Interrupted by Vacation: Long Island, New York Edition

It’s been years since I’ve been to New York.

Years since I walked the streets where I grew up, ate the BEST food in the world, and hung out with the craziest, funnest, and most loving people on earth! My family!

No kids. No husband… And I’m having the time of my life!

I thought I’d do more writing, but that’s okay. I’m doing some research for some of my current WIPs and let me tell you, I’m getting lots of fodder for future story. Family is good for that.

So my encouragement for you today… live in the moment! I’m a dreamer, a planner, so it’s REALLY hard for me to enjoy the present. But I am. If you don’t believe me, just have a look…

Food

New York Bagels

New York Pizza

Sushi at Kashi's

Italian Cookies

Family

NY Kashi Cousins

The girls!

Italian Family

 

Three Generations…

NY Italian Cousins

 

First Cousins! Grew up with these girls!

NY Florids Cousins

First Cousin! Spent my summers in Florida with this girl!

Fun

 

NY Wedding crowd2

 

NY wedding dance

NY wedding reception

NY first cousins All the first cousins together again!

Nothing like a New York Italian Wedding or family!

New week: Interrupted by Vacation: The New York City Edition!

Why I Hate the Christmas Season

Now before you start labeling me a Scrooge, read on.
Scrooge

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas. I love Christmas trees and hot cocoa by the fire, and snowy nights with no where to go and Christmas music. And baby Jesus in the manger. And Santa. Even Santa, but what I can do without is everything else that makes this season the most stressful time of year.

Decorating:

Why is decorating always so stressful? Because who has the time or energy? And the thought of doing all that work for a month or so is crazy! (That’s why my stuff stays out til mid January.)

So when my kids came to me saying they didn’t like the hodge podge tree filled with ornaments I collected over the years, and they wanted a pretty tree, I balked a little, then thought…SCORE! The last couple of years they’ve been decorating the tree without my help, but I end up wrapping all those priceless ornaments and putting everyone in its place. This year it’ll be easy cleanup, especially since I didn’t put out every single Christmas decoration!

Gift Giving:

While I LOVE gifts, I hate the stress of choosing and buying and wrapping and returning gifts. Nowadays kids come to you with their list and we spend the time searching for just the right thing  to make our little “angels” happy! Whatever happened to the surprise gift under the tree? Now not only do kids (and adults) get what they want, they get more than they want (or need)… really? Is that what Christmas is all about?

I’m so down on the whole gift giving thing this year that most of my kids will probably get their gifts before Christmas (yes, I still give what’s on their list and maybe this makes me a hypocrite, but I’ve learned to pick my battles…) because what is the real point of waiting? Yes, there will be surprises under the tree, but why wait when the kid have the make and model of the thing they must have (then play with for 6 hours and forget) and they have done the research?

Baking:

Do people actually do this anymore? I really would LOVE to if there was more time (see next category) Thankfully, I have a son who is more talented in the baking department than I am, and lets me know it every time I say, “Do we really need that ingredient?”  or “I’m sure I can find a substitution.” Needless to say, he’ll be doing most of the baking again.

Christmas programs:
Talk about stress! I think I’ve aged ten years this holiday season. In the last 2-3 weeks my four kids have been involved in:

A Christmas Story (Community Theatre) with a 6 show run (in which my son was called to understudy Flick, a part he hadn’t even rehearsed an hour and a half before opening night. BTW, he rocked the part!)

White Christmas (high school musical) where my oldest was the lead and 2nd son had a part in the chorus. I attended 3 of the 5 shows with various other family members at the others.

One Cello Performance at the Mayor’s Home in which 2nd son had to rush from the last performance of White Christmas to the mansion, but what an HONOR to be one of two students chosen!

Dance Troupe performances 6 or 7 performances over 3 weekends, 2 of the weekends which coincided with theatre productions and 3 of those performances this weekend!

Throw in…

Piano/Drum recital during the White Christmas weekend

Youth Symphony Performance

Extra Cello concerts to close out the year including Open Concert this Friday night (which by the way is invitation only and I’m very proud of my son)

and I’m sure I’m forgetting half a dozen other things that where a blur these last couple of weeks…but you get the point! It’s enough to get any God fearing Christian to yell ENOUGH! Is this what Christmas is all about?

So when I say I hate the Christmas season, what I’m saying (as if you couldn’t figure it out) is that I hate all the STUFF that comes with the Christmas season. Even Christmas Eve and Christmas Day tend to be a whirlwind of activities.

