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Sy Mao’s Advice for Growing Rice (and Children)

In Child Development, father, Grandparents, motherhood, Parenting, Sanctity of Life, stay-at-home mom, The Family, Values on February 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

riceRice is the most important crop in the world.  These tips will help you raise your rice properly.

Growing rice is challenging but not impossible.  It takes patience, care, and a tremendous amount of work.

Even though rice adapts to many environments, it needs plenty of sunshine, water, and nutrients to thrive.

Rice comes in many varieties—brown, black, white, and red—including long-grain (slender), medium-grain (short and fat), short-grain (nearly round), sweet, sticky, and more.  All varieties are good.

The secret to growing rice that thrives is to provide a proper environment.  Clean out all noxious elements that may harm young plants.  Use plenty of healthy organic matter.

Make certain your plants have plenty or room to grow.  Stay close to remove sprouting weeds.  Trying to care for too many plants at one time can be difficult and tiring.

While rice does best in certain environments, sometimes you have no control over natural conditions.  Don’t worry.  Rice has an uncanny ability to tolerate both drought and flood.

Sometimes rice is planted in a nursery bed, and then moved later to a garden.  Other times, rice is sprouted right in the garden itself.  Both methods work.  The advantage of direct seeding is that you reduce transplant shock to the young and tender plants.

Above all, never take your rice plant for granted.  Every plant is important.  Care for them properly and they will grow to be mature, tender, and strong.

Good luck.

Sy Mao

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

Stable Marriages Make Stable Children

In Child Development, Cohabitation, Courts, Diane Robertson, Divorce, Families, father, Gender, Government, Grandparents, Homosexuality, Marriage, Parenting, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexual Orientation, The Family, Values on February 12, 2014 at 7:36 am

strong_family_bondsDiane Robertson

This happens to be National Marriage Week. February 7th to 14th each year has become a “collaborative campaign to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children.” While many argue that their version of marriage cannot possibly affect others’ version of marriage, this is simply not true. We all live in a society and whether it is pleasant or not, we must as a society live with the choices of other people. The choice to marry profoundly affects society as does the choice to divorce or to redefine marriage and family.

In an article titled, “5 Reasons Marriage is Your Future,” Alliance Defending Freedom declares, “Whether you’re married or not – whether you have children or not- the marriages of those around you contribute to the society in which you live. They’re improving the economy and raising upstanding citizens. Since they’re healthier and happier, they’re great coworkers, bosses, and community members. Most importantly, they’re providing a safe, nurturing atmosphere while raising the next generation, and creating a better future for all of us.”

It behooves government to protect the marriages in which children will have the best chance of growing into contributing adults. This assures the best future for society. Decades of social research has shown that children from divorced and single parent homes do not fare as well as children from intact married couples. Yet the government has done little to discourage divorce or raising children in single parent homes. Society as a whole has become apathetic toward family structure. An “all choices are equal” or “whatever is in your heart is right” attitudes prevail regarding family. As a result, 40% of children are born to single mothers and the divorce rate sits around 50%. As marriages between a man and a woman have broken down, many want society to embrace a new form of marriage corruption and family definition—same sex marriage and same sex parenting. Will these help improve marriage and family life? Research suggests no.

A recent Canadian study, on new family structure suggests that homosexual relationships, including married homosexual relationships are not nearly as stable as heterosexual married relationships. One of the arguments used to promote gay marriage is that it will provide a stable home for children growing up with homosexual parents. This study clarifies marriage does not stabilize homosexual households in the same way that it does heterosexual households.  From another study conducted by Mark Regnerus in 2012 we learn that:

“among the respondents who said their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship, 91% reported living with their mother while she was in the relationship, and fewer (57%) said they had lived with both their mother and her partner for at least four months at some point prior to age 18. An even smaller share (23%) said they had spent at least three years living in the same household with their mother’s romantic partner. This is to say that out of 2,988 respondents, only 40 children reported living with two lesbian women for three years or more, which is not a long time. Only 2 out of the 15,000 screened spent a span of 18 years with the same-sex relationship spent a span of 18 years with the same two mothers. Among those who said their father had had a same-sex relationship, 42% reported living with him while he was in the relationship, and only 24% reported living with him and his partner for at least four months. Only 1.1% of children whose father had a same-sex relationship spent at least three years together in the same household with both gay men.”

