Thursday, November 29, 2012

4 Christ-Focused Christmas Activities for the Whole Family

Photo credit: Greg Walters

Recently, our oldest child, Kate (age 4), told me her favorite holidays were Christmas and Halloween because "I get presents and candy!" Granted she's 4 and the world, in her mind, revolves her in her twirly dress and high heel princess shoes, but I'm realizing that how she perceives Christmas is a direct reflection of how her father and I present it to her.

If we make Christmas all about our children and give them everything on their Christmas lists, then they are going to believe Christmas IS all about them.  
  • They will expect more and more every year. 
  • They will never be happy with what they have. 
  • They will never understand that they are not the center of the universe. 
  • And they will always be discontent, selfish, and egotistical.
But, most importantly, our children will never know Jesus.

So, in an effort to keep Christ at the center of our holiday season, I have been gathering ideas for fun Christ-centered activities for the kids and I to do.


4 Ways to Keep Focused on Christ this Christmas

(1) Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands


I am super excited to introduce my children to Advent, the season of waiting and expectation leading up to the birth of Jesus. This year I'm using Truth in the Tinsel. We usually read the Nativity story several times in December, but this year I bought Amanda's e-book with downloadable ornaments to help me really hash out what the Christmas story is all about.

I like how for each day, beginning December 1st, there is a passage to read together from the Bible, a cute ornament to make related to the passage, and specific things to talk about. There are also additional activity ideas if you have time and inclination. 

If you are interested in more information about Truth in the Tinsel, click here.

(2) 25 Days of Christmas Activity Calendar.

In addition to Truth in the Tinsel, I have created a Christmas calendar of sorts based on Simple Mom's Advent Calendar. Mine is not so pretty but functional and cheap! 

Basically, I wrapped a memory board in Christmas paper. Then, I glued Christmas scrapbook paper on cardstock, added number stickers for 25 days of December, and taped them to hang on the memory board.

 Underneath each date is a sticky note with an activity for the day. I used sticky notes so I can change the activities around if necessary.

Here are some of the activities we plan to do this year. I tried to emphasize giving to others but also included fun traditional Christmas activities we like to do every year.
  1. Pick out & decorate the tree.
  2. Make Christmas candy {We love chocolate peanut butter balls & white chocolate dipped pretzels} and take to a widow or shut-in.
  3. Shop for Toys for Tots.
  4. Watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" & drink Mexican hot chocolate.
  5. Go Christmas shopping for sister gifts {This year I'm giving the older two girls $5 to spend on gifts for each other. I want to make this a new tradition.}
  6. Decorate a gingerbread house.
  7. Visit a nursing home & hand out Christmas cards & goodies.
  8. Learn a new Christmas carol.
  9. Make handprint ornaments.
  10. Shop for the Angel Tree. 

 (3) 25 Days of Christmas Books.

We have a growing collection of Christmas books that only make their appearance during this time of the year. So I thought it would be fun to wrap up a few and set them by our Christmas table. Each day the girls can pick out a book, unwrap it, and we can read a Christmas story together. 

I don't have a lot of Christ-focused Christmas books yet, but I am working to add more to our collection. 

{If you don't have a lot of Christmas books, check out some from the library. Just be sure to mark on the outside of the wrapping paper that it's from the library, so you read and return it before the due date :)}

Some of the books we're reading this year include the following:


(4) Advent Study: Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus.

This 4-week Bible study created by Good Morning Girls is for me. I have participated in two other GMG studies and have loved them for their depth and simplicity. 

This study includes daily scripture readings and family activities, weekly devotions, and recipes. I love how I can read and journal each morning about the assigned passage and then discuss what I've read with my girls. The family activities tie in nicely. The bonus is this study is completely FREE. Click here for more information.

These are 4 activities my girls and I are doing this Christmas season to keep our focus on Christ. 

What are your plans to keep Christ-focused this holiday season? 

I would love to hear from you! 

Blessings to you,

{Note: This post contains affiliate links. I would be honored if you supported my blog by making a purchase through them.}

Photo Credit to Greg Walters 

Linking up with: The Better MomMonday Mom MusingsRaising ArrowsTime-Warp Wife, Artful Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Top 10 Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Leaving a Legacy, Women Living Well WednesdaysRaising HomemakersRaising Mighty Arrows 

 Truth in the Tinsel leaderboard 728x90

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pursuing Peace Week 4: 10 Ways to Live at Peace with Others

As we enter the 4th week in our series on Pursuing Peace, I realize December is fast upon us. My calendar is filling up fast with all the Christmas programs, parties, and get-togethers. Peace is hard to imagine in the midst of SO MUCH going on. 

And yet, as I read God's Word and examine what He has to say about "peace," I am convicted by the number of times He tells us to live in peace.
"...Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."

2 Corinthians 13:11 (emphasis mine)

So, how do we do this?

1. Forgive. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus tells us that if we don't forgive, God will not forgive us. We are all sinners in need of God's love and mercy. We must forgive those who wrong us in order to restore peace in our relationship. Even if that person hurt us deeply, we are still called to forgive. We may not be able to forget and we may need to use extra caution around that person in the future, but in order to live at peace, forgiveness is essential.

2. Forget. If possible, let it go. Don't dwell on the harmful words spoken or actions taken against you. When we "sow in peace," we "raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:18). That is, when we live in peace with others, we create a climate where righteousness can thrive. Stop mulling over the past and move on in hopeful expectation of a better, more peaceful future.

3. Respect those in authority. No matter how much we disagree with our spouses, our spiritual leaders, or government officials, they have been appointed to their positions by God, and we must respect them and submit to their authority. We will only have peace in our lives when we accept the hierarchical order God created and not rail against it. 
"Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in high regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other."

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (emphasis mine)
When read in context, this passage refers to our relationship with church leaders, namely elders and deacons. Part of being a peacemaker means submission to those in authority over us. My job, then, is to submit so that peace prevails, whether in the church, in my family, or in the world at large.

4. Stop talking & listen. We all have our own opinions. Instead of pushing ours on everyone else, stop and listen. Respect others' opinions even if they don't make sense or you don't agree. 
"...Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

James 1:19-20 
5. Learn to compromise. Some people absolutely refuse to compromise: "It's my way or the highway." There's a reluctance to give up power or control; yet, giving in and letting others have their way at times helps create a peaceful atmosphere. That being said, you should never compromise your integrity or commitment to God to keep the peace!
"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife."

Proverbs 17:1 
6. Get over ourselves. Stop dwelling on all the ways so-and-so has offended us and move on. When we think we deserve more or to be treated better, we make ourselves gods and push God down below our level. Sometimes we need to just get over ourselves.
"...Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

Romans 12:3
7. Extend grace. Just as God has mercifully shown me grace that I don't deserve, I can do the same by overlooking minor flaws and giving others the benefit of the doubt.
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful..."

Luke 6:36   
8. Practice the Golden Rule. To live at peace with others, treat them as you want them to treat you. It's really that simple.
"So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Matthew 7:12 
9. Avoid argumentative people. Sometimes we may try to live at peace with people who won't accept our kindness. Sometimes peace will not come about because the other person isn't willing to accept or work toward it. Peace takes 2 willing people.
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Romans 12:18 (emphasis mine) 
By nature I am a people-pleaser. I aim to make and keep the peace because I dislike confrontations and conflict. But I have learned over the years that some people do not want peace. Instead, they delight in argument. No amount of work on my part will ever create peace between us if that person is unwilling to make the effort. My advice: Stay away from these people.

10. Stay in constant communion with God. That means being in the Word and praying to God regularly. You have probably heard the expression
"No God, no peace. Know God, know peace." 
When we truly know Him by spending time in the Bible and in prayer, we will be at peace with ourselves and with others.

What about you? How do you strive to live at peace with others?

Praying God's richest blessings of peace for you,
Other posts in our series on Pursuing peace:
Pursuing Peace Week 3: 5 Tips for a More Peaceful Holiday Shopping Experience
Pursuing Peace Week 2: Submitting Our To-Do Lists to the Lord
Pursuing Peace: A Series to Help Us Enjoy the Holiday Season
Pursuing Peace Week 1: What is Peace?

Linking up with: The Better MomMonday Mom MusingsRaising ArrowsTime-Warp Wife, Artful Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Top 10 Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Leaving a Legacy, Women Living Well WednesdaysRaising HomemakersRaising Mighty Arrows 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Little Bit About Me & the Liebster Blog Award

Recently, I was honored to be nominated for the Liebster Blog Award, which is a way to help smaller blogs (having less than 300 followers) gain more exposure and possibly increase their audience.

