How to Make Christmas Meaningful (Part 1) – Celebrate Advent with Your Children

Thanksgiving has passed. There doesn’t seem to be a clear line delineating the seasons of thankfulness and Christmas these days. When I wake up from the tryptophan-induced fog of Thanksgiving and realize that Christmas starts moments after I dish up the turkey and jello for the 5-yr.old, I freak out! I love Thanksgiving and we have an unwritten rule around here that we don’t really even talk about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. If you haven’t read my Thanksgiving post, you can do that here.

making christmas meaningfulUsually, I feel like the chaotic Christmas season sweeps me along in its current and I hang on for dear life. Not wanting my kids to “miss out,” I shuttle them from one event to the next constantly thinking to myself, “we’ll put up our tree tomorrow…we’ll bake cookies for our neighbors tomorrow…we’ll catch up with our advent reading tomorrow” etc. Tomorrows come and go …. we get so busy “doing” that we forget about the “being” part of Christmas.

One tradition that we have tried to do, some years with more success than others, is to celebrate advent. I wasn’t raised with this tradition in my family or in the church we attended when I was a child so I really didn’t understand what it was all about until about 10 yrs. ago. Then I became aware of how it could bring more meaning to our over-commercialized holiday by helping us focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

Advent books to read with childrenThis series of books by Arnold Y’treeid’es has become one of our absolute favorite things we do during the season of Advent – the days leading up to Christmas. Beginning the Sunday after Thanksgiving, there’s a daily reading selection every day through Christmas day …. a short chapter. Each historical fiction book takes the reader on an adventure culminating with the birth of Christ. At the end of each chapter is a short devotional which brings the focus back to Jesus and Christmas. And I’m SO excited because there is a new one this year!
There’s no particular order that you must read them … We actually started with the 2nd book of the series, Bartholomew’s Journey. We were hooked! Next we read, Jotham’s Journey and then Tabitha’s Travels. This year we’re reading the new release, Ishtar’s Odyssey. We always look forward to the next Advent so that we can read another one. The author’s website has additional “special features” for each book which includes maps, photos and more.
Yes, I know, the advent season has officially already begun. It began the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, but don’t panic! We’ve started late many times, sometimes as much as a week to 10 days. I’ve learned that if I wait until everything is perfect, I never start anything.
So just start where you ARE. Depending on the age and attention span of your kids, you could go back and do a quick overview of the reading to “catch up” but it’s not necessary. We’ve doubled up on the readings each day to catch up as well…the stories are so engaging that this has been easy to do. Even when we’re not playing catch up they will beg me to read more!
What are some meaningful ways your family keeps Christ at the center of Christmas? I’d love to hear how you maintain the balance … leave a comment or reach out to me on Facebook.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂

How I Teach My Kids to be Thankful

teach thankfulness

I. Love. Thanksgiving.
I like it even more than Christmas or any other holiday. It’s the “giving” part. Especially for our children, Christmas can be so much about the “getting” that the reason we celebrate gets totally lost.
I love seeing my children perform random acts of giving. Giving puts the focus on the other person instead of themselves.
I must say that before I expect my children to operate on a level of contentment/thankfulness, I must expect nothing less from myself. It starts with me. When they constantly hear me talking about “I wish I had …. ” or “I need a new …” – it doesn’t communicate to them that I’m thankful for what I have. I had to be willing to be completely open to changing ME first.

Here’s a few things that we’ve done to help encourage a thankful heart in our children …
1. ALWAYS say “Thank You!”

This may sound a bit insignificant but training our children from an early age to always give proper thanks to someone is important. It forces them to acknowledge that someone just “gave” them something – maybe it was a nice compliment about new shoes, a piece of gum or the last burger. Someone made a choice to do or say something kind. They realize that they can make the same choices as well.
2. Prayers of thanksgiving

We pray with our kids … at mealtimes, family time and bedtime … and teach them that everything we have comes from God. Once our children acknowledge God as the Ultimate Giver, they can understand more clearly why they should be givers also.

We really try to camp out on the “giving thanks” part of our prayers with our kids. When they verbalize how MUCH we have to be thankful, the trivial “wants” seem to fade away…
We’ve been blessed to hear some VERY long prayers at mealtime. One of our sons, at the age of 4 yrs., would pray with one eye open, thus became known as our “One-eyed-Pray-er” … He’d camp out on the thankful part and whatever his one open eye would land on, he’d name it…toaster, light, refrigerator, broom, wall, dog, etc…and he would go on for.ev.er! At least until a hungry brother nudged him enough times 🙂
3. Give

GiveGiving or generosity is a by-product of thankfulness. The more thankful our children are the more they naturally give. Some of our kids are naturally more inclined to give and others need more structured opportunities to practice giving. Recently, we went to volunteer at our Regional Food Bank. This was an awesome way for our kids to realize how a few hours of their time can truly give to others who are in need. The group that we were working with bagged enough frozen vegetables to serve over 2,400 meals in 3 hours! They were pumped! Desired effect accomplished. Giving made them feel good and they’re asking ME when we can do it again. This will be a more regular volunteering opportunity for us. If this sounds like something you’d like to do with your kiddos, you can find your local food bank volunteer opportunities here.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I always love hearing from you! Thank you!

An Open Letter to My College-Bound Son

An Open Letter to my College-

 

First, let me say that I love you more than you know and always will. Before you were born, I prayed for you…mostly that I wouldn’t mess you up!

That I wouldn’t mess up God’s plan for you….

When you were born, you made me a mom and I’ve never been the same person since. Let’s just say, that as any new mom can relate, my world totally and completely revolved around you. Your schedule was my schedule. Period…..

And I loved EVERY second of our days together…

It’s been an amazing journey to be a part of your life – watching you grow and develop passions that drive you to make our world a better place. One thing about you that I cherish … your unwavering commitment to your passions which come from a deep, personal faith.

Even when others around you don’t understand…

or laugh at your ideas
or discredit your dreams
or passions

                                                                  You. Stay. Strong.

Perfect? Not even close.

Without detours? Of course not.

But, you stubbornly hold fast to those matters that mean much to you. That makes me proud.

As you step into a new chapter, I’d like to share a few bits of motherly advice … because I’m good like that 🙂
1. Seek few, deep friendships…the life-long type that will weather storms with you and sharpen you.

It’s a great status symbol to be known by many or have thousands of friends or followers on social media but when you’re alone in your dorm room, they’re nowhere to be found … Be selective of who you let into your personal space – who you share your dreams and passions – not everyone can handle them.

2. Be teachable.

It’s ok to not know everything and you’ll learn quickly how little you know …. It’s ok.

3. Be a leader.

It’s a part of you – that first-born thing – to lead. So, continue to be the kind of leader that’s worth following and lead by example.

4. Help others.

You won’t have to look far. Use the eyes God gave you to see the needs of others around you, even when you feel needy yourself. Reach out to them….you may be the life preserver they need. And you quite possibly may need them too.

5. Don’t let opinions of others derail you.

You won’t be liked by everyone. In fact, you won’t be truly accepted by many at all. You can’t please everyone. Consistently seeking approval of others is a trap. Keep your Bible open and seek advisors, but always know when truth trumps culture, opinion or preference.

6. Eat to nourish your body.

I know you’re laughing now…but truly, your body needs more than carbs and caffeine 🙂 Eat the rainbow and you’ll be good!

7. Come home as little as possible. (Did I really just say that?!)

In those early days of motherhood, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how my older friend moms could let their sons like…leave! It killed me to leave you in the nursery during church. I don’t think I was or ever will truly be ready for that baby/nurturing part of my life to end. But, babies grow up – some of them cowboys (sorry, I couldn’t resist…go Pokes!)

I couldn’t imagine then what I’m saying to you now … You’re always welcome to come home as often as you can but as little as possible to allow you to forge ahead in your new season of life. Letting go is the hardest part of being a parent but I’m looking forward to the next chapter of our story.

College-bound son

I’ve prayed for you since before you were born. My prayer for you now…..Go rally the troops and be the leader God made you to be!

College needs you….

Love,
Mom