Santa Claus and The Purpose-filled Christmas

Hi, friends!Before we hop on the kids gift guide band wagon (which I'm PUMPED about btw!), I wanted to quickly touch on a few things that tend to be hot topics for parents this time of year. I feel like the best way to approach this is to start out by saying that what I'm going to share is what has worked for our family. I'm not saying that if you do it differently, you're doing it wrong. I definitely don't want to start any debates because I'm in full support of you doing what you feel best for your family! I hope this will be an encouragement to you and not a source of contention at all. So now that we've got the motive out in the open... let's start out talking about Santa!Growing up, we didn't do Santa. I can vividly remember a few people at church calling him Satan Claus. Maybe taking it a little far, ya think? My parents were influenced at the time by a very conservative christian teaching and Santa was a pretty big part of that.So then we had the group of believers and the group of non believers and I hear many a play date was ruined due to the reckless admission from children calling out others for being in one camp or another. It's become quite the issue.Here's what's ironic about the whole thing to me: I actually feel that putting a significant focus on not believing in Santa Claus and engaging in a debate on either side ends up actually putting more of a focus on Santa. Where wasn't the point from the beginning to take the focus off of the man in red?I feel no need to defend myself to anyone that we include Santa in our Christmas traditions. He's a symbol of the season in the same way that Christmas movies by the fire, baking cookies, and riding the Pink Pig are symbols of the season. We look forward to taking the girls to sit with Santa. It's the sweetest thing I've ever witnessed to see them run and jump in his lap and ask how his reindeer are doing.The way we have always approached Santa with the girls is kind of a need to know basis. The involvement is limited to sitting on his lap, leaving cookies and milk on christmas eve, and leaving big gifts on the porch that he couldn't fit down the chimney (a tradition my husband grew up with and loved!). Our conversations surrounding Santa are pretty limited and when He is brought up, we let the girls lead the conversation. When they ask us questions, we just ask them questions back. They are still so little and have no need for details. When they get older, we will just continue being open with them while also always trying to maintain the magic and wonder that surrounds the Christmas season.Our goal every day of the year with our girls is to help them be servant hearted, kind spirited, grateful little people. The Holiday Season has been proven to be a wonderful time to help them go even deeper into each of these character qualities. When they ask for a gift that's too expensive, we explain that we don't have it in our budget to get that gift. When they complain that others get better gifts than them (gosh this starts early!), we talk about the children who get nothing at all for Christmas and are sure to remind them (and ourselves!) that gratitude has a way of turning what we have into enough. Keeping things in perspective in the early years will set them up for the rest of their lives.I believe that it's possible to give gifts that are purposeful and that bring joy to our children, without  falling into the trap of excessive spending and over indulgence just for the sake of the season.It's our job as parents to be intentional about facilitating conversations with our kids that are rich with the truth they need to hear. We can easily find ourselves leaning too far in one direction or another on many different topics, so it's important to have balance and look for opportunities to talk about what this time of year represents: Hope for a lost people and Light in a dark world.As far as gift giving is concerned, I love to keep in mind the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read" idea. We may do two of each of these categories depending on the price point, but having a guide helps to keep me grounded when I'm tempted to buy ALL THE THINGS for my girls. And believe me, I am!We also make it a point to do a major toy room clean out a few weeks before Christmas and take toys to donate. This makes room for whatever new stuff they'll be getting but it's also an opportunity to talk about giving to others in need. We have enjoyed doing "adopt a family" in the past and the girls love packing up Operation Christmas Child boxes.What it all comes down to for me is this: We love because He first loved us. We give gifts because He gave the best gift to us. We celebrate this joyful time of year with our family pulled in close because while we live and breathe, we are blessed to be doing it.I encourage you to pray that God would help you to have a purpose-filled Christmas this year. I pray that we would have enough time for all the silly and seemingly insignificant things that make this time of year FUN while still seizing the opportunities to turn hearts young and old to heaven to gain the perspective that we need to keep all year long, but especially at Christmas time.Thanks for reading, sweet friends!    

Good Vibes ONLY

Do you ever get tired of the words you have rolling around in your head?Goodness knows I do.Some days it feels like there's a middle school bully up there pushing me around, calling me names, and literally just giving me a mental beat down.I know who the bully is.As a Christian, I know that Satan uses first person talk in my mind to make me believe lies about myself. For example it's never "You're not smart, pretty, worthy, loved." No, it always turns into me taking complete ownership of the lie Satan wants me to believe "I'm not smart. I'm not pretty. I'm not worthy. I'm not loved."If you've seen the movie The Help, you'll probably recall the very touching and memorable part where Aboline leans in to the little girl she has practically raised and says "You is Kind, You Is Smart, You is Important."I cry through that whole movie but especially at that part!I love truth. I love it because it literally has the power to set us free. When we focus our minds on what is true, it changes the whole trajectory of our thinking and ultimately our lives!The mind can be a toxic place if we aren't careful so I wanted to quickly share some of the ways I've had my mental lie detector on high alert.

Listen to conviction, throw out condemnation.

Condemnation has a way of devaluing. while conviction actually adds more value. Conviction is always kind but condemnation is a bully. If you're allowing condemnation to rule your thoughts sending you into a spiral of negative emotions, reject those ideas and replace them with the truth that you can always work harder and be better but you are loved totally and completely right where you are this very second.

Speak affirmations, silence doubt.

Affirmations are borderline cheesy but gosh are the effective! I read in a parenting book one time that you must speak the truth you wish to see in your child. They need to physically hear what you believe they are capable of. So every night before the girls go to sleep, we go through positive affirmations. Right after they've been disciplined for a wrong behavior, we affirm the exact opposite of that behavior. For instance, when Rowen wacks Reese over the head, after she apologizes and they hug it out, she has to hold her hands up and say "I use my hands to be kind. I do not use my hands to hit." Whatever area you feel weakest in is the one that's crying out to be affirmed. Wake up to your potential by literally speaking it into your reality. Our words are so powerful!

Discipline disappointments, practice being grateful.

Disappointment is a tough thing to deal with but when we have the right perspective, it can be a great teacher. Too many times we make it our enemy. It's not! We can learn and grow from the things that let us down. But if you let your disappointments tear you apart, then you learn nothing and no one wins. Instead, have an attitude of gratitude and choose to see growth as your friend and not your enemy. I will be the first to admit that I literally have to have the truth right in front of my face DAILY in order to not believe the lies that get conjured up in my head. I keep God's word handy and read it out loud on the regular but especially in the moments I'm feeling down and out.There's a lot on the line not only for me, but also for my girls. If I'm going to teach them how to have healthy mindsets, it's something I'm going to have to practice myself.I hope this will help you in your thinking this week. I hope you know thatYou are loved.You are valued.You are beautiful.You are special.And don't you let anyone tell you otherwise!