I have been nominated before but never followed through simply because I've never been really interested in growing my blog. I've always written out of a need within me, not to attract people and followers.

However, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my blog's purpose and direction and decided I need to be more involved with other {Christian} women writers in the blogosphere. So, when Lisa Maria of This Little Light of Mine nominated me for the award, I decided that this might be a good way to connect with other bloggers that I respect. Thank you, Lisa Maria.

The Liebster Blog Award Rules:

*Post 11 facts about yourself.
*Answer the questions posted by the person who nominated you.
*Create 11 questions you want your nominees to answer.
*Pass this award on to 3-5 other blogs you admire with less than 300 followers.
*Let them know they've been nominated.

11 Facts about Me

1. I do not like doing crafts with my kids. I would rather scrub the toilets.
2. Reading is my favorite thing to do in my down time. I love historical fiction dealing with Tudor England, mysteries especially Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and classics by Jane Austen.
3. In my former life, I was a PhD candidate in English and taught composition at the local university. Some days I miss that life, but lately I haven't given it even a thought.
4. God has laid on my heart a need to homeschool our kids although I do not feel cut out for it. Still, I am working on submission of my will to His.
5. I've been married 5 years to "my hero" Daniel who I have known and dated for 10 years.
6. We have 3 girls: Kate (4), Cora (2), and Annabeth (6 months). They make me smile.
7. My biggest pet peeve is disrespect of people and property. I especially can't stand when someone hurts another person or messes up a book.
8. A perfect day for me would be one with lots of quiet time, hot coffee, and good books.
9. We don't have cable TV. The only TV watching comes in the form of DVDs from Netflix or the library. Since the spring when we cut off the cable, I have read TONS more books and so have our kids.
10. Cooking is a favorite pastime. I am slowly learning the art of fermentation...very interesting stuff!
11. My blog has been around for about 2 1/2 years but I write to encourage myself and other women not to earn money or have a million followers. I write for writing's sake.

Lisa Maria's Questions

1. Why do you blog?
I blog to share the struggles I'm having as a Christian wife, mommy, and daughter of God. I blog to encourage others who are also struggling. I blog to record life as it is now so I can look back years from now and see how I {hopefully} have grown.

2. What do you think is the best thing about blogging?
The best thing about blogging for me are the comments I receive from friends, family, and people all over the world who are encouraged, inspired, or in some way moved by my words.

3. What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about my family and in leading our children to the Lord.

4. Do you have any dreams you would still like to pursue?
When our children are grown, I would love to finish my doctorate in English. It's a personal goal I've had since high school. I would also like to start a new blog all about books and what I read.

 5. What is your favorite childhood memory?
That's tough. I had a great childhood. My favorite memory would have to be the times I spent in the summers with my grandparents and adventures with my cousins. I hope our girls can have the same wonderful times with their grandparents and cousins.

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always dreamed I would be a stay-at-home mom and I am.

7. What do you do when you need to re-energize?
I send the girls off with their daddy, brew some coffee, and curl up with a book or write.

8. What is your absolute favorite thing to do?

9. Do you have any pet peeves?
See #7 above.

10. Were there Titus 2 women in your life to inspire and guide you?
I have been richly blessed with many Titus 2 women: my mom, both of my grandmothers, and some close family friends from church were wonderful examples for me.

11. What do you consider to be necessary to you for a happy life?
My Bible, my husband and kids, lots of good books, and strong coffee.

My Questions
  1. Describe yourself using one word.
  2. How would your husband or child describe you?
  3. Where is home for you? 
  4. Are you a cat or dog person?
  5. Why did you start blogging?
  6. Who is your favorite author?
  7. What do you like to do in your spare time?
  8. Are you a glass half-full or glass half-empty kinda gal?
  9. If you could go to any place in time, when and where would you go?
  10. What do you consider to be your greatest success thus far in life?
  11. What dream(s) do you still hope to achieve?

The Blogs I Nominate for the Liebster Blog Award are...

SewJacki of Crafted by Mama
Tauna of Proverbial Homemaker
Jen of Jen's Journey
Ashley of This Southern Girl's Heart 

Thanks, ladies. Your blogs always inspire and encourage me. 

Blessings to you,