must have Christmas book

Your Must-Have Christmas Book

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Every holiday has one iconic book that traditionally gets pulled out year after year. For our family at Christmas, this will become that book.

Christmas Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist is the third in her “Love Letters” series. These beautifully written and illustrated books have one purpose- to remind children that God loves them and has a great purpose for their lives.

must have Christmas book

From the moment I looked through Christmas Love Letters from God, I was in love. The colors, the illustrations, the story-telling, the poetry, the “God’s promise” verse, and, of course, the letter all blended together to make a perfect Christmas experience on paper.

The Illustrations

Choosing where to begin was a hard decision. With each turn of the page, I always let my eyes settle on the illustrations. Rachel Clowes has followed the style of illustrations found in Love Letters from God and Little Letters from God and has done a brilliant job. From the main focus illustration to the little accents scattered around the page, the eyes of your little ones will always have someplace to look as you read the story aloud. The illustrations tell the story for little ones who cannot yet read.

Colors definitely set the tone of this book, yet instead of being harsh, the muted shades of red, green, and blue bring the feel of Christmas without harshness, and draw you in. I couldn’t help but grab a cup of coffee, sit in the living room with the fireplace on, and just look through each and every page, soaking in the illustrations and colors, before I even read the words.

must have Christmas book

The Story-Telling and Poetry

I have yet to meet or talk to author Glenys Nellist in person, but I imagine her having the gentlest, softest, most peaceful voice based on her style of writing. She chooses words that are quiet, effective, and beautiful. She tells the story concisely with enough words to keep the attention of little ones, but in a way where nothing is lost.

I love how Glenys began her book with the Prophet Isaiah. A surprising way to begin a Christmas book, yet a very appropriate way. Isaiah’s prophecy is featured in Handel’s Messiah, yet so many Christmas accounts overlook him. It makes for a great conversation starter in sharing how long God’s people had been waiting for their Messiah.

In the midst of the narrative story-telling, Glenys does what she does best. She takes a quick detour and tells part of the story through poetry. I am always amazed at how she is able to find the right words to tell the story with rhythm and rhyme.

must have Christmas book

God’s Perfect Promise

When you turn the page, you will find the story for the evening finishing up, and “God’s Perfect Promise”- a quick Bible verse promise that wraps up the part of the account just read printed on an illustrated tag. The verse is paraphrased so it is easy for little ones to understand and even memorize.

The Letter

Our favorite part is the “letter from God”, which is where the book gets its name. Each letter is a lift-the-flap attachment on the page. Paraphrasing Scripture and making it personally applicable, she begins each letter with “Dear ____________”. The rest of the letter is God’s promises personalized and related to the account just read. After reading the account of Jospeh, children are reminded in the letter that when God asks them to do something, He will also give them the grace to accomplish it.

A beautiful addition to this book which is different from the previous letter books is life-the-flap letter from the child to God. When my daughter saw it, she was so excited! After reading and hearing all of the letters from God to her, she was going to be able to write one to him!

Christmas Love Letters from God has already become my favorite Christmas book. I look forward to reading it with my children again and again over the next two months. Whether you choose to read a chapter each night or use it over the course of Advent (which could most definitely be a use for this book), it is a definite must for any home’s library.

must have Christmas book

thanksgiving resources

My 8 Favorite Thanksgiving Resources for Kids

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November 1 begins my two favorite months of the year. I love the fall, the feel in the air of anticipation, the warmth of the colors associated with the holidays, and the goodness of the food typically only made at this time of year.

thanksgiving resources

In our home, this is also when my favorite resources come out of storage, and we do a little more in the arts and crafts department. These are always fun because we can either tie in our history learning or we can just have some fun with paper, scissors, tape, glue, and anything else we can find. If you are looking for ideas for crafts and fun activities you can follow our Thanksgiving Pinterest board. 

