Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas

twitter-440-x-220-less-chaos-more-christ-in-christmas-discover-how-here

It’s hard in the midst of the busyness of the Christmas season to keep the focus where it should be… So might I make a suggestion?  You’re already going to be doing craft projects and activities… what if you just tweaked them a bit to make sure that your focus is on Christ?  Don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you invent the wheel here!  Nope, Alicia Michelle of Your Vibrant Family has already done it for you!  (And no, it’s not too late to get it TODAY!)

When I found out about her Christmas system, I was excited to be a reviewer!  (Full discloser – I received the set in exchange for my review – these opinions shared here are my own, and links to purchase the set are affiliate links that financially benefit our family – THANK YOU!) But once we started using the system, I started to love it even more!  I read through her ideas, and something she said really hit me.  I mean, I had head knowledge, but there was something about reading it… this is what she said:

snip20161208_1

And suddenly, reading this, I realized that it was ok to not cram pack every single day with activity.  It was even ok to not do our annual Christmas cookie exchange this year… and instead use the funds to purchase some special craft activities that we could do together as a family, and sponsor an angel from our church’s angel tree.

img_5873-2
Becca and I painted these wooden letters and as we did, we talked about why we chose “Joy” as her middle name, and also talked about that JOY can stand for putting Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself. It was a really fun time painting together, and a great, deep conversation!

Having this mindset and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas has helped my attitude toward the season so much!  It’s amazing.  I mean, it seems so simple.  Because it is.

Check out the Christ-Centered Christmas Banner we have put together from Alicia’s set… (You can purchase your copy of the set here!)

christmas-banner-collage1

How we used the banner pieces:
Gray is 2 1/2 and LOVES to stick stickers!  It’s a fabulous way for him to work on hand-eye coordination and build his fine motor skills, so I’m always looking for more sticker opportunities for him.  He decorated the “Light of the World” banner piece with sparkly star stickers, and we talked about the star that shone over the stable where baby Jesus was born.  We also talked about that Jesus can be called the “Light of the World.”  Did he get it? I wasn’t sure.  But the other night he made the connection when he made a star ornament at our church carnival and he said “It’s Jesus’ star over the manger!  Is the ‘Light of the world!'”  He also used stickers to decorate the “Merry Christmas” banner piece.  He really enjoyed decorating – and when I got the banner hung up, he loved seeing his work on the wall!

Becca is working hard on her handwriting skills, but isn’t super fond of copywork.  So – I thought it might be more fun if she could do her copywork onto banner pieces to be hung on the wall.  She jumped on it and was so excited!  She wrote Psalm 34:18 on the “Hope” banner piece, and on the “Joy” banner piece, she wrote “J is for Jesus” from the poem we read (also in the set!) about the meaning of the candy cane.  Then she chose to draw a picture of Jesus on that banner piece as well.

I added a couple of family pictures to the other banner pieces to tie the focus to our specific family.  Then, since we typically have a sign in the middle of our art display wall (I originally posted about this wall here), I used Alicia’s beautiful background paper that I printed on my color printer, and then ran it through my laser printer once it was totally dry… and developed a beautiful advent count-down calendar to fit in the frame that regularly hangs there… that we can mark with a dry erase marker!  (If you purchase this set, please let me know, and as a thank you for your purchase, I will email you your FREE PDF copy of the “O Come, O Come Immanual” advent countdown calendar – that can easily be printed on top of her decorative paper!  It’s not too late to start it!)

christmas-banner

I am so pleased with how the whole wall turned out.  I love that it’s visible from downstairs in our living room, and that it’s in a place where the kids will see it regularly (upstairs near their rooms) to remember where our focus should be this holiday season.

Another activity we did from this set was actually one I used with our AWANA K-2 group this week.  We talked about the meaning of the candy cane, and the kids strung beads on pipe cleaners to make candy canes.  They got to keep one, and take one to a friend at school – along with the candy cane poem printable from the set – as a Christmas gift to share Jesus with their friends!  The kids had so much fun and were really excited to have a gift to take to friends.  They colored the sheets in their classes once they had said their verses, or could take them home to color before giving to their friend.  I’ll be doing the same thing with Becca this weekend – she’ll get to make candy canes to give to her friends, and can color the sheet as a Christmas card.

away-candy-canes

img_6246

It’s so easy to use this set to stay on track, to keep your focus, and yet still accomplish all the goals you normally have during the holiday season!  I so appreciate Alicia’s creation of this set, and look forward to using these parts (and more!) next year.  I love that there’s so many different options, and I can use what works for our family now, and then still have new things we can add on or swap out next year, or the next!

Might I add…   Don’t think if it’s after December 1st that you can’t start this!!!!  It is never too late to get your focus right, and there’s always room to do stuff next year, but if you wait to get it, you’ll forget!  So click here to get it today and use what you can, and just allow it to build in the future.  You won’t regret it.  That I can promise.

twitter-440-x-220-cccfts-logo_edited-1
Click Here! Affiliate link – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Snap-a-Day Advent Photo Challenge

snap-advent-header

Last year I stumbled upon a photo challenge for advent, and I jumped in!  I looked up Bible verses to go with each one, wrote them on index cards, and put them in cute envelopes to be opened by Becca each night before bed.

This year, I’ve teamed up with that blogger- the one who does the photo challenge each year- and Allison Gringas and I are happy to bring you the Snap-a-Day Advent Challenge- now with FREE printable Bible verse cards for each day! 

snap-a-day-squarenew

Simply share your photos daily on IG with #SnapAdvent and tag Allison @reconciledtoyou, and me @cdhinnant!  This printable makes it quick and easy for you to do a Bible verse with your child nightly, and combine it with the fun of a photo challenge!  You don’t even have to look up the verses- they are typed on each card for you in the NIV version (sample shown below).

snip20161125_16

We are so excited to offer this to you FREE, and pray that it will bless your family.  Just print on any printer, cut, and enjoy!  Please do tag us both on your photos so we know that you’re benefiting from this printable!  God bless, and may you have an amazing Advent season as we prepare for Christ’s birth!

‘Tis The Season…

twitter-440-x-220-cccfts-logo_edited-1

Y’all, I’m so not ready for Christmas!  I mean, seriously.  We haven’t had Thanksgiving yet!  But Thursday will be here in just a couple more sleeps… and it’s time to start talking to you about Christmas.  So as a mini-revolt against Christmas taking over Thanksgiving, I decided to tell you what I’m thankful for… about Christmas.

I’m thankful for family traditions.

I grew up in a Christian home.  I remember that one thing we ALWAYS did, every Christmas Eve before we opened gifts was that we ALWAYS read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2.  We’d eat dinner, and while the menu was usually the same, sometimes it varied.  The dessert was always different, the tree always looked a little different, but that reading of Luke 2 was the same.  Grandpa or Daddy or I (once I was old enough) would read the Christmas story.  The reason for the season was never overlooked.

Cody grew up similarly.  Every Christmas Eve, his family went to church to light candles and sing hymns with their church family and celebrate the birth of Christ.  Because it was important to both sets of our parents to make sure that we as kids knew that Christmas wasn’t just about the giving and receiving of gifts… it was about the Ultimate Gift that God gave to us – His Son, Jesus Christ.

I’m so thankful for those traditions.  But now, as a mom, I feel the pressure of the commercial world.  Christmas is all about the decorations and the presents and the big fat man with a jolly beard who gives gifts to good kids.  It’s about an elf who watches behavior and about how full your stocking is with technology items.  Heck, Christmas isn’t even about spending time with family any more – its about seeing how fast you can open your presents so you can go play with them.  Maybe it always has been, but for me, Christmas was about family, and about that story we read.  It was about celebrating the birth of Christ.

And I’m thankful for that.  I’m also thankful that Becca is growing up wanting to make Jesus a birthday cake every year.  She came up with that idea when she was just 17 months old, and now we do it every year as a special part of our Christmas Eve traditions.  Because THAT is the reason for the season!  He is the reason why we celebrate.  We give gifts because of Saint Nicholas and all that he gave to the children who were poor and needy.  We give gifts to remember the Ultimate Gift that God gave us….

But in all of that, how do we juggle it all?  I mean, December only has 24 days before the “big day” to fit everything in.  Christmas has crept into November, and taken over Thanksgiving.  The shopping for presents begins earlier and earlier every year.  Heck, many stores even begin putting out their Christmas stuff before Halloween… because there just isn’t enough time to prepare for Christmas and all the hubbub.  So how on Earth are we as busy parents supposed to make time to keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas?

440-x-220-product-image-tools-that-take-back

I have a fabulous and easy set of printables I want you to check out.  They’re on sale for a limited time before Black Friday (code: PREBLACKFRI10OFF to save $10), and you can find the whole set here.  (Aff link, thank you!)  This set isn’t about making more work for you, it’s about making Christ the center of Christmas and it’s SUPER EASY to print out what you want and has guides to give you ideas for how to use the items with all different ages of kids!  I’m so excited to get all of my stuff printed out and set up this weekend (yes, AFTER Thanksgiving!) so that we can begin focusing on all the important parts of CHRISTmas.  Alicia Michelle has really outdone herself on this set, and I hope and pray that you will invest in this set for your family.  You can reprint pieces year after year, or print everything the first time on card stock and then laminate so all you have to do is pull it out and hang it up in the future.  There are decorations, activities, and so much more in this set.  I will be posting on my Facebook page as we complete certain parts of the set, and I hope that you will merge this set into your family traditions and share your photos as well – I know you will be blessed, and so will your kids!

twitter-440-x-220-less-chaos-more-christ-in-christmas-discover-how-here

Got questions?  Don’t hesitate to ask!  I’m here to help!

A Letter of Love

Last night I watched the movie “Miracles from Heaven”… and it really got me thinking.  I wrote this letter to my son, and sent it to the special email account we created for him before he was born.  I’ve been emailing him (and his sister at her account) off and on as things come up.  And then, when he is old enough (probably 21, maybe older), I will share the email address and password with him, and he can begin to go and read these letters.  Some of them, I share here on my blog.  This is one I felt compelled to share.  I hope it is a blessing to someone.  Here’s a picture of my lil man playing with chalk paints taken this past week.  It’s hard to imagine him a grown man reading this letter, but I pray that someday he will read it, and that it will be a blessing to him.

img_4576

Hey sweet boy!

By the time you are reading this letter, you’ll be old enough to know the story of how you came to be.  The story of God’s miracle of you.  And how Mommy (and Daddy) learned that sometimes God’s answer is “no” before it is “yes.”

But this week, I’m thinking about it all over again, and I felt lead to write you this letter.  Three years ago this week, I felt you move inside of me for the first time.  It was almost like some unspoken covenant from God that THIS was the child I would carry to full term.  It was way too early for me to be feeling you, and yet, there you were – my steady kicker who moved ten times more than your sister ever had.  Your movements felt like a promise because three years ago this week was also when I was due with your first little angel sibling.  Thinking back to when we lost that baby, so very early into our pregnancy, and yet still such a raw and painful feeling… I was so desperately sad.  And then, when we lost the second just a couple months later, I was mad at God.  Why would He let me get pregnant and then take my babies away?  I’ll never understand the answer to that question.  But I do know one thing – YOU are a miracle, and every single day I treasure you just a little bit more than I probably would have if we wouldn’t have had that struggle.

Sometimes God walks us through the fire before He gives us the miracle we need… so that we will lean on Him more.  So that we will trust in Him and remember He is in control.  So that we will fully appreciate the miracle on the other side.  Because, if either of those other two babies had lived, we never would have had you.  YOU are the answer to why they weren’t meant to be.

So when you struggle in life with wondering why God’s answer is “no”… or maybe He even seems totally silent and the answer is “not right now,” I know it’s hard to be patient.  I know it’s hard to trust.  I know how easy it is to lose your faith.  Because I have been there.  But you have the distinct ability that not many people have to be able to just go and look in the mirror.  YOU were our answer to “no” and “not right now.”  Your LIFE is the perfect picture of God’s perfect plan.  Your life may not feel like it’s God’s perfect plan all the time.  But YOU ARE A MIRACLE!!  He created you with special purpose and meaning.  Back in the spring of 2013, months before you were even conceived, He had YOU in mind.  He knew YOU.  He loved YOU.  And He was planning for YOU.  He said “no” to two other babies so that YOU might live.

Also don’t lose sight of the strength that comes from the journey.  The Bible tells us that in this life we will have pain.  We will have sorrow.  But to have HOPE – because HE has overcome all the problems of the world.   And through the struggles, He gives us strength to overcome.  He teaches us to lean a little harder on Him.  And He teaches us to reach out to our brothers and sisters who struggle – to support them and be an actual physical leaning post here on this Earth.

I will never fully understand why God wanted me to have two miscarriages before having you.  It seems like everything would have been so much easier if I just hadn’t even gotten pregnant until it was time for you.  But when I look back at all of the women that I have been able to encourage when they walked through the same valley… and when I think of all of the women that I have been able to bond with by sharing my story and realizing they have walked a similar path… then I start to get a glimpse of the “why.”  When I realize how much stronger my faith became – BECAUSE I questioned God, BECAUSE I raged at God, BECAUSE I fell into a heap of emotional mess at His feet when I finally gave up – then I start to get another glimpse of God’s “why.”  When I realize how much stronger of a marriage your Daddy and I have because of the fire we walked through together, I start to get yet another glimpse of God’s “why.”  I learned that when I am weak, God has given me a very physical representation of His love right here on Earth to lean on.  Your Daddy will be strong when I need him.  He will lift me up and carry me when I can’t walk – both literally and figuratively.

Most of all, I learned that the old saying “everything happens for a reason” really is true.  But for us, we could modify it to say “Grayson happened for a reason.”  God has a reason for you.  He has a purpose for you.  Even if you don’t see it today or tomorrow or next week or six years from now.  Your life has meaning.  Your life has purpose.  Your life is special.  Go look in the mirror.  YOUR LIFE IS TRULY A MIRACLE.

I’m praying for you, my sweet boy.  Every single day.  That you will grow into the man God wants you to be.  That whoever is the woman to be your helpmate will be strong in her faith, and that she will build you up and encourage you.  I pray the two of you never have to walk through the same fires that Daddy and I have walked, but if you do, look in the mirror.  When you walk through different trials together, remember Who is in charge.  And remember that “why” doesn’t always have an answer that we can comprehend, but He is in control.  And He really does have a plan.  He loves you, and He created you.  YOU ARE A MIRACLE.  The woman walking beside you is a miracle who was created JUST FOR YOU.  Love her.  Cherish her.  And carry her through the fire.  Being broken together makes the bonds of healing so much stronger.  Your cord of three will never fully unravel when you lean on each other, and together lean on Him.

I love you, Baby Boy.  I love you, Little Bear.  I love you, Bubs.  I love you, Gray Gray.  I love you, Grayson Cody Hinnant.  No matter how old you are when you read this.  My love for you will never die.  “I’ll love you forever.  I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my Baby you’ll be.”

Love,

Mommy

Thankfulness and Thanksgiving

thankfulness-header

My favorite holiday as a kid growing up wasn’t Christmas.  Maybe that makes me an odd kid.  But for me, it was always Thanksgiving.  The traditions our family had were precious to me, and that ritual was something I came to love, and to long for.  To this day, I don’t even have to close my eyes to be transported back to Grandma’s kitchen the morning of Thanksgiving.  It was the same every year.  Year after year, after year.

It’s those memories that make me want to establish special traditions with our own kids related to Thanksgiving.  Not just about Thanksgiving itself, but about thankfulness.  Thats why when my friend Ashley wrote this post about creating a super cute little fall prayer journal, I jumped on the idea and decided to make a similar one using Becca’s handwriting journals and turn it into a Thankfulness Journal.  (Step by step directions on how I made mine can be found at the bottom of this post.)

I think something kids today really struggle with is entitlement.  With very little to no effort on their parts, stuff just shows up.  And I started realizing recently that our kids have no idea what they have.  They have no idea what half of this city doesn’t have… and that’s where my idea for the Thankfulness Journal was born.  Each day of November, Becca will sit down and think about one THING (NOT a person!) she is thankful for.  She can draw a picture, and we’ll work together on sounding out the words, and writing what she is thankful for.  This is a great activity for your kids to work on handwriting, spelling, and phonics!  In the back half of the journal, we will talk about our family traditions (not just from Thanksgiving) we are thankful for and write and illustrate those, as well.  And to keep myself on the right mental path, I’ve downloaded Ashley’s grown up version of a Thankfulness Journal, which you can get free here!

Another activity we’ll do before Thanksgiving to talk about thankfulness is thinking about all the foods that we eat – not just at Thanksgiving, but also other times.  I will give her food magazines to cut pictures from (fine motor practice!) and she can glue them onto poster paper and work on writing labels for the foods she finds.  I will also challenge her to pick foods that she doesn’t like, that she knows other family members DO like.  Maybe she’ll find a picture of scrambled eggs.  Or a picture of bacon.  Or a picture of (Heaven forbid!) broccoli.  I want to encourage her to think about others, and what our preferences are.  This is a great way to think outside the box… and stop the spread of selfishness!!  She also needs practice thinking about balanced meals, so she can use the pictures to make posters of balanced meals… and pick a few of the foods she’d like to try someday!  (Hey, this Mommy can dream, right??)

img_3421Fall is a fabulous time to get outside and remember the beauty that God has blessed us with on this Earth.  Maybe it’s something as simple as a seed collecting and sorting activity.  Or maybe it’s getting out and doing a photo challenge in nature to find certain small creatures or plants – then print those pictures and place them into a little journal that your child can look back at to remember to thank God for the little things in nature that He has placed in our lives to remind us of his majesty.  Even if you don’t think there is much to explore in your front yard, you’d be amazed what you can find when you get down on all fours and pretend you are a beetle!

img_3160

I would challenge you to have your children write thank you notes to their friends who give them treats for Halloween.  Encourage them to list out not just what the friend gave, but WHY they are thankful that child is their friend.  “I love it that you make me laugh.”  “I like how you help me when I can’t tie my shoe.”  “Thank you for always smiling at me and helping me be happy when I’m sad.”  Even if your kids are used to writing thank you notes, I bet they are probably used to saying “thanks for the _xyz toy_.” And that’s it.  Mix it up this November.  Get them thinking about WHY they are thankful for that friendship they have.  Let them use fun stickers and special pens or markers to make those friends feel really special, and to add some fun to what can seem very serious for your kids.

Now is the perfect time to plan what activities you’re going to do this November – to not let Thanksgiving get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas.  It’s a great time to think about what new family traditions you want to start, and to really center your own mind on thankfulness.  We often focus so much on the costumes we’ll wear and the gifts that we’ll buy, or even on the turkey we’ll cook… that the actual purpose of giving thanks is lost.  Hopefully these ideas will help everyone in your family remember to be thankful for the objects, foods, nature, and people around them, because Thanksgiving is so much more than just a day we eat a lot of food and hang out with family to watch a parade and some football.  This year, focus on the things and the people they are thankful for, and WHY they are thankful for them.  Let’s raise a generation that isn’t the ME generation, but the YOU generation… the THANK YOU generation.
——————–

Make your own Thankfulness Journal!

Check out how Ashley made hers here.

I don’t have any Modge Podge, and wanted to cover the book entirely… so I took 4 sheets of scrapbook paper and here’s what I came up with!  You can do the same in just about 5 minutes!

supply-list

paperjournal

I also cut pieces to cover the insides so that the print on the front cover was not distracting.  You wouldn’t have to do that – in which case, you would only need 2 sheets of 12×12 paper.front-cover-of-journal


There are more posts in this series!  Check them out here:

Saying Thank You with a Handmade Card

Thankfulness and Thanksgiving – For Your Toddler

Writing About Thankfulness