Shared Traditions

In the spirit of passing down traditions from generation to generation, the Women Getting Real class shared our own family traditions with each other.  Now we want to share the list with you. 


It’s a Wonderful Life

The Grinch

Nativity Story  (Side funny – when Chuck called Blockbuster about renting the Nativity Story, Charis overheard the clerk ask, “Who’s in it?” Without skipping a beat, she replied, “Mary and Joseph!”)


Have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake.

Institute pizza and milkshake night on Christmas Eve – it keeps things simple!

Have a family cookie bake.


We give of our kids three gifts – just like the wise men gave three gifts to Jesus.

Make handmade gifts for important family members – we want to teach them to use their hands to bless others. 


Find a Christmas event to go to – for example, the Living Christmas Tree, the Nativity Pageant, your church’s program.

Attend the Christmas parade.

Decorate with friends or family.


Find a way to serve – a soup kitchen, the angel tree, Operation Christmas Child.

Take cookies to the office or your local police or fire station.

Sing at or take stuffed animals to a nursing home.


Use an advent wreath or advent calendar.

Give Christmas blessings to each family member (see Birthday posts for how this works).

Act out part of the Christmas story. 

” Before the kids get up, we go into their room while it is dark and dress them like the shepherds.  Then Dad comes in as the angel and tells them that a Savior has been born! We all run down to see the nativity scene and read the Christmas story before we open our presents.”

Spend time at home and putter quietly before you hurry and scurry over to family festivities. This is especially great for singles.

Sing carols around the piano as a family.

Make it it an all night affair. 

“Our family goes to church around 6 or 7, then we go to the biggest house we can and have worship – we play the guitar, pray, sing.  At midnight, we all exchange gifts and we eat.  Then we worship some more until dawn.”


May God shine brightly on you and through you this Christmas.

~Jana and the Women Getting Real Team

Traditions and Blessings

I am sitting in Starbucks on the eve of Christmas Eve. You can feel the tingle in the air. It is the feel of hope, the expectancy of gifts, family, friends, familiar foods, new beginnings.

But in the midst of the tingle, I have a challenge for you this year. Celebrate with intention. Invest more of your heart than swiping a card.

What I am thinking involves two words: tradition and blessing.

The word tradition means “the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.” Beliefs passed from one generation to another without written instruction…. This is a tall order to me, but I am going to go for it.  I want the loved ones in my life to know WHY we do WHAT we do.

So this Christmas focus on passing down the truths of God to those around you. Don’t worry about their reactions, just cast out seeds of truth.  Be creative, either through game, song, food, decoration, or reading aloud, just tell the wonderful story of God come to dwell among us.

In like manner, the word blessing means “to communicate encouragement or approval, to give thanks for, or to ask favor to be poured out upon.” We talked about this in conjunction with birthday blessings, but my challenge to myself, the WGR class, and now you, is for you to bless your family and friends. Consciously, purposely speak words of thanks, encouragement and blessing on those you love. It may be a card or face to face, but let the words of blessing flow.

Again, don’t worry about the reactions. Jesus was ever blessing people, even those who rejected Him. But Jesus trusted his Father to take care of the seeds He cast out. Just like with Him, some of our kinds words may fall to the ground, rejected. But what joy we have when some of our seeds are planted in the hearts of those who desperately need a loving word.

Speak the truths of God. Bless those around you. May this be our Christmas gift to our loving Father.

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:6

Let Earth Receive Her King – Part III

So through the surprise birthday bash, God has shown me that He can be trusted with the desires of my heart (Part 1), and that I have to learn to receive good from His hand through others (Part 2). And He is still revealing. So here is Part 3.

At the party, Chuck Spicka leaned over and whispered something in my ear and I looked at him wide-eyed and panicked.

It was the same reaction when Lyschel Burket made the announcement in the WGR class.

“We want to do Birthday Blessings for Jana.”

My body went into immediate shock: heart racing, pits sweating, hands clinching and feet positioned in the “Swim away, swim away” mode. To further the conflict, in my heart of hearts I did have honest desires, needs and wants. But I didn’t know how to approach our Giving God with hope and expectation for me personally and interact with the human race at the same time. I was in a pickle. Can’t run. Don’t want to miss it.

And then came the Birthday Blessings. If you are not familiar with it, it is a time each year to give words of thanks, blessing, and affirmation. We saw this sweet tradition acted out in the Michalik family and were so blown away by the beauty of loving words that we immediately began it our own family.

Here is how it works: family and friends each take a turn and tell the “Blessee” what they like, how they have been impacted, what they love about that person. One time a year to pour in grace and truth. It is so, so fun to do. I mean really, how often do you purposely take a few minutes and just tell someone that you are with on a daily or regular basis what you really love and appreciate? We are so impacted by others as we share life, but rarely tell them just how much their presence influences us.

