Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!

    The most beautiful time as a woman 

    I’m convinced the most feminine time for a woman is when she feels the least attractive. Allow me to explain.

    Many woman I know feel like I do when they are pregnant. Heavy. Swollen. Changing. Dealing with uncomfortable comments from some other people – most people, especially women, are full of grace for this time, because they’ve gone through it – but well-intentioned people can say strange things.

    Exhibit A.

    *I tell someone I’m expecting our third prize in January and pat my belly* 

    A wonderfully kind man says “congratulations, and thank you for saving us the embarrassment of asking or wondering if you’re just fat.”

    I laugh and say “yes, that’s how I feel.” 

    My husband shakes his head for the man, embarrassed on behalf of the male gender species. He can’t help it.

    I’m not angry, not one bit. I understand some people just don’t know what to say. And it’s ironic albeit a little more painful to hear, because it’s exactly how I’m feeling: fat!

    I was talking with another gal this weekend who told me her pregnancies were a series of planning driving trips around her tendency to throw up. How difficult!! I get it! There is no way to feel good if that’s how your body responds!

    And another who told me about her 19 hour labor which ended in emergency c-section and the aftermath of recovery.

    Another who recalled her inability to shed the last 20 pounds gained after children.

    And my own experience of needing to heal after delivering babies. I remember having my first child, and a male friend who came to visit right after couldn’t hide his surprise when he saw my belly was still looking as if I were six months pregnant. This is not, afterall, how the magazines and moves show us life happens! In the world of mommy makeovers and c-section tummy tucks, women should look more attractive after childbirth, right?

    When the reality is, we are red-eyed from sleepless nights, weepy and puffy from crying alongside our new infants and the wave of unpredictable hormones, smelly from spit-up and blow-out diapers, and sore in all the areas one might otherwise take for granted that make the most basic of human functions a challenge. 

    But this is when a woman really truly shines. Her body was broken in the moments and months she was giving life. Eve’s sin made pregnancy and childbirth painful. It is a sacrifice in so many ways. And in the aftermath of the birth, her broken body pushes on to nurture that tiny human, robbing Mom of nutrients her own body otherwise would appreciate using to restore all that child-growing stole. 

    She nurses the baby. She changes diapers. She sacrifices sleep to provide comfort and more nutrition. And it’s her privilege to do it. 

    And then child-rearing is an experience of learning to let go. As the physical grip loosens, a mother’s spiritual grip and dependence on God must tighten. So she focuses more and more on the transforming power of God, out of her own benefit, but much to benefit her own children. She is desperately focused on trying to exemplify and point those tiny souls towards Christ, so they know on whom they can rely. Because moms know we don’t live forever. Our days are numbered, and one days these souls who broke our bodies will have to fend for themselves.

    A woman is most beautiful and feminine in her brokenness.

    Girl’s Nights Out

    I moved from my hometown in early 2014. I left all my old friends and family. I frequently enjoyed girls’ nights out.

    In Rochester, I began “girl’s night in” – hosting little dessert gatherings in my home. We usually followed a theme, like pamper yourself night, or home remedies.

    So when we moved again three and a half months ago, I decided to start these right away. I have been so blessed. You never know what treasures lie beneath a person’s smile until you sit and ask them questions. 

    Tonight was my third one, and there were four of us. These women are amazing. Their stories, their hearts, their experiences… 

    Women are wonderful creatures, and I really enjoy sisterhood. I need it. I crave it. I’m looking for real intimacy that is only created over time, through vulnerability and giving and sharing. I’m excited to get to know some of the women of this city! This is one of my rewards for the hard work of life – the honor and privilege of getting to know and befriend others. 

    Thank you ladies, who are willing to set time aside in your busy schedules to spend some time with me! Xo, Robyn

    Oh, and to the ladies of Atlanta and Rochester who used to enjoy a ladies’ night with me, I most certainly miss you!! Old friends are gold.

    Top 10 Do Nots for Homeschool Moms

    It’s easy to get wrapped up in curriculum choices, programs, groups, and activities in homeschool life. After all, these items can help you create structure and rhythm that are helpful to raising children. Now that it’s summer, let’s emphasize what not to do next year.

    1. Don’t discard the main goal: grow children who love God and love other people. There are so many mandates in that sentence, however, let this be the center of your schooling. Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his deeds are pure and right. Do the hard thing. Shape your kids. Show them their Creator and how His hand covers your lives. Maybe you can memorize math equations but not really know how to work them… but you can’t fake this one!
    2. Don’t let curriculum dictate your goals. Curriculum is a tool. It’s not God. Curriculum can’t know your family, your child’s capabilities, nor your life situations.
    3. Don’t get caught up in “keeping up with the jones'”. Expect exceptional work from your children at the level to which they are working. You know in your heart of what they are capable. Just because Sally next door can (insert skill) doesn’t mean your child should have to right now. Be patient in the process.
    4. Don’t accept work done half-heartedly. Measure your expectations fairly for each individual child, but get that child in the habit of doing their task with mastery. Success happens via thoroughness, resilience, persistence and creativity around problems.
    5. Don’t accept a poor attitude. Poor attitudes are ruinous, inconsiderate and unacceptable. Allowing a poor attitude will follow your children like a storm into adulthood. Expecting a good attitude teaches your children how to reframe situations in healthy ways and look for the positive. It makes them less selfish and invites more joy into their hearts.
    6. Don’t take the easy way out. It’s faster for you to do things for your children sometimes. It’s smoother to bribe or cajole but it reaps laziness, boredom and dependency in your kids. Encourage your kids to do hard work, and see their confidence grow, their talents deepen, and their ability to acquire new skills accelerate.
    7. Don’t slip from your routine. Life happens, but protect the time you have for schooling and do your best to preserve your schedule. Even unschoolers need to devote hours to a school schedule while running a home and meeting life’s demands!
    8. Don’t beat yourselves up! If you don’t meet a goal, maintain something, or your kids are moving slower than you’d like, take heart, there are so many ways to recover!
    9. Don’t go it alone! Join a co-op, or if you don’t like a co-op for your kids then at least join a mothers support and information group!
    10. Don’t lose yourself in your kids. Remember and honor your needs. You’ll be a better teacher if you’re spending time with God, and are well rested, fed and encouraged, still engaged in your own hobbies or intellectual person?

    Be Spectacular Today – Feed a Kid, I will double your contribution from now till Nov 4, 2013!

    My Son, Micah, and I are raising money to help make a difference for hungry kids!

    I believe that no child in America should be hungry. But the fact is, this year, more than 16 million children in America will face hunger. That’s one in five.

    Share our Strength is working to connect hungry kids with the food they need to grow and thrive, and I’ve signed up to help by joining Team No Kid Hungry! I’m sharing my strength to help hungry kids get the healthy food they need every day, and I need your help.

    Every dollar you donate will make a huge impact for kids. In fact, just $1 can help connect a child with 10 meals.  Plus, I will personally MATCH whatever you donate.  So, from now until Nov 4th, your $1 will help connect a child with 20 meals!

    http://join.nokidhungry.org/site/TR/Events/DD-IndieRaiser?team_id=139365&pg=team&fr_id=1220