A sugar-free advent calendar


We have several different Christmas advent traditions running throughout December, one of which is opening the little numbered boxes on our wooden stable. Magnetic figures are added to the stable scene each day to tell the Christmas story and traditionally there would be a treat of some kind for each child. In order to cut down the junk over this period we have opted for non-food related fillers for a while now. Last year I purchased a secondhand random assortment of Lego bricks. I had my eldest son make little things from the blocks for each child each day. There were miniature birdhouses, cars, furniture and all kinds of things to open. They loved it, but we don’t have the benefit of another pile of cheap Lego bricks to use so I am going to borrow a great suggestion from one of my readers Kath, who commented on my Christ Centred Christmas Traditions  post to say that she has purchased a 260 piece jigsaw puzzle for her advent calendar. She has split it up into 25 piles of pieces and each day the children will add them on to eventually complete the full puzzle.


I have whipped out and bought a puzzle so we can do the same thing as I think it is a wonderful idea. I first made the puzzle which took both my husband and I over an hour (did I mention I hate doing puzzles?) then took out groups of around 10 pieces. I wanted each day’s pieces to be able to join up to form a section of the puzzle, rather than a random assortment that may not join together for quite some time. This puzzle is very detailed and shows many scenes from the biblical story of the first Christmas so I wanted to place the sections in the order that they occurred to slowly build on to the story. I also numbered the back of each set so that I NEVER have to do this jigsaw again because as I said, I detest doing jigsaw puzzles.


The piles of pieces are safely behind each little wooden door, ready to build on to our masterpiece each morning and should provide some Christmas fun. Thanks Kath for the great idea.



Jesse Tree Symbols; Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

We use a Jesse tree of some sort to count down to Christmas each year. Every day there is a section of the bible to read and a corresponding symbol to add to our tree, beginning with the creation of the world and moving on through some of the main events of the bible to finish on Christmas day with the birth of Jesus.

We started with traditional Jesse tree symbols (ideas for symbols here) to go with scrolls of bible verses, reading from the scroll each day and unwrapping the corresponding symbol. Another year we used clear glass jewels with Jesse tree symbol pictures behind them to make a magnetic Jesse tree (free printable here) and another year we counted down throughout December with the names of Jesus as our symbols. Other times we have used books like “The Jesse Tree” by Geraldine McCaughrean and “Grandpa’s Box” by Starr Meade.

This year we are reading a section a day from Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” and using her free printable symbols as well as our own that we have collected from previous years. I usually wrap the symbols because this makes it all the more exciting and the children take turns to open each one. This time I have sewed up some drawstring bags because wrapping them takes ages and from now on I’ll never have to do it again!

Here are our symbols to match the readings in Ann’s book:

  1. Jesse tree – stump of Jesse prophesy (Place where love grows)
  2. The world/planets/solar system – creation of the world (Created by love)
  3. Apple – snake in the Garden of Eden (God is looking for you)
  4. 3 birds that Noah sent out from the ark – Noah’s Ark (God’s tears)
  5. Tent – Abraham follows God’s call (Count the stars)
  6. As many descendants as the stars – Elizabeth’s baby (The gift of laughter)
  7. Ram – Sacrifice of Isaac (Here I am)
  8. Ladder – Jacob’s ladder dream (Climbing up)
  9. Joseph’s coat (Surprise gifts)
  10. Mini photo frames with the 10 commandments (Ten love rules)
  11. Red rope – Rahab (The red rope)
  12. Wheat – Ruth (The little things)
  13. Crown – Samuel (Looking at things inside out)
  14. Candle – Isaiah predicts a light in the darkness (A candle in the darkness)
  15. Fire – Elijah calls down fire (Bowing down)
  16. Whale – Jonah (Turning around)
  17. Cottage – Bethlehem prophesy (A true fairy tale)
  18. Shoe and “E” keyring – Esther (A bridge to the king)
  19. Tower – Habakkuk (Watch and wait)
  20. Angel & heart – Zechariah & Elizabeth (God remembers)
  21. Fish – John the Baptist (Thunder in the dessert)
  22. Heart with wedding rings – Mary (Wide-awake dreams)
  23. Tools – Joseph (He can’t stay away)
  24. Mary holding a baby – birth of Jesus (Kneel at the manger)
  25. Star – leading to the manger (Never-ending Christmas)

Consequences series – What? When? How? Part 4 First Time Obedience

7 kids at park

If you are new here, please have a browse through the first 3 posts in this series (part 1, part 2, part 3) before continuing on. For consequences to work effectively on your family, the foundations need to be in place, otherwise you will be running about cleaning up messes, rather than correcting the source of the problem.

We teach our children to obey for a number of reasons:

  • Physical safety (Will your child stop when you call them or run out into the road?)
  • The Bible instructs children to obey their parents and it is our responsibility to teach them to do so.   
  • Because we want our children to grow up wanting to love and obey God. God calls all of us to submit to His authority and to the authority He allows or places over us.  This applies to children also and the authority that God places over them is their parents. If they won’t obey their parents (whom they can see), it is less likely that they will obey God (whom they can’t see.)
  • It’s loving to do so (We obey God because we love Him.)
  • It helps our children grow in character, becoming those who bring pleasure to others around them.
  • It avoids anger and frustration in the parent that leads to escalation and inappropriate responses from us.

