Can you believe it is already half way through January of 2009? More and more I am starting to see for myself that time just flies by as you get older. I feel like just yesterday I was staying up late at night with my friends having those crazy yet seemingly 'relevant' conversations about religion and politics and getting up the next morning feeling just as refreshed as I would after an eight hour stretch of deep sleep.
In reality we each find ourselves right smack dab in the second half of our third decade, and sometimes we feel so old! If we are up late, it is to calm our distressed 3 year old or quiet our unsettled 5 month old - and the next morning when we wake up we feel like our eyes carry the weight of bricks. Whether you find yourself at a similar place, in the stages before or light years beyond, we hope your holiday was filled with the traditions that you hold dear.
As for our family, we thoroughly enjoyed the genuine experience of providing Christmas to two little girls under 3 years old. It did not come without challenges, however. This being our third Christmas with children, and our first with a 'big girl,' TJ & I have had many conversations on how to keep the focus on Jesus and on how we want to shape our future Christmases with the girls ... when all the stores and television adds and external media really send the message that it's about Santy Claus & gifts! Don't get us wrong, it is so fun to give gifts to our children and it is EASY to get carried away... but one thing we realized early on is that we want them to recognize the reverse side of this tradition.
We decided one of the most effective ways to do this would be to participate in Operation Christmas Child - Project Angel Tree... so we went to church, picked up our Angel, and made sure to have our oldest, Savannah, go to the store with us and purchase a toy that would not end up in her play room...... You can bet that even after I told her we were going to buy a gift for a little boy, her first question was "Is this for me?" And to be honest, I was glad that she asked that...It gave me the chance to explain to her that no, this was a gift for a child who doesn't have many toys like she does. I explained to her that she is very blessed to have lots of toys. By the time we wrapped it and prepared it for church, she was asking if we could give it to the boy ourselves and the only down side was that I had to tell her, "No, we will take it to church and one of our friends at church will make sure this little boy receives his toy." She is little, but I felt like she really understood.
Another thing we did this year was to repeatedly share the nativity story with Savannah. She is well familiar with Jesus and that he was God's son, sent to earth.. and that he died for our sins and rose again to save us from our "bad choices." And since she just had a new baby sister, she is also very familiar with mommy 'having a baby in her tummy' and 'baby being born.' So we just explained that Christmas is about the story of when Jesus was born, just like how Adelyn was born! We celebrate his "birthday" and such... and that the wise men brought gifts, just like we get gifts for OUR birthdays! When we were asked to participate in the "Drive Thru Natvity" at our church it was a no-brainer! Adelyn got to play 'Jesus' and Savannah and I played angels at the nativity scene. Now, everytime Savannah sees a nativity scene, she says "Look, Mom, it's a Drive Thru Nativity!"
One of my favorite funny stories from the season was the one that happened well after Christmas, when we were putting away wrapping and 'tissue paper." Savannah grabbed a piece and asked me to tape it around her... because she wanted to be a present for Jesus. What a heart-warming moment for a parent after God's own heart....and so for the moment, I feel like our early efforts to teach her (and soon Adelyn) about the TRUE meaning of Christmas have been fruitful and effective.
If you have any traditions or suggestions that you have found really drive the message home, we'd love to hear them! And as I wrap up our first blog, Happy New Year - we hope you feel renewed as you reflect on the true "Gift" that Christmas brings - Salvation!
Love, The Winters Family