Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Favorite New Years Day Tradition

I'm so excited for our *She Sparkles* 2012 Scripture Memory Challenge. We'd love to have you join the fun!

Hey Friends ~

Happy (almost) New Year's 2012 from our home to yours!!

I love New Years Eve! For many years, our family got together with two other families - the Brown's & the Morton's - and we loved it! (Pic below - Sally Brown, me with NY tattoo, and Jill Morton)
But then Jill and her family moved to Minnesota. Big tears. :(

Anyway....this year we are trying a new "family-friendly" tradition. I'll keep you posted on how it goes ~ but I'm REALLY looking forward to it, and I'll probably be wearing these 2012 Celebration glasses.

I'm also looking forward to New Years Day (Sunday) when we can celebrate with our special New Years Day family tradition.

I'll bring out markers and paper, and then each family member draws two pictures.


The first picture is a note reflecting on things for which we want to say "Thank You" to God.

For example, here is my picture from 2002...


That year, I was thankful for John, my two boys (the girls weren't born yet), Harbor Clubs (a ministry at my church), the opportunity to serve in Africa, and growing as a disciple of Jesus.

Here's a fun example from my son Jake (shared with his permission). Jake is now 17, but here's his Thank You for 2002.... :)


Or here is Benj's from a few years ago...


For our New Years Day tradition, after we share our "Thank You" page, we take a new piece of paper.
On this paper, we write out/draw specific prayer requests for the coming year.

For example, this is Benj's paper for 2009....


It is always so fun to see what the kids come up! It's also a blessing for me and John to put our requests on paper, and then watch how God works over the year!

When I pulled out John's paper (I keep them all in a special New Years tub) ~ I gasped out loud.

God answered every single item on his list (and they were big prayers!).

For my New Years Day prayers last year, it included prayers for my Red Hot Bible study. My exact words, "retreat, book, ministry, open huge doors, ministry opportunities, spread Truth around the world".

I cannot wait to share with you how God is answering these prayers. Want a hint?? I'll be flying this March to film my Bible study on location in a different country. ONLY GOD!!

So that's our family's favorite New Years Day tradition!! What about for you?? Do you have a special New Years tradition?? Share with us please!! I'd love to hear from you! :)

Happy New Year! May 2012 be a year filled with much joy, peace, health, and God's richest blessings!




P.S. Don't forget about the Memory Verse Challenge starting January 1st, 2012. I'd love to have you join us!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Scripture Memory 2012 - Come Join Us! (Part 3)


In case you missed the first two Scripture Memory posts - you can catch up here & here

Hey Friends ~

I am so excited to tell you more about the *She Sparkles* Scripture Memory A to Z 2012 plan!

In 2009 a group of us all across the US accepted the challenge to memorize 26 new verses, ABC style. It was so much fun! In 2012 we'll do it again ~ this time with new verses, plus prizes and incentives too. Woo Hoo!


Here's some details....

* The first verse (starting with the letter A) will be posted this Sunday, January 1.

* After the first verse, new verses will be posted every other week on Monday (i.e. Monday, January 16th will be the B verse). The last verse (Z) will be posted on Monday, December 17th.

(For the weeks I'm out of town or just crazy busy, I'll post ahead, promise. Lord willing, there will always be a new verse posted on time.)


Let's do this together...

* Every week that a new verse is posted, you are invited to "check in" by leaving a comment (or sending me an e-mail if you are unable to leave a comment).

* There will be a giveaway EVERY TIME a new verse is posted (Starbucks e-cards, CD's, books, versepacks, and more!) Yippee!

* We're going to get this party , I mean, "A to Z Memory Verse Challenge" started in a GREAT way. I have 25 GIFTS, yes 25, to giveaway on January 1st.

***Also, any blogger who shares this challenge on her blog will also receive a free gift.***

* Feel free to use the *She Sparkles* A to Z blog button (in my side bar). :)

Wait until you meet one of my sponsors for this A to Z challenge. I'll introduce her on Sunday. She's extending such generosity and is willing to giveaway these great first gifts. What a huge blessing!)


About the Verses....

* I've prayerfully tried to select verses that are "kid friendly". Our family will be doing this challenge together (yes, all of us!) - I hope yours will too!

* If you participated in our A to Z plan in 2009, please know the verses are different this year.


Grand Prize....

At the finish line in December, there will be FUN, EXCITING prizes to giveaway for individuals and families. Yippee!

Whew! What a lot of details! What am I forgetting?? Please feel free to e-mail me any comments, questions, or thoughts. My hope is that the A to Z Memory Verse Challenge will be fun, inspiring, encouraging, power-filled and a huge blessing for all! Time spent memorizing God's Word is never wasted time!

Lastly, whether you choose to follow the ABC plan or another way, may I encourage you to pick one verse before you close this post that you can commit to memory. (Do you have your verse??) Now grab an index card, write it out, carry it with you wherever you go, and say it aloud often!! Let's allow God to transform our minds!!


Happy Memorizing!!



P.S. In case you don't want to miss any of the Memory Verse Updates, you can subscribe to *She Sparkles* to get my posts by e-mail.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Scripture Memory 2012 - Come Join Us (Pt 2)

In case you missed the Scripture Memory Part 1 post - you can read it here.

Hey Friends ~

I am so excited to tell you more about the *She Sparkles* Scripture Memory 2012 plan! Woo Hoo!

Y'all know I'm a huge fan of memorizing God's Word. Please know, I'm not some great memorizer and certainly don't have extra time on my hands ~ I've just experienced FREEDOM, HEALING and JOY like never before by renewing my mind with God's Word.

