Celebrating Christmas or Surviving until School Starts Back Up?

Life with little ones is always exciting! Mix in sugar, parties, presents and what do you get? Usually a headache! Are you the parent of a small person, asking yourself “how am I going make it through Christmas?”

How did Mark and I survive those early years? As I recall it was a team effort requiring lots of planning ahead. But I think the real key to Holiday Survival is simplicity. Remember, the original Christmas was the “simple” birth of a baby. There was no mall full of Christmas themed “stuff” to buy or food to prepare, no lights on indoor evergreens or outdoor ones either. There was just a young family with a new baby in a cold stable.

Let me encourage you to get back to the basics with your family. Have fun playing with your nativity set, marching Mary on the donkey over to the stable to have the baby. Let the baby carry around the sheep, and hide the angel. Tell the story over and over to little ones who can be distracted.

Give simple gifts. The size or cost of a gift is not the measure of your esteem for the recipient. The shepherds and wise men all brought what they had. The wise men brought money, incense (smelly stable, remember) and spices. The shepherds brought simple praise and adoration. All of their gifts were acceptable to God because they were given with hearts intent on blessing.

Take a deep breath and decide what are the truly important things, then let the others go! A simple Christmas will help create a quality Christmas experience. Try letting the color coordinated perfection of your Christmas portrait go. Take the picture but remember that your children will not remember if your tree had the ‘right look’ or you baked picture perfect cookies from scratch. What do you want your children to take away from your Christmas celebration? Make this Christmas about the baby – Jesus Christ, Emmanuel –God with us!

Merry Christmas, Ellen Strohm

Preparing for Christmas

All of us have additional responsibilities during the Christmas season. The month and a half before New Year’s is perhaps the busiest of our year. So many presents to shop for, wrap and send, so many parties and school programs to attend, even extra church services, not to mention the extra cooking and decorating.

How can we keep Christ the center of this season? It is easy to forget the small child in the Nativity scene. He is so quiet and peaceful while all around is a festive frenzy. When our children were in early elementary we were able to focus their attention on the coming of Christ by observing a simple advent celebration.

Many churches have no structured approach to the celebration of Christmas. But, some do still observe Advent. The four Sundays prior to Christmas make up the Advent Season. We assembled our own simple advent wreath out of pine from the yard and dollar store candles. Four white candles in a circle and a purple one in the center. Each Sunday we would read from our Bible prescribed verses found in an Advent book (ours came from Focus on the Family) but they are readily available online.

The first Sunday only one candle is lighted, then the second Sunday two are lit and so on. As each candle was illuminated the children were able to focus their excitement on the coming birth of the Promised Child rather than on a hoped for gift. It was a special season of our lives. Maybe we should bring that Advent wreath back this year – I need to focus on Christ – how about you?

Ellen Strohm

Trust The One Who Never Fails

At one time when my children were much younger I was afraid they would turn from God because of something I did or did not do. It sounds silly now, looking back. We were purposefully training our children in the knowledge of God and His ways. We were praying for them daily and trying to live as examples to them. Why the fear then?

house-13The fear nagged me for months as I wrestled with my concerns. During this time I attended a Women’s retreat where the speaker’s flight was delayed by weather and she arrived late. She put aside her planed presentation to share the story of her conversation with a young man seated next to her on the plane.

He came from a church going family yet was running from God and all his parents had taught him. Because of the extended time the plane was sitting on the tarmac the speaker was able to remind him of God’s love and the consequences of the path he was choosing. The young man responded to her reminders and repented right there on the plane.

The speaker shared the story as an illustration of God’s faithfulness. The young man’s parents had been faithful to raise him to honor God, however he had chosen his own way. But God orchestrated the circumstances of weather and seating assignments to put this young man right next to a Christian college professor who was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

house-14Hearing the story was a revelation to me, it spoke directly to my fear. I realized that I had been taking responsibility for my children’s response to our training. It was as if I could create a perfect spiritual environment to prompt the correct responses and desired life choices. I was afraid I would fail my children and God.

But their response was not my job at all. That is a function of the Holy Spirit. If I am faithful to train up my child in the way he should go then I must trust God to do his part. God does not leave or forsake even our wayward children. God is even more concerned with the eternal destiny of your children than you are!

Be faithful in your training and praying then trust the One who never fails.

Ellen

A Rewarding Perspective

When my children were very small, more experienced mothers I knew would tell me that the early years pass quickly and that I would miss them when they’re gone. How could this be true? We had 4 children in 7 years. Every day seemed like a week. They were so beautiful but so exhausting. I could hardly imagine the day when they’d all be in school.

Feelings of exhaustion can fog your perspective and make you wish your days away. There were times that I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home, for them to get in bed, for Friday, for vacation, for school to start, for summer vacation. But there were golden days as well, when a little blessing like my child’s prayer would make the day shine.

Looking back, those ladies were right, the years have flown by. My children are almost adults now. The memories of those days of being stretched to my absolute physical and emotional limits have faded but the joy of the little blessings has not. Those memories are precious jewels that were formed during the times of intense pressure and fatigue, during the early years. Those times still glow in my heart, a treasure stored.

Be assured, you’ll have golden days too, precious treasures if you keep your perspective.

Ellen