Nailing Christmas

©LLB Images 2016

Christmas is coming!

For some readers that announcement provokes nostalgic sentiments and joy so tangible we feel it wrap around us like a soft blanket.  For others, a dread—a cynical, stressed-out and guilty dread—settles over our hearts like a winter fog even while we tell ourselves we should be, “in the Christmas Spirit,” whatever that means.

For most, the approach of Christmas brings an emotional concoction of both extremes.  We know Christmas should be a time of joy but we also admit that in reality, in our homes, it will be a time of added strain.

As Christians, this conflict can be exacerbated by the many platitudes that remind us that Christmas is no regular holiday.  For us, it is a Holy Day: celebrating the coming of our Savior and everything that has meant for us: our redemption, our renewal, our resurrection.

  • Jesus is the reason for the season
  • Keep Christ in Christmas
  • Wise Men still seek Him
  • It’s not about the presents–it’s about His Presence

And on and on it goes. We see these reminders on our social media feeds, on quaint rustic home decor and on bumper stickers in the church parking lot.  These words may function as a guilt trip reinforcing that we aren’t doing Christmas right. We know it’s all supposed to be about Jesus. He really is the reason for the season.  It really is our responsibility as parents to make Christmas less about the presents and more about His presence…but there are just so many forces at work to distract us from what really matters.  The spirit may be willing, but…still.

Is it even possible in the midst of Black Friday sales and company parties and white elephant gift exchanges and school holiday music concerts to make time to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way?  When outside expectations pressure us to have a perfect Christmas, can we really give our families a purposeful Christmas?

What if we didn’t have to conclude each Christmas season feeling like we failed it. What if when December 26 rolled around we could all collectively smile and sigh, “Nailed it.”

It hasn’t been perfect but I want to share with you what our family has done to intentionally focus on Jesus during very busy seasons of life.  We have raised four children less than five years apart.  We later added two adopted brothers to the mix.  We have been as busy as anyone at Christmastime.  But we have continued this one simple practice during the many years of elementary school parties, church pageants, basketball seasons, high school show choir extravaganzas and now the college years. We have created a tradition that continues to give our celebration significance.

I want to give your family a simple template to nail Christmas year after year.  It’s a simple tool that will help your family build a foundation for Christmas that could last for generations.  

The basic framework for Nailing Christmas is the Family Meeting.  Click to learn more…

Nailing Christmas consists of holding a couple of family meetings thoughout the Christmas season.  You are in control–you decide how many meetings, how often you hold the meetings, etc.  Our family does one each Sunday night for four weeks leading up to Christmas.

If you’ve decided Nailing Christmas is something you’d like to try with your family, more information will be available with future blog posts. 

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Thomas, Marissa, Loretta, Jake, Jeremy, Alex, & Lizzy ©LLB Images 2017

Family Meetings

family meetings.jpg

Family Meetings have been a staple in our household.  We have gathered around our table or around the fireplace throughout the years to accomplish a lot of family business.   Anyone in the family is free to call and lead a family meeting at any time. The agendas for the meetings have been quite various:

  • What are we doing this weekend?
  • Let’s plan a family trip
  • There’s an upcoming home improvement project–and what this means for you
  • How do we not spend our entire summer vacation staring at screens?
  • How to change the toilet paper roll
  • Why aren’t people waking up on time?
  • Giving good news–or bad news
  • Let’s talk about adoption
  • How are we doing upholding our family values?

Some of our family’s most important moments and memories have occurred during the course of a family meeting.  We have laughed and cried together as we announced the births and deaths of loved ones, empowered our kids to research their preferred potential vacation activities, taught practical life skills, discussed assorted Bible topics and made major life decisions.

This tool has been a helpful way to keep our whole family feeling informed and unified and loved. It has been a powerful way to bring scripture to daily life application. And it has been a means of really getting to know one another’s individual strengths, preferences, ideas, and goals.

There are three important tips we’ve found for having successful family meetings:

Be Concise

Be concise doesn’t necessarily mean keep it within a particularly short time frame.  It may mean that—but it doesn’t have to.  It just means don’t make it loooooong.  Don’t lecture.   Be aware if your kids are losing interest and wrap it up.  As a parent, you never want to sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown.  When your children are small, their attention spans are also small.  As your kids get older, you may need to be sensitive to their homework load for the night. Make it last just the right amount of time.  Leave them wishing for more not wishing it were over.

Be Inclusive

Ever notice how every group has one person who likes to monopolize the conversation? In your family, you already know who I’m talking about.  They like the limelight and they steal the thunder. As the leader of your family meeting, you have the opportunity to give everyone a turn to participate equally according to their ability.  Pray to become even more aware of the personalities of your kids and try to help draw out the quieter ones to feel involved and included.  This is a great way to teach about personality differences and how to be a healthy team.  Learning to be quiet and listen as well as learning to be confident and speak up are life lessons best learned first in the safety of the home.

Be Positive

Our kids have always been excited to assemble when a family meeting gets called. Some of our family meetings have been just plain fun but some have been called specifically for times of loss or instruction or correction.  If the only time we called the family together was for something bad, then I doubt the kids’ reaction would still be so eager. But even for the “downers,” we always tried to end on a positive note.  A prayer, an encouraging verse, a group hug, a word of praise from Dad.  Make them glad they can trust you to lead the family and make them glad they have each other.  If your family has been struggling lately with…with any of the things families struggle with…disrespectful attitudes, poor time management, ingratitude, etc. it may be time for a meeting. But use your discernment.  It may be time for one of those corrective meetings.  But it also may be time to just play some Twister or go out for ice cream or do something together just for the fun of it.

Life is hard and family life is complicated. Family meetings can help.  I hope this encourages your family to reap the benefits from these times of togetherness like mine has.  Why not call a family meeting tonight?