Three Tips for Thriving Through This Christmas Season

December is here. 

We’re gearing up for the Christmas season.

Are you worn out already?

Are your kids in meltdown mode?

Are your triggers and your kids triggers causing chaos in your home?

I hear you. I know. It’s hard. Everyone else seems to be having the Pinterest perfect Christmas season. The tree is decorated, cookies made, lights hung outside, and you are just trying to get your child to regulate. I’ve lived there.

When we first brought our four home through adoption, they had never experienced an American Christmas while their new siblings had. Twenty-five days of building up to something was too much stress on their little bodies. Too many new people. Too many new traditions. 

Some Practical Suggestions

Simplify but don’t give up on your traditions.

It’s tempting to give up on traditions because your kiddos are overwhelmed by them. Instead of giving them up, simplify. It’s okay to pare back. Not go to every party. Not go caroling because your kids don’t know what a carol is. Just don’t give up on them altogether. To help my kiddos learn some carols, I bought a book and we sang a Christmas carol every night after our advent reading. Many times the kids were silent or sang “blah blah blah” sorts of sounds to the rhythm. It was okay. They learned carols. They know carols today. The biggest mistake parents tend to make is to give up and give in when kids “Don’t want to” which is code for “I don’t know how to do that” or “I’m scared out of my wits.” 

Involve your kids in the practice of celebrating Christmas.

If you are like I used to be, you want to do everything yourself because it is easier. You decorate the tree. Make the cookies, shoo the kids out of the kitchen because it’s less messy. Don’t. If you want kids to practice the habit of celebration, let them help. Let me rephrase that. Require them to be present and help in some way, even if the kiddos say, “That’s stupid!” One of the issues humans struggle with is doing something they are not competent in. It’s universal. I remember when my kids didn’t know how to hook the bulb and hang it on the tree. Heck, I remember when I didn’t know how. Be patient. These are moments of connection. It’s tempting to say, “You’re doing that all wrong!” or “Just let me do that!” Resist the temptation. Show the kids how to do it. Expect some things to be broken. Expect there to be icing and sprinkles on the floor. It’s okay. It will clean up, sweep up, but broken spirits take longer to heal. 

Don’t expect your kids to understand the real meaning of Christmas. 

Daughter Ania and I hopped into the car after an evening of Christmas shopping at Ikea. Siri decided to send us in circles before putting on the interstate and gave us a three hour drive time for our ninety minute trip. Was that her idea of a joke? Half an hour down the road we hit snow and bumper to bumper traffic. Huge rigs pulled on the side of the road to avoid the slip and slide routine going on with cars. We snailed our way along singing Christmas songs with Pentatonix (we do the sound effects in the background perfectly) and laughing until tears streamed down our cheeks. Oh… Christmas, we love you. We arrived home safe and sound two and a half hours later, tired, and happy. How did you know Siri?


Or better yet, did Mary know? (Mom joke). Really, what does this have to do with kids knowing the meaning of Christmas? Lots.

You see, we sometimes over-spiritualize Christmas. Do you hear me serious sister?  As Moms, we are constantly reminding ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas and in a parallel universe, checking off a to do list like a maniac:

  • 
WRAP PRESENTS ☑

  • ORDER LAST MINUTE FROM AMAZON ☑
  • 
MAKE PIE ☑

  • RUN OUT FOR STOCKING STUFFERS ☑

  • CLEAN☑


And when our children ask for time, tire from activities, walk around in sugar comas and meltdown, we Moms despair of our kids ever understanding the true meaning of Christmas.  When the kids play with the plastic nativity scene and have Mary duke it out with Joseph, and the wisemen, we may wonder if they will ever “get it.”

Do we get Christmas?


BUT- AND THIS IS A BIG BUT…..
Do we get it?


If we do and we live consistently, acting on that belief, then they WILL get it. It won’t be a shopping trip to IKEA and driving home in snow. It will be Christmas.

How many of us don’t really meditate on the real meaning of Christmas every moment of the Advent season? How often do we get sidetracked into buying the perfect gift, keeping up with the neighbors and their extravagant Christmas decorations. We run out and buy more. Scour Pinterest and Instagram for the perfect table setting (guilty and fun!) It’s okay. We’re human. As long as we don’t overspend or make those things idols. The point is, all of our practices are confusing to kiddos, especially ones who have never celebrated Christmas the way we have. We each have Christmas ideals. We want kids to be thankful that Jesus left his place in heaven to born a baby. What does that mean to them and how often do we emulate our inner ideal? 

This is not a guilt or condemnation fest. It’s just a reminder that even if we know the true meaning of Christmas, we don’t always show it in outward ways. We practice traditions, ceremonies, and read Advent readings that have a deep meaning for us. Our kiddos don’t have the same deep meaning for things yet. It’s okay. Don’t stress over it. 

Christmas isn’t a day, well…..it is, a day we Christians picked to celebrate the birth of our Savior. I won’t get into all the theology. Christmas is a belief that God came to earth as a human babe. He left his throne and God-form to set up His kingdom on earth, not for a day- but for eternity.

When we live in accordance with that kingdom-

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

-Matthew 6:33

When we live with this in mind and action, knowing He works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will.

God sent His son to checkmate satan, to turn the tide in the game, to take us from the course and fashion of this world, take control back from the prince of the power of the air and establish His kingdom in our hearts and on the earth.

Kids aren’t going to respect Christmas because we put up a tree or purchased the perfect presents.

They aren’t going to act like angelic beings because we celebrate some man made traditions. However, they are going to watch us. If our actions are consistent with our beliefs, they will get it.

Just don’t expect them to float around singing the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus unless you are!

Your children will get it, if you live it. It is a process. It takes time. You weren’t born with wisdom and understanding. Neither are they. We understand in part. They understand in bits. Wait for it.

I hope these tips help you thrive this Christmas season. How would you like a tip for each day of the Advent season? Grab a copy of:


Available at:

Alibris
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million

25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas: An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Families, provides an insightful, practical and encouraging resource for parents navigating the advent season. The book fills a void for adoptive and foster families as to ideas and guidance of not just surviving the Christmas season with children who have come from different backgrounds/experiences but to “thriving” during the season. With applicable daily Scripture readings to practical suggestions, this tool for helping families will become an annual tradition!

After you grab your copy, make sure to sign up for the free e-course to accompany the book! Click on the photo to see the course and watch the video explaining the course.


Three Tips for Thriving Through the Holidays

Every year the calendar flips to December and we Moms hit the ground with skis on and head down the slope to things to do and places to be before that magic goal day on the calendar, December 25th. We don’t want to just survive the holidays, we want to thrive!

1. Rest

This doesn’t mean do nothing at all. Rest can and should be planned.

Rest often means a different kind of work than you usually do.

Rest doesn’t necessarily mean vegging or bingeing on Netflix (it can be, but not always). This rest means doing something that pour back into you and your family. This is the kind of rest that you plan and always remember. It’s another group of coins in your memory bank.

  • In order for your kiddos to watch a Christmas movie, you make the popcorn and the hot chocolate. You snuggle on on the couch with your kiddos. Take the time to listen to their commentary and questions during the movie.
  • Visiting a tree farm and chopping down a live tree.
  • Decorating a tree.
  • Reading Christmas books aloud.
  • Singing Christmas carols.
  • Having a coffee date with a friend who is a kindred spirit.
  • Go to a Christmas market and look at the lights.
  • Listen to an audio book while you clean, bake or sit by the fire (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one I listen to every year.)

2. Go Deeper in your understanding of Christmas. Get an Advent Devotional for yourself as well as your children.

I’m never going to get to the place on this earth where I have arrived spiritually. I’m always learning. Going deeper. Having new revelations. Our children learn by repetition, layer by layer we add truths from the scripture as we read through the Advent Devotional. It’s the same for us adults. We need to add layer by layer of Christmas truth to our understanding. Each year we pray that God gives us a new “book of revelations”. God can’t do that if we aren’t willing to take the time to read and study. There are plenty of Advent Devotionals out there. Find one that fits your life for now. If you have small children, try one that you can read in the few minutes you have after everyone is asleep. If you have more time because you have teens or are an empty nester, find a longer version to invest in!

I’m trying Jennifer Hand’s book:

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m super excited about it. Yes, I wrote an Advent book as well. You can find it here.

3. Pray Through.

Mark Batterson speaks of this in his book Circle Maker – here’s my paraphrase:

We don’t usually remember the days we did nothing, but we remember the days we had everything to do and God pulled us through.

If your plate is full this season and it’s all good things that you committed to, then pray through. If you’re tired and don’t think you can do it all, Jesus is all. He gives strength to the weary. When you wait upon Him, He will lift you up on wings as eagles.
Don’t do what I sometimes do – pray and then hang on by my fingernails hoping God will pull through. Thank Him in advance what what He is going to do. Enjoy the the “through” instead of waiting until you get to the other side.
I’ll leave you with this set of verses from Matthew 11.  Note that Jesus says His yoke is light. A yoke implies work. So, whatever work you must do this season, He can make it light. He can refresh your soul.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.

You are anointed and qualified to raise your adopted/foster child.

Jesus

“For unto us a child is born and unto us, a son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”

-Isaiah 9:6

My first born came out wet, red faced, pointy headed and squalling. I was in the birthing room at Mon General, the first to use this new(0ld) concept-to give birth in a room and stay there for the duration. It was state of the art.  Comfortable and top of the line everything. On the tour, hubby asked what the small square pieces of equipment was on the hinged arm hanging over the bed.

