I think I love the advent season more and more each year. For the past couple of years we have been so much more purposeful about celebrating Jesus, giving gifts for Him, and being grateful for his coming. And as always, we are so incredibly blessed....because as we empty, he fills....as we give of ourselves, we realize our true purpose and potential and we are so full.
Our devotional this year was fun....I love that many of these come with activities...it makes it so much more real, and memorable for the kids. They had to listen each day to see if they heard any new names for Jesus, and then they would write each one on a strip of paper. (Modified from the idea in the book which was much fancier :) They listened intently, hoping to find a new name. We had to double...or triple up some nights if we hand't managed to read together the nights previous, and sometimes we totally failed to prepare for the activity until we sat down...but it was fun anyway, and allowed for good conversations!
The kids are blessed with amazing grandparents who let them each do a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child to send to a child in Ukraine. They LOVE it. They are so excited to be able to pick things out to give to a child, and can never wait to show us what they selected and how they decorated their box. This year Keira shared that she had received similar boxes when she was in Ukraine, and was always so excited. It's so neat to see her on the other side..now being able to give to a child in a position she herself was once in.
Meme always does "What God Wants for Christmas" with the kids when we get together on Christmas Eve....and though they know exactly what to expect in each box, they get just as excited each time as they are reminded of the true meaning of what we celebrate.
And then, we sing...Happy Birthday to Jesus.....
As we thought about gifts for Jesus this year, we immediately thought of the residents of a nearby nursing. We've visited one particular woman a few times, but hadn't been back since Kyleigh was born. Last year, Keira commented on all the others...that we should bring something for everyone. We all agreed, and they didn't forget! So we set to work making clay ornaments, which also turned into a really great ongoing art project for school! I knew most of them wouldn't have trees, but the idea of something they could hang in their rooms that was handmade by a child just seemed better than anything we could buy. The kids were all in!
I think we were all a little nervous...well except for Levi. This is right up his ally. He walked right up with a big "hi!' and started handing out gifts and kisses like a crazy man. It was perfect! We talked about things to say on the way there, but weren't sure how they'd do. They were amazing. I was so proud of them.
There were so many smiles. So many hugs and thank you's, and residents trying to find something to offer the kids....snacks, candy....or gushing over their ornament and hanging it up so the kids could see how much they loved it. But, you know, it struck me how genuine it was. They weren't just trying to make the kids feel good.....they meant it.
So many asked to hold Kyleigh. As long as a nurse didn't jump in and suggest otherwise, we passed her over. She did great, and brought a whole lot of joy to so many. Who doesn't love to hold a sweet baby?
Keira was so sweet....so much more reserved than her usual self, but also brave as I saw her push past the uncomfortable feelings. She'd ask how one was feeling, or try to make conversation. I could see it wasn't easy for her, but I could also see the genuine care she felt for the people.
And on Christmas morning they were eager to choose their gifts for others....it was so sweet to see them so excited as we explained each gift and what it meant...how it'd help someone. And then they each chose what they wanted to give. Keira was torn....she is such a giver, and wanted to do more. She asked if she could add her "giving money" (a portion of her allowance put aside each week) and pick another gift. Um yes!!
This year we had the kids pick a Compassion child too. At that point some were requesting that we open gifts, but once we started looking at children, the focus was drawn back..... "wait, click on that one....what about him....can we see her.....how many kids...maybe one that's waited a long time?" They finally agreed on one and are so excited! If you don't know about Compassion or sponsoring a child, I encourage you to read this post....it's such an incredible story of what an impact sponsorship can have.
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We started a new tradition this year of buying each kid an ornament that means something to them. We gave it to them the night we decorated our tree. They were excited to think about eventually having their own box of ornaments that represent memories in their life.
We also had our second annual Christmas crafts day so they could make more decorations for their rooms. It was fun....and glittery....and I learned (again) that I should probably test out pinterest crafts for assuming we can all do them.
Kyleigh put her first ever ornament on the Christmas tree...she was thrilled....
And, we went on our annual tour of Christmas lights....
We truly didn't know what to get the kids this year. They only get three gifts - a need, a want and an experience so we really only needed one idea for their "gold"/want gift. Yet still we had trouble. Because they have everything....too much...and need nothing. Finally we remembered a dream they had and realized we could actually make it happen. So we wrapped up the empty boxes (since it had to be prepared ahead of time) and watched their confused and possibly disappointed faces as they tried to figure out what their gift was.
And then lots of excitement......
And it was the perfect year since it was crazy warm on Christmas here this year.
I'm so thankful for this season....for the reminder to stop and recognize all that God did for us in sending us His Son. For reminders to be conscious about giving gifts to Jesus...not just at Christmas time, but all year....and this propels us to continue..... Because this is what we were created for, and in this we can truly live....truly feel like we are fulfilling a purpose. Empty to fill....lose your life to find it......give and you will receive!