Blog, On Mission

Thoughts on Christmas Traditions

Several other mamas have asked me recently about our family traditions during Christmas or Advent. Honestly, I feel like we are just establishing those traditions and learning and growing as our little ones are fairly young and have struggled to put my thoughts into words this season. I know, rare for me!  But I asked my friend and another On Mission Mom, Kylie, to share her thoughts on Christmas traditions with her family and a new one that her fun family started this year – The Giving Manger! Her kiddos are a few years ahead of mine and they have had a few “extra” years to really establish the traditions. I also just totally respect the wisdom and intentionality she and her hubby, Eric have in discipling and leading their fun, sweet, and talented kiddos!

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I love Christmas.  I love the traditions.  I love the sights and sounds.  The familiarity. The time with family.  And I love the gift giving.  Really.  Nothing makes me happier than finding the perfect gift for a special friend or family member. 

But that is, as Eric will tell you, as much of a curse as it is a blessing.  As with most parents at this time of year, we find ourselves fighting the temptation to overindulge (and by “we,” I actually mean “I”).  To give in. To over-do. And to justify/excuse/dismiss it all by claiming that we are doing it in the “spirit of Christmas.” 

But, we are finding that it IS possible to steer your kids away from consuming and toward contributing.  Away from commerce and toward compassion.  It takes intentionality.  But it is absolutely possible.  And absolutely worth it. So, here are our ideas—please, take them and make them your very own!

Thankful Tree:  Instead of decorating our tree with traditional ornaments, we spend time every night of Advent doing a family devotion with our Jesse Tree (more on that in just a second) and as part of that devotion, we make it a point each night to identify and discuss one thing/person/experience for which we are thankful. We then write those down on gift tags (generally of the nondescript, burlap variety) and hang those on our tree instead.  By the time Christmas Day arrives, we have a tree showcasing the multitude of blessings that God has already given us.  His faithfulness in the past sets the stage for that same faithfulness in our future and sometimes it’s a really good exercise to slow down and reflect on that and to be reminded of the immaterial gifts that have shaped us and made us who we are.

Jesse Tree:  I can’t encourage this enough.  This was the tradition that started it all for our family.  For those of you who haven’t discovered the joy of a Jesse Tree experience, please just take my word for it and commit to making it part of your yearly celebration. There are tons of variations and resources–and you can personalize it for your family.  For ours, we have a scraggly, pre-lit, needleless tree that remains dark as we work our way through the different Old Testament stories and prophecies that point us to the coming Messiah.  On Christmas morning, we do the final devotion of the year, hang the final ornament on the tree and light the scraggly, leafless tree, symbolizing the power of the incarnation and the moment at which the darkness of humanity collided with the light of Christ.  Interestingly, we’ve expanded this tradition for use during Lent, too, as we look toward Christ’s death and resurrection.  And since the two presentations are similar in nature, it really helps us underscore to our children that Christianity spans the spectrum from the cradle to the cross. 

Giving Manger:  This is our newest tradition and one that my family has embraced wholeheartedly.  Again, we use it in conjunction with our Jesse Tree devotions each night, but in this exercise, we turn our sights outward to those within our circle of influence.  Our classmates.  Our coworkers.  Our teammates.  People in our neighborhood.  And this  year, we are specifically trying to be intentional about “seeing” the overlooked.  We are praying for Christ’s eyes for the world.  And once we see them, we seek to figure out a way that we can bless them in a tangible (but not necessarily financial) way.  For each “good deed” that is performed, we add a piece of straw to the wooden manger in an effort to “prepare the manger of our heart” for the arrival of our Savior.  Again, just our attempt to keep our focus centered on Christ and others instead of on “me and my,” during a time of year when the latter seems much more prevalent than the former.

Our three “go to” activities to offset this kind of built in consumerism are battle tested and (believe it or not) kid-approved.  In fact, they have become our three favorite traditions of the season!  If you have any questions or need direction about resourcing your own traditions, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to share my sources with you!  Merriest of Christmases to you and yours!

What do you do with your little ones to help set your heart on Christ during the Christmas and Advent season ? Here is a link to the resources that Kylie mentioned above:

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The Giving Manger

 

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift – a Jesse Tree Resource

Also join us over on our On Mission Moms Pinterest Page for more Christmas and Advent ideas!

