Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Unwrapping of Christmas: Where do our traditions come from?

I just watched this video last night, and it gave me a lot to think about! This video is 35 minutes long, but such an eye-opener! Consider taking some time out of your day to ponder the origins of our favorite holiday traditions?

Just like Caryl said near the end of this video, I am not trying to impose these or my beliefs on anyone else. I was simply shocked by how uneducated I am regarding the history of the holiday traditions I hold too. This reminds me to be a Berean and compare everything to the Bible!

"10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, [j]and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, [k]for they received the word with [l]great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." Acts 17:10-11

My husband and I had already decided to avoid teaching our children to believe in the fictional character, Santa, because it undermines our word to our kids. We want to give gifts to our children- despite their behavior- because God has offered us a free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ- despite our sinful behavior. Instead of bribing our children to be good to receive gifts (salvation through works), we want to freely bestow loving gifts on our children (salvation as a free gift). This is a great opportunity to model the joy of free salvation through Jesus Christ!

I hope this video is at least thought provoking. If you are interested in more information about Caryl Matrisciana and the ministry she is a part of, check out this website.

"Film Maker and best selling author Caryl Matrisciana is a well-known expert on ancient and modern world religions, contemporary cults, paganism and the occult. Best-selling author, journalist, researcher and commercial artist Caryl has co-produced or contributed research and expertise to more than 75 documentaries for over 30 years." From

Monday, December 3, 2012

Trying to Stay Stress-Free This December

December is upon us! This is going to be a very busy time for my family this year. We have Reese's first birthday, three family Christmas gatherings, a freezer meal swap, and all the usual bustle of the year such as decorating, cooking special treats and meals, buying and wrapping gifts, and trying to do Holiday Memory activities. So how do I get it all done while keeping up with my usual housework and without ripping my hair out- with two children that cannot feed, clothe, bathe, diaper, or pick up after themselves?! I have a few things to help me keep my sanity and enjoy the season...

My first priority to keep on schedule and stress-free, is to make sure I am spending time studying the Bible and praying. The only way this happens for me is if I get up before the kids and have time in the morning. One of my greatest tortures in life is waking up before 10 AM. But, because I have asked God specifically to help me in this, and then chosen to do so, I can [mostly] regularly get up an hour before the kids. For me, this is 7 AM. My days are much more peaceful and joyful when I follow this pattern! May I suggest taking some time to study Luke 10:38-42 in preparation for the holiday rush?

I made the decision to break from homeschooling the entire month of December. Last year, in the first week of December, Reese was born. I spent the next two weeks healing and trying to survive the rigors of having a new baby (with a Dr. mandate to feed every two hours!) Although I did have help, Christmas came and went with little to no celebration or activities. While it was unavoidable, it was sad. This year, I want to focus on the memories and activities of Christmas. So, we will not do any official school until after the New Year. When time permits, however,  I do have dozens of Christmas crafts pinned to my "Christmas Time is Here" board on Pinterest (follow me here) and will pull one of those out.

I also must cling to lists and organization! I use Google calendar and sync it to my phone and tablet so that I always have my tasks at hand. Parties or dinners are clearly marked on the calendar. I make notes about what dish I am bringing; even making a To Do for shopping, baking, or making the dish days in advance if possible. There are many foods that can be made ahead and frozen for storage. Simply defrost and bring your homemade dish to the event. This way, my days are not aimless, and I do not forget any details. My tendency is to procrastinate, thinking: I can certainly wrap 10 gifts a half-hour before we leave for the Christmas party, while my homemade cookies are baking. The reality is that I end up leaving for the event 15 minutes late and have to stop at the store to buy cookies and gift bags, because the baby had a diaper blow out, the toddler had 6 meltdowns, and I didn't have any eggs! This week, I have different tasks scheduled during the kids' afternoon nap time for Reese's birthday this Saturday. I try to be reasonable about these, usually one activity is listed per day. Any more than that and I live in constant defeat by my To Do list because the unexpected always comes up (kids refusing to nap, anyone?)

Less is more. I believe more and more people are realizing the beauty in this statement. Say "no" to as many invitations as possible. Don't offer to bring more food than you can make/afford. Only agree to exchange as many homemade gifts as you realistically have time to make (On my side this year we were going to exchange all homemade gifts. I ended up asking if we could choose if we wanted to buy or make homemade gifts instead. Honestly, I do not have the time to make them; I had to say no to a good thing). Less is more applies to giving gifts to our kids too. I love to walk the isles and grab anything that I think my kids would enjoy. But this is not realistic for our budget or storage. We limit our gifts, trying to get 1 toy, 1 clothing item, 1 movie, and maybe a couple other things. This cuts back on our regular clutter, but also the amount of time I spend between now and December 24 wrapping gifts (I hate wrapping gifts after the first five). Some families require their kids to sort out x-number of toys to give away before Christmas. Other's stick to the four gift rule: 1 want, 1 book, 1 item of clothing, and 1 need. I'm sure there are many more ideas to be found!

Make a gift closet. This past summer, I made three different gift items in bulk that I could store until Christmas. These types of gifts are perfect for Sunday School teachers, school teachers, neighbors, host and hostess gifts, and more. Add to this stash all year! Buy little things off clearance shelves, or when the crafting mood strikes make several small things. Simply having this stash has taken a weight off my To Do list.

Justin and I really want to have memories with our kids. Christmas is a great time to do things together. Here is a short list of things to do with young children (I think I'll dedicate a longer post to this topic later this month):
-drive around to see Christmas Lights (listening to Christmas music, naturally)
-play with your Nativity Set
-make/decorate Christmas cookies
-read Christmas themed books
-watch Christmas movies (Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Rudolph are classic children's movies)
-dance around to Christmas music
-play in the snow

In summary, my goal this December is to say no as much as possible, make memories when I can, and steadily press on through the tasks with one goal in mind: To worship the King Who was born this season, Jesus Christ.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?