Category Archives: Christmas Season

Michelle comes home!

After six months in Australia, Spain and Africa…my eldest sweet daughter arrived home on December 16.  It was so very wonderful to have her home with us during the holidays.  We only had her here for three weeks before she headed off to Hawaii to work for some dear friends of ours – the Elliott’s for 5 months, but we enjoyed every moment. These pictures says it all the moment she arrived home!

 

She was so excited to share with us her many experiences during her six months with Youth With a Mission. It was a life changing and growing time in her life.  We are so very proud of Michelle!  During her time home she hosted a gathering for all her supporters where she had foods prepared from the countries she was in, a slide show of her many photo’s and she shared a presentation about her experience.  We are so grateful to be surrounded by friends & family who love and support our children.

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Christmas Day Celebration

Christmas Day at the Lambdins is very relaxed and kick back.  We enjoy staying home with our immediate family…but welcome any & everyone who may want to join us! 

Mom & Dad have filled the stockings to the brim and the girls have filled our stockings as well.  After making some coffee the first thing we do is empty our stockings one at a time and look at all our gift & goodies. The girls are always so sweet and generous to us.  We can always count on getting a Starbucks card and our favorite candy! (Dark Chocolate covered pretzels for me and Rocky Road candy for Dan) Then there is usually a much desired gift for each of us.   We fill their stockings with some traditional items – clementines, hair things, lip gloss, nylons and their favorite candy.  Occasionaly there are a few other things added to that mix.

Then it is time to reveal who their Secret Sister has been!

Let me stop here and unveil the new name we decided upon for our Secret Sister tradition.  We got so many wonderful ideas from all of you – in fact I received over 50 responses to that blog post.  After much discussion the girls and I agreed on………….. (drum roll please!)

The Secret Sisters and the Undercover Brother!

We all had so much fun saying that throughout the Christmas season of course you have to say it with a little bounce and accent that I can’t quite convey in writing.  But it “stuck” very easily and has already become our new name. (and next Christmas we hope it is the “Undercover Brothers“!)

The girls love revealing who they had and they each share from their heart how much they love and care for that sibling and what makes them special. It is a very heartwarming and uplifting time.  Besides their words of affirmation if they were able they get them a gift according to their ability.  The squeels of delight and hugs that we here throughout the openig of gifts is delightful. 

We all enjoy looking over our gifts as we eat some gooey cinnamon rolls and drink our coffee.  The rest of the day is spent kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the day.  We sit down late in the afternoon to our all time favorite Christmas meal:

  • London Broil marinated in teriyaki sauce
  • Twice Baked Potatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Rolls
  • Salad
  • Condiments – pickles & olives
  • Ice Tea & Sparkling Cider

It is simply delicious. A few hours later we are ready for dessert options – Derby Pie with whip cream, Pecan Pie ala-mode or a variety of Christmas cookies.  We finish the day with a Christmas Day devotion and worship time honoring the birth of Christ! 

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Christmas Morning – a new tradition begins!

During our family advent services we talk a lot about why Jesus came to the earth.  One of those reasons is that He came to serve others.  This year we began something that will be sure to become our newest family tradition!

Matthew 20:28   “Just as the Son of Man did  not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life  a ransom for many.”

Before opening our gifts and before enjoying our gooey cinnamon rolls with piping hot coffee, we all decided that we wanted to get up in the morning with our mind focused completely on others – especially those others who are hungry, hurting & homeless.  So on Christmas morning (not too early because we are not early risers), we got up and made a large container of hot chocolate and another of coffee.  We gathered together all the over abundance of goodies we had in the house – cookies, candy, crackers, cup cakes, fudge – and we put on jackets & sweatshirts over our jammies, jumped in our 15 passenger van and headed downtown to the freeway overpass where many of our cities homeless are located.

On the way we sang Christmas carols while we planned out how we would serve out of the side of the van.  As soon as we pulled up and opened the doors, people started seeing the coffee cups being passed out and began lining up by the van. We all enjoyed passing out the hot drinks and the goodies as we wished them all a very Merry Christmas. Everyone was so appreciative and you could see their faces light up as they drank their coffee or cocoa and clutched their cookie or piece of candy.

One man commented – “It’s the little things in life that make all the difference!”  How wonderful to be so very thankful for something in the midst of hard times.  We could all take a lesson from that.

