Tag Archives: Family

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

No Halfs or Steps About It

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Sister Meets Sister

I met my younger sister Janet when I was 17.

I remember being nervous as I got out of the car and looked up at this beautiful, vivacious 15 year old. What do you say in such an auspicious meeting? Would there be tears or resentment? Would we even like each other?

Janet and me in our first meeting.

I think I said “Hi.”

She didn’t skip a beat. “Hi! Ooh, I like your nail color!”

I looked down at my purple frosted toe nails. Then I noticed her nail color in a similar hue. “I like yours, too.”

We both smiled. We hugged. We visited for hours.

I don’t remember everything we talked about that day, but we agreed we wanted to be in each other’s lives. I was happy to have another sister, and—as it turns out—Janet had always wanted an older sister. (Go figure!)

Thankfully, someone took photos of our visit that day. It’s amazing to see us standing the same way, sitting the same way, and laughing the same way. There was simply no denying that we were sisters.

 

Mom Meets Sister

Janet and I share the same father but have different mothers. And though my mother is full of grace, accepting your ex’s daughter into your family is a bit of a stretch for anyone. Would Mom be okay with me hanging out with Janet? Would it be best to not talk about Janet in front of Mom? I was in uncharted territory, and there didn’t seem to be any good answers.

Not long after I met Janet, we were all together at some sort of family function. I can’t even remember what the occasion was, but I do remember the outcome: Mom turned to me and, with some emotion in her voice, said of Janet, “How could I not love her? She reminds me so much of you.”

My mother’s compassion and love for me is not limited to me alone; it extends to those I love. From the day Mom opened her arms to Janet, our entire family has embraced her, and now we welcome her husband and children (which makes me an aunt!). We also welcome other relatives who aren’t really related to us at all, from the families of in-laws and step-parents to just great friends. That’s because Mom has set a standard that the rest of our family follows. We don’t say “half-sister” or “step-father;” we’re just family, no halfs or steps about it.

 

Redeemed Meets Redeemer

Acceptance—true acceptance, filled with love and genuine affection—is a hard thing to find. It makes me think of the time I rededicated my life to the Lord.

I imagine the day my spirit stood before God, the darkness of my sins and rebellion replaced with the brightness of the Holy Spirit in me and the robe of righteousness covering me. I imagine the Father turning to the Son and saying, with great emotion, “How could I not love her? She reminds me so much of You.”

That’s how salvation works. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice, we are made alive. And as we live for God, His brightness in us testifies to others that we are His. There’s simply no denying our relationship with Him.

As if that weren’t enough, God then welcomes us into His family, not as interlopers—not as “the girl who doesn’t belong” or “the guy who doesn’t deserve to be here”—but as full-fledged members of God’s eternal, holy family.

We are more than redeemed; we are accepted, and we are loved!

Have you accepted Jesus into your heart? Then rejoice that you belong in God’s eternal family…no halfs or steps about it!

 

[Click to Tweet: You’re in God’s eternal family…no halfs or steps about it!]

Don’t Mess with Mama!

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While visiting over Easter, my family began to commiserate over funny stories. All of them garnered a laugh, but the one about Mama and the Jehovah’s Witnesses took the cake. In fact, it’s so funny that I decided to share it here with you. Besides, encouragement isn’t always a lofty saying or even a Scripture reference; sometimes, it’s just a good laugh.


 

When I was a teenager, our family lived in a big neighborhood. It was really nice, but it often attracted solicitors, from the Schwan’s truck to Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW). Now, Mom wasn’t opposed to a Schwan’s frozen pizza every now and then, but she was not about to convert to JW—which should have been obvious given that the following Scripture was painted above our door post:

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b NAS).

The guys from the local JW must have had us on their list, though, because they kept coming by the house on Saturday mornings. Each time, Mom pointed to the Scripture above the door as she declined their offer, nicely but firmly.

One Saturday morning, she answered the door, and the same two men from the JW started in again with their spiel. But this time, they began to move closer and closer to her. Mom knew these guys were persistent, but they had never been aggressive.

Suddenly, one of them pointed to the ground behind him and said, “Um, Ma’am, there’s a snake trying to get in your house!” Sure enough, a black snake had curled up next to a pot in the portico, trying to avoid the hot summer sun. Only now it was pinning the JWs against Mom and the front door—and it was obvious the guys would rather barge through the door than walk around that snake!

Now totally frustrated with the JWs and the snake, Mom walked right through the two men, bent down, picked up the snake, walked across the driveway, and threw the snake into the yard, all the while explaining, “I just can’t keep these snakes from coming up to the door!”

When Mom turned back around, she realized that the JWs’ van was parked in our driveway—and that it was full of men, all with their mouths wide open!

The two guys at the door made an excuse and left in a hurry. We always wondered what they said to their friends in the van about the crazy woman who threw snakes at them. I guess they crossed us off their list as holy rollers or something, though, because they never came back to our house.

As for the snakes…it wouldn’t be the last time Mom would have to move an ornery one from our house. But I guess those tales are for another time.

In searching for meaning in this silly story, I can think of two important lessons we should all know and follow:

1. No means no; and
2. Don’t mess with Mama.


Mother’s Day is 5/13/18. If you have funny stories involving your Mom (and who doesn’t?), consider writing them down and sharing them with family over a Mother’s Day lunch. Everyone will get a good laugh, and you’ll help ensure those funny stories aren’t lost to time.