Tag Archives: Christmas traditions

Blueberry Pumpkin Poundcake–with Butternut Squash

17 Dec

BlueberryPumpkinPoundcakeOne of my Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions is to make this fabulous, I-always-want-two-pieces-at-a-time Blueberry Pumpkin Poundcake. Well, this week three butternut squashes kept staring me in the face in my fridge, so I decided to make the cake for our small group Christmas party substituting butternut squash instead of the pumpkin. I assumed that it could be substituted easily and without sacrificing amazing flavor. It was a gamble, but I rolled the dice. Guess what? Same ol’ yumminess. So, if you ever have butternut squash staring you in the face, try this recipe and wow your friends with your this amazing cake! For the original recipe, visit this previous post.

Merry Christmas!

 

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Friday Favorites: Christmas Cards=Prayer Cards

28 Nov

FRIDAY Favorites

I am excited to have a dear friend and mentor, Dr. Kimberly Thornbury, with a Guest Post today. I had the splendid pleasure of working with Kimberly while we were both at Union University. It was then that she introduced me, a newlywed at the time, to her family’s House of Prayer. At the time, I longed for the day that I could start this tradition with children of my own. If you are wondering what to do with the charming Christmas cards forthcoming in your mailbox once December 26 arrives, enjoy Kimberly’s tradition and incorporate it into your home during 2015.

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When my two daughters were very young, I wanted to teach them about the importance of prayer, and also help them understand more about family and friends they had not yet met. In 2004, shortly after Christmas, I took an old green Pampers wipes plastic bin, covered it with construction paper, and filled it with Christmas cards our family had received that holiday season. I stapled a 3 x 5 index card to each of the Christmas cards, and wrote down specific prayer requests related to that particular family or individual.

During meal times, our two daughters were very interested in the new ritual of pulling out a colored photo. We would pass around the photo and pray specifically for the person or family on the card. Often times, we would write updates on the back of the card. Although we didn’t pray for these people daily, we would pray for them regularly and most certainly consistently. Our prayers became less monotonous, more creative and more intentional.

Sometimes if we didn’t have a card on someone, the girls would take time to find a picture of someone in a magazine (for example the president of the United States) and create a card. Tragic situations, would often result in the girls writing words like “Haiti” on 3 x 5 card.

That little Pampers box looked like a tiny house, and it was also a symbol for the Thornbury family being characterized as a “house of prayer.” Over the years we have moved to a small cardboard “Amazon” box, but I am sure more “pinterest” moms would make something super cute out of wood.

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I have worked with college students for over 20 years. As I mentor college students throughout their tenure at the University, often times I will pray over the students I am mentoring through my house of prayer card system. You can imagine their delight, when I copy the back of the card a few weeks before their wedding day, reminding them of God’s answered promises to them. Biology tests were passed, boyfriends who were not God’s best for them faded away, they reached their goal of graduation, and will soon be married to their beloved.

Also, when someone is going through a particularly hard time (like a friend whose son was recently diagnosed with leukemia), we will find their card in the stack, update it, and pray for them right there on the spot.

When we have guests come over, the house of prayer is a way for us to explain the Gospel to others, and our belief in intercessory prayer.

I’m a fallen mom, and so thankful for God’s grace in my life. I am far from perfect, but this God-given idea has really worked for our little family, and been a tool to draw us closer to Him.

Dr. Kimberly Thornbury is the Vice President for Institutional Research and Strategic Planning at The King’s College in New York City. She can be reached at kthornbury@tkc.edu or on Twitter @kthornbury

Christmas Books that Our Family Loves

30 Nov

These are some of our favorite Christmas books, as well as a few new ones that we’re trying this year.  What I love about the books below is that they focus on the true meaning of Christmas–Jesus! With all of the competing voices SCREAMING at us during Christmas, my husband and I want to focus our family on Christ at Christmas, and these books have helped us with that. I hope these are helpful.

Christmas Came For Easter (Sharon Brunner)- As a parent, I desire for my boys to truly celebrate Jesus at Christmas. However, I feel like I’m leaving out half the story if I don’t tell them the importance of why Christ had to come to earth. He came to earth to live a perfect life so that those who put faith in Christ could take on His perfect life and be justified before God. Without Christ’s perfect life and death, salvation for humanity would not be a reality. So, if we only speak of Christmas, we are teaching only a portion of the story. Christmas came for Easter; it’s true. This short, beautiful book helps the children understand the bridge between Christmas and Easter. As a parent, I LOVE having this book to read with my boys. It is so wonderful to celebrate Christ becoming flesh, living among us, coming to earth. The greatest celebration, though, is His perfect life lived and sacrifice as the penalty for our sins.  This is a wonderful, kid-friendly way to delve into this wonderful reality with your children.

The Crippled Lamb (Max Lucado)-Is it safe for me to confess that last year was the first time I had read this book (and, consequently, my sons?!?!) Well, shame on me! It is a treasure, treasure, treasure! I had heard of it for years, but we’ve never read it! I know, I know, how tragic! I found it last year at Goodwill (score!), so I snatched it up. It’s the best $0.99 I’ve ever spent! You must read it this year!

One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book (Anne Kennedy)-Between 18 and 24 months, my oldest son had 3 books that he wanted read to him every day before naptime. This book was one of them. No, he didn’t care if it was before or after Christmas. The story goes from 1 to 10 with different elements of the Christmas story. I have this book memorized.  There are such sweet memories attached to it.

Who is Coming to Our House? (Joseph Slate)-This book is a delight! It’s written from the perspective of the animals in the stable.  They’re wondering who’s coming to their house…and what a joy when it’s Jesus!

Come and See: A Christmas Story (Monica Mayper)I love the simplicity of this book. I love that each character is repeating the refrain, “Come and See!” Can you imagine beholding Jesus?!?!? Wow!

“The Legend Of” books (The Legend of the Candy CaneChristmas TreeSt. Nicholas)-I love this series of books! As with most things, the origin of objects, traditions, etc. are usually lost over time. I love that these books do an excellent job of unearthing where certain Christmas “staples” originate. Did you know that St. Nicholas was a real person!?!? Do you know what the colors of the candy cane represent? Do you know where the tradition of the Christmas tree started? If not, you should read these books!

The Best Thing About Christmas (Christine Tangvald)-If you’ve never read any of the Happy Day books, I encourage you to check them out! They’re written from a Christian perspective. They have some GREAT books on the various holidays (We love their Halloween book, Let’s Shine Jesus Light on Halloween). This book is wonderful as it focuses on the greatest thing about Christmas–Jesus!

Pine Tree Parable (Liz Curtis Higgs)-If you haven’t read any of the 4 books in Liz Curtis Higgs’ Parable Series, you should!  This one is set on a Christmas tree farm and has a beautiful Christmas message.

Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree (Crystal Bowman)-I love all of Crystal Bowman’s books! This is another fun book that unearths the origin of the Christmas tree…in a fun, fun way!

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)-Focus on the Family Radio Theater Series We LOVE the Focus on the Family Radio Theater audiobooks. (The Chronicles of Narnia is our favorite!!!) These audiobooks are not someone reading the book–BORING! They are fully, dramatized versions of the book; each character has a different actor/actress. It’s amazing! If you’re audiobook fans, check out this version of the Dickens classic.

I’m a little bit obsessed with A Christmas Carol, so we also read the children’s version of the book and watch it on DVD each year. We read the Little Creatures version above of the Dickens classic the past 2 years. I loved that the story and message was clearly conveyed, but it was also in a concise form so that I could read it to the boys in one sitting. We also have a tradition of watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on DVD during December as well.

Song of the Stars (Sally Lloyd-Jones)- This book is written by the author of one of our favorite Children’s Bibles (click here to read my post about our favorite Children’s Bibles!), The Jesus Storybook Bible. I love her writing! We read this last year, and it was a hit!

The Little Drummer Boy (Ezra Jack Keats)-I love this story AND I love Ezra Jack Keats. Last year was our first year to read this classic, and we all enjoyed this book. Ezra Jack Keats is a timeless author, and this is a timeless story. Add it to your reading list this year!

New books that we hope to read this Christmas

Jotham’s Journey (Arnold Ytreeide)A friend suggested this book to us last year, and I never got around to buying it. Our library didn’t have it. 😦 I broke down and bought it this year. We are DEFINITELY reading it this year! I also bought the other two Advent books by the same author, Tabitha’s Travels and Bartholomew’s Passage as well. I can’t wait to dive into these books!

What are your favorite Christmas books?!?!? I am always looking for new books to read with my boys!

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

Bethlehem Was Just Set Up On Our Table (20% off Little Peoples)

30 Nov

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“We just set up Bethlehem!” our almost 4 year old screamed this morning! That only means one thing around our home. We have just opened our Little Peoples Nativity Set. This is probably one of our family’s favorite Christmas decorations. Our boys are 8, 6, and almost 4, and they squeal and scream when we get this out each year. “Oh, I remember this!” was their reaction when we opened the box containing it this morning. That’s one thing that I love about traditions; children come to expect them. Traditions give them a place and identity in a family. For our sons, being a “Mosley” means Little Peoples Nativity Set, and their faces light up each year when we unveil it.

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highly, highly, highly recommend the Little Peoples Nativity Set for your family. For those of you who participated in the Suzanne Shares Book Club in October, you will remember that Noel Piper mentions in her book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, is the idea of having Nativity Sets all over your home, including some “play” ones that children are allowed to touch. We have taken that approach and actually keep 2 Nativity Sets that are from other countries out all year. We have enjoyed the Fisher Price Little Peoples Set as a set that our boys can touch and play with. One of my favorite memories when our oldest son was 2 was getting out the set and having him act out the Christmas story with the appropriate Little People as we read it from his favorite Children’s Bible. This was at age 2 1/2. No, my husband and I aren’t superstars or anything; we are just firm believers that little kiddos can soak in, understand and comprehend much more than is assumed. Surrounding our boys and our family with Nativity Sets at Christmas make it hard to ignore or forget the reason for Christmas. 🙂

This makes a great Christmas gift for a newborn or a young child. Our oldest son got this for his first Christmas (age 6 months). What a helpful tool it will be for you to use with your children to tell them the story of Jesus.

You can buy the set from Fisher-Price. It has been out of stock, so I’m excited to see that today they have it! Currently, you can also get 20% off your order and FREE SHIPPING with an order of $25 (which would be the case with this set) when you use the codeSUPERSALE. (Expiration is 12/1)

Enjoy Christmas, and enjoy teaching your children (and reminding yourself) of Christ coming to earth!

My 3 Favorite Christmas Albums

29 Nov

Behold the Lamb of God (Andrew Peterson)-This album beautifully walks you through Scripture from Genesis to the birth of Jesus. After all, Jesus was God’s plan, our Rescuer (thank you for that marvelous imagery, Sally Lloyd-Jones) since sin entered humanity with Adam and Eve. Do you know the story? If not, follow the journey with Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. Also, go buy a ticket and go to the Behold the Lamb of God concert while you’re at it! You’ll love Peterson’s clever song to connect the Old Testament to the New Testament (or buy the book to read along as you sing it), and you Mommas will resonate with “Labor of Love.” Also, there is a book with 25 readings for Advent bearing the same title as the album which goes along with the CD and can be used daily during Advent to focus your heart and mind on Christ this season.

Advent Songs (Sojourn Church)These familiar Christmas carols are given a musical, folk-inspired face lift. I can not stop listening to this album. I even find myself listening to it throughout the year. These songs have deep meaning to me having enjoyed them since childhood, but the updated musical score is inspiring, heart-stirring, worshipful. Love, love, love, love this. It was put together by Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

Handel’s Messiah- I don’t remember when I was first introduced to Handel’s Messiah-maybe it was high school. I don’t exactly recall. It’s rather ironic that as a a teenager and young adult I embraced this classical work; I was not a classical music fan. However, the words pulled me in, and even today, I marvel at the words from Isaiah 53. This text was the inspiration and basis of Handel’s Messiah, and they tell exactly, specifically, prophetically of Jesus hundreds of years before He arrived in a stable in Bethlehem. Our 8 year old son has been memorizing Isaiah 53 in his Sunday School class this year, and I can hardly hear the words without tears streaming down my face. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Thank you, God, for this beautiful gift, wrapped in a babe, the One who would take on my sin and whose sinless perfection would be transferred to me. Awestruck, dumbfounded am I. Celebrate Christ this year (and all throughout the year) with Handel’s Messiah. Hallelujah!

What are your favorite Christmas albums? May the gift of music stir your heart, soul and mind to worship Christ this season.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

Is your Advent Calendar ready?!?! If not, huddle up–here’s your PEP TALK!

29 Nov

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My sons are cheering for you! This is the year to celebrate Advent! 1-2-3 GO!

I’m pulling this out of last year’s archives. Christmas snuck  has sneaked up on me, hasn’t it you?!?! I’m still full from my Thanksgiving meal yesterday, but I’ve quickly gotta shift out of “Thanksgiving” mode and focus on Christmas. My 2 Advent Calendars are starting in 48 hours. Whew! Ready, set, Christmas here we come!

Last year I wrote a PEP TALK for my readers a few days before Advent commenced. I wanted to share it with you again this year. Pretend I’m sitting right beside you, pom poms and megaphone in hand, cheering you on as you gear up for Advent! As a Perfectionist-in-recovery, I write often for the other Perfectionists who read my blog. No worries if you don’t have all 25 ornaments made before December 1. Keep reading and see how you can tackle a few ornaments at a time. You can do it! I’m cheering for you and supporting you from afar! Just pick what you’re going to do for Advent and 1-2-3 GO! You’ll be so glad you did! Without further adieu, “Come on, Suzanne Shares Readers, you can do it, put a little power to it.”

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Have you been googling “Advent Calendars” or perusing everyone’s ideas on Pinterest because you were wanting to start one this year? You may be thinking, “Well, it’s November 28, which means I have 2 more days to get this Advent Calendar made. In other words, that is too daunting of a task. I’ll do it next year.” Let me guess, last year you said, “I’ll do it next year,” and you haven’t made one yet. Or, are you’re lamenting the fact that you didn’t get to make your Advent Calendar made over the Thanksgiving holidays? No, I’m not a mind reader or psychic. I just know these things…because that’s how my mind works. So, lament no longer; it’s not too late! Here are simple steps to get your Advent Calendar made for this year! 

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DIY: YOU CAN DO IT!

There is still time! You can do it!

DIY: Noel Piper Advent Calendar-You can make the Noel Piper Advent Calendar in a few easy steps:

1) First, download the script from the Noel Piper Advent Calendar on her blog here. In the script you will learn what objects/images you’ll need for your calendar.

2) Second, decide how you’ll layout your calendar and your images/objects for your Advent Calendar.

  • Option A: You can download the patterns from the HeartFELT version of the Noel Piper calendar on her site. Isn’t that so awesome of her to have her felt patterns for the Advent Calendar available FREE?!?!?Or, you can buy her complete Advent Calendar on her Etsy shop.
  • Option B: Make your own. THINK SIMPLE! If you’re not up for making the felt set, you can print images of each needed item on Google Images. Use a poster board, divide the board into a stable scene on the top 2/3 of the posterboard with 25 different sections on the bottom 1/3 of the poster board. Or, get your kiddos involved! Have them help you make the different 25 ornaments needed. Look at my picture of our Noel Piper Advent Calendar above to get an idea of how you can lay it out on a poster board, burlap, etc.

Advent Jesse 6-10

DIY: The Advent Jesse Tree-You can make the Advent Jesse Tree in a few easy steps:

1) First, buy the The Advent Jesse Tree book now so that you’ll have it shipped to you by Monday. 🙂 (Yes, it’s okay to start Day 1 on December 2. You can catch up by doing two nights in one!)

2) Second, download my document: Advent Jesse Tree ornaments, which lists all of the ornaments that you’ll need for your Advent Jesse Tree.

3) Make your ornaments! You have several options:

  • Option A: Go to this post and see pictures of my 25 ornaments and let them inspire your creative juices to make your own.
  • Option B: Use Google Images, old magazines, have your children draw pictures, get creative!

4) Find something to hang your ornaments on. We use a mini Christmas tree. I have friends who use a tree limb in a jar/flower pot. Again, get creative!

Our Advent Jesse Tree…waiting patiently to be adorned with ornaments!

FINAL TIPS: GO FOR IT

Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. This old adage is true of a DIY Advent Calendar. Take it one ornament at a time. 🙂 Here are some practical steps that you can take to be well on your way to having your own Advent Calendar this year!

1) Set small goals-I have 3 small children at home, so I know that I would NEVER START making 25 ornaments if I knew I had to get it done in the next 48 hours. That task seems too overwhelming. The good news is that you DON’T have to make 25 ornaments in 48 hours. You really only need to make one! Why not just try to make the first 6 ornaments between now and Friday? After all, you only need ornament #1 by Sunday! Once you get the first 6 done, set your goal to make the next 6 before December 6, the following 6 by December 12, and the last 7 by December 18. Or, if that’s too overwhelming, you simply only have to stay ONE DAY ahead! Do ornament #2 on Saturday before you’ll need it Sunday. Or, have your kids have “Advent Craft Time” each day starting Saturday. Have them make the ornament the morning that you’ll need it,  and then it’s ready to use that night! YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN DO IT!

2) Involve your children-My sons LOVE art projects! If I gave them the types of ornaments needed and gave them a half hour each day over the next 72 hours, they would have all 25 ornaments made! They wouldn’t be perfectly neat and tidy ornaments. They may not even look anything LIKE the object they’re supposed to be. However, you would have your 25 ornaments done, and you would have children who are EAGER to do the Advent Calendar each night because they have a stake, a vested interest in it. After all, they made the ornaments!

3) Just do it! No, this is not a Nike commercial! I’m still talking about the Advent calendars! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Advent Calendars. They are used by God in my own heart to focus me DAILY on the meaning of Christmas. As I said earlier, so many other competing voices vie for my attention during the Christmas season (and many of them GOOD things!). I love that the Advent Calendars in our home re-focus my heart, mind, soul on Christ. My heart is prone to wander; I need our Advent Calendars at Christmas. So, if you’ve been toying with the idea of starting this wonderful tradition in your home this year–JUST DO IT! Your calendar doesn’t have to be cute, perfect and beautiful BEFORE  YOU or IN ORDER TO start. Just start!! You won’t regret it! You won’t regret the time you spend together as a family at Christmas. You won’t regret the time you spend together around God’s Word at Christmas. (Have I convinced you yet?!?!) I see the difference, the eternal fruit of Advent Calendars in our home; you will too! Go for it!

Come back and let me know how you’re enjoying your Advent Calendar!

If an Advent Calendar isn’t going to work for you, go to this post to see a schedule of Advent Readings with the Jesus Storybook Bible (one of our favorites!). Our check out this post with several book recommendations with daily Advent Readings. No matter what you do, celebrate Christ this Christmas by centering your heart, soul, mind and calendar around the Word each day of Advent! Come back and let me hear how it’s going!

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

Yummy Sugar Cookies= “Decorate, Decorate” Christmas tradition is nigh!

29 Nov

IMG_6912We have a tradition that we stumbled upon over the last few years. Yes, I would like to admit that it was masterfully orchestrated and that I always think through the creation of such traditions. However, several years ago while putting up the Christmas tree, our sons asked where the cookies were and when we would decorate them. It was only then that I remembered that we had previously baked and decorated sugar cookies the same day we decorated our Christmas tree. At that moment, I quickly whipped up some sugar cookies and icing. A tradition was born. To read more about this marvelous adventure, read this post from last year’s archives.

Tonight, there is sugar cookie dough being made in my Kitchen Aid Mixer, which means only one thing this time of year…”Decorate, Decorate” day at the Mosleys will soon take place. On “Decorate, Decorate” day, we decorate our Christmas tree and follow with a sugar fest decoration fest involving sugar cookies and icing! Thanks to my 2 friends, Julie and Julie, for these wonderful recipes that I’ll share with you now. So, tomorrow we will unwrap boxes containing a tree and ornaments, crank up Behold the Lamb of God, make fun memories and try to actively put up our tree (so that I can burn off come calories from Thanksgiving. Whoazees!)

Yummy Sugar Cookies

my dear friend, Julie’s great-grandmother’s recipe

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 T milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter*
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

 *Julie’s original recipe calls for 1 cup shortening. I didn’t have any, so I used 1 cup butter instead. The substitution worked fine.

1) Mix flour, powder, soda and salt.

2) Cut in butter/shortening.

3) Beat eggs, add sugar, vanilla and milk and add this all into the flour mix. (It works best to refrigerate the dough minimally for several hours. I make my dough one day ahead and chill overnight. After chilling for several hours to overnight, I remove dough and let chill slightly. This makes step #4 a little easier.)

4) Roll out dough and use your favorite cookie cutters!

5) Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 min.

6) Ice and decorate to your heart’s content. (Icing recipe below.)

Sugar Cookie Icing
You can use store bought or make your own! It’s basically just a mixture of powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. If you’re like me, you need exact measurements. :) Here’s an exact one from my other friend, Julie:

3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. milk (approximately)
1 tsp. almond OR lemon OR vanilla extract

You basically just play with these 3 ingredients until you get the consistency that you want. If glaze is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If glaze is too stiff, add more milk. After I get the consistency I want, I divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring. I like Wilton’s the best! I used a 40% off coupon @ Michael’s to buy the Wilton set. :)

Keeping Advent: 2 Advent Calendars and Advent books

12 Nov

I wrote about our TWO Advent Calendars last year, but I wanted to share them again this year in case you missed them! Yes, you read that correctly. My family uses TWO Advent calendars at Christmas! Also, if you’re interested in “keeping advent,” but a calendar is not for you, that’s fine! I have included in this post some rich Advent books that are guaranteed to focus your heart and mind on Christ each day of Advent.

IMG_6937Advent Calendar #1 (Noel Piper Advent Calendar)–The Advent Calendar is mentioned in the book we just read for the first ever Suzanne Shares Book ClubTreasuring God in Our Traditions. One thing that I LOVE about this particular calendar is that you read one script over and over and over again each of the 25 days of Advent! The script was put together by Noel Piper based on the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospels. Each day a new portion of the story is revealed. As you read the new day’s reading, Piper encourages the reader to start back at Day 1 and read through until you include the new day’s reading. Do you know what happens after only a few days of using this calendar?!?! Because of the repetition, your child will have the Christmas story memorized! Children can memorize so easily; their brains are like sponges. Why not take advantage of it and cement the story of Christ coming to earth in their brains NOW so that it can stay with them for a lifetime?!?!? When I first read the book 8 years ago, the Advent Calendar was available to purchase online. However, these days, it’s not. 😦 The GREAT news is that you can make your own! First, you need the Noel Piper “script.” You can download the script for this Advent Calendar FREE on Noel Piper’s website. YAY!

To make this Advent Calendar for your family you have two options, buy burlap and all the pieces shown in the photo of mine above. Or, you can use the Advent Calendar from Heartfelt Truths. When Whitney learned that the Noel Piper Advent Calendar was no longer available for purchase, she made her own!

Whitney graciously offers the patterns to make her version of the Noel Piper Advent Calendar FREE on here website! (Thanks, Whitney!!) Go to this post, and you will find the downloadable patterns at the bottom of the post. I had several friends make this Advent Calendar last year, and they said it was very easy to make. If you’re not crafty or are low on time, you can buy the Advent Calendar already made or a DIY Advent Calendar kit from the HeartFELT Truths Etsy shop. Tell Whitney I said, “HELLO!” when you order. 🙂

Regarding the age this calendar is appropriate for, I would say that preschoolers and lower elementary age are probably the intended audience. We started using this when our oldest son was 6 months old, and this will be our 8th year to use it. I can’t imagine our Christmas without it, so I’m sure we’ll continue to use it even after our boys are no longer preschoolers or lower elementary age. 🙂
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Advent Calendar #2 (Advent Jesse Tree)- I was first introduced to the Advent Jesse Tree about 6 years ago. This particular Advent Calendar is unique in that it tells the entire story of the Bible; the Advent journey begins in Genesis and goes through the end of the Bible! If you’re looking for greater understanding of how Jesus is seen in the Old Testament and the significance of His coming to earth at Christmas, this one is for you! The book has a section for Children and a section for Adults with each day’s devotion. We have used this as young as age 2 with our sons. Obviously, we adapted the length of our devotion with our boys to make them age appropriate. I have a friend at church with preschoolers. She told me that her family uses the ornaments but read the corresponding stories from her daughter’s Children’s Bible to accommodate their attention spans. I would say this is appropriate for ages 2 or 3 and up to adults.

Advent Jesse 1-5

Advent Jesse Tree Ornaments for Days 1-5

You can make 25 corresponding ornaments to go along with each day’s devotion. You can download a list of the ornaments to make here: Advent Jesse Tree ornaments. We got our set of 25 ornaments by participating in an Advent Jesse Ornament Swap. You can plan an Ornament Swap with friends to get a complete set; I’ve given instructions here on how to plan and carry out an Advent Jesse Tree Swap. I posted pictures recently of my 25 ornaments so that you can get some ideas of different ways to make the 25 ornaments; this will get your creative juices flowing! If an ornament swap is not in your future, have your child help you make an ornament old-school-style using paper and crayons, or print out images from online, laminate them, and you’re set! The ornaments are my boys’ favorite part each year, so I highly recommend making or buying a set. Also, we hang our Advent Jesse Tree ornaments on the mini Christmas tree shown above, and it stays on our dining room table so that we cacn see it each day, all day. That helps keep this Momma’s heart and mind focused and re-focused on Christ each day of Advent.

Advent Books (if you’re not up for a calendar)- If you enjoy books with Advent readings, here are some options for you!

Nancy Guthrie–My husband and I enjoyed this book by Nancy Guthrie,Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, when our sons were younger. This is an anthology of 23 sermons and essays centering on the birth of Christ. This book is SO GOOD! Guthrie also came out with Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent three years ago; I love that it’s designed as a family devotion.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer–I’ve written about my love for this Bonhoeffer biography. I was excited to learn last year that he has a collection of Advent writings, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Ann VosKamp–You may have heard of Ann VosKamp through her blog, A Holy Experience. She wrote often about her family’s celebration of the Advent Jesse Tree. I learned this fall that she wrote a book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, her version of the Advent Jesse Tree–tracing Christ back to the beginning of the Old Testament.

Behold the Lamb of GodThis is one of my FAVORITE Christmas CDs by Andrew Peterson. One of Andrew Peterson’s pastors, Russ Ramsey, wrote a book Behold the Lamb of God based on the album with the same title. Use it to read along the 25 days of Advent and find yourself unearthing the story of Christ from Genesis to the 4 Gospels. The album is amazing, so I’m sure this book will not disappoint.

Have a wonderful season of Advent thinking about, celebrating, remembering, treasuring our wonderful Savior’s arrival to earth.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

Book Club: Treasuring God in Our Traditions-A Proactive People

6 Nov

Book Club

Thanks for joining us today as we begin discussing Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I warned you yesterday that my one blog post….expanded into several. I’m glad that didn’t scare you off! Thanks for stopping by!

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

The things we do regularly that help us in our deepest being to know and love and want God, the things that help our lives to be infiltrated with God–those things are tradition.  (Treasuring God in Our Traditions, page 25)

Our Aim: Christians are Proactive People

“In order to ‘teach [God’s Word] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.’ (Deuteronomy 11:19), you have to be planning–planning what to say and where, how, and when to say it….All of us are training our children both intentionally and unintentionally. We need to make sure we aren’t leaving the important things to happenstance. We know it’s crucial that they become familiar with God, our Heirloom and our only hope for real life. We yearn for them to love and trust and follow Christ. It would be foolish just to wait for them to learn that by chance. We must plan to reflect God and teach about Christ in the repeated events of our lives.”
(Treasuring God in our Traditions, page 35)

This 2nd reading of Treasuring God in Our Traditions reminded me of the reality that my children are always learning, being shaped by their experiences and the messages they hear from media, friends, etc. In fact, not just my children, but I am likewise. If I am not infiltrating my life with God and aiming to infiltrate my sons’ lives with God, my life and theirs will be infiltrated with something else. Therefore, upon reading #2 of Treasuring God in Our Traditions, my heart was stirred and rekindled to plan and be proactive in my own pursuit of being conformed to the image of Christ and in instructing and having conversations with my children about God.

Gheez, this is not rocket science, but I, too, get so bombarded with the noise of our world and culture that I am sporadic about infiltrating my life, mind, heart with Christ and His Word and with my kiddos’ lives as well. I become hypnotized and drunk on the world’s siren song–equating busyness with Godliness or substituting going to church as discipleship–that I forget that my number one goal and my number one goal for my sons should be to know and love God. This re-calibrating that I need daily can happen through His Word; my children and myself need this daily injection of the Word to keep us focused on Christ. If I’m not proactively planning time in our day to hear the Word and to pass Christ along to the next generation that lives under my roof, the minutes will be stolen by other things. Obviously, this is my daily goal and the daily goal with our children, but my struggle is with consistency. This second reading of Treasuring God in Our Traditions reminded me of the necessity of consistency. I am walking away with this “nugget” of wisdom and praying for God to aide me in being consistent.

Piper uses Deuteronomy 11, particularly verse 1, as a thread throughout the book to remind us of the necessity to proactively instruct the next generation about God.

“You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land (11:1-3)…For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did (11:7)…You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (11:19)”

Notice what Deuteronomy 11 doesn’t say. It doesn’t say, “You parents teach them to your children…” It says, “You.” The Deuteronomy 11 charge was for all of Israel–single, married with no kids, married with young kids, married with grown kids–to teach the children about God because the adults were the one who had first-hand experience with God. Verse 2 highlights the fact that the children had not seen or known of the mighty acts of God; they were either too young or had not been born. All the “grown ups” in Israel were given the task of passing on to the next generation the mighty and glorious works of God. Sadly, that didn’t always happen.

8 years ago when first digesting the book, I was reading it simply wearing my “new-mother-I-don’t-want-to-screw-up-my-kids” hat. As I get older (remember, my son has written about my brown and silver hair) and my children get older, I am reading it again with different eyes. All of Israel was commanded to teach the next generation about God.  I won’t “outgrow” the opportunity and responsibility to teach children within my church, neighborhood, school; I had not thought of this previously. So thankful for this instruction and reminder coupled with the reality that I need to be proactively planning ways to pass along to the next generation the mighty works of God.

“Grown ups are the ones who have a history with God. We have leaned on his strength, learned his love, and depended on his faithfulness. We have suffered the pain of his discipline and felt the relief of his forgiveness. Our youngest children don’t understand much yet about these things. They will learn from their experiences as they grow older and from the Christian adults in their lives.” (Treasuring God in Our Traditions, page 22) 

What about you? What examples can you share with us about how you are proactive with instruction of your children or children in your life?

Join us tomorrow as we talk more about “Everyday” and “Especially” traditions.

Book Club: Treasuring God in Our Traditions–reflections

5 Nov

Book Club

I bet you thought I forgot about our glorious, first-time-ever Suzanne Shares Book Club, but I didn’t! My husband has been out of the country (so thankful he arrived home today!) and then my youngest two kiddos woke up puking their guts out over the weekend. This weekend was the intended time for me to wrap up our Book Club, and well, whew, I had to just scrap all plans and survive. 🙂 I’m sure this never happens to anyone else, ever, right?!!?

As I mentioned before, I read Treasuring God in Our Traditions 8 years ago when our oldest son was a young infant. I always recommend this book to others because of the manner in which it formed and shaped my thoughts and actions for traditions in our family. Not until re-reading it 8 years later did I realize how formative it was! Numerous ideas that we have incorporated into our family life for birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, encouraging our sons to listen to the Bible on CDs at a young age, and many more came directly from this book. I am so thankful that I picked it off the shelf again this year and read it with you! I pray that it has significantly impacted you and your family moving forward as well.

With the conclusion of the Book Club, I wanted to write down my reflections. This helps me process what I’ve read, and for those of you who weren’t able to read along with us, hopefully, this will give you a brief synopsis to read. I’m praying that it will whet your appetite to read the whole book! 🙂 My mind is racing and my heart is full after finishing up the book, I can’t wait to share! My mind and heart are so full…that I wrote a lot. What started out as one blog post has grown into several. So, join with me over the next several days as we discuss together, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I hope that you’ll have insights and epiphanies to share from your own reading through the book or from your own experience. Join in on the fun!

Read the other three posts in this series here, here, and here.

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