It’s almost Thanksgiving here. What does that look like? How do we live out a celebration of Thanksgiving every day – and yet capture it on a deeper level in November to “celebrate” the actual holiday? I mean, I want to cultivate a spirit of thanks in our home year round. That is our goal. But in November, in particular, I want to set aside time to really honor this holiday for what it stands for.
November traditions for us include getting our thankful/gratitude journal down from the last few years that we have recorded our daily thanks in, listening to the Family Like audio drama telling of the First Thanksgiving, and listening to the Hymn CD that came with the book and the audio drama. This year, I am a little behind. It is already the 13th and while we have found our journal and started making our daily entries, that is about all I have done.
I try to be super intentional in November in my discussions with the kids – about all the things we have to be thankful for. We can look back on these past 2 years and see God’s hand moving us from one place to the next and really be amazed at how good he is. We talk a lot about others who has so much less, around the world and a mile from here. How we can be the hands and feet of Jesus – to love them. We fill our compassion boxes and talk about those children who will receive them. So I try to emphasize a greater spirit of thankfulness, but if I am really trying to do this year round it can be a challenge to do more this time of the year.
While we are balancing all the emotions of this season, and as I try to cling to a heart of gratitude, I still look ahead to my heart for Christmas. So in the back of my mind I have really thought a great deal about all that we have to celebrate on Christmas day too – and the thanks surrounding the gift of Jesus. So while I do not want to start my Christmas celebration too early, I hope to really get my heart right with both of these holidays.
In our Sunday School class we have been talking about the Advent Conspiracy – this is something I have loved for years now! Every year I try to be intentional about how we handle our celebrations. I want it to be fun, but more than that, I want it to be genuinely about the reason we celebrate – both holidays.
So in years past we have tried to keep things simple, but this year we are really taking bigger strides to keeping our priorities in check. Realizing that we need nothing in our lives – we don’t need new clothes, candles, PJs, or really any other stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I still in my heart struggle because on some level I want those things. But when I look at it like this : either get a new Yankee Candle ($20) or put $20 toward giving a child fresh water to drink. That candle begins to have very little value in my life.
So Robert and I have been trying to see where we can cut back – where we can give more. Give more to others who are REALLY in need – not just in want, like us.
So I wanted to share one our favorite traditions that we added about 3 years ago to our holidays. We start on December 1st. We combine those Advent Chocolate calendars (that wonderfully arrived today from my folks!!) with a Jesse Tree. In the past we put our Jesse tree ornaments on our big tree each night, but this year, since we have real trees now, and can cut a branch – by golly – we are going to have a real stick Jesse tree.
If you are not familiar with a Jesse tree it is a daily devotion – about 5 minutes – and it takes you from Creation to the cross each day – and you put an ornament somewhere for each day.
The second year we did this we combined it with the chocolate because I found the kids much more eager if they were going to have a little treat at the end, it helped me remember because they reminded me, and honestly I feel that when we study God’s word it is sweet and it is easy for me to plant that in their hearts and minds – how sweet it is to be in His word.
There are tons of Jesse tree plans on the web – but our favorite is HERE . The last 3 years or so I used the drawings they have, put them on cardstock and let the kids color them and then laminated them. This year I am TRYING to get my act together and make the ornaments – may not get all 25 done, but we will see.
Anyway I love this tradition, it is honestly one of my favorites and the kids love it too. I know they know nearly all those stories by heart, but it is still a blessing to go through them each night. Hopefully this year my boys will take turns reading them to all of us.
As I continue to try and find balance amidst a crazy Christmas world, I hope to lose some of the meaningless and replace it with more genuine worship of him!