As we go through November, I am always thinking of ways to make the upcoming holidays - both Thanksgiving and Christmas - more meaningful for our family. Now whether or not that always comes to fruition is another story! My main goal is to focus more on Christ - as He is why we celebrate Christmas. My secondary goal is to do things as a family. In the busyness of the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up in the activities and parties. All of that will fade, but the memories we make with our families will last forever!
I wanted to take a few minutes and encourage you to find something that works for your family. It could be something you do once, or something that is repeated every year. Some may work when you have younger kids, and you may have to change the activity when they get older. Maybe you need to start a new tradition with your grandkids! Maybe you need to "adopt" some kids whose grandparents live far away! Here are a few ideas to get you started - or maybe you have some great things you love to do with your family that you could share with us!
Advent activity or Jesse Tree: Both of these are great ideas to focus on Christ throughout December. The Advent wreath/candles would probably be better for older kids, while the Jesse Tree could be a great one for younger kids. Don't stress out if it does not go just as you planned. Doing something like this over and over really does pay off in the long run! There are also some great books and ornament activities that are just as good - we have a ornament for all the names of Christ and an explination for each. This doesn't get done every year, but it is something worth doing!
Christmas programs: Find out when different churches are presenting their Christmas programs and pick a few to go to as a family. There are so many GREAT presentations out there, this is a great family outing. When it is over, go out for hot chocolate and talk about your favorite part!
Christmas Eve: Make plans now to attend a Christmas Eve service. I have found this ALWAYS sets the mood and puts our focus back on Jesus!
Birthday Cake for Jesus: Make a birthday cake/cupcake/cookie for Jesus. This is something that should be done before ANY presents are opened and, again, brings our focus back to the reason we celebrate.
Christmas cookies: Make and decorate Christmas cookies with your kids/grandkids. Then share them with your neighbors or take them to an assisted living center/fire station/ police station.
Angel Tree: Adopt a child from the Angel Tree and take your kids/grandkids shopping for that child. It certainly is a great teachable moment for your kids and a way for them to give to others.
Now for some ideas that are just for fun!
Camping by the Christmas tree: After you have finished decorating the tree, let the kids sleep by the tree for a night. They will think this is the best thing EVER! I have to admit, I have never introduced this one at our house, but know several people that make this a daddy/kid event. :)
Christmas lights: I don't know anyone that does not like looking at Christmas lights! Find out in advance some neighborhoods that have great Christmas lights. Get your kiddos ready for bed. Have them go get in the car!! You might want to have some fun snacks to take in the car. Then spend an hour riding around looking at Christmas lights and listening/singing to Christmas music. We have done this a couple of times and our kids think it is great!
Christmas PJs: One of the gifts our kiddos get every year is new pajamas. They have always been matching PJs - although I am not so sure that is still going to "fly" with a 10 and 13 year old! They get to open these on Christmas Eve and wear them to bed. They don't have to be Christmas themed - it is just fun to get new pajamas.
Ornaments: We also get our kiddos an ornament to commemorate the year. I try to make sure their name and the year is on the ornament somewhere. These will be the ones I give to them when they are out on their own.
As I said before, you have to find what works for your family. I hope these have given you some new ideas, or inspired you to come up with some new ones of your own (we would LOVE to hear from you). Treasure this time with your kids and/or grandkids!
And don't lose focus of why we celebrate. Our God gave US the greatest gift ever when He sent His precious child to earth to be our Saviour. Jesus was born in the shadow of the cross - for He came to earth as a baby so He could die in our place. We can spend eternity with God because of His sacrifice. If you would like more information about this, I urge your to call your local church or FBC McKinney (972-542-0041). There will be someone there that would love to talk to you.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Have you read this book? This fall my Bible Study group decided to read this book rather than do one of our normal studies. As we were looking into it we realized there was a workbook and DVD's that go with it.
We are not finished with this book yet as we just went through chapter 5 this week but let me tell you, this book will make you really think! It is amazing how when we go back and read scripture like we have never read it before what we read. I want to start reading scripture like I have never seen it before...even if it is a scripture that I have memorized. This book really makes you examine your walk with God.
I have not read the whole book but I think this would make a great Christmas gift for someone. It is one of those books that I think you could read many times and get something out of it every time.
If you have Crazy Love I would love to hear what you thought about it.
Posted by Amanda at 1:00 PM
Thursday, November 10, 2011
For the past few weeks, I have been studying the Hebrew names of God. One of my favorites is "Abba" which means "God the Father". It literally translates into the word Daddy". Furthermore, I was surprised at the revelation in my Bible study class that Christianity is the only religion where God reveals himself as our Father. The Bible assures us, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters," says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18NIV)
Because of what Christ did for us, we have been adopted into God's divine family. Scripture teaches that "even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure." (Ephesians 1:4-6 NLT)
Hear the truth about whose you are and understand the depth of God's love for you.
