The Christmas holidays can be a stressful time for many. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of family get togethers, church functions, work parties, and the shopping, wrapping, and everything else this time of year distracts us with. We can very easily lose sight of what’s important – letting God’s light shine through us during this special time of year.
While we can start within our own families, we can also spread love and joy to others around us that aren’t a part of our families, too. The Bible even gives us a command to love one another:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –John 13: 34-35
Here are some simple ideas for showing the love of Jesus this holiday season.
#1. Invite Friends & Family to Church Activities
You probably have both family and friends who do not attend church regularly or even at all. This time of year is when non-church goers are more open to attending. Even if you’ve invited them recently and they’ve said no, reach out and extend the invitation to attend with you again. Just remember, if they say 'no', don’t get irritated with them and try lecturing them about why they should go. Let it be and just continue praying for them.
#2. Lunch/Brunch/Dinner After Church
Do you know of someone elderly, young family, or someone living alone that is having a hard time? Whether it be job loss, death, financial struggle, or anything else someone could be struggling with, take time to reach out and invite them to a meal out after church.
This is a great way to get to know others you may not normally have the opportunity to get to know. Love on them, not just by paying for their meal but by listening and being present. Ask them about their lives and engage in conversation with them. Don’t prod, let them lead and open up as they feel led. Ask if you can pray over them before parting ways and then do so.
There are so many opportunities to volunteer. Check for local resources such as visiting elderly in a nursing home, visiting sick children in the hospital, helping at a soup kitchen, adopting a family in need and making sure they have gifts under the tree, food on the table and a message about God’s love. These are just a few ideas to get you started thinking.
#4. Give Homemade Treats
As you’re doing your regular baking this holiday season, make some extra goodies. Put them in a decorative tin and take to your neighbors. Drop some off at the local police department or fire station. Giving homemade treats is a fun and easy way to share love with others, especially those that are often forgotten.
#5. Be Helpful
If you’re at a holiday gathering offer to help in the kitchen or see what else the host needs your help with. Not everyone likes help, especially in their kitchen, but just making the offer goes a long way. You can also ask if they need you to bring anything. Once the meal is over, offer to help cleanup or better yet don’t offer just start doing.
#6. Send A Package to Our Troops
Let’s never forget about all the men and women who serve our country to give us the freedom we have to celebrate. Holidays can be a very difficult time for them as they are away from family and friends and sometimes can’t even call home! Put a smile on their faces and show them they’re loved and not forgotten this holiday by sending a care package.
(Yep... affiliate links are included which means, if you buy through me, I get some coffee money ... though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
The door slammed open and my young grandson hurtled over to his mum, slid to a stop and then eagerly bounced from one foot to the other. His little feet dripped small puddles on the floor, his hair was wet and mud splatters decorated his shirt and his cheek. He looked very excited, very wet, and very impatient and I struggled to contain my laughter.
"Mum! Mum! Could you please roll up my toe sleeves? Quick, quick!"
Really? Toe sleeves? It's priceless. Where do they come up with these expressions?
These sorts of family moments are magic. They're unexpected. If you blink, you'll miss them. And they add fun and delight to a mother's exhausting day.
But they're over so quickly and often forgotten within the whirlwind of daily life. And, as you collapse on the lounge in the evening, it's the tiring, mundane issues that tend to linger in the thoughts rather than the small moments that matter... unless you spend a bit of time with a journal.
I'm here to tell you that developing a daily journaling habit is truly worthwhile.
But I know what your'e thinking... 'I can't write. I'm too tired to add that to my daily to-do list. I don't know what to write about. What's the point?'
Well.... let me answer just a few of those concerns. :)
Five Reasons to Keep a Gratitude Journal
I expect you've often been told to be thankful for what you have when something awful happens. I know.. it sounds trite. But research has shown that being thankful actually is a beneficial habit. Keeping a gratitude journal is an increasingly popular tool used by those seeking to improve themselves.
So, here are five ways that keeping a gratitude journal will improve your focus and your attitude to daily living:
1. Changing Thought Patterns
Studies have shown a strong mind-body connection. When we are feeling stressed, anxious or another negative emotion it can have a negative effect on our physical health. By considering those things, events or people you are thankful for you are creating positive thoughts and feelings which will help reduce stress levels. It will also remind you that whatever happens to you there is always something for which you'll feel grateful.
