Friday, December 2, 2011

'Tis the Season

OK, fellow Moms...let's see if you can relate to this scenario:

Years ago, as a little girl, you couldn't wait to grow up and become a Mommy...partly so you could share the magic of Christmas with your own children. Christmas was your favorite time of year. Filled with so many wonderful moments. The decorations, the time spent remembering the birth of your Savior, the special times with extended family...it was just one magical moment after another! Oh for the fun of being able to share that with your own children someday!!

And now: you love to see the wonder of your children's eyes in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You play the Christmas music. You decorate the house. You plan some special things like: cookie baking with friends, Christmas parties, and "Elf" movie nights. Yet all the while, you just can't shake the feeling that this time of year is not how you remember it. Now that you're the "magic maker", Christmas just isn't quite the same. Instead of warm fuzzies, you get...well, the need to take stress relief tablets. Where did the wonder of Christmas go?!

I have a pretty good idea. My bank account doesn't match up with my gift-giving love language. And really, what made the magic for me at Christmas-time as a little girl? The gifts under the tree. Oh sure, I loved to sing the songs about baby Jesus and I loved that our Christmas was highlighted by our annual candlelight service on Christmas Eve. But really...the "magic" came from all the shiny wrapped things under the tree.

Want to know the other thing that has taken away some of the magic of Christmas for me? Change. What do I mean? As a child, my grandparents were alive and here to share in the memories. They died before I met Dave and had kids. My heart still aches that they're not here. (In fact, I'm crying as I type this.) Oh how I wish they could have met my kids. Oh how I wish they could have known the man that has given me more happiness than I thought ever possible. I know that such is the circle of life. I also know that my own parents are now reaching the age where every year with them is a true gift. I just can't bear to think about those types of changes. Makes me want to freeze time right here. At least make it slow down a little.

Also, as a child, we used to celebrate Christmas with our extended family crammed around the ping-pong table (brought up from the basement just for the day). We had grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Now our Christmas gatherings are quite small. My kids don't have any cousins their age. Both my immediate family and Dave's are quite small. As the years go by and family traditions change...it just totally changes the feeling of this time of year. I try not to get lost in the thoughts of how it used to be. I try to focus on the here and now and enjoy it all. But still...it's just not quite what I remember.

Well enough of that. It's time to re-claim the magic!!

Two books that have helped me this time of year are Lisa Whelchel's The ADVENTure of Christmas and Karen Ehman & LeAnn Rice's new e-book Untangling Christmas. If you long to get the focus of Christmas back to its proper place...and make some fun new memories and traditions with your kiddos - you'll want to read both of these!

Want to hear some of my magic creating "plans" for this Christmas? Here are a few:

  • For starters, I'm putting my shopping list on paper...and then praying about it before I start shopping. (Yes, that's right. I've barely begun my shopping. Don't judge me.) You see, since gift-giving is truly one of my biggest love languages, I could go a little overboard this time of year. I'm trying to find that balance between letting my kids enjoy the gift portion of Christmas like I used to - while still keeping the focus on Christ's birth (and not breaking the bank). I hope that praying and thinking about my gift list a while before actually purchasing, will take away some of the anxiety that this portion normally causes.
  • We are going to be doing several of the fun ideas from The ADVENTure of Christmas. Things like: decorate a tree in our backyard for the animals (page 9), lighting our Advent candles & sharing the meaning of each one (page 6), trying our hand at home-made candy canes (page 15), and maybe even making some homemade "spiced" Christmas ornaments (page 13).
  • A tradition we started a few years ago, which the kids just love, is using the What God Wants for Christmas kit. It's a little nativity scene where each of the main pieces - like an angel, a shepherd, a wise man, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus - are inside a box and opened one a day for a week. There is a poem with each piece and even hints on where to hide them. The last box just has a mirror in it - because what God wants for Christmas is YOU! It's a Maranka family favorite. 
  • A fun thing that a couple friends and I started last year, is to get together with all our kids and have a cookie baking/exchange day. Our plan this year is to have the GFS pre-cut Christmas cookies (they're SO good and SO worth the money!) all baked and ready for the kids to decorate. Then we'll make 3 different easy recipes together that day (things like Oreo Truffles, Easy Turtles) - plus we'll each have made 2 recipes beforehand to share. That means when the day is done, we'll not only have had several hours of fun interacting...but we'll all have 10 different Christmas treats to take home & share! This is one of my favorite new traditions.
  • And the last thing that helps make Christmas keep the magic for me, is to listen to lots of great Christian Contemporary Christmas songs. (Thank you Pandora!) I LOVE Christmas music. But, I am not a big fan of many of the secular Christmas songs. They just put the focus where I don't want it to be. I am going to immerse myself in Christian Christmas music this month. I'm listening to Pandora as I type this. Thanks to my techie husband, I can even listen to Pandora through our big stereo in the living room. The kids and I are going to worship through song every day!

The theme of Untangling Christmas is to weed out the things that don't really need to happen, and just focus on the things that mean the most to you and your family. Have you stopped to think about what those things are for you? I hope this year to be able to enjoy the gift-giving (remember, it's one of my biggest love languages!) while not getting caught up in the expense of it. To bless others with some thoughtful things that didn't cost a ton. And, (because I love to worship through music!) I'm going to saturate myself in Christmas songs centered on Jesus. 

May we each remember that the baby in the manger grew up to become our Savior on the cross. Take some time, along with me, to read all the Scriptures (both Old and New Testament) focused on the birth of the Savior. It's really breath-taking to think that hundreds of years before the angel spoke to Mary...our Savior's birth was foretold. Oh how that gives me goosebumps! 

I pray we each reclaim that child-like faith this Christmas. 

That we are in awe of our God. 

In love with His Word. 

Thankful for the precious gift of His Son that first Christmas morn'. 

I can feel that magic...can you feel it too?

Merry Christmas friends!!