Here's the plan for our first day of our Christmas of Presence. You can definitely see my years of youth ministry coming through on this.. But, there's nothing that Emma likes more than a written plan.. Plus, having it in the plan helps insure that the cleanup happens. It is either I or Emma who is the first to rise at our house so if I happen to out-sleep Emma in the morning, I will have it posted in a place that I can send her to see that the only fun that will be happening before 9:00 a.m. will be sleeping.. Everyone slept here until 8:30 a.m. this morning.. It was glorious!
I'll report back later about how horribly we got of schedule.. But until then, I'll be a little pre-ocuppied until after the story of Mary and the Angel (but no worries, I have a freebie for Friday scheduled ahead of time ;))
May you have a wonderful Christmas as you hold your love ones close..
I'll be working hard today to get all loose strings tied and put away so that we can experience the wonderful tradition that we started a couple of years ago, when we first heard about the "Advent Conspiracy".
We started noticing that as the Christmas season approached, it was accompanied by a feeling of dread and followed by a feeling of relief with it's passing. We realized that our loss of love for the season was due to the hectic pace, stress and over-commercialization that has come to characterized the season. This combined with the encouragement we felt from the "Advent Conspiracy"movement, led us to re-imagine the way we do Christmas. We have cut the number of gifts down for the kids to one present from each of us and one present to each other. I carve three days out of Christmas vacation where we do nothing but play. I cook food, I get all of the housework done and I get everything organized ahead of time. Then we have gifts that we open every so often over the course of three days...but, these gifts are things like cookie cutters with instructions that say: "make cookies for the couple down the street" ... a tub of icing that says: "Bake Jesus a birthday cake" ... or a book that says: "read this book together". We call it "A Christmas of Presence". We watch movies and tell stories and play hide-&-seek in the dark. We talk about what Christmas means. On Christmas morning, we do a scavenger hunt that leads the girls to their one "big gift" and then celebrate with birthday cake for breakfast (Don't judge. It's once a year! ;) ).
So far, the girls have been completely on-board. They ask a lot more questions about what games we're going to play than what gifts they're going to get. It's the one time of year that I feel like I get it right. I guess it's like a three day Sabbath.. I've tried hard to incorporate the Sabbath into our lives on a weekly basis. I think there is a great need for us to learn to "be still and know that He is God". But, I have to admit that I haven't had much success with that particular endeavor.
You can read about the events that led up to the start of this new tradition in 2008 and about our second "Christmas of Presence" in 2009. To summarize: We do minimal gift giving, and we use the money that we would have used for all those other gifts (that we didn't actually need) to help someone else. In 2008, we sent money to an organization that builds wells in areas without accessible clean water. In 2009 and 2010, we spread it around to several different needs that we had heard about. I had gotten to the point that I dreaded Christmas because of what it had become: a celebration of consumerism. Would you believe that I haven't stepped a foot into a Wal-mart or the mall this entire holiday season? Can I tell you how freeing that is? It's renewed our love for the season and Christmas has reclaimed it's place as the best thing we do all year!
This year, we have added a few exciting elements to our celebration. We have an older couple at church, who our girls lovingly refer to as "Mr. Belton" and "Mrs. Ruby". Mr. Belton and Mrs. Ruby just decided on a whim to visit to our church one Sunday morning. We have no, (and I mean literally NO) elderly people at our church besides them (though if you ever experience Mrs. Ruby's spunk, you'll have a hard time thinking of her as an 82-year-old). It shouldn't have surprised me that they chose to stay and call our church home. You can feel the love radiating from the building upon approach.. But, since we have no programs for seniors, or anything geared specifically towards that age group, I didn't figure we had much to offer them. I'm still not sure that we do, but they have offered us so much. It just so happens that they don't have any grandchildren living nearby to love on, and my children don't have any grandparents living nearby to love on them (though they get PLENTY of it long-distance and when we visit Alabama). Mr. Belton and Mrs. Ruby came and shared Thanksgiving with us . They will be sharing Christmas with us as well. They have added a whole new element of love to our lives, and it certainly doesn't hurt that Mrs. Ruby is the best dessert maker in the world. We have been so blessed by them.
Our church also serves a meal down at the Rescue Mission on the fourth Saturday of the month. It just happened to turn out that the fourth Saturday fell on Christmas day this year. It seemed obvious that we should celebrate Jesus' birth best in a place where He would most likely be, and my conscience just wouldn't allow me to cancel a thing like that in the name of celebrating the Savior of the world (who so often spoke of loving "the least of these"). With all the holiday traveling and gatherings, I was a little concerned that I might end up providing a meal to 50 hungry men by myself. As it turns out, I will have no such fate. We're going to have quite a crowd serving down at the mission and afterwards, we'll be meeting back for dessert back at our house. They've left very little of the cooking up to me, which will most definitely will work to the advantage of the men we will be feeding. Our church didn't have to be convinced that we should spend Christmas night this way. It was obvious to them as well. I can't think of a better way to celebrate Christmas, and, I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am to be a part of this family that loves Jesus and His world so much.
Sunday after church, we will be heading over to Alabama to spend Christmas with our families, and once again I have the same kind of anticipation I had when I was a child, and a I have a hope for a Christmas magic greater than any we've ever experienced before. It is my prayer that we will make memories for our children...of a celebration that is fit for a King.
May you experience true Christmas magic, a real Peace on Earth. May you be blessed so that you may be a blessing to others.
Today was the first day of Christmas vacation.. Last night, I cheered when I turned the alarm clock off of it's normal 6:00 a.m. dreaded beep.. And, after weeks and weeks of groaning at those numbers and desiring just a few more minutes of sweet slumber, I woke at exactly: 6:00 a.m... "It's like rai-ee-ain on your wedding day".. Don't you think?
Anyway, I did manage about 45 minutes to myself before anyone else woke. So, I decided to try to catch up on blogging a bit..
Speaking of weddings.. The week before Thanksgiving, we made a trip to Lawrenceville, TN for Adam's cousin's wedding.. I had a fun time shadowing their wedding photographer.. And, I learned why wedding photography can become so pricey. As I still haven't edited all of the hundreds of pictures that I took.. When I get those done, I'll do a separate post. But for now. Here's one of the beautiful bride..
Lawrenceville is an interesting little town in that it has pretty substantial Amish community.. You'll have to forgive the quality of the following picture. I snapped it pulling out of a parking lot and the cropped it a lot but it's just too funny to me to leave it out.
We stayed in these new "green cabins" at the David Crocket State Park.. And I have to say, they were quite nice..
The place was covered in deer.. We stopped one evening to get this picture. At one point there were nine deer on this hill. I was really wishing I had a zoom lens for this one..
Not only did the windows that surrounded the living room of the cabin make for great views, it also provided for a great opportunity for baby pictures...
Meet Baby Braxton-- Isn't he adorable.. I'm so in love
Look for a free download of this storyboard template next Friday.
And last, I leave you with sweet memories for my children, visits with
the grandparents and great grandma.
We had a wonderful time. But as always, there wasn't enough time to fit everything in before we had to head back for the next thing on the schedule.
I'm so behind on personal posts. Photo creations are taking up my time right now. So, I figured I might as well share some of those since I'm finding the time to post other things. Maybe, it'll give me a few new people to swap ideas with! If you're interested in photography, graphic design etc., leave me a comment with your info. I'd love to follow!
Our children did Shrek the Halls for our Christmas play this year. It seems an unlikely choice for a church Christmas play on first sight... But, really, it's quite applicable and so our church.. And I love that about us. We have one couple that devote a ton of time to doing a Christmas play with our children every year. Aaron and Kristi do such a fabulous job. And obviously have the patience of Job..
Emma was Shrek and Chloe was a baby Ogre.. They make fabulous little green people.