A magical Christmas without Santa?

Thank you for all of your comments on my last post, it’s been really interesting to read them. In this post, I’d like to have a look at some of the potential problems of not doing Santa and how Christmas can still be a magical experience without him.

Spoiling it for other children

This seems to be the number one objection against telling your child that Santa isn’t real. I do find it slightly amusing that amongst all the things children say to each other, denying the reality of Santa is seen as such a huge crime! Although obviously I would never want my children to deliberately or accidentally say something that would cause distress to another child. I explain to them that some children believe Santa is real and we can play along so that we don’t upset them. When they are older I would be happy for them to talk about it with other children, as group discussion encourages critical thinking and respect for the points of view of others.

However, even if a child did challenge the reality of Santa, I think it’s unlikely that a believing child is going to change their mind unless they are already at a point where they are beginning to question it. At a young age, the beliefs of their family are much more influential than those of their peers, and what their parents teach is usually seen as the absolute truth. I remember having a fierce argument as a child over the existence of the tooth fairy, but none of my proof swayed my believing friend in the slightest!

who-said-santa-isnt-real--thumb

Other adults

Whilst other children haven’t been an issue so far, adults are a different matter! Santa is so deeply ingrained in society that everyone goes along with it and even promotes it. Suddenly in December my children get stopped my dozens of strangers, asking them whether they’ve been good or what Santa is going to bring them. It’s lovely that they want to spread the happiness of Christmas, but some of them can be very insistent so be prepared to step in and explain if your child starts getting confused.

A magical childhood

The other common argument often used against families who don’t do Santa is that childhood should be magical and children grow up too fast nowadays. Funnily enough, the loudest objections tend to be from people who have no problem dressing their daughters as mini-adults, letting their sons play age-restricted video games and living a life ruled by the pressures of commercialism! Even if I am robbing my children of believing in Santa, I’m confident that I can protect their freedom to enjoy a magical and unhurried childhood in many other ways.

beautiful-girl-never-grow-up-photography-quote-Favim.com-340110

There seem to be three main approaches amongst families who “don’t do Santa” (by which I mean in the traditional sense of insisting that he is real), but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Santa isn’t involved at all. Every family does things in their own way, with their own traditions and celebrations, and I’m sure anyone who doesn’t do Santa will agree that it can be just as magical and special!

Santa as a belief

This approach is often used to explain religion nowadays, by saying “some people believe this…” and letting the child choose what to believe. When they ask questions, you can turn it around by asking “what do you think?” This might work well for families who want to include Christmas folklore and legends from around the world. For some people, allowing the child to believe can be a good solution. For others (and I probably fall into this category), reinforcing the child’s belief by ringing sleigh bells, drinking milk and leaving bite marks in carrots might seem uncomfortably close to trying to convince the child. There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s a very individual thing.

santa-in-sleigh

Santa as a story

We all know that children have fantastic imaginations, but we seem to impose our adult viewpoints on that by thinking that something can only be “magical” if children believe it to be factual. Actually I almost wonder if the reverse is true. Dragons pop up more often in my children’s imaginative play than any non-mythical creature. They pretend to be Kipper and Tiger far more than any non-fictional characters. My favourite playground game as a child was about a magical kingdom that only me and my friend could enter. Make believe is limited only by your imagination, whereas reality is limited by real rules. Could we go as far as to say that by making Santa too real we actually destroy some of the magic? Perhaps not, but I think it’s enough to refute the argument that Christmas can’t be magical without a real Santa.

I know a lot of families who choose to “make believe” Santa. The children enjoy many or all the usual traditions, whilst knowing that Santa is a fictional character just like any others in books or on TV. I suppose this is more or less what my parents did when my brother and I were children. We used to leave our stockings at the foot of our beds and go to sleep with much excitement, waiting for Father Christmas to come. I remember sending a letter to Santa up the chimney using the draught from our open fire. Occasionally we would put out mince pies or carrots, and sometimes we would try to stay awake to see him. But I don’t remember a time when we actually believed, I think we always knew he wasn’t real. It didn’t make it any less exciting or magical though!

tumblr_mdyfz45zcF1rkuhsto1_400

Santa as a historical figure

The story of Saint Nicholas is a great starting point to explain the historical origin of Santa and how the traditions of stockings and gift giving developed. Many parts of Europe still celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on the 6th, but it can also be combined with Christmas. Stockings can be filled to remember Nicholas, rather than by him, and acts of kindness can be encouraged as part of the celebrations.

One of the advantages of Santa not being real is that Christmas will never lose its magic when the children realise that he is just a story. There is no disappointment and the celebrations are just as exciting year after year.

saint-nicholas

I suppose we’re currently somewhere between Santa being a story and a historical figure. Aaron happened to mention Father Christmas today, so I asked him some questions about what he knew. He told me all about Santa’s helpers, and his reindeer, and how he delivers presents on his sleigh. Listening to him talk, I started to wonder if he really did believe. So I asked him, and he looked puzzled for a moment before saying “no he’s pretend” and then carried on talking as if I was daft to ask. To him, Santa being real or pretend made no difference!

While I was writing this, I couldn’t help noticing many similarities between Santa and God. I’ve heard the comparison before, but never really paid much attention. He lives forever in an inaccessible place, has helpers, is omniscient and omnipresent, judges people, keeps lists of names, sometimes grants requests, gives gifts to the world and performs miracles. Sound familiar? I’m not really going anywhere with this point, I just found it very interesting.

I hope these two posts have answered why our family doesn’t do Santa and explained that I’m not a complete killjoy! Thanks to those of you who have shared how you celebrate Christmas in your families, it’s lovely to hear how everyone does it differently and chooses different aspects to focus on. I’m sure all of our children will grow up with wonderful memories of Christmas, whether Santa was real or not!

Why not Santa?

no-santa

I get asked a lot about why we don’t do Santa in our family. The most basic answer would be that it just doesn’t fit in with our values. This can be a bit of a heated subject, but I understand that every family places importance on different things, and there’s certainly no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. So here are some of the reasons we choose not to do Santa in the traditional way:

It’s a lie

A lie is “an intentionally false statement” or something intended to “to convey a false impression”. No matter how much you justify it by saying it’s just a little white lie, or continuing a tradition, or protecting the magic of childhood, unless you actually believe that Santa lives at the North Pole and flies around the world on his sleigh delivering presents on Christmas Eve then presenting it as truth is still a lie. And it often leads to more elaborate lies and deceptions as children get older and begin to question the possibility of Santa.

I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me, which is fine. For me, it all boiled down to the simple fact that I couldn’t bring myself to look my children in the eye and tell them that Santa is real. I remember the moment when I was talking to Aaron and knew that I had to tell him one way or the other. The thought of lying to him made me feel sick inside and I just couldn’t do it.

santa lie

It’s conditional

Naughty or nice? Those aren’t labels I want to apply to my children, nor do I want them to think that other people must fall into one of those categories. It gives the impression that people are deserving or undeserving, and I don’t want them to believe that love is conditional on their behaviour. As a Christian mother, I want to demonstrate grace to my children. Grace is generous, free and can’t be earned. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Santa is often used as a threat to manipulate children into behaving in a certain way. Bribery can certainly be effective, which makes it a very tempting discipline tool, but I want my children’s behaviour to be motivated by a desire to do what is right, rather than by a desire for reward or a fear of punishment. Besides, using the threat of Santa not bringing your child any presents leaves you with a big problem if they continue to misbehave. Either you follow through, which would be rather harsh, or you don’t follow through, which undermines your parenting.

christmas-humor-naughty-nice-santa-Favim.com-249596

It’s not fair

For some children, Santa fills their stocking with a few small gifts. For others, he brings hundreds of pounds worth of expensive presents. Does that mean a child isn’t good enough if they don’t get the costly gift they asked for? Or what about all the children in the world who are homeless or starving? How do I explain to my children that Santa gives nothing where it is needed most? Do those children not deserve their wishes to be granted?

santarichkids

It’s materialistic

Whether you celebrate it for religious reasons or not (and that’s an issue I still have my doubts about), surely Christmas is supposed to be a time of kindness and joy rather than consumerism and materialism. Yet Santa puts the focus on getting rather than giving. Children are encouraged to make lists of things they want, which parents must try to obtain or risk exposing the lie. Of course, adults usually throw in some moral lesson about how it’s better to give than receive, but most of what children experience at Christmas is centred around getting presents. How can children begin to understand the importance of giving to those in need when a supernatural being supplies them with lavish gifts from their wish list?

evil_santa

When you mention to someone that your family doesn’t do Santa, there seem to be two main objections. Firstly, that it robs children of a magical childhood, and secondly, that it spoils it for other children. In my next post, I’ll try to address some of the potential problems of not doing Santa and explore ways that Christmas can still be a magical experience for children.

