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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

My just turned two year old son calls Santa Clause something that comes out like, “Nanny Bots.” So cute. He loves the big bellied, jolly old man.

Both of my young children are so enthusiastic and cute about Christmas this year…probably the first they have been old enough to really understand and enjoy. They helped put up the tree, make all the goodies, set out decorations and even wrap some presents.

Myself. I love Christmas and I do like Santa Clause. I love the charm, sweetness and magical joy he represents. The thing is, I teach my kids that he isn’t real, instead that he is pretend like a fairy tale.

I love the Christmas tree, the heirloom ornaments, the beauty of it, the joy of putting it up with my children. But what does the tree represent exactly? How does it bring honor to Christ during a time of celebrating His birth?

The gift giving. This is probably my favorite part of Christmas. I love shopping for just the right gift to wrap and tuck under the tree, to be opened and enjoyed by the people I love most  before the sun rises on Christmas morning. For a child, it’s hard to beat the thrill of all the presents under the tree. Whether or not we teach that Santa brought them, what a magical and joyous time for children. But how does giving and receiving gifts help them remember Christ?

I do celebrate Christmas. There is hardly a time of year that I enjoy more. I do, however, understand why many don’t celebrate, as is the choice of several sweet families and friends that I know and love dearly.

Here is why I understand their hesitation and have questions of my own: no matter how much I teach my youngsters about the meaning of Christmas being about the birth of Jesus they still learn how to say “Santa Clause” before they voice the name of our Savior.

We all realize how Christmas is commercialized. Businesses thrive as shoppers flock to their wares. Parents spend small fortunes on purchasing just the right toys for their kids. Decorations go up symbolizing Santa as the head figure of the holiday. We overeat, and all the while our children are absorbing everything, much like snow absorbs the sweet syrup when we make our snow ice cream.

The question is, how do we celebrate Christmas and keep Jesus as the focus during our festivities?

I don’t claim to have this all figured out. My own kids often lack in focus and remembrance and there is no one more at fault than myself in spite of my efforts. After all, they learn what I model and teach them.

Here are some thoughts and ideas, though, on how to teach our children about the real reason for celebrating Christmas:

Books! There are so many that tell the story of Christmas. Here are a few:

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The Donkey's Christmas Song

Movies: I’m sure there are many more, but here are a few that my kids watch:

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Church: I teach the children at my church and I put as much focus as I can on teaching about God during the holidays. This is an opportunity for boys and girls who may not ever have been taught about Christ during Christmas to learn, and for children who do know, to strengthen and increase their knowledge.

Remind and teach them: I find myself repeating over and over things like, “Santa sure is neat, but he isn’t real and remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. What is the name of the town Jesus was born in? What kind of bed did He sleep in.”

Create a family tradition on Christmas Eve and Day: On Christmas Eve my dad always read us the nativity story. Try this passage Luke 2:1-20. Even as a young child I felt the sacredness of remembering while he read aloud. There were times, also, when we turned off the lights in the house and left only the flame of a candle burning. The flame reminded us of the Star of Bethlehem and of Jesus and it was simply a time to meditate on these things and a time of worship. All of these are memories from my childhood that I still treasure and they helped to teach me the meaning of Christmas.

Limit the amount and elaborateness of the gifts our children receive: I hope I’m not failing at this one. I really have to reign myself in here, as I want to buy them presents I know they will love. I do believe that it is wise to keep the gifts simple. Our kids do not need every expensive toy on the market they desire, no matter the time of year or celebration! Also, whether or not you tell them that Santa brought them the gifts is a choice you have to make as a parent, but we choose not to for our family. I also love the idea of having my children hand make gifts to give. *Cough* Maybe I will get to this one next year, but here are some ideas I love!

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Homemade snow globes!

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Woodland animal felt ornaments. I have actually purchased the felt for this project, but have just never sat down to work with my children to make them…someday…*sigh*

Giving! Oh, this category is huge. I cannot wait to involve my children more and more in this aspect of Christmas in the years to come. There are so many ways to give and to involve kids in it. Here is a list with links of some of my favorites:

Operation Christmas Child. Have your kids participate in packing shoeboxes full of gifts that will be sent to children in desperate need somewhere around the globe. Through the gift, the recipient will hear the salvation messages and be touched by the gifts they were given. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/

Local food drives: at least in our community, this is a big deal. There are multiple places to donate food items for those in need. Kids can use some of their allowance money or gift money to help purchase food to be donated.

Reece’s Rainbow: This is a fantastic charity. It is a website that helps build grants and raise awareness for children all over the world with special needs who are waiting to be adopted. When you give a financial gift to this ministry during their Angel Tree program you can receive a Christmas ornament with a picture of the child on it that you donated toward.  http://reecesrainbow.org/

Adopt a Family: You have to have some connections and know of just the right family to do this, but it is possible. Find a family in your community that needs some extra help around Christmas. Buy them groceries and gifts for the holidays.

