2018 Williams Family Newsletter

christmas tree 2018This year I put up a real Christmas tree. It’s the first real tree we’ve had since Christmas 1993. It’s not perfectly shaped like the artificial trees. It’s a little messier and we have to water it. It takes just a little more effort. But it’s real and we’re reminded of that by its sweet, pine fragrance every time we walk in the door.

Hanging on that tree is a new ornament for our first grandchild.  Emma Rose is due to arrive on Christmas Day! Alisha is healthy and doing well.  Aaron couldn’t be more excited. We’re so happy for them and know they will be wonderful parents. They moved to Bentonville earlier this year, so we are thankful to have them just a little closer. Abigail has kept herself busy working several jobs in addition to her business. She saved up and paid cash for a new car this year. She is a wonderful young lady with a heart that seeks after God. Andrew turned 16 this year. He has a driver license in his pocket and a new to him (but very old and thanks to his sister passing it down) car. He’s a natural leader, in the middle of his 10th grade year, and exploring options for the future.

Dana and I launched our first book together in February of this year. It was a labor of love and 25 years in the making. We encourage you to check it out at www.theedenconcept.com.  He is doing what he loves most —pastor of our sweet church— and working hard in his new job in project management while balancing it all with the strength of God. After 22 years of working from home, I went back into the workforce this year. It has come with a lot of adjustments, but also blessings.

As we wrap up this year, I can’t help but think about my “real” Christmas tree. We live in an age of filters and flawless Instagram photos and where it is normal to fake perfect. The truth is that it’s easier and more convenient to be artificial. But God calls us to be genuine, transparent, and real. He already knows our hearts. When we are finally real with ourselves, admit that we’re broken, and cry out to God to save us, then and only then can we be real with others. Our love can be without hypocrisy as it states in Romans 12:9 and God can shine His light through us in this dark, dark world.  The artificial message of Christmas surrounds us, but the real message is that when this world was at its darkest, unto us a child was born. Keep sharing that message! He is the Prince of Peace. If you are looking for real peace in your life, look to Jesus!

From our family to yours, we send our love and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 2018 family

5 Gifts to Give our Children

gifts
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! So, tis the season for malls, shopping, wrapping paper, gifts, bows, and ribbons! Maybe you prefer online shopping in your bathrobe with the internet, eBay and UPS. Or perhaps you prefer handmade gifts, baked goodies and homemade cards. But no matter how you look at it, this is the season for gift giving. Why? Most people probably give out of tradition. You are supposed to buy gifts at Christmas. Right? It is what has always been done. However, our family likes to look at gift giving a little differently. While it is a tradition at our home, it is one with a purpose. We give gifts as a reminder of the greatest gift ever given to mankind. I must admit that I love giving gifts to my children. But guess what? So does our heavenly Father!

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matthew 7:11.

But toys and trinkets get broken, clothes get worn out and outgrown, electronics lose batteries and stop working, and the latest fad becomes next year’s obsolete. So I ask myself what can I give my children that will last? What type of gifts can I give that have true value? Listed below are 5 gifts that we can give our children that will never become broken or outdated.

TIME

In a world of busyness one of the most wonderful gifts we can give our children is time with them. December is probably the busiest month of the year for us. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we go nonstop. There are people to visit, parties and programs to attend, Christmas cantata’s to practice for, gifts to make, shopping to do, etc. But life is short.

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14.

This truth is especially evident when it comes to children. They do not stay young forever. They grow up fast. As parents we only have a short time to invest in our children. We need to slow down and give our children something that will matter – time. Time with us, time to play games, time to talk, time to come apart from the world, time to meditate upon God, time to read together, and time to be a family. I have heard it said that the quantity of time does not matter as long as you give your children quality time. This is not true! Research has said that parents spend on average 3.5 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their children. How sad! However, the average child watches 1,500 hours a year of TV. I guess if we want Hollywood to raise our children then this statistic would not bother us. But it bothers me. Turn off the TV and spend time with your children. Read to them at night, pray with them, and sing songs. When they grow up and look back at their life these are the things they will remember.

