‘Twas the Evening of Christmas Book Review & Giveaway

'Twas the Evening of ChristmasDo you have any Christmas traditions you remember from your childhood?

One I remember from when I was a little girl and continued with my own children was the reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve.  When my girls were little we would get them all snuggled in bed, trying to calm their excitement, and read to them.  It was always the last thing we did with them on Christmas Eve.  Then they would settle down and close their sleepy eyes, ready for morning to come.

I am excited to share a new book you can begin reading to your children or grandchildren on Christmas Eve.  Glenys Nellist has written a wonderful book called ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas.  This book begins with one of my favorite verses from the birth of Jesus,

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news.  It will bring great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.  He is the Messiah, the Lord.'”    Luke 2:10-11

In this book, Glenys recounts the magnificent story of Jesus’s birth.  From their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were unable to find a normal place to stay, but found refuge in a stable. Shepherds were visited by angels to tell them the good news.  Wisemen followed the star and brought gifts to baby Jesus.  One of the things I love about Glenys’ book is how she calls attention to the animals. The pigeons, cows, doves, mice, oxen, and lambs are all present for the birth of our Savior.  She doesn’t leave out these precious animals who were more than likely present for such a glorious moment.

I read the book to preschool and Kindergarten classes at church.  They all loved it!  When it talked about the animals we stopped and made animal noises (something they quite enjoyed).  When asked if they had ever slept on hay like baby Jesus, they laughed and said, “No, that’s silly!  We sleep on sheets!”  The girls said their favorite part was when the angels came to the shepherds.  They even picked out which angel they loved the best (the illustrations are amazing!).  I think the funniest part was at the end when I asked if they remembered who Jesus’ parents were.  One 3-year old boy said, “Joseph and Judy!”  I laughed so hard at this!  It was a cute moment for sure!

This book is wonderful!  It will make a great bedtime story on Christmas Eve for your little ones.  Go out and grab a copy of this Christmas book for your children!

Or perhaps you can win it!  Zondervan is giving away a copy of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas”!  To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment below and tell me your favorite part of the Christmas story. (This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address…no PO boxes).  Winner will be announced Monday, October 9.

To learn more about the book check out this video on YouTube:  ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas

Glenys’ book is blog hopping!  Next week you can find her book featured on the Purposeful Moms website:  http://purposefulmoms.com/

10 Confessions of a Soccer Mom

I am proud to call myself a soccer mom.

I never thought I would say those words, either.

But here I am, a mom of two girls who have a love for the game of soccer.  They have turned me into a mom who loves the sport just as much as they do.  I look forward to the weekends when I get to cheer on both of them.  And with the love of the sport comes the confessions of a mom who feels the need to show you just how much I love the game and enjoy supporting my daughters.  So here goes my confession…

  1. I get into the game

    I admit it….I really get into the game.  I am a yeller.  I come by it honest, though.  I got it from my mom!  She got into  games when I was a kid and she still does today.  I was also a cheerleader, too, so I love to cheer on others.  You may see me get super excited and scream and yell…A LOT…but know that it’s because I absolutely love sports, no matter what game it is, and I love to be able to cheer on the players, whether I know them or not.  I yell even louder when my children score a goal!  Click on the link to hear me screaming when my oldest daughter scored a goal this past spring:  Goal Scoring Screams.  Even our pastor made a comment in a church service one time saying, “Have you ever watched a game with Vanessa?  She really gets into it!”  Yes I do!

  1. I have been told not to yell my child’s name during a game

    Of course, this comes from both of my children.  They might get a little embarrassed by my yelling.  I am not one of those parents who yell negative things at their kids.  But for some reason, me screaming one of their names and telling them to GO, GO, GO, makes them want to crawl in a hole and hide.  I have to defend myself and tell them I yell their name because I am only encouraging them to GO!  They don’t get it.  Maybe one day when they become parents they will.

