Or I guess it was the season. Here are random pictures from the month of December and our time as a family. I just uploaded all our pictures from Christmas day that I will share asap. SO MUCH TO SHARE!
I know I mentioned it before.. but this year we decided as a family to make our focus on advent.. knowing we could only do so much and if we over did it with activities I would never find time to do the advent... and I probably wouldnt even find the time for the activities either.
So right in November I just printed off something from pinterest - was it perfect? no.. but it was something. and it helped. I wasnt going for perfect .. just going for actually doing it and I knew if I didnt do it that way and waited until I found something perfect we'd go another year (once again) without doing it. I just tried to be obedient to what the Lord was stirring in my heart to do.
So we started with that. The boys enjoyed it. (they especially enjoyed pretending they were the ones reading & leading the entire thing!) But then my friend, Nicole, made us an advent that goes along with the idea of a Jesse tree using the Jesus Storybook Bible. The kids loved this one because they had an ornament to hang on the tree each night. They love that book too. (as do we!) So I was really grateful because it seriously was just what I was looking for! (if you need an idea for a Christmas gift for someone Id recommend what Nicole did because it really was so nice having it gifted to us and done!)
(note: I wrote all this out for my own memory I guess.. I promise it wasnt to be preachy or show what we did and how it was the right thing to do.. its just what we did & maybe what I learned by doing it. Trust me, I realize we have a ways to go in regards to shepherding our children especially through the holidays.)
Basically what our advent looked like (this year) was pulling out the Jesus storybook bible and reading one of the stories that coordinated with the ornament for that day (each story pointed to the birth of Jesus and Jesus being our savior) After the story we hung the ornament. Then we finished it off reading another Christmas story book. (more on that below)
It wast anything huge or magical. It wasnt this emotional devotion every single night. Sometimes it was hurry and rush and just get.these.boys.to.bed .. But it was amazing what consistently doing it really did.
I think sometimes its easy for me to disregard things like this because they seem like too much work or I just dont plan enough in advance and then I never do it. And then I blow it off by coming up with an excuse. I was so thankful this year we did though. I learned it really wasnt ANY work at all. It was easy & simple. And having our focus just on advent made the rest of the month feel so much more simple, focused, and laid back.
Some nights advent looked beautiful with well behaved children listening and trying to understand..
like this night:
most nights it didnt though. (most nights they were fighting over who got to hang the ornament) Wylder is still 2 so his attention span just isnt there most the time. However, River has "quiet time" at his pre school where he is required to read a book quietly on his own so I know he is capable of sitting quietly reading and they have story time too where he has to sit and listen so thats been nice to remind him that he is capable of listening! Anyway, Wylder isnt there so he learned if he isnt going to sit still - he still has to be quiet.. and that worked for us. (though Im still constantly reminding him or constantly ignoring a fit he is throwing and moving on)
It was really interesting to see how much they enjoyed it and really looked forward to doing advent every night. I felt like the entire 30 days they were learning what it looked like. They had to learn to listen.. to sit still.. to pay attention.. its a process. But its was really sweet doing it with them.
It did take us being intentional and sticking to it.. (read: it took ME BEING OBEDIENT) but that was only the first 3 days maybe? After that it just felt normal right at 7:00 before bed to say its time to do advent and come together as a family. It didnt feel like work. (well, sometimes it felt like work when I was wrangling toddlers) Id also say it more than paid off. It not only really helped Freeland & I get our hearts in the right place (seriously! This year Christmas has personally felt so much sweeter and my heart feels SO much more stirred towards the gift of Jesus and what it means to our life!!) but I can say its helped our children too. There were times it looked like they werent paying attention but then I was shocked when they would repeat something later (wylder especially!) Its so encouraging to see the word of God truly piercing their hearts!
and its not like it took forever. It only lasted a few minutes!! Im excited to hopefully continue the idea of family devotionals before bedtime going forward now that the boys did it for the month of December - I think they will like it too. We did it last night after taking a week or so off. I was reminded how funny and chaotic it feels to do this with toddler boys. But its still sweet.
The end. That was long. Sorry.
Here are pictures:
After we did advent we always read this little board book my mom got the boys that is The Christmas Story - with the idea if they heard the same story every.single.night they would understand it and know it more. By the 3rd or 4th night River had it memorized (I dont think I even have it memorized?) Anyway - praise the Lord. Wylder can describe whats going on too so I think its even been helpful for him to be consistent with that. My goal was for them to just have the Christmas Story (the toddler version) memorized & be familiar with it. (if they can memorize episodes of Little Einsteins or what every single truck, digger, etc.. or all the names of thomas trains we done even have are - I felt like they could get this) I know they cant grasp what it means to them that Jesus was born.. Im still grasping it myself! But I thought the constant reminder every single night and knowing the story throughout the month and all the celebrating was important.
PS: Here is a video I sent my family of River reading the story if anyone is interested..
It cracks me up to hear his little accent and twang.. and to hear YOU WILL FIND HIM LYING IN A MANGER! He likes that part.
Im excited to see how advent grows and changes as our kids get older too. For now its nice how simple it is.
So with all that said.. with our focus was on advent, I didnt really plan any activities other than that. We just did them as time allowed. Most were last second things that came together. It felt really freeing not to feel like we needed to do all these "things" as a family to enjoy the season.. and I think I enjoyed the things we did do even more because of it! The month didnt feel rushed, packed, or overwhelming. I didnt feel like I was trying to meet some crazy expectation I had set .. it just felt like time as a family. Im sure not every Christmas will feel this way? But we were intentional to work towards it feeling simple and I think that really helped.
One day we made christmas cards:
lots of my mornings were spent with this view.. and its been so sweet:
we of course visited santa:
(more pictures here)
Lots of nights were also spent reading christmas books! I checked out a bunch about the nativity and Jesus' birth from the library. Probably River's favorite though is Olivia that our neighbor brought him.. because she throws up in one part and daddy always makes it super dramatic:
the annual day of baking:
kept it simple and just did ginger molasses cookies & cinnamon rolls this year.
our little art work:
church for the advent/christmas service.
Our church wrote out prophetic words for all of the children in the church as a gift. It was beautiful and I cried big happy mommy tears reading them as they were so spot on. (obviously):
(I hadnt finished getting dressed - but all 3 kids in one picture so Im thankful)
and then christmas eve-eve we passed out our annual cinnamon rolls and cookies to all the neighbors and friends while we went to see christmas lights in our jammies. Freeland was on call Christmas Eve so thats why we did it all the night before. Thankfully because he was busy the entire day the next day:
passing out the treats.
the boys favorite house:
(Im thankful people put lights out.. i feel like it should be required to do it though because So many people dont and it makes me a little sad)
There were also a ton of Christmas movies, the gingerbread house/jesus birthday cake, lots of singing, lots of dancing to Christmas music, lots of stamping & addressing christmas cards, lots of rearranging Christmas gifts under the tree daily, playing with the ornaments, and lots of admiring the lights.. lots of hot coco & marshmallows.. mostly marshmallows, crafts from the kids school (and Wylders class at my CBS bible study) lots of playing in the snow.. and friends in town! Im sure there was even more.
Ive loved Christmas this year!! Its been slow and relaxed and sweet. Im thankful. I know there will always be unexpected things happening and every year it will look different with different seasons of life.. but this year being intentional made such a huge difference. Im so thankful and praise the Lord for it. He was faithful to stir our hearts and give us deep revelation of Him.