Monthly Archives: December 2015

Making All Things New


There is something about the New Year that is clean and refreshing, vibrant and robust.  It is where I can symbolically push old baggage to the side and get a fresh start trying something new.  I always have an excitement about the New Year because it is as if I have been given an empty sheet of white paper where nothing has been written.  I am the one who has a choice of what is to be written on that paper.  What will it be?  How shall I begin my year?

Choices.  Shall I begin my year calling all the shots?  Will I be the one who is in control?  Honestly, I will have to confess that I am not my best master.  In fact, I am a horrible ruler of my own soul.  I make countless mistakes, if left to my own volition.  Therefore, I am not the best lord of my own fate.  Yet, the thought of making positive changes to make certain aspects of my life or the lives of those around me better bring me great joy.  I am always ready and willing to dash and clamour to climb up onto the bandwagon if I believe that I can even begin making some minor change in my life that will actually be an improvement that will benefit myself and others.  For I see change as a constant process that is continually happening all around us and within us.

Many shy away from the act of making resolutions in the New Year, often due to the fact that most people actually don’t keep the promises that they make. GOBankingRates.com surveyed over 5,000 people on their New Year’s Resolutions for 2016.  The top 6 resolutions were the following:

  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Live a healthier lifestyle
  • Lose weight
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Save more, spend less
  • Pay down debt

These resolutions are given as the top resolutions to make for 2016, yet I came upon another list that laid out the Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions.  They are:

  • Lose weight and get fit
  • Quit smoking
  • Learn something new
  • Eat Healthier and diet
  • Get out of debt and save money
  • Spend more time with family
  • Travel to new places
  • Be less stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink less

Why is it that we have such grand ideas at the beginning of the year that gradually putter out and vanish into thin air?  One study below, suggests that it is the way that we “phrase” our resolutions.  We should ask ourselves, instead of making a statement.

From a study just published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology researchers analyzed findings from 104 past studies, all of which looked at the question-behavior effect” or how answering a question about a specific behavior influences whether or not you’ll engage in that behavior.   According to the researchers, you’re much more likely to influence behavior using questions instead of statements.    Thus, researchers encourage people to use questions as New Year’s resolutions as motivators to trigger a psychological response by prompting people to remember why something is important.

Others might say that our resolutions aren’t specific enough.  They need to be written more like goals, with steps that you will take to meet that goal, and a target date when you hope to meet your goal.  For children and families I think that this is very important.  Life is constantly changing.  Children and parents, alike, are in the perpetual flux of going through one stage into the next.  Their wants and needs adjust as they grow and mature.

Hence, with all of that said, I believe that the first step in making New Year’s Resolutions needs to be a quiet time with you and God and your clean sheet of white paper.  You need to go before the Lord acknowledging that you know that He has plans for a hope and a future for you.(Jeremiah 29:11).  He has created you and given you the gifts and the talents that you have.  He also knows the weaknesses and shortcomings that plague you.  Ask God   where He wants you to change and how He wants you to do that.  What goals does the Lord desire for you to work on?   He is the one who can guide you and instruct you.  

Maybe God desires you to:

  • Spend more time with Him daily in having a quiet time.
  • Be more positive with the kids.  A critical spirit can be like a poison in a family or organization.
  • Not spend as much time on your “hand-held” devices.  They can literally drive a wedge between you and your family members, with your kids feeling that your phone activities are far more important than they are.

Psalm 119:10 states “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

Romans 12:2 states “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we spend time with God daily He renews our mind as we read His Word, the Bible.  Then we know what the right and wrong way to go is for us.  We know what His will is, and that aids us in fulfilling any goal that we have made.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Philippians 4:6-9, 13,19 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, of anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me- put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

When we feel that we are weak or unable to fulfill a goal or expectation, we have a helper to aid us in giving us the strength to meet the goal.  God will help us when we go to Him in prayer.

The Teacher Treasury has some wonderful tools that can be used when making your resolutions and in goal setting.  Adults, parents, and children alike can brainstorm and fill in goals or resolutions to the following prompts.

