Dec 24, 2013

Christmas Cards

We've received SO MANY wonderful Christmas cards from family and friends this year! Thank you to all of you who took the time to send them! What does your family do with all those Christmas cards once Christmas is over? We put ours in a basket and set the basket on our Dining Room table. Each night when we have dinner, we pull a card from the basket and we pray for that family. One of the greatest gifts that we can give the ones we love is our prayer for them!

Also, you can use the front of the Christmas cards as postcards. Just rip the picture off the card, write your own note on the back side of the picture and sent it as a thank you note. Obviously, you don't want to do this if the picture is actually of a family and not just a pretty Christmas scene! LOL! Eric's mom used them as tags for her Christmas gifts - that's a great idea too!

Dec 22, 2013

Christmas Lights

One of our family's favorite traditions is going to look at the Christmas lights. We set aside a night each week in December to go and look at lights. When we go, we take boxes of chocolates with us. We give the first box to the first house we see that has a nativity. We take the box to them and thank them for helping us remember the real meaning of Christmas. Then we give the 2nd box to the house thatwe think has the best light display and thank them for helping to brighten the Christmas season. This has been so fun and we get the best reactions from the people who receive the chocolates.

Dec 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Jesus

This idea is SO simple to include in your already established traditions, but in talking to several people I've found that a lot of people don't do this. Make a birthday cake for Jesus. Include that somewhere in your Christmas day traditions. Have the family sing Happy Birthday and everyone can enjoy a piece of cake for Jesus' birthday.

Dec 16, 2013

Favor With Man

I told you yesterday that our family picks a "favor with man" project every year. I had a friend tell me about this idea that she saw posted in an online community that she's part of and this is what we'll be doing this year. We're going to purchase some backpacks and fill them with scarves, gloves, blankets, toiletries and gift cards for fast food places. Once we fill the backpacks with these items they will be dropped off at a local shelter to help the homeless in our area. I also will be purchasing some fast food gift cards so that when we see somebody holding a sign for food we can give them a gift card and know that they'll have a meal. Isn't that a great idea? What are some things your family is doing to help your community?

Dec 14, 2013

Christmas Gifts

It's very hard to teach your children that Christmas isn't about the presents when they awaken Christmas morning to a tree that's hidden by piles and piles of wrapped packages. This is hard as parents, because we WANT to give our children gifts, it's FUN to give them every little thing their hearts desires. How much does that take away from the real meaning of Christmas? Think about what Christmas day is like at your house - how much of your day is actually spent focusing on Jesus?

A good friend of mine gives her children 3 gifts each because the Wise Men gave 3 gifts to Jesus. I think this is a great idea.

At our house, we give our gifts based on Luke 2:52 - "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." We give a gift for wisdom (something educational), a gift for stature (usually something physical - a new football or something), favor with God (a devotional book, Christian CD, something along those lines), and favor with man (we decide as a family what we're going to do to help other people - sponsor a child, collect canned goods, save our change, etc.). Be watching for tomorrow's post which has our "favor with man" project for this year.

Be looking for ways in your house to minimize the gifts and maximize Jesus birthday!

Dec 12, 2013

Birthday Card for Jesus

Something we've started within the past couple of years at our house is making a birthday card for Jesus. The boys decorate a card and write "Happy Birthday Jesus" on it and sign their name. Then we attach the card to a balloon and let it go up to heaven. Mylar balloons do not work for this, just get the regular balloons and make sure you have several just incase the kids go crazy with the glue and glitter (you may have to attach their card to more then one balloon)! :)


I read this today and wanted to share it with all of you.

Let There Be Peace!, by Tom Norvell

The shepherds received word of the birth of Jesus with these words: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:13-14 NIV).

Peace on earth. How's that working at your house?

Christmas is just a few days away. Is there peace in your world? You've been working for days trying to get all the decorations up. You're almost finished. Then, you remember that you're supposed to bake cookies for your children's class parties. So, the decorations will wait a little longer while you run to the store, buy the ingredients, come home, bake the cookies and somehow manage to get the laundry done before you and your husband leave for his office party. You come home exhausted from the day; but before you go to bed, you have to make sure the children have their Sunday best clean and pressed and ready for church tomorrow morning.

The alarm goes off much sooner than you prefer, but out of bed you jump. And within in minutes you have the kitchen in full gear as you prepare lunch for your church holiday potluck luncheon. As soon as the luncheon is over, you stop by a couple of stores to grab a gift for Uncle Fred and another for Aunt Lucille. Then, you rush home so you can prepare snack foods for the small group meeting in your home. The group finally leaves and after the kids are tucked into their beds, you head back downstairs to spend a few minutes with your husband who is frantically trying put the finishing touches on a presentation he has to be ready for by 9:00 in the morning. "I'll be up for a while," he says, as you head toward the kitchen to clean up the dishes that were left from breakfast. That's when you see the box of decorations waiting to be unwrapped, dusted and put on display. You do about half the box and get a call from the mother of one of your children's classmates saying they have a family emergency and asks if you can fill in as a chaperon for the party. "Sure. I'd be glad to," you say as you finish loading the dishwasher.

Peace on earth.

Your boss just walked in your office, closed the door, and sat down across from you. The plant's cutting back. We have to let thirty employees go. Your job is safe, but he tells you that you are the best person to inform those thirty faithful employees, that this week's paycheck will be their last. It's the week before Christmas.

Peace on earth.

You had gone to the doctor for a regular check up last week and everything seemed to go fine. At least that's what you thought. Then, you get a call from the doctor saying he needs to see you in his office as soon as possible to "talk about something he saw on one of the scans."

Peace on earth.

Is there a chance the angels were misinformed? Surely they meant to say, "Chaos on earth and good luck to all men."

Peace on earth. A Savior is born.

No, they had it right. It was God's desire when His son came to be "with us" that peace would reign on earth and in our hearts. It wasn't a miscommunication or wishful thinking. It was an announcement of what can happen when we receive the Messiah. Peace on earth. It doesn't mean there won't be chaos in your world. Sure, you can probably slow your pace, cut out a few things, stay at home more, miss a party, bake a few less cookies, make some adjustments in how your job manages you, and find a way to reduce your level of stress. But, face it: life is a full-time job. It's hard to say, "No." Not impossible, but hard.

However, even though your life during these last few hectic days before Christmas is full and overflowing with activity, peace on earth is possible. It starts with taking a few minutes to listen to the earlier part of the announcement: "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11). That's the key.

Peace on earth. A Savior is born.

A Savior is born. Peace on earth.

The Savior is with us. Let there be peace

Dec 10, 2013


It was always a fun time of year growing up when mom started getting out her Christmas decorations. I still remember the 2 cloth elves we used to sit or hang from the scroll work on the lamps. Your Christmas decorations are an easy way to make sure that you're acknowledging Christ in Christmas. I'm making it a goal to have a nativity in every single room in our house - including the bathrooms. When talking about decorating with nativities I realized we only have one in our house, so I'll be shopping those after Christmas sales to add some more nativities to our house. I have a friend who has a nativity in their living room. They set it up, but they don't put baby Jesus in it. The kids put baby Jesus in another room and every day as they count down the days until Christmas they move him closer and closer to the nativity. Then, on Christmas morning, He's placed in the nativity.

Angela, another one of my friends, decorates her Christmas tree with nothing but ornaments with a message. What an incredible idea! So, every ornament on her tree points to the real meaning of Christmas. This year she found an ornament that says "Christmas was never about the gifts, it was always about the Presence." Isn't that awesome?

Look around at your decorations. Are they reflecting what Christmas REALLY is about in your house? Are you decorating with Santa or the REAL meaning of Christmas? That's an easy fix, and again, your children will be surrounded by the real meaning of Christmas!

Dec 9, 2013

Sending Christmas Cards

What a great tradition sending Christmas cards is! Especially in today's society when everything is either texted or e-mailed. An EASY way to keep Christ in Christmas is to choose a Christmas card that reflects Christ's birth for Christmas. I know there are SO MANY cute cards out there with little furry puppies or little babies wearing Christmas hats, but they don't really say anything about what you believe. Take this opportunity to remind your family and friends about our Savior! Also, let the kids send cards to their friends and family - they will get a kick out of doing this and you can also remind them to pick a card that has to do with the REAL meaning of Christmas - another teaching moment!

Dec 8, 2013

Advent Wreath

A new tradition our family is starting this year is a personal advent wreath. We bought candle holders and candles from Christian Book Distributors and we are taking the time to light each candle and discuss it's meaning each week. Along with this we are reading Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide - "In this widely popular, exciting story for the advent season, readers follow ten-year-old Jotham across Israel as he searches for his family. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem." Jotham's Journey has a reading for every day during Advent. What a GREAT way to keep your family's focus on Jesus. Arnold has written two other books that are great for Advent reading - Bartholamew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels. We're actually reading 2 books by him - we do one reading in the morning and one reading after dinner. I think it's a GREAT way to keep our focus where it should be!

Dec 7, 2013

Traditions - Why Do You Do What You Do

This isn't hard because most Christmas traditions already have a spiritual meaning. The problem is we take the time to DO our Christmas traditions, but a lot of times we don't take the time to explain why we're doing them to our children. A GREAT book for helping children find Jesus in our holiday traditions is The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel. There are 25 different sections, so you can cover a section a day starting on December 1st. For example, did you know that an English missionary was the first person to use the evergreen tree as a symbol for God? He referred to it's triangular shape and said that it represented the trinity. Also, we know that Jesus died for us on a cross (from a tree) - remind your children of that.

From Lisa's book - Have you ever noticed that the boughs of your tree extend out like the arms of Jesus stretched upon the cross as He offered His life to anyone who would come to Him in faith? And your Christmas tree is very definitely pointing toward heaven and, as Jesus did with His words and His actions, drawing our attention to the Father who loves us.

Take some time with your traditions and find a spiritual lesson for each one. Your children will remember why you do the things you do for Christmas and they will remember that each one reflects Jesus!

Dec 5, 2013

Camping Under the Christmas Tree

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is sleeping under the Christmas tree. Ok, well not actually UNDER the Christmas tree. One night during the Christmas season we put sleeping bags in the living room by the Christmas tree and have our camp out there. We also watch The Polar Express together on this night (this can be the day you set up your tree, December 1st, the first weekend in December, whatever you decide as a family).

After watching The Polar Express we talk about how we also can miss so much in life (just like the boy can't hear the bells or the music) when we don't believe in Jesus. Faith is just believing!

Dec 4, 2013

Marvel at God's Majesty

Taken from Have a Mary Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

Author Robert Ketchum tells of a Sunday school teacher who asked her students if anyone could quote the entire 23rd Psalm. A girl - not quite 5 years old - raised her hand. Doubting the child's ability, the teacher asked the girl if she could really recite the entire Scripture. She smiled, nodded and walked to the front of the room. With the joy of the Lord shining in her eyes, she said, "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want." And she sat back down.

If only we could spend more of our Christmas hours holding tight to that single thought. The Lord is everything to us. He is truly all we need, all we could ever want. For only God can give us the best gifts of all - the fruit of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

As Christmas draws near again, I am reminded once more of Kelsey's precious card: a Christmas tree, a cross and the two of us holding hands. What else could anyone want? I will spend the rest of my Christmases determined to experience December in a way I will remember. I will mend relationships, make time for traditions, and marvel at His majesty - and I will teach my children the same precious habits. By doing so, I can always be sure to do what Kelsey wanted me to do so many years ago - Have a Mary Christmas.

Dec 3, 2013

Make Time for Traditions

Taken from Have a Mary Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

I recently tried an experiment with my kids. During a family dinner I asked them to tell me about the Christmas presents they received last year. The kids - all 6 of them - drew a blank. They looked at me and then at one another, and panic appeared in their eyes.
"Ok," I said, "what do you remember?"
Their faces lit up.
"Our gingerbread house competition!" Austin shouted.
"Baking cookies and caroling," EJ and Sean cried out.

The conversation that followed was on I'll always remember. We talked about our favorite family traditions. Every year our kids form teams of two and decorate gingerbread houses. EAch team is awarded a prize - something like "Most Creative," "Best Effort," and so forth. We play Christmas music, laugh a lot, and take a ton of pictures. The gingerbread houses remain a part of our Christmas decorations for the entire season.

We also love baking our favorite Christmas cookies, placing them on decorative trays, and delivering them to friends and family. We wear Christmas hats and bring along others who want to join us. Then we stand at front doors and sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and "Deck the Halls." Sometimes my husband, Don, brings his guitar. It's always a wonderful night.

In addition, we have an old fashioned wooden Advent calendar - complete with little compartments and tiny painted wooden doors. We fill the 24 hiding places with Scripture verses, notes detailing a kind thing that one child can do for another child in the family, and candy. Each of the kids opens four doors throughout the month of December. We also read aloud The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, and we have a handful of Christmas movies we watch. Family traditions are a great way to take Christmas slowly and make the days count.

Dec 2, 2013

Mend Relationships

Taken from Have a Mary Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

Matthew 5:23-24 tells us, "If you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

The same is true with the people we love. Why race through the mall to find the perfect gift for a sister or a parent when the relationship with that person is strained or neglected? Christmas - more than any other season - is the perfect time to take stock of the people God has placed in our lives. Do we owe someone an apology? Should we take someone out for coffee and let them know we care? Is there a letter we could write or a phone call we could place? These are beautiful gifts, and they should be given before we spend a moment's thought about buying commercial present for these loves ones.

Dec 1, 2013

Countdown to Christmas

December 1st - can you believe it? Where has this year gone? There's no better gift we can give then to give God this month - set aside to reflect on Him and worship Him.

There are so many things you can do to make sure you're keeping Jesus at the center of Christmas and I will be sharing some ideas with you for the rest of this month.

Because this is the first day of December, a lot of families will begin using their "advent" calendar to count down the days until Christmas. Our family has a little different take on this. Instead of opening a door or untying something and getting a piece of candy, we will do the following:

Make a linked chain with construction paper. Cut out 24 strips of construction paper for your chain and before linking them together have the family write on each strip a different name of somebody they love. This can be family, friends, schoolmates, coworkers, whatever (we've had the children's pastor, family members, and yes, even Tony Hawk on our strips). Once you have a name on every strip of paper go ahead and link the papers together to make a chain. This will be your countdown to Christmas chain. Every night at dinner (or whenever it works best for your family), take a link off of the chain and pray together as a family for the person who's listed on that link. The chain will give the kids a visual of how many days until Christmas, but instead of just getting candy (you could give candy each day too if you wanted), they're being reminded to pray for these people.

Also, when talking about the countdown to Christmas, be sure to talk to your kids about why we're counting down. It's just like when somebody special is coming to visit us and we count down the days until they get here - that's what Christmas is! The day that Jesus came and visited us! So, we're not counting down the days until we get presents, we're counting down the days until our very special visitor came to earth to visit us, to live for us, and to die for us.

What an exciting countdown!