How Christmas Transforms the Mundane {Advent Ideas}

Last week we celebrated Christmas with my husband’s family. Matching Christmas pjs. Visiting Santa with cousins. Waking early to open stockings. Exchanging presents by the lit tree. Finishing with a wonderful steak & potato Christmas dinner.

Every activity just as it should be on Christmas day. But it didn’t feel like “Christmas”. There was no build-up. No counting days from turkey to a candlelit service.

Because Christmas is more than a day. It’s a season. More than giving gifts and eating good food. It’s a period of time to adjust hearts. Redirecting my focus from self to God. Reminding me there is more to living this life than the day-to-day tasks. 

What makes Christmas entrancing is how the ordinary transforms into the extra-ordinary. Lights on trees. Trees situated in living rooms. Sprinkles on cookies. Sparkles on  clothes. Parties on weeknights. Normal gets turned on its head.

The changes shake me from the mode of the mundane. 

Even conversation changes. Time around the table pouring over His story. Sweet questions during car rides about the words, “King of Kings”. Discussing whether lyrics say, “the Lord has come” or “the world has come.”

When I start to feel the stress of all the expectations of the season, it’s good to remember I need the change. I need to break from my rhythm. Just like I need to wake up each morning and proclaim, “You are king of my life.” I need to end my year with the proclamation, “You are King of Kings…who came to earth in the form of newborn babe.”

Advent, which means “coming” prepares me for the coming of Christmas, Gives perspective for His future coming. But it takes intention to do advent activities.

Last year I shared 5 tips for enjoying Christmas with young kids. Including two different ways we focused our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas. One, we crafted adorable ornaments from Truth in Tinsel. I loved having a fun craft to do while dinner was cooking. Each day discussing a new detail of the New Testament story of Christ’s birth.

The other way was “The Family Promise Tree” (based on the Jesse Tree), a set of felt ornaments my sister sewed. With each ornament there is a little devotional, starting with Genesis, directing us through God’s promise to send His Son to deliver us from sin. Each day tells a story from the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist) leading to the arrival of Jesus…the Promised Child. It’s a simple advent and it works for us.

Unfortunately, “The Family Promise Tree”, is no longer available. But my church friend, Jacki Rucksdashel, felt a calling from God to create an updated Jesse Tree Devotional for families. Here is what she shared with me:

“As we started looking at what we would choose as a family to focus on what Christmas was really about, we had a hard time finding something specifically for young children.  Our kids relate so much to the power of narrative…a story.  That is when the idea for this devotional was born.  After two years of trying this and trying that, my husband and I decided to sit down and with the Lord’s help, create a devotional book for our kids in this stage of life.  Thus, The Jesse Tree Project was born.  We are so happy to share it with you for free.”

Did you catch that last line? For FREE! The devotionals are awesome they include:

  • Verse of the Day
  • Bible Reading for THE STORY-for adults to read or for older children.
  • THE STORY– the Biblical account written in narrative form for young children.
  • Questions —to check for understanding.
  • Prayer — feel free to pray your own prayer!
  • Worship–songs, poems, videos or books to inspire praising Him.
  • Extended Activity–Extra activities to do with children to help solidify what they learned.  (All optional of course!)

If you don’t want to have to make the ornaments for each day, Jacki & her husband have created printable ornaments.

I haven’t put up our tree yet. I haven’t printed out ornaments. I haven’t hung up the felt Christmas tree. But there is still time. It isn’t even December yet.

I will make time this weekend to decorate my home. To print off ornaments. To hang up a felt Christmas tree. Because it’s in celebrating the “coming” of Christmas that my heart turns from self to God & I replace “me” with “He”. 


Few Favorites Friday: January 27th

1. Petting Stingrays

There is a cute little children’s aquarium that re-opened last year at Dallas’ Fair park. My boys’ favorite part of the aquarium is the stingray exhibit. They are able to reach into the tank and pet the many different stingrays as they swim by. My youngest son had the best time observing and interacting with these amazing creatures!

2. Half Birthday Cookies and Cake

That sweet boy full of joy celebrated his 2 1/2 yr old birthday this week. Since all my boys (so far) have summer birthdays, we celebrate 1/2 birthdays…so they can celebrate them at school. I bought a roll of sugar cookie dough and cooked them. Then once they had cooled I cut them in half and used pre-packaged frosting to put his initial on each cookie. I sent them to school for each of his classmates…big hit!