My Favorite Thanksgiving Books

thanksgiving resources

Thanksgiving (A FamilyLife Book): A Time to Remember (Family Life Books) by Rainey, Barbara published by Crossway (2003)  

This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving book. Barbara Rainey has written it with the entire family in mind, and it can grow with your family throughout the years. She has written it to be read one of two ways- the larger print is to be read to preschoolers and younger elementary students, and the entire book to be read to mid elementary and above.

After reading a thorough history of the Pilgrims and their journey to America and understanding the importance of thankfulness, the back of the book has a place where thankfulness can be recorded by the family and revisited year after year. This year I will be writing all of the items on the leaves of our Thankful Tree into the back of the book and dating it. It will be fun in a few years to see what our family has been thankful for.

thanksgiving resources

Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

If there has ever been a story of God’s sovereignty, it’s the story of Squanto. Sometimes our circumstances seem unfair, yet God can use our past to bring us to the place where he can use us for his glory and the benefit of others. That is the lessons behind the story of Squanto. Although this is not a Christian based book, as a believer, I have used Romans 8:28 while reading this to my children. This is definitely another favorite of mine.

thanksgiving resources

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas may be a little long for little ones, but the illustrations are beautiful. One thing we do when a good book seems a little long is to break it up into several parts and read it over the course of several days. This book is definitely written from a Christian perspective and is a must for every family library. Squanto’s story is one that my children know well. I believe that they need to know that our stories are not all traveled on smooth paths, but that God can take even the rockiest of paths and use them to further His purposes and for His glory.

thanksgiving resources

The Mayflower Adventure (The American Adventure Series #1) by Colleen L. Reece

I have had this book since my teaching days, but I have never actually read it. However, this year, we will be reading it. I don’t have much to say about this one, but I am looking forward to reading it finally.

thanksgiving resources

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh 

We purchased this two years ago and enjoyed the story very much. This story is told through time travel as Rush Revere time travels with two of his middle school students on the Mayflower and then to Plymouth, Massachusetts. I learned quite a bit of the history of Plymouth Colony through this story, and my daughter who was six at the time, enjoyed it. It is written more for middle schoolers is interesting enough that even young children with a solid vocabulary can understand it and get involved in the story.

My Favorite Thanksgiving Movies

thanksgiving resources

Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale

Have I mentioned how much I love the story of Squanto? After we read our books on the life of Squanto, we sit down for an evening of popcorn and a movie. I believe in having my children exposed to the book form of a story first so they can recognize the inconsistencies in the movie. Although this movie takes some creative license, it does a great job of telling the bigger story of Squanto’s life. It is a tradition that we watch this movie every November.

thanksgiving resources

Mouse on the mayflower I remember watching this movie when I was in elementary school. It was always one of my favorite movies to watch at Thanksgiving and now it is become a favorite for my littles. It can be purchased as a VHS recording, but we watch it on YouTube. It is a beautiful retelling of the Pilgrims voyage to America. And although it was secularly made, it is overtly Christian in the message. It isn’t officially Thanksgiving until we have seen this movie.

thanksgiving resourcesA Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: The Mayflower Voyagers Again, this was a childhood favorite of mine that I had to share with my children. Charles Schultz and his Peanuts gang do a wonderful job of retelling the voyage of the Pilgrims with humor and accuracy.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday with a rich story to tell our children. They need to hear of God’s faithfulness to his people. Our children need to understand that although hard times come, God can use them and their experiences to bless others.

Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving resources? Share them with us in the comments.

Thanksgiving resources

dint-give-up

Dear Mom: Don’t Give Up

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Mom, sometimes you may feel that what you are doing does not make much of a difference.

But don’t give up.

You may feel that you are constantly repeating the same thing to your child without seeing any results.

But don’t give up.

You may get tired of teaching your child what God’s Word says because it doesn’t seem that anything you are saying is sticking.

But don’t give up.

dont-give-up

Why?

Because when you least expect it, when you are in the middle of something completely unrelated to the lesson you have been trying to teach, when you are in a place where you cannot even fully appreciate the moment…..

it will happen.

At the moment of decision, your child will repeat verbatim the truths you have been teaching him.

Your child will recognize a lie and rebuff it with the truths you have shared.

Your child will stand up for what they know is right when you are not around, and you will only know because someone else will tell you.

God knows when we need those breakthrough moments. Those are the moments that keep us going. He uses those moments to remind us that we are more than the grocery shopper, launderer, housekeeper, and cook on top of other responsibilities and titles we may hold. He uses those moments to remind us that we have an important roll in molding the hearts of our children.

dont-give-up

These moments do not happen in an instant. They happen after Mom has repeated herself so many times, she can say the lines in her sleep. And when Mom thinks there is no point in repeating herself one more time, her moment happens.

And that moment is the shot in the arm she needs to say the words one more time, to speak truth to her children again, and to remind them of what God says in His word. That moment fills her tank with hope that her words are not in vain and her efforts are not for naught. That moment opens her eyes to the realization that her actions have not gone unnoticed. Her labors of love have been received for what they were.

You moment will happen, Mom….

Just don’t give up.

dint-give-up

star of persia

To Be a Star

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We are Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Brian is the die-hard, the rest of us support him and the team. Go Bucs! Siege the Day! and so on.

On Monday night the Bucs played against the Carolina Panthers. The game was tied with seconds to go. It was going to be left up to the “foot” of our kicker, Roberto Aguayo. Our quarterback, Jameis Winston approached Aguayo and said,

“…big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments.” (source)

When I heard that, I couldn’t help but think of Esther, the beautiful young heroine in the Bible and book I was finishing up, Star of Persia by Marion Dawson Gunderson.

star of persia

The book of Esther is an amazing story of courage. Although His name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, God’s fingerprints is all over her life and story. In an amazing turn of events, God uses Esther to save the Hebrew nation.

The Star of Persia takes the story of Esther and puts it into a story for young girls ages 7-15. Esther starts out life as a young girl living a simple life until a twist in circumstances changes her life forever. After becoming the queen of all Persia (a big-time player), she goes to the King without being summoned, a decision which could have led to her death (a big-time play). Because of her bravery, the Jewish nation was saved and their enemy executed (a big-time moment).

star of persia

In a world where a distorted and unrealistic view of true beauty is elevated, Star of Persia does a beautiful job of emphasizing the qualities and characteristics of a truly beautiful woman. Her kindness, wisdom, humility, and discreetness are portrayed in a way that reminds girls that their value is not in their appearance but in the character qualities that they carry with them wherever they go.

As you and/or your daughter read this book, keep in mind that creative license has been taken, especially in the last chapter concerning many of the major events mentioned in the Bible. I think it is important to make sure your daughter knows the actual account before she reads this version. Giving her an explanation of creative license will help her understand going into this book that it will not be an exact retelling of the Bible’s account of the life of Esther.

star of persia

Our daughters need to read about women they can admire and emulate. They need to read about women of character whose footsteps they can follow in. They need to see how real women handled life threatening situations and came out on the other side. Star of Persia is a great place to start.

when God speaks

When God Speaks to Our Children

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One morning a couple of years ago, my kids were in Addie’s room. She was reading her devotional for the morning, Born Again! (I Can Read God’s Word), and Ian was sitting beside her listening.

I thought it was so sweet! I grabbed my camera to take a picture, but what I heard next touched me even more than what I saw.

when God speaks

“Ian, when we disobey that is called sin.”

I was stunned.

No where in the story she was reading did those words appear together. God had shown my daughter (5 years old at the time) a fundamental truth based on what she had been reading.

As a parent, my natural instinct was to swoop in and elaborate on the moment, over talk the lesson learned, and make sure my daughter “heard right.” After all, we are called to teach our children about the Lord.

But…

I chose not to.

I chose to step out of God’s way.

I chose not to interrupt their moment.

I chose not to somehow come across as if God needed me to clarify what He had clearly shown my daughter.

when God speaks

She obviously understood Him.

She didn’t need my “help.”

She didn’t need me to show by my actions that I thought God could only speak to parents.

She doesn’t need me to make her feel that God cannot speak to her because she is only a child.

He can!

He has!

Samuel is a great example of a time when God spoke to a child…. very clearly. (1 Samuel 3)

when God speaks

As a rule of thumb, we need to make Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 our way of life. We need to instruct our children throughout the day in the ways of the Lord.

There are times, though, when we need to give our children the space to have a real visit, conversation, encounter with God. It will cause their faith to grow by leaps and bounds.

Let them tell you what God has shown them, and fight back the need to expound, elaborate, and explain further- unless your child “figured” something out on their own and are way off base. Stepping back reinforces to your child that God really can speak to them- not just Mom and Dad.

This post was originally posted on The Joy of Homemaking.

when God speaks

a great boy

Make Him a Great Boy

This week has been all about this little boy. He turned five, which made me realize that he is one step further from being that roly-poly baby and one step closer to one day being a man.

As most mothers do, I want my son to grow up to be a great man. I want him to do great things. I want him to influence many. I want him to live his faith out loud. But then one day I came across this quote by an unknown author.

“Don’t wait to make your son a great man- make him great boy.”

I don’t have to wait for someday to come along. I can start now in the midst of 5T clothes that are getting to be too small and Ninja Turtle action figures to help him grow into a great boy who will in turn grow into a great man.

raising a great boy

As daunting as growing a great boy into a man sounds, it is possible. Although I am a mother who is knee deep in raising children and am by no means an expert on how to raise children, there is one thing I do know. If I follow God’s Word in bringing up my children, I cannot go wrong. 

While trying to raise a great boy, I decided to look to what God said about the one Boy who grew up perfectly- His own Son.

Luke 2: 52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

If you think about it, those are the four areas we as parents should focus on when bringing up great boys (and girls).

Wisdom- “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7  

Wisdom is knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. I want to raise a little boy who knows the difference between right and wrong according to God’s Word (not society’s definition) and then allows his actions to be dictated by just judgment.

I don’t what him thinking that “smarts” equal wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two entirely different areas of growth. Before knowledge comes into play, I want my son to be wise. Wisdom comes from a heart that seeks after God, knowledge comes from the head.

raising a great boy

Stature- “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

As important as it is for my son to grow physically, one thing I want him to remember for himself and for others is that what we look like on the outside is not what matters most. I want him to learn to view others and himself the way God does- by looking at the heart.

I don’t want him to value people based on the brand of clothes they wear. I want him to value their hearts. I don’t want him to like others solely by their looks. I want him to like them for their personalities. I don’t want him to be wowed by the pretty girl that shows up in youth group (Lord help me!). I want him to see her for the young woman that she is based on how she treats those around her. I don’t want him basing his self-worth on what he sees in the mirror. I want him to know he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

Favor with God- “For whoso findeth me (wisdom) findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” Proverbs 8:35

We receive wisdom from reading God’s Word, but when our boys are small (before they can read), they can only hear God’s Word if we are willing to read it to them. Daily Bible reading and teaching is something we value in our home. My son will only know how to please God by learning it directly from His Word, and I have the privilege of bringing him into the presence of God each time we stop what we are doing to read God’s Word.

Right now, since my son is small, we are learning how God wants us to behave, act in faith, and show courage by reading about the great heroes in the Bible. He was amazed when God sent ravens to bring Elijah meat at the brook, he smiled from ear to ear as God answered Elijah’s prayer with fire from Heaven, and he loved hearing how David brought down Goliath with a small stone.

Our sons will learn wisdom by learning the lessons from the men and women they read about in the Bible. And as they learn wisdom, they will please God when their actions line up with his Word.

raising a great boy

In favor with man- “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

We all want children that others want to be around. When people see my children, I want their instinctive reaction to be joy, not dread.

What qualities are found in children we all want to be around?

Behaviors such as being kind (Eph. 4:32), obeying and honoring parents (Eph. 6:1), and respecting authority (Romans 13) are all qualities that will endear our sons to others. Being a hard worker (Exodus 20:9), honest (Eph. 4:25), and a man of integrity (Proverbs 11:3) will bring him favor with his future employers.

My 5 year old is growing into a great boy. One day, that great boy will be a great man. But for now, I’ll enjoy every bit of the boy stage with all of the dinosaurs, cars, transformers, and legos that come with it. And as I wake up day after day to raise my great children, I will cling to Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

raising a great boy

perfect-bedtime-book

The Perfect Bedtime Book for Little Ones

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I began reading to my children from the time I brought them home from the hospital. I looked for as many Bible story board books as I could find, and rotated through them. I loved the board books that were gifted to us as well that taught my children about colors, animals, and first words. I grew to love my collection of board books, and I was thankful that the pages were strong enough to survive my two children

snuggle-time-psalms

My son will be five next week, and recently I discovered that he prefers board books over “paper” books. During our silent reading times, he gravitates to the board books I pull out. At the library, he ignores the rows of brightly illustrated picture books and sits in front of the board book shelf.

When I received my copy of Snuggle Time Psalms by Glenys Nellist in the mail, I’m not sure who was more excited- Ian or me.

I asked Ian what his favorite things about Snuggle Time Psalms were- “the pictures and hard pages.”

snuggle-time-psalms

My favorites about Snuggle Time Psalms are:

  1. The message– As the title suggests, each page begins with one verse from a Psalm. After the verse is a rhyme that perfectly explains to a child what the verse means. The rhymes are written using terms that speak to children where they are. Words like teddy bear and airplanes make the meaning of the Psalms relevant to toddlers and preschoolers and puts the verse in terms they can understand.
  2. The author– Glenys Nellist has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her writing style has such a gentleness that I have found the way I read her books to my son affected by it. When you pick up any one of Glenys’s books, you’ll find that you cannot  read them quickly. They cause you to pause time, to slow down, and savor the moment with your little one. I have even been known to pick up her books and read them to myself when I need a pause in my day. As a mom, I love that my son always asks for “one more” as we read through Snuggle Time Psalms.
  3. The illustrations– I have always been a huge fan of great illustrations. For little ones who can’t read or are still learning how, illustrations are how they “read” a book. Cee Biscoe has a gift. She can make her illustrations come alive while giving them a gentleness to match the words on the page. They are calming, beautiful, and endearing.

If you are looking for a board book that will survive your toddler/preschooler’s love for reading and will also give them a solid Biblical foundation, Snuggle Time Psalms is a perfect book to bring your children into the presence of the Lord from the comfort of their mother’s lap.

Publisher: Zonderkidz Year: 2016 Pages: 30 pages ISBN: 978-0310749257 Retail Price: $9.99

You can read my reviews of Glenys Nellist’s other bookstall these locations: Snuggle Time Prayers and Love Letters From God.

snuggle-time-psalms

A Letter to My Little One

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Dear Little Treasure of Mine,

You are so very young and have so much to learn. And we are so excited to have been given the privilege of guiding you along in your journey.

As your parents we’ll teach you so many things to help you get a good start in life.

You’ll learn your first words in our home… You’ll learn the right ways to speak and behave. You’ll learn how to use proper manners. And, hey, we’ll even teach you how to use the potty! (A lesson we’re currently working on now that you’re two…and one that I hope you will learn very soon.)

a-letter-to-my-little-one

Most importantly though, as Christian parents, we are excited to teach you the most important thing you’ll ever need to know… And that is teaching you about God…

Who He is.

What He has done.

What He says.

And most importantly how you can know Him as your Heavenly Father…

I want you to know I am praying for you as you grow…

As I rock you before bedtime, I pray for you… My heart’s truest desire is for you to see and know God as He really is…I want you to know that He really  does exist and that He is good… Always.

His finger prints are on everything.. so many of which we take for granted…

The vegetables, fruits, and herbs that grow and hold the perfect nutrients our bodies need…

The way our bodies repair themselves after an injury.

The way a baby grows inside its mother’s womb and is equipped with a food supply from its mom immediately after it is born.

The amount of hours we have at night, giving us rest to prepare for a new day.

The way our earth rotates and the seasons change giving us a variety of fruits and vegetables in their perfect time.

The air we breathe and the exact distance of our planet from the sun, giving us an ideal  environment in which to live.

I could go on and on forever describing all of the amazing things God has done and yet which so few give Him credit for….

Yes, Dear One, God did all of these things.

letter-to-my-little-one

Unfortunately, though, many people only give God credit….when things go wrong.

“Why did God let this or that happen….?” They ask.

But, you know what…. Really… None of it is ever His fault.

He designed everything to work in its perfect order.

He called everything He made at creation “good”. (Genesis 1)

He did not invent evil. Evil is the choice to go against God’s way of doing things, resisting His order and authority.

It was sin entering the world through man’s choice that caused things to go awry.

Never forget that.

God did not make us robots, but instead gave us a free will. And the first man’s choice to listen to the devil and go against God’s direction gave entrance to all of the things that go wrong in the perfect world God originally designed for us to live in. And it continues that way to this day.

No, we may never understand everything that we go through in life. We may never understand all of the reasons why tragedies take place and pain and suffering come into our lives.

But one thing I want you to remember in all of this is….God is always good.

He went to great lengths to restore us to a relationship with Him after “we” were the ones to cause the separation. Man’s choice to sin is what separated us from Him…and it is also what tainted this beautiful world.

And yet, God still extends His love, His hope, and His peace to us…

letter-to-my-little-baby

He knew we could never be good enough to earn back what we lost by our sin. We could never make ourselves right or earn a place as His children on our own.

And so, He sent Jesus…His Only Son…to die in our place. To take our punishment.

He got what we deserved… The punishment, the shame, and separation from God.

Jesus felt all of that on the cross.

In fact He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And you know what….He went through all that because of His great love for you and me… So that we wouldn’t have to cry out that same question ourselves…And so that we could know we have a Father in Heaven who hears us and will never forsake us.

In dying for us and rising again, Jesus gave us what we could never earn ourselves….the privilege of being able to call God our Heavenly Father.

Because of what He did for us, and by faith in Him, His death and His resurrection, we can now call the God of the Universe Our Father too! What an amazing privilege that is….

I don’t want you to simply go through this life just knowing about God…but actually knowing Him personally as your Heavenly Father for yourself.

And you will.

I have dedicated you to God. I know He has your heart and life in His hands, and I have been praying that He will reveal the reality of His existence in your life just like He did for Samuel in the Bible. (1 Samuel 3) He will draw you to Himself.

Yes, you will know Him…because it will be God who opens your spiritual eyes to really know that He exists, that He is real, that He is ever present, and that He is your everything in this life… just like He has done in Mommy and Daddy’s lives.

If there’s anything I want you to know, Dear One, it’s that you have a Heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms.

He loves you so much…. Way more than Mommy or Daddy ever could…

And He wants you to know that you can come to Him freely anytime you want because Jesus made it all possible.

This is something worth celebrating…and definitely good news worth sharing with the  whole world!

And I’m so glad I have the privilege of sharing this news with you.

intentional-celebrations

Building Monuments

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God loves a good celebration. So much so that He instituted times when His people came together to rejoice with food and symbols to represent what the celebration was for.

intentional-celebrations

But the celebrations were not meant to be frivolous. They were not meant to be commercialized. These celebrations were meant to be spiritual monuments for the people to look back and remember God’s goodness to them as they made the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. These celebrations were to mark specific moments in time when God showed His provision, protection, love, and mercy to His stubborn, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:13). These celebrations were to contain lessons that would be passed down from generation to generation so there would never be a generation who did not know the Lord or the things He had done (Judges 2:10).

As I think of my own life, I can remember distinct moments where God showed His hand of provision, protection, love, and mercy on my journey from childhood into adulthood.

He provided a piano for me when my parents could not afford to buy one. (In fact, my family nor I have ever had to buy a piano, but we have almost always had one in our home or access to one since I was 11 years old.)

intentional-celebrations

He provided the money needed for me to attend college through scholarships, generous gifts from others, and some savings my father had intentionally put aside without the need for college loans.

He protected us from an oncoming tornado when I was 7 years old and caused that tornado to completely turn around and head in a different direction.

His love and mercy allowed my mother to know she would have a granddaughter before she passed away.

His goodness provided for our children so much that we can look at their rooms and count on one hand what we have had to actually purchase for them.

I want these memories to be monuments for my children to see, for them to reflect back on when times get rough in their lives, when they are unsure how the end of the story will turn out. I want to retell these stories to my children so they will not forget them, and so they will have stories to pass down to future generations of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

intentional-celebrations

As I thought of our personal monuments, I realized that underneath the debris of our calendar holidays, there are beautiful monuments for us to refer back to when the going gets rough.

When you pull away the tinsel, the lights, the wrapping paper, the wish lists, and the empty boxes, there is a stable with a sleeping Baby who was given as the greatest Gift humanity has ever received. During those times when we feel that we have nothing, that hope is lost, that life is for those in high position and not for us, that Baby stands as a monument saying, “I was given to you.”

Hidden under the very last strand of shredded, plastic, green grass, eggs, and bunnies is a cross of raw wood that is stained with blood. When we visit that monument we are reminded of how very loved we are- so much that someone was willing to die in our place to carry our burden, and reap the punishment for what we sowed.

Some monuments are built as reminders to us of principles in God’s Word.

Buried under the flowers, chocolate, cards, and paper hearts is a man who, as tradition tells us, defied an emperor in order to keep those in his flock from breaking God’s law.

intentional-celebrations

Journey past the rainbows, the leprechauns, the pots of gold, and shamrocks and you will find a young English boy, kidnapped by pirates, and taken to Ireland to be a slave. Despite his circumstances he prayed to God one hundred times a day, escaped his captors, and eventually went back to Ireland as a missionary to reach the people he had grown to love for Christ.

Travel through the fields of cornucopias, feathers, black and white garb, and gaze upon the monuments of a small band of pilgrims who are celebrating what only the hand of God could have brought about and done.

I want the “holidays” to be more than just a stressful time filled with rushed trips to the stores, receipts, and commercialism.

I want these days to be “holy days”- days that turn our focus to God and His goodness towards humanity.

I want my children to visit these monuments yearly, not with the expectation of temporary trinkets they may receive, but with the expectation of receiving the long-lasting gift of hope these monuments stand for.

more-than-just-a-day

One of my favorite books is Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s book, A Homemade Year. In it, she lists dates that are significant to the history of the Christian Church at large- spiritual monuments. Days that I usually breeze by as I go about my year have a spiritual significance and lesson to teach me and my children. Days that I would have scheduled a doctor’s appointment or a library trip were monuments meant to turn our hearts towards the Lord.

Many of these dates are not on our calendars.

They are probably not even on the radars of marketers.

But these dates are there, and they are a gift. Not just to me, but to my family as well. They are days that I have an opportunity to use as monuments for my family. Monuments with a beautiful history that my family can look back to and remember God’s goodness in the past and His promised faithfulness in the future.