My favorite part of Christmas happens from the afternoon of Dec 25th through Jan 30th. That quiet, nothing-to-do time where we really get to connect as a family (if our new gadgets don’t get in the way.) It’s a time of welcomed rest and in that rest I think that is where we can find and really enjoy Christmas!

May you find that rest in Him this Christmas season!

What’s so Good about Good Friday?

There’s a lot of confusion about why today, the day Jesus was crucified two thousand years ago, is called Good Friday. But it’s really simple.

It was good for God to become flesh in Jesus and be crucified for our sins.

Good that He chose to die in our place.

Good that he took on sin and death so that we might have eternal life.

Good for us.

Good for humanity.

Will you embrace His goodness?

Reflect on that this weekend!

Easter Seder Part III

The Story of Passover

During this time Exodus 12:1-13 is read with brief comments and with the elements held up at the appropriate moment.

The Lamb Bone: The lamb was killed, its blood spread on the doorposts and lintel of the house to protect the home from the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn. God said He would pass over the house when He saw the blood.

Jesus, God’s first born, the Lamb of God, shed his blood for us so that death would pass us over.

The Unleavened Bread:
Dough was not given time to rise since the Hebrews had to be ready to leave quickly. No one knows the day or the hour Jesus will return. We must be ready to go when He comes.

The Second Cup: Cup of Plagues
“God poured our 10 plagues on Egypt, the last of which, the slaying of the first born, convinced Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave the land.”

As Christian, let us recall the lives Jesus had delivered us from.
After this explanation the father invites he participants to recount these plagues. He reads each passage aloud; They repeat it and then dip a finger into the grape juice, letting a drop fall onto the place symbolizing the plagues.

“Now let us lift our cups and drink, thanking God that He not only delivered the nation of Israel from the plagues, but that through Jesus, He delivered us from the plague of sin which brings death that we all deserve.”

Here is a good place for everyone to go around the table and confess their sins to one another.

The Bitter Herbs
Each person places horseradish on a matzo and eats it, “This symbolizes the bitterness of Israel’s slavery and our slavery to sin.”

Eating of Caroseth
Each person places charoseth on a matzo and eats it, “This symbolizes the mortar that was used to make bricks by the Israelites.”

Eating the Egg
The father presents the roasted egg.

This” is a reminder of the Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70.” The egg is dipped in saltwater, the symbol of tears, and then eaten.

Eating of the Meal
At this point, the Jewish family eats a full meal.

Eating of Afikomen
This Greek word loosely translated means, after dinner. After dinner, the children hunt for the hidden matzo. Whoever finds the piece gets a token reward, maybe a coin or candy. When found, the Afikomen is broken and shared. Likely it was at this point that Jesus said, “This is my body given for you.”

Read Luke 22:19 and share communion: “During Jesus’ Last Supper, he took the bread and broke it saying this is my body, do this in remembrance of me.”

The Third Cup
“Exodus 6:6 says, ‘I will redeem you.’ Redemption means to buy out of slavery. The lamb sacrificed and offered on Passover was the price to deliver the nation of Israel from their sin. This third cup is what Jesus drank with his disciples as a symbol of his blood. He was saying I will redeem you.”

Read Matthew 26:27-32 and take communion

Searching for Elijah
“The Jewish people believe, according to Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 that Elijah will prepare the way for the Messiah. They are looking for the Messiah year after year, not recognizing that Jesus, the Messiah, has already come. Pray for the Jews and everyone else who does not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Here the children search for Jesus, and peeks out the door.
Father: Is he here?
Child: No, he is not here.
Father: Maybe next year Jesus will come. Maybe tomorrow. For no one knows the day or the hour He will come, so we should be ready for Him always.

The Fourth Cup of Praise
As everyone lifts this cup, the father quotes Exodus 6:7 “I will take you for my people. The Jewish nation looks forward to a golden age where everyone will be at peace. We, as believers in the Lord Jesus, eagerly wait for his return when He ill take us to Heaven.”

So with the Passover ceremony finished, everyone drinks the fourth cup proclaiming “”Even so Lord, com quickly Lord Jesus.”

Here are some fun ideas you might want to try with your family:

*When the plagues are read, pass our sunglasses for darkness, round band-aids painted green for boils, toy frogs and locusts, etc. They kids might not be the only ones to get a kick out of this part of the Seder.

