Saturday, January 11, 2014

Elvis: The Advent Elf

This Christmas, Elvis the Advent Elf came to stay at our home. I'm sure by now you have heard of Elf on the Shelf, A Christmas Tradition. It seems to be one of those love/hate relationships. You either love the idea, or you hate it.

I'm probably somewhere in the middle. I certainly don't hate him. He's fun! I love the idea of an elf coming to stay for the holiday season. It seemed like it would be so much fun for the kids to wake up each morning and search for their elf friend, finding him in the funniest places. We have never taught our children that Santa was real, so the part about an elf watching them to see if they were naughty or nice didn't fit with our family. I wanted to tweak our elf to incorporate our family traditions.

We have always taught the kids about Santa Claus, the truth. He's a fun pretend character who magically delivers presents on Christmas Eve. We love watching Santa movies. The kids always get a present in their stocking from Santa, which they know comes from their mom and dad. At our house, Santa is the one who gives the ornaments for the tree each year. Every Christmas Eve they leave a plate of cookies with milk for Santa. They know their father and me eat the cookies; sometimes we take pictures to show them. It's fun to pretend. It's good for a child's imagination.

I didn't want to pay the money for the famous Elf on the Shelf so I purchased my own at Hobby Lobby. He was much cheaper, and I believe he's adorable. His arms have a wire running through them so you can position him how you would like, and he has a weight in his bottom so he can sit up. He is a little larger than the normal "elf" but I liked him that way.

Meet Elvis, The Advent Elf. On December 1st our kids woke to find Elvis sitting on our dining room table. In his hand was an envelope and next to him laid a letter from Santa. The letter was quite long and detailed the tradition of celebrating the Advent season.

In the envelope Elvis held was the first Bible verses for our Advent celebration. We daily would get scriptures to read, and we would all discuss a question to reflect upon. It would be our evening devotions. The discussion was lively and interesting. I believe it was an excellent tradition to add to our family celebration. I don't know that Elvis will return with his daily activities next year (it was a ton of work), but I do believe we will read through his Advent envelopes again.

To make his envelopes I found a piece of Christmas scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby. It conveniently had all 25 numbers on it. I simply cut each one out and mod podged it onto the front of some envelopes I also purchased from Hobby Lobby. With coupons, the total price I paid on his Advent envelopes was $2. I love how they turned out, and they were super simple to put together.

I had my envelopes all finished before December 1st so each night we would need only pick the next day. The Bible verses were all printed out and folded to fit nicely inside. I chose to use the Message version for all our Bible verses. It's such an easy version for kids to understand.

Day 1
1 John 1:1-5
Question for Reflection: How can we "walk in the light"?

Day 2
Isaiah 9:6-7
Question for Reflection: What name or characteristic of Jesus can you most relate to?

Day 3
Philippians 2:5-8
Question for Reflection: Why do you think Jesus came in such a humble way?

Day 4
Isaiah 40:3-5
Question for Reflection: How can we prepare for God's arrival?

Day 5
Luke 1:5-12
Question for Reflection: What does it mean to live honorably before God?

Day 6
Luke 1:13-17
Question for Reflection: John the Baptist was the first person filled with the Holy Spirit. What do you think life was like without the Holy Spirit?

Day 7
Luke 1:18-25
Question for Reflection: Why do we often doubt God's blessings in our own lives?

Day 8
Luke 1:26-38
Question for Reflection: What "impossible" thing do you need to trust God for?

Day 9
Matthew 1:18-19
Question for Reflection: How do we deal with conflict? Do we do it quietly, or do we make a big scene?

Day 10
Matthew 1:20-25
Question for Reflection: What does "God with us" mean to you personally?

Day 11
Luke 1:39-45
Question for Reflection: Why do you think Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus?

Day 12
Luke 1:46-56
Question for Reflection: How do you feel about being a "chosen child" of God?

Day 13
Luke 2:1-5
Question for Reflection: Caesar Augustus was a documented historical figure, do you ever wonder if Jesus was real too?

Day 14
Luke 2:6-7
Question for Reflection: Why do you think God allowed His son to be born in a stable?

Day 15
Luke 2:8-12
Question for Reflection: Why do you think the angels appeared to the shepherds instead of someone more "important"?

Day 16
Luke 2:13-14
Question for Reflection: What does it mean peace to those "who please him"?

Day 17
Luke 2:15-18
Question for Reflection: What things have you "seen" that have made you "believe"?

Day 18
Luke 2:19-20
Question for Reflection: Have you been "glorifying and praising" God for all that He has done in your life?

Day 19
Micah 5:2-4
Question for Reflection: Micah prophesied about Jesus' birth hundreds of years before it happened. Do you believe God planned for your birth that far in advance?

Day 20
Matthew 2:1-2
Question for Reflection: A pilgrimage is a long journey made to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. What pilgrimage have you been on lately?

Day 21
Matthew 2:3-6
Question for Reflection: Why do you think Herod feared Jesus' coming?

Day 22
Matthew 2:7-8
Question for Reflection: Herod pretended to be devoted to get what he wanted. Do you ever pretend, hoping God will give you whatever you ask for?

Day 23
Matthew 2:9-12
Question for Reflection: Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience God's presence?

Day 24
John 1:14
Question for Reflection: What does it look like when "flesh and blood moves into your neighborhood"?

Day 25
John 3:16-18
Question for Reflection: Have you accepted God's gift of His son, Jesus?

I put a book together of Elvis: The Advent Elf and his adventures. I wanted to share it with you!

"Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow." James 1:17

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Animals for God

"It's a jungle out there!"
This year we are going to be animals for God. I'm sure that sounds a little wild and crazy. When you have kids, it's perfectly normal to feel like you're living in a jungle, every man for himself. Chaos everywhere. This year there is a little order to our jungle; we are the animals and it's a good thing. A God thing.

Remember the growth capsules you used to get as a little kid? They looked like colored medicine, and when you put them in warm water, they grew into a sponge. I loved these when I was little. You never knew exactly what you were getting. It was so fun to be surprised with a different shape. I don't remember doing anything with the sponges after they had grown; the whole point was watching them change.

I found a pack of 18 capsules at the dollar store. My pack had 6 different animals, three of each one. After much prayer, and help from my mother, I came up with index cards of information for each animal. I used this as an object lesson on growth for my second and third grade class at church. The kids were going to have the opportunity to be a horse, giraffe, tiger, lion, elephant, or crocodile for God. I found a Bible verse to go with the animal, and I tried to highlight different characteristics I thought the animal might exhibit.

When you see the capsules, you have no idea what animal you will be getting. You choose what color you like, and the animal is a surprise, a theme for the year from God. The kids in my class got so into this, I decided to repeat the activity with my family.

This year Titus is going to be a HORSE for God.

A horse gallops into the spiritual battle using God’s word. Thoroughbreds are part of God’s kingdom following His commands not being stubborn like mules.

“Put on all the ARMOR that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks.” Ephesians 6:11

Warrior – Tough – Protector – Fighter

This year Amanda is going to be a GIRAFFE for God.

A giraffe’s long neck can reach high places, feeding on the good stuff of God. You will not scrounge in the dirt for grubs.

“I run straight toward the GOAL to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Dream - Purpose – Desire - Action

This year Ariel is going to be a TIGER for God.

The tiger is proud and does not shrink back in fear. It stalks its prey the devil because it knows that God is on its side.

“Be STRONG and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Brave – Courageous – Fearless – Daring

This year Gabriel is going to be a LION for God.

Lions walk boldly into what God has given them. They do not fear difficulties.

“The wicked run away, but the godly are as BOLD as lions”. Proverbs 28:1

Brave – Courageous – Fearless - Daring

This year Zechariah is going to be a ELEPHANT for God.

An elephant never forgets the commands of God, and always stores the knowledge from the Bible in memory.

”I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in KNOWLEDGE and understanding.” Philippians 1:9

Wise – Intelligent –Learn - Smart

The other animal I have left that no one in my family chose is the CROCODILE.

The crocodile will gobble up God’s word, and has thick skin to keep out the enemy’s attacks.

“You will SEARCH again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.” Deuteronomy 4:29

Discover – Examine – Hunt - Pursue

The anticipation for the kids in finding out their animal was great! They loved it. I hope and pray they continue to walk in the footsteps of their animal. To put on the armor as a horse, to have goals like a giraffe, to be strong as a tiger, to walk boldly as a lion, to be knowledgeable as an elephant, and to search for God with all their heart as a crocodile would.

*UPDATE* Three years later we added More Animals for God

Every year I pray and ask God for a word, a theme for the year. This year He led me to a Live Second devotional. My husband and I are going through the book together. I want that to be my theme this year, to always put myself second.

When it comes to God, I put Him first, myself second. When it comes to my husband, I put him first, myself second. When it comes to my kids, I want to put them first, myself second. When it comes to my friendships, I want to put them first, myself second. My word for the year is Second. I am Second.