Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I finally completed my Advent Calendar. Its been a year in the making... and I know its still a work in progress, but I think it is perfect for our family for this year.

There are so many different ways to make these Advent Calendars and things you can do with them, but the key is the point of them - to help you and your family prepare their hearts for Christmas. I wanted a calendar that focused on Jesus... not just the Nativity story, but the salvation story of this Savior born. The scripture portion of my calendar still needs some work, but its a good start. As far as activities, I tried to do a combination of fun activities and activities that are meaningful and help teach my kids the true meaning of Christmas - giving!

This morning I woke up to several requests on info about my calendar... and I warn you, it is nothing special... quite simple, in fact. There are much more elaborate ones out there with better ideas and more colorful paper, but I know this was perfect for my family for this year. So, here's the info for you to use if you want. Or check out Pinterest for lots more ideas!

This is what mine looks like. I bought this unit last year and finally just decorated it with scrapbook paper. I wish I would have stuck with socks on a string. lol

Inside each box is a scripture and activity. The scriptures are numbered and should correspond with the day. The activities should be based on your families needs that week. In fact, I have a secret envelope taped to the back with the activities, and I will only fill them in a week at a time. I sure don't want to "Make a Gingerbread house" on the same day I have doctor appointments for all three kids after school. That would be a "Read a Christmas Book" kind of day. And if I know a Christmas Parade is taking place on Dec 21, then I will make sure I put "Go to a Christmas Parade" in that box in advance.

For the Scriptures to use on each day, click here.
For the activity ideas, click here.

I also have some other Christmas Resources that may help you this season...
Each year I use a spreadsheet for Christmas. It helps me track each person I buy for. I can set a budget and actually track how much I have spent. Each year I rename the file and change the gifts and possibly the amounts depending on how much we can afford that year.Christmas List and Budget, click here.

Another family tradition is that our children only get 3 gifts from us each year. Other family members buy for them too, but for us, if 3 gifts were good for Jesus, that's good for us! We try to follow the example of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. My sister-in-law shared this with us and you can find the story here.

As a former teacher, I can tell you that the holidays means a lot of lotions or mugs. I try to give Caleb's teachers something practical. For Caleb's homeroom teacher last year and this year I have done Pampered Chef's Celebration Cookie Mix (click here). And I attach a letter that you can find here. For his other teachers I bought a Pampered Chef Ice Cream Scoop and will write "The scoop is in - You're the best teacher in town!" I also like the idea of filling a Pampered Chef Whisk with Hershey Kisses and writing a note that says "We wish you a Merry Kissmas! I have LOTS of these ideas... just call, email or text and I can help you with the largest to smallest gifts on your list.

Lastly, I am doing a cookie exchange this year. I've invited a bunch of friends, and we will all get together for some friends and fun... and of course, cookies! Each person brings 6 dozen of the SAME cookie. Then we all put them out on my table and go around the table making platters of all the different types of cookies. So fun! I found these "rules" on the web if you want to use them too - click here.

My best advice for the season is not to get too caught up in presents, advent calendars, making cookies, or especially Santa. Do whatever the Lord leads you to make sure He is the true reason for the season. That may mean you need to be purposeful about all of this and it may mean you do nothing at all. Pray about what is best for your family and have fun with the best birthday party of the year - Jesus' birthday!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Good Morning, America! 2012 Post Election Blog

Good Morning, America! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, you woke up and are breathing fresh air… not much has changed this morning, or has it? It’s the day after Election Day and according to my Facebook Newsfeed the world is about to come to an end or people are relieved that the fate of the world is perfect. Both feelings are expressed as the result of one man – really, one man. As Christians, as Americans, that is pretty sad. That all our hope and trust and faith for the positive or the negative is placed in one man. I have to admit, the best post I saw on twitter last night read “Yawn. Going to bed. Someone let me know if God loses control of the universe or something.”

Everyone seems to be focusing on “thanks” for the month of November. Very appropriate! And I saw so many thankful posts yesterday that we have the ability to vote. However, I am not sure how thankful people were if the person they voted for did not get elected. We live in America, land of the free. Freedom not just for us, but for every citizen. That means that we need to accept when things don’t go our way. Do you enjoy your freedom only when it benefits you? Or is it truly freedom you are thankful for? I know, I know, easier said than done.

As for those of us that hold the title “Christian” or “Believer” is means that we place our belief… our faith, hope and trust… in Jesus Christ. Why are we acting like our Savior is no longer our Savior? Don’t be “Chosen people” like the other “Chosen people,” who when the Savior came, they did not recognize Him because they were looking for a political leader to rescue them physically and materialistically. Eternal life through Jesus Christ is still available if we are still breathing. Don’t miss out!

Another thought - do we pick and choose what scriptures we want to believe? And follow? Or do we truly trust God and follow them all. If we believe "Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment." Romans 13:1 We can rest assured that God appointed Obama to be re-elected for His purposes and His glory. Do you believe it? And trust it? Not Obama, but God and His Word?

And we probably also need to choose to obey the scripture that states, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Eph 4:29

God’s Word also says,“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (2 Chron. 7:14 NIV). This does not refer to the leader, but to the people. This nation is made up of states, which is made of counties, then cities, then families, then people. What if we all stopped looking at the speck on our leader’s eye and started working on the log in our own (Matt 7:3-5)? I can guarantee the Lord is most displeased with some of our attitudes, words, and actions since this decision has been made… and we need to repent!

What if each of us changed from the inside out? Then our families would change, then our cities, then our counties, and our states… and our nation! Would everything change? Surely not… not everyone holds the same beliefs. Heck, my husband and I don’t even see eye to eye on everything, so how can I expect the leader of this nation to see eye to eye on everything with me. However, I can’t change him; I can only change me. What I can do is pray for our president and our leaders.
“First of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  (1 Tim.2:1-4 NIV).

As a child, I was never a fan of social studies/history. However, when I became a teacher and taught fifth grade, I fell in love with it. During that time I taught American history. Along with the good times, I heard of the tough ones where Americans fought and fought hard. They pushed through. They stood up for what was right. Presidents came and went. Economies went up and down. Progress continued. There were little heroes and big heroes. But no matter what America was still America… and it still is. We will be fine.

I am truly thankful for America. I am an even more thankful I have put my faith, hope and trust in the Lord my God. Decision 2012 came yesterday, but not much has changed, really.