  • I will be better at…..
  • I will try harder to….
  • Before the end of the year I want to……
  • I will practice…..
  • I will learn how to….
  • I will think about….
  • I will not be afraid to…..
  • I will always remember to….

Other grids that can be used are the following:

My goal is:                                                                                                                                      

My target date is:                                                      

To reach my goal I will do these 3 things:                                                      

I will know I have reached my goal because:                    

                                                        I am good at….

                                                        I need to work on….

                                                       My plan to improve is….

                                                       If my plan doesn’t work, then I’ll…

                                                      I’ll know my plan is working when…. 

My goal for________is_____

These are some things I will do to get to my goal……………

Rebecca Gruber shared a fantastic post for New Year’s Resolutions for Parents on her blog, POPSUGAR.

  1. Save on the small things so you can do the big things.
  2. Go on a family tech diet.
  3. Be a better parenting team.
  4. Become cleaner eaters.
  5. Erase the mom guilt.
  6. Break the common bad-parenting habits.
  7. Boost your kids’ self-esteem.
  8. Be in the picture…literally.
  9. Reinstate the family dinner.
  10. Live in the moment (not on instagram).
  11. Don’t judge other parents.
  12. Simplify; remove things from your life that you do not need.
  13. Be positive.
  14. Keep your family healthy.

(I have this as one of the resources, where you can get more “How-to’s” for each item listed.)

God’s Word tells us the following:

Colossians 3:12-14, 17  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Putting on love.  Think about that for a moment.  For this New Year of 2016 making a goal of putting on love.  Choosing to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Choosing to tuck away that critical spirit, and set free a spirit of love and grace to all who live around you.  Choosing to let the spirit of Jesus, shine through you.  If we all did this we would be a part of working together with the Lord in making all things new.

Revelation 21:5  “I am making everything new!”

Have a blessed and wonderful 2016!

Here are some resources for a fantastic 2016!

New Year’s Resolutions Kids Can Make

Parenting Resolutions

Reward Charts 4 Kids

15 New Years Activities for Kids

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

How to Make Lasting Christmas Memories


I remember the eager faces of my sons as they sat at the top of the steps with bated breath yearning to dash down the stairs in breathless expectation to finally view the long-awaited Christmas tree with the gifts from Santa, and the many other presents that they could finally open on Christmas morn.  What a thrill it was to see the happiness etched on their faces as they progressed from opening one gift after another!  Yet, a few months later, most of the toys were at the bottom of the toy box.  They had lost interest in the new toys, or the clothes that they received were outgrown in 3 to 6 months.  Gifts are wonderful items to accept, an excitement to wonder what is inside, and a delight to open up.  They are many times articles that we desire or need.  However, for this Christmas, when I was limited financially in what I could give, I began pondering on how to make lasting Christmas memories.   How can I give something that is more than a gift?  It has to be something that I do that makes a memory that will last forever.  I guess that as a grandmother, who has just turned 64, I yearn to make memories that will be planted in my grandchildren’s hearts.

Consequently, the first step that I took in making memories was that my daughter-in- laws and I organized for all of my grandkids and my niece to come and make sugar cookies together.  We had such a delightful time.  The kids drank their hot chocolate, while the adults had their pumpkin chai tea.  We rolled out the dough and then cut out all of the cookies with angel, tree, and star cookie cutters.  Then we placed the cookies on cookie sheets and baked them.  Finally, we dunked them in icing and decorated them.  Cookie sprinkles were strewn everywhere as chocolate faces busily designed their perfect cookies.  What joy!

Secondly, my daughter-in-law introduced us to the idea of acting out the Nativity story.  Therefore, all 14 of us are going to get dressed up in character and act out the Christmas story. Of course, we will have baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, and a narrator to tell the story.  We will also have a photographer who will be filming our endeavor.   This will definitely be a memorable event!   I also found some Nativity coloring pages that I have stapled into booklets for my 8 grandchildren to have when they come to Nana and Poppy’s house.  This will be another means of communicating the real reason for the season to my babies.

