Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mission Impossible? Tips for Planning Your Family Reunion

By MaryBeth Seal

I am so jazzed because our family reunion is in 6 weeks and I’m in charge. Call me crazy, call me scary, but I love family reunions and making plans for food, folks and fun!

I like to think of putting the fun back in “dysfunctional!” My relatives aren’t perfect and neither are yours, but love covers a multitude of sins. You’ve heard the saying, “You can pick your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives.” It’s all a matter of perspective.

Our reunion in Michigan actually begins on a Friday night, continues all day Saturday and concludes on Sunday morning. We enjoy our visits that much. Family members are coming from Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, and Wisconsin. We’ve had this event ever since I was a young girl, and the experience becomes more dear to me personally as the years go by. This year, all of my siblings will be in the same place at the same time- 6 of us all together- and all of our children, along with our mother.

With about 50 people attending, this is not an easy or annual happening for a large family, so needless to say it will be valuable to each of us.

How can having a family reunion be a mission? As ambassadors for Christ, we can show the love of God in practical ways such as serving, offering hospitality, and building relationships. It may also provide a great opportunity to share your faith with family members.

Here are Some Ideas for a Fun and Memorable Family Reunion:

* Delegate jobs to relatives. Make sign up sheets for set up crews, clean up crews, cooks, beverages servers and corn shuckers

* Plan fun activities. Designate a “Director of Fun.” I personally love this position, because I can be crazy and creative and get family members of all ages playing zany games together.

* Speaking of games, here is an idea for all ages: Water-balloon toss- partners stand back to back a few feet apart then one throws the water balloon backwards over his head and his partner has to catch it in a pillow case. Seventy and seven year olds can partner up!

* How about a hole in one? One golf club, one ball and one hole. Form 2 teams and each team has a player putt 2 times and try to sink the ball in the same hole at the same distance. Again, seventy and seven year olds can play this.

* You can create relay races of all kinds, bean bag toss, and more.
(The Internet is a great resource for activity ideas.)

* Have some table games available.

* Karaoke is always fun to do and watch.

* Have prizes and gifts just for fun. Give a gift to the oldest member of the family to honor them. Recognize the newest member by marriage or by birth with a gift as well.

* Pass out whoopi cushions or goofy plastic teeth. Remember, to have fun you must make fun, it doesn’t happen by itself!

* Plan a food menu. This is always a challenge for large groups. If you need help, ask someone for ideas, look at magazines and allow plenty of time for planning and preparation. Food in our family is always a biggggggg deal. We always look forward to Pat’s hot potato salad, and Vite’s sweet corn!

* Purchase supplies ahead of time. Look for sales and don’t wait until the last minute. You need to be ready and relaxed to enjoy the family; not stressed out to the max.

* Let others help. Even children want jobs and to be involved, so delegate, delegate and delegate some more.

* Make traditions. We wear special t-shirts with our family logo on them and patches on our hats or shirts. Because of our heritage, we have an Irish theme with lots of green, and we display a large poster of my grandmother Emma O’Brien who is the matriarch of our family to help us remember our roots.

Things to Avoid at a Family Reunion:

•Don’t Bible thump your relatives; it’s really not the place or time. In fact, don’t ever Bible thump your relatives, it just is not an effective evangelizing tool. Better to be a living epistle that people can read.

•Avoid being critical and self righteous when Uncle ______ uses his rough language or has a few brews. Look beyond what you perceive as sin and love the sinner. “If you judge people; you have no time to love them.”(Mother Teresa)

•Stay away from gossip. Reunions are a time for building up and loving your family.

•Be an active participant, not a spectator. Get in the games and be a part of the family. I agree with Tommy Lasorda who said “I believe in laughter. I think it’s food for the soul.”

•Don’t hold a grudges against family members. Instead, forgive as Jesus has forgiven you. Remember that “kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” (Samuel Johnson.)

Well, I have more planning to do. We’re having a “Tiki Party” on the Friday night before our reunion. We’re going to get our “kahunas” on and have a good time! This summer, lighten up with your family and enjoy them while you can.

MaryBeth Seal is a nurse and a She Speaks graduate. She has written many articles for publication including: The Michiana Christian News in South Bend, The Active Christian News in Phoenix, and Mission Eyes Network, an online missions hub for eye health care missionaries.

Valley Girl….the Valley of Trouble Leads to a Door of Hope is her first published book and it can be purchased on line at any bookstore and Amazon.com. It’s the true story of how a violent crime investigation led her to brokenness and dependency on God as she discovered the kindness of the Lord in the midst of tragedy.

Speaking to women’s groups and Bible studies has been part of her ministry as well. “A Life to Overcome” is one her favorite presentations.

MaryBeth can be contacted at 269-683-4613 or mbseal2000@yahoo.com if you would like to schedule an event with her.

His Amazing Touch

By Carolyn H. Reynolds
Slipping into the back-row seat for the breakout session, “Preparing for the Battlefield through Prayer,” at the 2009 She Speaks Conference, my eyes surveyed the room for a chair closer to the speaker. I knew God had directed me to this session, and I didn’t want to miss a word. There was not a single empty chair in sight; the classroom was filled to capacity. Disappointed with myself for lingering a little too long at the book table, I sat down in the back row and prepared to focus my full attention on the speaker’s presentation. Always the dutiful student, I was equipped with a class syllabus and arsenal of multicolored pens.

Getting equipped for spiritual battle has been a goal of mine for a long time, but especially now. There was an upcoming marriage enrichment weekend which my husband I were coordinating and my pastor warned us to always be on the alert for the tactics of the enemy, especially during ministry. My protective armor was a little rusty; it needed to be dusted, oiled, and polished! I knew I needed a renewed commitment to strap on the helmet of salvation, to put on the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sandals of the gospel of peace. Oh, how I needed a persistent, firm grip on the shield of faith. And most importantly, I needed a renewed commitment to take up my only defensive weapon, the sword of the spirit, the Living Word of God.

Immediately, I knew I would need to be laser-focused because nearby commotions began with later-than-me arrivals, and sound technicians making adjustments. Then the gal next to me began rubbing her eyes, and she asked if I had a tissue. After a quick survey through my usual everything-but-the-kitchen-sink handbag, I told her regretfully, I had none. Her head was slightly bowed forward, and her face remained concealed with her silky chestnut hair. She continued to rub her eyes. She must be having contact lens problems, I empathized. I’d like to think my motive was more out of compassion for another, but it was an “inner nudge to action” that wouldn’t stop. So up I sprang to locate and return with the needed TISSUES. Still, without any eye contact, my classmate waved to me a sweet thank-you. Whew! No more distractions.

A quiet hush fell over the room as our speaker, Luann, asked us to bow our heads for the opening prayer. It was at that very moment that I had overwhelming inclination to touch this person next to me on the shoulder. “No, not another distraction,” I thought. Had I not just purposed to stay focused on Luann’s prayer and message? Had I not heard from God to attend this session to learn and apply the principles we would hear? I struggled with myself regarding staying focused on the ongoing prayer, versus touching my classmate.

In a split-second my mind filled with questions, and the self-talk went something like this: “You don’t know this gal; she’ll think you’re nuts and she’d probably be right! Why risk making a fool of yourself? What if you scare her? What if…” That did it! Somewhere along my faith journey, I learned to take captive the “what if’s” of doubt and deception, and boldly step into the faith walk of “what if I fail to obey the voice of God?” I remembered that His sheep know His voice, and that there is peace in the center of His will. There was a prayer team back home praying for me to hear from God at “She Speaks”. And hadn’t my husband prayed over me that morning for God’s direction for my day?

So, by faith, I reached out and touched her. My heart suddenly warmed, and my hand gently began stoking her arm. It was a tender moment, reminding me of intimate memories with my children. Time seemed to stand still while my hand continued making soft circles on her arm. The prayer ended and our gazes continued focused forward on the speaker. Together we sat, two strangers, who were now connected by a spiritual bond of love.

Throughout the session, principles of effective prayers were interspersed with pertinent applications. The hour passed quickly. My colored highlighters got a workout, and the notes on Spiritual Warfare could parallel a Picasso. It was clear that spiritual warfare was not for the faint of faith. There were serious and somber charges to Christian prayer warriors like taking our thoughts captive and realizing the battle is the Lord’s.

At the conclusion of the session, we were challenged to find a prayer partner. At that time Tammy and I, introduced ourselves, paired together, and found our way to the prayer room. She took my arms in her hands tightly and shook me as if to get my attention.

“Carolyn, you’ll never believe what your touch during the opening prayer was to me. It was a gift from God. You see, I have been holding back tears throughout the conference because of the recent death of my precious son, Nick.” Just as I was entering the classroom, an “innocent” Mother whose son was fighting leukemia asked how Nick was doing. That’s when the dam broke.
Tears sprang from her eyes as she told me of the courageous journey of her precious son, Nicholas, who fought brain tumors for six years. At the conference the loneliness of missing Nick had tugged heavily at her heartstrings.

“When you reached over and touched me during the opening prayer, I knew it was a miracle from God,” Tammy explained. “The way you made gentle circles on my arm, was exactly the way Nick showed his love to me.”

What a gift from God we both experienced that day, His amazing touch.

Carolyn and Tammy have remained friends since the 2009 She Speaks Conference. You can read more about Tammy on her blog at http://www.tammynischan.com/.

Carolyn H. Reynolds, M.A. resides in Tampa Bay, Florida. She is a Bible teacher, Christian Life Purpose Coach, and president of Growth in Faith, an interdenominational ministry for women. Married to her dentist and best friend, Michael, they founded Pathway Partners for the purpose of encouragement through speaking, writing and coaching. They have authored a devotional book, “Pocket Pearls” and have hosted a television show, “Growing in Faith”. As new empty nesters, they retreat to Flat Rock, NC, where they conduct marriage conferences, and facilitate Life-Plans for individuals and couples.

Why Don’t We Pray Together?

by Holly Good

In recent years I have come to learn the importance of praying not only for my family, but also with my family.

When my kids were toddlers, I would faithfully pray with them every night before bed.

But as they grew older and went to bed themselves, this routine eventually stopped.

Several years ago, I felt convicted about praying with my family.

Why was it that I could pray so easily with the youth in our church, with women at conferences all over the country, and with friends at Bible study, but not with my own family? Those precious people I live and do life with every day? Why did we not pray together?

There are many excuses and reasons I could drum up. But I won’t go there.

I will just happily report that we now freely periodically pray together. It’s a part of the DNA of our family. But don’t misunderstand me. We still squabble, have many typical family frustrations and have to punish our kids for making wrong choices. But we are also quick to pray for guidance, help and thanks together.

For example, it warms my heart when my 14 year old son will come to me and ask, ‘Mom, will you pray for my game today?’ I drop everything and pray right there with him. Just last night as we were dropping him off at the movies with some friends, he asked us to pray for him as he was getting out of the car. He has come to rely on our prayers for strength, encouragement and hope in numerous situations.

Several weeks ago, my husband noticed that a pipe in our home had sprung a leak for the second time in four months. We were extremely stressed and quite disturbed at this find. The flashbacks immediately poured in, reminding us of the probability of more bills, new carpet and drywall. It had been quite the ordeal the first time around.

But as the plumber was fixing what turned about to be a very minor pipe leak, he smelled gas while he was up in our attic. So without hesitation he switched gears and worked quickly to replace the faulty gas valve.

I couldn’t help but sigh, sit down and give thanks. The annoying second- time-around water leak lead us to the could-be-dangerous gas leak situation.

Thank you, Lord. Your ways are much higher than our ways. Thank you for that pesky pipe leak. Thank you for that sharp plumber. Thank you that my husband noticed the pipe leak early before any significant water damage occurred. Thank you for keeping us safe.

So that very night, after the plumber had gone and we were finally able to turn our water back on, we sat in our family room and acknowledged the events which had taken place over the previous 36 hours. Then we prayed together, giving thanks for things that appear like annoying mishaps and unwanted expenses, but have a much bigger purpose.

Every time we gather and pray, He faithfully protects, loves, forgives, strengthens, heals, and binds our hearts closer.

I’ve learned that it’s one thing to tell my kids to pray. It’s something altogether different to join them in that adventure.

Tips for Praying with Your Family

* Keep it brief at first. You as the parent might be the only one to pray initially. Then after doing this several times, ask your children to pray. You might want to offer them a guideline, such as to pray at least three sentences.

* Use every day language in your prayers. This shows your kids that God wants to hear from them just as they are. This also helps to put them at ease when praying.

* Pray words of blessings over each child. This includes specific words of praise and encouragement. For example, Thank you, Lord, for Hillary’s sense of responsibility and hard work at her job.

* Help kids see where God is working. One way to acknowledge this is to keep a prayer journal and celebrate God’s goodness together.

* Encourage them to include prayer beyond the family time. Ask them how you can be praying for them and tell them how they can pray for you.

Holly Good is a wife, mother, and sold out servant of Christ. On staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries, her executive assistant position to Lysa TerKeurst finds her ministering to women all over the country at conferences, writing radio shows and authoring heart-stirring devotions sent to more than 300,000 subscribers. She is also the author of "Holly-Days" a much loved part of Lysa's daily blog. She enjoys her early morning runs with Lysa and is overwhelmingly humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve Him in this ministry in such an incredible way. Holly lives with her husband and two teenage children in North Carolina. You can e-mail Holly@Proverbs31.org to connect with her.