Monday, December 15

Merry and Meaningful

(the following is an article I wrote for Today's Christian Woman magazine, Nov./Dec. 2006)

Merry and Meaningful
12 ways to make the most of your holidays.

As you enter this year's festive season, consider incorporating new traditions and time for personal reflection into your celebration. Here are 12 fresh ideas just in time for the holidays:

1. Thinking of Thankfulness

Find a beautiful blank journal, or create one with handmade papers. Then write the year's blessings in it. This can be a private exercise or a family tradition. If you choose to make it a family activity, have each member write briefly and allow time to read past entries. Or, you may prefer a year-end journal to be completed after the holidays. Either way, it's sure to become a treasured keepsake.

2. Joy to Your World

Share the Christmas message with everyone who visits your home. Cut gold or silver shimmer fabric into squares. Place several wrapped candies and a copy of a holiday verse such as Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:11, or Matthew 1:21 inside. Then tie the squares up with sparkly ribbon. Keep a basket of these favors by your front door to bestow on your package-delivery person or children selling door-to-door. [see my previous post on Christmas Favors.]

3. Guiding Lights

I never tire of seeing fine homes gleaming with colorful Christmas lights. The usual line of cars tells me I'm not the only one who enjoys the splendor! This year when you tour a glittery neighborhood, choose one decorated house and one undecorated house, say a prayer for the people who live there, and continue to pray for them every day thereafter until Christmas.

4. Do Unto Others

Bring a little Christmas cheer to a "twin family" in need by providing them with a few presents. A twin family is one with the same makeup as yours (single; married with no children; single mother with two children; etc.). Call your church or local social services department for contacts and shopping guidance.

5. A Tisket, a Tasket …

Instead of exchanging gifts with your girlfriends or coworkers, arrange a party to package gift baskets for a local women's shelter or a pregnancy care center. First contact the director about specific needs and quantities. Then create a list of items and ask friends to sign up for what they'll provide. When you gather, gift-wrap cardboard boxes or dress up inexpensive wicker baskets, then fill them with your donations. Relax over tea and holiday treats before making your delivery.

6. The Gift of You

Often the presents we shop so intently for are quickly forgotten. For a more memorable gift, why not try doing something? Think about what you might do for your spouse, friend, or parent that would have a longer-lasting, more positive impact on your relationship. Would your spouse appreciate a date night? Do your parents long for more quality time with you? Don't be afraid to ask—it doesn't have to be a surprise.

7. Gothic Gingerbread

Try your hand at a gingerbread church. You can work alone or with friends or family members. Pour some apple cider, start the Christmas music, and get to work. Choose a different country each year and create its most famous cathedral or simplest country church in miniature. Travel books can provide ideas. Then, pray for that nation throughout the month of December.

8. Happy Birthday, Jesus

Offer Jesus a symbolic gift in honor of his birthday. Give him an area of your life you desire to change—an emotion, an activity, or a relationship—and physically wrap a box to represent it. Do this individually or as a family. Create a family present to display every year by painting an unfinished wooden box and tying it with a silk ribbon.

9. Serve the Servants

December is an extra busy month for church staffers who work extended hours due to holiday programs and an influx of visitors. Deliver a hot meal to one or more of these families to help lighten their load.

10. Simple Pleasures

Set aside an annual night to relish simple, old-fashioned joys. Pop some corn and snuggle with a book of sentimental short stories of Christmases past. If you have kids, plan a night of games and pizzas. Saunter through the snow-covered woods, leaving a trail of snow angels behind. Or, if you live in a warmer climate, grab a blanket, head outside, and search for the star in the East. Whatever you do, take reprieve from worries and reflect on Christ's humble birth.

11. Guest of Honor

Set a place of honor for Jesus at your Christmas dinner table as a reminder of his presence.

12. Forgiveness Eve

The end of a year is a wonderful opportunity to engage in earnest reflection. Take time to forgive anyone who's wronged you during the year and for whom you still harbor resentment or bitterness. Begin the new year with a refreshed heart!


Lora @ my blessed life said...

What wonderful ideas, Jeanne!! Thank you for sharing these.

Christina said...

Thanks again for the food food for thought and creativity!

Melanie said...

#8 and #12 - great ideas!

Neabear said...

What awesome ideas you have here! Thank you for sharing them.

kelly said...

AWESOME ideas! thanks for sharing!

Livin’ The Yeh Life’s said...

Oh my word! These are so awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I can't wait to try one :)

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