It is beyond the scope of the post to try and explain how to get first time obedience in your family. If you believe as I do that it is important enough to work on, there are some excellent resources available to help you in your journey.

  1. Growing Kids God’s Way courses from Growing Families International (US, Australia/New Zealand and other countries)
  2. Get hold of the Childwise books appropriate to the age of your child. See other titles at Growing Families US or Australia/New Zealand.
  3. Purchase a “First Time Obedience” chart and related downloadable audio sessions from Carla Link at Mom’s Notes. These are the best parenting resources. Well worth the money. Highly recommended. (No, I don’t get a commission 🙂 )
  4. This post at Large Families on Purpose is a good start if you are after a quick look at something to get you going.

I have not “arrived” when it comes to obedience. My children are far from perfect. And sadly, it is possible and even likely to achieve first time obedience with your children AND then lose it again over time! There are many factors at play here, from personality types, love languages, to parenting practice. But the job we have as Mothers and Fathers is the most important one in the world – one worth investing our time, energy and money into doing well, don’t you think?


Consequences Series – What? When? How? (Introduction)

me and R IMG_6277

Today is the beginning of a series springing from the discussions I have been having with the Mothers I meet with on a monthly basis. It is not meant to provide you with everything you need to know in order to discipline and train your child effectively, but will hopefully give interested parents some valuable advice and strategies for dealing with some of the more common battles we face with our children on a regular basis.

Consequences is a hot topic for many parents. We all want our children to obey, but if we jump straight to a whole bunch of punishments as our single and only method of achieving this then we are bound to fail. The consequences that we give our children should aim to achieve heart change, not just outward conformity. We can alter the behaviours that annoy us the most, but our aim should be to change the heart of the child, to train them in Godly character and prepare them for a relationship with God inasmuch as it is possible for us to do so.

So where do we start? Parenting is a multilayered affair and without a solid foundation underpinning the consequences we do use we will not achieve the best possible outcome. While just using our common sense will take us a long way, parenting is a difficult task and even the best of us can improve and develop our parenting skills.

As a first step I would recommend taking the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting course.(AustraliaUSA  and elsewhere.) There is so much to learn and know and while we can glean a tip here and there, a solid base is better laid with some intensive training.

Read some good quality parenting material. There is an abundance of parenting information out there and not all of it is good so again, I personally would recommend staring with gfi material. The Childwise series, Terrific Toddler books 1 & 2 and other gfi material contains a wealth of information to get you started. Check the gfi website in Australia and growing families USA for recommended titles.

Work on your husband/wife relationship. Without harmony in the home and parents who are on the same page, parenting will be an uphill battle. Use the concept of couch time from the gfi material, set a time to discuss your parenting together and make a plan of attack. Single/divorced/remarried parents can still work to achieve the best parenting practice possible within the situation they find themselves. Blending Families by the Book  is an excellent resource, as is the single parent supplement that goes with the Growing Kids God’s Way course.

You must be filling your children’s love tanks. Children will act out to gain attention/time/focus (even if it is negative) if they are not getting enough love in the way that they receive it. Different children have different love languages and different level of needs.) See Filling Their Love Tanks – The Five Love Languages of Children.

We need to train our children’s hearts, setting aside time to teach what we expect from them (proactive parenting) rather than simply reacting when they do something we don’t like. We need to work on their character and fill their moral warehouse by explaining the moral reason why for the instructions that we give.  We should be doing everything possible to prepare their hearts to know God.

It is essential to have a flexible, consistent routine in place. One that includes time where our children are with us and time where they are learning to play happily alone. A balanced routine will include activities that teach children to sit, focus and concentrate and involve only age-appropriate choices. Mum and Dad, not the child, should be in charge. Even babies need a good routine. 

So much of our success with parenting depends on us to begin with. How we give instructions plays a vital part in the level of obedience we will receive in return. How we respond when our children disobey and how we train them for future situations will help to determine the outcome of the battles we face repeatedly. It’s a tricky business but one that is worth pouring our time and energies into. I hope that the information today and in posts to come will help you on your parenting journey.

Christian Easter ideas for 2015

c holding string cross IMG_6150

Easter is here and with it the bombardment of chocolates and commercialism that threatens to take over any meaningful celebration. If you are looking for some Christian Easter activities and traditions that help make Easter a Christ-centred affair, take a look at this post or for Jesus trees, Lent ideas and other Christian Easter activities see here and lastly, my Pinterest board with some more activities is here.

Easter decorations

Our Easter space with books and objects that help direct our attention to the real meaning of this season. We used palm branches to act out the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The kids threw down blankets as cloaks as well as the branches and made crowd noises to help tell the story. It was a little chaotic but lots of fun.

cross string up close IMG_6152

An up close view of our string crosses that we made this year. (Original idea and instructions here.) As we hammered the nails into the wood blocks we talked about Jesus being nailed to the cross and what that must have felt like, comparing the size of our nails with the nails that would have been used to pierce Jesus. My oldest son’s comment was “Children’s bibles always make the cross seem so pretty!” It doesn’t hurt our kids to get a better picture of what the events surrounding Easter were really all about. Giving them some understanding of what our sin really cost is so important, especially for those who grow up so saturated in bible stories that they grow immune to the importance and reality of it all.

