Why I am Grateful for Halloween

Both my husband and I were raised not going trick-or-treating. Neither of our parents were supportive of that aspect of Halloween. My family did make pop-corn balls, candied apples, light Jack-O Lanterns and warmly greet our neighbors who were trick-or-treating. Jim’s family probably did less than that.

My husband and I have pondered how our family should engage in Halloween since our first child was born. We have friends and family that take various positions on the issue. Some so completely avoid Halloween they will not even attempt to engage in conversations about it. Others of our acquaintance, complete embrace the day with all its festivities. Most of our friends and family take a more middle ground in the festivities of Halloween and pick and choose various methods of what makes them comfortable interacting with the holiday. I do not debate the subject, because I do see a variety of perspectives. Those who believe it is harmless to dress up and knock on the neighbor’s door for some candy, to those who will have nothing to do with the day and avoid it in every respect. All have valid reasons and I can respect that. But what is right for us? I am not accountable before God for how my friends and family chose to celebrate or not celebrate Halloween, but I believe it is important for our family to have solid reasons for what we choose to do or not partake of the holiday or any holiday for that matter.

My conclusions concerning Halloween are completely based on the Gospel.

For a Christian, Halloween is indeed a harmless day. We are told that Christ has conquered sin and its punishment, death. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13.  “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:54-57. We are no longer a part of this world, we have become supernatural, eternal beings who are not dictated by the evil powers of earth. Because of Christ we are a new creature. Evil things have no power over us. Romans 8: 35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Superstition and fear of evil and death are no reason for us to not celebrate Halloween. Christ has given us eternal life and victory. 

It is because Christ has conquered sin, death, and hell, and made evil powerless, that our family chooses NOT to celebrate the holiday. Halloween is a pagan holiday. It celebrates evil things like sorcery, witches, death, and demonic powers. It is a day that is historically and currently known to edify what is morbid. From the skeletons dangling from shop windows to the blow-up witches hanging from the grocery store ceiling, it is very clear that Halloween is a Holiday that celebrates evil and death. There is no power of those things over us Redeemed, but evil still holds on to those who have not been redeemed by Christ’s blood. And for the sake of the gospel, I cannot endorse the Halloween festivities. Out of compassion for the lost souls, I have no right enjoying a holiday that celebrates the horror lost souls face. And celebrating a day that glorifies evil and death is a contradiction of my faith. Yes, Christ has died and conquered any power of such evil. Yet, It is because Christ died to set me free from darkness, that I cannot justify embracing a day that celebrates the darkness from which Christ died to set me free.

Yet, despite the fact my family does not promote or take part of the fun and enjoyable aspects of Halloween, I have no problem using Halloween as a tool against sin, death, and evil. In fact, I have recently concluded that I am very grateful there is a Halloween. When else do the neighborhood children come knocking on my door in mass numbers? What a privilege it is to open it and share the kindness of Christ with them. I admire churches that take a pro-active approach and reach out to the neighborhood with trunk-or-treat and fall parties. Halloween is an amazing tool that we Christian’s can use to the advantage of the gospel, and I am not about to waste that opportunity. So, I am not against methods that wield Halloween to reach lost souls with the truth. After all, what a great time to see someone turn from the darkness of sin and death to celebrating the death of sin!

There is an older lady, who is a dear friend of mine. Her compassion for her neighborhood is an inspiration to me. On Halloween she gives out gospel tracts and shares the gospel message with everyone who knocks on her door. Her desire to reach her community with the gospel is incredible. Halloween is not the only pagan holiday tradition of which she takes advantage. She organizes a community Easter Egg hunt in her backyard every year. She has had dozens of neighborhood children scrambling in her yard to find Easter Eggs, while she uses the eggs and her conversation to share the gospel with them and their parents. She also organizes neighborhood baby and wedding showers for those in her neighbors who are expecting or getting married. Sometimes, she has just opened up her doors a certain time every week for any neighbor lady who wanted to join her for tea and cookies. Her perspective is so mission minded, that the battle of what to do about Halloween is irrelevant. She simply sees the precious children, in need of a Savior, who come knocking at her door one evening out of the year.

That is who I would like to be. And though our children are young, I want my children to also see the souls of others as more important than a holiday they choose to celebrate or not celebrate themselves. I want trick-or treaters to knock on our door. I want to give out treats, so that our house will be the best stop for trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. I want to draw the lost to my door, so that I can build a report and share the gospel with my neighbors.

Halloween is not a creepy holiday I wish would pass without notice. But it also isn’t a holiday that allows me the opportunity to allow my children to indulge themselves in costumes and candy. Halloween is a gospel sharing tool that comes once a year, knocking at my door.

Smart Phone: Friend or Foe?

I got my first cell-phone when I was dating my husband in 2007. It has been a little over ten years since I have owned a cell. It has become so much a part of my life, I cannot remember how I managed without it. A smart phone, is truly more than a phone, it is my brain. But as I have trended through the years with a cell-phone, I have realized that it can be a useful tool in my hands, or a tool that is destructive. Like everything in my life, I weigh it in the balance of value.

My perspective on my phone is that it is a tool. It is a tool for my housekeeping, children’s education, Spiritual growth, necessary calls, and building relationships. I have rules as to how I use my phone. And I ALWAYS stick to them.

My phone never comes between me and real people. I purpose to ignore it, even silence it, when we have family or friends visiting, we are spending time together as a family, or I am on a date with my husband. I don’t look at it during a conversation unless I tell the person I am with what I am doing and it pertains to our conversation. I do not answer a call or text when I am with someone, with the exception of my husband or babysitter if I am not with him at the time.

I do not use my phone for entertainment. I do not have games, movies, or apps on my phone. I don’t use it to kill time. I don’t have time to kill time. If I am sitting still with my phone, I am texting a friend, working on a grocery list, or shopping online for something we need…like recently house-hunting. Soon…Christmas gift shopping. But I spend time on my phone only when I purposed to do so. Generally Sunday mornings are very calm in our homes and I have an hour of quiet before we go to church. Saturday’s are also a little different from weekdays and I may spend time working on something on my phone. So, I do use my phone, but it is purposed. Last night, I was finalizing my grocery list, which I had been working on little by little throughout the day. I didn’t get it done until my husband and I sat down together after the children were in bed.

If an app is becoming a time sponge, I delete it from my phone. As I try to keep eternity in perspective, random phone browsing becomes a frivolous task. There are loads of great ideas out there, but if I am not purposeful in my pursuit of knowledge, it becomes useless noise in my life. I have found a lot of apps were more of a distraction to my home than a blessing. How silly to tell my child, “I am trying to find some great ideas about how to home-school,” instead of taking that time to read her a book? She doesn’t need a lot of eye-candy to learn, just love and MY TIME. I have simplified my pursuit of information by choosing only to look up something if there is a need. And even then, I try to go to books before the internet. I find books to be a more reliable source of information and less consuming than a phone. I have deleted great apps like Pinterest, Facebook, and Zulily. Because they are simply taking too much of my precious time from the eternal pursuits that are most precious.

I don’t look up health information on my phone. This rule is one I had to adopt a few years ago as I realized how often I had misdiagnosed myself or the children through Web MD. Put in a list of symptoms and one can diagnose themselves with anything from terminal cancer to a bug bite. The loads of information on health bred a heart of fear in me. It does me no good to know too much about what I don’t know for certain. I rely on articles, books, and real people for my medical information. That includes my knowledge on health and nutrition. I don’t read posts from Dr. Axe anymore. But I will check out stacks of books at our local library and have read some fantastic and very helpful books.

My phone is not attached to my body. I usually put it on the kitchen counter, and it stays there pretty much all day. I don’t carry it around the house with me, unless, I am going to be spending time pressing Jim’s shirts. Then, I will listen to podcasts or something to fill my head with good thoughts.

How I use my phone:

I use my phone to aid in my housekeeping. I create my grocery lists on my phone as I discussed in my post: My Modern Shopping Techniques. I also use my phone to purchase a lot online. I find I can score great deals and have it shipped to my door for less than I can drive and purchase an item locally. I also buy used clothes on E-Bay and Poshmark for myself and family. I use a note app to make to-do lists and plan menus. I also make a list of errands in order for shopping day.

I purpose my phone to be used for my Spiritual edification. I listen to several preaching podcasts daily. I also keep the ESV Bible app on my phone.

Of course I use my phone for necessary calls. Setting up appointments, ordering a birthday cake, calling for information about insurance…. We all have those business, un-fun calls to make. And that is certainly a necessary use of my phone.

My phone is also for building relationships. Other than texting my husband daily, I text or call family members and friends. I make a point to keep up with people by using my phone. I text pictures of my children to their grandparents. When someone asks me to pray for them, or I volunteer to pray for a concern someone has, I like to touch base on occasion and see what God is doing in their lives. I also text to simply see how an old friend is doing. I also try to judge why I am texting. Very often, a phone call is more personal and clear than a text, so I try to be cautious about over-texting and making sure I am calling people as needed. I had a friend from church who is praying for me randomly call me last week to see how I was doing. It was refreshing to get a personal call. It meant more to me to hear her voice and we got a lot of conversation in five minutes that could have never fit in five minutes of texting so beautifully. Honestly, an old-fashioned phone call is lovely. I have discovered that although texting might seem convenient and un-intrusive, most people want their lives to be intruded upon.

