This year started out with a bang. Like an emotional bomb kind of bang. It seemed like only moments after I had envisioned the incredible relationships that I was going to build and the amazing achievements that I was going to reach, a critical personal relationship took a nose dive, like a scuba diver to a shipwreck. While trying to finish the lessons on vision board and goal setting with my kids, my insides were screaming ‘it’s too hard, give up, let it go’.
I marched forward, wiping away my tears, and determined to find a way through this surprising road block in my day. As days & weeks passed and I had more time to analyse the frustrations of the unexpected turn of events, I was reminded of a story that happened in my own family a few years ago. Many of you may even remember me talking about it.
First let me remind you that we live in a rural town in a cold Canadian province. My husband Eric and our daughter Lizzie were on an adventure together visiting some important people in Mesa Arizona. They had been gone for almost a week, and things didn’t seem to be going their way. Each time I called them to see how they were, or what they were doing they were flustered, frustrated, or late.
There were numerous appointments to keep, meetings to attend, and planes to catch, but It seemed like no matter where they need to go there was no quick route to getting there.
Remember, we live in a tiny town in rural Alberta. They were in a real city. Although they had a GPS, they were constantly getting lost or being misguided. Thinking he was just out of practice with big city driving, Eric found his way to one appointment after another going this way and that way, turning around dozens of times and never seeming to get where he wanted in a direct path. He was constantly battling tiny backroads and unexpected turns. One of the roads he was on actually ended in a dirt path and another one went right until could go no further, due to a barbed wire fence locked across it.
Confused and frustrated they bumbled their way through the week, apologising as they showed up late again. On the last day of their trip, as they were driving to the airport, they discovered something fascinating. When they had only minutes left before they would miss their plane, and with the highway within site running alongside them, they were instructed to take a different road that was much smaller and ran parallel to the highway rather than go on the highway itself. In exasperation and confusion, over the strange directions, Eric finally pulled over and took a look at his GPS. That is moment that he saw that one of the kids had changed the GPS settings to ‘avoid all major highways’.
When my husband told me this story I almost died laughing. He was crying. His ridiculous journey suddenly made sense.
As I reflected on it this year, It made me wonder about my own life. Am I allowing Jesus Christ to REALLY be the centre of my life? Am I allowing Him to REALLY direct my life? Or do I have some personal GPS setting that says ‘must do this alone’, ‘never ask for help’, or ‘your guess is as good as mine’.
What are my personal GPS settings set to? Are there ways in which I am avoiding ‘all major highways’?
2020 is a new year, it’s a time to start fresh! I want to make sure that I am headed in the right direction 🙂 I plan on resetting my GPS, and I’m going to start by asking myself honestly:
Despite it’s rough beginning, I have every anticipation that the year 2020 will be my happiest, healthiest, most exciting year yet, and I wish you the same!
May you put Jesus in the centre of your life, may you get exactly where you want to go, and may you never have to ‘avoid all major highways’ 🙂
I remember it vividly. The 9.5ft tall Christmas tree filling up the living room with sparkly presents stacked so high around it that half of it seemed buried. At the time I was the oldest with 7 foster kids younger than me, and the 2nd youngest of my 8 biological siblings. There were a lot of us, but even at 17 years old I sat looking at the tree and wondered how many of those prettily wrapped up packages would be for me. When the much anticipated Christmas morning came I was as excited as the younger kids. My mom was the BEST present giver ever, and I couldn’t wait to see what surprises awaited me.
I remember opening gift after gift, delighted with each new one, but eager for the next. When the tree was empty I secretly looked around it searching for any lost presents with my name on them that might have been missed underneath the mess of wrapping paper, disappointment filling me when I couldn’t find any.
The first few years Eric and I were married we did what everyone else does. Got ready for Christmas by executing carefully thought out gifts for our little girls. It was fun to be the mom and to do all the shopping for Christmas, but I also remember a lot of late nights and stress over how to provide the perfect gift, not only for each other but for the kids as well. It seemed like the more Christmases that went by the less I was thinking about the baby Jesus and the more I was thinking about how to create the perfect experience for baby Proffitt’s.
On our kids 3rd or 4th Christmas together, we decided together that there must be another way to do Christmas that helped keep our little family focused on the Savior, but that would still provide a magical experience we both loved from our own childhoods. After much prayer and debate, we kindly asked our extended family not to give presents to our kids, and we also agreed not to buy anything ourselves.
That first year we decided not to give gifts, Christmas morning was a total failure. We still hung stockings and we told the kids that all of us have Christmas Angels in our lives.
The Christmas Angel is anyone that loves you.
It could be your mom, or grandma, or even a neighbour down the road.
The thing that our Christmas Angel has in common with all other Christmas Angels is that they love us and want to bring a little magic into our lives.
It was easy than to tell the kids that it was the Christmas angel that filled up their stockings that morning. But after we had opened stockings we didn’t really have anything else planned. While other families were excitedly cleaning up their houses to get it ready for present opening we were looking through the stockings, hoping we’d missed something. While other families were unwrapping, and playing with their new toys, we were sorta hanging out at home doing nothing. I had envisioned us just sitting around in a circle talking about Jesus all day, and thought that somehow that would have been exciting for the kids!
Although I was terribly disappointed, with vision vs reality, I knew there had to be a better way. I had thought it would be enough to take away presents and suddenly everyone in the family would become focused on the Savior, but I was wrong! If anything it made the focus on the Savior non-existent as the kids felt sad, lonely and really let down.
As Eric and I lay in bed that night we reflected on what we could have done better. We realised that if we were going take something as big as Christmas presents away from the kids, we needed to have something pretty fantastic to replace it with. And so over the years we began slowly creating our perfect Christmas Day, making sure it was filled with traditions that were meaningful, fun, memorable AND that helped us turn our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. Today, 15 years later, here is a list of what we do to Celebrate Christmas starting from December 1.
At the beginning of December I always get my favorite Christmas stories and wrap them up under the Christmas tree. You might remember that I don’t give my kids presents on Christmas morning, however, I do like giving presents I just don’t want it to eclipse the real meaning of Christmas. So If there is something I really want my kids to have that will ADD to the spirit (the real spirit) of Christmas than I wrap it up early and leave a little note from the Christmas Angel under the tree. A few new picture Books about Jesus definitely qualify as adding to the spirit of Christmas.
As soon as December rolls around we are eager to find a lovely scented pine to adorn the center of our home. We usually bundle up the children and tromp through the nearby community pasture in search of the perfect tree. The snow is deep and more often than not we end up getting stuck, but it’s all worth it when we strap that beauty to the top of the car and bring it home.
Somehow the trees seems to look better in the forest than they do when we get home, but isn’t that just like me in some ways? If someone was to strip away all the surroundings of my life, my friends, my family, my lovely house and nice car, would I look as beautiful? I think not, but it is in those imperfections that we find room for Christ, He is the great Jehovah who can make up the difference. And so as I adorn my tree each year, I think of Christ and how because of Him we are made whole, perfect and eventually presentable to God.
The decorating of the Christmas tree is a special event in our home and over the years we have made a conscience effort to create a tree that reminds us of all things Christ. Here are some of the decorations I put on our tree this year and why:
STARS- To represent the Star that led the wisemen and shepherds to the Christ Child
DOVES- To represent the Peace that Jesus brings to our hearts when we let Him in
BIRDS- To represent the Freedom that Jesus will bring when He comes again
ANGELS- The scriptures are full of references to Angels spreading God’s word
BABY IN A MANGER
CROWNS- To remind us that He is king
PINECONES- Or anything nature to remind us that He was the CREATOR of all things
KEYS- To remind us that God has the Key to all power
HEARTS- To remind us why He died for us- “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life”
Music has a great power to influence the feeling in a home and in a heart, which is why songs about Santa, and Snowflakes aren’t top of my list songs for a Christmas playlist. When I play Christmas music, I want it to be deliberate, extraordinary and add to the spirit in our home by delivering a powerful message about Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that Santa and Snowflakes don’t sneak in every so often, but by and large our Christmas playlist is comprised of songs that testify of Jesus Christ.
We have a really lovely playlist on Spotify that has lots of the old classic Christmas carols and but mostly includes beautiful songs that talk about the Savior and not Santa. Here is a list of some of our favorite Christmas Albums:
Josh Groban- Noel
Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square
Vienna Boys Choir
David Archuleta- David
Celtic Woman-A Christmas Celebration
Charlotte Church- Dream a Dream
Jackie Evancho- Dream With Me
Susan Boyle- The Gift
We spend a lot of time doing secret Santa to our friends and neighbours throughout the month of December. We wrap up packages of books, or treats, or hot chocolate and drop it off. We ring the doorbell and hide, and the kids always get caught and the chase is exciting 🙂
We fill December with Christmas Activities such as: Skating, sledding, skiing, singing, reading Christmas stories around the fire, drinking hot chocolate, & decorating gingerbread houses.
We often have a Christmas devotional each night of the month leading up to Christmas. Usually I’ll prepare a treat, like hot chocolate, and then we’ll sit around the tree and read something inspirational. The kids are allowed to invite their friends to join us for these devotionals.
I have collected my favorite stories and scriptures into a devotional packages that you can get which is filled with sweet stories, songs and easy activities 🙂
LIGHT THE WORLD
We try to do a ‘Light the World’ act of service or love each day in December and can find the calendar for these activities online HERE.
We love to sing to our neighbors, the old folks homes, and the people at the hospital. Often I give the kids electric candles and we bring them while singing. It makes it feel special.
ACTING OUT THE NATIVITY: Christmas Eve is a special night for us no matter where we are in the world. My favorite family tradition of Christmas has got to be acting out the nativity play on Christmas Eve.
We Buy a pre-recorded version of the Nativity play HERE and the kids all dress up.
It’s normally $9.99 but there is always a sale in December for $4.99
It’s usually noisy, and fun, and instantly reminds us what all this fuss is really about. It’s also something that I video tape and which gives us lasting memories 🙂
GRATITUDE CEREMONY: If we are alone, we go around in a circle, each of us holding an unlit candle. We take turns saying something that we are grateful for and as we do we light our candles one by one.
SINGING: We make sure everyone has had something to eat and then we bundle up warm and go out singing to people. We sing to our neighbors, friends stuck at home, people we miss at church, people we love, people who are in hospital and anyone that comes to mind! It’s one of our favorite things to do, and we never put a time limit on our activity. As long as the kids are still having fun we keep going.
FEASTING: Finally it’s time to go home. We either go home and have a huge feast of yummy food that I’ve prepared before hand or we go to a friend or family members house and feast with them.
HANG OUR STOCKINGS: Lastly, right before bed we hang our stockings.
After celebrating Christ every day in December, I am always the most excited about Christmas Day.
By now our family has immersed ourselves in trying to think about, become like, and follow Jesus Christ and this is the day where you really feel HIS spirit in your homes and hearts.
STOCKINGS: Christmas Day the kids wake up and we open the stockings together. Since this is the only present they will open we like to all be there.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS: After stockings we invite a family over to celebrate Jesus’s Birthday Breakfast. We have a fancy cake with birthday candles in it and Eric makes us a delicious feast that we eat together after singing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
WARTIME: After the breakfast we have a war of some kind (nerf gun war, silly string war, elastic war) This has nothing to do with Jesus, but the kids really like it!
CHRISTMAS SCAVENGER HUNT: Next we go on our Christmas Scavenger hunt- we have a pile of 25 pre-wrapped gifts and we always invite 2 or 3 families to join us. We drive around town doing the acts of service or giving out the gifts that are written on our lists.
Download the FULL printable Christmas Scavenger Hunt lists for Free HERE
LUNCH: After the Christmas scavenger hunt we come home for lunch.
VISITING: After lunch we bundle up again and go and sing and visit people. Sometimes we start visiting at 12 in the afternoon and don’t come home till 11 at night. There are no schedules or rules, we just know that It’s our time to connect with those that might be lonely or sad, or that we love.
We skip Christmas dinner, although, many times while we are visiting people they invite us in and we eat with them. This is our favorite part of Christmas. It takes some courage to knock on peoples doors and just visit, but it’s always rewarding.
Christmas night we come home, our bodies exhausted, but our hearts full.
I have found that the best way to make Christmas special is by making sure we include good food, good friends, and service into all our activities.
HOW THE KIDS FEEL
This is what some of our kids have to say about Christmas time in our home.
For Christmas growing up we would wake up at the crack of dawn to open up our stockings that the Christmas angel would fill up for us then we would have a big breakfast with my 11 cousins. The house was bursting with people, so you can imagine how loud it got! With the smells of breakfast that dad was cooking in the kitchen, and the spirit of Christmas in the air, it was a very festive place.
After we had eaten our breakfast, we’d get all bundled up and go out with this Christmas Scavenger hunt basket full of things that mom had prepared beforehand. We would drive around town giving out hot chocolate and shovel driveways and of course sing to our old friends.
As a kid I used to wish that I could have a normal Christmas where Santa would come and bring us a lots of presents, and all we did was play with our gifts all day.
Now that I’m a bit older, I have learned that the true Christmas spirit is about family and service, and even though we never got worldly gifts we were gifted with the special feeling of having family and being able to serve others. I will always remember Christmas time as a beautiful time in my family
– Lizzie 17 years old
I remember one particular year when I was sitting in circle with the other members of my class. These were boys and girls my age, most of which I still felt uncomfortable around. The teacher asked us to take turns going around and telling what we got for Christmas. I was about 13, and was still in the midst of the great struggle of growing up. The kids started telling the wonderful things they had received. One of the boys announced casually that he had been given a brand new iphone.
I was super jealous, and started feeling self conscious, wondering what I was going to say. When it finally got to be my turn, I shyly admitted that I hadn’t received anything for Christmas. It was so embarrassing. My face went red and I remember this awkward silence that came over the group as they tried to act like that was totally normal. In this moment, I just wished so badly that I could have been like everybody else. But my parents never were, like everybody else!
There were definitely times I wished we could have had presents, mostly that is until we started doing service for Christmas. It meant so much to all of us that we were in a position to do the Christmas scavenger hunt and join with other families in doing service activities for other people. It became a tradition we looked forward to year after year. I wondered at first why my mom would spend money buying gifts and gas cards to give to other people instead of just giving her own kids gifts, but eventually I figured it out.
Something happened when I was busy serving, I was no longer thinking of myself, and the presents were the last thing on my mind because they weren’t what mattered.
The true meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the presents, and I’m although it was difficult to understand when I was younger, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the chance to realize that now.
-Analaea 19 years old
We have been doing this for 15 years, and our kids really love it. Yes they ask why we don’t do Christmas presents, and I always tell them, because Christmas is about Jesus and not us. And they get it, and even the little guys are happy. There is no financial stress around Christmas time, even with our big family, and our entire month is rich with traditions, and fun that the kids look forward to all year.
This is the day, that your heart is filled with gratitude because of the blessings and sacrifices that our Savior made for us. On this day, you know what the true meaning of Christmas really is and why it feels so good to celebrate it simply and beautifully. You don’t miss the tinsel, or the presents, because HIS presence is so strong in your home and it fills you up!
I’d love to know what your favorite Christ-Centered Family Christmas Traditions are, or if you’ve ever tried doing Christmas without presents!
The glass windows were frosted over and icicles were starting to form from the roof, scattering light across the room. It wasn’t even December yet and I had no intention of decorating the small trees that sat in front of the fireplace in our living room. In fact I had just woken up from a long nap to see that the entire world was covered with a thick covering of white sparkly snow for the 8th time that season, making it feel like a winter wonderland yet again.
That must have been what they were thinking when they found the box I had tucked away.
When I got up, and saw how sweetly they were working together and how tenderly they were carrying each ornament, I didn’t have the heart to tell them to stop or put them away. Instead I sat close by, and watched quietly, as they carefully placed each ornament on the tree; My 6 year old son, my 4 year old son and the 6 year old neighbour boy. These boys had my heart and they knew it!
After a few minutes, just decorating must have got boring, because my oldest son got excited and squealed, ‘look this one’s plastic’, and then attempted to bounce the pretty, thin, glass ball on the ground.
It shattered on impact before I could even squeal a warning, and the three boys stood silently, their mouths forming o’s as they surveyed the scattered pieces of fragmented glass. Isaiah, the one who had bounced the ornament, bent down and slowly began to pick up the pieces. He brought them to me, reverently presenting them in outstretched hands and trembling lips.
At first I wanted to scold him, getting angry that he had taken the balls out without permission in the first place. Then I was mad at myself for allowing them to do it while I just sat and watched. But something quiet whispered to my heart, and instead of scolding, I asked a question. The three pairs of eyes moved from the sharp, tiny pieces, up to my face as they considered the answer. ‘Can any of us mend this broken ball?’
It was obvious that the hundreds of tiny slivers couldn’t possibly be put back together, Isaiah shook his head sadly, apologising for his mistake, still trying not to cry. But it wasn’t regret that I wanted him to understand just now, it was hope.
I reflected on my own life. My hopes and expectations for what I thought it would be like to be a mother and a wife. I clearly remembered how many times I had fallen short despite my best efforts. The times when I had shattered the beautiful gifts that I was sent with, times when I wanted to give up much more desperately than any human but myself knew. Times when I felt cracked.
The marriage I’d experienced for more than 20 years was always rewarding, but never easy. We definitely were not the couple that never fought, or whose passionate love made daily life a constant bliss. Between significant shared mental, & physical challenges, it seemed like few things had turned out the way I had expected in my family.
And then there was parenting… I had always dreamed of being an awesome mom, reading stories to the younger kids around a fireplace, chatting late into the night with the older ones, as they poured out their secret dreams and fears, exposing their hearts with me. All of this in preparation of course, for taking them on grand adventures around the world where we’d feed starving children and sleep on dirt floors and eat nothing but mud cakes and tea for dinner.
As each new child was born, they were welcomed with enthusiastic delight into our growing family. And the plan was working flawlessly. The sleepless nights and poopy diapers had never overwhelmed me much, but when those chubby cheeked angels grew up a little, and the toddler days were behind me, I was surrounded by complications that I never imagine I’d be facing.
Never-ending access to technology, friends, and the distracting messages of the world took its toll on my happy world. Kids became teenagers and it seemed like nothing was the same anymore. Suddenly our united, fun home, seemed to turn upside down as children ventured off on their own long before my mother heart felt ready to let them go. Private struggles with my oldest 2 girls, fought Goliath battles inside my heart, persuading me that I was a monumental failure, and the relationships around became strained and distressing.
I guess no mom likes it when their children leave home, and I was no exception, the only difference was, mine left when they were only 16 & 17. Still far too early to be on their own, in my opinion.
Ridiculous questions plagued my days and especially my nights:
Had I been too strict, or maybe too lenient? Maybe I never should have given them cell phones, or allowed them access to social media at all. Had I chosen the wrong diet for my kids, maybe it was GMO’s. Was it because my devotionals weren’t interesting enough, or was it because of all those mornings that I missed even teaching devotionals? The vitamins that I bought were probably the wrong kind, or when we visited Drs. They were most likely the wrong Dr’s or they must have prescribed the wrong medicine. It was the underwear, definitely the thong underwear I found secreted away in their drawers that had started it all!
Endless dark thoughts crept in whispering convincing lies and foolishly I believed.
Days past in darkness and despair, spending hours locked in my room weeping into my pillows, and begging God to take away this pain. When my daughters were doing great in the world, going to school, making friends and working, I was proud, and felt glad they were having this grand adventure without me. But when I heard word that they were alone, or afraid, or cold, or hungry, or hurt, or abandoned, or abused or sick or in bondage, I thought my heart would surely collapse. In fact one day, my heart did give way and I fell in heap onto the floor where I couldn’t breathe. I felt the beats of my heart slowing down and I wondered if this was the moment where I would leave this earth life. In all honesty, I was glad at the possibility of escaping all this pain and finally going home.
But then it came; The vision of all my other kids and my husband, my parents and my sisters and brothers. I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave just yet, and If I did, I would regret it for eternity.
I begged my heart to breathe again, I desperately wheezed in one breath and then another. It felt like my heart was being crushed and my lungs were screaming for air. I knew that I was meant to win this battle. I was going to get up and fight. I suddenly became determined to never allow this darkness to consume me again.
I was going to shine a light on the lies and the whisperings that were holding ME captive. I was going to believe that regardless of all the things I did and didn’t do, that God had chosen me to be this wife, this mother, this sister, this daughter, and somehow with His Grace, I WAS GOING TO BE ENOUGH!
My husband found me a half later on the floor shaking, covered in sweat, my breath finally having returned normally and the crushing pain subsided. He picked me up gently and carried me into the bedroom where we discussed our options. We made a plan together of how we could get through this experience, and how we could be the parents and companions that we both wanted to be.
We had a support network of amazing friends and family members that helped inspire us, and we discovered powerful mentors in the professional world that taught us things in our personal lives that were game changing.
I learned the power of meditation, affirmations, deep breathing, exercise, water, sleep, emotional stress management, and prayer.
Above all else, I learned how to share my burdens with our Savior Jesus Christ.
If you are in this situation, overwhelmed or paralyzed with fear or despair I encourage you to check out THIS POST about Emotional Stress Management and get help from friends, family or medical doctors.
As the days turned into months and the months into a couple of years, the fears and doubts that had previously seemed to rob me of my happiness at the most inconvenient times, slowly began to transform. My heartaches got tumbled inside and the jagged edges were smoothed into something that didn’t feel quite so painful.
I began to see the transformation of my own children at home and away from home, as they made mistakes, picked themselves up, and tried again. I got visits and small messages from my girls who were away from home, reminding me of how magnificent and strong they were, and how the beautiful gifts that they had possessed since birth had blessed other people.
It seemed like I could feel the muscles of my heart being torn apart and then fiber by fiber stitched painfully, slowly, back together. I was learning to turn my life over to God, to have faith in His great plan of happiness for my family. My feelings of despair, and discouragement gave way to something unexpected. I was growing a heart that was stronger, happier, and full of the expectation of joy for family and future.
Here I was two years later, staring down at my son’s outstretched hands, looking at the shattered pieces reflecting the light from outside in a million different directions. There was no way to put all my thoughts into words that this little boy would understand, but I hoped with a simple explanation he could at least grasp a little of this message.
Even with our hardest work and most focused attention WE WILL MESS UP! We will be surrounded at some point in our lives by shattered pieces of something that was once beautiful and that we cannot possibly repair alone.
But the splendid & wonderful news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that if we let Him, the Great Healer CAN repair our lives and makes us whole again!!
I am glad that my sons reminded me of this heart saving lesson. I am glad my daughters continue to test me and try me, and even though 5 more glass balls broke before the afternoon was over, I am glad that today I learned about Christmas.
I love to celebrate Easter! It’s by far my favorite holiday of the year. But sometimes with all the world around us advertising chocolate, candy and bunnies my kids forget why we celebrate Easter.
So every year, I do a few things that keep us focused.
1. Read the Easter story from the scriptures:
The Last Supper
Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-23
Judas Betrays Jesus
John 18:1-13, Luke 22:1-6, Luke 22:47-54, Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50
Crucifixion of Jesus
Matthew 27:1-54, Mark 15:1-40, Luke 23:1-48, John 19:1-30
Resurrection of Jesus
Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20
2. Celebrate the Passover
On the Thursday before Good Friday our family gathers together with a few other families and have a passover meal. The meal is rich with symbolism and tells the story of Moses and Elijah and our Savior in a way that the kids can remember.
Here is a movie of this years passover meal:
3. Good Friday
Every Good Friday I wake up before the kids and take garbage bags to all the windows. I cover them and pull all the curtains and blinds. When the kids wake up the house is dark. Whenever we have guests and they ask ‘why are your windows dark?’ all my kids answer, ‘because without Jesus there is no light’. This easy and simple illustration costs no money, takes very little time, yet teaches a profound lesson. We leave our windows blacked out, even throughout the day until Easter Sunday.
4. Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is our favorite day! When Easter Sunday arrives I take off the blinds and turn back on the lights. It reminds us that with Jesus there is light!
The kids wake up to the the bright, beautiful sunshine. The table is set with our best dishes and pictures of Jesus displayed around the home. We usually have a basket or gift for each child. I like to include a book about Jesus, and a few eggs filled with treats for them to eat. I always leave one egg empty to remind them that on Easter Sunday the tomb was empty because He Has Risen!
Thats it, I’d love to hear what your favorite traditions for celebrating the true meaning of Easter are! XOXO Becky Boo
Wanna Light the World with the funnest, most magical Christmas this year? We’ll show you how with our Christ- Centered Christmas Traditions!
The truth is I still can’t believe it’s December 1 and we have been home in Canada for 7 months already. The time goes by so quickly and so much happens it’s hard to imagine that we are already getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is our families favourite time of year. As soon as December hits we go all out doing our best to Light the World and celebrate Christmas.
We don’t give presents to each other under the Christmas tree, but we do try our best to make each Christmas magical and unforgettable for the entire family!
This is link to the easiest Christmas Nativity that you will ever find! Makes your picture perfect Nativity every time, with almost no work for the mom! www.nativityscript.com
I can’t believe it’s already been one year. In some ways it feels like a lifetime and in other ways it seems as though we just arrived. The experiences that we’ve had have been irreplaceable. I made a video to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, on the adventure of a lifetime! If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging as regularly, it’s because I was crazy sick and had to be flown to Australia for medical help, and then because I started writing a book! Stay tuned, I’ll let you know when it’s ready to read 🙂
Sparkling stars shimmered in the light, and tinsel garland hung from everything. It would be weeks before we’d be able to clean up all the glitter that was like a magical blanket spread all over the house. Glitter is the kind of magic that Eric hates.
We had spent all week getting ready for our New Years party. Something inside of me just wanted to spoil everyone that was coming with the most amazing party they had ever seen. We were so excited to celebrate with our friends, that all the time, all the money and all the hard work didn’t even bother us because we just kept telling each other how excited and grateful everyone would be.
Whisking, and mixing, the girls and I had created a feast to be proud of! The Passionfruit cheesecake was glazed to perfection as it sat covered in the fridge.
We had cut fresh limes which we used to decorate the lime cheesecake and then drizzled it with a light fresh lime glaze. The cherries and whip cream were overflowing from their black forest cake holders which surrounded them and the lemon mouse bars were sinfully delicious.
On top of all that was meatballs, spanakopitas, pinwheels, crackers, cheese olives and too many other things to even name. Probably my favourite treat was the ombre coloured jello made up of 4 kinds of tropical flavours and layered perfectly in the plastic champagne glasses I found hiding in the back corner of a Chinese shop earlier in the week.
We had a wishing tree, gifts for everyone, and hundreds of balloons, a picture wall and so many fun games we probably wouldn’t even be able to play them all. I was so excited. I had high expectations for the evening.
When the time for the party finally arrived Teenagers, Young adults and adults all filled our home to bursting. I had invited 30 people and more than 40 showed up. The tables were piled so high with food I was certain that we would never be able to eat it all.
The party began and even though we all barely fit inside the house it was the perfect group for some of the big games I had planned. After about an hour of games, Eric and I did a short devotional together and gave everyone their gifs. The gifts were books of scriptures that I invited them to write in to use as a sort of journal for the upcoming year. We had searched all over town for the books and had finally found someone willing to sell us all that they had just for the activity.
I invited everyone to eat and then was just getting ready to initiate the 2nd round of games when suddenly, and completely unexpectedly 22 of my 30 guests stood up and told me that they had to leave. I thought maybe it was a joke but I was wrong.
Everyone had other parties that they wanted to attend.
I looked at my basket of unopened prizes and my long list of games that I was so excited to play. I couldn’t help but notice the house which was a total disaster and the piles and piles of empty plates and tables of food. I was shocked that the food had been eaten so quickly.
The 22 people who were going were the best friends I had in Vanuatu. Each one was very special to me, and this party was my gift to them, were they really all just going to leave me like this?
Suddenly a story came to my head, and brought more clarity meaning than ever before:
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
I wanted to run into my room and cry.Cry in anger and frustration and disappointment. I wanted to shake everyone and tell them that it wasn’t okay to just leave like this. I wanted to tell the 8 guests that were staying to leave and go home because I was just going to go to bed and hide under my covers. The truth was, I barely knew most of the 8 guests that were staying. They were all people who had been invited at the last minute or by someone else and I really wasn’t close with any of them. I’m sure they would have understood if I told them that the party was ending.
I felt a voice whisper softly to my heart but I didn’t want to listen to it. I didn’t want to listen because I was so sad. But the voice came again and softly reminded me: “Rebecca, look around you- you have your family and 8 beautiful, good people who could use your love and your friendship. Don’t give up because of choices other people are making, make your own choices and enjoy your night just as you planned.” I knew it was the voice of God trying to reason with me.
I was bitter, and I didn’t want to be reasoned with, but He was right (as always). And so I decided to keep going. I played every game and sang every song, and gave out every prize and enjoyed every minute of our celebrations. In fact we ended up having so much fun that we didn’t even realise it when midnight came and went. and before you knew it it was 3:00am and I was sending everyone to bed.
Eric was exhausted, but he kissed me as he said that it was the best party we’ve ever had and thank you so much for throwing it.
That’s my lesson for tonight. Just be willing to let it go. Let go of all the things you can’t control, all the things that didn’t turn out the way you anticipated and just enjoy life as it is.I am going to slay 2018!
Christmas in Paradise brought feelings I wasn’t expecting.
I stared outside the kitchen window as I washed the dishes for the millionth time. It was so hard being away from home for Christmas. I could picture one of the hundred crackling fires that we would enjoy in our living room back home, with christmas music in the background and with the smell of hot apple cider in the air. I dressed up the little boys with tinsel and Christmas lights and that helped a little.
I imagined looking outside and seeing my neighbours chasing each other with snowballs and working together as they tried to push someones car out of the huge drifts that built up during Canadian winters. I could almost hear the excited chatter of a billion kids as they built another igloo or piled onto sleds and with a cup of hot chocolate gripped tightly in their hands got ready for another run down the hill.
Everything you imagine Christmas to be, and we were experiencing the opposite.
There was no hot water in the kitchen, but that really didn’t matter when every day was sweltering hot and the cool water from the tap was a welcome relief from the heat. I picked up another dish and after washing it, placed it carefully in the dish drainer.
My thoughts turned from Christmas to the hard work of being a mom. I was just getting ready to calculate how many sinkfuls of dishes I had done in our 18 years of marriage when a stiff breeze blew in outside and as if by some Christmas magic snow began falling down gently like angels feathers from the sky. My heart nearly stopped as I squealed out in excitement. “Girls it’s snowing!”
Silence instantly fell over the normally noisy house as kids ran to the windows, and house girls stopped mid work to follow my gaze.The chances of snow in the middle of December (the hottest month of the year here) on a tropical island are quite slim (impossible), but somehow here we were and it was snowing! I held my breath in as much disbelief and excitement as fills every childs heart at Christmas time. I didn’t have to hold it for very long, before the sounds of everyone laughing at me filled the kitchen walls to nearly bursting. In the place of sparkling icy snowflakes, was hundreds of little tropical leaves falling from the sky in the wind, twirly as they fluttered down to their resting place on the ground.
Sigh… I must really be getting homesick.
I thought back to the funniest conversation that I had overheard between the children just yesterday. They were sitting in the back of a hot truck with sweat pouring down their faces. Eliza looked at the younger kids and said, “Just imagine that we are at home, and that dad went out in the freezing cold blizzard just to warm up the vehicle for us. Now we are getting inside, doesn’t it feel so great to be warm.?” I smiled at their imaginary game, but inside it was hard. It’s hard being away from home at Christmas time. For the first time in 17 years I was without my oldest daughter, had no sisters or brothers (they had long since gone home after their initial visit several months ago) and we were alone. Even our closest neighbours had left to Australia to be home for Christmas.
And now the snow. Not only is there no snow here, there isn’t really seasons here either. The locals told us that there were seasons, the wet season and the dry season. They were right! With the wet season came mosquitoes and tropical diseases such as malaria, & dengue. Plus the wet season also brought on the cyclones. The dry season brought cooler weather and more fun outside for everyone. We were in the wet season.
I knew I would get lonely at Christmas time, I just didn’t imagine it would be this lonely. I put my whole heart into trying to make it the same as it was at home. I invited people over to decorate gingerbread houses- that was a first for everyone who came, and we had so much fun together doing it. But the icing wouldn’t hold and the moisture in the air made everything collapse by morning.
I served hot chocolate -nobody here had even tasted hot chocolate before and it really isn’t the same drinking hot chocolate when you are cold as it is to drink it when you are hot! I invited kids over and and read Christmas stories during our devotionals every night in December. I did every thing I could think of to make it the same, but nothing was the same. The decorations all fell down because none of the glue would hold, and the tree was sparse and bare.
I think it’s finally starting to settle in that I’m alone and I really am missing home more than I have since we came here.
It’s Friday night and we can here the beating of drums from across the water. If you look carefully you can also see the lights spinning around in the distance. We’ve already been 5 times but it never gets old. We decide to load up the older kids and we pile in the truck with their cousins and aunties and drive down the road. It takes less than 10 minutes to drive to the Beach Bar where there is a free fire show every Friday night. It’s the same place we go for $10 pizzas and an outdoor movie on Tuesday nights but nobody ever gets tired of watching.
I promise myself this time that I’ll just enjoy the show without filming any of it. After all the sure sign of a tourist is taking out their fancy phones and videotaped EVERYTHING…sigh. It was too tempting. The sparks fly and the entire sky feels likes its lit up with music, people and fire. It’s actually very exciting and the crowd goes wild. I have officially resisted for as long as I possibly can before I pull out my phone and take a few minutes of fire dancing filming. Now that I’ve made a little movie the whole thing is off my chest and I won’t have to film it next time 🙂 The Fire Dancing Show in Port Vila Vanuatu is AWESOME!
37 years ago today, the combined governments of both England and France agreed to give Vanuatu its independence. (How generous, right?) Vanuatu does not take it’s independence lightly. It’s been non-stop parties for the last 7 days. (Trust me, I know, I’ve been at all of them) Music, Dancing, Kakai (food), Wrestling, pig wrestling, Karate, Soccer, Basketball, Boxing, Singing. There is an never ending list of talents that are on display for the 8 days celebration. It goes from early into the morning each day to early into the morning the next day. Live music ends somewhere between 3:00-4:00am and then starts again between 6:00-8:00am. The entire thing is broadcast via 6 massive speakers. You don’t even have to be anywhere NEAR the celebrations to HEAR the celebrations!!
Entire villages show up to enjoy the festivities and little children and old grandmas share woven grass mats that are strewn across the field for days on end. It’s quite a site!
Because of all the celebrations, our local church leaders asked each group of saints to meet as early as possible, so that families would be able to participate in the community celebrations for the day. Our branch chose 7:30. Yes that’s 7:30 AM! Did you even know that you were allowed to meet for church at that time?! There weren’t as many people as usual this morning at church. LOL. But for those of us that were there it was a treat. Sister King gave talk that was really special.
She talked about a story that she heard last week from president Basille (he’s the leader of the local church branch we attend). President Basille said that 44 years ago there was no Mormon church on any of the islands of Vanuatu.
Missionary work began in Vanuatu in 1974 after several Latter-day Saint Tongan families moved there. Elder Harman Rector Jr., of the Seventy (one of the highest governing bodies of the Church) and President Davis visited Port Vila in April 1974 to determine the possibility of assigning full-time missionaries to the island. Elder Rector felt it was essential that the area receive missionaries”
After prayerfully considering the possibility of sending full time missionaries to Vanuatu, the church leaders determined that that is exactly what God wanted. They gave the assignment to an LDS French ambassador to come to Vanuatu and meet with both governments to ask permission for the Mormon Church to send missionaries. When the LDS ambassador arrived in Vanuatu his meeting with the English government went well and they agreed to allow missionaries. However, the meeting with the French government did not go so well. The government official representing the French government was rude and disrespectful to the LDS man telling him that there was absolutely no way that missionaries would be allowed to preach in Vanuatu. Discouraged, the LDS ambassador went home and reported to the church that they would not be able to send missionaries to Vanuatu.
Several months later the French LDS ambassador was back in Vanuatu on business of his own. As he was finishing up his business he felt like he must go and visit the French government official again. He wondered at this feeling due to the very rude way he had been treated last time, however, determined to follow this prompting he made an appointment to meet with him.
To the LDS ambassadors great surprise the French official was overjoyed to see him. He was very kind and welcoming and invited him to sit down with him for lunch where they could talk. After just a few minutes of visiting the French official gave his official invitation for the Mormon church to invite missionaries to come to Vanuatu.
The LDS ambassador was stunned by this sudden change in attitude. He finally had the courage to ask the French official “Why are you allowing us to have missionaries in Vanuatu?” The official replied “When I last left Vanuatu I had to walk to work everyday. Each day I passed a beautiful church building that said ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’. The people were always smiling and saying hello to me. They planted gardens and made the area clean. They had many activities and were always respectful, getting involved and helping out in the community, making it a better place to live. Every time I saw people go in or out of that building they were filled with a special light and happiness that I’ve never seen anywhere else. If we have missionaries in Vanuatu will they do that here as well?” The LDS ambassador assured the French official that they would do that here and ever since then missionaries have been allowed in Vanuatu. Isn’t that such a beautiful story?
There hasn’t been a Sunday that goes by that at least one or two or three people are getting baptised. Our little branch on the island of Efate is growing faster than we can fit inside the building. On the other islands the church is welcomed with open arms as well. One man I met on the beach last week explained one reason why this is the case.
Jacob’s family was from Tanna- they knew Nathaniel’s mother (that’s my nephew). He said that after Cyclone Pam (an absolutely devastating cyclone that flattened the island) there was many aid organizations that came in to help our their island, but there was one that came first and left last. They wore yellow t-shirts and they delivered shipments of food, water, money and supplies. They not only rebuilt the houses of their own members but they rebuilt the houses of entire villages. Now, whenever someone finds out that someone is from the Mormon the church, they kiss them and hug them and thank them. And many, many people have joined the church because of that.
Of course our goal is not for people to join our church, our goal is to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and allow it to change hearts and lives in others as it has in us.
Watching the way Vanuatu celebrates their independence humbles me. These island people are truly, emphatically, and deeply grateful for their independence. They know that the only way to be truly free is to be with God, and they are. And so today, because church was over so soon, do you know what the entire island is doing? They are raising their flag together, and singing their anthem together, eating together and then they are going to listen to 10 hours of preaching together. Yes, that’s the activities for the entire island. Every store is closed and every family is on their mat in the big field. And it doesn’t matter which church you belong to because today everyone is together worshiping God through those same 6 big speakers that have been blasting out music for the last week.
True independence comes from knowing who you are. True independence comes from recognizing that every man is and every woman is your brother and sister and that Pappa God really is our Father, all of us. God doesn’t see as Mormons or Catholics or Muslims, or as black men or white men, he sees us as His children. The message from the preacher in park today was that as brothers and sisters we need each other. And we need to be our best selves, so instead of focusing on the mistakes from yesterday or last year we need to take care of being the best that we can be today and unite in our respect and honor of God.