8 Ways to show your homeschooler love. Valentine's Day and Beyond

8 Ways to Show Your Homeschooler Love – Valentine’s Day and Beyond!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to focus on LOVE (I want you all to know that I’m writing this article just as much for myself as for you).  Genuine, caring, heart-felt love for our children can be a game-changer in their lives..and in ours as well.

In God’s word He is always calling us to “love one another”…this includes loving our children!

Most homeschooling parents I know deeply care about their kids and want the best for them. However it’s easy to get caught up in the routine and hustle of the everyday, that we sometimes miss displaying that affection to our children.

Here are 8 easy tips you can try today to communicate to your children that they are safe, adored and all is well:

1. Give eye contact with a smile. Connections most definitely come through eye contact and what follows. It sends the message of acceptance and love, or disapproval and rejection. Think about the random smiles you receive from those you love. They definitely create that warm and safe feeling inside. The same will happen for your child(ren). Make a point to look your child(ren) in the eyes and smile.

2. Speak kind words. As parents you most definitely know the difference between your child saying “Yes, Mama” with a loving tone, or “Yes, Mama” with a grunt and eye roll. Speak love into your children’s lives. Be mindful of the way you speak your words and the tone you choose to use.  Even a simple “Good Morning Lexi, How are you today? Did you sleep well?” in the right tone can create the atmosphere of kindness and love you are looking for in your home.

3. Be interested and ask questions. Think about a time when someone has met you several times, yet the questions they ask certainly confirm “You don’t know me”. Get to know your children. Ask them questions about their hobbies, favorite foods, books…them! If you need to, keep a journal with answers they have given you so you can reflect on them later. Throughout the year, ask them questions about the topics earlier discussed (How is your dog’s foot after he stepped on that spur? Did you and your brother ever make up that funny skit you talked about?) Showing a genuine interest in their lives will go extremely far in showing that you truly care.

4. Be present. I feel that as homeschooling parents it can be one of the most difficult challenges to be present with each child (especially if we have multiple children). We are amazing at multi-tasking and are usually thinking of 100 other things while we are teaching each child during the day(Uh oh, Johnny’s out of his seat again…Did I print off Bible for today?… Do we have swim lessons today?…Did I start the crockpot this morning?) It is so important that our children see and know we are present with them.  This means focusing in and staying in the moment when possible.  Everyone knows what it is like to be with someone that seems to want to be somewhere else.  Give your children the gift of being in the moment. Be Present.

5. Have a special routine. Connections are really amplified through three main areas: eye contact, physical touch and fun. Of course we can bestow huge hugs and kisses on our children each morning, and there are other ways to connect through physical touch. There’s nothing like a good ole high-five or the sweet old-fashioned “secret handshakes” of our childhood (we seriously rocked the “Say Say My Playmate” chant in 3rd Grade). Why not come up with a fun “Good Morning Handshake” when your child begins class time or right before you leave. You could really jazz this up with serious knee clapping, finger snapping, spinning around and the whole shebang. Even older children would love to participate in coming up with their own celebration “handshake”.

Check out “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey for more great connection ideas.

6. Find out your child’s “Love Language”. The five love languages of children are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service; as laid out in Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. Check out the book “The Five Love Languages of Kids” by Gary Chapman for an in-depth look at each love language.  You can even group your children into each category for a quick and easy love check list.  Once you have a list you can check it daily.  Then go through your list and speak words of affirmation to those that need it, spend one-on-one extra time etc. with each child according to their specific need. Intentionality doesn’t equal fake, it means that you are wanting to meet those needs and show love to your kids.

7. Seek the Lord Daily. We absolutely need God’s love in our hearts, to be able to truly love others. Fill yourself up with God’s word every day and seek out specific counsels on love. Post them on sticky notes by your mirror to remind yourself of His perfect example of love.  Some of my favorite verses about how to love like Jesus did are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Luke 12:31 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

8. Love them. Ha! This one is a little bit of a tricky play on words. On a serious note though, sometimes it’s hard to love and care about some children that at times can be…well…a little difficult to love and care about. Can you find one thing today that you like or appreciate about each child? I would suggest making a list to help bring some of those positive things to the front of your mind.  Even if you are struggling with what to write for a particular child, keep in mind that in reality you don’t need a reason.  Each child deserves to be loved, regardless of whether they act like it or not, simply because they are a child of the King!

Looking back I can distinctly remember special moments with my parents when they were kind and showed me genuine love. That love and kindness made more of an impact on me then all of the Math, Language, Science etc. ever could.

P.S. Don’t be surprised if your children start doing some of these same things with each other. When a culture of love and acceptance in cultivated, there’s no telling where it’s impact will end.