“That would be a tv,”the nurse said with a chuckle. All the couples from our birthing laughed heartily and the tension and fear of that moment was broken.

* * *

We all know the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, at least the general story. In fact some of us have rehearsed it so many times, we could repeat the verse that houses the history, verbatim. It’s like memorizing a poem, but do we really think about the meaning?

* * *

Feel the trek to Bethlehem riding on a donkey?

Labor overtaking you and having no place to go.

Lying him in a manger?

Shepherds coming to worship Him.

No midwife or doctor.

* * *

Jesus wasn’t born in the traditional way or in a comfortable environment. There were no gadgets or TVs to help Mary along or make her feel comfortable. Joseph had to lead the way and fend for his new family. He had to trust the dreams and the word spoken by an angel. Mary had to do the same. Mary and Joseph carried more than the angel visits and dreams in their hearts. They had the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).

-Is. 7:14 (Matt 1:23)

We adoptive parents prophecy the intention of building our family through adoption. Over months or years, we inform extended family and friends.

* * *

We are pregnant with the seed of adoption.

* * *

Most of us don’t have angelic visitations, some of us have dreams to confirm or enlarge our hearts. Yet, none of us have exactly the same journey and none of us have an easy one. There may be travel to a foreign country, eating foods that are not common to us, jumping through political hoops of policy. We stand in embassies waiting for rubber stamps to hit paper. We sit in doctor’s offices with panicked, crying children, fulfilling the necessary vaccine quota, all at once. We may spend hours in the air, comforting fevered, frightened children who have never traveled outside of a 15km radius of where they were born. Some of these have only lived within the four walls of a hospital and orphanage for their short life span. Outside terrifies them.

* * *

We listen to the naysayers, the people close to us who tell us we’re crazy. Or worse, those family members who try to convince us through scripture that adoption is not biblical (FALSE) and that having children ‘naturally’ is God’s will no matter how many barren years you have suffered or miscarriages you are still grieving.

What we must hang onto, what we must rehearse is the word given to us. What we parents must recall is the holiness, the sacredness of this messy journey. Nothing worth doing is easy.

Every worthy endeavor has obstacles

Every worthy endeavor has obstacles.

* * *

Joseph and Mary had many, yet knowing the importance of their calling, they persevered.

None of us are raising/adopting God. Thanks be to God, that is finished. That fact does not diminish the importance of our adoption journey. Adopting is following in our heavenly Father’s footsteps. When reading the summation of what Jesus came to earth for, insert your name.

The Spirit of the Lord upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor and the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up and heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the physical and spiritual captives and the opening of prison and of the eyes to those who are bound.

-Isaiah 61:1

When my newbies first came home, I read this chapter obsessively. It’s worth taking the time to read today. The two words I focused on in those early days (and even now)-anointed, qualified.

* * *

Parents, you are anointed and qualified to preach the Gospel of good tidings to your children.

* * *

With the help of the Lord, under your prayer covering and guidance, your children can be set free from the mindset of neglect and lack. If you adopted a child from birth, he can feel chosen, not abandoned. If your teen struggles with his identity, you can proclaim liberty and continue to point to his worth. Formed in his mother’s birth womb, he was chosen and set apart.

Adoption builds families the God-purposed way. Adoption is greater than or precedes the universe. Before Jesus, the Word made flesh, spoke the world into being, God chose us, planned for us to be adopted as His own, because it was His kind intent. (Ephesians 1)

1. Adoption, like the birth of Jesus is hard and messy.

2. Not everyone will understand your calling, but you must hold to your confession of faith.

3. You are anointed and qualified to raise your adopted/foster child.

“This is how adoption works-like a sacrament, that visible sign of inner grace. It’s a thin place where we see that we are different and yet not entirely foreign to one another. We are relatives not by blood, but by mystery.”- Kelley Nikondeha

Christmas Has Needs

I paced back and forth at the front of the house where large windows looked out over the front yard and the mailbox. The mailbox- what had been a symbol of Christmas cards and good news had become my worst enemy. I dreaded the mailman coming bringing bills and more bills, and yet I watched, waited, worried. When the mail truck pulled up to my box, I hid behind the curtains, afraid he would see me and hand deliver bills that said, “FINAL NOTICE”. I imagined him shaking his head in pity me as he saw the stack of bills.

I’ve lived there, deep in the pit, where my prayers were only about my lack. Mortgage payments. Groceries. Presents.

* * *

How do you have a silent night when your mind is full of the need? Of worry? Of the reality of the barrenness of now?

Christmas
Has 
Needs

I’m not going to tell you how to shop smarter or spend less (there are plenty of great blogs and books about that). The truth is you cannot shop smarter with nothing. It is not a great deal if you have nothing.

Over ten years ago, we moved to our current home and still owned a home in another city. It sat on the market for a year and a half. We paid two mortgages for that length of time. A few years before that we lost our family owned business. We ate through our savings, our kids college funds and put the rest of our money into a house that the downturn in the market swallowed up. We went from being middle class to on the edge of homeless.

* * *

I don’t share this info often because I don’t enjoy pity parties anymore. I’m not inviting you to one. I do, however, enjoy empathy parties with a healthy dose of encouragement. That is what this book is for. Encouragement. As I said before, I have talked to many adoptive families over the years and all of them have something in common- after the adoption comes the Job syndrome. Sometimes it’s years down the road. Sometimes, just months or days. It can come in different packages, loss of heath for parent or child, loss of finances, behavior issues, trouble attaching,_________(fill in the blank). The Job syndrome is a whole book in itself, I’ll keep it brief your sake, you get the picture, right? (This is redundant.)

* * *

Christmas has needs. It needs us to step outside of our everyday stress and receive it.

* * *

That is difficult to do when we are full of worry and the weight of the world on our shoulders. So, how do we accept the gift of Christmas when we cannot buy our children the gifts we want to? Or buy the groceries we need to make the traditional dinner? How do we meet Christ in the morning when we are so weighed down and depressed we cannot get out of bed? How do we celebrate when our children from hard places have had every trigger activated and are out of control?

* * *

Biblical Application:

1. Accept your now.

You may not be where you want to be financially or physically, just remember a healthy part of getting on the right path is enjoying something in your now that you can remember later. Play games with your kids. Cut out paper snowflakes. Sing Christmas carols. Make gifts.  Watch for points of connection and behaviors you want to encourage. Mention them aloud to your children. Before you know it, you will have a pocket full of wonderful memories. The kids won’t remember the lean years as much as they remember the celebration.

* * *

2. Prepare for your future now.

I’m not talking about getting a financial plan. Those are great, but the bottom can fall out of those too. Ask me. I know. I’m talking about your heart. If you believe your child will always struggle or always make things a struggle then it will become reality. Instead, look for pinpricks of light and believe that God is doing a great work in the child that He put in your care. Instead of thinking that your Christmases will always be full of lack and need, focus on the blessings you have. Thank the Father for them. Often. Keep a list or a thankful tree (it doesn’t have to be November to do this). This is heart preparation for the future blessings. It makes things well with your soul.

* * *

3. Rest in HIM.

I can’t say this often enough. I do say it often because the Lord leads me to verses often that hi-light REST. His rest is not the same as ours. It’s not vegging in front of the TV ignoring the  issues, it’s digging deep into His word. It’s dialoguing with Him. Tell Him your concerns. Don’t just make requests. When you do, trust Him to supply. He will. The Christmas that was the most lean for us financially, friends of mine gave me gifts for my children that were perfect for them. We didn’t spend lots of money. We didn’t have it. We did celebrate. I bet if you asked my kids if they remember a ‘bad’ Christmas, they would say “NO!”The great thing about the need of Christmas is –

“You don’t have to make Christmas…..You can rest in Christ…..You can breathe easy in Christ.”- Ann Voskamp

Christmas needs us to rest in Christ.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents

It Had Better Not Be Perfect This Christmas!

Every year when the kids and I were putting up the Christmas tree, my Spock-like tendencies came out. Every candle had to be perfectly spaced. The ribbons had to be equal distance apart.  All the lights had to be white and homemade ornaments had to go on the back side of the tree. I wish I could go back in time and change those practices. I cannot. But, you can learn from my mistakes. Part of my habit was personality. Part perfectionism. I wanted the tree to be perfect. I’m not sure who the tree was being perfect for. It wasn’t for the kids. They would rather have popcorn and homemade ornaments. Colored lights.

* * *

The problem with perfect? It doesn’t help children. It leaves them wanting. It makes them feel as if they don’t measure up.

Happy Birthday.png

The last thing a child from a hard place needs is the expectation of perfectionism. They are wrapped in control that leaves them in manipulation mode. To add perfectionism to that scenario spells disaster. Instead we need flexibility. Fun. Willingness to bend. Willingness to bend down and see where they are and join them.

* * *

Biblical Application:

“In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down from heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”- C.S. Lewis

Kids who have come from traumatic beginnings or kids who have just had a hard day need us to descend to their depths in order to help them ascend into joy.

* * *

This is the Christ-like Christmas act. This is not perfect. It is messy. It is not self serving. It is bowing down to serve.

* * *

It is paper chains strung across the living room. It is flour all over the floor when baking. It is globs of shapeless cookies with mountains of icing. It is sloppily wrapped gifts with half a yard of tape around them. It is falling asleep on the floor under the Christmas tree with a child who pops out of bed like a batch of popcorn. It is joy in imperfection. Bend down to bring those in your world up with you.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents