FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Merry Chaotic Christmas

with Barbara Rainey | December 3, 2013
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The Christmas holidays don't always go smoothly. But no matter. Christ is still present, bearing our burdens and drawing us back to the real reason for our celebration. Barbara Rainey recalls one particularly cold Christmas with holiday guests that had all the family members coming down with cabin fever, and Dennis fondly recalls the gag gifts his family used to exchange. Barbara, along with Tracey Eyster,Creator and Editor of, share some creative ways for families to keep the focus on Christ during the holidays.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • The Christmas holidays don't always go smoothly. But no matter. Christ is still present, bearing our burdens and drawing us back to the real reason for our celebration. Barbara Rainey recalls one particularly cold Christmas with holiday guests that had all the family members coming down with cabin fever, and Dennis fondly recalls the gag gifts his family used to exchange. Barbara, along with Tracey Eyster,Creator and Editor of, share some creative ways for families to keep the focus on Christ during the holidays.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Barbara Rainey, along with Tracey Eyster, share some creative ways for families to keep the focus on Christ during the holidays.

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Merry Chaotic Christmas

With Barbara Rainey
December 03, 2013
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Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It is that time of year. Over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to talk to your kids about Jesus. So, let’s think through that today. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I’m just curious—was there ever a Christmas at your house that did not go well? Do you remember?

Dennis: Who are you asking this because Barbara is joining us?

Barbara: Either one of us?

Bob: That’s right.

Dennis: Barbara is joining us again on FamilyLife Today.

Bob: Welcome back, Barbara.

Barbara: Thank you, sir.

Bob: Do you remember? Was there a Christmas that did not go particularly well?

Barbara: Well, I remember the time that we went to pick out our tree The kids had a major fight because—

Dennis: Oh, that was just momentary.

Barbara: Of course it was, but it was a big deal because picking out the tree was supposed to be one of the highlights of the season. They’d get in an argument because they would take it personally that: “I like this tree, but my brother likes this tree.” Then, we had to cast the deciding vote, which meant somebody’s feelings were always hurt.

Dennis: Yes, it was like a civil war of sorts. The one I was thinking about—

Barbara: You’re thinking about 1983; aren’t you?

Dennis: Oh, yes! [Laughter] All of a sudden, her face lit up. She remembers the infamous Christmas of 1983.

Barbara: Yes, that was infamous.

Dennis: Go ahead, Sweetheart.



Bob: What happened?

Barbara: This was the year that it snowed on December 18th and iced. It did not thaw for two whole weeks. Dennis had gotten in the car—and gone and gotten his mother, who was widowed—and brought her down to spend Christmas with us. My mother, and grandmother, and brother and wife had driven up. I guess that was how many there were—four or five of them had driven. Dennis and I had to trudge through the snow to get them because they couldn’t drive all the way to our house.

So, here we are, for almost two weeks—all of us in our house—our children and all of these extended family members. We all had cabin fever because we couldn’t leave. All of the plans we had to do—these things—nothing happened because nobody could go anywhere. Deborah was an infant. So, we had five kids, at the time.

Bob: Five kids!

Barbara: Number six wasn’t born yet.

Bob: Well, the reason I was curious about your recollection of this was because some of your children—

Barbara: Oh, did you get some—oh, thank you.

Bob: —we just asked them if there was ever a particular Christmas where things didn’t go well.



For one of your kids, there was a memorable Christmas where she was apparently the victim of a prank played by her siblings.

Barbara: I know who this is.

Dennis: Oh!

Barbara: Bless her heart!

Dennis: This is a classic moment in our family.

Barbara: Yes.

Rebecca: [Phone recording] Oh, my goodness—Christmas mishaps! [Laughter] Yes, you know, there are always Christmas mishaps, I think. One year—and I will be made fun of for this for the rest of my life because I am more of the emotional person in the family. Out of all the kids in the family, I tend to be more emotional.

I love doing gifts, and so do Ashley, and a few other people. We were like, “Can’t we just do a few gifts this year?” I mentioned—off-hand: “I’d really like a hairdryer. I just really need a new one. Mine’s broken.”

Laura: [Phone recording]So, we all conspired to get her six hairdryers.

