"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas bucket list

Last Christmas, two sad things happened.

First, I realized too late (read: after school let out) that I hadn’t taken our toddler to see Santa Claus. I know, I know…she didn’t really know the difference. But I did. There are only a few short years to be able to take a child to sit on Santa’s lap, and I missed one of them. {Sniff}

Second, I realized AFTER Christmas was over that we’d never taken the time to go out looking at Christmas lights with the kids. Yes, we saw them as we drove to other places. But when I was a kid, one thing we ALWAYS did was set aside a special night to drive around…JUST to look at lights.

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day is always packed so full of motion and activity that it’s easy to let the things that are important to us—the special family moments, the cherished traditions—get squeezed out. So, this year, to keep that from happening, I decided to create a Christmas Bucket List!

We’ve done most of the items on the list and still have a couple of days left to do the rest. Hopefully this will jog your memory in case there’s something you wanted to do and forgot about. (It’s not too late!)

Amy’s Christmas Bucket List

1. Listen to Christmas music. CHECK (many times over!)

2. Decorate the house and yard, and put up lights outside. CHECK

We even put ornaments on all our bushes and trees this year! They make me happy every time I pull into the driveway.

3. Go look at Christmas lights together. CHECK

(Although, I think we’re going to have to go again, now that my friend, Chelli, found this cute printable—a checklist of things for the kids to try to spot.)

4. Make and drink LOTS of hot chocolate. CHECK

We even got special cups so we could take some with us while looking at lights. So fun!

5. Do plenty of Christmas crafts and school projects. CHECK

6. Watch Christmas movies. CHECK

7. Make “Reindeer Food.” CHECK

No, this wasn’t really for the reindeer. Can you guess when we ate it? (Hint: See #6.) You can get the recipe here. Warning: Don’t plan on leftovers…

8. Make Reindeer FEED. (This one IS for the reindeer.)

We haven’t gotten to this one yet, but as long as it’s ready by Christmas Eve night, we’re good.

9. Eat tamales. CHECK

(We’ll do this again on Christmas Day, but we were blessed already by a sweet friend who knows our love of tamales and showed up at our house with stacks of them!)

10. Count down to the big day. CHECK

Of course, this one is ongoing throughout the month.

We actually have four different countdowns going, including this cute one Remi’s been working on:

You can get the free printable here. (Thanks to my friend April for sharing her find!)

11. Sing Christmas songs. CHECK

Remi’s been singing, “We wish it was merry Christmas…” (No, she doesn’t mean to change the words; she thinks that’s how it goes.) The boys were able to go caroling with our church youth group. Addy sings all the time, and has been playing lots of holiday tunes on the piano, too. I love to hear my kids sing!

12. Make cookies together. CHECK

We’ve made them several times at home as a family…

…and the kids from Addy’s Bible class made about a gazillion cookies for our elders, deacons, and ministers. Aren’t they pretty?

13. Decorate the tree. CHECK

(You can read about our tree mishap here.)

14. Read Christmas books. CHECK

(But we still need to read my favorite, The Polar Express.)

15. Make ornaments. CHECK

16. Make homemade Christmas cards. CHECK

Our kids, along with the kiddos in one of their homeschool groups, made cards for a number of local Christian friends who are going through hard times. We hope the cards will brighten their day and remind them that someone is thinking of them at Christmas.

17. Mail cards to out-of-town friends.

Yes, this was on my list. But sadly, for the second (or third?) year in a row, it just didn’t get done. (To our faraway friends who are reading this: Merry Christmas! We really are thankful for you…even if you don’t have the mail to prove it.)

18. Make paper snowflakes. CHECK

I think Addy was already working on hers December 1st! I had hoped to laminate some and hang them from our trees outside—I think it was Troy’s idea, actually—but that didn’t happen. (Maybe next year?) Never fear, though. A quick glance around Addy’s room reveals that she was definitely working on her end of the project.

DSC_1845b

(I love how she just taped them right onto her existing wall hangings.)

19. Attend holiday parties. CHECK

20. Go visit Santa Claus. CHECK

21. Write a letter to Santa.

We haven’t done this one yet, either. But, I do still plan to let our newly-four-year-old daughter dictate her letter for me. Should be interesting…

22. Enjoy Elf on a Shelf. CHECK

This was our first year to do this, and it’s been so much fun for ALL of us! We named our elf Zanzibar, and the big kids love helping us find interesting places for him to appear each morning. Remi loves looking for him as soon as she wakes up each day. I’m thankful for the friends who gifted us with our little elf!

23. Make a family hand wreath.

This is another item from my list that just hasn’t gotten done. I wanted to trace each of our hands and put them all together in a wreath with the year on the back so we would always have a record of what size our hands were this year. With four kids ranging in age from four to seventeen, we have quite a variety of sizes! And, they change quickly.

24. Make a hand-and-foot reindeer. CHECK

Addison did this when she was younger, and I was anxious for Remington to make one, too. So, even if we don’t get the wreath done, we still have a record of the youngest child’s hand and foot size this year. Oh, and the nose is her thumbprint, so we have a record of that, too.

25. Make homemade gifts. CHECK

We did LOTS of different handmade gifts this year, as always, for friends, family members, and neighbors.  The kids love to make and give, and it’s always a good reminder for me that the best thing we can do for others is to give of ourselves.

26. Make gifts for our church elders and their wives.

I seem to get to this later and later each year. I hate that, because our elders are amazing, sacrificial men, and they need to know how much we appreciate them. (But I think this year they’ll be getting “Happy New Year!” gifts from our family instead.)

27. Make gingerbread men.

Here’s another one we haven’t managed to cross off our list yet. But, even if we have to do it after the holidays are over, I still really want to enjoy this activity with my kiddos.

28. Make gingerbread houses. CHECK

While the gingerbread men may not be crafted yet, their houses are ready and waiting for them. Or, they were…until they got eaten…

Addy's gingerbread house

Addy’s gingerbread house

Remi's gingerbread "princess palast" with patio

Remi’s gingerbread “princess palast” with patio

29. Visit the sick and/or elderly. CHECK

Last year we did more of this between Christmas and New Year’s, but we’ve already gotten a head start this year by visiting our sweet, senior citizen neighbors. We really want our kids to understand that it’s not all about them and what they receive. (And thankfully, I think they get it!) We hope these visits bless those we go to see; we know for sure they bless our family.

30. You decide!

What is missing from my list? Do you have a favorite activity on your own holiday list that hasn’t been mentioned here? What should #30 be? Please leave me a comment telling me what you’d add.

So, do you have a Christmas bucket list, too? If so, how’s it going? Several of the things on my list don’t have to be confined to this particular time of year. Make a plan to do the things you deem most important for your family, and start checking them off your list! (And remember to add #30 to mine.)

Thanks for stopping by.

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She’s making her list

I am a list maker. I make so many lists that I really should keep a list of all my lists. I’m guessing it started back when I was a child, and probably at Christmastime. After all, what child doesn’t love to make a wish list for Santa? But several days ago I found a different kind of list stuck to our refrigerator:

"Addy's Christmas list of things to make"

“Addy’s Christmas list of things to make”

You see, our daughter, Addison, is also a list maker. But I love that hers is not a list of things she hopes to receive, but things she hopes to make and give.

When my husband and I found the list, we talked about how cute it was. (I especially love the homemade pen holder!) But evidently she took her plans very seriously, because this morning I found all these under the tree:

All are homemade by Addy, and she even made some of the packaging herself:

I love that she spent so much time creating gifts for others. But this isn’t something new.  Every year it seems that more than half the gifts under our tree are from Addy. (And in a family of six, “more than half” is a lot of presents!)

I am constantly learning from this sweet girl, who lives out Acts 20:35:

“…..and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Christmas tree quandary

Sometimes things just don’t go quite the way we planned, and that can make over-planners like me a little crazy. But, I’m working on just taking things as they come…the perfect with the imperfect; the chaos with the calm. I recently wrote here about my very typical, imperfect life, and this week has provided yet another example of how things go wrong in our family just like they sometimes do in yours.

Before I tell the story, you’ll want to know a little background on how we “do the tree” each year, so be sure to read this first.

Back to this year….

It actually did start out as one of those seemingly perfect evenings. It was a night we’d been waiting for: the big, tree-decorating event of 2012. Of course, the top priority for this, as well as most other events we enjoy, is the snacks, so Chandler got busy making the hot chocolate…

…while Remi helped make the special cookies she’d picked out for the evening.

Don’t you just love her placement?

The “kid cookies” were a hit with the girls…

…but we also needed some more adult-friendly ones, so we made peppermint sugar cookies, too.

Then we added some cocktail shrimp…

…some mini-crab cakes…

…and some random (but requested) garlic bread.

Once the snacks were all ready, we put out the cute Santa napkins, cranked up some holiday tunes, and got busy on the tree. This year the three older kids cut the tree down, set it up in the house, and did all the lights themselves. {Happy!}

One of my favorite parts of the season is our tradition of remembering where each ornament came from as we hang it on the tree. Usually I am the one who pulls each one out of the box, and we all chime in with, “Oh, remember when Connor made that back in second grade?” or “Hey, that’s the one Wes & April brought us from Hawaii!” This year, Addison decided she would help me with the handing out of the ornaments while the other kids hung them.

So, we reminisced about each one, and as usual I let the kids put them wherever they wanted. Remington was thrilled about helping this year…

…and added lots of charm to the tree with her special, three-year-old style. Most of the ornaments she hung were either right on top of each other…

…or completely backwards…

…or—often—both!

And yes, I left every single one of them right where they were!

I even left the ornament Chandler decided to run upstairs and make out of old baseball socks, T-shirts, and apparently his little sister’s hairbands. (But we were all a little bit scared of it. Aren’t you?)

He didn’t seem to think it was very funny (??) that when he came downstairs the next morning, he found pins sticking out of it. {insert giggle}

But, back to that evening…

We got every single light and ornament on the tree, and even put the topper in place…..and then it happened. The entire tree slowly started falling forward. Thankfully we were all still standing there and were able to catch it with only a few ornaments slipping off.

Nervous that it could happen again, I removed some of my more sentimental (and breakable) treasures from the branches and placed them on the piano nearby. Three nights and three days went by, and I decided that the tree’s early attempt to fall must have just been a fluke. So, I put those special ornaments back on, turned off the pretty white lights, and went to bed.

We didn’t hear the crash during the night last night. But we woke up to find that the tree had toppled completely over. Here is a portion of the mess we found:

Needles were everywhere, and the water had spilled out of the basin of the tree stand onto the carpet. The tree skirt was soaked, and newly decorated with the paint that ran from the now-wet shoes that were sitting on it. (I realize that sounds weird. But when we lived in Holland our boys painted shoes—both leather and wooden ones—to leave out for Sinter Klaas. I just can’t get rid of those tiny shoes, even now that their feet are so much bigger than mine!)

Things like this happen. They happen to everyone. And, they are disappointing, to say the least. But really, this is such a minor catastrophe compared to what so many people are going through. Hunger, the loss of loved ones, major financial setbacks….THOSE are things people are understandably sad about. A toppled tree doesn’t deserve to steal our joy. We cleaned it up, we’re letting the carpet (and at least one present) dry out, and we’ll try again. One day we’ll laugh at this relatively insignificant tragedy, and in the meantime we’ll still enjoy the season and all the fun and wonder to be had this time of year.

I know it’s a crazy, busy time of year, but I hope you’re still smiling. In case you need one more reason, I’ll leave you with the clue I found that let me know I had some decorating assistance from a tiny helper this year:

(Because there’s nothing quite like the sight of the aforementioned tree topper gazing lovingly into the eyes of what I affectionately call “the Christmas rat,” and vice versa!)

Thanks for stopping by.

Christmas: To celebrate, or not to celebrate?

And the answer is…..YES! And, NO!

HUH???

Let me try to confuse you more explain…

If the question is whether I celebrate the Christmas holiday season, the answer is ABSOLUTELY! We put up a tree and lights, decorate the house, enjoy special treats, get together with extended family, exchange gifts, and hang our stockings every year. We love this season!

But, if the question is whether I celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ, the answer is NO, I don’t.

Gasp!

But Amy, I thought you were a Christian! (See, I knew what you were thinking.)

Please be fair and stay with me to the end here, OK?

Yes, I am a Christian. It’s the most important relationship in my life. And, because I am a Christian, I strive to live by God’s teachings as outlined in His Word, the Bible.

And do you know what the Bible says about Christmas? Nothing. Nada. Zip. (Really. Go look it up! ) You won’t find any mention of Christmas, or any commandment to celebrate the birth of Christ on any particular day (or at all….stay with me…) and you won’t find any indication of when Christ was born. (But, even secular historians agree that it wouldn’t have been in December.)

So my big question is, “If God wanted us to celebrate Christ’s birth on a certain day or in a certain season, don’t you think He would have told us so?” He’s pretty specific in other areas, so it’s hard for me to imagine Him leaving this out if it were really important to Him. In fact, the Bible teaches that the most important thing we should observe is not Christ’s birth (although I’m so glad He was born!) but His death and resurrection:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”  I Cor. 15:2-3 (emphasis mine)

And that death, burial, and resurrection should be celebrated every first day of the week (not once a year), according to multiple Scriptures.

For what it’s worth, I am glad about the fact that so many people turn their attention to Jesus at this time of the year. I think it’s great that people are reminded to think about the One Who gives us all good gifts. But, friends, please don’t criticize me for not doing something that God Himself has not commanded us to do!

I don’t ever want to be guilty of the same thing as those who were called “hypocrites” in Mark 7:

And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (verse 7)

You see, Christmas is a fun time of year, but celebrating it is a tradition of men, not a commandment of God. (Look up the holiday’s origins and I bet you’ll be surprised! It all started among the pagans, and then became customary for the general public after spreading through Catholicism.) The Bible gives no indication of anyone in the early church celebrating Christmas.

The very next verse after the one quoted above says, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” It seems to me there are an awful lot of people sleeping in each first day of the week, but then walking around telling everyone that “Jesus is the reason for the season” once December rolls around. It just doesn’t make sense!

Why celebrate at all, then? Christmas, like many other human holidays, is a wonderful time to get together with friends and family. It’s a great time to teach our children about Acts 20:35, “…and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” It’s a fun opportunity to catch up with those we don’t often hear from throughout the year, and to enjoy family activities like baking and decorating.

But Amy, you just said there’s no mention of Christmas in the Bible!

That’s right. And that’s why I would never try to tell another Christian that they HAVE TO celebrate Christmas, just like I’d never tell someone they have to celebrate Valentine’s Day! I would never insinuate that someone would be sinning by not observing this human holiday in some fashion.

I also cannot agree with those who say it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas in any way. Giving Christmas gifts is like giving birthday gifts.  It’s great fun—just don’t claim you’re doing it because God says we have to!

I hope I have spoken the truth in love. I sure don’t want to offend anyone out there. But I do hope after reading this some will be more careful about giving looks and comments that indicate that anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th is “not a good Christian.”

Now it’s your turn. What do you believe about this subject? More importantly, can you back it up? I welcome your comments below, as always; just please be sweet and respectful with your words.

And if you notice there’s not a nativity set in my front yard this month, don’t get the wrong idea. I’ll be worshiping Him with fellow Christians on Sunday morning, and trying to live my life for Him all week. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!


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