Having little children greatly aids in the continued mystery and joy that Advent brings.  Each new decoration that has gone up over the past week has gotten supreme praise from Olivia:  “Oh! Mommy!  That red ball on the tree is BEAUUUUUUTIFUL!”  It makes me feel like Martha Stewart is doing the decorating and temporarily allows me to forget that Martha would not be surrounded by baskets of unsorted laundry…

Last year a special gift allowed us to purchase an Advent house while we were back in the U.S. For years I had wanted some kind of calendar that could help the children anticipate Christmas with a daily ritual — we were thrilled to get this one on sale and bring it back!

It has 25 little doors around the four sides.  Thanks to a wonderful idea and resource from our friend Kristin, we have been putting a personalized bible verse in the door of the day – one for each child.  The verses are special promises from Scripture that have the children’s own name in it.  For example, here are a few of Owen’s recent verses:

December 2:  ““Dear Lord, I pray that Owen will trust you with all his heart, and not depend on his own understanding.   May Owen seek your will in all that he does, and allow You to direct his paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

December 3:  “I pray that Owen’s identity may be firmly rooted and established in Christ’s love and that he may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep, is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, and that he may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

December 4:  “No matter what plans I may desire for Owen, or that he may have for himself, let your purpose prevail in his life.” Proverbs 19:21

Each day the children find their verse for that day behind the door that is the date, and then they also find another small surprise hidden randomly behind a different door.  We read the verse together, and then pray for it to be true in their lives.  Even though some of these verses are a bit difficult to understand, it has been neat to try and explain it and then pray it over them and with them.  (If you’d like the document with the verses on it to alter for your own family, I’d be happy to email it to you).  I hope this is a tradition to last for many years!

This season our friend Mary is teaching a 3-week Christmas English bible class on the meaning of Christmas.  It is many of my former and present housewife students.  On Wednesday I went as the craft teacher, and had fun this year pulling together a craft that a) was simple enough to do in 45 minutes;  and b) could liven up their homes with Christmas spirit (but c) would probably never make it into the Martha Stewart show).

We made jigsaw puzzle Christmas crafts!  I made ahead of time a sample wreath and Christmas tree:

Most of the ladies chose to make Christmas trees — here is one completed:

Our  close friend and neighbor Naoko actually took  her daughter out of school that day to come and participate:

It was a fun project — I’m hoping to have our kids make their own for gifts this weekend.

Without doubt the most wonderful Advent gift came after the Christmas craft — I went to lunch with Naoko and another friend from our church.  We talked through lunch about marriage — each of us sharing challenges and victories.  And we began to talk about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.  Naoko and several friends and I did a number of informal bible studies together, and many different Christians have spoken into her life.  On this day, the third day of Advent (at least as the Takamotos are counting Advent!); Naoko decided to begin an eternal relationship with the Wonderful Counselor.  Christmas has come early to our home!


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