How can I not invite you to join me?!

Could you use more peace? Ready to experience more joy? I know I am! Let's do this together!

I've memorized scripture in all sorts of ways ~ with a Bible study, picking verses with a friend, Beth Moore's Siesta verses, trying to memorize a whole book of the Bible with a friend, and my Scripture Memory A to Z 2009, to name a few.

I've found thate during "full seasons" of my life the A to Z plan works best. I prayerfully pre-select the verses (before life gets crazy), map out a year long plan, and then it's easy to practice and review anytime, anywhere.

I'm not the only one who has benefited from the A to Z style. A dear friend sent this to me yesterday...

Cindy, I would love to have the verses that you are going to be memorizing. I remember verses (all by the alphabet) that I learned when I was about 12 or 13 and I can still recite them. Sometimes when I can't sleep at nite I start with A (All we like sheep have gone astray) etc. and go thru the alphabet................it seems like I never get to Z and it's probably a good thing 'cause I don't know any verses starting with Z. Great idea................ Thanks!!

And before you say you can't do it ~ do you remember the two sweet girls who memorized all 26 verses last time? If they can do it, we can too!

I'm not sure about you, but my 2012 is a bit nutty already! This year is going to be filled with such faith-building, character building opportunities (I can't wait to tell you where I'm going in March - only God!!!) ~ I need a WHOLE BUNCH of God's Word or I might have a melt down! It's definitely another A to Z year!

You too??

Would you prayerfully consider joining the *She Sparkles* Scripture Memory Challenge 2012?

I'll post the first verse this Monday, January 1 ~ so grab some index cards and get ready! I'll share more specific details tomorrow - including the incredible ministry who is helping to sponsor this fun opportunity. You'll never believe the first set of prizes! Woo Hoo!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May God bless you with much joy in Him!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scripture Memory 2012 - Join Us!

Hey Friends ~

I'm curious...are you working on New Years Resolutions for 2012??

I'll confess, I am! I'm making a list of "growth areas" - physically, spiritually and emotionally - for this upcoming year. It's quite the list, trust me! :)

If you've spent any time around me, it probably won't surprise you to know I have "scripture memory" on my 2012 Resolutions list. I am absolutely passionate about memorizing God's Word! Now this hasn't always been the case - but after 20+ years of empty, self-defeated living, I know God's Word works!

My life has been transformed because my mind has been transformed ~ and this has come by memorizing God's Word!

I have been set free from many areas of addiction, bondage and "stinkin' thinkin'" because I have learned to think new thoughts (God's, not mine!) about my challenges, circumstances and situations.


Not that I'm perfect, we all know this, right?! Far from it! But praise God I'm not who I used to be! :) (testimony recap here)

Anyhoo...as we head into the New Year, I'm putting together a Scripture Memory plan for 2012.

I would love to have you join us!! More details tomorrow...but in the mean time, here's some background information. (This is a re-post from our Scripture Memory of 2009). Enjoy!.....

******

Last fall, I had a sudden awareness of how soon my son Jake will be heading off to college.

A bit premature, I know (he's only 14) - but 4 years will go fast! Yikes! So I told Jake that in 2009, I wanted us to memorize 26 new verses (My thinking is when he is in college, I can pray that the verses would come alive in his heart and in his mind when he is faced with difficult choices).

Me, being the simple girl that I am, started praying over a list of 26 verses I would like Jake "to take with him" - and I wanted them to be in A to Z order.

That way, when we are going over them, it will (hopefully) make it easier for the verses to build on one another. So, if we are on a walk, driving in the car, or even at the dentist - we can be going over our verses.

My hope (and prayer) is that by the end of 2009, we could start at A and make it all of the way to Z with God's Truths.

I figured I would e-mail or text Jake his verses (seems cooler than making him have colored note cards with stickers like his mom :)). I even bought a calendar and figured out when I would send him a new verse (every other Monday) - and the beauty of it all is that with 52 weeks in a year, it works out perfectly!!

I was sharing this with a friend on New Years Eve, and she, too, wanted to memorize more scripture in 2009, but wished someone would give her the verses to memorize.

I offered to send her the same verse I pick for Jake - and she liked that idea. It made me think maybe some of my other friends might like to join us as well. I sent out an e-mail with my idea, and the response was EXCITING!!

Men, women, boys and girls - young and old - all over the United States signed up! How fun is that?! :)

There is so much POWER in God's WORD ~ so to think of the many, many friends committing 2009 to the renewing of their minds is THRILLING to me!

And the excitement continues...one friend e-mailed all of her old college roommates and invited them in on our A to Z journey - and so her college roommate (who now lives in CA) e-mailed me to say she is in on the challenge. One dear man (who is, let's just say, older than 70) is mentoring a young man attending the University of Michigan. They have both signed up for the A to Z challenge. And my very best childhood friend (who now lives in PA) sent me a link to her blog with her little girl Emma (who is not yet 3) saying her verse. I could go on and on with how the A to Z challenge is spreading.

Isn't God fun?! :)

All of that to say, if you are interested in joining us in our memory work - I'd love to send you the verses as well. Like I shared with Jake - this is something I am SO PASSIONATE ABOUT!

My life has been TOTALLY TRANSFORMED because my mind has been TOTALLY TRANSFORMED and this has come from studying and learning and memorizing God's Word.

I promise the verses aren't long and difficult - and learning a new one every other week seems really doable. And you can jump it at any time ~ we're not trying to be legalistic about this ~ even if we each learned 5 new verses ~ Praise the Lord! May those 5 new verses replace 5 lies we have picked up from the world!!

