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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Halloween is to Us

Halloween, for some, has always been an uncomfortable topic. Should I celebrate it? How should I celebrate? What should I tell my kids? What are people going to think about me? Every year I go through different emotions, and end up spending time in prayer. I look to God for my answers for everything in life. Sometimes the answers just stay the same, but this year things were a little bit different.

In the past, when it's time for the kids to walk in the Halloween parade, or spend time in their classroom celebrating Halloween, I have chosen to take my kids out of school. It was never a discussion. I just did it, and tried to explain my reasoning to them. Both Ariel and Gabe have been very understanding, and I've been proud of them for it. Last year Gabriel was in kindergarten, and it was his first opportunity to participate. He was never bothered to see Ariel leave school a little early on that day in the previous years. But when it came time for him to go home, I watched as he dragged his backpack down the long hallway, with tears in his eyes, as he felt like he was really missing out on something. My heart broke as I knew it was because of my decision that I felt like I needed to follow. When God tells you something, there's no question about whether or not to obey. You just must. But sometimes it can be very very hard to do what you think is right.

This year, as the days were getting closer to the holiday, I dreaded what I knew was going to be a difficult day. It's one thing to be obedient when it's easy, it's another thing to do it when you know it's causing someone you love pain. As I was praying about what to do and say with the kids, God told me I just needed to trust Him. This year was going to be different. My kids had both gotten a little older, and wiser. They both love God with all their hearts, and want to follow what He has for their lives. It's such a privilege for me to see this acted out.

God's answer was to let them choose. I have chosen to follow what He wanted for me, and I needed to give my kids over to Him. Sometimes it's so easy as a parent to be controlling over your kids lives, and it can be very difficult to let them live out their own decisions. I explained to Ariel and Gabe that this year, Halloween at school was going to be completely up to them. They know how I feel about it, and what I believe God wants me to do. But this time they needed to choose what they should do about it.

I told them two things. "First, because of what I believe God has said to me personally about Halloween, I cannot go to your parade, and I will not be at your school parties."

And the second thing I said,"I will only allow you to make the final decision if I know that you have honestly taken time and talked with Jesus. If I think that you are just making the decision all on your own, I will instead do it for you. But if I see that you are sincerely talking with Jesus, and really willing to listen to what He has to say, then it will be completely up to you and Jesus. I trust you both."

Ariel has always been my child that stands up for what she believes in. She's very respectful about it, but she has always taken a stand against Halloween, in more ways then I've ever asked of her. When she was in kindergarten, she talked with the teacher privately and explained that she does not like ghosts and cannot do the alphabet page for Grizelda Green who glides with ghosts in her garden. Each year she has taken a different stand, and chosen not to do certain art projects if they have been ghost or witches. I've never brought this up with her, it's all been of her own choosing. So when she informed me right then and there that she had talked with Jesus and she knew she was supposed to stay home with me, I knew I could trust her answer.

Gabriel has been my child who is uncertain. He has a strong desire to do what he thinks is right, but then he has a different side of him that tempts him, like all of us struggle with. He likes to think and talk and write about things like ghost or witches, but then he could be in a grocery store and pretend to be blinded by the yuckiness of everything before him. You never really know what is going to be in his mind. I believe he tries to stay away from that type of stuff, but he's easily tempted with it all. He likes to write stories about ghosts that are so so so so so so so so scary. I knew this was going to be a tough choice for him, and I wanted to make absolutely sure that he had the discussion with Jesus. When I first gave this choice to him, he immediately ran into his bedroom, grabbed his Spiderman suit and proceeded to jump up and down. The choice was already made, he was definitely going to be in that parade this year. He told me he just didn't want to dress up like something yucky, like a ghost or witch. I told him that would be fine, as long as he asked Jesus what he thought. He got rather quiet after that, and put the costume back in his room. I didn't ask him for a few weeks about the decision.

I waited until a few days before the party was set to take place, and asked Gabe if he'd remembered to have that conversation with Jesus yet. It was early in the morning, and he was sitting at the table eating his breakfast. He stopped, turned his head one way, then turned it back the other, as if he was listening for something. He did this repeatedly, with a smile on his face, and then he began to nod his head up and down. I asked him if he had his answer. He was still very serious looking and said, "Does Jesus talk to you inside your head?" I told him that, yes, that is how I always hear His voice, or sometimes I might just feel His voice. He got this big grin on his face and said, "Jesus told me I'm supposed to go with you."

I figured the true test would be when it came time for Gabe to actually leave school, and fully realize that he was going to miss out on his Halloween parade and party. I certainly wasn't going to try to talk him out of his decision, but I knew the path was still going to be a little shaky. I had told the children we would take our normal trip to McDonald's for lunch, then on to the pumpkin patch. They both left for school very excited about the field trip we would be taking later in the day.

When I got to the school, I was very impressed that the secretary knew immediately what clipboard to hand me. Normally when you take your child out at lunch time on this day, you're going to be bringing them back dressed up for the parade. There is a special orange Halloween clipboard you have to sign them out on. I didn't even have to say it this year. She remembered from the years past, and said, "You're taking them home for the day, right?" It may seem like a really small thing, but I felt so proud of my decision, and proud of my children making that same decision. The secretary may not understand why we do it, but she knows we do it.

As she prepared to call Gabe's name to have him sent home for the day, I braced myself, waiting and watching to see what his response would be. Would he really be a man of his word? Or would I spend the next few hours listening to his heartache? He didn't keep me waiting for too long, Gabe came running down the hall to me, with a smile that spread from ear to ear. He was so excited that he even forgot to grab his backpack and had to head back to the class for it.