After we ran out of supplies, we headed back home with joy in our hearts that we were able to make a difference in the lives of almost 100 people on a day set aside to celebrate Jesus.  Perhaps we were actually serving the Lord Himself!

Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. `For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  “Then the righteous will answer Him, `Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? `And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  `When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, `Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.

Matthew 25 35-40

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The Majesty of Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the essence of the Christmas story.  In the stillness of the night in a cave in Bethleham, Mary gave birth to a son with only her husband Joseph by her side.  It was a moment in time that changed the course of history but that night I picture it as a moment of majesty as they gazed in awe at this precious and perfect baby who was…the Son of God!  What amazement they must have felt. What wonder. What awe. I want to feel that same way on Christmas Eve. Our evening begins with a candlelit dinner on our fine Christmas china.  We serve a fancy Parisian salad with candied pecans added to it, clam chowder (from the place that makes the all time BEST clam chowder in the world – Buds Seafood Restaurant) and sour dough bread. Our goblets are sparkling with cider and soft Christmas music is played in the background. 

 We are all dressed up in our Christmas best…Daniel even wore his first tie!  

After dinner we head out to a church service at Lincoln Presbyterian Church. (our home church does not have a Christmas eve service so this has been our Christmas Eve church for 16 years – to me going to church on the most holy of holy nights is a MUST!)  The service is always wonderful ending with a candlelight singing of “Silent Night”.  It is the type of moment where you feel the sweet soft Spirit of God in your heart.

We then always go to look at the larger than life nativity that is in front of Alex G Spanos home.  It is magnificent and majestic! We drive home down Christmas Tree Lane (aka – Meadow Dr) and look at all the Christmas lights.

At home we have our family Advent devotional service and serve Christmas cookies, cream puffs, egg nog & coffee. 

Our evening concludes with the opening of the Christmas jammies!  Every year we purchase the girls a pair of Pajamas to open on Christmas Eve.  Even though they know what the gift will be – it does not lesson their excitement as they line up on the couch to open their presents. 

 

 

After getting in their jammies we take our traditional stocking photos and then settle in to watch a movie. (For years it was “It’s a Wonderful Life” but this year it was the newly released “The Nativity” – which will now become the first choice.)

For the past several years, I have also attended Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of Annunciation.  A few of the older girls, who can stay up that late always join me. This year it was Michelle, Amy & Kristen.  I can’t tell you how much I love doing this.  Though I was not raised Catholic, my dear darling husband was, and I have a respect for many of the Catholic traditions, liturgy and their strong unwavering pro life position.

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The incredibly beautiful and ornate cathedral, the dimmed lights, the smell of incense, the Christmas greenery, the quiet reverence and the inspiring music all come together in the wee hours of the morning to create that mystical moment of awe and wonder that I want to feel and experience on Christmas Eve. The majesty of the King of Kings – the Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – the Son of God – Jesus Christ – my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer and my Friend.

The Cathedral on December 20,1986 – my wedding day

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Christmas Caroling

Christmas Caroling – is my favorite Christmas tradition!  I love Christmas. I love music. I love singing about Jesus. 

We have been going Christmas caroling as a family for about 10 years.  We usually head out just as it is getting dark all decked out in our warm & festive Christmas attire.  It is a rare thing (in fact perhaps never) that we are not accompanied by friends or family who join us for this evening of fun.  After caroling to our neighbors, we jump in the van and begin going to the many families on our list to carol to.  We have usually carefully mapped out a plan earlier in the day as to where we are going.  While the stops vary from year to year – some things always remain the same:

  • We always stop at Starbucks at some point during the evening and get coffee & cocoa – we also carol for all those in Starbucks!
  • We have some regular families that have personally requested an “encore” performance each year – Gloria Grupe, the Krahmers & their parents the Cox’s (who ALWAYS sing along with us – it is GREAT!), Granny Ann, the Hales & the Wards.
  • We try to think of those in need – the sick, hurting or elderly and make an effort to carol at their homes.
  • We always begin with “Here we come a caroling”     “Here we come a caroling among the leaves so green and here we come a wandering so fair to be seen. Love & Joy come to you and to you good Christmas too, And God bless you & send you a Happy New Year and God send you a happy New Year!”
  • We sing two carols (all the verses!) and end with “We wish you a Merry Christmas!
  • The last several years we have ended our evening at our dear friends, the Moore’s where we have enjoyed hot cocoa & goodies while staying up fellowshipping until the wee hours of the morning.  Good times!

For the first time this year we were able to sing in two part harmony after I had taught a homeschool co-op choir class and Kristen, Rebekah & Grace learned how to sing in parts.  I can’t wait for the day when we can sing all the carols in 4-part harmony – my dream! 

This year we were joined by Lucas Sherman & DJ Moore – 5th grade boys of close family friends.  They added a little spark & energy to the evening as only boys do.  We don’t have any photos of this year’s caroling (in fact I have never taken pictures of this my favorite event!)…but here is a previous photo (2003)  taken by one of our friends, so you can “picture” us on a Christmas Caroling night.

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Our annual Christmas Open House

 

One of the highlights of our entire Christmas season is our annual Lambdin Family Holiday Open House!

We have been hosting this event since 1991 – for seventeen years! As a child my Mom & Dad began having annual Holiday Open Houses in 197, when I was nine years old.  It was something we all looked forward to as kids because it wasn’t an “adult party” only.  We all chipped in to get the preparations done, we all hosted and we all cleaned up.  My mother has carried on this tradition now for 36 years!

Dan & I began to follow this tradition after one of our favorite classes graduated from Brookside Christian High School in 1991.  We wanted to have a place for them to “come home” to and see their friends during Christmas break and we wanted to see them all too!  We invite everyone on our Christmas card mailing list and we have close to 100 friends and family show up throughout the evening each year including Brookside & Jim Elliot alumni, current JECHS students & staff, church members, Creative Memories consultants and clients, neighbors, homeschool co-op families and all who have been a part of our lives.

We have gotten very creative with our living space to accommodate the growing number of people God has blessed us with.  For years we provided all the food but in 1997 when we were both unemployed – and attempting to start JECHS and a CM business – instead of not hosting the party we simply asked everyone to bring a small holiday snack to share.  It has worked out perfectly.  However, our famous meatballs have become a tradition at the open house and many people enjoy them each year (some even say – I’m here for the meatballs!)

This year was once again a beautiful evening of reuniting with old friends, celebrating the season and enjoying the company of all.  There is always lots of laughter, love and hugs throughout the entire open house.  We are so blessed with wonderful friends and a precious family.

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Filed under Christmas Season, Family & Friends Friday, Family Traditions

Tea Party Recipes

Many people have asked for the recipes used at our tea parties – so I thought I would post them here – Enjoy!

Also a great reference book about having Christmas Tea is called – The Twelve Teas of Christmas  by Emily Barnes

Almond Chicken Tea Sandwiches

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, blanched
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • salt & pepper
  • butter
  • mini white or sourdough  bread (2×2 inch)

Mix chicken, almonds and mayonnaise.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Butter bread & put a spoon of mixture in between slices.

Shrimp Crescents

  • 3 oz of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon catsup
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 cup finely chopped shrimp, cooked and cleaned
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
  • 10 mini crescent rolls

Blend cheese with mayonnaise, mix in catsup and mustard. Stir in shrimp, celery and onions. Use as filling in sliced crescent rolls

Cucumber Cream Cheese Slices

Slices cucumbers 1/4 inch thick.  Spread softened cream cheese on top.  Lightly sprinkle with salt & pepper

Egg Salad Sandwiches

  • 8 eggs, hard boiled and grated
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons pickle relish
  • salt & pepper
  • white bread

Combine all ingredients.  Put filling in between slices of white bread. Cut off crusts and cut sandwich into triangles

Blueberry Scones  (from Granny Borden – recipe sent to us for our very first tea party)

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons blueberries
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 400 F. In large bow with pastry blender, cut butter (let it sit out for awhile so it is softer) into flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs.  Add sugar, baking powder and blueberries. Mix well

Gradually add milk, tossing gently with a fork, until soft dough forms. Turn out on floured surface, knead gently to form soft dough

Roll out dough 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut out scones with biscuit cutter & arrange on cookie sheet 2 inches apart(or if you have a scone pan – you can skip this step & just press dough into scone pan. Gloria Grupe gave us some as a gift several years ago – what a blessing!) Brush top with milk.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes until golden. Remove from pan. Cool on rack.

Serve with lemon curd & clotted cream! Delicious

Cinnamon Scones

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400F. Blend together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Cut in butter. Mix milk, egg and vanilla in another bowl. Add flour mixture, and stir until just moist.

Shape dough into 8 inch round loaf and cut into 8 wedges and separate slightly (or use scone pan) Bake for 15-20 minutes. Makes 8 scones.

PS -We always make PB & J sndwiches for the little girlies (as some of these fancier ones are lost on them!) Just cut them in triangle slices without the crust and voila!  – fancy tea sandwiches for them

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Filed under Christmas Season, Family Traditions, Reference, Tea Time Tuesday

Mother Daughter Holiday Tea

Nine years ago as we were driving up to the foothills to cut down our Christmas tree, listening to Christmas music and looking at all the Christmas decorations, we passed by this darling little tea house in a small town that was all decked out for the holidays.

 I remarked to my then four daughters (ages 10, 7,6 and 4) how fun it would be to have a Christmas tea party with all of their friends.  And so one of our annual holiday traditions was born!  We went home and immediately made an invitation and a couple weeks later we had our inaugural holiday tea party.  This special event has become one of the very favorite activities for us all as well as for many of our friends.  And it has grown into quite the affair.  From having just three daughters attend (I have a “rule” that they must be five years old to go to this fancy “china” tea party) and several family friends – to now having all six daughters  invite their friends which means we have had well over 50 in attendance the past several years. (and we DO NOT have a large house – but we have gotten very creative to make it work – don’t ever let space stop you from opening up your home to others.)

We serve cookies (from our cookie baking day), scones (served with clotted cream and lemon curd) and  special tea sandwiches that have become traditional  –

  • Almond Chicken
  • Shrimp Crescents
  • Egg Salad
  • Cucumber Cream Cheese Slices

We offer a variety of teas – always having cinnamon apple, lemon and English breakfast.  This years we also served – orange spice, nutcracker sweet and sugar plum spice. 

After enjoying the festive atmosphere of tinkling tea cups by candlelight, delicious food and lively conversation we have a time of sharing our talents.  Over the years we have had the young ladies do dance routines, play the piano, sign language, sing songs, recite poems, and memorize scripture.  It is always delightful.  Following that we join together to sing several Christmas carols and close our time together in prayer thanking God for the birth of His Son, Jesus.

 We have several dear friends who have been coming for the entire nine years and we have watched our young daughters  grow from little girls to beautiful young ladies. Someday I can picture our daughters coming with their daughters as we continue this holiday tea party tradition.

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Christmas Cookie Day

One of our fun family traditions during the holidays is – Christmas Cookie Day.  In this day and age of “fast food”, eating out, ready to bake pizza and store bought cookies, it is so nice to take a break from our modern microwave paced world and do things the “old fashion” way.

My love for Christmas baking goes back to my own family where we would all pitch in together to make lots of goodies during the Christmas season.  My personal specialties were lemon meringue pies and snickerdoodles with red and green sprinkles.  We all chipped in on Christmas cookie day – rolling the dough, cutting the cookies and of course decorating!  Although my warmest memories are of my dear Dad and his decorating expertise.  My Dad was a Naval officer and during one of his times of separation from us his family, he took cake decorating classes!  This not only resulted in AMAZING and beautiful cakes throughout my entire childhood but he also decorated wonderful Christmas cookies and my personal favorite the tops of chocolate mints.  Each mint would be finely decorated with a wreath, stocking, candle, holly & ivy or other icons of Christmas. They were exquisite! (almost too beautiful to eat but we did!)

I lost my father 12 years ago and I think of him often and during these special traditions my heart is flooded with love, warmth and joy as I remember our times together.  This is one of the beauties of creating traditions with your family – you give them life long memories that will be with them to comfort and cheer them always. 

Thus I have continued the Christmas cookie tradition in my own family. In case you are thinking – “Ahhh!  How does she pull that off in the midst of everything?”  Well…let me tell you – it’s easy.  You just put it on the calendar as an “event” that can’t get changed.   When I pull out a new calendar and plan the year, I put on all the important family traditions that need to happen.  So “Christmas Cookie Day” has been in bold red and green letters on the calendar for over a year.  When other things try to crowd out these important activities, we simply say – “sorry we have plans that day” – because we do! (Calendar scheduling is one of the keys to living a purposeful life!)

Yesterday, December 8th was Christmas Cookie Day at the Lambdin home.  We had another great day of making, baking and decorating cookies!  Our classic cookies are:

  • Sugar Cookies
  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • Snickerdoodles with red & green sprinkles
  • Russian Tea Cakes
  • Chocolate Crinkles

We have a perfectly lazy day – often not getting out of our p.j.’s, letting the dishes pile up, the floor collect tiny red candies and flour cover everything.  We play Christmas music, chatter away and laugh often. We eat way too many samples! We have a great day together and it the end of it all we have a freezer full of cookies to be used at our many holiday celebrations and to bless others. The first tray will go out today with Amy who is going to play with the children who are homeless and at the Gospel Rescue Mission.

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Lambdin family Christmas Letter

Here is a copy of our annual family Christmas letter for you my online blog reading friends to enjoy! (although if you read and/or subscribe to this blog – you are already “caught up” and quite well informed on life at the Lambdins!)

“For unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given”

 

These memorable words from scripture take on a special meaning for us as we hear them during this year’s Christmas Season.  You see, on April 20, we were blessed with another child….a son – Daniel Guy Lambdin Jr. After recovering from the initial shock of having a boy, the girls have become quite the adoring, doting, spoiling big sisters to their baby brother.  We are all enjoying our precious sweet baby boy and give thanks daily for God’s incredible blessings of life! 

Soon after the baby was born, our eldest daughter Michelle graduated (with valedictorian honors!) from Jim Elliot Christian High School and headed off for six months with Youth with a Mission to Australia, Spain and Africa. We have missed her greatly but are so pleased that she has such a passion for those suffering in this world. Amy began her high school experience as a freshman at JECHS.  She is adjusting to the intense academic rigor, has made many friends and ran with the Varsity Cross Country team that won the section championship and made it to the state meet.  Kristen is finishing up her last year as a happy home school student & will begin high school next fall.  Rebekah is in 6th grade and continues to lead anyone & everyone who will let her. Grace is turning 9 (wasn’t she just “sweet baby Grace”?? – my how time flies by!) and is enjoying being a carefree kid.  Joy at 4 years old is truly a joy to all our lives – playful, funny, cuddly and full of life.  She provides an endless amount of entertainment for us all.  To stay up on our family throughout the year and see lots of photo’s you can subscribe to Beth’s blog. Check it out at – www.bethlambdin.net 

This year is a special milestone for our family – 10 years ago we set out to begin the ministry at Jim Elliot Christian High School. We began with our personal Christmas card mailing list and asked for much needed prayer and support.  You, our dear friends and family came through in abundance and provided the foundation for this incredible ministry to young people.  We want to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for your faith and abundant blessing and to report that the school you helped start is prospering!  Dan continues to minister there as the Bible teacher & Chaplain.  This year Beth decided to jump back into the action as the Director of Development to assist in taking JECHS into the next decade of discipleship.  If you want to be really blessed – check out the new site she has created that highlights the great things God is doing in & through JECHS – www.jechs.wordpress.com 

The newest happening on our horizon is the hope of adopting a baby brother!  We are working hard to submit the extensive paperwork, complete a home study and raise the finances to bring home a baby from an agency in Tennessee.  There is a sense of excitement buzzing around our household as we all are working together to make this happen.  We hope that next years Christmas photo will be a family of 10 – including two boys.  Pray for us. The sisters have created a site that shares about our adoption journey – www.babybrother.wordpress.com 

May the wonder and excitement of the Christ child who was given to you on that holy night over 2000 years ago fill your hearts and lives as you celebrate this Christmas season.  

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2  

Blessings to you all, 

The Lambdin family –

Dan & Beth

Michelle (18) (not pictured), Amy (15), Kristen (13), Rebekah(12), Grace (9), Joy (4) & Daniel (7 months)

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Christmas Card Assembly Line

One of the kids favorite Christmas traditions is….

….The assembling and mailing of our annual Christmas letter.  I personally love the Christmas card tradition of connecting with friends and family from throughout the years during Christmastime. I love sending and receiving Christmas cards and especially enjoy when there is a photo enclosed.  Because we have been working with teenagers for over two decades and have been blessed with forming many close friendships through the schoool ministry, our home church and my Creative Memories business – our Christmas card mailing list is quite large.  While this would be a daunting task for me to do alone – with at least five capable young ladies around to help (and often their friends are here too!) – it is a breeze.

 The girls look forward every year to folding, stamping, licking envelopes and adhering labels to our annual Christmas card letters!  They can assemble over 400 of these in less than 3 hours while watching a Christmas movie.  It is also a great time of reminiscing about the year past and commenting on (and sometimes laughing at) what Mom has said in this years letter.  They also love reading each and every name – enjoying memories of those they recognize (either because they know them personally or they “know” them because they have read their annual Christmas letters & photos.) and asking about those they don’t know.

Since our letter always includes an invitation to our annual Christmas Open House, we want to get it out early in the season.  My goal is to have it in the mail by December 1st! Thanks to the hard work of my daughters…the self imposed deadline was made once again this year!

I always save a copy of the letter for the album where I keep all the photos we receive.  It is a great history of our family each year.  After 21 years, we are currently on the second album filled with Christmas photos sent to us over the years.  These albums are out for everyone to enjoy during the holidays and they are quite popular!  It is so much fun to look and see how much everyone has changed from year to year, who has had new babies, or has gotten married and where people have vacationed! 

I am often asked – how do you find the time to do that?  It is easy…we simply read the Christmas cards at the dinner table & then put the photos immediately in the album rather than letting them collect throughout the month & then have another “task” to be completed over the new year. It takes 5 minutes after dinner (ok, maybe 15 during the last five days before Christmas when the cards arrive in greater numbers) and it is done!

 The one Christmas card tradition that I keep wanting to do but have only done sporadically over the years is after Christmas to pull a card out each night throughout the next year – re-read it, pray for that family and drop them a note. (you can even write the note on the back of their card & send it as a post card!)  Now that I have publicly shared this desire, perhaps this is the year I will do it!

I will post our annual Christmas letter for all my online friends to read next.  Merry Christmas!

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Celebrate Advent!

The celebration of Advent is truly the cornerstone of the Lambdin family Christmas.  For those Christians who have not been exposed to church liturgy – celebrating advent may seem strange or too “formal”. I’ve even had believers say – “You’re not Catholic” or “Why do you want to do rituals like that?” Personally I think having a family advent service is one of the best ways to keep Christ at the center of your Christmas season.  And I am a firm believer (as is the Lord) in rituals as a way to build a firm foundation of faith in our lives. (and perhaps I am a little bit Catholic – I certainly share their passionate pro life views when it comes to children in and out of the womb!)

What is Advent?

The word advent comes from the Latin word – adventus – meaning coming. By celebrating advent you are celebrating the coming of Jesus. For Christians not only did Jesus comes historically – being born into this world – but He also has come into our lives as our Savior and Lord.  According to the Scriptures, Jesus is also coming again for His church. For our family the advent season is a remembrance and celebration of His physical birth as well as His coming into our lives. It is also a time for us to prepare our hearts and lives for Him coming again!

When is Advent?

Traditionally advent is observed the four weeks proceeding Christmas day and Christmas Eve.

The Advent Wreath

The advent wreath is used to help symbolize and visualize the meaning of the four weeks.  The wreath is decorated with five candles – one for each Sunday and one for Christmas Eve. The greenery around the wreath represents the gift of eternal life. The candles are traditionally – three purple, one pink and a center white candle.  

The first candle (purple) symbolizes hope – the hope that the Messiah would come

The second candle (purple) symbolizes love – Gods love towards us for sending His Son Jesus to save us

The third candle (pink) symbolizes joy – the joy we find in Christ and his coming

The fourth candle (purple) symbolizes peace – the peace that comes in knowing Christ as Lord and Savior

The fifth candle is the Christ candle (white in center) which symbolizes purity

How we celebrate Advent

We have a family service each Sunday around the advent wreath.  Many years ago I wrote two advent devotionals – one for families with very young children (these are short & sweet – and “hands on” – perfect for the young family) and another for families with older children that have meaningful family discussion questions as well as the opportunity to share the real meaning of Christmas with non believers.

We used the first one for many years but have since graduated to the older one despite still having small children.  I may soon write a devotional that can be used for families with both older and younger children! (kind of like having a “kids message” in the middle)

The service consists of prayer, scripture reading, candle lighting, discussion, praise and worship and a Christmas blessing.  It is something that we all look forward to and enjoy.  But most importantly it keeps the focus on Jesus throughout the entire Christmas season.

I encourage you to begin a tradition of having a family advent service (even if you have very young children) – it’s not too late to start this year. Just pick up a wreath at your local craft store or go to your local Christian bookstore if you want a fancier one, get some candles and sit down with your family this week to celebrate Advent!

Perhaps I will find someone to type up our advent devotionals and put it online for you to use.

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A few of my favorite things

Celebrate with us….the birth of our Lord Jesus

This is my all time favorite Christmas decoration in my home. (a wedding present handmade by my sister, Caroline) It speaks clearly as to what this season is all about for the Lambdin family. We want everything we do to center around the celebration of Jesus birth.

My favorite Christmas treat –  Meatballs

My favorite Christmas cookie – Snickerdoodles with red and green sprinkles

My favorite Christmas drinkGingerbread Latte

My favorite Christmas movieIt’s a Wonderful Life & The Nativity

My favorite Christmas scents – Fresh Pine Needles & “Home Sweet Home” Yankee Candles

My favorite Christmas CD – Crystal Lewis “Holiday”  & Arthur Fielder and the Boston Pops “White Christmas”

My favorite Christmas Song “Breath of Heaven”

My favorite Christmas Carols – O Come All Ye Faithful – is my all time favorite!  (and I sing this song year round)

O Come all ye faithful

Joyful and triumphant

O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem

Come and Behold Him

Born the King of angels

O come let us adore Him

O come let us adore Him

O come let us adore Him – Christ the Lord!

O Holy Night is another cherished carol

O Holy Night

The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear saviors birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees

O hear the angel’s voices!

O night divine,

O night divine,

O night, o holy night

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“Secret Sisters”

When it comes to shopping for Christmas presents, women seem to fall into two groups –

1. The “I am super excited because I have all my Christmas shopping done by November 1st” group

or

2. The “I am so stressed out and am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get it all done by December 25th” group.

One of the fringe benefits of being in the ministry of Christian education (translation – being beyond broke more times than not) AND of having a “super sized” family, is that even if you wanted to try to figure out how to get all your shopping done in a timely fassion and without stress – you couldn’t simply because of the sheer size and finances involved in pulling off Christmas for a family of nine! (I mean really– most American families go “all out” for Christmas – spending a couple hundred dollars per child. Can you imagine? Christmas would cost us into the thousands!)

Not being much of a shopper ….or should I say – I HATE SHOPPING (my poor six daughters – they will be sorely lacking a Mom to enthusiastically do all that wedding shopping someday – Aunt Cynth will have to be my fill in!) – I have to admit it wasn’t hard to convince me to “throw out” the materialistic gift giving part of Christmas.  Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy buying gifts for friends and family and when I see something that I know they will just love or that they really need and I can get it – I do!  What I do not like about Christmas gift giving is:

  • the obligation (they bought me a gift so I should get them one)
  • the waste (getting things I do not want or need or giving others things they don’t want or need – maybe the environmentalists should start blasting that type of waste – it is abundant this time of year!)
  • the financial commitment (even if I did make a six figure income – can you imagine buying presents for 7 children, 15 nieces & nephews, 4 grand nieces & nephews, 8 siblings and their 6 spouses plus our parents? – that is 43 gifts just for family – not counting the gift exchanges at work parties and other groups we are a part of, teacher gifts and a few close friends. The time, energy and resources expended for such an endeavour would be exhausting.)
  • the attitude I see in many children of ungratefulness and greed.

So I look back to 10 Christmases ago with great appreciation to the Lord for allowing us to both lose our jobs that year and have no resources to purchase any type of Christmas gifts at all.  You see it was that year that changed the way we celebrate Christmas to this day.  It was that year that we were able to enjoy the true blessings of Christmastime – time with our family and friends, the love and joy of celebrating Jesus birth, and freedom  to enjoy the season without any stress.  We had a simple Christmas and spent what little money we had on making our house a bit festive, sending out our family Christmas card and sharing our love for others at our annual Christmas open house. (which we added  “bring a holiday snack to share” to the invitation) We had several more years of “financial drought” after that which solidified our commitment to keeping Christmas gift giving down to a minimum.

One of our best Christmas traditions was born out of this season – it is called “Secret Sisters”. (although now that we have a brother we are trying to come up with a new name – any suggestions out there that don’t include the word Santa?) Each year after we have decorated the tree we put all the childrens names into a box and they each draw out one.  That is their “Secret Sister” for the duration of the Christmas season.  Since we want the season to emphasize giving (but not only of gifts) and we want to train our children to serve and live for others before themselves.  The secret sisters –

  • Pray for their secret sister or brother consistently during the holiday season
  • Look for ways to bless them in secret (do their chores for them, help them with school work, write them notes of encouragement, let them have their way – this is really fun because as they are trying to do this “in secret” they have to do things for many of their sisters –  so it keeps everyone guessing)
  • On Christmas morning they get up and share verbally or with a pre-written note or even a decorated photo album page what that sibling means to them, their good qualities and express their love for them.
  • Gifts are optional!  If they want to purchase something for their “secret sister” they can, or they can make them a gift or share a special activity together!

It has been a wonderful way to encourage selfless giving and love in our family.

“Secret Sisters” no longer works for our family (I love alliterations!) – Any ideas for our tradition of giving?

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Oh Christmas Tree

I have been wanting to write about our many Christmas time traditions in “real time” as they happen….but have already fallen behind. (in the writing arena – not the doing!)  It is late already and I should be heading off to bed, but I’m going to go ahead and start sharing with you all the joys of the Lambdin family Christmas season in hopes of inspiring you to make your Christmas both meaningful and memorable. (and perhaps less materialistic)

Our Christmas season officially begins the weekend following Thanksgiving with the ritual of cutting down and trimming our Christmas tree.  Every year, for the past 15 years we have ventured out of town to a Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.  And we have almost always been joined by friends and family members which just makes it even more fun. There have been many variations to this tradition over the years – going to different tree farms (from Sonora, to Santa Cruz Mountains to Mt Shasta National Forest) , sometimes stopping at a “greasy spoon” eatery for breakfast and other times eating a full sit down meal at our table complete with the fancy Christmas china, sometimes heading up early in the morning and getting back home for lunch and other times having a long lazy morning and not getting back until sundown. 

But some things always remain the same:

  • We always go cut our tree on Thanksgiving weekend.
  • We always wear festive Christmas colors. (looks great in the photo albums & makes everyone get “in the mood”)
  • We always listen to and sing along with Christmas CD’s in the car on the way – and Amy Grant’s Christmas Album is the first one played.
  • We always take a family photo at the tree farm.

This year my #2 daughter, Amy made it to the State cross country meet in Fresno the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so we knew that getting our Christmas tree would have to take place as part of that adventure.  Since the meet was scheduled bright & early Saturday morning we headed down to Fresno the night before and were graciously hosted by my life long dear friend Jule Rurik and her family (of all boys – so it evened things up a bit for us! If you are reading this Julie – thank you for a wonderful visit!)  My sister, Caroline and her family also came to watch Amy run so after the competition we all headed out to a darling tree farm to keep with our Christmas tradition.  This particular tree farm was spectacular – it had a train, a suspension bridge, a tree house, a miniature cottage and castle.  It was amazing!  We had a great time enjoying the warm afternoon in the pine scented wonderland.

Tree decorating consists of lots of laughter, festive music, egg nog and always a trip to the store to purchase a new string of lights! (I am convinced that their is some type of computer chip in those lights that is set to make them stop working the minute you pull them out of storage!)

We want to make all our Christmas traditions meaningful and one of the ways we do that is during the tree trimming.  The very FIRST thing that goes on the tree is a large nail – representing the nails that were used to put Jesus on the cross.  As we hang it on the inner trunk of the tree, we remind the children that even as Christ was coming into the world as a baby that God had a plan for Him to be nailed on that cross to save us all from our sins.

After the tree is decorated we turn out all the lights and turn on the twinkle lights on the tree. It is always a warm feeling as we watch the lights glowing in the darkness. We then stop and read “The Tale of Three Trees”  a traditional folk tale retold by Angela Hunt A Traditional Folktale that is a wonderful story about three trees and how they each played a part in Jesus’s birth, life and death despite their personal dreams and life dissapointments.  It is a great story for children and adults alike. We read it again during Holy Week before Easter as we have usually made a cross out of the Christmas tree trunk at the end of the season to use in preparation for Easter.  This helps the children to tie everything together – the birth, the life, the death an the ressurection of Jesus Christ. Our main goal as parents is to teach our children to love the Lord and serve Him faithfully throughout their lives.

Our Christmas tree traditions give us another opportunity to do this.

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