On Christmas Carols & Christmas Art

lego table

After Christmas last year, the kids were sitting at Asa’s new Lego table (we made it from some Ikea furniture!) playing and creating. They were also singing. They were belting out Hark the Herald Angels, “Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth”!

I loved hearing their little voices sing such Truth about Jesus and Christmas. I’d say nine times out of ten—even during the summer, Christmas songs come out of their mouths! The words and thoughts from famous Christmas carols are digging deep into their minds and hearts. And I love it!

Everything about Christmas is super magical. We have Christmas cookies, Christmas decorations, Christmas cards and Christmas music. It’s why Truth in the Tinsel is so important to me. Using this magical, sparkly, shimmery time is like a catapult to my efforts to teach my kids about Jesus—it helps the story and attention go further!

Christmas music is the same–so much of this music is full of the theology of Jesus’ incarnation. These old Christmas songs are more than sing-a-longs. They are telling the story, the why/wherefore and the details of the most life-altering event to ever happen to the planet. When we turn on our Christmas Spotify list or drag out our Christmas CDs and listen to them over-and-over-and-over again for a month or more, we are meditating on these words and ideas.

I want my kids knowing and remembering and singing words like,

“He rules the world with truth and grace”

“Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be the glory giv’n; Word of the Father, Now in the flesh appearing”

“Truly He taught us to love one another His law is love and His gospel is peace Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother And in His name all oppression shall cease”

Seriously! Does that not make you excited?

So, the other day my friend Rachelle from Scripted Simplicity asked me if we could do a giveaway here on the blog of some of her Christmas pieces. (Uhm, YES!) And when they came in the mail I was so excited! First of all because they are gorgeous. And secondly, because she featured beautiful words from Christmas carols!

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I love her heart behind her work—that each piece would remind us of the Giver of all good things. And isn’t that Christmas? Remembering how God gave us the very best gift of all?

I love having these signs up in our house apartment to help us further focus and meditate on the gift of Jesus’ birth–the miracle of a God emptying himself of his divinity to become a man. It’s unfathomable. Yet, it happened.

scripted simplicity

So, number one? Play Christmas music. Not just Santa and Rudolph, either. Play the old stuff! And two, would you like to have this gorgeous “Christ is the Lord” Scripted Simplicity piece for yourself? I’m giving it away today!

PLUS Rachelle has a coupon code for you! Use code OHAMANDA for 25% off at Scripted Simplicity! You can order by December 18th and get it in time for Christmas! (FYI: that O Holy Night sign is only $15 anyway. With the coupon code THAT is a steal!)

Here’s a few more of her gorgeous pieces for you to drool over before you enter…

scripted simplicity collage

Use the widget below to enter to win!

Scripted Simplicity

(I just have to tell you about my two nativity scenes pictured above, too. The top one is handmade by artists in Uganda. I got it from Ornaments for OrphansThe bottom one I bought in the Dominican Republic on my trip with World Vision. When I got it home, it had two Mary statues in it, no Joseph! Awesome. )

(Pssst—want another chance to win? Stay with me on Instagram today….)

Begin Your Holiday with GIVING

A few days ago I was at my mom’s house and she had a giant pile of Christmas gift catalogs on her couch–all kinds of stores with all kinds of goodies. I was supposed to be doing some work with the kids for school but I stacked those little catalogs up next to me because I sincerely love shopping for Christmas! I don’t love walking through the mall but the hustle and bustle of Christmas is exciting!

How are we supposed to keep that hustle and bustle fun and not turn it into a big crazy greed-fest for us and our kids? Well, the best thing I know is to simply GIVE. To take it a step further, I think it’s important to give first. Let your first act of the holidays be to give in a big and significant way.

Here’s 3 of my favorite give-first activities:

1. Operation Christmas Child

If you’ve been around me for even ten minutes, you’ll know that I adore Operation Christmas Child. If you’re not familiar with this fun organization here’s the skinny—you pack a shoebox full of fun toys, toiletries and school supplies. Then, you add $7 for shipping and drop it off at a a pick-up location. From there, the shoebox is shipped to a Processing Center (just to make sure it’s all OK) and then shipped to poor and marginalized kids around the world.


You can read a plethora of thoughts and emotions I have about Operation Christmas Child (especially lots of stuff about my trip to the Dominican Republic with them) but here’s where as a normal Christian American mom, I love Operation Christmas Child so much–-they help my kids not be greedy.

Every year, we are picking out and buying gifts that my kids would LOVE and they don’t get to keep them. In fact, the opposite seems to happen–they get excited about buying and giving away!

