Over 8 Great Activities to Focus on God’s Love with Your Kids on Valentine’s Day

Over 8 Great Activities to Focus on God’s Love with Your Kids on Valentine’s Day

 

Valentine’s Day is big at our house for lots of reasons but this is one of the ones that stand out to me.

He came in the dining room and declared that he didn’t want to do anything for Valentine’s Day at his school because he doesn’t love any girls at school.

Girls are yucky! he exclaimed.

He was only 5 at that time, but I knew then– we NEEDED to teach our boys that Valentine’s day is more than what the media, peers, the world says it is. Mind you, my husband and I do celebrate V-day and our kids know it because we usually plan something special for each other, but it’s so much more than about us celebrating our love.

So, this was my opportunity to teach them about all the things I love–serving, kindness and God’s love in us and overflowing from us. We are going on 8 years of celebrating Valentine’s Day by sharing His love and serving each other and those in our community.

8 Great Activities to Focus on God’s Love with Your Kids on Valentine’s Day

  1. Love Coupons for the Family! Before you begin read and discuss the verses in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 and discuss what the meaning of “love” is. You can discuss how we are not always patient, kind… but when we ask God for His help with this He helps us. Sometimes we have to come to Him daily–when a sibling aggravates us or a child is whining and we are anything but patient. It’s in this constant yielding that He gives us the strength and love that we need.
    With this activity talk about how Jesus came to serve others and made daily deliberate choices to display God’s love to us. Then tell your children you’re going to make Acts of Love Coupons for each other. The coupons are a fun way we could love on each other in practical ways. When my kids were little we would help them write things down on their coupons. We always manage to come up with some creative ideas like–a massage (using their cars), clearing the table, video game challenge, ice cream sundae night… check out the list of ideas here.
  2. Heart Attack! activity! This is a family favorite! Before you enjoy the “Heart Attack Activity” talk about the verse in Joshua 24:15. Then discuss how when we serve others we also serve God. When we choose to serve God, we start a chain reaction of events in our home, community and the world. By serving God, we also serve others. Then enjoy the “Heart Attack Activity” and print this out HERE or the family version HERE.
    Some years ago we “Heart Attacked” a few teachers! We gave some teachers at my son’s school a basket of goodies and shared this heart attack idea with them in hopes that they would past it on.  You can also “Heart Attack” each other as a family that was a lot of fun. Basically, you cut out tons of hearts and write on each heart something you love about that person. Each family member writes 2 things for each person in the family. Make sure to go the link above for the complete instructions.
  3. Rings of Love. Talk about the verse in 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.” Discuss what LOVE means and how it starts with God. When we love others we are actually loving God. Draw 5 rings on a sheet of paper and write in each one–God, Family, Friends, Community (neighbors, church, community centers) and World. This is our “Rings of Love” circle. Then fill a bucket of water and drop a marble in it and watch the ripples move across the water. Explain how when we do acts of kindness we show others love and that creates a chain reaction that affects others. This one little action affects the whole pool of water. That’s just how it is with love. Everything we do as we serve God has an impact on our world one person at a time.

