Archive for the ‘Holiday Hints’ Category

What do you enjoy about the holiday season approaching?

Everywhere you look starting in November, in the stores and in business offices and in homes, people decorate their space with holiday decor.  Thanksgiving turkeys, fruit wreaths, twinkly lights, red and green sparkly decorations, windows painted with snow….it is all very cheerful and bright and I love it.  There are so many negative things in people’s lives today that we can sometimes focus in on just the negative and forget about all the blessings in our lives.  The holiday season kind of forces us to pay attention to things like “thankfulness” and “bounty” and “celebration” and “gifts”, all of which find their source in God our Father.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…”  James 1:17  This is an appropriate verse to the holidays…He is the source of good and the source of light!

Do you have any special traditions that help keep your holiday bright?

Beyond admiring all the decorations, we like to focus as a family on something beyond ourselves…Jesus.  We express our thankfulness for Him at Thanksgiving, and celebrate Him at Christmas.  He is the Light of the World!  (John 1:9)And because of this, we want to follow in His steps.  So each Christmas season we put a wrapped box under the tree that is empty.  On Christmas morning we each give a gift back to the Lord, something we decide that we want to give to Him in the upcoming year.  On a piece of paper we draw or write out something we want to consistently do, or some way we want to consistently serve God in the next 12 months.  In a previous year, someone drew a picture of a watch…they wanted to give more of their time to God in the upcoming months.  Another person drew a picture that depicted service to others.  It is kind of a New Years Resolution only a few days early!

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What is your favorite aspect of the holidays approaching?

For our family, the holidays would be considered the best times of the year.  That might seem obvious with three children not yet into their teen years. Both my husband and I enjoy the Holidays too. In fact, my husband is the one that seems to enjoy it the most!

We love the preparation and anticipation: getting out the decorations, decorating the house, special trips, preparing special food and treats etc.  As a child I loved making a paper chain. Ripping off a link for the day and seeing the “big day” approaching brought a sense of excitement. As an adult I have made paper chains for many different occasions (end of the school year) when I needed a little “pick me up!”

Can you share hints on how holidays can become “holy-days?”

Incorporating scripture is essential for me. It renews my thinking, which improves my attitude. And as the saying goes…Attitude is everything when it comes to enjoying the holidays!

While the preparation can bring joy, it can also  turn sour if we are focused on the wrong aspects.  I have a tendency to lose sight of the “reason” for our celebrations when superficial factors (money, quantity, excess) creep in. The word of God becomes more than a remedy; it is the source and purpose for celebration.  I have always enjoyed reading the birth of Jesus with the kids on Christmas Eve, however, the more I grow to love the word of God, the more precious and powerful this becomes.

What insights can you offer on creating an atmosphere of blessing for those around us during the Holiday Season?

For some, the holidays are a wonderful opportunity to relive the delight all over again with children of their own. For others, the holidays are a bit more tense and anxiety producing. It becomes a matter a choice really.

We can adjust our attitudes and behaviors to enhance the events instead of hinder the joy. This requires an intentional consideration of others. This can be done through participating in: Project Christmas, the Angel Tree, or even being flexible to meet the needs of family.

I have found that holding on to “traditions” more loosely helps.  One year we mixed it up and made an Italian Christmas dinner. It was fun and put less pressure on the host. We bless others more richly when we minimize unrealistic expectations and put less value in making everything perfect.

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Why do you enjoy the holiday season?
I love Christmas! I look forward to it all year long as a time of fun as well as a season to celebrate the amazing gift of love and salvation found in Jesus Christ! “Praise be to the Lord…because He has come and redeemed His people.” (Luke 1:68)

What is the key to making Christmas time a success in your family with three teenagers and a pre-teen?
To reduce the stress of the season, and to guard against losing track of the real meaning of Christmas, I get organized! Or I try to anyways!  Here are a few things that work for our family:

~All family calendars are consulted and updated by Thanksgiving.  Not only do we schedule parties and functions, we also schedule family time/down time so that we don’t get too busy to relax.  We also determine who will be our Secret Santa recipient for the Season and we begin to plan the gifts we will secretly drop off at their front door in the days before Christmas.

~Our priorites are fully understood by the family. For instance, church is non-negotiable no matter what we did the night before or will be doing the following week, pre-party and post-party help is expected from the kids, 100% participation in the Christmas Eve Skits is required, and giving is honored over receiving. When expectations are clear, there are fewer “surprises” which leads to more peaceful relationships.

~For our holiday parties I have a notebook with timelines and checklists to make sure I don’t miss any details (when to send a save-the-date, shopping check lists, etc.). Notes from past years allow me to check on what did and didn’t work, menu’s and amounts of food, decorations, games/icebreakers we played, who was invited…

~At the end of the Christmas season I am ruthless about throwing away broken decorations that deep down I know I will not use again. (I do have a box to keep sentimental homemade items. I am not that ruthless!)

Keeping the holidays organized allows our family to better enjoy time with God, with each other, and with our friends. We don’t want to miss out on the important stuff and so we take the time to plan ahead.

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Our Holiday Hints interview today is with a busy mom with kids ranging from early elementary through highschool age. 

What are a few of your favorite holiday traditions? 

Of course food is always important in our household at the holidays.  The day after Thanksgiving I make Turkey Pot Pie with left-over turkey and we eat in the family room after we’ve exhausted ourselves from a whole day of decorating the house for Christmas.  Finally, when Christmas Eve arrives, we all dress up for our ‘formal’ Christmas Eve dinner complete with fine china and beautiful background music.  Christmas morning, after my husband has read the Christmas story from Luke 2, we start with the stockings.  From youngest to oldest the children rummage through the contents of their stockings with the first thing they get to eat being the tangerine that was in their stocking (a tradition from my youth). 

We also love driving around our neighborhood to enjoy all the lights that families have put up in honor of the season. As we look at the glittering decorations, we reminisce about the Light of the World – the real reason for the season! We then vote on whose house decorations we like the best.  As a grand finale of our secret contest, we have such fun knocking on the doors of the first, second, and third place winners to present them with a plate of our homemade Christmas cookies and a small Bible!

I began a new tradition just last year. As part of the fun of decorating, I placed four beautifully gift wrapped (empty) boxes under the Christmas tree.  Because it was so early in the month of December, the kids were surprised to see presents already out.  Throughout the month, they were very curious about those gifts and I kept saying, “You’ll just have to wait and see!” 

Fast forward to Christmas morning – we were all done with the gift giving and those same 4 gift wrapped boxes remained under the tree with no tag on them.  Everyone wondered who they were to and from.  I didn’t want to tell them they were simply decoration so I prayed, “Lord is there some use for these boxes?”  I felt like the Lord just put these words in my mind and before I knew it I said that these boxes represent the gift of salvation that God gives us through Jesus Christ.  ( “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8.)  I went on to say, “We are going to leave these gift wrapped boxes out all year long to pray for our loved ones that have yet to ‘unwrap’ the gift that God has provided for us by accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.” All year long those four small gift boxes have stayed in our family room as a reminder to pray.  We will put those same four boxes under our tree again this year and will do so every year as long as we have specific people’s salvation we are praying for.

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Welcome to a week devoted to Holiday Hints.  Today is Day 1, and the first interview is with an empty nester who through the years has found  a key to keeping this busiest time of the year enjoyable, special, and Christ-focused for her family.  Simplicity!

What is your favorite aspect of the holidays approaching…Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years?

The opportunity to make positive memories and of course decorating for Christmas, which happens before the middle of November.

How do you handle schedule issues and balance family life and social obligations when things start to go crazy during this time of year?

We are able to do more now with the kids grown.  But for years we would look at what is non-negotiable, such as school programs, church Christmas program, and family time.  Other opportunities had to be prioritized so the calendar did not get too busy.

What insights can you offer on creating an atmosphere of blessing for those around us during the Holiday Season?

Keep it simple.  We have the tendency to try to be all and do all.  If it feels like a burden, rethink it.  I try to refocus every morning on Christ and what His plan is for that day, and of course this works year round. 
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (The words of Jesus Christ, found in Matthew 11:28 & 30.)

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