Thursday, 27 November 2014
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I never used to pay much attention to Advent. I didn't buy an Advent calendar or engage in any other traditions, apart from putting up our Christmas tree at the beginning of December. My daughter changed that for me. Last year, we used a Little People Nativity set to go through the Christmas story each night with our then two year old. I heard of some other Advent activities that interested me. I figured that three years old would be a good age to start setting up some new Advent traditions that intentionally focus on Jesus in the Christmas season. My husband and I had already made the decision not to do Santa with any children we had before I was even pregnant. This does make it easier to keep the focus on Christ, in my opinion.
I have been so excited to start Advent this year. I have been thinking about it for a few months and have put together a plan in the past couple of weeks of what I want to do. I was thrilled when one of my favourite writers, Ann Voskamp, put out a family version of her Advent devotional complete with ornaments that the kids can colour to go along with it. This was quickly added into my plans!
Unwrapping The Greatest Gift-
This will be the largest part of our Advent time. This book is beautifully illustrated and written focusing on Jesus' lineage and the lead up to the Christmas story. There are printable ornaments that Isabel can colour in while I read. She is younger than the recommended age so I'm not sure if she will engage fully with it but it will be a start. Ann Voskamp has recently released some extra freebies to celebrate Advent with. I am putting each ornament into a little envelope for Isabel to unwrap each day. We will then hang it on a little Christmas tree. I was originally planning to do this each evening after dinner. I am wondering if mornings might be better though as our evening routine is fairly full and it can often be a grumpy time of day!! This devotional will be our daily focus time on Jesus.
Last year I fell in love with the idea of the Kindness Elves on The Imagination Tree blog. The idea is to encourage kids to think of others instead of themselves in this usually selfish season. I had seen pictures of the Elf on a Shelf craze but didn't like the philosophy behind it so this was a welcome idea. I knew that last year would not have worked with Isabel's age. I was so determined to start this as a tradition that I even bought an elf doll on clearance at the beginning of the year. I have since changed this to be a Kindness Angel instead of the Elf as it felt random and out of place without the Santa traditions accompanying them. Going against my natural inclination to go completely overboard and putting pressure on myself, I made a plan to only do 2-3 Kindness Angel activities per week. I made a list of ideas that I thought would be suitable and spread them over my Advent planner. I will be posting pictures on Instagram of what we do (follow me here if you are interested) and will attempt to get some blog posts up too.
Truth in the Tinsel-
Another wonderful resource that I was keen to look into was the Truth in the Tinsel e-book that gives you an ornament to make each day with your child in relation to a Bible passage about the Christmas story. It even gives you ideas of how to discuss each concept with small children. The ornaments are so creative. There are also printable ornaments for sale for those days that creating an ornament seems impossible. My natural tendency was urging me to dive right in but I knew that this would create extra stress for me- the opposite of my intention. I have chosen a few key ornaments and parts of the story to do over the season. If I have extra time that needs filling, I know exactly where I'll be looking for other ideas! You can purchase a copy here.
These are the key elements of my Advent plan. I will admit that I have created a table detailing the activities I plan to do for each day of Advent. This may seem like overkill, but I know myself. I will let too many days of Advent pass by if I am not intentional in making a plan. I know that it is unlikely that we will end up following this to the letter and I will be flexible but I have a framework to start with.
Behind all of these plans is a heart to honour Jesus and who He is. Christmas is so commercialised and chaotic and I refuse to give in to this. I want my daughter to know exactly why we celebrate Christmas. I want to pass on the passion I have in treasured family memories.
For me personally, I will be using the Advent study that I talk about in this post. The countdown is on and I am so excited to see how Isabel engages this year.
What are your Advent plans?
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Image credit: hopeforjustice.org
27 MILLION. Can you even fathom what that number means? That is the approximate number of men, women and children in slavery today! 27 million individuals in bondage, treated as less than human, forced to do unspeakable acts or live in deplorable conditions, in fear for their lives and the lives of family members. In the light of that overwhelming number, it can be so easy to shut our minds, say that it is awful then continue with our lives, decide that it is other people's issue to fight. What does it have to do with me, living in Australia, going about my daily life? Everything!
It is the actions of people just like me that keep so many of that number enslaved. It is the coffee I drink, the chocolate I eat, the clothing I buy and wear, the cheap bargains I go after. How often do we stop to think whose hands have touched those items? How often do we consider the conditions that workers are forced to endure so that I can save a few dollars on items that I could generally easily live without? I have gone through seasons of putting careful consideration into my purchases and the impact it has but I will admit to growing lax in this. I have still been passionate about the issue of human trafficking but not paying as much attention to the mundane parts of my life that contribute to it.
So what can you do? How can the choices I make have an impact? There are some phenomenal organisations that are on the ground fighting. They have some awesome ideas and resources that you can access to make a difference right where you are, making simple changes in your life.
Here are a few that I found:
- Learn about which brands use ethical practices in their production of food and goods through websites such as www.ethical.org.au/ They also have a phone app that you can buy to have with you when you are out shopping. Look for something similar if you live in another country.
- Choose brands of coffee, tea and chocolate that are supplied in ethical ways e.g. fair trade certified.
- Buy second hand goods and clothing to reduce the demand for these items.
- Write to politicians about the issue to raise awareness and get change happening at governmental level.
- Donate to organisations doing the work. I'll link some of them below.
- Write letters to those who have been rescued to encourage them.
- Raise awareness through social media.
- Participate in awareness raising and fundraising events.
- Buy products through fair trade organisations such as Oxfam.
- Sponsor a child to protect them from being vulnerable to human trafficking.
- Buy a gift for a person in poverty that helps them to work or get an education to lower their risk of falling victim through Gifts of Compassion or World Vision Gifts (I include these with all my Christmas gifts and they are always well received.)
- Buy a gift for a rescued victim of sex trafficking through Making A21 Home for the Holidays
Check out these awesome organisations and find other ideas to fight this issue:
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
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I have talked about my love for Hello Mornings in a previous post (read it here). The last session for the year finished up last week. In the lead up to the end, I was trying to decide on an Advent study to do in the lead up to Christmas. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressures of the season. I have at times already succumbed to stress over what presents to get for people and plans for the season and it is only November! I have been making plans for how to focus on Christ in this season with my daughter (stay tuned for a post on those plans) but I hadn't found the right resource for my personal times with God.
To my delight, an Advent Study Power Pack was announced. (Hello Mornings provides a basic reading and reflection plan to all participants with more in depth studies available for purchase through the Power Packs). This study won't be run as a formal session, which means no commitment to daily check ins or needing to be part of an online group. The study, 'Then Came Jesus', has been written by Lara Williams and includes readings that you can do with your family as well as for personal study. The Power Pack also includes a beautiful Christmas song by Shaun Groves and a printable journal to complement the study. Hello Mornings has worked to keep these packs very affordable for only US$5! I have my pack downloaded and ready to go.
Are you interested in joining me doing this study? Maybe you have a friend or family member that you would like to do this with. Click on the picture below to take you to the site to purchase a Power Pack for yourself. If you have the means, maybe purchase a donated pack while there to bless another person who is unable to afford this.
P.S. A heartwarming moment this evening- my daughter spontaneously singing 'Jesus Loves Me' for the first time and enjoyed singing together with me.
Monday, 10 November 2014
The past week and a half has been busier, more emotional and exhausting than I could possibly have predicted so all my plans of blog posts were relegated to future ideas. I will start the messy play series in the New Year and have some exciting ideas coming up for December to share (but that is for another day).
For today, I wanted to spread some smiles and giggles. Watching my three year old starting to get into games has been a joy. Hide and seek is a definite favourite. Here are some pictures of some of her brilliant hiding spots!
This was inspired by the Tuesday at Ten prompt word "seek". Click on the icon in the side bar to find out more!
Sunday, 2 November 2014
It seems that no matter what my wrestle with faith is, the root of it is my level of trust in God. Time and time again I smash against this issue. I have grown up in church and can quote Scriptures and speak 'Christianese' with the best of them. It is easy to sing the songs and say the words, and even fool myself into thinking that I truly believe them in the deepest parts of my heart. And yet, what does my life say?
I have flashes of big trust but on the whole, I prefer to play it safe. The Holy Spirit has been shining His torch into some deep, dark spots. I have been forced to admit and become more conscious of the areas where my faith has been lacking.
Why don't I trust God to the level that I want to and that the Bible calls for? I want God to work in the ways that I consider safe. I want Him to be able to guarantee that nothing will rock my world, that my family and friends will be untouched by illness, accident and tragedy. I want life to be comfortable and easy. As I write the words, I am even more aware of how ridiculous these wants are. Life isn't like that. God NEVER promises these things; in fact, He says the opposite.
In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration.. (John 11:33b AMP)
I have been on a journey (and will likely continue on this journey for the rest of my life) to changing these desires to reflect God's truth more. I am changing my definition of what 'safe' means when it comes to God. I am learning more about who God really is. He IS safe. He IS my refuge. He IS my strong tower. The keys lie in the other sections of the verse above.
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted)! For I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.)
John 11:33 (AMP)
For the dreams that God has placed in my heart, my trust is going to have to increase exponentially. The changes I have sensed in this season are deep and not really something I can put words to just yet. The journey continues.....
This post was prompted by the Tuesday at Ten challenge. Each week a prompt word is given and a week allowed to create a post on it. If you want to join in, click on the image below or in the sidebar.