Monthly Archives: October 2012

first. lessons. learned.

 

Fresh off the plane, we got a crash course in traveling overseas. 

 

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1. SLEEP IS FOR SISSIES. Jet lag is real.  Get over it.  I could always sleep at home.  We left USA 2pm on Sunday.  After a ten hour flight arrived in Amsterdam at 8:30am Monday. We missed a night of sleep and I toured Amsterdam on adrenalin and a make-up touch-up. Scott didn’t have as much free time, so we wanted to enjoy the day together.

 

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2.  WALK AND STALK. We walked everywhere, because I can’t take pics while riding a bike. Since I don’t even walk to the mailbox to get our mail each day, I thought this would be a challenge.  Not.  Adrenalin is good stuff. I was constantly stopping to take a picture of a bicycle, a window display, a pallet in the garbage, and everything that captured my attention.  I was constantly running to catch up like a little kid walking with a long-legged Daddy. Nothing screams tourist more than a camera around your neck, so I carried mine in my hand.  Pretty sure I fooled everyone.

 

Water Closet Waitress

3.  PAY  to PEE. Europeans don’t urinate, if lack of public restrooms indicates anything. If you do find a free bathroom, there isn’t a chart saying “This bathroom is monitored every 15 minutes.  Please let an employee know if this bathroom isn’t up to your standard”  because  it isn’t and they don’t care. Museums had great bathrooms, so as long as I was sight-seeing and not shopping, I was fine. 

This is a bad picture because I was embarrassing myself by taking a picture of the WC attendant, that’s European for bathroom, ya’ know, water closet, and I didn’t want her to think I was a lame American blogger with nothing to write about, so I shot this pic after I paid a handfull of euro coins for using her poddy and was ducking out of the restaurant.

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4. NO BOUTIFUL BEVERAGES.  I’m pretty sure they don’ offer free refills because they don’t want you to use their bathroom.  Plus, their drinks will be the smallest, teeniest things you ever saw in your life.This was a regular sized glass next to the smallest Pepsi bottle I’ve seen.

I never paid so much for such a small cup of coffee! I heard a gentleman from England  mocking Americans for having all you can drink coffee at our restaurants.  Well, I figure, we’re still celebrating the Boston Tea Party and all the doings afterwards.  Remember, there’s a reason we threw that tea into the harbor!  But, after seeing the tiny drinks, it kinda’ makes ya’ cringe at the American super-size, because people who drink super-sized drinks are super-sized people. 

Morning Coffee at the Sheraton

Hotels don’t have coffee pots in every room, can you imagine?!?!  We were on one of the floors that had the free coffee station, so I was able to drink all the coffee I wanted.  They probably put all the Americans on that floor, and laugh at how much coffee we drink and how many times we flush the WC, after we figured out how to flush it, that is.

Speaking of coffee, not all coffee shops are coffee shops.  Another reason to drink coffee from the hotel. A Christian homeschooling mommy who has been in her own home drinking her own coffee for the past 25 years, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. I was a little afraid I’d accidentally end up in the wrong coffee shop and eat the wrong kind of cookie, so avoided both.   I mean, what if another blogger was lurking around with a camera in hand?

People also don’t carry water bottles around everywhere they go.  I started leaving mine behind each day, not to fit in, because I knew it would be dangerous.

 

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5. BIKES RULE, PEDESTRIALS DROOL, especially if they were run over by a flying Dutchman.  Bicycles have the right of way, and no Spandex needed to ride a bike. We adored seeing business professionals riding to work or parents balancing children. But, don’t let their business or paternal persona fool you, they will run you over if you step into their lane.

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6. BETTER BREATH. Their mint tea is amazing. I was stunned.  This is so much better than those nasty dried hundred year old leaves in a paper packet with a string. Makes me wanna’ grow my own, and I mean mint, ya’ know. I wasn’t sure how to drink it, so I  covertly spied on everyone in the restaurant to see if they leave the leaves in.  Leaves are left for better breath.