So my phone is a wonderful tool for many things of eternal value. But it’s use does have its place. I don’t want to miss out on creating or savoring a moment with my loved ones in the room because I am on my phone. Very often, my phone can wait. And I have never regretted putting it down to pull build railroads on the floor with my children.

Cherished Old Recipes

Most people have a few keepsakes. A piece of jewelry passed on through generations, a box of old love-letters, something meaningful that reminds us of our heritage or a special person. I have a few such items myself, but readily admit, my most cherished keepsakes are old recipes.

I was able to get my Grandmother’s old recipe box after she passed, and I have poured over it again and again. What I love about old recipes is their ability to live on through generations. Whenever I make Grandma’s corn pudding for Thanksgiving, it reminds me of her. It is a way of passing on a heritage of food to my family, as well as remembering people who cooked that same recipe years and years ago.

My husband’s family has traditional foods as well passed on from generations. A cranberry Jello salad is popular at holiday meals in his mother’s home. I have made it on occasion and always look forward to sharing that tradition with his family as well. It is fun to combine foods from both our pasts into the traditions of our own family.

My Mom’s folks lived up the road from us as we grew up. I have many memories surrounding food with them. Grandpa had a huge electric cooker. I remember him cooking it full of creamy corn chowder and inviting us all over for dinner. I have his recipe…clipped from a newspaper with his scratchings on it. My Grandma would invite me and my sisters over on occasion to bake. We made incredible old-fashioned molasses cookies with her, bread shaped into bunnies for Easter, and she taught me how to make pie crust for Dutch apple pie. Several times, all of my siblings and I got to make a batch of root beer with my grandparents. It was the real stuff with yeast, tons of sugar, and root beer extract. I have not had any Root Beer that good since my childhood.

As my blog post on the Food: One of the Most Unifying Tools in the Hands of Homemaker states, food has a way of creating memories and can be used as a tool to bring people together. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I find myself drawn to old family recipes. It is also a way of learning about history and culture. My Dad makes his own venison jerky. It is unlike anything one can buy at the store. The jerky Daddy makes is like a piece of edible history. It can take me back to the pioneer days when drying meat was the best way to preserve it for a long trip.

Old cookbooks and recipes are incredible finds. I recently read through a vintage Fannie Farmer cookbook. It was not only fun to read, but educational to see the perspective on food a hundred years ago. Quality food was very important, now a box of hamburger helper is considered food. In the time of Fannie Farmer, ground meat like hamburger did not even exist! There is a recipe about how to make Hamburg meat. It involved hand chopping chuck. Food preparation and eating has certainly changed through the generations.

I love to see my grandma’s notes and yellowed, soiled recipe cards. One card alone tells a story of meals cooked and served. I can see grandma cooking on the stove with her recipe on the counter and grease from her pan spits on the card. Now grandma is gone, but I have that card and grease spits on it from my stove.

My sentiment toward recipes may seem silly to some, but old recipes are keepsakes that have incredible value to me. They are very personal to an individual and family, as well as a beautiful way to incorporate heritage and build memories into one’s own family. I look forward to continuing my cooking journey through some of grandma’s old recipes!

The Crisis of Misplaced Affections

We are moving again. We have been renting a large farmhouse in the country since our move to The South two years ago. We truly love living in the county, but it isn’t cheap. Old farmhouses require constant upkeep, there is always something broken or in need of updating…well…it is old… and the utilities on the home are anything but economical. Yet, despite its faults, the old house has served our family well, and we have been able to use it to show hospitality to friends and family on a regular basis. However, in an effort to be wise stewards of what God has given us, we are in the process of buying a smaller home in the suburbs. So instead of nearly 3,000 square feet we will have less than 2,000. And instead of six acres surrounded by fields and space, we will have a half acre surrounded by neighbors. In some ways, I am looking forward to this change, and in other ways, I admit that am sad to leave the farmhouse.

Life at the farmhouse is the epitome of my ideal. I am a country girl. I love the space and freedom. No one is going to call the fire-department if I want to cook some s’mores on an open fire in the evening. None of the neighbors will think a thing if we don’t rake up our leaves…ever. We can be as loud as we want without causing any annoyances. I enjoy hearing the sound of nature, like the quiet chirping of crickets at night. I let my children roam unattended and explore. I love having a home that provides peace and quiet for our guests. I can see the starts at night and the sunrises in the morning. I hear roosters crow across the neighborhood when the sun breaks out. We have a view of a lake from the front porch and the view from the back yard is a hay field on a hill. There is a lot of character at the old farmhouse. BUT despite my heart’s desire to have this life, God has other plans in mind for our family.

Everyone has an ideal life. For me, it would be a small farm in the country with a great view and a few chickens . . . maybe goats or sheep. I would be at home and very happy with such a life. Perhaps the Lord will allow that kind of living for me on earth and perhaps He will not. Striving for an ideal is not a sin, in fact, often desires are God given for a purpose, even if they are never fulfilled. But when my desires causes me to wrestle with God’s will for my life, it most certainly becomes sinful.

And my sinful reluctance to embrace the twists and turns of life will have an effect on not only my own heart, but the hearts of my children. Two years ago when we were pondering our move from the Midwest, I told my children that it was all about whether God would say “yes” or “no” to our move. He chose to say “yes” and move us. Now He has chosen to move us again. Just this time it won’t be so far. I want my children to see God’s work in our lives, and my desire to follow God, even when my heart cannot see the good of the change. Whether my children are raised running through fields or riding their bikes down the neighborhood street, has no bearing on if they will learn to love God. But my attitude toward God has a LOT to do with their Spiritual walk.

As I was faced with our need to move this summer, I was also confronted with my materialistic heart. It is easy to become idealistic in life, and cling onto that ideal as though it is what defines us. Just because my materialistic desires are not a high end sports car or a mansion on a golf course, does not mean they are any less sinful. I desire a home in the country and a lot of children running around, a few farm animals, and natural beauty. But though that may seem like a wholesome desire, it is just as much a selfish, materialistic one as wanting a condo on a beach. Things are not wrong to want, but we are warned about setting our affections on them. It is easy to hold an ideal way of life so dearly it become the defining factor of life. My ideal should not define me, and it should never be in competition for my affections toward God. So, this year, through our need to move, it was a healthy realization this summer on how attached I had become to my version of an ideal life. I valued my ideal above God’s best.

Along came the aspect of contentment in my ponderings. I spent a lot of time thinking about Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:11-12 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” What is the secret to contentment?

For a time, I felt it was my need to surrender. I needed to surrender my ideal; my dream to God for whatever He had in store. Then I continued thinking on surrender and realized that there would be no need for surrender if I was truly satisfied in God. Because if I am completely satisfied in God, I will joyfully follow Him anywhere He leads. Therefore, the secret of contentment in every circumstance is not surrender, but satisfaction if God. I do not have to battle God about moving us, against my desire to stay until I finally, even reluctantly throw up the white flag and surrender. I was at fault for something far more detrimental than surrender. I had deceived myself into thinking I could be satisfied in something God gave me, more than Himself. It was idolatry. I was in sin for having misplaced affections. It took being faced with leaving my ideal address to see how misplaced my affections had become.

The test of my true satisfaction in God is when He takes something away from me that is precious…my ideal for instance. If when my ideal life is taken away, is my joy unhampered as I revel in Christ even more deeply? Christ must be my complete satisfaction, not my husband, not my family, not my address, not my health, not home-schooling, not finances, not consistency, not anything else. Because God gives and takes away what He chooses. If God is my complete all in all, than all those things that are important to me are not necessary for me to surrender because I will already see them as His.

I do believe I am finally at the place of that test. We move in a month. Despite my sadness in leaving our home in the country, I am coming to terms with a greater value in our move. There will be more people! We will have opportunities that are not possible where we currently live. I am looking forward to meeting our new neighbors and finding ways to minister and reach the lost souls there. We can be a larger part of the lives of people simply because we will be surrounded by them. I look forward to settling in our own home and being closer to our church family as well, and will be able to be more involved with the lives of people. It won’t be an round-trip hour drive to take a meal to someone in need.

I am also looking forward to the time that we will gain from the move. When we first moved into the farmhouse, I remember being surprised at the amount of time it took me to clean and for my husband, a half a day to tend the lawn. At first that was a struggle because it took time from my children and ministry. But we became accustomed to it. Now, moving into a smaller home, will give me more time, because instead of taking two days to clean house, I can get it done in a morning. And instead of a half day to cut grass, my husband should be done in a couple hours. It will be good to have more time in our lives for other ventures besides home-care.
Financially, the move is a smart one. Instead of throwing money down for the comfort of heat and cooling on a monthly basis, we will live in a more economical home and be able to put that money toward other things. We are also able to invest in our own home, instead of sending out a rent check on a monthly basis. It is for the best.

As I consider the blessings from our upcoming move, I also realize that there is a lot I do not know about God’s purpose in our new location. I look forward to seeing what He has in store for His glory through our family and our new neighborhood. My heart is grateful. I am grateful because my heart rests in my Savior. No matter what change He brings into our lives, I know that in Him I can find my complete satisfaction…eternally.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
Psalm 63:1-5