Christmas in the Eyes of an 8 year old

Since my daughter was born, she’s had an ornament that tells the story of the birth of Jesus. Each year on December 1st we start turning the dial and listen to a piece of the story. As she gets older it’s fun to watch her eyes light up as she truly begins to understand the story of Jesus’s birth.

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Being that she is almost 8 years old, her curiosity has been sparked more so than ever before. My parents had put their tree up over the weekend and she was so excited and telling me we had to get her ornament out. As she decorated, she just had the joy and excitement that lit up the room. My mom asked her why she was so excited for Christmas. We, of course, were expecting to hear something like, “because of Santa or I get presents.” Instead we heard, “Because we get to celebrate when Jesus was born.” Talk about amazing and bold statements. It was refreshing to hear that she truly understands what Christmas time really means beyond all of the commercial stuff that is around this time of year.

Do you have the right mindset for this holiday season? I know at times I lose focus of the real reason we are celebrating. It’s great when hearing things from our children or friends that remind us that Jesus is the reason we are celebrating. I mean is there a better reason to celebrate, but for the Son of God that sacrificed himself for us?

It’s also a reminder of how much God loves us. 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.” (NIV)

From my family to yours – Merry Christmas!


{This post was written by Rachel Della-Loggia. Rachel is a single mom of a sweet 7 year old girl named Emmalee.  She works full time and is also working on her Masters Degree in Business Management.  She is originally from Abington, PA, but has lived in Jacksonville for 23 years.  Her favorite things include spending time with her daughter, reading…and butter popcorn jelly beans!}

Strength

This morning I visited my friend Ken. Today is his 50th wedding anniversary. He and his wife, Audrey, have been my close friends for over 15 years. In August, we found out that Audrey had metastatic melanoma in her liver. She fought a very brave battle but was dead in two months. Her memorial service was three weeks before Thanksgiving; her anniversary party was supposed to be tonight, and in just a few more weeks it will be Christmas. “A time to weep” in what can already be a melancholy time of year – you betcha!

I realized recently that during Audrey’s illness, and throughout the weeks immediately following her death, my strength was incredible. I was able to be with my friend, help take care of her, assist family members with small errands, and maintain constant updates on CaringBridge for friends and family unable to be with her. I wasn’t really aware of being strong until after Audrey had passed away, when I continued to feel a strength that I had expected to disappear soon after her death, when the adrenaline stops pumping.

I was familiar with the concept of loss having lost my mother to cancer when I was just 25.  During those days, I ran to the hospital every day for nine months straight, all while taking care of two small children as a single mom.  When the end came for my mother, I really hit a wall hard – the type made with concrete and reinforced with rebar!!

Then, 15 years ago I lost another dear friend and the same thing happened.  I hit the wall. This time with the death of Audrey, not so much – I have a whole different attitude and feeling about death. What has been the difference? God was not a force in my life 36 years ago, nor was He 15 years ago. Today He is.

My journey with God and Jesus has only been really strong the past two and a half to three years. I know God was in my life before that, but I hadn’t embraced Him or searched His word like I do now. I wasn’t involved in bible studies like I am now. I wasn’t a member of any church like I am now. I didn’t have a Lifegroup, let alone anyone who really cared, like I do now.

I am sad today.  My heart aches for my friend Ken who is facing his 50th anniversary without the love of his life. I miss Audrey every time I walk into her home, or something reminds me of a food she prepared, or the decorations she loved to put up during this holiday season.  But I know I will get through it because my strength comes from the Lord, from knowing what is waiting for us in heaven, and from the intercessory prayers of those who love me and pray for me.

May you find strength this season, and in any season where you need it.  It is there for the taking.


{This post was written by Ann Eastwick.  Ann is the mother of two wonderful grown children and two marvelous grandsons.  Originally from New Jersey, she moved to Jacksonville 30 years ago.  She is a retired paralegal who is now a wedding officiant, helping couples create wedding ceremonies that are special and unique.}

‘Tis the Season

The turkey is carved and eaten, and December is already here.  You hear the music in the speakers at the mall, you smell the peppermint in coffee shops all around, and you see the tree stands resurrected for business on nearly every corner.  The Christmas season is in full swing!

Maybe you’ve been scoffing at the decor on store shelves for weeks, or you’re boycotting peppermint mochas this year.  Maybe you clicked the last lid on your leftovers tupperware, stuck it in the fridge, and made a break for the attic to retrieve the decorations.  Maybe you sigh because your calendar is already full of gatherings, travel, and parties for work.  Well here’s a few things to ADD to your list (and definitely check these twice), because we all need a little more of Jesus’ presence this season.

Here are a few things you can do to celebrate the season with the real Priority in mind.  This is not an exhaustive list.  If you have other traditions or resources to share, please do!  The more the merrier!

1) This year, our family is doing “#NTDAdvent”, a daily advent devotional put out by blogger mom Jess Connolly at Naptime Diaries.  It has a daily scripture reading + a devotional.  If you buy the mini prints, you’ll get a series of beautiful picture cards with scripture or song to hang wherever you please.  We’ve hung ours in our kitchen to keep us focused on the real reason for the season.  They are my favorite decoration this year.  Check out http://www.naptimediariesshop.com/collections/advent for the devotional and prints in her shop AND follow @naptimediaries or the hashtag #NTDadvent on Instagram.  Bonus material and family activities are included with the devotional!

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2) Follow the latest devotional at She Reads Truth.  It’s a daily devotional that you can read on your computer or smartphone and it is a 28-day series entitled “O Come Let Us Adore Him”.  Check it out here: http://shereadstruth.com/category/plans/adore-him/

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3) My sister and brother in law and their kiddos kicked off the season using Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas”.  They have daily activities for families to do to celebrate Christ entering into the world.  Today my sweet niece and nephew wrote “Thank You Letters to God” as a part of Day 3.  Follow the hashtag #unwrappingthegreatestgift on Instagram for inspiration, check our her book on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Unwrapping-Greatest-Gift-Celebration-Christmas/dp/1414397542), and be sure to check out Ann’s website for additional resources (http://www.aholyexperience.com/thegreatestchristmas/).  There are great ideas for adults, too, if you don’t have children, or if yours have flown the coop 🙂

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4) Make a Jesse Tree.  While Ann Voskamp’s book and activities are based on the idea of the Jesse Tree, there are lots of places to download or buy daily ornaments to use for decoration on your own tree.  Let your kids color, read some scripture and talk about significance the symbol – each ornament is a symbol that represents an important piece of the story of the coming Christ and ends with a fully decorated tree!

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5) Make room for family time!  Not reinventing the wheel here.  Jacksonville Moms Blog has an AWESOME post outlining things to do in Jax during the holidays!  Check it out here: http://www.jaxmomsblog.com/in-around-jax/guide-holiday-events-jacksonville-2014/ OR check out places to cruise around Jacksonville and see some Christmas lights here: http://www.jaxmomsblog.com/in-around-jax/cruising-christmas-lights-jacksonville/ (Note: this was written last year, but was reposted this year, so I am assuming that all locations given still apply.  Also note: pack snacks).

6) Put up a nativity!  Don’t just set it out like a Mistletoe-scented candle or hang it like an ornament – savor it.  Pray as you put it up.  Talk about the story with your family, roommates, etc. Get the kids involved! (I let my 20 month old break the ear off of one of our lambs this year because I just couldn’t tell him to “get away from the nativity”).  Or you can do like my dad does every year and make a crazy strange nativity out of palm tree pieces and get your neighbors to knock on your door and ask about it!

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Do you have any Christmas traditions to keep Christ a part of the center or the season?  Please do share!


 

{This article was written by Laura Wilson.  Laura is wife to Aaron and mommy to a sweet and silly little boy.  She serves with Chets Women by leading the Communications team.  As a mom and pediatric speech language pathologist, she carries an artillery of cheerios and toys everywhere she goes.  She loves learning more about the Lord from his word, her family, and Starbucks.}