The celebration of Christmas has become for many women the most stressful season of the year. Pressure mounts to create a magical and memorable never-to-be-forgotten holiday long before Thanksgiving. Is this what you want? More lasting than any happiest-ever Christmas morning is a relationship with Jesus your Creator who came to us as Immanuel on that first Christmas morning. Enjoy this conversation on the challenges and the rewards for getting our focus on the right Person.
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Putting Christ First
Guest: Barbara Rainey
From the series: How Pinterest Stole Christmas (Day 1 of 2)
Air date: December 1, 2014
Bob: Let’s be honest. The Christmas season can be overwhelming; can’t it? Barbara Rainey remembers, as she was raising her children, all of the expectations she placed on herself—expectations about gift-giving.
Barbara: I wanted to say, “Thank you,” to the people that delivered our mail. I wanted to say, “Thank you,” to their piano teacher, and the list went on and on. I was imposing a standard on myself—and it was probably all skewed up and all wrong. I was, at some level, looking for affirmation from people; or, at some level, I was probably looking for someone to give me a pat on the back that I was the best mom in the world—I don’t know. So, I’m often my worst enemy. I think a lot of women are like that. We’re often our own worst enemy. We have expectations of ourself that God does not have of us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about making the holiday season a little more manageable.
It all starts by having your priorities straight. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, you get to the end of the Thanksgiving celebration—the weekend is over—and you feel like, [big sigh] “I can take a breath.”
Dennis: And then you turn the calendar—
Bob: That’s right!
Dennis: --and it’s upon you—the Christmas rush!
Bob: “I can’t stop for anything!”
Dennis: It would be interesting to have a stress meter, especially on young moms who are really trying to make Christmas the holiday of holidays during the year.
Bob: Maybe it’s an Ever Thine Home® product you can create—a stress meter. [Laughter]
Dennis: Barbara joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back to the broadcast, Sweetheart.
Barbara: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Bob: This season of the year—Thanksgiving/Christmas—this is your favorite time of the year.
Barbara: It is.
Bob: And it’s also a time of the year that you always dread.
Barbara: It’s the craziest; yes.
Bob: For most moms, they feel a burden during this season to want to pull off a great family holiday thing. That burden can just punch them in the gut; can’t it?
Barbara: Well, it makes it impossible. It’s truly impossible to create the kind of Christmas that can be imagined. Most moms and women imagine creating something that’s truly memorable, and it’s meaningful, and it touches our lives. We get up in the morning—we’re full of energy—we play carols, and we bake cookies, and we take them to our neighbors. We do something for the postman and for all the teachers. We just have a desire to do all of that, and it’s just overwhelming. I ended up, every year, feeling like a failure in so many ways.
Bob: And now you’re blaming Pinterest® for the whole thing; right?
Barbara: Well, I didn’t—I just stop and think, “What would it have been like had I had Pinterest?”—
—because I’m thinking it was bad enough with my own expectations that I put on myself to make Christmas memorable for my kids and to do all these things that, in my mind, would communicate love to all these people in our lives. If I had had Pinterest, I don’t know what would have happened to me—I would have had a nervous breakdown—I don’t know.
Dennis: A million of your closest friends would have taken their images of what they’re doing, and you would have compared what you’re doing unfavorably.
Barbara: Oh, for sure I would have. Of course, I would have because all women do that—we always are comparing our homes, and our kids, and our clothes, and our yards, and our everything with other women. From a distance, we always fall short—so, at Christmas, it’s no different.
I would have gotten on Pinterest, ostensibly, to look for some really cool ideas because there are recipes, and decorating ideas, and crafts—you name it—it’s on Pinterest. I would have gotten on, looking for those things, thinking, “This is going to help me,” when, in fact, it probably would have squashed me and killed me.
Dennis: So, you’ve taken all of your theological background/your gift in art, and you have designed something else for moms to do?
Barbara: Well, the reason—yes, I have. [Laughter] Yes, now that you put it that way. But here’s the deal—I think what we women—because it’s not just young moms / because I feel the same thing today, although to a lesser degree, because I don’t have kids—but I think what we women want to do is: We feel a desire, and I think it’s a good desire, to make the holidays—our Christian holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—to make them meaningful because we know that there is great, deep, eternal meaning in the incarnation of Christ and His resurrection at Easter.
So, because we know that, we think: “Okay, if I bake all these cookies…” or “If I give all these gifts…” or “If I decorate my house so that it’s really, really special with lots of lights, it will make it meaningful.”
Obviously, it is different from our everyday, normal routine. But you can’t find meaning in the superficial. I think we get confused, as women, thinking that adding all these things—these exterior things—is going to impart meaning / it’s going to make something special. Well, maybe it does make it special, at a certain level; but it doesn’t connect us to the eternal. I think that’s what we’re longing for in our hearts—is to be connected to the eternal.
Bob: When we were raising our kids, we’d come to this season of the year—and here were the things that we kind of had to juggle—we had family traditions that really had no spiritual significance at all.
Barbara: Yes—but we don’t want to let them go.
Barbara: “We can’t give up Mom’s cookie recipe or Grandma’s whatever.”
Bob: For us—fajitas on Christmas Eve were a big deal.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: Now, you get nothing spiritual out of fajitas; but that was important.
Dennis: Yes—now wait a second. [Laughter] That’s an important part of the holiday.
Bob: Then we had all of the kids’ school stuff going on—whether it’s a Christmas pageant, or the church cantata, or those things. Then we had all of the business or social—the small group Christmas party, the FamilyLife Christmas party that’s going on, the teen Christmas party—so we had all of that happening. By the time you loaded everything into the schedule, the opportunity to do anything meaningful and spiritual with the family—there was just no time left.
Barbara: And it’s not just time—there’s no energy left. There’s no emotional energy or the ability to infuse it with life. I think we get so depleted, emotionally and spiritually, because we’re investing so much in these activities and in these physical manifestations of our celebration.
Dennis: And what I wish our listeners had some idea of—is the amount of time Barbara has prayed, worked, and labored over these resources to teach your children to make Christ the center of the Christmas holidays—just to see the care she has gone to, not only in the beautiful artistic design, but in the research that is done. Some of our listeners know that a couple years ago you started designing Adorenaments® as a way to make the Christmas tree declare Christ.
Dennis: Adorenaments were the names of Christ. The first year, it was the Christmas names; and then the second year were His royal names. Our listeners have responded. We get comments, all the time, from people coming up, saying, “You’ve helped us put Christ back into Christmas and have turned our Christmas tree into a tool to declare Christ to our friends, our family members, our neighbors.”
Now, this year, you’ve taken it another step further. You’ve created a third set of seven Adorenaments that declare His Savior names. Explain why you chose the Savior names.
Barbara: Well, you can’t separate Christmas from Easter because, when Jesus came to earth, He was born to die. We don’t think about that at Christmas—we like the sweet baby in the manger, we like the angels, we like all the things that have been woven into the story that make us feel really good—but we have to remember that He didn’t come just to make us feel good. He came to redeem us, and that redemption meant His life. It meant He had to suffer and die on the cross for us in order to purchase us back to a relationship with Him and the Father.
So, while I was really excited about doing Jesus’ Christmas names, which are the names from Isaiah and the Luke story in Luke—
—and while I loved doing His royal names, which are the names etched into crowns like King of kings and Lord of lords and Lion of Judah—there is something about the Savior names that are indispensable in understanding who Christ is. I’m really excited about His Savior names this year because there are seven of His names that represent His salvation work for us. Each one is on a different shape of a cross—so even though we don’t tend to associate the cross with Christmas—they have to go together.
So, as a family, one of the things that you can do to impart that meaning / those moments of spiritual depth or discussion in your family is to talk about the names of Christ, during the month of December, as you’re hanging your tree. Or you could read the little book as part of devotions or before school. There are a host of different ways you can do it.
I think what women are longing for—in all of the things that they see on Pinterest, and the things that they see in magazines, and that they talk about with their friends—is they want that meaning. They want to put Christ back in Christmas. They just don’t know how to do that.
Bob: Dennis talked about the prayer that you put into this and the hours that you’ve worked on this. You really had, as I see it, two objectives in mind. One was that you wanted to give moms and dads something that—as you said, they’re exhausted / they’re overwhelmed—this is something that they don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing for.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: It’s kind of a turn-key spiritual opportunity for the family that’s already built into activity you’re going to be doing.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: You’re going to be trimming the Christmas tree—so here’s a way to bring some spiritual sense to what you’re doing. And then you wanted it to be really pretty. You wanted it—[Laughter]
Barbara: Bob, you know me well, now! Yes, I wanted it to be very pretty.
Bob: And I have to tell you—I have really thought the ornaments in past years were beautiful—these are my favorites—the ones you’ve done this year. You’ve said they’re crosses, but they’re just really elegant-looking. I love what you’ve done with the ornaments in this year.
Barbara: Well, thanks, I appreciate that. I’m encouraged to hear you say that, but I’m hearing that from lots and lots of people. Everyone who sees them says, “They’re my favorite.” I think it’s because we know and understand that the cross is central to our faith. So, when we see the cross done beautifully, it elevates and adds elegance to the truth of the Scripture. I just think that helps us worship because God is a beautiful God.
Bob: And we should just say—if folks are interested in seeing—because it’s hard to describe these on radio—but folks can go to EverThineHome.com and they can see exactly what we’re talking about. They can see the ornaments and how they’re available. Part of what you’re hoping is—that when they come down from the Christmas tree, they’ll get put back up around the home a few months later; right?
Barbara: Yes. We’re actually creating some stands. You can purchase, if you want to, a set of three stands. You can take your favorite three crosses and put them on the stands, and put them on a shelf or on your fireplace mantel, and leave them up all year long.
Dennis: And I’m going to add my voice to both of you and say this is my favorite too. The reason is, they’re not only beautiful, but the names are powerful names. Every time I think about what you’ve done, Sweetheart, I think about—I really do—I think about this a lot—from Philippians 2, it says, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him”—that’s Jesus—“the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The name of Jesus is really important—it tells us about the God-Man. It tells us what He came to do. The thing that really is—I just think is really fun about this is—you’ve not just chosen any cross—you’ve chosen seven crosses from distinct periods of history, and many of them are from different continents.
Barbara: As I started looking at the different kinds of cross shapes, I realized that there are different crosses from different cultures. For instance, one of the crosses that I ended up using is called the Coptic cross. The Coptic cross is and has been used by the Coptic Christians, who live in Egypt, for almost since the time of Christ. It’s been around for centuries, and it has a distinct shape—it’s always been that shape—and that’s a symbol, to them, of their faith in Christ. There’s also the Ethiopian cross, which is also a part of that culture and has been a part of that culture for centuries.
It was fun to find these different historical crosses because I think it reminds us that Christianity is an international faith—it’s not just an American western faith—we get so narrow in our thinking. These crosses open our eyes to see that there are people, all around the world, who believe in Christ and who follow Him. They have different symbols—all forms of the cross—and we can be united around that.
Bob: So, the devotional book that comes with the set of seven, not only talks about the name that is on the cross, but it also talks about the design of the cross and gives parents an opportunity, with their kids, to talk about the attributes of Jesus—but also to talk about the universality of the Christian faith—and the fact that we have brothers and sisters who live in Egypt, and who live in Ethiopia, and who live in places, all around the world, and worship the Savior.
Barbara: Right. I just think: “What a wonderful opportunity for families to be able to talk about these things,” because that’s essentially what I longed for when I was a mom, raising our kids—when Dennis and I were parenting, full-time. I wanted something that would help me communicate biblical truth to my kids at Christmas, and I couldn’t find anything.
We read the Luke 2 story. Sometimes, our kids acted it out; but I just wanted more than that. That’s a part of the reason that I’m really excited about this because moms can look at all the things on their list—they can look at the cookies, and the Christmas cards, and the gifts, and all of that stuff—and decide, “What is really most important?” If at the top of your list, you say, “Teaching my kids about Christ in the month of December,” some of those other things on your list might have to go.
In the long run, if you teach your kids about Christ at Christmas—if you read the stories of His names—His Savior names, or His Christmas names, or His royal names—you will have done the most important thing in the month of December.
If you don’t get the cookies done, no one’s going to remember. If you don’t get that last whatever, nobody’s going to really remember. But your kids might remember some of what they heard about Jesus, and that’s worth more than any of the traditions you’re trying to keep.
Bob: So, if you’re sitting down with a young mom, and she’s saying, “I’m already starting to feel overwhelmed by the season,”—
Barbara: And they are.
Bob: —you would coach her to kind of list the priorities and figure out: “What are the essential ones?” and “What are the ones you can throw overboard if you need to?”
Barbara: Yes. It’s like my friend, Lysa TerKeurst, says in her book, The Best Yes, it’s: “What is the most important? What are the things that would please God the most?” Learning about Him is going to be the most important thing—that’s going to be the activity or the event that is going to be the most lasting in your family. So, you put those things that are the most important at the top. You make sure those happen, even if some of the other things that you really care about, emotionally—like making Mom’s Christmas cookies or whatever it is that you care about emotionally—
—those things you say, “Okay, God, I’m willing to let those go.”
Bob: But it could be that the kids, in terms of what they’re begging you for, is not “Let’s sit down and do devotions around the names of Jesus.” It’s, “Let’s make the Christmas cookies.”
Barbara: But there are things that moms put on their list that their kids aren’t begging for because, see, one of the things I like so much about Lysa’s book is—she said, “I’m often my own worst enemy.” There were lots of things that were on my list that my kids weren’t begging me for.
Bob: Like what?
Barbara: Well, I mentioned, earlier, taking gifts to all these people. Why I felt like I needed to do that I don’t know, but I wanted to take some kind of meaningful gift to all of my kids’ teachers. We had six—so we had a lot of teachers. I wanted to say, “Thank you,” to the people that delivered our mail. I wanted to say, “Thank you,” to their piano teacher—the list went on and on. I was imposing a standard on myself, and it was probably all skewed up and all wrong.
I was, at some level, looking for affirmation from people; or, at some level, I was probably looking for someone to give me a pat on the back that I was the best mom in the world—I don’t know. I just know that I was putting expectations on myself—I was putting them on myself. My husband wasn’t putting them on me. My kids weren’t saying, “Oh, Mom, we have to take gifts to all these people.” They were saying, “We’ve got to make Grandma’s cookies,” but they weren’t saying all those other things. So, I’m often my own worst enemy. I think a lot of women are like that—we’re often our own worst enemy. We have expectations of ourself that God does not have of us.
Bob: Today, you just send the kids to school with some ornaments that they’ve gotten—
Barbara: I would. I would, absolutely I would. I would give them each an ornament. I would buy a set of seven—and I would divide that set up—and I would put it in a card or something. That’s another reason why I have done these ornaments is because they make great gifts.
Dennis: What I would want a mom to hear—in fact, I would charge the moms, who are listening:
“You need to decide what really matters and what really counts. It doesn’t matter if it made your kids’ top ten list or not.”
Dennis: If you have a sense of wanting to pass on spiritual truth and guide them in making discoveries about Jesus Christ, and helping your husband look good, because what you can do is—give him this book, which is called A Son is Given. It has all the information about all seven of the crosses. You can read this in less than five minutes. This is not some lengthy theological education, but you can make a big deal out of these seven this year.
For those who have the previous two sets of seven—the Christmas names and the royal names—if you wanted to—now again, I’m not trying to heap this on anybody—but if you wanted to, you could take 21 days, throughout the month of December, and begin the process of making your tree declare the One who made Christmas famous and giving your kids an introduction to Him.
We’ve actually had kids come to faith in Christ through the discussion that occurs around what these Adorenaments mean.
Barbara: If you do have the previous sets, and you have read the book to your children, chances are they’re not going to remember a tenth of it. So, you might as well read it again. Then that rereading every year can become a new tradition that’s a very meaningful tradition—that will make a lasting impact on your kids’ lives.
Dennis: When we celebrate the names of Christ, increasingly, as I grow older, His name is above every name, and His name will be the name that causes every knee to bow. So, why not go ahead and introduce your kids to Christ? Maybe they will trust Him as Savior/Redeemer—
Barbara: This Christmas.
Dennis: —yes, this Christmas.
Bob: Again, I think the best thing for listeners to do is to see what we’ve been talking about. Go to EverThineHome.com—EverThineHome.com—and you can see all seven of the new ornaments that Barbara has designed—the new Adorenaments that are His Savior names. You can also see His Christmas names and His royal names from past years and other resources that Barbara has been designing for Christmas. Again, the website is EverThineHome.com.
I know a lot of people today are doing some internet shopping because this is—what do they call it?—Cyber Monday; right? Our team put some specials together, over at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you click the button in the upper left-hand corner, that says, “GO DEEPER,” you’ll see a box for the Cyber Monday event. I think some of the Adorenaments are included in the Cyber Monday sale.
So, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the Cyber Monday event. You can also find out more about the Adorenaments at FamilyLifeToday.com or, online, at EverThineHome.com.
Now, as we’ve talked today about getting your priorities in alignment during the Christmas season, I hope that you will consider one of your priorities, between now and the end of the year, just asking the Lord to direct your steps as it relates to yearend giving. I know for Mary Ann and me, one of the things we do, during the month of December, is we spend time reflecting on how God has been at work in our lives over the last 12 months. We often make yearend donations to ministries that God has used in a significant way to encourage us, or to equip us, or to help us grow in the previous
If FamilyLife Today is one of those ministries, can we ask you to consider making a yearend contribution in support of all we’re doing here?
The month of December is a significant month for us. In fact, more than half the money we need to operate, as a ministry, comes in during the month of December. So, this month determines a lot about what ministry is going to look like in the next 12 months for us. We’ve had some friends of the ministry who are aware of that dynamic. They came to us recently and said: “We’d like to provide matching funds. We will match every donation that comes in, during the month of December, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $2,000,000.”
Of course, we want to do all we can do, as a ministry, to try to take full advantage of their generosity and of this matching-gift fund. Would you consider going to our website today? Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button in the upper right-hand corner. You can make an online donation that way. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make the donation over the phone.
Or if you’d like to mail your donation to us, our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you’re able to do in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today during the month of December.
And I hope you can join us back tomorrow. Barbara Rainey will be here again. We’ll continue talking about how you can have the right priorities during the holiday season. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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