Moving Forward


Looking back makes it impossible to effectively move forward.

As our young sons enthusiastically ran out the front door to meet their grandparents, grandpa said, “I’m going to get you!” and took off running toward them. Michael quickly changed directions to run away. When he looked back to see how close grandpa was, he ran smack into a rather large tree. He hit the tree so hard that he fell backwards onto the ground and (I’m told) lost consciousness. Looking back made it impossible for Michael to safely move forward.

Another time, as we were hiking in the woods, our oldest son Steven turned around to tell us something as he continued to walk backward. As he went to turn back around, he hit the side of his head on a tree at the side of the path. Looking back had made it impossible for him to see the path ahead.

Jesus told his disciples: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

In order to ensure his plow would make a straight line, a farmer would fix his eyes on a point in the distance and aim for it. If he took his eyes off that point, his plow would begin to veer off course. A distracted farmer would have a field full of crooked rows. If he wanted the job done right, he kept his eyes pointed straight ahead and aimed for that fixed point.

In order for us to be effective workers in God’s kingdom, we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He is our fixed reference point. If we look back (or around) at our problems, our lives and work will veer off course. We might even run into a few trees!

As we begin to think about making New Year’s Resolutions, we need to look to Jesus for direction. While it is okay to look around (and, yes, even back) in order to evaluate the last year and make plans for the next. Once we’ve done that, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, begin moving forward, and not look back.

As you walk through this next year, may you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Remember that looking back will make it impossible for you to effectively and safely move forward. May God bless your journey this coming year!

 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2016 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

The ONE Thing God Wants for Christmas

“What’s the ONE thing you would like for Christmas?”  Every year I ask at least one person that question kids, my spouse, sometimes friends… I wonder how God would answer?

I imagine God would say, in his big God voice, “There is one thing…  One thing I want for Christmas more than anything else…”

3……God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

If you have a family, or are part of a family, God has given you a very important task.  He told us what he wants, to ensure that the next generation “knows the truth” about God.  He wants all our children to know a God of extravagant grace,  a God overflowing with generosity.

Then He gave us the perfect tool to use to teach those truths…Christmas.

Everything about Christmas tells wondrous stories of God:

  • The way we make our homes beautiful is a picture of how the grace of God takes ordinary lives and makes them beautiful.
  • We wake in the morning to find a room normally empty, miraculously filled with gifts.  It’s a picture of lives once empty, suddenly filled with blessings too numerous to count.
    People all around us, treating one another with kindness, and courtesy, living in peace is a picture of what life is supposed to be like.
  • From the lights, to the decorations, the world filled with music and united in celebration,  everything about Christmas points to God  calling to His creation.

And the ONE most important picture…a child sleeping in a manger reminds us He doesn’t want heaven without us.

YOU are God’s ONE thing…. This Christmas make sure He is your family’s ONE thing too.

 

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

4 Games for Your Gift Exchange

 

Does your family gift exchange need a little excitement? Try one of these 4 ideas to inject some extra holiday fun.

1. Dice Game

Everyone brings 2-3 wrapped gifts (can be white elephant or something nice). the more gifts, the more fun.

All the gifts are piled on the floor in the center of the room.  Guests sit around the gifts in a circle (so they can easily reach the person next to them).  You need a pair of dice for every 4 guests.  Pass out a pair of dice on a small plate for rolling spaced out as evenly as possible.

The game is played in 2 rounds.

ROUND 1: At the same time, those with dice, give them a roll and then pass the plate with the dice to the left.  If you roll doubles you pass the plate to the person on your left and go and grab a gift from the pile.  Place the gift on the floor in front of you but DO NOT OPEN IT!!  The play continues until all gifts are distributed.

ROUND 2: Set a timer for 5 minutes and start rolling again.  This time, however, each time you roll a double you get up and steal a gift from someone else.  When the timer goes off, the game is over and each person gets to keep the gifts in front of him.  There may be a bit of re-distributing to do, so that everyone gets one or two gifts. Use this as a teaching time about giving and generosity.

Go around the room one person at a time and open the gifts.

 

2. Left- Right Nativity Story

Use a nativity story to make gift giving fun and exciting.  Everyone stands in a circle holding their own gift.  Read the story provided and any time you say “left” – players pass their give to the left, and if you say “right” they pass the gift to the right. Use this story of the nativity (click HERE and print out the story), or find your own Christmas story to read.