The best part is the National Collection Week for OCC is this week–right before the Christmas crazy starts. It’s the perfect beginning to your holiday celebration. Start your kids off looking into Christmas through a shoebox gift. It will change their heart. It’s changed my family.

2. Sponsored Kids Letters

Do you sponsor a child? We sponsor two kids through Compassion International and it is one of our favorite things we do. Every year, Compassion suggests we send our kids’ families money and we usually do. We also like to send them an actual gift–but since you can’t send big items, we try to figure out fun presents that can fit in an envelope.

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Last year we colored  and laminated a printable Nativity Scene. You can find all kinds of printable gifts and toys online (just search Pinterest!) that fit easily into an envelope.

It’s a simple thing but it can help your kids set a standard for the first Christmas card, the first Christmas gift being for someone else!

And if you don’t sponsor a child yet? It might be the best gift you and your family give this year!

3. Ornaments for Orphans

Are you in charge of decorating a Christmas tree at your church or school? Maybe your office? Instead of stocking up on Target’s latest designs, why not do something that really helps others?

Ornaments for Orphans contracts artists in Uganda to design and create beautiful handmade ornaments. You can order (free of charge!) a box of 100 ornaments to decorate your Christmas tree then, people who pass by can stop and buy an ornament for $10 each. This money goes back to O4O who then pass it on to the artists so they can provide and care for their children. How great is this?

You decorate a tree. Your friends, neighbors, co-workers and passers-by undecorate it for you and kids around the world are protected! Don’t you love it? (And if there happens to be any leftover ornaments–O4O will pay the shipping!)

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We did this at my husband’s CrossFit gym a few years ago and my kids absolutely loved decorating the tree and checking up on it to see how many ornaments had disappeared off the tree.


This picture is of the woman who  is the head of the widow’s co-op that makes all the stuffed animal ornaments for O4O. The women in this co-op are the sole providers for their families and this work enables them to care for their children. Ornaments for Orphans is actually in the job of orphan prevention because the majority of Ugandan children living in orphanages actually have a living parent or relative. But women have to leave their children at orphanages because they are too poor to feed them. O4O’s work can keep vulnerable families united by providing an opportunity for dignified income. I love it!!

I’ve partnered with Ornaments for Orphans today to giveaway some handmade ornaments to one of you!


These cute little guys are made with a fabric called kikoyi which  is a very traditional Ugandan fabric and the colors of the flag. I suggest hanging one on your tree and then giving away the other three away while sharing the word about O4O!

I hope you use one of these great ideas to begin your holiday. I think it’s kind of a “firstfruits” thing like with tithing. When you give to God first, it sorta evens out everything else. If nothing else, put it to the test and see what happens when you give first this Christmas!

OK, now, use the widget below to enter! (You really wanna follow all these great folks, anyway!)


The Answer to the Santa Claus Dilemma

This post includes affiliate links. If you click through these links and purchase anything, I make a small commission. Thank you for supporting Truth in the Tinsel!

source: Kevin Dooley

source: Kevin Dooley

When I  had my daughter, my husband and I decided there would be no Santa in our Christmas celebration. Neither of us had believed in Santa and I just didn’t want it mixing up our Jesus-is-born holiday.

I was pretty strict about it and basically didn’t say the word “Santa” for two years. Even when my daughter would point out Santa hats on people we’d say, “Oh, look! They have a Christmas hat!”. We didn’t even listen to “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” because I just didn’t want those words in her mind (“He sees you when you’re sleeping…he knows when you’re awake…”).

On my daughter’s 2nd Christmas, she saw a tall traditional, velvet-y, fur clad Santa statute at a store and pointed at it yelling, “Noah!!” As in “and the ark”. Yeah, I did a good job shielding her.

As she got a little older and we let her see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and read The Night Before Christmas, we continued to push Santa as a fun, fictional character similar to Rudolph or Frosty or even Mickey Mouse.

One day on the way home from church when she was 3 she said to me, “I can’t wait for Christmas!”.

I said, “Me, too, baby! What made you say that?”

She replied, “Santa is going to come down our chimney and give us presents!”

I whipped around in my seat and said, “Who told you that?!”

She said, “My teacher at church said Santa comes down your chimney and gives you presents.”

I was dumbfounded. I looked at my husband with wide eyes and then back to my daughter and said, “That’s not true.”

I went on to explain who-knows-what about Santa but could not believe that in one second my daughter completely bought into the Santa story with a simple push from her teacher! I’m not blaming the teacher at all–she probably just said, “What’s Santa bringing you?” and got started on a conversation that my little girl had never heard before!

