Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Birthday's

I've mentioned before that as a child I felt jipped having a December birthday.  But these days, I just can't get enough of it.  My philosophy now is that all the coolest folks celebrate their birthday's in December (mine is the 8th, my oldest son's is the 15th, and my husband's is the 27th).  Of course, what makes the month especially special is the celebration of the birth of JESUS on the 25th.  (Disclaimer: This does not imply that my other three children that were not born in the month of December are less cool.)  Aside from frigid temperatures, there are just way cooler things to do to celebrate a December birthday than other times of the year.  Three years ago, we spent Jaden's birthday at Disney World.  Two years ago, we spent my birthday in Canton - the city of lights, last year we saw TobyMac in concert along with Chris August, Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Jamie Grace, Britt Nicole, and Group 1 Crew on their Hits Deep Tour.  This year we went to Tylertown to see their Christmas drive through display for my birthday, and we cut into the last of our wedding cake that I'd frozen to use as my birthday cake.  (It was just as good the second time around!)  As I've gotten older, I've begun to treasure making memories more than receiving gifts.

My enthusiasm seems to be contagious as this year to celebrate my son, Jaden's, 13th birthday, instead of gifts he requested a family adventure which this past Saturday led us to a little town known as Monroe, Louisiana.

Now if you are a Duck Dynasty fan a trip to that town would seem pretty awesome anytime of year, but this past Saturday, the town of Monroe was celebrating COMMANDER CHRISTMAS making the entire day quite epic.

Our trip began before daybreak.  Apparently Elvis and Cane hoped for a glimpse of the commander family too.

We were some of the first to arrive for the day which offered us some of the sights all to ourself!

Tommy was even interviewed by a local news team.  You can check out his television debut HERE.

The highlight of the day came when my four kiddos got to share the stage with Lil' Willie, John Luke, and Sadie Robertson.  (You'll notice that my kids are center stage while those other people are just off to the side.  There's no denying they were the real stars of the day!)

And an extra special treat was when the kids were joined on stage by Korie and Ms. Kay.  Ms. Kay patted the birthday boy's hand and commented how cute my four kids are.  She's very wise.

The evening ended with a flotilla including the Robertson family and a Christmas laser show.  The laser show left something to be desired and we left before it was over.

There are still two more birthday's to celebrate in our home before December is over.  They are sure to be celebrated with just as much enthusiasm and joy as the first two!

I love Christmas-time, y'all!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jesus and Santa - The Great Debate

I've seen lots of posts on Facebook this week about whether or not it is okay to allow children to believe in Santa.  While the answer varies family to family, this is what our family believes.

Jesus is the reason for the season.  It is all about Him.  Everything we do - year round - point to Him.  We celebrate Jesus through giving to others, through learning more about Him using our Jesus Tree, and by sharing the joy He has given us to all that we may come in contact with.

When I was a child, I was allowed to believe in Santa.  I remember not believing the truth that he was not real even after being told by my parents.  I was sure their disbelief was based on their age - surely they'd just grown too old to remember.  And I remember the disappointment I felt when I did finally come to the realization that Santa was indeed just a myth.

Hoping to strike a balance in my family between the anti-Santa crowd and the truth that is CHRISTmas, we have always told the story of Santa as just that - a story.  There are no gifts from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.  They are all from Mom and Dad.

We usually read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve and The Christmas Story from Luke 2 before we open gifts Christmas morning.

We have an Elf on the Shelf.  His name is Elvis.  Again, my kids know that it is pretend, but we all awake each morning through December anxiously waiting to see what mischief Elvis got into through the night.

At bedtime each night, we have family time.  We spend time in reflection, reading from the Word, singing carols, and praying.  We honor Christ in our deeds and actions.

There is no comparison between Jesus and Santa.  Jesus is real.  He came, died for our sins, and rose again.  He is alive today sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for each of us.  Santa is a fairy-tale like Snow White or Alice in Wonderland.  While the character of Santa is based on the person of St. Nicholas, Santa is just a story.  Only Jesus can change a life.  Santa is just a story.

I like how Christian recording artist, Natalie Grant, said it on her Facebook page:

In my house, we've told our children from the get go that Santa is our favorite fairy-tale. So we've never encouraged them to believe he's real. This isn't for some overly-spiritual reason or conviction. I just didn't want my little girls to look at me one day and wonder why I lied to them.

We celebrate Santa for the magical, whimsical, fabulous fictional character that he is. We get pictures taken with him, we sing songs about him, we give each of our children a gift "from Santa" and we fill their stockings. It in no way takes away from the real meaning of CHRISTmas. We know the reason for the season, and we are all about Jesus. 
If you choose to let your children believe in Santa you'll get no judgement from me. We've just chosen to do it differently in our family. I'll never understand why legalistic Christians get all riled up about Santa. Listen, if you're a follower of Jesus, you know Christmas is about Jesus. Period. Whether you celebrate the man in the big red suit or not.  - NG

  Celebrate Jesus.  Today.  Christmas-day.  Everyday.  He is the reason for every season!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Jesus Tree

I posted on Facebook last night a tradition that our family had started last year called The Jesus Tree.  I was surprised at the interest in the post so thought I'd share what it's all about right here.

The Christmas season brings with it so much busyness.  For our family it is a fun time but can be exhausting nonetheless.  To help bring us back to the true focus of the season daily, each night before bedtime, we hang a new ornament on the tree that tells of a name of Jesus.  We discuss a corresponding scripture, sing a carol, say a prayer, and head to bed.  (Some nights we also have hot chocolate and story time.)  Each night the children take turns hanging the ornament.  It is a fun, family time centered on learning who Christ is.

And I get to use the altar Tommy made for our vow renewal!
I had purchased a white, fiber optic tree from Wal-Mart for $15 but ended up trading trees with our daughter.  She's used this one for several years and was ready for something new.  Since purple represents "royalty", I thought this was a good choice for our Jesus Tree.  I also purchased a box of 26 shatterproof ornaments from Wal-Mart for less than $5.  (We display them in a tree shaped basket.  Each night as Christmas Day grows closer the ornaments from the basket get smaller and the ones on the tree become more which makes the countdown until Christmas more visual for the kids.)  I have used every color Sharpie under the sun but discovered that black works best on these ornaments.  So for about twenty bucks you have a new tradition to last for years to come.

I chose silver and blue sparkly ornaments.  They give the tree a regal appeal.

Here are the names and scripture references we use if you want your family to join in this new tradition too!  (We're just on day four - so it's easy to catch up!!)

Day One:  Wonderful Counselor - Isaiah 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Day Two:  King of Kings - Revelation 19:16 - On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Day Three:  Immanuel - Matthew 1:23 - "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."

Day Four:  The Word - John 1:1-3 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Day Five:  Lion of Judah - Revelation 5:5 - Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

Day Six:  The Vine - John 15:1-8 - "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Day Seven:  Prince of Peace - Isaiah 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Day Eight:  Bright Morning Star - Revelation 22:16 - "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

Day Nine:  Lamb of God - Revelation 7:9-11 - After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

Day Ten:  Friend - Proverbs 18:24 - A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Day Eleven: Messiah - John 4:5 - The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Day Twelve:  I Am - Exodus 3:14 - 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

Day Thirteen:  Savior - Luke 2:11 - Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Day Fourteen:  Redeemer - Isaiah 59:20 - "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.

Day Fifteen:  Alpha and Omega - Revelation 1:8 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

Day Sixteen:  Light of the World - John 8:12 - 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."

Day Seventeen:  The Good Shepherd - John 10:11 - "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Day Eighteen:  Rose of Sharon - Song of Solomon 2:1 - I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Day Nineteen:  Bread of Life - John 6:48 - I am the bread of life.

Day Twenty:  Ancient of Days - Daniel 7:9 - "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

Day Twenty-one:  Living Water - John 4:10-14 - Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."  "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"  Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Day Twenty-two:  Jehovah - Isaiah 12:12 (KJV) - Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust , and not be afraid : for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

Day Twenty-three: The Truth and The Life - John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Day Twenty-four:  Healer - Luke 9:11 - but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

Day Twenty-five:  JESUS - Matthew 1:21 - She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  

Philippians 2:9-11 - Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

(You can find a printable copy of the above text HERE.  All verses are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.) 

I'll share some more of our family traditions as the month continues.  Stop back by now, ya hear!