This strongly suggests that the parents’ same-sex relationships were often short-lived, a finding consistent with broader research on elevated levels of instability among same-sex romantic partners. For example, a recent study of same-sex couples in Great Britain found that gay and lesbian cohabiting couples are more likely to separate than heterosexual cohabitating couples. A 2006 study of same sex marriages in Norway and Sweden found that “divorce risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex marriages.” Such that Swedish lesbian couples are more than three times as likely to divorce as heterosexual couples, and Swedish gay couples are 1.35 times more likely to divorce. Out-spoken same sex marriage advocates and sociologists, Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey, acknowledge that “preliminary data hint that [lesbian] relationships may prove less durable.”

Although it would be helpful to compare the children of intact married heterosexual couples to the children of committed and intact gay or lesbian couples, this has been attempted, but is not feasible. There are not enough homosexual couples raising children that have stayed together long enough to make a serious comparison. The Canadian study, which draws from a large representative sample of the population, and despite using screening tactics designed to boost the number of respondents who reported having had a parent in a same-sex relationship, a very small segment reported to have been parented by the same two gay or lesbian parents for three years or more. This is an insufficient number to make reliable comparisons between the two groups. 

Although there is much speculation today that there are large numbers of same-sex couples in the U.S. who are providing a stable, long-term parenting relationship for their children, no one has been able to come up with a sample size large enough to provide any serious data on the matter. The above-cited studies of different nations suggest that on average, same-sex couple relationships are more short-lived than those of opposite-sex couples. We must conclude that homosexual relationships are unstable.

The instability in family life alone from same sex households should be enough to conclude that children do better with a married mother and father. Governmental recognition of same sex couples will not benefit society any more than governmental recognition of heterosexual co-habitating couples has benefitted society. If we want to assure the brightest future for our children and grandchildren, we must recognize that all relationships are not created equal. Children need both their mother and their father and they need them to be happily married. So during this week of celebrating marriage and love do what it takes to forgive, love, serve, and strengthen your marriage. And then support laws and policies that promote the best life for children—marriage between a man and a woman.

 

 

There is a Time and a Season…

In Families, father, Grandparents, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, Sanctity of Life, The Family, Values on February 6, 2014 at 8:00 am

mom with kids playing hockeyRachel Allison

In wars past, I visualize men and more recently women in battle armor, fighting to defend our country and the freedoms of those they love and hold dear.   There are many different kinds of battles and many different kinds of wars; all of which bring visions of destruction, the wounded and the dying.

I could thankfully say that I have never been in battle, except that I am seeing destruction, the wounded and the dying all around me.  I seriously feel that I’m in the middle of a war that’s being waged against values, morality, decency and honor. Men, women and children are the target and our homes are too often ground zero.

If the defenders of the home are physically, mentally or emotionally AWOL exactly at the time when our families are being targeted, is there any doubt that there will be casualties/fatalities? Worldly pursuits, personal ambitions, entertainment, hobbies and 100 other interests are distractions that too often prohibit our defense of family.

I often think of the gentleman from India, who, speaking to an American said, “We, in our country, sacrifice the material items of this world for our children.  You, in America, sacrifice your children for material items.”  It was a generalized statement, but if any truth is found in the statement, it speaks sadly of misplaced priorities.

We live in an “I want it now” society.  But my experience with patience and self-denial has taught me that the anticipation and the planning of future accomplishments or acquisitions have made the realization of the end goal so much the sweeter.

There is a time and a season for all things. And when we recognize our season and embrace it, we are rewarded with “everything beautiful…” most importantly a beautifully strong, emotionally healthy family.

When the caring, nurturing, training and defending of children are put on hold for any objective that takes us away from family, the wounds of neglect will inflict injury.  Parents will spend years undoing the damage, and the “undoing” is drawn out and painful. Children bring a season that stretches us to our limits…but what a beautiful season to influence, inspire, defend and love precious little people who have only us to depend upon.

OUR CHILDREN TAKE THEIR FLIGHT INTO THE FUTURE WITH OUR THRUST AND WITH OUR AIM.  AND EVEN AS WE ANXIOUSLY WATCH THAT ARROW IN FLIGHT AND KNOW ALL THE EVILS THAT CAN DEFLECT ITS COURSE AFTER IT HAS LEFT OUR HAND, NEVERTHELESS WE TAKE COURAGE IN REMEMBERING THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT MORTAL FACTOR IN DETERMINING THAT ARROW’S DESTINATION WILL BE THE STABILITY, STRENGTH AND UNWAVERING CERTAINTY OF THE HOLDER OF THE BOW.”       