*During the eating of the egg, you can play the “egg game.” Prepare an egg for each guest. After the father eats his egg, explain that whoever ends up with the unbroken egg is the winner and receives a small prize. Face the person sitting next to you and tap eggs end-to-end and point-to-point. Continue to play around the table until only one unbroken egg is declared the winner.

Easter Seder Part II

Yesterday I shared with you the beginning of the Christian Seder my family has during the Easter weekend. We try and have this on Good Friday to reminisce about the :Last Supper”, but sometimes we have it on Saturday. We reserve Sunday for a relaxing time of Church and casual dinner.Christian Seder continued

The Four Questions
At this point, the youngest child and the father interact to explain why Passover is celebrated. After asking the first stage setting questions, the child will ask four detailed one. (In our family, we share the questions among all the children.)

Child: Why is this night different from all other nights?

Father: Once we were slaves to our sin, like the Jews who were slaves in Egypt , but now we are free , and we set aside this night each year to remember the great things God did for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Jesus, so that we might not perish and be slaves to sin, but so we might be free and have abundant life.

Child: On all other nights we eat either bread or matzo, but why on this night do we eat only matzo?

Father: Matzo reminds us of two things. There was no time for the Jews bread to rise when it was time to leave Egypt. This unleavened bread reminds us the Jews were delivered from slavery in Egypt, and were given new life. And we as Christian, were delivered from sin and also have new life.

Child: On all over nights we eat whatever vegetables we want, but why on this night, do we eat only bitter ones?

Father: We remember how bitter our sin was and the how bitter the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt was.

(Since our family doesn’t recline at the table, we skip this question and usually substitute it with a different one of our choosing)

Child: On all other nights we eat either sitting up or reclining, but why on this night do we all recline?

Father: Before we were slaves, but now we are able to recline and express the rest we enjoy as free people.

Here are some fun ideas you might want to try with your family:

*Conduct the first part of the Seder in the living reclining on homemade pillows with the names of your guests.

*Make up four questions centering on present day Israel
Why is the land different from other lands? Then pray for the peace of Israel and Jerusalem.

*Ask a fifth question for the Jewish children who died in the Holocaust and never got a chance to ask.

Family Friendly Easter Seder Part I

It’s snuck up on me again! The Easter Holiday season.

I just pulled out my Easter file and for the rest of the week I’ll be sharing with you our Easter traditions starting with a Christian Seder. We’ve shared the “The Last Supper” with our immediate family for the last couple of years, and although it hasn’t been a “sane” experience, I think we’ve been ironing out the less than kid friendly parts, and hopefully this year will bring a little more peace.

Im sure there are lots of ways to do a Christian Seder, but this is how our family does it. I’d love to hear if you do something similar and what yours looks like. Chrysalis has a great post on an easy Christian Seder.

Christian Seder

Come to the Table

At each place setting provide the following:

Parsley (2 sprigs)
Charoseth (1 Tb) Chopped apples, nuts, honey, cinnamon, and a touch of grape juice. (This is my families favorite!)
(4 servings, 3 oz each)
Saltwater (1 bowl per 4-5 people) Add enough salt to cloud the water
Horseradish (1.2 tsp, and as “biting” as possible)
Matzo (Plain, 1/4 square)
2 candles (white) and candlesticks in table center

At the leader’s place setting also provide:

1 bowl of saltwater
1 lamb bone (meatless and oven roasted until brown)
3 whole squares of matzo and 4 napkins (Matzos are stacked between the napkins on a plate)
1 roasted egg (boil for 10 minutes; then place under oven broiler until shell is brown)

An extra setting for “Elijah/Jesus—

Same as the “per person” setting with the exception that only one glass of juice is poured and left next to the plate. For the Jews, this symbolizes the future appearance of Elijah, who will signify the coming of Messiah. For Christians, it symbolizes the return of Christ.

The Passover Ceremony

Cleaning of Leaven
A few crumbs of leavened bread are dropped on the floor. The father or another male leader then sweeps them up as a symbol that the house is ready.

The Lighting of the Candles
The candles are lit by the mother who recites, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us by Your commandments and has ordained that we kindle the Passover lights. Jesus you are the light of the world. Help our light shine out to those who do not know you.”

The First Cup: The Cup of Sanctification
The father lifts his cup and explains, “Sanctification means to be set apart. We are setting apart this ceremony as special to the Lord.”

