Friday, December 25, 2015

What About Christmas?

This is a re-post of a post I wrote a few years ago. It is still true today and I wanted to share it again.

 I've been asked before if I celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas.  The answer is no.  I celebrate Hanukkah because it is such a meaningful holiday.  It is all about God's miraculous protection and provision, and it's a reminder to rededicate our lives to God and to stand up for what we believe in. You can read more about why I love Hanukkah here.  As for Christmas, well, that's another story...

I have many warm and happy memories of Christmas, both from when I was growing up and from when I grew up and had kids of my own.  My parents never told me there was a Santa.  We were always a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" family, and my husband and I took the same approach with our girls.  Christmas was a happy, fun time for family togetherness, singing, presents, decorating, making cookies, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Then a few years ago I started to wonder about some things about Christmas.  Things like why is Christmas on December 25?  Is that really the day Jesus was born, and how do we know?  And why do we have a tree to put presents under, and boughs of holly and yule logs, and why do we kiss under the mistletoe?  Why do we make gingerbread men and go caroling? Why do we hang stockings, especially if we don't believe in Santa?  And where did the whole idea of Santa come from anyway?  Was he really an actual person?  I wondered where all of these traditions came from, and why do we all do them if we don't even really know what they mean?

So I did some research.  And I was horrified.  I found that most of the traditions that have to do with Christmas came from some ancient pagan ritual or custom!  Jesus was not born on Christmas.  He was probably born in September or October, but we don't even know that for sure.  December 25 was the date that the re-birth of the sun god was celebrated in several different cultures long before Jesus was even born.  In an attempt to convert pagans to Christianity and perhaps unite his kingdom, the Roman emperor Constantine decided to incorporate the festival of Saturnalia (Dec. 17-25) and the festival of the birth of Mithras (Dec. 25-Jan. 1) into Christianity. This was the beginning of Christmas.  Evidence of the depraved customs of these pagan festivals still remains today in the modern observance of Christmas.  This evidence is in the tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the yule logs, the gingerbread men, the caroling, Santa, and almost every other tradition you can think of that has to do with Christmas.  None of these things have anything to do with celebrating the birth of our Savior.

When I found out the truth about Christmas, I shared the information with my husband.  We then shared it with our daughters, and we made a family decision.  The decision turned out to be very controversial among our friends and family, but it is very important to us.  We decided not to celebrate Christmas.

Amazingly, even before we made this decision, we had been learning about God's holidays found in the Bible.  We were learning about Passover - the holiday that Jesus was referring to when he said "do this in remembrance of me".  We learned about Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  We had begun celebrating some of these, and we were learning how full of meaning they are.  They each have significant historical meaning, they each have applications to our lives today, and they each specifically point to Messiah!  They are packed full of symbolism that is so detailed that it could only have been designed and placed there by God himself.  We also learned about Purim and Hanukkah, which commemorate God's amazing and miraculous deliverance of His people.  The traditions associated with all of these holidays are full of significance and purpose.  Through celebrating them we have learned so much about God's incredibly intricate plan and His wonderful love and mercy.  We have learned more about our Messiah Yeshua than we have ever known before!  Throughout the year, each time we celebrate one of these holidays, we are reminded of all we have learned, and each time we learn even more.

So, our decision to not celebrate Christmas was not a difficult one.  Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly tells his people to get rid of their idols and anything that has to do with other gods.  That's what we're trying to do.  We are choosing to honor God by celebrating His holidays that He instructed His people to keep, rather than trying to honor Him with customs and traditions that remind Him of things he hates.  Here's a little story to illustrate what I mean:

Once upon a time there was a man who was the father of many children.  This man's children wanted to do something very special in his honor.  They asked him what he would like them to do, and so he gave them a set of detailed instructions.  He told them the things he loved and the things he hated.  He told them what would mean the most to him, and also the things that he specifically didn't want them to do.  He told them that if they followed these instructions everyone would know that he was their father and they were his children.  He even told them that these instructions were also for their good; that they would be especially blessed if they carried them out.  But, in planning this special event, the children got sidetracked.  They listened to other children of other fathers.  They saw the things that the other fathers preferred, and they thought those things might work better to honor their father, too.  Eventually the instructions were set aside and forgotten.  When it came time for the event, it was huge and spectacular.  But it was nothing like the father expected or wanted.  It didn't include any of the things he had told them he loved, and it did include some of the things he had said he hated, and even some things he had told them specifically not to do!  Although his children loved him very much, it seemed as if they didn't care at all about his instructions.  It seemed more important to them to do what they thought was best.  And sadly, the children missed out on the good things that their father had built into the instructions especially to bless them. 

I think it is so important to do things God's way.  I think He is very disappointed when we choose to do things our way.  Sometimes it's necessary to change our ways to match up with His. When we do this we are blessed.

I will close this post with a challenge to you, dear readers.  If you are a believer in Jesus, and you try to live your life for Him, here is your challenge:

Research history.
Understand the reasons why you do the things you do.
Dig in and really study God's Word.
Know what He wants you to do.
And it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yom Teruah - Watch and Be Ready!

Yom Teruah new moon over Jerusalem
Photo by Nehemia Gordon

Last night the new moon was sighted in Jerusalem, which means it’s Yom Teruah! Chag Sameach!  If you have no idea what this means, let me explain…

My family has been celebrating the Biblical feasts for several years now, and each year we learn a little bit more, and it is a new and insightful experience for us.  This year we decided to try to celebrate these holidays when the Bible says, and determine when they are by the moon cycles. Genesis 1:14 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.  And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.”(ESV)  The word translated “seasons” here is “mo’ed”, which more accurately means “appointed times for assembly” (Strongs 4150) This is the same word used in Leviticus 23:4, “These are the appointed Feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.” And also in Psalm 104:19, “He made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun knows its time for setting.” So, the appointed times, the Feasts of the Lord, were created from the very beginning, and the moon helps us determine when they are!  

Yom Teruah, also known as Rosh Hashanah, is called the Day of Trumpets or the Day of the Awakening Blast.  It begins “in the seventh month, on the first day of the month”, and is “a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.” (Lev. 23:24)  Because it is the only Holy Day that falls on the first day of the month, no one knows exactly when it will be, because the new moon must be sighted for the new day and month to begin.  A common Jewish idiom for this day is “the day and hour which no man knows”.  As a believer in Yeshua (Jesus), this language is very familiar to me!  In Matthew 24:36, Yeshua spoke of his return on “the day and hour no one knows”!!!  Will Yeshua return on the Day of Trumpets, the day and hour no one knows? I think so! 

In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, Paul writes about the “times and seasons”, and how the believers are fully aware how the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night to the people who are in darkness.  But as believers, we are children of light, and it should come as no surprise to us!  Will Yeshua return today, or maybe on this day next year, or the year after?  Matthew 24 tells us to watch and be ready! This year, watching for the moon has reinforced that concept for me. 

We’re having a Yom Teruah celebration at our house today, and one of the songs we will sing (Days of Elijah) keeps going through my head:  “Behold, he comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, at the trumpet call.  So lift your voice, it’s the year of Jubilee, and out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.” So perfectly fitting for this day!

Chag Sameach! Happy Holiday! Watch and be ready to hear that trumpet blast!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bible Journaling: The Beginning

A couple of weeks ago I discovered something called "Bible journaling".  I saw a post on Facebook (or maybe it was Pinterest) of someone's beautiful art and lettering of a Bible verse, and I was both shocked and amazed when I realized that it was done IN THEIR BIBLE!  I wasn't sure what to think about this because I am a person who can't even bring myself to write or highlight in my Bible. It's the Word of God, after all!  At the same time, though, I was very intrigued by this beautiful form of art.  So, I searched online and found more gorgeous examples, and I saw what people were saying about Bible journaling; that it can be a type of worship, and can be a meaningful addition to your Bible study time.  Then I found out there are special Bibles that are made with wide margins with plenty of extra space for notes, lettering and art.  And, while I definitely don't consider myself an artist, I love to do creative lettering and take notes, and I knew this was for me.  My birthday was coming up, and my husband asked me what I wanted.  I told him, "THIS. A journaling Bible. This is what I want."  And I got it. And I love it. Here's a picture of it:

Yesterday I did my first page.  I couldn't decide where to start until my daughter, Rebecca, said, "Just start at the beginning."  So, after launching into a musical number in my best Julie Andrews voice (Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...), I decided that yes, the beginning would be the best place to start.  Genesis 1:1.

First, I read the page I would be "journaling" on. Then I planned in my head what I wanted to do.  I realized that the word "created" has seven letters, so I decided to do something with each letter for each day of creation.  I also wanted to make sure that I included the words "and God saw that it was good".  I came up with an idea for a design and I practiced it in a separate journal because I didn't want to mess up my new Bible the very first time I tried to draw in it.  

That gave me enough confidence to start in my Bible, first in pencil, of course, and then in pen and colored pencils.  I thought about trying water colors, but chickened out.  Maybe next time.  As I drew and colored, I thought about "In the beginning".  Then I stopped thinking about it because, really, it kind of blows my mind.  Then I thought about Hollisa Alewine's teaching called "The Creation Gospel".  Dr. Alewine is a very insightful, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth teacher.  I have had the pleasure of sitting in a few of her classes, where I was furiously scribbling down notes literally the entire length of those classes.  We purchased some of her workbooks, and so far I have only made it through the first lesson (several times) because, again, mind blown.  She shows, in a very unique way, how the whole Bible is connected; how Genesis and the days of creation correspond with Revelation, which corresponds to the Biblical feasts, which all point to Yeshua (Jesus).  It is really all rather amazing, and it's what I thought about as I drew, doodled and colored in my Bible, and I understood what others have been saying.  This is a form of worship.  As I draw letters and pictures in my Bible, I am able to meditate on those words.  I can commit them to memory (hide them in my heart) more easily.  And every time I look back at the pages I've done I am reminded of the words and their meaning, and I am reminded of the God who originated those words.

Yes, this is definitely for me.  I plan to draw in my Bible often.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oh, The Places She'll Go!

O.K., it's time to revive this blog...and what better way to do it than a post bragging about the most recent graduate in our family! Rebecca graduated from Seaford High School this year ranked 6th in her class!  She was a class officer, the Secretary of the Class of 2015.  She received the Presidential Excellence Award, the Semper Fidelas Award for Musical Excellence from the US Marine Corps, the Music Department Academic Award, and the Band Director's Award.  This girl was busy this past school year!  She was an International Baccalaureate Program student, she was drum major for marching band, and she had a leading role in the school musical (which was fabulous, by the way!).  She also managed to hold down a job at Friendly's, help with all kinds of school related things (like taking yearbook photos), and go on a mission trip to Costa Rica!

Here she is in her cap and gown, all ready to graduate:

With the other class officers:
And with family after graduation:
Rebecca has decided, after an amazing missions trip to Costa Rica in February, that she feels called to be a missionary!  You can read about her experience in a post that she wrote for her own blog.  So, she and her sister will both be heading off to missionary training camp in Costa Rica in February, 2016.  They are so excited!!!  

With this in mind, after graduation we threw her a cupcake party with the theme, "Oh the Places You'll Go!"

I made the cupcake stands with double layers of cardboard covered in maps, tassels made with streamers, and a fabric covered faux graduation cap on the top.

We had a banner of handmade tassels in her school colors:

And a Dr. Seuss-like mountain range on the wall with hot air balloon decorations hanging from the ceiling:
We also decorated with vintage suitcases, travel books, and bright, fluffy tissue paper flowers.  The "guestbook" was the Dr. Seuss book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!".  We had the guests sign the inside cover of the book, and on each set of pages I wrote a corresponding Bible verse to make it even more special.

It all turned out pretty cute, and Rebecca and her friends enjoyed it and ate lots of cupcakes.

At the end of the evening, I realized that I didn't get a good photo of her gorgeous dress.  We found this dress a few months ago in New York City in one of the great thrift shops they have there.  It was WAY too big, but with a few alterations, it fit her perfectly.  So I had to get a picture at the end of the day:

Congratulations Rebecca!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A "Roaring 20s" Birthday!

Haley's birthday was this weekend, and it was extra special because we haven't seen her for three weeks!  She is working at a camp all summer, and it just so happened that her birthday fell on a weekend when she got to come home.  She didn't want a birthday party, but we wanted to make it special and fun, so we decided to have a "Roaring 20s" theme, since it was her 20th birthday.  Rebecca and I made a cupcake bouquet...our first attempt, and it turned out so pretty!
We decorated with big tissue paper pom poms, beads, and other 20s looking things, all in black, white and green (Haley's favorite color). 
I made signs for the table in a 1920s font.

We gave her beads, a feather boa, a cute Flapper-looking headband we made, and a "20" pin to wear for her special day.
She had a great time with it!

She even wore her "getup" when we went out to dinner.

My favorite quote of the day: "If I'd known I would be dressing up like a Flapper, I would have been a LOT more excited about my birthday!"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Baby Quilts: Bow Ties, Pinwheels, and Elephants

I have been wanting to try my hand at making a "real" baby quilt for a while now, because until now I've only made rag quilts and t-shirt quilts.  So, I got my chance when I found out two of my husband's nieces were expecting babies.  

For the first one, I needed a cute little boy design.  I found this adorable bow tie design via Pinterest.  Here's the link to the tutorial I used to make the blocks.  I decided to alternate the way the bows were turned instead of having them all go the same direction.  I think it turned out pretty cute!  
The bowties were all made from brightly colored scraps that I already had, and I made a cute bunting banner to match.  For the quilt backing I used a sweet little animal print, perfect for a baby boy.  This quilt traveled all the way to its new home in Turkey!

The second one I made was a little girl quilt, and I knew that her room would be decorated with pink and brown and elephants.  After looking at lots of different ideas, I decided that pinwheels would go perfectly with elephants.  Here's what I came up with:
I made pinwheel blocks of different pink prints and appliqued the elephants on top.

Then I made a cute little stuffed elephant to match.

I've decided that I probably won't be making baby quilts to sell; I would have to charge way to much for them if I wanted it to be worth my time.  But they are fun to make, and make wonderful gifts for special little people!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Birthday Trip to The National Gallery of Art

Rebecca has always wanted to go to the art museums in Washington D.C., so for her birthday we surprised her with a trip to the National Gallery of Art.  It was a nice opportunity to see some beautiful works of art by some famous artists from different points in history.  Our favorites were the paintings, but we also saw sculptures, medals and coins, tapestries, drawings, and some gorgeous pieces of furniture.  But we really, really loved the paintings!

This one of the Pantheon in Rome looked...well...exactly like the Pantheon! (I know this because I've been there!)

We thought this one was so cute, and the girls just had to pose.  Life imitating art.
Rebecca was so happy that they had some VanGogh paintings there!
Here she is with Vincent himself:
I found my favorite Monet painting!
These two by Renoir reminded me of the girls when they were little, so I just had to take pictures of them each by "their" painting.

The whole place was very beautiful.
The outdoor sculpture garden has an ice skating rink in the middle of it! Fun!

There's also a very nice cafe in the Sculpture Garden, where we had a delicious (and just slightly overpriced) lunch.  I had the spinach tart, yum!

Here's Rebecca back at home on her birthday with the giraffe cake that I made for her.  I did the giraffe print with a stencil (I just drew it on a piece of paper and cut it out) and cocoa powder.  It turned out pretty cute!
I can't believe she's 17!