Next, we are going to have a birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  I want to make sure that my grandchildren know why we celebrate Christmas.  Jeannie Cannon in her article “What Your Kids Really Want for Christmas” states:                                      I want them to remember the anticipation, the thrill, the joy of celebrating the Christmas miracle.  Christ has come.  The greatest gift has been given.  We can tear up the naughty and nice lists.  Jesus has done for you and me what we could never do for ourselves.  We now have God’s unfailing and forever love.  So, come let us adore Him!  I want to give my kids a Christmas that is all about the miracle, not the material.  This means drawing nearer to the heart of Christ, choosing memorable experiences over fleeting tangibles, and serving and giving to those in need.  Because no matter what their lists are asking for, what every child really wants is LOVE.  To love and be loved.

Jeannie continues saying that here are a few simple ways that we can give and share that love with gifts that won’t end up at the bottom of the toy box.

  1. The Gift of Jesus         We can let our hearts draw nearer to Christ as the calendar draws nearer to Christmas.  We will gather, we will read, we will talk, we will pray, we will play.  We will celebrate the coming of our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
  2. The Gift of Presence      We can lean in.  Listen.  Create simple moments and memorable experiences.  Spend more time and less money. Yes, less doing and more being.  Our presence is the present is what they want.
  3. The Gift of Giving          We can give and serve and love.  We have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party.  For the presents for Jesus, He wants our love, our trust, our hearts.  He wants us.  He wants us to love Him and love one another.  We can love Him by loving one another.  Jesus said:  Truly I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.    I have seen joy in my children’s eyes as they  have come to experience loving and serving and giving as Christ has first loved and served and given to us.  Our children long to know that they are part of something bigger than themselves that they have been created for a purpose.

Finally, I have collected so many ornaments that my tree is heavy with them.  I am going to let my grandchildren select one ornament from my tree that they can claim as their own and take home and put on their own tree.   Another memory maker,  that they will be reminded of each year as they place the ornament on their own Christmas tree.

One of the most important messages that I want to impart to my grandchildren is that Jesus is Immanuel God with us.

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us“).

God sent His son Jesus to be with us.  He is not a God who is far away and unapproachable.  He is a God who loves us and cares for us.  He is a God who listens to our cries and a God who comforts us.  He is a God who encourages us and who strengthens us. He enables us to persevere through the troubles and storms that occur in our lives.  He is our friend and comforter who never leaves or forsakes us.  He offers us hope when we are depleted.  He extends peace in the midst of discord and chaos.  He embraces us  with His love where there is hatred.

Therefore at Christmas time we can not help but fall on our knees to worship this babe who was born in Bethlehem.  This baby, who is our Lord, our Savior, our God!

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord or Maker; for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.”  Psalm 95:6-7

Here are some resources that you might enjoy this Christmas.

Ten Minute Christmas Skit

Nativity Preschool Pack

Advent Coloring Book

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

 

Naughty or Nice


“Oh, you better watch out, You better not pout.  

You’d better not cry, I’m telling you why,

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list.  He’s checking it twice.

He’s gonna find out, who’s naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good.  So be good for goodness sake.

So, you’d better watch out.  You’d better not pout.  You’d better not cry,

I’m telling you why.  Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Do you remember these familiar lyrics?  I do!  The song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots seemed to be played frequently during my childhood.  I suppose it was written as a deterrent for naughty behavior at Christmas time.  I also remember hearing stories of Saint Nicholas leaving coal in stockings of “bad” little boys and girls on Christmas morning.  For me, these reminders were all that I needed to keep my behavior in check.  I was certain that I was going to be good so that I received nice items in my stocking on Christmas morn.

How does that same refrain work in today’s culture?   As a teacher for 25 years I have been amazed at how children’s behavior has changed over the years that I have been teaching.  When I began teaching in the 1970’s, students had a basic respect for authority figures.  Even though I had a few students with rambunctious behavior, mostly all of them respected authority and understood boundaries.

In today’s schools that has actually flip-flopped.  There are many students who enter school with no respect for authority figures and no understanding of boundaries.  In fact, I have recently heard that many pre-schools do not utilize any kind of behavioral plan using a consequence for negative behavior, and allow children to do anything they desire to do during the day, not enforcing any kind of boundaries.  No wonder it is so difficult getting children to sit still, listen, and focus on a lesson in kindergarten and first grade.  Children have been programmed to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.  Everything revolves around the big ME.

Children need to be an integral part of the process of creating a set of  home rules that all kids in the family will follow.  Then, they need to see positive behaviors modeled before them so that they will know what is expected of them.   It is important for kids to be recognized for performing the correct instructions.  Positive comments or rewards for being good pay off lasting benefits.  This makes other kids want to do the same.  Good behavior spawns more good behavior.  If you choose to focus on what a child does wrong and on negativity, it ends up being a downer for that kid, and for the rest of the family.  More negative behavior will occur.  Praise is a winner every time.

Maybe your child has a specific area where he or she has their naughty behavior.  Let’s say it is tattling or lying.  Make sure that you praise your child for the other good qualities in his or her character.  Maybe your child is very giving, or very helpful.  Give lots of praise in those areas, but tell your child that everybody has one area that they need to focus on, and that this area is his.  You can talk about the specific behavior and why the child does it.  Is the tattling because she wants your attention when you are working with the other kids?  Talk about how you can carve out special time with her each day, or an extra special time each week.  Make a chart where she gets a star for each day that she doesn’t tattle.  When she gets so many stars she gets a reward.  For the lying, discuss if he was lying because he was afraid that he was going to get in trouble.  Talk about why lying is wrong, and that you would rather have him tell the truth, when he does something wrong, than lie.  Discuss how that takes real bravery, and that brave boys get extra time with mom or dad.

I can’t accentuate enough the power of praise over negativity in changing behavior in children.  If a child always hears that she is doing things wrong, or that what she does is not good enough, then she begins to internalize that she must be bad and begins to feel bad about herself, thus acquiring a poor self-esteem.  This can lead to the child not wanting to try anymore, and wanting to give up, because she has begun to believe that she can’t do the work that she is being asked to do.  The child may then begin acquiring “acting-out ” behaviors because she is anxious, depressed, and doesn’t know what to do in the deepening crisis that she is in.

Let’s turn that situation around and use praise instead of negativity.  When a child is hearing praise about the accomplishments that he makes, he begins to gain confidence in himself, one brick at a time.  Each word of praise is like another brick that is building up his belief in himself and his abilities to try new things and learn.  His self-esteem blossoms and   his ability to learn increases.  He doesn’t even think of misbehaving, because he wants to make the right choices; he desires to have a good character.

For young children, Christmas is a time when the normal routine and schedule often gets tossed aside because of all of the added holiday activities.  Even though these activities are exciting and fun, they can often cause a lot of stress and anxiety in little ones.  Being on- stage for a Christmas pageant, or musical production can be fear-inducing in kids and cause tears or melt-downs and even loss of sleep in our children.  Many Christmas parties have cookies and candy that many kids don’t usually eat and they come under the influence of a “sugar-high”, often running around and acting more impulsively.  Staying up later than the normal bedtime will make kids more fatigued the next day, so they are not as alert and as well-behaved at school, and then they’re tired and grouchy when they get home.

On the blog, Toddler Approved, Kristina writes that children crave consistency, stability and routine.  She gives 15 Tips on How To De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

  1. Stay with your routine as much as possible.
  2. Give warnings of transitions.
  3. Spend at least 15 minutes a day of one-on-one focused attention on a child.
  4. Don’t over schedule.  Leave time for naps and rest.  Be realistic about what your family can do.
  5. Communicate.  Sometimes children feel frustrated but they don’t have words to tell you.  Be aware of visual clues and give your child words to use.  Such as “I’m tired.”  “I’m hungry.”  Listen to them and answer their many questions.
  6. Toys.  Take their favorite toys with them through transitions or time away from home.
  7. Music.  Calming music helps children relax.  Dancing to fast music helps them release stored up energy.
  8. Laughter.  Act goofy and find humor in situations or start “tickling”.
  9. Massages.  Rub your child’s back or feet while talking soothingly to them or while listening to calming music.
  10. Deep breathing.  Say:  “Breathe in.  Hold it.  Breathe out.”  Repeat this several times.  While your child is doing this say something like:  “I feel relaxed.  I feel happy.  I feel good.”
  11. Movement.  Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce stress and ensure that your child gets a good night’s sleep.  Play outside when possible.  Roll around on the floor and roughhouse.
  12. Blow bubbles or blow up a balloon and toss it around.  Offer a squeeze ball to tighten and relax muscles.
  13. Stay on a healthy and familiar diet.
  14. Bedtime ritual.  Share books and cuddle time before they go to sleep.  Have your child tell you what they did today.  Help them express their “walk through the day” remembering the positive, happy things that they did.
  15. Gratitude Meditation.  Help your child express gratitude for all the things they have, such as family, food, home, friends, toys, and books.  I will add- praying to God about these things.

Kristina also speaks about the issue of anxiety that many kids face at this time of the year.  We often do not realize how overwhelming it can be for children when they are in new situations where there are new people that they do not know, or with people that they don’t see that often.  Many times it can be really scary when Uncle Ernest wants Susie to sit on his lap and Susie hasn’t seen Uncle Ernest in a year.  Or Aunt Lillian won’t stop hugging Johnny and Johnny really doesn’t liked being hugged.

Kristina shares that in such situations parents should:

  • Stay in close proximity when around new people.
  • Recognize that new faces, routines, situations can be uncomfortable/stressful/scary and acknowledge that verbally and offer emotional support.
  • Be realistic with the amount of time you spend with new people/new situations or in situations that cause anxiety.
  • Bring a familiar object or find a comforting activity when you arrive at a new setting.
  • Encourage people to give your child space and wait for him/her to come to them/initiate interactions with them.
  • Don’t require expressions of affection offer choices-hug, high-five, don’t push it.  Be respectful.
  • Prepare ahead of time.
  • Take breaks.

My final point to mention is that there is nothing like having a hug from mom or dad.  I have always been big on hugging.  I still hug my 6 ft. tall sons.  They will always be “my babies”.  A hug is powerful.  Sometimes a child just needs to be hugged- no words are needed.  A hug doesn’t need words.  It communicates love, acceptance, and that the parent is “here for you”.  On the blog, Home Grown Friends, Meredith has created The Hug Jar.  It is a jar with stuffed hearts in it.  A child can go and select a heart from the jar and hand a parent the heart, whenever the child feels that she needs a hug.  What an awesome idea!

As always the Bible gives us the best advice to aid us on the road of parenting.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on your doorframe of your houses and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:5-9

In other words, if we introduce our child to God and make Him a part of our child’s life, He will make a difference.  Knowing God’s laws, the Ten Commandments is important.  Even more important is that a child knows that God wants to be his friend and desires to be with him in every circumstance in his life.  A child needs to know that Jesus was born to save him from his sins.  He was born to have a personal relationship with your child that will last into eternity.

Here are some resources that I hope that you will enjoy.

Holiday Parenting Tips

The Hug Jar

4 Tips for Better Holiday Behavior

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

 

 

 

 

Visions of $$$ Danced in My Head


Christmas is a magical time of the year for children.  Everywhere you travel there are elaborately decorated homes strung with glittering lights of every color.  Blown up figurines of Santa and his reindeer adorn front lawns, as well as Frosty the Snowman.  Spotlights illuminate Nativity scenes that are on display in the front view of a church.    Doors are bedecked with ornamental wreaths. As you walk into the Mall you hear familiar Christmas carols and feel as if you are in a fantasy land as you view the elegant decor and the allure of the merchandise.  It is as if every item is crying out “Buy Me, Buy Me!”  And….if you happen to be going to the Mall with your kids during the Christmas season, then you’re in BIG TROUBLE, because the entire time that you are there, they are desperately trying to drag you to the toy, electronic, or clothes department to show you what they desire on Christmas morning.  All I can envision is part of the poem “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Moore where he states…  “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”  I reinterpret the words as  ” Visions of $$$$ dancing in my head!”

Yikes!  It seems like the real meaning of Christmas can so easily be eclipsed by all of the gift buying, spending money on making everybody happy, and all of the work of getting ready for the big day. My goodness, the tasks can be quite overwhelming!  There is buying all the presents.  Next, wrapping them.  Then, writing Christmas cards.  Next, baking cookies.  Of course, there is decorating the house for Christmas, after the family time of putting up the Christmas tree, and bringing up of all of the Christmas boxes, the lights, the candles, and getting up on the ladders to install the outside lights.  Then, there is planning menus and cooking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Finally, there is writing thank you notes and cleaning up.   Whew!  I just got tired typing this paragraph!  Getting ready for Christmas is exhausting!  Add to that, the Christmas musicals, kid’s performances, the parties you attend, and the extra events that you want to take part in.

The bottom line is that all of the decorations, all of the activities, all of the gifts, the baking, the cards, and the clothes for the parties cost money.  Christmas is expensive!  Santa Claus isn’t real and he doesn’t leave free presents under the tree.  It’s parents who spend all night putting that toy kitchen set or train engine together.

I have always enjoyed buying gifts for my family.  It has been a joy to buy matching dresses and pants and shirts for my grandchildren.  Unfortunately, this year has to be different.  This year I can’t buy the dresses and the matching outfits.  This year I can’t buy all of the gifts that I would like to give to my family.  Why, you may ask?  I retired. With budget cuts and restrictions due to a more limited income, Christmas buying and giving this year has been viewed with a different lens.  Amazingly enough, it has simplified things for me.  I haven’t had to get out into the craziness of the marketplace and wait in lines and be allured by this sale item or another fantastic deal.  I have had to learn to give creatively from what I have.  I have always been a bargain shopper.  If I see something on sale at a really good price and I know that it is something that one of my grandchildren or children would like, then I will buy it and save it to give to them at a later time.  Fortunately, I have some of these items saved up, and I am making use of them for this Christmas.  As a retired teacher, I have treasures of books, stuffed animals and games that my grandchildren will adore.  I am also doing a lot of baking and giving baked goods as gifts.

Maybe, you are seeing “Visions of $$$ dancing in  your head” and there is not enough money to go around for all of the expenses that you have at this time of the year.  As hard as you want to admit it, you have to cut back.  You can’t buy all of the gifts that your kids want under the tree on Christmas morning, and it breaks your heart.  You know I am beginning to see that less is better.  It’s o.k. to limit the amount of items that kids will receive.  Alison Wood  has created the blog, “Pint-sized Treasures”.  She writes that as a mom that she often struggles with giving her kids too much or not enough, and that she often wonders what the balance should be.  Can you relate?  She wonders if she spends too much money could she be causing her child to become materialistic or would she simply be showing her love.  So, to help her with this situation she created a Christmas Wish List.  It is a list that helps parents and kids keep the right attitude and perspective during the biggest gift-giving and receiving time on earth- Christmas!

The Wish List is a list that the kids are given to fill out themselves.  It also helps kids to distinguish what an actual need and want is in reality.  Parents can also fill out a list.  The list contains the following items:

  • Something to wear:____________________
  • Something to read:____________________
  • Something you want:__________________
  • Something you need:__________________
  • Something to give:____________________

For the Something to Wear item this would be something that would be a very special clothing item.  Maybe a really nice sweater that your daughter had been longing for, or those hiking boots that your son had been eyeing in the catalog.