Saint Nicholas Day

For the last few days, we’ve been reading this book about the true story of Saint Nicholas and his acts of kindness. It tells of three girls who couldn’t afford dowries to get married, and how Nicholas secretly dropped bags of gold coins into their house which landed by their shoes. I explained to the children that we remember Nicholas on the 6th of December because that was the day he died.

Last night when I put Aaron to bed, I suggested that he could leave his shoes outside the bedroom door. He also decided to leave his tiger there (the tigers are nothing to do with St. Nicholas Day, they were from a friend’s birthday party yesterday) “so he can see if Nicholas comes down from heaven and gives me some money so that I can get married”!

P1020460

Tabitha fell asleep in my arms before bedtime, so I had to put her shoes out for her.

P1020454

In the morning the children were excited to find their shoes stuffed with shiny chocolate coins to eat and pretty candy canes to eventually hang on our Christmas tree. We spent some time discussing giving and thinking about ways that we can show kindness to others, just like Nicholas and Jesus did. Over the next couple of weeks we will put some of those ideas into action, by donating our belongings to charity shops and doing random acts of kindness. There were also plenty of opportunities for kindness today, as Aaron was ill and spent most of the day in bed.

We don’t do Santa in our family, so this simple tradition is a lovely way to help explain the historical origin of Father Christmas whilst keeping the focus on giving. This website has lots of information about how St. Nicholas Day is celebrated around the world.

Cookie cutter printing

I’ve finally got the Christmas crafting bug, which is just as well as I have a long list of gifts to make! This afternoon we did a trial run of making our own wrapping paper. I gave each child a piece of brown paper, a dish of metallic paint and a cookie cutter.

Aaron covered his first sheet with topsy turvy gingerbread men, but on his next piece of paper he arranged them in rows “holding hands”.

P1020406

Tabitha was very enthusiastic about covering her paper with “twinkle twinkle little stars”.

P1020402

I encouraged them to use the cutters upside down, thinking that the wide rim would get better paint coverage. When we do this again on a roll of brown paper we might try using them the other way round for a more delicate effect.

P1020430

Cookie cutter printing could also be used to make gift tags or Christmas cards.

I hate colds

I would rather have surgery, or food poisoning, or give birth (yes really, I’ll pass on the afterpains though!). The common cold is the only thing that has ever managed to bring me to the point of wishing that I could simply stop existing.

Constant pain in my sinuses that feels like I’ve been kicked in the face. Eyes that weep until my eyelids are swollen and bruised, leaving narrow slits of eyes that I can’t keep open in bright light. Weakness all over my body, and random pains that feel like they comes from my bone marrow itself. Worst of all, the suffocating feeling of not being able to breathe through my nose. It’s bearable during the day, but during the night when I’m trying to sleep I start panicking.

P1020359

Colin has been wonderful to me though. He picked up a bottle of eucalyptus oil on his way home from work. He went to the corner shop twice yesterday, to fetch me breakfast and then chocolate. He even walked all the way to Tesco after dinner to get me some ice cream. It almost felt like being pregnant again! 😆

The children have been great too. They usually get fractious if we have more than one day at home doing nothing, but they’ve been fantastic at amusing themselves. Lots of long baths, painting with shaving foam and catching small whale figures in fishing nets from the pet shop. Aaron has finally been introduced to the world of Mario Kart on Colin’s old gamecube. Playing with duplo, cutting up paper, having pretend picnics on the floor and hiding behind the curtains or underneath cushions.

P1020386

I’ve been snuggled up on the sofa or in bed underneath my favourite patchwork blanket. I finished the second two books of the Hunger Games trilogy on my tablet (not my usual kind of reading material, but I was surprised to find it very well written). I’m now reading “Understanding the Reggio Approach”, thanks to my lovely friend who passed on a pile of books. Sipping orange juice, inhaling eucalyptus oil or vaporising it in my oil burner, occasionally forcing myself to eat something.

P1020360

This is a rather self-pitying post, but a recent criticism of blogs in general portraying a “too perfect” life is fresh in my mind. I refuse to moan about my family in public, as that seems really disrespectful. There are my own short-comings of course, but they are so numerous I’m not sure it would make a very interesting read! So a photo of my messy living room with children still in their pyjamas and a description of me doing absolutely nothing exciting or educational over the last few days will have to do instead!

