Archive for the 'Holidays' Category

New Years Goals

There is something beautiful about the new year and the possibilities that it brings with it. I love setting goals and dreams, so new years resolutions have always been about dreaming big and setting my goals high for the coming year.

Often these goals inspire me to love God and my family more deeply, but everything in life has a season. This season of goal setting for our family looks much simpler than in years past. We just welcomed our fourth child into the world and are in the process of raising support and moving to South Sudan. With our house filled with the noise brought by four children under six, it is easy to think of many good goals for the coming year.  I could categorize these goals into categories such as educational, financial, spiritual, family, marriage and many more,  but instead I find myself stepping back and trying to simplify my goals into what is really important for our family.

This year as we cuddle our newest addition and look toward moving to another continent, I find myself seeking to do three things; to  that ensure my family has clean clothes to wear,  clean dishes to eat from, and to begin each day with time set aside to know God more.

I have the opportunity to set the tone of my home, this tone can be one of organization, chaos, stress, or peace and this tone overlays every activity or disruption that life brings (especially life in another culture). But the best tone that I can give my family is one of gratitude and worship which comes only from seeking to know God. Other responsibilities and goals are important but if I can focus on this one main thing, the other pieces fall into place.

When I say that my goals are to simply to seek God (and feed and clothe my family) it is not that I do not value things such as my children’s education, our support raising process, housework, finances, or marital relationship with my spouse, rather it is that I cherish those things so much, meaning that I choose to do the one thing that makes them all work together. Simplifying goals also helps me focus my time and efforts on things that truly matter and challenges me to let go of the things that do not. At the end of the day I can look back and see a home that may not be as clean as I had hoped, a to do list likely full of un-checked boxes, and I can measure success not by what is unimportant, but by what matters. If the tone of my home is one of gratitude and worship, the other items become details of lesser importance.

What about you?  What are some simple goals you mothers have as you look to set the tone for your family this coming year?

(Post by: Amie)

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Christ-focused Christmas

I love that Christmas in Russia, it its purest form at least, it is reserved exclusively for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Santa Clause, Christmas trees (Yolki), and presents, along with fireworks and a big feast, are instead all a part of the New Year’s celebration. (It’s kind of like if you took all of the major American holidays and crammed them into one. Amazing!)  As far as I know, there aren’t alternate options for the meaning behind Christmas like we have in our culture. (And we’ll ignore for the moment that they do, however, do the equivalent of trick-or-treating on Christmas!)

As a mom with young kids who wants to help my kids focus on joyfully celebrating Jesus during the Christmas season, I kind of think it is great to have a sort of natural delineation marked out. Russian kids have all the fun of the gifts, and giving, and Father Frost, as well as a whole separate day to celebrate Jesus’ birth! Of course the rather significant problem with this equation is that most people here don’t really celebrate Jesus at all,  so Christmas is hardly even noticed,  but for believers, what great potential to still enjoy all of the other special festive holiday traditions without inadvertently pushing Jesus to the sidelines on Christmas day!

I’m not saying that I’m ready to forsake my beloved American Christmas traditions that also can be such great opportunities to show love and generosity as a reflection of Christ, but it definitely has crossed my mind as I see toys and gifts vying for my children’s heart over Jesus. Whether or not we ever decided to go with Russian tradition in this way, it keeps me thinking of how we can enjoy the season’s festivities and spirit of generosity while never loosing sight of the central meaning and joy of Christmas… Jesus Christ!!

What are some things that help your family keep the focus on Christ during the Christmas season? Is there anything about the culture where you live that makes it easier or harder? And just for fun, if you were our family, would you keep the holidays according to American tradition, or would you celebrate the Russian way with gifts, trees, and Santa on New Years? 

(Post by: Ashley)

Preparing for Advent

I hope you have all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I love this time of year and how we move right from a season of thanksgiving into a time of reflection on the Lord’s coming to this earth to dwell with us. What better than a celebration of gratitude to prepare us for celebrating Jesus’ birth?!

In these few days before December arrives we’re spending a little bit of time getting ready for the advent seasons. Decorations will soon go up and we’ve just gotten our advent book and ornaments ready. More important than aesthetics and activity, of course, is setting aside time this season to truly anticipate the coming of Jesus. I thought I’d share just a few links that might get your mind’s and hearts thinking about this important season, if you haven’t started already.

This free book by Ann Voskamp is the one that we are using as a family this year to prepare our hearts throughout the Advent season. It is scripture focused and beautifully written. You can print the book, as well as the ornaments for each day. I made a very simple thanksgiving tree that I saw here and am using it for our advent ornaments as well.

I’ve mentioned this book  before while sharing about the significance of tradition. I absolutely love how Noel Piper encourages families to create traditions that place the focus on truly celebrating God in our festivities. Follow the link to download the book for free.

My dear friend, Vicky, an amazingly talented and  creative sister in Christ, made this simple modern version of the advent wreath last year. She has lots of other amazing holiday celebration/decoration ideas that might also inspire you.

Here was another great advent calendar idea from Jami last year on Missionary Moms. Also, in the comments a number of you left other great ideas and links!

Lastly, I just came across this advent wreath and thought it was a fun, lovely, and simple idea.

What are your plans to help your family focus on Christ this advent season? Do you have any ideas that you’d be able to share with us?

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Thanksgiving!

I am so grateful, even in this very moment, for Shilo’s beautiful post yesterday as I have the chance now to give thanks for my computer, despite the fact that it is dying and refusing to upload our Tuesday Topic icon!

Thanksgiving is coming up in just a couple of days and I would love it if we could take a moment to share a couple of things that we are especially thankful for. Let’s encourage one another in thanksgiving as we publicly proclaim God’s amazing grace in our lives!

Also, I would love to hear how you are celebrating Thanksgiving if you have another moment to spare! Who are you celebrating with? What are you cooking? For those of you overseas, do you have any cooking adventures to share as you try to prepare authentic American dishes with the ingredients available to you?

And if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll check out yesterday’s post and enter the giveaway! The winner will be drawn on Monday!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends! I am thankful for you!

If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

A Missionary Mom Giveaway!

Patty, one of our friends here who blogs at Mrs. JohninGhana is back in the US on furlough and has created the most wonderful giveaway just for missionary moms who are currently overseas!! I know how much all of us miss those special holiday goodies from home, and Patty has put together a special box of Thanksgiving and Christmas treats for the winner! Go visit her blog to enter the giveaway! Thank you, Patty!

Silent, Holy, Calm, Bright

“Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright!”

As Christmas songs play throughout the day, each song brings reminders of the various ingredients of our Christmas celebration. Songs of joy, anticipation, reflection, praise… The other day as I was making lunch, “Silent Night” was playing softly in the background. In the midst of the busyness of getting lunch on the table and preparing a meal for our ministry event that evening, I was struck by four key words in the first verse. Silent. Holy. Calm. Bright.

Those four things are some of what I desire for my own family this Christmas. Life is going to be busy as we travel and celebrate and do so many exciting things, but I crave moments of figurative silence for us all to come together away from the noise of everything else clanging around us trying to distract us from truly focusing on Jesus. I desire this season to be holy, not simply fun and festive. Presents and all of the fun traditions are wonderful, but I pray that the holiness of this season is not choked out amidst those things. Calm. How do we achieve such a thing in the midst of life with 3 little kids, international travel, and holiday upon holiday? Like the figurative silence that I pray for, we are striving for calm by trying not to get caught up in doing, doing, doing, and going, going, going, but rather keeping things simple and clearing our schedule for the things that truly matter. Bright. May this season shine brightly as we strive to keep Christ kept at the center! Even the dark days of northern Russia are not enough to dim the light of Christ and the brilliance of His miraculous birth!

So, as we’ve been reflecting on what we want this season to look like for our family, I’ve decided to slow down a bit.  One thing that means for me is taking a break from Missionary Moms.

We will be traveling back to the States for about a month and then will be attending a conference on our way back to Russia, so I’d expect that things will get going here again in February. If you use a reader, go ahead and add Missionary Moms if you haven’t already to find out when things get going again. I look forward to seeing you all in the new year!

Have a merry Christ-filled Christmas season!

~Ashley

What are some things that you are hoping to characterize your Christmas season this year?

Anticipating Christmas

My friend made a very special advent calendar last year for her kids, and when I saw it I immediately knew I wanted to incorporate it into our family’s traditions!  She made little envelopes for each day from December 1st to Christmas Eve and inside she wrote something special that the family would do together on that day as they looked forward to Christmas Day… and the birth of Christ!

For example, on Day 1 she wrote: “Jesus is the light of the world!  We will have a surprise tonight to celebrate that!”  Then that evening they lit a special advent candle that counts down the days until Christmas.  She tried to include Bible verses as much as she could to go with the theme of the day.  She waited to put each insert into the next day’s envelope until the night before, in case plans changed.  She also incorporated things that they were already doing on many days (like a team Christmas party), so as not to make things stressful or crazy.  Her kids loved opening each day’s envelope, and it was a special way to count down the days until Christmas and to focus on Christ.

Here are a few ideas for things to do each day:
– invite over another family and make Christmas cookies together
– decorate the Christmas tree
– make thank you cards to use after Christmas
– watch a Christmas movie in bed as a family
– eat dessert before dinner
– open a present early
– do something kind for a neighbor
– see how many friends and family members you can skype with in a morning
– bathtime with green colored ice cubes
– ice skating or sledding
– visiting the city square to look at ice sculptures

I’m excited to begin this fun tradition this year with our family!!

Do you have any special ways of celebrating Advent?

(Post by: Jami)


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