Now that I have this blog, I will be posting the verses on this site. If you would like to receive the verse as an e-mail to you, I would be happy to send you a new verse every other week.

Time spent memorizing and meditating on God's Word is never wasted time. So what do you think...are you in on the challenge??!

Let's pray: Dear God, I pray YOU would help us with the A to Z challenge. Open our minds and our hearts, Lord, and equip us as we commit to memory the life-changing TRUTHS from your Word. And Lord, please give us perseverance! When life gets busy (and it will), remind us of the importance of letting Your Word dwell richly in us! Thank YOU that memorizing Your WORD can be fun and exciting! May our passion for Your Word spread!
For Your Glory Alone!!!! Amen!

********

Be sure to stop back tomorrow for more details on the 2012 Scripture Memory plan...including prizes! Woo Hoo!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! God's richest blessings to you!!! :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lord Undo Me

Hey friends!

Merry Christmas! I pray your Christmas was filled with much love, joy and celebration of Jesus.

Our weekend was filled with lots of fun family time...and now I am beat. I'm definitely ready for a long winter's nap! :)

I came across this prayer today and felt compelled to share it. You can either listen to the prayer said by JD Chandler, a k-love radio DJ here (if you have a minute to listen to it read aloud I'd highly recommend it!) or read it below.

“Lord Undo Me” By: Blake Williams

I don’t really worship these day
I don’t really stand up to praise you with songs
Or prayers or actions
or with anything
I am full of all the right moves
I am full of all the right words
I am full of all the right religion
But it is all just illusion
I am really
Lonely
Lost
Calloused
Jaded
Cynical
Too religious
Too realistic
and well really just to lazy
to worship you anymore
I have lost my first love
I have lost the joy of your presence
But most of all I have lost the fear of your glory

Father I need to see you again
Like Isaiah I want to stand in awe of your glory
To fall down at your feet
To come face to face with your
Perfection,
Radiance,
Goodness,
Holiness,
Awesomeness
I want to stand before you and see you for who you are
and me for who I am
I want to be undone

I want to know me for who I really am
I want to see the depths of my heart
And know that you are the only way
You are the only truth
You are the only life
I want to see me and understand
What it really must have taken for you to
Love me
Care for me
See me
Speak to me
Want me
Communicate with me
Die for me
Die for me
Die for me

Lord, I want to stand in that place where all I can see is your glory
And my sin
Because in that place I can’t help but worship you.
Lord let me come undone
Undo my heart
Lord, undo my heart
break down these walls that I love so much
No, wait don’t,
I’m scared I don’t know if I can handle this
don’t
But I can’t live this way anymore
I can’t stand here in this half-life
this going through the motions life
this not really alive life
Father, I need you so come in and do what you must
Cut out the tumor on my heart
Break down the walls that I love
Lord let me come undone
Undo my heart
let me worship you again

Amen…



Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. May you experience God in fresh, new ways this week!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beat the Blues at Christmas


Hey Friends ~

Happy almost Christmas to you! Hard to believe Christmas will be here in a matter of hours!

In the midst of preparing for Jesus' birthday, I can't help but think of others who are struggling this Christmas.

Families like Judy's, and Samantha's, and Derek's. Will y'all join me in keeping these families in your prayers? Who else do you know who has an "empty chair" this Christmas season? Let's overwhelm them with prayers and love.

In case you too are wrestling with some "holiday blues", today I'm thrilled to feature Poppy Smith as she shares some simple ways to Beat the Blues this Christmas! Here's Poppy....

Eight Ways to Beat the Blues at Christmas by Poppy Smith

Instead of a houseful of kids and their little ones running around laughing, crying, playing with toys and sneaking treats, this year my husband, Jim, and I will be home alone for Christmas. My automatic reaction is to feel sad—but I am glad that all of them will be celebrating the coming of Jesus with their in-laws. After all, we are usually the ones who get that privilege!

But—it’s easy to be sucked down into a “poor me” mindset and play the blues, unless we decide to change our perspective. So here are eight simple ways to help you enjoy the holidays whether you’re physically or emotionally alone. Why not join me and let’s beat those blues which aren’t where God wants us at this special time of the year—or at any time!


•Sing.

Play music. Listen to the words and join in praising God. Singing is a guaranteed mood lifter and perspective changer. “Sing for joy to God our strength” Ps.81:1.

•Smile.

Smile at little children. Their harried moms. The older shoppers who are trying to find just the right present. Make smiling your chosen expression (not through gritted teeth, however!). It will make you feel so much better and maybe lift up another lonely soul.

•Invite.

Is there someone you haven’t had time for this past year? Could you suggest meeting for coffee, lunch, or even over to your home? Perfection isn’t needed—only a loving heart that looks beyond it’s own world.

•Rest.

Remember all those too early mornings when you longed to just stay in bed? Now’s your chance. Take time to read a book of the Bible or several psalms. Choose a special book, magazine, or television program. Make or buy some once in a year yummy treats and ENJOY this gift of time!
•Give gifts to others.


Go online and look for simple Christmas recipes. Make peppermint candy or a cranberry loaf and go drop it off at a homeless shelter or place that serves those without a home. Change your perspective from looking inward to looking outward—as God our Savior did when He gave us the most amazing gift of love any one can receive.

•Write a list of your blessings.

Think back over this past year. Even if it has been one of the most difficult you’ve experienced, ask God’s Spirit to show you where He was present, loving and supporting and guiding you through. He will show you something and lift your heart.

•Go to a Christmas Eve Service.