    Service Activities: Things we have done are given roses to the ladies on the street that are homeless or selling things. One year we painted “Love Rocks”, wrote a message “Jesus Loves You!” on the back and then passed placed them in the park, neighborhood and local hospital.  We have also passed out heart crayons and called it our “Broken Crayons Still Color Project” because we recycled broken crayons and made hearts out of them (as shown in the picture above). It brought such joy to us to pass out the crayons with coloring books to kids on the street. Another year we past out Happy Meals to kids using the money our children had saved up from our Save, Give, Spend system.
  4. Movie Night that focuses on Love -Before you start, discuss God’s great love for us. Read 1 John 3:1. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” And that is what we are! Explain how in the movie you’re about to watch you will see threads of how God love. I really like The Prince of Egypt it’s such a powerful story that depicts His love.  The Princess Bride depicts love and the lengths one goes to for the sake of love, which can also be tied back to God’s love for us. Beauty and the Beast is another good family movie for Valentine’s day where we can interweave His love for us even in our weaknesses.
  5. The story of St. Valentine. I love throwing in some history and Jesus into our holidays. Enjoy a heart snack and discuss the story behind St. Valentine. Before you begin read and discuss the verse in 1 John 3:16 and John 15:13–“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Then explain how His love is sacrificial and never ending (Romans 8:37). Here is a short excerpt of St. Valentine’s story: “But a simple Christian priest named Valentine did come forward and stood up for love. He began to secretly marry soldiers before they went off to war, despite the emperor’s orders. In 269 A.D., Emperor Claudius found out about the secret ceremonies. He had Valentine thrown into prison and deemed that he would be put to death. As Valentine was awaiting execution, he fell in love with a blind girl who happened to be the jailer’s daughter. On the eve of his execution, with no writing instruments available, Valentine is said to have written her a sonnet in ink that he squeezed from violets. Legend has it that his words made the blind woman see again. It was a brief romance because the next day Valentine was clubbed to death by Roman executioners.” You can go here for the full explanation and then paraphrase it to your child’s level of understanding and maturity. In St. Valentine’s story you can also see examples of God’s sacrificial love for us.
    You can discuss the history of St. Valentine over your dinner or one year we also did a Valentine’s Day Cafe which was super simple to put together for our family.
  6. Share the Love! Here we want to encourage our family to love on others, neighbors and friends with the ways the Lord has gifted us. Discuss Romans 12:4-6  Discuss how their are so many ways to love one another and one of them is by using the gifts God has given us. Ask your family–Who do they serve in their life? The Bible says he has given us special talents so we can serve others. Read the verse again and then ask, “What gifts do you have that you can use to serve others?” Together come up with tangible ways that your kids can use their gifts to serve someone in their community or world. For example, a simple and tangible way is to write an encouraging note to a missionary and/or someone serving their country. Or you can write to their family member of the ones who have stayed behind and let them know how much you appreciate that their family member has gone before them to serve God in the mission field or their country.  You can make cookies and pass them out to homeless people or your neighbors. These 15 n0 bake neighborly ideas might inspire you. As God’s children we are called to walk in love–Ephesians 5:1.
    As a family we try to make Valentine’s day cards or treats so we can give them out to friends and neighbors to remind them of God’s love. Here are some fun ones: Non-Candy Valentine Idea, Slime for my Valentine,
  7. Pop! Activity –Everything we do, do in Love!  Look up verses that talk about God’s love and then write them down on a slip of paper. Here are a few verses: 1 John 4:7-12, Romans 5:8, I Corinthians 13: 4-8, Ephesians 5:1. Place each verse inside a balloon and have the kids pop the balloon. Have them one at a time, read out loud what each verse says.  If your child doesn’t like things that pop then place the verse outside the balloon. End with reading the verse in 1 Corinthians 16:14 and have them put it into practice–do a chore around the house that would help someone. Here’s a free printable to go with that verse.
  8. Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt – Another Family favorite! Hide scripture hearts around the house and enjoy this fun Valentine’s Day treat with the kids. You can also attach the scripture hearts to balloons like we did here.
  9. Here’s some extra ones! This is for your spouse–Scripture Love Notes
  10. Fun meal! I have heard of families that go all out and do a fun meal with dressing up and fancy food but for whatever reason we have never been able to do that due to time constraints. So our fun meal is homemade fondue for dessert.
  11. Heart Attack! Nerf Gun style – Set up two forts which are areas with targets (use cans or plastic bottles) one on each side of the room and the goal is to try to knock down as many cans or plastic bottles with the nerf guns. I like to add heart stickies to the ends of the bullets just for fun. Divide into two teams and each teams goal is to protect and shoot. Protect their bottles from getting knocked down and shoot the others bottles down. Rules are simple you can’t stand in front of your bottles to protect them nor right in front of theirs to shoot it. You have to be constantly moving.
  12. Love Rocks! Paint rocks and right a message of God’s love on the rocks. It can be as simple as “God loves you!” and place them around your community to encourage someone. We have placed ours in parks, around water fountains, near restaurant doors, on the ground near a mailbox, in hospital waiting areas, bathroom sink and napkin areas…

Now Your Turn

Share with me in the comments below what you do to take this commercialized holiday and turn it into a lesson of your values and faith.

Make Your Own Easy Reindeer Cookies From Gingerbread Men

Would you believe me if I told you that The Secret to Christmas Joy is Found in Cookies?  Well, keep reading to find out what I mean.

reindeer-cookies

One of our family Christmas traditions is our Christmas ADVENTures and each day we have scripture reading, a Christmas carol and an optional activity. Throughout our advent days there are lots cultivating compassion activities to do as a family.

Christmas lights are not only beautifully adorned around homes and Christmas trees around this time of the year but they also serve as symbolic reminder that He is the light and we can also be light. One way we can shine light into peoples darkness is with acts of kindness.

family-baking

One of activities we enjoy doing together as a family during this time of the year  is making Christmas treats to give to our neighbors, community helpers and teachers. One year we kept a basket in our car with homemade cookie treats and we gave them out to the street kids as we drove around running errands. You don’t even have to make them homemade. I love adding icing to store bought cookies and bars to personalize them.

christmas-cookie-book

I recently came across this book called The Legend of the Christmas Cookie by Dandy Daley Mackall when looking for a new Christmas book to add to our Christmas collection.  The Legend of the Christmas Cookie tells the story of a young boy named Jack who learns from his generous mother the story behind the Christmas cookie. The family who began the tradition of baking the special cookies gave them to the needy and shared the story of the very first Christmas. This sweet holiday book offers inspiration for readers to become cheerful givers themselves and encourages them to share the true tale of Jesus’ birth. A delicious recipe is included on the jacket flap so readers can make their own Christmas sugar cookies.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” —Kahlil Gibran

10-days-of-christ-focused-kids-activities

10 days of Christ focused Christmas Activities Inspired by Books Blog hop starts today! We have all sorts of fun activities, recipes and family fun that are inspired by a Children’s Christmas book that share the real meaning of Christmas! Make sure to follow along on Facebook, you can take a look at the schedule over at Inspired by Familia blog. Here are our fabulous bloggers: Inspired by Family, Meaningful Mama, Teaching Mama, Beautiful Messy Motherhood, Happy Home Fairy, Simple home Blessings, The Chaos and the Clutter, Creative Family Fun, True Aim Education and Sunshine Whispers!

gingerbread-men-cookies

Make Your Own Easy Reindeer Cookies From Gingerbread Men

First, you’ll turn your gingerbread man upside down and that’s how you get antlers from the feet of the gingerbread man.

reindeer-cookies-from-gingerbread-men-2

Then use your icing to decorate the face. Make sure your eyes are around the mid section of the body b/c the gingerbreads actual head will be where you place the nose and mouth.

Pack them up in cute little baggies and pass them out to your neighbors, community helpers like mailman, garbage collectors. Place a basket in your car and pass them out to the homeless with a milk or juice.  Once year our family hosted a Christmas Cookie Exchange with a Twist and instead of taking the cookies for ourselves that were exchanged we each took them to pass them out the homeless.

Follow along this week to see the fabulous ideas from our super star bloggers! 10 bloggers, 10 books and 10 days of Christmas Activities inspired by children books that are faith based.

christmas-blog-hop-image

December 5th
Day 1 Inspired by Family-The Legend of the Christmas Cookie book & Easy Reindeer Cookies
December 6th
Day 2 Teaching Mama  The Legend of the Candy Cane book & Easy & Cute Candy Cane ornament 
December 7th
Day 3 Beautiful Messy Motherhood A Carol for Christmas book & Write Your Own Christmas Carol Idea
Day 4 Meaningful Mama The Crippled Lamb book & Handprint Nativity Craft
December 8th
Day 5 Happy Home Fairy -M is for Manger book & another lovely and different (from the one above) Nativity Handprint Craft
Day 6 Simple home Blessings Who is Coming to Our House book & Christmas Garland craft
December 9th
Day 7 The Chaos and the Clutter I Spy Christmas book & I Spy Christmas Sensory Bag
Day 8 Creative Family Fun   The Birds of Bethlehem Book & Felt Birds Craft for Kids
December 10th
Day 9 True Aim Education The book of Character & Neighbor Kindness Activity
Day 10 Sunshine Whispers The Sparkle Box book & Sparkle Box Gift Jar Activity

Looking for more favorite Christ-focused Children’s Christmas books?

Easy Manger Craft for Kids with free printable inspired by Mortimer’s Christmas Manger book

Easy Santa Christmas Ornament inspired by Santa’s Favorite Story book

Nativity Craft from Toilet Paper Tubes inspired by Itsy Bitsy Christmas book

What I Learned About Simplicity at a Farm

farm life

I’m one of those people who dream about living on acres and acres of farmland filled with crops, gardens, cows, horses and chickens but then I wake up to reality. I can’t grow simple herbs in a pot and my stomach feels nauseous when we drive past farm animals. Well, regardless a girl can dream. This past weekend I was reminded of my love for the simple farm life where I cook from crops in my own backyard and enjoy my garden in the evenings.

minga

My friend invited me to join her and her kids on a “minga” farm adventure just outside of the city. I love getting out of the city every chance I get especially if it’s to enjoy nature. So, a “Minga” is an old tradition carried on by the Inca people where the community comes together for agricultural collective work. In ancient times, Mingas built communities, fed families and strengthened relationships. Basically, it’s a community circle of friends, family and neighbors of all ages coming together and working side by side as people share stories, laughter, experiences and food.  At the end there is a feast to celebrate the hard work.

chicha drink

We were able to taste a drink called “chicha” it’s fermented corn turned into a non-alcoholic drink sweetened with spices and cane sugar.

red corn harvest

It refreshed my soul and tired my bones!

What I Learned About Simplicity at a Farm

We walked to the back of the house where the manga had already gathered and the hands were hard at work, chucking corn. Our kids immediately ran towards the open fields and joined the fun, climbing trees, making wooden knives from sticks…

tree climbing-2

At some point I called my boys over to help with the “Minga” and my kids joined the circle with their virgin farm hands and shared in the experience.

aiden chucking corn

My boys seem to gravitate towards gray haired people especially gentle and kind elderly people with big smiles and purses full of candy. I’d like to think they seek them out because we’ve taught them to value and respect the elderly and they desire to glean from their wisdom but I’m sure much of it has do with their hope to get some candy.

boys chucking corn

Well, in the circle there were a couple of older ladies whom they got to know. Later they ran over to tell me everything they learned about them.

minga circle

As I sat around the circle it was fun to be an observer and listen in on the conversations, the laughter, the diverse background and ages represented in the group.

bean pods

I loved watching all the hands at work. I loved being connected to the earth in this way. I especially loved that my kids were getting a small glimpse into all the work and sweat that it takes to have fresh vegetables and fruits at our table. Honestly, it was good to be reminded of this myself.

colorful harvest

At one point it was all so poetic. I sat quietly taking in the sound of the gentle breeze, the wrinkled hands sorting corn, the vibrant colors of the harvest, the soft youthful hands chucking corn, the smell of fresh air, the hot sun beating on our backs and the laugher and teasing moving along in perfect harmony.

bean pods-2

Right before our feast I learned how to thresh, winnow and sort beans the old fashioned latino way. We danced our way through the process with maracas, drums and all. It was so much fun!

bean dance

Here we are in the picture below, we are learning the winnowing process. It was a hot day but the breeze gave us brief moments of relief as it swept through the fields. We filled our hands with beans and dropped them mid-air and the wind would carry the chaff as the beans fell.

bean winnowing

 

bean process

I took a break and walked around the farm house and was intrigued with the family owners simple life. The house was built by them using material from the earth. The bathroom didn’t have a flushing system, you used wood shaving to cover your duty and then it’s used as fertilizer.

The kitchen counters were filled with vegetables and fresh seasonings.

farm table

The table was stacked with fresh wholesome food that made my mouth water.

playing at farm

kids wood shop

The kid’s toys were mostly made from wood and it seemed like each piece was very much thought out. I wondered how many of us do this, think through the toys we buy our kids and it’s purpose for purchasing it.  The bugs and flies all welcomed in her home as guest. I loved that her son had acres of forest as his playground and classroom.

colorful corn

I later told my friend I admire this kind of simple living. I probably won’t own a cow or chickens anytime soon.  I most likely will continue to appreciate the convenience of flushing our business down the toilet, but I think simplifying ones life can still be done regardless.

