Traditions can be so much fun! I love having things that are special to "our family". Things that are part of the fabric of our lives together. Many of our traditions center around the holidays and Christmas is no exception.
I've been feeling a little overwhelmed with all that Christmas can entail and not wanting to do so much this year. I want to keep it simple, make fun memories and not have the stress of so many things to do and things to buy. I asked each member of our family to list one thing that they wanted to be sure we did this Christmas season. That is the list we are focusing on! We've done some of them and have some yet to do. Here is a little bit of what is going on at our house.
One of the traditions my family had when I was growing up was that my Mom gave my sister and I an ornament each year. When we grew up and had our own Christmas trees, then we had a set of ornaments and memories collected from over the years.
I started this tradition with our family after Roger and I got married. We collected ornaments from trips we took before we had children. When Christopher was born, he received his first ornament that Christmas. Each year I have searched for an ornament that was special. I looked for something that signified a special event or memory for that child or reflected an interest, hobby or talent. It's a tradition that has become a sweet one for all of us. When I asked my children to name at least one thing that they wanted to be sure we did this Christmas - receiving new ornaments was on the list! It warms my heart when I hear that the traditions that are meaningful to me are also the ones my children treasure.
I started late with my shopping this year (I've hardly done any at all!). This was important to me though and so last week I hit the stores with great hopes that I would find just the right ornament for each of my precious children. It took several trips, but I found ornaments for all of them at various Hallmark stores. I've always written their name on the ornament and/or the box it came in. Sometimes I would write a little note. As we unpacked the ornaments, I thought I should write a note to them each year. I should share why I picked the ornament and what it signified to me. I also included a prayer for them. (Eliana was sleeping when we gave out the ornaments to the children.)
For Christopher - "Do Yourself Flavor" to represent his love of cooking and creative/adventurous spirit in the kitchen. My prayer is that his spirit would reflect the fruits/spice of God in his heart. (See photo below with Isaiah)
For Rebecca - Gingerbread men that she decorated. I bought this as it reminded me of her sweet heart, her creativity in making things and her enjoyment of cooking/baking. My prayers is that her love for God would grow stronger and stronger.
For Joshua - Beagle Scouts. It reminded me of a memorable camping trip and his enjoyment of things outdoors. It is also my prayer that he would grow in his ability to lead and serve and that he would learn to use his gifts to God's glory.
For Isaiah - What Christmas is All About. I saw this one in the catalog and found that it was sold out in the store. I thought I would just look elsewhere. I tried one more store that evening with no luck.
The following morning I started calling stores. I called all in my city and none had the ornament. I looked at ebay and found that they were already going for high prices (more than double the asking price). I knew that this wasn't a good sign. I decided to try calling neighboring towns. I received the same answer at store after store. One lady even told me that she thought all the stores were sold out. I then checked the on-line Hallmark store and it too was sold out. *sigh*
As you can probably guess, I *really* wanted this ornament. I want to share one of my sweetest memories from last Christmas. Our sweet Eliana was born early - 8 days before Christmas. The shock of her medical difficulties, founding out she has Down syndrome, a stay in the NICU and feeding struggles had left me raw, exhausted and weary. It was not the Christmas I had envisioned or expected.
On Christmas, our then 5yo son Isaiah called us all to gather around. He is a dramatic little boy with a vivid imagination so when he told us that he had a story to tell, none of us knew what to expect. We all gathered and when he had our full attention, he began to tell the Christmas story. It was a sweet and unexpected blessing to hear this beautiful story from our son. This coupled with his pronouncement that this "is the best Christmas ever" were balm to my hurting heart.
So when I saw this ornament of Linus telling the Christmas story, I just wanted it for Isaiah. I continued to call and finally found a store that said that they had just found this ornament in the back. I asked her to hold it for me and told her I would come get it. I thanked God with sweet tears of joy. I knew that I didn't "have" to have this ornament and nobody would know that it was missing. It was a blessing though to have God orchestrate this small blessing for me.
Isaiah loves the ornament and carries it around listening to the story. It is my prayer that this story would always be on his heart.
Daniel - Oh What Fun! is a perfect description of this delightful little boy! He brings joy, laughter and smiles to our days. I pray that he would find his joy in knowing God.
Eliana - She had to have something special too. What a first year she has had. All of the baby ornaments which were so cute, also had "Baby's First Christmas" on them. Obviously this wouldn't work. I wanted something with a heart on it. My sweet friend Rebecca found a lovely Willow Tree angel holding a heart - Angel of the Heart. Eliana has shown strength, joy and love in the midst of trials. The heart reminds me of her healed one and the incredible privilege we have of loving this beautiful girl. I pray that she would know the joy of giving her heart completely to God.
Journey to Bethlehem
This was Roger's choice - and strongly echoed by several of the children. We visit a local church which hosts a reenactment of the Christmas story. It is wonderful! We have done this for a number of years and it is such a neat way to have the story come to life. It's very popular and we typically have a long wait. This year we brought some games which helped to pass the time. It was worth the wait as the experience of going back in time is very special.
Christmas Tree Skirt
This is one of my favorites - and the one that I added to the list. I have tried to have the children paint their handprints on the tree skirt each year. I am pretty sure we have missed a year or two since we started. I love seeing the hands grow - and the number of hands too. My younger children like putting their hands in the prints and comparing them to an older sibling. I love the reminder of the tiny hands that I once held in mine.
I hope that by writing these memories and prayers that my children will know how deeply they are loved and prayed for each day. I pray that this would help them to remember and treasure our times together. I pray that God would use these times and traditions to knit our hearts closer to each other and closer to Him. I'm thankful for this time of celebrating the birth of Jesus!