Monday, December 17, 2018

ideas for a God-centered Christmas with kids 🎄

With the world quickly transforming into a magical Christmas wonderland right before your child’s eyes, it can become easy for them to lose sight of the reason for the season. The bright lights, ornate trees, and festive gatherings with loved ones bring about a great deal of excitement, often distracting from the reason for the holiday we so eagerly count down to. The holiday season is not only the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also to pay our appreciation to God for sacrificing his only son so we may have the many blessings that surround us. Christmas is the perfect time to remind our kids that God is the giver of every good gift and blessing in our life! Help your child reconnect with God this season by incorporating Him into their holiday routine!

Here are some intentional ways you and your children can have a God-centered Christmas:

// Wake up and show gratitude 
Although we should find time to be grateful for God’s guidance throughout the entire year, the holiday season is the perfect time to further emphasize this and condition it into your child’s morning routine. When you wake up, immediately go to your child’s room for morning prayers. Whether you’re laying in bed together or kneeling beside it, this is a great way to bond with God and one another while showing Him recognition of all that he gives you.

Be intentional about teaching your child why this is an important part of their routine, explaining the importance of not exclusively asking God for help when we need it but also showing consistent gratitude even when we don’t. Make it a family affair by waiting until everyone has woken up for breakfast so you can do a group morning prayer.

// Read and reflect on holiday scripture This season is a significant part of scripture, and therefore it’s important for your child to interact with these holiday verses and incorporate them into their lives beyond the Bible. Dedicate one or two verses to each week leading up to the new year. Challenge your child to not only memorize each verse by the end of the week, but also be able to summarize its meaning and significance in their own life. 

Holiday scripture is a perfect way to bring your entire family together once or twice a week to reconnect with God’s word. Each member can share their relationship with the selected passage, learn and grown from one another’s interpretation, and become mindful of God’s presence this holiday.

// Teach about the Nativity The Nativity story is without a doubt one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday season. After all, it is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Although there are many additional reasons for loving this time of year, remind your children of the holiday’s origins. There are tons of resources available for teaching them about the Nativity, from storybooks to educational shows- in fact, there are so many Christian movies your family can watch together that will engage your children in the story of Jesus’s birth.

Teaching them about the Nativity early on in the holiday season will provide valuable insight for those moments when they become too overwhelmed by the material side of Christmas. It will serve as an excellent reminder you can use each day to keep them focused on the true meaning of the season.

// Create a tree of blessings
Now is the time to truly celebrate the season as God would. To behave with grace as He would, it’s important to be mindful of all the blessings in your life so that you may fully appreciate them. Put up a small tree (2-4 feet high) and deem it your family’s blessings tree. Purchase inexpensive and simple ornaments to decorate with, as well as a permanent marker. Each day have your child pick one blessing they are grateful to God for and write it on the ornament. Have them hang it on the tree as recognition of God’s work in our lives. For a quicker and more space conscious version of the blessings tree, mimic it using branches and a vase.

// Being intentional about giving back God is gracious and selfless, and the holidays are the perfect time to focus our energy on following in His footsteps. Help your child be mindful of all the ways, big or small, they can help those around them.

Each day challenge your child to do one act of kindness for a friend, one for a stranger (or a peer they’re not as close with!), and one for someone they love, such as a sibling or cousin. This will get them into the habit of living day in and day out as God would, perhaps even extending their holiday grace well into the new year! 

"The secret to having a joyful, peaceful Christmas lies in keeping our families focused on the miraculous birth of Jesus and the incredible gift that God gave us when He sent us His only Son!" -R. Vincent

Christmas is the perfect time of year to teach our children about the unconditional, unmatched, sacrificial love of God. When we focus on creating a Christmas that is centered on Jesus, we teach our children the true reason for the season, and that is a gift that has eternal impact.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

3 secrets to a joyful Christmas

i love love love Christmas. 

the day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. that's when the Christmas tree can finally go up and i can unashamedly listen to Christmas carols 24/7. there's just something about this time of year that is like a fresh awakening of joy in my spirit. there's a little bit of heaven everywhere.

but i know not everyone feels this way. the holiday season can be stressful, sad, exhausting, and chaotic. i sense the tension in line at the grocery store, in traffic on the freeway, and in conversations with friends and family. there are to-do lists and calendar bookings and budgets and recipes and it can be overwhelming in the worst way. i get it. ...that is to say, i acknowledge it. but i fight against it. i am crazy protective of my love for Christmas with the fierceness of a mama grizzly bear. there is a wall of determination around my heart that won't let any emotion or distraction steal my Christmas joy. a joyful Christmas is worth fighting for.

here are my secrets to a having a joyful Christmas:

1 // PERSPECTIVE. Christmas isn't about me. (or you. or Santa.) it isn't about buying gifts, baking cookies, hosting parties, decorating, or travelling. Christmas is about the love of Jesus, and sharing that love, and that is it. if anything i find myself doing isn't rooted in that, then it has the potential to wreak havoc on my holiday joy. the secret is keeping Christmas in perspective. some good ways to do this - read Luke 2:1-20. if you have more time, read the book of Isaiah. the Christmas story is on of the Greatest Stories of all Time and it never gets old! do a bible study about Christmas (i'm doing this one from Love God Greatly). sometimes, we get so caught up in going through the motions of the holidays that we miss the point. God sent a Savior for me and for you, friend. the love, generosity, and grace of that Promise is all i want to be overwhelmed by this time of year.   

2 // JOMO. i am 100% all about the Joy of Missing Out. someone very wise once said for every yes i commit to, something else is getting my no. and sometimes it takes saying no to something good so i can say yes to something better. the point is, i have to be okay with not doing all the things. instead of being afraid of missing out, i have to find the joy in it. so what if i'm missing out on something over there - how can i enjoy what God has for me and where He's has me right now? my secret to knowing what's worth doing vs what to miss out on is using my family as the barometer. again, it's not all about me. if my family is not into ice skating around a giant Christmas tree, then guess what? we'll miss out on that experience, but we'll keep our joy. it's doing things (and not doing things) with intention. i'm not going to force things/experiences for the sake of not missing out. the opposite of FOMO is peace. 

3 // BOUNDARIES. this is a biggy. and again, it is driven by a fierce determination to protect my joy and peace. setting boundaries is crucial to keeping my sanity during the holidays and any time of year, actually. i have pretty firm boundaries for myself and my family. i keep a close eye on our calendar to make sure we're getting good quality family time regularly, and aren't overextending ourselves. i know my limits and delegate, ask for help, or hire out in the areas where i need it. i know what our non-negotiables are, i keep our goals and priorities in the forefront of my mind, and if anything doesn't line up, it's a no-go. boundaries are not to be crossed. i'm territorial! but these boundaries help me keep my life balanced, prevent me from becoming stressed out, and keep me focused on my goal of making the most of every day. this way, i can attend to the top priorities in my life, giving them just the right amount of time so that my schedule is never busting at the seams. i've shared more about my boundaries here.

the holidays shouldn't be a time of stress, dread, or anxiety. here's the hard but real truth: if we're certain of the reason for the seasons - Thanksgiving and Christmas alike - then we should be living with that spirit in our heart year round. the things we do at Christmastime: sending cards across the miles, being generous with gifts and charitable, spending time with family and friends, talking about Jesus' birth, counting our blessings, singing songs, adorning our homes, and doing things that keep our hearts focused on Jesus - shouldn't be a holiday time to-do list. it shouldn't be stressful. it should be a natural overflow and outcome of our mature, rooted faith. we should already be doing those things all year long. 

for instance, i love this time of year because it's the time of year our family takes a nice picture together. with an actual camera! not a selfie :) it's not by obligation or to check off of a list. it isn't to keep up with the Jones's or to have the perfect Facebook post or Christmas card. it's for us, to commemorate our family in this stage, and this is the time of year that we do it. we look forward to it! we have a lot of fun doing it! it's so special to us! we lovingly share it with friends and family when we send Christmas greetings in the mail. this is something that is a way of life for us, and is naturally part of our holiday season.

but if taking a family picture wasn't our thing, if i tried to force it at Christmastime for the sake of begrudgingly sending cards, then of course it would all be very stressful and miserable for everyone, and i would dread the holidays every year. if we're striving to meet some imaginary expectations or comparing our holiday season to other people's holiday season, it will absolutely strip our holidays of joy. 

"Tell me why do we wait 364 days to slow down and stop
 to remember how blessed we are?
If we've got the faith, then we've got the hope through the year - we don't have to wait,
because it's Christmas everyday.
...If love's the gift we share, then we don't need to care about the season cause we've always got a reason to give ourselves away."
-Christmas Everyday, Unspoken

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just times of the year to amplify, exaggerate, and celebrate gratitude, blessings, peace, and joy - but those things should be a way of life, not just a seasonal attitude. cling tight to your joy. fiercely protect your peace. keep the perspective, trade FOMO for JOMO, and establish some firm boundaries, and have a joyful Christmas! 

"May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem 
this night fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do." 
–Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." 
–Luke 2:14