bean chaffing

What I learned about the simple farm life is that it’s not so simple–it’s hard work. I long to simplify my life as I declutter the endless boxes from our recent move and get rid of the stuff that’s just been sitting there taking up space and never being used. I plan on simplifying my life by giving away the clothes that’s just taking up space in my closet waiting for that “someday” when it will get used. I simplify our life by making our dinner time a priority and guarding that time like a mother bear. I simplify our life by unplugging and enjoying nature. I will take with me the beautiful tradition of the “Minga” and find ways our family can help build our community and strengthen our relationships with people from all ages and walks of life. I’m sure I can still do more but I’ll baby step my way into this simplicity.  The simple life maybe “simple” but it’s not easy.   Living a less distracted life with less stuff and more people is a beautiful thing!  I hope for this  simplicity whether I live in the big city or out on a farm since I can’t grow cilantro in a pot and I can’t stand the smell of cow pastures.

Missionaries Take the Vacation

Happy family going on holidays

We had arrived in the U.S. on “vacation” or furlough for three weeks.

We had been going from city to city visiting our supporters, friends, family, and churches. At one point, we asked my in-laws if they would be willing to watch our kids so we could have some time away. They have always been so supportive and they happily agreed.

Our marriage was fine so we were just getting away to have some much needed time together and time alone with God.

We headed to the mountains in Tennessee. There we found some cabins built specifically for missionaries to use, such a blessing. During our first few days there we spent a lot of time alone and just seeking God and then we agreed to come together to see what God was showing us.

Well, during that time God convicted me of some things and He did the same to my husband. Little did we know that our marriage was hurting.

In the fast paced life that we live, we had lost touch and it had become so normal that we didn’t even realize anything was wrong. Sure we could work on this or that but I had no idea we were hurting so deeply.

I was out on a hike and feeling so overwhelmed with emotion by what God was showing me, that I was in tears, but not just trickling down tears. No, it was the messy kind of crying, the kind that makes you sick to your stomach. Next thing I knew I was bent over by the creek throwing up.

Sometimes we just need to stop

I look back to that time and it was that vacation time away in the midst of our furlough that opened our eyes to see the big picture, to see what was going on that we had missed along the busyness.

That time away saved us from ourselves, from hurting each other more and from our sin.

It was once again a time that the Lord whispered to us–Receive! Come to my feet and receive!

Furlough is Not a Vacation

By the way, going back to your home country on furlough is never a vacation, just in case you consider those vacations.

I know sometimes there isn’t enough time to take a vacation apart from your furlough. As I mentioned above carve out some time in the midst of the furlough to connect as a couple and as a family.

I’m thankful for the time we get on furlough to see old friends and family but it is in no way a vacation. Literally, there are weeks that will go by and my husband and I have not had a “real” conversation when we are supposedly “vacationing” on furlough.

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The Day the Missionaries Went on Vacation

We have served overseas in South America now for 8 years and going on our 9th year this fall!  The moment we had decided South America was going to be our place of ministry I began dreaming about visiting Machu Picchu. So, I started saving every nickel and dime, and I mean literally every nickel and dime so that we could take a trip to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. After two years, we had saved enough money for our airline tickets and with much excitement we bought them!  We were ecstatic and then summer rolled around and we realized we had not saved enough money for things like eating, hotels, and spending money for a family of 5 while in Peru. So we had to postpone our trip for the following year. But the time came! After three years we saved up enough money and we boarded a plane, excited to see, discover and enjoy a VACATION.

After two years, we had saved enough money for our airline tickets and with much excitement we bought them!  We were ecstatic and then summer rolled around and we realized we had not saved enough money for things like eating, hotels, and spending money for a family of 5 while in Peru. So we had to postpone our trip for the following year.But the time came! After three years we saved up enough money and we boarded a plane, excited to see, discover and enjoy a VACATION.

Some were offended (yes, there are people who wholeheartedly believe we shouldn’t have a vacation), some were confused others jealous, but many were cheering us on.

It was an amazing trip! We didn’t go to feed the homeless kids of Peru. We didn’t go to help build a church in rural villages of Cusco. We didn’t go learn a tribal language so we could evangelize the Amazon villages.

