It's the MOST Wonderful Time of The Year- To Celebrate JESUS!

Welcome to my Favorite season to blog (ok, favorite season.)! I just have so many things that I think you need to know during this time of year! I L.O.V.E. Christmas time- the focus in on Jesus, the lights are beautiful and bright, the Christmas music is delightful, everything peppermint, the smell of winter candles, HOT coffee, giving gifts, parties with friends, warm Pj's, fires in the fireplace, Christmas crafts at school, cookie decorating, Christmas vacation from school, Christmas movies, cousins playing together, egg casserole....I could go on and on! I LOVE it all!

We try to find fun activities every year to drive home the REAL meaning of Christmas- here are our Past Christmas Activities I discussed last year. We are still doing a lot of these again this year. This year I am SO excited for Shepherd Pouches- you might have seen the "pin" on Pinterest- but I found it on THIS BLOG it is an idea from Noel Piper Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I will give you the scoop below! Here is what we are NOT doing this year, focusing on Santa. I do not always agree with Jen Hatmaker, I know a lot of people drink her blog up, I am simply not one of them. I did, however, read THIS POST and it inspired me. I have always had an issue with Santa, I just don't love to encourage the girls to focus on anything but the TRUE meaning of Christmas, that is the whole point of the celebrating. I think that focusing on Santa puts the emphasis on the gifts and the "acting nice to get gifts" idea. I am just not into it! I am not saying you shouldn't be, I am just saying, I am not! So, I got ready to completely ditch Santa after reading that article- it fired me up- then I thought; "ok Jenica, what does this look like for OUR family? Lord, how do you want US to celebrate YOU?" Here is what we came up with, we are just not going to focus on Santa at all. We are not going to make some big Anti-Santa announcement, but we are not going to go sit on his lap, we are not going to address any presents from him (I think we will just not put a "from" on any of the gifts), we are not going to put a lot of decorative Santas around the house (I do have one Santa and Mrs. Santa that I have had my entire life out), etc.. when the girls bring him up I just say- "Lets just focus on Jesus, ok!" It is liberating really, not lying to them or trying to sneak around. I have not decided about Eddie the Elf yet, they LOVE that (Elf on the Shelf)! I might switch to the angel and bite the bullet on the extra cost. I will keep you posted! 
OK, so now on to Shepherd Pouches! I am SO excited, here is the scoop!

Shepherds Pouches 
{Noel Piper (wife of John Piper) has a FABULOUS book that you should get "Treasuring God in Our Traditions" This book is so great and has so many ideas for holidays and life. One of her ideas for Christmas is a Shepherd's pouch!}

Shepherd's Pouches: (our version based on the book)
>I purchased 3 (one for each child) unfinished treasure boxes (Hobby Lobby) and had the girls decorate them and write their name on them (she suggests burlap sacks or pouches- do what you want!)
>I got a little chalk sign (if I was crafty I would have made some amazing sign) and it says "What Can We Give to The King?"
>I will get a lot of $1 bills and Quarters to have ready for Thursday
>We start on Thursday after Thanksgiving is over before bed. We will sit them down and explain that it is officially Christmas season and we will have a little talk like this (of course it wont go just like this)" (this is my version of the talk, please read the Book for Noel Pipers ideas!)
Q: Why do we celebrate Christmas  A: Celebrate Jesus' Birth
Q: Do you know that Jesus was a gift from God to us? A: yes
Expand: God loves us so much and because we were separated from Him by our sin, He sent Jesus to die for us to pay for OUR sin. He humbled Himself (HE IS THE KING) and was born as a baby and lived as a human so that we might have eternal life in HEAVEN! That is the greatest gift we could EVER receive. 
Q: Are you so excited about the gifts on Christmas? A: YES!!!
Expand: So is God, he loves to give us gifts and he also loves when we have grateful hearts for the things he gives us. Do you know that the Bible says that EVERY good and perfect gift comes from God? Everything good that you have is a gift from him. 
Q: So, do you think it would be nice to give God a gift on Christmas? A: Yes! 
Q: Well, what can you give God, who owns everything  A: ??
Expand: The Bible says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)
Q: How do you think we store treasures in Heaven?  A:?
Expand: The way we store up treasures in Heaven and give gifts to God looks differently than the gifts we wrap under the tree. 
When we serve others (without expecting anything back)- treasure
When we encourage others or bless others with kind words- treasure
When we help people-treasure
When we place the needs of others before our own needs-treasure
When we do something we are asked to do without complaining- treasure
When we help meet the needs of the poor or helpless- treasure
When we have joy in our hearts and show others our joy- treasure
When we are patient- treasure
When we use Self Control- treasure
When we memorize the Bible or spend time with God- treasure

> At this point, we discuss that the treasure boxes they decorated are going to be out until Christmas. When we witness them doing something that blesses God/storing up treasures in Heaven-we will place treasure in their boxes. On Christmas Eve we can open the boxes and count the treasure and decide who needs the treasure we have stored. Church? A friend in need? Kids who don't have any food or gifts on Christmas? Our sponsored kids in Africa? 
> On Christmas Eve we will empty the treasure boxes and when they wake up on Christmas morning they will find little treasures in their boxes (instead of stockings). We will tell them that God wants them to have physical blessings on this earth but He really cares about their hearts and the treasures they store in Heaven. 

There you go- who knows how it will ACTUALLY go down :) but this is the idea. I know we will have fun ideas of how to make it work for our family next year. I am excited for a new tradition and a new way to focus on God and His greatest gift- JESUS CHRIST!!! 

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This is Isaiah 9:6-7 in The Message Translation- Love it! 
The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.

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