Posts tagged #holidays

St. Nicholas


            My first Christmas after became a Christ follower, I was adamant about Santa.  I was so upset that the world focused on Santa instead of Jesus this time of year.  I mean that is what the REASON for the SEASON is, right?  So I took every ornament I had and every Christmas decoration with a Santa (even my mom’s) and I threw them away.  I was so determined to not have Santa taking over my Christmas because you do know that Santa spells SATAN if you unscramble the words, right?  I was very idealistic, and before you write me off or click off the page, let me tell you what I have experienced.

            So many of you know that Santa Claus was once a real person – a saint for that matter. He has many names: Kris Kringle, Sinterklaas, Noel Baba, Pere Noel, and of course, St. Nicolas.  The real Saint Nicolas lived in Myra (today’s Turkey) in the 3rd century.  He was a bishop who inherited a good sum of money.  He heard that a man’s three daughters did not have dowry to get married so he took it upon himself to bring a bag of money.  Legend has it he threw the bags of money in the windows twice for two of the daughters.   When it came the third daughter’s time, the windows were locked.  Instead, he threw it down the chimney and the money landed in a stocking.  He was so beloved throughout his town and in the church he became a saint.

            By the 12th century, women in France were making little gifts and leaving them on doorsteps for children signing them “from St. Nicholas”.  In America, they introduced Santa Claus in the 19th century as they were looking for traditions.  See, St. Nicholas’s birthday is Dec. 6th and it made sense, to them, to bring him into Christmas. 

            The problem is HE has become Christmas for most people today.  He has taken over the phrase “Believe” - which should refer to our Savior - and has changed St. Nicholas’s incredible story to stockings, chimneys, a belly like jelly, “naughty and nice” list, the North pole, elves and a flying sleigh.  Instead of the nativity scene invoking a sense of awe over the Savior and bringing us to our knees, we focus on “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house”. 

            The amazing thing is this St. Nicholas was an outspoken troublemaker in the Roman Empire.  And Emperor Diocletian (who was a really mean Caesar) wanted him to stop preaching Christianity.  St. Nick was jailed not once but twice, for spreading the news of Jesus.  His “true life” story is one of suffering, simplicity, generosity and humility.  And the nativity of Jesus is the same kind of story.

            If you would have asked me when I was 25, what we should do with Santa Claus, I would tell you to throw him out.  He should have no part of Christmas, but today I don’t agree.  BECAUSE of Santa Claus, America celebrates Christmas in a BIG way.  If it wasn’t for him, it would be a less than important holiday because the world does not know the Savior.  So I thank God that because of him, we are allowed, given the green light, to talk about Jesus.  And the make-believe story of Santa is good and pleasing and does fit this verse.  Now we are starting to celebrate even in November.  I am even okay with Christmas decoration before Thanksgiving because it gives me a longer time to talk about Jesus freely everywhere.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

            What do we as a family do with Santa?  We have taken on the tradition of St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th (his birthday).  On the night before, the kids put their boots at under the tree at the front door.  In the morning, I fill them with oranges, chocolate and a present.  When the kids were younger, we got a picture with Santa. That night as part of Advent, we read the St. Nick book. We never wanted to lie about Santa being real so we just didn’t.  The rest of the season we focus on Jesus.  My kids are always amazed that people spend so much time on Santa during Christmas.  I always remind them that we are grateful for Santa because he keeps Christmas going.  Also it is a reminder to us how much people are looking for the Savior.

            The kids have liked the tradition as they get presents twice a month.  On Christmas morning, they do a scavenger hunt to find baby Jesus and put him in the manger.  We open three presents – like the wise men brought to Jesus.  We call them a Want, a Need and a Surprise.  We don’t really bring up Santa again except when we watch a fun movie.

             I am not saying give up Santa if he is entrenched in your celebration.  I am just giving you ideas to ponder.  I am asking you to ask yourself if Jesus has the full limelight in your home at this season. Is he front and center in your celebrating?  I think Satan likes to distract us with a lot of things, and he can use Santa just like anything else. If we are going to seize the season, we have to save Santa from taking over!

What are different ways you celebrate the season?

Won’t you join me this Sunday, Dec. 6th as we celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

~Jeanna Young

When Jeanna is not writing, speaking, event planning, or homeschooling, she can be found scrapbooking her life, redecorating her home, loving on her husband, planning fun events for her kids or eating healthy to stay cancer-free!

How to Not Stress Out This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is behind us . . .  Let the craziness begin!!!

Do you feel it?  The stress and the rush of this time of year just arrived.   It started this morning (or last night) with Black Friday.   It will continue on until December 25th.  You will add decorating the whole house (inside and out), lots of activities and parties (all fun!), shopping, wrapping, baking . . . . you know the drill!  All added to your regular schedule.  Ah, have I stressed you out?

I have spent many years frenzied and hectic - not being able to accomplish this task of doing everything perfect at Christmas.  There is only so much time in each day and only 25 days in the month to accomplish so much!  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, I had my surgery right before the holiday season. I was panicked I would not be able to pull off the normal Christmas for my kids.  And then at the end of those 6 weeks surgery recovery, my sweet dad died. I was in grieving mode and planning a funeral at the beginning of December. So Christmas 2011 was going to be different. It really got me thinking about the purposes in all of the traditions we did as a family and all of the busyness of the holiday. God reformed my way of thinking so that I can seize the season and experience more of Jesus!

If you go to my house right now and open any drawer or closet, you will most likely find a mess.  Some of them might be clean, but not all.  I am naturally a procrastinator.  I don’t want anyone to think I am super organized. I work best under pressure and that is how I used to approach Christmas. Because the old me would run crazy through Christmas so busy that I could barely hold my breath.  I was terribly rushed through the beauty of this lovely time of year.  My time with the Lord suffered, my relationship with my husband and kids suffered, my life was just one blurry mess.  Then it was over and I felt depressed because I never got to “enjoy” it. 

Does anyone else feel that way?  Or have you? 

First, in order to be sane in the month of December, I have to have a plan.  My plan starts in August, when I order all the Christmas cards using the family picture we took over the summer or this year in February!  I start shopping in October and planning early. Real Simple has a great list of how to start early.  I know that we are know at the end of November and you will either read them and panic or read them and say “okay I am on track”.  Start where you are today and just do it! In any case, I don’t want you to read this and feel stressed.  My goal is to help you to start with a plan, if not this year, then next. Tackle this year as best as possible. 

Second, I need to remember my priorities.  This is why I make a Christmas plan!  What are my priorities during the holiday season?  What can I forget or what event can’t we miss?  I plan ahead to know those things.  For God is a God of order and not of confusion as we find in 1st Corinthians.  He lays out his plans in Genesis and references us doing the same in Luke.  So this idea is not mine, it is God’s idea for us to be thinking ahead. I like to take everything through a grid.  There are so many events we are invited to in December.  We have a question grid that helps us figure out what to do.

            Here is what we ask:

            Is this part of tradition?

            Does it fit within our desire to serve others and the community?

            Will we grow closer to Jesus as a result of this event?

If it doesn’t fit into this grid of questions, we say “no”.  Sometimes it is hard to say no to the fun things, but it keeps me less stressed and therefore is necessary.  I have created these self-imposed rules to make my life have margin.

Why does all the planning and prioritizing matter?

Because the goal here is Jesus, not the to do list.  Giving ourselves attainable goals is to insure that we are ready and not just flying by the seat of our pants. Having a plan gives us margin, to experience and be all that God wants us to be.  It gives us time to play with our kids, help those we see in need and time to spend in Advent (resting and having a Christmas Sabbath).

We celebrate Advent here at the Young’s house.  I could never do this if I didn’t have a plan.  Every night with the kids we open a book, eat chocolate, pray for the Christmas cards we received and read some scripture.  This is why we celebrate Christmas – to be focused on the coming of our Lord.  There are lots of ways to do Advent.  I love Sarah Mae’s Christmas countdown with ideas on each day and how to bring more of Christ into the season.  In my quiet time and with the kids, I have enjoyed Ann Voscamp’s Advent books bringing to life the birth of Jesus.

Seizing the season means that I am taking back control of the things that I have control over.  Then God will be able to interrupt me will HIS plan!  Nothing is worse than for God to have an assignment for me in the BIG PLAN and I don’t have time for it!

Happy planning friends!  I can’t wait to hear what God does with your margin this year!

~Jeanna Young

When Jeanna is not writing, speaking, event planning, or homeschooling, she can be found scrapbooking her life, redecorating her home, loving on her husband, planning fun events for her kids or eating healthy to stay cancer-free!


Does Your Princess or Knight Eat Too Much Sugar?

The holidays are just around the corner.  This means a battle with my will power and the endless sweets available.

My kids are just like me.  They eat too much sugar.  They crave it during the day.  They think about how to get more of it, either by baking themselves or raiding the cupboards when I am not looking.  Funny, I tried to teach them to curb the sweets all their life. The holidays are an excuse to overindulge.

Now battling cancer for so many years, I am not supposed to have any sugar.  I go through months without even fruit.  Then I breakdown and binge on sugar (honey, agave or organic cane sugar) for a weekend or a couple of weeks.  I know I shouldn’t, but honestly, it is really hard.

Sugar is so bad for me – for all of us.  We all know it.  In fact, cancer feeds off sugar.  One reason we love it is because sugar activates the reward centers of our brain.  This releases feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine and endorphins.  Sugar also helps shuttle the amino acid tryptophan into our brains that is converted into serotonin – this helps us feel calm.  No wonder when I am stressed with the kids or having an argument with my husband, I reach for a muffin or a scone!

I know I crave sugar when I should really be searching for the Lord in these situations.  I have uncovered a life-long idol in my life.  Food takes the place of God. 

My kids are learning and watching me. So we have an open dialogue about sugar and eating healthy.  You would think because I eat healthy my family does, too.  When I am struggling with my health, sometimes the easiest food is not the healthiest.  However, looking back over the last four years, I can see the changes I have made with our food choices.  I am really in charge of the food they eat, for the most part.  I shop. I cook. I am in charge of their daily food.

My kids all eat a variety of vegetables and fruit each day.  They will drink smoothies, eat seaweed and take their supplements.  But cutting out sugar continues to be a challenge.  I am taking an honest look at the holidays and putting into practice the steps here to help my kids eat less sugar starting with Thanksgiving.

Obviously, we can’t change all the parties and the feasts that happen this time of year, but we, as the moms, can change what we are doing at home.  We can open the lines of communication and help them see how much sugar is “allowable” for our bodies.

Here are a couple of practical tips for this time of year and for the new year to reduce the amount of sugar in your family’s diet.

• Read the nutrition labels

            When buying food, check out the labels.  Try to buy things with 3 grams of sugar or less.  If you have an option, go for the one with the less grams.  Kids should try to stay under 50-70 grams a day.  A big glass of 100% juice can be as much as 28 grams of sugar, so try to just be aware of how much sugar your kids are consuming.  We try to limit the kids’ drinks to one juice drink a day and go for water the rest of the time. Sodas are allowed only once in a while, when we are out.  I never buy them for the house.

• Learn sugar’s aliases

            Sugar can be listed under a variety of names.  High Fructose corn syrup, honey, cane syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, agave and maple syrup are all SUGAR!  Many processed foods will use a couple of these ingredients.  We have to be the detectives. Fake sweeteners are associated with weight gain and feed our desire for sweets.  They are also carcinogenic and do not belong in our kids’ food.  Leave those items with fake sweeteners on the shelf.

• Opt for unsweetened or less sweetened.

            You are in charge of holiday baking.  Buy ingredients that are labeled “no sugar added” or “unsweetened”.  Applesauce, baking chocolate, canned fruit, non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, etc) and nut butters are all available in unsweetened versions.  Also when baking, add less sugar than the recipe calls for.

•Be prepared for the parties

            I try to feed my kids before we head out for a holiday event.  This way they will be less likely to eat a bunch of junk.  Sure, I know they will still have the holiday cookies, but instead of eating 10 for dinner, they will only eat two because they are full.  I also bring snacks to eat in the car when we are running between events for the same reason. If I have to bring something to the party, I bring a healthy, fun option.  If you look on Pinterest or Google, there are plenty of healthy, fun options for the holidays.

•Don’t bring the junk into the house

            I am so nostalgic.  I see snowman shaped cookies and I think how much fun it would be for the kids to eat them.  I have to remind myself that they are going to eat PLENTY of fun food this time of year.  If I can establish a one sweet a day rule, then the kids can decide what they would like to have.  Most of the time, my kids like to wait for dessert after dinner.

As I look over this list, I think it is a good list of guidance for all of us, not just for the kids.  We don’t need to gain weight during the holidays, if we are just a little prepared and if we just exert a little self-control, we too can eat less sugar at the holidays this year.

“He will eat . . . honey at the (right) time.  He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.  Isaiah 7:15

~ Jeanna Young

When Jeanna is not writing, speaking, event planning, or homeschooling, she can be found scrapbooking her life, redecorating her home, loving on her husband, planning fun events for her kids or eating healthy to stay cancer-free!