Are You Resisting Change This Christmas?

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This year seemed to be a struggle to get our Christmas decorations up. Usually we pick a day soon after Thanksgiving for the massive explosion of gold ornaments and half lit light strings, extension cords and Christmas wall hangings all cheerfully (to Christmas music of course) to be placed in trees, on mantles and doors by our family in one long but satisfying afternoon.  This year, however,  it was a slow motion eruption that took days instead of hours.   And some decorations were left in the boxes–they are just not coming out this year.  And this all was frustrating to me, because this wasn’t how we usually did Christmas and I couldn’t change it.

Change has been knocking on our door for a while now and I have been resisting it.  It has been a gradual but monumental shift of how we do family life, all as a result of our children growing up.  We now have an 18, 15 and 13 year old, and they are tall and independent and busy.  But I still want them to be short and dependent and not so busy –or busy in a controllable sort of way, where I schedule the sports and play-dates around my mom-agenda for our family, like sitting together around the dinner table or 8:30 bedtime.

But that is not reality anymore.  They are busy being the people we have taught them to be; involved in church commitments, holding down jobs, being loyal friends and studious students.  Which means they are most often not all home together for dinner, or in bed early, or around on the weekends.  And I find myself resisting this all the time.  I am constantly surprised and often frustrated at how little we all sit down together at the dinner table, or when we would plan a time for all of us to go out to eat or watch a movie, inevitably someone has been scheduled to work or has a sports conflict.  My children feel like slippery jello through my mom-fingers.

And then this year change messed with a very important thing–Christmas Tradition.

Traditionally, for many years, we have formed a SUV caravan  with friends to Winter Park the Saturday after Thanksgiving to cut down a tree.  We meet at Starbucks at 9:00AM with our boots and hats and saws, make our plan and head off. We do this as a family, a whole family.  We spend the day trekking through the forest in search of the not-so-perfect Charlie Brown tree, and after all the families finish the hunt, we tailgate with cheese and bread and wine.  It is wonderful.  Then we drive back down the snowy roads of I70, drag the tree through our front door (always realizing it is way too tall),  crank up the reindeer and holy night music and create Christmas in our home for the evening.   Did I mention we always did this…all five of us?

Until this year.  We found out one of our children had to work at 2:00PM on the sacred tree cutting Saturday (and could not get out of it), another wasn’t feeling well, and my husband was exhausted from a marathon of work trips, and it just seemed like it was too much for our family this year.   We cancelled.  And as we sat on the couch watching football that day we told ourselves, “This was a good decision.” And it was.  But it was still difficult, and felt like more of the jello issue.  Our dear friends still went and brought us back the perfect tree– just without the memories.

Two days later the tree sat in its stand, half lit and unadorned because we just couldn’t get it together to decorate…anything.  It was like herding cats–my husband had to leave out of town again, the kids had church commitments and friend plans.  And I was being stubborn–I wanted us all to do this together, like we always did.

By Tuesday, I realized it was happening again–I was resisting change.

I pulled out the Christmas boxes from the basement and began to decorate.  I remembered an hour in to turn on the Christmas music, and began to do a little jig while placing gold balls all over our tree. The lights went up, the nutcrackers and Santas and manger and snowmen all took their respective places.  Later in the day Maddie, our youngest, walked in the door from school and exclaimed, “Holy Christmas!”  I smiled inside.  That night, when I considered not putting the garland wrapped up the stairs like I always do, my oldest daughter said, “Mom, you HAVE to do the garland up the stairs!”  I smiled again…some things don’t change.

The following weekend, when my husband and I snuck away for a quick anniversary trip, this same daughter drove to Target, bought outdoor Christmas lights that were missing, asked a good friend to come over to help, and ran extension cords and timers and red and white lights throughout the trees in our yard.

Well, this was new.

I have decided to stop resisting the fact that change is no longer knocking but has a recliner and a personalized coffee mug in our home.  I am learning this Christmas to look for the new traditions, the gifts the older children bring to our home and our life (like driving themselves to Target to help with Christmas decorating without being asked), and be okay when some traditions shift temporarily or even permanently.

Times are changing, and most likely they are for the good.

When I feel frustrated that things are “different” I am going to ask myself–where is the frustration coming from?  Am I being too controlling?  Is this an area where I am resisting instead of embracing change?

To Think About:

Jesus was a great implementer of change.  His birth and life challenged and frustrated many who resisted his message because it was different than their traditions and ways of life and thinking, but it changed EVERYTHING for us for good, for eternity.  Change and doing things a new way can be incredibly positive if we are willing to embrace it.

  1. What change are you resisting in your life?
  2. Why do you think you are resisting it?
  3. What things frustrate you that could possibly be a blessing if you embraced the change?

I wish you a blessed Christmas!!

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

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!

 

“Stress-mas?”…or Something Better

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Christmas is almost here.

What does that statement cause inside you? Stress because you are not ready for the guests and the food and the gifts?  Or excitement because you love the Christmas Eve worship and the joy of Christmas morning and the unwrapping and the laughter?  Or both?

It is truly a dichotomy, this season.  I can feel total peace, excitement and joy, and almost simultaneously feel complete stress. Can anyone relate?  I love the music, and the sweet manger scene in our living room, and the tradition of cutting down our tree in the mountains, and the joy on our children’s faces when they open gifts they love.  I love buying new wrapping paper and doing ornament exchanges with friends.  I enjoy the cookie exchanges and the Christmas shopping with our family and the parties.   I love the hope that the season brings of Jesus’s birth and what that represents.  I love the holiness.

Yet, it is during these 3-4 weeks preceding Christmas that I feel so much stress (my friend Erin calls it “Stress-mas”).  It’s getting the Christmas cards out on time and organizing everyone’s gift lists to send out to family and racing to the store four times in two days to get the ingredients for the baking to be done, or that extra string of lights that just burned out on the tree or the pair of nylons needed for the party that night.   The frenzy seems inevitable.

This year I am trying to take the stress and turn it into remembrance.

See, all the stress revolves around things that spark anticipation.  We anticipate getting our friends Christmas cards in the mail, finding that perfect tree, picking out just the right gift, celebrating at friend’s homes, or that delicious meal being prepared.  And of course, the ultimate anticipation of  unwrapping of gifts Christmas morning.   God has built anticipation into the season because anticipation is what it is ALL about……Anticipating the birth of our Savior.

Isn’t that right?  The nation of Israel waited for hundreds of years for their Savior to come.  He had been foretold in scriptures and by prophets.  He was their hope!  They had to believe that someday God would become man and walk among them and reconnect them to God.  And he did, but not without the anticipation of his people over time.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, Or the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

We can’t forget that when Jesus finally became God incarnate, it was “FINALLY!”  Through generations and generations of patience and faith and bloodshed and hope, the people of God had waited for the promised one to appear on this earth.

And now, through so many woven threads of this season of Christmas, we recreate that anticipation.  We do and make and give so that we can make people happy, and we get to be expectant of that joy!  We look forward to so much leading up to Christmas Day, and while that can create stress, it is all for the joy of the season.  We are creating memories and establishing tradition.  We are sharing love.

If we are able, in the next few days when we are feeling a little frenzied, let us remember this idea of anticipation.   Like hunger pangs during a fast remind us to think of God, let the lists and the gifts and the countdown remind us of the reason for the season!  Let us remember Jesus and how much we look forward to celebrating His birth.

A Christmas List Helper for Kids

“I want, I want, I want……oh, and I want this too!”

Moms, you get this.  It is SO easy for our kids to become a little too “gimme” focused this time of year, and to a large degree it’s understandable! They are excited!  They get to ask for gifts they don’t normally receive, and the anticipation of Christmas is incomparable to most other experiences in their little lives. Yet, all this excitement can easily lead  to The Focus On The List.  The List becomes the central expectation, the hope, the culmination of Christmas Day.

What is Christmas?

Christmas is our response to God’s gift to us of His Son, and we give gifts to others in celebration and imitation of that love shown to us by God.

I have made it my mission the last several years to “reset” the true meaning of Christmas before the season even starts.  It’s like a re-wiring, so that when the media barrage starts, it sort of pings off my kids instead of seeping into their little bones.  We do this in several ways, and I have shared those in past year’s blog. Of course, our sweet Charlie Brown Christmas tree that stands in our family room seems to bulge with gifts as Christmas Day arrives, and the gift opening is joyous and wonderful, but I know (hope!) that deep inside, my kids understand it’s about more than this frenzied unwrapping of The List.

I just read a post on Facebook from my dear friend Wendy Edwards as to how she is hoping to set her kids up for the excitement of gifts while helping them to see the bigger picture of Christmas and I loved it!  With her permission granted, I would love to share her ideas with you:

POST TITLE: GUIDANCE FOR HER CHILDREN’S WISH LISTS

“Offering the children the Christmas wish list guideline again this year…their lists are always insightful…and sometimes really, really funny!”

Something you want, something you need,
Something to wear, something to read.
And something to share, for a girl or a boy,
A ball, a book, a game, or a toy,
To give to another, Christmas joy!

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(Amy jumping in here…I asked Wendy how she implemented this list, and combined it with the scriptures below.  She said the above saying helped her children focus their list and keep it simple.  It created a framework that reduced excess.  The scriptures below were shared with the kids over the course of a week or two, so that they wrapped themselves around the physical list for perspective.  They teach that even though we all love giving and receiving gifts we can hold and touch, there is a bigger picture and a heart attitude we can all enter the Christmas season knowing).

Here are the scriptures that go with the passage above:

SOMETHING YOU WANT  (His provision is abundant, beyond our needs)

I Timothy  6:17     Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Psalm 37:4   Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

SOMETHING YOU NEED  (His omniscience He knows our need)

33   So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
SOMETHING TO WEAR (His provision/spiritual clothes)

Matthew 6:28-30    And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?


Ephesians 6:13-16  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

SOMETHING TO READ (His word)

Psalm 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.

Psalm 119:45-47 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.

SOMETHING TO SHARE (the blessing in giving, and for the last one– in receiving )
II Cor 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

So, I hope this helped you as it helped me this year.  Instead of The List becoming the central hope, expectation, and culmination, let it be Jesus!Blessings to you during this Christmas season!

~Amy

 

He Bought The Ticket

Written By Amy

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In my last post I shared about an “intentional Christmasing” time our family had together.  Today, I would like to share with you another intentional plan I had for my family this Christmas season that didn’t work out so well.  Let’s back up just a bit first. Last year, our family went to this wonderful Christmas performance at Cherry Hills Community Church called “Christmas at the Ranch.”  Maybe you’ve been.  I loved it, because it was a Christ centered event, with high quality singers, performers, and meaning.  The songs were all about the real Christmas, the focus on the birth of Jesus and the hope we have in that.  This is what I wanted to fill my children’s hearts with in the midst of all the bling and sparkle of Christmas.  I couldn’t wait to buy tickets for this year.

In my intentionality to make this happen, I was online as soon as tickets went on sale a couple of months ago, buying seats for my family (even paying a little more for better seats than we had the year before).  As the night of the performance drew closer, my anticipation was great!  I pictured our happy family, dressing up, going to a nice dinner out down by the church, and the enjoying the concert together, letting our hearts be filled with the joy of the season.   Ha ha.

As our family left the neighborhood that night, I had a joyful heart–a night out with our whole family together is a rare and treasured event.  About 15 minutes into the drive my children started arguing…and because we were in a two-row car that night, their close proximity escalated the situation.  Jon and let them work it out for a minute or two, and then attempted to de-escalate the situation.  They settled down for a bit and then out of no where a push from one, a smack from another.  Now I had two children crying (this would be more palatable if my youngest wasn’t TEN!).  I struggled to keep my spirits up as the kids settled into a quiet simmer at each other.  In the midst of this, traffic came to a slow crawl, and my hopes of our sit-down dinner were slipping away.  By the time we reached the area of the church, most of our moods were sour, we were hungry, the kids were mad at each other, I was mad at the kids for being mad, and we couldn’t decide on a quick restaurant to grab food (sit down out of the question at this point).  We spotted a Chipotle, and swung in there.  Somehow on the way from Chipotle to the church, Jonathan and I had a tense discussion between the two of us, which completely tanked any happy spirits I was holding on to.  We walked into the church a stressed, grumpy family.  I am not proud of this, but it took until the second half of the performance for me to find any joy as a mom in this situation.  I prayed as I sat in my seat that God would help me have a joyful heart in the moment.  I looked over at my family, and two of my children were asleep.  Wow.

I then had a woe is me pity party.  “Why as a mom do I put in all this effort to teach my family the real meaning of Christmas and this is what I get? Why did I spend all of this money?  This was a total waste of time.”  I was able to scrape my mood off of the floor by the end of the night, but would I do it next year?  Not so sure. I know now that I had overdone my expectations quite a bit, and that I had obviously put too much hope in this one experience for my family.  I also know this story above is real life.  It is what happens more often than the picture perfect scene I was hoping for.   I can even laugh about it now!

Here’s the amazing tie-in to Christmas.  In hindsight, had I known how the evening would turn out, I would have never bought those tickets.  However, God, in all of his intentionality, did know how sending his one and only Son to earth would turn out.  He knew it would end disastrously for his son. Yet, he still sent Jesus, in the form of a tiny fragile baby to this earth.  God sent his son, in the most vulnerable state possible, to lead the world into a relationship with him.  After 33 years on earth, Jesus would be hung on a cross in a brutal death.  Great suffering, anguish and pain.  And yet, God went through with it.  He still sent Jesus to teach, love and set an example for us.  He still sent his Son to die, redeeming us of all our sin, for all those who put their trust in Him.  God had hindsight, and foresight, and decided, because of his great love for us, to still buy the ticket.

Christmas is about love.  I am going to remind myself of that during this stressful time, filled with expectations that most likely won’t be met.  God bought the ticket because he loves me,  and that’s all that matters.

 

 

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