Family Times

To Create and Keep Important Memories and Traditions:

Create a personal or family motto, scripture, prayer, banner, crest, song, or dance.
Name your home? (car?) Frame / display your motto, name, prayer, etc.
Maintain a monthly display shelf or bulletin board with family mementos, awards, & pictures.

Put Faith & Family into your Fun:

Revise games such as Taboo, Scattergories, & Pictionary to incorporate your topics & clues.
Illustrate or reenact Bible stories or past family experiences.
Interview family members –Record the interviews.

Make Everyday Occasions Special:

Have family dates, special dinners, “Love Days,” do projects together, view family pictures, videos, or slides on a regular basis.
Ask questions at dinner, on birthdays, during family meetings or devotions, and in the car.

Celebration of Mother's Day & Traditions for Mothers

Mother's Day is a time to honor your mother or a special woman who is an "honorary" mom to you. It is also a great opportunity to help your children learn how to honor their mother. (Fathers, this is a job for you!)

In this article, we'd like to share some ideas to help make your Mother's Day celebrations even more fun and meaningful, as well as some all-year-round traditions just for moms.

Celebration of Mother's Day

Along with your Mother's Day card, include:
A blessing (Mothers can also write them to their children.)
A "love" letter (Mothers can also write them to their children.)
A mention of special memories or things that you appreciate about your mom ~ This might be a list or a paragraph about just one special memory or aspect of your mom.

Take pictures every year of all of the generations of women in the family who are present on Mother's Day.

Kathy's grandmother Rose Matilda, mom Jeanne, Kathy, & daughter Kaidrea in 1986

Plant a particular flower or do the same craft project together every year. You might make cards to send to special moms, create a collage using pictures from the last year, or decorate a new journal.

Use a designated light colored fabric tablecloth on Mother's Day every year~ Invite children (including adult children) to write thank you notes, blessings, or memories on the cloth, along with the date. Let small children leave a handprint with fabric paint or trace around their hand using a permanent marker.

Send a card & note to a mom you admire or one you know would appreciate encouragement.

Anyone who has heard us speak or follows our newsletters knows how much we love the use of conversational questions. Questions you may want to ask at your Mother's Day gathering include:   

    What do you love most about your mom?
    What's the nicest thing your mom has ever done for you?
    What is the funniest thing your mom has ever done?
    What quality of your mom's personality or character do you most hope you will inherit?
    For those whose mother who has died—Tell us about a favorite memory of your mom.       

Give your children a fun questionnaire about their mom or grandmother. Older children can fill it out themselves; you can write the answers for younger children. Ask for information such as:

What is your (grand)mother's full name?  Did she have any childhood nicknames? What does your dad call her?
How old is she? When is her birthday?
How tall is she?
What is her favorite color?
What is her favorite food?
What is her favorite Bible verse or book of the Bible?
What was your mom's best subject in school? What was her worst?
What is your mom best at~ sports or cooking? Why do you think so?
How did your mom meet your dad?
If your mom could have anything for Mother's Day, what gift would she choose?

Traditions for Mothers

Take your children and/or grandchildren on trips down Memory Lane by visiting favorite places in your hometown including childhood homes, churches, and schools, the site of your first date with your husband, etc. Also, take time to look together at family photos, scrapbooks, and videos at least once a year.

Schedule special mom dates with your children on a regular basis.

Think about the skills that you would like pass on to your children, grandchildren, or nieces. Be intentional about teaching them to sew, garden, take pictures, do calligraphy, quilt, knit, cook, or bake.

Create rituals such as walks, signals, songs, readings, or special gestures of affection.

Create or purchase personalized jewelry, calligraphy, pictures, etc. that can be enjoyed and then handed down to future generations. (They can be as simple as a locket with pictures inside, favorite scripture verse, or drawing.)

Build a collection with your children. It doesn't matter what you collect; the point is the fun of finding new pieces to add to the collection. Here are some ideas: leaves or flowers to dry & press, postcards, yoyo's, pins, ornaments, Pez dispensers, angels, robots, signs, charms, rocks, or mugs.

Put together a book of your favorite recipes, especially ones that have been passed down from your mother or mother-in-law.

Plan a special activity with the women in your life~ Invite friends, women in your church family, grandmas, aunts, and/or girl cousins. Some ideas: Host a luncheon or tea, go to a play, decorate cookies, watch a chick flick or classic girls' movie, have a home spa night, or visit a botanical garden.

A Month for LOVE

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself. Whoever loves God must also love his brother. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.
John 13:34, Romans 13:9, I John 4:21, I John 3:14

In February we observe Valentine's Day and Black History Month~ On the surface they don't have much in common, but both can be opportunities for learning and practicing love. Valentine's Day is a fun time to demonstrate love for spouses, families, and friends. Black History Month is a great time to learn to appreciate and show love to people in your extended community. 