Blessing Buddies – 80 acts of kindness ideas for a Christian Elf on the shelf alternative


The Blessing Buddies are the latest addition to our Christmas traditions and have come about in order to help us focus on blessing others throughout the Christmas season. We make an effort to ensure that we have a Christ-centred Christmas, designing our activities around the celebration of the birth of Jesus and continuing with some much-loved family traditions.

After seeing the Elf on the Shelf, Kindness Kids, Light ’em up, R.A.C.K. (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) and other ideas that are around, I combined several elements and came up with our Blessing Buddies. The children will love the surprise of having something to search for each day, the fun of finding them in a new pose, a daily act of kindness directed towards others to complete (big or small), a character quality to focus on and bible verse to start our day.


The Blessing Buddies will be making their appearance on the first of December. A boy and girl bendable wooden doll will “arrive” in a package in our mailbox. A poem of explanation will be included to introduce the concept. The dolls are part of a wooden doll house family from Kmart. They came with a Mum, Dad and baby for $15. The suitcase came off someone’s verge during the local verge collection! I just fixed it and covered it with Christmas paper. Sorry, don’t know where to find those in a shop; maybe somewhere like the craft section in Spotlight or Bunnings where you buy the blank cardboard/MDF wood boxes and shapes for craft projects?

IMG_1328 blessing buddies introduction poam

(Free printable Blessing Buddies introduction poem here.)

Each morning the children will find the Blessing Buddies hidden around the house in a different pose that links to the act of kindness we will be carrying out that day. They will also have a note with the day’s character trait including bible verse and discussion questions and a bag containing all the materials necessary to complete the act of kindness.

 IMG_1327 blessing buddies character

Click here for free printables bible verse, character quality & discussion points for the Blessing Buddies (Large file, please be patient)

(As always, please link to this post for printables, rather than reproducing my work elsewhere. Thanks.)

The Blessing Buddies should be a lot of fun as we seek to be aware of those around us by meeting their needs, helping them to know that God loves them or simply just bringing some joy into their day. I have created a master list of ideas for blessing others with some suggestions of ways to pose the Blessing Buddies.

