Monthly Archives: November 2016

An Advent Adventure


The day-light hours are diminishing and the black nights cover the bare trees as the temperature drops and the frost appears.  We precede the beginning of the season of winter and embark upon the season of Advent.  Advent is a time of waiting.  It is a time of preparing and anticipating the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

With all of the hustle and bustle of the season, it sure is easy to lose sight of the real reason that we are celebrating the holiday of Christmas.  With all of the many cultures and various religious groups who live together in our land we find it easier at this time of year to say “Happy Holidays” so that we won’t offend anyone.  We get so caught up in the buying of gifts, the holiday parties, the special shows, the decorations, tantalizing foods, and gathering together with family and friends.  We easily forget about that babe in the manger, who was born to set us free from sin and death.

Therefore I wanted to remind us of this Advent season, so that we can all joyfully prepare for the birth of the King.  In her blogBeing Confident of This,  Jen shared the idea that she learned about from a fellow blogger named Lana, who developed the Christmas Adventure Box for a Kid-Friendly Advent experience for her family.  The idea of the box is to use the ideas in the box daily or several times weekly to help the family remember the Greatest Gift of All, Jesus.  This family Advent plan takes literally less than an hour to organize and the activities take as little as 5 minutes or as long as 20-30 minutes, depending on how involved you wish to make it.  When I read about this idea, I was all thumbs up!!

Here is the link to find out about how you can implement the Christmas Adventure Box in your family traditions.

The Christmas Adventure Box

Ann Voskamp, a noted Christian author and blogger, recently wrote in a post on her blog that one of her children asked her a poignant question as she was tucking him in for bed one night, “What does Jesus get for his birthday?”    The question stopped her in the midst of her nightly duties and the words hung in the air.  She groped for an answer.  Her son continued:  “Why don’t we give up things so we can give to Jesus for His birthday?”  She thought, is it always this way that a little child will lead them?  Her son was only 5 at that time.  He is 17 now.  She states that since that time her family has done all Christmases since this way- giving away.  For the Birthday Child tells us what He wants:  Give to the least of these is giving to Me.  So, for her family, they each choose one gift for He who is Christmas.  They pick gifts from Compassion Catalog, Samaritan’s Purse,  and World Vision.  They give to the least of these.  For their family that is the same as giving to Jesus.  If you would like to contribute to these charities, their websites are listed below:

Some of the ladies in my church have come up with a unique way of helping the less fortunate in our neighborhoods.  We have the homeless who are often at our stoplights or at some of our well-traveled areas.  As a result,the ladies and some of our small groups have made bags that we can carry in our cars to hand out to the homeless that we come across in our community.  The bags are quart-sized zip-lock bags.  They are filled with the following items that our children can help us with:

  • snack packs of peanut-butter crackers
  • flip-top cans of “Beanie-Weenies” or “Vienna Sausages”
  • comb
  • toothbrush and small toothpaste
  • small hand lotion
  • packets of hand sanitizer
  • hand warmers
  • chapstick
  • small soap
  • pair of socks
  • $1.00
  • A message that tells them that God loves them.

For Christmas we could even add a candy cane or some Christmas cookies.  What a wonderful way of reaching out to the least of these!

Another post that I discovered listed 50 Acts of Kindness by Kids for Advent.  I am going to list some of my favorites.  They were from the blogMum in the Madhouse.

  • Donate a coat to charity leaving a happy note in the pocket.
  • Donate to the local or church food bank
  • Make Christmas cards for your neighbors, especially ones you may not know.
  • Leave change in the vending machine.
  • Sort through your toys and donate those you no longer play with to charity.
  • Sharpen the pencils in your house.
  • Write a letter to your sibling telling them why you love them.
  • Leave a beautiful homemade bookmark in your library book and give one to the librarian.
  • Deliver cookies to your neighbor.
  • Clean up your bedroom without being asked.
  • Send thank you notes to houses with beautiful lights thanking them for lighting up their houses.
  • Sit next to someone you don’t normally sit next to at lunch and be nice to them.
  • Make a bird feeder and leave out water for birds.
  • Send a care package to someone in the military.
  • Choose 3 of your toys to give to children in local hospitals
  • Pass on some of your books to friends or donate them to your school library.
  • Write thank you notes to your teachers, coaches, and people who have influenced you.
  • Help an elderly neighbor or friend with their yard or decorations.
  • Give a compliment to someone today.
  • Give out free hugs today.
  • Hold the doors open for people throughout the day.
  • Smile all day.
  • Let someone go in front of you in line.
  • Introduce yourself to someone new and chat with them.

It brought me gladness in writing each of these acts of kindness on my computer.  Implementing these acts in your life would put a smile on your face and the face of the person you were being kind to.  Just try them and see!