For Something to Read make it an amazing book that your child would grow in knowledge or have joy in reading.  Maybe your son loves sharks, so you go and purchase an awesome shark book with phenomenal photographs.  Your daughter loves dancing, so you find a book about dancing, and ballerinas, that is absolutely mesmerizing.

For Something you Need ask your child to name something he or she needs.  With kids there is always something that they need.  A friend of mine always got new underwear under the tree.  I always bought my sons new socks and put them in their stockings.

For Something You Want, this is the difficult area, because your child can only write down one item.  Other relatives can purchase want items.  This can also be a time when your child can learn patience in waiting until his or her birthday to receive the other items that he or she would like.  It can also be an opportunity for a parent to begin giving an allowance for chores done in the house and your child learning to save money, learning to tithe money to the church, and learning to spend money.  The money saved can go in a piggy bank and be saved up for one of the “wants” that the child has.

For Something to Give this is the area where Alison wanted the kids to focus on others.  Christmas is more than just receiving gifts.  It is a time of thinking about others.  There are needs all around us.  Many kids won’t have a Christmas like you or me.  Help your child brainstorm about who to give to and what to give.  If money is an issue you can make a gift or a card for someone or bake cookies or cranberry bread to give to someone.  Christmas coupons can be made as well.  Giving to the Salvation Army outside of Walmart could be an example or making a bag full of items for the homeless and giving the bag to a homeless person could be another idea.  Maybe there is an elderly lady or man in your church or neighborhood.  Your child could rake their yard, bake cookies, or make a Christmas card for them.

I have the Wish list as one of my resources at the end of my post.

Oh my, have you noticed what has happened?  We have been so busy frantically putting up the tree, decorating our homes, baking the cookies, writing the cards, preparing for the programs, buying and wrapping the gifts that it has been so easy to forget what the real reason for the season is.

                         JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Jesus was born on Christmas Day.  The Messiah, God’s son came to earth to die and forgive us of our sins.   Jesus was the greatest gift ever given to mankind.  He was born for you and for me to be our Savior.  What a wondrous gift!

I have listed some resources below that you can use for gift giving in this Christmas season.

The Best Christmas Wish List

Christmas Coupons for Kids

Gorgeous Gifts Kids Can Make

Light ‘Em Up

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

 

 

ANTICIPATING ADVENT


Christmas is the holiday that is filled to the brim with anticipation for what is to come.  It all commences on the first day of December or the first day of Advent in counting down the days until Christmas Eve and then finally Christmas!  Realistically though, in our culture today, the anticipation begins far before December the first.  Christmas decorations and advertisements for the newest toys, gadgets, and gifts begin in October and November.  In fact, it seems as if Christmas on the retail level kicks off more prematurely each season.

                 “O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

Advent literally means to prepare for the coming of our Savior- to prepare for His birth.  Each day of December is a countdown until Jesus’ birth on December 25th.  Many families have celebrated the Advent season in a variety of ways.  When my sons were growing up, we participated in many different activities to make the Advent season come alive to them.

The first activity that I would have ready before the first day of December was that of hanging up our Advent calendar.  The calendar consisted of a large felt Christmas tree and 25 numbered pockets.  In each pocket there was a felt ornament to put on the tree for each day of Advent.  The boys would take turns placing an ornament on the tree daily for our Advent countdown.  They would always have fun wondering what kind of ornament that they would be pulling out of the pocket each day.  They thoroughly enjoyed placing their choice on the tree.

“The first Noel, the angels would say was to certain poor shepherds in fields

                                                        where they lay.”

The second activity that we focused on was our Advent wreath.  The wreath would be a greenery table wreath with 4 red candles and 1 white candle in the middle.   Decorations that ornamented the wreath were red bows at the base of each red candle and then tiny figurines of the characters in the nativity story: Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, lambs, the wise men, and the angels.  I also trimmed the wreath with tiny figurines that represented something that the boys and that my husband and I enjoyed.  My husband was a football fanatic, so I tucked a tiny football in the leaves.  The boys adored playing baseball and soccer, so I placed a tiny bat and glove and a soccer ball in the greenery.  I loved music and reading, so I adorned the wreath with a musical note and a miniature book for me.

