When my mom passed away, one thing that meant so much to me were the ornaments she gave me over the years. I wanted my children to have the same gift so, every year, I would intentionally pick out an ornament that reflected a part of their year. Maybe they overcame fear and tried something new, or were brave to ride their bike without training wheels, or lost a beloved pet. Every year we unpack their ornaments one by one telling the story of who they are. Our tree is filled, not just with fun memories, but a prophetic statement of who they are. This is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.
Honoring the Birthday Boy
We often know what our ‘wish list’ includes, but have we asked the birthday boy what He wants? This is a great way to make the true meaning of Christmas come alive for a child. Get a mirror at the craft store and glue a ribbon on the back as a ‘hook.’ Wrap it up in your best wrapping and set it on the tree with a tag that reads, “TO: Jesus!” Share that God told you what His Son wants most of all for His birthday and that you would open His favorite present on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, ask Him as a family, “Jesus, what do You want most for your birthday?” and share what you are hearing. Then open the gift and hold it up to each person closely. Share with them that what the birthday boy wants most for His birthday is the person in the mirror! Each year as we bring out our mirror ornament, we are reminded of the price God paid to give us the GIFT of Himself.
When my children were younger and formulating what Christmas was all about, it was important to me that they got a grasp on the true meaning and not just the presents, food, tree, Santa, etc. I took a Cabbage Patch baby doll, wrapped him in a blue blanket, bought a wooden box and straw from Michael’s, and put together ‘Baby Jesus.’ After we decked the house and trimmed the tree, I sat them down and explained the true meaning of what we are celebrating. I brought out ‘Baby Jesus’ and told the kids that we treat Him with the utmost respect. He is indeed a gift that should be received with thanks, gratitude, appreciation, honor, and respect. They would ask to hold Him, take turns caring for Him, and would often leave their toys and notes by His manger. One year, I even heard one of them go to ‘Baby Jesus’ and ask for forgiveness for being mean. I had no idea that years later this would be their most memorable part. He is still under our tree today!
This is a great write-up from my friend who is an outstanding mother raising solid children. I agree that we cannot force our children to do anything, but we absolutely are called to create a lifestyle where we expect love, respect, and kindness from our children. It is taught, reinforced, and intentionally gone after by parents who value the process of character training.
“During this holiday season: My kids will be required to be warm and loving to all of their relatives, whether they see them often or see them a few times a year. They will be expected to behave, and though I can’t force them to *love* anything, they will be expected to appreciate every friend and family event we attend (hello, 6 Christmases). They will be given the knowledge that they are so lucky to have so many friends and family to celebrate with. They will say thank you and be grateful for every single gift that is given to them, regardless if it’s something they would choose for themselves. They will once again be taught that someone took time out of their busy life to think of them and used their hard-earned money to purchase them something and that – regardless of what is in the present – the act behind getting it is more than enough to be thankful for. As their parent, I will remember this too. Our guests can overstay, overshare, give us advice, come bearing gifts or come just as themselves with no gift at all, tell my girls they are beautiful without bringing up that they are also intelligent and immensely capable of anything they put their minds to – and even if ALL of it is ‘unwanted,’ we will smile and be grateful that we have people who care enough to do so. I keep seeing these posts about kids not being required to show love (which can be shown in more ways than just hugging) to relatives they don’t see often. They don’t have to behave at or love the events they attend. I see posts about not giving parents unwanted advice or warning about guests overstaying their welcome. I see posts about what kinds of gifts are considered acceptable, posts about how we shouldn’t call young girls pretty and should replace it with different words, and all it makes me think is, my goodness (!!). When did all of these things – compliments, gifts, friendly visits, advice, showing love towards a child, family spending time with family… things more often motivated by love than not – become things we need to put so many rules on? My kids will be taught that people show love in different and sometimes funny ways but to always look behind the gesture and see that, more often than not, it is love. As for me and my family, we will give the benefit of the doubt.
Sincerely, The odd mom out?”
Years ago, I asked the kids to go into the back room and act out the Christmas story. I said, “Emma, I want you to be the angel. Hudson, you will be Joseph, Lauren will be Mary, and Ellie will be the shepherd.” I gave them 15 minutes to come up with a skit of the Christmas story. They were so excited to usher me to my seat and get in their places. It was raw and organic but revealed to me just how deeply they had grasped the Christmas story. Use this KEY in parenting by first teaching them about something and then testing out what was inside their heart by asking questions, role-playing, or having them act out the story/principle. It gave me a grid for what I still needed to do after teaching them. We have started a new way of devotions in that each child takes a day and leads the family. I am seeing what is inside of them, as well as the areas I need to go after more in teaching and empowering them. Pull on your kids and put them in situations where they get to reveal what is inside of them.
Are you looking for a gift for a teen girl? I bought a subscription of BRIO magazine (Focus on the Family) for my then 13-year-old twins, and they begged me to renew it the following year. Great magazine for this age group!
Are you looking for a great child gift idea? My kids LOVED the God’s General book series for children. Plant seeds deep of real heroes and what living for the Kingdom looks like.
Have you ever noticed that December is often the busiest time of year? Does it seem ironic that in our attempt to celebrate our Savior, our children get a little lost in the shuffle? If the Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy, then it would make sense that the best gift we could offer back to Him is keeping peace and joy in our homes all month long. The best way to do that is to STAY CONNECTED!! Call a family meeting and come up with 25 creative, yet simple ways to CONNECT. Each day your child wakes up and discovers a new opportunity to connect for that day. Trust me; your child would be happy with it written on a sticky note in crayon. You can simply print this list out, cut it into sections and create a paper chain to be opened daily. If doing something more creative is your thing, go for it, but I urge you to select a creative measure that brings you JOY and where you can remain in the place of PEACE. Each day should be created, planned, and completed as a family. You will be connecting with them as you include, empower and solicit their help. You can manipulate which card they get on which day based on our schedule, but your #1 goal is to CONNECT AS A FAMILY!
Many children are learning the story of Mary during this Christmas season. Continue the teaching by telling them that God chose Mary to carry Jesus in her tummy. She changed the world by carrying Him, even though it wasn’t always easy. Jesus wants US to carry Him in our hands and mouths so that we can deliver His love to others. He wants us to do things with our hands that help and love others. He wants us to use our mouths to tell others how much He loves them, believes in and is for them. When my kids were little, I would park the van and turn around before unbuckling them and remind them, “Okay, guys, we get to see people today. How does Jesus want us to love the people inside this store?” We would create an intentional plan, such as getting the empty cart from someone putting groceries in their car, or holding open a door, or smiling at everyone we saw. It was so much fun. How will you carry Jesus today?
As a family, sit and ask, “Jesus, what do You want for your birthday this year?” You might be surprised to learn what everyone hears. Doing this as a family creates connection, unity, and entering His Presence together. Let’s Ask Jesus!