how to start Christmas traditions your family loves

how to start Christmas traditionsThey make it look so easy on TV.

Families gather together and celebrate meaningful and heartwarming traditions. Everything is perfect. In fact, everyone just positively glows as they bake cookies, trim the tree and give to the needy.

In my quest for Christmas tradition perfection, I enthusiastically decided to participate in our church’s annual Shoebox Drive for Samaritan’s Purse. The idea is to fill shoeboxes with toys, toiletries and other items for distribution to needy children in Third World countries.

With my (then) small kids in tow, I eagerly picked up two shoeboxes one Sunday in October.

This is the spirit of Christmas, I thought. I’ll take the kids to the store. We’ll lovingly and carefully choose each item for the shoebox. We’ll laugh. We’ll cry. This will be wonderful.

Fast-forward to late November and just a few days before the cut-off date for returning the shoeboxes.

I suddenly realize that my Norman Rockwell moment in the aisles of Target just isn’t gonna happen. Nope. Instead, I make a mad dash to the Dollar Store, quickly throw things into my cart and frantically assemble the shoeboxes the night before. Can you feel the Christmas love?

It gets worse.

The next day, I completely FORGET about the shoeboxes. 

It’s official. I am a horrible person.

The shoeboxes actually ended up on a shelf in my garage, where my husband stumbled upon them — TWO YEARS later!!

Apparently waiting on a shoebox from my family is akin to Samaritan’s Curse.

Over the years, I’ve had many #traditionfails. Here’s a few more …

I know! I’ll buy a new ornament for the children each year they live at home and then present them with a beautifully wrapped box of all 18 ornaments that they can hang on their first grownup Christmas tree!

Until I forgot to buy them for three years.

Or, how about I start a Christmas cookie decorating tradition with my daughter?

Until my controlling, perfectionist tendencies drove me to set some insane standard of culinary excellence for my four-year-old. The first — and last — attempt at that may have scarred us both for life.

My kids are now 18 and 14. I’ve learned a few things from my mistakes. Perhaps it will be helpful as you attempt to establish your own holiday traditions.

Work within your personality. I’m a writer. I make deadlines all the time. But somehow in my personal life, I can’t kill the procrastinator in me — especially around the holidays. Rigid deadlines don’t work for me. Samaritan’s Purse is wonderful. But I’ve learned I have to choose ministry opportunities that make sense for my schedule and my family. One year, we bought gifts for a needy family and delivered them to our church to be given anonymously. I could do it in my time frame and my kids liked the more personal nature of this kind of giving.

Ask the kids what they like. When I finally did, I discovered they loved opening the Advent Calendar each day. They liked decorating the tree together and reading the same books about Jesus’ birth every year. They loved opening one gift on Christmas Eve. They enjoyed giving to a family in need. As moms, we often kill ourselves trying to concoct new traditions. By talking to our children, we may find we have already created the ones that mean the most — unintentionally.

Keep it simple. Christmas is about Jesus. We don’t have to create an elaborate Christmas Angel out of cotton balls or build a sleigh in the backyard to make the holiday memorable. We put so much pressure on ourselves as moms. In the process, we suck the joy right out of Christmas — and lose focus of the Person we’re supposed to be celebrating.

P.S. You’ll be relieved to know that one of the shoeboxes finally did make it to the church. Somewhere right now a child is enjoying outdated toys and expired shampoo.

the unexpected gift of a needy child

needy childJesus was needy. He came to us as needy as a human can get — a newborn child.

Completely dependent upon the people of the world around Him to insure His survival, unable to do anything to sustain Himself.

Seeing a frail newborn, unable to hold their head up, unable to distinguish reflex and hunger, unable to cover themselves for warmth….

causes me to wonder. Why? Why did God decide to do Christmas THIS way?

Why did He decide to give Him to an equally frail woman, whose marriage was going to possibly be scandaled, whose husband for all accounts, was scared?

Why? Because He knew. He knew that Mary would be the Mother of God, the one who held Jesus closer than any other human being within her very body. Jesus was needy, by design. Needy for her care, her warmth and her strength. Joseph was challenged and didn’t shy away. He hit it head on, even though he was scared — the ultimate demonstration of courage.

For those of us moms who have ever had a needy child, from newborn to adult-child, we know. We can FEEL the dependance upon us as we hope and pray that everything will be okay …

that our needy child will survive and thrive to do God’s will in their life,

that our needy child rises above their obstacles

that we, as their mothers, do too.

Christmas gives us a glimpse of what God can do with a needy child placed in God-chosen arms. Our arms that hold our young ones and our hearts that ache for their salvation were created to care specifically for them. God will give us the mercy and grace to persevere and see His will through. In the life of a child….

In the life of His child,

Our Lord.

what the innkeeper missed that first Christmas

first Christmasby Julie Sanders, Guest Blogger

The innkeeper missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

The celebration of the coming of the Son of God needed a host, but he missed out on being part of the story of glory. Locked into the limitations of his life and his expectations of the events, he missed a divine opportunity.

We don’t have to miss ours.

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)

We imagine the encounter between the faith-led Joseph and the keeper of the inn back in Bethlehem, but we can only guess the details. There must’ve been a knock and an inquiry at the door; did Mary stand hopefully with Joseph or at a distance? Maybe she was having contractions, or maybe they were still just the expectation of a young virgin mama-to-be. With people flocking to their hometowns for the census, the hospitality industry was overwhelmed. Maybe Joseph pled with the keeper, or he may’ve dropped his head in resignation as the keeper closed the door with a slam or with an apology.

We only know the Christ-bearing couple was turned away, ending up in a shelter for animals to receive the Prince of Peace. Parents do whatever it takes to care for their children, divine or not.

Perhaps the inhospitable innkeeper didn’t miss the opportunity of his lifetime. In God’s pursuit of each lost life, maybe the keeper of the crowded inn saw the star, heard the angels, or bumped into the praise-filled shepherds. Maybe he had a second chance to receive God’s gift to mankind, and maybe then he welcomed Jesus into his life.

This Christmas, hosts are needed for the celebration of the coming of the Son of God. If we aren’t careful, we might miss the glory. Are you fretting about limited seats at your table, limited time to create memories, limited days to prepare, and limited energy to serve those at your door?

Loved ones have expectations about the wonder of the holidays and we do too. It’s hard to escape the expectations of those we love! From the chapter Yielding Zone in my new book Expectant, for new and expectant moms, “Maybe having a baby or adding a child to life is more about us becoming holy than about making us happy.” When we insist on seeing earthly expectations fulfilled, we risk missing the glory of Christ’s coming.

What earthly expectations could keep you from missing the glory of celebrating God’s Son this year? There’s still time to clear away the clutter and make room to welcome Jesus into our lives, our homes, our families, and our celebrations!

Dear Father who sent Your Son,

Thank you for coming to be among us, to make Yourself at home in our lives.

There is room for you in our homes, our families, and our hearts this Christmas. Welcome, Jesus!

Julie SandersJulie lives where tea is sweet and grits are cheesy. She and her husband of 25 years have two nearly grown kids. EXPECTANT: 40 Devotions for New and Expectant Moms was born when God brought a group of young couples into their lives, just as they began to long to grow their families. Julie loves to teach God’s word to women in her hometown and across the globe; she is passionate about fighting human trafficking and helping women of all tribes and tongues find God’s peace for life. Check out Julie’s blog home Come Have a Peace ( and Marriage Mondays to find reasons for peace and information about her ministry.

Expectant Moms
EXPECTANT is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
You can find Julie on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

$5 OFF Adorenaments Christmas Ornaments

What if your Christmas decorations could enrich your family spiritually?

Adorenaments ®, from EverThine Home ® (affiliate), is a collection of three sets of beautiful Christmas ornaments that put the spotlight exactly where it should be: on Jesus our Savior.

Through Wednesday December 17th, Ever Thine Home is offering a $5 OFF COUPON on all of their Adorenaments ® collections. Simply click the graphic below (affiliate) and use promo code “SCRATCH” at checkout.  (Please note that if you had an issue with the promo code on Monday morning, it has since been resolved.)

Christmas ornaments sale

The three sets of ornaments are His Savior Names, His Christmas Names and His Royal Names. Every set includes a booklet of mini-devotions to help you connect with your family and teach them the significance of each of the names of Jesus from Scripture.

Each set of 7 gorgeous ornaments can be purchased separately for $45. Or, if you buy the 3 Set Adornaments® collection, you’ll get all three sets for $95 — that’s like getting the third set for $5! 

Last week, we ran a giveaway for a set of His Christmas Names Adorenaments®. Wanda is our lucky winner and has been notified by email.

If you missed the giveaway, here’s your chance to buy these beautiful ornament sets at a discounted price. 

These will be beautiful Christmas keepsakes for your family and they also make perfect gifts!


* Mothering From Scratch is a part of the EverThine Home® (the holiday and home collection from FamilyLife) Affiliate program. We each received a set of the His Christmas Names at no cost from EverThine Home®. However, all opinions expressed are our own.