The wreath had 5 candles, one for each Sunday of Advent and then the last one was for Christmas Eve.  We would light a candle each Sunday and have a devotional about that candle and re-tell a portion of the Nativity Story.  The first candle was the Prophecy Candle.  It was the Candle of Hope.  We were able to have hope because we believed in a God who was faithful.  The second candle was the Bethlehem Candle, the Candle of Preparation.  God kept His promise of sending a Savior, who would be born in Bethlehem. To prepare meant to get ready to welcome Him.  The third candle was the Shepherd’s Candle.  It was the Candle of Joy.  The angels sang a message of joy when the Savior was born.  The fourth candle was the Angel Candle, the Candle of Love.  The angels announced the good news of a Savior.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16  The fifth candle was the Christ Candle.  Jesus was the spotless lamb of God, sent to take away our sins.

                  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive its King.”

I still have poignant memories of our Sunday evening times around our Advent Wreath.  It was so meaningful to me, knowing that somehow my husband and I were teaching our children the true meaning of the season, amidst all of the hustle and bustle in the world outside of our home.  Amidst all of the clamor for more of this and more of that, we were getting down to the true significance of the holiday.  I was so thankful for the modeling and assistance that I had from friends and family in making Christmas come alive for my kids.

“Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see the lie.  Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.”

Of course one of our favorite traditions for getting ready for Christmas has been decorating the Christmas tree.  My poor husband has always had to carry up crate, after crate of all of my decorations.  But, for me it has always been such a festive time to decorate.  We began purchasing an ornament for each of the boys every year that they would have for their own tree one day.   When the boys were small we would go to the Christmas tree lot together and pick out the perfect tree.  Then we would come home, put on the Christmas music, and make hot chocolate and apple cider and then decorate our tree.  What wonderful memories I have of those days.  What fun we had together decorating our tree!

As Christmas gifts for me, the boys gave me piece after piece of the most beautiful Nativity set, that always held center stage in our decorating scheme.  The set looked as if it was made of exquisitely hand carved wood, but interestingly enough it was made from plastic. I was overjoyed by that fact, because I wanted my sons to have a Nativity set that was touchable,  one where they could move the pieces around and play with and talk about the characters.  I was thrilled when I finally had all of the characters and the stable so that my collection was complete.  I wanted this Nativity set to impact my sons and for them to realize that Christmas was at the heart about Jesus being born in the manger and not all about getting toys from Santa Claus.

“Away in a manger no crib for a bed.  The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”

Another one of my favorite decorations to place on one of our living room tables was a music box that played “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him”.  The music box was a figurine of Santa Claus bowing down to baby Jesus in the manger.  My sons loved the music box.  They always wanted me to play the song and they would watch with wide and sparkling eyes as  Santa and baby Jesus spun around to the tune.  I would hold the boys with tears in my eyes, thanking the Lord for giving the artist who created the music box and song, his vision.

Since I have become a grandmother, one of my daughter-in-laws has found the most phenomenal books to use with the family for Advent.  It is a handcrafted book, entitled The Advent Book, published by Jack and Kathy Stockman.  The book has exquisite artwork on each page and a door that your child opens.  Inside of the door is some more elaborate artwork with part of the Nativity narrative.  The book is a large book with thick cardboard pages that are well-constructed and will not tear easily.  My grandchildren are mesmerized by the book and can’t wait to read it every night before going to bed.  Even though the book is costly, it is well worth the money spent.  It is sturdy enough to be an heirloom that you can pass down in your family.

Here are a wealth of resources that you can use for the Advent Season.

12 Ways to Have a Christ Centered Christmas

Advent Printables

The Christmas Story According to St. Luke

150 Advent Activities

Advent Wreath

The Advent Book

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith