Our Team Shares Special Memories & Creative Inspiration for the Winter Months
Heather Cofer shares…
We read through an advent devotional as a family at the beginning of December. Going through an advent devotional, as well as doing an advent calendar, was a tradition that was very special in my family growing up, so it’s precious to bring this into my own family and watch my children grasp the significance of Jesus coming to earth. It’s a wonderful way of refocusing our minds and hearts on Jesus in the midst of a season full of activity.
The Glow of the Evening
One of my absolute favorite winter pastimes is to turn the lights down and sit in the glow of the fireplace, twinkle lights, and candles once the kids are down and the house is quiet. I love to snuggle into my favorite corner of the couch, usually with a hot drink in-hand and instrumental music playing in the background. There really is something about those “silent nights.”
One year, our friends hosted a “homemade eggnog gathering.” A few of us came in our Christmas pj pants and we enjoyed cookies and eggnog and laughter. There is something special about enjoying holidays with friends and making memories you know will probably become a beloved tradition. It’s certainly something I’m excited to repeat!
Annie Wesche shares…
Share Your Table
I have several memories from throughout the years when our holiday table was shared with others. My mum was especially gifted in finding someone who might not have family to share the season with or those who were walking through difficulty or loss. She always invited me into the joyful preparations of turning our home into a welcoming haven of love, and Mum always brought out the very best of everything to show our guests how special they were. And even in those times where the spread may not have been fancy, I saw the love of the Savior and the Prince of Peace minister to the hearts of our very special guests.
This recipe came together a few winters ago when I was looking for some healthier options for my mum as she battled cancer. She had a limited diet at the time and wasn’t eating oats, but I longed to satisfy her craving for something crunchy and sweet. This festive recipe was born in our kitchen and quickly became a year-round favorite for our whole family. And as an added bonus, while it bakes it will fill your house with a delectable, seasonal aroma!
Pray in the New Year
Gathering with others to ring in the New Year is a common celebration for many, and one that usually involves a collective countdown to midnight and ending with shouts of “Happy New Year!” Growing up, I enjoyed this shared tradition. But as I grew older, my family adopted a new practice that has become one of my most treasured traditions of the whole year. Shortly before midnight we quiet the festivities, get on our knees, and begin to pray — dedicating the final moments of one year and the first moments of the next to our Heavenly Father, thanking Him for His goodness to us, crying out for His Kingdom come on this earth, and seeking His purposes in our lives for the coming year.
mandy saeler shares…
Joy of Gift-Giving
Over the years, I’ve discovered the joy of inviting the Ultimate Gift-Giver to lead me in my gift-giving. While I observe my loved ones throughout the year and love thinking of creative ways to bless them, I ask the Lord to lead me in my shopping and gifting. (I find that doing so also prevents me from rushing into a frenzy and losing the true focus of the season.) Most often, I find the gifts I give in my regular errands and shopping. At the right time, the right tokens and treasures surface. It is truly so much fun to see God placing items in my path that will suit and bless my loved ones. It’s a beautiful reminder that He delights to bless and enrich the lives of those around me … and I have the joy of getting to participate in the giving!
Send Love & Refreshment
One of my great enjoyments in life is hand-scripted cards and letters. I relish both the simplicity and the richness found in slowing down, picking up a pen, stringing my words together carefully, and truly saying something. Each year I choose a meaningful Scripture verse that I incorporate into all of the cards, but every card’s message is unique as I ask the Lord to lead me as I fill the inside (and quite often even the back) of the cards. Tucking the cards into their envelopes and sending them on their way, I pray that God delivers the intended blessing and refreshment as they reach the hands and hearts of my loved ones. While these letter-writing evenings are rich with meaning for me personally, I find joy in knowing that the result yields loving affection, care, and encouragement to the special people in my life.
Deck the Halls
Decorating for Christmas has been one of my favorite parts of the holiday season for as long as I can remember. In my childhood home and in my adult home, it’s a whole evening affair complete with Christmas music wafting through the air and holiday coffee brewing! When the time comes to decorate, I simply can’t wait to set to task! For me, it’s a very practical way of setting the scene for a season of reflection, joyful reverence, and true celebration … as we remember the humble arrival of our Savior and anticipate His glorious return!
Jasmin Howell shares…
A Meaningful Item
Two years ago, I was on the lookout for a set of matching Christmas stockings for my husband, son, and I. Within minutes of arriving at a seasonal craft fair, I saw a set of four stockings on display, made out of a recycled wool Hudson Bay blanket (an iconic Canadian item). I loved them and I bought three out of the four displayed stockings and continued browsing the market for other gifts on my list.
I had been praying that year and asking the Lord for another child, which felt like an impossible prayer since my husband and I hadn’t been able to conceive for 13 years and couldn’t afford another adoption. And yet, as I browsed the market, I felt the Lord prompting me to go back for the fourth stocking in the set. So, before I left, that’s exactly what I did … in faith.
For two Christmases the fourth stocking has been lovingly stored in my box of decorations. But this Christmas there will be four of us because of the Lord’s joyful gift of an unexpected, miraculous pregnancy and the birth of our first biological son in September! I know this Christmas, when I hang up all four stockings, I will remember with joy God’s prompting to trust Him with the future, and His glorious fulfillment of a dream we longed for.
Last year as a fun Christmas party idea, I hosted a cookie exchange for the group of pre-teen girls I had been discipling. Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies?! Each girl brought a doubled batch of their favorite type of festive cookie and we set them out on the kitchen island. Then we created a makeshift assembly line, with each girl going through and making two new platters of cookies from the variety spread out. Each girl had a platter of cookies to take home to her family, and a second platter to give to a friend or neighbor in need of Christ. On the second platter we wrote out and included the Gospel message of Christmas and a personal note. The girls had a great time, and it was also a special and personal way to reach out with the hope of Christ!
Cozy at Home
We get a lot of snow, cold temperatures, and long dark evenings up here in Canada, so throughout the winter season — and especially at Christmastime — a cozy night at home always includes lighting all the candles and plugging in all the twinkly lights for a perfect atmosphere of sparkling warmth. Put on a favorite Christmas album and the tone is set for a lovely night at home, which might also include a yummy snack, cuddles, and conversation about the goodness of God.
Sarah Guthrie shares…
Host a Read Aloud
Historically, my family devotes an evening each week to host a read aloud night for all who gather at our hearth. This cozy pastime of drawing a chair close to the fire, steeping a pot of tea, assembling a plate of broken Christmas cookies, and leaning in for a wholesome winter read never fails to bring calm and quiet to busy holiday schedules or heavy hearts. Over the years, we have even invested in a beautiful collector’s edition of A Christmas Carol and a collection of festive teacups to bring an extra measure of sparkle to our midwinter evenings.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
My younger sisters are now in their teen years and have quite outgrown the days of sitting on my lap and turning the beautifully illustrated pages of this children’s tale, but that doesn’t stop me from pulling it out each year and enjoying the story myself. Themes of redemption, healing, and new life are woven throughout a humble story of a heartbroken woodcarver tasked with creating a nativity set for an inquisitive little boy and his widowed mother. There is even a heartwarming movie adaptation of the book that I have found quite enjoyable!
“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style. In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas.”2 For me, the best Christmas gifts aren’t wrapped, they are shared experiences with dear ones that invoke the wonder and joy of what the season brings. Once my family hailed a train to festive New York City — a day trip that included window shopping fabulous 5th Avenue, the smell of chestnuts roasting, graceful ice skaters in Central Park, and a chance meeting with a ballerina from the Nutcracker (in costume!). Get bundled up or dressed up and enjoy a festive outing — whether it’s classic Christmasy theater, a church pageant, a living nativity, a worshipful concert, or a barn sing, and make a new memory this year.
A Few more Ideas…
Host an ornament exchange with friends. Everyone brings a wrapped ornament that represents an attribute of God, a promise in Scripture, or some significant meaning. Then as you gather together and open the exchanged gifts, each giver shares about that ornament.
Have a Christmas letter-writing party. Everyone brings a box of Christmas cards to share. Turn on some beautiful background music, set out cozy treats with hot drinks, and have everyone spend an hour or so writing their Christmas notes to mail off to friends and family.
Gather some friends around a piano or simple acoustic guitar and carol to your heart’s content! Or, take your entourage to go and carol throughout your neighborhood! You can even turn this into an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with your neighbors.
Start (or revisit) your “sacred list” of things you need God to move mightily on your behalf. Update the list if you have one already, thank God for the answers He has given, and freshly commit to fervent and persistent prayer to see His glory and victory in each one in this coming year! “The fervent prayer of a righteous [woman] availeth much!” (See James 5:16.)
Choose a reading plan you like and set out to read through the Bible in this coming year!
Consider doing an advent study that will prepare your heart to revel in the sacredness of this season. The study entitled Pause. Ponder. Praise. provided by deeperChristian, is a wonderful resource!*
Acquire a new practical skill. Perhaps it is a skill or hobby you’ve wanted to cultivate, or a language you’ve wanted to learn. Dust off one thing that you’ve been meaning to do and incorporate it into your quiet, restful winter days or nights.
Look into women’s shelters in the area that are seeking volunteers for special holiday events, or simply sign up for any time to come, serve, encourage, and love those in a season of great need.
Call up a friend or ministry leader with children and offer to babysit for them amid the holiday season — as a gift — so they can have a special evening out with their spouse.
Inquire with your church if there are any elderly church members in need of help this winter: shoveling walkways, grocery errands, Christmas shopping and gift wrapping, driving them places, stopping by for a visit, etc.
Adopt a frontline worker through Voice of the Martyrs.* So many of our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering great opposition and persecution for the love of their Savior and the sake of the Gospel. VOM has a way that you can commit to pray for a frontline worker faithfully for one year. They’ll send you a photo and information of a brother or sister in Christ so you can see their face and know what they are facing for following Jesus.
Bundle up for a brisk walk outside in the crisp winter air. Leave your earbuds behind and revel in the hush of winter. Truly hear the snow crunch beneath your feet and the winter birdsong, and let it all lead your heart to your wise and wonderful God.
Enjoy a “Sunday Selah.” The word “selah” is used in the Psalms and simply means, to pause and reflect. Adopt the habit of having time set aside (perhaps on Sunday) to pull away from the busyness of life in order to pause and reflect on God’s working, leading, and instructing in your life.
Prayerfully seek the Lord for fresh vision in the new year. Take the opportunity to press the reset button on rhythms, habits, over-committing, schedules, etc. Be still before the Lord to gather direction for the year that is to come and commit to following where He leads.