In October, I found a cute little fire car on a great sale at Amazon. Amazed, I scooped it up and hid it in my husband's closet.
A month later, I found an adorable police car on sale at Kohl's. One more large gift added to the closet.
Christmas rolled around and I couldn't figure out how to wrap them.
So, we decided to have a treasure hunt for my two-year-old and one-year-old grandson.
We couldn't give clues with words but we could with pictures.
We snapped some photos of their crib, the fireplace, and the garage. We printed them on our printer.
Then we wrapped up the photo of the crib in a little box.
Rusty and Cooper opened the box and headed to the crib where they found another photo taped to the side of the crib.
Are you looking for hope this holiday season?
Are you hoping for a brand-new start?
Do you want your failures and flaws wiped away in one sweep?
I have something important to share with you! You can have hope, a brand-new start, and your failures and flaws wiped away in one sweep.
But, wait. There’s more. You can start life over with a new heart. The old gone; the new come.
“How much does this cost?” you ask.
The answer may surprise you. It’s free! There’s no strings attached. No newsletters to sign up for. No comment to leave. No shipping to pay.
God’s gift of Eternal Life this Christmas season is FREE.
“The wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 3:23).
Those who believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved. “If you declare with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified; and it is with your mouth you profess your sin and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
"What kind of cookies are you making?" Shine asked.
"I'll pick up eggnog at Publix on the way home from work," Julianna added, grabbing her purse as she walked out of the kitchen toward the door.
Tonight was our annual Decorating the Christmas Tree Night, a tradition started our first year of marriage.
We start with a special dinner: Chicken and Dumplings, Ambrosia, and Muffins. Afterward, we do our Christmas devotions. Then, we listen to Christmas carols, eat cookies, and drink eggnog while we decorate the tree. There are treasured ornaments we pull out each year to hang on the tree. Some are handmade. Many are decades old; some handed down from grandparents.
Back in 1986, I had my first baby, a little girl named Katie-Beth. I started an ornament collection for her that first Christmas. I made one little stuffed Christmas bear for her and one for our tree. Thus, began our annual ornament tradition.
Each year I make one ornament for the tree and one for each of the children. That way when they take their ornament collection to their new homes, they will have ornaments that are exactly like the ornaments they grew up with.
Sewing, rubber stamping, embossing, cross-stitch, painting, and more crafting methods were used to create keepsake treasures. The ornaments tend to reflect whatever hobby I was into that year.
Mom and I made quilted ornaments one fall when she and Daddy visited. They were so time-consuming to make, but we enjoyed chatting and catching up on all the family news as we worked.
One year, we went and chopped down our own Christmas tree. What fun! We slice off some thin round pieces of wood from the bottom of the tree and engraved the date. Looking at that ornament brings back fond memories of that special day.
When my kids were little, I made them Scripture Memory Books out of magnetic photo albums. I wrote verses on colored card-stock and cut out magazine photos to match each verse.
It had an amazing impact on my life. As I worked on the Scripture books, my mind was saturated with the Word of God in a positive way. Years later, i had my teens create Scripture books as assignments in various Real Men and God's Girls courses where they learned about marriage, homemaking, leadership, and growing in Christ.
Now I am a grandmother and I wantto carry on the tradition so I created Scripture Memory books in Word, took them to the printer, and created nice coil-bound books. The children love them!
I make sure to use lots of photos of the child I am giving the book to in throughout the pages. Children love to see photos of themselves.
It all started with putting a bright red towel under a punch bowl to catch the spills. The lush Christmasy red towel made the punch bowl shimmer shades of red. And the table was protected! Then, of course there was the towel sale at Kohl's.
In my house, I have lots of old furniture--hand-me-downs from grandparents. These beautiful wooden end tables and dressers are easily marked up, so I keep them covered with linens (another hand-me-down from my grandparents). This Christmas, I decided to replace some of these tabletop linens with towels to add a splash of color.
I liked the bright splash of Christmas color underneath my various Christmas decorations. And the great thing? These Christmas decorations can be tossed right into the washer to be fresh and clean again.
Another thing I do with towels at Christmas is to put them under the coffee pot and the tea things in my kitchen. I love the cheery brightness the red towel brings under the tea things.
