We are always on the hunt for media that reflects our values and is educational and fun for the kids. Below are some movies that will be playing at our house in the coming weeks! Before you jump into our list, did you know that Focus on the Family has a website called Plugged In with media reviews from a Christian perspective? Also be sure to follow us on Instagram for more family holiday tips! What are you playing on repeat at your house?
Christmas Movies for Kids:
The Snowy Day - Follow Peter’s journey to his grandmother’s on Christmas eve, complete with lessons about family, friendship and overcoming disappointment.
Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie Special – a story about friendship with a curious mouse and his human bestie.
Adventures in Odyssey: Electric Christmas – a Christmas lights competition gone awry teaches lessons about responsibility, charity, and the true meaning of Christmas.
Boz: A WowieBOZowee Christmas – Preschoolers will enjoy Boz’s upbeat attitude, family values, and catchy songs.
Veggie Tales Little Drummer Boy – A story about friendship and overcoming misunderstandings.
LC Lifekids “Jesus is Born” – A nativity telling and interactive Bible adventure for young children.
Frosty the Snowman – The classic tale of the snowman come to life.
The Snowman - Without narration or words, music accompanies the story of a boy who builds a snowman that then comes to life.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Original Cartoon – The classic story of a grumpy grinch who after scheming to stop Christmas eventually has a change of heart.
Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas – Young children learn animal facts while watching the Kratt Brothers fight opportunistic villains who threaten wildlife.
Disney Nature: Penguins – a penguin love story documentary that follows two penguins as they raise a family in the beautiful and sometimes dangerous Antarctic.
Art for Kids Hub – how to draw the Nativity
Step by step drawing instructions for kids of all ages.
We want to know- what’s playing at your house?
Do you give gifts at Christmastime or opt for experiences and quality time? If you are a gift-giver, do you keep a running list all year, pull it together close to Christmas, or use another strategy?
Here's our gift brainstorming list updated for 2020! These are items we (or close friends) have found enjoyable, useful, and worth the money. Of course, the ultimate safe route is to ask the recipient or their parent, spouse, or friend!
What are your tried and true gift ideas?
Who's here for tips to simplify a busy time of year? We hope these ideas will help you make room for the things that matter at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and year-round. We’d love to hear your tips as well!
1. Over door mitten scarf holder. The weather is turning cooler which means all the gear. You can use an over the door shoe organizer for keeping mittens, scarves, and winter accessories sorted and available.
2. Furniture sliders
Oh how we wish we’d discovered these friction reducing beauties many holidays and children ago! Furniture rearrangement seems to be a part of family life and if you are making room for a tree or other decorations, may we suggest these back savers.
3. Panera coffee subscription
For $9 a month you get unlimited coffee at Panera! Subscription includes 1 cup of coffee per phone number and resets every 2 hours.
4. Tribl Worship Music App – Tribl is an incredible resource a friend shared with me. These prepopulated play lists will fill your home with worship all season long!
5. Dwell Bible App – Another way to keep your mind set on Christ throughout the season is to let someone else read Scripture over you. Check out this app which has a few books available for free listen.
6. Ready recipes – easy, yummy, and scalable for crowds. These aren’t necessarily holiday recipes, but if you are hosting out of town guests or just need some simple ideas for your family during holiday prep check them out! We also do plenty of BFD (breakfast for dinner), hamburgers, and quesadillas when our schedule is full.
Here are recipes from years past:
For convenience, here are our tips from prior years but be sure to check out those posts here and here for all the details:
Last year we shared some of our family’s favorite Holiday Hacks- ways to keep the season simple in order to focus on Jesus, togetherness, and the joy of the season. We’re continuing the tradition and sharing a few more tips! Really, these can be used year round.
Let’s talk about gift shopping.
What do you buy for the adult siblings who seemingly have everything? The in-laws? The children who aren’t anywhere close to your kids’ ages? Or maybe you don’t have children? What in the world should you buy? Socks. Lot of socks. Just kidding. Sort of.
Creative thinking takes time! Once I’ve found a gift that my kids love, I take note! And you better believe all the nieces, nephews, and kids’ friends who are the same age will probably wind up with that gift that year! I have a feeling I’m not alone. So let’s help each other out!
Comment the tried and true gifts you or your children have received! Don’t do gifts? Share your all-time favorite holiday outings, experiences, or volunteer opportunities! Please include kids ages (no need to share yours but you can if you want!) They don’t have to be trendy or expensive. You just have to feel they were worth it! For example, our best toys have been the ones that keep our kids occupied, regardless of the price tag! Our list is below, but our children’s age range is pretty limited. So please chime in! If you see a comment on the list that you agree with, like it up!!
The next groups of children's ages are beyond our parenting experience, so feel free to vet these ideas via the comments section below!
Ten to Thirteen:
And when in doubt…SOCKS.
Our gifts of generosity- time, money, energy- given with a pure heart are an offering, a pleasing aroma to God.
God showed the ultimate act of generosity by giving His son, Jesus to all who will receive Him to save us from sin and death and to give us everlasting life.
In a season about giving, what practical things can we do to be generous?
Here are some ideas:
- Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan’s Purse. Collection week is this week! November 13th- 20th. You still have a little time to participate. Pack a shoe box with toiletries and recommended items. Drop them off at a designated location. Samaritan’s Purse will include a gospel presentation and ship the boxes all over the world to children in need.
- The Salvation Army Angel Tree. Contact your local Salvation Army to hear how you can donate unwrapped gifts to local children in need.
- Donate non-perishables to a food drive or sponsor a family’s Thanksgiving or Christmas meal through your local church.
- Bless teachers and people who serve our communities with gift cards or hand written notes.
- Visit with an elderly person who has lost a spouse and be a listening ear.
What are some of your ideas?
“10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” - Acts 10:1-4
“18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:18
“3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:3-4
So there are 7 weeks until Christmas.
Every family has traditions, commitments, and a different schedule but we all have to prioritize to find time for the most important things. We thought we'd share 7 things our family does to keep the peace in case they resonate with anyone else out there. We do these throughout the year but think they may be particularly helpful during this season!
1. Amazon Gift Card Greeting Cards Delivered by US Mail Same or Next Day
Amazon to the rescue. They offer greeting cards with gift cards inside that ship the same day (if you order early enough) or next business day. It needs to be a day when mail is delivered (so not Christmas). But for all those close-to-Christmas special occasions that require gift giving, you're just one click away from a card in your hand. If you're really running behind you can even ship direct to the recipient.
2. Amazon Prime Unlimited Music and Shows
An Amazon Prime membership includes unlimited access to streaming shows and (as we learned this year) music! Build those Christmas playlists and stream your favorite Christmas shows and movies. There are music and video apps for your phone. Don't have a Prime Membership? It's worth it all year round. Free 2-day shipping on a kajillion items, streaming (we use it for all our children's shows), and things like diapers and vitamins delivered to your door with automatic scheduling. Two Amazon plugs in a row! We don't get kickbacks from Amazon. We are just sharing out of the goodness of our hearts.
3. Wal-Mart Online Grocery Shopping and Free Curbside Pick Up
100% FREE. Schedule a grocery pick up time, shop and pay online, and then drive to the store. They bring your groceries to your car. If you have the app, you don't even have to call when you get there. The GPS notifies the store. We have been using this for a few months now. We tried grocery delivery but those services sometimes don't honor store sales, the actual food prices are higher, and there are annual memberships (plus tips for drivers!) We didn't grocery shop at Wal-Mart before. Now that I don't have to go into the store, I am there at least once per week.
4. A Ready Recipe Toolbox - Links Below
Not the highlight reel type. Real economical, real fast, real yummy. There is a lot of peripheral eating besides the Christmas dinner around the holidays. Maximizing time visiting with family requires us to get creative on the meal front so I don't spend all my time in the kitchen. Some families connect in the kitchen with everyone helping out. We just aren't in that life stage right now. At the end of this post are a couple of our favorite "real" recipes that are actually good. We'd love to hear some of your go-tos.
5. Paper Products
There is no shame in this game. Again, maybe it's just our life stage but paper products are always on our Wal-Mart grocery pick up list. And not just at Christmas.
6. Poinsettias for 99¢ at Home Depot on Black Friday
Buy 10, throw them on your mantle, table, entryway, really anywhere that needs a little decorating. After the holidays you can keep them (or in our case try to keep them alive as long as possible), reuse the soil, compost them, or just throw them away. They biodegrade so this makes up for all the paper products. For those who dread venturing out on Black Friday, Home Improvement stores are generally pretty safe (read: they don't draw mobs).
7. Mangers - A Completely Unbiased Perspective
Last year our family used a manger to hold our gifts which is actually very practical. It takes 5 minutes to set up and tear down. And above all, it's a great reminder that Jesus is the reason for the season.
We'd love to hear from you? How do you simplify your holiday to spend more time with those you love and reflect on the real reason for the season?
Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Crock Pot Taco Soup (Can also be made on stove top)
Tater Tot Casserole
Jesus tells us plainly to have faith like a child. But does that mean He wants us to check our tough questions at the door or maintain a Vacation Bible School depth of theology? Put another way, are we to justify relating to Him in a half-hearted pretense because we are to have faith like a child?
This past summer 2017 we watched the solar eclipse. There was particular excitement around the area where we live because it was in the path of totality. When thinking about the infinite nature of the universe it makes many people reflect on the amazing nature and bigness of God. But I think in some cases it can also make you feel small. It can make you feel vulnerable. You may realize how tiny you are on a universal scale and how much you don't know.
Like many of us, I was raised in Church. The Trinity, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, Heaven and Hell were granted. When I walked away from the Lord in high school and college, it wasn't because I explicitly doubted the reality of these foundational elements of Christianity. I had a misinformed view of how the whole Christianity thing worked. I reasoned that since I prayed the sinner's prayer when I was a child and wasn't hostile toward religion that I was good to go and could live however I wanted. Later, through the rebuke of a family member and the work of the Holy Spirit, I realized the idea of praying a prayer for "fire insurance just in case" without obeying the words of Jesus or genuinely trying to obey (albeit at times in a clunky fall and get up again sort of way) was a deception. I turned back to the Lord with all my heart. It has been the best decision I've ever made. I experienced God in tangible ways. My understanding of His Word increased. I had joy and contentment.
And then new questions came. Questions I generally had answers to but never really felt the need to delve deep into before. Questions about evolution theory, Bible canonicity, and the universe.
I want to be careful here- having these types of questions doesn't make you inferior or superior. Each of us has particular things that weigh on our hearts or minds that may seem immaterial to someone else. Each of us has to work out our own salvation as The Apostle Paul describes it.
Some of us who were raised in the church and feel we made an immature or under-researched decision to believe when we were young then abandon the Christian faith by an even less thorough research process. Moreover, where our initial choice to believe though simplistic was at least genuine, some defend our choice to leave the faith from an argumentative position instead of from the genuine belief that our life depends on our decision (because it does). I'm not suggesting we become prideful in our intellectual ability. Christians believe God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. I am suggesting genuineness, humility, and a desire for truth. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, an atheist turned Christian, describes the man who has genuine doubts and yet charges ahead as a fool. I am paraphrasing. We can make this mistake in our choice to believe or in our choice to not believe.
If I continue to relate to my 3 year old as I did when she was 1, she'll eventually stop trying to connect with me. On the other hand, if she decides at 3 she suddenly knows everything and no longer needs my input, she is wrong. Her life experience is valid but it is limited. It doesn't offend me when she asks deeper questions that she didn't have the interest or maturity to ask before. It's actually a great feeling as a parent to be invited into her thought process, even though I have a more complete perspective. And my willingness to answer her increasingly complex questions in a way she can understand builds her trust in me and keeps her wanting to dialogue. There are some questions she simply doesn't have the ability to understand through the lens of a child's perspective. When answers to questions elude her, she draws on what she knows of my character and our history as the basis for her continued trust.
Sometimes faith is clinging to the convictions you've established through reason when your emotions and unanswered prayers are pulling against it.
God is a good Father. He delights in our humble, vulnerable questions that signify us growing up and still reaching out for deeper relationship. We still need His guidance as we grow. I may not even realize how much I need Him until I look back at the life decisions I've made- the ones I made in consultation with His Word and in prayer have led me in life-giving directions. Curiously, my natural parents also grow increasingly wiser as I get older.
I would be heartbroken if my daughter felt afraid to ask me her hard questions and rather just drifted apart from me because she didn't trust I could answer them or assumed that I wouldn't care to answer them in order to deepen our relationship.
There are men and women throughout history much smarter than I who have asked hard questions and have believed in Jesus Christ for salvation. Isaac Newton, Lee Strobel, and C.S. Lewis are a few. They were pretty sharp dudes. There are men and women today who are giving their lives for Jesus beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is real. There are innumerable testimonies of former atheists who have come to faith.
I don't have all the answers. No person does. The movie "Case for Christ," based on the true story of a journalist coming to faith through his investigation into the legitimacy of Jesus's resurrection from the dead puts it well: believing and not believing both require some measure of faith because no one has all the answers. If the Gospel is not true, it doesn't matter whether you believe or don't believe. But if the Gospel is true, it has eternal significance.
We can continue to have faith like a child by bringing our questions to a loving Father God who wants to keep answering them in a way we can understand in order to draw us into deeper relationship.