Ideas for Valentine's Day
    Write Love Letters ~ Not just romantic letters, although that might be appropriate, but letters telling special people in your life how much you love them, what you love and appreciate about them, and specific ways that they have been a blessing to you. 
    Instead of the hassle and expense of dining out on Valentine's Day, have a special dinner at home. Use lots of candles and plan a unique menu~ Here are some items you might want to consider: hors d'oeuvres, sparkling grape juice, shish-ka-bobs, crepes, or fondue. (See for our favorite fondue recipe.)

    Organize a party or family night to assemble care packages to send to college students, men/women in the military, or missionaries from your family, church, or neighborhood. You can bake goodies and/or make Valentines to include in the packages.

    Instead of buying flowers, visit a conservatory. In Chicago, we're blessed to have two, both beautiful, FREE, and as a bonus, warm in the winter. They're also a great place to take pictures of yourselves, your children, etc.

    Celebrate for a Day: Early in our marriage, Jack established "Love Days". He planned special surprises for the whole day. There were notes & cards, as well as small gifts (often handmade). He made my favorite snacks and meals and did thoughtful things such as fixing a long-broken item or washing my bike. You can plan a Love Day for a spouse, child, parent, sibling, or friend.

    Celebrate for a Week: Make a list of seven people you love and want to encourage~ Next to each name, write down something you would like to tell that person or do for them. Starting on Valentine's Day, work though the list a day at a time with phone calls, e-mail or snail mails, notes/cards, and actions.

Ideas for Black History Month

    Think about whether there is a person or family from another culture in your neighborhood, children's school, workplace, church, or community group that you would like to get to know better. Invite them over for dinner.

    Find an activity, group, or ministry that could give you (and your family) an opportunity to become more knowledgeable of the culture and challenges of people of a different race/ethnic group. 

    Take advantage of special exhibits, concerts, and other activities offered at libraries, museums, and schools during Black History Month.

    Watch a movie such as Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce) or read a story or book such as The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor. Preview it so that you can prepare some ideas/questions to talk about afterward.

    Visit Internet sites for activities and information. Check out for some good links.

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Make Meals Special

One of my favorite memories from my childhood is a meal I ate with my family in my parents’ bedroom. We were living in a large old house heated by a coal-burning furnace. Some rooms were not used for their original function (if there were maid’s quarters, that one certainly wasn’t) and I think my mom and dad’s large room with a fireplace was once a parlor. At any rate, when I was about five or six, for some reason, my mom decided it would be fun to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire in the room and eat them at a card table set up near the fireplace. It was so much fun and so different than our usual routine that it made a strong impression on me and created a special permanent memory. We also made popcorn in that fireplace. (Does anyone remember those Jiffy Pop aluminum pans with handles for popping over fires?)

That memory has inspired us to find ways to make some of our family meals special. We have been known to eat with our kids in our bedroom on some summer nights when our air-conditioned room is much cooler than the kitchen. We get out the TV trays and watch a movie together. It’s also a great time to watch old family videotapes.

We encourage you to occasionally use your best silver and china or some decorated paper plates and napkins. You might set up a tradition that you do with a certain meal-- a short song you say with or instead of grace or ask a question that everyone answers.

Use questions to stimulate and direct conversation. Click on the Ask Questions tab above for ideas and resources.

A participant at one of our presentations shared this tradition that her family enjoys: Keep a stack of quarters on the kitchen table. Every night at dinner each member of the family shares a story from their day~ an observation, recounting of an experience, something they read, etc. Everyone votes on the best story by simultaneously pointing at the person of their choice; the winner receives a quarter. If you prefer not to use money, you could offer another treat, a privilege, or a little trophy that gets reawarded each night.

Put a prayer card box on your dinner table. [A small box like an index box with cards on which you write prayer requests. Pull out the first card each night, pray for or about the person/need, then put the card in the back of the box. Note answers to prayer on the cards and give thanks when card is pulled again. Include family, friends, neighbors, teachers, missionaries, pastor, bosses, etc.]

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Birthdays & Anniversaries

Advice for Planning Special Events

When we prepare for a special occasion, we often think about cleaning & decorating our house, preparing a meal or cake, or buying gifts, but many celebrations & holidays would be much more special with some structure in addition to time for friends and family to socialize. When I am trying to determine whether a celebration will be meaningful, the question I ask is whether or not it’s “generic.” Would it fit just as well for any other event or be as appropriate for any other person? What can you do to specifically honor the day or the celebrant?

Sometimes it might be appropriate to have someone give or read a blessing-- for a new home, new baby, a graduate, someone beginning a new ministry or moving away, or at party following a baby dedication or a baptism. People might also be asked to share memories or give words of encouragement.

You might make an event special by incorporating live music-- it doesn’t have to be professional and expensive. Can you get a small group of talented teenagers to play chamber music? Or a few members of your church choir to serenade the honored guest? Recorded music can also be special. Listen to the same romantic album every year on your anniversary or play music from the era of a birthday person’s birth.

For my dad’s 80th birthday, we brought in a group of local musicians who usually play at our town’s Farmer’s Market. They played Blue Grass music which fit the theme of our country party.

The theme was chosen to celebrate my dad’s origins in Southern Illinois.


For souvenirs we made old-fashioned fans with pictures of dad from different eras of his life.


If you have kept up scrapbooks or make videotapes, consider using graduations, birthdays, and anniversaries as a time to sit down and look through them, reminiscing about the recorded events. Birthdays may be a good time to use as a goal for updating scrapbooks or editing videos.

We believe that anniversaries are a good time for not only remembering the wedding, but the honeymoon. If you can do it, it’s a good time to enjoy being with your spouse in a relaxed and romantic setting away from your children and other responsibilities. Going to a local hotel for one night might be a better use of resources than a dinner at an expensive gourmet restaurant.

Graduation, anniversary, and birthday parties are a wonderful time to share the past with both new and old friends. You might ask friends to put together a skit; we’ve seen some that were very funny-- based on real events, but of course interpreted and embellished. Consider showing slides of people and events throughout the years-- If you have only photos, you can take pictures of the photos with a camera using slide film or take digital photos and do a power point presentation.

All activities do not have to be done as a group. For instance, at an Open House, you could have a slide show on a laptop on a table where guests can stop by and watch it during the party. You might have a book for people to write in or a poster to sign-- perhaps put a long timeline in a hallway and ask guests to write their name and a sentence about how they met the honoree on the section of the timeline corresponding to the time they met. The results make meaningful keepsakes for the honorees.

Hints for Involving Extended Family & Friends

Don’t get discouraged if people are not initially excited about structure.
Schedule to meet with whoever is willing to plan for a holiday or event.
Bring books or lists of ideas to share ~ Ask others to also bring resources.
Try one or two things at a time-- Make sure they’re fun, especially to start.
Be prepared-- Have on hand a game, liturgy, craft materials, etc. and then just ask if anyone is interested in trying it.
Start with activities for children, adults will hopefully join in.
Host the gathering if possible-- present an activity which is one of your family’s traditions and invite your guests to participate in it, then ask them tell you all about one of their traditions afterward.

Team up with someone who shares your interest to pray about it together.
Ask kids or the youngest adults to plan and lead an activity (or whichever person who would most likely be accepted to take the lead).


Celebrate the person-- who they are & in ways meaningful to them.

Make the entire day special from breakfast to bedtime.

Ask family & friends to share special memories of the birthday person at dinner, when opening gifts, in greeting card, etc.

Pick a theme for party, gift, etc. that reflects a current interest.

Make a videotaped interview or journal describing best memories of the last year and add to it at every birthday


Try to get away overnight for wedding anniversaries~ Or have the children “get away.

Choose mutual anniversary gifts-- CD of romantic music, new sheets, new luggage, special book, meaningful picture or other art for your room

Reminisce about your dating days or wedding & share memories with kids

Write each other a love letter or poem

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Ask Questions

One of our favorite ways to make time with our family and friends more meaningful has been to use questions. We started doing this about 20 years ago at our annual Christmas party when we exchanged grab bag gifts. Our questions have been a source of both fun and meaningful sharing and have helped us learn new things about even lifetime friends. For our party, we ask things like, “What is your favorite childhood memory of Christmas?” or on the lighter side, “What is the worst gift you ever received?” We’d ask about past events and hopes for the future. For this event, we have always given the guests a choice of three questions.

We recommend using planned questions at dinners, on special occasions, on car trips, as ice breakers, or as a way to help informal socializing at events like small group meetings be focused and inclusive.

Questions are a great way to get kids involved in conversation with adults. They might not like to be put on the spot with the same old question, “How is school?” but have fun being part of a group answering ones like, “What would be the most enjoyable way for you to spend $25. tomorrow?” ~ “If everyone were required to wear a hat, what sort of hat would you wear?” “If you could create a unique piece of furniture for your room, what would it be?” “What is something you forgot once that you will NEVER forget again?”

The questions on s special day can actually become a tradition. For instance, at birthdays, you could ask the same questions every year. Like...

What were the most significant events of the past year?

What is your hope for the coming year?

What was your best birthday?  

For the guests: What are your hopes for the birthday person?

For milestone birthdays:

What was the highlight of this decade/hope for the next?

When and where were you born?

What are your earliest memories?

You might like to create a written journal or video diary to save the answers.

Other appropriate occasions are reflections on New Year’s Eve, thankfulness on Thanksgiving, reminiscences on Valentine’s Day or anniversaries, planning & dreaming on First Day of School or First Day of Summer, and so on.

We recommend “Chat Pack” by Bret Nicholaus & Paul Lowrie, The Complete Book of Questions by Garry Poole, and RiverM's “Hide It In Your Heart” cards as good sources of questions. All are available on our website store page:

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