Your commitment to your gratitude journal refocuses your mind on positive events, conversations and relationships. This enables you to see more than just those negative ones that tend to fill your mind and dominate your thoughts when they happen.
Another way your thought patterns will change is that you will find that you start pushing boundaries and removing limiting beliefs. This will happen as you not only keep your gratitude journal but also review it. You will find that your mind opens to new possibilities and you gain in self-confidence and knowledge.
2. Improve Your Health
The fact that there is a mind-body connection means that by focusing on positive thoughts and feelings in your gratitude journal you are helping to improve your physical and mental health. Studies have shown that regular gratitude journaling can:
3. Create Optimism
Some days it's just too hard to see the wood for the trees. You'll find yourself focusing on something that has upset you and that troublesome thought will nag away at you constantly. Taking some time to sit quietly and think about something you are grateful for will help reduce the negative thoughts and feelings and replace them with positive ones.
4. Improved Sleep
Regardless of whether you feel the need for eight hours sleep each night your body and mind do require a regular amount of sleep each night for optimal mental and physical health. Keeping a gratitude journal is fun, calming and a positive activity that promotes happy thoughts and feelings. By replacing worry and stress, you can sleep more peacefully and have happier dreams.
5. It's Fun
Keeping a gratitude journal should be a fun, enjoyable experience; something you look forward to. It doesn't matter whether you use a plain notebook or a really fancy one, you can jazz it up by using different colored pens or pencils, or even decorating the pages.
To begin with, why not grab yourself a beautiful pen for your work? Along with a renewed interest in al things retro has been a trend towards using a fountain pen for writing. Many consider that using a fountain pen actually improves their penmanship.There are online courses that teach calligraphy and lettering skills that you might like to consider, too. They're a lot of fun!
Of course, there are plenty of journal apps that you might like to consider. They are convenient and have the advantage of being able to include a photo/s of your day's activities. But although I've tried, and loved, using a journal app on my device I still prefer using pen and paper for my journaling. It seems to help me relax and reflect on my day.
Use a loose-leaf binder
I love using a simple loose-leaf binder for my journaling. My journal is included in my life planner and I use a folder divider to keep the journaling pages separate. It's always open as I work through my day and, with just a quick flick of a few pages, I can jot down a note or perhaps add a quirky little comment from one of my grandkids that I don't want to forget. Then I can complete the day's journal when I relax in the evening.
Don't feel pressured to write huge screeds of content for your daily journal, either. If you just manage a few lines, or a paragraph, that's fine.
Amazing journal kit
With that in mind, I've created an ongoing monthly pack that is inexpensive, downloadable for instant access, and provides creative inspiration for your daily journal. You can find more information about it below...
Journal kits are available monthly and include:
* Themed quote poster. Full colour print with quote to print, frame and display
* Calendar for the month to add special dates and highlights of the month
* Daily journal prompts as inspiration for your journaling
* Fun words to use in your journal entries during the month
* Journal pages to print multiple copies for your daily journal (and colour if you wish)
If you want to create a positive change in yourself and your life, then keeping a gratitude journal may just be the tool you are looking for. It's cheap, easy and very beneficial to your physical and mental health.
Disclosure: At Grandma's Place is committed to high standards of integrity and quality. I do not promote any brand I do not believe meets these standards, and I only promote brands I would purchase myself. If I don't love it, and don't think you'll love it, it won't appear on my blog.
Counting down to Christmas is always so much fun.. especially for kids. And an Advent Calendar really helps to make that lead-up time to Christmas more tangible, more comprehensible. It also means that you don't have to answer the ongoing question, "How long until Christmas? When can we unwrap all the presents?"
Why use an Advent calendar?
Sure, an advent calendar looks great as part of your festive decorations as you gradually add, day by day, to the finished calendar. It can add to the Christmas fun. It can be used to keep the focus of Christmas on the birth of the Saviour. And, depending on your choice of calendar, it can help your kids focus on the joy of giving and serving others, too.
What do I need to consider when choosing an advent calendar?
Well, there are plenty of commercially prepared advent calendars. Some would make lovely gift ideas for friends or family. Some commercially prepared advent calendars present small gifts for each day leading up to Christmas. Some are simple thin boxes with perforated windows with a hidden recess for a small chocolate for each day leading up to Christmas. Others are books with windows or flaps to reveal something of the nativity story as Christmas approaches.