After this conversation, we started talking about the real Saint Nicholas and how his story morphed through the years. We’ve watched Veggie Tales’ Saint Nicholas and probably even read a book or two about the real guy. My kids (now 8 and 6) don’t believe in Santa and honestly are a little confused at kids who do.

I tell you this whole story (because I felt like I finally needed to get it out into the internet) but also because I’m not exactly sure the best way to tell your kids about Santa. My father-in-law says “for every mile of road, there are two miles of ditch”. And I think that’s how the Santa debate has been. There’s the group of people who pull off elaborate stunts to perpetuate a lie about a jolly man who comes down your chimney and the others who equate him to Satan.

Where is the balance and the real education–not skewed by tradition and personal feelings?

I think I found it.

Does that sound like crazy hyperbole? (I’VE FOUND THE ANSWER TO THE SANTA DILEMMA!!!)

If you’ve been around me for any amount of time you know I love What’s in the Bible?. They produce the most amazing (hilarious) DVDs that walk kids straight through the story of the whole Bible with real and rich details. It’s like a Bible college lesson rolled into a bite-sized piece for a kid.

Anywhoo, their Christmas DVD, Why Do We Call it Christmas? does the same thing with Christmas–addresses all the traditions and their histories. This year, Phil Vischer (creator of WITB and Veggie Tales) released a new picture book called, Why Do We Call It Christmas?.

why do we call it christmas book review 2

At first, I thought it was going to be a simple paper-and-ink version of the DVD. In fact, it’s quite different and really really good.

In the book, Buck Denver (famous news anchor and star of all the What’s in the Bible? DVDs) is confused about Christmas because it seems to be two different holidays–the Jesus holiday at church and the Santa holiday at stores.

Buck’s friend, Sunday School Lady uses her magic flannelgraph (see how funny this is?!) to explain the word “Christmas”. She then begins the story of “Saint Nick” and how the Catholic Church gives certain people their own special day, like Saint Nicholas Day.

She then explains that Saint Nicholas Day is on December 6 and since Christmas is on December 25 and other churches didn’t always celebrate these special saint days–but they liked the traditions of them (hello! gifts left in stockings!) they just combined the two days. And bad-a-bing bad-a-boom we have our American Christmas traditions.

So. If you’re familiar with the Santa story, this might not seem like new information. It’s not the Santa-background that’s so great in this book. I know lots of people that celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. I’ve read all the books that tell Saint Nicholas’ true story. Instead, this book gives the explanation of WHY we celebrate Santa and Jesus on the same day. I love the clear delineation of the two celebrations.

When I finished reading the book, it was like a breathed a sigh of relief. There was no dancing around the story, or trying to walk on eggshells about should-you-or-shouldn’t-you believe in Santa. It is simply the story of how the Santa legend has arrived to 2014. Period.

why do we call it christmas book review 1

I think it’s so important to teach kids truth–in all circumstances. Not showing them too much, or inappropriate themes. But truth. This book will help you do just that–whether Santa is a part of your celebration or not.

If your kids have been confused about Santa–maybe they don’t believe and don’t know why he’s not included in your celebration, or they aren’t sure what to say to their friends, or maybe they do believe and you want to tell them the truth, or maybe they believe and you just want them to know where Santa’s story all began–this book covers all those bases.

Grab this book today and read it before Christmas gets here! (And while you’re over there, get the DVD, too!) What’s in the Bible? has their Black Friday sales already online! Go get ‘em, friends!


Scripted Simplicity

@oohamanda instagram

@oohamanda instagram

Tonight, as I walked down the stairs from tucking the kids in, it was so lovely seeing our little Truth in the Tinsel tree (a mini white tree I bought 50% off after Christmas a few years ago), the lighted garland on the banister and our big live tree downstairs. It’s magical seeing the twinkling lights and the meaningful ornaments.

I know this feels like a stretch but I really feel like the decorations help me worship and stay focused on Jesus at Christmas. I mean, yeah, the Mickey Mouse ornaments on the tree are for the kids and the stocking holders I found at Pottery Barn for $5 each are there because they are just pretty.

But there’s something about transforming your whole house into something decidedly other. Even for the kids’ birthdays we don’t decorate the way we do at Christmas.  Christmas has this yes, weird and American and commercial thing of Christmas decorations, but somehow, in some way, in my little heart–I feel like it’s part of the big birthday, the big thank-you, the big celebration of Jesus!

My new friend Rachelle from Scripted Simplicity thinks so, too! When her little girl came home to them by adoption, Rachelle wanted a piece of decor in their home that would showcase a Scripture about adoption and God’s great plan for her daughter. She couldn’t find what she wanted so she and her husband created one together.

Now, she makes wedding, Scripture and holiday art. I love all her Christmas pieces because they push me to worship!

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She’s also got a new line of Christmas gift tag ornaments that are just super adorable. (I had to add that Georgia tag in…)

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Rachelle says, “my prayer is that Scripted Simplicity will bring beauty & warmth to your home while reminding you that the plans for your life are scripted by The Giver of all good things whose desires for you are simply that you seek Him with your whole heart. ” Isn’t that what we want for our own kids at Christmas and all year long? I want my kids to seek God with their whole heart and recognize that He is The Giver of all good things–especially the best present of all, Jesus!

scripted simplicity

So, wanna add a beautiful Scripted Simplicity piece to your Christmas celebration this year? Rachelle is also a giver of good things because she is giving away a 16×11 “Wonderful Counselor” piece to one of you!! It is a GORGEOUS piece (I know, because I have one on my mantel right now!) and the perfect addition to our Day 2 Crown ornament, no?

Plus, she has a 20% off gift code for YOU! Head over to her shop and enter code TINSEL20.

Use the widget below to be entered to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Early Black Friday Advent Calendar DEAL

You guys! Look at this! Dayspring is having a pre-Black Friday sale this week with 8 special deals and one of them is this ADORABLE Peanuts Felt Advent Calendar! You know I love advent calendars of all kinds and even though you can’t attach the Truth in the Tinsel clues to this one, I still snagged one for myself the kids!
Peanuts Christmas - Story of Christmas - Felt Advent Calendar

I think this is a perfect pre-Christmas gift for your family (that’s a thing, right?). Or a sweet family gift (your sister’s family? the neighbors across the street? the mama you talk to during basketball practice every week?) because you could couple it with the Charlie Brown DVD or even better–a copy of Truth in the Tinsel! *wink*

Click here to see all the Pre-Black Friday deals from Dayspring! Or go ahead and buy the Peanuts calendar now!

Decorating for Christmas (Giveaway & Coupon!)

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and truthinthetinsel.com // + a coupon code

One of my favorite things about Christmas (and Truth in the Tinsel) is that we have reminders of Jesus’ birth hanging out where we can see them! Our house is covered from head to toe in special decor that helps us remember Jesus’ gift to us. Even in my non-Christmasy life, I like to have God’s Word in front of our eyes everyday.

I want Scriptures to be a part of our home just like Deuteronomy says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

(Don’t you just see Truth in the Tinsel fitting perfectly in this verse?!)

I have some Naptime Diaries, Red Letter WordsAMEN Designs and Hope Ink Scripture prints in my own home. (I’ve even got a few I made on my own!) And I am always on the lookout for new cute prints to display. I’ve recently been introduced to Lamplights’ shop. It was founded by two women who desired to follow Deuteronomy 6 and display God’s Word so it would sink deep into families’ hearts. I love this!

They have some beautiful Christmas carol prints. I pinned this one weeks ago. Isn’t it lovely?

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and truthinthetinsel.com // + a coupon code

Wouldn’t this one be lovely for Day 11?

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and truthinthetinsel.com // + a coupon code

They have created over 60 gorgeous prints I want to hang in my home all year long! Don’t you love this idea of putting these prints in an old window frame?

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and truthinthetinsel.com // + a coupon code

I’m joining Jenn from Applegate Summers and Danielle from This Life I Live to give away two Lamplights prints (your choice!) to THREE different winners! How fun is that?! Sounds like  Christmas gift to me!

Win Scripture and Holiday prints from Lamplights Shop and truthinthetinsel.com{wanna pin this image to spread the Christmasy word?}

Oh, and speaking of gifts, Lamplights is offering 10% off their shop with code ADVENT2013 (expires 12/12).

Go ahead and enter using the Rafflecopter widget below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway


An Advent Calendar for You!

Get the Redeemed Countdown Calendar from Dayspring for 50% off at ohamanda.com

Click over to my personal blog, ohAmanda, for an amazing discount on this beautiful Advent Calendar from Dayspring! Perfect for incorporating into your Truth in the Tinsel celebration or giving as a gift—or both!

Save Your Truth in the Tinsel Ornaments

truth tinsel paper coterie

Last year, when it was time to clean up the Truth in the Tinsel ornaments, I got a little sad. Those ornaments were more than ornaments–they were 24 days (ok, probably more like 19 days…) of memories with my kids! I wanted to be like Mary and treasure up all these things in my heart!

Lots of people on our Facebook page said the same thing, “What should we do with our ornaments?!”

I didn’t keep Lydia’s first ornaments from when she was 1. *sniff* And I so wish I had! But I do have them from when she was 2 and she loves loves loves to look at them. It’s amazing at how much I remember holding those little memories in my hand.

However, do you really want a box of ornaments every single year for each of your kids? Yowza. That could be an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen.

Then. I had an idea.

I have some beautiful (and I mean beautiful) photo memory keepers from Paper Coterie. One is for Asa’s baby stuff, one is for all our ticket stubs to local events and special activities. The other is all of our souvenirs from our last Disney vacation.

These boxes are gorgeous to display and super fun to look through.


I made a Truth in the Tinsel Memory Keeper this year and look how awesome it is!

truth tinsel paper coterie memory keeper cover

truth tinsel paper coterie memory keeper cover

truth tinsel paper coterie memory keeper

I could not love it more. I just couldn’t!

{2014 Update: Sadly, Paper Coterie is out of business! *sniff* BUT, I have found a few comparable items. Nations Photo Lab has some pretty cute boxes that come up to a 10×10 size!}

Then, I had another idea. Say you don’t want to keep the ornaments. You could make a photo book from Shutterfly or Snapfish or any photo site including close up pictures of the ornaments, Scripture references, memories from the craft-making time or additional pictures of your kiddos crafting.

Here’s a few pages of the book I’m working on right now…

How much do you love that?!

How are you preserving your Truth in the Tinsel memories?

O Little Town of Bethlehem

abide with us print from besmallstudios.com

Do you know the lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? It seems funny that there is an entire song dedicated to a place in the Bible. The detail of Bethlehem (and day 13 of Truth in the Tinsel) seems more geography than theology.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

However, the Christmas story taking place in Bethlehem is not a geographical detail but a gorgeous reminder and picture of the miracle of Jesus coming to earth as Emmanuel, “God with us”.

I mention in the ebook that Bethlehem means “house of bread” and that Jesus describes Himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:35). Did you also know that King David was born in Bethlehem? King David, the shepherd boy, the man after God’s own heart born in Bethlehem where the King of Kings Jesus, the Good Shepherd, God’s own Son would be born. What foreshadowing and fulfillment!

Every detail of the Christmas story seems to be connected with layers of meaning and significance. And I think He gives us these details to further convince us of His love, His miracle and intimate care for us.

One of my favorite Christmas books, Why a Manger? by Bodie Thoene explain that Jesus was born in Bethlehem for another reason: this is where the sacrifical lambs were born and raised. The shepherds who saw the angels and then found Jesus in the manger, were the shepherds who raised lambs to be sacrificed in the temple. So, “where else would ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) have to be born if not Bethlehem, among the sacred Temple flocks?”

God sent Jesus to be Emmanuel, to abide with us as the Lamb of God, to take away our sins. He was born to die. He came to give us life. Thank you, Jesus, Lamb of God!

My friend, Annie from Be Small Studios recognizes this same wonder of Jesus, King, Bread, Lamb, Emmanuel. She’s created some beautiful paintings (like the one pictured above) based on beloved Christmas carols. Please check out her site!

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True Love Was Born in a Stable

One of my favorite things about Truth in the Tinsel is that it puts God’s Word as the focus in your home. Every single day you’re reading God’s Word. Every single day you’re talking about God’s Word. Every single day you’re using your hands to create a reminder of God’s Word. Every single day you’re hanging that reminder up for all to see.

God’s Word is hanging in your home.

This is a passion of mine. I believe in putting God’s Word on your walls. I want God’s Word to be all around me. I want it to be easy to “talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. [T0] tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)

Dee from Red Letter Words feels the same way. She creates beautiful Scripture art for your home. I’ve admired her work for many years and finally got my own Red Letter Words at the Allume Conference this year.

A few weeks ago, I was perusing Pinterest (totally not wasting time!) when I saw this:

True Love Was Born in a Stable from Red Letter Words

Isn’t that gorgeous? I knew it was Red Letter Words right away (because I recognized its cuteness!) and when I realized she had Christmas art, I got excited. Look at the rest of these:

Matthew 2:2 Red Letter Words

Good Tidings of Great Joy by Red Letter Words

Oh, my goodness! I am in love! Wouldn’t these be gorgeous on your mantle? Hanging right above your stockings? Or as a gift for a friend? Family member? {For yourself?!!}