350 | How to Make the Holidays Truly Memorable This Year (Sean Allen)
It's the most wonderful time of the year...and the most hectic. With all the hustle and the bustle, the rich opportunity for us to help our children consider the people and events that make Thanksgiving and Christmas truly memorable often escapes us. It doesn't have to be this way. In this episode we'll talk about practical ways that you can set up altars of remembrance in your home through simple, routine devotions. These devotions are truly the gift that keeps on giving and will remain with your children long after the festivities of the season are through.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
The Character of Thanksgiving by The Well Ordered Homeschool
The Character of Christmas: 12 Day Character Study & Devotional by The Well Ordered Homeschool
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Sean Allen Hello. Welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Since you're listening to this, I'm guessing you already know that homeschooling is both incredibly challenging and incredibly beautiful. Every week we're here to wing a little guidance, some helpful counsel, and a whole lot of encouragement your way as you navigate this busy, yet blessed journey of educating your children at home. Now, even though the show is called Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every homeschool-related question. But if you come away with nothing else, our hope is that today's episode will point you to Jesus Christ and that you will seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Well hello, everyone. Welcome again to the Homeschool Solutions podcast. My name is Sean Allen and I will be your host for today. And I want to thank you for joining us--I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us. I know that you're probably busy, just like I am-- just crazy busy-- and especially at this time of year. This episode's probably going to air right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, and when you get to that time of year, boy, time is at a premium. Goodness! And there's just so much going on. And so I'm going to try, in the spirit of the season, or to maybe help you out a little bit with all that you've got going on, I'm going to try to make this episode a little shorter. But again, I want to thank you for being here with us today. And so what I want to talk to you about is being purposeful during the holiday season--during Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of the opportunities that present themselves to us during that time. That's probably why we find time in such short supply is because there's just too many things to do. And so we just end up doing pirouettes, you know, in the middle of our households, and we're not very purposeful about what we're doing. And so that's easy to do. I've done it. And I've gotten to the place where, after the 4th of July, I start thinking about Christmas. Not because-- Well, I love Christmas. I really enjoy it-- That time of year-- But mainly because I know how (by sad experience) that by the time that we get here, it just kind of goes by in a blur and it's over before you know it. And I look back on-- January-- I hate to put it this way, but I almost despise January. It's my least favorite month of the year. (Sorry if there are any January lovers out there, but for me, I just, it's kind of depressing.) And a lot of times what makes it even more depressing is that I look back on December and I look back on November and I say, "You know, what did I do with that?" What did I really do outside of, you know, just rush, rush, rush and shop, shop, shop? And there wasn't-- It was more like somebody else is steering this car. I'm not in the driver's seat, and I don't like that feeling-- And especially during this time of the year when there's so much that you could do to make it memorable and valuable for your family, for your children. So you've got to be deliberate. I just want to throw that out here at the very first: Be deliberate. Take charge of this thing. And it's not too late to make a plan.
Again, I don't know exactly when this episode is going to air, but if it's after Thanksgiving, say, you've still got time. There's still time to make Christmas very meaningful for your family. It's not necessarily about making it fun. This isn't about trying to extract all the fun that you possibly can. (There's plenty of opportunities for fun and there's nothing wrong with that in the world.) But we know why there are such holidays-- The things that took place (that the holiday centers around) are some of the most momentous things in all of history-- And certainly when we're talking about the birth of Christ, its top three most momentous things in all of history--considering the birth, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so, of course, there's a holiday about that. And so, there's nothing wrong with fun, and I love-- That's one of the reasons why I love the season is because there's so many opportunities to have those fun times with your children and your family and your extended family. And I love all of that. But the only reason why there is such an opportunity is because there was such a man as Jesus Christ, who came into the world as a child. And so you can never, never forget that. And the reason why we gather together with our family on Thanksgiving Day is because there was such a group of people as the pilgrims, and all of the sacrifices that they endured on our behalf so that we could be where we are--live in the country that we live in, with the freedoms that we enjoy. And so that's, you know-- There's football and there's food and there's political debate around the dinner table, and things like that. There's all these wonderful traditions, but we can never forget the reason why.
