned with ornaments that symbolize Him and his birth.

Have a special manger that you fill with kind and loving deeds

Have a little stocking for the baby Jesus and each year write something you were grateful for or

something you would like to work on to be more Christ like for the coming year.

Celebrate daily with a advent (which means ‘coming’) calendar that is filled with a scripture

or a kind deed for the day, a spiritual activity or service idea for the family.

Candles (originally go with the advent wreath) to be lit every Sunday of the month of December

4 purple candles that symbolize HOPE we have in Christ LOVE God showed in sending His son PEACE that comes through knowing Jesus as our Savior JOY (pink candle) reminds us of the Joy of Jesus’ coming

Then one last white candle that is to be lit Christmas Eve and represents Jesus and His purity

You light a candle every Sunday.

All candles lit=the fulfillment of Jesus’ coming to be the light of the world.

You could light special luminaries as a family and create a special tradition that revolves

around His Light, the Light of the world, ways to be a light within your own life, etc.

30 Day Challenge (between Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Do 1 thing that sets your day with Spirit

(music, prayer, daily pages, quiet time, sweets for your fam,etc)

Give Sweets to your Family

(morning hot cocoa, dryer wamed blankets or coats, sweet notes of love)

Daily or Weekly act of love and kindness

(pass along something inspirational, story, music, affirmation)

Express your Love

(notes, hugs, Quality time, simple I love you, date night with each child, etc)

Notice the Ordinary Miracles within your life

(the warmth of a fire, the winter walks, making snow angels, the touch of those you love, candle glow, cozy sweaters, warm kisses, falling snow, your breath on a cold morning, making breakfast together…etc)

Create ‘Christ’mas meaning within your day

(embrace beautiful stories/songs of the Beloved, bring Christ into your Christmas season)

Share meaningful gifts during this beautiful time of giving

(give gifts that will be remembered and cherished: special photo/story, cd of music, special ornaments they can hang every year, personalized notecards, no matter what a personal card that says something you love and cherish about them)

I would LOVE  everyone to add additional traditions that you do for the holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays! 
Heather

Give the gift of gratitude

Imagine…One evening you gather your family around the dinner table and celebrate life with a little cake. Not just any cake, a gratitude cake.

This cake is going to help your family remember the wonderful things within your lives. You will put the cake in the center of the table and light a candle in the middle of the cake. As the candle burns everyone will take a turn sharing something they are grateful for within their life…a highlight from the day, friends they appreciate, stories of kindness, little things they love, moments with family, etc. Then after everyone has shared in the gift of gratitude, the candle has melted down and the wick is out, end with a little piece of cake.

This will be a beautiful gift to bring your family together. Enjoy your time together.

Give Thanks during the month of thanksgiving.