*Affiliate links are included above and On Mission Moms does receive a small portion of any purchase that you make using those links.
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Service Opportunity: Christmas Caroling with Littles

There is just something special and sweet about little ones singing Christmas carols unless it’s Jingle Bells for the 100th time at the top of their lungs. It’s even sweeter when they are singing for sweet friends at a local assisted living center. This morning we had 14 super cute little ones and 7 mamas ready to sing and worship Jesus and it was the sweetest (and shortest 15 minutes) and a fun way to kick off this Christmas Season!

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It was really a simple and easy service opportunity. I asked a friend (who just happens to be an incredible singer and mommy) what she thought, we started chatting and planning and it was pretty much done! I called and chatted with the activities director and confirmed a date and then sent out an invite to our local On Mission Moms facebook group.  For those that were able to come, I sent a short list of songs that we would sing so that mamas could practice at home. We also made Christmas cards and passed out candy canes to all the residents that had gathered. It was super simple and a great opportunity to remind our little ones that it’s not really about Santa or elves or even singing – it’s about Jesus, and loving Him, and making him known through our words and our actions.  It also gave us mamas a chance to serve with our little ones right beside us. There’s something extra special (and maybe a little crazy too) about serving with your friends and your children and their children.

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So, find a date that works, call a local assisted living center, invite a few friends, make a few cards and then sing about Jesus and sing to Jesus!

Let us know when you have a chance to go caroling by sharing pics over on Instagram @onmissionmoms !

And because we can’t just share a couple pics of this cuteness…

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Prayer Meal Idea: Oh, Canada…

As it gets colder, I often think of our Northern neighbors, Canada, and I often wonder how in the world they handle the cold?!?  I’m a summer gal through and through! I love a good snow, but I love the southern kind of snow that shuts everything down for a few days and then we head back to school and work and it’s 60 degrees a few days later. I was even complaining this morning because it was a cold 32 degrees. In Canada, their weatherman is already calling for SNOW! I just can’t…

This month we will be enjoying a popular Canadian dish, Poutine. This is an interesting combination of a few of my favorite things. Who doesn’t love fries covered in cheese? But covered in brown gravy and cheese curds? I can’t wait to give it a TRY and spend the evening setting our hearts and minds on people a little further up north and thanking the Lord that we are a little warmer…

For some great recipes for Poutine, be sure to check out our Pinterest board. I had a hard time just picking ONE – there seems to be LOTS of thoughts and ideas on how to best make this yummy messy super unhealthy dish!

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And while we are enjoying all the yumminess, we will be thinking of one of our favorite families, the Ostrems , who live in Canada with their family working among internationals through various outreaches. As they get ready to gear up for the winter months, it’s a great time to pray for them and for all that God is doing through them.

Prayer Points:

1. Pray for their Christmas outreach event with around 150 Syrians. They will be hosting a meal and sharing the Gospel. I wonder if they will serve Poutine?! Ha

2. Pray for their sports ministry. They have some great opportunities ahead but are limited on money and staff. But we know God is NOT! So we are joining them in prayer for God to provide!

3. Pray for their family. With winter coming and families not getting out much, depression can begin to set in. Pray for great family time and opportunities during the cold hard months.

They are also a pretty talented family too – Brandy has an incredible doll making business called Blessum&Arrows that you should totally check out! Oh it makes my heart skip a beat to see these sweet little creations she has made with her hands and heart!

Let us know when you try the Poutine around your dinner table! Share a pic over on our Instagram Post!

Blog, Mission Ideas

Seizing Opportunities: Serving During the Holidays

It’s so easy during the Holiday season to want to draw a circle around your family and focus on yourselves. We all get it – there are a TON of things going on – from parties to family dinners to school programs and even to the traditions that you are striving to start within your family. It’s busy! But I want to encourage you that often times during the Holidays is when others are most open to the Gospel and when we can teach our little ones to set their minds on Jesus and others, and not themselves.

Here are some easy Thanksgiving Service Ideas that you can do with your little ones!

Host a Thanksgiving Feast and Invite Others

If you look around your neighborhood, your office, your child’s school, or at your local college, you will see lots of people who could be spending this Thanksgiving alone. Invite them to your family dinner. Ask them to join you and your family for a meal.  There is always room for one more, right?! And if you have ever had to spend a holiday alone, you will know how incredible it feels to be invited in, to have a place at the table set just for you.

Visit your local Nursing Home 

Holidays can sometimes be hard for those in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living facilities. Encourage your child to make thankful leaves or a fall craft and deliver it to residents to brighten their days. Maybe you can get together with other moms and kiddos and make a fun adventure out of it! Make a craft and then set a time to deliver them all together!

Say Thank You and Give Thankfully! 

Look for ways with your little one to say “thank you” to those in your world that serve your family. This is easy – the trashman, the mail lady, the lawn guy (even if it is daddy or mommy). Make cookies, make a card, draw them a picture, buy them a hot coffee on a cold day – whatever it is, it encourages our little ones to not only SAY thank you but to live and give thankfully!

Collect Food for the Hungry 

We all love to sit down at our Thanksgiving meal but many in your own town won’t be doing that! Contact your local food bank, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter and see how you can partner with them to provide a Holiday Meal.  Let your little ones help you shop for the food items needed. Encourage them to make cards or “turkey hands” to go with the food items. Often times that means more to the family receiving the items than the actual items! Locally, we have an incredible program called Overflow which partners with many churches, our local United Way, and several serving agencies to provide Holiday Bags filled with food items like stuffing, beans, sweet potatoes, etc. and then provides recipes to help a family know how to prepare a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.

Get Outside and Rake! 

I love all the Fall Leaves but by November and December they are usually starting to pile up! Is there someone in your community or neighborhood who could use a little encouragement and physical help, maybe a widow that goes to your church? Offer to come over with the little ones and spend some time raking and helping them with their yard work. When it’s all piled up, let the little ones have a few jumps in the pile and enjoy the squeals of laughter! I’m sure that sweet widow will smile too!

These ideas aren’t brand new. They aren’t that “ah ha… what a great idea!” kinda thing. They are just simple ideas to help us set our time and our hearts on the right things this holiday season, serving Jesus and others. If we want to raise World Changers, we have to start somewhere and seize those opportunities to lead our little ones to love Jesus and others!

For more Thanksgiving Holiday service ideas, follow Pinterest!

And for Super cute ideas and traditions to start with your family during the Holidays, make sure you are following Ashley over at The Littles and Me! She has great fun activities and resources!

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I want to be like her…

I grew up hearing all about her every Christmas season, her love for the Chinese people that she served, and how she ultimately gave her life serving Jesus.  I also grew up eating the horrendous cookies she was famous for making and sharing with the children that she served.

I don’t know when, but through the years, she just kind of became that missionary hero for me.  That someone I looked up to (even though I never met her obviously!) and that someone that just intrigues me! She lived and served well before her time, especially in the Southern Baptist church culture. It was unheard of to see single women serving and speaking out in such bold and brave ways.  But she did.. and I’m thankful today that she was obedient to what God had called her to do and say.  Lottie Moon’s life and legacy is simply amazing to me for several reasons.

She loved Jesus and the Gospel more than anything else!   When she left for China to share Jesus with a people who had never heard the gospel, she left behind a future of marriage and possible children. She left behind her family and the wealth  and education and the comforts.  She counted the cost and knew that Christ was worth it ALL! And on July 7, 1873 at the age of thirty-three, Lottie Moon was appointed as a single missionary to China.


“O that the people of God would rise to their opportunities!”

“I long to see Southern Baptists rise up to the measure of duty and privilege in giving the gospel. . . .” 


She was BOLD and called others to action! She was known for the letters that she wrote back to her brothers and sisters challenging them to give and to go and to pray like never before.  She didn’t stop even when it seemed like no one was listening. She also didn’t just focus on connecting with single women, like her. No, she boldly called out the pastor, the men, and the women. She wasn’t okay with the status quo and she was bold enough to stand up against it.

She left a lasting legacy! Every Christmas season, millions of dollars are raised by the International Mission Board in her honor. This money keeps missionaries serving around the world. It started with her bold letters when she pleaded with her Christian  brothers and sisters in America to give like never before.  While I don’t believe she ever dreamed that years later the largest missions offering would be collected yearly in her honor, I do believe that she knew God had called her to do and say BIG things, lasting things and she obeyed! Because of her obedience, hundreds of missionaries have been sent to the mission field (including me) and countless people have entered into an eternity with Jesus.

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Picture of Lottie Moon. (Unknown Source)

So I want to be like her in a lot of ways…

I want to set my eyes and my heart, my bank account, my time – all that I am on Jesus. I want to be BOLD. I want to speak words that are filled with truth and that call myself and others to radical obedience, even when it’s a lonely place.   I want to invest in the eternal things so that many more will hear about the Jesus that I love.

What about you? Who’s your missionary hero? Who challenges you to give, to go, to welcome, to send, and to pray like never before?

You can learn more about the life of Lottie Moon here!

There are also a LOT of fun resources to learn and celebrate the life of Lottie Moon over on On Mission Moms Pinterest. You can also get the recipe for the cookies she was known for.

Resources to share with our littles about the Life of Lottie Moon:


Mission Ideas, On Mission

Thankful Leaves: A Printable

If you could write out all the things you are thankful for, what would you write? We have so much to be thankful for! I’m so thankful that my sweet gals are napping in their rooms right now as I write this! Ha

Seriously though, this time of year just gets me! I love Thanksgiving and turkey and of course the pecan pie! But a huge part of it is the tradition that Dan and I started when we first got married. We began a thankful “tree” and each evening at dinner, we spent a few minutes writing what we were thankful for from that day on a little “leaf” and tying it to the tree. Some things are funny. Some things are just plain silly. Some are sweet. And some just make me cry like a baby. Once our gals came along we knew we wanted the tradition to continue and each year just gets better and better! And we also love keeping the “leaves” and going back and reading them… lots of things change from year to year.

I also have noticed that when we are more focused on things we are thankful for, our gals begin to also do the same. It’s funny how that works, eh…

So how do you foster thankfulness around your home? Do you have any traditions like a “thankful tree”?

If you don’t, I want to encourage you to start a simple tradition and take time to voice and write down things you’re thankful for this year!

Here’s a simple (like super simple) leaf printable that you can use. Just print and cut and then punch holes and tie on your tree!

Click the Link Below to Download your free printable!

Our “tree” is pretty basic too – just find a good mason jar, fill it with sticks and there ya have it! I think they even have some great “real” trees now at Hobby Lobby or Target?!

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What thankful traditions do you have?! Share your ideas here or over on our Instagram!

Here’s the free Printable!

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Growing Thankful Hearts…

“But mommy…. just one more! One more piece of candy!” Seems to be said and heard a lot around our house during this time of year.

At Times, it makes me want to pull my hair out and scream, “can’t you just be thankful that I even let you have ONE piece….” (while that silly pumpkin taunts me from the counter…)

But, then I take a step back and a few minutes of “mommy timeout”, and remember that it’s my calling and honor to teach my girls how to have thankful hearts. They definetly don’t and can’t learn that on their own!

This is a great and easy time of year to take a step back and spend some time developing little thankful hearts.

1. It starts with you! Are you thankful for the things which God has given you? Your home? Your family and your friends? The clothes you wear? Spend some time personally thanking God for all that He has blessed you with. A wise friend once reminded me that “if I were to wake up today with only the things that I thanked God for yesterday, what would I have?” Thats convicting! I can sometimes skip The thankfulness and move right into the petition. When you invite your children into your thankfulness, it’s huge! Do they hear you say “thank you” to your hubby or for that special gift or for the food or for the raise you surprisingly received at work? Or are they hearing you whine “just one more….”

2. Be intentional! There are lots of great ways to foster thankfulness. For us, we have the tradition that dates back to the beginning of our marriage of having a thankful “tree” and each evening during November, we take time at dinner to share one or two things we are thankful for from that day. It may be a phone call from a friend, a walk with the dog, a hug from one of the girls… it can be anything. But we write it down on a “leaf” and tie it to the tree. And over the month it’s always fun to watch the tree begin to fill up. There are other fun ways too celebrate and foster thankfulness.

3. Read about it! Start with scripture and share what it has to say and talk about it with your little ones. 1 Thes. 5:18, Col. 3:15, Col.4:2 and I could keep on going! Just look up “thankful” in your bible! Memorize a few of those verses this month. My favorite is 1 Chronicles 16:34. God’s word is active and alive and can change their hearts! There are also really great books and stories to read together. One recent resource I came across is the “I will Thank You” scripture and art journal from Kids Read Truth! So good!

3. Say it and show it! Take time with your kids to say “thank you”. Make a special card for a grandparent that watched the kids overnight, or the maillady that goes above and beyond with your mail, or the trash man who is faithful to pick up your trash each week. Take time and make cookies or buy a coke or coffee for that teacher who loves on your kids when you can’t. And do this with your kids by your side! Does it take you longer? yep! Can you whip up cookies during nap and be done with it? Probably? But look for ways to bring your kids in to the activity and chat about the whys and watch them grow in their own thankfulness.

What other ideas do you have? What has helped grow thankfulness in the heart of your little one?

Check out our Pinterest Board to see fun ideas to say and grow thankfulness in our little one’s heart! And of course, if you have an idea or resource to share, please do! That is how we grow and learn!

And let me say “Thank you” to each of you who continue to follow On Mission Moms! Thank you for sharing your ideas! Thank you for sharing these posts and inviting your friends to be on Mission with you!! Thank you for pushing me on toward more and more love for Christ and love for others!