 

3. Trading card game – best for groups of 10 or less

Sit in a circle (or around a table). Each person has his/her own gift. Place a deck of cards in the center. Ensure the cards are at least twice the number of players. Take turns drawing a card from the top of the deck and following the rule aligned with the card drawn. Print out the instruction sheet so players will know what to do.

Click HERE for a printable instruction sheet.

 

4. Musical Gifts – best for groups of 20 or less

You will need your phone or other player, loaded with your favorite Christmas music.  Everyone starts in a circle, and you pass one of your gifts round the circle while the music is playing.  Stop the music at a random time and the person with the gift opens it and then leaves the circle. Repeat till the final gifts are won.

 

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

7 Ways to Serve the Lord with Gladness This Christmas

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.”
(Psalm 100 ESV)

Many times throughout scripture we are told to “serve the Lord.” How fitting it is that at this very special time of year we think about serving God. There are many ways, large and small, that we can serve the Lord. We are going to look at just 7 of these as our countdown to Christmas continues.

1. Offer to babysit free of charge.
Many young couples need time. They may need to finish shopping, have a date night, spend some time decompressing from all the busyness of the season. Offer to take their little ones for a few hours as your gift to them. What a great way to show God’s love. You can take time with the kids to do something special (like making cookies) to make memories for them also.

2. Offer rides to the elderly or those who can’t get out themselves.
There are always those who can’t drive but yet would like to go get those last minute gifts or even just go for a ride to see the lights in the neighborhood. This would be a great time to get to know these folks a little better as you fellowship in the car. If you are taking them shopping, give them time to shop. Many don’t have this time to leisurely shop. They always feel like they need to hurry because someone is waiting for them. Give them the gift of time.

3. Hold a door open for someone who is struggling.
Give someone a gift of kindness. We’ve all seen those with walkers or canes trying to get a door open and get through it with their walking aid. Holding a door for them may take you all of 30 seconds to a minute, but it could make a huge difference in their life knowing that someone would take time to help them.

4. Make cookie trays for your neighbors.
This is a great outreach for your neighborhood. Choose 5 or 6 homes around yours to take cookie (or goodies) trays to. As you walk around handing them out, you will have an opportunity to wish them a Merry Christmas and give them the gift of yourself. Don’t forget to wear that smile.

5. Visit a nursing home and/or retirement home.
Many folks in nursing and retirement homes feel very alone this time of year. They just need someone to talk to. Take an afternoon or evening to spend a couple hours visiting and listening. Let them tell you their favorite Christmas memory or story. Give them the gift of friendship.

6. Invite extra people for Christmas dinner.
There are many people that are alone on Christmas. There may be any number of reasons why they are alone. This is a very difficult time of year for them. They struggle and are lonely. Look for one or two that may need that extra gift of belonging. Be sure to include them in the family fun time. They may enjoy playing games with you or in watching a Christmas movie. If you open gifts while they are there be sure to have a little something for them also. It will make a world of difference in their life.

7. Help serve at a Rescue Mission or some other “soup kitchen” type of place.
There are many homeless people on the streets. During the winter it is especially difficult and they are looking for some place warm to get a bite to eat. Offer to help serve food. It will help those serving get a new perspective. We hear so much about “what we want” for Christmas. This will help us focus on what we can give. We have been given so much. Let’s share God’s love and give the gift of warmth.

These are just a few ways that we can share God’s love with others as we serve God this Christmas. We would love to hear some of your ideas also.

May God bless each of you with a very joyous and blessed Christmas season.

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

11 Great Recipes for Christmas

So many Christmas gatherings to get to! Have you ever looked around and wondered what you will bring? Time is short, and you need ideas that will WOW your family and friends! You may even need a little help for dinner tonight. Here are some of our tried and true favorites.

Appetizers

1. Erica’s Crockpot Buttered Mushrooms – from April Smith

What’s not to love about these buttery, spicy mushrooms. Easy to make, easy to eat!  Thanks, Sis for handing over this recipe! Click HERE for the recipe

2. Crab Tartlets (yields 24) – from April Smith

These little bite sized snacks go fast. Mix it up! Swap out the crab meet for chopped ham, or broccoli and cheddar! Click HERE for the recipe

What’s for dinner?

3. Tortellini Soup – from April Smith

This hearty soup is my favorite. Pair it with a crusty bread and a snowy day. Guaranteed to warm your insides. Click HERE for the recipe

4. Ham & Potato Crockpot Casserole – from April Smith

Use up your ham left-overs with this easy crockpot recipe.  Sure to be a hit! Click HERE for the recipe.

5. Easy Meatball Stroganoff – from April Smith

Who doesn’t love noodles in a creamy stroganoff sauce, especially when it is made in the crockpot with only 4 ingredients (plus noodles)?  Click HERE for the recipe.

How About Breakfast

6. Monkey Bread – from April Smith

Your kids will LOVE shaking the cinnamon sugar mix onto biscuits, especially when this holiday favorite comes out of the oven! Click HERE for the recipe.

Desserts & Treats

7. Grandma’s Rice Pudding – from Cindy Snyder

This family favorite was made by my Grandma every Christmas. It was one of those dishes you just have to have. Just to make it special she always had lingonberries on hand to top it off. Click HERE for the recipe.

8. Low Carb Chocolate Mousse Tarts – from April Smith

These bite sized gems can be made with ANY flavor of pudding!  Add a surprise like an almond or strawberry on top. Click HERE for the recipe.

9. Trisha’s HOMEMADE Caramels – from Trisha Knaul

I LOVE Trisha’s caramels.  Try them out for a treat your whole family will love too! Click HERE for the recipe.

10. Divinity – from Bev Pomering

Even though my mom has been gone for eight years now, she feels near when we cook her favorite recipes.  Here is one. Click HERE for the recipe.

11. Molasses Drop Cookies- from Bev Pomering

 Click HERE for the recipe.

 

What are some of your favorite holiday recipes?

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

14 Free or Seriously Inexpensive Gift Ideas

Are you struggling to find that gift they won’t already have or is a bit more special than the mass produced box set? Here is list of ideas to spark your creativity on that perfect gift for that someone special.

1. Time
Is there any more cherished gift than spending time with your loved one? Write up a gift certificate that offers a date, a dinner, a night of watching the grandkids, or any other activity you know they’ll love. The most important part is making sure they redeem the coupon. Don’t let time get away.

2. Family Heirlooms
Give the gift that keeps on giving. Don’t wait until you’re gone to pass along the heirlooms. This way you can have the blessing of watching them cherish your gifts.

3. Memory Book
Create a memory book full of stories and pictures. If you’re not a crafter and able to do it yourself, go online! There are a lot of companies out there that you can upload pictures and write captions that share the great memory you have of your loved one.

4. Re-gifting isn’t Rude
I call it Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Is there a gift card you were given that you’ll never use? Or a scarf that isn’t your color? Or yet another throw blanket that you don’t need? Don’t waste them–re-gift them. Obviously not to the same person but hey, if you do by accident, be honest and just say that you loved their thoughtfulness and you’re passing it along.

5. Movie Nights
Redbox offers promo codes online that can be bought. Then you can add a cute gift card. (Click here for one I’ve made.)

6. Books
Gently used books you’ve already read make great gifts to your beloved bookworms. Write a personal note on the inside cover, wrap it in simple brown paper with a classic solid color ribbon. Perfection!

7. Compilation CDs
Create a CD of songs that remind you of that person. (Make sure you do so legally. Don’t be a pirate!) They will love the individual attention to detail and you’ll have fun reminiscing as you listen to the music. OR you can go completely modern and make them a personalized playlist. 

8. Ornaments
Make a gift that will become a cherished heirloom. And again, if you’re not a creative crafter, head to the craft store and buy an inexpensive kit that practically makes itself. You can find endless ideas online by searching craft sights, magazines, or Pinterest.

9. Re-purpose Relics
I LOVE this! I do this as often as I can. I absolutely love the idea of not letting something be thrown away by making it into something new. I’ve done this by making a necklace out of a belt buckle or old watch band; making a Christmas tree from used ribbons, inexpensive picks and a tomato cage, or making a blanket from old sweaters or t-shirts. I could go on and on, but to save space I suggest going to Pinterest and searching re-purposed crafts. You’’ll get thousands of options.

10. Canvas Art
You don’t have to keep your favorite photo closed up in a photo album or locked up in a electronic file. There are a plethora of companies out there offering great options on photo canvas boards that start under $5.00. Now that’s a great deal!

11. Mason Jars
Mason jar gifts aren’t just cookies anymore. Although sharing Grandma’s favorite cookie mix recipe isn’t a bad idea, there are endless options that include food, candles, and storage ideas. You can make a soup mix, dip mix, trail mix, or candied nuts. Or how about a Spa Jar filled with mini soaps, scrubby mitt, mask, bath bomb, and a candle? Once again, the internet is your friend here.

12. Handwriting Jewelry
Have you saved greeting cards from your loved one who’s passed on? Or you could even use your own handwriting. Jewelry companies can take a 1-4 word handwritten word or phrase and create a beautiful bracelet or necklace which becomes a cherished heirloom. (I’ve even seen fingerprints and paw prints used. Too cute!!)

13. Scavenger Hunt
Here’s a fun idea that can be done with kids and/or adults. There are so many ideas that can be done on a number of different scales. For kids, write a list of items pertaining to Christmas and hide gifts around the house that match or maybe at each spot give them a clue to the next. For teens, make a list of Christmas related items (bow, ribbon, poinsettia, gold coin, candy, angel, Christmas tree, nativity scene, candle, etc…) and have them walk or drive through town looking for the items. They can either take pictures (or if the owner wants to give the items, that works too), and the team that returns with the completed list first wins! A small prize for the winners could be candy bars, movie tickets, or online gaming points. For romantic adults, give them a written clue to find a variety of gifts hidden around the house. For example: Roses are red, Violets are blue, This item is as sweet as your love for me. You’ll find it hidden where you would find bubbles. (It’s a box of chocolates hidden in the bathtub.) Or how about: This item is sharp yet soft. Strong but has no strength. It’s considered old but has no grey hairs. You’ll find it in the kitchen. (It’s a block of Aged Sharp Cheddar Cheese) LOL! Have fun with this one. It’s a great game to play with the young and the old.

14. Donations in Honor of a Loved One
Give a donation in the name of your loved one or maybe in the name of the loved on who passed on. This is a great idea for teachers, co-workers, supervisors, pastors, or just about anyone.

Share it!
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s from the heart, and it will be received with love and joy. Have fun creating memories that will last forever. Send us pictures of what you came up with, and we’ll post them on our Pinterest page.

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

18 Activities for Christmas

Looking for ideas for things to do with your family or a group of friends? Look no further.
Here are 18 activities to help you have fun, create memories, and bless others.
(Download the list here.)

 

1. Participate in a daily Bible Reading.

The most important thing you can do this Christmas is to keep your focus on Jesus during the busy holiday season. To help you do that, we created 25 Bible Readings for Christmas. If you haven’t started the readings yet, don’t worry. You can start any time by starting on the reading for today or by reading more than one each day until you are caught up. The important thing is to spend time in God’s Word refocusing your attention on Jesus.

 

2. Work Christmas puzzles.

One of my fondest memories from childhood comes from the inevitable snow day—a day during our Midwest winter when school closed because of vast amounts of snow. Every year on that first snow day, my mom would magically produce a brand new jigsaw puzzle. Then she would join my sisters and me for an afternoon with that puzzle. I instituted the same tradition with my children.

Our tradition has a little different twist than the one my mom began. Somewhere along the line, my family acquired a large snowman shaped jigsaw puzzle. Within the body of that snowman is a scene full of woodland animals in caps, coats, scarves, and mittens. Those appropriately clad animals are enjoying a snow day complete with sledding, skiing, skating, and snowball fights. This puzzle even has theme-shaped pieces like candy canes, Christmas trees, and snowmen. It has become a tradition in our house to work that puzzle every winter, usually on a snowy day.

This season, find a Christmas-themed jigsaw and spend an evening (or whole day) putting it together with your family or a group of friends. If you are not into jigsaw puzzles, find some puzzles to download. The internet is full of sites with crosswords, word searches, and other puzzles. You can find some here (free membership required) and here and here. For more fun add some Mad Libs like these. Of course, it will increase the fun if you include hot chocolate and popcorn, order pizza or put soup (like one of these) in the crock-pot early in the day!

 

3. Attend a Christmas program.

There always seems to be some program, or multiple programs, we have to attend because some family member is involved. Those are a special part of your family’s life and well worth your time. However, why not attend a Christmas program that no one you know is in? It could be a new holiday movie at the theater, a musical (Elf is playing close to us this season), The Nutcracker, or a special production at a local church. Attending a Christmas program when no one in your family is involved allows every member of the family or you and a group of friends to relax and enjoy the shared experience. Consider getting dressed up and going out for dinner, too.

