Mommy/Daughter Journaling

During one of my mommy chats with one of my best friends three years ago, we were discussing how to intentionally keep the communication lines open during the tween transition period. She mentioned she and her then tween son shared a journal. She indicated the journaling between them was proving very helpful to talk through life.

 

So, I began writing to my eldest daughter, then age 7, in our Mommy/Daughter Journal. While we have not been crazy consistent in our entries, I find the journal to be a go-to for difficult seasons. Safety is found in the paper. It allows us both to express ourselves freely and honestly. We can connect when face-to-face conversations are proving difficult. The process of writing allows our thoughts to percolate and words to be chosen carefully.

 

Fast-forward three years and I now have two tween females in the house. At the age of 8 and 10, my girls already have weighty topics pressing on their hearts and minds. In the few short years I have been journaling with my daughters, I have experienced an intimacy with them I can credit to this particular line of communication. As we approach the teenage years, I hope my daughters will look back at this journal and the words will prove my love for them even when they might not feel it. Truth be told, I will also likely visit its pages from time to time to remind myself we are all on the same team.

Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts. Proverbs 3:3

Advent Book Box – Top Christmas Book Picks

Our Advent Book Box

A tradition began years ago as my oldest daughter (then 3) and I hung our Advent Calendar. We filled each pocket with a piece of candy, as was the custom I grew up with, but also added little slips of paper. Each slip of paper had the name of a Christmas book we would read, and all books were nestled under in a Christmas box under our tree. Those first few years, I simply used Christmas books I had from my childhood or books given to my daughter. However, it was time to beef up our Christmas Book Box! I found several lists already floating around, but quickly realized many were specific to one particular faith or another. So I have created a list (in no particular order) for our family, focusing on the Savior’s birth and Christmas traditions. You will notice there are only 22 titles, and that is because the last few days leading up to Christmas Eve, we spend our treasured time reading the true story of Christ’s birth from the Scriptures. Also, several books might require more than one night to complete the reading depending on your children’s ages (i.e. A Christmas Carol). If you know of any other great titles, feel free to comment below and share! Each book title is linked to Amazon, the supplier of my book addiction. Enjoy!

1. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
A dear friend gave this book to my family several Christmas’ ago, and it immediately held a special place in our hearts. Our hearts are encouraged as a little crippled lamb, Joshua, has his prayers amazingly answered. It speaks to God’s protection and guidance to all who feel alone. This title is a must read.

2. What Think Ye of Christmas by Ester Rasband 

This gem is striking because of the water-color illustrations. Each illustration represents one of the Christmas symbols. While simple, this book provides a rich springboard for discussing the various symbols of Christmas, all pointing to the Christ child.

3. Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer Humphrey

This cute narrative records Humphrey, one of the camels accompanying the wise men, as he adventurously journeys to Bethlehem. I love how this book entertains my littles while keeping Christ at the center.

4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein 

The Giving Tree is an unforgettable, classic story of a boy who learns the gift of giving. So timely a parable, and a joy for all ages.

5. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston Year of Perfect Christmas Tree

This is a new title in our box this year and I am excited about reading it with my children. It is a story about Ruthie, a young girl who, while waiting for her father to return from war, must help her mother to provide the Christmas Tree for their church. In return, children see the sacrificial love of a mother as she improvises and works hard to prepare Ruthie a needed angel costume for the church pageant. I won’t summarize the ending because it is too good to spoil! Nevertheless, the picture of courage and family unity is beautiful in this sweet book.

6. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski 

This book needs no introduction. It is a true Christmas classic. A tale of a woodcarver, this story is an enchanting picture of loss, life, and restoration. We usually watch the movie after reading the book!

7. Christmas From Heaven as read by Tom BrokawChristmas From Heaven

This is another new title for our family this year. As the title suggests, it is the true story of the Berlin Candy Bomber, a pilot who brought hope to a war-ravaged land. I highly suggest watching the accompanying DVD, a captivating retelling by acclaimed journalist, Tom Brokaw, and accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Stunning performance and memorable work of art.

8. Where, Oh Where, Is Santa Claus by Lisa Wheeler 

This cute tale is simply entertaining! One of my girls was given this book at one of their early Christmas’ and is therefore more nostalgic for us than anything else!

9. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer 

While this book has taken artistic liberties in retelling the legend concerning the historical Nicholas, a very generous Christian bishop, our family has enjoyed it nonetheless! That God proved His love for us through His Son is an undeniable current throughout this treasure. Nicholas’ sacrificial giving helps to remind us that our giving is an act of worship, a response to the immense blessings God showers upon us.

10. White Christmas by Irving Berlin 

My children absolutely love this book. Its illustrations are rich and inspiring, and we can’t help but sing our way through!

11. The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain 

I am honestly not sure how this book ended up under my roof. However, for several years we have enjoyed this cute tale of searching for the perfect Christmas tree, only to realize not cutting it down would save many of the Berenstain’s Bear Country friends. This book is an easy read, a light alternative to some of the more weighty titles in our box!

12. Christmas Oranges retold by Linda Bethers 

This short story captures the essence of Christmas and the importance of kindness and thoughtfulness above any other gift. Rose is an orphan who reminds us all the true meaning of Christmas. I read where some moms put oranges in the bottom of their children’s stockings every year to remind them of this tale. A neat idea and one I might steal this year!

13. I have two versions of the following title and can’t choose – we read them both and enjoy the illustrative beauty in each!

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore 

  and

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore 

This book is another that needs no summary! Inevitably, this poem is read multiple times in my home throughout the season.

14. The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel 

The Carpenter’s Gift is a relatively new book (2011), depicting New York City during the Depression. The story tells of a father and son selling Christmas trees, and through a pay-it-forward type plot, eventually links the Rockefeller Tree and Habitat for Humanity. This is a new treasure in our box this year!

15. The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans 

This is a beautiful fable of a young Alexander’s charitable act, and how he learns more important than what you have to give, is how you give of yourself. Rich reminder for the season that we all have something to give.

16. The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the Meaning of Jesus’ Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall 

We love our Christmas Cookies. This beautifully illustrated tale narrates the legend of the Christmas Cookie and encourages my kiddos (and their mom), to make double batches to give away.

17. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck 

This book was originally published in 1955, but is the last new title for our box on my list! It is a captivating story of a young boy and his quest to find the perfect gift. What he finds will encourage any child to love as he is gifted.

18. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg 

The Legend of the Candy Cane is a timeless tale of the mystery and miracle of Christmas. Of course, we drag out candy canes as we read this one! Meaningful symbolism and a title that will likely remain in our box for years.

19. The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne 

Similar to The Legend of the Candy Cane, this story recaptures the meaning behind the classic Christmas symbol. The depth of God’s love rings clear as children learn of the legend.

20. Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani 

One of my kids bought this book through a book sale at school and we decided it was a keeper for our box. We follow children as they ride around the world, experiencing traditions in Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Italy, Kenya, and the United States. And of course the music and lyrics are included!

21. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Hilary Knight

(this one is out of print, but other beautifully illustrated versions of this sing-song book are available!) 

The last of our sing-song titles, I do not think we have ever read this book in spoken voice. “Reading” this book usually involves crazy dancing in the living room, having silly fun with this timely and classic Christmas song. If any children stay seated during the song, they usually try to find and count each item in the verse. Great way to expose your children to Christmas musical classics!

22. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

This version is a picture book of Dicken’s classic tale. We usually divide this book into a two-night reading due to its length. Ebeneezer Scrooge transcends culture to keep the spirit of Christmas true at its core. We have had several different books with this title through the years, some easier to read than others. In fact, the last few years we read this story from a pop-up book! This selection is new to our box, while the story is not. I cannot ever see this classic missing from our pile as it is a family favorite!

Hospitality

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My Table

A group of about 15 ladies recently wrapped up a four week study on hospitality using “Table Life: Savoring the Hospitality of Jesus in Your Home” by Joanne Thompson. This group, of which I was a member, diligently read the book and participated in lengthy weekly discussions surrounding themes Thompson presents. Every week I walked away from our fellowship full of Spirit. If you as a young mom feel spiritually empty, find a woman seasoned with wisdom and sit at her feet. If she is busy the first time you ask for a connection over coffee or seems distracted when you catch her at church, try again. Not only will you benefit from her godly advice once your schedules collide, she will be honored and encouraged knowing her experiences have an eternal, multi-generational purpose. These encounters represent God’s design for female relationships (Titus 2).

Have you ever read a book concerning a Christian discipline, felt the desire to grow in that area, and then intrinsically recognized your perspective on the subject was forever changed? This gem of a book was the catapult of just such an experience for me. As Christians, we are habitually told our life should run counterculture. But did you ever stop to consider that means even your table life at home? As Thompson points out, “the word hospitality literally means ‘to love a stranger.’ ”[1] I don’t know about you, but the strangers I meet out and about rarely receive an invitation to my home. For that matter, the people my family entertains are usually friends, people we can let our hair down with and relax. However, as followers of Christ, we are called to “Get into the practice of inviting guests home for dinner” (Romans 12:13, NLT). Hebrews 13:2 calls Christians to practice hospitality not only with fellow believers but with strangers, and 1 Peter 4:9 says we are to do so without grumbling. Weighty stuff. Why should we do so? To make disciples.

If you have been in church for long, chances are you have noticed not all those who walk an aisle, attend a new member class, or sign a church covenant make it for the long haul. The first ripples of discourse can toss them about and right out the front doors. Thompson encourages women to consider their tables as a source of reconciliation. Can you even imagine extending an invitation to someone in which there is strife and conflict in hopes God restores the relationship?

Our final week focused on the importance of acting on what we have learned, living the gospel. Another author similarly pens: “Discipleship and formation are less about erecting an edifice of Christians knowledge than they are a matter of developing a Christian know-how that intuitively ‘understands’ the world in the light of the fullness of the gospel. And insofar as an understanding is implicit in practice, the practices of Christian worship are crucial…”[2] As God is stoking the missional fire inside of me, the beauty of practicing womanhood as Paul instructed made possible invaluable instruction from a seasoned godly woman. She cautioned young moms to hold steadfast in our diligence of table life with our own families as priority. She then gave godly counsel to all women, encouraging endurance and reminding us all of the need for healthy perimeters to avoid “compassion fatigue.”[3]

The subject of hospitality is so deep in theology and in practicality that I can only skim the surface in a blog, but I leave you with a few nuggets, hoping to entice your inner student and whet your appetite for true biblical hospitality.

“Across the table, hearts made for relationships came alive.”[4]

“Wherever you live, the Lord God has designs for your kitchen table.”[5]

“A meal is not a church service, but the table remains an altar.”[6]

“Your faith community is where taking the risk of loving the stranger begins.”[7]

“The place where your table and the gospel story meet is faith…”[8]

“The age-old afflictions of perfectionism and comparison handcuff our hearts from pursuing hospitality.”[9]

“Hospitality…must flow from gospel authenticity.”[10]

“Table life is no fairy tale; it’s real, practical, and rewarding. It unites the here and now with eternity.”[11]


[1] Joanne Thompson, Table Life : Savoring the Hospitality of Jesus in Your Home (Edina, MN: Beavers Pond Press, 2011), 48.

[2] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom : Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, Volume 1 of Cultural Liturgies (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009), 68.

[3] Thompson, 107.

[4] Ibid., 15.

[5] Ibid., 16.

[6] Ibid., 25.

[7] Ibid., 49.

[8] Ibid., 60.

[9] Ibid., 76.

[10] Ibid., 107.

[11] Ibid., 140.