80 Acts of Kindness ideas:

  1. Get permission to access the Pastor’s office at church and plaster it with notes of appreciation and individually wrapped chocolates or lollies. This would also work in Dad’s work office, a teacher’s office or anything similar. Pose the Blessing Buddies with notes of appreciation (something kind the kids did the day before), sitting in a box or basket of individually wrapped chocolates, sealed in an envelope with writing pens and pretty note papers spread around, in the act of writing a note or with post-it notes stuck all over them.
  2. Do an act of service around the house; yours or someone else’s. You may know a new Mum, pregnant lady, an elderly person or someone who is sick. Tidy up an area, clean the bathroom and toilet, finish all the fixing in the fixing box, sew buttons or darn socks, tidy the bookshelves, or clean out the garage. Pose the Blessing Buddies wrapped up mummy style with thread in the sewing box, hiding in a bucket of cleaning equipment, hanging from the broom, making soap sculptures or laying inside a roll of toilet paper partway unrolled down the hallway as if they have been rolling along as it unravels.
  3. Do your sibling’s chores for the day. Pose the Blessing Buddies taking a boat ride in the sink with cleaning supplies, buried in a pile of mess or riding on the vacuum cleaner.
  4. Invite a friend or family member to a live nativity reenactment. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding tickets to the production and a carrot for the camels, or riding on a toy camel.
  5. Use the nativity set (or a Christmas book) to tell the Christmas story to your brothers or sisters. Pose the Blessing Buddies in a nativity sensory tub (A nativity set in a low flat container of dried beans or similar with rocks, artificial trees, block buildings, manger, stable, farm animals etc.), feeding the animals in the nativity set or reading a Christmas book to the nativity set figures.
  6. Write to your sponsor child and/or send a Christmas gift. Pose the Blessing Buddies with a half written letter or with a sack full of miniature gifts.
  7. Make a meal for someone elderly or sick. Pose the Blessing Buddies on top of a tissue box, holding a tissue to their noses with lots of scrunched up tissues all about – sick Blessing Buddies.
  8. Bury treasure at the local playground, school or childcare sandpit. Use plastic gemstones, large fake diamonds, plastic gold coins, gold buttons etc. Leave a sign telling the local children what you have done. Pose the Blessing Buddies in your own backyard sandpit with a note or poem in hand asking your children to find the lost treasure themselves first (To be re-buried for other children in the park), riding in a ship in the bath looking for lost treasure or playing in a miniature sandpit (shallow box lid with white sand or salt.)
  9. Decorate your own mailbox with pictures and a gift for the mailman. (Arrange to wait for the mailman that day to ensure he gets it.) Pose the Blessing Buddies in the mailbox with decorating and gift supplies or sealed inside a large envelope.
  10. Tape coins to a vending machine; the emergency room at a hospital would be good. Pose the Blessing Buddies inside a money box or inside an open chip or confectionary wrapper with just the toes sticking out and a few crumbs lying next to it.
  11. Leave money for the merry-go-round in the shopping centre. The children could do jobs around the house to earn the money to do this. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding a long list of jobs for the children to do titled “Will work for coins” with a pencil behind their ear. Include check boxes next to each job with money to be earned for each task, including a few treat “jobs” such as eat a cookie.
  12. Hide $2 coins in the kids’ toy section at the discount variety shop. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting inside a toy car going for a drive with some other toys or on a toy train on a train track with other toys on carriages behind.
  13. Go for a walk around the local area leaving Christmas lollies, chocolates or candy canes with a note of explanation; people may not eat them otherwise. Good places are bus stop seats, on the top of log fences or wherever people will see them easily. Pose the Blessing Buddies in a ballpit of lollies or riding a candy cane sled down the banister or stairs.
  14. Invite a lonely person/neighbor round for morning tea and bake special treats for them. Pose the Blessing Buddies making “snow” angels in 100’s and 1000’s spread on the bench or sitting in a teacup with teabags spread about.
  15. Gift and cards for piano teacher (school/ballet/sports teacher etc.) Pose the Blessing Buddies playing piano with sheet music set up in front, dressed in sports team colours/uniform with game snacks or wearing miniature bathers/ballet slippers or some other relevant item.
  16. Donate to your favourite charity, sponsor a child, buy a cow or well etc. through Compassion or another organisation who works with the poor overseas. Perhaps agree as a family to limit gift giving and use the money saved to give away. Pose the Blessing Buddies milking a toy cow with a tiny bowl of milk underneath or working with gardening tools
  17. Work at a Christmas day soup kitchen serving meals for the homeless. Pose the Blessing Buddies surrounded by veggies on the cutting board with a miniature knife in hand or sleeping in a tissue box with a tissue for a pillow and one over the top as a sheet with a note; I have a bed but some people don’t.
  18. Buy a newlywed or elderly couple a Christmas tree and decorate it for them. Pose the Blessing Buddies in a toy car with a miniature Christmas tree strapped to the roof (Use one branch/leaf from a regular size tree), standing decorated with bows and bells or hanging from the roof on a strand of tinsel.
  19. Decorate an elderly relative’s house or porch for them using their own decorations or yours. Let them know that you will come and pack it up again after Christmas. Pose the Blessing Buddies threading popcorn onto string, wrapped in Christmas lights or swinging on a tinsel swing (Thread a toilet roll on to make the seat.)
  20. Prepare Jesse tree symbols and readings for someone. Pose the Blessing Buddies hanging on the Christmas tree as if they were a decoration or as if constructing the symbols.
  21. Knock and run nativity (With poems of explanation for each one, secretly deliver 1 figure from the nativity each day to a neighbor, leading up to baby Jesus arriving on Christmas day. I have printables you can use for this – coming soon.) Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting in the manger cross-legged in front of Jesus or with baby Jesus in their lap.
  22. Go on an emu hunt (rubbish collection) in a public area and wherever you go for the day. Pose the Blessing Buddies hiding inside a miniature bin, inside the bag bag (plastic bag holder) finding bags for the rubbish, standing next to a pile of trash or facing a waste paper basket partly filled with crumpled newspaper balls with several balls on the floor as if they have been throwing them into the bin.
  23. Leave a sandpit toy at the local play area with a note of explanation. Pose the Blessing Buddies wrapped inside a box with the new sandpit toy or making sandcastles in the sandbox outside.
  24. Chalk messages of thanks or encouragement on people’s driveways. (We love the beautiful flowers in your garden, thank you for being great neighbours, have a wonderful Christmas etc.)Pose the Blessing Buddies holding a stick of chalk with a message drawn on a mini blackboard or sitting on your own driveway with a message in chalk.
  25. Donate toys or books to a waiting room. Pose the Blessing Buddies inside a slinky toy in the process of “walking” down the stairs, playing a board game or having a cotton-ball snowball fight with other toys from behind a Duplo or block fort.
  26. Leave plastic dinosaurs all around a playground. Pose the Blessing Buddies squeezed inside the plastic tube that the animals come in, riding on the back of a plastic animal or feeding the dinosaurs leaves.
  27. Leave bags of marbles in a playground. Pose the Blessing Buddies playing a game of marbles or inside the bag with their heads poking out at the neck.
  28. Make care packs for the homeless. (Our church will be coordinating this for us.) Pose the Blessing Buddies with Blessing buddy care packs for the children – snacks for the car, special drink etc.
  29. New mother bags/gifts at hospital. Pose the Blessing Buddies building a nappy tower (roll nappies tightly and tie with an elastic band), wearing a miniature nappy (pin a piece of white fabric) or swaddled and sleeping in the dolls house cot.
  30. Pick out a gift for the Kmart wishing tree (gifts for disadvantaged kids.) The children could work to earn the money to spend on this. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting with a tiny gift as if ready to open it (the kind that hang as decorations on the Christmas tree), gift wrapped and surrounded by scissors, tape and off-cuts or have gift bows stuck all over the bathroom mirror with the blessing buddies attached to the mirror by one of the bows.
  31. Hide money in the supermarket shelves with a note for a shopper to discover. Pose the Blessing Buddies sandwiched between tins and boxes in the pantry or squeezed inside a pantry storage jar with their face and hands pressed against the glass peering out.
  32. Have a pre-Christmas clean-out and donate good quality toys or clothes to charity. Pose the Blessing Buddies spelling out a message in magnetic letters on the fridge or inside a building made from the kid’s construction set.
  33. Put together pyjama and care packages for the local women’s refuge. Pose the Blessing Buddies brushing their teeth on the bathroom sink with a message on the mirror in toothpaste or having a bath in the dolls house bath with mini face washer and soap, hair wrapped in towel.
  34. Write and send Christmas cards to friends and family. Include a family photo, tract, yearly wrap up letter and family update. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting with a camera, surrounded by photos of themselves up to various antics, with the camera and other teddies all set up for a group photo, in an open box of cards with pens, envelopes and stamps or with a letter written and addressed to the kids (from the Blessing Buddies) for them to open.
  35. Donate food to the local food bank or church food parcel. (Include some special Christmas foods.) Pose the Blessing Buddies balanced on top of a tin can pyramid or rolling cans down the stairs.
  36. Leave candy canes or treats on cars in a car park. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding a note that says “I have hidden (however many) candy canes in this room. How quickly can you find them?” or hanging upside down from a candy-cane and ribbon swing or trapeze.
  37. Post or deliver a book about the true meaning of Christmas to someone. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting at the computer with the screen open to Book Depository or another online book retailer or reading a mini bible to the other teddies.
  38. Take Grandparents or friends on a drive to see the Christmas lights (Kids make invitations several days ahead) Wear PJ’s, play carols on the stereo and if 2 cars are needed, change combinations after each stop and talk to each other through walkie-talkies. Stop for a treat on the way or take hot chocolate in a thermos for the road. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding golden tickets to “Mum’s Minivan Christmas Lights Express” with a single hole-puncher to punch tickets as people enter the vehicle, sitting inside disposable coffee mugs with lids (for the hot chocolate) and special snacks to have on the way or having a marshmallow snowball fight.
  39. Tape a gift card to a shopping trolley. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding a blessing buddies shopping list or a little bag with gift card inside.
  40. Take activity packs, crafts, balloons or colouring books to kids in hospital, a friend’s sick child or a disadvantaged family. Pose the Blessing Buddies surrounded by crayons with half-coloured picture in front of them, hanging under a large bunch of helium balloons or in a little basket under a single balloon made to look like a hot air balloon.
  41. Tape snack size popcorn, biscuits or chip packets to shopping trolleys. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting on the stove holding a wooden spoon and cooking up a “dinner” of Skittles/popcorn etc. in a small frying pan.
  42. Leave treat bags in all the teacher’s pigeonholes. (Clear this with someone in authority first.) Pose the Blessing Buddies with paper bags/baskets/boxes and craft materials to decorate or eating a chocolate; unwrapped with a chocolate smudge on face and chocolate crumbs around them.
  43. Wait at the bus stop and give the driver a coffee or homemade muffin or ask permission to jump on the bus and give all the passengers a flower or treat. Or just give them to the line of people waiting at your bus stop. Pose the Blessing Buddies riding on or in a toy bus, making a cup of coffee with instant coffee granules spilt across the bench or holding a bouquet of flowers.
  44. Give bubble mixture sets to kids in a public area. (The kind that are given out at weddings are pretty cheap.) Pose the Blessing Buddies holding the bubble blower, mixture open, with dribbles about.
  45. Fruit for firies: Decorate boxes and fill them with fresh fruit to deliver to the local fire station. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting in the fruit bowl with a peeled banana in their lap as if eating it.
  46. Nuts for nurses: take a bowl or box of small nut snack bags and leave them on the bench at the hospital nurses station. Pose the Blessing Buddies wearing a nurses uniform, one doctoring the other with a miniature doctors kit or cracking nuts with a nut cracker.
  47. Host a high tea for all the little old ladies at church or anyone you know who would appreciate it. Perhaps invite all the ladies in your street as a way to get to know your neighbours. Make a little craft, treat or decoration for each lady to take home. Pose the Blessing Buddies making the take-home gift such as beaded angels, miniature Christmas puddings or rocky road etc.
  48. Wait outside the grocery store and help people carry their bags or hold doors open. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting in the car with a drink bottle, snack &  lap blanket, wearing a badge; “I’m here to help,” or holding lots of tiny shopping bags (home-made paper bags or Barbie bags.)
  49. Put on a Christmas concert for family and friends or at a retirement village. Each child can sing a song, play an instrument, act out the Christmas story, tell Christmas jokes etc. Serve refreshments afterwards. Pose the Blessing Buddies playing a musical instrument (a tree decoration would be a good size), sitting at the piano with Christmas carol sheet music set up in front, reading a joke book or Christmas story or dressed in miniature nativity clothes (scraps of striped fabric, tinsel halo for angel.)
  50. Go through the McDonalds drive-through for icecream cones and pay for the order of the car behind you. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding an empty icecream cone and ice-cream scoop or riding in a line of toy cars with several other toys as if in a drive-through or stopped at a window of a take-away shop made from Lego.
  51. Blessing balls. Hang fillable baubles on Christmas trees in shop windows or at friend’s houses filled with edible treats or coins etc. Pose the Blessing Buddies squished inside a clear fillable bauble, hanging in the Christmas tree.
  52. Write love notes to leave in Daddy’s lunchbox and pack it for him with some extra special tasty treats. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting in a lunch box with pen and paper or eating a muffin or sandwich (bite out, crumbs around.)
  53. Leave a very generous tip at a restaurant.Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting next the word “tip” spelled out with coins or   drinking from a glass using a bendy straw.
  54. Give gingerbread biscuit nativity scenes to Sunday school teachers or neighbours. Pose the Blessing Buddies asleep on the packet of biscuits with head on a marshmallow pillow.
  55. Make Mum or Dad breakfast in bed. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting in the fridge on the egg carton. Colour or dye the shells of the eggs in the egg carton or write a message on the eggs (one letter on each.)
  56. Mailbox attack. Leave treats inside random mailboxes in the neighbourhood and/or decorate the mailboxes with handmade decorations. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting in a mixing bowl holding a mixing spoon with ingredients on the bench, making the crafts with scraps and equipment spread about, in your mailbox with the treats or dangling from a piece of tinsel wrapped round your mailbox (as if in the process of decorating it.)
  57. Make a list of things you love about someone and send it to them. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding a long list of things the blessing buddies like about the kids.
  58. Send postcards or Christmas cards to friends who have moved away or people who used to go to your church. Pose the Blessing Buddies in the midst of writing a postcard or Christmas card to the kids themselves.
  59. Give popsicles to outdoor workers (in hot weather.) Pose the Blessing Buddies hiding inside one of the popsicle molds or eating their own miniature popsicle – made of felt?
  60. Conduct a Christmas chocolate survey at your local shopping centre. Write down the name of the shop and ask the cashiers to tell you their favourite chocolate. Purchase their choices and slide them into decorated bags with a tract and card and tag of explanation. Deliver them back to the cashiers anonymously if possible. Pose the Blessing Buddies holding a partially eaten chocolate bar with a smudge of chocolate on their face, looking through junk mail catalogues or holding a pre-printed survey page with a bunch of cut out bag tag poems of explanation (I have printables.) Have the Blessing Buddies favourites already written onto the survey page.
  61. Pass out stickers to children waiting in a doctor’s office. Pose the Blessing Buddies covered in stickers.
  62. Take board games to a nursing home and play games with the elderly. Pose the Blessing Buddies playing a game of Monopoly with some other toys.
  63. Decorate placemats for meals on wheels or your church’s food parcel ministry. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting at the dolls house table and chairs with dinner set out on the table.
  64. Hold a spa day at a nearby nursing home for residents: paint their nails and do their hair and make-up. Pose the Blessing Buddies with their hair in crazy designs or sitting underneath a message on the bathroom mirror written in lipstick, with the lipstick open next to them.
  65. Donate your gently used stuffed animals to a local firehouse or police station to give to children in emergencies. (Do they do this in Australia??) Go to op shops and choose nice stuffed toys to take or donate your own. Pose the Blessing Buddies  hidden in a large pile of stuffed animals with only their faces showing, camping out with other teddies in an A-frame tent (T/towel over string between chair legs?) or tucked up in bed with the other teddies.
  66. Leave notes/postcards/sticker pages in your favourite library book for the next child to find. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting on a pile of books with one open that they are reading to a bunch of toys or peeking out from between the books in the bookshelf.
  67. Decorate the rubbish bin for the collector with posters and a gift. (We would need to stake out the truck and give ours in person as they usually wouldn’t get out of the truck.) Pose the Blessing Buddies tight-rope walking or riding a flying fox between the 2 rubbish bins.
  68. Pay for the meal/coffee of the person behind you in a take away line. Pose the Blessing Buddies inside a hamburger box or take-out coffee cup.
  69. Buy a gift voucher for the person behind you in the supermarket check-out lane. Pose the Blessing Buddies in a big box of packing peanuts gift wrapped, holding the voucher, building a coin stack or hiding in Mum’s shopping bag.
  70. Leave a food parcel for someone in need; knock and run style. Pose the Blessing Buddies in the oven with cooking equipment, recipe and ingredients or reading recipe books with a mixing spoon and measuring cups in their hands.
  71. Start a Christmas book per day tradition – wrap 24 books in paper to be opened each day in the lead up to Christmas. Choose 1 today to read to your little brother or sister. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting on the books with a large ribbon tied over them and the stack, with scissors and wrapping paper and scraps as if just finishing wrapping up the books or bound head to toe in the ribbon used to wrap the book stack.
  72. Make a cake for Jesus and start Christmas morning by singing Happy Birthday to Him. Pose the Blessing Buddies with an electric tea-light decorated to look like miniature birthday cake with a lit candle on top or holding a party whistle and wearing a party hat.
  73. Sell stuff you no longer want or need and donate to your favourite charity or someone who needs it. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting inside a large heart shape made of coins.
  74. Babysit for a single Mum or a friend so that they have the opportunity to go Christmas shopping or out for the evening. Have the kids plan games/craft/activities for the children you are watching. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting on a couch cushion eating a bowl of popcorn with a TV remote control next to them or cutting out paper snowflakes with cuttings spread everywhere while sitting at a doll-house sized table and chairs.
  75. Weed a neighbor or elderly person’s garden. Pose the Blessing Buddies outdoors in the garden planting a row of lollipops.
  76. Organise a garden makeover for someone in need. Pose the Blessing Buddies next to a little pot of soil with candycanes growing out of it or holding a seed packet with “candy cane seeds” written on the side.
  77. Brave the cold (for those experiencing a white Christmas) to deliver hot chocolate to an outdoor worker or bell ringer. Pose the Blessing Buddies sitting on the top of a large mug filled with mini marshmallows holding a teaspoon. Place a tin of cocoa next to the mug.
  78. Brave the heat (for those of us in the middle of summer!) to deliver cold drinks to construction workers or anyone who needs to be outdoors for any length of time. Pose the Blessing Buddies having a picnic with some other dolls and teddies using a child’s tea set.
  79. Fill parking meters that have nearly run out. Pose the Blessing Buddies as if they are having a car race with some other toys (all driving their own vehicles) and a finish line sign set up.
  80. Bring in all the neighbour’s bins after the rubbish truck has been. Pose the Blessing Buddies climbing a rope up the side of the bin or abseiling down the side.

Beaded cross advent Christmas craft


Photo credit: my 11 year old son!

Christmas is fast approaching and with it all of our advent crafts and projects. In line with our focus on blessing others throughout the month of December, we will be making these beaded crosses for all of the ladies who attend our high tea. They are economical and very simple and require only a few items to make.


You need:

  • Two nails (One larger than the other)
  • Approximately 1 metre of thin wire (Make sure it is flexible – the wire I originally tried was too thick to easily bend around the nails)
  • Thread/ribbon for hanging
  • Beads of choice (Check that the diameter of the holes will fit on your wire.)


Anchor the two nails together by winding the wire tightly several times diagonally around the point at which they cross. Leave the wire attached to the centre and thread a few beads on at a time, winding it around one section of a nail heading out from the centre. As you wind back towards the centre, cross the wire over the part you have just beaded to anchor it tightly in place. Don’t forget to make a small loop of wire at the top of the centre nail to attach the string for hanging.

It took me around 10 to 15 minutes to make one cross from scratch and anchoring the nails was a little fiddly so if you are doing this craft with young children it may be a good idea to anchor the nails for them ahead of time. I expect that it will take my children around 30 minutes, depending on how many beads they decide to add. Seed beads will obviously take a lot longer.

IMG_1248 beaded cross

You can vary the colour and size of beads you use and even the size of the nails for a different look. Small crosses would work well for bookmarks and larger crosses for Christmas tree decorations.


Hand commands and missionary minded children


It has come to my attention recently that we apparently have been reading too many heroic missionary stories that end in martyrdom or less than idyllic life situations. My three older children emphatically stated that they “never wanted to be missionaries!” and “Why would anyone want to?” Never mind what God’s plans for them were….

I decided to address this less than positive attitude by commencing the 40 day Mission minded family challenge by Ann Dunagan. We watch a 5 minute YouTube clip each morning that includes a quick geography lesson on locating countries around the world, some inspirational quotes by missionaries, a couple of thoughts from Ann herself and a related bible verse. While the quality of the film is less than professional, what she has to say is worthwhile listening to and has been a great springboard for mission related discussions. She offers a daily missionary challenge for you to do as each segment concludes to start you on the path to becoming more missionary minded.

After the first session, I printed out a free geography quiz and made a velcro label the continents and oceans activity and the eldest 3 had those memorized in a couple of days. We spent half an hour or so watching clips about the floating Mercy Hospital Ship and the amazing work they do around the world and got them all fired up about medical missionary work. Interestingly, this was followed by a couple of days of outdoor time when all the children decided to play “Mercy ship” in the back yard and doctored each other, complete with making the patients line up to be treated!


I printed out the ocean and continent maps (one blank, one control map) and laminated them before adding velcro to the labels. In 5 minutes a day, with minimal effort, the children had the continents and oceans memorised. Kids love velcro!!

Day 6 to 10 has seen us learn Ann’s “Hand Commands” for the ten commandments. Genius!! I thought Ray Comfort’s visual number version on YouTube was brilliant (and it is) but you always have your hands with you and these are even better! While the children already had the 10 commandments down after watching Comfort’s video a couple of times, Dunagan’s Hand Commands had them practicing the moves and all ready to share them with others. Definitely worth a look. There is a written explanation here or watch the 5 clips from day 6  (the first screen and voice-over says day 11 but it is actually day 6 ) to day 10 to see it in action. I recommend the live recording because the movements, especially for number 8, are very clever.

I am not sure what the next 30 days of the challenge will have us doing, but the children’s attitude has already shown a great improvement.

Where do your children find their identity?

cowboy dress-ups IMG_8487

We have recently returned from a Growing Families Australia family camp. It was a fun-filled weekend, with activities for the kids, time for fellowship with other like-minded families and sessions for the parents with Norm Wakefield from Elijah Ministries. Norm is a gifted communicator and presented a series of powerful messages for parents (Fathers in particular) across the weekend.

His message on finding our identity is one that we should all be aware of. To find out where we get our identity from, he asks 5 pointed questions:

  1. Who is your power source?
  2. To whom do you look for happiness?
  3. To whom are you connected/belong to?
  4. Who do you imitate in order to connect?
  5. Who is your God?

Is the answer to these questions your husband? wife? friends? children? yourself? God?

What about if we ask ourselves the same questions, but this time with our children in mind. Who are they looking to for their identity? Is it their peers? workmates? boyfriend or girlfriend? themselves? us as their parents? God?

Norm points out that whoever offers the most hope of happiness and identity will have their heart. Whoever has their heart has the most influence. Parents, if you don’t offer your children the most hope and point them to finding God as the only true source of identity, your children will look elsewhere for it.

Scary thought isn’t it? Who has your children’s hearts?

If you would like to know more about how to keep your children’s hearts, I  recommend reading “Family Driven Faith” by Voddie Baucham and “Keeping Our Children’s Hearts” by Terri Maxwell. Taking a Christian parenting class would also be a wise step in the right direction.

Our “Names of Jesus” Jesse Tree

Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

If you are looking for different ideas for a Christmas Jesse tree, family devotions, family alter, bible study or daily circle time, then studying some of the many names of Jesus with your children can be a great learning experience.

You can make it as simple or elaborate as you like. We used this idea for our Christmas Jesse tree this year so I prepared everything ahead of time; including printing out the bible readings and making small scrolls with them (see photo above) and making or buying a symbol for each name of Jesus and wrapping them all individually.

Wrapped Jesse tree symbols

Wrapped Jesse tree symbols

Each morning during our family circle time, one child found the bible reading scroll of the day and wrapped symbol. As we read through the verses, everyone listened carefully and raised their hand as soon as they heard a name of Jesus. (Some readings had more than one in them.) After finishing the scroll they guessed which name we were looking at today and what the symbol could be, briefly discussed what that means to us or what it teaches us about Jesus and then opened the symbol to hang onto the Jesse tree.

The names, symbols and bible readings that we used are photographed below. A few of the readings do not have the name in them directly, but add related information and there are probably many more that could be added.

J tree 1st born

1. Firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15-20 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 ESV) {This is supposed to be a race ribbon for first place. A plastic trophy or medal would work well.}

Alpha and Omega

2. Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:7-8 Revelation 1:12-18 Revelation 21:5-7 Revelation 22:12-14 ESV) {These are swizzle sticks – just an interesting way to display the A and Z as the English equivalent of alpha and omega.}

Mighty Warrior

3. Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 63:1 Deuteronomy 10:17 Job 36:5 ESV) {Popsicle sticks shaped and glued to make a sword.}

Everlasting Father

4. Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6 Hebrews 1:8-12 ESV) {This is our earthly Father}

Prince of Peace
5. Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 Ephesians 2:13-17 ESV) {Peace Christmas decoration.}

Unspeakable Gift
6. Unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:10-15 John 4:7-10 ESV) {Another Christmas decoration.}

Lamb of God

7. Lamb of God (John 1:29-36 Hebrews 7:27 1 Peter 1:14-19 Revelation 5:6-14 ESV) {Plastic lamb.}


8. Good Shepherd  (Psalm 23 Matthew 2:5-6 John 10:1-18 Revelation 7:17 ESV) {This is the corner piece from a metal coat hanger – a small tent peg would work just as well.}

Jesus is born Bethlehem star

9. Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:14-17 2 Peter 1:17-19 ESV) {Our usual tree topper}

Anointed One

10. The Christ/Anointed One/ Messiah (Matthew 16:13-17 Acts 4:25-28 Acts 10:37-38 ESV) {We thought this ornament looked like a jar of anointing oil.}


11. Holy One (Mark 1:21-26 Acts 3:11-16 ESV) {The music is the hymn Holy Holy Holy. I googled images for “holy holy holy” and several choices came up. I just dropped it into a word document so I could size it to fit the music note ornament.}

Light of the World

12. Light of the World (Revelation 21:22-27 John 8:12 John 12:35-36 ESV) {They give these battery operated candles out every year at carols in the park events.}

The Word
13. The Word and Wonderful Counsellor (John 1:1-5 Revelation 19:11-13 Isaiah 9:6 ESV) {This is a dolls house miniature. I had to buy this online and it was a little expensive but we all love it. It actually has the new testament printed inside and you can read it with a magnifying glass.}


14. Servant (Matthew 12:17-18 Mark 10:43-45 Acts 3:26 Philippians 2:3-11 ESV) {Small craft wooden dowels with ricrac hot glued onto one and wool on the other- a servant’s tools.}

King of Kings

15. King of Kings Lord of Lords (Isaiah 33:22 Zechariah 9:9 Zechariah 14:16 Revelation 19:11-16 ESV) {This came off a broken Princess headband.}

The Vine
16. Vine (John 15:1-11 ESV) {A regular Christmas ornament.}


17A. Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1 ESV) {An artificial lily flower.} We did two symbols today because there is only one small reading for the lily.

The Door

17B Door [of the sheepfold] (John 10:7-10 John 14:6-7 Psalm 118:19-21 ESV) {These craft sticks came with the small dowels I used for the scrolls. Regular popsicle sticks would do nicely.}


18. Friend (Matthew 11:16-19 James 4:4 ESV) {We talk about their siblings being their best friends regularly.}


19. Saviour (Luke 2:8-14 John 3:16 Acts 4:12 John 4:39-42 Hebrews 7:27 ESV) {Another regular ornament.}

Ancient of Days

20. Ancient of Days (Psalm 102:25-27 Daniel 7:9-10 ESV) {An old broken watch.}

Branch/Stump/Root of Jesse

21. Branch/Flower of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2 Jeremiah 23:5-6 Romans 15:12-13 ESV) {A twig from the backyard.}

The Rock

22. Rock & Cornerstone (Psalm 62:5-7 Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV) {Another backyard find in a bag so we can hang it.}

Lion of Judah
23. Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:1-5 ESV) {This is actually a plastic tiger and the children keep insisting you can tell the difference!}

Faithful and True (The reading talks about Jesus returning on a white horse)

24. Faithful and True (Revelation 3:14-16 Revelation 19:11-12 ESV) {This verse talks about Jesus riding on a white horse.}


25. Baby/Son of God/Son of Man (Luke 2:8-18 ESV) {From last year – a cross-stitch of Jesus in the manger.}

Other posts you may like:

Our Jesse Tree (traditional style)

Advent and Christmas traditions

Christian families and Father Christmas