We simply just went on vacation.

At the moment I had not realized how much I needed that trip. Our family needed this time away!

Both Ben and I have been blessed with a “doer” mentality so we needed this time away from ministry. Staying in our place of ministry and taking time off doesn’t work because we are still called back to the office for just this one thing–every other day. So we needed to go away.

Open your hands and receive

Receive!

That’s a hard word for us sometimes. As a woman with the title of a missionary, counselor, mom, and wife I spend my days giving to our kids, to our neighbors, to my spouse, to our family, to our ministry, to our friends, to our community… it has become a way of life. And most days I joyfully do it, some days not so much.

But we give, give and give that we don’t even realize when our cup has run dry and our service and ministry has become stale because we are worn and tired.

So we took a vacation!

We took a vacation as missionaries.

Why?

Because we need to take a time of respite for ourselves. We need to remove ourselves from our ministry and let others take the lead in our absence. We need the focused family time. We need the focused time as a couple. We need to just be and stop those busy Martha hands and just sit at the feet of Jesus without looking at our schedule and all of the appointments that fill our day.

Though I can write this now without much effort, the year leading to our departure was hard on me. Even though we foot the bill for our time in Peru, as I mentioned before, we saved up all of our money for this trip.

I still felt the need to justify our vacation to our supporters and those around us.  I felt the need to “earn” our vacation time. So, I went into this crazy “doing” mode. By constantly doing then I could in my own heart and mind justify that our family, the missionaries, in fact really deserve a vacation. Never in my wildest dreams before becoming a missionary would I have imagined feeling guilty for taking a vacation. Here in South America, even the poor go on vacation. They may stay in a $10 room but they are on vacation and fully enjoying it with their family.

Since then we have taken two family vacations. Two years later, we headed to the Galapagos Islands after having more time to save up our dollars; and now three years later we will take another vacation to Europe.

Keeping the vacation a secret

A few months ago I told my husband that I didn’t want to let anyone know that we were going to Europe. We had once again saved all of our birthday money, had yard sales and what not, so my husband and I could do a 40-mile trek for my 40th birthday. But this was not done alone we had friends and family donate money specifically for our trip to help us get to Europe.

Well, I didn’t want it to be a stumbling block for those who are on the fence about giving to missions or just about missionaries in general.  I didn’t want our current supporters to stop supporting us because they feel like we are living a life of luxury which is not in any shape or from the case. But then I thought what message am I sending to our fellow missionaries when I’m “hiding” our vacation. What are we telling our kids who may one day choose to serve overseas as missionaries–that everyone else can take a vacation but not us.

But then I thought what message am I sending to our fellow missionaries when I’m “hiding” our vacation. What are we telling our kids who may one day choose to serve overseas as missionaries or give to missions–that everyone else can take a vacation but not missionaries.

For some reason, just the mere mention of going to Europe sounds so extravagant to my ears. Even though it will cost us about the same and maybe even less expensive than our other two trips to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu. For that matter, it’s so much cheaper than going to Disney or going on furlough to the U.S. But our every 3 years trip to the U.S. is justified because we are going “home” to connect with churches and supporters.

Feelings of Guilt

Well, it still felt, dare I say, wrong. Yes, the same person who just wrote all of the above and would in a heartbeat encourage any missionary not to feel guilty about taking a vacation, I still felt like it was wrong, and even more so because it’s another continent.

Well, I knew I needed to take this to the Lord and if in fact, we were doing something wrong or this wasn’t the time, then I needed Him to show me. I spent some time talking with God and going back and forth on this topic over the past few weeks. The Lord reminded me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I didn’t have to hide anything. No, I don’t have to go shout it out from the rooftops and rub it in people’s faces, but hiding and shame were not necessary.

I walked away with peace. I walked away from my time, assured that instead of hiding this trip I should use this opportunity to educate others about missionaries and missionary care.

Hiding and shame happens when you’re in sin and acting against the Lord not when you’re taking care of yourself and doing what the Lord calls all of us to do–rest.

Because missionaries shouldn’t constantly live feeling guilty for enjoying themselves whether the feelings are self-imposed or from well-meaning friends or supporters who share comments like, “Whoa, I thought you guys were missionaries” when you share a picture of your vacation on social media is not helpful to us.

