A “Both/And” Christmas

We open our arms to receive the fullness…

Christmas is both a humble holiday (God becoming a man, the manger, the stable) and a catastrophically extravagant holiday (the multitude of heavenly hosts, the virgin birth, GOD becoming a man!, the powerful King Herod wreaking havoc, the dreams, the rescue, the miraculous star, the astronomers who came with brilliant gifts).

Christmas is both giving (God giving His Son; Mary and Joseph giving their obedience; the wise men giving their gifts; the shepherds giving their worship) and receiving (Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, and all of us undeservedly receiving our Savior, our Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward men).

Christmas is both far (His gift for all the world – for the little girl in Indonesia and the old man in China) and near (His gift for my husband, our daughters, and me).

May we seek the best way to embrace all of Christmas…

the beauty of keeping it humble and holy,

the honor of making it a true celebration!

the peace of receiving spiritual gifts from God,

the brotherly love of receiving physical gifts from others,

and the joy of giving to God and giving to others, both far and near.

May we all keep this blessed holiday in the way our Savior leads us.

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The lights around our house, the lights around our Advent wreath, and the lights in our hearts grow brighter and brighter!

On this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, we will light the candles at our dinner table and enjoy a special meal together, especially savoring warm fresh bread. This day, we celebrate Jesus Coming to Feed the Hungry. We’ll read John 6, the beloved story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

Several years ago, Ryan and I attended our dear friends’ wedding, at which the bride and groom shared communion together. When the groom was handed the loaf of bread, he dug in and tore off the largest chunk of communion bread I ever did see. (Aren’t most of us used to politely pinching off a tiny corner, to make sure there is enough to go around?) Then, he sunk his teeth into it viking style! As if he were famished. As if he had no table manners at all. As if he loved that bread.

I will never forget that image! Oh, to have such a voracious appetite for Christ. No pinching off a smidgen! But embracing the whole, wonderful, consuming power of Christ! Receiving the fullness of His gift to us!

I hope our Fourth Sunday of Advent has us breaking large portions of delicious bread in hand; and more, consuming immeasurable portions of Christ and His grace.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” – Jesus, in John 6:51

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2010 Homemade Christmas

(SPOILER ALERT! If you are a close relative who may receive a homemade Christmas gift from us this year, stop reading now!)

We’ve stocked up on salt and Cream of Tartar to make little containers of Sugar Cookie Play-dough for our friends and relatives this year. We’ll accessorize each tub with a homemade rolling pin and a small cookie cutter.

1. Make Sugar Cookie Play-dough with the BEST RECIPE IN THE WORLD:

1 c. flour

1/2 cup salt

1 T. cooking oil

1 T. cream of tartar

1 c. water

Add lots and lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. (YUMMO.)

(Find extra tips at My Montessori Journey)

2. Score inexpensive plastic containers and cookie cutters (we’re still on the look-out for those).

3. Purchase 1′ dowl rods. Cut into 6-inch rolling pins. Sand corners.

4. Assemble! (Finished product still in the works…)

But, wow. I’m so excited about this project! It promises sensory Christmas fun for all ages!

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Child-Made Christmas Gifts

Every year, the girls and I make some homemade Christmas gifts for close relatives. Grandmoms, grandpops, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I love this tradition because it helps the girls to display their love and affection for family! It is also a wonderful opportunity for them to acquire new skills and ideas. We talk about who-would-like-which-gift the most; we package the gifts just-so; and we look forward to giving them out on Christmas day!

1. When Vivienne was one-year-old, I sat by her side and helped her thread tiny glass beads onto straight pins and stick them into Styrofoam balls until the entire ball was covered in beautiful, shiny colors. I was crazy! (Who was that lady?!) Bless her heart, Vivienne went right along with my typical “My-one-year-old-is-really-23” mentality. Grandmothers have the finished products if you need proof. (I’ve already written apologies to Vivienne in her journal.)

2. I eased up on things the following year when we made the cutest assortment of refrigerator magnets. I love, love, loved this idea. Use your 40% off Michael’s coupon to buy a package of tiny magnets and a set of tiny ornaments (try the miniature nativity scenes!). Plug in your glue gun and go to town. You’ll realize that anything – anything – can be turned into a magnet with a little melted glue. (We made one set with little plastic bows and bazooka chewing gum; another with colorful buttons! So cute.)

3. The year after that, we made cookies-in-a-jar, which I did *not* love. They are more difficult to make than they look and everyone reported that, although the cookies were delicious, they had to pry the brown sugar out with a pitch fork and a blow torch. (Not the Holly Jolly we were going for.) They sure looked cute, though, didn’t they? (Sigh.)

4. Last year, we made Candle Votives, which was an awesome project for the girls. A box of assorted glass globes from the thrift store, some glue + water, old paintbrushes, colorful tissue paper, and a ribbon for flair! Very do-able. Very pretty. Find more detailed instructions here.

5. And this year – well, this year – we’ve got a great idea up our sleeves. You’ll just have to tune in tomorrow for our 2010 homemade Christmas gift! (Unless you are a close relative; in that case, you get one day off from reading my blog!)

Subscribe and follow along…

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Christmas Lesson Plans

I knew the first place to look for Christmas lesson plans:  1+1+1=1.

Carisa makes brilliant unit studies and lesson plans for little people. So, I wasn’t surprised that, this year, we get to enjoy her  10 Days of Christmas Fun and her Nativity Preschool Pack. Lia loved Carisa’s Thanksgiving Pack so much; and she’s just lovin’ the Christmas fun! (I laminate most of what I print from Carisa because it’s so great and I definitely plan to use it in the future.)

So, with no further ado, I send you… to Carisa!

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An Advent Prayer

I keep a copy of Walter Brueggemann’s Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth on my nightstand. He has written exquisite prayers that awaken the bumbling prayers in my own soul that are still looking around for the right words. I’m grateful to prayer-writers who have the gift of thinking well about God, and help the rest of us to speak to Him in words that are otherwise so foreign to our human tongue.

Today, I wanted to share this beloved prayer with you… Perhaps, it is what Advent is really about.

The God who yearns and waits for us

We are strange conundrums of faithfulness and fickleness.

We cleave to you in all the ways that we are able.

We count on you and intend our lives to be lived for you,

and then we find ourselves among your people

who are always seeking elsewhere and otherwise.

So we give thanks that you are the God

who yearns and waits for us,

and that our connection to you is always from your side,

and that it is because of your goodness

that neighter life nor death

nor angels nor principalitites

nor heights nor depths

nor anything in creation

can separate us from you.

We give you thanks for your faithfulness,

so much more durable than ours. Amen.

(written by Walter Brueggemann)

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A New Vivi Show!

Vivienne’s whipping up a family-favorite treat at Raising Homemakers today!

Grab your little ones, and click on over to enjoy.

Here’s the written recipe to what we call Pebble Snacks.

As a bonus, here’s another family favorite that’s simple and quick to make. Saltine Cracker Toffee is a sure crowd-pleaser!

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The Third Sunday of Advent

They’ll twinkle as little eyelids flutter into dreamland.

They’ll remind our sweet little girls that they are beloved.

Tomorrow night, we will hang lights in the girls’ room tomorrow. Wrapping them up and around the rafters; trailing the chord down the wall to the outlet.  As Christmas carols play, and we bring warmth and holiday into a girlie-girl bedroom, I want our daughters to take this week’s light personally.

For this week, we celebrate Jesus Coming to Renew Love

So that we may love Him.

So that we may know He loves us.

So that we may love one another.

If they gain anything from life, this one message is sufficient.

After the lights are glowing, jammies are on, and teeth are brushed, we’ll sit on the edge of their beds and read from 1 John. We’ll read about how God’s love in us stirs our hearts to love Him so deeply that we are able to love Him back! We’re able to love one another, when once we were selfish and lonesome. We’ll talk about what this love means between sisters. How does one sister feel loved? How does the other sister give love? We’ll talk about how we cannot love each other perfectly.. that we must receive God’s forgiveness on behalf of ourselves and one another. We’ll talk about how our hearts are safe and content in the love of our Father, His perfect love, that provides for our love, too.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” 1 John 4: 7 – 21

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Congratulations, Asha Marie!

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When I was a kid, my dad used to jot down clues. White strips of paper with his perfect block letters, led us all over the house until we found the prize: a stick of Wrigley’s Gum. I loved these hunts. Sure, the gum lost its flavor in 30 seconds, but I loved that stick of gum. I still remember unwrapping the thick silver wrapping, and thinking about how it smelled just like my dad’s armoire, where he kept all of his interesting things like his flashlight, mechanical pencils, and, well, his stash of gum. These hunts always felt so special and fun. My dad went out of his way to make that happen.

That’s the memory I was thinking about when I planned last week’s Family Fun Night.

Everything came into place when I spotted Frosty the Snowman on sale at the grocery store. Without the girls noticing, I snagged a copy and hid it at the bottom of the cart under a loaf of bread. They didn’t have a clue!

Until, of course, we got home and I jotted down a stack of hints that would have everyone – Ryan, included – running all the way up to the attic and back again, until finally, they discovered Frosty, waiting with a smiling face.

We piled on the couch and enjoyed that old classic together, the girls laughing at the silly magician and sniffling at the melted Frosty, just like I used to do when I was a girl.

(Ooo, and BONUS: Ryan brought home soft pretzels that he toasted up and slathered with Nutella. FAMILY. FUN. NIGHT. BABY.)

Isn’t it interesting that when we make an event out of an opportune treasure, we can lighten hearts and unify souls? Let’s be on the look-out for more ways to bless our families this week!

Humble or extravagant, melted or not, did you enjoy a special time with your family this week? We’d love to hear about it! Link on up!

Posted in Family Fun Friday! | 7 Comments