Jeffrey R. HOLLAND

 

Growing through Misunderstandings

In Child Development, Education, Families, father, Marriage, Parenting, The Family, Values on February 4, 2014 at 8:14 am

UFI_Image_2014_02_05

Sarah Alldredge

Our little family had quite the experience last night while gathered around the dinner table. My husband and I were in the throes of a marital spat, and our daughter’s expression of frustration with us created the perfect segue from dinnertime to a family emotion-processing event. I felt defensive, my husband was visibly sad, and the children’s shoulders drooped as they hunkered in under the emotional cloud cover that was descending upon the kitchen.

It was incredible to be so human together! In such moments I still tend to naively wish that life would stay rosy, that feelings never got hurt, and that things would just go my way. Thank goodness I will not have my wish, because in moments like these I see myself and my family grow, both in individual self-discipline and in our emotional connection to each other.

The reality is that difficult work is necessary to get over ourselves so we can sustain our most meaningful relationships. As we sat together, uncomfortable as we were, people began to communicate. It was work indeed. In my “can’t we all just get along” state of mind, the kind of communicating we did would not be considered pretty, but I am learning that it is in fact, beautiful. There were passionate voices, tears, attempts to leave the room, and sadness. But these were all real emotions, just like happiness, peace, laughter and togetherness. They were also the raw materials we could use to make selflessness, kindness, patience, and love win the moment, as long as we were willing to face them rather than flee. Honestly, if everything was always easy, how would we ever know how to use such wonderful principles well?

My husband courageously led the way, using sincere interest in our daughter’s feelings as the principle to combat selfishness. This action allowed her, and the other children, to express themselves truthfully. I chose to smile at him across the table, lending him my support despite the unpleasant feelings I had. As we talked through our painful emotions with the intent to understand one another and find resolution, tears soon turned to smiles, voices leveled, and hearts softened.

We witnessed the power of communication mending our emotions and re-uniting our feelings for one another. I feel we overcame and will be all the more prepared for the next round of misunderstanding.

Today’s post is contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. For more information, go to seeingtheeveryday.com.

Stand Strong for the Traditional Family

In Child Development, Constitution, Courts, Democracy, Families, father, Government, Homosexuality, Marriage, motherhood, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, The Family, UFI, Values on January 22, 2014 at 10:12 am

family 4Linda Ash

It took years for our American Forefathers to recognize that the King of England wasn’t the all knowing, all caring solution to their health and well being…quite the contrary.  He was too far removed from what they stood for and what their values had become as an independent, hard-working, God-worshipping, freedom-loving people. Hence the Revolutionary War.

Am I suggesting another Revolution?  No.  But I am advocating for all independent, hard working, God-worshipping, freedom-loving people to recognize that our government is not all knowing or all caring.  Nor does it provide a solution to the woes of our society…again, quite the contrary.

Time-honored values have proven that society needs to be strong, healthy and productive to survive and thrive. Those same time-honored values prove that the traditional family is the determining factor for such survival.

Just because a rogue branch of our government has taken upon itself to change the laws that ‘we the people’ voted for, doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands and do nothing.  We have been given the gift of freedom and the ability to perceive right from wrong.  Now what are we going to do with it? United Families’ President, Laura Bunker, communicated her stance to the Deseret News.

“Judge Shelby’s ruling may have changed the law, but it does not change our view of marriage. Children still need a mother and a father, and marriage between a man and a woman is still the foundation of society.”

I, as an independent, hard-working, God-worshipping, freedom-loving American woman stand strong for the traditional family!

Character Taking Shape Around a Kitchen Table

In Child Development, Families, father, motherhood, Parenting, The Family, Values on January 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

mealTiffany Dowell

In our fast-paced, ambitious world, many of us are working hard, striving to become better people and to give life to our worthy goals and aspirations.  The simplest things can shape us into what we will become and cultivate the kind of heart where the best of aspirations can grow. For Tiffany Dowell that beginning happened around an old kitchen table in a simple New Mexico trailer home, where her family consistently communicated with one another those valuable principles that would shape her life.

“. . . As I look back on my childhood, I realize there was no place that shaped the person I have become more than that old kitchen table…We all ate together, the television was turned off, phone calls were not taken. . . .

“. . . During those meals, we talked. I mean really talked. Beyond the mere recitation of what we learned in school that day. We talked about politics and wars. My parents were open with us about the difficulties that often faced our family farm. My brother and I gave our opinions on the issues facing the nation, and our family.

