Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Our Best Christmas Ever

3 of our kiddos.
I am one of those people.  The ones who put up a Christmas tree on November 1st.  The kind that has more totes of Christmas decorations than regular home decor.  The person who plays Christmas music non-stop for two months.  The one who would leave Christmas lights up all year.  The kind who thinks peppermint is the best smell and flavor ever.  The person who wants to host a neighborhood Christmas party potluck.  

This year, we have had some wonderful changes that have caused us to have the minimal Christmas cheer in and around our home.  (Watch out, though...next year we will put the Griswolds to shame!).  We have a wonderfully weird family...natural, blended, adoptive...we don't fit into a mold.  And, I love that.  We have been BLESSED to be able to move into a home that fits all the people who live with us.  We have been given the pleasure of living closer to family, friends, and civilization.  Because of the timing of the closing of our former and new homes and of the moving days, we have kept the festive holiday decorations to a minimum.  

Hannah, Titus, and Cecely
While we have not been able to decorate to the nines, I would say this has already been my favorite Christmas ever.  For starters, because of our non-traditional, big family, we have to be creative with the budget.  We sat the kiddos down and gave them a budget for shopping for their siblings.  Over the course of December, all kiddos have had the opportunity to shop for each other.  The budget makes it where they have to be thoughtful as to what they want to get for each other.  What I loved about shopping this year was listening to each child as they looked for something within the right price that was specific to their brother or sister.  I, of course, always am glad to share financial teaching with the kiddos; but, more than that I have loved how hard they worked and planned on the gift giving.  I loved helping them wrap the gifts and hearing them be excited about giving to one another.  We allowed the kids to exchange their gifts early since we won't all be together on Christmas morning.  It was the sweetest scene.  The excitement was genuine.  The interest in each other was sincere.  

Hannah and Ashley
Blending a family is not easy.  In fact, I think I could survive divorce over and over again better than I could sustain learning the ropes of step-parenting and blending.  The history of families, the parenting techniques, the personality differences are just a few of the hurdles in learning how to make two families one (again, a consequence of breaking God's design for marriage, a consequence of divorce).  When something happens where the conflicting family members blend as one unit, it's as if a symphony of the most beautiful music is resounding in the air.  I simply savor those moments.

Our devo schedule
Aside from the gift shopping and giving between siblings, something that has helped us unify this Christmas season is our family devotion time.  Every night (except Sundays) a different family member is responsible for leading our time of devotion (I'll go ahead a disclose that we are off a few days due to sheer exhaustion from moving; we are not perfect!).  For December, the devotions have been given a theme--hope, joy, peace and love.  The assignment has been to find a verse, Scripture passage, Christmas carol or worship song to share based on the theme of the week.  I have said this before, and I'll say it again--children will rise to the expectation you set before them.  These incredible kiddos have knocked these times of devotion out of the park.  They have shared personal stories of how Jesus has brought them hope and joy.  They have shared lyrics of songs that they cling to.  They have been transparent.  Brian and I have told them how proud we are of their bravery on their days to lead.  Our goal is to teach them the importance of honesty, of building trust with each other, of leaning on one another, and of the power of praying with one another.  There is no sweeter time in my life than hearing our children share their struggles and their praises.  To hear their voices pray for one another places a salve on my soul.  I cannot believe that I have the honor of being in the lives of these amazing young people.  

In addition to our devotion and prayer time, we have been going through an advent calendar of verses that walk us through the story of Christ's birth.  I have loved sharing and teaching more in depth about this story.  The kids are all familiar with the Christmas story, but it has been so awesome to teach on a different level.  One of my favorite conversations with our family was when we discussed the differences between the shepherds and the magi.  We talked about how shepherds had a low, dirty job and how conversely, the magi were learned, wealthy men.  The discussion continued to talk about how God sent His Son for the poorest person and the richest, the successful and the failure, the joyful and the bitter, the smartest and the non-intellect...bottom line, He sent Jesus for everyone, and it falls on us to keep that message of Christ's birth going.  We talked about people in our lives who need to hear that message of joy, hope, peace and love.  

My fella and me!
I tell you all of this for a few reasons.  I am very proud of my children and how hard they have worked to overcome the obstacles and stressors in their lives.  I'm a Mama who loves to brag on her babies.  More importantly, I want to remind you that you are LOVED by the One who sent His Son to take the payment of everything you have ever done or will ever do that is wrong.  I want to remind you that if this season isn't a joyful one for you, reach out to someone...message me!!!  I would love to pray for you and encourage you!  I want to challenge you to spend time reading and learning more about the birth of Jesus.  I want you to know that even if you feel all alone right now, you are not.  You are LOVED!!!  

This Christmas has been our best one ever.  I hope that you have a wonderful one, too!  Merry Christmas, my dear friends!

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