Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, November 27, 2009

Show Us Your Life- Christmas Traditions

The month of December is a very full, busy, excitable month for us because...

Not only do we celebrate Christmas festivities...we celebrate these 2 cuties!!

Happy Birthday, Caleb!!

Happy Birthday Isabelle Katie!!

I didn't really realize that we had sooooo many Christmas traditions until I began going through the photos for this post. Our festivities begin right after Thanksgiving- the pic below was taken on our annual Holiday Hike, getting all geared up for the spirit of the season.

Woo Hoo Boys!
Now with our little angel girl!

A few years ago my mother gave me our family's beautiful advent calendar that she made when I was a little girl, and oh how I heart it! Such wonderful memories!
But because we had 3 little boys, and putting the ornament on the calendar can only be done by one little boy each night, I wanted to create something special so that all three could participate in something wondrous and special throughout the season...

Thus was born the tradition of the December Prayer Basket...

We fill the basket with 24 slips of paper, each filled out with a person's name (or groups of persons, like orphans, neighbors, schools, widows, etc.), and each night we gather in the Family Room beside the tree to say a sentence prayer for whoever appears on the piece of paper drawn that night.

It always amazes me how something so seemingly simple can be so deeply moving and inspiring. As a parent, my heart swells with joy watching my children open their hearts to the people around them with their sweet prayers.

Lastly, someone gets to take a chain off the Christmas Chain, our 3rd activity, which we make on Thanksgiving Day with the parade blaring in the background...

...and request which Christmas song we sing that night.

In case you're wondering if we've added a 4th thing because we now have 4 children, no ~ it actually worked out beautifully last year, as Isabelle's loving brothers consistently took turns letting her do one of their activities for the night. Awwwww, so sweet!

This may sound like an awful lot of stuff to keep track of, but honestly, once we're gathered together, it all happens rather quickly. There is something so magical, uplifting and wondrous about sitting together beside the shimmering tree, praying and singing to the Lord. Of course, with busy schedules, there are times when we have to play catch-up, but our hearts are sincere (and the boys keep us on track because they LOVE it all so much!). I find that these three Christmas traditions have helped us to be a stronger and closer family. Year after year, our children tell us that this is their absolute favorite part of Christmas, and that's a very special gift to this mother.

Throughout the month of December we also...
Get together with extended family for an afternoon of baking and decorating cookies

I forgot how green my dining room walls were- ha!
This must have been at least 5 years ago!

Now that the kiddos are older we've begun to make crafts as well

We usually always take an after-dinner walk around our neighborhood with cocoa and flashlights in hand once or twice throughout the month, too. Isabelle is now the only one who rides in the wagon, but there were a few years that all three boys did -wow! Such wonderful memories!

Every year on Caleb's birthday, 13 days before Christmas!, we gather everyone up in the car with "Special" cups (those coffee cups with the plastic lids- it really is the little things, I guess, ha!) of Hot Cocoa and drive all around to see the beautiful lights set out for Christmas.

As for the tree...

Sometimes we walk down the road to a neighbor's tree farm and haul our tree back in the kid's wagon- last year was the first time we had all 4 of our precious kiddos with us, sigh. It felt so good to have Isabelle Kate finally home last Christmas season! And then we always put on the Andy Williams music I grew up listening to and trim the tree together.

Look how little and adorable Caleb is in the next pic! Awww!
When each child was born we purchased a special pewter ornament and had their name and the year engraved on it. These are the first ornaments to get hung on the tree, and each child gets to hang their own ~ here Caleb is carefully hanging up HIS ornament...again..and again... (they are very protective of their special ornaments!)

I think he must be inspecting his hard work!

We had a hard time deciding which year to put on Isabelle's ornament because she was born in 2006, and it says "Baby's First Christmas" but we weren't together until 2008 it is, Baby's First Christmas HOME.

We also love the generous spirit of of St. Nick
We're sure to leave out coffee, cookies, now a protein bar, thank you, boys!, and carrots and apples for Rudolph and his buddies...I love their excited little faces in the morning when they discover the empty plate with crumbs, a wrapper, and cup!

When I was a little girl, one day the doorbell rang and my Mom asked me to go see who it was...but nobody was there. Apparently I didn't look down, either, because she coaxed me out to the door again. This time I saw a beautiful gift on the doorstep, just for me! My heart pounded with delight and I will never forget the feeling of opening that little Fisher Price blender, which really worked, by the way! So Bill and I have also incorporated the tradition of Santa's early delivery on the doorstep (which does require a bit of effort on Mom and Dad's part, kind of a divide and conquer thing- ha!), and it's so exciting and magical! Even though the older boys really know Santa is fictional, they still get caught up in the commotion and adore the traditions involving him.
...And the special shopping trips we take with each child to purchase one very special gift for a sibling ~
Ethan was Caleb's "secret shopper" last year, and he was SO excited watching his little brother open up HIS special gift...
Makes my heart just melt!

But before we open gifts, we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blow out the candles on a special cake or coffeecake that we make the day before.

We don't break the bank with gifts under the tree, either; instead, we create a list of things we want to do as a family, like ice-skating and having hot cocoa, going to a nearby hotel to swim for an hour or so, a day at the slopes- things that hold significance for our family and help us create wonderful memories together. I hope our children will look back on this one day with a great appreciation for what we've tried to do, but we do live in a fallen world, and there is sometimes grumbling and whining over coveted toys and hyped-up trends.

Now I adore my very new tradition of making Isabelle's Christmas dress for church...

(and you're looking at the smiling reason there are no ornaments on the lower half of the tree- HA!)

But we know what really matters at Christmas, and that's recognizing, honoring and celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, born into the world because of the Father's great love for us, to show us how to love compassionately and wholly, and to share this love with the world.

Blessings to all as we prepare for the wonderful celebrations ahead of us!
For more Christmas traditions go to Kelly's Korner Blog!
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