It takes a lot to create a holiday, in most cases. And so, here's your opportunity to be deliberate about remembering those things. And so, we know that the Old Testament talks to us about ancient Israel and how deliberate they were in memorializing the mighty acts of God in delivering them from many different instances of bondage. And so the Lord urged them and charged them with the responsibility of setting up memorials...or setting up altars. And the idea was (or the way that the Lord explained it to them) was that, when your children pass by that memorial (or that altar)--there's a number of different forms that they took--but when they pass by this memorial, they're going to look at that and they're going to ask you, "What's this all about? Why is that there?" And then that is your opportunity-- Of course, I'm paraphrasing here-- That is your opportunity, as fathers and as mothers, to explain to them, "Well, this is where the Lord-- Where and when the Lord delivered us from fill-in-the-blank." And there were multiple instances of deliverance. And so, they were fulfilling their obligations to their children in memorializing the many testimonies of the mercy of God in each one of their lives. And we should be about the very same thing during this time of year. It's a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. And it does not mean that you have to cut out all of the baking, or the singing of carols, or whatever-- Or driving around and looking at the Christmas lights-- It doesn't mean that you have to cut those things out. It just means that you should not allow those things to crowd out the opportunity to memorialize these wonderful events that are the center and the basis for these holidays in the first place. And so be deliberate. Don't let the time rob you. Or don't let the common elements of the season--that so commonly crowd out these very precious opportunities-- Don't let that happen to you.
One way that is very easy for you to be deliberate about this is to find a good devotional. Because you don't have to, you know-- You don't have to dig up all the scriptures and you don't have to go, necessarily, go hunting for all of the books, because you've got lots of things to do. There's plenty of things that you need to be busy about doing during this time. And so, to make it a little easier on yourself, find a good devotional. And this is a little shameless plug, but we do offer a number of devotionals, that center around Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter, that we've written and that we've compiled for this very reason because we've appreciated good devotionals in the past. And so we've written some of our own, and we sell them on our website: TheWellOrderedHomeschool.com. Excuse me if I said that too quickly: TheWellOrderedHomeschool.com. And so, we wrote up a little devotional that you can read, and it's--ours in particular--lasts-- It's supposed to last for about twelve days--so there's twelve devotionals, and there's twelve activities, and there's twelve scripture references, there's twelve hymns, and so on and so forth. And there's art appreciation and there's lots of different elements to it. And you can pick and choose and do however much you want to do. You can just read the devotional. You could just read the scripture and sing the hymn. You could just do the activity. It's really up to you. But at the very least, you're making an effort to memorialize the departure of the pilgrims from England and their arrival in the new world. You're doing the very best that you can to memorialize the birth of Jesus Christ. And when your children arrive at this time of year and they see certain things, it's a great opportunity for them to ask you, like, "What does this mean?".
And so you can-- You should absolutely focus on Scripture. If you have nothing else, you know, just pull from the Scripture and read the Scriptures. That right, in and of itself, could be a great blessing in your home. If you took five minutes every day and just read Scripture during this time-- And it could be the start of something very beautiful. Maybe you're out of practice. Maybe you're not in the routine of reading the Scripture in your home, and it's easy to fall off of that cart. It really is. (Which is sad to say, but that's the truth of the matter.) And so, you know, come Thanksgiving, come Christmas, and you get into a little routine leading up to Christmas Day. We've been reading scriptures every day, and why not continue reading on December 26th or December 27th? And, you know, we get into the new year and we're going to really work on this very good and rich and worthwhile habit in our household. So that's another thing. And I would also say-- And again, this is something that we've built into our devotional because it's something that's so important in our home, even though we don't do it enough. And one of the reasons why we don't do it enough is because we don't have a piano currently. We have a piano but it's at my mother's house because we're remodeling our house and we can't...obviously we can't have a baby grand piano in our living room when there's sheet rock dust and insulation and everything else. And so we very much feel the absence of a piano in our household because we don't sing as much. And singing is just such a balm to the soul. It's so calming. It's so uplifting. It's so unifying, I guess I should say. It really draws the family together. There's such a ministry there. And so that's something that we've also built into our devotional for that very reason.
And so maybe you're not a singing family-- There's something else that you could try. Everybody knows Christmas carols. Everybody knows Christmas hymns. Even people who don't believe in God or worship God, they know Christmas hymns. And so maybe that's the start of something beautiful in your home, is that you start to sing together. And let me tell you, if you've never experienced this before, if you're-- Again, your just, "Ah, we're just not a singing family."-- You don't have to be good at singing to be a singing family. I've I know a lot of people who are not terribly good at singing, but they sing to the utmost of their ability in church because they feel-- It's their way to worship their Heavenly Father. It's their way to express their gratitude and their thankfulness for what He's done for them. And so you don't have to be a good singer-- Actually, I-- Some of the most powerful singing that I've ever heard was in the midst of a group of untrained, unskilled, just common, everyday men and women who really don't-- Again, they don't sing for a living. But I've heard singing that has literally rattled my bones. And it's-- I say that in a positive light-- It was just-- Made the hairs stand up on the back of your head. It was so powerful. And it's not necessarily about the skill or the ability. It's about the sincerity. And so, you all could sing together. And there's no prohibition against singing if you do not have much skill at singing. And you will get better over time. You really will. And it also will be, you know, a blessing to whatever congregation that you belong to if you would begin to sing together. It's just such a blessing. So that's something else that I would encourage for the season is, just sing. And again, find a good devotional with hymns or find a small collection of holiday hymns and you can start to sing those together. And if you don't have-- You can sing a cappella. You don't have to have an accompaniment. If you have a piano, that's even better. That's even better. So it's a wonderful blessing.
And, you know, these things are not hard. This does not have to be complicated. You read a Scripture, you sing a song, and you say a prayer, you know, centered around this time. So you might think to yourself, "This is the worst time for us to start a new habit in our household. We're going to wait till the first of the year." No, don't do that. Don't wait. Do it now. It actually, in one respect-- It actually might be easier for you to start this good habit of devotion--of routine devotions--in your home, because you've got a very well-defined topic to center your devotions around. And so it's easy to find subject matter day after day. And if you use our devotional, or you use somebody else's devotional, a lot of those contain reading material. Ours has a reading list in it. So you can go to the library and find those books so you can read the devotional and the book along-- Or, excuse me, read the book along with the devotional. There's so much that can be done here. And the reason-- You're asking yourself, "What is most important about this time?" Memories is can be formed by looking at lights. Memories can be formed by baking cookies. Memories can be formed by watching a Christmas movie. That's a way to form a memory. But, you know, the memories that you really want your children-- That you want to remain with them long after the holiday is through, is this deep-seated pondering upon the purpose of the holiday. When they are in their quiet moments and they're after themselves, I think that she would probably be much more satisfied in knowing that your children are thinking about how Jesus Christ could have possibly left the courts of glory to come and live with us here on the Earth. How and why would he have done that? You want them thinking about that over what's under the tree on Christmas morning. There's nothing wrong with wanting something, wanting to receive a gift on Christmas morning. But, you know, that's the thing that will really move them in their hearts. And so you take this opportunity to speak to it to them about those things.
And let me point out something else, is that if you're doing this on a daily basis--you're doing this every day leading up to the holiday-- So say you take twelve days before Thanksgiving and say you take twelve days before Christmas, or maybe even longer. Maybe you stretch it out further because you could do as little or as much as you want. Say you take twenty-five days if you're going be that deliberate about it. If you're doing this every single day, and it's leading up to the day where we commemorate, we remember, the birth of Jesus Christ, or we remember and commemorate the arrival of the pilgrims here in the New World. What's really going to stick with them? Because on the day of we've just had this great, grand meal and we're gathering with family-- And that's very memorable! But you've had twelve to however many days it is of devotions-- I think you do the math there. There's a weightier sense of purpose in those twelve days as opposed to just the one day. It's the same way with Christmas. As wonderful as Christmas Day is, if you've taken the twenty-five days, the ten days, the twelve days, or however many days it is leading up--and you're doing a devotional and you're and you're reading the scripture, you're singing a song, you're talking about the various characters that are involved in the story (or in the very real historical account, I should say, of the birth of Jesus Christ), and you're talking about the character of each one of these individuals. You're talking about Joseph. You're talking about Mary. You're talking about Simeon. You're talking about Herod. You're talking about Elizabeth. You're talking about all these different individuals--the Angel Gabriel. And how could they not remember that? It's so rich. And so again, there's a weightier sense of purpose. And that is the thing that I think will truly lodge in their memories, or at the very least, it will vie for attention.
And so here's your opportunity to set up this memorial in your home, and you could do it through this time of devotion. And it is something again, by the way, that if you do it consistently and you reap the blessings that come from it--and there will be blessings!-- Even if you take five minutes, that five minutes is going to grow to eight, and then it's going to grow to twelve, then it will grow to fifteen, and maybe twenty, and then you're getting into thirty. And then you're going to have a situation where you're saying, "You know what, we really need to stop this devotion and get on with the rest of the day. We wish we wish we didn't have to, but we have to." Where you're enjoying that time so much with each other. And so allow it to prove itself to you, and start small. I'm not asking you to take an hour out of every day to do this because it's hard. I know it's hard. But you've got to be deliberate, and you've got to carve out the time because it's worth it. It's worth it. And it's certainly worthy, I should say. It's worth it to you. And the subject matter is worthy of your time. More than worthy. So set up this memorial in the life of your home and just focus on-- Again, it's very simple. This is not complicated. Focus on a scripture. Focus on a song. Focus on an opportunity to pray. Take turns praying over one another, praying over your day, praying over your family members, praying over your church, praying over the needs in your household. And there are so many different things to pray about. And then, if you read a devotional--which I would encourage you to do that, if you can--you know, focus on character. That's what our devotionals focus on is the character of each individual connected to the account.
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Just to give you a little taste of what I'm talking about, I'm going to read one of these for you, and then I'm going to leave it at that because I've already gone a little longer than what I wanted to. And I don't want to make this more complicated than what it actually is. And so here's one from our Christmas devotional-- And I'm not saying that you have to get ours. There's a lot of good ones out there. So find one that fits your family. Just find something because it will bless you. And it could very well transform your holiday season forever...and for your children. And wouldn't it be wonderful if they grew up with such fond memories of that time that you had in the morning? If it was even if it was just ten minutes every single year you did this. Maybe read the same book. We've done that, too, by the way. We've read The Story of the Pilgrims, which is a very easy read. The chapters are short leading up to Thanksgiving. We did that for years and years. We haven't done it recently because our children have grown a little older. But we still have younger children, and so it's strange how we've kind of left off doing that, but we want to pick that back up again this year. And our children looked forward to that every year. We read that same book every single year, and they almost had the whole thing memorized. But it was still so enjoyable to do that. And you know, from that time, they know so much about the Thanksgiving story just from that one book. That's a memorial in their life. And so here's one of the accounts. This is about Joseph. And the character quality that we focused on for Joseph was humility. So you can talk to your children about the importance of humility. And so this devotional reads this way:
"Have you ever run a race to come in second? Is your preferred place in line fifth or sixth? Do you enjoy waiting until everyone has opened their gifts before you open yours? If you answered 'no' to any of these questions, don't feel too bad. It's in our nature to look out for ourselves. Who wouldn't prefer a gold medal over a silver one? Despite this, there are people who make it a habit to put others before themselves. They're the ones opening doors for others, allowing others to get their food first, or happily listening as someone else talks about their day. They don't have to be first or the most important or the center of attention. They're more than content in their place outside of the limelight. Joseph was this sort of man. How do we know this? Well, just ask yourself, who's the first person you think of when you think of the Christmas story? Baby Jesus, of course. And what about the second person? Almost certainly, Mary. And third? Well, that might be Joseph. But honestly, you might think of the animals in the stable before you think of him. That's because Joseph seems to recede into the background, quietly obeying God's commands and doing his part to protect and provide for his family. Now, don't think for a moment that this was an easy or unimportant job. The role that Joseph played in those suspenseful days leading up to the Birth of Christ was second only to Mary's. And the challenges he had to overcome in order to fulfill that role were second to none. This shows us that people don't have to know you're important for you to actually be important. First off, there was the issue of Mary's pregnancy. Joseph discovered that she was with child before they were married. He knew the child was not his and under Jewish law he had every right to divorce her. Not only this, if he had alerted the Jewish authorities, she could have been stoned to death. Perhaps if Joseph was looking for attention, he would have done just that. But the Scriptures paint the picture of a different man. By intending to divorce her in a quiet and private way, we see that he had absolutely no intention of humiliating her, much less seeing her killed on account of her pregnancy. Second, after the angel revealed to Joseph that Mary was carrying the Christ child and that he should not fear to make her his wife, Joseph could have become bitter that the miraculous events that followed seemed to center around Mary and her baby and not himself. He was the one who had to transport them safely to Bethlehem so that she could be delivered. And again, he was the one that had to bring them safely into Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod. A prideful man may have been tempted into thinking he was simply being used by heaven to protect the lives of two people who, unlike himself, were truly important. But Joseph was not this sort of man. It seems fitting that we don't have a lot of information about Joseph's life. In the retelling of the Christmas story, he almost always takes a backseat to Mary and to the Christ child. But the account we do have indicates he wouldn't have it any other way. We can imagine Joseph kindly tending to Mary's every need as the time of Jesus' birth drew near, or cautiously guiding them away from Herod's blood-thirsty searches, or quietly smiling--perhaps with tears in his eyes--as he witnessed the wise men kneel, not at his feet, but those of his son. In all these scenes, we see a truly humble man who discovered his highest calling in putting the needs of others before his own.".
And there you have it. You've read a devotional. And there's lots of others like that. You know, I was just thinking of something as I was reading this. And I want to say this, too, because I don't want you to feel bad. If you're out of practice, or maybe you've never done this, or maybe it's been a while since you've done this--you've had a time of devotion in your home--your children are probably going to be unruly. They're probably going to-- They might roll their eyes. They might be rambunctious. They might try to talk over you. They might think it's silly. Don't give up. It's going to be hard. I want to tell you what happened with me and I'm going to close. I'm going to tell you what happened with us. And we're just like you. There are probably some of you out there who are very disciplined and very diligent with devotions in your home. And God bless you for that. And that is a wonderful thing. And it's truly a blessing. And just keep at it. But as for the rest of us who are on again and off again and on again and off again, and we get discouraged and then we try to pull it all together and go at it again-- We had a period where we had no devotions in our home and we started something, we called them "family meetings". And we would have a time of talking and we would address various issues that are in our household, and-- That was the idea at least. And we wanted to work together as a team. We wanted to be-- We, you know, we wanted to be one body, one unit. And I was tired of having, you know, me doing my own thing and my wife doing her own thing and then the children were just kind of off, just willy nilly, wherever they want...wherever they will. And so we wanted to pull everybody together and just to talk. We could dream. We could pray. We could read Scripture. We could air our grievances if we needed to. We could repent. We could make amends, and so on and so forth. And when we started this, my children were just the way that I described to you here just a few moments ago, that they scoffed at the idea. They thought, "Oh, give me a break." And we had some eye-rolling. And, you know, the first week was a little rough. And every time we called a family meeting--we were doing hours in the morning at that point in time. And we said, "Fifteen minutes...fifteen to twenty minutes. Let's just do that." And every time we called a family meeting, our boys were like, "Oh, blah blah blah, family meeting. Okay, whatever." And you know, those--the eye-rolling and the scoffing--kind of dwindled over time. And we were about two weeks in. And just to show you the kind of person that I am, I'm flesh and blood, just like everybody else. We were two weeks in and I had already-- I was going to miss a day. (And I can't remember the reason why, but maybe I got up too late and I felt like the day was getting away from me, so it was just like, "Skip the family meeting and get on with the business of the day.") And my son came up to me and he said, "Are we going to have a family meeting?" And I was so blessed by that.
And so I don't think it's very natural, per se, for us to do things like this. But over time, if you are consistent, the blessings that come will deeply lodge in the hearts of your children, and they'll deeply lodge in your heart. And yes, you can drift from them. But those blessings will always call you back. And I think that your children, over time, will grow to appreciate-- And it may be a while before they show that appreciation. But I think in their heart of hearts they will enjoy that time because it's something that I think God has placed in their hearts. It's placed in each one of our hearts, is a longing of belonging--if I can put it that way. To belong to each one of our individual families, to love each other, to support each other, to be there for each other, and to have a time of familial worship--of corporate worship, if you will--where we're all together, we're in one accord, we're one place, and we're being blessed by the spirit of the Lord. Now's the time! Again, I know it doesn't look like it's the time because of everything that's going on. It's the most wonderful time of the year, as they sing. It's also the most hectic time of the year. And you would think at face value, "Goodness, this is not the time for us to start family devotions." I beg to differ. This is the perfect time for you to start family devotions. And my prayer is that it will start now, that you'll make the most of the season, you'll set up these memorials of the lives of your children, it will remain with them till the end of their days, and that this excellent habit will continue with you into the new year. And that's my hope and my prayer. So I hope that I've given you some ideas--given you some food for thought--and may the Lord bless you as you make an effort to make this a memorable time of year. So thank you again for joining me. And may God bless you. And till we meet again.
Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch. Go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschoolingdotmom--that's @homeschoolingdotmom--to let us know what you thought of today's episode.
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