Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homemade Christmas Advent

Last year, we began a new tradition in our home to try to keep the real meaning of Christmas the focus of the season. "Christmas isn't about gettin'", as Veggietales correctly points out. With the hustle and bustle and push to shop, shop, shop... Jesus' birth, and its significance, is often lost. We struggle with this as adults. Why wouldn't our children have an even more difficult time then? Without intentionality, Christmas' focus shifts to an attitude of "what am I going to get?" instead of "what am I thankful for". Being intentional for the sake of our children's hearts, and our own, provides a very satisfying Christmas season - and that satisfaction doesn't come from things.

To create your own Christmas Advent, you'll need a place for your daily activity slips. We found small, colorful envelopes at our dollar store. I put a decorative slip around them and numbered them - 1 through 25. I then hang the envelopes on a string in our downstairs hallway. Some families use a wooden advent tree but anything will do. Then, write an activity (be creative) for every day between December 1 and December 25. Make them specific and meaningful for your family. Some days, we do more than one.

This is what we'll be doing this season:

* Serve a meal at Union Gospel Mission

* Snuggle up and watch The Nativity Story!

* Go Christmas Caroling at the Convalescent Home with Cub Scouts

* Make snowflakes to hang around the house!

* Make a list of 10 things you are thankful for and hang it where you can see it daily

* Make Christmas cookies. Some to enjoy tonight and others to give to neighbors

* Stargaze tonight with the telescope and learn about the star that led the wise men to Jesus

* Family worship night tonight! Celebrate Jesus’ birthday by worshiping him! Have a cupcake for dessert too!

* Family game night tonight!

* Write a letter to one of your family members telling them how much you love and appreciate them. Tell them WHY you love them . Tell them what you like about them. Pray a prayer of thankfulness for that person.

* Write a ‘thankful’ letter to ANOTHER family member telling them how much you love and appreciate them. Tell them WHY you love them and what you like about them. Pray a prayer of thankfulness for that person, together.

* It's Christmas Day! Happy Birthday, Jesus! Remember, on this day we celebrate Jesus' birth! His coming to save us is the greatest gift of all!

* Go to Christmas Eve Service tonight!

* Tonight, we go to the old Crest theater to watch the old movie, “White Christmas”, with popcorn and a drink! Bundle up!

* Check out Christmas lights around town! Don't forget the snacks, Christmas music for the car ride and make sure to wear your jammies!

* Snuggle up and watch another Christmas movie together tonight!

* Play some games as a family tonight. Enjoy our time together!

* Read a Christmas story together with hot chocolate and a cookie!

* Go through our books and donate the books we no longer want to kids in need.

* Read the story of Jesus’ birth and discuss how important his birth is to us today. Why do we celebrate his birth? Watch Veggietale’s “The Toy That Saved Christmas”

* Make a paper chain and write on the back of the papers what you are thankful for!

* Write your last ‘thankful’ letter to the other family member. Tell them that you love them and WHY you love them. Tell them what it is you like about them. Pray a prayer of thankfulness for that person, together.

* Dance and sing to Christmas music!

* Bundle up and grab your beanies because we’re going on a flashlight walk! Notice the beauty of winter and God’s creation! See what makes winter different from other seasons! Come back to warm up with hot chocolate and the Veggie Tale movie, “It’s a Meaningful Life”!

* Make Christmas ornaments!

* Make Christmas popcorn balls!

* Bake with mom today!

* Make Uncle Paul’s famous truffles!

What will you do to make Christmas meaningful?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

full circle remembrance

Today is a big day in the life of Jake. This day stirs up memories of the first years of his life. Beautiful, sun-drenched days of downy blonde hair, cooing and formula burps. His entrance into this world was amazing and wonderful but not without hurdles. This child had to fight to keep his place in this world. His hands - his breath - his very soul clung to the warm place that he called home for 8 months. Without ever stepping out of my womb, this child already knew of adversaries, struggle and developing a will to survive.

My body was not a welcoming place for either of my boys. My body tried so hard to reject new life forming. This new life was a threat - something that must be destroyed. Jake's struggle began almost as soon as he was conceived. High risk. Warnings of loss. Warnings of deformities all came back from the experts. Tests. More tests. Nothing could be definitive until he was born. Yet, we knew, no matter the outcome, God had created this child and He was in control. Not the doctors. Not the tests. Not my body.

As Jake grew, so did my body's attempt to attack him and rid itself of him. 5 months early, my body was done with him. More tests. Twice a week, Chris and I drove to the hospital to see if our precious son was still alive in my body. With lots of prayer and bed rest, we made it to 3 weeks before the due date. My body was weakening him and his heart was stopping, the doctors induced. Initially, he struggled to release himself from the attacks. He wrestled with the disease that I wrestle with. He fought to ensure he had a place in this world and by the end, a wonderful, easy, amazing delivery came. All seemed well. The warnings that had come, quickly disappeared upon looking at our new bundle of joy. No deformities. No loss. No more struggle.

Happy. Growing, yet unable to use his muscles. Growing, yet unable to support himself. No lifting of the head. No sitting up on his own. No crawling. No walking. No milestones to mark. Lots more prayer and doctor visits.

2 years of physical therapy and our youngest could walk. Hallejuah! Another year and a half of leg braces to help support this newfound, yet delayed skill. He had a smile on throughout it all. Still, concerns of a deeper, more lingering problem held on. Whispers from the physical therapist. Whispers from the neurologist. All wondering what had caused the hypotonia (no muscle tone). Awkward mentions of cerebral palsy floated across lips and I struggled to see that when we had a happy, healthy WALKING toddler in front of us. More warnings to watch for signs around the age of 5. Will he become clumsy? Will the muscle tone he'd worked so hard for go away? So, we watched and waited, praying the whole time that God's will would be fulfilled, whatever that looked like.

5, 6, 7 years old. No signs of faltering muscles or regression and we are thankful. Yet, other signs appear. Little concerns here and there. New concerns. 8 years old and it is time to draw back the curtain to see if anything is going on inside that maybe we can't see on the outside. We arrive to today. MRI. EEG. A new neurologist wanting to pick up where the other doctors left off. And we are thankful. Perhaps it is nothing. Perhaps all is still well - on the inside as it seems on the outside. We are prayerful that all is well. We are prayerful that His will still remains our focus. No matter the outcome. No matter what. We are humbled each and every time we face health issues (and it seems like that's a lot!) because we are reminded that we are not in control. We are very much out of control. So, we must rely on the One who is.

4 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

We named our son Jacob because we wanted our son to be bold and have the tenacity to wrestle with God when he has doubts, fears or to stick it out to receive a blessing. As we look over his past 8 years, I'm struck at how fitting his name is.