Monday, April 25, 2011

He's the hearts of children, too!

    What a blessed, blessed Holy Week I shared with our children! The Passover Seder Meal and the joy of Resurrection Sunday left me with stirring memories I will treasure in my heart forever...

Here are a glimpse of some more things we did:

On Palm Sunday we did a very simple Godly Play version of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. This was part of our evening devotion and afterwards the children placed the palm 'leaves' on the first block of our Pathway to the Cross, and we lit the first candle.

 They loved making the Resurrection garden!

It looked lovely!

 On Good Friday evening we read the story of Jesus' burial and wrapped a plain peg doll in white 'grave clothes'...

and placed him in the tomb.

I tried to keep things really quiet and solemn on Saturday and we read the story of Jesus' death and burial several times during the day from different children's Bibles. We didn't play any secular music that day. Instead I played beautiful old hymns with the cross as a theme. My mother blessed me with a CD with the Afrikaans versions of many of the old hymns last year, and we listened to many songs in both our home languages. Songs like The Old Rugged Cross, When I survey the Wondrous Cross, Jesus Keep me Near the Cross...

And then...that beautiful Resurrection Morning broke and we hurried to the 'grave'... to find the stone rolled  away and only the grave clothes neatly folded inside! We were so happy at the news that Jesus had risen , that we 'planted' beautiful white roses in our Resurrection garden and lit all the candles on our Pathway, with a beautiful, big one on the last, white square!! 

I had made the children some new praise banners as a gift for that morning (they love wielding the banners during worship at church, but those are often too big, so I made these ones just the perfect size for my littlies!) We downloaded a version of Tim Hughes' Oh Happy Day and joyfully celebrated by dancing and waving our banners all around the living room!

No use just keeping the Good News all to ourselves, now is it? So...we supported a wonderful local initiative that offered an alternative to bunnies and eggs. Leonardo is a chocolate lamb which comes packaged in a box with a piece of Scripture. (Leonardo now also has his own website with stories and more - please click here to visit) 

We wrapped the chocolates up in a lively green and delivered them to two of our neighbours who are non-believers, and some more to widowed friends of ours.

  I was really touched by the way my children responded to the message of Holy Week. Little ArrowBoy is still a little young to really comprehend much, but even so he approached our devotions with a sweet solemnity and quietly listened to every story while the candle light played across his darling little face. Sweetpea on the other hand, drank it all in and peppered me with questions all week long. Colouring pages about palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the empty grave, and Jesus appearing to His disciples were excellent springboards for wonderful discussions. I am confident that she now has a good understanding of the sequence of events, and with the grace and love of Father God I will continue leading her toward a deeper heart-experience of Jesus' love, too. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our Very First Messianic Seder

Come to the table of mercy
prepared with the wine and the bread.
All who are hungry and thirsty,
come and your souls will be fed.

Won't you come at the Lord's invitation
receive from His nail-scarred hands.
Eat of the bread of salvation,
drink of the blood of the Lamb.
Come to the Table
written by Claire Cloninger and Martin J. Nystrom

Just before sunset on a glorious day in the early autumn, we came to this table with hearts full of expectation. Earlier than the many, many other families who will sit down to similar nights of remembering  later this week. But my husband is leaving soon to be about the King's business, and will be away on that evening when countless other fathers will take their places at the head of their tables to lead their families in this age-old Remembering. 

So we light the next candle on our pathway to the Cross and a chubby little toddler  hand solemnly sticks a picture of the cup-and-the bread onto our Holy Week banner. And we all grow quiet in the last glow of the day, and invite our Saviour to come join us at our table...

John 13: 3- 6: [Jesus] riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

And a precious young man who has become a son in our home, swallows hard as he understands a little of Peter's heart:

John 13:8-9: Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

And then we take our first uncertain steps towards something new...that is really thousands of years old: we revisit the events of the night in Egypt, when the Lord would pass over the houses of His people who obeyed His instructions, and set them free from slavery. But every symbol on our table that reminds us of that night, 

becomes even more breathtakingly meaningful as we remember its fulfillment on a night many years later, when that group of twelve reclined at the table with their Lord... We ask the ancient questions, and as we discover the answers together, our eyes fill with tears at the overpowering, fresh understanding of His words, His actions at the table that night.

And by the end of it all there is peace, such peace, and awe as the last notes of our praise hymn fade away...and we all, the littlest too, still linger, unwilling to depart from this encounter, where His Spirit ministered quiet healing in more than one way...


The Seder meal is a Jewish tradition based on the instructions God gave Moses in Exodus 13. But as Christians we also look beyond the first Passover to the night before Jesus was betrayed - where, at a Passover Seder with His disciples, He gave them the New Covenant, and in the days that followed, through His death and resurrection, became the fulfillment of those symbols: the Sacrificial Lamb of God who set us free from the yoke of slavery, from the bitter tears of our sins.

To read more about how Christan families with young children can have a Messianic Seder, I recommend two excellent links:
 This one by Jennifer Dukes Lee,
and this wonderful, free resource by Kathryn Frazier. 
But it was the answers to the four questions in this post by Ann Voskamp that brought it all together for me...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Inspiration for Mothers

Here are some wonderfully inspirational posts with ideas for Christian mothers to prepare a meaningful Easter for our families this year:
  • Impress your Kids has a post called Meaningful Easter: Tips, Ideas and Traditions
  • Amanda also has a Week of Easter Activities - Scripture-based, Lamb-not-bunny kind of stuff!!
  • The first paragraph from this post by Katy Orr had me shouting loud Amens!! 
  • His Story to Tell has some truly inspiring ideas. Oh, to be able to hammer our sins to the cross like that!!
  • And Ann Voskamp, as always!! Make an Easter Tree with her free devotional and beautiful pictures to download.
  • Faith and Family Connections share a breathtaking diorama of Jesus praying in the garden...This one will be at the top of my list for next year.
  • Last year I made special scones for my family's Resurrection Sunday Breakfast by cutting out shapes from scone dough: a cross, a lamb and a circle to represent the stone that was rolled away from the tomb!


      AND THEN...

    In my previous post I mentioned an article I recently read on how Christian parents can encourage a meaningful Easter celebration in our homes. I promised to share just a few snippets from this beautifully written piece with you, so may you be inspired!!

    (Please Note: This article appeared in the April 2011 edition of the Afrikaans Christian women's magazine LEEF met hart en siel ((I guess that will translate into LIVE with heart and soul!)) For the benefit of my many Afrikaans readers I include the original here, with the English in italics below it.

    deur Lizette Murray

    "Dis nodig dat ons tasbare klein rituele skep wat vir ons kinders heenwys na die kern van Paasfees: Christus het gesterf. Maar ook: Christus het opgestaan!"

    "We need to create tangible little rituals that will point our children toward the essence of Easter: Christ had died. But also: Christ is risen!"

    "Die simbole van lyding moet gestroop en eerlik wees: dit simboliseer immers intense swaarkry en Jesus se vernedering en absolute Godsverlating"

    "The symbols of suffering should be stripped and honest: after all, it symbolizes intense suffering and Jesus' humiliation and utter God-forsakenness."

    "Vir Ortodokse en Mesiaanse Jode is Paasfees by uitstek 'n GESINSFEES. Ons as Christen-ouers het 'n verantwoordelikheid dat Paasfees nie by ons verbygaan nie. Ons kinders moet ons diep weemoed oor die kruisiging van Jesus saam met ons beleef deur die pieteit en gebrokenheid van hart waarmee ons Jesus op sy Via Dolorosa volg. Terselfdertyd moet ons onbevange vreugde oor Sy opstanding aansteeklik op hulle inwerk deur ons sigbare hartsbelewing van die Besef: Die graf is leeg."

    "For Orthodox and Messianic Jews, Passover is essentially a FAMILY festival. We as Christian parents have a responsibility to not let Easter pass us by. Our children should experience our deep sorrow at Jesus' crucifixion with us through the piety and brokenness of heart with which we follow Him on His Via Dolorosa. And so should they be able to share in our uncontained joy at His resurrection when they see our joy at the realisation that The Tomb is Empty." 

    The writer suggests the following ideas for visible symbols:

    For remembering Jesus' suffering and death:
    * A rough wooden cross
    * A crown of thorns
    * A wreath of red berries
    * Wheat kernels in a bowl
    * Family communion
    * Dark throws and table cloths
    * Small thorny crowns to be hung on each member of the family's door, with a verse of Scripture from Isaiah 35.

    For celebrating Jesus' resurrection:
    * Music from the Bauernmesse in Austria to ring in Resurrection Morn
    * Candles, light
    * Fresh flowers, especially white ones
    * Replacing the dark cloths with pristine white.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Holy Week for families

    Dear Friends
    This post is quite a bit longer than what I normally write, but I have such a deep desire to share with you what I have learnt recently about ways in which Christian parents can really minister the redemptive message of easter to their little ones.  It is my prayer that you will be encouraged and blessed by this.

    We worship at a charismatic Protestant church where the liturgical year of the church is not really observed. We do have special Christmas and Good Friday services, but that is about the extent to which the traditional seasons of the church is acknowledged.

       Yet, a while ago I one day found a link on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, that really made me think differently about the significance that observing the liturgical year can have for Protestant Christians. It was an article by Mark Roberts called An Introduction to the Christian Year (you can read this excellent article by clicking on the linkin which he beautifully explains the Liturgical Year, the colours of the Christian year, and how being mindful of these "can enrich the variety of our worship..." and therefore " us to have a broader, deeper, and more vital relationship with the living God."

    NOT a Biblical Demand

       I believe that legalism is one of the easiest snares we as Christians can get entangled in, and therefore I want to be very clear that for us, observing the seasons of the church is not something we HAVE to do. As Mr Roberts said in his article

    "Nothing in Scripture demands recognition of the church year. We do not have in the New Testament some equivalent to Leviticus 25, where God lays out for Israel the major fasts and feasts during the year. So, although the liturgical year is structured around the biblical story of Jesus, it is not commanded in Scripture in the way of the Jewish holidays for the Jews. Of course, Christians aren’t commanded to celebrate Easter or Christmas in the way we do either. The church year, therefore, is not something all Christians must observe, or must observe in exactly the same way. (In fact, Eastern Orthodox believers have a different pattern throughout the year and even celebrate Easter on a different day!)
    Nevertheless, I believe that an awareness of the liturgical year can enrich our worship and therefore our relationship with God." [my emphasis]

    And a little more reading...

      A little while after I read this article, I was reading an excellent fictional trilogy by South African author Marzanne Leroux-Ten Boom that tells the story of a young South African man who discovers his Jewish roots and decides to visit Israel in search of some relatives. He ends up marrying a young Jewish girl and together they start carving out a life for themselves amidst the volatility of current-day Israel. It is an amazing story, but what really impacted me even more was the author's meaningful insight into Jewish tradition and how it is interpreted and applied by Messianic Jews. I loved reading about the Jewish festivals and how they make up the 'bones' of Jewish life. I was especially touched by the way Jewish families celebrate Passover, and by the beauty of the Seder meal.  

    And then the last straw!

       In the April 2011 edition of a local Afrikaans Christian woman's magazine (LEEF met hart en siel, for my local readers) Lizette Murray wrote an article about how families can celebrate Easter in a God-honouring, Jesus-glorifying way by surrounding ourselves and our children with tangible reminders of the suffering He endured, and His glorious victory over death. It took my breath away! I read it over and over and really felt God's gentle nudge to start preparing my heart and our home for an encounter with Christ during this Holy Week. (I will do a separate post with snippets from the article to encourage you!)

       I asked God to show me how!! The magazine article was a great start, but the very next morning I also opened my inbox to find this post by Ann Voskamp: Why a Christian Family May celebrate Passover: A Messianic Seder. Oh, and then this one: How To Make an Easter Garden. And from there on the Lord just lead me to the most wonderful resources, many of which I will love to share with you over the next few days. 

    Only God can touch our children's hearts

      I hope you will take time to read the prayer I posted yesterday about my surrendering this week and all that we will be doing at the feet of Jesus. I am realizing more and more that I am just an instrument in God's hand: I can do many things to teach and instruct my little ones, but only God himself can work in my children's hearts, turning my feeble attempts into something lasting and true.

    A little glimpse into our week:

      Again, I draw inspiration from Mrs. Voskamp! Please visit her blog to see these breathtaking Advent and Lenten rings her son makes. However, with the exchange rate between our countries being what it is, I was just not able to purchase one of them. So I borrowed from her idea and went to the garage to see what I could come up with. I found a piece of Supawood left over from a project, and painted it in squares of Lenten and Easter colours. 

    In case you are interested, here are the colours:
    Palm Sunday: Grey (the colour associated with most donkeys :-), and to signify Jesus' sadness over Jerusalem)
    Monday to Wednesday: ever-darkening hues of purple 
    Thursday: deep wine red, to remind us of the wine of the New Covenant
    Friday: Red, for the blood that was shed for us
    Saturday: Black, as we mourn His death 
    Sunday: White, to celebtare His glorious resurrection!

    Starting on Palm Sunday we will move the figure of Jesus forward one space every evening, and a light a candle on each new square. Except for Friday and Saturday. These are days of mourning. 

    I made a rather rough little plate and cup out of clay for Thursday night to represent the Last Supper, and on Friday the figure of Jesus will not be on the board. A simple wooden cross will instead remind us of the Son of God who bore our sins and shame.

    I got the idea for this Holy Week banner from Diary of a Sower. She made one for each of her children to hang on their doors and add an element on each of the significant days of this week. Ours will hang in a prominent place in our home, and the children will add a little felt reminder on the appropriate day.

    The symbols fasten with velcro.

    Sometime during the week will also plant our own easter garden. We've already gathered our supplies, and I made a clay tomb and stone. More about how we will use this later in the week...

    I have also printed out beautiful colouring pages for Sweetpea to enjoy as we go through the week.

    I am not sure if we will get around to this ourselves this year, but here are some amazing Christian Easter Crafts you may want to use with your own children this week: (Click on the links)

    I love love LOVE this Resurrection Set from Catholic Icing!! If I can get 10 toilet rolls together by Sunday, we are definitely doing this!!

    Last Supper Craft, also from Catholic Icing. This will be the first thing we do next year, when Sweetpea is just that little bit older. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a print of the famous painting in the meantime, and use the suggestions for studying a bit of art as well!

    I think making this Life of Jesus mini book from DLTK will go a long way in helping little ones see the whole picture of Jesus's time on earth.


       I have been struggling for days about whether or not to do a post about why we do NOT buy or eat easter eggs, or use it as a symbol or in cutesy 'easter' activities. This is, however, something I feel VERY strongly about, so I have decided to provide you with some links for information about the pagan origins of these symbols. Please click here  or  here (this is an especially well researched article). And if you would like to learn about where hot cross buns come from, click here. (This, by the way, was not written from a Christian perspective.)

    My husband is leaving for a missions outreach to Botswana later this week, so we will be celebrating our Seder meal on Monday night instead of Thursday. I am very, very excited about sharing it with you, but I still need to go sew the table cloth for this special dinner, so off I go! May you and yours be blessed this week!

    I am linking this post to Impress your Kids, who is having a Meaningful Easter Link-Up. She calls it Making it about the Lamb and not the bunny!! (I love that!!)

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    A Mother's Prayer for Holy Week


    At the start of this week, that is so significant to us, so dear, I come before your throne like a pilgrim of sorts:

    my travel bags for the week packed full of 'provisions' for every day of the journey - in my case, these are activities and stories and little crafts that I will 'feed' to my children this week together with passages from your Word, hoping to nourish them with Truth; hoping to show them the way to the cross... and the glory beyond it.

    And my heart is also packed, full of hope and expectation, deeply desiring for a fresh anointing of your Spirit, your Presence on us this week. Oh, that you will come walk with us, that you will open our eyes and our spirits to see, really see: the magnitude of your Sacrifice, the magnitude of your Love.

    Holy One, you know that I have been busy, busy, busy the past few days - a Martha, scurrying here and there to prepare, to get everything just perfect.

    But now I come before you like that little boy of old with his simple lunch, and I lay it at Your feet:

    Father, in the Name of your Son, Jesus Christ, please take my 'three loaves and two fish', these simple, imperfect things I have prepared for my family. This is what I have to give - take it, Jesus, like you did that day on the mountainside, take this which is so utterly lacking, so very insignificant, and multiply it in the hearts of my family.

     I can teach and instruct them and tell them the age old Story, but only You can reach their hearts. They are so young, Lord, and there is so little understanding yet. But will you please minister to their spirits in a way that is far beyond anything I can do. And even though their minds may not yet comprehend it all, will you reveal to their hearts what You did for them, why they are here, and may their little souls sing out to You from that place beyond words.

    Oh, Holy Spirit, take our off-key singing this week, our cracked pots and feeble attempts at bringing You anything that is of worth, and turn it into a sweet smell to fill your throne room, a beautiful sound that will bless Your ears.

    And help this mother to rest in You now. Give me a Mary's heart and let me sit at Your feet that I may gaze into Your beautiful face and hear Your life-giving words, let me see Your nail-pierced Hands this week, and open my eyes to Your Love.


    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Our new 'neighbour'

       Remember the pretty little juice box village I made for Sweetpea last year?

       Well, I've been having a hard time throwing away empty juice boxes ever since, so I was delighted when I stumbled upon instructions for making a felt covered version. The original was a gingerbread house, but since Sweetpea is not familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel yet (we are avoiding stories with witches for now), ours is just a fun hearts and flowers version!

       I made the doll as a cake topper for Sweetpea's third birthday cake, and just refashioned her a bit into a cheery little juice box home owner with a brood of pet baby chicks!!

       The felt elements of the house are not glued down, so Sweetpea can decorate it afresh every time she plays with it - today the windows are at the side of the house, as is the bird house, but who knows where they will be placed next time. And right now the flowers are growing beside the foot path, but tomorrow they may be festooning the sides of the roof. How fun!

    I am linking this up to


    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    A 'FELT good' weekend!

        I just love all this creative energy that starts to course through my veins every time I enter my second trimester of pregnancy! And since the season is definitely changing to cooler, I have been itching to get my hands on some lovely, woolly felt. So, I spent this blissful Saturday afternoon creating all kinds of felty goodie goodness!!

       I first made a fun felt flower that turned a plain striped beanie into a stylish little hat for the colder weather up ahead...

       And then I tried my hand at felting a bar of soap and now I am hooked and cannot wait for the shops to open Monday morning so that I can go buy delicious smelling soaps in all shapes and sizes to turn into pretty-pretties for bath time bliss!! When you felt soap like this, you don't need to use a wash cloth - just wash with your gently exfoliating, felt-covered soap! My husband is off to Botswana on a mission outreach at the end of the month and has already asked for one of these to take along for showering with while up there.I strongly doubt his aesthetic appreciation of the whole business, but he obviously knows a good, practical solution when he sees one!

       I am right in the middle of sewing up a storm to get the Joyful Little Ones all covered up for winter. I had just finished a top for Sweetpea this morning that is light pink with playful little dalmations all over, so I thought a felt hair clip with a sweet little pup on one end would look lovely with it. What do you think?




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