As we observe the season of Lent, I’ve been thinking about how careful we need to be to not “leave Jesus hanging on the cross” as we talk about His death and resurrection with the young children in our lives.
I’ve hesitated writing this post because the last thing I want to do is make someone feel self-conscious or sad about doing this in the past. Let me be the first to say that I don’t always do this perfectly! And, if you are someone who has never thought about this issue before, please don’t stress about it. Here’s just something to think about going forward: Don’t leave Jesus on the cross!
Here’s what I mean:
In the Church, especially around Easter, we have a tendency to focus on our sin and on the sadness and sorrow of Good Friday and the crucifixion. Rightly, we want people to understand their sin and need for a Savior.
Talking about our sins and all the things we’ve done wrong and how Jesus died on the cross to redeem our sins.
Writing our sins down on a piece of paper and hammering them into a wooden cross.
But, we have to be careful with children to not “stay” in that zone, for two reasons:
Children don’t have the same time concept as adults. My 3 -year-old still can’t quite remember the difference between yesterday and tomorrow. She can’t always recall a conversation I had with her earlier today. While this will obviously get better, even elementary school children don’t have a superb sense of time, in the same way teenagers and adults do.
Until around age 12, children are not abstract thinkers. They need things concretely explained to them. When we do an activity like “nailing our sins to the cross” (by writing a sin on a piece of paper), they can’t retain that activity over the course of two days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. They’re not processing that symbolism the same way adults do.
So, here’s a general rule when working with children, I would say all the way up through age 12 or so:
Don’t leave Jesus on the cross. If you talk about the crucifixion, talk about the resurrection in the next breath. If you lead an activity about sin and death, wrap it up with a component describing His victory from the grave.
In our family, I try to make sure we always say something like, “Jesus died on the cross and rose againon Easter,” rather than simply talking about Jesus dying on the cross and leaving it at that.
After all, what’s the value of His death on the cross if we don’t remember He rose again on Easter morning?
I want the victory of Easter to be ingrained in the minds and hearts of the children I teach.
I want to be sensitive to any Catholic Christian readers of Faith Passed Down. I understand there are reasons for crucifixes depicting Jesus on the cross, and I’m not trying to demean that practice.
Just make sure that as you view a cross with Jesus hanging on it with your young children, you point out that He’s not on the cross anymore – we can remember our sins and also remember that He rose victorious from the grave!
We’ve been enjoying some Lent/Easter activities at our house this week, and I wanted to share some ideas that have worked for us. I’ve included tips for doing these crafts with a variety of age groups.
This is the only idea on this list not from Pinterest, but instead from my own mom! She is a Christian-school Kindergarten teacher and I remember making this poster long ago when I was a student in her class!
I adapted it based on my memories, and we’re making it gradually as the days get closer to Easter.
I cut out a cross from purple construction paper (I just happened to have no plain purple paper, but did have this beautiful scrapbook paper when I went hunting!) Together Elle and I glued it to a piece of black construction paper. We used white glue to make an outline of the cross and added some glitter to make it fancy.
Now each day (as I think of it), we’re adding a symbol of the Easter story. I would use a hot-glue gun if possible, though it’s been working okay for me so far to just use regular Elmer’s glue.
Here are ideas for what to include:
green paper palm branch – for Palm Sunday
matzah cracker – for the bread Jesus broke at the Last Supper, saying, “This is My body.”
cardboard wine cup, painted silver – for the cup, saying “This is My blood.”
nickel – to represent the pieces of silver that Judas received for betraying Jesus.
a small piece of thorns – for the crown of thorns – You could use a stick that looks a little “pokey” if you don’t have access to thorns or are worried about injury.
white cotton – to represent the linens used to wrap Jesus’ body
sponge – to represent the sponge used to give Jesus a drink when He was on the cross
plastic toothpick sword, for the spear used to pierce Jesus’ side
paper bowl + small piece of white cloth, used to represent washing of disciples’ feet
white cloth or gauze – grave cloths used to wrap Jesus’ body
We had already put glitter on the outside of the cross, and then I was talking to my mom and she said that after Easter, they would put tissue paper to outline the cross as a “victory! Hooray He is risen!” sort of thing. I loved that idea. You could have kids crumple up little balls of brightly colored tissue and glue, or you can also use the end of a pencil (the eraser side) – wrap a tissue square around it, then place it on some glue, and it will look like flowers.
For younger kids: Cut and prepare all the parts of the poster ahead of time. If using hot glue, you will need to the gluing. Even for toddlers/preschoolers, this is a nice way to talk about the significance of some of these items – similar to doing Resurrection Eggs, but with a tangible thing to look at on the wall.
For older children/teenagers: They can cut and prepare the parts of the poster themselves. You could even offer a number of items, but allow them to choose the ones most significant (for example, make 6 items available, but have them choose each choose their 4 favorites). You could provide variety through different kinds of patterned scrapbook paper for the cross or different colors of glitter.
I loved how super-simple this activity was, with just colored construction paper and a glue stick.
For younger kids: Cut out all the squares + a cross for each child ahead of time. Assist with gluing.
For older children/teenagers: Offer whole sheets of paper and have students cut out the squares and crosses themselves. You could provide ideas for different “shaped” crosses (some with curly embellishments on the end, different sizes, etc.) You could also provide different patterns of paper for variety.
Another super simple activity. Afterwards, we used the branches to role-play the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. We waved the branches and shouted “Hosanna.” My 3 year old went and got her stuffed dog off her bed and “rode” it like a donkey when she pretended to be Jesus!
For younger kids: This is perfect for young children who are still learning cutting skills. You cut out the shape of the palm branch, then let the child cut out the “fringe.”
For older children/teenagers: This craft may be too basic for older children or teenagers.
Here’s another activity we’re doing gradually, adding a symbol or two as the week goes on (that’s why it’s not all colored-in yet in the picture above.)
For younger kids: Cut out the shapes ahead of time. For my 3 year old, she seemed to color more thoroughly when I cut out the details of the entire shape and provided a piece of scratch paper underneath, rather than when I gave her the whole piece of paper, including some extra space on the outside of the shape, planning to cut it out later.
For older children/teenagers: Provide the entire printable (available at link above) and let them do their own cutting. I had trouble getting the text to print on the eggs, so I am just handwriting on a blank egg. Older children/teenagers with small penmanship can do this, too.
Check out the linked post for the idea behind this project, and a wonderful book to go along with it. The blog post doesn’t provide very specific directions, so here’s what we did:
Trace handprints with a pencil onto a white piece of paper. (I just used computer paper, and it folded/rolled very easily, which was nice.)
Cut out the handprints.
Take a green pipe cleaner (the entire thing) + a small piece of yellow pipe cleaner (I cut a full-length one into thirds). Wrap the yellow piece around the tip of the green pipe cleaner – I just twisted them together. You’re trying to make the yellow pollen part of the lily, along with the green stem.
Wrap/roll the handprint around the pipe cleaner, enclosing the yellow part, and secure with tape.
We made a few and put into a vase. We also made some hearts (“Because Jesus loves us!” said Elle) and wrapped those two together, which made kind of a tulip shape.
For younger kids: This activity would be great for kids who can cut. We’re not there yet with my 3-year-old, so I did find myself doing most of the “work” of this craft, but she was happy to help fold the pipe cleaner and tape it, and we did end up with a lovely table decoration!
For older children: Allow them to do the tracing and cutting themselves. Provide different colored paper for variety, or recommend trying different shapes besides just a handprint.
**Have you done any activities for Lent/Easter? Leave a comment below telling your favorites.
Christian Valentine Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers
We’ve been having fun preparing for Valentine’s Day at our house, and I wanted to share some of the simple activities we’ve been doing plus some ideas I have for the next few days. I have a 3.5 year old and 1 year old – both girls.
I haven’t had to get special supplies or do much prep work for these activities, so I hope you might still be able to use some of these if you have toddlers or preschoolers, even though Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching!
The Purpose: “We love because He first loved us.”
I personally love Valentine’s Day – in fact, I shocked my husband recently by sharing that it might even be my favorite holiday. As much as I love Easter and Christmas, I’m always filled with so much angst over the way our culture celebrates (bunnies and candy and over-the-top gift giving) versus the focus of these holidays as Christians (Christ and His birth, death, and victory through resurrection!)
I don’t feel that same angst over Valentine’s Day – after all, I think we all agree that loving one another is a good thing to do, whether our spouse, family members, or friends!
With that said, I think as Christians, we can particularly make sure our focus at Valentine’s Day is on God’s love for us as the REASON that we love one another. As believers, we don’t just love because it’s nice or makes us happy or wins us friends.
We love because Jesus already loved us (see 1 John 4). This is what sets us apart from the rest of the world!
So, as I’m talking with my kids about love and Valentine’s Day this week, I’m trying to focus WAY more on the love of God than on teaching my kids to love others.
Sometimes I see Valentine’s Day turned into a moral lesson about how children should act, with lots of discussion of their kindness and service to others.
While it’s fine to use this time to teach how to love one another, we want to be sure that the emphasis is that God loved us first.That’s it. He did it. Therefore, we can now love one another. But that’s only after we remember His love for us first.
Bible Verses to Use
Here are a few Bible verses we’ve been reading and discussing in our home (see the games section below for some ideas for how to do this). Though I typically like the NIrV versionwhen working with children, so many of these verses are familiar to me in the NIV translation that I’ve been using that one.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
1 John 3:1 – “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
1 John 3:16a – “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”
1 John 4:7 – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4:8 – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:9 – “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.”
1 John 4:10 – “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
1 John 4:11 – “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ”
1 John 4:12 – “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:16 – “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
1 John 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”
Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
We’ve been singing…
“Skidamarinka dink” – which is not at all “Christ-centered” but a nice way to remind my kids I love them. Here’s a cute little video if you’re not familiar with the song.
“Be Ye Kind to One Another” (the words of Ephesians 4:32)
I like to have our kids send Valentines to our friends and loved ones, as an expression of “love one another.” We made these hearts using this “shake up hearts” idea that I found on Pinterest.
This was a fun activity using just some basic ingredients – paint, paper, and a plastic jar (thankfully I remembered we were running out of peanut butter so I used that one.) You can check out the directions at the link above.
The only warning I’ll give is that we used too much paint and it got pretty clumpy, especially after a few papers. So, if you’re planning to assembly-line 100 cards or something like that, you will want to wash out the paint periodically.
After my daughters made the papers, I let the papers dry and later cut them into hearts. Then I wrote some messages and Bible verses on each one.
We’ll distribute some at a Valentine’s party we’re going to on Saturday, plus include some in our (much-delayed) Christmas thank you cards that I’m determined to send this week! 🙂
Valentine Crafts for Kids
These Silly Heart Puppets (also a Pinterest find) were a big hit, and required just a few simple supplies – paint, popsicle sticks, plus a thin cardboard box out of our pantry.
We decorated two into actual puppets, using googly eyes and pom-poms, but we also liked just the plain painted hearts.
You could write some of the Bible verses above on these hearts! (In all honesty, we didn’t really do this, because by the time I had that idea, my daughter had already distributed them as gifts to all her princess dolls – I just made this one as an example).
We made handprint hearts and feet.
We made a Valentine’s Day sign using ripped paper. My daughter cut/ripped some pink paper, then together we glued it into a heart. (I actually intended for us to cut out paper hearts before realizing her cutting skills aren’t nearly that developed! So ripping the paper into pieces worked much better.)
Valentine’s Day Games
After making some crafts, I could tell we were all getting stir-crazy, so I came up with two very simple, no-prep-needed games.
First, I cut out some hearts and quickly wrote a few Bible verses on them. (You’ll see from the photos I actually abbreviated some of the verses into 3-year-old language.) Alternatively, here are some printable hearts with verses that you could use.
Bible Verse Hide-and-Seek
Then, I sent my daughter into her room while I hid the hearts around the living room, taped onto the wall in various places. As she found each one, she brought it back to me and we read it together before she set out to find another.
Bible Verse Relay Race
For a more active version, I hung them all up on the door in our bedroom using tape (the only uncluttered part of the house at this point, so she wouldn’t trip). We had a starting line in the living room, and she ran to the door, picked up one heart, then brought it back to me, then ran to get another until she had collected all five. (We didn’t bother reading them aloud, though you could.) My one year old even enjoyed getting in on this one!
Activities and Other Ideas
Family Date Dinner
For the first time this year, we’re going to have a “family date dinner” with our kids on Valentine’s Day. I was inspired by an idea I saw on my favorite Sorta Awesome Hangout facebook group.
We plan to prepare a festive dinner, decorate our table with some paper hearts and little decorations, and light some candles. We’ll all get dressed up and turn on some fancy music to listen to. I hope we’ll read and talk about some of our “love” Bible verses and have some special family time together.
(For what it’s worth, I’m not trying to neglect my husband on Valentine’s Day! He and I have an at-home date night every Tuesday so we are having some special dates this week and next week to celebrate).
Valentine’s Tea Party
For several years – even when our kids were just babies! – my sister and I have had a Valentine’s tea party with heart-shaped treats and activities. Whether you do this with cousins, friends, a Sunday school class, or just within your immediate family, it’s a fun way to celebrate with loved ones.
I’ve always loved reading about Jess McClenahan’s darling parties, which I think was the inspiration for our first party… you can read about them here: onetwothreefour
Serve Outside Your Family
Something we may do this year is put together some Valentine’s Day goody baskets for someone who could use some encouragement – maybe a “thanks” gift for people who help us, like our apartment complex managers; or sending a package to a friend across the country; or dropping one off at the local hospital or a nursing home.
If we do, we’ll probably just fill a basket with some items from Target, like some sweets and stickers, and then include a couple of our homemade craft items from this week.
Do you have any other ideas for ways to serve at Valentine’s Day? I’d love to do more of this.
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Leave a comment below.
Hello there! I haven’t been posting much here at Faith Passed Down recently!
Though I did just “back-date” a couple posts from December about our low-key Christmas in “survival mode.” I started writing them but never published until today (in February!), so if you’re interested, you can read them here:
We are joyfully expecting twin boys this summer and – after we got over the shock of hearing “twins!” – I spent most of the next two months doing as little as possible while I dealt with first trimester morning sickness.
Thankfully, that is behind us, and I’m getting caught up on housework, paperwork, and hopefully, continuing with some new posts at Faith Passed Down.
I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon about:
Candle Time – Our Simple Daily Family Devotions – This started a little bit by accident when Advent ended but have become a lovely, easy part of our family’s day.
Christ-Centered Valentine’s Day Ideas for Young Children
Step Into My Shoes – an update on Compassion International’s wonderful lessons to help families process poverty together.
an update on Little Passports, a great way to help our children explore God’s World – my 3 year old is a huge fan!
Ideas for Observing Lent with Children
So stay tuned!
What to Expect:
I wanted to let you know that as I took a break from blogging over the past few months, and as I look ahead to making the jump from two to four children (!!) and hopefully moving overseas soon after that… I’ve done some thinking and considering about some goals for Faith Passed Down in 2016.
I’m trying to simplify things here at Faith Passed Down as much as possible. I really want to continue writing, but my only commitment to myself and to all of you is to write what I am able, when I am able.
I hope this works for me, but also for you too – the last thing I want to do is make faith-building seem overwhelming or overcomplicated. I am hoping to focus on simple, doable ways to share faith with the young people in your life – without too much frills or fluff. 🙂
There likely won’t be a weekly newsletter (though for now you can still receive posts automatically once a week), and I’m giving up aspirations of a thriving Instagram account, stellar photos in every single post, thousands of readers, or lots of bells and whistles. 🙂
Also, it seems like most “serious” bloggers today are pursuing ways to make an income on their blog – and there is nothing wrong with that! But I’ve realized I simply don’t have the time to do it. So, aside from using some affiliate links from Amazon or other companies I love (which can bring in a tiny bit of a commission if you buy through my links), I don’t plan to sell my own ebooks, promote lots of other products, offer speaking engagements, or focus on way to grow a large audience… I’m just aiming to keep sharing some ideas for faith-building with whoever is listening. 🙂
For now, email, Facebook, and Pinterest are the best ways to keep up with Faith Passed Down. I’m not planning to write on a schedule, but will post as possible (and you’ll keep getting those posts by email if you are a subscriber).
Thanks for checking in with Faith Passed Down!
Leave a comment below: what have you been up to over the past few months? Any life changes, big or small? I’d love to hear from you.
As I’ve shared over the past few days, we’ve had a pretty low-key December as I’ve been in the midst of significant morning sickness, and there are many things we did not do this holiday season.
And yet, we’ve truly had a lovely December, we enjoyed a super-simple Advent season with our kids, and we celebrated a pleasant Christmas holiday with our extended family.
In hindsight, I’ve been thinking through some things that helped us this month.
I did not plan ahead for this month, but if we were hoping to have another super-simple holiday season, particularly one where I knew it would be extra-crazy, here’s some things I’d consider.
I hope that if you are looking ahead to a “survival mode” Christmas – maybe you’re anticipating a move, have a job that means the holidays are extra-busy, face sickness, or are expecting a new baby – these tips might help you, too.
How to Enjoy a Simple Holiday Season (especially in survival mode)
1. Identify what is #1 most important to you and your family members/loved ones.
Sit down and ask each person what is truly the #1 only thing that is most important.
For me, it would be singing lots of Christmas carols. For my 3 year old, she wouldn’t have been able to articulate this, but it’s been “decorating” (in her own way) by placing ornaments on the tree and also “decorating” our presents with ribbons. For the baby, it’s having not-stressed out parents. 🙂
Whatever the case, figure out what’s most important, and put those at the top of your list.
2. Similarly, identify what is not important to you or what is a big stressor.
Is there a holiday event you always go to, and it never ends well? The kids stay up too late, or you feel stressed out, or you have to provide expensive gifts for an exchange, or whatever? Consider skipping it (or just sending the people who actually enjoy it!)
For us, it’s sending Christmas cards. Growing up, my parents wrote the most clever Christmas letters each year, and it was a highlight of our celebration. Likewise, I’ve always loved reading Christmas letters/cards.
However, we now work for an aid organization where we already send out a monthly email update to most of our loved ones, and it seems that each year, sending even a simple family photo ends up taking hours as we try to take a nice photo and then stuff and stamp envelopes.
So this year, we finally opted not to send them out, at least not until the new year when life calms down a bit.
3. Pray and ask God to direct your plans to honor Him.
I don’t think everything on your December calendar needs to be religious in nature, but we do want to honor Him with all that we do, particularly as we celebrate the birth of Christ.
Is there anything on your list to remove?
4. Set yourself up for success.
Remember that list of #1 most important things?
Put any specific dates into the calendar (like, “attend church choir concert on December 10 at 2:00 pm”).
Make a list of other items that can happen anytime (like, “make cocoa and watch a Christmas movie”) and stick on your phone, refrigerator, or somewhere obvious, so that when you have a spare moment, you can make it happen.
Set a deadline for certain items, especially the “maybes.” Though we knew it’s stressful, we actually did intend to still send out some simple Christmas postcards… until, the week before Christmas, we crossed the threshold of “even if we do them now, they won’t arrive before Christmas” so I took it off my list. If you have something you might want to do, set a deadline for it: “If we haven’t made homemade gifts by December 15, we’ll just go buy storebought.”
5. Identify what is easy and set yourself up for impromptu fun.
This has been key in our family’s Christmas celebration. We already had a few Christmas craft kits and activity books, so I threw those in an empty drawer and my 3 year old has been doing a few over the past few weeks.
Because we’ve had a pretty open schedule (I’ve just felt horrible in the midst of it), we’ve had the freedom to turn on a Christmas movie on Netflix or bake super simple cookies. I gathered up a small basket of Christmas books from our bookshelves and the library, and we’ve been reading them periodically.
None of these activities were planned more than five minutes before we began doing them! But I’ve tried to stay open to a few simple activities.
Some other ideas for facilitating impromptu fun are:
make a list of holiday events in your community, and refer to it if you find yourself with a free evening/weekend.
So many of the things we did this Christmas happened as a result of other gracious people in our lives.
Family members provided tickets to two holiday shows and arranged all of the food/activities for our Christmas celebrations.
My sister baked cookies, made icing, and invited us over to decorate them, with zero effort on my part (except enjoying the finished product!) 🙂
Even participating in Christmas Eve church was the result of the hard work of the pastors, choir members, and worship leaders! It’s been easier for us to attend events that others have arranged, rather than trying to put it together ourselves.
What We HAVE Done This Christmas Season – some simple ideas
Despite all that we’ve skipped, here are the things we have done, perfect for our current situation, that have resulted in a meaningful December nonetheless. You’ll notice that many of these happened as the result of delegation/other people helping us, or as the result of impromptu, spur-of-the-moment fun.
We have done evening Advent wreath devotions at the dinner table about half the nights in December. This has been the #1 most meaningful thing this year. It requires virtually no preparation, other than having an Advent wreath with four candles. Most nights, we turn off the lights, light the appropriate candle(s), read one Bible verse related to the Christmas story, and then sing a verse (a capella) of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Often since we already have the hymnal out, we sing a few more carols – usually just the first verse of each one. Then we blow out the candles. That’s it! It usually takes about 5 minutes, and to be honest, several nights I’ve just stayed on the couch and hollered the songs from across the living room to my family at the table. 🙂 But it’s been so special to hear our daughter start to learn these songs, and I love singing as a family. (We have no future as the Von Trapp Family Singers. We’re often off-key and I inevitably start “Away in a Manger” too low so halfway through I can’t get the notes out. But it’s still fun, and I hope worships the Lord.)
We spread out all our Christmas ornaments on a table and let my 3 year-old decorate and redecorate our little two-foot (fake) Christmas tree. So far we’ve only broken one ornament!
We dumped all our kid-friendly nativity scenes into one tub together so the kids could pull out pieces and play with them.
My mom purchased a chocolate-filled Peanuts countdown calendar, and most days, we’ve pulled out a chocolate for our daughter.
We went to see the Nutcracker and Disney Frozen on Ice, thanks to extended family members who got tickets and made all the arrangements.
We strolled around a Christmas tree festival (where they decorate trees in different themes and people purchase them for charity).
Whenever Christmas comes up in conversation, we try to tie in Jesus as much as possible. We talk about how Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and how some of the characters on the Christmas shows we watch don’t know Jesus yet.
I threw our children’s Christmas books into a box and have read them sporadically.
We purchased and wrapped gifts for our extended family members (about 10 people) + a gift to my daughter’s eye specialist and our apartment complex managers. Those are the only people we gave anything to, but this still felt like the most time-consuming part of our holiday season, especially since we opted not to buy gift cards but instead do pretty personal gifts. (But it ended up being fun to do this and feel a little accomplished. 🙂
We have watched pretty much every Christmas cartoon on Netflix. 🙂 (Seriously!) We’ve also enjoyed watching White Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
My husband and daughter made super-simple chocolate chip cookies in Christmas shapes.
We attended church on Christmas Eve.
We went to my parents’ house for the entire week of Christmas, where we were spoiled with food, cable television, presents, and child care. My parents and sister planned and provided all the food/merriment for our actual Christmas celebrations.
In the end, we’ve ended up with a nice Christmas season, where we were able to spend time together and celebrate and remember Jesus’ birth.
And it’s not over yet! There are still a few more of the 12 Days of Christmas left… I’m hoping we still might get out to look at some lights or sing a few more carols before the season officially ends. 🙂
**Leave a comment below. What tips do you have for a simple Christmas season, especially when life is especially crazy?
Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links and if you choose to make a purchase using my links, it will help support this blog. Thanks!
It’s been a little quiet around Faith Passed Down lately. I published a guide to a meaningful Thanksgiving in mid-November, but since then, our house has been a little crazy.
We’re joyously expecting twins (!!!) and I’ve been dealing with your typical morning all-day sickness, a bit worse than in my previous pregnancies, which I hear is common for twins.
I am trying so hard not to complain, because I personally know several women (plus Princess Kate, who I feel like I know!) who have suffered from truly debilitating, hospitalizing pregnancy sickness… and that certainly hasn’t been the case for me!
But, it’s still been an adjustment to our typical life, and I have felt pretty stretched thin.
My definition of “tidying up” has changed to “maybe if I’m lucky I pick up a few of the Cheerios off the carpet before the baby eats them.”
Rather than checking items off my to-do list each day, I’ve been glancing at my calendar about once a week, only to notice that I’ve missed things like “library books due” and “Ava’s Baptism Birthday.”
All that to say, this Advent/Christmas season has not been “Pinterest-perfect” in our home. In fact, until I went to take some pictures for this series, I don’t think I had photographed a single part of our house so far this month, because there hasn’t been much to share!
There has been no daily holiday activity, no homeschool Christmas crafts, and certainly no wandering elf!
Though Christmas is over, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on this year’s Christmas in “survival mode,” in the hopes that it might encourage some of you whose Christmas seasons looked similar.
Celebrating Christmas when Life Is Harder than Usual
Even if you’re not dealing with morning sickness, perhaps you’re in a similar situation – maybe an extra-busy season at work, a child with special needs, a period of colds or flu in your home, a newborn, a parent or grandparent with a terminal illness, a home remodel – has made your holiday season busier, or more overwhelming, or has resulted in a pile of unmet expectations.
Over the next couple days I’d like to share some of the specifics behind our Advent/Christmas season in less than ideal circumstances.
I hope this might offer you:
comfort and encouragement (maybe you’ll be reassured to think, “Hey, at least we’re doing more than she is!”)
ideas for thinking outside the box regarding how to celebrate Christmas.
permission to cut back your holiday expectations for future years.
It can be so easy to pile up a list of expectations and hopes for the holidays.
We might think of our own childhood traditions and want to do every single one.
Then we look at our community’s fun calendar of events, or write down all the activities for our church/school/work/club. (Am I the only one who always thinks the local rec center/library activities sound like so much fun? I am so lured by the promise of “refreshments!”)
After that, of course, a quick internet perusal gives us ten more ideas to add to our mental (or written!) Christmastime to-do list!
This year, however, I’ve just been trying to do enough laundry that I have relatively clean clothes pajamas to wear each day, along with keeping my one-year-old from putting choking hazards in her mouth.
With those kind of lofty expectations, there has been little room for elaborate Christmas goals.
Things We Have Not Done This Christmas Season
I’m not saying I’m super proud of all these things – we would have loved to attend midweek church services or participated in a service project, and I wish we would have sent Christmas cards. But, here’s the reality!
We never took family photos.
We never sent Christmas cards.
We attended only one holiday party, skipping several others, including a MOPS craft day and a fun event at our vision therapist’s office. We even sadly missed my husband’s work party (though instead we went to the doctor and found out we were having twins!)
We made just one homemade gift total, though I originally planned to have my girls make something for each family member.
We did not decorate gingerbread houses.
We did not attend any midweek church Advent services.
We did not make homemade wrapping paper even though I knew my 3-year-old would love painting it (and we have all the supplies!!)
We did not purchase or make any gifts for our own kids. (We did wrap up a few gifts from our own childhood plus a few toys I had bought on sale long ago).
My husband and I did not purchase/make/give any gifts to each other.
Despite all the darling ideas online, we did not purchase or make any Christmas countdowns (Advent calendars). We did use a simple chocolate countdown my mom got for us.
We did not put up any outdoor Christmas decorations/lights, even though I would love for us to proclaim Christ to our neighbors.
We did not decorate a real Christmas tree – just a tiny two-foot one my daughter decorated.
We did not put up much Christmas decor inside our home. We stuck stockings on the wall with 3M hooks (we’re talking high class here!) and hung a couple ornaments/wooden wreaths on the wall. We have an Advent wreath on our kitchen table.
There are several doctors and helpers in our lives (for example, the library storytime leaders and some babysitters we use at MOPS) that I would have loved to give gifts to. It just never happened.
We did not do any service projects (beyond Operation Christmas Child, which was completed in November). In fact, we were even initially signed up to provide several dozen homemade cookies to a veterans’ dinner, and I was so relieved when someone else offered to provide pumpkin pies instead, so we were off the hook until another dinner in the spring.
We have not made hot cocoa or eaten candy canes.
We have hardly listened to any Christmas music.
I had hoped to read a personal daily Advent devotional, but I never got started.
We never did our family Christmas program, a time when we typically sing carols and act out the Christmas story.
We never had a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” party (beyond singing the “Happy Birthday” song on Christmas Day.)
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing what we did do for Christmas, because, despite all that we didn’t do, we ended up having a lovely holiday celebration. I’ll also share a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
“But I Like To Go ‘All Out’ for Christmas!”
If you are someone who did do a lot of these things, good for you! Truly – I am excited that you were able to have a joyous holiday season, and please don’t let this post make you feel otherwise!
I have friends and family members with beautifully decorated trees, delightful Christmas countdowns, and all kinds of fun enjoying the season and delighting in our Savior and King. I’ve been able to enjoy viewing these beautiful trees and eating delicious cookies at their homes, and I’m so grateful!
I’m not overly sentimental about Christmas, so things like a beautifully decorated tree, baking traditional cookies, or observing many traditions are not important to me (or my husband. Nor were they practical to us in this particular phase of life.
Just please know that I’m not intending to cast judgment on what you have done… rather, reassure you in case you haven’t done these things!
**Leave a comment below: What are some things you did not do this Christmas season? Are you sad? Relieved?
Would you like a simple, meaningful way to offer thanks to God?
Would you like your Thanksgiving-dinner discussion of “what are you thankful for?” to be answered with more than just a generic “food, faith, and family?”
Would you like to include children and adults of all ages in thanking and praising God?
I love eating turkey and sweet potatoes as much as anyone, but sometimes it feels like the purpose of Thanksgiving – thanking the Lord for His blessings – falls to the wayside in the midst of eating delicious food, watching or playing sports, and perhaps getting a head-start on Christmas shopping.
I don’t think we have to choose one or another… we can have a fun day eating too much and then taking a nap before pumpkin pie, while stilltaking time to meaningfully thank God for His work and blessings. And, we can lead our children to do the same!
It’s a free download containing an outline for a simple Thanksgiving celebration. There are so many resources already for how to roast a great turkey or setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table… so this outline does notinclude those kinds of resources.
Instead, you’ll find:
Guidelines for a simple time of thankfulness.
48 discussion prompts, including questions appropriate for non-Christians and for children.
Options for a more elaborate celebration, if desired.
You will need to enter your email address to receive the download. Don’t worry – you won’t be signed up for a newsletter or put on any spam lists. I will remind you one time before Thanksgiving to remind you to use this guide, plus once or twice in December with info about a meaningful Christmas guide. That’s it!
I hope you enjoy a meaningful Thanksgiving celebration with your loved ones!
Does your life ever feel overwhelming? Do I even need to ask? I’m guessing the answer is yes!
Sometimes, it seems my life is an ever-growing list of expectations and things I should be doing – be a “good” Christian with a growing faith, participate in a fulfilling marriage, teach my children to be functional human beings, be a good friend, take care of my own physical and emotional health, serve other people, keep our house from descending into a pit of laundry and dishes… it’s never-ending.
And when it comes to passing faith down to my children, it seems no different… I’m supposed to help them memorize Scripture, go to church, do family devotions, volunteer at church, play worship music, take them to Sunday school, do service projects…
I just don’t know how to do it all! And I’m not sure that we should be doing it all.
I want to get back to the basics of faith-building, and I want to invite you to join me! Rather than having a list of expectations that can never possibly be fulfilled, I want to choose just a few simple things to do consistently to focus on Christ in our home.
Today I’m beginning a monthly challenge to simplify our daily faith-building to just three things:
Read the Bible.
Pray for each other.
How It Works:
You commit to trying to read the Bible, pray, and connect with the young people in your life each day. That’s it.
No other expectations, except as they fit into that framework. (Read below to see how church fits in, since I do believe participating in church is important!)
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with all those other faith-building things… it’s just that I’d rather do a few things well, rather than try to do 10 things, and not do any of them because it’s too overwhelming.
Each month I’ll share a post about Read-Pray-Connect… in the future, I’ll post before the 1st of the month (not nine days into the month, like today!) See? Life is overwhelming!
You’ll be able to download a calendar for the month with spots to check off Read-Pray-Connect each day. There will also be a reminder image that you can use as a phone lock screen, or print out and tuck in your planner, refrigerator, or car dashboard.
What do these three terms mean?
Read = Read the Bible aloud with your children/teenagers.
You can choose a children’s Bible story book or the “real” Bible. You can read one verse or an entire chapter… whatever works for you! You can even listen to an audio Bible together.
The only stipulations…
do the Bible reading with your children (not just a personal devotion time for you).
read aloud. There is value, even for adults and teenagers, in reading aloud together. If you really, really, really can’t do it aloud, you could read your own Bible silently side-by-side your older children/teenagers.
Pray = Pray for each other, together, aloud.
You can say the whole prayer, or your young people can pray too. (If you are saying the whole prayer, go ahead and pray for your own needs for yourself).
The length or time of day doesn’t matter. This can be a short two-sentence prayer before dinner, or a lengthy prayer time at the beginning of the day.
You can ask your children for requests, pray a general blessing over them, or use a prayer guide for a new topic each day. Here’s a free printable How to Pray for Your Children calendar from Inspired to Action, if you want some ideas.
Alternatively, The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian has daily prayers on 31 different topics, and the prayers are already all typed and ready to go, so you don’t even really have to think about it… just read the prayers. (There are even fill-in-the-blank spots for your child’s name.)
It may feel awkward praying aloud… it certainly feels that way to me sometimes. I encourage you to just go for it!
I find that praying before meals or at bedtime seems more natural/easier for me than just saying, “Okay, we’re going to pray now!!” I can take the mealtime prayer, thank God for our food, then pray for a few moments for each member of my family, and it doesn’t seem so weird. So you might try one of those time slots first.
Connect = Connect together with your children in a meaningful way.
Sometimes I get to the end of the day and realize that while I spent much of my day with my children, we didn’t really connect much. The day can fill up with activities, running errands, doing chores, or watching TV, and there’s not much connection time.
I want to spend at least a few minutes every day “connecting” with my kids in some meaningful way… but I know it doesn’t need to be complicated, doesn’t necessarily require any advanced planning, and doesn’t have to cost money or take up much time.
Here are some ideas for ways to connect:
Read a book together.
Play a board game.
Sit down together and have an after-school snack.
Print out a “grown-up coloring page” and color alongside your child.
Bake brownies together.
Go on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
Linger for awhile longer than usual at bedtime, talking, scratching backs, or reading stories.
Enjoy a family movie night together (though I do encourage you not just to default to TV/movie time as your “connecting time” every day… it’s so tempting!)
Go to church together.
Play catch with a football or baseball.
Respond with “yes” when your child says, “Will you play with me?”
Get out art supplies and make a craft together.
Take your teenager out for a coffee shop drink or a smoothie.
Participate in a service project together.
Attend an event together, whether a church activity, library storytime, or an art show at school. Stick with your child and participate together.
Go play at the park together.
As you are doing jobs around the house, teach your child to do the chore with you.
Eat a leisurely dinner together as a family.
Tell your child, “I’d like to spend some time with you tonight. What would you like to do?”
If you have more than one child, your connection time may happen individually (like reading a book with one particular child) or it may happen as a family (like playing Frisbee in the backyard all together.) If you are married, your spouse can certainly join you, or not… anything works!
What if my child refuses to participate in Read-Pray-Connect?
If you’re feeling discouraged because your child refuses to read the Bible with you or doesn’t want to spend time together… I’m so sorry.
I want you to know that it’s normal for children and teenagers to feel contrary to whatever we want to do! Also, sometimes when we set out to do God’s purposes, and encounter resistance, there are spiritual forces at play, trying to prevent us from serving Him.
If you’re encountering trouble with your children participating, here are some ideas:
Keep going.Don’t be swayed just because one day he didn’t want to play with you, or because your baby screamed through your whole bedtime prayer yesterday. I encourage you to try to Read-Pray-Connect every day for a month. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the month, it’s much easier as you’ve established a habit.
Explain your motivation to your child. Share why you want to Read-Pray-Connect with them. Explain your heart.
If your older child is not interested in Jesus, emphasize the “connect” part first.You may just want to focus on “connecting” before trying to do the other two steps.
Pray for your child silently. If your child is resistant to being prayed for, just commit to praying each day on your own.
What if I don’t Read-Pray-Connect every day?
Of course, there are going to be unusual days where Read-Pray-Connect doesn’t happen… that’s totally normal. Don’t be discouraged! Just cross that day off the calendar and start fresh the next day.
I do want to encourage you to be creative, though!
On a business trip?“Connect” via FaceTime or send a greeting card in the mail (or by email).
Busy day of soccer practice and piano lessons? Pray together as you drive in the car.
House is a mess and you can’t find your kids’ Bible? Tell your own version of the story of David and Goliath instead.
Does your teenager have tons of homework to do?Make some hot cocoa for both of you and spread out on the dining room table together… while he does his homework, you can work on a project too. Pray for him silently as he works.
What if I’m an adult mentor, not a parent?
If you’re an adult mentor – perhaps a youth ministry volunteer, a grandparent, or a family friend – I encourage you to adapt Read-Pray-Connect for your own situation!
I suggest that you commit to Read-Pray-Connect only on days when you see your young person.
Are you a teacher at a Christian school? Commit to read the Bible, pray as a class, and connect personally with some of your students… but only on school days. Obviously, it would be too tricky to do this on the weekends.
Do you lead a weekly small group for high school girls? Commit to Read-Pray-Connect just on Wednesday nights when you get together. Perhaps it seems obvious that you would do these three things at your small group meeting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are times when small groups get together and don’t read the Bible or pray… so make a commitment to do it every time!
Are you a grandparent? Whenever you see your grandchildren, make an effort to Read-Pray-Connect with them. You could read the Bible together during an after-school snack, play a game together to connect, and then pray for them before they leave your home.
This seems pretty basic… I already do these 3 things every day.
Great! Perhaps, then, this challenge just isn’t for you.
Or, perhaps, you’d like to grow in these particular areas.
For example, in our family, we do actually pray before practically every meal, and usually that includes at least a brief mention of each other’s needs. So, technically, I’m already doing “Pray” each day. But, I realized I’d like to either download that prayer calendar or get the Power of a Praying Parent book, and be more specific with my prayers beyond just, “Help Elle obey and help Ava sleep well today!” 🙂
Perhaps you already read the Bible together each day, but you’d like to read it more systematically (like a Bible in a Year plan), or you want to not just read it but discuss it afterwards.
Or, maybe you play lots with your kids (Connect), but you want to read aloud more together, too.
As you can see in the photo above, at the top of each Read-Pray-Connect calendar, there will always be a little section to record your goals for the month, so if you want to “increase” your goal, you can write it down there (if you print it out).
Didn’t you just spend the past month telling us we need to do global missions with our kids? How does that fit in? And what about all the other things… memorizing Scripture, going to church, family devotions, singing worship music, taking them to youth group or Sunday school, doing service projects… that I’m supposed to do with my kids?
I did! In fact, writing the Global Missions with Kids series is one of the things that inspired me to simplify part of my Faith Passed Down message. Because, yes, I think Global Missions with Kids is absolutely vital!
But, I don’t think it’s going to happen if we’re frazzled or have exceptionally high expectations of our family faith-building. Plus, the concepts of “Read-Pray-Connect” are pretty foundational before we can do any of the other stuff.
As for the other activities, first, see how they fit in to Read-Pray-Connect. For example, going to church can easily be a “connect” time as a family for that day.
Then, consider whether those activities stress you out or not, and if they’re worth trying to continue.
For a long time, I had this vision of doing a weekly family worship night after dinner, with songs, Bible reading, prayers, and activities. However, it rarely happened. It just didn’t work with our schedule and it wasn’t very meaningful when we did do it.
Instead, I switched to just doing a morning Bible reading with my kids (Morning Time). We can do it anytime during the morning, rather than trying to squeeze it into a small, stressful window between dinner and bedtime.
If you have too high of expectations, they’re never going to happen, and you’ll just feel discouraged. If you’re having trouble getting all the faith-building time you hoped, I encourage you to step back and focus on Read-Pray-Connect for a month or two, then see how you can fit in some of those other activities.
Click on the image below to download a lock screen for your phone or print and tuck into your planner, stick on your refrigerator, set on your car dashboard...
Will you join me to Read-Pray-Connect?
Leave a comment below if you want to participate.
Also, I would love to see photos of you participating in Read-Pray-Connect. Share a photo of you reading the Bible with your kids, praying, or connecting in a fun way and use #ReadPrayConnect. Next month I’ll share your photo in the December Read-Pray-Connect post!
Two different times, I got off schedule due to vacation and sickness, but I’ve caught up and am so thrilled to have completed the challenge.
I had lots of high hopes for all the “extra” stuff I was going to do to promote Faith Passed Down, build a community of readers here, publish an ebook, and more, and truthfully, none of that happened. I’m just happy to have gotten the posts written, much less the extra stuff!
I have had so many health challenges in the past couple months, which is unusual for me! Back pain, migraines, nerve pain in my arm, the flu… it wasn’t the best timing for this challenge, but somehow I survived!
Spending this much time on this web site is too much time for my current reality. Though I was able to sustain it for a month (barely!), I’ve learned that as much as I love the ministry of Faith Passed Down, I love spending time following Jesus with my family even more! I need time to focus on them, on some ministry opportunities, and on living a peaceful, not-going-crazy life.
Starting in November, I’m going to be returning to posting just once a week or so, which I hope will be the right amount of time for my writing schedule and for not overwhelming Faith Passed Down readers.
In any case, I’m so grateful I tried something new, participated in this challenge, enjoyed fellowship with a great group of ladies on the Write 31 Days facebook group, and experienced God’s sufficient grace in giving me just the right amount of time (but not a second more!) to participate in this challenge.
More than anything, I’m glad to have a series of posts that I hope inspire, encourage, and equip adults to participate in global missions with the young people in their lives!
If you didn’t get to read the whole series, you can check it out here. That particular link will enable you to read each post in a row, without having to open 31 different posts.
I’m considering turning this series into an easy-to-read ebook form, where you could just read straight through from top-to-bottom. In my dream world, I’d even turn it into a real book. Would you read a book about Global Missions with Kids? Let me know in the comments below.
Lessons Learned in the Past 31 Days:
1. There are so many ways to be involved in global missions with kids! Even after talking about it for a full month, there are still topics we didn’t touch on! I’m encouraged and inspired to consider how my own family can listen to God’s leading for how to be involved more.
2. Busyness and overwhelm is a huge obstacle to doing global missions with kids – and to faith-building in general. How are parents supposed to do global missions when they are also trying to work, read to their kids, make sure their kids get a good education, feed healthy food, exercise, spend “me” time, go out with friends, enjoy quality time with a spouse, do daily devotions, clean, cook, enjoy a hobby… ???
It’s overwhelming just thinking about it, and an issue I encountered this month, as I struggled to actually do some of the things I suggested in the Global Missions with Kids series. This is still something I’m wrestling with… how can we intentionally participate in serving God and building faith without just making it another item on the to-do list?
3. The most important thing is: just. start. I was reminded of this principle as I tried to write blog posts day after day – the idea is often more daunting than the task itself.Once I started writing, or putting together pictures, or whatever, it wasn’t so bad… the tough thing is resisting the urge to procrastinate because it seems overwhelming.
Likewise, as we seek to build faith in young people… just start!It’s easy to feel like things need to be perfect, but if we wait for the perfect moment, it will never happen. Just get started!
In November, I’m hoping to introduce a simple initiative called Read-Pray-Connect to help us just get started… stay tuned!
4. God is faithful to bless our efforts to build faith. I’ve been reminded lately that even in the midst of busyness, sickness, and my desires to just throw in the towel… God blesses our efforts.
This month my three-year-old has just blossomed in asking regularly for Bible stories, reciting Psalm 23 from memory, and talking about how “Jesus lives in her heart.” Don’t get me wrong – at the same time discipline issues are at an all-time high, and I’ve been feeling extra-stressed and overwhelmed!
But I see this as His gracious reminders that this work is valuable and important, and He is the One who is doing the work… not me!
5. I only want to post once a week. Prior to do this 31 Days challenge, I was considering aiming for 3-5 posts a week. I’ve realized, however, that while perhaps I could write that many posts a week, I can’t possibly double-check them, make graphics, and share those posts on Pinterest or facebook so others can read them.
Not to mention, I’d like to still read other blogs and take part in the “blog community,” plus respond to comments from my readers!
I tried to do that all this month, and it was simply impossible, even though I was spending most mornings and evenings working on this series.
So, starting in November, my goal is to post one new post every Monday, plus send out a weekly newsletter every Friday. I’m hoping this will allow my full attention to writing quality posts and interacting with others, while still enjoying time with my family, actually carrying out these faith-building concepts in my own life, too!
In addition, I hope this keeps Faith Passed Down from being too overwhelming to you, dear reader!
6. I like to write lots of words. Unfortunately,I definitely take after Proust more than Hemingway. 🙂 Most of the posts in the Global Missions with Kids series were 1500+ words. It is in my nature to be thorough and comprehensive, wanting to share every resource and every item I’ve thought of.
I realize most people don’t read every word, and I try to honor that by using bold type and bullet points to make it easy to skim. Still, I’d like to consider honing my writing so it’s concise for today’s busy readers.
7. I have to be okay with imperfection. I was an English major in college and worked in our campus writing center, but seven years after graduation – with little formal education or writing during that time – I’m a little rusty. I struggle with knowing whether to use “less” or “fewer.” I catch myself making silly grammar mistakes.
Not to mention my photos that are a bit too dark, or formatting that doesn’t look quite right, or graphic designs that I’m sure break all the rules for true graphic design.
The reality, however, is that I’m trying to pull this blog together with snippets of time here and there, before my kids wake up or when my husband graciously takes over for a few hours. I don’t have time for perfection, so I am learning to try my best and accept that there might be a few errors… but something is better than no post at all!
8. I have so much to learn! The Write 31 Days challenge was a great exercise for me to remember that I still have so much to learn… but I am figuring it out!
9. It feels so good to complete a task. I am usually a 90% kind of girl. I do most of the work, but never actually complete it. I clean out my closet but never actually donate the clothes I want to get rid of. I make all the plans but never actually execute it. I stay on budget till the 25th of the month and then blow it in the last five days.
Lately I am trying harder to do 100% of the task, and I love that feeling of actually being complete! Or, I set a deadline and if I’m not done by the deadline, I just determine it wasn’t that important anyway, and strike it from the list.
I love not having loose ends hanging over me quite so much and experiencing the success of a completed job!
Plus, I hope I am building character by sticking with a task and not giving up at the first sign of trouble!
Passionate Homemaking is one of my favorite blogs (and though it mentions homemaking in the title, these posts work for both men and women!) Sadly, the author doesn’t write anymore, but I love these posts from a few years ago: