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Entries in Memories (3)

Thursday
Dec132018

Three Ways to Make This Christmas More Meaningful

Cindi McMenamin, who writes to strengthen women in their daily walk with God, opens up about how she has changed in her attitudes about the holidays, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she offers suggestions for a more meaningful season.

Cindi asks, "Are you a woman whose goal is to survive the holidays? You go into get-it-done mode and plow through your to-do list and give a big sigh of relief on January 2nd when it’s all over?"

That was my (Dawn's) attitude for many years before God rescued me from undue stress. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one!

Cindi continues . . .

I was that way, too. For years. Then I realized I was missing something very important.

  • Special memories passed without my embracing them.
  • Loved ones came and went and I barely noticed.

Soon the Christmas Season was over and I was tired, but unfulfilled. I knew something had to be done differently.

Today, I’d like to think of myself as a woman who doesn’t just survive the holidays, but, rather, a woman who actually thrives during the most hectic time of the year.

And I’d like to encourage you to be one, too.

Yes, there are extra expenses, extra responsibilities and extra amounts of stress this time of year. There can also be extra expectations—on your part or the part of others—that can cause drama and leave you feeling like a woman on the edge.

Last year, I decided I wanted to be one who truly ENJOYS this time of year, so I started focusing on the few things that matter—and those few things helped me experience a drama-free Christmas that was memorable and fulfilling.

1. Put God First.

You’ll be a woman who is able to accomplish more if you know where your priorities are.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Since Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, what better gift to give Him than obedience? And what better way to show Him we are obeying His command to love Him first by giving Him the first of our day, through our time?

I can honestly say that if I don’t spend quiet time with God every day—preferably in the morning—I’m a mess. My family will attest to that, too!

Preferably, for me, that quiet time consists of at least 20 minutes in prayer and in God’s Word, letting His perspective and principles guide my life. But there are days when that quiet time consists of only a few minutes of quieting my heart before God and asking for His strength to get me through the day.

As we put God first in our day, we are reminded that His approval, His love and His expectations are more important than anyone else’s.

And at this time of year when we can become run down and therefore ultra sensitive, hormonal or just plain cranky, we can tend to have unrealistic expectations on others and be hurt if they’re not appreciating us, supporting us or showing love toward us.

When you are secure in your relationship with God and convinced that He loves you and that’s enough, you can face whatever comes your way.

2. Prioritize Your Loved Ones.

You’ve heard the saying “You can’t please all the people all the time,” right? We have to remember this one at this time of year because there are so many demands on our time.

Often those we live with and love the most get the least of us when we are trying to please everyone.

By asking yourself “What does my family need most from me today?” and then accomplishing that first on your to-do list, you won’t make the mistake of being a people pleaser and a friends and family failure.

Yes, you may be expected to bring cookies to your child’s classroom, but if it happens on the day your child is sick or your husband has a last-minute need that he forgot to communicate to you, or your grandmother is rushed to the hospital, you will have to make a choice to keep yourself sane.

You just may have to let some people down at this time of year in order to keep first things first.

No one likes to do that, but in reality, when you have priorities, it means something else (or someone else) may have to go without. Make sure you prioritize those who love you and need you the most.

Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The ones you live with, eat meals with, and sleep next to are your "neighbors" more than anyone else.

You can prioritize them—while still reaching out to others at this time of year—by making sure their needs are met first and then inviting them along with you to help meet the needs of others. That will keep you balanced, but not at risk of neglecting those closest to you. 

3. Pursue Moments that Lead to Memories.

There’s nothing worse than a Christmas that is self-absorbed.

If it’s all about what we want—or what our children want, or what someone else wants—we can lose focus of what it truly means to give as God gave of His Son, and Christ gave of Himself. As you look around, it’s not difficult to notice so many in need—physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

What are the moments that lead to stories you will tell at the dinner table at night?

  • Stopping to talk to a homeless person and handing them a bag of groceries?
  • Taking your children—or your girlfriends—to a convalescent home and singing carols, or just going door to door to visit the elderly and handing them each a candy cane?
  • Taking a meal to a family at church? 
  • Going caroling and wishing well those that open the door and smile at you?

The holidays that have meant the most to me and my family are the ones in which we got outside of ourselves and touched another life, not necessarily because it made us feel good, but because it touched someone else’s life.

It showed our God that we understood a glimpse of what He sacrificed when He sent His Son to earth—and then to a cross—for us.

What will you do to make Christmas more meaningful this year—for yourself, for your family, for your neighbors, for those with desperate needs?

Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mother, and national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and have drama-free relationships. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling  When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Ten Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, and Drama Free.  For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill-111 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec012016

Building on the Memories

Cynthia Ruchti's novels and novellas brim with hope, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she writes of the hope we can build into our lives as we "reclaim" the past for a brighter future.

Cynthia asks, “How can we knock off the barnacle-like debris and use what once was ugly or hurtful to build new, God-honoring, family-preserving memories?”

This is one of the most beautiful concepts the Lord has taught me (Dawn) through the years, and Cynthia expresses it in a hope-filled way. Someday, the Lord will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), and we often see His hand of restoration at work today.

Cynthia continues . . .

He sat in the encroaching cold, the collar of his work coat turned against the wind, his right hand wrapped around the handle of an ancient pick, his left holding a brick encrusted with crumbling mortar. The brick was one of hundreds piled next to him.

By the end of the day, he’d cleaned a dozen bricks of barnacle-like debris. By the end of another day, the pile of unusable bricks shrank measurably as the stack of “now what?” grew.

Before they’d tumbled into a messy pile, the bricks had formed the walls of a storage shed on the man’s parents’ farm. When the man was a small boy, the storage shed held garden tools, his father’s grimy work bench, and dark memories of abuse the father had renamed punishment.

The boy had dropped an egg on the way from the chicken coop to the house. An endless round of wallops with his father’s leather strap.

The boy left his jacket at school. More welts.

The boy lingered too long at a friend’s house. The cost was a night alone in the locked shed—no lights, no food, no blanket.

As the barnacles of unkindness and cruelty fell away now with each tap of the pick, the memories crumbled, no longer holding power over him. He owned the house now. The brick storage shed had been torn down.

He was paving the walkway through the garden to the house with the bricks that had once represented pain.

When finished, the project drew tears, not because of the once solid memories, but because of the beauty of a firm, well-lit, soul-pleasing path.

That’s what restoration experts do—take the crumbling, useless, broken, tired, ugly, rotted elements of a home or a life and remake them to create either a better version of what once was, or something entirely new. Like walls of an emotional prison turned into a pathway to freedom.

It wasn’t until I was well into writing Restoring Christmas—a book with the restoration of an old fieldstone farmhouse as its settingthat the full impact of the connection struck me.

Christmas and restoration. Synonymous in so many ways.

  • Jesus came to restore the relationship with God that hadn’t been possible since sin entered the world.
  • The gift of God’s Son restored hope for mankind.
  • Jesus coming in human form restored our faith in God’s indescribable, unfailing-no-matter-how-long-it-takes love.

Do some Christmas memories bite into your soul like a whipping strap bites into fragile skin?

An uncle refuses to come to the holiday celebration if his brother will be there.

A grandparent’s obvious inequality in gift-giving for a favored grandchild sends a wave of discomfort through the whole family—oldest to youngest—every year?

Christmas celebration has lost its luster in light of the medical crisis the family’s facing? The memories won’t be the same in the assisted living center that now substitutes for the family home that once served as the gathering spot?

Unforgiveness is an unwelcome guest at every holiday meal?

How can we knock off the barnacle-like debris and use what once was ugly or hurtful to build new, God-honoring, family-preserving memories?

  • In some instances, the only option is to let it go—the unfairness, the inequity, the resentment. Humanly impossible? Yes. But the Father sent the Son to be the restorer of relationships.
  • Old traditions that spotlight the pain of uncomfortable memories may have to be reworked to become something new. It’s not the same without Grandpa reading the Christmas story? What if the new tradition were hearing the story through the sweet voice of the youngest reader in the family? The Father sent the Son to give us a new story to tell.
  • Uncle Fred refuses to attend the family Christmas? Pray for restoration but pass the potatoes. Christmas isn’t a celebration of earth’s perfect families but of the Son who was sent to make restoration possible because anything of earth isn’t perfect.

What is an important but previously painful or uncomfortable Christmas memory that you can reclaim from the rubbish heap and watch God turn into this year’s restoration project for your family?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in Hope through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotionals, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren. Her recent novel—Restoring Christmas—shows the parallel between a couple restoring a fieldstone farmhouse for a reticent homeowner and God’s restoration work on human hearts.  You can connect with her through cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope.com.

Tuesday
May172016

Making Family Moments Count

Deb DeArmond's passion is family relationships. In this Family UPGRADE, she reminds us how quickly time passes—it's time to capture some memories now!

"The month of May includes a day set aside to recognize the “cutters and pasters” among us," Deb says. "'National Scrapbooking Day' is an annual celebration to draw attention to what’s become a popular hobby and a beautiful way to memorialize life’s special occasions."

With the best of intentions, I (Dawn) have boxes of photos separated out by families, but I have yet to actually get them "scrapbooked." Deb's words encourage me ... memories are more than those on a page.

Deb continues . . .

Long ago I was a scrapbooker.

I wasn’t driven by the desire to capture my sons' third grade photos or their Little League glory days. I didn’t even begin until they were adults. Grown men.

I started late because I’d been too busy when the boys were posing for gap-toothed school pictures—we had little photographic evidence of their young lives.

Many of my friends were creating perfect “mom monuments” for every event, activity and celebration. I felt inadequate as a mother.

It’s not that I didn’t care. My husband and I lived the “sandwich generation” life. Born to parents in their forties, we raised children and cared for aging parents simultaneously. My days might include a kid’s orthodontist appointment and a hip specialist for dad. Moments for cut and paste were non-existent.

But life shifted when my parents were gone. Time opened up.

I began chronicling special events going forward. I captured birthdays and engagement celebrations. I selected wedding photos to combine with embellishments and beautiful paper for backgrounds. Each required focused attention. And lots of time.

Then life seemed to speed up and time was once again in short supply. Grandbabies came at dizzying rates, six total—with the youngest four born in a two-year span.

So I upgraded my efforts.

I turned to online scrapbooking – less hands on, less time intensive, but still beautiful books, now in hardback volumes.

The annual DeArmond Year in Review became a treasured gift for each of us. Our family. Proudly captured. I felt validated as I displayed them on my bookshelves. We pulled them out often and reminisced as we looked back on our ever-growing family.

Then life shifted once more. God tapped on my heart, asking me to write books of a different type - authoring Christ-centered books about family and marriage relationships. I never saw it coming. And with it’s arrival, extra time departed, along with time for scrapbooking.

Then – a treasure.

A photo taken at our 40th wedding anniversary celebration. Eight adults, six grandboys. Everyone’s smiling, all eyes are open. No babies are crying, drooling or picking the nose of a child nearby.

Perfect.

Is it displayed in a beautiful frame? Nope. It’s on my phone. It’s with me always, and sealed in my heart. I’m okay with that.

I love the Psalmist’s declaration: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart,” Psalm 119:11 (ESV).

Their testimonies, not my photos or scrapbooks, but the memories my kids carry on to their children and their children’s children.

A Few Tips for Making Memories:

1. Gather the tribe.

  • Schedule a monthly supper or brunch. No guilt for those not present.
  • Pop some corn and view home movies or photos together. Creates great trips down memory lane.
  • Day trips, vacations, concerts in the park with food truck dining - all great get-togethers.

2. Be creative.

  • Create a family Facebook page (open only to invitees) to share pictures and updates.
  • FaceTime with your far-away kids often, so the grandbabes know your face and voice.

How can you make memories that last a lifetime – and beyond?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between moms and the girls who marry their sons, and her new book, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic adapted, image courtesy of PubliKado, at pixabay.