Sunday, December 15, 2013

What's Your Family Identity?

I love this time of year! As soon as November 1 makes its debut, the Noffsinger family kicks into high gear for a very busy holiday season. With 5 granddaughters playing basketball and 3 grandsons keeping David and me on our toes, we seldom have a quiet moment until January 2. But we love it. And what makes the holiday season so special to me is.......tradition. Now I know tradition has gotten some bad press lately but humor me; for us, tradition and family go hand in hand.

All we have to do is look around us and watch the news to know that children today are suffering from a lack of what I call "family identity". Family bonds are formed very early in a child's life. We know that children learn best from repetition. (why did your teacher insist you write your spelling words 10 times each for homework on Monday night?) And what better way to give your kids a sense of family than those family traditions that we practice year after year?

Here are 6 things you as a family can do this Christmas season (some cost nothing and some cost very little) that will develop your child's family identity and start traditions they will want to carry on in their own families some day.

1. As a family, visit a live nativity.
In our area we have some really good ones that involve lots of animals, and scenes of that blessed night in Bethlehem. Most children are visual learners, especially small children, and seeing the story of the birth of Christ unfold right before their eyes, (camels, donkeys, sheep, and hay) will make a lasting impression. A big
THANK YOU to all the churches who so creatively give of their time, finances, talents and spiritual gifts to bring the nativity to life.

2. Involve your kids in your church Christmas play.
Oh my goodness, I could not begin to tell you all the sweet memories I have of my boys in their shepherds costumes, fighting with their staffs in the church basement before their play, head pieces falling off, and children tripping on their long robs, angels crying for their Mamas, and Mary and Joseph fighting over the doll that was supposed to represent baby Jesus. Church Christmas plays are a great family tradition and the memories will last a lifetime.

3. Teach your children the importance of giving to others.
This is a tradition that will shape their attitude toward those in need and develop in them a compassionate heart. I learned this quite by accident as a young Mom. My Mom and I were coming out of KMart one day when my son Bryan, who was about 3 years old, reached into his pocket, took out some loose change that he had been carrying around for a while, walked up to the Salvation Army kettle and put it in, no prompting from us. You better believe I made sure every year after that, my boys put money in that kettle, helped fix Christmas baskets at church, AND participated in delivering them. When I hear Moms speak negatively about the lack of gratitude in their children, I have to wonder where they learned it. You see, a thankful heart is a "learned thing" that is taught to children by parents who demonstrate a thankful heart in their daily lives. Ephesians 5:20 commands us to "give thanks always for all things."

4. Encourage your children to choose a gift for a family member, buy the gift (or gifts), wrap the gift, then personally give it to the person they bought it for.
This really teaches them the art of gift giving and teaches them to put some thought, effort, time, and their own resources into giving to others.

5. Teach them to remember the senior adults in your family and in your church family.
So many people, especially those who are alone or who live in nursing homes are vulnerable to depression this time of year. It is amazing what a plate of home baked cookies, candy canes, or fruit will do for the over all sense of well being of a senior adult. And the benefits to you and your children in years to come will be pricless.

6. Make Christmeas Eve or Christmas morning something unique to your family.
My sister-in-law serves spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas Eve and that has been their tradition for many, many years. My Dad, (not my Mom) always fixed the hams for our Christmas Eve dinner. We choose a different family member each year to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 BEFORE gifts are opened!! Whether it's pizza for Christmas dinner, opening half the presents on Christmas Eve and the other half on Christmas day, or singing Christmas carols before you open your gifts, start a tradition that sets your family apart from every other family and establishes your family identity in your kids. They'll love you for it when they have their own families!

And may I add one more tradition??? I call it a "husband and wife tradition."
When our boys were small, Christmas was all about them. And I think most parents focus all their attention
(and money) on getting just the right gifts for their kids, even to the extent of getting less for each other. And there certainly isn't anything wrong with that, because we get so much enjoyment from seeing the "awe" on the faces of our children on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve night was the one night out of the year that we had no problems getting our boys to bed early. After an exciting day of eating and opening gifts at both grandparents, seeing their cousins and anticipating Christmas morning, they were exhausted and asleep almost as soon as their heads hit the pillow.
And that is when David and I would exchange gifts with each other. We knew that the next morning we would be involved with the kids, so we began early in our marriage having our own Christmas, minus the kids, on Christmas Eve night. We, (he) would put together train sets, race tracks, star wars stuff, GI Joe headquarters, bring in the go-kart, you name it, he put it together, and then we had our quiet time of opening the gifts we had for each other, and reflecting on God's goodness to our family the past year.

This is David and me with our 8 grandchildren. We took the picture AFTER our Thanksgiving dinner instead of before as we usually do. It may not be picture perfect, but after all, I never want to forget that no family is picture perfect. Sometimes we get caught up in that idea and miss the most important moments of all.
I am holding our newest addition to the family, Isaac, next to me is his sister Olivia, his brother Alex, David is holding Tate, and left to right are Sarah, (Tate's sister) Katie, Emily, (Isacc, Olivia and Alex's sister) and Kara, Katie's sister. We are so blessed and so thankful for each precious one.

So...have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, remember the Christ-Child Who came to earth as a tiny baby, born to a humble mother in a humble stable, Who grew to be a Man and gave His sinless life for us that we would never know the sting of death and the eternal separation from our Heavenly Father.
He truly is "Immanuel, God with us." Matthew 1:23.


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