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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The right focus this Christmas

Every year I seem to get in a funk before Thanksgiving.  It starts when everyone shares all their fun family photos online and my heart gets so sad.  I live in Connecticut and my family is in Canada and I always ache for them more this time of year.  I KNOW that I should focus on my blessings but sometimes the sadness creeps in and lingers before I realize it.  

Then I hear something that shakes me and gets me on track again.  
And I remember all that I have.

2 week ago I attended a MOMS group meeting at my church.  An amazing lady named Lisa spoke about Christmas. She has two grown, married boys plus one young son still at home so she has a wonderful perspective.  First she talked about how early in her marriage she and her husband had different ideas of how Christmas should look.  Then she said this line that really stayed with me:

"I was more focused on tradition, than I was on Christmas."  

There are days I long to be back in my hometown doing Christmas the way we always did...
But just like her, I am focusing on the wrong things!
And truth be told, even if I was back in Canada, Christmas isn't like it was.  Grandparents are gone, my grandmother isn't well enough to host a huge crowd of extended family.  Cousins have grown, moved away or go to their in-laws.  So the idea I have in my head would never play out anyway!  And I get myself all sad over what truthfully would never be!!?


Lisa brought up another point I hadn't considered before as she talked about her married sons.  Did you know that when you have grown kids you have to share them with their significant others' families!  *GASP!*  haha... This is so beyond my scope of thinking right now but it helps me cherish the times I have with my small kids and not get caught up in the madness of it all!  At least I know I'll have them here Christmas morning.  But in the same breath, my Christmas' are so kid-centered these days that I could cry at the idea of them not even being with me on Dec.25th!  So alas, the other point she made that stuck with me:
"I was more focused on people than I was on Christmas."

*gulp!*  I know I'm guilty of that.
I need to focus more on Jesus.  You know, the Christ in Christmas! 
The meaning He brings to Christmas will NEVER EVER change!
One day, my kids aren't going to care about me hiding the angel and sharing fun things each morning.

One day, my kids won't even want to be with me because their lives will take them elsewhere.
The ideal that we get in our heads, may never happen!
I may never get that big family gathering I see in Christmas movies.  
The joy of my holiday is not dependent on my children or the rest of my family.

Jesus is the only true source of genuine joy at Christmas.
The simple fact is... Jesus was born, lived the perfect life and died for me.
Heavy, yes.
Old men in robes aren't as fun as Santa and Frosty either.
But it's history and it's important and it's good to reflect on.

Before I became a believer, I wondered why Jesus had to be born as a baby, grow up and die for us.  Why did He have to die for our sins?  I hated the word "sin" because it sounded so religious!  If God made us and we were all imperfect, why couldn't He just love us as we were?  The whole thing didn't make ANY sense to me.

So I started looking for answers.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." ~Matthew 7:7

And the pieces start coming together.

I had to go back to the Old Testament where the Jewish people did annual sacrifices to God to make it right with Him.  There are a bunch of different types of sacrifices but this is a biggie:

"For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." ~Leviticus 17:11

It was the BLOOD that covered their sins.  That's what "atonement" is.  Jesus was the final sacrifice, the new covenant between God and His people and that's why Jesus is called the lamb of God.  Because of Jesus' blood shed, we are made perfect and can be in God's awesome presence.  But first He had to be born, live a perfect life and then die for us.

So why Jesus...
For His blood.  The lamb.
He is our intercessor to God.  Our priest.
He came to live on this earth over 30 years so is also our example.

So this Christmas as I slow down and really focus on the real reason for Christmas, I am again in awe by the big picture.  My Christmas isn't made good by traditions and people; my Christmas is made good because I love the birthday boy with all my heart!  And this is the season to worship Him!

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

God of God light of light
Lo he not the virgin's womb;
Very God begotten not created:
O come let us adore him Christ The Lord.

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, Christ The Lord

See how the shepherds summoned to his cradle,
leaving their flocks, draw nigh with lowly fear
we too will thither hend our joyful footsteps;
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas fun continues - Angela update

I just wanted to share more ideas of things that I'm doing with our angel in case anyone is running out of steam with their little elves or other characters!  As I said in my last post {here}, our angel is sharing good news each morning with our kids.... the goal is simply to make them smile each day!

So here we go with the recent fun:
Day 5 - Lunch with Daddy.  We met up with my husband on his lunch break!  We normally never meet up with him when he's at work all day!
Day 6 - Kids received a box of thin mint chocolates!
Day 7 - Kids got some candy canes.
Day 8 - Christmas coloring pages and puzzles that I printed from the internet.
Day 9 - Game day!  We played games we haven't played together before... Bingo, Skip-Bo and Othello!
Day 10 - We baked cookies!  Angela sat in the drawer with the cookie sheets and Andes chocolate chips!!

Again these ideas are things we probably would be doing and enjoying anyway but it's fun to get Angela to announce them each morning!

I love reading about The Kindness Elves on Facebook and I have some ideas tucked away from there! But if anyone has any ideas of things to do, please let me know!

I'll be back next week with an update!  

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Our Christmas Angel

I am a guest blogger over at OneStopForMom.com and this week I shared about what we do in our home instead of "The Elf on a Shelf".  Click {here} to read that article!  

To expand a bit, I love the idea of looking for the angel because in Luke chapter 2, it says:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

An angel brought the shepherds good news and in our home, little Angela is bringing little "messages of joy" to the kids each day!  {I used to simply hide her but am changing it up this year as my kids are older!  This is our 4th year doing this!}

So far here's what we've done...
Day 1 - She was found with the chocolate Advent calendars.
Day 2 - She surprised the kids with a playdate at McDonalds!
Day 3 - She announced pancakes for breakfast.
Day 4 - She had some supplies for Christmas crafts!
There are all pretty simple ideas but so far the kids are really enjoying it!

We'd be doing these things anyway, but it just makes the presentation a little more fun!  {Coming up later this month... baking and movie night!}  

I have been enjoying setting her up each night with a little bible verse from a website I found online with free printables.  Ironically the blog site is called "Happy Home Fairy"!  haha!

If you want to follow Angela's short December journey, I am sharing the photos on Instagram {here}.  Hope to see you over there!

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Free craft materials!

In the spirit of all things crafty, I decided to start saving random little things like bottle tops, tags on the bread and even those little plastic seals on milk for my kids to use. Nothing better than FREE craft materials, right?!

My 4-year old is obsessed with tape so I gave him a fresh roll, along with the odds and ends I'd been collecting.  I also put a bunch of other crafty things out for him like stamps, bingo dabbers, stickers and markers.

Kept him busy for a really, really long time!

It was also a good lesson on reduce, reuse, recycle!  

Here's his creation.  He said it was a town.  I think he was inspired by the map on the sticky note!

Vienna {9yo} made Rapunzel in a tower.  I love how she used a bread tie for the window, an elastic as hair and twist ties as the vines!  She is soooo creative!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So instead of tossing things in the trash or recycling, consider saving them in a plastic bin for craft time!   

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A tip for sealing those Christmas cards!

I love sending out Christmas cards with our annual "Newman News" newsletter and mine will go out December 1st!  Woot woot!

My least favorite part of the whole process is sealing the envelopes!  Can you believe that years ago I used to lick them?  Ya, like each and every one!  Ewww!  They taste so gross!!  Then I used glue sticks but worried about getting glue on the newsletter or photo.  So last year I thought of this and wanted to share...

Just use a moistened make-up sponge!  I use a water bottle to get it wet since I have one in my office to clean my rubber stamps.  And since I'm in my office, I spray it over my little garbage can so I don't get anything else wet.

Easy peasy lemon squeezey.  I think this would be great for kids to help with!  Too bad I'm doing mine when my kids are in bed!  D'oh!  I should take my own advice on that last point!

Happy stuffing!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

My thrifty finds!

I had such a good shopping trip the other day at Good Will!  It can be so hit or miss when you go there but man did I score!  I went in looking for a winter coat for one of my kids and came out with all these goodies instead!  {Still gotta find that coat!}

And forgot to take pics of:
an infinity scarf
a belt
boys Levi's pants
boys dress shirt

So to summarize... I got myself 2 scarves and a shirt.
I got my daughter flannel PJs, a GAP pull over fleece, a GAP shirt, GAP scarf, a dress & 2 other shirts.
I got my sons 4 shirts and 3 pair of pants {including those Levi's!}
That's 18 things....
ALL FOR $36!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was so excited because everything with a yellow tag was half off.  Normally, I don't score with that but this trip, holy smokes, I got like 4 or 5 things with the magical color!  THEN at the check out I realized it was Tuesday... military discount day!  AH!  So that was an addiction 20% off!  

I think I skipped to my car!  So exciting!
Just haaad to share!

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

a Beverly Lewis book

I don't read much fiction because honestly when I find a good book, I forget all else, including meal times!  But a friend of mine recently gave me some of her favorite books by three different authors.  I watched Beverly Lewis' movie "The Shunning" on Netflix and enjoyed it, so was excited to read my first book written by her!  

I read The Postcard all day Saturday and thankfully my wonderful husband was home to help with the kids!!!  I curled up on the couch and read for hours, finishing it in one day!  Oh the Amish was a lovely little world to escape to!  I started the sequel but am pacing myself with that one!  LOL!

So if you're looking for a good book in the Christian fiction genre, I definitely recommend this one!!!  And if you live nearby, I'll pass these on to ya when I'm done!

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