15Dec

Keeping Christ in Your Christmas

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

 

Christ in Christmas

It is really important for my husband and I for our family to keep our hearts focused on Christ–throughout the year, but especially throughout the Christmas season. In our society of abundance and plenty, it’s so easy to be swept away by the current of commercialism. Like my pastor reminded us on Sunday while preaching about Daniel, it’s much easier to go with the flow of things. But we can’t do that. As Christians we have to fight against a society that turns this blessed day into a day about shopping and dollars and who can accumulate the most things.

Here are some of the things we do to keep our hearts centered on Jesus at this time.

We Don’t Do Santa

*Gasp* I know, this tends to be terribly shocking to most people. I wrote an entire post about this one, but it bears mentioning here because this is one of the biggest ways that we choose to keep the focus on Jesus–we don’t open the door for “competition.” In fact, we feel that there are a lot of aspects of the modern day commercialized “Santa” story that detract from the real meaning of Christmas, so we don’t participate in it. (You can read more about that here.)

Serve Others

There really is no season for this–we should do it all year round! However, this is a season during which this is especially important, and when we are especially tempted to get turned around. It’s tempting to focus on our own Christmas wish lists (or those of our own family), more than the wishes of others. It’s easy to focus on all the lights, decorations, and fancy packages more than the hearts and needs of those around us. For this reason, I think humbling ourselves to serve others is especially important during this time.

Check out my friend Sheila from Pennies of Time for some great ideas for serving with your little ones! Also, Not Consumed has some printables and ideas to help with your RAK’s this year.

And, my friend Heather from Cultivated Lives (www.heatherhaupt.com) has this great post about giving and serving at Christmas (even if it doesn’t come naturally to you).

Countdown4

Keep it Simple

Christmas is a simple affair for us. We make a conscious effort to focus on that baby in a manger more than we focus on gifts. We also don’t do hundreds of dollars worth of gifts. Last year, we had a blessed, happy Christmas, and we spent around $15-$20 on each child. We bought things on sale or clearance. We bought one larger item and a few smaller ones, including things they needed like toothpaste, etc. (Yes, toothpaste. My boys are still at that young, sweet age where even toothpaste is a fun gift for them! Love that!)

We don’t feel comfortable spending tons of money on gifts while other people are in such great need. It just doesn’t sit well on our hearts, so we do what God has led us to do in this area. And He convicts different people in different ways. Furthermore, it is more important for us to teach our boys contentment, than to provide them with a lot of fancy things.

Finally, it is amazing how much more enjoyable the Christmas season is when you take the pressure off to have the biggest, best, most decorated Christmas ever.

Advent Calendars

You can see our Advent and Christmas Countdown in this post. But basically we do a devotion and a candy countdown each day, along with our random acts of kindness. We use this tabletop advent calendar from Dayspring and we just love it! It’s short enough to be very manageable and stress-free, but still thought-provoking.

Advent Calendar

They have a newer one from their Redeeming Love line that looks great as well, and you can find it here. It’s $14.99, but will probably go on sale :)

The candy/box countdown we use is this one from Karen Foster that I decorated back in my scrapbooking days. Our boys love taking turns passing out the candy and treats. The boxes are kind of small, so we are limited in what we can put in here, but it’s fun to get creative.

Christmas Countdown

You can also check out this great list of printable nativity activities for more ideas for little ones.

Books & Media

The first book we turn to is our Bible. We make the Christmas story a focus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and other times during the holiday season. We try to make sure that everything points toward Him. Here are a few more of our favorite books that point to Christ during the Christmas season:

  How do you keep Christ the focus of Christmas in your family?

14Dec

Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus {The Story Behind the Hymn}

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

I love old hymns. I love the heart, the theology, but  most of all the testimonies of faith that they offer up. Men and women who walked through the fire. Men and women who suffered through trials and tribulations–the worst that this world has to offer–and whose faith remained stronger on the other side. Those who trusted in the sovereignty of God and took comfort in Him, even in the trials.

So sweet

So, I’m going to be sharing some of these stories in hopes that they will inspire and encourage you as well. Maybe you already know them and maybe you don’t. But either way, I pray you’ll be encouraged.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

{The Story}

As the story goes, Louisa M. R. Stead had a deep faith and desired to be a missionary to China. However, her frail health prevented her from doing this. She was married in 1875. One day, around the year 1879-1880 (there are varying accounts to the details), she went picnicking with her husband and daughter. They heard the screams of a young boy, and her husband tried to rescue him from the water. Instead, she and her daughter Lily watched helplessly as both her husband and the young boy drowned. Some actually say that he saved their daughter who was drowning as well, but most accounts I have read said he died saving a young boy.

Louisa was surely devastated by the loss of her husband, but in addition to that, she and Lily were left without a means of support and were poor and destitute. Yet the Lord always provided, sometimes through the kindness of strangers. She and her daughter made it through this time and eventually became missionaries in South Africa.

However, it was in the midst of her trials that Louisa Stead penned the following words…

{The Hymn}

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Refrain:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

11Dec

A Better Way to Shop! {Save $10 + FREE shipping + FREE Bonus Pruduct}

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary package from ePantry to try out their service. This post contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ePantry

I have shared with you our desire to use more natural, eco-friendly, and less chemical products in our home. Eating real food, using essential oils, and brands like Mrs. Meyers, Method, Seventh Generation, etc. for household products that we don’t make ourselves. Better for us and the environment. A win-win.

It’s a great plan.

The problem for me is that I live in a tiny town with very limited shopping. There are two grocery stores, a family dollar, and a general dollar. Other than a couple of small Amish-owned stores (which I LOVE, by the way!), that’s it. The nearest Wal-mart is about 35 minutes away, and even then, they don’t have a great selection of natural products.

So, I was excited to get an email a few weeks ago from Crystal Paine (www.moneysavingmom.com) inviting me to try ePantry.

Enter ePantry.

ePantry is a service similar to Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program. Except they specialize in natural, eco-friendly brands (all those I listed above and more!).

Epantry Guarantee

It’s very simple and hassle-free. When you set up your account, you’ll be prompted to answer some simple questions about your family, and you will get customized recommendations.

How it works

  • Sign up with this link–that will qualify you for a free $10 credit, free shipping on your first order, and a free bonus Mrs. Meyer’s handsoap. (They do require a minimum of $20 after credits for the first shipment. After the first shipment, you can order whatever you want–even a single item.)
  • Answer a few questions about your family and the brands/products you prefer.
  • ePantry will generate personalized recommendations for you. At this point, you can accept their recommended shipment, or you can customize it even more by removing items from your basket and/or adding items that you need.

Then, just sit back and wait for your items to be delivered right to your door. I love the convenience of shopping online, and my boys really love the excitement of getting packages in the mail. They don’t even care if it’s “boring” stuff like household cleaner–if it comes in a box from the package truck, they love it.

It is Very Flexible.

This is a subscription type service; however, it’s completely customizable. You are in complete control of your shipments. You can log on to your account and change products or delay shipments at any time. You can also cancel at any time.

Some of the items they offer: oral care products, environmentally responsible paper products, cleaning products, bath products, personal hygiene products, and more.

Check it out for yourself.

And, as you’ll see from the image above, epantry offers a 100% happiness guarantee. I always love to see companies offering a money-back guarantee because it tells me 2 very important things about them:

  • They value their customers;
  • They believe in their product.

This makes me feel good about using and recommending their service!

A Special Bonus Just for Serving Joyfully Readers!

MrsMeyersHandSoap

One of the big reasons I agreed to participate in this promotion is that it means I get the opportunity to bless you with a bonus free product! So, if you sign up with this link, you will not only get a $10 credit on your account, and free shipping on your first order, you will also receive a FREE Mrs. Meyers handsoap! Score! We love Mrs. Meyers products, and ePantry has a great selection of them.

PS–When I signed up, I had the opportunity to get a bonus $2 credit by answering a chat question, so look for that as well!

PSS–Their customer service is phenomenal! In fact, my contact made sure to ask when this would post so they could be sure to have customer service staff available to answer any questions. So, if you encounter any issues at all, make use of the chat feature.

Claim your free handsoap by ordering now

10Dec

Thriving Thursday 12/11

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

Don’t miss my great list of nearly 40 free books for kindle that you can get right now…all from the best publishers and authors in Christian fiction, so definitely check that out.

This week at Serving Joyfully, I finally got around to writing out our own personal reasons for not doing Santa.

No Santa

I also shared a great interview with Regina Jennings…head over there to see how she got started as a writer, and her encouragement for anyone who has a dream.

A Special Deal

Epantry Guarantee

I also have the privilege today of sharing with you a very special deal from our partner, ePantry. ePantry is a subscription service that specializes in natural and eco-friendly brands. And they are running a special for Serving Joyfully readers! You can get a $10 credit, FREE shipping on your first order, and a FREE Bonus Mrs. Meyers Handsoap. A great deal! (You can see my post about it here, or visit the ePantry site)

What have you been up to this week?

There were so many FANTASTIC posts linked up last week and I can’t wait to see what you ladies have to share this week :)

Thriving Thursdays Link Up!!!

Thriving Thursdays is a link up for family-friendly bloggers, who are choosing to THRIVE in their lives. It’s a place for us to encourage and inspire one another to live life to the fullest–in Jesus Christ. Link up your posts about thriving–in marriage, faith, parenting, homemaking, relationships, in the kitchen, in frugality.

Everything we do can be a ministry and worship to our Lord. Link up as many posts as you want, and I hope that you’ll take the time to visit some other participants as well.

I am so blessed by the posts you all share! I really look forward to seeing all of the encouragement shared here each week. Keep it coming! Sometimes I highlight posts here, and I also pin my favorites to the Thriving Thursdays Pinterest Board.

10Dec

Why we Don’t Celebrate Santa

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

It always happens this time of year. The great Santa debate. You won’t find me preaching to anyone that Santa is an anagram of Satan (Seriously?). You won’t find me judging or criticizing. I generally try my best to avoid the subject. How you choose to celebrate this season–or not–is completely your decision and I respect it. 

However, concerning our decision to forego the big guy in the red suit, we have (mostly) not received the same respect. The most popular accusation is that we are “robbing our kids of their childhood,” “ruining their childhood” Or, simply, “I can’t believe you’d do that to your kids.”

So, I thought I’d take some time today and explain exactly why it is that we choose to “do this” to our kids. There are many posts that have been written about the subject from women far more eloquent than I (like this one and this one), but these are some of the reasons personal to us.

Note: I recently saw an article titled “Why Santa belongs in your kids’ Christmas.” It focused, not on the author’s personal choice, but on why everyone else should make the same choice. Unlike that article, this post is not why you shouldn’t celebrate Santa. It’s why we don’t. And that is a big difference that sometimes gets overlooked. So, again…here are our reasons for not doing Santa.

1. Jesus is Enough.

This is one of the biggest things for me. I can’t get past this issue because it is so far-reaching. This idea that Jesus is not enough. We constantly act as if we need to subsidize the gospel with trendiness, programs, bells and whistles. We see this even in our churches. We live in a materialistic and consumer-driven society where we are always craving moremore stuff, more glitz. Bigger and grander things.

Baby Jesus in a manger isn’t very shiny. That message seems humble, simple, and dull compared to the glitz around us.

A big guy in a red suit who lives in the North Pole with hundreds of elves, flies around in a sled with reindeer, and brings kids everything they ask for?  That’s shiny. That’s a message we can get excited about, and get our kids excited about.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus is enough. He is enough at Christmas time. He’s enough all year long. The gospel message is enough. Period. He doesn’t need dressing up. We don’t need more, we just need Him–at Christmas and beyond.

Yes, we can tell our kids all day long that Christmas is about Jesus, but when our focus is Santa and lots of gifts, what message are they really getting? (Jennifer Hatmaker shares some great thoughts about this)

2. Santa is often given qualities of God.

I remember watching a made-for-TV Christmas movie a few years ago, and I was struck by the description of Santa. As I watched, I thought to myself, that is how we describe our Lord and Savior. It’s almost as if Santa has become a secular substitute for Christ.

And before you think I’m losing my mind with this one, I posted an article a couple weeks ago on my facebook page, and one of the commenters stated that she is not a Christian and uses Santa to teach love, giving, and kindness to her children.

We don’t have to use Santa for these things–Jesus is the real thing!

This goes for the “magic” as well. We don’t have to manufacture magic for our kids. Our lives are full of it. Except it’s not a false, fleeting kind. It comes in the form of miracles and it is real. It’s forever. It’s not something we’ll lose when we’re 8 and can never get back. That’s exciting!

3. Materialism

I’ve shared before how Christmas is a relatively simple affair for us. I’ve seen arguments for Santa that say things like “he inspires giving.” But in truth, that’s not what I see in practice. The focus of  Santa is on what he is bringing for them. That has nothing to do with giving, not really. Yes, the Real St. Nicholas was a benevolent man.

We do teach our children about the real historical legends that the current day Santa is loosely based on. We try to help our kids learn to practice giving. But focusing on what the guy in the red suit will bring for them doesn’t exactly foster that, in our opinion.

4. It’s a lie.

I know this is a hot topic, but for me, there is just no way around it. We don’t intentionally lie to our children. We tell them the truth in an age-appropriate, gentle way that they can understand. Telling them that some guy in a red suit brought their presents is just not true. Period. We want them to trust us. We don’t want to teach them about all the bigger-than-life characters and events of the Bible and have them doubt it all once they realize that we worked pretty hard to teach them the truth of this Santa guy, and that was all just make-believe.

Now, with that said, it would be pretty impossible for us to completely avoid Santa. We teach our kids about the historical St. Nicholas, and the modern-day Santa for us is a figure similar to those in their favorite cartoons–he is a make-believe character.

And, I’ll just add here that my husband and I both did Santa as kids and, yes, as they say…we are fine. I was always a very practical child so I don’t think I really believed for that long anyway. We don’t hold anything at all against our parents, this is just the conclusion that we have come to for our family.

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