Chase joy this Christmas

It’s been such a year, hasn’t it?! So much has been happening. For some, there have been restrictions, masks, separation from friends and family, home learning, travel limits and a longing for “normal”. For others, there has been uncertainty, family challenges, health concerns or conflict. These concerns have dominated our hearts and minds this year. And as we begin to prepare for Christmas, maybe you just don’t feel the usual level of excitement or energy. If that’s you too, let’s look at how we can chase joy this Christmas.

Slow down

I think we build up certain expectations on what Christmas ‘should’ be. We get caught up in the gifts, making the decorations perfect, and stretching (or blowing) our budget. But we know Christmas is not about these things. It’s about family, God’s family, and the birth of Jesus all those years ago. So lets take a step back from the pressure and whirlwind of advertising and shops telling us what we MUST have or do to get the “perfect” Christmas, and think about what we really need.

Alexandra Kuykendall has some great tips in this video from MOPS International. She talks about how to focus on the meaning of Christmas personally, and as a mum, how to deal with the practicalities of this often busy season. You don’t have to say yes to every event or invitation. You don’t have to have the perfect tree or a mountain of gifts under it. Focus on what is important to you and your family.

Do YOUR Traditions

Don’t look over the proverbial fence and worry about what others are doing, as it’s sure to sour your Christmas joy. Your family celebrates Christmas in your way. In our family, the Christmas tree usually gets put up the first weekend in December. Our kids help their Dad put up fairy lights around our lounge room walls, and on the tree in our front yard. We like to tour the streets looking at Christmas light displays. Other families I know have a tradition of making and decorating a family gingerbread house. Another bakes cookies for their neighbours. In another, the children create their own Christmas “tree” each year in fun and inventive ways. While making those cookies, or decorating that tree, you are having fun with your kids, and building family bonds.

“Christmas is a love note we get to read every year” – Alexandra Kuykendall

Focus on Jesus

“The reason for the season” as the saying goes. When it all feels too much- the to-do list, the events, the spending, the stress- take a moment to remember what it’s all about. Do you really need to be doing the things that are stressing you out? Jesus came to bring us peace, joy and new life, not stress and a to-do list. If the family picture is imperfect, or the school concert costume lacking, you’ll likely look back on it in the years to come and laugh.

Focus on the story of Christmas. Alexandra has also kindly shared an excerpt with MOPS international from her book Loving My Actual Christmas, which lists some great ideas and different ways to bring the Christmas Story to life for your children. The Jesus Storybook Bible is another wonderful resource that simply and beautifully tells the stories of the bible, and demonstrates how it all points to Jesus. Perfect for adults and kids alike. (There is an advent reading plan too).

May your Christmas be full of joy. Remember when it’s all said and done, the rush ends, the gifts are unwrapped, the food is eaten, and the visitors leave. What always remains of Christmas is the gift of Jesus.

Kelly McCrohan
MOPS Blog Administrator

Conflict with kids

Your brain is an amazing thing. And your child’s brain is an amazing thing. But they are not the same amazing thing. Your child’s brain is different from your adult brain. When we fail to take account of these differences, we can make things harder on ourselves, especially in times of conflict with kids. Continue reading “Conflict with kids”

Friends like family

We know that it “takes a village to raise a child” but sometimes we find ourselves without a village, particularly if we have family who live far away. Covid-19 has certainly made this even truer, with many people isolated from their families due to travel restrictions. Never has it been more important to have friends like family. 

The Early years

When my children were younger, I was blessed to have both a MOPS group and a mother’s group that I met with weekly. I had a number of special women who became my main support during the baby and toddler years. I greatly appreciated their love and advice. Things have changed as the kids have gotten older. As many of us have started working again, finding time to meet for coffee has become almost impossible.  

My husband and I are blessed to have some family living nearby. However my brother doesn’t have children, and our niece and nephews on my husband’s side are all older than our children. This, together with a number of unfortunate circumstances on both sides of our families, has left us with less support now that our children are older.  

Friends like family

Over the years though, we have developed close friendships with others who have children similar of ages to ours. And as we now move into new challenges with teenagers, I am finding myself leaning more and more on the support that my friends and my children’s friends offer. 

‘Family’ dinners, holidays, overseas trips, sleepovers and regular weekend catch-ups have become a regular occurrence for us and our friends. I have two close friends who can see immediately when I’ve had a hard parenting week; they will regularly offer to take my children for a few hours after church on a Sunday to give me and my children a break. My children refer to these friends as ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’ and will tell other children about their ‘cousins’. My son actually refers to one of our close friends as his cousin and introduces him as such to others. We may not be related by blood but the role we play in each other’s lives is like family. And while we love and appreciate our blood family too, our lives are genuinely richer because of the extended family God has brought to us. 

How can I find such friends?

I truly believe that God knows what your family needs and will bring the right people into your life to fill the gaps that may exist. These gaps may exist either because of family living far away, or other circumstances that may result in your family not being able to be what you need them to be. 

If this is something that you don’t yet have in your life, I’d like to encourage you to pray and ask God for what you are looking for. And lean into the people around you. Put yourself out there and meet new people. Close friendships can develop over time, or immediately. It’s well worth investing in friendships that will offer you encouragement and support throughout the parenting years. Family can be a blessing, and no matter how big or small your family currently is, there is always room for more. 

 

Catherine Begley

Greener gift giving

The Christmas season is fast approaching.  It’s a time where we love to show people we care and/or show our gratitude with a special little something. It’s also a time where I am sure landfill contributions increase significantly. So much food, wrapping paper and well-meaning gifts end up in the trash! If this concerns you, perhaps we can look together at some greener gift giving ideas. 

Rethink, reuse, reduce

Bought gifts are lovely but I feel like our homes are overflowing with stuff!! There’s nothing wrong with splashing out on occasion but, for the most part, you don’t have to spend a lot of cash to make someone feel loved. It’s the thought and effort that goes into a gift that counts. Up-cycled, handmade, or home-baked gifts can be extra special. 

Literally Green

Plants make a great little gift. You can decorate tin cans as pots to give away seedlings. Old teacups or mugs make cute little planters for succulents. Kids will love potting up some little plants to give to someone special.

Seed packets or homemade seed bombs are also a fun way to gift some cheery flowers. 

teacup plant

Homemade

Baked goods can look really pretty presented in a jar, old biscuit tin or a simple lined cardboard box. Make your loved one their favourite biscuit or slice. Truffles and preserves make great little gifts too.

cookie gift

If you are into sewing you might be clever enough to up-cycle an old pair of jeans into a pencil case. Perhaps convert a vintage pillowcase into a toddler dress or carry bag.

Fabric Christmas bunting or ornaments are a cute way to spread the Christmas cheer too. 

One of the most lovely handmade gifts I have received was little crocheted rounds for makeup removal or toner application. This lovely reusable gift was packed in a cute little jar with a string bow to decorate.

Think local

There are so many great little businesses that make and sell awesome products. From soaps to kids wear and jewellery, Dukkha mixes to custom cookies. Explore what your local area has to offer. Not only will you support your local economy, but the reduced product travel is better for the environment too.

Less ‘stuff’

In the years to come, someone will more likely remember a cool experience you gave them rather than a store gift. A special trip- like to an aquarium or zoo, also gives the gift of a special family day.

My husband and his siblings got a family pool pass every Christmas as kids, and enjoyed many hours of their summer holidays at the pool, having fun and making memories.

Maybe you can bless someone by cooking them a meal. Perhaps pack a picnic for a special couple you know and babysit their kids while they enjoy some quality time together.

Make a donation to a charity, or a cause they care about. Compassion gifts is one I like to use each Christmas for loved ones who ‘don’t need anything’ but I still want to get something for them. 

That’s a wrap

Wrapping paper is synonymous with Christmas, but once the presents are opened I lament the pile of paper that immediately goes in the recycle bin. One look at Pinterest, and you’ll find a lot of creative (and greener) alternatives to bought wrapping paper.

A simple cotton bag makes for easy, reusable wrap. Vintage tea towels, fabric squares or newspaper tied with string are cool alternatives to traditional wrap. The paintings brought home from kindergarten can make for very special wrapping paper too.

wrapping paper

 

Gift giving is a fun tradition, but it need not be expensive to your wallet or the environment. Why not consider some greener gift giving options this Christmas. 

Kelly McCrohan
MOPS Blog Administrator

How do you cope with curveballs?

I write this as Melbourne, my home city, comes out of lockdown. It’s been the longest COVID lockdown that any city in the world has had to live through. It’s been hard and at times overwhelming. But now people have been having haircuts and beauty treatments as well as hanging out in restaurants since midnight. ‘Freedom Friday’ was likened to New Year’s Eve by local morning radio presenters. I, on the other hand, ironically, am still in lockdown. Life throws us curveballs, and the pandemic is but one of this generation’s curveballs. How do you cope with curveballs? Continue reading “How do you cope with curveballs?”

Every Mum Conference – Celebrating 21 years of MOPS Australia

MOPS Australia has just passed 21 years! So, on Saturday so we held a party! We invited all our friends to our 21st birthday conference – the Every Mum Conference. Over 200 women joined the celebration – leaders, mums, and special guests from around Australia, as well as our keynote speakers from MOPS International. We also added a Friday night Theme Launch for our MOPS group leaders. Continue reading “Every Mum Conference – Celebrating 21 years of MOPS Australia”

Lockdown Reflections

Last week in Melbourne we hit 250 days in Covid lockdowns since March 2020. That’s a long time, and only those in Melbourne can truly understand the magnitude of that number. That is 250 out of 558 days. Just reflect on that for a moment.  I think it’s been the hardest challenge of my life. Continue reading “Lockdown Reflections”

Why MOPS?

Is motherhood all you thought it would be? Adverts would have us believe its all snuggling a perfectly sleeping baby, easy nappy changes, and happy parenting moments as they try their first foods or take their first step. We know in reality motherhood is also at times challenging. We all need a little encouragement and camaraderie to help us through from time to time. That’s why there’s MOPS.

Continue reading “Why MOPS?”

Operation Christmas Child

Every October our MOPS group (and many around the county) runs one of our favourite meeting sessions of the year- packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We love pooling our donated items and packing the boxes together over coffee and conversation. The chance to spread love and kindness to an unknown child brings us so much joy.

If you haven’t heard of Operation Christmas Child before, it’s a wonderful project run by Samaritan’s Purse here in Australia (and worldwide) providing gifts to children in need around the world.

How it works

The idea is to pack a shoebox full of gifts for a child. This may be the only gift some of these kids will get in their childhood- so we like to make it special! First you need to think about if you want to make a box for a girl or a boy, and the age group you will buy for; 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old or 10-14 years old.

What to pack?

Typically there are 5 categories to cover off when you pack a gift box

  • School supplies- such as pencils, ruler, sharpener, pencil case and small lined books. In many places if children cannot afford school supplies, they cannot attend school.
  • Hygiene items – such as face washer, soap, toothbrush, comb, hairbands or a drink bottle.
  • Something to wear- like a t-shirt, underwear, hat and sunglasses.
  • A ‘wow’ item or toys- maybe a ball, skipping rope, a toy car, necklace or something to love like a small doll or teddy.

We make sure we cover off items from each category then fill the box to the brim with whatever we like. You can even include a photo or letter if you want. (Pro Tip: rubber bands are handy for keeping boxes closed). It’s essential you attach a recipient label to the box so they know the gender and age of the intended recipient.

What not to pack

All items packed must be new. Avoid including any item packaging or cheap plastic toys that will quickly break- we don’t want to add to pollution problems.

These boxes will travel long distances, and often the boxes from Australia land in hot and tropical places. You should not pack any liquid items that could leak in transit (like toothpaste or shampoo). Don’t pack anything that can break, melt or spoil (such as crayons, mirrors, glass trinkets, foods or lollies).

Obviously we need to be respectful of local culture. Do not include anything that could be considered gambling or war related (such as dominos, and playing cards or toy soldiers/weapons).

Don’t forget a Donation

Samaritan’s Purse have box collection points all over the country to drop off your filled boxes during October. They do ask for a $10 donation per box to assist with the freight of the boxes. It is also used for equipping local churches in the delivery area, and providing the box recipient with a gospel booklet in their own language.

In 2020 there were 214,301 boxes packed in Australia and New Zealand. These were sent to the Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Malawi, Fiji and Madagascar.

 

While in 2020 we could not meet as a group to pack the boxes together, we still took joy in packing boxes individually. Its also a great opportunity to get kids involved in doing something for others. They will have fun picking items out for a kid their own age. It’s a fun way to spread some love and kindness in these challenging and uncertain days.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

Kelly McCrohan                                                                                        MOPS Australia Blog Administrator