The 1st Gift of the Year – Guest Post by Sarah Ball {Christ-Centered Christmas Series}

Christmas Series

Today sharing her family’s favorite Christmas tradition is Sarah Ball of Virtuous Woman Exposed.


 

With five children, ages 4-16, it takes a Christmas miracle to bring us all together for a sincere family moment. Christmas morning is hectic & fun, but hard to rein everyone in for some time of reflection. Boxing Day is a write off because we are so exhausted and overstuffed we can’t even move. The weeks leading up to Christmas are hurried and task orientated and in all the craziness we can usually grab 5 minutes!

Five minutes of reflection and unity is very hard to gain in a family of hormones, part-time jobs and pre-school attention spans. We manage to spend a lot of time together as a family, but it is almost impossible to get everyone to just SHUTUP for 5 MINUTES…. PLEASE!!!!

So once we find this moment, my husband and I gather the children around and threaten them “You will behave, this WILL be special, and You WILL like it!”

This moment begins with a gift.

Every year, we set aside a time to decorate the tree together.

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It’s chaotic and the tree ends up looking like the ornament section of the dollar bin, but it’s a great family moment we love to share together. It’s led to fights, broken bulbs, some tears, and huffs, but mostly it’s filled with excitement, laughter, and the occasional breakoff into a Fred Astaire dancing moment. (Okay, that’s usually just me)

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But all that fun aside my favorite moment is when I bring the gift. One ornament, carefully selected to reflect our year as a family.

We’ve had years of blessings, years of sorrow, strain and want, and many years of fullness and adventure. Just like the Lord said we would…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Phew! I think that scripture sums up a single road trip with our kids!

2 years ago we had a very hard year. I wasn’t sure how we could find an ornament that would reflect the grief and loss and strain, until I found Kermit. Sitting contemplative.

“It’s not easy being green”

“Sometimes life is not easy,” we told our kids, sometimes we go through hard seasons, and we know that there is a gift in it; we just need to find it. Kermit expressed that perfectly.

When we gather for this family tradition we reflect on standout memories of the year and talk about how we felt about it. We then set our eyes on the year ahead, hanging our past year on our synthetic tree. Hoping for a continuation or, as we did the year of the Kermit, an end to our suffering. “I hope our next ornament is a bag of money” I joked. But God wasn’t, it was almost a prophetic joke, because we had a year of blessing the following year!

This year we hung a “new home” ornament, as we reflected on the crazy adventure we have had moving to a new town and the miracle of our new house. You can read here.

It’s great to see ornaments that tell a story, hanging on our family tree. So every year we decorate it we say, “Oh, remember this year?”

It brings everyone together and we look back and praise God together for what has been. We see how far we have come and we express our gratitude for being a witness to our blessings and struggles.

In all things we are to praise God, and we do this tradition, not to fill the tree, but to bring us together as a family and see how God has directed every step of the way!

 
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Sarah Ball is a columnist, speaker, blogger, and mom. You can follow her blog Virtuous Woman Exposed and join her on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.

Daniel and the Lion’s Den – Play Through The Bible – Week 12

 

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Week twelve of Play Through The Bible is the story of the Daniel in the Lion’s Den. K had a ton of fun with the crafts this week and loved the idea of Daniel being with the lions. It was also a great opportunity to further talk about prayer

If you haven’t read the introduction to this series yet I recommend going here. For all the plans in one place, go here.

 


Week Twelve – Daniel


Focus Point

Daniel prayed only to God.

Story Time Tips

  • We read “Daniel and the Lions” starting on page 146 of The Rhyme Bible Storybook and “Daniel Prays” starting on page 118 of The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers.
  • We spent some time talking about prayer and how we only pray to God, not to people.
  • We talked about how Daniel obeyed God and talked about how we could obey God.
  • Of course we spent a lot of time pretending to be lions!

Activity

Using a blanket and chairs build a small fort to be a “den.” Take turns pretending to be Daniel and the lions. If you have your day 3 craft made, you can use that as well to pretend to be the lion.

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Discussion

Parent: “What did Daniel do to get in trouble?”

Child: “prayed.”

Parent: “Who did they tell him to pray to?”

Child: “The king.”

Parent: “But who did he pray to?”

Child: “God!”

Parent: “So where did they put Daniel?”

Child: “With the lions!”

Parent: “Did the lions eat him?”

Child: “No, their mouths were shut tight!”

Daily Craft

Day One – Daniel Coloring Page

http://www.christiananswers.net/kids/clrpg010.html

Day Two – Pray Like Daniel

 

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Materials needed:

  • White paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue

 

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First, trace your child’s hands on the white paper.

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Cut out the hands and color them however you’d like.

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Once you’re done coloring the hands, write on them “I can pray like Daniel.”

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Put some glue on the back of one of the hands…

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…and glue them together like they are praying.

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All done!

Day Three – The Lion

 

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Materials needed:

  • Paper plate
  • Brown construction paper
  • Yellow construction paper
  • Orange construction paper
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Craft stick

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Cut off an approximately 2 inch strip off the construction paper.

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Cut skinny strips off out of each of the colors.

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Cut out the center of the paper plate and glue the strips around the edge. We’ve been working on patterns, so we did ours in a pattern!

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Put some glue on the end of the craft stick and glue it to the paper plate.

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Let out your best ROAR!

Day Four – Daniel in the Den

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Materials needed:

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Printout and color the Daniel and the lion page. I printed ours at about 75% but I could have made it a bit smaller.

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If your craft paper is new (ours came in a package) fold it a couple times and crumple it up. Then, tape each end down onto the brown construction paper. This makes your “den.”

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Then, tape the picture you colored onto the back of the den. That’s it!

Day Five – The Angels

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Materials needed:

  • Paper plate
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Pencil
  • Yellow pipe cleaner

K thought the angels in the story were pretty cool, so we decided to make our own. Perfect timing, since we can use them for Christmas play as well! We used the tutorial here to figure out how to make them. I apologize for the poor quality of some of these photos. A tiny fenced-in backyard and a giant tree blocking the sun don’t give very much light into our house after a certain small window.

 

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First, you’re going to need to trace out the shape of the angel on your plate. Start with a circle in the middle of the plate. Inside the circle, trace a head shape. Then, drawn two lines coming out the the sides of the circle at the top. If you don’t want to free hand this, there is a printable template on Martha Stewart’s website.

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Next, you need to cut out along the lines you drew. First cut out the chunk on top. Then, cut around the head shape. Just don’t cut all the way around your circle. It may seem kinda complicated, but once you do it you figure it out pretty quickly.

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Bend the outside of the paper plate around the back of the angel and tape together.

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You could decorate your angel really fancy with glitter glue and sequins, but we kept it simple with a yellow marker.

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Cut off a small piece of pipe cleaner and shape it into an oval.

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Tape it onto the back of the angel’s head.

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Add a simple face.

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And they are ready to protect Daniel from the lions!

Extra Resources

There is a great song by the Donut Man called Daniel and the Lions, but unfortunately I couldn’t get it on YouTube.

There is also an old Veggie Tales movie about Daniel and the lions that is pretty good.

 


I hope you enjoyed week seven of Play Through The Bible. I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or use the hashtag #playthroughthebible on Twitter or Instagram! 

 

Affiliate links may be included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

Our Christmas Tradition of Sweet Rolls – Guest Post by Lindsey Whitney of Growing Kids Ministry {Christ-Centered Christmas Series}

Christmas Series

Up next in the Christ-Centered Christmas traditions series is Lindsey Whitney of Growing Kids Ministry sharing how their simple family tradition bridges the generations and slows them down to celebrate Christ’s birth. 


 

There is something about the smell of cinnamon wafting through the air that means Christmas is nearby.   Perhaps it’s the candle on the table.  Maybe it’s the pinecones in every store entrance.  For us, it’s the delicious aroma of Christmas sweet rolls.   Growing up, sweet cinnamon rolls in the oven usually meant that family was nearby.  My mother always mixed up a batch when my uncle Chuck came to town (in fact, I think he came to town just so he could eat them).    Her sweet rolls are huge, savory, and melt in your mouth delicious.  Though especially popular during the cold winter months, I also have memories of her mixing them up during summer vacations.   One year, she made them with assistance of my cousin, Keeliyah, barely three.  Keeliyah’s  small delicate hands hanging on tight to the rolling pin just inside my mother’s as they pressed out the dough together and sprinkled it liberally with cinnamon and sugar.   Though throughout the year they were miles apart, this family tradition now tied them together in a special way.

Now that my husband and I have our own home and family, I’ve continued the sweet roll legacy.  Each year on Christmas Eve, I get out the mixing bowls and measuring cups and begin the somewhat long process of making these delicious treats.  I place them rolls in the fridge, rolled tightly into pinwheels of sugary goodness and tucked neatly into the baking dish, so they are all ready to go on Christmas morning.  The first year I began the tradition, I forgot how long it takes for the dough to rise and never finished until almost midnight!

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Thankfully, I’ve learned from that messy ordeal and now every Christmas Eve afternoon, the kids and I measure out the flour and sugar, mix up the milk and eggs, and sprinkle the cinnamon together, anticipating the joy of the next day.

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As we gather around the table on Christmas morning, eating these sweet rolls helps me feel connected to the generations before me.  Of course, they remind me of my mother, but they also remind me of my amazing godly grandmother who birthed and raise two of the most central people in my own spiritual walk.   She is now gone, but it’s moments like these that keep me forever connected and grateful for the legacy she has created.  I hope that my own children remember this tradition when they become adults.  I love that the rolling and waiting forces us to block out a substantial amount of time and really slow down before the celebration of Christ’s birth.  I love that the slow rising of dough builds anticipation of the goodness that is to come.  In the rush of the Christmas season, I know that this tradition will hold strong.  It’s simple yet deep.  It is a delicious tradition and it is ours.

sweet rolls

Truth in the Tinsel – Guest Post by Amanda White of ohamanda.com {Christ-Centered Christmas Series}

Christmas Series

Today we have Amanda White of ohamanda.com sharing the story of how her favorite family tradition came to be. If you haven’t heard of her fantastic Advent e-book,  Truth in the Tinsel, you really need to check it out!


 

truth tinsel jamie lydia amanda couchMy favorite Christmas tradition started with reading a book to my daughter. This daily advent book suggested making an ornament and we did. It was a simple ornament with basic craft supplies I found around the house. Then, as the book progressed and didn’t instruct us to make more ornaments, my daughter demanded we make them anyway!

So, every day, my almost 2 year old and I would read our little book (or some other book) and come up with some kind of ornament to make. They were not fancy. In fact, they barely went along with the Christmas story, but my little girl had so much fun.

The next year, I decided to make up my own ornament-a-day activities for her. We read through the Christmas story in Matthew, Mark and Luke and made ornaments to tell the story. She loved it and it surprised me to see how much she knew and understood of this big story! She could walk you through the whole story just by pointing at her little handmade ornaments.

Each year, I’d come up with (hopefully) better ornaments or more focused Scriptures to read. And every year she still enjoyed it. Until one day I thought, “Maybe some other kids would like to do this, too.” I wrote down all the best ornaments we’d made and turned it into a little ebook called Truth in the Tinsel. It’s been used by thousands of families all over the world and every December my daughter–and now my son love looking online to see pictures of kids making the same ornament they are making.

I never knew a little activity with my daughter could turn into something that would affect other people. But that’s what Christmas does. It’s what God’s greatest gift does. When we turn our hearts to Jesus’ arrival as a baby in Bethlehem, we can’t help but celebrate. We can’t help but tell others.

I think Christmas traditions of every kind are really just tools to help us point back to Jesus. Christmas trees can remind us of God’s everlasting love. Christmas lights reminds us of the Light of the World. Gifts speak of the greatest gift of all! When we use these small traditions to help our kids learn about Jesus and the true Christmas story, it will become an automatic thing for them. They will look at Christmas through a lens of celebrating Jesus! And in turn, their conversations with friends and others will also point back to Jesus.

I love that as we walk around our house, shop in the stores, turn on the TV and even drive through our neighborhood, we see a celebration of Jesus and his birth. People may unwittingly celebrate him and may literally throw the baby out in lieu of commercial Christmas. But even still, as parents, we can use these little traditions to point our children’s hearts to Jesus. When we do, it will be easy for us (and our kids) to point others to Him, too.

As you go about your December, look at all your traditions–from cookie baking, to tree trimming to serving food to the hungry as loud sparks of joy, gifts of hope and announcements of peace to your family and the whole world! “Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her king!”

What Christmas traditions do you like to share with others?

Jonah – Play Through The Bible – Week 11

 

Play Through The Bible wk11

Week eleven of Play Through The Bible is the story of the Jonah. Jonah is a fun story for kids because being swallowed by a fish is quite a silly thought!

If you haven’t read the introduction to this series yet I recommend going here. For all the plans in one place, go here.

 


Week Eleven – Jonah


Focus Point

Jonah didn’t obey God. (God is merciful.)

Story Time Tips

  • We read “Jonah Goes to Nineveh” starting on page 136 of The Rhyme Bible Storybook and “Where Did Jonah Go?” starting on page 104 of The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers.
  • We did a lot of stopping and practicing saying “Jonah” and “Nineveh.”
  • I related God putting Jonah in the whale because he wasn’t obeying to how K has to go to a timeout when we doesn’t obey. We said it was a “fish timeout.”
  • You may have noticed that in the focus point I put two things. The reason for this is because although Jonah not obeying God is a part of the story, and it is often the point relayed to young children, it isn’t really the main point of the story. The overarching theme of the story of Jonah is God’s mercy and compassion on the people of Nineveh and Jonah’s inability to comprehend it. Unlike the storybook versions, the actual story ends quite abruptly with no real conclusion as to Jonah’s fate. The problem is, these can be difficult and abstract concept to explain to a concrete thinking toddler or preschooler. So, for the purpose of K’s understanding level, we did focus mainly on Jonah’s disobedience. I did try and sneak in a few references to God’s love and mercy, but for the most part we will save those discussions for a little later.

Activity

“Jonah Tag”: You, the parent, are the fish and your child is Jonah. Ask: “When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, what did he do?” When your child says “run!”, tell them to go ahead and run away! You, the fish, then chase “Jonah” around until you catch him. Once you catch him, make him promise to go to Nineveh and then let him go! If your child is anything like K, this game will be very exciting and you will be required to play it multiple times!

Discussion

Parent: “Where did God tell Jonah to go?”

Child: “Nineveh.”

Parent: “What did he do?”

Child: “Ran away!”

Parent: “And what happened to him?”

Child: “He got swallowed by a fish!”

Parent: “Then did he decide to obey God?”

Child: “Yes.”

Daily Craft

Day One – Jonah Coloring Page

http://www.sundayschoolprintables.com/coloring/jonah1.php

Day Two – Jonah Puppet

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Materials needed:

  • Jonah printout (we used this one)
  • Markers
  • Craft stick
  • Glue

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First, color your Jonah.

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Then, cut him out.

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Put some glue on the end of your craft stick…

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…and place Jonah on there.

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Enjoy!

Day Three – Jonah Runs Away on a Ship

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Materials needed:

  • Ship printout (we used this one)
  • Blue construction paper
  • Black construction paper
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Markers

 

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First, cut out and color your ship.

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While the ship is being colored, trace out a wave shape on the blue paper…

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…and cut it out.

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Glue the waves to the bottom of the black piece of paper.

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Then, glue the ship and place right atop the waves.

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K wanted me to draw some people on the ship, so I whipped out my best stick people!

Day Four – Jonah in the Fish

 

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Materials needed:

  • Whale template from DLTK
  • Markers
  • Two paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Blue paint (optional, not pictured)
  • Googly eye (optional, not pictured)

DSC_3359First, cut off a portion of one of the plates to make the whale’s tail and the rest of the pieces on the template.

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Next, you need to either paint (which we opted to do) or color your whale pieces.

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Either draw or glue on an eye.

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Add a little smiley face.

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Color in the little Jonah piece.

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Then, glue him onto the whale’s belly.

Day Five – Nineveh

 

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Materials needed:

  • Cereal box
  • Paint (we used blue and red)
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

 

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First, cut out rectangles along the crease of the box. The taller top part will become the house and the bottom will prop the house up.

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Paint your houses with the colors you’ve chosen.

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Once they’ve dried, draw on some doors and windows.

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Bend the pieces at the crease and prop them up. Find a small figurine and have Jonah bring a message from God to the town of Nineveh!

Extra Resources

The Veggie Tales movie Jonah does a great job telling the story of Jonah. Sure, it adds the usual Veggie Tales flair and embellishments, but they do a good job getting to the heart of the story. It’s on Netflix, so if you have access, it is a fun watch!

 


I hope you enjoyed week seven of Play Through The Bible. I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or use the hashtag #playthroughthebible on Twitter or Instagram! 

 

Affiliate links may be included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

Celebrating St. Nicholas’ Day {Christ-Centered Christmas Series}

Christmas Series

Today I am sharing one of our favorite Christmas-time traditions – St. Nicholas’ Day!


 

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For the longest time I’ve been taken a great interest to the traditional church calendar and holidays. There is something so beautiful about setting your calendar around holidays that point you to Christ, especially when it is so easy to get lost in day to day life. If you don’t know much about the church calendar, I highly recommend The Voice, by the Christian Resource Institute. Since all I had really ever observed in the past was Lent and Advent, I knew I didn’t want to jump into the church calendar too fast and become overwhelmed, so one of the first traditional holidays we adopted was St. Nicholas’ Day.

When I was thinking through how we as a family wanted to approach Christmas I decided early on (with no complaints from the hubby) that we didn’t really want to “do” Santa. Growing up my family did Santa, but I really have no memories of “believing” in him. I may or may not have when I was very young, but mostly it was just a fun part of Christmas. So, I have nothing against Santa, I just decided that our family would try something different. When I learned about St. Nicholas’ day, I knew it would be perfect for us!

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St. Nicholas was a real person who lived in Greece during the third century. His wealthy parents died when he was young, leaving him their fortune. Via the St. Nicholas Center: “Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.” The St. Nicholas Center is a great resource to learn more about who St. Nicholas really was.

December 6th, the anniversary of St. Nicholas’ death, became a holiday celebrated in honor of a man who did great and generous deeds in the name of Christ. It is a fun holiday that kicks off the start of Advent in a way that points to the true meaning of Christmas and keeps a little of that magical Santa feeling.

There are many ways to celebrate St Nick’s Day. (For some ideas to get you started, go here.) However, today I want to share what our family has done.

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Stockings

One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was to move the stocking gifts to St. Nicholas’ Day. The tradition started with the story of St. Nicholas leaving gold in the stockings of three young girls who could not afford to pay their dowries and were destined to be sold into slavery. So, on the morning of St. Nick’s day K receives a stocking with small gifts and a sack or two of chocolate coins. For the past two years we were living with my in-laws at Christmas-time, so Auntie C. got a stocking too!

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Gifts

In past years we also did our family gifts on St. Nicholas’ Day. This was less because of a specific St. Nick’s tradition and more because we liked the idea of having time to do gifts together as a family if we were going to be spending time with extended family on Christmas day. This year we are not doing it that way, partially because we decided St. Nick’s Day was a little too early for us for gifts and partially because this year it will just be us three for Christmas day.

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Special Breakfast

This is another tradition specifically made for our family, but I love it. Growing up, Scandinavian Kringler (or “Kringle” as we always called it) was a special treat that my mom only made every once in a while, often on Christmas morning. So, I decided to continue that tradition and make it for St. Nick’s breakfast.

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Decorations

The last two St. Nick’s day’s I have put up decorations the night before to have as a surprise the next morning. I’m not sure what I’ll do this year, if anything, as it’s only a few days away and this pregnant momma needs her rest!

Future Ideas

There are lots of other ideas of ways to celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day, but for now we’ve kept it pretty simple. For the future, one idea I’m drawn to (maybe when K is a little older) is making gift baskets with treats, fruit, and small gifts and leaving them on your neighbor’s doorstep. This tradition comes from the story of St. Nicholas living during a very poverty stricken time and leaving baskets of food at people’s doors so they would have enough to eat.

Well, we are excitedly looking forward to celebrating this year’s St. Nick’s day this Saturday. If you want to see what we end up doing, you can follow me on instagram where I’m sure I’ll post pictures of the fun!

It’s not too late – you can still give St. Nick’s Day a try this year! Does it sound interesting to you? Leave a comment and let me know! 

Christmas Eve at the Hollingsworth Household – Guest Post {Christ-Centered Christmas Series}

 

Christmas Series

Next up in our Christ-Centered Christmas traditions series is Alyssa Hollingsworth of alyssahollingsworth.com sharing her family’s Christmas Eve traditions.


 

Christmas Eve at the Hollingsworth household is generally a quiet affair—well, as quiet as seven adults, two little kids, a mixture of cousins (depending on the year), and various dogs can be.

The house has long been decorated, the presents are wrapped and under the tree (carefully organized so that no two wrapped in the same paper are side-by-side), the stockings are ready to be stuffed as soon as the kids are in bed. It’s Christmas Eve.

On the best Christmases, like last year, my scattered family will gather from across the globe—a sister traveling from Central Asia, a brother (Jason) and his family coming from California, and me crossing the Pond from England, along with my two younger siblings who (last year, anyway) still lived at home—to gather in my parents’ snug townhouse in Virginia. This fluctuates every year, and it’s a rare and wonderful (if loud and crowded) thing for us to be under the same roof.

Nieces and Cookies

Because no one really wants to work on Christmas day, we have our feast of a meal the night before. This includes Nana Buns, a homemade bread recipe passed down from great-grandparents. My younger brother (Philip) is the Nana Bun Connoisseur, and most of the day he and Dad are up to their elbows in flour, the dogs helpfully waiting for scrapes around their feet. Jason helps Mom with the cooking (and the wine), while my younger sister, Laura, and I entertain the nieces with sugar cookie decorating.

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I will not deny that an occasional swear word is snapped when the turkey splatters juice everywhere, or that there are rolled eyes and moans when we’re dragged away from our computers to help. But normally, in the end, a good time is had by all.

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We have the meal by candlelight, normally with quiet music in the background. Dinner is an art unto it self, with no one having quite enough elbowroom, and the table overflowing with food. Jason can’t help playing with the candles (even if he is in his 30s) and any of us girls are in constant danger of accidentally catching ourselves on fire while we pass plates. Conversation is a mixture of joking around and serious reflection, but mostly the former. Every Nana Bun is jealously consumed, as is the “Apple Bubbly” (sparkling cider).

Once we are all full to bursting, whoever didn’t help bake cleans up, and we send the youngest kids on a casting call for the Christmas story. We pluck characters from the dozens of nativity sets around our house until we have a line up of uniquely individual pieces: A glass Joseph, a Napalese wool Mary, a Uighur Elizabeth, various wise men and shepherds, and as many angels as we can carry (often stolen from the Christmas tree). My siblings and nieces divide these characters up among themselves, and anyone particularly lazy gets to be the star (normally a flashlight or cellphone app).

Nieces and Nativities

With our cast assembled, we sit around the tree and Dad opens his Bible. He reads the story while we act it out with the pieces, normally starting in Luke with the birth of John the Baptist foretold, then hopping chronologically between Matthew and Luke until Mary and Joseph are sent to Egypt.

Over the years, we’ve resorted to different twists to keep the acting fresh—sometimes our dog would be a camel, and we’d make her carry Mary and Joseph around, one time Zechariah was portrayed as a snowman, and one time Philip accompanied it with badly played Uighar music—but the core story is the same. It’s always my dad who reads it, always out of his leather-bound ESV, always the circle of family nearby, sometimes offering insights, sometimes teasing.

Philip provides music to story

Christmas Eve is my nieces’ hands draped in angels—one for every finger—and Dad’s tired voice scraping a little as he reads and the reflected colorful lights in the hardwood floor and the faint cinnamon scent of apple pie in the next room.

Peace is not a norm in our scattered lives, and our years are never without loss.

But when Dad reads the last passage and closes the book, there is only one word for the moment of silence that follows: Shalom.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; 

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 

to give knowledge of salvation to his people

in the forgiveness of their sins,

because of the tender mercy of our God,

whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace. 

(Luke 1:77-79)

Advent Calendar – Guest Post by Bobbi of Revolution of Love {Christ-Centered Christmas Series}

Christmas Series

Our first guest post in the Christ-Centered Christmas series is from the lovely Bobbi of Revolution of Love. I think this is a wonderful tradition for Advent and am strongly considering trying it out this year. Thank you Bobbi for sharing your family’s favorite tradition!


 

My Favorite Family Christmas Tradition: The Advent Calendar 

The Christmas season is a time of joy and love but it can also be a time of stress for parents and greediness for children when all they can think about is what they will find under the tree on Christmas morning! To help bring the focus back on Christ and sharing his love with others, we started the tradition of making our Advent Calendar into an Act of Love Calendar. We talked about the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25: 31-46. We explained that we can show our love for Jesus by sharing that love with others and what we do for others, we do for Our Lord.

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A couple years back I found this little country house Advent calendar at Target and I loved it! Normally you would put in a treat or little toy for each day but instead I put little slips of paper with different acts of love our family could do each day.

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To keep things simple, I searched online for a children’s printable Advent calendar. I found this one from Loyola Press at http://www.loyolapress.com/assets/advent/children-advent-calendar.pdf. I simply cut up the calendar and put the little paper squares into the corresponding day. Each day we had one act of kindness that everyone in the family would do. If one of the day’s activities was not really suitable for our family or if there were other acts or activities I wanted our family to work on, I just wrote my own words on a slip of paper and added it in a box. On Sundays our act of love is spending time together so we do something fun as a family, such as, pick out our Christmas tree or bake cookies to bring to a neighbor or watch a Christmas movie together (without fighting who gets to choose the movie.)

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Each day the kids take turns opening the day’s box and we find out which act of love we will be doing that day.

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This can be done in the morning but sometimes our mornings are so chaotic getting everyone to school on time that it is easier for us to do pick out our act the night before.

In the evenings after we say grace for dinner, we each take a turn to share something about our day. During Advent this will often include sharing about our act of love. For example, one of my sons shared how on the day he was supposed to be help someone in need, he helped a classmate that fell down at recess and walked him to the school office to get a band aid.

Another time we had to be a peacemaker so I shared that instead of losing my temper and yelling at the kids, I first went into my room and screamed into my pillow, then came out of my bedroom and corrected the boys calmly. (They got a kick out of that one.) This sharing helps us to see how we can apply our faith into the daily fabric of our lives.

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After our evening family prayer, we put that day’s slip of paper into our stocking set aside for Jesus. At the end of Advent, Jesus has 24 little gifts that we gave him.

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Let me add two disclaimers here. The first is that you don’t have to buy a fancy advent box to do this activity. You could use construction paper and make 25 Christmas shapes tracing cookie cutters. Or you can use leftover scrap book paper and make an Advent chain with 24 rings. Write acts of love on the cut out slips of paper then loop them together with tape. Then each day you remove one ring.

If you need some ideas of things you could write down, here are some suggestions.

Share something of yours with a sibling or friend at school.

Don’t lose your temper when someone makes you upset. 

Be grateful and say thank you to God and others. 

Say a prayer for someone in need today.

Clean up your room without being asked. 

Donate toys or books you’ve outgrown to charity.

Read a favorite bible story to a family member.

Give someone you love a hug and tell them you love them.

Try hard to obedient to your teachers and parents. 

Be grateful for what you have and don’t complain.

Make Christmas cards and deliver them to the local nursing home. 

Do an extra job around the house to earn money to buy a toy for the Angel Tree

Spend time with your family doing a fun activity together. 

The list can go on and on but you get the idea! Choose things that are most suitable to your family and where you are in life.

The second disclaimer is not to get discouraged if you try this and everything is not as picture perfect as you had hoped. There are days when my little peacemakers are practically fist fighting their brothers over who gets to pick the next act or who gets to put the slip of paper in Jesus’ stocking. Or the teen may give you a blank expression when you ask about their day at the dinner table. Or a hectic day may find you never did anything with your act. Don’t worry about it. Say a prayer to your Heavenly Father and move on to the next day. It won’t always be picture perfect but the grace comes with the effort and when you see a glimpse of your child “getting it” or when you see yourself being more patient, then you know that you truly are learning how to keep Christ in Christmas.


 

Bobbi Rol is a full time mom to a teen daughter and three rambunctious little boys. She lives on the Monterey Bay in California with her husband Brian. When she is not washing dishes, doing laundry or dodging light sabers she can be found outside with her family enjoying God’s beauty or catching a late night movie after her kids are asleep. Bobbi writes about family, homemaking and loving God in the midst of daily life at her blog Revolution of Love. (http://revolutionofloveblog.com)

A Christ-Centered Christmas — Blog Round-Up

Christmas Series

Before our Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions series starts up next week, I thought i’d kick it off with a round-up of some of my favorite Christmas posts I’ve found this year. There are some great thoughts and ideas in these posts so be sure to check them out!

If you’ve written a post about how to make your Christmas more centered on Christ I’d love to add it to this list. Just leave the url in the comments and I’ll add it!


 

When Your Holidays are Having a Hard Time Keeping Up With The Joneses | Lisa-Jo Baker (Surprised By Motherhood)

“By this time last year, I’d gained a little holiday weight already. Several pounds of dissatisfaction had settled onto the hips of my heart. This time of year there are so many rich lies about what you need to fill you up.

The holiday season seems to be a smorgasbord of expectations impossible to live up to.

I’ve seen the pictures. The perfect tree, the perfect mantle, the perfect advent calendar countdown experience for the kids. In the past it has made me look around our house with dissatisfied eyes.

I’ve worried about what I am not giving my kids. And then I’ve worried about giving them too much. I’ve swallowed down the impulse to rush around instituting a rash of new family traditions that seem to make other families so happy and fulfilled. I don’t bake or quilt or have the time or real desire to make an advent calendar from scratch. I am not a photographer or a crafter. But I’ve compared nonetheless. And I’ve come up wanting. And so tired.”

 

 Favorite Advent Resources | Tsh (The Art of Simple)

“I love the Advent season. There’s something special about the anticipation of something, about enjoying the destination towards a grand event. Advent comes from the Latin word that means “arrival”—it’s the anticipation of a notable person, thing, or event.”

 

5 Ways to Help You Be More Content This Holiday Season | Jessica (Life as Mom)

“As you know by now, the holiday season is ramping into gear. Black Friday ads, Christmas gift guides, and all kinds of marketing literally shout at us to Buy! Buy! Buy! It can be a little overwhelming when you don’t have an unlimited budget. And even if you do, it’s distracting from more meaningful pursuits.

I wonder if millionaires get in a frenzy on Christmas. I’m thinking they probably don’t. They don’t need to find the deals; they don’t need to plan ahead; they have assistants they can send shopping, right? Iknow that even millionaires and celebrities aren’t completely happy. Money doesn’t buy happiness.

Whether the bank balance has ten digits or two, we all need the same thing: to be content with what we have.” 

 

How to simplify the holidays without feeling like a Scrooge | Kat (the Art of Simple)

“If I’m honest, I think it all goes back to the fact I never knew my mom. Don’t worry, this isn’t a sob story, just a fact.

I never saw her leave a sink full of dishes or forget the snack she was supposed to bring to my school party. I never saw her stressing out about holiday cards or burn a batch of cookies.

…I never saw her fail at Christmas.

So, when I grew up with a home and family of my own, media perfection was my only example. I thought that in order to be a great mom at the holidays, I had to do All. The. Things.”

 

How to Write Christmas Letters with Free Templates | Annette (Blessed Beyond a Doubt)

“Several years ago we noticed a trend setting in with our oldest child, who was just six at the time. As Christmas approached that year, he quickly began telling us what he wanted for Christmas. There were tons and tons of toys on his list. Then he became obsessed with asking how many gifts he would get that year. He would tell me he got “X” number of gifts last year, so he should get “XX” this year.

Uh…hold the phone! Wait a minute! Did I just hear him correctly?

Did he seriously tell me he should get more gifts this year?

OH NO! That had to stop.”

 

Packing the Best Box(es) Ever | Amanda (ohamanda.com)

“I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and saw a picture of my friend Amy. Amy is the former Team Distribution Manager for Operation Christmas Child. She led my trip to the Dominican Republic along with about 8-9 other trips every year. She’s the woman who goes into these communities, schools and churches and organizes the whole shoebox shebang.

Anyway, here’s her picture:

But the best part is her caption, “It’s National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. Two years ago in Zambia, there weren’t enough boxes for all of the children that showed up. I sat outside with them and told them about Jesus while their friends were inside receiving a gift. They never got a box. Would you pack a box this week, and then another?! What a dream to have enough boxes for every child in the world.””

 

 

David and Goliath – Play Through The Bible – Week 10

Play Through The Bible wk10

 

Week ten of Play Through The Bible is the story of the David and Goliath. We used craft time as an opportunity to introduce a few more elements of David’s life, since this children’s bible only mentions David fighting Goliath. We had a lot of fun and hope you do too!

If you haven’t read the introduction to this series yet I recommend going here. For all the plans in one place, go here.

 


Week Ten – David and Goliath


Focus Point

David trusts God.

Story Time Tips

  • We read “David & Goliath” starting on page 118 of The Rhyme Bible Storybook and “David and Goliath” starting on page 98 of The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers.
  • The first page of this story in the original Rhyme Bible is perfect for pausing and letting your child fill in the blanks.
  • We spend quite a bit of time contrasting how everyone was scared and ran away, but David was brave.

Activity

Pretend to be Goliath and have your child pretend to be the Israelites and run away from you. Then, have your child pretend to be David and be brave and fight with you.

Discussion

Parent: “Who was the big mean guy?”

Child: “Goliath.”

Parent: “What did everyone do when they saw him?”

Child: “Ran away!”

Parent: “But who wasn’t afraid of Goliath?”

Child: “David.”

Daily Craft

Day One – Samuel Coloring Page

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Day Two – David the Shepherd

DSC_3271Materials needed:

  • Green piece of construction paper
  • Sheep printout (we used this one)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Cotton balls

For this first craft we talked about how David was a shepherd and not a warrior. We used the pictures on pages 120-123 of David with sheep as a reference.

 

DSC_3277 If you want, cut the sheep out and glue it to the green paper. I did that to get rid of the extra words and stuff on the printout.

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Put some glue on body of the sheep.

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Then put the cotton balls on the sheep.

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Day Three – Five Stones in a Stream

 

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Materials needed:

  • Green construction paper
  • Five stones cut out of gray construction paper
  • Blue construction paper cut into a wavy strip
  • Glue stick

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Put some glue on the back of the blue paper.

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Place in the center of the green paper.

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Glue the stones to the “river.” We’ve been doing a lot of counting lately so we took some time to count the stones and make sure there was five.

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Day Four – Giant Goliath

 

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Materials needed:

  • Googly eyes and glue (optional)
  • Markers
  • Large roll of butcher paper (not pictured)

The idea for this craft came from Heather Haupt of Cultivated Lives. You can check out her post here, which is more detailed than what we did.

 

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Roll out some paper and trace the outline of a giant person. As you can see I have mad drawing skills! If K was a little older I would have had him give it a go instead.

DSC_3302If you want, add some eyes. We just recently purchased some fun googly eyes and K was really wanting to use them.

DSC_3304Go to town coloring! If you have more artistic ability than this mama, your Goliath might look less like a business man and more like a warrior.

DSC_3307After we were done coloring, we hung Goliath up on the wall.

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The giant on our wall has been a great continual conversation starter.

Day Five – King David

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Materials needed:

  • 1-2 sheets of yellow paper
  • Scissors
  • Dot markers

Another aspect of the story that wasn’t covered was David’s ascension to kingship. So, we talked about how David eventually became the king and made a fun crown.

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First, cut out your paper into a crown shape. I freehanded a simple shape, but if you don’t want to, you could use a template like one of the ones found here.

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Use the dot markers to decorate the crown. If you have sequins or glitter glue or the like you could use that as well.

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Tape the two piece together and then measure around your child’s head and tape again to get the right fit.

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A crown fit for royalty!

Extra Resources

We enjoyed the song Only a Boy Named David

 


It’s Thanksgiving next week so we’ll be taking a week off of Play Through The Bible!

I hope you enjoyed week seven of Play Through The Bible. I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or use the hashtag #playthroughthebible on Twitter or Instagram! 

 

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