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What We Give Our Kids for Christmas

Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to point our hearts to Christ, yet because it is so FULL of events, shopping, eating, and gathering, it can very easily become a season we simply get through. As a parent, I’ve often found this a stressful season, so keeping it simple and utilizing a few of the typical Christmas traditions to point us to Jesus has allowed us to make it through the month, while also enjoying the “reason for the season.”

UPDATED 12/5/2019

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. Though we don’t know exactly how many gifts the wise men gave the Christ-child, there are three mentioned in Scripture: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these point symbolically to the Messiah and His purpose for coming to earth.

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)

  • Gold – symbolic of kingship
  • Frankincense – was used in worship and represents the presence of God
  • Myrrh – was used to prepare a body for burial

I love this song from Keith and Kristyn Getty and the way they refer to these three gifts. “Shepherd’s bow before the lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts of men from distant lands prophesied the story. Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will make a way and by his blood he’ll win us.”

Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (Official Lyric Video)

NEW Lyric Video for "Joy Has Dawned Upon the World" Visit www.gettymusic.com/merrychristmas for free MP3 & sheet music downloadsWritten by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, this carol was written as part of a collection teaching through the Apostle's Creed and tells the story of the Gospel throughout the verses. Consider using this in your church and pairing it with a classic carol such as "Angels We Have Heard On High." Enjoy this video? Come sing along with Keith & Kristyn at one of our concerts! Full tour schedule at www.gettymusic.com/christmas. Like and leave comments below! #TuesdayTuneUp#GettyMusic#IrishChristmas#SingChristmas

Posted by Keith and Kristyn Getty on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well. (Isn’t this sweet picture so cute? My kids are much older now, but this is from our early days of giving three gifts.)

A Gift of Gold – to Jesus Our King

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This looks a bit different every year. When they were younger, each child got a set amount of money to give a present to Jesus. Specifically, a gift to give to others in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). They’ve given animals through World Vision gift catalogue, donations to our local Baptist children’s home, Gift-a-Verse through The Seed Company, and more. We’ve also had years where we they pooled their money to add to the annual gift we give for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. As they have grown older, we encourage them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus including ways for them to earn the money they give … but they keep fairly well-stocked in cash from generous grandparents.

As a symbol of their gift to Jesus, they each get a gold ornament. These are usually just $1 ornaments from WalMart, but I’ve added a tag to each to help us remember the year and what they gave. (I didn’t start the tags until later on, so I don’t have all the year’s gifts labeled.) When they leave the house, they will have their own set of ornaments to keep. I hope they will grow to treasure these ornaments and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

A Gift of Frankincense – to Meet with God

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. Some years they’ve received a new Bible, devotional book, or Bible study. One year they got a basket to hold all their “quiet time” items, including a prayer journal Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , pens, and K-cups of hot chocolate reserved only for their time with God. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grow in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Myrrh – to Connect with One Another

Ok, so there is no great way to connect with the symbolism of myrrh! But we’ve traditionally made this third gift something that helps us connect with one another. Board games, a family gaming system, Disney passes (We can get these for really cheap as Florida residents. When we do this, this is also in lieu of birthday gifts, birthday party, Easter basket, etc. for the rest of the year!) Especially as our kids get older and we all have our different activities launching us out and about, having experiences we all share together has been amazing family time.

St. Nick Stockings

Another fun way we’ve used Christmas traditions to point to Jesus and His call on our lives to live for His glory is through our stockings. Instead of filling them with things, we fill them with small gifts and encouraging words to one another, focusing more on the latter than the former.

In the past, we’ve 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. However, with moving and the craziness of the kid being older and our schedule fuller, we’ve been lax on this tradition. This year will be a great time to make a more concerted effort to encourage one another.

When the kids were smaller, they tended to give us little trinkets of theirs they thought mommy or daddy would want. So sweet.

One of the really fun things is that we store all the notes within the stockings the rest of the year. So each year when we hang our stockings, we have past notes to look through. (I try to jot the year on the back of the notes. Most are just small pieces of paper.)

The real “St. Nick” was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We’ve talked to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  was a great resource when my kids were little, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ. It might be fun to watch again as its been a few years since we’ve done so.

I’m so grateful we get this time of the year to intentionally point our hearts to the coming of Christ!

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The Motherhood Lies We Must Stop Believing

As soon as I closed the door to my oldest’s kindergarten class the tears started flowing. With a pinched face, I desperately tried to control my breathing and keep the deluge of emotions down so I could make it to the car before I completely crumbled.

I was a mess of emotions.

My breakdown wasn’t primarily because I was sad to not have him by my side, or that fact that I wasn’t ready for him to grow up just yet. I was torn up because I was disappointed in myself. I had spent months and months of researching and planning toward homeschooling. I’d built it up in my mind as the best option for our family of five. It was what the super-moms did—the really strong, spiritual ones kept their kids at home and shaped their hearts and minds in the best way possible.

We had attempted a trial month that summer to test the homeschooling waters. It was a miserable failure. What I had idealized and idolized was an absolute nightmare. My five-year-old had the attention span of an excitable dog with a squirrel nearby. My three-year-old was as clingy and sassy as could be. And my one-year-old was into EVERYTHING and continually fought for the seat in my lap that the three-year-old just wouldn’t give up.

It was a nightmare.

THE LIES

As I completed the walk of shame back to my car on that first day of kindergarten, feelings of failure overwhelmed me. Even though I knew my child was supposed to be in the public school that year (because the other option = mental breakdown), a great disappointment plagued me. I wasn’t enough. I was a bad mom. My kids were going to be less-than because I couldn’t get it together enough to homeschool them.

Yikes. The destruction and falsehood of these lies are clear to me now. And whether it is about your school choices, food choices, discipline choices, or any-other-thing-related-to-parenting choices, my guess is that you’ve listened to these lies as well:

“I’m not ______ enough for my kids.”

“I’m a bad mom.”

“My kids are going to suffer because I can’t get it together enough to ___________.”

Ladies, we must kill these lies. Our thought-life is a breeding ground for either destruction or victory in every area of our lives. If we allow lies to run rampant and reign our inner life, everything else about our reality will be affected. We must fight for freedom from these lies.

DON’T FIGHT THE LIES ALONE

I’ve learned to be engaged in this fight—the long journey toward healthy thinking—and it is certainly not over. I still worry about whether or not the choices we are making are right and best. I still wonder how I am messing up my kids by doing or not doing something. I still forget that their development and growth is not all up to me.

Perhaps that last one is the kicker: It’s not all up to me.

Today, as I walk into my tenth school year as a mom, though the lies don’t hold as much power over me as they did, I still hear their siren call. I still have to grab them, throw them down, and tell them to flee. Then I have to replace these lies with truth:

I am not defined by the type or quality of mother I am.
I have choices (in food, school, etc.). That fact is evidence of great blessing.
I am not enough, and will never be enough. But I don’t need to be.

My kids need to find sufficiency in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their security in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their significance in Christ, not me.

God is in control…even if I get the choices all wrong.
God loves my kids infinitely more than I do.
God is working in my kids in ways I never could.

His faithfulness is not dependent on my actions.
His goodness is not something I have to earn.
His provision and protection for me and my children are steadfast. Always.

BE OPEN TO CHANGE; TRUST THE LORD

I’ve also learned to take it a kid at a time and a year at a time. Every choice I make is not immutable. We can change our path at any time. We’ve moved twice since that first day of school and have been in and out of different schooling options. I’ve been all sorts of types of a mom. Stay-at-home mom. Work-at-home mom. Work-outside-of-the-home mom. Homeschool mom. Public school mom. Car-line mom. Bus-rider-kids mom. Baseball mom. Theater mom. Band mom. This year, for the first time, I’ll be a virtual school mom for my middle child.

Along the way, each stage had its benefits and downsides, its joys and pains. But as I look back through all our changes, I can see the unchanging and faithful hand of God leading and guiding us as we make these important decisions. More importantly, I can see the faithful hand of God changing us in the process.

Lord, as we navigate aaaaall the choices we face as parents, will you remind us of who you are. Help us cling to the truth of what the Bible tells us about you, more than we hold to the social norms and what’s “best” for our kids. Don’t allow us to put our kids at the center of our lives. Instead, keep our focus centered on you.

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.

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When You Wish You Could Slow Down Time

Time, you are flying by.

It seems the older I get, the quicker you make my days pass by. Like a book flung open in the wind, you are blowing my flapping pages furiously toward its conclusion.

I feel these fleeting moments often when I look at my youngest, no longer a baby; he seems to grow taller everyday. My oldest is beginning to shed the skin of little boy as he tumbles towards the teenage years. And a quick glance at my middle-child reveals a shadow of the woman she will one day become.

Time, slow down.

On one hand, it feels as though there is plenty of time to read all the books we want to read, visit the sights we want to see, and instill the lessons we want to leave with our children. But then—just like that—we are over half way through this chapter of parenting and I’m not sure I’m ready for what’s ahead.

Time, I want you to be predictable. Safe.

I know all-too-well that I am not promised tomorrow. My personal clock may stop tomorrow. Or my husband’s. Or one of my children. Or one of my parents. Or another one of my siblings. And some moments, the thought of losing any one member of my family is more than I can bear.

Time, you are a constant reminder.

I cannot control you, but I know the One who does. He knows. He weaves. He carries. And in His perfect work, Time, He will allow you to march as fast or slow as you need to do His will for His perfect plan.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever.
Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

How is time passing for you these days? What verses do you cling to that point your heart to the One who holds every second in His hands?

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When the Word takes on a new meaning

I love to study the Bible! It is a joy to see truths jump off the page.

For me, finding the main points of a passage is like a framing picture I can pick up and put on my desk—a tangible, visible representation of who God is and what He wants from me. Characteristics of a true Christ-follower become clearer, commands are more distinct, Christ’s greatness better seen.

I can pick up these “framed” truths and observe them again and again. Over time, my desk collects frame after glorious frame—portraits of the masterpiece of Scripture.

I’ve been in the Psalms for a few months now, and I saw Psalm 86 in a different light recently. I’m sharing about today over at Caroline’s.

I hope you’ll join me!

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Activities

Looking for a way to tell your children about the reason behind why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick's Day Activities
St. Patrick's Day activities

The Real Reason for St. Patrick’s Day

Besides being a fun reason to wear green and pinch those who don’t, it is a celebration of a man of God who sacrificed all for the sake of the gospel. Hands down, the best book for telling the true story of St. Patrick’s Day is The Story of St. Patrick: More Than Shamrocks and Leprechauns Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .

This is a great book to read for family worship time together, as it will certainly bring up some good conversations about a heart for the lost, and sacrifice for the sake of others and their salvation.

Highly recommend this book! You can read more about The Story of St. Patrick book in last year’s post.

Fun Ideas for St. Patrick’s Day

We had all sorts of fun with the color GREEN last year! A quick trip to The Dollar Store and we were set with fun accessories! We ate pistachio pudding (yummie!) and green macaroni and cheese (just add green dye to the water when you boil the noodles.)

Green food, St. Patrick's, fun with kids

real reason for St. Patrick's Day

real reason for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Any books to share?

Dealing with Opposition, and How I’ve Become a Better Mom

I shared my heart a few months ago, about my struggle with being a stay-at-home mom. It was a post that I knew I was supposed to write, but felt myself extremely frightened hitting publish. For the most part, the “bearing of my soul” was incredible well-received, and you all just showered me with encouragement and stories of your own struggle.

Thank you, for that.

The more I share my heart, the real me, the more I realize that there are so many others out there that also struggle. This is all so strangely freeing.

To know I’m not alone in my depression and struggle with motherhood.

Of course, I know the struggle is mostly in my head—that I am not the only imperfect one. But getting it to sink deep down into my heart? That’s a different story.

Most of this is about the battle to connect my heart’s cry with my what my mind knows.

Dealing with Opposition

So, I said that it was mostly well-received. There was a bit of opposition. I’m not afraid of opposition, and I am so thankful for those comments. We all need to be able to hear the criticisms, and take them to the Lord. He has given us each other to point us to Him—sometimes through difficult conversations.

I did take the concerns to the Lord, and to my husband, but came out from it back where I had landed—that this IS the best place for us now.

Yet, I find myself feeling a bit mis-understood.

It is difficult to communicate by heart, and all of my story in 700 words. My struggle with being a stay-at-home mom is only one part of the journey. The words of the concerned commenters were very kind, but I could hear the worry in their words—the worry that I was going off the deep end, losing my focus—and my children would be the ones to pay for my “mistake”.

I don’t know, maybe this is all about the same issue, that I care too much about the ideal and what other’s think. But it still weighs heavy on my heart—that you all might be out there thinking that since I have given up my pursuit of being the typical stay-at-home mom, I am now giving my kids second-best.

How I’ve Become a Better Mom

There are certainly other factors involved, but the bottom line is that the pursuit of the ideal had led me to depression, and as I have taken steps away from trying to fit into a certain “homemaker” mold, my depression is lifting. (That, and a certain little blue and white pill.)

I did not making it lightly, this decision to not homeschool. Nor did I flippantly make the decision to start working outside of the home. Neither were made out of emotions—on solely what I feel. These decisions were prayerfully, slowly, and carefully made by my husband and me.

I was absolutely against going back to work and putting the kids in childcare, even for just a few days a week. It felt like a deferring of my God-given role to someone else. I had my heart set on homeschooling and continuing the typical full-time stay-at-home mom pursuits. But there was one big problem.

It wasn’t working.

Honestly, I was a really bad mother most of the time. Extremely irritable; completely un-motivated to do anything around the house, while I wallowed in my “failures” because my time at home didn’t look like so-and-so’s.

I was so overwhelmed by all that I wasn’t, that it paralyzed me from being who God made me to be.

I have been searching the scriptures lately, on this phrase in Titus 2 to be a “worker at home”, this phrase that so many see as the lynchpin to motherhood. I’m kinda surprised by what I have been learning, and observing…

…but that is all for another post.

Do you feel the pressure to be a certain “type” of “good Christian” mom?

Where do you feel you may be trying to fit into a mold God never designed you to be in?

Have you experienced this “walking away from the ideal” to find that it makes you a better momma?

 

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For When My House is in Chaos

For when my kitchen is a mess…

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…the living room has exploded…

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…and the laundry is taking over…

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…and for when I am weary of it all…

…I am thankful that when the God of all order looks at me He sees Christ’s perfect obedience—not all the chaos in my life, nor my disobedience.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. (Romans 3:23-25 NLT)

Not because of what I’ve done, but because of what Christ has done on my behalf,  He is well-pleased with me.

(…and at least my floors are clean!)

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.

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

Bedtime Woes

So, I’ve been feeling a bit stuck about bedtime around here.

My older two, who are six and almost four are loving the “I’m hungry/thirsty/not sleepy/anything-else-they-can-think-of-that-can-get-them-out-of-going-to-sleep” game. (Although, one of my favorites is Anna’s “I’m scary,” which is usually her legitimately being afraid—not just stalling.)

I feel as if I am continually having to choose between setting the limits or savoring the moments. I want to build good memories of our time together at bedtime, but at some point I have to draw the line or they would stay up all night.

I’m over at Inspired to Action today…would love for you to join me!

Balancing My Calling with My Calling

I found my first big calling in college. As a student involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, I grew tremendously in my walk with God, and quickly began serving alongside the staff at Auburn University, to help disciple women and bring the gospel to the lost on campus.

I loved it.

After my time at Auburn, I moved to Jacksonville, and quickly got involved in the Crusade ministry there. I was handed the women’s ministry and dove head first into leading Bible studies, one-on-one discipleship, and outreach opportunities on campus.

I loved it.

Then I came on staff full-time to continue this ministry. I poured my life into my disciples. I shared my faith regularly. I got to continually impart the truths of scripture.

I loved it.

Through my ten years of ministry with Cru, I found my calling and what God has built me for.

I am called to passionately teach the Word of God. I am to train and equip the saints to walk with God for a lifetime. 

And then I became a mother and I was given a new calling. A calling to be their mom.

Motherhood is a high calling. It is a privilege. God has entrusted me with the lives of these precious souls, and it is not a role I take lightly.

Although, in recent months, I have been wrestling with a question I just can’t shake:

Is the calling of motherhood the only one I can have, and still be a good mom? 

…and…

Can pursuing both callings actually make me a better mother?

I love my kids, and I am so incredibly grateful to the Lord for them. They are truly gifts. Yet, I feel as if I lost a part of myself when I became a mom.

(Photo taken by my sweet 3-year-old!)

Recently I have taken steps toward fulfilling that first calling I heard from the Lord, I am slowly seeing a part of me come to life again.

This isn’t the post where I tie it all up in a nice bow, this is just where I am at and what I am wrestling with.

I wonder if you might be struggling with your calling as well? How do you balance this great calling to motherhood with the calling toward ministry which takes time and energy away from your family? 

Linking up with Write it, Girl!