When We Judge Each Other

To be completely honest, I have found myself being judgmental of other missionaries. I remember when I saw on Facebook some missionaries who we knew were headed to Disney, I found myself being judgmental. My critical spirit came from feeling envious, not because I thought they were doing something wrong. Many times we have to stop and ask ourselves where is that judgemental spirit coming from and most of the time we discover it’s coming from a heart of jealousy, fear, and pride.

Just take the Vacation

Everyone’s circumstances are different so take it to the Lord. Our vacation was not sinful. We are not stealing money from our ministry to go on vacation. We are not being unwise stewards of our money by taking a vacation. We are not neglecting our children or running away from something on this vacation. We personally used our own funds for this trip. We are not taking away from our ministry by taking a vacation.

In fact, we are doing something wonderful for our ministry by taking a vacation. Who wants burned out missionaries on the field? Who wants missionary families on the brink of divorce because they can’t say no to ministry needs? Who wants missionaries who are so busy that they don’t even make the time to spend with God?

No one does, not your missionary co-workers, not the people you’re ministering to and not even your organization.

So, if you’re a missionary and you’re reading this and you feel guilty about taking a vacation please hear me out–

Take the vacation.”

Leave your city; leave your country if possible. With technology making it so easy to get a hold of people, I know it’s hard to leave work. My husband when he is on “vacation” but stays in the city where we live and minister, he is answering emails, calls and even going into the office for a quick trip.  The only way he gets a real vacation is when we leave the city. When we leave the country, that is even better because then no one expects things from him.  So, leave and rest.

Don’t go somewhere else only to include some “work” engagements so you feel better about your vacation. Just go and rest with your family or by yourself.

Be still and receive!

Take time to just sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him whisper into your soul.
Take time to just sit next to your spouse and kids and discover who they are. What is their favorite color? What is their biggest fears? Who are their good friends? What are they passionate about?

Vacation trips are a blessing from God. They are not because I’ve earned them for all the people who came to Christ that year or for all the “good missionary work” we’ve done.

So on this vacation, I will not turn a blind eye to those in need but I will remember to “be still”.  I will bask in His creation and presence and soak in His truth and beauty. And most of all I will enjoy the company of my husband and family as we walk around the dirt roads and remember to sit at His feet.

Be still and receive His rest!

If you know a missionary

If you’re a person who supports a missionary I suggest you encourage your missionaries to take a time of respite. Encourage them to take a vacation that is outside of their ministry area. In fact, tell your missionaries your specific donation money for that month is only to be used for a vacation. Our trip to Europe was only possible because we had friends and supporters do this for us. We had some lovely co-workers raise money so we can take a cooking class during our vacation. We had family members pitch in their time and money to make this trip possible. And we have been saving every single penny of ours from birthday money to yard sale money, to odd jobs money, to reach our summer vacation budget.

Now don’t get me wrong–I completely think we should be good stewards of our money and never go in debt whether we are missionaries or not! At the end, it’s all God’s money. I’m not encouraging anyone into frivolous spending, extravagant safaris to Africa, luxurious restaurant dining, shopping sprees, then a trip to a remote island on a yacht…as this is not what I am talking about when I encourage us to take a vacation. So hear me out, yes, we should always be good stewards of our money and going into debt is never an option.

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Beggars Shouldn’t Be Choosers But Stop Giving Crap to the Poor

We have all heard the saying “Beggars Shouldn’t Be Choosers”  but can we stop giving crap to the poor.

Helping others with all our hearts

This phrase, “Beggars shouldn’t be choosers.” is a common one that I’ve heard all my life. For that matter, I have subconsciously believed it as I served others.

I recently looked up the definition to see what kind of explanation I would get and this is what The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says,

Those in dire need must be content with what they get. For example, The cheapest item will have to do-beggars can’t be choosers.”

I know you would never say such a thing but stop for a second and think through the kinds of stuff you’ve given to the poor whether it’s used or new.

When we allow this kind of subconscious thinking, it has the power to change our actions and our work ethic becomes less than admirable. We become susceptible to believing “You get what you get and that’s better than nothing.”