Homeschooling the Gifted/Talented Child, Pt. 5

Just How Fast Should He Go?

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that a child can go as fast, or as slow, as needed in order to learn the needed material. With some gifted/talented (G/T) kids, going slow is not the problem. I know some kids who will whip through a year’s worth of math or science in just a couple of months, especially if you are using a curriculum where it is focused on reading and answering questions, followed by testing. Many G/T kids are left-brain learners, and this type of schooling is very easy for them. They can read the material, answer questions, test, and move on to the next topic.

Should they be allowed to? I mean, you’ve seen those TEDx Talks where there are 14-year-olds in college. You’ve heard of kids graduating college at 16. Is this best for the child?

On the other hand, if the child is learning easily, is it right to hold him back so he will be at a level for his same-aged peers? Does this lead to boredom? Acting out? Quitting school?

To be honest, in a public school setting, the second scenario is more than likely to be true. You are more apt to find G/T kids who are held back due to age, who get bored and begin to act out. It is not unusual for them to drop out as soon as they are old enough. I’ve seen it numerous times.

In fact, I believe that many of our behavior issues in schools today, outside of not eating real food, can be traced to boredom due to material being too easy or not being taught in their learning style.

So what does a parent do when their Johnny is speeding through their curriculum so fast he will be done in half the school year? I’m going to share some suggestions.

  1. Make sure that you are using a curriculum that is not just read and fill-in-the-blanks. There are so many choices available today that I would try to provide a learning program that provides a good deal of hands-on projects. Hands-on learning provides all types of opportunities for deeper learning, making mistakes, and making discoveries outside the pages of a textbook.
  2. For subjects of deeper interests, explore library books, documentaries, museums, businesses on the topic, etc. Allow the student to dig deeper, while at the same time making sure that they are not focusing only on the subject of interest. It is not unusual for a child to become so fascinated with a topic they can become walking encyclopedias on that particular topic. Our children need to be well-rounded learners.
  3. When they have taken the normal subjects pretty deep, be sure they have the opportunity for other learning such as music, art, photography, and sports. Each of these can allow the child to continue to learn while broadening their horizons. In today’s technical world, a child can be exposed to all types of museums online.
  4. If they are still speeding through these various topics, then it is time to turn their attention to the world and being of service. I love the Moore Formula in that students are encouraged to study, work, and be of service as part of their education. I used this template with my children. It helps give them a broader view of life. If you have problems finding places to volunteer, check out the United Way.
  5. The last option follows along with Moore’s Formula also. This is allowing them to develop a home business or help a parent in a home business (depending on age). Moore has some wonderful advice in his homeschooling books on the positive learning a child has by developing their own business.

When I was just beginning to homeschool, I met a family who had a 16-year-old son who started a computer consulting business at 14 and was in such demand that the parents had to limit his work hours due to taxes. This so impressed me that I adopted that mindset to help other young people develop ideas for their own self-employment.

When considering how deep to allow to go, it depends on the child’s age and maturity. There is nothing inherently wrong with graduating early and going to college as a pre-teen. Just remember that cognitive development is often not at the same level as emotional development in the G/T child. This is where the advanced graduation can cause some problems.

A child who is 14 and entering college will not be emotionally ready to socially interact with young adults who are experiencing living on their own for the first time and learning to set their own boundaries. Sometimes, even in our Christian schools, the older students are not as accepting of a child who has graduated years early. Life is hard enough to have to wade through teen years and early adult years without adding additional stressors.

I was given an option of placing my daughter several grades ahead. I turned it down. I had too many negative memories of being teased for being the youngest in honor classes and making the highest grades. From this homeschooler’s viewpoint, I chose to branch out to explore the wide variety of topics available rather than going so far ahead. There’s an unending amount of knowledge to learn. By going broad, rather than deep, a child can slow down enough to allow other parts of their development to catch up.

Planting Seeds of Joy

It’s that time of year again. For many of you the presents have been opened, Christmas dinner preparations are old news, family have returned to their homes, New Year’s resolutions have been made (or at least considered, right?), and life is starting to get back to the “pre-holiday” routine. This can be a relief for some, a letdown for others. So, what now? We often idealize the holidays as the stuff dreams are made of, and we regularly go to great lengths to make sure our family members and friends feel that extra bit of love. How can we continue to encourage our families to live the joy, thanksgiving, and dream-like utopia that we aimed for only days ago, throughout the rest of this year?

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Today, I have a few suggestions for helping to maintain the “Christmas spirit,” and plant those seeds of joy for the other 11 months of the year. Because, really, whether you celebrate Christmas officially or not, it’s the spirit of giving, goodwill, and hope that makes this world a better place, and I strongly believe those are concepts that come directly from the heart of God.