Ben: [Phone recording] I don’t remember if it was us trying to gang up on Rebecca in a fun kind of way—apparently the joke was lost on her for some reason or another. I don’t really remember why that was.



Ashley: [Phone recording] Who was the instigator in it? You  know, I’m not really sure. You know, it could have even been my father.

Laura: [Phone recording] Samuel was totally the instigator! Are you kidding me?

Samuel: [Phone recording] That was kind of my role in the family—was to be the jokester and to kind of pick on everybody. My younger sister, Rebecca, wanted a hairdryer for Christmas. Kind of being the prankster that I was, I decided to get everybody in the family to get her a hairdryer. We bought her six of the exact same hairdryer.

Rebecca: [Phone recording]  I think part of what bothered me was that everyone else was in on it and thought it was so hilarious.

Laura: [Phone recording] I would like to say that Rebecca’s matured now, as a mother, and she’s over it.

Samuel: [Phone recording] Yes, but there are still scars there! I suppose that’s something we could dredge up at the next Thanksgiving family reunion.

Ashley: [Phone recording]All she wanted for Christmas was a hairdryer and so—

Rebecca: [Phone recording] So, I opened up my first gift; and it’s a hairdryer.

Ashley: [Phone recording] She opened it, and she was so excited.

Rebecca: [Phone recording] I was so excited! I know who it is from, but I’m not going to say.


So, then, I get a second gift. I open it up. It’s another hairdryer, but this one is a travel hairdryer. The travel one was smaller, and it was perfect to fit in my bag. I’m saying this to everyone: ‘It’s great! Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.”

Well, by the fourth one, I was like, “Please say it isn’t!” You know what I mean? “Please tell me that it’s not another hair dryer,” and it was.

Ashley: [Phone recording] She said all she wanted for Christmas was a hairdryer.

Samuel: [Phone recording]  And apparently the joke was lost on her for some reason or another.

Laura: [Phone recording] I would like to say that Rebecca’s matured now, but I think she’s probably over it and has moved on.

Rebecca: [Phone recording] Then, by the fourth one, I was starting to get my feelings hurt because now I have four hairdryers. People are starting to laugh. I definitely start crying because I feel like: “This is just not funny to me. This is just not funny!” The more that I cried, the more that they laughed at me—even harder!

You know what? At that moment, as everyone was laughing at me—and I was sitting there crying—I was just sitting there, feeling like: “I am this caged bird in this family. I just want out. I just want out!”



For the last 15 years, I have just been wanting out of this ridiculous joke—that has been like every family time—when we get together, someone brings it up and just thinks it’s so hilarious. It just isn’t! I know that everyone was in on this joke, but the one person who really instigated it all—the whole thing—was Samuel. So, Samuel—you, my friend—you have been stung on national radio.

Bob: [Laughter] He’s exposed as the culprit of the great hairdryer conspiracy. [Laughter]

Dennis: He can take it! He’s got broad shoulders.

Barbara: Yes.

Bob: She was crying on Christmas Day?

Barbara: She was! Then, I started feeling terrible because I was in on it, too. I thought it would be kind of fun; but when she started crying, I just thought: “Oh, my gosh. We really have made a mistake.” I felt terrible for her.

Dennis: We really were not counting on our daughter beginning to cry.



I mean, she really didn’t get it. You know, she really didn’t get it. She was in the moment, and she just thought everybody had made a big mistake in buying these things.

Barbara: And she thought that was all she was getting. It was just too much to handle.

Bob: There were a few other presents, over on the side?

Dennis: Yes.

Barbara: Oh, yes, there were. But she didn’t know that, at the time. Bless her heart. She really thought that was all we had done.

Bob: Christmas is one of those times, as a family, that it takes a little planning. It takes a little effort. Probably, if you’re trying to do practical jokes, Christmas Day is not the best day to do them.

Barbara: That would have been my opinion, but I married a practical joker.

Bob: Oh, so you were, in part, responsible.

Barbara: Oh, yes. He brought that genetic trait to our family.

Dennis: My mom would wrap gag gifts on Christmas Eve. I remember being up with her until midnight, laughing so hard we both were in tears. It was only funny to us—what we were wrapping. It was a part of the, really, the family tradition.



Bob: Well, you have turned the family tradition from gag gifts at Christmas to where your focus, these days, Barbara, is on helping families have a more spiritually-centered Christmas holiday.