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7.  GO GREEN doesn’t mean recycle in Amsterdam. I didn’t see recycle bins. I saw a lot of signs with leaves, but not the arrows.   Now granted, I covered only a small radius of the area, but WA is freaky about recycling and yard waste/compost.  I felt so guilty throwing plastic in the garbage can.

8.  LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT. No matter how much American Express commercials brag, they aren’t accepted everywhere.   In fact, we repeatedly heard how the European credit cards were far superior and more secure because of The Chip.  Our credit cards were rarely accepted, we just daily exchanged for the euros we needed.

9. PATIENT PEOPLE.  People don’t mind lines.  At any store there could be five customers lined up and nobody cared. Nobody huffed and puffed and blew the manager down.  At our Safeway, if three people are in line, the phone line is buzzing and a back-up cashier is rushed to the front so we don’t have to wait.  We learned it isn’t  painful to wait up to five minutes for service.

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10.  TIPS FOR CHIPS. Lays Potato Chip company is holding out on us in America.  Check out these flavors! Click to enlarge the picture, just please don’t drool on my computer.

11.  DON’T INHALE. People smoke everywhere, all the time and all kinds of things. I spent the whole week coughing and trying every kind of cough syrup and cough medicine I could find. Marijuana is legal, so I grew accustomed to smelling it while walking, while shopping, while viewing 400 year old buildings and monuments.  I stared at what the previous generations had left behind and wondered what the current generation would have for a legacy.  I also spent the whole week cracking myself up, because when I smelled pot I asked myself the same question, “If Clinton came to Amsterdam, would he inhale?”  See, makes ya’ laugh, doesn’t it?

12.  TALL OR TIPTOES. People must be taller.  At 5’2’, I couldn’t see through the peephole in my hotel room without a chair.  Also,  my feet didn’t touch the ground in many chairs and I couldn’t reach the top shelves in stores.  Wait, it’s like that for me in American, except for the peephole, so never mind.

Watching the People Watchers

13.  PEOPLE WATCHING NATIONAL PASTIME.   They sit in outdoor restaurants for hours, facing the street, staring like cats.   I think they might be breathing in more often than necessary, taking in some of the free weed. Restaurant staff doesn’t care how long you sit at a table.  Of course, they won’t be by often to see how you’re doing, and they certainly won’t be by to refill your glass, unless you ask several times, but you are welcome to relax and sit fer a spell. A type AA person,  I kept wondering why nobody had anything to do.

Your job as a tourist is to give them something worth watching. Walk around yawning, do the potty dance ‘cuz you’ve been holding it a long time, stop suddenly and crouch down to take a pic so the pedestrian behind you flips over you, get nearly run over by a bicycle many times, shriek in stores about chip flavors and lick your dehydrated lips constantly.

Just. don’t. inhale.

 

 

 

 

the. man. pack.

It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out men and women are different.

Really different.

Nothing demonstrates how different men are than observing ~

WHAT they pack
WHEN they pack
HOW they pack

The longer you’re married, the more you’ll look alike, the more you’ll think alike, but you may never, ever, ever pack alike, unless you dress alike.

Another time our family traveled, I blogged about The Man Pack. I’m still astounded and jealous at the. man. pack and obviously, I have more to say about the issue.

WHAT?

A man can throw any pants and any shirts in a suitcase and wear them
in any order
on any given day
in any combination
without accessories.

A woman’s wardrobe is MUCH MORE complicated.  So is a woman, come to think of it, but ANYHOO, back to the clothes. We have certain shirts that go with certain  jeans, the length of said shirts coordinating with the width of pant legs. We have certain shoes that go with the certain jeans that go with the certain shirts.  I don’t know who invents the. rules., but we’re slaves to them.  We dare not wear the wrong jeans with the wrong shoes and the wrong shirt, especially if teenage daughters are involved.


”Uh, Mom, ……you don’t  um….wear that type of shirt with skinny jeans.” 

“Mom, those jeans are really cute on you, but  um…well…um…you should be wearing flats.”

“Mom. If you’re going to wear your jeans tucked into your boots, they have to be skin tight.  They can’t bulge around your knees, you look like a pirate.”

Yes, I was called a pirate, but better a few moments of shame in the privacy of my living room, than public humiliation for not following the. rules.

(All those years I dressed my daughters, now they dress me.)

Speaking of fashion, we need the perfect accessories to go with each perfect outfit. Don’t even get me started on the proper undergarments needed to insure modesty in a day and age where others consider underclothes  part of the outfit.

I’d heard Europeans were more formal and that I needed evening wear.  People warned me about over packing. I also knew I couldn’t run to Target if I forgot anything. It would be rainy and  I’d be walking everywhere.  So, I had to look amazing while exerting physical energy in the rain.  Then, quickly convert to evening wear and look amazing while sitting in a restaurant with elegant working women.

I dreaded packing. I mean, I dreaded it.  The pressure was on, so I started the trial run of assembling “outfits” a few days before launch, hanging things together on hangers, and sometimes modeling for my daughters. There was no time in my itinerary for “Houston, we have a problem.”  It had to be perfect for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

When did Scott start packing? I can hear your curiosity rousing through the Internet.

WHEN?

The night before.  Fifteen minutes before bedtime.

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Yep, clothes for a week of business meetings, evening dinners and sightseeing all stacked in 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

HOW?

Take small pile of versatile clothing that you’ve owned for months, and most likely years, fold good enough to get by, place in suitcase.

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Yep, clothes for a week of business meetings, evening dinners and sightseeing all packed in 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

D

U

N

Done. 

the. man. pack. takes less than 30 minutes,  less time than it took to pack my make-up.

 

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The bathroom looked like this for DAYS, maybe a whole week, while I tried to decide what make-up, jewelry, medicine and personal care items HAD to go with me. Then, they all had to be packed in  bags to avoid spillage.  My perfectly coordinating jewelry couldn’t get tangled. 

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One big man,  one small suitcase.

A woman could fill up one of those little ones just with shoes.

 

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One small woman, one big suitcase.

Yea, baby, now THAT’S a suitcase. 

However, I’m already exhausted and need a vacation  for packing for vacation, because I followed
 the. rules.

Hubby, on the other hand, has not lost any time, energy or thought on his clothing, because he has mastered
the. man. pack.

nothing. to. wear.

I mustered the courage to sightsee in  Amsterdam all. by. myself. 

I rose on the wings of anticipation  and crashed into my closet of reality.

I had nothing. to. wear.

While a group of women fasted from shopping a few years back with the Great Apparel Diet,  I forced myself to shop, but bought one black t-shirt, one brown one and a skirt. I promptly lost the black t-shirt on vacation. I wear the denim skirt nearly every Sunday. My closet is still anorexic.  After all,  you don’t need to make a fashion statement at the grocery store or Target. Besides, if you have just icky clothes, your teenagers never want to borrow them.

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For years, anything without baby urp was considered dressed-up. About ten years ago, I upgraded my daily appearance and switched from t-shirts, ya’ know the men’s kind with sayings and places on them, to women’s t-shirts embellished with a few ruffles or buttons.  Oh, and I started wearing earrings since little baby fingers were no longer trying to remove the lower lobe.

I entered the world as Mindy the Writer a few years ago and had to learn how to dress like a grown-up for the writers’ conferences and meetings. Well-dressed women  were studied and I figured out what clothing appealed to me.

But, enough clothes for a week without doing laundry?  Socializing with my husband’s co-workers in the evening? 

True confession, business women who know how to dress and don’t consider barf and boogers fashion accessories, intimidate me just. a. little.

I worried about those evening business dinners, because I pictured  the men in suits and the women in sophisticated evening wear. Since I’ve spent the last 25 years playing dolls, my only example of business/formal dress is  Ken and Barbie. My ratty hair may make me look like a Barbie, but I don’t have her wardrobe. I’ve bought more doll clothes than Mommy clothes, and that’s why I have nothing. to. wear.

Not only did I need clothes, I needed shoes. My last pair of comfortable casual shoes were purchased when Scott and I traveled to Washington DC – 12 years ago. 

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My daughters graciously informed  me they were out of style and told me I couldn’t wear them.  I also had a pair of flats that were discarded by a daughter and wore them until the toes curled up. 