I discovered another post on my quest for ideas for Advent.  I found 25 Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions on a blog entitled, Prac Perfeccionista.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Set out a child-friendly Nativity set for play.
  • Buy Nativity cookie cutters to use for baking cookies.
  • Make puppets and re-enact the Christmas story.
  • Make a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas with a Bible verse on each link.
  • Instead of a gingerbread house, make a Nativity.
  • Make an Advent wreath and light the candles each night together and read the Bible preparing for the coming of the King.
  • Attend a Christmas church service together.
  • Make an Advent calendar- instead of using candy, insert papers with ways you can serve someone each day.
  • Read Christ-centered Christmas books during the Advent season.
  • Make and use a Jesse tree during Advent.
  • Cook Christmas recipes from different countries and pray for the people of these countries to come to know Christ.
  • Participate in an Angel Tree project.
  • When hanging Christmas lights, talk about Jesus being the “light of the world”.
  • Read the Christmas story together on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus and sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” on Christmas Day.
  • Go to a Christmas Eve service and attend church on Christmas Day.

One of my most treasured family traditions that we began after the grandchildren were born was that of re-enacting the Christmas story in a family Christmas play where we all participated.  We borrowed costumes from our church, and I found a script on-line, where we could all be characters.  Of course there was Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds, the wise men, an angel, and of course, the donkey.  Then we had a narrator who told the story and a person who was a character and also video-taping the play, so that we could view it later.  We have had so much enjoyment participating in the play as a family.  The grandchildren have learned the story, while having fun with their cousins playing various roles throughout the years.

My final favorite Advent activity is that of going caroling.  I love to sing, especially Christmas carols.  I will have to admit that there is nothing as gratifying  as going into a nursing home and visiting the elderly who are lonely and often grieving for the loved ones who have passed away before them, and seeing their entire demeanor change as they hear “Silent Night” being sung.  They usually begin singing, with tears streaming down their faces and joy radiates from their eyes as they listen to the melody of the carol.  As we visit with the people you can  sense that God used you to truly brighten another person’s day.  What a blessing!

I will end my post with 12 Christmas Prayers from Dwellar.

  1. FAITH-“Father God, It is by Your grace we have been saved, and through our faith- this is not from ourselves, but a gift from You- not by our works.”   Ephesians 2:8-9
  2. HOPE-“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.”  Romans 15:4
  3. LOVE- “Help us to love because You first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
  4. FORGIVENESS- “Thank you for being faithful and just in forgiving us our sins and thus purifying us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
  5. MERCY-  “Let us be merciful, just as our Father is merciful.”  Luke 6:36
  6. KINDNESS-“Let us be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as through Jesus, You forgave us.”  Ephesians 4:32
  7. GENEROSITY- “Let us be enriched in every way to be generous in every way and to give the glory and thanks to you Lord!”  2 Corinthians 9:11
  8. COMPASSION-“Let us live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic and compassionate, love as brothers, and be humble.” 1Peter 3:8
  9. JOY-  “Let us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12
  10. SALVATION-  “Thank you for providing Jesus who is the way, the truth, the life and the only way to You.”  John 14:5
  11. OBEDIENCE- “Help us to not merely listen to Your Word, and so deceive ourselves.  Help us do what it says.”  James 1:22-25
  12. LIFE- “Thank you for coming that we may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

 

It is my desire that you and all of your loved ones will have a very Merry Christmas.

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

Debra Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Heart of Gratitude


After all of the masquerades and sensory experiences of Halloween, the month of November silently tiptoes in.  This year the trees are at their peak with the vibrant hues of the blushing, crimson maples and the golden, stately oaks adorning our skylines and our yards.  November is a month of contrasts for me.  Being the month of my birthday, it should be seen as my favorite month.  Nevertheless, the month has been a time where loved ones have passed away: my father-in-law and my grandson.  Therefore, those occurrences have made the month bittersweet.  Thankfully, the Lord in His loving kindness gave me another grandson and a niece whose birthdays are in November to celebrate, and many friends who share the same birth month.

We also celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving during the month of November, a time to be thankful to God for what He has done for us.  I have found that having a thankful heart, alters our attitude towards life.  When we become thankful for the things that we have, we become less grumpy about the things that we don’t possess.  Gratitude transforms the heart and brings happiness and contentedness.  It is a gift that we can present to ourselves that enables us to reach out to others with compassion and give to them in return.

In her blog, Creativehomekeeper,  Victoria Osborn states in her post 30 Days of Thanksgiving that:  “Gratitude and thanksgiving are essentially one in the same: having a thankful heart, giving thanks, and sharing our blessings.  It’s a discipline that has been around a long time.  Over and over in the Bible there are countless verses offering thanksgivings to God.”

  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.”  1 Chronicles 16:34
  • “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”  Psalm 7:17
  • “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6
  • “Let the Message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”  Colossians 3:16

Victoria continues to share that:  “November is a month of Thanksgiving and celebration of the harvest, all of God’s blessings and the life He has freely given us.  Practicing gratitude and giving thanks should be something that we do every day.”  Victoria suggests that November is the perfect time to begin the spiritual discipline of counting our gifts.  We can spend the next 30 days really searching for all of the ways that we have been blessed.  What a fantastic idea!  Before all of the hubbub of the Christmas season where it is so easy to be overwhelmed by all of the unending gift lists.  November is a quiet and reflective time to focus on what we have been given.  Many times these items may be intangible, yet very real to us, indeed!

“From the big…where you were cured from cancer, reunited with estranged family, did you accept God’s gift of salvation?”

“To the small…the giggles of your children, holding hands with your husband, and inside joke with two friends, a good book.”

“Give it all to God.  When we spend time counting the gifts, we spend time in communion with Him.”

Victoria shares some simple ways to start the practice of daily Thanksgiving.

  1. Start a Thanksgiving journal–  Everyday spend a few minutes writing out as many gifts as you can think and don’t be afraid to include everyday things
  2. Write one thing you are thankful for each day- on a small sheet of paper and placer it in a jar.  At the end of the month, open the jar up and read through your gifts.
  3. Make a Thankful tree with your children- Grab a large stick or tree branch from outside and place it in a vase on the table.  Along with your children, each day adorn it with a small token of gratitude or have your young children draw a picture.
  4. Read a book on gratitude-My personal favorite one is Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  It also includes a 30 day devotional in the back.
  5. Do a word study. Using a concordance or Bible dictionary, spend the next 30 days looking up all of the verses in the Bible with the words thanks, thankful. blessing, gratitude, or thanksgiving in them.
  6. Complete a Bible study. Join the She Reads Truth gratitude online Bible Study. You don’t need to purchase the study pack to participate.  Or there are other online Bible study resource materials, such as: YouVersion Bible App, the First 5, Hello Morning Girls, just to name a few.
  7. Pick a few Bible verses on gratitude to memorize this month.   Write them out, journal through them, pray them, speak them and let the words marinate your heart.

As an educator for 25 years I have literally witnessed our society lose any sense of civility towards one another.  In its place has been a sense of entitlement.  “I am owed this.”   “You are supposed to do this for me…”  Common courtesy has appeared to fly out the window.  November is the perfect month, as we are focusing on showing gratitude and thankfulness to focus on common courtesy.  In my opinion, it is of utmost importance for parents and teachers to teach our children the basic rules of courtesy, which are:

  • Saying please and thank you.  “May I please have a drink?”  “Thank you for helping me.”
  • Helping others.  Holding the door open for mom.  Helping take in the groceries.  Children opening the door at the store for an elderly person.   Children giving their seat to an older person and sitting on the floor.  
  • Using the bathroom properly, putting the paper in the toilet and then flushing the toilet.  Putting the seat down.  Then  washing hands afterwards and turning off the water and lights.
  •  Pushing the chair under the table after they get up from dinner.  Taking their plate to the sink and helping with the dishes at dinner time.
  •  Greeting adults by saying “Hello” and looking them in the eyes when they are being spoken to.  Learning how to shake hands and introduce yourself to a new acquaintance.
  • Showing respect to parents and adults.  Children obey their parents and other adults.  They do not say disrespectful words to parents or other adults.
  • Children do chores at home as being part of a family.
  • The basic rule of thumb is The Golden Rule- “You treat others like you want to be treated.”

In the blog, Martysmusings, the author states in her post, Family Blessing Jar, Teach Your Children Gratitude,that you take one day at a time and try the following tips for instilling gratitude in your children.”

  • Start young.  Even small children  can be taught to say thank you to God through their prayers, songs, and words.
  • Reinforce.  Point out to your children the many ways you are thankful to God for His provision, His love and your family.
  • Model a thankful heart.  Tell your children and spouse thank you for the gift of their lives each day.
  • Encourage your children to say thank you and “catch” each other doing acts of service.
  • As the children get older, have them look up scriptures on Thanksgiving and write the verses out.  Use them in art projects or as special presents for friends or family members

November, a month where each one of us can fill our hearts to the brim with gratitude.  Isn’t that a marvelous manner in which to spend each day of this tranquil month before we begin the rapture of Advent in December?  Come join me in giving thanks.

Here are some resources to enrich your month of gratitude.

Count Your Blessings Tree

Family Blessings Jar

May you have a Thanksgiving filled with thankfulness and gratitude for all that you have been given.

In the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith