Destination themed gifts and the value in giving experiences instead of more stuff…

Do your kids need more stuff? Yep, mine don’t either. In a culture bent on buying the latest, greatest toy or gadget, we have the powerful opportunity to rethink gift giving and set a tone in our home that is counter-cultural.

Do your kids need more stuff? Yep, mine don’t either.  In a culture bent on buying the latest, greatest toy or gadget, we have the powerful opportunity to rethink gift giving and set a tone in our home that is counter-cultural.

That’s why we’ve sought to shield our children from the onslaught of commercials, from things in this life that produce the gimmie’s. That is why we have sought to give gifts that serve a purpose – to develop their minds, their imaginations, to promote open-ended exploration or delve into historical or scientific explorations.

Oh this describes you too? {31 Days of Gifts that Inspire Learning |}

As I wrap up my series today, I wanted to share one last tip.  Gifts don’t have to be physical.  We have opportunities everywhere to give them the gift of experiences. You have the opportunity to help your kids understand that experiences, just like “stuff” shouldn’t be an expectation, but rather a gift.

Some of my favorite gifts as a girl centered around experiences – even one’s that weren’t directed at me.  I still remember the year, my parents gave my sister horseback riding lessons.  It was so much fun to sit on the fence and watch her at her first lesson.  It was a magical experience, not only for her, but for her sisters as well. Why?  Because experiences were valued as precious; because my parents cultivated the mindset that we were each individuals with particular interests – enabling us to appreciate what other’s received even if we didn’t get the same thing.

The opportunities are endless.  Today, I just want to share a few ideas to get you all thinking creatively so you can find ideas that fit within your family and your particular children…  You can give a creative card explaining the experience and/or pair it with a small gift to help build anticipation.

Think LOCAL! 

Let’s start by thinking local.  What kinds of interests or potential hobbies interest your child?  Giving the gift of special lessons or a trip to a local place could be a whole lot of fun.

Horse Back Riding Lessons

  • Classic Horse book, like Black Beauty
  • Boots (or any other essential that the riding instructor doesn’t provide)

Zoo Membership 

  • Animal Crackers – In our home crackers are a big treat.  I consider them at best mostly empty calories.  But announcing a zoo membership gift along with each child having their very own box with string handle has always been a big {frugal} gift hit in our home when announcing a zoo membership gift! You can pick them up at just about any grocery store!
  • Animal Lunchbox – so they can pack a lunch for the excusion(these were a big hit from a great-aunt a few years back).


Baseball Little League (or any other sports)

Giving the gift of a team sport!

With multiple kiddos and a tight budget, we don’t sign our kids up for team sports often.  In fact, they’ve only done it once.  But that year was a huge hit.  My parents gave them a card announcing the opportunity to play little league baseball/teeball and then presented them with a glove and ball so they could start practicing!  The boys were so excited and savored each and every game. My littlest insisted on wearing his history costume knickers to each and every game…

Dance or Gymnastic Lessons


Vacations CAN count as gifts.  Vacations are a privilege, not a right.  Giving the gift of a special vacation makes for a beautiful gift full of memories and learning opportunities!

Grand Canyon or other National Park

Disney Land/Disney WorldGiving the Gift of Disney!

My in-laws took the whole family to Disney World as our Christmas gift one year.  It was AMAZING!  I didn’t miss the opportunity to incorporate a little learning into the adventure. (In addition to learning about Walt Disney himself, my poor children needed to learn about Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and other classic Disney characters…)


 The opportunities are endless.  With a little creativity, you can give the gift of memory making experiences!

I’ll be stepping back from blogging in December after this week, but you can keep up with us over on Instagram

To check out the whole series:31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

Cultivating Thanksgiving and Anticipating Christmas

November through December is one of my favorite times of year.  Not only is our weather simply beautiful, but it’s a time of year when I pause to think.  I’m sure I can’t be the only one that gets super busy with the changing of seasons…  When we start a new “school” year, life is hectic as we slip into new routines, resume regular activities and tackle fresh challenges.  I get going a million miles a minute and if I’m not careful, I’ll look up and realize I’m not headed in a direction that I want to go. As November dawns, I find myself slowing down.  Not physically, but rather mentally.  It is a soul slow down.  My spirit becomes quiet and I sit back to take stock.  I sit back in gratitude for all God’s done.

Yesterday, our pastor spoke on the cost of discipleship.  I’ve been mulling it over in my mind continually since then.  In a culture that prizes comfort and convenience, our pastor challenged us to not be subject to these two idols.  Jesus did not come to grant us a life of comfort and ease.  He came to rescue us.  He came to call us to kingdom work.  And so I sit and think.

This has me looking forward to this season and seeking ways to cultivate these stirrings that God’s placed in my heart.  I want to invite my kids into the act of listening to the Lord and then FOLLOWING Him wherever He leads -no matter the cost.  I want to remember back and I want to prepare for the future.

Our culture is changing so rapidly.  It’s vital that we, as a family, become grounded in God’s Word.  The rumblings in our culture remind me of what the puritans went through back in England and how God used that time to move them here to the new world.  As I look towards the future and the role God’s called me to play in shaping these young lives we are blessed to nurture, I want to be intentional.  I want to be resolved and yet relaxed as I follow God’s call in discipling these kids of mine and whatever else he brings along the way.

So we’ll be pulling out our favorite Thanksgiving books.  We’ll be talking about counting the cost.  We’ll be talking about Jesus, why He came and what it means to follow Him.

So I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts and resources (including several exclusive coupon codes) that help us during these two seasons!

Favorite Thanksgiving Resources


I’ve collected all of my posts here on our hands-on history lessons, crafts, and book recommendations!

Mayflower Boat Tutorial

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve made our Mayflower Walnut boats.  With Greta being 3 now, I think it is definitely time to pull these out again!

Christmas Thoughts and Resources

I love to slow our schedules down a bit in December and really savor time together as a family and time to spend with the Lord.

Here are a few favorite posts.  You can check out all of my Christmas related blog posts here or take a peek at my Christmas Pinterest board.

Christmas Young Children     A Giving Countdown for Christmas.
Open-ended water-color project with beautiful results           Beautiful picture books for the Christmas season

4 Amazing Christmas Devotionals/Resources

This post may contain affiliate links.

Truth in the Tinsel

Truth in the Tinsel 2014I love this devotional from my friend, OhAmanda.  We’ve done it 3 times now.  It is fun and engaging – even when we went the easy route with the coloring ornaments instead of the messy crafts during two of those years!  We’ll be delving into it again next year when Greta is four!  Here is our initial review that I wrote and then my followup post on it from last year.  I even have a special coupon code, just for you all!

COUPON CODE ALERT: Use CULTIVATE to get 20% off the ebook!  It’s good for the rest of 2015!


More than a Holiday

More Than A Holiday
I’m super excited about this one.  I’ve been reading through it and can’t wait to do this devotional with the kids this year.  It is a great resource that answers a lot of questions.

It’s divided into the following sections:

Is the Christmas Story Real? – How do we know and the role of genealogies and prophesies.
The Christmas Story – one day just focused on the overall account.
The Characters of the Christmas Story – a deeper look at the people involved.
Elements of the Christmas Story – giving historical background that will foster appreciation and understanding.
Why is the Christmas Story Important to Us? – this section addresses myths surrounding the Christmas story as well as the take home question, “Who is Jesus to You?”

Each days devotional is divided up into sections that provide parents and older kids a deeper historical and theological context, a scripture to read, a daily devotion, dialogue questions, a simple prayer and then optional family time activities.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  For those that want to join in and do this with your family, I have a coupon code for you that is good through NOVEMBER 8TH!  Use “CULTIVATED” to get 20% off the More Than A Holiday ebook.  If you are a print book kind of person, it is also available for purchase over at Amazon.

SQUILT Christmas Carol Study

An in-depth look at 5 Christmas Carols: a guide to quietly listening and discussing these classic carols.

If you are anything like me, you are asking yourself, “What is SQUILT?” SQUILT is short for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time. Doesn’t that sound lovely?  This book contains 5 lessons that are designed to take 5 weeks, assuming you “do SQUILT” 2 times a week.  It centers around these 5 Christmas carols: Carol of the Bells, Away in the Manger, The Little Drummer Boy, Angels We Have Heard on High and Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.

This study is a great way to sneak in some quality music with your children and help build their habit of attention while listening for different musical details. It melds music appreciation, listening for tempo, rhythm, instrumentation and mood with a snapshot of this history behind the Carols.  There is a notebooking component that is clearly laid out for those of us that, ahem, don’t really do a whole lot of that.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  I’m full of coupon codes today!!!  It’s Mary’s birthday today, so if you use the coupon code “BIRTHDAY” you’ll get 25% off the Christmas Carols ebook or any of her other SQUILT Music Appreciation programs.  The coupon is good through NOVEMBER 10TH!

Praying the Scriptures through Advent

Jesus, Light of the World: Praying the Scriptures Through Advent  And then finally…  a resource for ME!!!  My friend, Candace, just released a simple and beautiful devotional for praying the Scriptures through Advent.  I’m looking forward to curling up on the couch in the morning with a cup of tea, my Bible, and this ebook for some special time with Jesus – {hopefully} before my kids wake up.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  And yes, Candace was gracious to give me a special coupon code for you all.  You can use “CULTIVATE” for $2 off that is good through November 26th!

Ditch the Guilt and Embrace Real-Life Learning

Embracing the beauty of real-life learning and all of the opportunities that this season provides!

Sometimes as homeschool moms, we can have a tendency to heap guilt on ourselves.    We want to do it all and do it every moment.  Sometimes we can forget that there are seasons and that for the homeschool family, those “seasons” might look different than for those in school.  Our seasons will probably even look different than other homeschool families.

I’m writing over at The Busy Mom and sharing about the excitement and opportunity that this month affords families as we watch real-life learning kick into high gear!  Join me?


For our family, we’ve had to push through a little later than usual, but we’ll be shelving the school books tomorrow and taking to the outdoors, the kitchen and of course cuddling up on the couch with some great books!   I’ll most likely be continuing to take a bit of a blogging break as we slow down and enjoy this season together celebrating the birth of Jesus!

Truth in the Tinsel – What’s New and Why We LOVE it!

For 2016 use “CULTIVATE” to get 20% off!

Truth in the Tinsel! Coupon Code for 20% off!

Truth in the Tinsel - the perfect advent devotional for preschoolers up through mid elementary school age! {COUPON CODE alert}

This post may contain affiliate links.

Christmas!  It’s a time of year that I love as we slow life down and take in the wonder of the Incarnation – God with us!  As a mom, I love nothing more than to bring my children into this sense of wonder and delight.  One tool that we’ve come to dearly love in our home is OhAmanda’s Truth in the Tinsel advent devotional.  I first told you all about it two years ago.  I wrote about how it was so understandable and relate-able.   I think both of those are key – especially when doing a devotional with really young kids.

Why We LOVE Truth in the Tinsel!

Each of the 24 devotions contains the following elements:

Read it together: This part has the scripture passage reference.  I love that she encourages us to flip the pages of our own Bibles instead of just having the passage there to read.  Our kids need to see the importance of opening up the Word together.

Make it together: Here is the craft ornament for the day.  She has step by step instructions as well as photographs.  I’m a type A, do it by the book type, but when my sister told me of some ways she was improvising, it helped me release the need to do it exactly like the book.  So if you are that type, feel released!  You can improvise – but you don’t have too.

Talk about it together:  I just love this section.  Amanda has such an easy-going conversational tone that comes through in her book, making it so easy to unpack beautiful aspects of the Biblical text you just read.  It is a great way to practice having those special spiritual conversations with your children that many feel unsure about having.

Do more together:  Here she often includes a fun extra activity that you can do as well if you have extra time that day.

Other bonuses that this book includes:

A craft supply list.  There is no need to hunt through each day’s devotional and set up a list.  She’s done that for you.  Simply circle what you don’t have from the list and hit the store.

Alternative Schedules: Let’s face it.  This season is busy.  She lays out four ideas for alternative schedules if you don’t have time to do all 24.

Two Countdown Options: Printable paper chain or printable squares.  We opted for the second option.  I found an image of Mary and Joseph on the donkey and then one of Bethlehem that I printed off and laminated. {I can’t find the image I used, but this, this or this might work if you want to set up something similar.}

Travel on the road to Bethlehem as you make your way through the Truth in the Tinsel advent devotional! {COUPON CODE ALERT}And My NEWEST favorite addition:

Printable Coloring Ornaments! << You don’t HAVE to do all of the crafts!    

Truth in the Tinsel printable ornaments - Simply color and strong on a bit of twine! {COUPON CODE alert!}

It’s been a crazy couple of years and I didn’t have the energy to get to all of the crafts.  I had a colicky newborn and I was reinventing how we ate to accommodate her huge list of food sensitivities…  I loved reading the devotional, but fell off the bandwagon with the ornaments. 🙁  So last year when I wanted to do it again, I started to panic.  We would be heading out of town for Christmas and I still had a little girl with huge food needs that was taking a lot of my time.  Amanda saved the day when she released her Printable Coloring Ornaments.  {I would have hugged her, except we hadn’t met in real life yet.  That didn’t happen until 2 weeks ago!}  I highly recommend snagging these too so you have something to fall back on if you don’t make it to the craft, or for those days when you are out of town travelling, or when life just seems a bit overwhelming.

We loved taking a piece of twine and pinning it to the back of our couch.  Last year was a sweet success!

And because I love this devotional so much and to make it a little easier to purchase, I have a special coupon code for you.  Simply use CULTIVATE to get 20% off your order.



BUY THE EBOOK and/or PRINTABLE ORNAMENTS:  Truth in the Tinsel

Join the Truth in the Tinsel community on facebook!

Greeting the Rising Sun!


Earlier this week, my sweet oldest tiptoed into my room where I lay dozing, enveloped in the cozy warmth of blankets and nestled next to my heat emitting hubby!

He greeted me with a whispered question.  “Could we go meet the “rising sun?”

The boys had whispered late the night before, and I figured they would forget the idea I had to go meet the rising sun…  But my ‘morning person’ son was ready to go and I could hear Greta stirring in her room.  So we bundled up.  {Rich made fun of my Oma’s fur hat, but this desert girl knew she’d be COLD.}

We had recently been discussing how Zechariah described Jesus as the “Rising Sun coming from heaven to “shine on those living in darkness” in our Truth in the Tinsel advent devotional. {Can I just say that I’m so thankful for the printable ornaments? I’m just not feeling crafty this year!}   We had talked about how light overcomes darkness and I had suggested getting up to meet the ‘rising sun’ in our tiny desert hill a block from our home.

Bleary eyed, I rolled out of bed, caught up in the anticipation of meeting with THE Rising Son and greeting the rising sun.  It was beautiful.  We soaked up the dawn of a new day and communion with Jesus.  I couldn’t help but pray that my life could be like the scattered clouds reflecting the beauty and glory of the Rising Sun!




Practice Doesn’t Always Make Perfect…

{photo courtesy of my sister, Bethany}

Remember when I mentioned that service and generosity aren’t strengths of mine?  I’m finding that this month is just as much a lesson for me as it is for the kiddos.  Do I sound like a broken record?  Because I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before as we’ve learned to cast our cares, grow in patience, perseverance, etc…

Our mission for the day was simple.  Bake cookies, make cards and go thank our firemen.  Simple really.  I have three boys, in-love with danger, fire and anyone who tackles both of those for a living.

Xander and I baked the cookies.  I’m growing, friends.  He did most of the work, although we are still trying to navigate the hand-off for the oven.  He’s my cautious one and he’s terribly nervous about burning himself.

Next, we talked about WHY we were thankful for our firemen and how we could bless them by telling them so.  I asked Keegan, my artist, if he might draw a picture for them.  I suggested the possibility of a nativity scene (a favorite of his to draw – especially this time of year) with the firemen going to see Jesus.  In my head I was entertaining daydreams of his whimsical drawings taped to the fridge at the firehouse.  You know, as a constant reminder of Jesus, why we are celebrating his birth and our desire to see these brave men encounter the King of KINGS!  It was a beautiful dream.

But I’m discovering my need to hold those dreams lightly and go with the flow.  This is what he drew and his impromptu explanation/question.

So, have YOU ever seen a stable on fire????  bahahahaha.  This was not exactly what I had in mind…  But the men found it quite humorous.

This daily looking to give and serve, is moving me out of my comfort zone.  I’m great with the most important aspect of my ministry – discipling these four children of mine, but bestowing gifts on strangers is challenging.  But really, isn’t moving out and ministering to other people with my children part of their discipleship process too?  I found myself mentally rehearsing what we would say both inside my head and then verbally helping the boys rehearse things they could say on the way over.

We practiced and practiced and practiced.


…clammed up the minute we stepped foot in the stationEvery single one of us.  Isn’t that the silliest thing?  Thankfully, I’m an adult and managed a little better than the boys so it wasn’t completely awkward.  Oh this month of focusing our attention on others is so good for us!

Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does reveal areas we need to grow in and provide ample opportunity to do just that.  I’m thankful for how it is stretching us and opening our eyes to see {really see} others as we reach out to give, serve and love this month!

Boy-Style Giving ~ a la Legolas vs. Gimli

The boys are loving to rip open their ‘mission’ for the day each morning as we discover new ways to give, serve and love those around us this month. Today’s mission was to SMILE… At everyone! We discussed how a simple hello and a big smile can be such a precious gift to someone.

For one of my boys a ready smile and a quick hello come easily.  This is the child that would flirt endlessly with anyone who would look his way as a baby and toddler.  He’ll talk to just about anyone.  That no-fear and ready trust have been tempered a bit as he’s become older.  Son number 2 was born scowling.  I used to joke that those first two boys of mine made a great team.  Xander would provide the friendliness and manners and Keegan would make sure they didn’t get kidnapped.
So as we set out to run errands this morning (i.e. find stuff to try and remove the crayon stains from all of our clothes due to a crayon that went through the dryer…), we decided to take advantage to the opportunity to spread some smiles.
Mr. {Middle} Grumpy-Pants told me stubbornly in the parking lot that he didn’t have any smiles to give.  Little does he realize that with my 8+ years of boy parenting under my belt, I can outsmart him!  I pulled out the old competitive spirit and challenged the boys to see how many people they could say hello to in the store.  My oldest jumped on board immediately and was smiling away.  It didn’t take long for the other two boys to get into it as they came running up to whisper their ‘smile-count.’  It reminded me of that battle scene at Helm’s Deep in one of the Lord of the Rings movies where Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf had a friendly rivalry going with their kill-count.  No, my kids have yet to see those movies, but they didn’t need to in order to find inspiration for a friendly rivalry of their own…  I think that is just hard-wired into boys. 
“I smiled at that lady, Mommy”


“Well, I smiled and said ‘Hi’ to that mother and her little boy.”

And so it continued until they all ran up to greet our check-out lady.

They received many smiles in return and it was a good first day of learning the benefits of the gift of a smile.

Our Advent Countdown: Learning How to Give, Serve, Love

An Advent Countdown: Learning How to Give, Serve, Love, includes printable chain for ideas on serving this Christmas!

Yesterday was the start of our advent celebrations… We delved into our Truth in the Tinsel advent devotional. As we talked about how Jesus was the LIGHT who came and shone into a world drowning in darkness, we also read (Matt 5:14-16) and sang about how when God has rescued us, cleaned our hearts, he has placed his light inside of us. And we are called to GO, to let our light so shine before men that they may glorify God!

In addition to our focus this month on the glory of God and the wonder of God becoming man, we want to focus our eyes outward and learn how we can GIVE, SERVE and LOVE those around us!

Why? By giving, serving and loving others, we are giving to God.  Eyes lit up at the thought of being able to give a little back to Jesus who has given us everything!  We’ve spent years sowing the beautiful truths of the meaning of Christmas and why Jesus came. Having first received His love, the older children are ready and excited to share His love with others.

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

{Matthew 25:40}

I’m blessed with many friends who excel in spotting needs and meeting them.  But I have to be honest with you, serving and giving is not something that comes naturally to me. More often than not, I need a blunt “we need you to help _____” in order for me to see the need.    So it should come as no surprise that my kids aren’t very good at that either.  But Scripture is clear that we are called to give generously and serve extravagantly. So we pulled out the Bible and have been reading and discussing Matthew 25:31-40.
We resolved to continue to seek to grow in this area.  If God is calling us to represent Him to others, than He most certainly is going to help us to do it, right?  So for December we put together a countdown chain leading up to Christmas {because we love that sort of thing}.  Tucked neatly inside each chain link is a mission for the day.  Some of them simple, some more challenging.  All of them pointing us towards the beauty of giving rather than simply receiving.
Some of them are simply as easy as “Smile at everyone and wish them Merry Christmas” because in our busyness some days we forget to look others in the eye and say hi.  My kids need to see the beautiful affect when they take the time to care for someone by simply acknowledging that they are there and that you care.  It has been satisfying to talk to them about it and see their interest grow.
I also wanted some ideas to incorporate here at home.  Service starts at home.  Here is where we learn the how-to’s and practice living out our values.  So one day they will be challenged to serve their brother by doing one of his chores or planning some kind of special way to surprise and encourage a brother!
We also have listed making cookies for neighbors, writing a note to our postman and leaving him/her a treat, helping their great grandfather, leaving a gift for someone at a vending machine, etc. It is so funny, because as I’ve been mulling this over for the last several weeks, God brought others who are doing the very same thing across my path… I just love this idea for Shepherd’s pouches as a means for encouraging serving and giving.  I think we might try and incorporate something like it next year…  And then I discovered Lil’ Light of Mine’s Light ‘Em Up campaign. It gave me a lot of ideas to choose from when selecting what we wanted to focus on as a family.  If you are looking for even more ideas, check them out.   I settled for putting together a set of 32 ideas and then working with my oldest and our family calendar to choose the 24 we wanted to focus on this year.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Acts 20:35


How this played out in our family and moved us out of our comfort zones.

Giving the Gift of a Smile: Boy-Style

By the way, if you are still looking for an advent devotional, it is not to late to get Truth in the Tinsel.  It is perfect for the toddler-lower elementary crowd.  I love the easy to follow and implement format, the shopping and supply lists {that make it easier to implement}, the alternative schedules {6, 7 and 10 day options} and now printable ornaments.

UPDATE: For those of you who want to order this year {2016}, you can use the coupon code CULTIVATE for 20% off your order!

Truth in the Tinsel: A Review

Using holidays to point my children to Jesus is very important to me.  That’s why we’ve made such a big deal about Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension Day and even Valentine’s and St. Patricks’s Day in the past.  They’ve all served to provide an exciting opportunity to be purposeful in drawing their attention to the Lord.

There is so much out there for celebrating Advent, but none of it ever seemed to fit my hopes for what I wanted to do with my kids.  Either they were too simplistic or too complex for my young children to understand.  I’m just a smidge particular. So I ended up spending the last several years pulling my own thing together.

With a new baby this year, I was quick to realize that my creative juices certainly weren’t up to the task of dreaming something up.  Instead, I decided to keep things really simple and focus on spending time in prayer, worship and reading them some of my favorite Christmas books.  The beauty of God coming down as a man to rescue us from sin is that we can now have a rich, personal relationship with Him.  So RELATIONSHIP is our focus this year…

After I had settled that in my heart, I caught wind of a new ebook coming out: Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands.  I love Amanda over at Impress Your Kids.  We are on the same page with having a heart to impress the wonder and glory of knowing Jesus into our children.  Not only that, we both tend to approach it in a hands-on kind of way!  I just knew I would love her book.  So getting the opportunity to preview an advance copy was such a treat.

To SUM it all up, what I’ve been looking for all these years is nicely contained in this adorable ebook.  I wanted an easy to use resource that has substance (beyond just cute, itty-bitty baby Jesus in a manger), was easy for young children to understand and memorable..

Amanda writes in her introduction:

“The key to this entire advent celebration is to have a daily focus and meditation on God’s greatest gift. Your children will learn the ins and outs of the story because you’ve facilitated a time to discuss, play and create. And in those moments, God will speak to their hearts and yours. 

“The little Baby is no longer in the manger, but alive and sitting on a throne – waiting to have a relationship with you and your children. Help your children get to know Him this Christmas!.”

I love how she ties the Christmas story into the big picture of God’s redemptive work.  God loves us and wants to bring us back into his family.  Sending Jesus is how he accomplished this!  Truth in the Tinsel does a wonderful job at balancing the basics of the story, but also introduces so much more scriptural truth into each day.  As I read, I found myself pondering the material and seeing the Holy Spirit speak to me too.  Something that touches both my children and myself is always a good sign.

This book is specifically geared to reach the hearts and minds of children in that preschool-mid elementary age range.  The book does a great job at walking you as the parent through the process of discipling your children.

I love how it is broken down.  It is easy to navigate.  Each day is explained on one page and includes, “the clue” – which is a picture.  As we read the scripture passage  to the children, they are to be on the hunt to figure out what the clue has to do with the passage.  When they hear the word or see the connection, they are to shout it out!  This draws them in and helps them to listen and really grasp the theme for the day.  Then there is something “to read together” (the scripture passage), something “to make together” (the ornament craft – complete with detailed instructions and pictures), something “to talk about together” (scripting with questions to draw your children out and also to explain the passage) and a “do more together” section (with an extra activity).

I can see how this repetition in format from day to day will really help the kids understand and the way she words the discussion part is just perfect for helping our young children understand the deeper meanings behind various aspects of the Christmas story.

This is also such a wonderful memory builder.  Taking big ideas and making them concrete and hands-on lends itself to really solidifying what they are learning.  I mentioned that a bit in my last post about Christmas.  The simple ornaments do just that.  Because we will have three sets of ornaments, I think we will hang one set on our regular Christmas tree, one set on a miniature Christmas tree that I will set up in the boys room and gift another set to my parents.

It also utilizes a ‘countdown’ which my boys always love.  There are paper picture clues that you can place in a wooden advent drawer stand if you have one or there is the option to print off the paper clues and make a countdown paper chain (which is what we will be doing!)

Previewing the material was fun, but I really wanted to see how it would work out with my children, so we tried out ‘Day 1’ this morning.

 My little boys never really sit still. And that is a-ok. They still absorb so much!
They were excited to make their candle ornament to remind them of who is the light!

We all gave the first devotional and project a thumbs-up!  Now we just have to be patient and wait until December 2nd to start the next devotional!

The beauty of it is that each day can stand alone, so there is no pressure to get it all done.  Even though the entire project only took us about 30 minutes to complete (plus about 15 minutes in prep time) I’m sure there will be days that I don’t get to it (Greta still makes life pretty unpredictable).  Thankfully, the devotional aspect takes 10 minutes tops and even if we just do that some days, it will still be a treat!

If you have children in the preschool-mid elementary years and are looking for an advent devotional, I highly recommend this one.  The price can’t be beat.

Anyone want to join us?

For 2016 use “CULTIVATE” to get 20% off!

Truth in the Tinsel! Coupon Code for 20% off!

You can order the book here at their website.  

Disclaimer: Truth in the Tinsel and Amanda at Impress Your Kids provided me with a free copy of her ebook to review.  The opinions shared are completely my own.  I would have been recommending it anyways after I had purchased it today.

Cultivating Christ at Christmas

Making the most of this special Christmas season with our young children!


I’ve found is that in order to have a peaceful, thoughtful experience I must:

First PRAY.

I want this to be a meaningful time for my family. In order for my hopes to become a reality, it is important to pray and ask God what He wants us to focus on at this time. There are a plethora of wonderful opportunities out there and I need His direction in what my family needs to hear, experience and do this next month.

Second – PLAN.

Without a plan, stress rises up as I dash about last minute to pull things together or I get so distracted by peripheral things, that I don’t spend time doing what is really important. Times like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, etc can serve as wonderful times to reflect, remember and worship. The excitement of these seasons lend themselves well to pulling our children into the wonder of God becoming man and redeeming a world that was lost.

But without a plan, this time can slip through our fingers before we’ve had a chance to reflect ourselves and instruct our children.


Things to keep in mind, especially with younger children:

Keep it concrete ~ Children need a firm grasp of concrete facts, or the narrative before they can move into understanding and appreciating the abstract.

  • Read them the story. Both straight from the Bible (maybe at bedtime after they are tucked in) and utilize picture books. Here are some of our favorite Christmas books. (Over the past several years, I’ve wrapped up our favorite Christmas books (or coupons for Hot cocoa, evening walk around the neighborhood, etc) for them to do each night as we countdown to Christmas.)

Make it hands-on ~ Children learn best when they are moving their bodies and engaging their imaginations.

  • Get a child friendly Nativity set. If they can play with one you already have, great. If not, consider investing in or creating paper dolls for them to play with. Play is a child’s work. It is how they internalize what they are learning about. We love our Little People Nativity Playset (although I’m disappointed that they only have one that lights up and plays music now) and of course there are many lovely child-friendly nativities out there!

(Keegan with his ‘town of Bethleham’)

  • Act the story out. Costumes don’t have to be elaborate, or even absolutely necessary. (Although they do go along ways in ‘stepping into character’ and act out the story with your kids. Taking a long walk (around the block) while holding ball under your shirt and riding a stick horse will open up a wonderful dialogue on what the journey to Bethlehem must have been like.

Beautiful Joy to the World ornaments - an open-ended craft with a beautiful finish!

Look Forward ~ Helping our children connect WHY Jesus came to earth as a baby is vitally important. This is no ordinary baby.

Make it a BIG deal ~ I mentioned this when I blogged about celebrating Easter with young children, When we make something a BIG deal, they pick up on the importance of it and will place value on that. With there being such a materialist mindset at Christmas, it is easy to fixate only on that during this season, unless we as parents make a firm decision on where to draw their attention.

Advance preparation builds anticipation. Special activities and time spent reflecting and preparing for Christmas build excitement. This is a wonderful season to take stock of our priorities and enjoy special time with Jesus!

The cool thing about this is that there are so many ways to go about it. Each family will celebrate in their own unique and wonderful way.

Once they have played with the concrete facts, it can be so special and important to add in more layers to their understanding of God come to earth as man, the anticipation of His arrival, etc.

Other wonderful ideas:

Truth in the Tinsel. We are doing this delightful craft devotional this year!
Jesse Tree. There are many variations to this general devotional that follows the lineage of Jesus from Jesse on down. It utilizes daily scripture readings and a symbol (3-d or paper) that you place on a tree each day, leading up to Christmas. Here’s one that includes pictures of the ornaments/symbols along with scripture reading and correlated readings in her two favorite Children’s Bibles. I’ve also heard nothing but wonderful reviews on Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree devotional.  The wonderful thing about this one is that you can print the symbols which will save time and make it do-able for this year! A simple google search on Jesse Tree devotions will lead to many more variations.
Advent Fortold ~ This devotional focuses on the Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. It is clearly laid out and has a corresponding coloring page for each day. There is also the option of making an advent calender which correlates to the devotions as well. I was very close to deciding to to this one this year, but decided to wait until my kids are just a bit older.

For 2016 use “CULTIVATE” to get 20% off!

Truth in the Tinsel! Coupon Code for 20% off!