  1. I always bring a chair to the game, but rarely do I sit in it

    Soccer fields typically provide no place to sit.  A few venues may have one set of bleachers, but usually there is nothing.  Which means you must bring your own chair.  Parents line their chairs along the sidelines and sit down to cheer on their child. I do all of that, but rarely do I sit down in it.  Why?  Well…let’s refer back to number one…I get into the game.  When things are exciting I can’t sit still.  I must move around.  You might see me jumping up and down, pacing the sidelines, or hiding behind another person because I’m too nervous or excited to watch!  The chair is only there if I really need it.

  1. I have been known to yell “Push her back!”

    Soccer is a rough sport.  Girls can get aggressive.  What I think should be a foul, is not.  What I think is not a foul, usually is.  It all depends on the referee.  So, if I see my child getting shoved and pushed around, the mama bear in me comes out.  It’s then that you might hear me yell, “Push her back!  They’re not calling it!”

    I tell my girls to get aggressive, too.  My two children have learned to fight back on the field and not get pushed around.  But, sometimes they want to use their arms and shove.  You can’t do that.  You have to push back with your shoulders.  My youngest has not quite mastered that skill yet.  And that’s the reason she gets many fouls called on her.  In those times, you might hear me (and my husband) yelling at her to “Put your hands down!”  Hopefully she will learn how to use her shoulders better to push back.

  1. I have been known to yell at the referees

    This is not something I do a lot, but usually only do when I believe that the refs aren’t being fair and aren’t calling it both ways.  And before you get the wrong idea, I’m not a “get in your face” kind of parent.  I just might yell from the sidelines something like, “C’mon ref!  That wasn’t a foul!  Call it both ways!”  If the referee ever said anything to me, I would be so mortified and would apologize and then keep my mouth shut.  But, that has never happened, and let’s hope it never will.

  1. I try to encourage, not coach from the sidelines

    At the beginning of every season, the director of our soccer academy tells the parents to please only encourage your child from the sidelines.  Do not try to coach them.  Leave it to them to do the coaching.  We, as parents, need only to yell encouraging words while they are on the field.  It’s also confusing for the players when they are on the field to try to know who they should really listen to. You might tell them one thing, but the coach really wants them to do something else.  We have to remind our children to listen to and respect the coaches.  And I have to remind myself that I am the parent.  I am not the coach.

  1. I’m still learning soccer rules

    Like I said, soccer is a new sport for me.  And even though my children have been playing it for many, many years, there are times when I have to lean over to my husband or friend and say, “What happened?  What did they just call?  Why did they call that?”  I’ll eventually get it all down one day.

  2. I think offsides is the dumbest rule ever

    I have finally learned what it means to be “offsides”.  For those of you non-soccer folks…a player is offsides if they are on the opposing team’s side of the field and are closer to their goal line than the ball and the last opponent.  Basically, you can’t be behind the last defender and have the advantage of scoring.

    I played basketball growing up.  We could be on the opposite side of the court, hurl the ball down to our player on the other end of the court, and they could score without having any defenders around them.  Not so in soccer.

    I get why there is the offsides rule.  Players would just be “hanging around the goal” waiting to score.  Not fair.  I know that.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  1. I’m not a fan of Sunday games

    As a ministry leader, I will say that I am not a fan of Sunday games.  I don’t like the fact that it takes families out of church on Sundays.  The church competes a lot with sports.  And that’s a whole other topic for discussion.  But, mostly, I don’t like Sunday games because I don’t get to see my children play on those days.  I am the Director of Children’s Ministry at my church and my main day is Sunday.  So, when there are games on Sundays (if they are in the morning or late afternoon), I can’t go because I have church services and activities.  And for me that just stinks.  I want to be there to see my children play, but I can’t take off every Sunday to go to their games.

  2. I love our soccer family

    My children played Rec soccer for many years.  It wasn’t until last year that we began playing Academy and Select soccer.  We travel to many different cities every weekend playing games. It’s during those times when you develop relationships with the other parents.  You get to know them well, too.  We have made some wonderful friendships with other parents all because of soccer.  I am so thankful for our soccer family.

As a parent, I will ALWAYS encourage and support my children in whatever sport or extracurricular activity they participate in.  I may get a little into it, but it’s only because I am so proud of my children and because I want them to know that I will always be their biggest fan (no matter how embarrassed they get).  They are my joy and I thank God for the gifts He has given them.

 

Here are some good Scripture verses to share with your child athlete:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Mark 9:23 (NIV)

7 Ways Your Family Can Choose to Serve the Lord

serving the LordAs a parent, I strive each day to lead my family in their faith journey and teach them about serving the Lord.  But I’ll be honest….it’s rather difficult.  There are days when I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job and other days when I stink at it.

Yet there is one thing I will not do.

Give up.

I refuse to allow the Enemy to keep me and my family from serving the Lord.  I refuse to stop teaching my kids about Jesus.  I refuse to throw in the towel when life gets hard.  I want my family to serve the Lord.

Here are seven ways I believe that can help my family and your family in serving the Lord:

 1.  Put God First

Joshua 24:15
This sign hangs in my living room as a reminder to our family that we have chosen to serve the Lord.

Parents, first and foremost, must make a conscious decision to put God first in all they do.  They must decide whom they will serve.  Will they serve the world and all its lies and temptations or will they serve the Lord?  I love what Joshua says in Scripture when he is talking to the Israelites:  “Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).  Joshua made a decision that day for his family.  A decision that affected not only his life but the life of his family.  And what a wise decision that was.  We as parents must do the same thing for our family.  We must choose to serve God and put Him first in our life.

2.  Go to Church    

The church was established by God.  He asks us to come together to serve and worship Him.  I love the church, but I know there are families who struggle with going to church for many different reasons.  No matter what your reason, I believe it all boils down to number one above…putting God first.  When God is first in your family’s life, you will naturally want to worship Him, learn more about Him and gather with other fellow believers at church.

3.  Show Kindness

When we show kindness to others we are serving the Lord.  Kindness can be sprinkled over others through our words or actions.  Teach your children to share encouraging words to their siblings (sometimes that’s easier said than done).  Encourage your children in their school work and sports.  Smile.  Be positive.  Do a random act of kindness for someone else together as a family.  Show kindness because that’s what Jesus did.

4.  Forgive Each Other

It’s so important to seek forgiveness from your family.  Repent to the Lord, apologize to your family members, and then move on.  Don’t be bitter about the past.  Don’t say you’ll forgive but you’ll never forget.  What good is that?  Don’t let the hurt keep you from loving each other.  God forgives us and so we need to forgive one another.  Serve the Lord by showing the forgiveness He gives to other people.

5.  Pray Together

You’ve probably heard the saying, “A family that prays together, stays together.”  Maybe a little cheesy for you, but I firmly believe this to be true.  We must not only be praying to the Lord in our own personal walk with Him, but we need to be praying together as a family:  in the car, at the dinner table, before your child plays in a game, at bedtime, and even at random times during the day.  When a family comes together for prayer, it is powerful.

6.  Have a Family Devotion

Serving the Lord can be done together as a family when you take the time to learn more about God and His Word.  This can be done at any time, but probably the easiest time to do it is at the dinner table.  While you are eating, open your Bible and share your favorite Scripture or even just one of your favorite Bible stories.  You can also buy a family devotion book and read from it.  Just spend time together as a family learning about the Lord.

7.  Do a Service Project

Find ways that your family can serve the Lord by serving others in your community.  Take a Saturday to do yard work for a neighbor, pick up trash in your local park, pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, make no-sew blankets for kids in the hospital, bake cookies for local law enforcement.  Service projects are a hands-on way for your family to serve the Lord.

This month on my blog, I will be going into greater detail about each of these ways your family can choose to serve the Lord.  So be on the lookout for more on these!

What are some ways your family chooses to serve the Lord?

Book Review & Giveaway! Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart

Love Letters from GodDo you need a good book or resource to help teach your young daughter, granddaughter, or niece about the women of the Bible?

I have the perfect book…Love Letters from God:  Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart.  Author Glenys Nellist has written another fabulous book in the Love Letters series (if you have never heard of this series check out Love Letters from God, Little Love Letters from God, and Christmas Love Letters from God).  In this series titled Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart, Glenys beautifully re-tells the story of fourteen different women of the Bible.  Some of the women include Eve, Miriam, Deborah, Mary (mother of Jesus), Martha, Mary Magdalene and others.  Each story includes a Bible verse for your daughter and a lift-the-flap love letter from God in which she can personalize the letter by writing in her own name.

