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An Intentional Christmas – Part 2

It is my great pleasure today to share my longtime friend Sarah Smith and her adorable family to Finding Joy & Sharing Beauty.


I love Christmas time. I love it so much that Brian and I even planned our wedding to be in December so we could enjoy the lights, decorations, and most importantly, the birth of Jesus. My love of Christmas has grown since becoming a parent. There is something magical about this time of the year and it is amazing to see your children experience it.

We have three girls – Amelia, age 9, Addie, age 7, and Delaney, age 5. I’ve realized this year as my baby has started kindergarten that my kids don’t really care what we are doing as long as Brian and/or I are there and FULLY present. A mentor mom in my MOPS group once said that our kids will remember the time spent with them, the things that we repeated every year and the fun times. Establishing traditions is a great way to do things together as a family as well as teach values.

We try to keep Christ at the center of Christmas with our family traditions. We try to be intentional about planning things that will help us to focus on giving, instead of receiving. Some of our favorite ways to do this is by packing Operation Christmas Child boxes, buying gifts for others, and having our traditional Birthday Cake Breakfast.

Operation Christmas Child

Perhaps you have heard of Samaritan’s Purse and their Operation Christmas Child ministry. If not, their goal is to share God’s love through shoeboxes of gifts that will be sent to kids around the world. We started to pack shoeboxes when Amelia was a baby and it has grown and evolved into a special tradition for our family.

Our family and friends know to save their shoeboxes for us and we shop for shoebox gifts all year. Gifts include things like crayons, stuffed animals, socks, toys, stickers, and more. The girls know to be on the lookout for inexpensive little gifts that will fit in the boxes. We have special bins in the basement where all of this gets stored until early November, when we have our shoebox packing party. We set up stations with all of the goodies, pack the individual boxes and write personal notes. We try to send family pictures as well as our address.

We pray over the boxes and continue to pray for the children that received them. This has become especially meaningful because four years ago we received a letter addressed to Amelia, then a kindergartener, with a postmark from India. It was from a pastor who had helped to hand out these shoeboxes. A little girl had received Amelia’s box and note and it made an impact on her and her family. They started meeting with the pastor and all accepted Christ! So cool! All because of a little shoebox! This made it so much more real for all of us.

The other really neat thing is that Minneapolis has one of the processing centers for the shoeboxes. Brian and I volunteer to work there for one afternoon or evening each year. This is one of my favorite parts of Christmas! The enthusiasm and excitement about the mission is contagious. Kids need to be 13 to help out there so we are already counting down until we can bring the girls.

Gift Giving

We try to be intentional about gifts and the amount of stuff we give at Christmas. About four years ago, we decided as a family to cut back on the amount of gifts we gave each other. Brian and I stopped buying each other Christmas gifts and just did small stocking stuffers. We scaled back on what we gave the girls and decided to buy them three gifts each – something to read, something to wear, and something to play with.

We start shopping in the World Vision gift catalog. This is the organization we use, but there are other ones that allow you to purchase animals, fruit trees, school supplies, Bibles, etc. for people around the world. We each purchase something that counts as one of our gifts. It is really fun to see what the girls choose to give. They put a lot of thought into it and it takes us at least a week to all decide. I love hearing their reasons why they choose what they did. I get a glimpse into their hearts. We write down what we give each year and then go back and talk about what we have given in the past. This leads to some good prayer time for our family – to pray for the recipients of the gifts, to pray for us to be generous and to pray for people around the world. This has really helped us focus on GIVING gifts because God gave us the best gift – Jesus.

Birthday Cake Breakfast

This may be my girls’ favorite Christmas tradition. Who doesn’t love cake, especially for breakfast!? We decide on a kind of cake and attempt to bake it together. Then we eat it for breakfast on Christmas Day as a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We light candles and sing happy birthday (usually several times) and start our day focusing on true meaning of Christmas. The video above was made for our church several years ago. So fun!

There are so many fun ways to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas. If you are like me, you probably read the ideas that Jenny has compiled and feel guilty or bad for not having done enough for your family. I feel this way a lot when I start to compare myself to others.  Don’t despair – your kids just want to be with you! Traditions don’t have to be big elaborate things. One of our goofy traditions is to go look at Christmas lights while listening to Christmas music and eating White Castle hamburgers! We did it one year as a fluke and it just stuck!

Some of the best ideas happen by accident. I want to encourage you to find your own traditions that fit your family. Think of what you want your children to remember about Christmas. What would you want them to pass down to their children? It is never too late to start.  Choose one thing to try this year and adapt it to your own family. So don’t worry about having a Pinterest-worthy house or a designer tree. Instead, focus on enjoying your family and investing wisely in them.

Help your kids to know why we celebrate Christmas and to share Jesus’ love with others. Merry Christmas!

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