Anyway. To do this with family and close friends is one thing. But doing it with a broader circle of friends is quite another. And did I mention that to be the “Blesser” is radically being different that being the “Blessee”? We just aren’t conditioned to receive praise and love like that. Well most of us aren’t. My youngest daughter on her birthday said, “Hey are you all done eatin’? I am ready to have my birthday blessings! Bring on the blessin’s!” But she is an unusual case. Or is it that she is the normal one, and the rest of us have just had all of the desire and need for affirmation beaten out of us…?

When it was all done at both events, my heart was swelling. If you knew how many years I had spent alone, or crying, or rejected. If you knew how many birthdays had passed by, just begging the Lord to bless me in the middle of my isolation, then you would know just how rich was that drink of water. It was amazing to hear these beautiful words pouring over me, washing me and watering me, all the while having an internal conversation with God at the same time.

“Steady,” He would say. “Steady, just receive.”
“But Lord, this is crazy. I feel so awkward. This is about you, not me,” I would protest.
“It is still about Me. I put that love in them, for you. I am loving you through them.”
“But what if they reject me later?”
“Jana, today, receive the gift of today,” He said.
When someone would say something that seemed over the top, putting me in too high of a position, I would flinch and object.
But He would whisper, “Just be loved. I will correct the course.”

Just be loved.

Chuck asked me what was the most important thing I had learned in my 48 years. (YES, I am 48!) I told him I have learned that the God life was easier than I had ever been taught. To receive His love, to believe I am loved by Him is the bottom line that changes everything. Every relationship, goal and problem. Just be loved.

Who knew? He did! The great Giving God who restored the years the locusts had eaten; Who makes all things new; Who is the Giver of new life, hope and healing. Oh earth, receive your King!!

Okay, okay, I am un-American…

Or am I?  We decided to break away from our traditional family gathering and head to the beach instead.  No problem, right? Wrong.

Traditions and perceptions of traditions are very, very weighty issues. Let me try to explain.  If you are born in the South, and you have a big family, and you cook, and you have birthed “grandchildren,”  then you go home for the holidays. If you don’t, this is almost grounds for stoning or disowning. Or both.

No one told me this. It is just what I have always perceived as truth. It is after all, the point of traditions. You do it the same way every year. From Hallmark to relatives’ comments and expectations, there is a credo of family rituals.  This credo is sometimes spoken of kindly or demanded at all costs.  Sometimes it is communicated in a cold, silent chill.  Attached to this credo is a guilt-producing factor that rings something like, “This ritual is a way of showing appreciation and love for your family.”

I don’t think I really got all this until I decided to forego the credo.  The pit in my stomach as I thought about telling my family that I wouldn’t be there was a great revealer of both the credo and my willing buy-in. But as I wrestled through this drama, I realized just how crazy all this pressure is.  The duty, the obligation, the guilt, the strain — it simply doesn’t add up.

For example, my friend is from Ohio and she doesn’t want to go home. So maybe it isn’t a Southern thing. My other friend has a big family and she’s not going home.  So maybe it isn’t a big family thing.   All of us have children (read grandchildren), but we are seeing their grandmas and grandpas at other special times. And the cooking thing, well, they don’t have Sister Schubert rolls for nothing.

What are we all doing instead of going home for Thanksgiving?  Being quiet, resting, spending time with “our” families. That doesn’t sound so evil does it?

Sure you don’t want to miss out on family gatherings every year. But you sure don’t want to go (and be miserable) just so you can check off a box. Maybe — just maybe — the credo has bullied us around long enough. What did my family do when I told them?  They said they would miss us. No threats, no dramas, no manipulation. That was all in my head. I know for some that would not be the reaction. For some it is downright emotional blackmail. But we always have a choice.

Here is the Scripture the Lord gave me:  “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened calf with hatred.”  I love my family, and they love me. Of course we will miss each other. But when I finally got the guts to tell them that I was breaking out of the mold, I felt really free. Free like I had actually chosen to love.

I chose to love “my” family by investing real down time with them. I chose to love my extended family by being honest —”I am tired and need a break.”  Besides, I wouldn’t be doing my family any favors by going out of duty and obligation. I chose to love myself by tending to my own heart instead of stuffing everything and pretending to play along.   And my own kids? They are learning that there are lots of ways to celebrate and be thankful.

Isn’t that the whole point?  To be thankful?  So take yourself off the hook. Use your voice and your spine if that is what it takes. And Be Real. . . Real about what you can and can’t do. Real about what you really need. Real about being thankful. Be thankful for times together and times apart.  One of my mom’s favorite verses is from Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for every season.”

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. I know I will.