Monday, December 1, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Sorry for that cliche title, but also not sorry because it is so true.

I hope all of you had a wonderful time with your families for Thanksgiving. Our three boys are fortunate enough that they all have a place to go home and spend the week off for Thanksgiving with their families, and they got back to the ranch on Sunday. They had a great time with their families, but they all seemed really excited to see each other.

The Saturday before the boys left, we had a Liddell family Thanksgiving together. This was particularly exciting for me, because I got to experience the joy of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and making it really special for the guys. Blake took care of the turkey, I was cooking everything else from 8:30am to 2pm, and the boys got to have the kind of Thanksgiving that I remember so well from my childhood. We all sit down for dinner together every night, but the Thanksgiving meal definitely stood out. What a blessing it was to celebrate all that God has provided for us as a family. Boys that come to Willow Springs all have a story, often with a recurring theme of loss; however, it was so great to hear them talk about what they were thankful for this year. All three of our boys said they were extremely thankful for the food (I think every teenage boy spends at least 75% of their day thinking about food), and for their Willow Springs family. The Willow Springs family isn't just our boys, Blake, Adeline, and me, but all of us who invest day in and day out in the six boys who live here. I am so glad that the boys are thankful for Willow Springs, and I hope they realize more and more how thankful Willow Springs is for them.

As Thanksgiving festivities have wound down, we have begun all of the Christmas festivities at our house. I wanted to make Christmas at Willow Springs something that lasts longer than just one day together and is filled with nothing but stuff. I wanted to start new traditions as a family, something that the boys can look back on and specifically remember to inspire them to want to give to others and appreciate being together. It also had to be something that would involve our relief parents when we are on our days off in December. So, I figured the boys would enjoy an advent calendar. I am going to post what our advent countdown includes, on the condition that NO ONE TELLS THE BOYS ANYTHING ON THIS LIST! It's all a surprise :) Also, if it inspires you to make a list for your family, by all means, please copy me. It's going to be fun :)

Each day of the advent calendar will start with one of the boys reading a Bible excerpt that describes Christ's birth. At the end of every day, before bed, Blake and I will read Jotham's Journey to the boys.
Day 1: Stringing popcorn and cranberries and decorating the tree
Day 2: Taking a family picture by the tree (for the Christmas card)
Day 3: Making gifts for teachers at school
Day 4: Watch a Christmas movie together and make hot chocolate.
Day 5: Make a list of people (family and friends) that they want to buy or make presents for this year
Day 6: Our relief parents will take the boys to the City Rescue Mission in OKC to take donations to the homeless, such as socks, gloves, etc.
Day 7: Watch the Polar Express together and eat popcorn
Day 8: Make a bunch of homemade Christmas cards.
Day 9: Take the homemade Christmas cards to the Chandler nursing home
Day 10: Drink homemade apple cider
Day 11: Make paper snowflakes and decorate their doors with them.
Day 12: Wrapping presents for kids at a local homeless program in Shawnee, or helping with a refugee program in OKC (this is one we are still working out at the moment) 
Day 13: Take the boys Christmas shopping in Shawnee.
Day 14: Going to the Christmas musical at First Baptist Chandler
Day 15: Wrap Christmas presents, made or bought.
Day 16: Make and decorate Christmas cookies.
Day 17: Listen to Christmas music, play a game together, and eat popcorn.
Day 18: Make Christmas candy for the Christmas party for the ranch tonight.
Day 19: Drive around and see Christmas lights
Day 20: Our family Christmas and Christmas dinner! :)
Day 21: Our boys go home to spend Christmas with their families, but will take the remaining days of the advent calendar home with them. 
Day 22: Boys read a letter encouraging them to thank their family and say one kind thing to every single family member they are with for Christmas.
Day 23: Boys read another letter encouraging them to do one selfless thing for each of their family members or a family member they disagree with the most.
Day 24: Boys will open a present of Christmas pajamas.
Day 25: Boys will receive a Christmas ornament they can keep at home, so that whenever they leave WSBR some day, they will have the ornament as a keepsake. :)

I have had a few people ask me what they can give to the boys for Christmas. Any general donation for any amount you feel led to give during the Christmas season would be greatly appreciated. Other ideas could be Walmart gift cards to help pay for some of the extra grocery expenses that come around during Christmas, such as some of the things mentioned in our advent list above. Thank you in advance for whatever you and your family commit to give!

Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog, follow us on Facebook, text us, call us, and everything else you do to be a part of what God is doing at Willow Springs Boys Ranch. Your love, support, and prayers make a difference in our lives and in the lives of each boy that comes here. I truly believe that God is doing miraculous, redemptive works through the legacy of Willow Springs. What a blessing it is to be a part of this story, and what a blessing it is to have you be a part of it, too!

I leave you with pictures of the Christmas decorating that I am entirely too excited to have all over our home.

The outside view of our lights. :)


We don't have stockings for the boys yet :(

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