Category Archives: Family

Merry Christmas

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This year, Robby and I are celebrating Christmas in a different way. We’re not worried about gifts, special dinners, or even traveling to see family. This year, all our focus is on this little guy: our new son, Gordon. At only three weeks old, Gordon isn’t old enough to appreciate Christmas, but he’s made us appreciate it all the more.

As I write this, Gordon is snuggled against me in a wrap. He’s content and quiet, giving me a moment to reflect on the meaning of today, this holy day of Christmas.

Now that I’m a mom, I appreciate the story of Jesus’ birth more than ever. As a young couple who had never had children, Mary and Joseph were given the ultimate gift and responsibility: to raise the very Son of God. But God knew Mary and Joseph, and He knew they could handle the job.

Jesus also knew what He was getting into. He knowingly submitted Himself to the frailty of a newborn baby, completely dependent on Mary and Joseph to care for His every need (and babies have lots of needs!).

As miraculous as the Christmas story is, though, it didn’t end in Bethlehem. God is still entrusting Himself to His people—even you! Just as Mary carried Jesus in her womb, we carry the Holy Spirit in our hearts today.

This Christmas, as you celebrate the birth of our Savior, remember that the same God who was born of a virgin lives within you and wants to work in your life. I encourage you to live out this truth on a daily basis, making sure that your words and actions honor the God within you. And as you share gifts with family and friends today, remember that the True Gift is Jesus, and it’s your great honor and responsibility to share Him with the world.

May you have a wonderful Christmas!

~Robby, Ashley, and Gordon

Christmas Traditions

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In this week’s post, my friend, author Amanda Flinn, shares some great insights with us on how to establish and continue meaningful family traditions for the Christmas season. Be sure to check out Amanda’s encouraging—and often humorous—blog at www.AmandaFlinn.com.


 

I love family traditions.

Especially traditions associated with Christmas.

And recently, I was able to sit down with a few older people in our community and hear stories of their Christmas memories and traditions from long ago. This was such a special moment, not only for them, but for me as well. Hearing about their childhood memories, along with the memories of their parenting years, gave me a sweet opportunity to reflect on my own family, our traditions and the legacy that I hope to pass down to my grandchildren one day.

Depending on your season of life, sometimes you will be the tradition maker and sometimes you’ll be the receiver of the traditions. I have three children at home right now, so I seem to be in the busy stage of tradition making. I love it, but it’s a lot more work than my mom let on. Over the years, my husband and I have used traditions from our own childhood, but we’ve also adopted a few new ones for our kids.

And what we have discovered is that the key to lasting traditions is purpose, joy and fulfillment.

 

Traditions need to have purpose.

Why are you doing it? What’s the point? If it’s to get a great picture for your Instagram account, then great, but know the reason. Traditions were super popular in the Bible. Some we still follow today. Some we have let go of because they no longer serve their purpose. Do you go on long walks after your holiday meal because your purpose is to create healthy lifestyle memories with your children? Perfect. Then get out there and move it.

 

Joy. We all want joy, right?

We sing about it, and talk about it, and I literally have the word hanging all over my house at Christmastime. Why? Because I need the reminder to be joyful. While Christmas is amazing, it can be stressful, and if we are not careful, the joy can be sucked right out of it. So, what brings you joy? What traditions do you have that keep you focused on Jesus and the true joy that He brings? Find out what those are and put them on repeat, ‘cause mama, you’re gonna need ‘em!

 

And finally, fulfillment.

If it’s not filling you up, then stop doing it. For example: If you make a gingerbread house every year, just because you have always made a gingerbread house, but secretly hate making the gingerbread house, then this is the time to put that tradition to rest. Your mom will survive. Your kids will survive. In fact, you may all be better for it.

What’s great about traditions is that they can be adapted through the generations. They can be flipped and switched and moved around until you find some that stick. Here are three that we have in our home. If you love them, try them out for your family, or adapt them as needed. If you don’t, then no worries, but find some of your own and enjoy the journey.

 

Three Presents

In an effort to keep Christmas simple and tie our celebrations back to Jesus, each of our kids get three gifts on Christmas morning, to represent the three gifts that Jesus received at his birth. To make this fun and a little more drawn out, we hide the gifts and leave clues for them to find them around the house. My kids are 5, 11, and 14. They still love this.

 

The Christmas Eve Ornament

Every year on Christmas Eve, my kids get to open a special ornament. The ornament represents something good or memorable that happened to them within the past year. A cross for my son’s baptism, a parasailing chute for overcoming fear on family vacation, or even an old pacifier or special toy that they love. I write their name and year on each ornament and when they move out and start their own families, they will have eighteen ornaments to take with them.

 

The Advent Calendar

About 8 years ago, I made a simple Advent calendar from a mini muffin tin. It was an easy DIY that I found on Pinterest. Inside each little space is a message for the day and a scripture reading. Sometimes the message is a task to do in preparation for Christmas, like “bake cookies for a neighbor” or “wrap presents”. Other days, it’s an activity to do together like “family game night” or “drive around and look at Christmas lights”. Some take two minutes, like “say a prayer for our country” and others take more thought and planning, like “pay for someone’s meal behind you in the drive thru”. The scripture reading each day leads up through the story of Jesus’ birth (also found on Pinterest).

Whatever traditions you have, just make sure that they work for you! Have fun making them, receiving them and finding purpose, joy and fulfillment in them. Praying sweet memories for all of you during this Christmas season.

If you have a special Christmas tradition, we would love to hear about it! Comment down below.

 

~ By Amanda Flinn of www.AmandaFlinn.com

Thanksgiving: Prep Now to Enjoy More and Stress Less

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With Thanksgiving just 10 days away, I wanted to share with you some great tips from friend and author Jann W. Martin. These are sure to help you stress less and enjoy your holiday more. And that’s something to be thankful for!


If you aren’t careful, getting ready for Thanksgiving can be very stressful. It seems like such a huge task! There are so many things to plan and prepare. Take a deep breath. You can do it. But to make things a lot easier—and more enjoyable—I suggest making a plan for what needs to be done and when.

Here’s a simple list to help you get, and stay, on track.

 

Location

  • What room of your home is best suited for your gathering? How should the tables be arranged?
  • What days are free to prepare the house for Thanksgiving? Use those days to start rearranging furniture if necessary.
  • What days will you get table decorations? Do you usually buy a floral piece for the center of the table? Start looking at what your local florist has. Talk with them about what you are looking for, the size, and amount of money you would like to spend.
  • Do a thorough cleaning of the house now. The day before Thanksgiving, just do a quick run through to spiffy things up.

 

Guests

  • How many will be coming? Having a few to a large group can make a difference for you if you let it bother you. Remember that the number is just a number, though; it’s the people gathering that make the difference.
  • Plan activities or crafts for kids. Not only can this help keep little hands busy, but it can help you with table decorations, place cards for the table, etc.

 

Food

  • What do you want at the meal? What are you planning to make? Are you asking guests to bring some dishes? If so, what should they bring? (Ask them now so they have time to prepare.)
  • What days will you be grocery shopping? Look at your recipes and then make a complete list of what you need to buy. Stock up on what you can now.
  • Some dishes can be made a day or two in advance, which can take some of the stress off of you on the big day. Look at your menu and determine when you can start cooking.
  • What time are you planning on dinner to be eaten? Once you know that, you can determine when you’ll need to start cooking that day.
  • Be sure to set your alarm if you need to get up early to prepare certain dishes, like the turkey. The less rushed you are, the more you (and everyone else) will enjoy the day.

 

You (Yes, You!):

  • The day before the big dinner, take a little “me time.”
  • Think through your list of what’s ready and what still needs to be done.
  • Reflect on the things you’re most thankful for. This focus can help you enjoy Thanksgiving more and be a more gracious host—and that’s something to be thankful for!