Even if you’re by yourself, don’t miss the presence of God amidst the beauty of this celebration. Let your senses feast on the beauty, your ears delight in the music, your heart be moved to new heights of gratitude and love.

•Pray about your dreams for 2012.

What do you want to see happen in the coming year? Have you thought about changes you want to make? New paths to walk? Write out what comes to mind when you think of taking better care of yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

May your “Home Alone” Christmas fill you with joy and a fresh awareness that Christ is with you, whether you’re surrounded by people or peacefully alone. ~ Poppy Smith

With her fun personality and passion for communicating life-changing truths, Poppy Smith inspires believers to thrive spiritually and personally. Poppy’s practical how-to messages (in print or in person) uses colorful examples from her own struggles to be more like Jesus. She encourages women (and men, at times) to grow in every kind of situation—whether joyful or painful! Poppy is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. She brings an international flair seasoned with humorous honesty as she illustrates Bible truths. A former Bible Study Fellowship Lecturer, Poppy’s teaching challenges women to look at their choices, attitudes and self-talk. As a result, God’s speaks, changing hearts, changing minds, and changing lives.

Check out Poppy's
website or sign up for Poppy's THRIVE newsletter.


What helpful ideas, Poppy! Thanks for sharing!

And I'd love to hear from you, dear friends! How do you stay joy-filled at Christmas, even in the midst of disappointment? Any way we can pray for you this Christmas Season? Share with me please!

Have a wonderful, refreshing, Christ-centered weekend! I thank God for you!


Merry Christmas!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Jesus Party

Hey Friends!

Happy almost Christmas to you!

As I mentioned last week, one of our Top 10 Favorite Christmas Traditions is our annual "Happy Birthday Jesus" party. Although some of the details change each year, here are some ideas that have worked for us....

**Hosting a Happy Birthday Jesus Party**

Who: We hold our party every year on Christmas morning. Some years (esp. when the flu has gone through our home) it's just our immediate family, however, our hope is that we'd always have a spot for anyone wanting to celebrate Jesus with us.

Food: What's a birthday party without good food? Since our party is in the morning, I plan a yummy brunch with all my family's favorite dishes. This year I'll be making french_toast_casserole (thanks, Lisa), cinnamon rolls, turkey sausage, and fresh fruit. Any other ideas?

Also, you can't have a birthday party without cake, can you?! Some years we've made a "Jesus birthday cake", although last year I ordered this fun cake.)


And yes, we do sing Happy Birthday to Jesus! If only we sounded like this....



Festivities: Every celebration needs a couple of fun games. Here's some of our favorites:

• Christmas Bingo (You knew I'd say that, didn't you?!) with M&M's as markers.

Christmas Card Toss - Have children stand in a line and try to toss Christmas cards into a bucket.

• Musical Chairs with Christmas Music (my kids never outgrow musical chairs!)

• Pass the Gift - Wrap a present. Have guests sit in a circle and pass the gift while the music is playing. When the music stops, the guest with the gift gets to pick a candy cane off the tree and leaves the circle.

• Christmas Charades - Make a list of common Christmas items on the back of old business cards. Divide into 2 teams. Let the fun begin!


• Christmas Wreath Toss - Place three wreaths in a line on the floor. Have guests try to toss a Christmas stuffed animal into the wreaths.

• What's Missing? - Place a nativity set on a tray. Let children look at it for a couple of minutes. Turn around and remove an item from the tray. Let children look again and see if they can spot what is missing

Christmas Old Maid - You play this game exactly like Old Maid, except instead of an Old Maid, you have a "Happy Birthday Jesus" card. And instead of trying to get rid of it, you win by being the last person to have the card.

Presents:
We all bring a "gift" to present to baby Jesus, and then read the story of Jesus in Luke 2:1-16.

Thankfully, everyone at our home is healthy this year (thank You, God!) ~ so I am so excited about our Happy Birthday Jesus Celebration!

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?? I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! God's richest blessings to you this CHRISTmas season!



P.S. For more "Happy Birthday Jesus Party" ideas check here, here, here.

P.P.S. For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, head over and visit Kristen at We Are That Family. :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Break Family Fun ~ A to Z Style!

Family photo compliments of the Grand Rapids Press

Today I continue my Christmas Vacation Series. Read Part 1 here! :)

Hello dear friends! :)

Happy Christmas Vacation to you! I'm so excited that soon I'll have my gang home for 2 weeks.


In case you've been wondering how you can keep your kids/grandkids/nieces/neighbors occupied for the next few weeks ~ no worries!

I've come up with a new Christmas Break Family Fun plan. I believe with some advance planning and creativity, we can make Christmas vacation as much fun as a week at Disneyworld (but for a lot less $$)!! Woo Hoo!!

(A quick disclaimer....I've tried to think of things that you could participate in regardless of the city you live in. For my GR friends, many of the ideas have links that will lead you to more specific times and information. For all of the ideas, I tried to think very inexpensively. Also, please remember I live in Michigan ~ and we have snow. I'm sorry for all of my non-snow friends. You can come visit us!).
Here are some Christmas Vacation ideas from A to Z....

A - Art projects! Art in the Snow or make a Snowman snow globe
(so cute!) or just pull out your odds & ends craft supplies, and let your little artists create!

B- Bowling; Baking; BINGO (Did you know we play bingo for every holiday/season? The kids love it ~ and it's a great way to spend quality time with relatives of all ages. You should try it!)