God is so good! You may feel like you're giving your children up to God, entrusting them in His care, but then He gives them right back to you. The freedom in that is wonderful!

fall drawing by kid
These are some festive pictures the kids made to decorate our house with this fall.

Gabriel had a wonderful time jumping in the hay!

Another tradition we have after we take a trip to the pumpkin patch, we work on a special craft that we hand out to the trick or treaters that stop by our house. Each year we give out candy and come up with a picture magnet to go with it. We always think up clever sayings talking about Jesus and we add a Bible verse. The kids love to work on these.

When Ariel was in kindergarten we made a pumpkin that said, "Jesus Loves You. He picked you from the pumpkin patch." "You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you to be his own special treasure from all the nations of the earth." Deuteronomy 14:2

When Ariel was in 1st grade we had a picture of a spider that said, "When a spider comes your way..." "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, and everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track." Proverbs 3:5-6

When Ariel was in 2nd grade, we had a picture of Noah in his ark, with a rainbow that said, "A promise of God's Love" "I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my promise with you and with all the earth." Genesis 9:13 We had a Noah's ark party this year, and handed these out to the party guests.

When Ariel was in 3rd grade, and Gabe in kindergarten we had a picture of a skeleton kneeling down at a cross that said, "Jesus Loves You all the Way Down to Your Bones!" "It is clear to us, friends that God not only LOVES YOU VERY MUCH but has also put his hand on you for SOMETHING SPECIAL." 1 Thessalonians 1:4

And this year, our project was the most fun because it required more than just coloring. We were able to cut, and glue, and draw these cute scarecrow suckers. The kids had so much fun putting them together!

scarecrow suckers I will not be afraid bible verse
Psalm 118:6 scarecrow suckers It was a very successful day, that at the end we could all be proud because we did what we thought God was telling us to do. Those are the best kinds of days to have!

When Halloween does come around, we have our own party. It's usually the first time we will break out the Christmas movies. We like to sit around eating lots of candy, drinking our special hot apple cider, and sometimes we bob for apples, or carve a pumpkin with a lesson of God's love.

caramel popcorn We made some fresh caramel popcorn to enjoy with our Christmas movie. We love it!

This is our first time we decided not to bob for the apples. Instead we hung them by a string, which is equally as difficult.

Gabe was so funny to watch. He has a little bit of a disadvantage by having no front teeth.

"Halloween: Is it for Real?" By Harold Myra is a children's book I read when I was younger. It had a big impact on me, and I decided to read the story to my kids for the first time this year. It's about a family who is discovering for the first time where the holiday came from. They go to a haunted house at an amusement park and a conversation starts with their father who explains to them about Halloween, and then he goes on to talk about the Christians trying to change the holiday into one of joy, called All Saints day.

My children sat very quietly and listened very attentively to the story. When the book was done, we had a question and answer time which resulted in some very good discussion. We were able to have a wonderful talk about Jesus and the power of His name. It was a very memorable time for our family.

I thought I would include the few pages out of the book, that lead to some interesting questions from my children.

"How'd it start?" Todd asked, "Where'd all the witches and goblins come from?"

"It all started long ago-- even back before Christ was born," Dad explained. "In what is now Britain and France, people called the Celts observed the end of summer with pagan rites. They believed a lord of death sent evil spirits into animals, who then roamed around all winter playing terrible tricks on people. To escape you had to wear a disguise so that the evil spirits would think you were one of them."

"Weird," Michelle said. "Is that how the idea of wearing scary costumes got started?"

"Sure. And the pranks kids play now copy those of the ancient evil spirits. The Celtic priest-called Druids- offered sacrifices to the gods, and the people built huge bonfires on the hilltops."

"Sounds like fun," Greg said.

"Actually, more fear than fun! They lighted bonfires to frighten the spirits away. They even killed people in their rituals. It wasn't just toasting marshmallows and shouting 'Boo!'"

"Is that what Halloween means, then? Horrible evening or something?" Michelle asked.

"Just the opposite," Dad said. "Centuries later, Christians came along and tried to change the holiday from a festival of fear to one of joy. October 31 eventually became All Hallow's Eve."

"What's that mean?" Todd asked.

"It's a beautiful idea! 'All Hallows' means 'all holies,' or 'all the saints'-"

"You mean those guys with beards and halos?" Todd interrupted.

"Not exactly. This is the beautiful part. The Bible says every true Christian is a saint. We celebrate ALL saints. That means if you had a brother or sister or grandparent who loved God and died, you'd remember that person. You'd celebrate the joy those loved ones are experiencing in heaven and remember the good times you had with them when they were alive."

Halloween: is it for real? by Harold Myra

One of our favorite parts of the evening is when the trick or treaters stop by our house. We are normally blessed with less than a dozen or so. And I do mean blessed. There have been years in the past when we have had to pray those people to our house. The kids get so excited about giving out their gifts each year, that it's hard to see the disappointment on their faces when no one shows up, or only two or three kids come.

This year after we gave our scarecrow to a couple of children, the mom came up to the house, and wanted to thank me for the very nice gift and work we put into it. As she stood there she read a few words on the page, and said, "and you're giving away Jesus too. Thank you so much!" It made my day, and the whole evening worth it to hear those kind words from her.

I pray that as you finish reading this very long blog post, you will have understood my reason behind sharing. It's not at all really even about Halloween. I pray that you understand that very clearly here. The point is, in all areas of our lives we will have things that come up where it's not always clear to us what we should personally do about it. There is not always a clear right or wrong thing to do, the only part that is clear to us, is that we need to be continually seeking what God's will is for OUR lives. We need to make sure we are always including Him in our decisions, and putting what He wants for us first, before our own desires. I challenge you to try to find one area in your life where you can include God, and then sincerely seek what He is asking for you to do. The results are always well worth it!

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