1. Continue the tradition of saying what you are thankful for at mealtimes, family worships, or bedtimes. Thanks begets more thanks. Let your family know what blessings you have experienced during the day, even if it’s as simple as finding a toy that has been misplaced, or making it to a doctor’s appointment on time (in my home, these are actually huge). “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth,” Isaiah 12:4-5.

2. Look for ways to reach out to others. It may take extra effort, but making someone smile always brings one to my face. Drawing pictures, writing encouraging notes, delivering homemade goodies — it may sound clichéd, but it works! “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed,” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

3. Spend time connecting with your spouse. One of my favorite memories with Josh is sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate, and looking at the lights on our tree, while he read stories from a book we both enjoyed. It was spontaneous and simple. A date doesn’t have to mean going somewhere expensive. Talk about what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

4. Take time to make your children feel extra special, whether it’s a “date” night once a month, or a surprise “break” day to go do something fun. Tell them what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The world will not end if the toys are not picked up, or laundry isn’t folded and put away. I say this to myself as much as to you. Order and cleanliness are near the top of my list, because I generally feel more relaxed looking at a clean house, but there are times when it’s ok to let that stuff go. In general, your family is not going to remember you for your spotless livingroom, perfect kitchen, or whether your children’s rooms look like something out of Good Homes Magazine. They’re going to remember you for your warmth, interest, and caring; it’s the memories of being together that will leave warm fuzzies in their hearts.

6. Last, and most important on this list, take time out to restore your soul. We as parents don’t always do a good job of taking care of ourselves. With 948 other things calling our names (along with the children and spouse of course), the struggle to take care of our hearts is real. I, for one, need a lot more time to recharge than my husband does. It is crucial that recharging time happens because without it, the energy to do the other five things on this list won’t be there. When the primary caretaker (whether husband or wife) is running on empty, the whole family suffers.

My prayer, as usual, is that you will continue to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18), that you will lack no good thing (Psalms 34:9), and that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Many blessings and blossoms of joy for the new year ahead!

~Kirsten

Teaching Humility

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How do we teach our children to be humble when we so often miss the point of it?

What is humility? How do we protect our children from the sin of pride, while at the same time teaching them that they are valuable and important?

For too many years, I thought humility was to depreciate myself, to cling to my failings and faults in order to refuse value. I thought humility was always being aware of my failings, my sins — to live in degradation because of the things I do or have done wrong…in other words, to continually pay for the consequences of my sins. I have lived in the shadow of seeking to be perfect because I didn’t believe I had value otherwise. I have struggled with teaching my children to be humble because I did not understand humility myself. I have heard parents say they did not want to praise their children’s accomplishments because they didn’t want to teach them to be prideful. I do not want my children to believe they were less than they are. I want them to know I believe in them and I am pleased with their accomplishments!

God has been working on my heart. I have realized that humility is very much like courage. Courage is strongest in the face of danger. A person who never faces a challenge, who never faces danger, cannot be called courageous; so also, a person who does not believe in their value cannot be called humble.

If we do not have an intrinsic understanding of our value, we cannot truly understand humility.

Let’s look at some Biblical examples. Who does Scripture admonish to be humble? At first, it is the Israelite nation. Why? They have intrinsic, God-given value. God made it abundantly clear to them that He held them in high regard. He literally moved oceans, rivers, and armies to prove how much He cared for them. They KNEW, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were chosen to be God’s special people. What did they do with this knowledge, however? A lot of the time they used it to set themselves apart from the other nations. They set themselves up as more valuable than other people because they had God’s favor. So often, they took the special favor given them by God and decided it was their right rather than their gift. They forgot the source of their value. They sought perfection to hold onto His favor instead of seeking Him. They refused to be humble. In turn, they had to be humbled.

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God doesn’t want proud people. Prideful people treat others with disrespect and abuse. He wants us to understand we are valuable and then show others that they, too, are valuable.

Pride is believing you alone are valuable and have the right to hurt or hold others down so you look more valuable than they are.

Then there is self-degradation. Self-degradation is refusing to believe you have value, focusing only on your failings, and believing that you cannot have value until you have achieved perfection. This is disproved in Scripture time and time again.

Self-degradation, the belief that you have no intrinsic value, is pride, not humility. It stands beside pride in believing that you alone are responsible for achieving value.

Though there are many examples through Scripture, you really only need to look at one character to see this: David. David was a simple shepherd, without value in his family of origin, shrouded in mystery, small in size, without anything to recommend him when Samuel anoints him to be the next king of Israel. Suddenly, his life does a complete turnaround and he is pretty much left reeling from the changes. What David does have to begin with is a deep understanding of his value in God’s eyes.

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David understands that all his accomplishments are because God has provided them and protected him. Even knowing that, even understanding that God was beside him and eager to answer any question he had, David was not perfect. Sometimes he forgot to ask God what to do. Sometimes he blatantly chose to sin, such as when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Sometimes he made huge errors in judgment because he neglected to check in with God. History, however, tells us that no matter what David did, God continued to show him favor. David didn’t need to be perfect; he needed to maintain his humbleness by remembering where his favor came from, returning to God every time he messed up, and using his favor to help others.

Humility comes from understanding God holds your value; it is a gift meant to be shared. Humility is understanding you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to accomplish it all or be strong enough to sustain life. Humility is remembering where you have come from, what you have survived; it is knowing you have value despite the mistakes and errors made along the way. It is seeing the full journey, recognizing God’s hand in your life and treating others the same way.

This is what humbleness is. Humbleness is knowing intrinsically what your value is and Who it comes from, and helping others to see the same value in themselves.

So, how do I teach my children to be humble? I have to start by teaching them they are valued, that they are loved, that they are important. I need to teach them that their failings and mistakes will never affect their value in my eyes or in God’s. Then, I have to teach them to treat every other person they interact with as valuable also. Only then will they truly understand the meaning of humility.

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‘Tis the Season to Give and to Hoard

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. At least that’s what Andy Williams and millions of people around the world seem to claim around this time of every year. But, is it really?

Have you struggled with the problem of having too many toys or clothes or items in your house or in your children’s rooms? Are you raising future hoarders?

As retailers begin to push Christmas earlier than December, November, and even October, this season of giving has seemed to gradually becoming a season of shopping, hoarding, showing off, pigging out, and intemperance.

Black Friday and the days of holiday sales are amusing, outrageous, absurd, and silly in so many ways. People push each other, step on each other, and punch on each other, as they rushed to grab TV, clothing items, electronics, video games, kitchen gadgets — exactly the day after all were being thankful for what they already have.

Someone said that Black Friday should actually be called “The Hunger Games,” because people basically try to kill each other, and the winner gets a $20 crockpot!

How do we raise our kids in this day and age? Do they even have a chance?

The dangerous illusion that one must have everything to be happy is something our kids should be warned about, educated about, and prepared for. The Enemy is very experienced in this and starts to tempt our children even at a very young age. Raising children in today’s heavy marketing world is much more challenging than how it was in yesteryears, I would argue.

Our four-year-old son, Max, when he was three, would excitedly point and scream, “I want that! I want this! I want that tall one! I want this red thing. I want that big toy!” as we push our shopping cart down the aisles. We all know which aisles to avoid when shopping, don’t we?

I would like to share and propose these three strategies our family has used that have been very helpful in our journey through this materialistic world.

#1 – Ask Questions
So, how exactly do we draw the line between providing for our kids, and spoiling our kids endlessly so that they become materialistic and hoarders? How can we live simply?

Here is one question we as parents should be asking regularly: “How does having this item serve me, serve our family, serve our community, and serve God?”

What do you think will happen if you ask that question every time you are about to purchase something?

Asking questions to ourselves, to our spouse, to our children, help our brain to process ideas and reasoning behind why we do what we do. I enjoy asking our children questions that will train them to think about their actions better. Here are some I ask them as well as myself. Feel free to use them with your children and yourself:

  • Why would you need to have that many outfits? Can you live with just a few of them?
  • If we have to go on a road trip for a month or a year, which outfits must you definitely bring, and which ones you are willing to leave at home and not wear for a while?
  • Why do you need 10 different pairs of shoes?
  • Who are you trying to impress?
  • Can you wait another week? Can you wait another month? Why do you have to have it now?
  • Does it matter a month from today? Will it matter 10 years from today?
  • Do you have a friend who needs this more than you do?
  • What item or privilege am I willing to exchange for this item or service? How can I reduce clutter in my house? How can I reduce the time it takes to organize, clean, and declutter the house?
  • By buying every thing my kids want, am I helping them, or am I destroying them?

#2 – What Does the Bible Say About That?
When Jesus was confronted with temptations, threats, or questions, He would quote the Scripture and begin some of His answers with, “It is written that… “ There are so many golden verses in the Bible — our book of instructions, God’s love letter to us — that we should review them regularly with our children during morning worships and during daily interactions. These five are our favorites:

  • “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that,” 1 Timothy 6:7-8.
  • “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless,” Ecclesiastes 5:10.
  • “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:26.
  • “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf,” Proverbs 11:2.
  • “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35.

Ask your children what each verse means. I wouldn’t recommend bringing these verses up during a confrontation at the store or at home. They are best reviewed during calm, relaxed moments so their brains can process the information properly, and so the Holy Spirit can speak to them better.

Our kids need to understand the reasoning behind every action they do. They need to have good reasons why they want 10 fire trucks, or 10 shirts, or 10 skirts, or even why eating 10 cupcakes in one sitting is not good.

As grownups we can also ask ourselves similar questions. Why do you have to have that luxury car? Why do you have to shop till you drop? Why accumulate more debts, buying things you don’t really need, using money you don’t really have, to impress people you don’t really like?

What if today is the day when you can no longer buy or sell? What if today you are living in the country and living among people who live simply, who love you the way you are, who live off of their farm… Would you still need that luxury car? Would you still dress in the same fancy designer clothing and shoes? Would you still need that fancy electronic gadget? That iWatch? Those four layers of make-up and other fancy bling-bling, or get your nail done?

#3 – Give and Receive
It’s too easy to fall into the temptation of buying more and more things for our children, and raising future hoarders. They will ask for a hundred different things and will still not be satisfied. Often times, over half of the gifts many kids receive on Christmas morning are ignored and forgotten by the end of the day ,as they only play with or wear one or two of the gifts. When you go out there and buy your kids 10 different things they asked you to buy, most likely they won’t even play with half of them a week or a month later.

So to counter this, we develop a Wish List for our children. During the year when we go to stores, if they ask for five different things, we tell them, “Okay let’s write those five things, and put them on your Wish List.” We might either take picture of the item and upload to Amazon Wish List or Pinterest to save, or they will write them down.

As weeks turn into months, this list seems to grow exponentially. Interestingly, as they review the list, they start to cross out many items. “Nah, I don’t want this anymore…nope, just that one.”  Eventually as their birthday or Christmas gets nearer, we ask them which two or three are their favorites. We  then go to the store or order the item online. If the items are no longer available at the store, we try to find them online or find something similar. Almost always, the gifts are worth the wait.

If they can’t wait, we tell them they can use the money from their commissions for chores around the house, which means they have had to save up for it. More important life lesson! It’s an interesting experience to observe how the children learn about patience, and to observe how the children learn that their obsession over certain items fades away quite quickly.

Around the same time, during Christmas and during birthdays, we let them pick things they would like to give away. Our pitch has always been, “Your room/closet can only take so much. If you’re going to add three more things to it, you need to give away at least three other things you don’t want to play with or wear anymore. There are other kids who will love and enjoy them more than you do now.” Almost always, they give away quite a bit more than just the original three we ask. We load up our car with boxes of clothes, toys, items they no longer want, and take them to the local Goodwill, or put them in boxes and give them to people we know who’ll enjoy them.

On a side note, personally we don’t do garage sale because we feel it’s a big time waster, it’s playing dangerously close to a poverty mentality, and it’s leading back to hoarding again when things have to be stored because they didn’t get sold.  We either donate them to Goodwill/Salvation Army/local church, or post them on Craigslist or the new local Facebook Marketplace.

It is also important for parents to remember this concept of limited space. Parents should not get more storage space or build more cabinets or put stuff in the attic to continue to feed into the endless shopping and hoarding crave. Many people fill up their two-car garage with junk, and then park their cars (which are worth a lot more) outside year round. Others decide to spend money renting storage space to store more junk. With all that money spent, they could’ve invested in something more productive or something that would be useful for the children or church! But, that’s exactly the problem with the society. We learn financial lessons from other people who are not exactly financially successful: parents, friends, TV shows, etc., and get discouraged years later when we end up in the same boat as others or worse.

One of my favorite songs is Give It Away by the Heritage Singers and also by the Gaithers. Here are some of the lyrics:

If you want more happy than your heart will hold,
If you want to stand taller, if the truth were told,
take whatever you have and give it away.
If you want less lonely and a lot more fun
and deep satisfaction when the day is done,
throw your heart wide open and give it away.
There are two kind of folks,
There’s takers and givers.
There’s gripers and complainers and bighearted givers.
It depends on how we choose to spend our days.
‘Cause we can hoard up all we´ve got or give it all away.

Our kids still want a ton of things. Naturally. We are still working on this, too, as parents. But, it is important that both parents and children are aware of the issue, and are working to develop patience, to learn the virtue of choosing what we truly need or want, and the blessings of giving things away to reduce clutter, reduce stress, and to bless others.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35.

Merry Christmas! Give more than you receive this Christmas, and count your blessings!