Then we find ourselves giving crap away or doing crappy service projects. Let’s not allow this kind of thinking seep into our hearts of service and giving.

related article: Teaching our Kids to Give: The One Thing We Changed

Our Gifts Speak Louder

This thinking has us patting ourselves on the back as we check out at the dollar store with 50 plastic cheaply made dolls that won’t last for more than 10 minutes or as we walk away from an unplanned and haphazardly put together vacation bible school project.

We become okay with the bare minimum because the less fortunate or those in need should be grateful we  gave them anything at all.  They should be thankful we took a week off our schedule to come and be with them.

No, this has to change!

Before you go out shopping for your Operation Christmas Child or go through your closet to give away things ask yourself–

  • Is this going to last (more than a few months)?
  • Would I give this gift to my friend’s child for Christmas or birthday gift?
  • Does this gift whisper you are known. You are seen. You are loved.? I think you’re valuable!

If you answered, “no” to any of those questions then put the item down.

These children don’t need more dollar store toys that last a week and then fall apart. Doll heads that cave in because they are made from hard plastic. Stickers that don’t stick because they were cheaply made.

I have no problem with dollar stores of any kind. In fact, I buy my kids stocking stuffers from these stores. But you see unlike mine or your situation, these gifts are not stocking stuffers for these children. More often than not, the parents of these children can’t afford to give their kids anything. So your gift is the only Christmas present they are getting.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I know this?” Well because I’ve gone into the homes of these children. I have personally given your boxes to these children and I’ve watched the toys fall apart right before my very eyes.

I’m not saying go out and spend $50 on a gift but what I am begging you to do is ask yourself the questions above. Then watch how what you’re putting in your shopping basket changes.

Your box full of dollar store finds are not stocking stuffers for these children. It’s the only gift they are getting this Christmas!

Don’t Believe the Lies

  • Lie: It’s okay if we send cheap toys at least they are receiving something.
    Truth: I personally have friends who distribute those crap toys that are sent and I know for a fact that most organizations would rather you send 10 good toys than 30 cheap toys that won’t last.
  • Lie: It’s okay if we do a sloppy work project. After all, before we arrived their home was just another dirty shack.
    Truth: Yes, but the shack that’s falling apart and now sloppily painted, is home for them.  Though their home may not seem like much to us, it’s the reason they go out every day into those dirty, hot streets so they can keep a roof over their heads.
  • Lie: It’s okay if the clothes has noticeable stains and rips which we would never dare wear but they’ll be happy to at least have some clothes.
    Truth: No my friends, they may be poor but they have dignity let’s not forget that.

Stop giving crap to the poor just because it makes us feel better. Or because it gives us an excuse to get rid of all our junk we can’t bare to trash.

related articleHow to Give Gifts

The Message I Want to Send

When we serve others and give to others, we need to make sure the message we are sending is-You are known You are seen. You are loved.

As a faith based family we want these precious little ones to know they are loved, known and seen and these gifts are from their Heavenly Father who cares about them.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Can I truly say this is from God?

One year we had planned to give out lunches to the street kids as a group. Normally we just go out as a family but this time we had organized a whole group of people to join us. As I planned, I shared with the other coordinator that the lunches had to be made that day otherwise the bread gets soggy. Her response was shocking, “It’s okay. I’m sure they’ll just be happy to just get a lunch.”  I couldn’t’ believe it. Maybe there was some truth in her statement but I could NOT personally give these street kids soggy lunch bread even if their starve-stricken tummies didn’t care.

I care! It matters to me!

It’s time to stop giving crap to the poor

I don’t think you or these church groups, service project groups, missions groups do this on purpose. I honestly believe we truly want to be a blessing.

But it’s time we start thinking about what we give and how we give it! Ask yourself, Am I  being called to give sacrificially?

Most people don’t set out to do a crappy service project job in Zimbabwe or give crap things to poor little kids in Bangladesh but even with the best intentions you can subconsciously find yourself buying into this message of “Beggars shouldn’t be choosers.”

When we give generously we have the opportunity to whisper–You are loved! You are known! You are seen!

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baby with doll

 

I’d love to hear what your experience has been like. Share in the comments below!

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