All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part IV)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

It’s happened again. That moment when I realize I’ve not only stopped listening to what my friend is saying, but have been rude enough to interrupt in order to express my own opinion on the matter at hand. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen often. But it occurs more than I’d like to admit. Thus, the fourth gift on my Christmas Wish List is the ability to listen better.

I want to see people as Christ sees them, and I want them to leave my presence feeling as if they matter. One of the simplest ways to do this – though not always the easiest – is to listen. To hear not only when they speak, but the volumes communicated when they remain silent. There is restorative power and edification in being given the opportunity to bare our burdens and joys with someone who is willing to hear us out. I want to be that person.

Unfortunately while I may start off with the intention of listening, open to this person sharing with me, I often end up trying to “fix” the problem with words of advice or wisdom. Perhaps an example of having gone through the same thing so my friend understands I relate. It took me some years to realize this was not always desired. In fact, sometimes it can be a turn-off for the person trying to communicate. They aren’t looking to hear from me. They are looking for a listening ear.

Thankfully I seem to have gracious friends who overlook my fault, or at the very least have never confronted me on the matter. I’ll be completely honest and say it doesn’t bother me when I’ve been interrupted. I understand. However, for the sake of those who are offended and out of a desire to be considerate, I should make an attempt at being self-aware of this issue.

What I’d like to do is approach conversation with the intent to only listen. I want to ask questions, and seek to know the other person better. My desire is to wait upon the Lord and His wisdom when is the right time to speak. Then pray the Lord would give me the right words, in the right moment.

As we gather with friends and family this Christmas season, my desire is that each person I come into contact with would feel the love of Christ, and understand their importance in my life. I pray I would have the heart to listen and the wisdom to speak only in the right moment. May this holiday, and all the days to come be less about what I have to say and more about leading people to God; the only one worth listening to.

Share with us… What are you listening to right now; perhaps music, a podcast, or a Christmas movie running in the background?

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”
~ James 1:19

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part III)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

As I bustle along the busy streets, a man is standing on the corner hoping for a meal. A friend just lost her house to a local fire. Being a single mother, another friend could use a babysitter so she can catch up on housework and take a moment to breathe. Everywhere we turn there is someone who could use a helping hand. You guessed it, the third item on our Christmas Wish List is to see those in need.

Now when we say “see those in need”, we’re not talking about my eyes literally noticing a person. I am generally not that blind. Seeing goes beyond the physical and touches upon the heart. I desire to see people as God sees them. I want to recognize a need when it is presented to me, and have a heart to do something about it.

This can be a challenge to be sure. In the first place, my heart has to open to seeing people. My own critical nature can get in the way, passing judgement on people I don’t even know; making assumptions about why there is a need in the first place. Second, selfishness wants to sweep in telling me I don’t have time – money, experience, ability, etc. – to meet this need. Third, truthfully, previous hurts make me hesitant to help. No one likes being taken advantage of.

It’s funny. I’ve noticed the closer I draw to the Lord, the less these things matter. Instead of allowing these issues to weigh on my mind, I give them over to God and simply ask what He wants me to do. I seek wisdom. In some cases, He leads me to be the lending hand. In others, my part is to pray or lead them to the person who can help. I cannot do all things, but God can help those in need.

God isn’t asking me to overextend myself, but He often will ask me to step out of my comfort zone in order to be useful. As we hustle through this Christmas season, I ask the Lord to give me eyes to see people as He sees them; with love. I desire that He gift me with a heart to serve those in need; this Christmas and always.

We’d like to know… How can we pray for you this season?

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
~ Proverbs 20:35

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part II)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

It’s there on the tip of my tongue. My internal critic has made an appearance, and she has a desire to express her displeasure with this particular moment. The lights are not as grand as last year; the weather is not crisp enough for her seasonal pleasure; and perhaps that cocoa wasn’t quite as rich as she prefers. Following my desire for a grateful heart, the second item on my Christmas Wish List is a tongue which speaks kindness.

I’m all for expressing opinions and sharing ideas. But there comes a point when “expressing myself” has now launched into complaining. I think, if we’re honest with one another, we all know when we’ve crossed this line. Observation becomes finding fault. I am not speaking with the intent of edification, sharing in the moment, or even learning a lesson. I am unhappy with something – or someone – and I am using this as an opportunity to unleash my inner critic.

Outside of the fact that this does literally no good, it is actually causing harm. I am allowing a root of bitterness to have a place in my heart which will bond to other areas of displeasure already allowed to find a foothold, and before I know it I am a sharp-tongued mama who has nothing pleasant to say. Speaking of this mom, what is this teaching my children? If I am being critical, my children will mimic this trait and develop into adults who have formed this bad habit.

Often it is not what we say, but how we say it. Thus I might point out that the hot cocoa could use a tad more chocolate, but it in a manner which expresses thanks for what I have been given while playfully addressing my addiction to the cocoa bean. And in those moments when there is absolutely no way to make what I feel like saying palatable for other people’s ears, this is the perfect moment to say a prayer and ask the Lord to minister to the condition of my heart.

As we move quickly through this Christmas season, my desire is to not only be grateful for what I have, but to purposefully choose kindness. I want my tone to be kind, my words to be sweet, and the intention of my heart pure. While we move through the hustle and bustle of the season, these “gifts” will only enhance our celebrations. They also bring the added benefit of remaining with us throughout the year to come as we continue on in our homeschooling and parenting adventures.

We’d like to know… Which does your palate prefer: white, milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate?

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
~ Proverbs 31:26

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All I Want for Christmas Is…

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_Is

As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

There is so much about this season which is wonderful. Cheerful music follows us wherever we go. Sweets and goodies are everywhere. Twinkling lights and trees are magical. Family comes together, and friends make a point of reconnecting. But, let’s face it, underneath all the glamour and sparkle lies a subtle message. You need this to be happy. You must have this to make Christmas complete. How can we call this Christmas if we aren’t participating in said activity? While none of these things are wrong, I want to be careful that my desire to have does not outweigh a heart of thanks for what is already received. This Christmas, the first item on my wish list is simply a grateful heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s not magical because of the multitude of reasons listed above or the many I could have overwhelmed you with. Christmas is a miracle because of why we celebrate. The birth of our Savior. If we sift through all the shimmer floating on top and get to the gem inside, there lies our reason for the season. Jesus Christ. When I put aside what I see, hear, and smell – lovely as they might be – and focus on the real value of Christmas, I cannot help but be grateful. I am so loved by the Creator of the world that He sent His Son. I am cared for, redeemed, and have a place in heaven. I have been given health, family, friends, and a home. There is much to be thankful for.

Perhaps you might be thinking, “Of course you can be content with gratefulness, Cristina. I’ve seen your Instagram posts, after all. You can’t possibly know what I’m going through.” Oh, my friend, hear me out. While I do not know the details, I truly understand. My mother struggled as the only provider and single parent for years. Some Christmases the only reason we had a tree is because one was given; our presents were cute pencils and pads of paper. Even as an adult there have been years when the Dollar Tree has been my best friend and putting a roof over our children’s heads stretched us to almost breaking. Now, not every year was that rough; true. But one thing I’ve learned, both through my incredible mother and adulthood, is that how we choose to view our circumstances is a matter of the heart. Even when it might have seemed like we had “nothing”, we had everything. We learned to be content and grateful wherever the Lord had us because we had what we needed. Jesus Christ.

This Christmas, while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds, my fondest desire is be filled with gratefulness. My heart is for the Lord to remove anything which prevents me from seeing His beauty and provision; leaving room only for Himself. May my life be overflowing with gratefulness so I may pour out His love to the world around me, continually singing His praise.

We’d like to know… What are you most thankful for this season?

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
~ Philippians 4:11-13

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Write Your Own Story

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“I want to do something splendid…
Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…
I think I shall write books.”
― Louisa May Alcott

What’s in a name? Think of your favorite author. Just hearing their name conjures vivid mental images of stories read, lessons learned, and creativity inspired. If they’ve written long enough and well enough, their name becomes their brand and, often, sells before the book can hit the market. A name is a powerful thing.

Our third, and final, book recommendation for this season is not a book at all. It’s the idea of a book. A bare book! Pages of empty space waiting to be filled. Hard back, soft; made for little hands to explore.

Hard-covered books filled with blank pages, bare books are available in several sizes. They come with covers in ready-to-be-colored designs or with a blank cover for our own creativity. Have a youngster who isn’t quite ready for paper yet? They have board books, too! For those of us who haven’t mastered the writing process, helpful line guides are available for purchase.

Over the years our children have completed dozens of bare books. We keep a shelf in the study just for their creations. Our collection is quite eclectic. We’ve covered everything from fashion designs to scientific inventions to fictional stories. Oh, the memories!

Christmas is almost upon us. Before the season ends, let’s take a moment to write our own story. Nab a bare book and create a holiday treat for the kids to enjoy on Christmas morning, or whenever. The possibilities are endless.

🎄Time to Chime In: You’ve set about writing a book, will it be fiction or non?

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The Radiance of the Glory of God

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

~ Hebrews 1:3

What must it be like, being so holy that even looking upon your face would mean death? Being unholy creatures, the radiance of the glory of God is truly remarkable. God is beyond anything we could possibly imagine.

Devotion – In Exodus 33, Moses asked God if he could see His face. The Lord replied that He would go before His people; He would allow Moses to see his goodness, but to look upon the face of God would have meant death. Here in Hebrews, we are reminded that Christ is the radiance of the glory of God; He is the brilliant ‘light’ which reflects all that is Godly.

“There is surrounding God a glorious brilliance. The glory of God so bright that man cannot perceive it. Brilliant to see; a light unapproachable by man we are told, this shining forth of God. In heaven we’re not going to need any light of the sun or the moon, for the Lamb shall be the light. The glory, the outshining of God, through Jesus Christ will light up heaven. There’ll just be a glow about everything. Everything will just be glowing as you get there. Glowing with the presence of God, the Shekinah of God that lit the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle in the Old Testament.”

– Chuck Smith, C2000 Series on Hebrews 1-2

Activity – To better help our children understand the radiance of Christ, now would be the perfect time to do a mini-study on the sun and light! How does light work and how do objects reflect that brilliance? As Christians this would also be a good opportunity to discuss how we are to reflect the glory of God. While we are not perfect ‘mirrors’ of His love and goodness, we can shine for His glory and reflect a glimmer of His essence to the world.

For hands-on application, order Sun Paper and make imprints! (Bringing the children back to our verse in Hebrews.) Have the children pick any object which light cannot penetrate, place it on your sun paper, and watch the fun begin.

Prayer – Father in Heaven, Your glory is beyond anything we could imagine. We long to be in Your presence daily, and have Yourself made known to us. Be with us now and always. Help us to shine for You, in a world desperately in need of Light. Amen

🎄Time to Chime In: Where has the Lord asked you to shine His light this Christmas?

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Angelina Ballerina’s Christmas Crafts

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“Here are some ideas for holiday baking and crafts for you to do with a parent… don’t worry if yours looks different – the memory of doing something together is what makes each activity special.
~ Angelina

What’s in a name? Just saying the name “Angelina Ballerina” conjures images of little girls in tutus prancing around the dance studio and books littering our living room floors. Our girls were massive fans of the book series, the mouse herself, and all things ballet.

Our second book recommendation in the ‘What’s In a Name‘ series is Angelina Ballerina’s Christmas Crafts. If you, or your children, have enjoyed the traditional series, we know you’ll want to read this book as well. Angelina_Ballerina's_Christmas_Crafts

Twenty-five crafts and baking activities await the family. (One for each day of December ’till Christmas!) Each activity is complete with step-by-step instructions, a photo of what the finished product should look like, and adorable quotes from Angelina herself.

A few of our favorites are the Soap Snowmouse, the Snow Palace, Shining Star Ornaments, and Sweet Spice Ornaments. There are so many great activities to choose from. Following along with one activity per day is the perfect way to make sure none get missed.

Christmas might be almost upon us, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this book. Find a copy and let the fun begin. Don’t forget! Join us each Friday during our ‘What’s In a Name’ series as we review favorite Christmas tales!

🎄Time to Chime In: Name your favorite Christmas craft!

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The Light of the World

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless.

Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
~ John 8:12

I dislike the dark. I don’t like going into any area where I can’t see what’s in front of me. When light isn’t possible, I need someone to hold my hand and lead me to our intended destination or I’ll go running through the darkness in an attempt to find light with no clue of where I’m actually going.

I find it comforting that here, in John, we are given yet another name for Christ: the Light of the world. Christ is our Light. Before we knew Him, we were walking in darkness; not knowing the dangers which lurked around us and unable to find our way. With Christ in our lives, we are now able to see the path clearly laid before us. We are able to walk in Him, having no fear of what lies ahead.

The Light of the World

Discussion – Christmas is the perfect opportunity to share this name with our children. Lights surround us no matter where we go. In our home, we not only put lights on our tree, but in our children’s rooms as well. We surround them with warm, comforting light which brings joy to their hearts.

Activity – During Christmas, let’s make memories by visiting Christmas lights, hanging some of our own, or perhaps lighting a few candles. If we want to be really crafty, we might consider making our own!

To add flair to our candles, we can decoupage them with Christmas napkins or cover them with epsom salt! Both are very easy to do and a fun activity for the kiddos. If we have mod-lodge on hand (either made or store-bought), we ‘paint’ the candle with mod-lodge and roll the candle in epsom salt. This looks very wintry and has a beautiful affect. To decoupage, we ‘paint’ our candle with mod-lodge and then carefully place cuttings from pretty Christmas napkins onto the candle.

Prayer – Jesus, thank you for being my Light and a Light to my children. Shine in their hearts, revealing Yourself to them. Draw them to You. May we, as parents, be a shining example of Your glory and goodness in their lives. And may You use us to reach the world in Your name. Amen

Let us remember that Christ came into the world to be our Light and to lead us into a restored relationship with God. It is because of Him that we can be a light in the world, sharing the good news of His love and His desire to be their Light as well.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:16

🎄Time to Chime In: What is your favorite scented candle?

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Our Redeemer

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”

~Ephesians 1:7

There’s an old song by singer Crystal Lewis which comes to mind. My Redeemer lives, and in the end He will reign. Today, I want our learning day to focus on the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer and His gracious gift of salvation.

Activity – To help our children better understand the concept of redemption, we’re going discuss making gems out of wrecks.

We’re going to have Pop show us pictures of different types of cars. Some cars will be race cars, others everyday vehicles, and yet more will be wrecks. Now comes the fun part, we’ll take just a minute and think about what kind of car we would be if we had to be a car.

  • (Show a picture of the race car.) Here is a real beauty and it’s fast too. Race cars are the movie stars of the car world, very glamorous and highly visible, although they don’t tend to last very long.
  • (Show a picture of the truck.) Here is one tough vehicle; trucks are the work horses of the car world. Trucks are built to last and they are as strong as an ox. In most cases, trucks don’t give up until the job is done.
  • (Show a picture of the minivan.) Now here is a vehicle we all know. Minivans are common place in the car world, you see them everywhere. These babies are useful vehicles in the car world and are used on a daily basis.

What do all of these cars have in common? All cars get old and eventually break down. Age, accidents and everyday use will wear a car out; sooner or later all cars are destined for the junk yard… (Pause) Unless someone restores them. In some ways, our lives are like the cars we talked about today, just as there are many different types of cars, there are many types of people. Some people are glamorous, some are workers and some are everyday people.

Just as all cars break down, all people share a common problem, which causes us to wear out and eventually die. That problem is called sin. Just as a car can’t fix its own dent or flat tires, we can’t fix the problem of sin. But I have good news! The Bible tells us in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it states “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Jesus will restore our fellowship with God and allow us to live with Him for eternity!

Prayer – Jesus God, our Redeemer, we thank You for Your greatest gift. Thank You for coming to earth as a baby, living a perfect example, and dying in order to restore a righteous relationship with the Father. No matter what this season brings, we ask that we be constantly reminded of the purpose of Your birth, our redemption. Amen

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”

~Psalm 19:14

🎄Time to Chime In: Any car, no limits; which would you want for Christmas?

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I AM

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’”
Exodus 3:13-15, (emphasis mine)

Have you ever tried to put God in a box? It’s downright impossible. Just when you think you might have a glimmer of what He’ll do, He goes and changes things on you. He never heals the same way twice. No problem is ever solved identically. Perhaps this is why God refers to Himself simply as I AM.

Discussion – This verse speaks to me. God is many things, and yet none of those names completely describe who or what He is! He simple is. He is everything good, holy, beautiful, loving, and kind. The list could go on. He is. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing. He is.

While our human nature wishes we could figure out what God is up to, He challenges our notions of who He is and continually shows us more of Himself. He is more than we could imagine, more than we could dream. His fullness is beyond our understanding.

Activity – For today, I wish to focus my children’s attentions towards who God is to them personally. This is not an opportunity for Mom to tell them what God has done for them. Rather, this is a moment for them to reflect on their own hearts and give thanks for His gifts.

To this end we will be making a Christmas Chain! Colorful strips of paper clutter our crafting area, encouraging our children to nab as many as they need. On each slip, we acknowledge all He is and what He has done in our own lives. Our chain will decorate our learning area, a daily Christmas reminder of all the ‘I AM’ statements God has written on our own hearts and minds.

Prayer – Lord, we thank you. Today and always. You are… everything good. Continue to make Yourself known to us. Drawn us closer to You and teach of Your ways. Write Your names upon our hearts, minds, and souls. Cover us, fill us, and overflow us with Your Spirit. Amen

As Popeye would say, “I ams what I am, and that’s all that I ams.” How true of our God. He is what He is. There will never be a perfect explanation of His glory. Human words will never be enough. May God continue to reveal Himself to each of us and bring us closer during this Christmas season.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'”
John 8:58

🎄Time to Chime In: White lights or colored lights on your Christmas tree?

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