Tuesday, December 22, 2015

5 things at Christmas

During this time of the year, I struggle to remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.
Why do we celebrate Christmas? Why is this season so magical? What lessons do I want to pass on to my children?

There is no Christmas in Ukraine, at least Yana and Alex never heard of it. Their experiences are made up of the few American movies they have watched.

So many questions led up to this season...and with Christmas less than a week away the excitement stirs with in them and the questions flow.

"Do you really get a Christmas Tree?"
"You get presents?"
"They go under the tree?"
"What kind of presents?"
"Who is Santa Claus?"
"When do we open the presents"
"Why do we give presents?"

Never did they ask me about Jesus, they had no idea that He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. They didn't know the main thing, but how could they?
What they know is what is in the media, what is portrayed in movies.  

Theses are the 5 things we have learned to do during Christmas to try to keep the main thing, the main thing.

1. Give gifts with meaning.
We limit gifts in our home. Mom and dad give you 4 gifts on Christmas Day. That is it.
  1. Something you WANT
  2. Something you NEED
  3. Something you WEAR
  4. Something you READ
I love the ability to be creative within the categories, for instance this year, Yana is getting perfume for her something she wears. (Don't tell her.)
It also makes "the sock and underwear" gift a little more valued when it's labeled with "something you desperately need."
My kiddos believe in Santa, so he comes too and brings one gift, and fills the stockings with their favorite fruit, and toiletries, like new tooth brushes and fancier shampoo than I would buy.
I know that before we began this tradition, my 6 year old, Lily, was a terror on Christmas. It became less about the gift and more about the mass quantity. Ripping and shredding gifts that were not even hers.
Since implementing this tradition, as a family (me included),  we better understand the idea of gratefulness. It is less about what was on sale and more about the main thing.

2. Truth in the Tinsel.
This is a curriculum by an amazing woman named Amanda White. She has a blog
and sells  her curriculum. Everyday during advent, their is a scripture reading that relates to the story of the birth of Jesus. My kiddos listen for the key word hidden in the scripture ready to scream it out as I share God's word with them. There is a craft that goes with the reading too.  
That being said, sometimes this family skips the craft or reads two days in one day because the kids fell asleep in the car and were put in bed in the clothes they wore all day.
Adam made me an advent calendar last year out of an old pallet. I hang the key words on the calendar for each day (instead of making a chain), and write the scripture reading on the paper so I don't have to look it up.
It takes a little time to set up but after November 30, everything is done and all I do is grab a piece of paper off the clothes pin.

It keeps my entire family in God's word together (almost) every day until Christmas. Helping us all remember why we celebrate this holiday and keeping the main thing, the main thing.

3. GIVE.
Give. Give. Give. This is something we try to do all year. Give financially, give time and give love. I want my kiddos to give with a happy heart. I want them to grow up being loving people that want to serve others. The only way I know how to teach them this, is to do it.
We brought another 5 gifts to church last week for a toy drive and outreach that was happening in Oceanside. I brought Alex and Elliot with me when we picked out the toys.
I put a Disney Cars scooter into the cart, and Alex asked me "why you buy so much?" Looking at the price tag. I tell him it's in the budget and not to worry (Dave Ramsey).
Two families came together to give 3 sisters a Christmas
I would not hesitate to buy that for my own child if they wanted it for Christmas, and, as long as it is budgeted into my "give money" I don't see the harm in buying nice things for kiddos that otherwise would not have it. (The key is budgeting in money to give to people. I know Christmas can be stressful and expensive, but that's another blog.) I think it is important for my kids to see the sacrifices we make to help others.  Sometimes they hear that the toy they want is not in the budget, but the one for the child that needs us is.

4.Make it.
I have a crafty husband who likes to make things. I have an artistic son that is mastering his craft.
That being said, we make a lot of our own decorations.
My Christmas tree is not something
you would find in a magazine or a store. My tree is filled with ornaments made by my kids or things given to me and Adam by our students. It has Adam's grandma's handmade bells made out of yarn and it is filled with pictures from each year.
In addition to the tree, my husband and Alex turned some pallets into the most amazing Christmas display for our neighborhood light contest. We didn't win, but had the most fun watching Veggie Tales and Charlie Brown Christmas in the garage and spending time as a family. Answering questions about the main thing.


5. The kids buy gifts
I do not just give my kids money. They earn it. Each kid has a job daily that they have to complete  to get paid. Pay day is Monday and with their money they are expected to separate it into 3 categories. Give, save and spend. 
For the past few months they have been saving to buy Christmas presents. Alex took charge and combined 5 dollars each to buy dad a gift he wants (that's a lot considering Alex can only make $7 dollars and the girls $3.50 a week). I took the kids to the Dollar Tree for them to buy for one another. The joy of giving to the people they love from their hard earned money.  The excitement of wanting to come home to wrap it immediately and place it under the tree. I am so blessed to see their giving hearts.
I know they are more excited about giving to one another than getting. (At least I hope they are :)

In doing this, I am hoping they see the that the world is so much bigger than them, and we are called to give to others.  To serve others. To keep the main thing, the main thing. 
Our family is far from perfect, but Adam and I have decided to make a road map showing the kids what is most important and then living for that. Keeping the main thing, the main thing this holiday season and all year long.  

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6



  1. Thank you! I love your advent scripture tree. Hmmm…

    (p.s. What did Yana and Alex put in their Christmas Child boxes?)

    1. Hi Kate, we stole the tree from a pottery barn magazine #daveramseyapproved
      I totally responded (but only a week ago) I'll cut and paste it here
      I actually took pictures but lost my phone so...I just have to write it. Alex deflated a nice quality soccer ball and pump, packed super hero band aids, soap and plastic cover to put it in, a camo shirt so it would hide dirt, tooth brush with paste and case to put them in, color pencils with erasers attached and a sharpener... there was some other things too but I can't remember :) Yana packed Uno and a jump rope instead of a soccer ball Elliot packed a baby doll with dark skin and most of the items listed above Lily packed a jump rope and a small stuffed animals and all the things listed. I love there giving hearts.

    2. Thanks, Kim! Sorry I missed your earlier reply. Watching my daughter give, and tell me, "I already have one. I don't need that." is a blessing!

  2. Keeping the focus on the Christ child may be challenging but not impossible. As we know, Jesus is the true reason for this holy Season. I really like your system of the 4 categories. Perfume for Yana - the lovely teenager is growing up too fast. Merry Christmas!