The Giving Tree

Over the past few years I have followed my beautiful cousin Aubrey’s journey in finding the Spirit of Christmas through service. Her ideas have given me inspiration to create better traditions for my family during the holidays. I hope that by sharing her story, others may be uplifted and inspired, and be able to make their futures bright. Here is her story about creating the #PaxtonGivingTree in green below.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

   “Three years ago on Christmas day 2013, after all the presents were unwrapped and the day was coming to an end, I turned to my husband and said, “I still don’t feel like it’s Christmas.” I remember all month long waiting for the spirit of Christmas to come, and it didn’t. There wasn’t anything really different that year. Christmas was the same day it had always been. I’d listened to the same Christmas music and ate the same treats that I love, so I knew that the problem was with me.

 

It was a busy time for our family. We had just added daughter #3 to our ranks the month prior, and I’m sure I was exhausted and caught up in figuring out how to run a whole new family dynamic…let’s be honest, 3 kids is hard! But it broke my heart that, because of my attitude, I had not only taken the true meaning of the holiday away from myself, but in doing so I was doing a disservice to my children.

 

So when December 2014 rolled around I was determined to make our house feel the spirit of the holiday! And the best way that I knew how to do that was by serving others. That year a friend and I had come up with an adorable advent calendar in the shape of a tree. I called it our Paxton Giving Tree! I put a little treat and a service opportunity in each box for each day of December leading up to Christmas. My girls were so excited to have a fun new way to count down to the holiday and I was excited to get the spirit of the holiday in our home, and it WORKED! Christmas 2014 was the best Christmas that I could remember having with my little family! Not only were we thinking about and serving others, but we were EXCITED about doing it! I knew that this was the start of a very fun and exciting tradition for our family!

 

This year, as I’m sitting down and coming up with ways that my family can serve others in December, I can’t help but think back over the last two years and the many awesome experiences we’ve shared as a family.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Doing a litter walk around the neighborhood.

I think my very favorite one came just this last summer during July. All summer long the girls had been asking to do a bake sale. I suggested that we could maybe do one, but wouldn’t it be fun if we decided that with the money we earned from it we could put toward helping out a family this coming Christmas for our Paxton Giving Tree tradition. My kids responses made me very happy! This is how it went.

 

Madison (7): But why would we need money for that?

Me: Well buying things for Christmas costs money, and there are some families that don’t have enough to get extra things at Christmas time. We could help with that.

Madison: But mom you don’t need money to have Christmas…isn’t it just about love and family? That’s the important thing.

Kennedie(5): And celebrating that Jesus was born!

Reagan(3): And Santa! (Haha we’re still working on that one)

This was the best conversation ever! It was totally a mom win moment! I’m so grateful that my kids know what Christmas is really about…even in July!

I truly feel like my kids are learning not only what the true meaning of Christmas is, but also what it means to love and serve others. It has taught them many lessons about others who are less fortunate, and they have compassion for others that I know has come as a direct blessing of our tradition.

 

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Supporting a local food drive by gathering supplies for those in need.

Like I said, this month I’m sitting down and making a list of things that we can do during our December service, but I would LOVE to hear any ideas that others may have! Please share! Also, if you want to keep posted about what my family will be doing this year, you are welcome to search the tag #paxtongivingtree on Facebook or Instagram.”

Isn’t this amazing? What a beautiful example Aubrey is to her kids about being Christlike. I love how involved her little children are in this wonderful tradition. Here are few more pictures and ideas for acts of service you could perform for your family’s giving tree.

I love this giving tree idea!What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Taking cookies and thank you notes to their primary teachers.
I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Leaving thank you notes for the mail carrier and trash collectors.
I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Placing quarters in all of the vending machines!

The possibilities are endless! Be Creative!

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

For more inspiration to come closer to Christ this holiday season check out this video in preparation for the #LightTheWorld initiative.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless!

PS: If you want to check out Aubrey’s cute shop for girl’s hairbows, check her out on instagram.com @the.happy.squirrel.shop.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

 

5 Topics to Discuss Before He Pops the Question

We have all seen it, those corny sitcoms and chick flicks where the  proposal goes terribly wrong. The guy pops the question and the girl is so blindsided that she doesn’t know what to say. What could have been one of  the most romantic nights of their lives turns into an awkward hiccup in their relationship. Wouldn’t it be nice to know for certain that he is “The One” before he gets down on one knee?

If a couple can get on the same page about their future, that special moment can be full of excitement rather than anxiety, and hope rather than doubt. There will be nothing holding her back from squeeling that desired answer, “Yes!” while tossing her arms around his neck. Having some important conversations about the future can alleviate all that stress and allow them to enjoy that moment to its fullest, and remember it for years to come.

How to have the perfect proposal
Having a photographer there to capture the moment will help you to remember it for years to come. This beautiful photo was taken by Cydney Photography. You can view her page Here.

The best way for couples to get on the same page is to have honest conversations about their future. How and when to have these conversations will depend on the individual couple. Some may prefer to gradually discuss these things during their courtship as they naturally come up. Others may want to fill out a questionnaire like a worksheet and then compare answers. Some may prefer a combination of the two.

When my husband and I were dating, he created a game so that we could ask each other important questions in a fun way. We each wrote down questions similar to the ones below on sticky notes. After we placed the sticky notes down, we took turns rolling a dice. We had to answer the question that we landed on. It turned out to be fun, and really helped us to get to know each other’s hopes and dreams. On other occasions, we casually talked about what we would do if we couldn’t have children, and my desire to be a Stay at Home Mom. (read more about that here.)  We got to know each other pretty well.

Here is a list of some important discussion points to help get you started.

  1. Morals:
    1. What values do we expect each other to live?
    2. What religion will we practice?
    3. How active will we be in said religion?
  2. Education/Career:
    • Do we want to pursue higher education?
    • How will we pay for it? (Save up/cash flow/Student loans)
    • Where are you willing to live to pursue education?
    • What careers do we want to have?
  3. Money:
    • How will we earn it?
    • What are our savings goals?
    • What are we willing to go into debt for? house/car/education etc.
    • How will we Save/Spend/Give our money? We love the free Everydollar app.
  4. Children.
    • Do we want kids?
    • How many?
    • When?
    • How will we raise them?
    • Will one of us quit work to be a stay at home parent? if so, which parent?
    • Will me make them go to church?
    • Will we expect them to do chores?
    • Will we let them participate in sports. extracurricular activities?
    • What schooling do we want them to have? public/private/charter/home school etc.
    • If we are unable to naturally conceive, will we seek medical help/adopt?
  5. Family:
    • Do we get along with each other’s parents?
    • How close do we want to live to them?
    • How involved will we let them be in our lives?
    • Are we comfortable with them babysitting our kids?
    • Who’s family will we spend Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years with?

5 Topics to Discuss Before He Pops the Question.

These questions and many more will help a couple decide if they are a good match. Listening to the heart is essential as well. There is no equation that can be written to calculate a definitive answer. The Heart MUST be involved in a decision this big. All this while being careful to recognize the difference between lust and love. Ignoring warning signs because you “love” them, is a bad idea.

Communication is so important before a ring is placed on that finger. It is better to find out now if fundamentally different goals are desired before sacred marital promises are made, and before children are brought into the equation. On the other hand, (The one with the sparkly diamond! See what I did there?) having the same vision towards the future will create the perfect foundation for a successful proposal and marriage.

5 Topics to Discuss Before He Pops the Question.
Having the same vision towards the future will create the perfect foundation for a successful proposal and marriage.

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