Monday, December 31, 2012

Family Resolutions

Today is the last day of 2012. Looking back, we have had a very fun and full, and at times trying, year. The older my kids get, the more the new year is a time for me to give thanks for all the blessings we have received the past year, and a year to evaluate and focus on where we want our family to go in the next year. As you are planning what your New Year resolutions will be, I thought I would share with you how our family goes about our resolutions.

Each year we begin by reviewing last year's resolutions and how we were able to accomplish or not accomplish them. This is a great way to help us to live intentionally in our lives. Then we make our new resolutions and put them in a special place so that we can focus on them in the year to come, and read them next December 31! Since our kids were little when we began this, we made questions to make resolution-making simple and a little more fun. Here are our resolution questions (feel free to use them if you wish!):

1) What bad habit do you resolve to quit this year? This year, same as last, I resolve to stop biting my nails. **sigh**

2) What do you resolve to do to better yourself this year? I would like to exercise regularly (past January!) and to try to be more stress-free.

3) What new thing would you like to try this year?  I love this question, because it prompts dreaming, reaching for something beyond the usual. However, as a logical-minded person, I struggle thinking of things. Last year, I resolved to go deer hunting with my husband and in November I took down my first deer. This year, I decided to try not to be so logical-minded and go with the first thing I could think of, and ended up resolving to ride a motorcycle alone.

4) Our last question takes our goals and dreams to the heart-level. What fruit of the Spirit would you like to harvest more of this year? Considering the hardships that I went through this year, especially this summer, I want to grow more joy in my life. Others in my family chose love, peace and patience.

The new year is a wonderful time of year to focus on where you want your life to go. How do you want to strive to be a better person and what will you do to actually reach your goals and dreams?

As I close this year, I want to glorify my Father in heaven for all the blessings that He has given to me, all of the things He has seen me through, and all the ways I have seen Him working around me.
Happy New Year and blessings for 2013!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 12 Christmas Morning Surprises

The issue of Santa bringing gifts on Christmas Eve is one of much debate within Christian circles. Questions arise such as: how do we tell them Santa is real and God is real and then later Santa is not real and expect them to believe in God? How can I flat out lie to my children? Doesn't Santa take our focus off of the true meaning of Christmas?

I had Santa when I was little. I never found it a conflicting issue with God, and neither did my sister, to my knowledge. However, I was not sure on which side I stood when the time came for my daughter's first Christmas. My husband and I decided that we would let the kids lead. We would not lie to them, but we would only tell them what they asked. We decided we would not actually tell them Santa came on Christmas Eve, but we wouldn't say that he didn't either. We would not call the gifts on Christmas morning "Gifts from Santa," rather "Christmas morning surprises." We were really unsure of how it would go.

My daughter was only two when our first issue came up. She was a deep thinker from the start and as we sat there making Christmas cookies that year, she asked me, "Is Santa like Jesus, is that why I can't see him?" I knew then that was where I had to make a decision. It was an easy one to make. My daughter's salvation and faith in Christ could not be confused with a make-believe story of Santa. I explained to her that Jesus was real and that Santa was a made-up story that people like to pretend at Christmas. I told her it was like when she played dress up and pretended to be a princess, etc. She understood and continued to "pretend" Santa was coming that year and the years to follow. Her brother didn't ask outright and we didn't tell him outright, but as he asks his simple questions about Santa, we make sure to give him honest answers. He believes in Santa but is starting to realize that Daddy is that jolly old elf!

Santa is a beautiful story of giving and joy, and in a way reflects the meaning of Christmas - giving and joy. We should embrace the story in just that way to add it to our Christmas celebration, not having to decided between Santa and Jesus.  Christmas is just not the same to me without little ones going to bed early so they can wake mom and dad up at the break of dawn and run out to see what is awaiting them under the tree. It is innocence, joy and beautiful.

In whatever way you choose to approach tomorrow morning, I hope your morning is filled with laughter, love and the joy that Christ brought into the world that Christmas day long ago!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12 Days of Holiday Traditions I Love: Day 11 Candlelight Service

As Christmas approaches the anticipation grows. That is what I love about the candlelight service. It focuses our minds and hearts on what exactly we are anticipating. As the 10 virgins awaited the bridegroom in the parable, we reflect on the first coming of Christ and anxiously await his second coming. The gorgeous candles symbolize this and Christ, the light of the world.

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. John 1:9

Jesus was born over two thousand years ago into a dark and sinful world. He brough light and hope. This is what we celebrate at Christmas and there is no better way to focus on this than to attend a candle light service on Christmas Eve.

image from

Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 10 Jesus' Birthday Cake

Amidst all of the holiday business, my husband and I find it critical to make sure that the real reason for Christmas, Jesus' birth, is not forgotten. One of the ways that I love to do this is to make a birthday cake for Jesus with my kids. On Christmas day we light candles, sing happy birthday, and let the kids blow out the candles. This helps the kids remember why we are having Christmas.

This is  tradition that we have done with our little ones since our daughter was only a year old. I heard of someone who did it and was thrilled with the idea. It has been a part of our Christmas tradition ever since!

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 9 Stockings

I have to say that stockings are one of my favorite traditions of our Christmas celebration. I don't know what it is, but there is just something about the simplicity of the surprises inside. To me, it is just as fun to get the little hand lotions, socks, candies and other small items inside my stocking as it is to get the big things, and I have just as much fun or more shopping for stocking stuffers than the bigger gifts!

In my family growing up we got our Christmas morning surprise and opened all of our gifts on Christmas morning. We got to open stockings, however, on Christmas Even night before candlelight service. It made Christmas Eve night even more special and our stocking gifts did not get overshadowed by the larger gifts.

Stocking suffer ideas:

miniature action figures
hand sanitizer
body wash
hair accessories
body wash
nail polish
cards or handheld games
key chain

Hope you and yours are having a wonderful Christmas holiday!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 8 Holiday Baking

This morning I realized that I have had to really clean my kitchen every day this week! Why? From all the baking! It is time consuming, sometimes hard, but oh, so fun and delicious! What is better than holiday baked meals?? Nothing!

With all of the parties for church, the kids, meals for others, Christmas gifts and just our own holiday meals, I have baked so many things I can't even remember! Most of the things I make you can find on Pinterest. You can find the recipe to my favorite meal, homemade chicken pot pie, here. I only made SIX of these babies this week!

Holidays are the only time I seem to be able to splurge and make lots of fancy foods for my family. Go all out! It is so much fun. And as for those pounds...well, you need a New Year's resolution, right?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 7 Christmas Lights

"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.” --Matthew 4:16

One of the reasons I love Christmas is the atmosphere and decorations and all the lights! It is so beautiful! At Christmas we are celebrating that Jesus is the light of the world. Each year, my husband and I load up the kiddos and drive around looking at the lights around town.

This year, we decided to add a little extra fun to our regular drive. We told the kids that they were going to get a ride on the Polar Express! My husband went out and decorated the inside of the car with Christmas lights and put our favorite Christmas CD in the player. I printed off some Polar Express tickets off of Google and placed them underneath their dinner plates. We made each a travel mug of hot cocoa. We had them take their baths and get into pjs early and then come to dinner. After they had eaten their dinner, we told them to look under the plates. My husband and I pretended to be conductors and loaded them up on the Polar Express! Then we drove around to look at the lights. It was so much fun!

If you haven't already, take a family trip around town tonight!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 6 Caroling at the Care Center

I remember going to sing Christmas carols at the care center with my family when my son was only five months old. One of those moments passed that you hold on to and "ponder in your heart." I remember watching as my mom, holding my infant son on her hip, walked in to an elderly woman's room and reached out her hand to her and spoke with her and showed her my little boy. I remember this woman using all her strength to rise out of bed toward my mom to take her hand and see the baby. There was such joy on the woman's face. I realized several things at that moment. One, I have an incredibly compassionate mother who sets a great example for those around her. Two, I wanted to raise my children to love those around them in this way as second nature by raising them with the same example as I had before me this night.

Six years later, I am beginning to see the fruits of this labor. We once again visited the care center to sing carols with some of my children's friends. I was almost brought to tears as I saw my daughter unhesitatingly enter the rooms of the residents to shake their hands and give them a hand-made ornament. I was proud as I watched her little brother follow her example at four years old, as he shook hands and said "Merry Christmas" to each person.

Caroling at the Care Center is definitely on my list of favorite Christmas traditions. Besides the above, here are a few reasons why I think you should visit the care center:

1) It brings joy and excitement to the residents
2) It reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas - loving and giving
3) It teaches our children to get out of their box and think about others before themselves
4) It nourishes the residents fulfilling our command to care for the widows and orphans, which goes beyond just their physical, but their emotional and spiritual needs as well.

If you haven't had an opportunity to go this year, look for a church or group that is going, or make your own small group. Find a few of your favorite Christmas carols, buy a pack of ornaments or candy canes to hand out and just go. You will be so blessed!

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 5 Family Christmas Movies

What else do you do when it's cold outside and getting dark early and you are anxiously awaiting Christmas? Watch Christmas movies! We love to make a night of watching our favorite Christmas movies. We even like to have themed parties around these great movies as well! (see How To Have a Successful Grinch Party) 

Necessary items for your Christmas movie night: a special snack or dinner, hot chocolate, snuggly blankets, pillows, Christmas lights!

Here is our list of our top 5 favorite Christmas movies:
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
It's a Wonderful Life
Frosty the Snowman
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Miracle on 34th Street

Snuggle up, and have a blast!

Note: For those of you who have been following my 12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love, you may have noticed that I skipped day 4. This was on purpose in light of the events in CT. My 4th favorite is our annual Children's Christmas Program. For whatever reason, I could not bring myself to write this one so close to so many losing their precious children at Christmas. Continued thoughts and prayers for those families.

A Pause for Remembering

As I said on my facebook page, for those of you who follow there, I missed days 3 & 4 of our 12 days and am making up for them today. I had an extremely difficult time emotionally in light of the tragic event that took place in Connecticut on Friday. Even as I write these posts today, I struggle, because I can't help feeling sorrow for those mothers who will never again be able to share these times with their precious child again. I cannot even begin to imagine what that would be like, and I well up with tears at the mere thought.

I have never in my life had an event that hit me so hard as this one did. I was there watching the news through 9-11 and similar tragedies, but never have they made me literally unable to function or emotionally cope for days. Friday, I could do nothing but cry off and on. I believe this is because I am not only a mother now, but a youth/children's ministry leader. I have been a teacher. My love for the children in my life puts me in a place to empathize with these parents and teachers and I can't handle it. I pray with a deep yearning for God's peace and strength in these lives right now.

This morning, there are many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles and friends who are laying their loved ones to rest. This will be the second hardest day of their lives next to Friday. Let us not stop remembering them and let us pause throughout our day and remember to lift them up in prayer. Galatians 6:2 says to "bear one another's burdens." I personally do not know any of these people, and you may not either, but that does not mean that we cannot help bear their burden by carrying it to the throne of God in prayer. He loves them and hurts for them as well. Let us pause today and remember.

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 3 Christmas Stories

One of my absolute favorite things to do with my kiddos during the Christmas season is to read Christmas stories. Our family enjoys reading altogher, all year round. It is my favorite time of the evening. Christmas stories are those that you can read over and over again and they just never get dull! I remember a big book my mom had when we were growing up that had 4 different Christmas stories in it. I loved it!

Here is a list of our top 5 favorite Christmas stories (there are so many, I had to limit!):

Llama Llama Holiday Drama, by Anna Dewdney
Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson
Froggy's Best Christmas, by Jonathan London
Follow the Star, by Rachel Brown
The Night Before Christmas (just about any version!)

We also love to spend a lot of time at the library choosing Christmas books. Chances are, just about any series of books your child loves to read will have a Christmas one. My kids love to search out their favorites - Madaline, Olivia, Max and Ruby, Clifford, Froggy, Winnie the Pooh, Splat the Cat, Pete the Cat, Fletcher, Disney Princesses, American Girls - and the list has changed and grown over the years - but they all have a Christmas edition! If you have older children, read aloud a classic Christmas novel like Little Women or A Christmas Carol or the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!

Snuggle up this week in front of the lit Christmas tree and read, read, read! It is such a special time to share together!

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 2 The Advent Wreath

I know, I know! I have already posted on the advent wreath, but it just had to go on my top 12 list! So if you want to read about what we do with the advent wreath and why it is one of my favorites, check out my post from last week here.  Have a very blessed 11 days til Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Traditions I Love: Day 1 The Christmas Tree

I am so excited that Christmas is just 12 days away! I have decided to share with you my top 12 favorite Christmas traditions! Some of them we have done already, and some I am waiting anxiously to do sometime in the next twelve days!!

I would like to begin with the Christmas tree! Now we have had many adventures with Christmas trees since the kids were little. Our first three years of marriage, we had a tiny 2ft tree that our princess would decorate. Finally, we decided to get a real tree and our cat knocked the whole thing down! The next year, I thought I had found a great buy at the local dollar store - a 6' artificial tree for $25 - which ended up being only about 1' around and my best friend dubbed it the "anorexic Christmas tree." We went back to buying real trees.

We make a night of it! We put the date on the calendar and go out as a family to pick out, purchase, and carry home our precious tree. That evening we spend decorating it together as a family. Daddy makes some hot drinks to have while we do it, and I like to put on a little Christmas music (my favorite is Bing Crosby!). When it is complete, we sit by the Christmas tree light and cuddle and read our favorite Christmas stories!

One of our special traditions with the Christmas tree is our yearly ornaments. Each year we buy an ornament that has a special meaning to our family. Then, as we begin our tree decorating, we start at the first year's ornament - my husband and my first year of marriage, and then we work through the years and look at each ornament and remember the meaning and memories behind it. I think this year I will make a photo album with each ornament and the meaning to have saved for years to come!

Happy 12 Days Til Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Advent Wreath

The advent wreath has been a symbol in the Christian church since possibly the early 16th century. It's purpose is to focus one's heart on Christmas for the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas day. Each candle symbolizes a Sunday before Christmas. The candles all have reflective meanings like Hope, Love, and Joy.

Growing up, my family did the advent wreath every year. It is one of my favorite memories. My mom had a box of mini devotion books and Christian poems and prayer books and each of us would choose something from them to read each night around the wreath. Dad would read a portion of the Bible and we would sing a Christmas hymn. I think the reason it so stood out to me is because this is the only time of the year in which my family would sit down to devotion time together.

While we do devotion time every morning (or almost) in our home, I still like to keep that special advent tradition. Because of my budget our first year, I purchased this booklet that cost only $.99 to lead us. I fell in love with it. It has a new year published each year and this year I got the eBook version for only $.65! It is called the Abingdon Press "Advent: A Calendar of Devotions." You can find it at just about any Christian bookstore, or at

Each evening my husband reads the passage from the Bible. Then I read the devotion. My daughter will usually read the prayer. My son isn't able to read those things yet, so we try to let him help lead the song for the evening and blow out the candle!

I would encourage you to find some way to focus your family's heart on the true meaning of Christmas during this season. I will not rant about the over-commercialization of Christmas, but the truth is that this season is all about Christ's birth. God loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son...let's remember!