Christmas can be so fun, but it can also be too much. Just thinking about getting all my kids going to see Santa somewhere sounds like way too much work than it’s worth. I am trying to rely on the fact that Christmas is intrinsically magical, and that the best memories that will remain in the hearts of my children will be our focused, undistracted time together.
I still feel my focus off sometimes, and I am trying to change it, and what’s interesting to me, it’s that it’s not easy. We pulled out Maria’s manger scene, I was explaining how Jesus was a King, “Where should Kings be born and live?” I asked them.
“A Castle! Elsa’s Castle!”
“Right, but he was actually born in…” they wouldn’t understand what a stable is, “kind of like a chicken coop.”
“What!?” they looked at me, their eyes wide, not sure if I was serious, because chicken coops are kind of gross, caked in poop and feathers and flappy, pecky animals–no place for any baby.
“Yeah, kind of a big chicken coop because bigger animals lived there, too,” as I held the plastic cow in my fingers, making him hop walk on his immobile legs.
Andrew and I see the irony of the most humble, meager day, of service and love being born, and how we blow it up, and have to run to malls and fill out do-to list that circles more around things and random activities than the real purpose of it, of that day. I mean, really, that’s the thought every year right? We’ve heard it before, slow down, focus on the meaning, but it’s harder than it sounds sometimes, I know.
So far, we’ve done a couple things, have a few more planned, and honestly, even from a non-spiritual, selfish stand point, although they weren’t really easy, so far they have been the best parts of our December season, so I thought I’d share. Really, measurably better than any normal Christmassy things.
This week our growth group from church did a service project at Downs Town. It is a home for adults living with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. Before we had kids, or even when we just had Finley, Andrew and I loved service, it’s one of our favorite ways to connect with God and serve Him. But as we drove there this week, we felt like, “Oh geeeez, I just want to stay home tonight…” it was you know, dark, and late-ish, like 6:30….our heart didn’t feel into it. But we went, and met our friends, we started with a game of Bingo. And it wasn’t long until we were into it, it was fun. It was light hearted. It was connecting and not only took our minds off the things we wanted to dwell on at home, we seriously had the most fun night. Not ‘just put on a smile’ fun, but kind of like–a real blast! Dare I saw–Christmas magic? And not the fake kind.
Larry, a friend we met who lives there told us over bingo, “I’m engaged….”
“WOW! You are!? That’s so cool, how did you ask her?”
“Oh….I didn’t ask her yet….she doesn’t know.”
“Oh yeah, why not?”
“Well, cause her mom would be my mother in law, you know?”
He is the manager of the local Goodwill, a couple of the resident work there. He told us exactly how much he made there. He’s saving up to go to Hawaii.
Then we played Uno–so FUN! The children that came did such an amazing job, they were silent and nervous when they arrived, but not long later, they were helping each resident play their hand, they drew cards for them, made up jokes with them. Kids and service, just yes.
Larry told me, “IF WE WIN!!! I AM GOING TO BUY YOU A DONUT TOMORROW!!!!”
“YES!!!!” I told him and gave him a high five. He told Andrew and our other friend we could all get donuts if we won–which, by the way, we did, no big deal. (HUGE DEAL!!!)
We left feeling so happy and uplifted, these were just the nicest people who told us just what they thought and were feeling, for instance, “Make sure you bring prizes for Bingo next time, k?”
2. Truth in the Tinsel
We want to our family to be reading the word and learning about what is Christmas, where was it prophesied about in the Old Testiment, what does it say? But anyways, we don’t usually have time, which is so lame, I need help. So we got the Truth in the Tinsel eBook, and we loved it! Honestly, between doing a Truth in the Tinsel night, and making gingerbread houses, the kids showed more enthusiasm, cheering, excitement, and obviously learning in the Truth in the Tinsel activity than the candy houses. And it’s cheaper! WIN! Really, so fun!
There are 30 days, each day has a CLUE! The first one is light, and as Andrew read the passage in Isaiah, we told the kids to listen for the clue, “LIGHT!”
“CLUE CLUE CLUE!!!! LIGHT!!! I HEAR IT! YEAHH!” They were grinning and shaking and engaged and excited listening to the words. The passage was deep and meaningful, it put Andrew and I into an awed moment. Then, there is a craft, which was really fun, and good for sensory skills and fine motor, and just fun.
There are 30 days, but we may only do 6 or 7 this season, and so we’ll have more for years to come. It was so fun for us to sit together, talk together, good conversations.
I am not a real mom, what mom only has one piece of tissue paper in the entire house….me. I am not a supplies stocking type of mom. Which is fine, they had fun.
Then we turned off the lights, and flicked a flame behind their craft, light. And read this passage written long before Jesus was born.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will do all this.
Isaiah 9: 2-7
A light, that would change our world.
We buy one piece of Christmas decor a year, and that’s it! IT! We usually try to buy second hand, a decision supported even more so after reading this about the “Red Factories” in China where they make all our western ‘needed’ Christmas decor.
The boys and I found this illuminating red barn at our local thrift store yesterday. I love that thrift store, they are a Catholic Charity that give bread and food to families, creating a line for free.
Our barn, it is so cute, and when Andrew came home, he said it was the perfect Christmas decor. The kids love looking in the windows, and ringing the small, brass bell. I think for the same price, I could have gotten one strand of plastic garland at Target.
Maria and I went to our annual Christmas tea, in the Christmas dress we bought at Alex and Yana’s garage sale for $2, it’s the cutest dress. We had biscotti and tea, and sipped with our pinkies up. Two years ago we went, and she was scared, nervous, rocking, and this year she was fancy and sophisticated, declined hot cocoa for peppermint tea. 🙂
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from our family to yours! Take our bad attiitudes about getting back to the basics, and see that we were pleasently surprised. You children will thrive while serving, reading from the bible about Christmas. More fun than standing in line with screaming children waiting to sit on a stranger’s red, velvet lap.
Visiting Downs Town made me thinking of the kids waiting on Reece’s Rainbow. A real, big, forever kind of gift would be to bring a child home and experience the magic of Christmas with your family, instead of being alone. (And yay, we’re still celebrating over Kathleen!!) Now that, that is a joy like you’d never had known. Look at my friend Heather’s beautiful daughter.
I think what God continues to reveal to me, is that He is the one who gives–it’s his character. Even when I, or we are ‘giving,’ it’s just His way for us to receive His gifts that are better than anything we could purchase–seriously, I am not just echoing a sentiment, it’s true. When we do what he says, focus on Him and on loving others, it makes the world better, yes, but it’s good for our hearts, too.
“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.
It not natural to human nature, it takes thought, or planning, or doing despite feeling, but I gotta say, it’s better, the best, peace and meaning, rest and humble joy.
(We have a couple more special Christmas things planned, but I can’t share, sensitive material 😉 🙂 🙂 🙂
Help me out, what does your family do to make Christmas meaningful and less selfish. With more truth and service and less credit cards and stress? Please share, I am such a novice! If you are a legit, organized homeschooling mama, go easy on me, I am none of those things, give me something easy 🙂
Love this! Last year I had a similar realization and this is our second year with a renewed focus….seriously the best memories! I wrote about most of our plans in this post (starting at about the 4th paragraph) http://www.adoptionchapter.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-anew-expectant-waiting.html. This year we just added going to a live nativity which we did last night and was incredible….freezing but so so worth it!
I’m a homeschool mom with lots of tissue paper, but am NOT any more organized than you! We are doing truth in the tinsel for the first year, and loving it. The other ways we are trying to keep things simple and meaningful: participating in a talent show of sorts at a local senior home, getting together with neighbours for a cookie exchange and bringing our favorite granny neighbour a thoughtful gift, collectively selling some toys that we don’t use much anymore and using the profits to contribute to gift bags for our local shelter, and I decided to write on my kids gift tags the joy they bring me: “to Norah, I love the way you are so kind to your brother” etc. I’m hoping this helps them understand that presents are an outpouring of love. Nothing deserved, but gifts freely given.
My 6 y.o. son and I have been more aware of the homeless this December. We look for them now, while we are out. We get them a warm meal and spend a few minutes with them talking and spreading holiday cheer,instead of just driving past. I made little kits to keep in the truck to hand out with some toiletries and snacks. Closer to Christmas I’d like to take Derrik shopping and wrap some gifts to give out. He would have so much fun doing that and it warms my heart seeing him so excited to give. So far the recipients have all been so gracious and emotional, it’s just a few extra minutes in our day but has added so much to them. It’s a great help to continually keep the focus and awareness on others and not ourselves giving to those who might not receive any other wrapped gift this year.
What a beautiful thing to do. Bless your hearts!
Oh we totally did that Truth in the Tinsel & have that same ornament…maybe one or two others…that’s as far as we got! I’m the well-intentioned, but not-well-planned-nor-very- crafty homeschool momma. So I will totally go easy on you! We love the Bethlehem Walk in Escondido! http://firstunited.echurch.net/Bethlehem-Walk-Details/, but ONLY–and I repeat–ONLY if you have reservations. Little ones + sitting in a church pew waiting + past-bedtime-tired = no bueno! This year, Emmanuel Faith in Escondido will also host a living Nativity: http://www.efcc.org/christmas/.
We love to each pick out an item from the Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International catalogues, trying to match the gift with our tastes. So our never-stops-eating daughter “chose” a week’s supply of milk for a child in a refugee camp, our 7-year-old chose fishing supplies, the 4-year-old purchased a goat and me and my military husband helped pay for part of a special retreat in Alaska for injured military couples.