New Year’s Resolution or Revision?

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions in the past. It always seemed a little hokey, making a promise to do something one needs to do anyway such as get fit, clean out closets and finish projects. This year may just be different. What if the resolution was manageable and more than just a “To Do” list? What if not only the behavior changed but the vision? Rather than just a solution there was a new vision?

I’ve set my sights on up-to date photo albums. Photos are my final frontier. I’ve often told Scott that we will no doubt be blessed with daughter-in-laws that will possess beautiful albums recording childhood memories while my sons will have multiple photo boxes and shoe boxes brimming with pictures and many others on the hard drive, never printed. God has provided beautiful stories for both of my boys. It’s my job to get the photos in some semblance of order…especially before high school graduation!

Another one of my new visions for 2012 is to reconnect with old friends I haven’t visited with for a while. Last week, Scott and I curled up in front of the fire to read Christmas letters and admire family photos printed on Christmas cards. Whether across the city or across the country, I want to spend more time catching up with the ones I love.

Both of my visions for 2012 deal with being “tech savvy”. Technology sometimes throws me for a loop. My sweet husband gave me an iPhone for Christmas. (Hopefully I’m smarter than the little hand-held gadget!) My vision needs to change from one who cringes at the fast pace of technology to one who embraces and uses it to it’s fullest extend for God’s Kingdom. (I’ll keep you posted in how the process is going. So far so good!)

A new year, a time for new beginnings. My prayer is to be the best I can be for the glory of God. What’s your new vision for 2012?

Happy New Year sweet friends! May God bless you and yours abundantly in 2012!

Where is Jesus?!?

Advent, a time to look forward expectantly to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Each day, the advent calendar ticks off another day, moving my family closer to the real Reason for the season. When I think back to when my boys were little, once the nativity scene was set and the tree was decorated they were in full Christmas mode. The advent calendar helped them mark the days. Each day moved them closer to the goal, Christmas Day. Their first gift of Christmas was found in the advent calendar, Baby Jesus, the final piece of the nativity scene. The boys actually have always had two calendars, one beautiful sparkly one from Grandma and Grandpa to hang on the wall and the calendar that sits on the hall table. It is a large box with twenty-five little doors. Small trinkets or candy fill the tiny spaces. As the boys have grown, I’ve added clues and riddles for them to solve to find hidden gifts in the house. Baby Jesus in the manger was always behind the last little door.

This year we had a problem. When we unpacked the Christmas decorations, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus were missing. Since many of you have never been to my home, I need to tell you I’m a fairly organized person. Losing the holy family was upsetting to say the least. The four of us searched through the boxes to no avail. No Jesus. A manger scene without the star, the leading baby? I don’t think so. A nativity scene without Jesus is just another barn.

Then I was reminded, Jesus is more than a resin form to set out for the holiday. He cannot be lost. He came to save the world and is represented by so much more than a small piece of a nativity scene. Each Sunday, as Scott, the boys and I light our advent candles, we read from the Gospels of the wonder of His birth. Isaiah and other Old Testament prophesies set the stage for the bigger picture, God’s plan for redeeming His own from the very beginning. The Light will always shine in the darkness.

The Lord cannot be lost, nor can the ones He loves. He lives in our hearts and is active in our lives. Yes, I will find those missing pieces, especially Baby Jesus. But the images are just reminders of the greater Gift, Jesus the greatest Gift of all.

More on Manners

Christmas festivities have already kicked into high gear to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus. It’s the time of year when families and friends draw close, sharing stories, traditions and of course meals. To make this joyous time less stressful when visiting with the relatives, take some time to work on manners with your children. Hearing “Your little ones are so polite,” from Great Aunt Beatrice is a gift for a parent!

Meeting and Greeting

•Prior to the party, review the names of the guests. Look at photos to remind younger children who is who.

•Encourage eye contact. Evan the littlest ones can offer a hand to shake. “It’s nice to see you,” is an easy statement to welcome a guest.

•Give your child a job. My boys act as doormen, answering the door and hanging up coats.

•If you are the guests, have your child give the hosts the hostess gift with a polite, “Thank you for having us.”

Table Manners

•Put into practice all you’ve been working on at home.

•State what you expect, keeping in mind the ages and developmental stages of your children. Be specific.

•Typical good table manners include sitting at the table until excused, keeping the napkin in the lap, using a quiet voice during the meal, eating with utensils rather than fingers, saying please and thank you, and complimenting the chef…especially Grandma!

•Encourage your child to try new foods. Many Christmas delicacies are served just once a year. Your child might really like pickled herring or lutefisk!

•Most importantly, plan ahead for your child to say grace for the Christmas meal.

When the celebration is over, have the kiddos retrieve the coats and thank the guests for coming. End the evening on a note of appreciation, as the host or the guest. Spending time with family and close friends during Christmas is a blessing. Enjoy every moment!

Do Manners Matter?

Manners are powerful, both good manners and poor manners. Think about it. Would you rather hang out with a friend who is polite or rude? Society may focus on the crass and unruly, but respect and polite behavior will always be in style.

Teaching manners goes far beyond please and thank you. And it is not one of those lessons a parent can just check off the “To Do List” like shoe tying instructions. If might take a long time to master the skill but once the shoes can be tied, the kid is on his way. Manner lessons go on, and on, and on. Even with teenagers, it’s a continual time of coaching.

When teaching manners to children, give directions in the positive. For example, “Please take your elbows off the table.” rather than “Don’t put your elbows on the table.” Praise success. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way in strengthening a child’s desire to do well. Verbalize your expectations. “We are having dinner at Grandma’s house tonight. I expect you to sit and the table, eat with a fork and use a quiet voice.” Children generally desire to live up to Mom and Dad’s expectations.

With younger children, focus on one manner at a time. Concentrate on table manners then move to phone manners. Be tolerant of lapses, but don’t overlook them. Use slip ups as teachable moments.

Make it fun! When my boys were little, I would pretend to be the rude friend that came for lunch and broke every rule in the book; elbows on the table, speaking with my mouth full, napkin left on the table, reaching across others for food. The boys would laugh themselves silly. Then we’d talk about what a polite guest looks like as compared to the rude friend.

Make polite manners part of what your family does everyday. You’ll know the lessons are paying off when you hear from a friend, “Your child is so polite.” Who knows, your child may be invited to dine at the White House one day. Don’t you want him to know how to behave?