Then we always celebrate at home with a 1/2 birthday cake. I buy a box cake mix. It makes two round cakes. I freeze one round cake (to use for the next 1/2 bday). The other round cake I cut it in half. I put one half on top of the other half…making a 2-layer 1/2 bday cake!

3. Valentines with Hershey Kisses Wrappers

Last week I shared pics of the peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses that I made the afternoon before we were robbed. I saved the wrappers from the Hershey Kisses with plans to make valentines.

I pulled out the wrappers. Grabbed some red construction paper and glue sticks. Then let the boys create their valentines.

4. Fitting Frozen Pizza in the Freezer

Friday nights we like to eat pizza and watch a movie as a family. I try to keep some frozen pizzas ready for family night. Unfortunately our freezer is too narrow to fit the frozen pizza box.

So my solution is to cut out the cooking directions and put the pizza in the freezer with the directions taped on top.

5. Carbon Monoxide Detector

I mentioned in my Wednesday post that my husband has been out-of-town this week (actually out of the country!). My first night home alone was made even more exciting when we had a Carbon Monoxide scare.

Basically our CO detector alarm went off. We weren’t sure if it was just a dead battery…but when it continued to go off even with new batteries we began to get concerned. We brought the portable, battery operated CO detector upstairs from downstairs. It also went of and registered a level as high as 251 ppm (you should leave the house at 30 ppm!).

Once we turned off the heater upstairs the levels went down. It made for a cold night with no heat but I am so very thankful for that alarm. Do you have a CO detector in your home? Did you know they expire? When the heater repair man came we had him install a low-level CO detector. Ask your heating and air provider if they can install one in your home!!

What were some of your favorites this week?

Few Favorites Friday: January 13th

1. Paper airplanes

Need a simple indoor activity this winter? Grab some paper & make an airplane! Here is a site that has 10 different versions…try out several and see which one flies the farthest.

2. BBQ Brisket (aka Cathy Lou’s BBQ…my mom’s recipe):

An easy way to make a delicious brisket.

  • 4 lbs beef brisket
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp crushed bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp Liquid Smoke

Combine salt, pepper, chili powder & bay leaves. Rub meat completely with Liquid Smoke. Place meat fat side up, in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle dry seasoning mixture on top.

Cover tightly (I like to completely wrap the meat in aluminum foil). Bake for 4 hours at 325 degrees.

Scrape seasonings off meat & cut in very thin slices across the grain. Serve with BBQ sauce (Combine: 1 bottle of KC Masterpiece, 2 Tbsp Liquid Smoke, 4 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce, 2 tsp celery seed in pot on stove. Bring to a boil. Stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes).

3. Find my iPhone app &

This week our home was broken into and my new MacBook was stolen (plan on writing more about this next week). I learned in the process about two things that help with locating lost laptops:

Find my iPhone app: which you can download on your phone and make sure all your Apple devices are registered through iCloud. Remotely you can lock a device, wipe it clean or just send it a message. : you can download this free software to locate a laptop when it is lost or stolen.

Take the time now to install these simple solutions…I hope you never have to use them!

4. Tiff’s Treats

My sister-in-law was the one who let us know that our alarm was going off and the security company was trying to contact us. She was sweet enough to also send us a dozen hot chocolate-chip cookies and Blue Bell ice cream from Tiff’s Treats. They are located in Austin & Dallas. You place the order and hot cookies are delivered within the hour!

5. Upward Basketball

We signed up our oldest for his first basketball season…with Upward Basketball through a local church. I love this program for several reasons:

  • Practice is for 30 minutes right before the game

  • Coach led devotional for the team…a video devotional for the parents
  • Fun pre-game player introductions (fog machine? seriously?)

  • Colored wristbands that help each team find the person they are supposed to defend.

Such a great, well-organized program.

5. Magic Carpet Ride

This is a fun activity that my husband has been doing with our kids since the days when we only had one little guy. You just need a sturdy blanket and a long stretch of hardwood floors. After dinner one night last week all three boys decided they needed to have a magic carpet ride…hilarious!

What were your favorites this week?

Linking up with:

friday favorite things | finding joy