Create a family tradition- your own advent calendar
An advent calendar is even more meaningful if you can make it yourself and personalise it as a family legacy. The treats and activities created for and added to your advent calendar can revolve around the interests, activities and favourite choices of your family.
And you can create variations for each year.
So, here are a number of such suggestions listed below that you might like to consider.
The Dainty Bauble Advent Calendar (find the link for this advent calendar below) is easy to print and create. Use the back of the decoration to either: a. write a Scripture verse on the reverse b.include a fun activity c. provide instructions or clues to find a hidden treat or d. include all ideas.
You might decide to just attach a small wrapped chocolate or treat to the reverse of the decoration. Or you may keep it simple and glue a second copy of the decoration to the reverse for extra strength and durability.
However you decide to personalise it, this advent calendar combines the elegance of the past with the energy and minimalism of the future. It's sure to become a family treasure.
What you'll need:
*Download and print the files for the 25 decorations. (Print onto a good quality card. You might also want to consider a good parchment or linen textured card.)
*silver cording for the hanger and perhaps paper clips.
* double-sided tape and normal tape.
*small Christmas tree that will look attractive on the table or side table.
1. Download, print and cut out each of the 25 advent calendar decorations. Use a good quality card and it looks even better if it has a light texture. Print and cut out a second copy if you intend to back each decoration with its twin. It means that it looks great even if the wind blows the decoration to reveal the back. Leave the back blank if you intend writing something on the back or attaching a small treat.
2. Cut a hole in each tab and thread a small piece of silver cord through the hole as the hanger.
3. If you prefer to have a hanger that's a big more substantial (especially if your kids will be hanging the decorations) you might like to use a paper clip for each decoration. Just tape the paper clip on the back with the loop just visible above the rim of the decoration.
Use a second copy of the decoration and attach on the back to cover the taped paper clip. I used double-sided tape. it's just a bit neater. Sometimes glue can cause the card to slightly buckle. Now slip a piece of thin cord through the loop of the paper clip as the hanger.
4. You don't have to add anything else but if you want, you can write a Scripture verse on the back or a clue to where to find the day's treat. You can also decide on a fun activity for each day: sing your favourite Christmas carol, go out for ice-cream, decorate a gingerbread cottage.. If you don't want to add that info on the back of the decoration, just use slips of paper with the activity or treat written on each piece. Pop all of the papers into a small bucket or container. Your kids can reach in and choose one each day to read and complete.
5. Set up your small tabletop Christmas tree and start adding one decoration each day leading up to Christmas Day. I found an inexpensive tree at Kmart for about $10. There was a lovely natural-looking bare tree at another store but it was expensive. I think you could make something similar with a good sized branch set into a pot of plaster of Paris.
So.. that's about it.... pretty simple... and you can check out the summary slideshow below.
Oh... and you can find a FREE pair of Christmas decorations to download and print for your own Christmas tree. Normally, these vintage-inspired decorations would cost $4.95 but they're free for you to download, print and use. See below.
Here are some more ideas that you might like to consider.
FocusontheFamily has produced a free advent calendar, O Holy Night, plus instructions for an advent wreath.
Download and print the calendar. Then highlight each day leading up to Christmas with a character from the nativity story plus a Scripture reading and devotion. Beginning December 3, your advent calendar builds a nativity scene with the daily characters from the advent calendar.
You'll also find a suggestion for creating an advent wreath to remind your family of God's never-ending faithfulness.
Find it here...
Share the love advent calendar: this resource from iMom focuses on building a legacy of giving with your family.
Each day you'll find sweet and selfless ideas to help your kids experience real Christmas joy through the spirit of giving.
Find it here..
This Christmas countdown is also a puzzle and provides a daily treat and activity idea.
Download the printable calendar. Then use the instructions to create an advent calendar that must be assembled day-by-day to reveal a beautiful Christmas decor piece. On the back of each card, you'll hide a treat and an activity.
Find it here...
This advent pack includes 5 weeks of family devotions that focus on a different carol each week.
There are 5 colouring pages that combine to tell the story of Jesus' birth and the advent calendar with fun family activities.
Instructions for creating and illustrated advent wreath with paper candles complete the fun family advent pack.
Find it here...
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.