If you are looking for an easy way to add a splash of color; consider red and green towels. It's a quick, easy, and fun way to decorate.
We have resources to add fun to your Christmas:
FREE Curtis Family Christmas Devotions
Celebrate Christmas with a Traveling Dinner
Celebrate Christmas with Cookies
Celebrate Christmas with Cookies Unit Study
Celebrate Christmas in Colonial America Unit Study
My home is filled with grown children now. My oldest daughter is married and we have two grandsons. One of our favorite Christmas traditions remains our beloved Christmas Family Devotions.
We start at the story of the Angel Appearing to Zachariah and move through the entire Christmas story. It is a delight every year to remember this precious story of miracles and love, to celebrate the Birthday that divided history in two.
The Christmas story never grows old.
However, these devotions are old.
I typed them up on an electric typewriter when the children were small. A few years later, we got our first computer and I printed them on our dot matrix printer. Years flew by. I sent them to Office Depot to print several copies because all the children could read. Soon, I was sharing these simple devotions with others.
When the children were little I made a Christmas Tree out of felt and nailed it to a big bulletin board each December. After devotions, the children would put little ornaments on the tree.
We discovered the Christmas Shoebox Tradition when Samaritan's Purse started Operation Christmas Child. The ministry asked people to fill shoeboxes for needy children around the world. My children and I gathered up small toys, toothbrushes, and candy to give to one child. We chose "boy or girl?" and age range.
The shoebox tradition was a great way to involve my children in giving to others while getting to do something they enjoyed: shopping for toys! As the children grew older, I found myself filling the shoebox alone because my children found other ways to give and serve at Christmas.
This year, I decided to fill the Shoebox with my grandson Rusty who is two years old. We went to the Dollar Store together and filled the cart with small toys. We collected toy dinosaurs, balls, stickers, jungle animals, an etch-a-sketch, and a slinky. Now, of course, Rusty came home with some of his own toys, but we had the joy of shopping for others together. I hope it's a new tradition we will continue.
500 years ago on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Whittenberg Door. He was protesting some of the things church leaders were doing in his day like selling forgiveness and elevating human traditions above the Word of God.
You see, Martin Luther tried desperately to do enough to be right with God. He struggled with guilt and agonized over his standing before God. One day, while studying the Scriptures, he came across this phrase: "The Just Shall Live By Faith." It changed his life! He realized that Christ had done it all! He just had to receive grace and forgiveness! Wow!
Once he understood this truth, he just had to speak out!
You see, the Roman Catholic Church was in a terrible state. It's hard for us to imagine because the Roman Catholic Church today is not in the same place. In those days, men could buy an office in the church so many non-Christians were in important posts. But even then, many godly men and women were serving in the church as priests, abbots, nuns, and monks. Their hearts were grieved.
The Reformers (Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale) were all members of the Roman Catholic Church. They did not want to live it; they wanted mess cleaned up. Unfortunately, the clean-up did not come in time and now we have many denominations today.
However, we can look back to the Reformation and be grateful for the return to biblical teaching on Salvation, Grace, Faith, and the Authority of Scripture. The Reformation brought us the Five Solas.
The Five Solas
Her dear "Lotus Buds of Dohnavur" called her "Amma" which means mother in India. Amy Carmichael rescued children from miserable lives as slaves in Hindu temples, living each day to serve her beloved Savior and to spread His love around India.
Amy Carmichael was born into a godly Christian home in Ireland. But she wasn't completely happy. You see, she wanted blue eyes, but no matter how hard she prayed, those brown eyes would not go away. Years later, as she moved throughout the nation of India rescuing children, she would be grateful for her brown eyes. Blue eyes would have made it hard to hide herself in the crowd.
Amy had a life-changing event with Jesus when she was fifteen and from that time on, a passion burned within her soul to reach the lost and stir believers to greater passion for Christ. She started Bible studies for mill worker girls.
Everybody loves a hero! As Christians, we are blessed with a long line of men and women who followed Jesus with all their hearts, making a difference in the world around them!
What a heritage we have!
