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7 Ways to Stay Connected During the Holidays

With Demanding December already upon us, here are a few ideas to consider as we all strive to make our Season of Celebration less stressful and more meaningful. These would all work well in your neighborhood, with a few friends or with any small group. If you’re inviting neighbors, be sure to include those who may not proclaim faith in Jesus. I find this is an easy, non-threatening way for them to hear the gospel. Inevitably, those with The Good News will be sharing what God has been doing in their life at any of these gatherings. It would also be a natural, appropriate time to share an advent devotion or a gospel-centered story.
 
Book Exchange- Invite friends or neighbors to come and bring a copy of their favorite book to exchange. This might be a favorite childhood book, the latest novel they read, an invaluable travel book, or a book that has been life changing. We exchanged our books last year by implementing the “stealing game,” but you can decide how you want to distribute the gifts. By popular demand, our neighborhood ladies are doing this same get-together again this year. Provide light refreshments and if someone asks if they can bring something, let them!
 
Cookie Exchange- This is a great/terrible one for me as homemade cookies cause me to have absolutely-not-one-ounce of self-control. But I do this for my friends, of course! Send out invitations asking each guest to bring two dozen HOMEMADE cookies. (They can include bars, fudge, etc.) Provide containers for the guests to take two dozen cookies home. You can give prizes for the best-tasting cookie, the best-looking cookie and the best display of cookies, if you’d like. You might also like to provide a few savory snacks to eat during your get-together. 
 
Coffee Walk & Talk- Gather a few friends/neighbors and meet up at a local coffee shop. Grab your drinks and head outside for a bit of sunshine and a time of relaxing on a leisurely walk. Talk about your holiday plans, what God’s been teaching you this year, your expectations for the coming year, etc.
 
Christmas Caroling- This is STILL so much fun. While it’s not as popular as it used to be, we’ve done this for many years and our neighbors still enjoy opening their doors to carolers in their front yard attempting to sing! We bring the kids, the strollers, the husbands, and the dogs and have a fun time strolling the neighborhood and then finish the night with hot cocoa and cookies. Bring candy canes to pass out to those brave enough to open their doors and listen to you sing! 

Gift-Wrap Get-Together- Share the evening together AND cross a task off your to-do list! Invite friends/neighbors to bring their unwrapped gifts and wrapping supplies. Provide simple refreshments and enjoy each other’s company as you wrap your gifts and share your supplies.
 
Saturday Morning Breakfast- Pancakes and bacon are an easy way to feed a crowd. Whether it be a few friends or a neighborhood, gather for a Saturday morning in December. You’ll find most people are freer then and able to enjoy a fun morning with friends. 

Wait until January!!- January seems to slow us down and our calendars are usually less cluttered. If you can’t fit a get-together in December, wait until January and celebrate the new year together. Several of these ideas can be adapted and done any time.  

Posted by Michele Husfelt with

Being a Good Neighbor

When asked to share about my neighboring experiences, I really thought someone else would be better at it than me. I feel so inadequate. Then I was reminded that I don't have to be perfect to be a friend or a good neighbor; I just need to be available. 

I believe that one of the gifts God has blessed me with and continues to grow in me is my love of giving; I would much rather give to someone than receive something myself. I love seeing the expression on someone’s face and even better, when they don't know it's from me. 

Most times I share with my neighbors through my love of baking. I'll bake cookies or cupcakes or put together a box of confectionery goodies for the holidays. Other times, I make myself available when they need help with little things like getting their mail or watching their house. It doesn't matter how big or small the need is, I am available. 

My hope is that I will be a blessing to my neighbors even in small ways. It brings me great joy knowing through my actions I may have brightened their day or eased some stress in their life. Through my small act, my heavenly Father is glorified and that makes me want to do it again and again. 

I remember when I was growing up, we were always outside. The doors were hardly ever locked. When we were inside and there was a knock at the door, we would run to see who was there. It was a real treat when our friends and neighbors would pay us a surprise visit and come in and sit a spell.  

Neighbors helping each other. Sharing sugar, stories, and even teaching you how to pickle cucumbers. That kind of openness and neighboring is not heard of much these days. This is what I long to bring to my neighborhood. 

Being a good neighbor doesn't have to be hard or a long thought out process. The key is responding to the Lord when He prompts you, whether it's calling someone on the phone or walking next door and lending an ear to hear how their day is going. Better yet, asking them how you can pray for them and praying for them at that moment. 

Do I fall short? Yes. Is there more I can do? Yes. Does that mean I should just stop trying? Absolutely not. A pastor of mine would say, "We were made for relationships." What better way to begin one than being a good neighbor?  

Stef Kurtz attends FBC Woodbridge with her husband, Stan. They've just recently begun building a new home with several extra bedrooms so they can house missionaries and others needing a little touch of hospitality and Jesus' love. (And, yes, the cupcakes were homemade by Stef and recently delivered to a most fortunate neighbor!)

Temporary Neighbors? Yes, Please!

 I’m excited for you all to meet my friend, Karen, and hear what she's learning lately about neighboring.

Karen and I grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Florida. We lived across the street from each other, both relocating there in elementary school as military kids. Long summer days of playing in the woods, exploring the neighborhood and frequenting friends’ houses, we became fast friends and remain so today. 

We recently traveled together for a few days and as we stayed in other people’s homes, our conversations often circled back to neighboring, hospitality and how we naturally share Jesus through these means. 

We’ve both been pretty intentional in sharing our homes and hearts with those in our lives. Karen recently  sold her family home (her husband passed away several years ago and her children are grown) and has taken to adventures on the road in her camper. She shared about one of the things she misses most not having a house: her neighbors.  

She’s found it difficult to engage in meaningful ways with others due to her nomadic lifestyle. She misses sharing a meal or a backyard barbecue with her friends, having a place to offer weary travelers respite and rest. Because her “love language” is acts of service, she is challenged to find new ways as a “traveler” to create a community where she can share her gifts of service with others. 

In comes the Turquoise Table! Many of you have heard us mention this movement. It’s basically challenging us to set up a table in our front yards and create an inviting space for our neighbors to stop and join us for a few minutes of conversation and community. While I know this doesn’t work for everyone, hopefully it will inspire a few of you to consider an opportunity that you can adapt to your situation. And that’s just what Karen has done. 

On her campsite, Karen has set a table with a turquoise tablecloth. She’s decorated it with some flowers and keeps a few coffee mugs ready should any of her neighbors mosey on over. She’s looking forward to having some games on hand and when she has time, a few baked goodies to share with her new friends. 

As she’s very new to this, she’s remembering to be open to God’s timing and His direction. She’s done the work to create a simple, inviting space. And now she’s excited to see how God rewards her efforts. She’s not discouraged when no one comes the first few days she's at a new campground. She’s realizing it takes time to develop connections.  

I pray that Karen’s openness to being a good neighbor wherever she is will encourage you to do the same. There are so many possibilities and opportunities to be creative in our neighboring endeavors. Spend some time in prayer and ask God what He might have in store for you and your family! 

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth; having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. Acts 17:26 

Michele Husfelt serves as a ministry assistant for NorthStar Church Network and heads up our Neighboring Initiative.

Posted by Michele Husfelt with

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