What makes this book a good resource for that special girl in your life?

As a mother of two girls, I want to teach them that God loves everyone, speaks to everyone, and can use anyone to do His will.  I believe it’s important for them to see how God used women from Bible times to do mighty things for Him.  You don’t have to be special, have a lot of money, be important, or even be popular to be seen, known, loved, or used by God.  God loves everyone and can use anyone to accomplish His perfect will.

My 9-year old daughter and I sat down to read this book together.  As we came to every story, she would tell me whether she knew the story or not.  I was surprised to hear that she did not know several of these women.  My initial thought was, “I need to do a better job of broadening the stories we learn from the Bible!”  But then I thought,  “I can use this book to help me teach her about these amazing women from the Bible!”  Our time together reading this book turned into a special moment for me to share with her and teach her about some pretty cool women in the Bible.

I decided to ask her a few questions about the book.  Here are her responses:

Which of these stories was your favorite and why?   I loved the story of Mary the mother of Jesus because I love to hear about the birth of Jesus. 

Which of the Bible verses that are included in the book was your favorite?  I like the verse that was included in the story of Miriam that was from Isaiah 41:13, “I am the Lord your God.  I take hold of your right hand.  I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid.'”

If you could go back in time and visit one of these women from the Bible, who would you visit and why?  I would like to visit Deborah because she was not afraid.  She was very brave.

As I listened to her responses, I could see there was a theme…do not be afraid.  My child was learning there is no reason to fear in this life.  God gave Deborah strength and courage to defeat Sisera and his army.  He also gave Mary faith and courage as she became the mother of Jesus.  God gave my daughter this special Bible verse from Isaiah that showed her when she gets afraid, all she has to do is remember that He holds her hand and whispers peace to calm her fears.  This makes a mama’s heart smile!

I am excited to announce that Zonderkidz is giving away a free copy of this book!  If you would like to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this blog post. A winner will be announced on Monday, April 24th.

**All entrants must live in the United States.  Zonderkidz cannot ship to P.O. Boxes.  You must have a physical address.

If you would like to learn more about the author, Glenys Nellist, and listen to her story of why she wrote this book, click on this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnsp-OL-WCs&t=14s

Also…

To read more about this book, you can click on this Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Bible-Stories-Girls-Heart/dp/0310753287/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

I know that special girl in your life will be blessed by this book and I hope you will grab a copy of it!  Thank you, Glenys, for sharing the Word of God with all children!

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30 Ideas for a Christ-Centered Family Christmas

30 Ideas for a Christ-Centered Family ChristmasIt’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Christmas is probably my favorite holiday.  I love the atmosphere that Christmas brings; so much joy and cheer.  I love that the Atlanta Christian Radio station plays Christmas music beginning on Thanksgiving Day.  I love to decorate my house and absolutely love Christmas lights!  Christmas is so much fun!

But sometimes my love for this holiday is focused on the wrong things.  I tend to pay attention more to buying presents, going to parties, making sure all the decorations are hung, baking cookies, and staying very busy.

If you are like me, you want your family’s focus during Christmas to be on the birth of Jesus, which is the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas!  So, what can you do to keep your family’s eyes locked toward the birth of Jesus?

Here are 30 activities you can do to have a Christ-centered family Christmas:

    1. Celebrate Advent
      Advent is a Christian season where we wait and anticipate and prepare our hearts for the birth of the Messiah.  Advent means “coming”, and we are waiting for the coming of the King.  To help families at my church celebrate Advent, I gave out Family Advent Bags so they could keep their focus on Jesus.  To see more about this bag, visit my last blog post:  Family Advent Bags
    2. Help Decorate your Church for Advent
      Volunteer your family to help prepare the church for Advent.  Decorating the church can be a fun family activity!
    3. Set up a Nativity in each room of your home
      Put one in each room if you can.  Use a kid-friendly one (like Fisher-Price) so your kids can play with it.
    4. Hide & Seek with Baby Jesus
      Take the baby Jesus from one of your Nativity scenes and hide Him each day.  Have your kids find Him every morning.
    5. Family Devotion and Prayer Time
      A great time to do this is around the dinner table.  Faith5 makes a great bookmark highlighting ways to have a family devotion.  Implementing these easy ways will help your family keep focused on Christ.  To see this bookmark go to their website:  www.faith5.org
    6. A Stocking for Jesus
      Hang a stocking in your home with Jesus’ name on it.  Fill it with notes of prayers to Him.
    7. Family Pinterest Craft or Baking Night
      Search Pinterest for a fun nativity craft you could make together.  Or try out your favorite Pinterest Christmas cookie recipe.  Hang the craft in your home and deliver the cookies to a neighbor.
    8. Visit a Live Nativity
      Check out your local churches to see who does a live nativity and attend one.  This is a great experience for your kids to see the Nativity story come to life!
    9. Take a Census of your Family
      Talk about what a census is.  Use this as an opportunity to map out your family tree.  Then open your Bible to Matthew 1 and show your kids the family tree of Jesus.
    10. Christmas Card Prayers
      Put the Christmas cards you get in a basket on your table.  Draw out one each morning and each night and pray for that family.
    11. Watch a Charlie Brown Christmas If your kids are able, help them memorize and recite the meaning of Christmas that Linus says in the movie:  Luke 2: 8-14.
    12. Watch a Nativity Story
      This movie would be a good one to watch with your older children.  To see a clip of it go here:  The Nativity Story
    13. Give 3 Gifts to Jesus
      On three sheets of paper, have each family member write down one thing per sheet that they want to give to Jesus or what they want to do for Jesus this year.  Wrap them in three boxes and put them underneath the tree.  Open on Christmas Day and share what everyone wrote.
    14. Write a Personal Christmas Card
      Send a handwritten Christmas card this year to someone sharing your favorite Bible verse and a prayer for them.
    15. Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus
      For a fun recipe, click here:  Jesus birthday cake.  Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and eat the cake!
    16. Buy Gifts for a Family in Need
      To find a family who needs help for Christmas, check with your pastor or school social worker.
    17. Sing Christmas Hymns and Song
      Break out in song around the piano or put on your favorite Christmas album and sing loud for all to hear!
    18. Read the Nativity story from Luke 2:1-20
    19. Family Blessings                                                                                                                                    Sit around the fire at home, drink hot chocolate and talk about the blessings that God has given your family this year.
    20. Prayer Hearts                                                                                                                                        Cut out hearts for each child in your family.  Write a prayer to God on a heart for each child (and spouses can do one for each other or you can allow everyone to write a prayer on each heart).        Wrap them and place them under the tree and open them on Christmas morning.
    21. Christmas Day Surprise                                                                                                                      Buy a gift for a family and deliver to them on Christmas Day
    22.  Make a Gift for your Pastor                                                                                                             Take time to thank your pastor for all he or she does to lead your church.
    23. Take a Family Hike
      Pretend like you are Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem.  Ask your kids questions about what it must have been like for them as they prepared to have a baby and had to travel a long way.
    24. Jesus Name Tags
      Place a Nativity set on your dinner table.  Buy a set of “Hello My Name Is…” name tags.  Write down one name of Jesus found in Isaiah 9:6 on each name tag (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel).  Place one name tag on your family table next to baby Jesus each week of Advent as a reminder of Jesus.
    25. Make a Jesse Tree or a Chrismon Tree
      This type of tree is filled with religious symbols:  cross, fish, crown, shepherd’s crook, manger, lamb, angel, star and many more. To see more about a Jesse Tree go to this website: My Jesse Tree.  To read more about a Chrismon tree go here:  Meaning of the Chrismon Tree
    26. Attend a Christmas Eve Service
      This has always been a Christmas tradition in my family.  I love going to church on Christmas Eve and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  If your church doesn’t have one, find a church in your area that does.
    27. Make Nativity Scene out of Play-Doh
      This can be a fun activity for your younger kids.  Have them make all the characters out of the nativity story.  Afterwards discuss each person and their story.
    28. Go Caroling with your Family
      Grab a few other families and go caroling!  This is a fun way to spread the joy of the birth of Jesus to others.
    29. Read Christmas Love Letters from God
      My friend, Glenys Nellist, has written a book called “Christmas Love Letters from God.”  It tells the story of the birth of Jesus and provides a lift-the-flap letter on each page, as well as one at the end of the book that allows the kids to write their love letters to Jesus.  Read one story each night the week before Christmas. To buy a copy of this book, click here:  Christmas Love Letters from God
    30. Use The Shepherd’s Treasure instead of Elf on the Shelf                                                               Don’t like Elf on the Shelf?  Out brand-new this year is The Shepherd’s Treasure.  It’s the same concept of the Elf, but it has religious meaning.  It keeps your children focused on helping the shepherd find baby Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.  I absolutely LOVE this book!  Unfortunately, they are all sold out for this season!  To learn more about this book, visit their website:   The Shepherd’s Treasure

I hope this list will give you some ideas of how to keep your family centered on the birth of Jesus this year!  May your family experience His birth and the celebration in a wonderful way this Christmas season!

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Family Advent Bags

family advent bagsWe are in the season of Advent!  Christians around the world are celebrating this season by preparing their hearts for the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is a season of waiting and anticipating the glorious birthday of our Lord.

At church each Sunday in Advent, we light a candle on the Advent wreath.  There are five candles:  three purple (which represent hope, love, and peace), one pink (which represents joy), and one white (which is the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day).

Sometimes the only place we talk about Advent is at church.  So what can you do to celebrate Advent every day with your family at home?

One great way is through a Family Advent Bag.  This year I gave the families of my church one of these bags.  This bag was filled with many fun things families could do together to keep their focus on Jesus.  I found some of the ideas for the bag on this YouTube video by Shawn Howell:  How to Make Advent To Go Bags for Families and others I created myself.

The bag included the following items.  For a printable list, click here: Family Advent Bag List

Family Advent Calendar:  Each day, between the first Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day, is filled with activities your family can do.  These activities include things like: random act of kindness, taking a trip to look at Christmas lights, baking a birthday cake for Jesus and much more.  (The calendar I created is for 2016, but can easily be done for this year by just following the date and not the day of the week).  To see the calendar I created (for 2016), click here: Advent Calendar for Families
Advent Wreath Magnet:  The most simple Advent wreath I found was magnetic!  Families can stick it on their fridge and place new candles on it every Sunday.  I bought these wreaths on the Living Grace website:  Advent Wreath Magnet
Advent Devotions:  I created four Advent devotions for families to use each Sunday in conjunction with the Advent wreath magnet.  They will read together the devotion and place a candle on the wreath each week.
Christmas Morning Envelope:  I wrote a letter for families to open first thing on Christmas morning.  Before they open any presents, they should open the envelope and read the letter together.  To see a copy of the letter, click here: Christmas Morning Envelope
Craft Ornament:  I included an Oriental Trading Nativity craft in each bag.  To find one for your family, visit their website:  Oriental Trading
Glow Stick:   Inside each bag I put one glow stick.  I told families to break this stick on Christmas Eve and sing Silent Night with their family.  This is a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world.
Sticky Notes:  I put a pack of sticky notes in each bag for families to use to write encouraging words to each other.
Christmas Prayer Cube:  Living Grace makes a wooden Christmas prayer cube that I bought and put in the bags.  On each colored side of the cube is written a prayer.  Families can roll the cube and read the prayer together before meals.  To see the cube go to this site:  Christmas Prayer Cube
Faith 5 Bookmark:  I wanted to give families a simple idea for a family devotion and I found a bookmark that highlighted a great way to do one.  Faith 5 lists these steps for a family devotion:  share highs and lows, read a Bible verse or story, talk about the Bible verse or story and how it can relate to your highs and lows, pray for one another’s highs and lows, and bless each other.  To see their website and to get a copy of the bookmark, click here:  Faith 5 Bookmark
Jesus’ Birthday Cake:  I have no idea where I got this recipe, but it was given to me back at the beginning of my ministry career.   Each layer of this cake represents something.  To see a copy of this recipe click here:  Jesus Birthday Cake

This Family Advent Bag has been a hit with the kids and their parents at our church!  I love hearing the stories of how their family is excited to celebrate Advent!  Feel free to use the printables from this post to create your own Family Advent bag.

Want more ideas for your family Christmas?  Check out my post on 30 Ideas for a Christ-Centered Family Christmas!

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Christmas Love Letters from God: A Review and a Giveaway

christmas-love-letters-coverGlenys Nellist has done it again.

The author of Love Letters from God brings you another powerful book for children that will open up their hearts and help them feel God is speaking right to them.

In Christmas Love Letters from God, Glenys tells the magnificent story of the birth of Jesus.  She begins with the story of Isaiah’s good news found in Isaiah 9, when he delivers a message of hope to the people:  a child will be born and He will be the light of the world.  He will deliver us and rescue us from the darkness.  He is our hope.

The book then tells each part of the Christmas story, capturing the hearts of all who read it:  Mary’s song, Joseph’s dream, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the Shepherd’s visit, and the Wise Men’s gifts.

What I love about this book is the simple, yet powerful way Glenys delivers the wonderful story of the birth of Jesus.  Her words make you feel that you are right in the story, experiencing it along with each person.  Her words draw the reader closer to Jesus, making you realize that His birth was meant to save you.

Besides the story, Glenys also provides the reader with two other pieces to this book:  God’s Perfect Promise and a lift-the-flap Love Letter from God.  God’s Perfect Promise is a nugget of truth from Scripture that the Lord writes to remind us of His perfect promise in Jesus Christ.  They are short, easy to remember verses that will allow a child to treasure that verse and recall it when they need to.

To me, the Love Letter from God is the most special part of the book. Every child that reads each letter tucked inside this book can insert their own name and read the letter as if God is speaking right to them.  And at the very end of the book is a lift-the-flap letter where the child can write their own love letter to Jesus, which is their gift to Jesus.

I read this book aloud with my 9-year old daughter.  She and I took turns reading the stories and inserting each other’s names into the letter.  When I asked my daughter what she loved about the book, she said the letters were the most special part of it.  At the end of the book, she wrote a letter to Jesus in the “My Gift to Jesus” lift-the-flap letter.  Here is what she wrote:

Dear Jesus,

I love you!  I am so glad that you were born.  What were Bible days like? 

I love you,  Shelby

That sweet letter brought tears to my eyes. Christmas Love Letters from God opened my child’s eyes and allowed her to see the love that Jesus has for her.  It opened her mind and her heart to wonder what life was like when Jesus was born.  And it also allowed her to express her love to Jesus.

One thing I was not expecting, though, was how this book would affect me.  Let me tell you…this book, I believe, is not meant just for small children, but for all children of God, even 40-year olds like myself. I felt God speaking directly to me through the words of Glenys.  The letter found in Joseph’s dream went straight to my heart:

“Never be afraid to say yes to me.  When you hear those quiet whispers in your heart – whatever I say, whatever I might ask you to do – remember that just like I helped Joseph, I will help you, too.”

I am so thankful for the ways that the Lord speaks to us.  He can use a book designed for children to be the tool He uses to speak directly to our hearts.  And when He speaks, you know it’s Him.

I highly recommend Christmas Love Letters from God . This not only would be a wonderful Christmas present for your child, but it would be a great family book as well.  You could use this book as a family devotion as you sit around the table for a meal or at night before bed.  You could read a section of this book weekly or each day leading up to Christmas Day.  You could speak each family member’s name into the letters.  You could use the verses of God’s Perfect Promise as your Bible verse to memorize each week.  You could also pray that Scripture verse over each child in your family, inserting their name as if God is speaking directly to them.  So many ways to use this book for a child or for your whole family.

I am excited to share that one person will win a copy of this special book! Zondervan is giving away a copy of Christmas Love Letters from God.  To enter, all you need to do is comment on this post.  A winner will be announced on Monday, October 24.

To see a video of the book, check out this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjKR8EQZIMo

Glenys
Glenys Nellist

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