Archives for December 2014

Almost There! A New Beginning…

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Happy New Year’s Eve!  We are on the cusp of something great–a new beginning.  A new year, a fresh start, a time to take one glance back and then turn our heads forward, peering into the blank canvas of a new year.

This past year may have been harder than others, with unexpected disappointments that still sting.  Or maybe for you it was the climbing out of the valley, a mountain-top year full of ease and peace.

Either way, hopefully we have grown a little, learned from our mistakes and difficulties, found wells of gratitude to dip from, found rest in the joyful, and can now walk through 2015 with whatever it brings, stronger, wiser, and more confident in God’s purpose for our days.

When we walk through life with God, open to his calling of our time and our talents, we can live to our fullest, our happiest.  We can weather the trials because we know God has much to teach us through them.  They are a pruning for a flourishing that would never exist without the cutting back.

Where will we flourish this year?

How will we use our time and talents for God?

Lisa Terkeurst expresses beautifully a framework to enter this year:

“In God’s plan you have a part to play. If you know it and believe it, you’ll live it.  You’ll live your life making decisions with the Best Yes as your best filter.  You’ll be a grand display of God’s Word lived out.  Your undistracted love will make your faith ring true.  Your wisdom will help you make decisions that will still be good tomorrow.  And you’ll be alive and present for all of it.” (The Best Yes, p. 6)

To be present in our life–what a great gift for ourselves and those around us–letting go of the past, not fearing the future.  Just living for today, in the moment with all God has for us!  Today we say goodbye to 2014, and hello to a new year~let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

 

 

Stations of the Christmas Story–A Family Activity

 

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Yesterday our family braved the mall–the Saturday before Christmas.  Our annual tradition of shopping as a family and purchasing gifts for each other was a great day. After a quick pow wow to share ideas (small ones for the siblings to get each other) we split off into pairs to shop, texting each other with updates and location status throughout the afternoon.   There were tremendous crowds, long lines, returns as we realized we duplicated gifts, and more lines.  There was Christmas music, food, and beautiful decorations everywhere.  The air was filled with a buzzing of excitement.  We came home tired but successful on our mission–and as a mom, happy to see the kids scheme and strategize to get the perfect gift for each other.

Yet, it is not the full picture of Christmas.  There is a deeper river of meaning that flows through the season–one that easily might be missed as the 25th quickly approaches.  Which is why tonight, our family once again gathered to do something together this season, but something a little more serious, a little more, holy.

With the lights turned down, and candles lit, we invited our children and our oldest daughter’s boyfriend, Isaac, to join us in The Stations of The Christmas Story.  This is similar to “Stations of the Cross” but with a Christmas theme.  We moved throughout 7 stations, reading the Christmas Story in Luke and Matthew, and the kids writing responses in a journal we gave them.  At a couple of stations  a song was played, at some, just discussion and not writing.  My hope was to bring the story of Jesus’s birth into a more tangible form, something our family could take with us going forward, hoping to silence just a bit the wants and wishes and commercialism of the season.

We had a great discussion about angels (a theme that runs through the story) and tried to put ourselves in Mary and Joseph’s shoes as they traveled this journey together.  We listened and shared and did a little bribing with ice cream if everyone hung in there for the duration!

Here are the documents I created for the night.  Please feel free to print out and use, or tweak for your own taste if you want to try this with your family.  (When you click on link, it will take you to another page that you will need to click the link a second time).

Stations of The Christmas Story–leader guide

Stations Journal–Journal Cover

Stations–inside of Journal

The inside of the journal is not quite lined up right–you’ll see if you print it out.  Just cut down the middle and line up inside the journal cover.

 

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PLEASE don’t feel like you need to squeeze this in in the next few days before Christmas in order to complete the Christmas experience for your kids!  Maybe file it away for next year, and just read the Christmas story together.

Tips for the experience:

Dim the lights to create a nighttime scene–the candles are a great effect.

Set up 7 candle lit stations around the house, ending in a manger scene if you have one.

Move from station to station as a group.  The leader guide (first document) is helpful for the adult leading the group.  The group members carry their journals around with them.

Ask each child to have a bible with them–they can take turns reading the scripture.

For younger children:

Take out 2-3 of the stations for attention span.  You can re word the questions for age-appropriateness.

3 Ways to Be Intentional About Christmas With Your Family This Year

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I truly desire to be intentional about teaching our children the true meaning of Christmas, and revisiting it every year in familiar and new ways.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, this time of year is incredibly significant to my faith, and the faith of our family.  The history, the amazing gift of God in his Son delivered to us in the tiniest of human form cannot be missed.   Yet, each year the task of bringing this holy remembrance into our home becomes more difficult.  The messages of materialism speak so loudly and come from every angle, while the busy-ness of the season distracts the five of us from being still and truly contemplating the gift of the baby in the manger.  I can always look forward to a still, holy moment on Christmas Eve at our church’s service, but even that gets challenged while I sit in my seat, recovering from the blurred day of finding tights without holes, realizing dress shoes from last year don’t fit our growing kids, last minute gifts, and goals of a delicious steaming dinner ready for our family when we get home.

With the cookies, parties, shopping, decorating, thoughtful gifts, and all the other “expectations” of Christmas, we can often run out of time for what’s most important–remembering and celebrating the incredible gift and significance of the birth of Jesus.  In an attempt to fight back at this blurred month that gets us off track of the true meaning of Christmas, I have found a few ways to be intentional with our family the last several years:

1. Start the season in the right frame of mind.

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Each year we take the first weekend in December (this weekend!) to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  For many years our family would go to the mountains with other families and stay in a remote cabin, unplugged from the world.  We would read the story of Christmas in the bible and an adult would give a short talk to the children about the story of Christmas.  We would cook together, and do crafts when our children were young.  The adults would share a glass of wine together over meals,  we would all play games, go for a hike, or just sit and talk.   We all took a deep breath and walked into the busiest, most commercial time of year on the right foot.

If a weekend away is not a reality, a day or an evening together to talk about Christ-mas together can be plenty. Unplug from everything, share thoughts and teach your children about giving over receiving, and about Jesus’s incredible gift to us.

2. Weave in Christian tradition throughout the season.

My mother in law made us a “Jessie Tree” JESSE TREE LINK.  Each December we would spend time walking through the biblical stories and generations leading up to the birth of Christ.

Side note:  Don’t picture this time with three wide-eyed fully engaged kids smiling dreamily as their mom teaches them about Abraham! I actually had to create quizzes one year (my poor kids with their teacher-mom) to encourage engagement!

We also read The Advent Book together.  Written by Jack and Kathy Stockman, this is the Story of Christmas, as told in the bible, with captivating illustrations and fun doors to open throughout the pages, and little Christmas animals to find. This is a favorite tradition for our family–even with our teenagers.

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3. Serve.

Serving over the holidays is one of the best ways to keep ourselves and our children grounded.  One year we delivered Christmas gifts to a needy local family, another year we worked at the Operation Christmas Child distribution center.  Every year we buy gifts for the Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection.  Here are the women from our bible study and their families having a pizza and shoebox wrapping party at our house a few weeks ago:

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Another idea would be to go on the World Vision website with your children and pick out some Christmas gifts to send to an impoverished family–like a cow for a village, or some chickens for a mother.

These are some of the ways to bring the true spirit of Christmas into your home.  I am sure you could fill up pages of replies with the meaningful, special activities you do with your family–I would love it if you would share below!

The reality for me is that as our kids grow older it is becoming more difficult to herd the cats for quality time and activities.  With jobs, cars, sports, homework, and busy social lives, we don’t have the nightly routines with all of us home like we used to. I am having to let go. I am trusting that the seeds we planted over the many years when they were younger will grow into a spirit of continued wonder and joy in the gift Jesus gave us through his birth.  So don’t be discouraged if your children, whatever their age, aren’t as excited about about this effort as you are!  Know that any and all attempts for balance and focus this season are worth it and will make a difference in their hearts.

I wish you a December filled with the things that you love about Christmas, and with a true focus on the reason for the season!

 

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