For 2016 the word “trust” was my one word for the year. I studied about trust, read about it, and learned a lot about activating my ability to trust. God has been so faithful in teaching me to trust others, myself, and most importantly Him. It has been a journey of learning to listen to God, allowing Him to be in control of my steps and actions, and making my own wants take a back seat to what was best for me and my family. This included a very clear directive that it was time for our boys to go back to their mother again. It was a difficult thing for me to do on my own without leaning on Him and knowing that He was making the path straight before me. The night in April that I took them was a big stepping stone in my journey to trust. It was a turning point for me. Since then I have left many other decisions in His hands and felt at peace in situations where I would not have previously. I have set aside some, but not all, of my controlling ways, and am learning through each hold I give up that He is more capable of making decisions than I ever was. This process has taught me more about the importance of consistently reading my Bible and spending daily time in prayer as well. I now know that I must have a relationship with Him that gives me confidence in His lead in order to relinquish my own control to Him. I have started reading books by authors such as Shauna Niequist, Lysa Terkeurst, and Ann Voskamp who tell their own stories of allowing God to direct their steps and lead their lives from very low places to the most amazing everyday experiences in the shadow of the almighty. These women and others have been quite an inspiration to me in many ways and I highly recommend their books listed below. As 2016 comes to a close, I am beginning to see through trusting in Him that I am enough. I am learning that the experiences of my childhood, any failings of my parents, and any failings of myself as a parent do not define who I am. Not only is He enough, but I am enough. In 2017, I plan to focus on the word “enough” and seek His face for more confidence in who I am and in the knowledge that I am who He called me to be. Ann Voskamp wrote, “The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.” I pray that you too will find a word for this year to focus your lives and give you more reason to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Psalm 3:5) as I find a place where He is enough for my trusting heart to believe in myself and His will for my life.
I listened to and highly recommend the following books on http://www.Audible.com:
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst
The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
All are also available in print, but believe it or not I am not a fan of reading for pleasure. I have made much better use of these texts in audible format while driving or walking.
I ask, “Where are you God?” And he replies,
“Beside you. With you always. In your hopes and dreams. In your trials and pain. Everywhere you look. In all that you do. In the eyes of your children. In the drool of your dogs. In the hug of a friend. Standing beside you. Walking with you. Holding your hand. Watching your back. Hugging your neck. Calling your name. Watching you win. Waiting for your call. Protecting you. Loving you. Smiling when you smile. Crying when you cry. I am everywhere you are. I am in all that you do. I am.”
There are some who feel like the Elf of the Shelf is not an appropriate holiday tradition for various reasons. Some feel that children should be disciplined enough to behave well everyday without the incentive that Santa and his elves are watching them. Others feel it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas. In our house, we have two elves, Peppermint Snow for my granddaughter, and Jingle for the boys. They arrive on the youngest boys birthday the week of Thanksgiving in November bearing a birthday gift with a cupcake and candle. When the kids are especially good, they may bring a special treat. They stay throughout December, including celebrating the oldest boys birthday with a gift and cupcake for him, and leave on Christmas eve when Santa arrives with gifts and takes them back to the North Pole. It’s fun for the whole family and it is a little bit of incentive for the children, but not so much that they are only good when then elves are visiting. I believe it gives them something tangible to associate with making good choices. It’s a jumping off point to remind them the rest of the year that Jesus is always with us and that we should be kind and good to each other, just as Jesus is to us. So, for us, we will continue to tradition of the elves visiting until the youngest out grows it, and even then, I’m sure they’ll still be hanging around to decorate the tree or something.
Decorating cookies at my house consists of purchasing a gingerbread kit with all the icing, candy and cookies ready to go. (Only a few times in my life have I made gingerbread cookies from scratch!) The parts and pieces are divided between my middle daughter, Chailey, who has much more patience for this than I will ever have, and how ever many children are at the house that day, typically at least 3, but often more. Some years there have been additional adult children or their friends who have joined in the fun. Forever a kid at heart, right?
The best part of decorating Christmas cookies is watching the kids put on the icing. They spread a little, then lick the knife, spread a little more, then lick again. Putting on the candy with their now sticky little fingers follows a similar protocol: a piece for the cookie, a piece in their mouth. By the time they complete their masterpiece, no one has any interest in eating it other than the creator.
Thankfully Chailey’s cookies are edible and available for bystanders, but they are typically too beautiful to consider eating. So, they stay under glass on the cake stand, acting as holiday decor for at least a few days before they are gone.
They are all so proud of their work, they cannot wait for someone to take a picture of it, and no one dare take a picture before they have completed it. Even if I tried, the picture would have their hand, arm or whole body plastered across it. They are quite serious about their cookies.
The final tradition in cookie decorating at our house is having their picture taken eating the cookie. This is a must! They even check the picture after it is taken to be sure their vision is appropriately captured. Christmas at our house would not be complete without cookies, but more importantly, without the smiles on these sticky, icing covered faces!
A few years ago we started taking the kids to see the Christmas tree at Sundance Square at the end of November right after Thanksgiving when the tree is the most fresh and beautiful. This year we met friends for lunch downtown, then spent time with them at the tree afterward. It was a great time had by all, young and old. Santa wasn’t there for pictures just yet, but all the kids needed was each other for a great fun game of tag and racing to and from the various decorations while the adults talked and enjoyed time together.
I love the symbolism of the Christmas tree and how it points others to Christ with it’s height and majesty, how it is an evergreen just as Jesus is the tree of life and remains true to us forever. I love how the lights symbolize how He is the light of the World who has come to save us. The star on the top of many trees is a symbol of the north star the led the shepherds and wise men to the manger at His birth. If we stop and think about it, a Christmas tree is more than just a location for the gifts we will give and receive during the holiday season, but a symbol of the gift of eternal life that is ours to have every single day of every year if we accept it. Who could pass up such a wonderful gift?
As a child my parents taught me to believe in Santa, but with my own children I felt like that would be lying to them. So, from the beginning I told them that Santa was the embodiment of the Spirit of Christmas; goodwill to all, giving being better than receiving, etc. She reminded me that I taught them Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but a long time ago there was a man named Saint Nicolas who was known for secretly giving gifts to others, which was the model for who we now know as Santa Claus.
I didn’t want my children to feel like they were not good enough in the years that we could not afford to buy them gifts under the guise of Santa. They received plenty of gifts from family members, so they never wanted for anything. However, being able to provide Santa for the children currently in my house has been a joy. Though we minimize it to just include things that fit in their stocking, because filling stocking is something I continue to do for my own children who are home on Christmas morning.
My oldest daughter and I were talking this week about how we would explain to the children in our house, when the time comes, that Santa does not come down our chimney to deliver gifts. I told her that I knew the time was near because I had decided when I was in second or third grade that Santa was someone who drove around town and dropped off gifts door to door, the idea of magic reindeer and a large man fitting down the chimney was not something I could continue to believe. I appreciated her telling me that she never felt like Santa was a lie that people tell their children, but a way of teaching children to believe in the wonders of Christmas at an age where they are not old enough to fully understand the miracle of the birth of Christ.
What are your Christmas traditions with regard to Santa Claus?