Apostle Paul, Athanasius, St. Augustine, Pope Gregory, Caedmon, St. Frances, St. Patrick, John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Lady Jane Grey, John Knox, William Wilberforce, John Newton, Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, George Mueller, David Livingstone, Billy Graham, Edith Schaeffer, Jim Eliot, and Brother Andrew come to my mind. They were mighty men and women who changed the world!
From the early Christians who risked their lives to serve Christ to missionaries in the 21st Century who are reaching unreached people groups in the 10/40 Window, there are so many Christian heroes I want my children to learn about. I came up with a really fun idea to teach my children about church history in celebratory way!
We started having Heroes for Jesus Parties. My children loved them! As they got older, they started playing the Christian heroes themselves at the Heroes for Jesus Party.
Would you like to have your own Heroes for Jesus Party?
Adam and Seth had died. The earth was filling up. Wicked deeds and sinister plots abounded. The Lord was sad He had made mankind. He would need to start over. Only one man and his family on the entire planet was seeking to live for Him. He would destroy the earth, but save Noah and his family. God gave instructions to Noah and this righteous family built a huge ship. While the men worked on the ark, Noah preached to anyone who would listen. He begged people to turn away from their sin and follow God.
In the midst of an evil world, God had a hero.
Centuries later, in the evil city of Ur where men worshiped demons and lived for pleasure, God called a man out, to follow Him. He wanted to start a nation and through that nation bring a Messiah. Abraham walked with God. He left his family home with his wife and nephew to live in the land his descendants would inhabit.
In a wicked world, one man stood alone to serve his God.
One of our favorite events each year is our Heroes for Jesus Party.
We gather together to celebrate Christian heroes from the past who have been world changers. We move from station to station to meet this year's heroes, listen to their monologues, and play a game or do an activity. Everyone has a blast!
Would you like to visit Lottie Moon's station. Here we go!
"Come on in, ya'll and sit down," "Lottie" greets us. A young single woman in the church is dressed up as a southern belle from the 1800's. She tells her story. It was hard enough to get on the mission field in those days as a single woman. Once she managed to get to China, people didn't want to hear what she had to say.
What could she do?
She started baking cookies!
Cookies? Yes, you read that right.
Pope Gregory (circa 540-604) was born after the Roman Empire had collapsed, but had a illustrious family history and was born into a noble family. He was the great-great grandfather was Pope Felix III (serving before popes took vows of celibacy) and his father was a senator and Prefect of Rome. He had aunts that were nuns and his parents joined the cloisters later in their lives.
Gregory grew up in a very wealthy family. They owned lavish homes on the island of Sicily, providing a comfortable income. Gregory excelled at his studies, especially law. He became a Prefect of Rome. That meant he was the chief administrator of the city. He was responsible for police, public works, administration, and finances. It was a hard job and Gregory excelled.
After his father died, he had the family villa in Rome converted to a monastery, San Gregorio Magno al Celio. You can visit it today if you go to Italy. Gregory became a monk and lived a quiet life of contemplation and prayer. These were the happiest years of Gregory’s life. During these years, he spent hours and hours studying the Scriptures in great detail. He devoted himself to fasting to the point that it affected his health.
Monk Gregory dressed simply and gave up all his worldly possessions. He lived a simple life and planned to do so the rest of his life. That was not to be.
Born to a devout peasant family in Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), John Huss, or Jan Hus, (1369-1415) was ordained in a priest in 1401. He taught at Charles University and preached at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague.
A follower of John Wycliffe of England, John meticulously copied Wycliffe’s works that found their way to Bohemia. This was, of course before the printing press was invented. Like Wycliffe, he emphasized the Bible as central to life and doctrine for the church. He lived of life of purity and devotion to Jesus.
John Huss could not figure out why Jesus washed the disciples feet, but folks kissed the pope’s feet. Or why Jesus walked barefoot and had no home to call his own, but the pope lived in luxury, wearing fine clothes. He was also horrified that the pope and other high church officials were indulging in sexual immorality.
The archbishop of Prague told Pastor Huss to stop preaching and burn all Wycliffe’s books. Huss refused and began to preach against indulgences. Not surprisingly, the pope excommunicated John. However, that wasn’t all—the pope excommunicated the entire city so no-one could receive the sacraments. People were upset! Hus left Prague, but continued to preach out in churches that invited him, as well as outside in fields. Common peasants flocked to hear him preach.