What if Jesus Isn’t the Reason for the Season, and We Celebrate Anyway!

I’ve had a novel (or maybe not) revelation this year.

For years, Christians have debated Christmas. “Do we celebrate at all, or do we not?”  ”The origin of Christmas is pagan.” “The origin of Christmas is St. Nicolas.” ” ‘Xmas’ is an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.”  ”No, ‘Xmas’ actually uses the Greek letter ‘Chi’ which means Christ.” “Jesus wouldn’t want to have anything to do with a commercialized holiday.” “Jesus wants us to celebrate his birth, no matter what it looks like or when it is.”

I’ve read them all, extensively.

For years our family has tried to find a balance by forsaking the Santa/commercialized angle but still enjoying the season and insisting that the holiday really is/should be centered around the Christ child. No harm done.

But if we were all brutally honest, no matter how hard we try, Christmas still ends up being largely about food, squeezing in all the family gatherings and exchanging gifts. We try to focus our minds on Christ but end up feeling guilty because we’re distracted by all the celebrating.

So that’s why I’ve asked the question: “What if that’s OK?”

Can’t we simply have a holiday of fun, food, family and gifts?

Because here’s the thing: Christians neither need a holiday to celebrate the birth of their Savior (we live daily in celebration of Him, don’t we?) nor are they forbidden to celebrate, to have fun and to give gifts, just because.

I’m having a guilt-free Christmas this year! Not a gluttonous, go-into-debt-to-buy-things-no-one-needs, lie-to-your-children kind (Christians are bound to live righteously), but a joyful celebration of life, of sharing good things with my family and friends, of beautiful lights and music and candles and decorations because we were created to love beauty and beauty inspires.

Can we just enjoy the winter season and all its beauty without feeling guilty for “doing it wrong” or conscience-bound for doing it at all?

I’m not saying you can’t celebrate Jesus during this season too, setting aside a special time of remembrance. But I am suggesting you don’t have to, and that often our attempts to are a facade.

And despite the alleged pagan roots of the Christmas tradition (even our days of the week have pagan roots), our Lord has redeemed every day (Romans 14:5) and He has come that we may have abundant life, including fun times of guilt-free merriment for the pure enjoyment.

I am a child of God, celebrating the birth, death and life of my Savior every day, and throwing some parties and giving gifts to those I love in December.

Merry Christmas!

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Think Outside the Classroom

 


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To My Children, On Gratitude

From a couple of years ago…thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Bria, Ashton, Alexa, Avalee, Brooks, Mallie, Kyla, Ellia & Jax,

If there is one trait in this life that will give you a rich, fulfilling one, it is GRATITUDE.

The ability to see the beauty in simple pleasures; the ability to let what you have blind you to the things you don’t.

Gratitude is knowing that God is enough, no matter what your circumstances.

Gratitude is not taking your life for granted. It is remembering that a healthy body is a gift, a warm house is not a right, and food at every meal is a luxury to most of the world.

 

Children, I won’t apologize to you because you don’t have all the technological gadgets your peers do. I am not sad that we can’t buy you your own car when you turn sixteen, or that you are saving your money to buy a special thing you’ve been wanting.

From my observation of the world these forty years, this will help you, not harm you.

Gifts are nice when they are gifts, but they can be too much. So much that you forget, and take for granted, and become ungrateful and feel entitled.

I love you too much for that. I praise God with the psalmist for having “neither too little nor too much”. I thank Him for daily bread and I want you to grow up doing the same.

 

 

I want you to find contentment in simplicity, looking to the relationships around you for your deepest joy.
And I want to thank you SO MUCH, that you prefer people over prosperity. Lots of people worry about our younger children taking something away from our older ones, but not once have you worried about that.

 

You have reminded us that they add something to your lives. While the others worry, you’ve even asked for more siblings…oh the purity and rightness of a child’s thoughts! That we would be able to think like you do!

 

Gratitude is so easily robbed in our culture! We live the largest irony in stating that “money doesn’t make you happy” and then sacrificing our lives to disprove our theory.

So, I pray this Thanksgiving season that you would hold on to gratitude. Be thankful for every sunrise, every warm bowl of soup, every night your Daddy comes home, for every clean item of clothing in your closet, for peace, when others are at war….be thankful, and even if it were all taken away, tune your hearts to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

 

 

999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude

 

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Think Outside the Classroom

 


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A Book Series Your Children Will Love

If you are like me, you are always on the look out for good, well-written books that capture your children’s attention. Well I’m thrilled to recommend to you, the Growly Bear books, a series of adventure and fun for the family! The characters in this series are so likable and the adventures pull you in and paint vivid pictures to help you experience the story.

Unlike the twaddle that is so prevalent among children’s books today, the Growly series is a wholesome, fun story that props up your child’s growing vocabulary and whets the literary appetite for more mature, tantalizing literature.

I appreciate the craft of these works and the effort to produce exceptional literature for children, evident by the authors’ careful attention throughout the books.

Start a fun, family adventure with this awesome series by husband and wife team, Philip and Erin Ulrich. Read more about the Growly Bear Books!

“The forest was a wonder to Growly–the flowers and ferns so exotic with their shapes and colors, the tangle of vines amongst the towering trees, and the leafy canopy that blocked out the sky.  It was a truly wondrous place. He wished he could stop every few feet to study a plant or bug or flower, but they had to keep moving.”

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Think Outside the Classroom

 


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Raising Boys Into Men: Tend the Field

I think we don’t look enough into our little boy’s face and see the man, or into our daughter’s and see the woman. Enjoying and celebrating their childhood is normal and good, but it can be too easy to hover there, forgetting the goal, forgetting to grow them up, forgetting they are men and women in the making, even now.

Stephen Mansfield’s book, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, (run, and do not walk, to Amazon to buy this book) has rekindled a vigor in me to raise men, reminding me of how desperately our society depends on it. Mansfield, a brilliant writer and a godly man, gives four “maxims” of manhood.

One of them is this: “Men tend their fields.”

Mansfield explained that he was a bad defensive player in football until one of his genius coaches taught him an important life lesson. He drew a box on the field and told him, “This is your territory. Don’t let anyone in here. Guard it, protect it. It’s yours.” Once, when he let a player through with the ball, the coach told him to meet him on the field the next cold, November morning. When they met, the coach handed Mansfield a pair of scissors and told him he wanted him to “mow” his patch. He said if he took care of it, he would be more likely to guard it. It took Mansfield a week or so to cut all the blades of grass in his patch of field. The plan worked and Mansfield said he became obsessive about that patch. No one ever crossed it again.

Real men own their territories (whatever that is, in each season of life). They guard it, take responsibility for it, care for it, protect it, nurture it and love it.

It’s action. Men do. Real men act like men.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that if we don’t teach them to act like men now, they likely won’t suddenly turn into men as adults.

To tend fields, they must be given fields. From a young age, we can get them practicing responsibility for their fields in their bedrooms, their hygiene, their schoolwork and their chores or jobs. As they become men and learn how to take responsibility for their fields, they grow into men who will do likewise with their families.

We can’t coddle them, tend their fields for them or cushion them from consequences. To do that is to castrate them and set them toward failure. We have too many men who don’t know what it means to have a fierce loyalty to his family, understanding the buck stops with him, because he was never taught the importance of tending his field.

There is a gross misunderstanding by feminists and the feminist-minded that take-charge men are bullies. Some males are bullies, but those aren’t men. (Raising Men in a Man-Hating World)

Real men don’t abdicate or dictate, or wait on someone else or shift blame when things go wrong, or become apathetic. They take charge, they own their responsibility and they nurture those in their care. They emulate Christ who described himself as a shepherd. He owned his field. He tended his flock. The call to men is still the same.

If we don’t have a proper understanding of what a man is supposed to be, we raise our boys wrong. I am challenged to parent with the end in mind. To build habits in my little boys that will grow and serve them in manhood. Do you realize that our work now will greatly impact their wives and children?

A whole generation depends on our vigilance.

 

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Think Outside the Classroom

 


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Money-Saving Wedding Ideas: Invitations for Less

With the upcoming marriage of our daughter, there were so many options for invitations it made my head spin. I found several I loved on Etsy at reasonable prices, but when you’re really trying to save every dollar, and you’ve got a large guest list, making them yourself is the way to go.

And with easy-to-use programs like Picmonkey, it’s easy to create whatever your heart desires.

I created this simple design which I uploaded to Vista Print. They ended up being $.70 each, PLUS, a quick Google search for “vista print promotional code” rendered a 25% off code, saving me $26 on my final order!

 

How to design:

  • I clicked on the 5 x 7 design in Picmonkey, found a cute flower and added it (overlay–your own)
  • Under “effects” I chose “cross process”, “intrepid” and “rapture”, adjusting them a little to get the desired effect.
  • Oh, and if you look closely, just for a fun effect, I added their initials in the background and then used the fade tool.

Using the same flower, I designed a return label and RSVP card, uploaded those as well, and ended up spending $110 for 150 invitations, cards, envelopes and labels.

Another huge money saver: we simply created a free website and a place to RSVP then put that on the card which didn’t require an extra stamp (thus doubling the cost). The perks are, it’s easier for the recipient to reply and it’s easier for you to keep track of replies.

My favorite thing about create your own is how easy it is to reflect your daughter’s personality and get exactly what you want in an invitation for cheaper than you could buy them. You could add photos, art or any other creation you can dream up.

Have you been able to create invitations cheaper? I’d LOVE to hear your ideas!

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Think Outside the Classroom

 


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What Parenting Really Is (Because We’re Not Perfect)

 

This is my sweet daughter. My first born who will marry the love of her life in 33 days. It’s both glorious and gut-wrenching, as I’ve written about.

Preparing to turn loose of one of your children forces a lot of soul-searching. There are always regrets. That’s normal. (I wish I had spent more time on X.)

It is surreal to walk into her bedroom and see it being dismantled. The place where she has been almost every night of her life for over twenty years is about to be empty. (Deep breath.) And a whole lot more hard stuff I’ll refrain from writing.

But yes, it causes me to look back over the twenty years with her at the joy and the time that seemed to fly too quickly. One thing I’ve realized the older I am, is that you really don’t ever “get” this parenting thing. I mean you do, but it’s always changing. What you need as you mother little ones is not the same thing you need to handle the deep questions of your adult children. Nor is it what you need to carefully handle the emerging ones as they grow into their own independence.

As Bria and I have more heart-to-heart talks lately, I know I made mistakes. In my zeal as a first-time-mom, I probably did what many first-time-moms do and expected more than I should. But now I get to look at her and as she gives me enormous grace for my imperfections, I assure her that she, too, will make mistakes. There is no perfect parenting. And that’s OK and normal.

You need to know that: there is no perfect parenting.

What there can be, though, is deliberate parenting, and extending grace to your children when they mess up the way you hope it is extended to you when you mess up. I don’t mean chucking authority and abdicating our responsibility to train and guide them, but to do it with a tenderness and understanding so they know, no matter what in life, we’ve got their backs. Children need that kind of security.

I’m learning about that grace…how to give it to myself as well, and how to give others the benefit of the doubt the way I hope they give it to me.

That’s what walking through this life is. Learning, growing, grace. Being deliberate but being real. Expecting much, and extending much.

I’ll probably walk through this thing nine more times. This is just the beginning and I’m thankful for that grace, that I can learn and hopefully improve as a mom.

And I see God’s grace in the lives of my children, that even despite our mistakes, He is making it right, renewing our strength each day, and allowing us to see the fruit of our labor.

Parenting is little more than being tirelessly intentional, admitting when we’re wrong, asking forgiveness, getting back up and going at it again. It’s keeping our eyes on the goal–seeking first the Kingdom of God and ushering our children into that chief pursuit alongside us.

 

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Think Outside the Classroom

 


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