A knife for very young children

This morning a parcel arrived, including this “My Safe Cutter”. I really bought this with Tabitha in mind, as Aaron can already manage a sharper knife.

Of course we had to try it out straight away. The children had a go at cutting up some cucumber, peppers and tomatoes.

Tabitha needed frequent reminders about holding the knife properly and keeping the food on the mat rather than holding it in mid-air  She managed the cucumber fairly easily. The skin on the pepper was a bit trickier, but she was very determined!

The children enjoyed a tasty snack that they had cut up all by themselves!

It would be almost impossible to draw blood with this knife, thanks to the rounded point and large serration. I pressed it into my hand as hard as possible and it left pressure marks, but it wasn’t really painful.

It cuts through salad veg with no problem, although you have to “saw” rather than slice straight through. Fruit and cheese should be fine, and it might even make a good child’s dinner knife. I’ll definitely be buying some more of these, they are great for very young children to be involved in the kitchen and I think they’ll be fantastic for playdough as well!

Catch up

I’ve been busy writing an essay, listening to my son read, attending the Sunday School prizegiving, and organising our first ever “date night” as a surprise for my husband. My wisdom tooth has been really painful since Sunday, so I had an emergency dentist appointment first thing this morning and then spent the rest of the morning trying to chase down a pharmacy that had the antibiotics I need in stock! My usual moments of free time over the last few days have been taken up and I’ve fallen way behind with GreaThings, so this is my attempt to catch up.

I’m thankful for:

  • Trees adorned with beautiful autumn colours.
  • Hugs and kisses from my children.
  • Internet resources that make studying whilst being a full-time mum so much easier.
  • NHS doctors and dentists available whenever I need them, without having to worry about the cost!
  • Gentle friends who inspire me to treat my children with grace and respect.

Difficult experiences that God carried me through

The morning of 24th June this year is one I’ll never forget. My husband got up in the morning, went to the bathroom and then keeled over unconscious, breaking several ribs as he fell against the bath. I heard the crash and found him, eyes wide open but unseeing, with the scariest breathing I have ever heard. It’s not a pleasant memory, but it reminds me how fortunate I am to be surrounded by a loving family and church family who are always there to help out in any way they can. Colin’s health problems have had a big impact on our family over the last four years, but it could be a lot worse and we’re grateful that it isn’t.

New experiences I am learning from

Going back to uni and starting a business are definitely new experiences for me! I’m obviously learning a lot on an academic level but it’s also taught me that, although I have no idea what the future holds, God always has a plan. There’s no way I could have imagined being where I am now a year or even six months ago!

Three things I’ve learnt this year

Things are rarely as black and white as they seemed when I was younger.

Children are great imitators so if I want to truly teach them something, I need to make sure I practise what I preach. Sometimes that means plucking the beam out of my own eye first.

Undone housework can be done later, but I will never have this precious time with my children again. I’m learning to seize the moment even when it means other things don’t get done.

That my house was neglected,
That I didn’t brush the stairs,
In twenty years, no one on earth
Will know, or even care.
But that I’ve helped my little boy
To noble manhood grow,
In twenty years the whole wide world
May look and see and know.

(From I took his hand and followed)

Someone who has inspired you this year

I think if I had to answer this every year my answer would probably stay the same. My mum is the most amazing, generous, hard-working, humble, strong, wise woman and I admire her so much. I hope I can be half as good a mother as she is!

Happy thanksgiving for tomorrow to those of you who celebrate it!

This is Day Seven to Fourteen of GreaThings. You can find all posts in this series by clicking here.

Aaron can read books!

Aaron’s been doing a lot of Reading Eggs this week, after not touching it for months. He’s progressing really well through the lessons, although I’ve noticed that he tends to recognise words mainly by the first letter. He had a revelation this evening though, and was excitedly telling me that “cap” had the same first two letters as “cat” but a different sound at the end.

At bedtime, I picked up some of our free Jelly and Bean books and said we’d read them together. I was only expecting him to manage the first one, but he insisted on reading the other two as well! After the first time he read them, I dashed off to get my camera. These recordings are from the second time he read the books, apart from the first video which was his third attempt because I accidentally put my finger over the microphone the second time!

Aaron was so excited when he realised he could read books! He read them all to me a few times, then Daddy was summoned to be read to. Time to get some more beginner reading books I think!

It was only a few weeks ago that I posted about him finding reading frustrating, and was mentally preparing myself that he might not learn to read for several years. And then this happens! I’m so glad I didn’t push him. This has all come from his own interests, he has basically taught himself to read with very little input from me.

Well done little man, I’m so proud of you! I hope you learn to love reading as much as I did.

A First Book Of Nature

I saw this book in the RHS shop today and was drawn in straight away by the cover. As soon as I opened it I knew that I had to buy it (even though I recently put myself on a book-buying ban)! It’s packed full of information about the natural world, presented in poems and prose and accompanied by beautiful illustrations. There are over 100 pages, divided into sections for each season.

A simple explanation of how rainbows are made. How to make compost. The life cycle of butterflies. A page with “five reasons to keep chickens”. A list of “things to do in your den”. Information about the important role of worms. A twist on an old favourite in “The loaf that Jack baked”, explaining the process from seed to flour. A recipe for berry crumble. Instructions for saving seeds from vegetables.

The description on the cover flap says:

“From beachcombing to stargazing, from watching squirrels, ducks and worms to making berry crumble or a winter bird feast, this is a remarkable book – part poetry, part scrapbook of recipes, facts and fragments – and a glorious reminder that the natural world is on our doorstep waiting to be discovered.”

Have a peek inside and see what you think!

A trip to Rosemoor

We went to Rosemoor Gardens today with my Mum and Grandma. It was cloudy and spitting with rain when we set off, but the sun came out and we were able to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours at their best. Aaron enjoyed taking lots of photos with his camera.

How to make melted crayons

Today was a little friend’s second birthday. We spent a lovely afternoon in the park, walking at his speed and sharing some picnic food. For one of his gifts, Aaron and Tabitha helped me to make some star-shaped multi-coloured crayons.

First, I chopped up a set of old crayons that weren’t getting very much use. They were mainly reds, oranges, yellows, greens and browns, so the colours were very autumnal.

We didn’t have any silicone ice cube trays (I could only find Halloween or Christmas ones in town) but we did have these star-shaped cupcake cases. Aaron and Tabitha filled each case with crayon chunks.

We put them in the oven at approximately 150 degrees C (I say approximately because the numbers rubbed off our oven dial long ago) for 10 minutes. They hadn’t quite melted after that time, so I turned the oven off and left them in for a while.

When they were cool, it was easy to pop them out of the cases. Interestingly, all the yellow and orange wax had floated to the top, creating a layered effect. I wonder if it was anything to do with leaving them in the oven for a while rather than taking them straight out to cool down?

We wrapped the crayon stars up in tissue paper and tied it with a bow for a simple birthday present. This was a lovely activity to explore melting and changes of state.

Lyrics that have meant something special this year

Lord, I come before your throne of grace,
I find rest in Your presence,
And fullness of joy.
In worship and wonder,
I behold Your face
Singing what a faithful God have I.

What a faithful God have I,
What a faithful God!
What a faithful God have I,
Faithful in every way!

Lord of mercy, You have heard my cry,
Through the storm You’re the beacon,
My song in the night.
In the shelter of Your wings
Hear my heart’s reply,
Singing what a faithful God have I.

Lord, all sovereign,
Granting peace from heaven,
Let me comfort those who suffer,
With the comfort You have given.
I will tell of Your great love,
For as long as I live,
Singing what a faithful God have I.

I usually prefer traditional hymns over modern worship songs, but this one has a story behind it.

Back in the summer of 2006, I was on the local beach mission team for the last time before my wedding. There weren’t many of us on the team that year, so we travelled in cars rather than using the minibus. My “big bro” and I travelled with an old friend whose mum was dying of cancer, and the three of us would sing this song on the way to the beach.

At the end of the first week, his mum died and he travelled back up north. The two of us cried for him that day, and then our tears turned into prayer. The words of that song were never far from our minds during that time. A couple of weeks later he came back down for my wedding and helped with the preparations.

Fast forward four years. A few months ago, I found myself wondering what to send him as a wedding present. In the end I settled on a framed photo of the coastline close to where he spent so many years doing beach missions, with a quote from the song that meant so much to all of us that year. The memories are bittersweet, but something good did come out of that sad time. We didn’t find out until several years later, but as a consequence of events that week God eventually brought a young couple together who probably wouldn’t have got to know each other otherwise.

This is Day Six (yes I missed days 4 and 5) of GreaThings. You can find all posts in this series by clicking here.

Weekly Wrap-Up

The children usually spend a few hours with my parents on Monday. I’m not sure who enjoys it more, the children or their grandparents! It’s a good chance for me to catch up on housework or college work, and I try to get as much done as possible so that I can dedicate lots of quality time to the children the next day to make up for me going to college. I love coming across their play creations as I go round the house tidying. They have free access to playdough, so I found this nest and eggs that they made when they woke up.

On Tuesday we went to the allotment and got very muddy. Aaron wanted to do some writing about it afterwards.

On Wednesday we went to HGK with our friends. The children wanted to play outside, so Ali and I wrapped up and sat on a bench knitting. It was really cold and we came home earlier than usual. I was exhausted and went to bed while Aaron was at Wednesday Club, woke up briefly when the doorbell went and then went straight back to sleep as soon as he was tucked up in bed! Thursday was a “quiet” day at home to recover! We played lots of snakes and ladders.

We went to visit Grandma on Friday morning, as we often do. On the way we watched a car transporter. We always stop to watch at least one car come off the ramp.

There was a Remembrance service taking place in the park, so we stood and listened for a while. Aaron asked lots of questions for the rest of the day and I did my best to explain, but he was struggling to make sense of it all.

We continued into town to pick up a few bits of shopping and then waited outside Daddy’s office for a while, forgetting that he now finishes an hour earlier on Fridays! The children had fun though and practised walking the “tightrope”.

On Saturday Colin took the children over to his mum’s whilst he fixed her computer, and then I joined them for a lovely dinner. Afterwards we dropped Aaron off at his cousin’s house for his first ever sleepover there.

I think Tabitha was quite pleased to see him again this morning. They usually play together before breakfast, but when I woke up today she was sitting in the hall talking to her doll. And yes, we do have a beach tent in our living room at the moment!

Aaron just walked up and asked me to take a photo of him and his latest postcard, so here he is. I think that brings me up-to-date!

Scriptures that have been a special blessing this year

I often find a scripture which really speaks to me and it becomes one that I come back to again and again, over several months or even years. This is a passage that I’ve prayed over a lot during the last year. It both comforts me and challenges me.

“For I am the LORD, I change not. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Taken from Malachi 3:6-12

What are your favourite scriptures at the moment?

This is Day Three of GreaThings. You can find all posts in this series by clicking here.

Zzzzzz

I have one those legendary children who can fall asleep anywhere. I just have to turn my back for a few seconds and she’s off. A little while later I will realise that she is remarkably quiet, so we go on a hunt to see where she’s fallen asleep this time. It has provided us with much amusement over the last couple of years!

This was the rather alarming time she fell asleep at the top of the stairs.

She often falls asleep eating, which is hilarious to watch. Her hands and mouth keep on going for quite a while after her eyes have closed.

The other day I told her off for something, so she stormed off in a sulk. A few moments later I went to look for her, but couldn’t find her anywhere in the house and was starting to panic! Eventually I thought of checking underneath her bed, which in turn led me to check under our bed, and I found her snuggled up on the spare duvet!

This afternoon we finally got back from an exhausting shopping trip. Let’s just say that the children had not been on their best behaviour! When we got in they were clamouring for food, so I handed Aaron a bag of almonds, opened a pack of oat cakes for Tabitha and then took the shopping upstairs. When I came back to start cooking dinner, this is what I found.

Thanks Tabitha! The kitchen is tiny enough without having to step over you to cook!

Riches

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19.

I remember, as a little girl, attending Sunday School in a tiny countryside chapel and hearing many stories about missionaries across the world. In particular, the accounts of George Muller have always stuck in my mind. He never asked any person for anything, but God answered his prayers in amazing ways. Like the time when the orphanage had no food to give the children breakfast, but they all sat down at the empty tables and gave thanks anyway. When they finished praying, the local baker knocked on the door with enough food for everyone, and the milk cart broke down outside so the milkman gave them all the milk. Incredible provision!

Colin’s health problems have meant that he has been unable to work for much of the last four years. We usually manage okay financially, but occasionally there are unexpected bills which mean things are tighter than usual. Even this year, there have been a couple of moments when I raided the penny pot to gather enough money for bread and milk to feed the children, and searched the cupboards for anything that might help us last the week.

On one such occasion, we found an envelope by our front door a few days later. Inside was a cheque from our church. We have never mentioned monetary need to anyone there, so this was truly an amazing answer to prayer! Another time, Colin sold an old camera and was given far more than it was worth even new. Sometimes it was simply an invitation to dinner, which meant one meal less to eke out of the budget.

Time and time again, we have been amazed at how God has provided for our physical and financial needs, often through the generosity and kindness of His people. I hope that, whatever our circumstances in the future, we will continue to learn this lesson of relying on the Lord and casting all our cares on Him.

“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.

(I was hesitant to make this post public, but I hope that it is a testimony to the great things God can do rather than being too personal. The focus is on Him, not me.)

This is Day Two of GreaThings. You can find all posts in this series by clicking here.

Memories and moments

Day One of GreaThings is “Great memories and moments you’re thankful for this year”. So here are three things that stick out in my mind over the last twelve months.

Family

Last December, my not-so-little brother James got married and I gained another wonderful sister-in-law. Aaron was a pageboy at the wedding and we were all so excited to share their special day. The children adore their Auntie Jess and she has become very much part of the family.

Around the same time, my Grandma sold her house and moved to a flat not far from us. We visit her often and I’m grateful that Aaron and Tabitha have the chance to get to know her better.

During the summer, one of my other sister-in-laws and her two boys also moved just up the road from us, so we’ve gone from seeing them once or twice a year to seeing them as often as we want! It’s lovely for the children to have their cousins nearby, especially as they are similar ages. We are now truly surrounded by family, which is a wonderful blessing!

Tilling the ground

I’ve really enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of the allotment, the beauty of nature and the satisfying feeling of hard manual labour. Watching the children harvest help Grandpa harvest their first ever potatoes was a magical moment. When I was a teenager, my parents’ neighbour used to have a sign saying something like “You are closer to God in a garden”. I remember my parents remarking on how it was incorrect because God is omnipresent, but I do believe that working with the earth is a good thing for mankind. It’s good for the body and good for the soul!

New beginnings

Over the last few months, I’ve gone from being a stay-at-home mum to being a childminder, home educator and part-time student. Back in May, I submitted an application form to do a part-time Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies. In June, I booked a place on a pre-registration course for childminding. It was very much an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment thing, and at the time I had no idea if I’d be able to do either. Amazingly the practicalities and timings have all worked out perfectly and I’m doing both! I’m thankful that the Lord has provided a way for me to hopefully earn some money whilst being able to stay at home with my children.

What are some of the memories and moments from the last year that you are thankful for? I’d love to hear about them!

This is Day One of GreaThings. You can find all posts in this series by clicking here.

Celebrating GreaThings

To God be the glory, great things He hath done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son;
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son:
And give Him the glory! Great things He hath done!

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer and higher and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!

Frances Jane Van Alstyne

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK but it seems like a good time to pause and reflect on some of the blessing of the last twelve months, especially at a time of year when society is obsessed with consumerism and materialism. I’m going to take this opportunity to participate in GreaThings and spend some time over the next two weeks thanking God for the great things He has done. Unfortunately I’m better at starting things than I am at finishing them, so I may not manage a post every day!

My GreaThings 2012:

Memories and Moments

Riches

Scriptures that have been a special blessing this year

Lyrics that have meant something special this year

Catch up

Mud glorious mud!

We met my dad up at the allotment today to empty the shed. It was a gloomy, miserable afternoon, but there were still some splashes of colour and beauty to be found.

We took up the black plastic and moved it up to the new plot. It’s only been down for 2 months and already it has done a great job of killing most of the weeds underneath. There were quite a few ghostly white dandelions though, which was a great opportunity to answer Aaron’s questions about plants needing light.

This is our new plot. As you can see by how much the plastic doesn’t cover, it’s a lot bigger than the old one. Apparently the ex-plot holder, who still has the plot next door to our new plot, used to have our old plot (are you following?) and had the same problems with bad drainage in wet weather and the ground becoming as hard as concrete in dry weather. Hopefully this plot will be easier, it has a lot of benefits over the old one.

Did I mention the mud? It was like a comedy scene at one point. Aaron’s boots got stuck in the mud so he pulled and pulled until his foot came out. He then grabbed hold of Tabitha in a futile effort to keep his sock off the ground, causing her to fall down on her bottom. My boots kept getting stuck as I struggled to reach them and we all got plastered!

Who needs PE when you have an allotment? This is much more fun!