A PEACEFUL HOME

Another gift we can give our children is a home filled with peace. The world is hectic and noisy, but our homes should be a gentle haven of rest for our children. Our children should not have homes filled with screaming and shouting but with soft answers and love. The fruits of the Spirit should be manifested in our homes – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. A home filled with peace not only blesses our children but consider what a true witness it is to the world around us. Voddie Bauchman in Family Driven Faith states,

Our homes must be rife with the aroma of love. Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves. Outsiders should enter our homes and never want to leave. Our neighbors should find excuses to visit us just to get another whiff of the fragrant aroma of love. The brokenhearted should long to be near us. The down trodden and abused should seek us out. Families on the brink of disaster should point to us and say, ‘Why can’t our home be like that?’

This describes a home filled with peace. What a superb gift to give our children.

PARENTS WHO LOVE EACH OTHER

Another gift that is so overlooked in our modern culture is love in the home. It is given that we should love our children, but one of the best ways to love our children is to love God first and our spouse second. This speaks volumes to our children. Theodore Hesburgh is credited for saying, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” The focus of the family should be on the marriage. When parents are united the children are blessed. In addition, a strong marriage will strengthen our children’s faith as it is a testimony to the world for God’s glory.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.

CHARACTER TRAITS

While giving gifts let’s not forget the gift of hard work & diligence. Society will tell a child that you should do as little as possible to get as much as possible. It is this fallacy of thinking that has leads to a lazy and entitlement mentality. But, give your children the gift of learning how to work hard and they will always be able to thrive. In addition, it is pleasing to the Lord.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23.

Another character trait this is desperately needed in today’s society is inner beauty, especially when it comes to our daughters. Godly women are not born, but raised. Many mothers concern themselves over whether their daughters have fashionable clothes and the latest styles. Many would be alarmed if their daughters wore dirty clothes. But how many mothers care if their daughter has a filthy heart? To teach and train our daughters about inner beauty that is acceptable to God is a divine gift we can give.

“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised,” Proverbs 31:30.

(There are many character traits that we can help to instill in our children. So by no means is this list inclusive. But hard work, diligence and inner beauty are a great place to start.)

BIBLICAL STANDARDS TO LIVE BY

There are many gifts we can give our children. But one that is of utmost importance is to give your children biblical standards to live by. As Christian parents we should not want for our children what every other parent wants. We shouldn’t hold them to the world’s standards but to God’s standards. Do you want your children to make the team? What about them making it into the Lambs book of life? Do you want them to get a good education? What about them being educated in the Word of God? Do you want them to be true and loyal to their friends? What about your children being faithful to the Lord and His Church? Do you want your children to be popular? What about them being peculiar? God’s ways are always higher.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed,” Romans 12:2a.

Christian parent, there are many worthwhile pursuits in this world, but few rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord, to love Him with all we are, to treasure His Word, and to keep His commandments. When we do this we have given our children gifts that never tear up, get worn, or get taken away.

So, this holiday season I’ll be looking for presents for my children and wrapping packages like many others. But the most precious gifts I’ll strive to give them will not be the ones that come in a box. Instead, the gifts I will strive to give will be of eternal value.

Merry Christmas!

Teaching Children to Give During the Holidays

  Last night my family did something we don’t usually do.  We sat down after dinner and watched a TV program together.  America’s Funniest Home Videos was on and we do love to laugh.  You know the show – someone falls off a roof, gets hit by a ball, or has a skiing accident.  Of course, my 9 year old asked a valid question last night.  He wanted to know, “Why do we laugh at people getting hurt?”  Good point, son, and one that should be addressed sometime.  But what really caught my attention were the videos that showed children getting their Christmas presents.  One was of a boy who got clothes for a present and stomped up to his room in anger.  Another one was of a teenage girl who thought she didn’t get the phone she wanted and her pouty reaction.  Parents gave one girl a fish tank for Christmas.  Apparently, the fish didn’t live and the girl reacted by shouting, “This is the worse Christmas ever!”  The videos are meant to be funny but my thoughts were that these children are unthankful, selfish, and rude to their parents.

If we are not careful we will play right into the natural inclination of children’s selfishness, especially at Christmas.  While I desire to give my children good things, at the same time I do not want them becoming self centered in the process.  One way we try to do this is by steering them away from creating a “Christmas wish list” and instead we have them create a list of what they would like to give to others.  My parents have been good at teaching their grandchildren that “it is more blessed to give than receive.”  Each year at Thanksgiving they give the children a gift of money for them to give away.   The children will take the money and buy presents to give away to someone in need or they will buy gifts for people in a nursing home.  This helps to create in their heart an attitude of giving.

This attitude should be taught all year long.  However, we should be ever diligent in teaching it during Christmas.  For the Christian, gift giving represents the greatest gift ever given – God giving the world His only begotten Son.  It is so easy to get caught up in the holiday bustle and forget the real reason for the season.  I remember talking to a young mother last year.  She stated that she was sick of Christmas.  All her children did was whine and complain about what they wanted that year.  And this was two weeks before Christmas!  I walked away from the conversation very sad.  This was a young girl in our church who professed Christ.

Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”  Christ gave His life for others and we are to follow in His example.  The reality is that we will never teach our children to give unless they see this portrayed in our own lives.  Like the saying goes, more is caught by children than taught.  If we are selfish and self centered during Christmas, our children will be as well.  But, if we live our lives in love as we are told in Romans 12:10, and “in honour preferring one another” our children will learn to do this as well.

Look around and pray as a family about opportunities to give this year.   Many people let their children pick a child from the Angel Tree or they will do Operation Shoe Box.  These are fun ways for the children to give.  On two different occasions we found out the ages of children in our local Baptist Children’s Home and bought them gifts.  You can also look for opportunities within your church.  Perhaps you could adopt a Missionary family and send them gifts.  Often times there are people in your own congregation who have no family and who would love to spend the holidays with your family.  Giving doesn’t always involve spending money.  Sometimes a homemade gift, card, or just your time mean more to people than anything else.  Consider the elderly this year.  There are many lonely and depressed people during the holidays that could use some love and encouragement.  What a great way to share the love of Christ.

We can buy our children toys that will be broke in a few weeks.  We can get them the latest fashions that will soon be outdated.  Or we can buy them gadgets and electronics, but in a few months there will be newer and better versions out there.  I’m not against giving gifts to my children (in fact, we already have them all bought), but why not give them something that will last.  Give them an opportunity to develop an attitude of giving, thankfulness, selflessness, and love for others.

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Act 20:35)

It’s Snowing In Our Living Room

I woke up at 4:15 this morning unable to sleep.  So I fixed a cup of hot chocolate and headed to the living room to sit in my favorite recliner.  As I sat in the quiet, I looked up and saw all of the snowflakes hanging from the ceiling. They were dancing and twirling in a peaceful, serene way.  The sight was a beautiful reminder of childhood dreams, like snow covered Christmas mornings or mom making snow ice cream.  For just a few moments I was brought back to days of waking up to see a white blanket of snow covering our yard, building snowmen, and sledding with my brother.

Living in south Mississippi, it is rare for my children to see a lot of snow.  And while they do not get to experience all that I did as a child, they do get to create memories of their own.  Memories like making snowflakes to hang in our living room.  Abigail and Andrew made them for our Christmas party for the church on Friday night.  They are beautiful and easy to make.  We went online and printed out the patterns.  All you need are some scissors and hands to help.  In a matter of minutes you can have snow in your living room as well.

I’ve shared before that I do not believe in Christmas decorations that have no meaning.  I do not put things in my house just because they are seasonal.  There is purpose behind it all.  So, as the children and I made snowflakes we talked about how God has made each one unique.  No two snowflakes are alike.  The Creator has designed each one to be special.  Likewise, God has made each one of us unique.  No two humans are alike.  We are all created special and the Lord has a plan for each of our lives.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! (Psa 139:14-17)

We serve an amazing God!  Thank you Lord for snowflakes and how all of creation reminds us of Your greateness!

The Christ in Christmas

christ

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is approaching. It is the time Christian people have set aside to celebrate God’s greatest gift to mankind – His Son. It is a season of joy, peace, and love. It is a season of music, laughter, and festivity. It is a season to think of others, to give gifts, to send cards, and visit loved ones. But above all, it is a season of focusing upon Christ, The Incarnate God, dwelling among men.

I realize for some this may not be true. There are those who view this season as just another holiday filled with hustle and bustle, crowded shopping, credit card debt, parties, alcohol, over eating, stress, and more stress. Often the focus is on Santa Clause, elves, reindeer, and over-indulged children getting more stuff. I have never wanted this time of the year to build selfishness into my children. When they were little and others would make a “wish list” of gifts they wanted, I would encourage my children to make a list of things they would like to do or buy for others. It is not about self. To truly celebrate Christmas is to bring out the Christ in Christmas, lifting up His name, and pointing others to Him.

How does one go about doing that practically? How do we bring out Christ in Christmas when all of society has their eyes elsewhere? First of all, we must remember that regardless of what others may say Christmas is a Christian holiday. Christmas is about Christ. Society confirms this by their relentless effort to remove the true meaning of Christmas. If Christmas were a meaningless pagan holiday there would be no attack upon it by the enemy. But it is not. In the hearts of millions of believers all over the world, this is a special time of worship, a time of reflecting, a time of gratitude, a time of joy, a time of honor, and a time of praise.

These are the thing I want to instill in the hearts of my children. Every year after the Thanksgiving holiday our family pulls out Christmas music, the trees, lights, and decorations. This tradition is not merely habit. For our family there is meaning and purpose behind it. This week as we were putting up our Christmas tree, my eight-year-old said, “Mom, tell me again what the tree represents.” You see, every year their father and I explain to the children how in our hearts the tree symbolizes the tree that Christ was crucified upon. It is a reminder to us that the babe in a manger grew up, lived a perfect life, and died upon a tree for the sins of the world. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed,” 1Peter 2:24.

As we hang the ornaments upon the tree each one represents something. The angels are a reminder of the messengers of glad tidings. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” Luke 2:13-14.

The doves remind us of the Spirit of God. The bells remind us to ring out the Good News. Even the candy canes have significance. They, in the shape of a shepherd’s staff, remind us of the Great Shepherd. When turned upside down the “J” reminds us of Jesus. The white in the candy tells us Christ’s purity. The red stripes represent our Saviour’s stripes. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” Isaiah 53:5.

And the star that my husband places upon the top of the tree is a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem. “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him,” Matthew 2:2.

After we put up the tree, Abigail arranged the Nativity scene on top of our piano. As we gather around and sing songs this season it will be a constant visual of who we worship and sing praises to.

Even the Christmas balls remind us of the world and how, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”

When we placed the candles on our table as a center piece we were able to remind the children that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” John 8:12.

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As Dana hung the lights on the outside of the house we explain to the children that as children of God we are to let our light shine for all to see. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.

Each night between now and Christmas day Dana will read an Advent story to the children before bed. Advent – Adventus. Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus. Behold, the Lord, the Ruler is come. The tradition of advent is a threefold celebration of the birth of Jesus, His eventual second coming to earth, and His continued presence in our lives here and now. God in our past, God in our future, and God in our present.

Nothing is done without meaning. Everything is done with purpose.

What does this season mean to you and your family? Is Christ the center of all you do? Is there purpose behind your traditions? Are you building in your children a life of selfless giving to others? Is Christ in your Christmas?

May our Lord richly bless you this season but more importantly may you be a blessing to Him!

Gift Giving

Tis the season for malls, shopping, wrapping paper, gifts, bows, and ribbons.  Maybe you prefer online shopping in your bathrobe with the internet, eBay and UPS.  Or perhaps you prefer handmade gifts, baked goodies and homemade cards.  But no matter how you look at it this is the season for gift giving.  Why?  Most people probably give out of tradition.  You are supposed to buy gifts at Christmas.  It is what has always been done.  However, our family likes to look at gift giving a little differently.  While it is a tradition at our home it is one with a purpose.  We give gifts as a reminder of the greatest gift ever given to mankind.  I must admit that I love giving gifts to my children.  But toys and trinkets get broken, clothes get worn out and outgrown, electronics lose batteries and stop working, and the latest fad becomes next year’s obsolete.  So I ask myself what can I give my children that will last?  What type of gifts can I give that have true value?

In a world of busyness one of the most wonderful gifts we can give our children is TIME.  December is probably the busiest month of the year for us.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we go nonstop.  There are people to visit, parties and programs to attend, Christmas cantata’s to practice for, gifts to make, shopping to do, etc.   But life is short.  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (Jas 4:14)   This truth is especially evident when it comes to children.  They do not stay young forever.  They grow up fast.  As parents we only have a short time to invest in our children.  We need to slow down and give our children something that will matter – time.  Time with us, time to play games, time to talk, time to come apart from the world, time to meditate upon God, time to read together,  and time to be a family.  I have heard it said that the quantity of time does not matter as long as you give your children quality time.   This is not true!  Research has said that parents spend on average 3.5 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their children.  How sad!  However, the average child watches 1,500 hours a year of TV.  I guess if you want Hollywood to raise your children then this statistic would not bother you.  But dear Christian parent is should bother you.  Turn off the TV and spend TIME with your children.  Read to them at night, pray with them, and sing songs.  When they grow up and look back at their life these are the things they will remember.

 Another gift we can give our children is a home filled with PEACE.  The world is hectic and noisy but our homes should be a gentle haven of rest for our children.  Our children should not have homes filled with screaming and shouting but with soft answers and love.  The fruits of the Spirit should be manifested in our homes – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  A home filled with peace not only blesses our children but consider what a true witness it is to the world around us.  Voddie Bauchman in Family Driven Faith states, “Our homes must be rife with the aroma of love.  Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves.  Outsiders should enter our homes and never want to leave.  Our neighbors should find excuses to visit us just to get another whiff of the fragrant aroma of love.  The brokenhearted should long to be near us.  The down trodden and abused should seek us out.  Families on the brink of disaster should point to us and say, ‘Why can’t our home be like that?’”  This describes a home filled with PEACE.   What a superb gift to give our children.

 Another gift that is so overlooked in our modern culture is the gift of LOVING and RESPECTING the children’s father.  While loving your children is a given, a high value placed on loving their father is often ignored.  Notice the order of things that the older women are to be teaching the younger women mentioned in Titus 2:4-5, “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”   The focus of the family should be on the marriage.  Children are in the home for a short time and the relationship they have with their parents change but this is not so in the husband and wife relationship.  When parents are united the children are blessed.  When I demonstrate to my children proper LOVE and RESPECT for my husband God is glorified and the children’s faith is strengthened. 

 While giving gifts let’s not forget the gift of HARDWORK.  Society will tell a child that you should do as little as possible to get as much as possible.  It is this fallacy of thinking that has led to lazy people and an abuse of our welfare system.   But, give your children the gift of learning how to work hard and they will always be able to thrive.  In addition, it is pleasing to the Lord.  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; (Col 3:23)       

One of the greatest gifts we can give is the gift of INNER BEAUTY, especially when it comes to our daughters.  Godly women are not born, but raised.  There are many mothers concerned over whether their daughters have fashionable clothes and the latest styles.  And many mothers would be alarmed if their daughters were wearing dirty clothes.  But how many mothers care if their daughter has a filthy heart?  To teach and train our daughters about inner beauty that is acceptable to God is a divine gift we can give.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

 There are many gifts we can give our children.  But one that is of utmost importance is to give your children BIBLICAL STANDARDS to live by.  As Christian parents we should not want for our children what every other parent wants.  We shouldn’t hold them to the world’s standards but to God’s standards.  Do you want your children to make the team?   What about them making it into the Lambs book of life?  Do you want them to get a good education?  What about them being educated in the Word of God?  Do you want them to be true and loyal to their friends?  What about your children being faithful to the Lord and His Church?  Do you want your children to be popular?  What about them being peculiar?  God’s ways are always higher.   “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed” (Rom 12:2a).  Christian parent, there are many worthwhile pursuits in this world but few rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord, to love Him with all we are, to treasure His Word, and to keep His commandments.  When we do this we have given our children gifts that never tear up, get worn, or get taken away.

 So, this holiday season I’ll be looking for presents for my children and wrapping packages like many others.  But the most precious gifts I’ll strive to give them will not be the ones that come in a box.  Instead, the gifts I will strive to give will be of eternal value.