He is your Father.
He loves you.
He chose you.
He adopted you.
He approves of you.
You bring him pleasure.
You are His child.
Truly, our enemy has been on the assault against fathers for decades, for he knows the power associated with such a role in a child's life. Too many children are growing up without a father. Some of us go our entire lives without knowing the unconditional love of an earthly father. For many, the absence of a father leaves an empty place that leaves us continually yearning.
Fortunately, we are never alone for God claims himself as the "father to the fatherless". (James 1:26) As your Father, he will not fail you. And "just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him." (Psalm 103:13). He is Abba. God the Father. And He loves you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a wonderful earthly father. Count your blessings. But if you are amongst the multitudes who are wandering through this life fatherless, take heart. Lift your eyes to Heaven and remember...you are a child of God.(1 John 3:1)
Monday, November 7, 2011
As we celebrated Orphan Sunday this weekend, I was reminded of several things, but one that I couldn’t shake is how God seems to work things out so…PERFECTLY. It just seems to come so naturally for me to think for a moment how “neat” something is and then move on…without really thinking about it. I may even think…what a coincidence that is…but that would just be crazy. I truly believe that there is no such thing. What some people call coincidence actually is just God’s awesome, perfect planning. And nothing less.
· While we were in Uganda adopting our son, we went on a day trip to Jinja to see the beautiful sights. While we were there we were introduced to another family adopting a little boy. That little boy is now one of our son’s favorite people. And their parents…whom we met in Uganda…and who also live in the DFW area…are some of our favorite people too. Our families have become great friends!
· We met some friends who have a heart for Africa and orphan care. We have so much in common and become friends! Then they decide to commit to moving to Zambia for full time mission work. They need to rent their house in August. Our lease on our house is up in August. We now skype with them from their own living room.
· We have a little boy who was hungry before we brought him home…like the real kind of hungry. Today he sat at a table with us at church and helped find sponsors for children who have no food to eat.
· A man shared his heart about the orphan…and how God is calling each of us to do something. He is currently waiting for a court date so he can bring his little girl home from Ethiopia. We then watch a video about a father’s heart and how a father will do anything…travel across the world…to get to his child. (You will want to watch this video, by the way. Check out “depraved indifference” by Eric Ludy on youtube.)
These are just a few examples of how God has the most impeccable timing. It reminds me that we need not worry about the details of this life. He has it all taken care of for us. We just need to pray, take one step at a time, and follow His plan for us. What is God perfectly working out for you…right now?
Posted by Courtney Willis at 7:00 AM
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1: 2-4 MSG
The past several months have been challenging for our family. It seems like each "challenge" on it's own has been manageable, and yet when we've had them all happening at once, it has led to a hard season.
One of my husband's co-workers left the company and left an unfilled position in the process. The company is reorganizing, so they are not hiring right now--which means my husband has two people's jobs while only getting paid for the one. To say this is stressful for him feels like an understatement because of the amount of extra work it has added to his life (and the amount of sleep it has taken away from his life!). And I don't know about your house, but in my house, one person's stress can cause an unbalanced household pretty quickly.
Besides his job stuff, we have now been on the wait list for our adoption for ten months. (That is longer than a pregnancy in case you were wondering--ha!) We anticipate possibly another year of waiting. This in and of itself is hard as we long for a daughter we don't yet know, and our biological children pray daily for us to get our call soon (aka our referral). It is difficult enough as an adult to understand why this process takes so long--try explaining it to a 5 and 7 year old as they want their sister here now.
We also have had to deal with the fact that the financial piece of the adoption has left money tighter than it's been since I first became a stay-at-home mom. We know it's all worth it, and we trust God to provide, but it is challenging.
(Aren't you glad you're reading this right now?! Don't you feel encouraged?!)
In the midst of these challenges (and I won't list anymore, as I fear that I will just depress those reading it), God is at work. Let me say it again, God is at work.
We may not see the whole picture (and right now we don't), but God uses trials to mature us and develop us (I love how James 1:2-4 says it in the Message version quoted above.) He does see the whole picture, and He knows the beautiful outcome.
In the midst of our trials, God reminds me:
*Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
*The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14)
*The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. (Psalm 138:8)
*Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
*We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
I recently heard a quote from Hudson Taylor that says this, "I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done." And though I have no idea what all God is up to in our lives right now, I know that as His children, we are a great work of God. So, though it sometimes feels impossible, and oftentimes feels difficult, we are on our way toward "done." And when I am done, I pray that I have fought the good fight and finished the race in a way such that my Lord will tell me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
It may be hard; it may feel almost impossible, but I don't want to get out of life's challenges prematurely. I want to grow and mature in the Lord until the end of my days. Let's fight the good fight together. As believers, we know we win in the end. These momentary trials are nothing compared to the eternal glory we will one day see.
My hope is in the Lord--no matter what. Will you, too, rest in Him today?