The Jews remember Exodus 6:6a, “I will bring you out (set you apart) from under the burdens of the Egyptians. God performed miraculous deeds to free Israel from Egypt. As believers, God’s greatest miracle was the price God payed, death of His only son Jesus, to free us from the bondage of sin and death.”

Everyone drinks.

Washing of Hands

Here the father washes in a basin. “This is a reminder of the priest’s need to wash before the could go before God on behalf of Israel. As Jesus celebrated His last Passover with his disciples, John 13 records that he took a towel and washed their feet instead of washing his hands. He also said that we should do this to one another.”

Take wash cloths and each person washed the hands (or feet) or the person to their left.

Dipping the Parsley
Everyone dips his parsley, one sprig at a time, into the saltwater and then eats it.
“The first dip refers to the tears shed in slavery by Israelites. But we also recognize the tears we’ve shed while in slavery to sin, without forgiveness and freedom Jesus offers. The second dip refers to the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea and the miraculous deliverance of Israel as a result (Exodus 14:13-31). We also thank God for our miraculous deliverance from sin.”

Breaking of the Middle Matzo
The father takes the middle square of the 3 whole Matzos, breaks it in half, puts one half back and hides the other half where he wants. Everyone closes his eyes while this is done. The children will look for the hidden piece later.

“These three squares of Matzo represent the beautiful picture of the Trinity. The middle representing Jesus-broken and hidden away.”

There’s much more to the Seder, but I’ll save it for tomorrow’s post!!! Please come back and see how you can get your kids involved in this Christian Seder.

The Jelly Bean Prayer

Good intentions always come with the holidays, but the busyness of the season usually wins out. If you’re a late planner like me this year, don’t worry, here are some quick, meaningful and fun things you can do for Easter. What fun and meaningful things do you have planned this Easter?

This is a really fun ways to share the Easter story. Find each color Jelly bean and put it in an egg. Then on Easter morning, or during the week share the story!

Red is for the blood He gave

Green is for the grass He made.

Yellow is or the sun so bright.

Orange is for the edge of night.

Black is for the sins we made.

White is for the grace He gave.

Purple is for His hour of sorrow.

Pink is for our new tomorrow.

An egg full of jelly beans, colorful and sweet is a prayer,

a promise, A loved one’s treat.

by Charlene Dickensen, 1997

And my favorite:

The Jellybean Salvation Lesson found here.

In addition to an Easter Seder our family incorporates the following into ourEaster festivities:

Resurrection Eggs:
These plastic eggs with “little reminders” of the Easter story is always a favorit. The ones you buy have a wonderful guide to help share the good news, but you can make your own as well.

Legend of the Easter Egg “In The Legend of the Easter Egg, young Thomas learns the deeper meaning behind Easter eggs and the Easter story itself. When his older sister, Lucy, falls sick, Thomas goes to stay with John and Mary Sonneman at their candy store. But all the candy he could desire does not cure Thomas’s aching heart. Only when Mary Sonneman shares with him the story of Easter does he understand the hope he has—and what he can do about his sister’s illness.”

The Easter Promise This is my all time favorite Easter video and a MUST HAVE!
“Jerem dreams of being a soldier for a king. He is thrilled to hear about the upcoming arrival of the true King Jesus. Jerem, however, is fooled by appearances and soon rejects Jesus along with most of Jerusalem. In a wonderful lesson about truth, appearances, and forgiveness, Jerem ultimately trusts in Jesus and witnesses the fulfillment of the greatest promise of all — the resurrection.”

Easter Story Cookies This recipe has always been a fail for me, but I love the idea if you can recreate these cookies. Maybe I’ll let my baker boy try this year!


Compassion’s 12 Days of Christmas

It’s amazing how much “stuff” my kids have! In fact, they have so much, my oldest doesn’t really have anything on his list!

The other day I heard a shocking statistic. Some children have to walk six hours for water a day, and most times that water isn’t even clean! So now when my kids complain about something they don’t have or some injustice in their lives, I just reply, “at least you don’t have to walk six hours for water.” THAT shuts them up quick!

There’s another way we can teach our kids about how blessed they are and how giving away as little as their weekly allowance can make a BIG change in someone’s life.

You might want to share this Christmas carol with your family this year! I’m going to share it with mine!

Compassion’s 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
A goat in my yard running free.

On the second day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the third day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the fourth day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the fifth day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the sixh day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Six chickens laying, Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the seventh day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Seven seeds a growing, Six chickens laying, Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the eighth day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Eight Medical check ups, Seven seeds a growing, Six chickens laying…Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the ninth day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Nine books for reading, Eight Medical check ups, Seven seeds a growing, Six chickens laying…Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the tenth day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Ten moms are working, Nine  books for reading, Eight Medical check ups, Seven seeds a growing, Six chickens laying…Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the eleventh day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Eleven Soccer balls, Ten moms are working, Nine  books for reading, Eight Medical check ups, Seven seeds a growing, Six chickens laying…Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

On the twelth day of Christmas Compassion gave to me.
Twelve building materials, Eleven Soccer balls, Ten moms are working, Nine  books for reading, Eight Medical check ups, Seven seeds a growing, Six chickens laying…Five Mosquito nets…Four playgrounds,  Three eye exams, Two little piggies and a goat in my yard running free.

Heart for Community, Eyes for the Broken Hearted

I used to dread the holidays. Sometimes I still do. I grew up in a NY Italian family that celebrated every holiday together. Then I got married and moved away and holidays weren’t something I looked forward to anymore.

At first it was me and hubby. I tried doing the festive thing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter and kept some of the traditions and even dressed up at times. Then kids came a long and I bought those cute suits for the kids, several years in a row, but realized we’d always be dressed up with no place to go.

Some years we went to see family, but when the kids got older and our family grew it was much easier to stay home. Soon the holidays came and went, and we barely made it out of our pajamas. Often it became just another day and each year I’d grieve inside. I’d grieve not having family around, but most of all I grieved the fact that even though I belonged to a church and a Christian community, no one, I mean no one except for two Easters after we were first married, invited us over for the holidays and many knew we had no family in town.

Many years we invited others over with us (one year we had a dozen college students) and those were the best times, but deep inside I still grieved the lack of community, of true family and fellowship. The last couple of years since my family moved to town we’ve had small intimate holidays with friends joining us as well. This Easter my mom is visiting my sister, and while some years I like a low key holiday, this year I feel like doing more.

My heart has been aching for community for a while, and even though our home Lent gatherings have been stressful leading up to the ministry, it’s awakened a desire in me to reach out more to those who might also dread the holidays.

So this year I’ll be cooking more and asking Jesus to send those to us who desire community as much as I do. My prayer for my family and Christians everywhere is that their eyes will be open to the needs of others this Easter season and be open to setting the table for a few more! After all Jesus came for the broken hearted and it’s not hard to find them if we just turn our head!

What is your heart’s cry this Easter?

St. Patrick: Who Was He Really?

I don’t think I really started to think about St. Patrick, the man until I got married to an Irish/German/American, and had kids. Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was all about wearing green and drinking beer. Yet, if St. Patrick was alive today, I think he’d be heartbroken over what his name has come to mean.

To set the record straight (as straight as I know it) St. Patrick’s Day has NOTHING to do with beer. It has everything to do with honoring a man who committed his life to brining the good news of God’s love and savior, Jesus Christ, to the people of Ireland.

When I first read Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie DePaola, I was overcome with the beauty and humbleness of the patron Saint of Ireland. You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate Patrick’s life and devotion especially in adversity. You can say his was a modern day story of Joseph and the dream coat. Here’s just a sampling from the book.

St. Patrick BookDid you know Patrick was stolen from his native home of Britain and sold as a slave, spent years tending sheep in the fields praying night and day, and finally with God’s help found his way home only to hear from God that he needed to return to the people of Ireland and share the good news of God’s love. While there he was met with adversity, but God protected his life.

Did you know Patrick used the three leaf clover to explain the trinity? His is an amazing story of love , forgiveness, miracles and devotion to a people. If you’ve never heard the story or St. Patrick, make sure you do this year. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Celebrate the Day with Food

One year I made this Grilled Reuben Sandwich recipe. The kids liked everything but the sauerkraut. In fact, one of my boys (when he was about five) took a bite and in all seriousness said, “I don’t like this sauercrap.” We’ve been laughing about it every since!

2 slices of Rye Bread
1 Tbs Thousand Island Dressing
2 slices of swiss cheese
1/4 cup of sauerkraut, drained
2 slices of corned beef
1 Tbs of Miracle Whip

We always have our traditional cornbeef and cabbage meal on St. Patrick’s Day and I wonder why we don’t eat it more often!

What do you do and make for St. Patrick’s Day?

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