 

4. Act out the Christmas story.

Bringing the Christmas story to life is a wonderful way to focus your collective attention on the reason we celebrate this season. This can be as simple or complicated as you desire. Unless you are really into memory work, everyone can read their part directly from the Bible (Suggested scenes: Luke 1:5-25, Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:39-56, Luke 1:57-89, Luke 2:1-21, Luke 2:22-40). Assign parts (including a narrator), assemble costumes and props, grab your Bibles, and start a new tradition.

Consider inviting another family or a group of special friends to join you and prepare a simple meal to kick off your evening. A simple Israeli meal like Mary and Joseph would have eaten might include: lentil stew (like ours), yogurt, pitas, almonds, and dates. Although it is doubtful Mary and Joseph had dessert, if you must include it, try finding baklava or making your own (recipe here and here).

 

5. Make Christmas ornaments.

I always enjoyed making ornaments. They were a fun way to connect with my children or with other ladies. When they were made with my children, they were also something to pass on as they married and needed ornaments for their first Christmas tree. You can find options for all skill levels here and here. Consider having a snack that won’t make fingers messy, like Grinch Kabobs or  Chocolate Rice Krispie Gingerbread Men Pops or substitute Popsicle sticks for the peppermint sticks in this brownie Christmas tree recipe.

 

6. Make Christmas decorating a group event.

Decorate your home and tree with the help of others. For years I assembled our artificial tree, strung the lights and tinsel, hung the fragile ornaments, and put out all the household decorations (the way I wanted them) before having my kids hang decorations on the bottom half of the tree. Then I would go around and move things until the tree looked the way I wanted it to.

One year I realized my children were not enjoying the experience and had no reason to want to help. Their efforts were not appreciated because I wanted to have the perfect tree. Ever since that realization, we assemble the tree together, and they put the household decorations out. Is it the way I want it to be? Technically, no. But doing it together while playing Christmas music and sipping egg nog has brought many more happy memories than any perfectly decorated tree or home ever could.

Enjoy your family as you transform your home into a Christmas scene. While you are at it, add a new tradition to the experience, i.e. drink eggnog or hot chocolate and listen to Christmas music while decorating (check out 21 Things to Watch, Listen, & Read Your Way To Christmas).

If you find yourself alone this holiday season, invite some friends or nieces and nephews over to decorate together. Include time for everyone to make an ornament to take with them. Have a potluck or order take-out and enjoy the eggnog or hot chocolate mentioned above. Share the joy of the season with someone else.

 

7. Make a nativity set.

Making a nativity set helps to focus attention on the Christ child while creating a keepsake or gift. Make these edible manger treats to enjoy before diving into one of these nativity scene projects.

 

8. Buy socks and deliver them to homeless people or a shelter.

Here is a wonderful article on why you should consider giving socks to the homeless, what type to give, and how to give. If you choose to approach a homeless person on the street, please be smart and safe. This does not mean homeless people are dangerous, but I do recognize that the areas where you will find them may not be. Do NOT go alone. If you are not comfortable meeting strangers like this, don’t let that stop you from giving! You can still buy those precious socks and donate them to your local homeless shelter. Don’t forget to ask if you can pray with them.

 

9. Take a drive and look at Christmas lights.

Pack the family or some of your friends in the car and start driving around and looking at Christmas lights. See if you can find a living nativity in your area and finish with that. While driving around, discuss how you can each be a light for Jesus during the next year. Round out the evening by stopping for dessert or a late dinner. Or, have Crock Pot Apple Cider and popcorn waiting when you get home.

Consider delivering thank you notes to homes that display a nativity. If you do, have everyone sign it. (Remember to hang it on a door or mailbox. It is illegal to put anything in a mailbox that hasn’t been sent via USPS.)

 

10. Read a book.

Spend an evening reading Christmas books with family or friends. Check here for Children’s picture book ideas or here for adult reading or Bev’s list in 21 Things to Watch, Listen, & Read Your Way to Christmas. Serve your favorite snack while everyone is listening or try this one for Honey Almond Snack Mix.

 

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash
11. Pack a gift box for a deployed service member.

Let our dedicated military know you are thinking about them as they serve our country far from home this holiday season (or any time) by sending a care package. There are many organizations you can use to do this. If you would like to explore this and other ways to support our military, check out organizations like Soldiers Angels and Operation We Are Here or this list of programs. Consider blessing a military family in some way this season. Don’t worry if your gift doesn’t make it in time for Christmas. It will be appreciated whenever it arrives.

 

12. Decorate an outdoor tree.

Gather the family or some friends and make animal-friendly ornaments for an outdoor Christmas tree. Find ideas for your wildlife ornaments here, here, and here. Make two batches of popcorn. One to eat. The second without salt or butter to make popcorn strings for the tree. Listen to Christmas music while you work.

 

13. Have a Dollar Store Christmas.

One year when money was especially tight, we gave everyone the assignment of finding a Christmas gift for everyone else. There were just 2 requirements: 1. each gift must cost less than $2, and 2. when the gifts were opened, the giver had to tell why they chose that particular item. Then, we all wrapped our gifts. On Christmas day each gift was opened, and the giver told their reason for the gift.

One of the gifts I received was a bag of clothespins. Not an especially thrilling gift, I admit, but why my son chose that gift (and the note he included) made them special. I always called the pile of laundry on my bed Mount Never-rest (because with 6 people in the house, it was always there waiting to be conquered). The clothespins made him think about all the fun we had (reading books or just talking) while working our way through that pile of laundry. Hearing that was a wonderful gift!

So pick a day to have your Dollar Store Christmas. Drive everyone to the local dollar store (or thrift shop) and have everyone buy a gift for every member of the family or group. Set a limit of $2 per gift. When you get home, wrap the gifts. Order pizza or have a “dollar” meal of mac and cheese (or pull out your crock-pot to try this recipe). Then, sit by the tree and unwrap the dollar store finds. Allow plenty of time for everyone to explain why they chose each gift.

 

14. Make, sign, and address Christmas cards or create a family newsletter.

If you choose to do this, make sure it is a family project and not just your attempt to create the perfect card with a picture of the perfect family on the front. While the final result might indeed look perfect, remember that it is about the shared experience, not the product. Despite the childish scrawl and smudges, let each person sign their own name. Yes, even if there are dozens of cards.

If your children are older, assign everyone the task of writing a paragraph about their year so you can assemble a newsletter. Have them each draw a picture to be included as clip art. The important thing is to have fun and make positive memories.

If you are on your own this year, host a Christmas card party. Invite some friends over and create beautiful cards to send to everyone on your list. Have everyone bring items to use for the cards and their favorite salad or snack to share.

For some card making ideas to get you started, try these or these. Or check out this idea for creating a card making station.

 

15. Have a Christmas movie night.

Have a Christmas movie night with Peppermint Popcorn using this recipe or this one. Find a movie from this list or 21 Things to Watch, Listen, & Read Your Way To Christmas.

 

16. Make Christmas cookies.

My daughter and daughters-in-law love to get together to bake and decorate Christmas sugar cookies. My daughter has also hosted a cookie baking day for her friends. My son’s family creates a gingerbread village. If you enjoy baking and decorating traditional Christmas cookies this is a great way to connect with family or friends. Here are some recipes to try.

Try setting up a place to decorate containers to put the finished cookies in. Deliver them as a family or group. (Include an invitation to your church’s Christmas services.)

 

17. Do a Christmas photo or art challenge.

Try our 12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge or turn the list into an art challenge. If you have older children, give them 2 weeks to take (or create) pictures from the list. Don’t forget to take pictures yourself, and remind everyone a few times during the week. If you have younger children (or just want this to be a family activity), spend a day finding items on the list. Then, let everyone take a picture of it however they want to (yes, a close up is okay). Pick a day to share your pictures while sipping one of these drinks or sharing one of these dips.

 

18. Bless someone.

Give a homeless person a cookie, toiletries, and a small gift card for a place to eat. Take a meal to a shut-in or a family who needs it (look here for ideas). Purchase gift cards to a restaurant or gas station as a gift for someone going through a health crisis. Buy, wrap, and deliver gifts to a family who otherwise would not get anything. Don’t forget to pray with the person who receives your gift.

 

Share it with us!

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what your favorite Christmas activities are in the comments below. Or share your selfies from the 18 activities above!

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

21 Things to Watch, Listen, and Read Your Way to Christmas

Christmastime brings a myriad of memories and the emotions that come with them. My hope is to give you some ideas to create new memories with loved ones, remember the blessed memories of yesteryear, and lighten the pain of those that bring sadness.

7 Things to Watch

  1. A crackling fire; I start with a fire not only because it’s beautiful, relaxing, and warms the chill in the air but because you can do many of the below cuddled up next to the fireplace.
  2. Snow falling; There is something peaceful about watching snow fall. Snow is hated by so many, but I love snow because it gives a clean slate to the day. The world is beautiful when it is crystallized and seems to stand still for just a moment. Can it really be true that each snowflake is unique? (Proverbs 25:13)
  3. A young couple ice skating; I believe it is important to remember the pureness of young love. When we take time to remember what it means to have fun it gives us a renewed vision of who God has placed in our lives (friends, family and strangers alike). (1 Peter 4:8)
  4. Kids playing in the snow; Playing in the snow is still one of my favorite activities to do. I really do love winter. Watching children play in the snow is such a beautiful reminder of how innocent life begins. (Matthew 18:2-6)
  5. A local elementary school Christmas pageant; even if you don’t have children or grandchildren, go support the kids and teachers for all their hard work. A bonus is, there is always a funny one in the crowd!
  6. Twinkling Christmas lights; So many nights as a child I would lay in front of the Christmas tree with all the lights off and drift off to dreamland. Do you have a tradition of driving around your local town to see everyone’s decorations? Or does a local family, park, or company host a light display that marvels both the young and old?
  7. Christmas movies and TV shows; Last on this list but not meant to be the least of which you should do. Some of my favorites are listed and a couple new ones to watch:

It’s a Wonderful Life
White Christmas
Miracle on 34th Street
Scrooge, A Christmas Carol (1951)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Holiday Inn
The Preacher’s Wife
While You Were Sleeping
The Man Who Invented Christmas
A Christmas Story
Elf
The Santa Clause (series)
Christmas Vacation
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman

7 Things to Listen To

  1. Children’s laughter; Can you not giggle yourself when you hear a child laugh?
  2. Golden Age radio shows; Turn back the time to when families would sit around the radio in the living room and listen to the entertaining dramas. This is a great past time that can be brought back with the technology of today. Look on the internet for great audios of classic shows from the Golden Age. Here is a great resource I found: Christmas Old Time Radio.
  3. The sounds of winter; Wherever you go there are sounds you probably haven’t even realized were going on around you. Have you listened to the sound of the snow beneath you on a bitter cold day? Or the dripping of melting icicles on a warm day? Tell me what sounds you heard when you stopped to listen. (Job 12:7-10)
  4. A young child telling Santa what they want for Christmas; Although Santa is not in the Bible, he has become a big part of the Christmas season. I think that a little make believe is good for all of us. It brings an innocence to the day when life can be down right too serious most of the time.
  5. Carolers; You may not be able to hear a group of carolers roaming your neighborhood but maybe you could bring harmony to a group of shut-ins? Gather a group of friends, family, or co-workers and visit a local nursing home, children’s home, or hospital to bring the sounds of joy to those who can’t get out themselves. (James 1:27)
  6. Stories from elders of their favorite memories and past times; If we don’t ask the generation before us to share their past, then it will be lost for the future. (Deuteronomy 32:7)
  7. And of course, Christmas music! Some of my favorites:

Silent Night
O’ Holy Night
Joy to the World
The First Noel
O Come all Ye Faithful
What Child is This?
Christmas Shoes
(And because I lost my two front teeth in December as a child…)
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

7 Ideas for Reading

And since there are not that many different types of things you can read, I’ll just list some of my suggestions. A great source for more ideas is here. And if you missed the first post in this series, click here to check out Trisha’s post on 25 Bible Readings for Christmas.

  1. Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  2. The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
  3. Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis
  4. An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu
  5. Unwrapping the Names of Christmas by Ashiritah Ciuciu
  6. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolken
  7. Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

And 7 more for the kids (or the kid in you):
1. The Grinch by Dr. Suess
2. Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
3. Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg
4. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
5. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
6. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
7. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

May this list give you ideas on how you can slow down, enjoy time with family and friends, and notice things you haven’t before as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. I wish you the Merriest of Christmas seasons.

 

What are your favorite things to watch, listen to, or read during the Christmas season?

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas series here.