Barbara: Yes. That was something that I wanted to do with our kids—even with the moments that didn’t work out—even with the jokes that our kids played on one another from time to time. That’s going to happen, and that’s a part of what makes family memories. It’s a part of what’s fun about it.

I think that there are a lot of moms out there—there are a lot of women, like me—who go to the trouble of creating and maintaining traditions—who go to the trouble to decorate their homes at Christmas. We want to do these things because we want to create a meaningful environment for our families. Those of us, who are believers, want to make our Christmas celebration meaningful about Christ.



As we were raising our kids, there was not much available for me in the kinds of things I was looking for to be able to teach my children truth about Christ—other than reading the story in Luke 2. So now, in these empty-nest years of my life, I’m having a great time creating a line of ornaments called Adorenaments®—that are the names of Christ—that families can use to teach their kids. Hopefully, moms and dads will learn, at the same time, the different names of Christ that are spoken of Him in the Bible—what they mean, why they are important, why we need to know these names of Christ that tell us more about who He is.

Dennis: Yes. Bob, you know that, here at FamilyLife, one of the things we really take delight in is making moms and dads and grandparents look like heroes.

Bob: Yes.

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: Well, that’s what Barbara has done with Adorenaments. She wants moms and dads to be the winners in their families for passing on the truth about what the names of Jesus really mean, and how many there are, and how we decorate our tree with them.



As the Christmas tradition of decorating your tree takes place—you can spread this out now, Bob, as you know, to 14 nights, if you wanted to, over Christmas—or to two different Sundays—where you take seven Adorenaments on one Sunday and then follow it again on another Sunday, in the month of December, with another seven—and really proclaim Jesus Christ.

Bob: It’s not just hanging these ornaments on the tree. There are two sets of seven, as you mentioned. One is the Christmas names of Jesus—that we first introduced last year. This year, we’re introducing His royal names.

Barbara: Yes.

Bob: Along with the ornaments, there’s a booklet—that you’ve included—that gives a brief, read-aloud description of each of the ornaments so that, as you’re decorating the tree, you can read to the kids: “Here’s what it means that Jesus is the Prince of Peace,” “Here’s what it means that He is the King of Israel.”


You walk through each of them and give moms and dads something that they can use to disciple their kids.

Barbara: That’s a part of why I’m so excited about this. Not only will, hopefully, believers have Christmas trees that have ornaments on them that talk about Christ, but those believing families will have an opportunity to learn, together, more about who Jesus is, and why He came, and why knowing Him is so important. I’m hopeful that families will learn about the names of Christ, and that they will grow in their faith, and they will grow in their relationship with Him by reading these stories out loud together.

Bob: Well, I know you were anxious, last year, to hear how families used Adorenaments at Christmastime. I remember, when people were calling and ordering them, and we were running out of them. You had a chance, after Christmas, to talk to some moms and some dads—some here, locally, and some from other parts of the country. One of those moms that you talked to is the person who heads up the MomLife Today website for us, Tracey Eyster. She’s also the author of the book, Be the Mom.



She’s here. She has popped into the studio to talk about last Christmas. Tracey, welcome.

Tracey: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Bob: Tell us a little bit about Adorenaments at your house last year.

Tracey: Well, it’s interesting. For me, Christmas is about tradition. So, right off the bat, for me—recognizing that we now have, in our hands, every Christmas—because it’s a big deal in our house to decorate the tree—because we open the box, and we tell the stories of each of the ornaments. Now, that we’re able to tell the story of the names of Christ, as we open each of our ornaments—

It’s, frankly, something we had never done before. Now, knowing—anticipating Christmas this year—and that we’ve now started a new tradition—we now will be able to pull out the names of Jesus and talk about how much it meant to us last year—that first year. We’ll remember when we opened these, and we got to learn more about the names of Jesus, and we placed them on the tree.


It’s been amazing, to me—in our busy, busy lives, where we never seem to take time to do what matters—Christmas is the time that we usually, at least try to, do that.

Barbara: That’s right; yes.

Tracey: So, knowing that there are all of these moms out there, that we are hearing from, who say, “Now, it’s the names of Jesus that we talk about as we place [ornaments] on the tree.” Knowing that we get to do that, year after year—it just fills me up! I know it fills you up, too.

Barbara: Yes because I think that’s what we, moms, intuitively sense. I mean, we go to all the trouble because we want it to be meaningful.

Tracey: Right.

Barbara: And we want it to be memorable. It can be memorable without the meaning—but when you add the meaning of what Christmas is all about and you talk about the names of Christ—that’s the kind of meaning we’re looking for. It’s the kind of depth that we long for, as moms. We know it will bind our hearts to our children and our children back to us.


Tracey: Right. It was interesting, too—we were so careful to make sure that the hay remained with the ornaments. [Laughter] Just the little things—because we knew that, this year, when we open each of the names, we want to see the hay in there. We want to even remember that aspect of it.

Dennis: I’ve got to tell a story about that because, when Barbara was designing this, I said: “You want to do what? You want the ornament to be nestled in hay! Have you ever manufactured”—

Bob: “Have you ever nestled 70,000 ornaments in hay?!”

Tracey: But is that not interesting?— that that is what I remember? That’s what my children will remember. So, you know what, gentlemen? Barbara knows a little bit more than you do about such things! [Laughter]

Dennis: Oh, yes she does! I’m guilty because this year—look here. Bob, tell the truth: “Did you even notice that there was hay in there when you saw it the first time?”

Bob: I did notice that there was hay in there when I saw it the first time. Yes, I did. I’m telling the truth. I noticed there was hay.



I thought, “Oh, there’s hay!” That’s about as far as I got with that, but I did notice. [Laughter]

Dennis: And the Prince of Peace is the name that is nestled in that. That’s the Christmas names. This year, they’re not nestled in hay. You have crowns that represent the royal names of Christ.

Barbara: That’s right.

Dennis: You have seven different crowns. In each crown is a different name of Christ.

Bob: I’m just glad you didn’t want—like hair, you know—for the crowns to sit on— [Laughter] a bed of hair—you know—

Barbara: What I really wanted was velvet, and we just couldn’t pull that off—

Dennis: There you go!

Barbara: —because royalty is velvet. See, you just picture the crown comes in on a pillow of velvet when someone is being coronated.

Tracey: But how beautiful—this year, when we open our new ornaments, and we’re able to look—my kids will probably say, “Where’s the hay?” I’ll say: “Now, let’s think about this because last time we were talking about the names of Jesus when He came as a babe and He was in hay. Now, we’re talking about, now, the names of Christ as a king and thinking of His royal names.”


Barbara: Yes.

Tracey: All of those little things matter to moms because we’re imparting that on our children. Then, they see it in a whole new way.

Barbara: That’s right.

Dennis: Memorable and meaningful—that’s a good way to summarize it.

Bob: Our listeners, by the way, will probably like to see what it is we’re talking about. They can go to our website,, to see last year’s ornaments and this year’s ornaments so that they can see the differences and what they look like. They can see the hay and see the non-hay version that’s available. [Laughter]

There was somebody else you talked to last year, after the first set of Adorenaments was released.

Barbara: Yes.

Bob: This was a dad who had used them with his family. We asked him to stop by and share a little bit about his family’s use of Adorenaments. His name is Jim Mitchell, and Jim is here with us. Jim, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Jim: Thank you.

Bob: You work here at FamilyLife; right?

Jim: I do.


Bob: And you used these ornaments with your family last year. Tell us about your family. How old are your kids?

Jim: I am the proud father of two kids. My daughter, Grace, is 13. My son, Evan, is 8.

Bob: Okay, so when you brought home these ornaments—and showed them to the kids, and said: “We’re going to put these on the tree. We’re going to decorate,”—did you do it all in one night? How did you do it?

Jim: I would just say, as a parent, I want nothing more than my children to come to faith in Christ and to believe the gospel. My wife and I take that very seriously. We pray, “God, just give us opportunities to share the gospel with our kids.” So, Adorenaments afforded us the opportunity to do that. My daughter is very outgoing. She’s very courageous. So, her faith experience was very different than Evan’s. Evan is a very timid kid—he’s very tender-hearted.

I just knew that, as a father—intuitively, I knew—I could persuade my son to say whatever I wanted him to say. I could persuade him to pray whatever I wanted him to pray. I wanted to be really sensitive to just the moving of the Spirit in his life—


Dennis: And not just introduce him to Christ—and have him just do it because Daddy said to do it. You wanted it to be his decision.

Jim: That’s right, Dennis. I really prayed for him. I thought of Jesus’ words: “Do not hinder the children from coming to me,”—to His disciples. I took that to heart. I wanted to not do anything to hinder my son from coming to Christ.

When we heard about Adorenaments, I thought, “This is a great way to just teach our kids about Christ and give Evan a chance to hear about the character of Christ.” We did—we went through those ornaments together, one per night. I knew God was working in my son’s heart. He was softening toward the gospel.

There was one particular night when we had gone through the name, “Savior.” That night, my wife and I got the chance to kneel down with my son on the floor and hear him invite Christ into his life.



And that section in the booklet says, “God loves us; and because He loves us, He sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior, to rescue us from our bondage to sin. As you hang the name, ‘Savior’, on the tree, think of the symbolism of this action, and then give thanks to He Who came to save you and me and anyone who believes in His name. Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

Dennis: That’s cool. Of course, what you’re reading from is what Barbara wrote. There’s a little piece with each of the seven names—the Christmas names and the royal names—that explains what the names mean. I know that she had in mind moms and dads—being able to introduce their kids to the name, “Savior” —and to the One who is the Savior.

Barbara: Exactly because I think moms and dads—all moms and dads—feel exactly what you felt, Jim.



We want the privilege of teaching our children about the eternal God. We want the privilege of teaching our kids who Jesus is and that Jesus came to save them, too. As much as we need a Sunday school class, as much as we need the storybooks—we want that privilege, as mom and dad, of being the one to take our child’s hand and place it in the hand of the Savior.

This is an opportunity for moms and dads to do that because—as you explain who Jesus is, and why He came, and what His names mean—it’s an open door for a child to walk through because it helps them understand. You, as mom and dad, get the privilege to do that. I loved your story when you first told it to me. It just was a thrill! I hope that that’s true for a lot of other families.



Bob: And this year, with the royal names of Christ, you have an opportunity again to present the One who is the King of kings, the One who is Lord of lords, the One who is the King of Israel, and the Son of David—and all of those names that speak to the reality of who it is that we’re celebrating at Christmas because I think, sometimes, we get focused on a baby in a manger and forget that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Bob: I hope our listeners will go to our website,, just to see the work that you’ve done in putting together the royal names of Jesus for Christmas tree ornaments for this year. Go to Click on the link for the Adorenaments from Barbara Rainey. In addition to His royal names, we also have His Christmas names, which were released last year. You can order sets of these ornaments, online, at You may want to get some additional sets to give as gifts to friends or family members. Again, go to to order your Adorenaments, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.


This is a busy time of year for many of our listeners. I know it’s a busy time for us, here at FamilyLife. The month of December is a pretty key month for ministries like ours. One reason why is because our ministry is listener-supported. December is a month when we hear from more listeners than normal. In fact, I don’t know if you realize this; but for FamilyLife Today, about 30 percent of the donations we receive all year-long come during the month of December. So that, by the time the calendar flips to 2014, we’ll have a pretty good idea of whether we’re going to be able, as a ministry, to move forward in some strategic plans we’ve laid out for the year, or whether we’re going to have to put those plans on hold until we’re able to secure the funding for them.



That’s why we’re asking FamilyLife Today listeners, this month, to consider making a year-end contribution to help support FamilyLife Today to put us in a strong position, heading into 2014.

There’s a second reason for you to make a year-end contribution. That’s because some friends of ours have come along and agreed that they will match the donation you give with a donation of their own, but they’re going to match it three-to-one. So, if you make a $50 donation to FamilyLife Today,here at the end of the year, they’ll add an additional $150. We’ll be up to $200, thanks to that matching-gift. So, would you consider going to right now, today? Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone. If you’d rather write a check and mail it to us, our mailing address is FamilyLife Today,

P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.



Again, we hope to hear from you. We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you’re able to do. Please pray for us that we would be able to take full advantage of this three-to-one matching-gift opportunity, here at the end of 2013.

And I hope you can be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking about how Christmas can be especially meaningful at your house this year. Barbara Rainey is back with us again tomorrow. I hope you can join us, as well.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll 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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