Because the Christmas season is filled with extended family we celebrate our family Christmas the week before Christmas.
We start with our Christmas eve.- singing together, reading of Jesus' birth in the book of Luke, praying together, then off to bed (so mommy and daddy can fill stockings, and make preparations for our Christmas day).
We wake to surprises under the tree, and open stockings.
We celebrate Jesus' birthday with a birthday breakfast party, just as we have celebrated each of our own birthdays through the year (complete with the table set, balloons, and streamers).
We read the story of Jesus' birth again, this time from the book of Matthew. We talk about Jesus being the gift we received that first Christmas. We speak of how God became man, was born here on earth, and how he longs to be born in us, live in us.
We open presents. We go to church together. Come home and play together. We have a yummy "Linner" (lunch-dinner.This year we treated the kids to Tepanyaki. Entertainment, good food, and no cooking or clean up make for a very Merry Christmas). Because our Christmas is a week early, we make it a goal to be done with all Christmas wrapping, crafting, buying, and preparing by our Christmas. This gives us a wonderful week off to enjoy the Christmas season, to enjoy advent and the coming of Jesus.
I never knew 9 years ago when we began this that it would become tradition. I LOVE that it has. I confess moving Our Christmas was a little awkward those first couple years, But it has become so familiar, so who we are.
What Christmas traditions does your family have or have you created?
Every Christmas day we travel to visit my family, the Teodosio family. Christmas has always been hosted by my aunt and uncle, Mary and Joseph. My uncle, Joseph Gabriel, was born on Christmas day, he is married to my aunt, Maria Gloria. They have three sons. None of them are named Jesus.
My family is a large Portuguese family. There are almost to many to count-44. There will be two more joining us this year by marriage and birth.
It is wonderful to come from a large family. I watch my grandmother and think of how this beloved family began more than 62 years ago, on the little Portuguese island of Flores, Azores, on the Atlantic Ocean. It began with a man and woman standing beside each other in a small catholic church. Neither knew what their future would hold.
Neither knew then that it would include 6 children, a new life in America, determination, strength, perseverance, heartbreak, grandchildren (including my sister and I who they raised), unconditional love, step- grandchildren, faithfulness, great-grandchildren, loss, loyalty, tradition, adopted great-grandchildren, and always- Hope.
I am blessed to be part of such a family.
It is overwhelming to think that God knew each of us then, back in that little church, on that little island, a million miles (well almost) away from here. It is overwhelming to think that He loved each of us then, just as He does now.
And I wonder what my little family of 5 will grow to be because of the love of a man and a woman standing before God in a church 13 years ago.
I can't wait for those Christmases when I will be surrounded by many generations of Jones'! Row 1, Aunt Violet (whose finally going to be a g-ma) with Aunt Vicki and her grand-daughter Ava. Josie with her doll wearing a sweater made by Vava. Cousins-Amy, Sarah, Ava, and Michelle Row 2, w/ my cousin Michelle, Christmas Decor, cousin Gabriel w/ g.f. Margie Row 3, Aunt Hilda & Uncle Armando, Cousins Sean & Aaron w/ my Aunt Vicki (who was in a car accident in Sept. She is on recovery road- last month she was still in a wheel chair, this month she is using a walker! We are SO GLAD God let us keep her. Btw- her name means "Victory!"), w/ Cousin Michael. Row 4, Sean, Vava, and me, happy Aunt Violet, Aunt Marie, Josie, & Aunt Violet
i recently mentioned in this post, that the two words "but God" are the most beautiful words...that these two words can say everything.
i had intended to write a post sharing with you why i believe that, but my friend thea beat me to it. i'm glad she did because her words say what i wanted to say perfectly!
below are thea's words. stop by and visit her blog, and tell her denise sent you!
"But God." My friend Denise has gotten me thinking about these words a lot. She's right--they're some of the most beautiful words ever.
I love that you can write anything in front of them. Anything! Stories of soiled souls, hopeless happenings, and seemingly unredeemable circumstances, and then swoop in right behind them with "BUT GOD" and the rest all fades in comparison.
"I was rejected by those who should have loved me." BUT GOD.
"My accusers breathe lies against me day and night." BUT GOD.
"I made selfish choices that hurt others and cost me my ministry." BUT GOD.
"I couldn't hold it all together and it fell apart." BUT GOD.
I was thinking about these words this morning especially as I read through Isaiah 60 and camped out on verse 2:
"See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, BUT THE LORD rises upon you and His glory appears over you."
Darkness...thick darkness. BUT THE LORD.
And so often this "But God" part seems to always have to do with revealing His glory. Through our reprehensible deeds and those done to us, He is all about revealing His glory in us and through us.
Go ahead and fill in the blank. There's nothing in the first part of the sentence that supercedes the power and the glory and the majesty of the second.
Advent day 15- FREE HOT CHOCOLATE STAND! Scripture- Zechariah 9:9-17 This was our 6th year giving free hot cocoa to our community at Christmas. Every year WE are blessed in the giving. We love to stand together as a family and give out up to 160 cups of Hot Cocoa. The voices of my children shouting "free hot chocolate!" delights me. This has become our Jones family tradition, and I LOVE THAT! This year (and every year) I prayed for all the individuals that took our free gift, and for those that that pass us by, that they would receive the FREE GIFT that God gave us that first Christmas- JESUS! I pray that Jesus would be born in each of them.
Advent day 16- Christmas Caroling Scripture- Philippians 4: 10-13
Advent day 17- Bake Cookies Scripture- 1 Thessalonians 2:19 & Romans 8:16-17a
Advent day 18- Cookie/Ornament Exchange PARTY! Scripture- Luke 2:8-20 The kids invited 2 friends each to our house to join us for their very own Christmas party (Thanks for letting this adult crash the party kids). All the children brought cookies and an ornament to exchange. They also brought a non-perishable food item to give to our local MANNA HOUSE, and $1 to give to Charity Water. We had a fun time playing a game, eating junk food, listening to a favorite story "The Tale of Three Trees," exchanging treats, decorating cookies, discussing a local charity, watching a video about Charity Water, and giving to both.
I LOVE that my kids are bigger, that we are at a stage where we can throw fun parties together. I enjoyed listening to all the kids giggles. Listening to them share their own stories, including stories of how their families are serving Christ in the community this Christmas season was delicious! MY KIDS HAVE DELIGHTFUL FRIENDS!
Advent day 19- Our Christmas Eve. Scripture- James 1:17 You read that right! it's our Christmas Eve. 9 years ago we moved our Christmas. Between Michael's family, and my families, we already have 3 Christmas' to attend on Christmas day! That is a blessing! BUT in order to have our own family Christmas we'd have to wake before dawn and be sleep-deprived-in-the-car-for-too-many-hours-eaten-too-many-Christmas-cookies-zombies by the time we hit our final destination, my Aunt Mary and Uncle Joseph's house (i'm not kidding). So we moved our Christmas to the Sunday before Christmas, and WE LOVE IT! We love having our family all to our selves, enjoying each other, and making our own traditions.
So tonight we'll be reading the Story of Jesus' birth, enjoying the wonder of it all, Expect-fully waiting for JESUS!
I'm also glad to know that when my own kids are adults they will not have to squeeze us in on Christmas day, as our family Christmas will always be reserved for the weekend before. DID YOU GET THAT KIDS! YOUR ALL MINE THE WEEKEND BEFORE CHRISTMAS FROM NOW UNTIL FOR.EV.ER!
Advent day 9- Make marshmallow men and drink hot cocoa. Isaiah 52:7-12
Advent day 10- Write letters to our Compassion child. Learn about and give to World Vision. (The kids wanted to help a family by purchasing chickens). Sing Christmas carols at a woman's luncheon. Mark 16:15
Advent day 11- Dinner out and a stroll down Christmas Tree Lane. 1 John 1:4-7–
Advent day 13- Christmas Cantata in the a.m.. Bonfire, caroling, and hot cocoa in the evening. John 8:12/ Ecc 3:3:13
Advent day 14- Christmas Piano Recital, and enjoy a new movie "The Tale of Despereaux." (If you haven't watched this movie I highly recommend it. It is a beautiful story about courage and forgiveness). Matthew 5:14-16
Advent day 6- "Here we come a wassailing!" Make wassail and watch "Little Women."
Scripture I John 1:5-22
Directions forNana'sSweet Wassail-4 cups brewed tea (i use lipton).
4 cups cranberry juice
4 cups apple juice (not apple cider)
1 cup O.J.
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon (and/or cinnamon sticks)
(it is very sweet. i add 6 cups of brewed tea to lessen the sweetness).
Add ingredients together in a pot, heat, and serve. Let it simmer all day with a ladle and Christmas cups in close reach! Your home is guaranteed to smell Christmasilicious!
Little Women is by far my favorite childhood book. I became a part of the March family when I was 14. I'd escape to the park down the street from my home, find my way to the shade of a tree, and imagine I was Jo March.
I love to watch the movie each Christmas. Over the years I have discovered that In some way I am each one of the March girls- Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.
Have you read or watched Little Women? Which March girl are you most like?
In my last post I mentioned that Michael and I were going on a date.
Here's how the date turned out!
The van broke down.
Thankfully we had the camera (i always have my camera) and were able to occupy ourselves during the 45 min. wait for AAA towing to come rescue us. As you can see from this pic. we didn't go hungry! Thank you Rod (tow-truck guy) for chauffeuring us the 45 min. back up the hill to our town in your sweet ride.
The van is now awaiting surgery. It needs a new timing belt ($523). We are hoping (praying) that is the extent of it's injuries. If they're are more injuries it will have to undergo another surgery ($2,000+).
I was thinking it would be nice if the "medical expenses" for the van could be included in our other medical expenses from this year, since we have already met that deductible.
On the bright side, the kids weren't with us when the van broke down, and we already had our other vehicle in town (can you imagine what a nightmare it would have been with kids, and then needing to get our other vehicle had it been at home, 30 miles from town. yikes! good timing God! - no pun intended).
And God, Thank you (as I mumble "bah hum bug" under my breath) for another opportunity for you to Provide, and show how You love us.We're counting on You again!
Finally, thank you to all of you who prayed for me! I did it, I played the guitar at church! I have a greater respect and admiration for the folks that get up there and lead both instrumentally and vocally each week. It's not easy.
I'm especially GRATEFUL for the individuals that lead with me-
Ross- who coached me through it saying, "just breath, you can do this, take your time" (i was SO nervous, so out of my comfortable element).
Susan- who whispered to me, "they're singing, your doing fine, they're singing (that was somewhere in the middle of song 3, when I was shaking so much I feared I would have what would appear to be an epileptic seizure).
Jeff- who had tears in his eyes, but don't tell him I told you, cause "grown men don't cry."
If your going to step out of your comfort zone, into something you've longed to do, but don't know if your capable of, make sure your surrounded by people who LOVE you, have your back, and want you to fly! Make sure your with people who want to fly with you.
Playing guitar was a blessing, but soaring with these individuals was a greater blessing!
Advent day 3- Drink hot cocoa with 22 mini-marsmallows (that's how many days there were till Christmas), make advent chains, and fill in a Christmas activity book. Scripture- Matthew 3: 13-17
Advent day 4- Slumber Party by the Christmas tree! Scripture- II Corinthians 5:17-18
The kids thought I was taking pix of them jumping on the couches, but I was videoing them and all their goofiness.
Advent day 5 (today)-Spend the day with Nana n' Gramps! Scripture- I John 1: 5-22
Today's advent activity gives the kids time to make memories with their grandparents (they'll be doing some Christmas decorating up at the lake house), and gives Michael and I a much needed break! I can't remember the last time we really looked at each other, or talked. I miss him. So a little unfinished Christmas shopping, dinner (with a gift-card), looking at each other, talking and/or enjoying the silent togehter, topped off by the movie "The Blind Side" is our childless plan for today!
And here is a little prayer request for me- I'm leading worship tomorrow at church. I have lead worship a zillion times vocally, BUT this time I'm leading instrumentally too. I'm playing guitar! I need prayer for my nerves (Yes, even I get stage fright) to be settled, to have confidence that I can do it, and that I will glorify, and honor God in this offering of praise. THANKS!
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See the darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears upon you. Isaiah 60:1-2
Advent activity Day 2- "Go to the Cool Bean Cafe for peppermint hot chocolate, and play Christmas Speed Scrabble!"
If you are ever in our neck of the woods (Oakhurst, Ca. If you visit Yosemite National Park, you'll likely drive through our neck of the woods, "The Gateway to Yosemite" to get there) and your wanting a GREAT cup of java, make sure you stop by the Cool Bean Cafe.
The Cool Bean Cafe is owned by the sweetest newlywed couple EVER! You will be BLESSED by their inviting personalities, and their love and desire for this community. In addition they offer DELICIOUS fair trade coffee(the Gingersnap Latte is my personal favorite).
And are you asking, "what is Speed Scrabble?" It is the funnest (it's a word) game EVER! What you need: Scrabble pieces from 2 or more games (i place a matching mark on the back of set pieces, so i can return them to the original Scrabble game as needed). How to play: Dump Scrabble pieces on table, flip them with letters facing down Each player takes 7 pieces Flip pieces and create a crossword puzzle with all the letters The first player to use all pieces says, "take 2." All players grab 2 letters from the pile, and continue to build the cross word puzzle. This process continues until the pile is depleted. When the last player has successfully built their crossword puzzle using all the pieces, and their are no more pieces on the table to be taken, he/she counts down to 10, allowing the remainder of the players to time to try to complete their crossword puzzle. When the counting is over the game is over. DO NOT UNDO YOUR CROSSWORD PUZZLE! Players count their points by counting the numbers on Scrabble pieces. Letters that are used in multiple words get multiple points. Unused Scrabble pieces count against the points you accumulated. The player to go out first automatically gets 50 points added to their points. The player with the most points is the winner! For Christmas Speed Scrabble we made a rule that each player with any Christmas word, received an additional 50 points for each word!
The kids and I enjoyed our time together, away from homeschool (shhhh, don't tell them they were working on their spelling as we played) and our normal responsibilities. We enjoyed sipping on cocoa and playing together.
"God loves a cheerful giver," are words spoken often in our house. i think it is important to cultivate a spirit of giving in our children, and in each other.
typically when one thinks of giving they immediately consider their wallets, but in all honesty our wallets are pretty bare. because of this we have looked for creative ways to give over the years. i hope that regardless of how empty or full our wallets are we will always seek creative ways to give.
a creative way to give to the community:
free hot chocolate stand- for 5 years we have served free hot chocolate to our community.first, we get permission from a local small business, and use of an outlet. next, we set up a table complete with 2 large coffee pots (we borrow these from our church) filled with hot chocolate (enoughfor 160 cups), toppings of whipped cream, and marshmallows, and add a candy cane. then, we put the kids to work, inviting passers by to receive their free hot chocolate.for an individual or family:
the 12 days of christmas- we have had the opportunity over the years to surprise families in need of christmas blessings on the 12 days before christmas.
first, choose a family that needs to blessed! may be a family new to the community, a family facing financial difficulty, or a family struggling with health. there are many who need a bit of light to shine on them and their circumstances. many who need tangible love from their community (or even strangers) poured on them.
next, find 12 families (including yourself) to be gift givers for the 12 days leading up to christmas.assign a day to each family, give a gift tag to accompany their gift, and directions to the recipients house.
then, deliver gifts! gift deliveries are top secret. deliver early a.m. or in the p.m., be creative in your deliveries, send someone dressed as santa, or in camouflage. this is the one time a year it is okay to doorbell ditch (accept don't ring the doorbell)!finally, with the last gift delivered on christmas, send a card with everyone's names, wishing them a very merry christmas!this years gift tags have a #1-12 on one side, with this saying on the other.for family:
with as many as 7 families filling the jones house, and a grand total of 23 family members, well, that is a lot of gifts! we decided to get creative to find a way to blesss family members. how do we do it? breakfast in bed!
on christmas eve. morning families are served breakfast in bed. the night before we leave a door hanger on each door (just as you would find in a hotel), asking family members to tell us the time they'd like their meal delivered, beverage choices, and other special instructions.
on christmas eve. morning we wake early and get to work. michael does most of the cooking, while i serve as assistant. we ready the meal, ready the trays, add a special note accompanied by the christmas story of jesus' birth, then deliver the breakfast trays.
A few years ago I was given an advent box as a gift. The box has 25 smaller boxes to fill. Honestly, I wasn't thrilled about the responsibility that had been given to me. I Immediately felt overwhelmed at the duty of filling each of those little boxes with Christmas treasures.But the box has surprised me. Instead of filling it with store bought treasures I realized I could fill each box with an activity for each day. Because of this box the time of advent (which means "coming" or "expecting") has become the richest month of the year. I have found myself more intentional about the kids, being in their world, creating along side them, participating in their wonder and their giggles, making memories with them.
My goal for December is to share with you the activity planned for each day leading up to Christmas. In addition there will be daily scripture reading (thanks Kristen who suggested this, and shared her list).
The activities vary from drinking a cup of hot cocoa filled with 25 marshmallows (the days there are until Christmas) to havingaFree Hot Cocoastand.
Today's activity was to paint a Christmas tree on the sliding glass window (I am o.c.d., so the kids were surprised that the daily windexed window was going to be covered in paint!) The kids also made 25 ornaments from construction paper.
We discussed the meaning of advent, that the Savior had come to our world, to be with us, to be born in us, to be living in each of us.
For the next 25 days of advent we will add one of the handmade ornaments to the painted tree. The ornament will have the name of someone we love, who we will pray for. We will pray that Jesus will be born in them, that He will be their Savior, and live fully in and through them.
I hope you enjoy the next 25 days of advent with us!
What does your family do to celebrate advent? (Scripture reading Isaiah 40: 1-11)
I'm Denise Jones; Michael's wife, Noah, Emilie and Josie's mommy.
Jesus knows me this I love.
Praise is who I am, praise is what I do.
I enjoy creativity and celebrating.
I have a love/hate relationship with homeschooling.
I value time spent with a good friend.
I go no where without my lipstick!
"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us- set us right with him, make us fit for him- we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all; We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his doors to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand- out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting praise."
"Even in childhood was implanted within me a trace of that mysterious unity from which I was derived" St. Augustine Everybody has to change or they expire. Everybody has to leave, leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons. I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago. Only a good story has a character different at the end than it was in the beginning. Through Painted Deserts - Donald Miller
"Our whole life was only given to us to advance us by great strides toward our heavenly country." Lancelot Andrews
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him."