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Scott informed me the “Elf Shoes” should go in the garbage.

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I pictures totally stunning, amazingly cute shoes with a little bling.  I settled for cute and super comfortable image from the discount store Ross. My neighbor, Kelly-Across-the-Street, assured me buckles would fit in quite well in Amsterdam.  Duh, of course, the Pilgrims!   You can see they’ve already been well used trudging through Amsterdam and several pumpkin patches this fall.  I already owned a pair of black Born pumps and black flip-flops, so what more does a woman need?

Not only did I need clothes and shoes, I needed a purse.  My black purse was a hand-me down from another daughter who bought it on sale at Target. It had so many black scratches covered up with marker,  it was beginning to look  leopardy.  But, isn’t leopard in right now?

Not only did I need clothes and shoes and a purse, I needed luggage. The last time I had a new large suitcase was my high school graduation, and if I’m a gramma, you know it’s been awhile. That suitcase was given a decent burial a few moves back, and hadn’t been replaced.

The one good thing about having four daughters, I have four females who have a great sense of style and shop on a budget.  That gene skipped my generation, because my mom can make an outfit outta’ nothing.  My cosmetologist daughter took me shopping. I found a few shirts, a grown-up dress and

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The Purse!   It was love at first sight.  Since I wear basically denim and black all the time, color was a good thing to add. (Side note: You know you’re getting old when even your elbows have wrinkles.  *sigh*)

 

I summoned the courage to venture out all. by. myself.

I conquered the anorexic closet when I had nothing. to. wear.

Next, it’s time. to. pack.

We’ll make it to Amsterdam, eventually. Ya’ know, women just can’t drop everything and run…there’s always too. much. to. do.

all. by. myself.

I’m not afraid of spiders.
I’m not afraid of mice.
I’m not afraid of rats.
I’ve shared homes with them all. Not willingly, I fought against their presence to guard my family, but I wasn’t afraid. Annoyed, irritated, inconvenienced and grossed out, but not afraid.

They were enemies I could conquer.

Fears that lie within are harder to conquer.

They’re harder to identify, therefore harder to eliminate.

My husband called one day with his I-can’t-keep-a-secret voice. “Hey, honey, do you want travel with me on my next business trip?”

Depends on where you’re going.”   It had to be more exciting and/or warmer than where we lived.

“Amsterdam.”

“I’m going!”

We both love traveling and as a SAHM of six kids, there hadn’t been much opportunity in the past 25 years. I gave it up readily, for the privilege of staying at home and raising my children, but suddenly, I needed a passport.

I felt like Anne of Green Gables when Marilla hires help so Anne can dust off her ambitions and venture out into the world. Anne said, “I feel as though someone’s handed me the moon… and I don’t exactly know what to do with it.

It was time to brush the dust off my dreams. I was going to Europe. Quickly, nervousness replaced excitement. Why wouldn’t I be thrilled to travel overseas? I tried to identify the source of my discomfort.

It’s hard to leave my kids. Two are married and out of the home. Of the four at home, two are done with their education and working full time, one is a full-time college student and one is a full time student in my gifted and talented Homeschool. It’s not like they really, really need me, but moms don’t leave their kids. Do they?

It’s out of my comfort zone. For years, Scott and I have managed our large family with a divide and conquer strategy. When we traveled, I packed all clothes, snacks, toys and supplies. Scott loaded the car and drove. I navigated. He filled the gas tank. I filled the bellies. Our routine was synchronized swimming in a mini-van.

This time, we’d be traveling together, but he’d be working during the day. If I wanted to sightsee, I would be alone.

That means

all.

by.

myself.

I would have to figure out the money and transportation all. by. myself. I would be in the city that legalized prostitution and marijuana all. by. myself.

Why should I be afraid?

Fear of being alone.
Fear of harm.
Fear of challenges ahead.
Fear of unknown.
Fear of failure.
Fear of getting lost.

For someone who’s worn a path traveling to the grocery store, but usually has a hard time finding her car in the parking lot, I wasn’t sure I could do this.

I took a Greyhound bus once in college.

I didn’t fly until I was 23.

I took a train once, but husband ordered tickets and drove me to station, because I was busy packing food, suitcases, toys and books for five little kids.

Dreams were suddenly within reach, and I couldn’t be paralyzed by fear. I wouldn’t stop within feet of attaining my goal. Remember that wall I failed to climb?  That’s when I decided to make my excuses for failing my reasons for accomplishing.

My new motto has become ~ FAILURE will come only because I wasn’t good enough, not because I didn’t try.

Once the fear was identified and examined it, it was time to be smashed like a spider. We would no longer be sharing a home. With the moon in my hand, I would leave my kids and my comfort zone.

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I determined to conquer my fears

all.

by.

myself.

Even Five Year Olds NEED Lipstick

Little girls love make-up, and my little granddaughter, Brookelyn, is no exception.

If she is at my house when I am putting on make-up,  she loves to come in and keep me company,  and let me know how much she needs lipstick.

What she doesn’t know, is that I need to put lipstick on her.

It is a ritual that takes me back over 40 years.

My mom and I were in Kindred, ND, visiting Gramma Geneva.  We were Going To Town, which was a big deal in those days, and always meant Fargo. You always had to look your best on Town Day, and I knew what a big deal it was when Gramma flipped down the visor, peered into the mirror and applied bright pink lipstick.

I had never seen my Gramma use lipstick before.  I stared and stared and stared.  She became a new woman in my eyes that day, especially after what she did next.

She turned around in the car, reached into the back seat, and taught me how to put on lipstick. I still can’t smoosh my lips around together after I put on lipstick without thinking of this moment.

I also knew I would aways be the kind of Gramma that put lipstick on little girls who really were too little to wear make-up.

The years went too fast, my dear Gramma is long gone, my little girls have outgrown the stage of getting lipstick from my Mom, and now I am the keeper of the tradition.

It is a ritual of love and heritage that in unexplainable to a  5 year old, who asked, “Gramma, why are you crying?” the first time I taught her the secret to evenly coloring your lips.

One morning, little Brookie came in and was enthralled with the pile of make-up I was going through.

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She was appalled that some of it was going in the garbage.  I could tell her little heart was pining.

Mommies and Grammas are good at fixing pining hearts, aren’t we?

 

Making Fake Makeup

We dug out the old make-up from a compact and painted flesh colored fingernail polish inside.

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Brookie also has learned the family trick of scrunching your lips funny while working on a project.

She’ll learn later, this especially works well while sewing.  Just as I used to watch my Mom sew, now my kids watch me, or rather, they watch my lips.

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Brookie was taught how to dunk the brush in just a little way, then let the excess drip off.

Gramma was taught that doing it yourself is more satisfying than having Gramma doing it perfectly.

We made a compact and a blush, and I gave her a few old brushes.

It was perfect.


She was happy enough to let me waste the rest of the make-up by throwing it away, and I was happy to teach her how to be frugal and make your own fake make-up.

Best the best part of the deal?

Knowing that yet another generation knows how to perfectly apply lipstick.

Building the Redneck Grill

My hubby and I are a little bit Redneck,  a little bit City Slicker.

We grew up in the Midwest,
and always pictured owning a farmstead.
Ya’ know, have a garden, the pig, chicken and cow, kinda’ life.

The Lord has a sense of humor,
and moved us to a big city in the Pacific Northwest.

So, I coined the term City-Slicking Redneck.
We’re trying to embrace the best of both worlds in our life.

In our city life, our second story deck overlooks
the yards of four neighbors.

Some have kids, some don’t. Nobody has as many kids as we do.

I can’t say I would want to live next to a family with six kids,
so it’s a challenge for us to dwell together in unity in cramped spaces.
(OK, two have moved out, but we’re still noisy!)

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I wanted to create a place on the ground level where we could hang as a family,
but not be on stage for the neighborhood.

We needed to relax and stare at a fire for hours.

We’re kinda’ loud. I needed to muffle the noise, too.

Plus, this is kinda’ ugly, doncha’ think?

I’d been dreaming for awhile,
inspired by Donna of Funky Junk Interiors.

She’s amazing.

Read her blog, and she’ll have ya’ wanting to pick garbage out of
your neighbors’ dumpsters.

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Or just ask your neighbors for their garbage.

I stopped at a garage sale, and a neighbor had about six
fence panels propped up against his house.
He was going to burn them for firewood.

*GASP!*

I offered to buy them.
He offered to give them to me.
We had to rent a pick-up from U-Haul,
because, ya’ know, city slickers don’t usually drive pick-ups.
They sell them for something that gets good mileage
and is comfortable for the long commute.

My husband misses owning a pick-up.
I miss owning a pick-up.
My teenage son, who is learning to drive, would love to drive a pick-up.

It  was absolutely humiliating to drive one
with an orange logo, but at least I got my coveted gray wood.

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That same teenage son, Jon, helped me build my dream place.
He’s so nice, I’m thinking of keeping him.

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My grandson, Brayden, is learning to use a hammer,
so he can help me with projects some day, too.

I’d like to keep him, but his mommy wouldn’t like that.

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Done.

Doesn’t that just hold such promise?
It’s a blank slate,
waiting to be decorated with stuff that’s

…rusty
…vintage
…chippy
…galvanized

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I hung up roasting sticks on a red rake head I’ve saved through three moves.
(The hubbster has finally stopped asking that silly question,
”Why do we need this?”
It took awhile, but he finally gets it.)

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I moved in the fire pit and the lawn chairs.
Throw in one grilling Redneck and you have
The Redneck Grill
open for business.

We cooked many a meal,
ate too many S’mores,
shared many laughs.

Our summer ended with a burn ban because of dryness,
which was followed by the onset of the rainy season.

 

I’m anxious to get out and finish creating
our backyard retreat,
our haven of rest,
the place we step back from the City Slicking life
and relax with our Redneck roots.

Make Tracks to Order Tracts!

It’s that time of year.

Ghouls and goblins and witches and blood are everywhere.

We don’t go out shopping much during the month of October,
the images are a little graphic for my tender youngest child.

But, it’s time to buy one thing –
Halloween tracts!

I was surprised to discover that my two tract companies,
Good News Publishers and
American Tract Society
joined together to further the Gospel.

The new name Crossway,
bears the banner of being a
Gospel-centered publisher.

Good thing, because very soon we will have hoards of kids
knocking on our doors asking for something sweet.

What could be sweeter than the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

For several years, we shut off our porch light and the house lights,
and hid  in the basement with a movie and treats.

Then, an older believer inspired us.
”It’s the only time of the year that we have people
knocking on OUR door. I use the evening to pass out tracts.”

He also recommended giving out “good” candy
so generosity is associated with Christianity.

So, we changed the way we celebrate Halloween.

Last year, I made up about 100 sandwich sized Ziploc bags
with several pieces of candy and a tract.

We gave almost all of them away.

In fact, we’ve done this a few years now,
and I heard several comments from the kids,
”Oh, this is the house that gives us a bag of candy!”

I know that many of the kids will throw out the tract.
But, if a few read it,
if a few store away those precious seeds of the Gospel,
it will be worth it all.

Some years I’ve had special chocolate and special
literature for the moms. 
I’m not Super Mom every year,
so this doesn’t happen every year.

I ordered last week, and received my tracts today,
so you still have time to order for Halloween.

 

Here are some of the titles I ordered.

 

What Scares You 001

Read text here.

tract 001
A new tract not specifically for Halloween.

What's Missing 001

Read text here.

Betrayed 001
This is recommended for older children.

Hidden Halloween Words 001

Read text here.

 

A friend on Facebook told me she is in a neighborhood
where nobody knocks on her door.

If that’s your situation, get creative.

I used to make Gospel Goody Bags,
a sandwich bags filled with a tract and a small toy or two.
Ya’ know, those Happy Meal things that seem to reproduce in the toybox?

You can give them out in the grocery store,
the doctor’s office,
the park,
while taking a walk.

Look for kids.
Give them the sweetest treat in the world,
the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ!