What do you do with all of the delightful Christmas cards friends and family send you? This year we got some beautiful cards, including many photo cards, and it would be a shame to throw them away or put them in a box in the basement without doing something special.
When my friend Kristin shared this idea with my Moms in Prayer group, it was simply too good not to pass along to my Noteworthy Mommy readers! Kristen and her family put all of their cards in a basket. Each day they pull a card from the basket and then, as a family, they pray for the people who sent them the card. I simply love this idea! It’s a great way to enjoy your cards one last time before tossing them or packing them away and it allows you to connect with family and friends through prayer. Since most of our cards were photo cards, my mini me will see a picture of the people we are praying for. And what a lovely way to incorporate prayer and praying for others into the home. This will be the start of another fabulous Christmas tradition. Thank you Kristin for this brilliant idea! If you have additional ideas of things to do with Christmas cards, please post a comment and share.
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! How vastly different this Easter was compared to last year! Although we had to make reservations at church, participated in Easter worship on Saturday night, wore masks, and were unable to gather with my in-laws, it was a glorious celebration! Through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior we find hope.
I know my Easter message is a bit late, Easter Sunday has come and gone after all, but don’t forget, it is still Easter. Easter begins with the resurrection of our Lord and extends through Pentecost, so that gives me 50 days to send my readers Easter blessings! Below is a fun Easter activity that kids of all ages will enjoy. Easter Sunday has passed but we continue to celebrate our risen Savior!
Alleluia Shakers– My church has a special tradition of Alleluia Shakers during the Easter season. A basket of Alleluia Shakers for the young members of our congregation are usually found at the entrance to the sanctuary and the children enjoy shaking them every time they hear or sing the word Alleluia. COVID has prevented us from having the basket of shakers at church so my daughter made her own. We decorated a plastic egg and filled it with rice to make our shakers. CLICK HERE to learn how to make a shaker of your own. We are taking them to church throughout the Easter season and proudly shake them in celebration of the good news that Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We made extras to share with our home bound friends as part of our Live Generously ministry.
As we begin to see the other side of the pandemic, may you safely gather again with family and friends, rejoice in the fact that favorite activities are being reintroduced into your life and never forget the lessons the past year has taught. Some things may stay forever changed but one thing will never change… Jesus loves you!
Christmas certainly looks and feels different for everyone this year. My daughter and her sweet kindergarten class are quarantined for Christmas. It will be the very first Christmas that I won’t be celebrating with my parents. And the second Christmas birthday, in forty-nine years, that won’t be spent gathered around the dining room table in my childhood home.
So many Christmas traditions have been lost in 2020 and many of you may be feeling a bit down. But maybe it’s time to take a look at which traditions are truly important and focus on those? My daughter’s former preschool teacher told me she is beginning to dislike the word “tradition.” Her young adult children show no interest in them. It got me to thinking how many times I got caught up in doing something because it was a “tradition” and in the process completely lost sight of why it was even significant. Maybe some traditions are meant to be short term, to make way for something new.
After a rough year, where so many have experienced great loss, we all need to take a moment to count our blessings. We won’t be following our familiar traditions this year and our family Christmas celebration with grandparents will be delayed. But instead of mourning the usual tradition, I’m going to focus on quality time with my family of three and look with excitement at the fact that we get to extend our celebrating! A dear friend lost her father to COVID this month. I know she would gladly delay her family celebration by two weeks if it meant she had just one more day with her father.
A quieter Christmas has allowed me to focus on living generously and thinking of others. Instead of giving presents out of expectation or tradition, I reveled in surprising friends and loved ones, even strangers, by leaving mystery bags on their doorsteps. Seeing their appreciative smiles and receiving messages of gratitude from the little tokens given, was one of the best gifts I have ever received!
COVID may have kept you from going to face to face church on Christmas Eve but isn’t it amazing that through the power of technology we could worship with our families safely at home and even wear our pajamas if we chose! If COVID has changed your Christmas plans think of that first Christmas. Mary and Joseph weren’t surrounded by their families. They weren’t even in the comfort of home but in a lowly manager with animals when Mary gave birth to the Christ child. I’m sure this wasn’t their plan. But it was God’s plan. And what an amazing plan He has for each and everyone of us!
This year some of our Christmas traditions didn’t happen but that’s ok. In fact it’s more than ok because celebrating the birth of Jesus is the only Christmas tradition that is important. Jesus is the tradition that we need. And Jesus is the only tradition I care about passing down to my mini me.
Many of youwill be surprised to see that Noteworthy Mommy’s Christmas post ends with lyrics written by Dolly Parton. I have a new fascination with Dolly and the words she penned for this song resinated with me because they truly capture what Christmas is.
Christmas Is by: Dolly Parton Christmas is a time for caring Being at your best Christmas is a time for sharing Knowing you’ve been blessed Christmas is a time for giving Love is made of this That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is a joyful time If you’re the lucky ones Some are blessed with gifts and trinkets Others havin’ none Some have feasts up on the table Others havin’ crumbs There are the haves and the have-nots And you could be either one It’s all about kindness Love and compassion Better to give than receive That is a true fact But those who don’t know that Well, they are the poorest indeed And I hope you remember every December That bright shining light from above The promise from God’s lips The greatest of all gifts Wrapped up in His wondrous love So rejoice in His glory The great Christmas story And to all that you’re sharing it with You go tell it with passion Of love everlasting ‘Cause that’s what Christmas is
This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the liturgical season where Christians prepare and anticipate the coming of Christ by celebrating His birth on Christmas and looking forward to the day we will see Him again. This year Advent is going to look a bit different and I’m going to dearly miss some favorite church traditions like Advent By Candlelight, Family Advent Night and Advent services led by school children. As the pandemic continues, our traditions are forced to be altered and a little bit of sadness creeps into a season usually filled with cheer.
Instead of concentrating on what is missing this year, I am focusing on the gifts God has given me. More quality time with my family of three has allowed us to try new activities and as a result, the beginning of new traditions. Without the parties and added distractions, I am taking more time to study God’s word, beginning each day with an Advent devotional that is deepening my relationship with God. And the extra time I’ve gained from cancelled events has allowed me to slow down and clearly see the many blessings God has given. And that fills by heart with hope and joy, which is truly what Advent represents.
Advent Wreath– Christians have adopted the tradition of lighting candles during Advent to observe this as the time of the coming of Christ who is the light of the world. One tradition is lighting an Advent wreath at church and at home to mark each Sunday in Advent. This Advent tradition dates back to Germany and the Lutheran Church following the Reformation. Today Advent wreaths are made out of evergreen and are shaped like a circle to represent eternal life. The Advent wreath we use at church and at home has five candles with three of the candles being blue or purple in color to match the liturgical colors. The candle lit on the first week is blue and represents hope. The candle lit on the second week is blue and represents peace. The candle lit on the third Sunday is pink and represents joy. On the last Sunday of Advent a blue candle representing love is lit. The candle in the center is white and is know as the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve.
Advent Family Devotionals– This year my family of three are doing two different Advent devotionals, “The Way in the Manger” and “Jesus’ Family Tree” (Praying through Advent with the Jesse Tree). We begin our devotional by lighting our Advent wreath and singing the following song..
“Light One Candle”– Light one candle for hope, One bright candle for hope. He brings hope to every heart He comes! He comes! **For verses 2-4, replace hope with peace, joy, and love.
Advent Calendar With Pastor Rouland and Rupert the Dog– Our senior pastor is making daily Advent videos where he leads viewers in singing “Light One Candle,” reads a scripture verse and reveals a new ornament for his Advent tree. My daughter squealed with delight when Rupert the Dog makes a special appearance. Search for Zion Lutheran Church St. Charles on You Tube or click here for a video link.
Chocolate Advent Calendar– When I was little I always had a chocolate German Advent calendar. In fact, the German Club at my high school sold them. The tradition continues with my daughter and everyday we guess what shape the chocolate will be, hunt for the number and then rip open the little window and enjoy the sweet treat hiding inside.
Advent Tree– We’ve had this Melissa and Doug wooden Advent tree since my daughter was a toddler. My daughter loves adding a magnetic ornament to her tree everyday. It’s the perfect countdown to Christmas
Every year my daughter and I participate in Operation Christmas Child. We collect items throughout the year and pack them into shoeboxes for the good people at Samaritan’s Purse to deliver to boys and girls in need who live all over the world. Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with the mission of demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way and sharing the Good News of Jesus.
I began packing shoeboxes when my daughter was one year old and this year we packed six shoeboxes in honor of her 6th birthday. All four of her grandparents donated items for us to pack and gave us money towards shipping. My daughter enjoys shopping for items as well but with COVID-19 we haven’t been going into stores so my daughter used some of her birthday money towards the shipping instead. I am happy she has been called to care and is growing up sharing her blessings with others.
How to Pack a Shoebox- Samaritan’s Purse has a step by step guide on how to pack a shoebox. I’ll outline a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.
Step 1- Find a Shoebox- Although any cardboard shoebox will work, I’ve read that the children often view the physical shoebox as a treasured gift. This year I used plastic shoeboxes. One of our shoeboxes came from Hobby Lobby and was specially designed with the Operation Christmas Child logo printed on inviting red and green plastic boxes. I also used three clear plastic shoeboxes that I purchased elsewhere. The other two are complimentary cardboard shoeboxes with the Operation Christmas Child logo that my mother in-law received from her church.
Step 2- Girl or Boy?- Although many of the items we pack can be enjoyed by all children, Samaritan’s Purse will ask you to identify if the shoebox was packed for a boy or a girl and what age category. The age categories are: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14; with the oldest group typically being the one to receive the least donations. We pack boxes that correspond with my daughter’s current age so this year we are packing boxes targeted at the 5-9 age group.
Step 3- What To Pack in a Shoebox?- I keep a big box in our basement labeled “Shoebox Items” and go bargain shopping throughout the year. I scored school supplies for 75% off at Wal Mart, got discounted playground balls at the end of the summer from Walgreens and often pick up discounted items in Target’s dollar area when they change seasons. You can locate some outstanding items during after Christmas sales at all stores.
Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing a WOW item in each box. This could be a doll, stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a new outfit. Older children enjoy simple tool sets and expandable shoes. Click here to view gift suggestions by age. Amazon has a nice list of shoebox items as does Hobby Lobby. Besides toys we always pack self care items (a bar of soap, washcloths, combs, brushes, colorful band-aids, socks, hair clips and or bows, and toothbrushes.) Liquids and edible items are not allowed so you have to leave out toothpaste, candy and bubbles! We also include crafts and activities (crayons, pencils with a pencil sharpener, markers, pads of paper, coloring books, puzzles, and stickers.) You can also write a letter to include in your box. My daughter enjoys drawing a special picture and writing a note telling the children that Jesus loves them!
Step 4- Pray- Perhaps the easiest thing to do is pray for the children who will be receiving the boxes you prepared. Pray that the boxes will bring them joy and that by hearing the Gospel they will be filled with hope and encouragement.
Step 5- Follow-Your Box Labels- The cost to ship a box is $9 and you can click here to pay for labels that will track your box.
Step 6- Drop Off Your Box- Collection week is always the third week in November. Several churches and other organizations volunteer to be drop off facilities. This year collection week is November 16-23, so you still have time to pack a few shoeboxes! Due to COVID-19, shoebox collection will be drive-through, so you won’t even have to get out of your car! The Samaritan Purse’s website has a place where you can search for a drop off location near you!
Other Ways to Help?- If you would like to help but don’t have time to gather items and pack a shoebox you can save time and pack one online by clicking here or donate money to cover the $9 shipping. People will often pack shoeboxes but not include the money for shipping.
Whether you pack a few shoeboxes, volunteer at a processing center (like my in-laws have done in the past), pray for the children receiving the shoeboxes or donate money for shipping, I hope you will make Operation Christmas Child a family tradition. For many of the children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. In addition to the shoeboxes all of the children will hear about the greatest gift of all…Jesus!
Our family began a new Thanksgiving tradition this year with Terry the Thankful Turkey. My daughter was thrilled when she discovered Terry the Thankful Turkey on our kitchen table in early November. (I put him out for her to discover on her own) She immediately asked me to read the book that accompanies Terry and we both fell in love with this gracious little guy.
Written in bouncy rhyme, the book, “Terry the Thankful Turkey,” created by the talented Marcela Osello, introduces the young reader to the many things Terry is thankful for. The beautiful illustrations surround the reader with visions of autumn and reminds us that we can find joy in the simple things like the falling leaves, clouds in the sky and sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal with loved ones.
At the end the book the reader is instructed to be like Terry and share what they are thankful for. They can be thankful for something, someone or someplace.
Throughout the autumn season, Terry encourages the reader to write or draw something they are thankful for on the included thankful pad. Fold the paper and stuff it in Terry’s zippered tail. By Thanksgiving Day, Terry will be stuffed with messages of gratitude. My daughter asked me if we could take Terry to our family lake house, where my family of three are gathering with my parents and in-laws for Thanksgiving. Terry the Thankful Turkey will become part of our Thanksgiving tradition when we unzip Terry on Thanksgiving Day and share all of the things we are thankful for with our immediate family.
I love Terry the Thankful Turkey because he is much more than an adorable stuffed animal and a catchy book! Terry the Thankful Turkey is interactive, promotes literacy and teaches gratitude. As an educator, Terry is something I wish I had to share with my students when I was a kindergarten teacher. When I saw how much my five year old is enjoying Terry, I knew he would have been a huge hit in my classroom! I was shocked, when, without prompting, my daughter wrote and drew a picture of something she was thankful for on the thankful pad. She carefully unzipped Terry’s tail (great fine motor practice) and joyfully filled him with words of gratitude. Terry the Thankful Turkey is something the entire family can enjoy together for years to come and a tradition that will be passed to future generations!
Although this unprecedented year has been filled with struggle, loss and anxiety, it has also been filled with reinvention, creativity and innovation. I encourage you and your family to be like Terry the Thankful Turkey and take the time to count your blessings. And remember, no matter how hard life gets there is always something to be thankful for!
My daughter and I have been enjoying fall this year. From apples to pumpkins to leaves to spiders, there is so much to do! So I decided to write another fall post with links to more fun fall activities!
Fall Scavenger Hunt– This fall scavenger hunt made our ordinary daily walk exciting! My daughter was motivated to find everything on the list! We were able to observe the fall changes happening in nature while getting some fresh air and exercise. We brought a bag along and my daughter enjoyed collecting her “treasures” and proudly showed them to daddy when he got home from work! I got the fall scavenger hunt from www.printablesfairy.com.
Shine With His Light Pumpkin Coloring Pages– I love these meaningful Christ inspired pumpkin coloring pages created by Oriental Trading. My daughter and I colored some to send to family and friends. It is the perfect way to remember to let the love of Jesus shine through you! Click Here to download the Shine with His Light page and Click Here to download the Jesus Shine in Me coloring page.
Reformation Sunday– Celebrated on the last Sunday in October, Reformation Sunday commemorates the Protestant Reformation as well as Martin Luther, who nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints’ Day.
Teach your little ones about the Reformation by making these paper dolls. Samantha, from Pleasantly Crafted, created these fun paper dolls and is gifting us with free downloads. Click Here to download the Reformation paper dolls and go to Pleasantly Crafted to purchase beautiful Lutheran inspired arts and crafts designed by Samantha.
I never imagined a time where we would have to social distance from one another to stay safe and well. A time when my extended family would find ourselves unable to gather around the dining room table to enjoy good food, fellowship and hugs! This Mother’s Day weekend looked a bit different, but it was filled with love and happy surprises and I can’t think of anything better than that!
I am blessed to have the sweetest, most supportive mother in the world! She taught me the faith, loves me and has never tried to change me. She continues to be my biggest cheerleader!
Visiting Maw Maw on Mother’s Day and delivering her an afternoon tea.
I want to remember all of the mothers in my life, past and present, who helped raise and nurture me, who inspire me, teach me and support me. The women who make me a better person and through their unconditional love, have taught me how to be a good mother to my daughter.￼
I also want to recognize all the mOTHERS in our lives. Women who are not mothers in the traditional sense but are strong, beautiful role models for me and for my daughter. My daughter is blessed to have two amazing women she lovingly calls “aunt” and “auntie” and although they are not part of our family tree, they are our family and we love them so very much!
I know Mother’s Day isn’t a joyous day for everyone. For some there is great sorrow and loss. Others feel an emptiness as they yearn to become a mother and many are fighting a battle with infertility. I understand, I have been there and have experienced the pain.
Mother’s Day TeaCups– When I taught kindergarten I had my students cut and color this paper tea cup for their mothers. A single tea bag was placed inside. My daughter created some special tea cups for her grandmothers.
Mother’s Day S’mores– We enjoyed a s’mores bar at our outdoor Mother’s Day picnic for my mother. My husband built a fire (he is an Eagle Scout) and we roasted marshmallows! Look at the variety of menu choices!
Mother’s Day Tea– A local tea shop, The London Tea Room, offered a special carry out Mother’s Day Tea, for two, with sweet and savory goodies to make for a proper afternoon tea. Complete with Laura Ashley tea cups, plates, tea pot and cloth napkins, we knew this would be a wonderful gift for my mother-in-law! As an avid tea lover, she is responsible for my love of tea parties. My in-laws have enjoyed several trips to London and planned to return this summer. Unfortunately, COVID 19 cancelled their trip. A huge thank you to The London Tea Room for bringing a taste of London to Missouri!
Tea for Two– My daughter and I enjoyed a mother/daughter tea after a virtual church service filled with beautiful Easter hymns. Our table was set with my butterfly meadow tea set and a variety of delectable delights. My little one discovered a new found love for scones and lemon curd. While we dined and talked of future tea parties after the virus, my mini me explained, “This is delightful!” This Noteworthy Mommy couldn’t agree more!
Before the COVID 19 isolation my husband would often get his girls donuts on Saturday mornings from Donut King, a nearby independent donut shop. Hands down, this place has the best donuts around! Their signature donut is the Chop Suey, a gigantic mound of dough with cinnamon and sweet icing, but our little one thinks the donuts with sprinkles are the best! After being closed for three weeks we were delighted to discover they were opening for the weekend and would be providing curbside service to their loyal customers. In an attempt to support a local favorite, we placed an order online and my husband went to pick it up on Saturday morning. While there he saw some familiar faces from Zion (Lutherans really love their donuts) and was told that some customers waited over an hour for their orders! Over run with a tremendous response from local patrons, the small donut shop was unable to fill all of the orders and he retuned home without any donuts. Although disappointed, I viewed this as glorious news because we want our local businesses around after the quarantine is over! Donut King asked that he return on Sunday morning and our family of three happily enjoyed our favorite fried doughy delights while watching church in our pajamas. ￼
Alleluia Shakers– The week before Easter my daughter’s teacher recommended we make Alleluia shakers. My daughter enjoyed making the Alleluia shakers so much we had extras that we shared with family and friends when we delivered Easter meals. And we all enjoyed shaking them every time we said Alleluia on Easter morning! This Sunday Pastor Rouland (our senior pastor) reminded our congregation about Zion’s Alleluia shaker tradition. He suggested various ways one could construct an Alleluia shaker (toilet paper tube, beans, rice, coins) and encouraged everyone to make one if they hadn’t already. Earlier in the week I came across our Alleluia shakers and questioned if I should pack them away. Time got away from me and they remained on the end table next to our couch. Pastor Rouland reminded me that Alleluia shakers aren’t just for Easter. Instead of packing them away with the Easter baskets, continue to shake them as we rejoice and shout Alleluia for our risen Savior, Jesus Christ!
This Easter is like no other we have ever experienced. I should have been singing in the choir at our 11:00 service, marking my first Easter singing with the treble choir at church. Instead I sang with my family of three as we sat on the couch in our family room streaming Zion Lutheran Church St. Charles’s worship service through our TV. While COVID 19 shuttered the doors to physical church buildings around the world it did not cancel Easter or close church. It didn’t stop us from getting out our alleluia shakers and saying He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!
Although this Easter was different in so many ways, at the same time it was oddly familiar. As we sang all of the Easter hymns I grew up with, from the opening hymn, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” to “This Is The Feast” to the closing hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today; Alleluia,” I was transported back to my childhood. To an Easter where I worshiped with my parents and maternal grandmother at Zion Lutheran Church in Belleville. It could have been any Easter in the early 1980’s. I would have been in elementary school, third, fourth or fifth grade, it doesn’t matter as they would have all been the same. Me wearing a dress that I couldn’t wait to get out of, sitting uncomfortably on the hard pew daydreaming about the Easter eggs, candy and toys that would occupy the rest of my day. But the music always drew me back in. As we sang from the blue LCMS hymnals I hung onto every note. My mother’s beautiful voice, the organ and occasional trumpet, brought me comfort and embraced me with loving arms. God didn’t bless my grandmother with an angelic voice but as a life long Lutheran she belted out each note with Lutheran pride. I admired her tenacity and unwavering love for her church. Although she has been with Jesus for thirty-three years, I felt her presence today as we sang “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds.” As my daughter fell asleep in my lap I was transported back to the present, the first Easter in my daughter’s young life that she won’t be able to celebrate with all four of her grandparents. Although we took an Easter meal to both sets of grandparents this weekend and each one had a surprise Easter egg hunt for her in their yard, we weren’t able to be together and that bothered my daughter. It felt weird to be so close to our loved ones, yet so far a part. In keeping with proper social distancing there was no physical contact on our short family visits and no comforting hugs due to COVID 19. This historic time of isolation will change us all. And as a result my five year old daughter will grow up with a greater appreciation for worship and devotion, family dinners and comforting hugs.￼