C - Camp-out in the Family Room. Grab your sleeping bags, flashlights, and smores, and get ready for fun! (more camping ideas
here); or Cards (kids card game ideas here); or Children's Museum (Grand Rapids info)

D - Dance Party ~ Find some fun 70's or 80's music, crank it up, and let the fun begin! (We especially enjoy our dance parties while jumping on the bed. But shhhh! ~ don't tell anyone!)
E -
Eat out (the food court at the mall is always a fun experience for kids)

F- Family Fun Night ~ Invite over another family for food, fun, and fellowship; or build an indoor Fort or start a Flash mob! (The kids and I have been trying to learn the Oprah Flash Mob
. So fun!)

G - Game Night ~ Have everyone pick a favorite board game to play. (More Game Night ideas here); or Gingerbread Houses (great ideas here or especially easy to pick up when they all get clearanced after Christmas!)

H - Hockey! Play hockey, watch hockey (Grand Rapids Griffins or my son Jake's team Grand Rapids Christian High Eagles); Hot Chocolate Bar (my kids like to go outside just for an excuse to drink my yummy hot chocolate served out of my ceramic snowman hot chocolate dispenser!)


I - Ice Skating (Rosa Parks info); Indoor picnic (don't forget your plastic ants ~ smile)

J - Juggle! (Do you know how to juggle? Me neither! But we can learn here)

K -
Krispy Kreme doughnuts ~ wait until the Krispy Kreme light is on, and then go in for your free doughnut!

L - Luau ~ Host your own indoor luau! Grab a beach towel, bathing suit, beach ball, and any leis your might have around your house ~ and let the fun begin! fun begin! You can even play
Hawaii Bingo (More Hawaii ideas here)

M - Movie Night ~ Fun Family Movie Night ideas here

N - Nature Time! Build a bird feeder (great idea here) or Neighborhood Light Tour

O - Opposite Day ~ Do everything backwards! Eat breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast; or play Outside (you play too, Mom, not just the kids!)

P - Pizza Party ~ Let the kids make their own pizza ~ more ideas
here! OR Pajama Party

Q - Quiet time ~ head to your local library for some quiet reading and/or story time activities. (The link for Kent District Library events ~ here)

R - Roller Skating (GR friends...anyone want to join us at Tarry Hall?)


or
Road trip ~ Let the kids help plan a Road Trip! Depending on your financial situation and the ages of your children, you can plan a Road Trip near or far. Do you have a relative or friend you could visit? Maybe it's time for a Road Trip! Remember, part of the fun is in the planning ~ so let everyone look at the maps, write out the itnerary, pack the snacks, bring activities for the car, and more! What fun! :)

S - Sundae Night (our family's Sundae Night ideas
here) OR Skiing OR Sledding OR Snowman building OR Starbucks (sorry, I couldn't resist ~ doesn't a latte sound great?!)


T - Treasure Hunt
or host a Tea Party (ideas here)

U - Underwater activities ~ Find a local indoor swimming pool and swim, swim, swim! Another idea...we sometimes go to
priceline.com to bid on a hotel for the night. In Grand Rapids, you can stay at a nice 3 star hotel for $40. The kids love it ~ they swim for hours and hours!! (Thanks to my Grandma, we'll be spending the night in a hotel this Christmas break. Woo Hoo!)

V - Volunteer. I like to volunteer to watch my friend's kids one day during Break to provide free child care while she works. Last year we also went with school friends to pass out blankets at a homeless shelter. Or you could walk a neighbor's dog. Shovel a single mom's sidewalk. The ideas are endless...

W - Winter Wonderland Party (Fun ideas here) or W
alk! Walk to the nearest park. Or walk around the block backwards. Enjoy the beautiful crisp winter air :)

X - eXercise. Set up a family exercise experience! (Get started
here)

Y -
YMCA. Go to the YMCA or another local gym. Many will let you try their facility for free for the day.

Zzzzz - Catch some Z's and enjoy a nice nap together! :)


Woo Hoo!! I'm so excited for Christmas vacation!
What a perfect opportunity to enjoy our children and participate in many of the outings and activities we can’t fit into our school-day schedule. Let's make our ordinary Christmas vacation days "extraordinary"!! :)

So, what do you have planned for the next few weeks?? Any fun ideas you'd like to share?? I can't wait to hear more about your Christmas vacation!
Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your CHRISTmas be filled to the brim with much joy, laughter, and fun, family moments!!


P.S. I should probably mention that yes, I do have lots of Christmas "to-do" lists yet to accomplish. However, I still want to be intentional and enjoy this special time with my kids. The house won't be perfect ~ but we're not either. Thank goodness for grace! :)

P.P.S. A special thanks to Big Binder, Kaboose, Chocolate Cake Moments, Family Fun and Parents Magazine for letting me share some of your fun family ideas!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Surviving Thriving on Christmas Vacation

Did you enter my Chris Tomlin CD Giveaway? You have until Monday, December 19th to enter! :)

Hey Friends :)

Are you ready for Christmas Vacation??! :)

Although my kids still go to school Monday and Tuesday next week, I know many schools are finished for 2011 today. Do you have a Christmas Vacation plan??

My hope is that our Christmas Break will be filled with much fun, adventure, laughter, creativity, and amazing family times!

However, I also know that without a plan...it will be mostly fighting, whining, crying (me, not them!) and a countdown until school is back in sesson!

Here's what I've learned about creating the best Christmas Vacation ever ~ and my personal tips on Surviving Thriving on Christmas Break!


1. Pray

Pray over your Christmas vacation. Ask God to fill your days with His plans, His blessings, His opportunities, His joy & peace, etc... Ask Him to lead and guide you as a mom, and for your family to enjoy His gift of rest and refreshment (although, personally, I've found Christmas Break isn't too restful with 4 kids...but that's another post ~ smile).


2. Think Big Picture.

What 3 words would you like to describe your Christmas vacation when the kids go back to school in January?

Fun?
Relaxing?
Family time?
Peaceful?
Service Oriented?
Harmonious?
Sleep-filled :)

You get the drift. Pick some of my ideas or come up with you own ~ but pick 3 words.

3. Intentional Planning

Next, with pencil and/or post-it notes and a paper calendar (I know, you could do this electronically too, I'm just not there yet)...fill in any commitments you have to do over the next few weeks (i.e. traveling, Christmas gatherings, sports commitments, work, etc..)

Then, thinking of the "3 words" you selected, come up with ideas of how to make your "hope" a "reality".

For example, personally, one of the words I've selected is FUN (surprise, surprise, I know). I've been thinking and dreaming about how to make that happen. I'm planning another mystery day, fun play dates, we have good friends coming from MN, etc..

Last year for fun the kids invited friends over for a "Monday - Fun Day". It was a blast!


OR, if you are exhausted and just need some rest...why not call a "PJ Day" and plan a relaxing day filled with fun rules like everyone must wear their pj's and slippers all day, watch a fun movie, soak your feet and give each other foot massages, etc..

Once you come up with ideas (based on your 3 words), add them to your Christmas vacation calendar. It's fun to watch as the Christmas break plan begins to take shape!

(In case you need more ideas, I'll be back on Monday with a complete Christmas Break idea list - A to Z style!)

4. Invite the family to participate.

After I've come up with a rough outline of our vacation, I ask for the family to participate.

For example, at our family meeting this past Sunday, I gave an index card to each family member. On one side I asked them to write down something they really want to do over Christmas break (something realistic and inexpensive ~ "go to Disney World" is not allowed!). On the other side, I asked them to think of a family they'd like to invite over.


We then spent time sharing our ideas with each other (common answers were "sledding", "play video games", "play hockey"). I'll take their ideas and add it to our Vacation calendar. This way, at the end of Christmas break, each one of us has been able to participate in activities that are significant and meaningful to us...and we didn't spend the whole 2 weeks just sorting through our clutter.

5. Be flexible

Last year, Benj came down with the flu, and unfortunately our plans were limited. Our "Friday Field Trips" went out the window. A good day was a day we could get out of the house .

But you know what...we still had a wonderful break. The key was being flexible and finding the joy in every day ~ even if our plan was thrown out the window. Knowing that I had committed our Christmas break to God, I could rest in His plan (although it looked much different than I was thinking). God knows what He is doing!!



What about for you?? What are your hopes for Christmas Vacation 2011? What will make your time together enjoyable, memorable, and fun?? I'd love to hear from you!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Merry CHRISTmas to you!




P.S. Here is a Christmas Vacation song. Why not start a new tradition and listen to this song at the beginning of your break. "Hip Hip Hooray for Christmas Vacation!"



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Things I Love Thursday: Chris Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God" (& Giveaway)


Hey Friends :)

Happy "Things I Love Thursday"!

Today I'm linking up with Jill from the Diaper Diaries to share something I love.....a new CD from Chris Tomlin ~ "How Great Is Our God" - Chris Tomlin's The Essential Collection.


I'll be honest, since Pandora has come along, I don't listen to CD's like I used to (so sorry, Tom Brown!). But when I saw the list of songs on this new Chris Tomlin CD, I couldn't resist. I recognized every one! Take a look at this CD song list .....

1. How Great Is Our God (World Edition)
2. Our God
3. Forever
4. The Wonderful Cross
5. Famous One
6. We Fall Down
7. Indescribable
8. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
9. I Will Rise
10. How Great is Our God
11. Enough
12. Made To Worship
13. Jesus Messiah
14. God Of This City

See what I mean?? Woo Hoo! Powerful stuff!

Now that I've listened to the CD (non stop!), I am confident you will love it too!

Here's a quick word from Chris sharing his heart about this new project...



How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection is what I'm loving this week (and the timing is perfect with Christmas!). I'm sharing the love with others too!

Because now, dear bloggy friend, I would love to share this CD with one blessed She Sparkles reader!!

To Win my "Chris Tomlin" CD Giveaway: Leave a comment in the comment section answering this question:

What is your favorite Chris Tomlin song?

Extra Entries:

•Follow *She Sparkles*
•Subscribe to *She Sparkles*
•Add my *She Sparkles* button to your blog
•Tweet about this giveaway including a link to this post

Please be sure to leave me a comment to let me know your extra entries.

RULES: Starts today, Thursday, December 15th and ends Monday, December 19th at 9 PM. Winner will be posted on my blog during the week of December 19th.

If your email address is not connected to your ID, please leave your email address with your comment or email it to me at
cindy.bultema@gmail.com with the subject "Giveaway".

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Have a worship-filled, day!!



Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this CD for review, but as always, all opinions are mine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Bike Ride with God

If you're looking for fun Christmas ideas, be sure to check out my Top 10 Christmas ideas!

Hey Friends!

Years ago I came across an allegory called, "
A Bike Ride with God". I loved it! Over the years I've thought of it many times (especially when I'm tempted to "take control" in my life).

When John and I were at our couple's small group tonight, we were talking about "bike ride with God" again. In case you haven't heard it before, I'd like to share it with YOU! Enjoy! :)


A Tandem Ride With God

I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.


He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal.


I didn't know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting!

When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on!


Even though it often looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!"

I was worried and anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?"

He laughed and didn't answer and I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I'd say, "I'm scared", He'd lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord's and mine.


And we were off again!

He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages.


And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I'm sure I just can't do any more, He just smiles and says... "Pedal."



Can you identify with "A Bike Ride with God". I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Sweet blessings to you!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's Top 10 ~ Christmas Traditions

Hey Friends!

Today I have the privilege of sharing "Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas" at a local MOPS gathering (one of my favorite things to do!). During my message I'll be highlighting the joy of family traditions, especially during the Christmas season.

As mom/author
Lisa Whelchel says, "It's amazing how short a distance you have to go to find Jesus in our present-day symbols and traditions. ..."

I wholeheartedly agree! Whether we're cutting down a Christmas tree, baking cookies, or wrapping gifts ~ we can be tying in the True Reason for the Season ~ Jesus.

Here are some of our favorite family Bultema Christmas traditions. Enjoy!

(Please know...there have been many years we've not done all of these. Please don't get any crazy ideas like we have it all together. Trust me... :) )

1. Plan a Pajama Ride! Tuck your children into bed as usual. Get hot chocolate, blankets, and Christmas music ready (and your car/van warmed up). Yell “Pajama Ride” and watch your kids pop out of bed! Go for a ride to see the lights while singing Christmas carols together. Talk about Jesus being the “light of the world”.



2. Open one present each on Christmas Eve. Let it be a new pair of flannel pajamas to be worn on Christmas morning.


3. Give each child a Christmas ornament each year that reflects his/her interests. When that child marries, give him/her the collection as a wedding gift.

(This year I ordered a fisherman, football player, piano player, and bike rider. Can you guess which Bultema kid will receive which ornament?)

4. Watch a Christmas movie (or two) together. (My kids like to check our schedule from abc family - 25 Days of Christmas.) Make popcorn and treats. Put your feet up and enjoy the family time :)


5. Make Christmas Cookies. Don't worry, I still don't bake much! But I do LOVE the frozen, pre-cut/shaped cookies from Gordon Food Service. Just put them on a tray and bake 'em up. That along with a canister of white frosting that I tint is now my staple Christmas cookie recipe.


Awesome! Plus it keeps the kids busy for hours! :)



6. Our Very Own Christmas Tree -
John and I have a tradition of purchasing an ornament every year when we go on our "mini-moons". Last year John put up a small Christmas tree in our bedroom with all the ornaments. I love it :)


7. Deliver Christmas Cards & Cookies to the Neighbors - The kids always have fun going up and down the street delivering our "homemade" goodies and warm Christmas greeting. :)


8. Holiday Family Photo - Take a family photo in the same spot each year. (Not that we're into Santa, but we take one with the big jolly guy every year). Here are some from the early years..



I have a book where I put our new Santa picture every year. In years to come, we’ll have a wonderful record of the growth of our family!

9. Christmas Book Basket - We've accumulated quite the stash of Christmas books. My little Sarah treasures them! She LOVES when we get the Christmas books out (and cries when we put them away).

Another idea I heard... individually wrap 25 Christmas books and place them in a basket near your tree. Beginning on December 1, a child picks a “present” from the basket, unwraps it, and then you can read it together. Siblings take turns choosing the “present.” You can even read the book at night by flashlight as you lie next to the Christmas tree. If you only have 7 books, then begin 7 days before Christmas.

10. Happy Birthday Jesus Party

On Christmas morning, we always have a birthday party for Jesus. We play games. Eat cake (some years we've made the "Jesus birthday cake", although last year I ordered this fun cake.)

We all bring a "gift" to present to baby Jesus, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, and read the story of Jesus in Luke 2: 1-16.

There you have it ~ 10 of our favorite Christmas family memorie-makers. How about for you? What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? I would love to hear from you!


Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! God's richest blessings to you!




P.S. If you're looking for more ideas, I'd highly recommend
Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands
Amanda White - another former Children's Director :) and blogger from Oh Amanda and Impress Your Kids - has written an amazing e-book that will make your Christmas experience memorable and fun!

Truth in the Tinsel is filled with Scripture, discussion questions, craft and activity ideas, and so much more! You can purchase Truth in the Tinsel
for only $4.99! What a bargain!
P.S.S.For more great Top 10 lists, hop over to oh Amanda!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Hardest, Saddest Day Ever

These words were penned last year on this date, but could have been written early this morning. December 10 continues to be my hardest, saddest day ever....

It happened already this morning.

I came downstairs early while the house was still dark, quietly clicked on the TV, and began watching the news to plan my day.


Would they cancel school because of the snow? Would I have hot lunch duty? Could I keep my coffee date with a friend? And then, suddenly on the screen of my TV, they displayed the date, "December 10th".

My stomach formed a deep, painful knot and the tears began to flow.

Today's date, "December 10th" represents to me...

pain...

loss...

unbearable grief...

I've tried to reframe the day, sleep it away, pretend it doesn't exist. Stuffing doesn't work, nor does numbing. My heart and mind are triggered back to that painful night instantly when I see the date.

December 10th wasn't always such a hard day. In fact, for many weeks, we were looking forward to December 10th.

My fiance David and I were in the midst of planning our upcoming May 1st wedding. I had my dress and bridesmaids and maid of honor. We had the church and reception hall and DJ. David had my ring.

We had so many other wedding details yet to plan. However, I also had a huge licensing review at work to be completed on December 10th. Although I was eagerly anticipating planning my wedding, I needed to focus on my work project first. Once that was finished, I could give the wedding planning my all.

And then everything changed.

I arrived at my parents home after my licensing review on December 10, 1998 to pick up my 4 year old son Jake. Whew! I can start planning my wedding now. Yippee!!

David called to see how it went at work. "Fabulous", I shared! He wanted to hear all about it, but instead I insisted he wrap things up at work so I could tell him in person. It was 5:15 PM. "Great", David replied. "I need to check on one more thing at work, see if your brother Bryan is here, and then I'll be by to pick up you and Jake as quick as I can. Let's go out and celebrate! I should be there in 30 minutes."

I stretched out on the couch, exhausted, waiting for David to come.

He never came.

Even though I had slightly dozed off on the couch, I heard the phone ring. And then I heard the whispering. My mom and dad came in the family room and stood over me. "Cindy", my mom shared, "there's been an accident. Your brother Bryan just called from work. David's been in an accident."

An accident??


Shoot! We were supposed to go to the Michael W. Smith concert tomorrow. Did he break his arm? Would we need to give away our tickets? No big deal. I'd spend the weekend in a hospital chair near his bed if needed. Wherever David was is where I wanted to be.

"Where is he?" I asked. Did I need to meet him at the hospital? Could I drive him there myself??
"Cindy, we just need to pray", my mom responded.

Suddenly I realized David just didn't break his arm. I ran upstairs and began calling my friends to pray. I had only been a Christian for 2 years, but I could tell in my mom's voice that we needed prayer. And quickly.

And then, while I was on the other line with a friend, my brother Bryan called.


"How is he, Bry??" I asked.

"Cindy, let me talk to mom."

"No, Bry, first tell me how David is. Do I need to come to work?? Is he already at the hospital?"

"Cindy, let me talk to mom."

"Bry, just tell me..."

And then my brother shared the painful, life changing, gut wrenching words....

"I'm sorry Cindy, he's gone...."

I ran down the stairs weeping and wailing. My parents, unaware that Bryan had called, watched as I threw myself down on the hard wood floor and began pounding my fists in the ground. "No! No! No!" was all I could say....

Before long, their house was filled with people.

My best friend Michele...who "just knew" to come, even before she heard what happened.
My boss.
My pastor and his wife.
So many others.

At one point, I cleared everyone out of the room, except my pastor friend Rob. We sat on my parents steps while I wept. Through my tears I asked him over and over again, "Why? Why? Why would God allow this?"

David often said he would give his life for just one person to know Jesus. WHY would God take him home??.......

And this painful, long, heart-breaking night is what I remember everytime I see or hear "December 10th".

In an instant, I am back to my parents home. I hear the sounds. I remember the loss. I feel the pain.

Thank you, dear bloggy friends, for allowing me to share this part of my journey with you. Today was the first time I've ever typed out the details of the night. God does not waste our pain ~ of this, I am sure.

And thank you to my husband John for his extra sensitivity and grace on this day. John is God's special gift to me.

May we experience all that He has for us today.

Although we don't know what the future holds, we do know the One who holds the future...and He is faithful and loving and true. It's gonna be ok.



P.S. Remember how I shared that David said he would give his life for just one person to know Jesus. Two days later, at David’s funeral, my Dad (who had been an atheist/agnostic) accepted Jesus as His Savior!



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Snow Day Shuffle

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

Hey friends! Have you had a Snow Day yet?

The weatherman keeps hinting about our first big snow, but (thankfully) it hasn't come yet. Just in case...I've been preparing our favorite Snow Day activity. In case you missed my "Snow Day Shuffle" last year, here's a repeat. Enjoy! We love it!


It's a Snow Day today!! The kids have been hoping for a day off of school all week...and today their wish came true!!

Rather than dealing with bored, fighting kids that whine about wanting to watch TV all day ~ I tried to be a bit more proactive.

The result...Snow Day Shuffle!!

And we are having a BLAST!!

First, I created a Snow Day Shuffle Board on the computer (while they were outside building a snow fort).

The board looks similar to a BINGO board. I filled the squares with fun things to do, inside and out (but not involving TV/screen stuff). Activities like....

* Color a snow day picture

* Read a book

* Make your bed

* Drink hot chocolate

* Get some indoor exercise

* Play Snow Day Bingo

* Make a Snow Day craft

* Play checkers with your brother/sister

I pulled out a Snowman rubber stamp, and printed off a Snow Day Shuffle Board for each kid.


When the kids came inside, I told them all about the Snow Day Shuffle idea. And, of course, the best part (to them!) ~ if they fill their board, they win a prize!!

Then I went to town printing off downloadables off of the computer.

I made a Snow Day Bingo (click
here),

Snow Day color sheets (click
here),

Snow Day Crossword puzzles (click
here) and more!

The kids are busy coloring igloos and penguins right now. Our Snow Day Shuffle is working!! Yippee!

What about for you...do you have any tips for Snow Day success?? Share your tips with me please!!!

Gotta run...it's almost time for our Snow Day BINGO to start!! I better get out the red and green M & M's (our markers for the BINGO board).

Have an AMAZING week filled with many fun, family moments!!



P.S. If you would like me to send you a Snow Day Shuffle board, just send me an e-mail at
cindy.bultema@gmail.com. I'd be happy to send you a Snow Day Shuffle Board as a Word document. :)

P.S.S. My two little girls just headed upstairs to help each other make their beds. I'm not making this up!! Woo Hoo!! Can every day be a Snow Day?? :)

For more Things I Love Thursday ideas, hop on over and visit my real-life neighbor, the brilliant and hilarious Jill at the Diaper Diaries. :)
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