Purchase gifts for someone living in intense poverty: Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog: You can purchase practical gifts to send to needy children and families all over the world. For example, buy a cow or purchase mosquito nets. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/

You can also do this through Compassion International: http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm

and World Vision: http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10389

If you already sponsor a child through one of these ministries they give you the option to purchase and/or send extra money for a Christmas gift for your sponsored child.

For even more ideas on giving, Ann Voskamp writes about teaching her children to be grateful during Christmas at her blog: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/12/the-grateful-christmas-project-7-ways-to-have-more-grateful-kids-this-christmas/

 

My friend, Krysten, also blogged some great ideas for Christmas and giving during the holidays over at her site:

http://restoringoldpaths.blogspot.com/search/label/Things%20I%27m%20an%20advocate%20for.

 

Be creative and diligent with your own ideas for teaching your kids about what Christmas is really about.

I’d love to hear your ideas and add them to what I teach my kiddos!

Merry Christmas!

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A Saturday in Spring

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Tumbles out of beds and into clothes.

Sweet kisses to hurry us out the door.

Pile in for a quick Saturday morning drive.

Steaming pancakes and hot coffee…

laughter sprayed family conversation.

A short stop after short stacks for little ones to splash…

playing at the edge of a blossom edged pond.

Visits with working daddy and four small hands to help, to “work.”

Home again for the tiny bodies to rest.

Afternoon sunlight and crisp warmth trimmed with greening grass.

Outdoor play and planting…

trees with time to grow alongside toddlers…

bulbs to stretch from dirt to light and bloom.

Bursting in to soap away the play earned dirt.

Cheese piled pizza and after dinner chocolaty treats.

Kisses again and jammies for sweet bedtime stories.

Tumbles to bed and rest for sleepy little heads.

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My favorite, sweet little heads

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Small head with a big body/big body with a small head.

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Contemplative

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Not afraid to dirty her pretty dress

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Because when you are this young, all God’s creatures are a delight.

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“Look how strong I am, mommy!”

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And big enough to help with the outside chores.

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And so very goofy.

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With grandpa in her “forest house.”

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A little boy who marvels at everything.

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Including what wondrous things might be found in the mud!

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Not to be out-goofed by older sister.

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Joyful, wobbly babies on bedposts.

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And a serious bout with pinkeye.

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A little sickness doesn’t put a stop to all the monkey business.

 

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Our pint size ball player

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So much fun tuckers you out

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It’s no wonder he falls asleep before his tired body hits the sack.

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We Give Books

This is the coolest website I’ve seen in a long time. I cannot wait to start reading through the huge library of children’s books with Anna and Dean. Yay and yay! The title below is just one of many the website lets you read for free!

Hope for Haiti

http://www.wegivebooks.org/

“We Give Books is a free website that enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, simply by reading online. Simply choose the charity you want to read for and then select the books you want to read. For each book you read online, we donate a book to a leading literacy group on your behalf. The more you read, the more we give.”

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Baby Face

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Fingertip skim. Tracing light

Bridge to nose

Crescent of earth satelite

Lingering

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Skin kiss

Drooped in sleeping

Declinated to eye-contour

Lashes, powder feathering

Shading

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Babe rest

Snowball cheeks glowing softly in sync

Curving to dimpled Cupid bowls

Bloodwarmth blushing pink

Illustrating

a

God touch

Softest red, reflective with a sweet dew sheen

Poised to slightly part

                        Window for air breaths with life between

Promising

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Babe awakening

A constellation sparkles in your face

Dazzling to my love-swooned stare

Perfect little sphere of grace

Igniting

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Mother’s love

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“But the mother’s yearning, that completest type of the life in another life which is the essence of real human love, feels the presence of the cherished child even in the debased, degraded man.” – George Eliot

A word of encouragement, I hope.

There are many daybreaks to sun downs when I feel like a 6’ wide vehicle trying to make a complete turnaround in a 6 1/2’ wide space…back up, turn to the right, ease forward, back up again. It just feels like I am getting nowhere. I exist in a world where my children occupy every frontier of my existence.  I stay at home with them and cherish the blessing to do so. Although, in return, there is complete dictatorship of everything that is myself by two little towheads, always ready to snuggle. That is pretty much the sum of the equation stay+at+home+mommy.

But now I am going to backpedal just a bit. I wouldn’t trade my occupation for any other underneath our sun. Any sacrifice I must make is worthy of what I give and a thousand times more. The raising of my children is a holy calling and how I instruct them is a great responsibility. I must strive mightily and ask the Lord daily to help me teach them what is worth learning, “Forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck (Proverbs 1:8-9).”

With that regression, I must continue by saying that although I am assured of the importance of my calling, there are times that I doubt it. I wonder if you feel the same about your duties as a mother?

I often allow myself to be sucked into a whirlpool of jealousy and self doubt as I compare myself to others and begin to wish that my life amounted to something more…something more important. After all, what am I accomplishing here? I don’t have a career outside my home. I am not building anything. I am not successfully running a business and for myself, I wish that I could complete that Master’s I’ve always dreamed of.  What is your “something more”?

God has called us all separately and individually.  “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor. 4:7)” . So my desire here is not to take away from the life pursuit of anyone. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1Cr. 3:7)” Only let your pursuits be from God and mediate any actions that draw you away from a relationship with Him and gratify only you. I hope that is not too harsh. I do not mean it to be, nor to pass judgment.

And for that hopeful word of encouragement:

As mothers, it is sometimes difficult to see the fruits of our labor. Because often the process that brings forth those fruits can be pretty ugly, it might look like a screaming child or a messy house. Rarely will we receive praise and encouragement for all of our hard work. I wonder if you are feeling underappreciated today? If so, consider this, I once read that it is possible God sometimes withholds encouragement and praise from people in order for us to seek encouragement; to find satisfaction in Him. Oswald Chambers thought the same, “Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him.”

So today, let’s not compare ourselves to one another. Let’s not waste time yearning for a life different from what we have been given. Instead, bring glory to God by completing the tasks he has given us joyfully…completing them well. Because, “(Our) work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work (1 Cr 3:13).”

If you are seeking something more than what you have, seek Him.

“Seek and you shall find.”

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The Real Bucket List

Something to consider and a challenge to give at least a moment’s thought to:

In light of my quickly approaching trip to Haiti (tomorrow, as I am writing this) I have been considering a lot of things in regard to my children. Haiti is a very unstable country and while I am not overly worried about any risks involved in traveling there, the trip has caused me to consider a bit more seriously than normal, what if I were to die?

A morbid question, I know.

Death, outside of the loss and sadness for my family, holds no fear for me. I wish I could describe here how blessedly assured I am of the eternal destination that awaits me. I love my Savior. I worship Him. Although, I fall short daily, He has saved me from my sins. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Tim 1:15)”. I am ransomed. I believe His promises.

I have peace and partake of a living water. I pray that water, that peace will pour out of me. That the me is translucent. That Christ radiates. I pray this for all of you, brothers and sisters. Let your hearts be tugged.

Answer His call. Accept what He freely offers.

What if I were to die?

How often do you consider this question yourself? Let’s not give this thought undue attention, but healthy consideration is necessary and inevitable at some point.

So, in mulling over this concern, specifically with my children in mind, I quickly realized that I have an innumerable amount of things I want to teach them and a lifetime worth of love that I want to share with them before I die.

The birth of this thought pattern made my emotions flail like a person drowning. I felt a pulling out, pulling in, pulling apart need to do just that, teach them everything I can. Love them with all of my mommy love. A love so big it stretches to…everywhere. This love that ignites me, consumes me, thrills me.

But what if I were to die today…even if I were to die a week from now?

This love, this training up of a child, it’s supposed to be my life’s work. My mommy calling, unveiled…completed. I am supposed to have a lifetime for it.

The trouble is, we cannot always know…know when our flawed, earth bodies will be laid down to the dust.

What if I run out of time?

I don’t want to waste time. I don’t want to miss moments: teachable moments, difficult moments, kissable moments. I want teach my children all I can, love them all I can.

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This barely a three year old, with sparkle eyes, this learner, this pure, baby child; what can I teach her now that she must know tomorrow? How can I love her today in a way that will resonate each day of the rest of her life.

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What of this baby boy, this blank slate, what can I show him, leave him, if I am not here for all of his next days?

The answer is this, I cannot live like everyday is my last. I can only love them as I do and teach them as they are ready to learn.

But, my challenge is this:

Have you ever considered taking the time to write your child(ren) a letter? A letter for the future. A letter for after your grave. A letter for…after.

In this letter you could tell them what is most important. You could describe to them your love.

How would you write your letter?

What is most important? What last words do you want to leave your children that will last always and always last?

Following through with this letter, myself, laser-focused what I desire most for Anna and Dean. It forced me to evaluate the gamut of my hopes for them. It clarified and helped me express to them what is singly their purpose, our reason to exist…but the rest is for them to read.

Pray and carefully mull over whether a letter like this is something you should write. I don’t know if it would be as impactful and necessary for everyone as it has been for me.

Also consider that there are other ways to express these thoughts to your children: you could record a message, leave a video, or if they are old enough, simply tell them. In fact, I would love to hear your own unique ideas for this!

Too, writing this letter with the perspective of your own passing is simply one way to do it. Although, this point of view really helped me focus and ponder my words carefully. Instead, you could write a letter like this from another angle. For example, check out this unbelievably beautiful blog post from Ann Voskamp, in which she writes to her 16 year old son as he leaves her home for the first time: http://www.incourage.me/2012/01/what-a-parent-wants-to-say-before-a-child-leaves.html.

Although, I didn’t actually share my letter to Anna and Dean with all of you, I hope that I have conveyed it’s purpose and the eye-opening reflection it has provided me.

I hope this gentle challenge to write a letter will benefit you and your children.

 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

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