Christmas this year was perfect. It’s always a good feeling when you think back and feel satisfied with how everything went. We really had a lot of fun together and it was good to spend this beautiful season together!
The only thing I was missing was my 17 year old daughter. Hopefully we can persuade her to join us next year!
It’s been winter here for months already, and it seems like all we get is plenty of wind and snow. The boys have been asking me what snowflakes are made of, how they are formed and what they look like up close, so I thought this was a perfect chance to teach them about God’s beautiful and unique creations 🙂
Snowflakes are symmetrical but they are not perfect. They are ordered but they are created in disorder. Every random branch, retells their history, that singular journey that they took to get here. Most of all they are fleeting and temporary. Even if they look unique on the outside, inside they are all different!
I don’t know about you, but when I heard this, It really touched something inside of me!
A Little Bit of History
“Wilson (Willie) Bentley (1865-1931) was born on a farm in Jericho, Vermont, … [an area with] an average annual snowfall of over 120 inches.” “At age 15 he began drawing snowflakes while looking at them through his microscope – no easy task, because most of them melted before he could complete a drawing. At age 16 he learned about a camera that could be used with a microscope. His parents saved the money and when Willie was 17 they bought him the camera. It took him over a year of failures before he finally achieved his goal – a photograph of a snowflake, the first one ever taken.” (Acts and Facts, 12/2011)
After a long time of studying, collecting and photographing snowflakes, Bentely eventually made thousands of pictures for magazines, universities and other forms of media.
“At age 66 Bentley published a large … book of his photographs titled Snow Crystals … Less than two weeks after his book was published, he walked six miles home in a snowstorm, caught pneumonia, and died two weeks later
Snowflake Bentley- Article
There Is No Explanation for the Universe Except That God Made It!
“…wonders of God’s handiwork are to be found in the tiniest details of all He has made. One powerful example of this beauty is the intricate design of a snow crystal.”
Job 38 – God responded to Job by describing different aspects of creation that prove His right to control the universe.
Verse 22 asks: “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?”
Because we are not the creators of the universe, we have not right to control it! The stunning art, and beauty of snowflakes is just one of the many proofs that we have that God indeed, is the creator of our universe!
God Appreciates Beauty!
Bentley said: “Anyone who’s seen snowflakes under a microscope cannot help but be amazed by how beautifully complex they are.”
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
All around us we see beautiful things! God’s creations are everywhere, and it’s easy to see the beauty of a fresh snowfall. But for thousands of years, nobody even knew that snow was beautiful! Nobody had ever observed under a microscope the individual snowflake, but God…He saw this beauty all along!
As we appreciate God’s beauty around us, we will begin to appreciate God Himself.
Are we not more important to God than a simple snowflake?!
If God spent so much time, creating something as simple as snow to be so beautiful, than how much time and love do you think he put into creating his most prized creation- His children?
For our activities we cut out snowflakes together, as well as took the microscope outside to look at the snowflakes that we could find and try to identify their shapes! We also made snow candy to end up the day, because who doesn’t love a good treat at home?
Make Paper Snowflakes!
Here are some pretty printable patterns for snowflakes
Make Snow Candy!
Snow Candy Recipe
INSTRUCTIONS Only 2 ingredients are needed to make maple snow candy.
– I use 1 cup of maple but you can double it. Just make sure you have enough snow ready. – Fresh, clean snow. I like to use a rectangular pan with a 2-3 inch depth. Like a lasagna pan.
1.) first you fill the pan or pans with fresh Packed snow and set aside either outside or in freezer where it will stay cold.
2.) pour maple syrup into a 4 Qt. pan and heat gradually until syrup begins to boil. Make sure to adjust temp when it gets to a rolling boil so it doesn’t boil over.
3.) after a very short time on heat just low enough to keep it a rolling boil, the bubbles will begin to change both color and consistency. There is no need to stir at all but you must monitor constantly. Do not walk away and you will be rewarded!
4.) in the beginning it boils with a lot of large bubbles. It will be a light amber color.
If you use a thermometer then heat the syrup to about 234 degrees F. A higher heat will make a stiffer candy. I actually don’t use a thermometer. It’s how we did it growing up and you can too.
5.) as the hot syrup nears the candy stage, there will be fewer and fewer large bubbles and the mass will become more foamy in consistency. Very quickly after this it should become uniform in consistency and the amber mass will take on a more glassy appearance. This means it is ready to pour – you have attained liquid candy!
6.) grab your pan(s) of snow. Pour the liquid in a thin stream onto the snow. Liquid is very hot so be careful!
Try not to pour too much on top of itself as it will be too thick. The candy will cool very rapidly on the snow. The result will be a chewy, glassy looking taffy like candy.
You only need to wait 10-15 seconds as the snow will rapidly cool the candy. You can use your fingers or a fork to eat it.
7.) make sure to collect your candy out of the snow if you don’t eat it all right away. If you leave it in the snow too long it will begin to melt.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar.
Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack.
It was such a fun today! The kids used so much creativity in asking questions and making beautiful decorations for the windows. It was wonderful to be able to show that the same God who creates the million and billions of individual snowflakes is the same God that creates us! Thanks for joining us!
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.
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
As the mom of 7 kids I’ve learned that one of the best ways to keep your kids connected is through family traditions.
When creating family traditions I always try to do the following:
Make it Easy
There is nothing worse that thinking up a tradition that takes all day and night to prepare for and that you can’t recreate the next year. I’ve learned, just keep it simple! I remember one Jewish holiday that My sister persuaded me to celebrate. It involved making an elaborate feast and then waiting until midnight. At midnight you hiked around your property three times and then honked your horn (symbolizing something important, I’m sure). Afterwards you came inside and ate the feast. The problem we ran into was that nobody wanted to eat at midnight. So they all just sat there sleepily at the feast table looking like I was torturing them. That was definitely a tradition we didn’t keep around!
Create Them Around Holidays
Many of our favorite traditions are created around holidays such as Christmas time, Easter & Valentines day. The reason I do this is because no matter what I know that my kids will never let me forget a holiday, so in a way it forces me to do the extra work required to create a memory that will last forever.
Adopt Traditions From Other Cultures or Religions
If you can’t think of your own family traditions, don’t be afraid to celebrate someone else’s! This is a list of some of my favorite traditions and how we celebrate them:
Easter- My favorite Holiday ever is celebrated by putting up an Easter Tree, Planting an Easter Garden, Darkening the Windows on Good Friday, Passover Meal, And doing Easter devotionals the week leading up to Easter
St. Patricks Day- The kids make leprechaun traps. But they rarely catch the leprechaun, instead he comes through the house and does silly things like put chairs on top of the table, or dyes the milk green. Of course he also leaves some treats for the kids in the traps.
Valentines Day- When my kids wake up there is always curly ribbons hanging from the ceiling with a sweet little basket for each child and love notes from dad and I that are in their basket.
Summertime- Summer Dances
First Snowfall of winter- We ALWAYS make snow candy with caramel poured into the snow and cancel all school plans so the kids can play all day in the snow
Shavuot- Jewish Holiday where you stay up all night and eat cheesecake and read scriptures
Ukrainian Christmas- This holiday is celebrated by making perogies together and eating a feast
Saint Nicholas Day– German Holiday on December 6 where all the children put out their boots and St. Nicholas comes and fills up their boots with candy and nuts
Christmas Eve- I could write a whole post about this
Christmas Day- We have a service scavenger hunt where we do acts of service for people around town. My kids love it. We also have a feast, make a birthday cake for Jesus, and have a silly string war.
New Years Eve– Have a big party
New Years Day– we make a list of everything all of us have learned all that year, or any new experience that we had. We keep these for our family journal and read them throughout the years. This has proved to be a priceless keepsake!
The Day we Moved onto our Land– we always celebrate this with a neighborhood softball game
Cold Days- For us cold days means that we have to make cinnamon buns. In the case of this picture we were living on a tropical island and there were no cold days, so excuse the anomaly!
Sunday Singing- Many, many sundays our family goes to old folks homes and sing to them. We also sing to our neighbors or to people who are sick or sad in our community.
Sunflower Sunday- Once a year the fields surrounding our house bust into vibrant colors of yellow, orange and green. We call it ‘Sunflower Sunday’ This magnificent display lasts for only a few days. The whole neighbourhood gets together and here’s what happens!
Apple Cider Party– More about this later
Thanksgiving- Big feast with friends and family
Learn the Meaning Behind the Traditions
One of my favorite things to do is to teach my kids what meaning each tradition has. This gives them a greater depth of understanding for other cultures and religions. This is one of the best ways to learn about other people!
Create Traditions Around Your Family History or Family Stories
One of the BEST ways to bind children together and to their past is through sharing stories and traditions that are past down from their ancestors. Is it making bread from yeast you caught yourself, or making soap once a year? Whatever it is as you celebrate that day, be sure to share lots of stories to help make it more meaningful.
Don’t be Afraid to Get Rid of Traditions that aren’t working for your family
I often try something and then get rid of it because it didn’t have the intended effect. Plus as your family grows your traditions will also need to grow!
Create Traditions That Include Other People
Every summertime we invite 100’s of people over to join us for outdoor family dances. It has created so many precious memories for my kids.
Every October, our neighbor has the neighborhood over for a fireroast and chili in the snow.
Every Christmas another neighbor invites everyone over for a star gazing and hot chocolate party
Every Boxing day a close family friend books the local church gym and invites everyone she knows for a potluck and party
Every Fall my brother gets out his apple press and all of our families and friends go to his house where we make freshly pressed apple juice and have a potluck dinner together.
Okay…so just to remind you!
So…what are YOUR favorite family traditions that will last? Leave us a comment
P.S. Here is a video of one of my favorite family traditions.
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.
Hundreds of trees of every shade of green surrounded our little home on the beach. The giant nabunga tree was visited daily by children climbing it or hunting the cobra constrictor snakes that lay hiding inside. The palms were overloaded with coconuts that we used for our meals. Mangos dropped by the dozens each day from the mango tree and were gathered up by kids, neighbours and friends who filled their bags to overflowing with the tasty treats.The avocado tree provided more avocados than you could imagine eating and the papaya trees, banana trees and lemon trees all contributed their small part to the family dinner table as well.
The trees were so beautiful, each one different and each one doing their part for the community. I sat outside on the deck swing looking over towards the edge of the yard. This wasn’t the first time I had noticed the towering tree whose canopy of dead branch spread out into the sky and overtop of the road and swimming pool. In fact several times throughout the year I had wondered about it.
Several months ago we had hired a master tree cutter to remove all the dead and dying trees to protect us from dangerous flying branches during the upcoming cyclone season. I had laughed thinking about just what a fool the so called expert was that he could be hired to do a job and miss something so obvious as that large tree I was now staring at.
In November I discovered that it was I who was the fool. I woke up to the birds singing loudly outside one morning and when I peeked through the bedroom window Ibeheld to my amazement that the whole world was covered in a sea of bright red blossoms. That big tree that I had resented for taking up so much space in our yard wasn’t dead at all! In fact it was more alive and vibrant than any tree around. I couldn’t believe that all this time, I had been wrong.
When I asked the local villagers the name of this glorious tree that had just come alive in my garden, they said it was called the “Christmas Tree”. All year it just simply waited. Waited for it’s time to bloom. And while I secretly criticised it for it’s empty bare branches, it knew all along that it was something much more.Then, just when we were getting ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior the tree amazed us with it’s magnificent display of colour. Each day the thousands of vibrant red petals falling from the top of the high, high, tree and cover the world with a fresh coat of colour.
I bent down and picked up the delicate, rich blossom studying the black and yellow and red so intricately woven into the shape and colors of a flower.
“Remember the worth of a soul is great in the sight of God” the scriptures were trying to teach me again.
I thought back to all the times I had felt discouraged, downtrodden, and useless. My physical limitations preventing me from doing so many things I wanted to do, or my financial situation making me unable to give as much as I wanted to give, or endless nights awake with crying babies creating a hazy dissatisfaction with my role as mother during the day.
When all the earth trusts, and obeys God so completely, why am I so impatient and filled with doubt?
I looked down at the flower in my hand again, but this time noticed the dirt on my hands. I didn’t even remember how it had gotten it there, but now the camera was put away and there it was. Sigh…it always comes back to Jesus doesn’t it?
For without Jesus there would be no atonement, and with the atonement each of us would be so burdened with unresolved Sin that we could never return to live with God again.
I am learning that like the Christmas tree, sometimes we must trust God and wait. It takes faith, and patience but I am guessing that if it’s anything like what is happening outside my front door, dirt and all, the results can be breathtaking, glorious and better than anything we could have imagined!
P.S. I’d love it if you’d share a personal experience of when you waited on God 🙂