Monday, November 24, 2014

Savoring Christmas - An Interview with Author Stacy Voss

A friend recently posed a question on Facebook: “Does anyone have any ideas on how to get kids in the true spirit of Christmas?” It’s the age-old question, the inner dilemma many parents face in wanting our kids to see December 25th as so much more than just a day to receive presents. Stacy Voss, author of the new book, Savoring Christmas: 31 Days to Prepare Your Heart for the Messiah, is “here” to share a few thoughts with us.

Stacy, what do you recommend we parents do to help make Christmas more meaningful to our kids?

Let me start by saying I don’t come close to having all the answers on this one. It truly is a beast to tackle, but I’ll gladly share the little I do know about it.

My book, Savoring Christmas: 31 Days to Prepare Your Heart for the Messiah, just came out. Honestly, I didn’t write it intending families to sit down and read it together, but as more and more people are telling me that’s what they’re doing, I’m realizing the book really is a great way to share with kids, perhaps in large part because I reference my own little ones quite a bit. For example, I talk about my Bubba having a meltdown in a toy store a few weeks before Christmas and say that is the meaning of Christmas.

Gabe wailed after I told him he couldn’t buy any toys since Christmas was right around the corner, at least in my mind since it was only a few weeks away. But to a then 5-year-old, it was a different story: “Christmas is just so far away!”

There was a 400-year gap from the time of the last prophet until the birth of Christ. Talk about a long time! It isn’t hard for me to imagine the Israelites crying out, “How much longer, God!” I’ve used that as a teaching point with my kids. Rather than criticizing them for growing impatient around Christmas, we talk about how the Jews must have felt and the eager anticipation it created.

I also pull other examples from my kids, such as when I thought my daughter would be ecstatic over what I got her and she was anything but. It hurt my heart and I wanted to get mad, but then it hit me: how many people were disappointed that the One they were hoping to save them was born in a stinky stable? Oh, yes. Disappointment really does bring meaning to Christmas.

Other than using your kids as examples, what are some other ways Savoring Christmas will help children understand the deeper meaning of Christmas?

Day 1 of the book is entitled “Scarfing versus Savoring.” It talks about my black lab gulping down her meals so quickly that she seems to forget she even ate. She begins begging for more food just a few minutes later. I think we tend to do the same at Christmas, jumping from one activity to the next so quickly that we forget what we’ve even done. I contrast that with Mary, who “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Each day has 3-4 optional questions or activities. One of them for Day 1 is to create a treasure box (mimicking Mary’s “treasuring”) by jotting down at least one thing that happens each day throughout advent that helps us prepare for the celebration of the Messiah’s birth, or a treasure of what we learn as we pour into others throughout the month.

I just found an adorable Willow Tree box with a woman holding a heart as if she’s truly treasuring it. I think I’m going to pick one up and challenge my kids to see if we can fill it together this Christmas season.

What are some other things we can do to help our kids better understand the meaning of Christmas?

Last year, my pastor said he gives his kids 3 presents every year. 1 represents the frankincense, which in his house is a more practical gift. The second is for the myrrh, and the third, gold. He said this approach has made it less about seeing who will get more while drawing the focus back to Christ.

Operation Christmas Child and Project Angel Tree are also great ways to let the kiddos pick out items to give away and remind them that there are others who otherwise wouldn’t receive anything for Christmas.

My mom used to work with someone who threw a birthday party for Jesus every year. There was cake, ice-cream, games—everything you’d expect at a kid’s birthday. The main difference was that everyone brought a wrapped gift such as pajamas or jackets that were given to underprivileged children.

Another friend fills a large jar with their spare change all year and then uses it to bless others at Christmas. She says, “We call it our ‘blessing jar’ as a daily reminder that we are called to bless others.”

Stacy, is it too late for someone to start reading your book this year?

Day 1 actually starts on December 1st (remember how I said that disappointment embodies the meaning of Christmas? Well, that comes on December 26th and then the rest of the month is spent praising God for His gift and preparing our hearts to let Him lead us into the New Year.

If someone wants a copy of your book, how can they find it?


Stacy, thanks for sharing!

Thank you!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Off The Mark With Fatigue

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." - Jeremiah 31:25

I remember the day I took my then-9-year-old to her first archery class.  She had been practicing with a toy bow and arrow for years and eagerly anticipated the day when she could get her hands on the real thing.

After stretching and warming up, she finally strapped on a protective arm guard and picked up a real bow.  She straddled the firing line, aimed, and let her arrow fly.  It streamed through the air, straight and true.  Success.  One after another, her arrows hit targets fifteen yards away as her smile got bigger and bigger. 

I have no idea how many arrows she launched, but after about 40 minutes her bow was tipping to the side and her arrows hit low on the target.  Fatigue led to a loss of focus, and therefore, less accuracy.

I’ve sure had that feeling as a mom.  When I am tired, I am much more likely to ignore an offense that really should be disciplined.  I serve food that is easy to get on the table, even if its nutritional value is marginal.  Dawdling is allowed to the point where the kids go to bed later than normal when I don’t have the energy to keep them on track through the bed time routine.

When mom is tired, everyone suffers.

Now, when this happens occasionally, I don’t worry about it.  What concerns me is when it becomes the normal state of family life.  Sometimes what starts as fatigue turns into apathy.

Mom, please make the commitment today to take whatever steps are needed to give yourself more energy.  Maybe you need more sleep.  Maybe you need to cut sugar or simple carbs from your diet.  Maybe you need to eat more veggies, or take a multi-vitamin, or get some exercise.  Maybe you need a little downtime to just play.  Maybe you could ask God to help, and spend some extra time in prayer with the Giver Of All Good Things.  You may even need to experiment with some different ideas to figure out which ones really make a noticeable difference for you.

After putting down her bow and stretching again for ten or fifteen minutes, my daughter went back to the firing line and started hitting her targets again.  As moms, we can be on the mark as well with just a little refreshment.

What do you do to re-energize yourself when you start feeling weary?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

10 Reminders for Moms

Happy New Year! 'Tis the season to set new resolutions, but sometimes we get so excited about our grand goals that we forget the little things we need to do every day to truly feel great about our parenting. Here are 10 Reminders to help you keep your family in shape so you can focus attention on those other goals.

10 New Year’s Reminders for Moms

1 – Give hugs to every day (to your kids and your husband)

2 – Kids hear better when mom’s voice is calm and kind.

3 – Cranky kids and naughty kids are often tired kids. Protect bedtime!

4 – The way you talk to your child tells him his value. Make sure your words and your tone tell him he is special, wonderful, and precious.

5 – Make time to play.

6 – Kids need parents, not another friend. Don’t be afraid of your parental authority.

7 – Listen more than you speak. Listen with your ears, eyes, heart, and gut – you will learn a lot!

8 – Don’t jump in too quickly – give your kids a chance to find their own solutions and fix their own problems.

9 – Model forgiveness.

10 – Say “I love you” every day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Perk Up Popcorn With Easy Add-Ins

Popcorn is a classic snack that nearly everyone loves. It packs well in school lunches, makes a great afternoon treat, and of course, is a movie night staple.

You can add variety, and sometimes an extra boost of nutrients, by mixing some other fun ingredients amidst those yummy puffs.

Try these add-ins, in any combination you like, to perk up your popcorn:

1.       Dry roasted edamame (soy beans)

2.       Sunflower or pumpkin seeds

3.       Mini pretzels

4.       A sprinkle of cinnamon sugar

5.       Parmesan cheese

6.       Craisins, dried pineapple pieces, or other dried fruit

7.       Chocolate chips, yogurt chips, or M&Ms

8.       Dry cereal, such as Cheerios, Kix, or Chex

9.       Peanuts or other nuts

10.   Candied or coated nuts

Happy snacking!