“At that old kitchen table, we learned to listen, to analyze, to form opinions, and to express them. We learned to converse with adults about serious issues. We were taught lessons about life and death, about friendship, about budgeting, and about love.”

Today’s post is contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. For more information, go to seeingtheeveryday.com. For more of Tiffany Dowell’s writing, see Seeing the Everyday Issue No 22.

Why I’m Not a Feminist

In Families, father, Feminism, Gender, Marriage, motherhood on January 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Family eating togetherLisa Hymas

Imagine for a moment about the life I, among many others, cherished while growing up. Dinner that my mother worked so hard on is set on the table, and a warm, cinnamon aroma filling the house.  My parents give each other a kiss after my father returned home after a hard day’s work, while we kids washed our hands. As we ate, we talked and laughed with another about the days we had.  It was comfortable, warm, and such a wonderful feeling knowing that we were safe with our loving family. This occurred day after day.  I loved growing up with my family all around me, and having the love and support I constantly received from each sibling and parent.

But unfortunately, the times are changing, and a lot of homes do not have that. Families are being broken up by this new wave of feminism, some call it radical feminism.  This is less about the equal rights, opportunities, or the equality of women and men in the workplace, and more about the women wanting to do everything for themselves, not needing a man, or a husband, and some significant  social engineering.  In the process, it is destroying what many individuals – particularly children – long for.

Radical feminists believe that marriage is a patriarchal institution that harms women and children, marriage is comparable to slavery, and raising children is not in their intentions, or is even beneath them. They don’t need a family of their own to be happy. Marriages are being destroyed, children of single-parent families are left motherless or fatherless, women are foregoing the experience of having and raising children and homosexual women are perceived as normal.  All of these issues are detrimental to the family: a husband, wife, and children. The feminists do not see the importance of marriage and families to society, nor do they see the benefits it can bring to men, women, and their children.

According to a post done by the NBC Today, couples are choosing to forgo having children, and are only needing companionship and love, and focusing on the joys of life that a couple can do without children.   Many women who have adopted a feminist mindset are choosing to not have the joys and experiences that can come from having children because they want to pursue their own personal endeavors, or hobbies and interests.  This attitude is detrimental to the family and more and more people are being influenced and taught to act the same way.

Though the gender-specific roles have definitely been changing gradually over time, we need to cherish the roles we are given, and for the work we do, whether man or woman. We need to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage, and raising children, and the values of the family. This wave of feminism is spreading because of academic institutions, what women and girls see in TV and movies, and the effects of social media.  These things make sex outside of marriage, living together, being a couple without children, and same-sex relationships seem to be acceptable and preferable.   For the women who buy into radical feminism, they view men as dominators, oppressors, or attackers, and they certainly are not seeing the importance of the most influential and important family structure – the intact natural family.

I believe that marriage between men and women is sacred, and their unique qualities and skills are complementary and necessary to raise a stable, happy and productive family. Since the beginning of radical feminism, women have been undermining what I believe to be God-given roles.  Many have given up marriage, because of the commitment, faithfulness and obedience to their husbands makes them feel like a minority or even a “slave.”  Problems can also come from those who turn in the direction of the gay and lesbian community, which is a strong choice among radical feminists.  They consider sexual activity outside of marriage to be completely fine, and that being able to easily access birth control and abortion to be a human right.

Research has been done time and time again showing that single parent households or divorced couples lead to a higher percentage of poverty due to the lower income.  As many researchers have found, marriage has a variety of benefits, such as better health and longevity, more positive outlook on life, children doing better in school, etc.  There is more and more evidence that women are becoming very dissatisfied with having to both work, raise children alone, and struggle to be financially stable. In an article entitled Family Values as Practiced by Feminist Parents, it talks about how the roles are shifting and the times are changing from heterosexual married couples to the “new normal” families. This could be any family whether they are gay, single, raising children, or women out in the workforce, while the men stay home with the children.

I can’t imagine what my life were to be like if my family were among these statistics regarding divorce, alternative families, abortion, purposeful childlessness, or the changing sexual views in our society. This would be very hard to cope with if I had a mother, or even a father, who was willing to give up the “traditional family” life, or even their own family for the pursuit of their own happiness, or their desire of focusing just on a career or travel.  I recognize that shifts in the economy and in personal circumstances may have forced some to live a life that they wouldn’t have chosen for themselves or for their children, but even in those circumstances it is possible to acknowledge the need for society to set the goal and the ideal of traditional family units.  It is a goal, that for the sake of our children, we must strive for.  Radical feminism has failed us all.

Lisa Hymas is a student at BYU-Idaho pursuing  a degree in Marriage and Family Studies.  She is originally from Blackfoot, Idaho, and has been married for almost two years.  Lisa loves studying the family and learning how to advocate in an effort to solve problems in the world today.

Selfless Giving

In Child Development, Families, father, Parenting, The Family, Values on December 24, 2013 at 10:48 am

Christmas PresentCasey Reeve shares how his father helped to instill in him the true meaning of Christmas.

Every Christmas Eve, we would lie under the Christmas tree, listening intently to my father. He would get down next to us and gaze up at the lights on the tree, capped off by the bright star at the top.

That is when the magic happened. He would start telling us stories, Christmas stories. One of his favorites was O. Henry’s The gift of the Magi. The true meaning of Christmas couldn’t have been outlined any better. As he lay there with us, quietly recounting the love this struggling young couple had for one another, all five of us were silent. We could feel the spirit of Christmas as he continued telling us that each had sacrificed their favorite possession for the other, the young bride, her hair, and he, his priceless pocket watch, in order to buy the other’s gift. My father would recount that on Christmas morning, he saw that she had sold her hair to buy him a chain for his watch, and he had sold his watch to buy a beautiful comb for her hair. There they sat, each having a seemingly useless gift. I can still remember clearly him emphasizing, even if not verbally, that they had given the most precious gift that can be given, and that gift was love.

I have often reflected on those times under the Christmas tree and the lessons that were taught. There we were, five young children, quiet as could be, and each of us understood and felt what Christmas was all about. And that was love.

Today’s post is contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. For more information, go toseeingtheeveryday.com

Remembering Anna

In Abortion, Families, father, Grandparents, motherhood, Parenting, Sanctity of Life, The Family, Values on December 20, 2013 at 9:25 am

angel babyRachel Allison

I don’t know if UFI readers remember my writing about a group of women who, experiencing the heartache caused by their own abortions, have dedicated themselves to educating, influencing and hopefully inspiring others to choose life.  One of these good women shared this story with me, and at this most wonderful time of the year, I would like to share it with you.

 

Merry Christmas

This past year has been one of unanticipated blessings and opportunities. Rather than reflect it, I feel I should share with you a story shared with me by my hosts in Holland.  The story you are about to read will not soon be forgotten and reflects the faith of our Lord, when each of us face those times when we are struggling with our faith. Times we simply don’t understand.  The times we ask,  ‘Why?’  The Bible says, “ and a child shall show them” is so true in this case.  I hope you will be blessed and encouraged by this story.

History of the experience you are about to read

Rian and Leo had 3 beautiful girls.  When their youngest was 3 they announced that a fourth baby girl would soon join their family.  It was at twenty-nine weeks during an ultra sound that Rian and Leo discovered that the baby had no kidneys.  The doctors told them that their little girl would not live long outside the womb, and encouraged an abortion.  The news hit Rian and Leo with heart-wrenching reality. A long period of silence followed.  On the drive home,  at last Leo asked Rian,  “What do you want to do?”   Rian’s reply was full of determination. “I don’t want this……I DON’T!!! But I can’t discard our daughter.”  With crushing emotions, Leo heartily agreed. They knew it was the right decision but the pain was still very real.

In the 36th week, the pains began, but they came so rapidly they knew they would not make it to the hospital.  The mid-wife was asked to come to the house instead.  Both sets of grandparents, the three girls and Leo were present when Anna was born.  She was perfect visually in everyway.   Laying her on Rian’s belly, everyone took turns touching and speaking love to the small infant who was visibly growing weaker.  Finally Leo asked everyone to lay hands on Anna as he prayed.  Leo thanked God for even this small period they could have Anna and he asked God to hold her in HIS arms until they could all be reunited.   Almost simultaneously, the amen and the last breath came.  Anna was bathed and dressed in the special pink dress and matching blanket they had selected for her.  A few days later a service was held with family and close friends.

Eight years later, Eva, now eleven, came down for breakfast and announced that during the night she had experienced heaven and Anna.   Rian asked Eva to write her experience while it was fresh in her memory and before the details were forgotten. The following is Eva’s letter at age 11.

 

Anna in heaven

This is what I dreamt by myself:

I saw the gates of heaven opening. There I saw Jesus or God standing.

At first I didn’t see Him well, because of the bright light. He opened His arms wide, and I ran towards Him. Then He lifted me, and together we laughed. I saw a lot of children, playing.  I could sit on God’s lap. God said: I want to show you someone! Then I asked: Who? God didn’t just say’ Anna’, but He said: ‘your little sister!’ I was so glad!  He took me to a kind of meadow with grass and lots of flowers. It was so beautiful, I can’t explain! It seemed to be wild flowers, blue and yellow and red and orange flowers.

There were all animals that would normally kill each other, very beautiful was that too. And there I saw Anna.  Picking flowers.

Then Jesus walked away to leave us alone, but we weren’t alone at all, because there were lots of other children! Anna didn’t saw me at first but when I called her she stood up right away, and we ran to each other. I was so glad! We embraced each other, and fell on the ground together.

Then we started playing with each other, not just playing but. .. well, I can’t explain. Than Anna tapped me and ran away, and I ran after her.

When I caught her we went playing with the animals. But then Jesus came again.

Anna stood up immediately and ran towards Him. And me too.   Anna and I sat on Gods lap. It was terrific! And then we did a group hug. Jesus, Anna, and I.

So beautiful.  But then I woke up.  I wish it all happened real because I want to hug her and God also!   Eva

Eva told her mother that Anna looked like she was age  6 or 7.  Her hair was like the color of Joas (blond.)

(Dream Eva Provoost,eleven years, about her little sister who died as a baby, 1.5 hour after birth.)

Kay Painter 
Remembering Sara Ministries International
%The Crossing
16241 N. Franklin Blvd. 
Nampa, ID 83687-8211 
208 989-3107remembering_sara@msn.comhttp://www.rememberingsara.org

Christmas Gifts that Brought us Together

In Child Development, Families, father, motherhood, Parenting, The Family, Values on December 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

Janalee Marriott shares how her parents encouraged a spirit of giving and intentionally thinking of others. Their family tradition gave each family member an opportunity to secretly focus on someone else for the month of December—to gain a greater sense of selflessness and love. The thoughtfulness, laughter, and appreciation experienced through their simple yet purposeful tradition led to increased genuine care that bonded them to one another, teaching them to look outward. We share her experience with you here.

christmas giftIs there anything quite like Christmas morning? The twinkling lights on the tree, the smell of pine as we walk up the stairs, familiar music playing, and the dancing fire in the fireplace. It’s a morning different from any other the entire year. But even with all its magic, my favorite part of Christmas isn’t Christmas morning. My favorite part is Christmas Eve, before Santa ever comes down the chimney.

We’ve had a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember called Secret Pals. The tradition begins the night of Thanksgiving when we put all of our names in a bowl. Then one by one we take turns drawing the name of that special person, our Secret Pal. Then on Christmas Eve we give our Secret Pal a gift. The rule is that the gift given must be handmade (not purchased), created from our imagination and personalized for that secret someone.

As children, we would often find materials to create the gift from Mom’s endless cupboard of fabric or in Dad’s skyscraper of a woodpile. We took many trips to the local craft stores, and on nearly every bedroom door hung signs that read, “Do not come in. I’m working on my Secret Pal gift!”

For one entire month my thoughts were focused on the person whose name I had drawn out of the bowl, and for that one month I felt completely drawn to that person. I always wanted to sit by him or her at the dinner table or kneel by him or her at prayer time, which would innocently expose my secret prematurely. As I got older, I learned to disguise my obvious bias for one member of my family until that brilliant night before Christmas. More than any Christmas wish list, all my thoughts rested on the gift I was about to give.

There was never a wrong or bad gift as long as it was made from the heart and created by the individual. Anything and everything was accepted. There were gingerbread houses, homemade pillowcases, handwritten poems, unrecognizable pieces of wood nailed together, basketball hoops, freshly painted piggy banks, and photos and t-shirts of memorable moments. There was never a dull moment on the night of the exchange. Unexpected emotions—from roars of laughter to streams of tears—led to pure exhaustion, a sure recipe for a good night’s sleep. The overall feeling was a closeness and love unique to anything I had ever felt.

Now with my own children, I am trying to recreate that magic, that love, by carrying on the tradition of Secret Pals so that my children will find joy in giving and experiencing the process of becoming a lifelong “secret giver.”

Today’s post is contributed by Seeing the Everyday magazine. For more information, go to seeingtheeveryday.com

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