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For all the men out there wondering what to get your wife for Christmas…

I know you all are busy searching high and low for that perfect gift for your wife—that gift that says, “I love you, I treasure you, and care about your spiritual and emotional well-being.” Well, I’ve got just the thing for you.

No, it’s not a Lexus, and you don’t need to go to Jared’s. (Go ahead, breathe a sigh of relief.)

OK, so truly, there is not “perfect” gift out there. But, we women love it when you all get creative and take the time to buy something meaningful—the element of surprise is always nice, too.

I also know that we women aren’t exactly the easiest creatures to figure out. So, just for you, here is an “insiders” list of things you may not have thought to put on your list.

  • Starbucks gift card. Designated for her to spend time away. Extended time to journal, study her Bible, read a book and do whatever-the-heck she wants to do as she enjoys a warm cup of her favorite latte—uninterrupted.
  • A good study bible. Alright, now I’m bringing in the big dogs. If she doesn’t already have a good study Bible, she needs one. Here are my two most-used and highly recommended study bibles: ESV Study Bible and The New Inductive Study Bible.
  • Savoring Living Water: How to have an effective quiet time. Lara Williams and I wrote this book. We share practical tools for spending time in the Bible, along with our own stories and struggles. This book with help her know how to spend that time away at Starbucks you just gave her for Christmas. It will also help her in the day-to-day journey of finding time to spend in the Word. You can get her a spiral-bound copy or an e-version. It is also available for her Kindle or Nook.

Now, don’t forget to have a morning already in mind where you can watch the kids and hold down the fort while she is gone—she is going to be eager to use her Christmas gift!

And husbands, not to worry, we all know what’s on your list…

Ladies, what would you add to the list?

{And, feel free to share this post with your hubby.} *wink-wink*

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What We Give Our Kids for Christmas

So, we don’t do Santa, but we have decided to allow the giving of gifts, and even in the giving of those gifts at Christmas, we want to point them to Christ.

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. We also want to use the actual giving of the gifts to teach about the Christmas story. So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well.

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

A Gift of Fun

One gift is simply something they will enjoy. I am not against giving big gifts to our kids, but I would rather leave those “big-ticket” items to be for their birthday. In other words, we don’t spend a lot of money on this gift.

A Gift of Meeting

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.” Exodus 30:34-3

The second gift is something that will encourage them in their walk with Christ; something they will use to meet with the Lord. For my little ones, it may be a children’s Bible, or a Bible story board-book. As they get older, and can read on their own, the options will open up quite a bit. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grown in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Gold

Our children get a set amount of money and get to give a present to Jesus, through giving to others. As they get older, we want them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus (there will also probably be a way for them to earn the money they give.) For now, we’ll stick with online giving options. Gift-a-Verse through OneVerse, and the gift catalogue from World Vision are probably the two we will use.

They also get a gold ornament, as a keepsake for the gift given to Jesus. I pray that they will grow to treasure these ornaments, and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

I’d love to hear how you do gifts in your house. Leave a comment and share your ideas for using gift-giving to point our kids to Jesus!

 

What to do with Santa?

Santa doesn’t come to our house .

{Gasp!}

Yes you heard me right. We don’t do Santa.

I know this is a hot topic, and before I go anywhere else, I want to say that I am no way suggesting that Santa is evil, or that families are “in sin” by having Santa come to their home. This is where our family has personally landed, as we strive to point our kids to Jesus during the Christmas season.

That being said, here is what we have decided as a family when it comes to Ol’ St. Nick.

We desire to avoid confusion.

There are many reasons for why we chose this route; the bottom line is that we don’t want to muddy the waters when it comes to teaching our children about God. Noel Piper puts into words exactly how we feel about Santa (emphasis mine):

For several reasons, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. First, fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Second, celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the crumbs of reality.We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able, at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort that understanding.

Third, think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical preschooler. Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the “attributes” of Santa:

• He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
• He rewards you if you’re good.
• He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
• He gives you good gifts.
• He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

—Noel Piper, Treasuring God in our Traditions (You can download this book for free here.)

So what, then, do we do with Santa?

We don’t ignore Santa.

We don’t ignore Santa when we see him in the mall. They get a bit excited to see him, just as they would Mickey Mouse, Sleeping Beauty or Lightning McQueen. But in our kids minds, as much as they can comprehend, he is fictional.

While Chris and I feel completely confident in our decision to not have Santa visit our house (we have made the same decision for the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) there is some good that “Santa” can bring to our celebration of Christ’s coming. 

St. Nicholas was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We talk to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving is a great resource, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ.

I really love this idea, where “in the spirit of thoughtfulness and generosity practiced by St. Nicholas, family members put little cards, treats or gifts inside.” We put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month.

We desire to guard other family’s traditions.

My oldest son is in First Grade and I cannot be there every moment to cover up his mouth before he shatters his classmate’s Santa dreams. I try to remind him, whenever Santa comes up, that it is not up to him to tell people about Santa; it is up to the parents to tell their children the truth about Santa, NOT HIM. He seems to get it, and I just hope that my kids NEVER do something like this!

So, what do you do about Santa? Incorporate him in your traditions? Ignore him?