Christian Valentines

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Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it. Despite my indifference toward the Hallmark holiday, my kids ADORE it. (Balance Time Day, according to my daughter at 2 years old.) I like to use their infatuation as a tool to reinforce the gigantic love of God – and help them pass it on to their little friends.

Here are some Christian Valentines ideas!

christian valentines

 

These beautiful cards are downloadable from Etsy so you can print as many as you want once you buy the file.

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Sweet, free printable Valentines from RachelWojo.com. Link goes directly to the printable PDF.

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I am IN LOVE with these little Valentines from Etsy seller Cherry Berry Design. You can download them for $6 and print on cardstock.

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Take inspiration from Grace Elizabeth’s and make your own beautiful cards with Scripture.

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These lovely printable hearts with Scripture from 1 Corinthians are free and gorgeous! What a beautiful little gift for your spouse.

How do you emphasize God’s love on Valentine’s Day?

5 Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

Do you still make cookies at Christmas? Fudge? Other family favorites? There is something in me that just feels like I MUST bake cookies in December. Two years ago – since I was pregnant last year – I made cookies for weeks. Our kitchen overflowed with red velvet crinkles, chocolate chips, and iced sugar cookies.

When I was growing up, we spent a whole Saturday make cut-out cookies and decorating them precisely – from reindeer to stars to, on occasion, a dinosaur in a Santa hat or Bob the Tomato. I try to carry on this tradition with my children, too. I think my daughter is to the phase now that she’ll really have fun this year!

Here are my favorite Christmas goodies to make. Share yours in the comments!

christmas cookies

 

 

He Sets the Lonely in Families

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My family moved to Richmond, Virginia, when I was 8 years old – quite far away from where my parents grew up and where all of our extended family lived. Dayton, Ohio, was a LONG trek now, and with two little kids my parents decided we’d go for Thanksgiving OR Christmas.

One of those first Christmases we were in Virginia alone, I remember a strange guest around our Christmas tree: my dad’s work friend, who had recently had a broken engagement and was suffering heartbreak. We loved having him among us, and he gifted me with my very first (and only) Paula Abdul cassette tape, for which I will be forever grateful to him.

Fast forward a good deal of years, and I am 22. It is my first married Christmas, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee, far away from my own parents and even my husband’s. I started a job in customer service on November 1, leaving me with no vacation time and the inability to take any even if I had it, due to the nature of service jobs.

I cried in my office one day over the injustice of it all. Christmas had always been steeped in tradition for my little family unit and the thought of those traditions continuing without me was enough to make me physically ill. I wanted my mommy.

Lo and behold, one of my motherly co-workers invited me and my new husband into her home for Christmas Day. They made us feel like family, let us hold the new babies and pet the dogs and call Miss Sheila’s elderly mama “Grandmother” like they did. It wasn’t my family … but it was enough. And it was a blessing.

So here is my holiday advice: don’t get so wrapped up in your own family unit that you don’t see the hurting, lonely people around you during the holidays. What’s one more mouth to feed at your  buffet? Bless others by taking them into your family and loving them. It will set a wonderful example for your children and who knows … you might be entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2).

When Jessie Weaver is not busy being the resident ParentLife Blogger, she writes at Vanderbilt Wife and also for magazines like HomeLife and ParentLife. She lives in Chattanooga with her husband, where they run after three little ones (ages 5, almost 3, and 8 months). 

 

This post originally published December 13, 2011. 

Preparing for Advent

I know, I know. I don’t want to skip over Thanksgiving! I love it! But if you want to make a meaningful experience for your children this December, it might take some prepping.

I wanted to share with you my two favorite Advent activities that I’ve been doing with my (little) kids the past few years.

 

 

My lovely friend Amanda has such a heart for helping parents reach their kids for Christ. A few years ago, she wrote this e-book called Truth in the Tinsel. It’s an Advent experience: a 25-day guide with Scripture, crafts, activities, and application to help you tell your child the whole Christmas story – from Isaiah and the prophecies to the cross.

You can see my personal post about it here. But I just have to tell you how much my daughter enjoys this. I think this year, now that she’s 5, it will be even better. The Bible stories and truths are really starting to sink into her little heart. And I think Truth in the Tinsel is one of the best ways to fight back against secular Christmas. Make your focus Jesus … not presents.

{I love Amanda’s FAQ post if you have any questions about it!}

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Last year I also put together a list of 25 Jesus-centered Christmas books on my own blog. I wrapped each one in Christmas paper. Last year, each night in December the kids picked one book to unwrap and read. They thought this was the BEST THING EVER, and I loved the time reading together and again, reinforcing the true meaning of Christmas.

I would really urge you to take December as yours as a parent. Refuse to go to every party and event if you need to. Spend the holidays impressing Scripture and truth on your child’s heart, so you can emerge from December refreshed and in awe of God’s great work through Christ.

 

Mother’s Day Cards and Crafts

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching (it’s May 12!), you might want to guide your kids to make cards or small gifts for their moms and grandmothers. (Pssst, Dad, that means you.) Here are a few fun ideas to run with!

scrapbook paper flowers

These flowers are made from scrapbook paper. My daughter painted the paper (not necessary, just gave her something to do!); then we cut it into different-sized circles and layered them. Libbie (4) glued everything in place and drew the stems and leaves. You can use pom-poms, flat marbles, sequins, or buttons for the flower centers. We found the idea at Hands On As We Grow. These would be perfect to grace the front of a Mother’s Day card or to use as framed artwork for Mom or Grandma.

handprint art

No one will love your child’s artwork more than his or her grandparents. Hand and footprint crafts are especially sweet and preserve a memory of a specific time in your child’s life! I have a whole Pinterest board full of ideas for hand and footprint artwork. Make one on a painted canvas for Grandma!

These tulips painted with forks would be a fun and cute painting for the front of a card.

One last idea – how cute are these pool noodle flowers?

The Doggie in the Window by Kristen White

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Have your kids been begging for a pet? Christmas is an exciting time to bless our children, and you may be thinking about finally giving in to their request. Here are some things to consider before adopting a new pet:

  • Timing. If you want to travel during the holidays—or if you travel frequently—think about the expense and complication of boarding a pet. Do you have a reliable pet care center in town? Are your children old and responsible enough to help with day-to-day pet-care chores? Are you considering another baby, a move, or a decision that would affect the long-term care of your pet? It is better not to get a pet and give him up later than to have one for just a little while.
  • Type. If your kids long for a pet, and a dog or cat is out of the question due to allergies, lifestyle, or other reasons, consider some kind of small, inexpensive friend, such as a hamster, guinea pig, or fish. If a dog or cat is on your horizon, consider not only the cost of the pet, but also the cost of shots, food, tick and flea medication, hygiene items, and other incidentals. Be aware that specialty pets, such as ferrets, rabbits, and de-scented skunks, can require a higher level of care and expense than cats and dogs. Read, ask questions, and be informed before you choose your pet.
  • Training. If you’ve narrowed down a special breed of dog or cat, ask for references of breeders, shelters, trainers, and vets.

Pets are one of the greatest sources of companionship and joy in life, but it is important to be informed before making a decision.

 

Kristen White enjoys writing, being in the kitchen, and teaching sixth graders at First Baptist Church Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Christmas Break Training 101: Making Yours a Success by Erin MacPherson

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source: seandereilinger

We love the idea of using Christmas break as a time to “train” your kids. I wrote about sleep training my daughter during Christmas break in December‘s article “Sleep Tight.” Whether you’re sleep training, potty training, moving your kid to a big-boy bed, or training your kids to eat something other than chicken nuggets, setting aside a dedicated time to do it is a great way to make sure you end up with a fully-trained (or at least mostly trained) kid.

Here are six tips to make sure your Christmas break training is a success.

  • Read up on the strategies. Before you even think about training your kid to do anything, check out a couple books from the library or ask good ole’ Mr. Google what other parents have done right … and wrong.
  • Know your kid. You know what makes your kid tick, and you know how he is going to respond to the training, so trust your instincts and come up with a plan that works for you and your family.
  • Write down your plan. If you’re sleep training, write down who is going to get up when and under what circumstances. If you’re potty training, plan how you’re going to do it and decide who is on “potty” duty when.
  • Get your supplies. Make sure you’ve stocked up on everything you need—stickers, books, caffeinated beverages for you—before the break starts.
  • Talk it up. Start talking about how excited you are about training early on. Trust us: If you’re excited about it, your kid will be excited about it.
  • Don’t let setbacks get you down. There are always accidents. You will have setbacks, and that’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.

Erin MacPherson is an author, blogger, and mom to three preschoolers. She blogs at www.christianmamasguide.com.

Strategies for Reducing Stress During the Holidays by Marianne Neifert

Remember that your own stress level and emotional state are readily transferred to your child. Lower your expectations for the “perfect” Christmas holiday and be prepared to “go with the flow” when your child’s needs call for flexibility. Keep her emotional tank full during the holiday season by scheduling daily one-on-one time to play, read, or do an activity together.

Shorten the Countdown

An extended period of anticipation can feel overwhelming to a young child. Consider waiting until mid-December to begin your holiday decorating or to use an Advent Calendar to track the days until Christmas. To defuse children’s mounting excitement about presents, let them open a few smaller gifts during the countdown to Christmas.

Don’t Make Santa Your December Disciplinarian

The anticipation, bustle of activity, and excessive stimulation during the weeks preceding Christmas already create stress and anxiety for children. Threatening that Santa will bring fewer presents if your child misbehaves only adds to the pressure and worry she feels, and ultimately proves to be an empty threat. Don’t abdicate your essential parenting role of consistently enforcing your rules and limits for appropriate behavior year-round.

Allow Children to Let off Steam

Arrange opportunities for your child to be physically active each day by playing outdoors or visiting an indoor children’s play center.

Schedule Some Quiet Time

Periodically allow your child to retreat and unwind from the excitement of holiday festivities by watching a favorite DVD or playing quietly with arts and crafts or Play-Doh.

Don’t Force Children to Sit on Santa’s Lap

While parents relish the time-honored photo of their youngster happily smiling on Santa’s lap, young children often perceive Santa as strange and scary and may violently recoil at the idea of being held by him. While waiting in line at the mall, show your child exactly what will happen if she chooses to greet Santa. If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.

Do you find your children to be a little stressed during the holidays? How do you schedule downtime while still participating in traditions?
Marianne Neifert, M.D., M.T.S., also known as Dr. Mom, is a well-known pediatrician, professional speaker, and author. Visit her web site, www.dr-mom.com.

Real Life Solutions: Divorce and the Holidays

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We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

 

 

Q: My husband and I are divorced. Last Christmas was our first year apart, and the holidays were a nightmare. This year, we want to minimize the stress on our two young children during the holidays. What can we do to help them and have less fighting this year?

A: Both of you need to be respectful to each other at all times and stay calm and relaxed so as not to pass along stress to your children. Children can feel parental stress, but they don’t know how to cope with it. Whatever issues you fought about last year, talk about them ahead of time and try to come to agreement on those issues. Next, make sure the children see both parents during the holiday time. Work out a schedule before the season begins and stick to your plans. It helps to post a calendar for the children to see the plans on paper.

If your children are going to both homes on Christmas Eve and Day, stick to the pick-up and drop off times. Tell them to have a great time as you drop them off; sometimes kids need permission to have fun with the other parent. Encourage them to give you a few highlights of time with the other parent, but don’t prod for information.

Finally, build in some down time. Kids need rest and time to enjoy their new gifts. Take the time and make every effort to drop unimportant issues during this time of year. If you and your ex approach the holidays with a positive attitude, this will be passed on to your children.

How do you deal with holidays if you are divorced or separated?

Turning Holiday Service into Gospel Opportunities by Tobin Perry

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source: alessandropinna

The holiday season is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year to serve others. Your family will have no shortage of opportunities―whether it’s within your church, a local service organization, or another community group.

Yet it’s also an easy time to meet physical needs and ignore spiritual ones, if you are not intentional about sharing Jesus. Here are a few tips to help your family take advantage of gospel opportunities when you serve.

  1. Pray. Ask God to open up opportunities to tell people about Jesus―and expect Him to answer your prayer! Gather together as a family to pray for several nights before the service opportunity.
  2. Talk with your kids about your desire to see people come to Christ. Let your kids know the ultimate goal of holiday service is to introduce those you’re serving to Jesus.
  3. Work hard. When serving others, your family’s first witness comes before you ever open your mouth. What does your family’s effort tell others about the God you’re serving?
  4. Be a listener and be observant. Pay attention to those you’re serving and those you’re serving with and listen for opportunities to share the gospel. Model this for your kids.
  5. Know your story. In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, try to make sure each member of your family (in their own way and at their own level) can answer this question: Why are you serving us in this manner? Be ready with the story of your journey with God. Service opportunities aren’t typically the time for full-fledged apologetics discussions, but they are perfect opportunities to share your testimony. Be ready to share a short version though (maybe as short as one minute), so you’re not spending more time talking than serving!
  6. Serve freely. Never be so boorish about sharing the gospel that those you are serving think you are doing so in order to win them to Christ or invite them to church. Just be ready for the opportunities God gives you. He’ll provide!

Turning service opportunities into missions opportunities for your family doesn’t have to be scary. Just keep your eyes open!

Tobin Perry serves as the online editor for On Mission magazine at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia. He and his wife, Charissa, live in Woodstock, Georgia, with their three children―all under the age of 6!