Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of Christmas Planning - the WrapUp

I can hardly believe that it is the end of my 31 days series. I wrote this series in a month that included not just Marc traveling, but my own traveling. Gone from my home and family for five days and coming home just ahead of Sandy - and I still did it. Can we have an early Christmas party just to celebrate that?! 

In some ways, I feel like I exhausted the topic of getting ready for Christmas, and in some ways I think I could do another 31 days on the subject. In all ways, I am pretty glad to have some space to write about some more 'random' things as I journey along. I still have quite a bit of work to do with my own Christmas planning. (Do you know it is only 21 days till Thanksgiving?!) 

I hit my original goal of getting all my thoughts written down so that in the future, I have my list of all that I want to remember to do. 

Here is a landing page of all my posts from this series (for me and you):

Also, this post marks the end of I am permanently migrating my JourneyNotes over to Please take a minute to visit my new and in renovation space. I look forward to continuing the journey over there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - Be Generous
I just got home from a conference where I learned about Pure Charity. Pure Charity is a new player in the giving arena. It sort of takes social media,  groupon and credit cards rewards programs, a ton of corporate partners, and some great non-profits and mixes it all together. (That's terribly oversimplified - you should watch the video here.)
What I love about this is that our credit cards and stores have already trained us to be rewards members - earning money, credit or savings. This just takes those already well-developed habits, and makes it so you have a giving account. 

Through Pure Charity, I learned about Generous Tuesday. We have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and now Generous Tuesday. 

It is my experience that the holidays - and not just the gift giving part - often make me feel squeezed. There isn't enough of me, my time, my creativity, my money. 

But you know what? That is just not true. 

We are more than enough. We bring to the holiday table all the uniqueness and creativity and joy that we were born with. It might not look like your neighbors or sister-in-laws or Martha Stewarts. AND IT SHOULDN'T. 

And we have more than enough. We do. 

The best antidote to feeling squeezed, in my experience, is giving. Make it a priority to give your money, your time, yourself. 

Check out Pure Charity.

Remember Generous Tuesday

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 day of Christmas Planning - Homeschool During the Holidays

One of the many blessings that comes with homeschooling is the flexibility that allows different routines and plans.

Holiday seasons are perfect times to take advantage of our flexibility.

In the past we have:

  • taken extra vacation time
  • had special baking adventures
  • done our regularly scheduled school at a muuucchhh sllloooowwweeerr pace
  • read some of those lovely books that we collect

This year we will probably do a mixture of all those things, add some sewing projects (the girls both  have their own sewing machine), and do some sort of video fun (all the kids are experimenting with different forms of video making/editing).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 days - the Pajamas and Ornament Tradition

On Christmas Eve, after we have gone to an early Christmas Eve church service (I wonder if the kids are old enough to go to a midnight service this year... hmmm), we all get to open one present. The present is always a set of pajamas and an ornament. 

For years, I made matching pajamas. But I became increasingly frustrated with our local fabric shops' (there are two shops) selection of winter flannel (and the prices). One year, I did the math and realized how much I would save if I just bought pajamas -both in time and money. Maybe someday I'll go back to making the pajamas- it is rather romantic - but this year, I'll be shopping for them. Sometimes I have tired to match our colors, and sometimes I have enjoyed getting just the right set for each of the kids distinct personality's. 

When I was a child, my mom would get us a new ornament every year. I still have a wooden truck ornament from 1984, among several others. We have continued the tradition with our kids. Each year they get an ornament that they will put on our Christmas tree. When they are adults they will get a box of ornaments from each year of their childhood lives. 

Christmas Eve wraps up as we open the presents, put on our pajamas, hang the ornaments, read a Christmas story, and go to bed hoping for some hours of sleep before the morning comes. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - friends

I love getting gifts for friends. I don't do it often, because I am working hard to live within a responsible budget, but when I get to do it, it gives me great joy. Christmas is such a fun season, and sometimes I see pretty or fun things that I know would be AHMAZING for FriendSuchAndSo. If I bought or made everything that would be perfect for everyone - the bottom line might begin to look neon red.

So as I'm thinking about this ahead of time this year, it occurs to me that I have a couple options.

I can begin to buy gifts throughout the year and save them for Christmas (or birthday) season. 


I can buy gifts throughout the year and give them as I buy them. At Christmas, a pretty card - if anything - is plenty. 

I like the second option better. At Christmas time, we are often inundated with gifts. (I like that, don't get me wrong.) But one more gift, while nice and thoughtful, is one more gift. A gift given at an unexpected time has the opportunity to minister deeply to a friend. (This past year I gave a single mom a tin of her favorite tea on Valentine's Day. She couldn't remember the last time someone had given her a thoughtful Valentine's gift. That was such a humbling, cool experience.)

We all have seasons when we are dry and lonely and just trudging through. Watch your friends for those times, and get a gift that uniquely says 'I love you Friend'. You could even wrap it in Christmas paper if if makes you feel better.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

FiveMinuteFriday meets 31 days Of Christmas Planning IN REAL LIFE

This post was written at an InRealLife Party Five Minute Friday party at the Allume Conference. There was a room full of women who all wrote for five minutes together and then lots got up and read their posts in an open mic setting. It was seriously one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of.

The word this week: Voice

Lift up your voice, all ye saints!

It's Christmas time! Don't be quiet. 

You are a child of the King and the King has come and will come again!


Sing songs of quiet.

Songs of Joy.

Blare the trumpets. Strum the harp.

Whatever it is, Lift UP your voice!

How will I use my voice this Christmas? To grumble at the traffic or crowds. 

Or to be a light. To be a voice that will proclaim a way in the wilderness. 


Lift up your voice.

31 days of Christmas planning - extended family

Gifts for extended family - adult family - can get really tricky. Unless you come from a family that - you know - talks about it. I know, if I wanted to, I could initiate this conversation - but, um, yeah. (Holidays make me feel that way a lot.)

So while I'm making my plans for our core family, there is always the lingering anticipation - sometimes good, sometimes bad - of what other people expect and how they will (or won') feel loved.

ALAS (or THANKFULLY), I am not the God of the universe and I will not be the answer to their emotional needs during the holidays. FURTHER, it is my FIRST job to love my husband and kids and to guide a worshipful Christmas season for them.

When it comes to gifts for extended family, it has boiled down to budget and to time needed to execute:
  • Some years we have gotten everyone something (in-laws, outlaws, nieces and nephews).
  • Some years we consolidate the adults and get one gift per couple.
  • A couple years we donated things in honor of our family (like through Heifer International - that made someone made and it kind of ruined it for me a few years). 
  • Some years we have done cards.
  • Some years, gift cards.
I don't know what we will end up doing for gifts this year. *sigh* Nieces and nephews are taken care of, but the rest....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 days of Christmas Preparation - Take Care of You

No matter how ninja I am or you are at planning and preparing for Christmas, there will be times when there is too much to do, too many places to be, too many people needing you. Unless you have the powers of Elastigirl, your flexibility will be tried.

Only you know what your spirit needs to renew it. But consider putting a few of those on the calendar RIGHT NOW.

  • Schedule a December haircut or manicure or both - and tack on at least an hour to go have a cup of coffee or tea before or after it.
  • Make a date with a good friend. Put it on the calendar now.
  • Do you have a friend that you love to pray with? Calendar... now. 
  • Make a date or two or four with your husband. They don't have to be expensive, but purpose to NOT talk about engagements in the month or things that need to be picked up. 
  • Buy a candle. Put it on your calendar (and your husbands) to sit in a quiet place to read or write with your candle.
  • Buy a book or magazine. Plan an evening (maybe one a week) of reading with a nice glass of wine in bed. 
  • Plan a bath. 
  • Color and draw with your kids.
  • Exercise. Do yoga. 
  • Eat fruit. 
  • Take a craft class. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - Christmas stockings

I grew up with a Christmas stocking tradition that included opening up stockings on almost everyone's bed in the house on Christmas morning. It was kind of a progressive stocking opening. It was great fun. (I didn't realize how weird it was until Marc and I spent our first Christmas married with my parents and we were all sitting on my parents bed.) We did stockings the way we did presents. All attention on one person at a time as we noticed and appreciated each piece.

Fast forward to when Marc and I had kids and realized how much stuff they could accumulate in just one month with no birthdays or holidays. The amount a kid might get during gift giving seasons is alarming! And we realized that what we were buying to put in their stockings didn't line up with some of our family values.... cheap toys that were made in questionable facilities that would break soon or candy seemed the easiest to fill the large space of the stockings.

So some years we have done stockings, and some years we haven't. Stocking stuffers have been the one thing that I have allowed myself to shop for in December when we have done them. I find that I really do like being in the shops in our downtown during this time of year and I like supporting the businesses down there.

I also find that I can totally break the planned budget for Christmas with all those last minute purchases.

Planning ahead... thinking ahead...

How do you do stockings?

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 days of Christmas Planning - those recipes I can never find

For my WHOLE life (almost 40 years), there are three recipes that have been part of December. And since Marc and I have been married (17 years) I have had a hard time finding these three recipes, EVERY.YEAR.

This blog is 100% for me. If you like you can use it to. But this will the the Christmas season that will be known as the year we knew where the recipes were and didn't have to pull out every book or box to look for it. It will be here. Foreverafter.

1c sugar
1q water
12 whole cloves
4 sticks of cinnamon
4 whole allspirce (or 1/2tsp ground)
1/4tsp ground ginger (this could be the root, too, but I don't know how big)
3c orange juice
1c lemon juice or 4 lemons
2qts apple cider

Boil sugar, water, spices for ten minutes. Add juices and heat until hot. You can add a shot of vodka or something else to individual cups.

PeanutButter Popcorn Balls
1/2 c unpopped popcorn
2T melted butter
salt to taste
1/3 c white corn syrup
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c peanut butter

Pop corn and season with butter and salt (I usually don't use butter or salt).
Combine syrup and sugar in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly. Add peanut butter and cook over low heat until well blended.

Put popcorn in large, buttered bowl (I skip the butter again) and pour syrup evenly over the corn. Mix well.

With buttered hands form quickly into balls. (THIS IS HOT. Be careful and make sure the kids are careful.)

Chex Mix
6T margarine or butter
2T worcestshire sauce
1 1/4t Lawrys' seasoning salt
3/4 garlic powder
2 2/3 c each corn chex, rice chex, wheat chex, cheerios, crispix
1 c nuts (I like peanuts. Marc keeps trying to get creative with this ingredient.)
1 c pretzels
This would be a beautiful
bowl for chex mix!

Mix seasonings and butter in a sauce pan.
Pour over cereal.
Cook one hour @250. Stir every 15 minutes.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 days - the Jesse Tree Tradition

When our son was born 13 years I stumbled onto a tradition that we have done almost every year since his birth - having a Jesse Tree. Neither of us had grown up with it, but searching the internet (on dial-up) all those years back, I found something called The Jesse Tree.

Jesse Tree, a reference from Isaiah 11:1, is a tour through the New Testament Scriptures tracing the family tree and prophecies that all lead up to the birth of Jesus. There are a couple different versions that include different stories and each advent has a different number of days so some years not all the stories are used.

At that time, there were three sites (that's all!) that had information.

(There are SO many more resources online.)

The first year (or two or three?), we did our Jesse Tree on the refrigerator. I would make a Christmas tree shape out of construction paper, and while Marc or I read the Scripture, the kid (or kids eventually) would color in the 'ornament' and then we would tape it to the refrigerator tree.

When I began looking for something more permanent, all that I could find were patterns for cross-plastic canvas or cross-stitch - which I had no real talent for, no desire to get better at, and no time even if I did want to.

What I did have time and enjoyment for was polymer clay. So, I set about making polymer clay ornaments.

This combination of children, time, and the somewhat fragile constitution, a couple ornaments are broken each year. Getting ready for this tradition include repairing or making new ornaments; and getting all of our devotional and Scripture resources gathered together and organized.

(During November and December, I will be sharing more about our Jesse Tree - including pictures of our polymer clay ornaments.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

31days of Christmas Planning - About Planning

20 days into 31 days and I am amazed that I have gotten this far. The momentum of committing to  have a post for every day of the month (thank GOD for scheduled post) has been an incredible experience.

I wanted to take a bit of a side-trail today to explain what planning means to me. I've had a number of friends say 'you are so organized'.
I want to make sure I have integrity in representing myself in this blog series.

I am organized. My life requires that I be organized - my husband travels a ton and I homeschool three very different kids at three very different levels. I am good at creating and analyzing systems. I have learned this about myself in the last few years. I am good at getting projects started, but not maintaining them long-term.

My follow-through on most things is about average. 

When I read through my posts up to this point, I can see that some work has been done in each instance. Just the writing and thinking about it are work. I'm "analyzing my systems" in a relatively non-stressful atmosphere. In some cases, some good active work has been done (the Christmas card is almost ready to order) and in other cases, I'm still 'just thinking'.

The beauty of a focused time of planning is that it has set my compass. I am making decisions and plans now, in a 'non-hostile' environment, about what I want our Holiday Season to include and encompass.

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 days meets #fiveminutefriday: LOOK

As I began participating in the 31days blog challenge with thenester (and good friendsElisa and Spring), I had already told a group of women that I would commit to four FiveMinuteFridays - just to try the whole 'link up' thing. I decided that it would be a fun challenge (and maybe a disaster that I could laugh about) do this along with the 31 day blog challenge. 

The question is What kind of word will Lisa-Jo Baker come up with and how will it work for my topic.... I have no control over that. And the thought of making it work kind of gives me a thrill.

#fiveminutefriday meet 31days of Christmas preparation. The word this week:  


How many things have I missed because I was hurrying to get things done - especially during the holiday season? How many eyes full of discovery and hearts full of wonder have I not seen? How many beautiful, humble displays have I overlooked as I sought the SHINIEST, BRIGHTEST, EASIEST?

I can't think of a better code word for Christmas planning. Like a super-power cue to stop, sit, and BE. 

LOOK at the child staring in wonder at the lights on the tree in the middle of town.

LOOK at your eyes of the 80yr old who is listening to the Christmas story for the 80th time. 

LOOK into your heart and let it wonder as you imagine LOOKING at the star. 

LOOKing draws us into community. LOOKing draws us into further relationship with the BabyAbba.

Perhaps the phrase for crossing the street that we all learned (didn't we) and have taught our littles, could signal a new plan for Christmas. 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

31 days - When Our Kids buy Gifts

Taken at least three years ago,
I think helping a child to choose and purchase or make a gift for their sibling (and others) can be one of the greatest discipleship opportunities.

When money or resources need to be spent, there is the opportunity to talk about stewardship.

There is the conversation about keeping secrets that are fun and harmless and keeping secrets that are painful and sinful. (This conversation should happen more than once a year.)

There is talking about all the good things that God has given us.

There is talking about what others might not have and growing bold compassion (not fearful compassion). 

There is always the question of is this gift "something your brother would like or something yooou would like".

It is a great time to talk about the reason for the season, over and over again, and to talk about why or why not gifts are an appropriate way to celebrate.

Remember, kids generally don't do well with 'hurry hurry hurry' decisions or processes. Begin to ask them this week if they have some ideas about Christmas giving this year.

It is also hard for kids (and my MotherInLaw) to hold onto a gift once they have picked it out, so you may want to write down those ideas and buy them much closer to GiftGiving day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31days of Christmas Preparation - Movies

We love watching movies. A lot. Along with our Christmas music collection, we have begun to collect Christmas movies. Additionally, Netflix has some crazy old and obsolete Christmas movies. 

Last year we found that we couldn't find a particular movie that we KNEW we had (White Christmas, I think). We spent time scrambling through the places it could/should be and then looking for it on Netflix or AmazonPrime. It was such an attention suck. 

This week I'm going to take time to gather all the Christmas movies and see if any are missing. I'm also going to go through my Netflix Instant Queue and do some purging and adding of titles that we might enjoy as a family during the holiday season.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 days - Calendaring Christmas Preparation

Now is a great time to look ahead to Thanksgiving (are you aware how early it is this year) through to the New Year and begin to plot things on the calendar.

  • Family gatherings
  • Work parties
  • Church celebrations
  • Band concerts
  • Vacation Time
  • Shopping days
  • Crafting days
  • Christmas Tree
  • Other house decorations
  • Get the car cleaned before the holidays
  • Any Doctor appointments that need to be scheduled this time of year
  • Hair appointments (Nail appointments - my favorite)
  • Cooking days
  • Shipping days
  • Craft Fairs
  • Date(s) with husband
  • Taking kids shopping days (those really have to be separate from your own shopping days)
  • Designated stay at home and BE STILL time
  • Living Nativity
  • Santa Parade

I use google calendar for all my calendaring. I'm going to create a category just for this planning with a bright red label - so that I see it, and so that I remember that each item is an invitation to rejoice - He is Coming!

What did I miss? What else needs to go on the calendar?

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 days - the journey of traditions

As a child, you do Christmas the way your parents do Christmas. You don't ask questions. You might or might not realize as you grow older that you can take the initiative in giving (and even using your own money). You more or less do what is done in your home of origin.

Once you begin adult life you begin to take ownership of how you celebrate Christmas. This might be dictated by school or work or where you find yourself doing these things.

At some point your adult life might merge with another adult. and especially if that includes a spouse who had parents who did Christmas differently, it gets tricky (like a minefield is tricky).

Then there is the season when you become the parent and you evaluate 'is this how we want to do it with our family?'

Each year we ask 'how will these decisions/traditions' genuinely mark the celebration of Christ's birth and the anticipation of His coming again in our nuclear family. We have been at this for 17 years, 13 years as parents. Some of the questions are pretty well ironed out. Some require new or more attention each year.

Traditions include everything from social events during the month, how Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are spent, the ways gifts are given (and opened), and food traditions. Some are clear mine-fields and some are totally surprising.

For us, we have clung to verses about "leaving and cleaving" and the blessing of our families that we are a new family unit as well as sought to "Honor our mothers and fathers".  (We also don't believe Honoring involves having our emotions or children manipulated. That is a whole other blog topic that I will write about in .... close to 15 years when I see how I am walking it out with my adult children.)

We have some traditions that we have ironed (IRONED) out with grace, and some with mess, but each year it has come down to 'can we both live with this decision' AND 'we believe we are stewarding our children's hearts' AND 'we feel like these choices will grow our family's relationship with Christ'. We also take a look at our choices each year, just as we do with homeschool. Is what we did last year what we are supposed to do this year?

Imperfect, but in progress for sure.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 days - The Music Tradition

Last Sunday I wrote about our book tradition. Today I'm going to write about our Music tradition.

(I don't have this one. I
just liked the picture.)
I have an obscene number of Christmas albums. And I would listen to them all year, if I could. (I have also been known to not realize ONE song was on repeat for several hours - so, well, you know.) There are only a couple Christmas songs that I will turn skip - no, I'm not a fan of Grandma Getting Run Over, or anything the Chipmunks sing, or Carmen. This is a time of year when I can love many qualities and many styles. 

Just as we get a new Christmas book each year, we get a new cd. Some years it has been the one on the counter at the hardware store or Starbucks. (Yes, I like both places equally.) Other years it has been an intentional choice that reflected an experience or interest in our family. Last year, because Caleb has blossomed into such a wonderful trumpet player, our album was a Canadian Brass album.

Our compromise about Christmas music is that I can start listening the day after Thanksgiving. (Confession: once, in the summer, when Marc was gone, I listened to Christmas music, loud, and sang along. Thanks. I feel better.)

I have an artist in mind for this year, but it involves a surprise adventure that we are having in December. (sshhh)

What are your favorite Christmas albums? What are your least favorite albums? If you don't like Christmas music, add your name below and I can pray for you ;)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 days of Christmas Preparation - My Husband

The hardest gift choice for me to make each year is for my husband. In my mind, it is so important that I most often end up freezing. And putting it off till the week before. And settling for something I want to apologize for. And it just feels icky.

One of the reasons that it is hard to get him stuff is because we spent many years making the kids gifts the financial priority. We would get stuff for them. And if there was money left-over then we would spend it on each other. So much like life if you're not careful.

Another reason it is hard for me to buy for him - he has weird (and expensive) taste. My husband is brilliant in ways that I am not. I am brilliant in ways that he is not. "he's got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps." 

My best Christmas present for him was the year I got the whole family to pitch in a buy him a beer making kit. I don't entirely get it, but he loves it. It makes him happy. And he's cute. 

The third reason it is hard to buy him a gift (or gifts) is that we are generous with each other year round, and we don't have a whole lot that we need. 

But I'm not satisfied with my excuses. I want to score the 'beer making Christmas' again. So my first attention (or agonizing) is going to start with what to get Marc. 

It's impossible to think about gifts in isolation. To say something like "I won't think about what I'm going to get anyone else until I get Marc's present" would be ridiculous. 

But I am starting now, and I am committing to not getting overwhelmed and stalling myself out. 

Who is the hardest person you shop or make gifts for? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 days meets FiveMinuteFriday: Race

As I began participating in the 31days blog challenge with thenester (and good friendsElisa and Spring), I had already told a group of women that I would commit to four FiveMinuteFridays - just to try the whole 'link up' thing. I decided that it would be a fun challenge (and maybe a disaster that I could laugh about) do this along with the 31 day blog challenge. 

The question is What kind of word will Lisa-Jo Baker come up with and how will it work for my topic.... I have no control over that. And the thought of making it work kind of gives me a thrill.

#fiveminutefriday meet 31days of Christmas preparation. The word this week:  


Not everyone likes to plan ahead. Not everyone is wired to plan ahead. Some people like the last minute rush. And they do it so well. 

I don't. When I rush, I look like I'm running a three legged race -- without a partner. At least on the inside. I manage how it all looks on the outside pretty well. 

The last minute holiday race does not bring the best out in me. That is why I am trying to be intentional with my planning. 

As I've begun to pull apart all the little parts of getting preparations, it's no wonder it feels like a race to get it all done when I wait to get started. 

This year, my hope is to change the race - to a pace - of rest and hope and peace. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31days - Gifts; Make your List

Once I have thought through my budget and my motivation for gift giving, there comes a moment when I need to just make my plans. I cannot go shopping to just look for something for my mom. I can't. Well, I could, but it would drive me crazy.

When I go shopping, I know what I am looking for. The only exception might be when I say "I am going to this store or that craft show. While I am there I will buy something for ...." And that is very rare.

If I happen to see something for someone WHILE I am picking up what I have gone to the store for, then I will get it. I'm not all totally legalistic with myself. (about this. but that's another 31days series in the DISTANT future.)

So, as with all good things, it comes time to make a list.

The most important part of making a list - 
is making it
The second most important part of making a list - 
remembering where you put it

I'm trying Evernote this year. I can see it from multiple devices. I like that. And it's a new (to me) program. I like that too.

Where will you make your list this year?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 days - pause

While I don't like putting things off to be done on the day of that is what this week has been filled with. And this afternoon, I had time set aside to write todays 31days post after picking my son up from Jazz Band and before supper. New Pumpkin Soup was in the crock pot and bread dough was rising. Not ideal, but it was going to work.

And then I got in a car accident on the way home from Jazz Band. No one is hurt. Seriously. There aren't even scratches on vehicles to cause concern.

But it is a scene that replays and my imagine goes over the what-ifs one in this way or that way. And I'm drinking chamomile tea and being with my family.

Pausing to thank God for protecting the other guy and us and asking God to restore the peace in my heart.

(Thanks for letting me get my words out about it here.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

31days - Top Ten Gifts to 'Have on Hand'

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little BlessingsIt's Top Ten Tuesday over at manylittleblessings.

I'm excited about this list of 10 because I don't like to be caught unprepared. As I was thinking about this list, I realized I was thinking about three things: shopping during the year, having a designated spot to put 'just in case' gifts (and not buying more than what will fit there!), and taking advantage of sales.

I am NOT a big shopper. Generally, I don't buy it unless I know where it will go in my home or who I will give it to.  I don't bargain or coupon. But every once in a while I find a sale or something that is lovely. I love going into artisan shops or to craft fairs. But I usually won't spend unless I know where it is going. With this list, I have margin to buy some of these lovely things because I know they fit in my 'have it on hand' list.

These things will fit those last minute 'oh I wish I had gotten so and so something' situations (notice how I didn't say 'should have gotten'). I give the Holy Spirit full permission to nudge me to give gifts in unexpected places. Not that God has to pay attention to my list but it will be a starting place. (Last year I felt as though I should give a mom friend a Valentine's gift. She said it had been over 6 years since she had been given a Valentine's treat.)

Here are The Top Ten Gifts to 'Have on Hand' - for Christmas or year round.
1. candles
2. gift cards
3. jewelry
4. mugs
5. craft or art show items
6. books
7. stationary or pens
8. cd's, music downloads
9. coffee/tea
10. frames
I'm curious. What would be on your list of things to have on hand? What did I miss?

Monday, October 08, 2012

31 days - Gifts, part 1 of ??

Christmas gift giving is one of the  most difficult parts of the holiday for me. I feel like there is a whole script about giving holidays that I have never seen and am only given a quick glimpse of it when I miss my line. Every which way you turn there are expectations about gifts. Parents, in-laws, kids, retailers, and yourself - all come with something that falls between hope and entitlement.

Marc and I know that the 'reason for the season' isn't gifts. There have been times that we have been minimal in gift giving because of conviction and times we have been minimal because we were broke. There have been times when we have been generous out of God's abundance in the previous year, and times we have been generous out of guilt and pain.

Preparing my heart and home to give gifts at Christmas starts with two questions:

  • How much, as a good steward of what God has given us, can we spend? Looking at our whole financial picture - for the year, not just December - what is our limit? Starting with this limit, we will decide what is going to get spent on whom. We will remember to include those incidentals that I mentioned last Tuesday.
  • What is my motivation for spending? Am I buying or making gifts as a celebration of God's goodness to me and my family? Or am I trying to appease some guilt or loneliness? Am I seeking approval and trying to impress? Or am I making choices to give out of my love-dance with God that celebrates the gift of His Son? 

Being aware of my financial limit NOW allows me to strategically make gift choices. Being aware of my motivation for giving gives me time to spend inviting God to search my heart and change me; to bring me back to the place where I know His love and His approval and can give gifts to others in response to Him; rather than giving gifts to others to get what only amounts to a shadow of approval and acceptance.

(As I was re-reading this before hitting 'publish' it occurred to me that that the same questions about motivation should be asked as we get ready to receive, just as much as as we get ready to give.)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

31 days of Christmas Preparation - First Week Review

This month I am participating in the 31 day blog challenge with over 1200 folks. Check out the list at The Nesting Place to see all the amazing things people are writing about every day this month. I'm writing about getting ready my home and myself ready to be fully present during the Christmas season.

Here is a wrap up of my first week, the dates that I set for myself, and some updates:

This coming week I'll be writing about calendar planning and gift planning. 

31 days - The Book Tradition

Almost every year since we got married I have bought a new children's Christmas book to add to my collection. I love children's books. And I look forward to this purchase so much.

To prepare for this purchase, I am going pull out my Christmas book collection to remember what I have and love. Then I will allow myself the luxury of looking at lists of books online, spending extra time in book stores sitting on the floor appreciating words and art.

If I had one tradition that I hope that my kids will carry into their lives as they grow up, this would be it. Reading and loving lovely Christmas books.

This purchase can be decided anytime before December 15.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

31 days - Holiday Cards and Letters

USPS photo
It has been years since I have sent Christmas cards and letters. This makes me so sad. There are so many people that have been part of our journey and for many years Christmas was the time that I wrote a letter updating where we are and what we're up to. I'm hoping that by starting Christmas planning this month, I will be able to get a card and letter ready to send out this year.

  • First step: addresses
  • Second step: design and order cards
  • Third step: write letter and print it
  • Fourth step: picture of kids?
  • Fourth step: assemble and address - WAIT! - the kids are old enough to help with that - eat chocolate and supervise assembly and addressing done by kids
  • Fifth step: digital option for greetings in addition to snail mail greeting.

Goal: My Uncle Charles, for most of my life has had his Christmas greetings in the mail Thanksgiving weekend. If I start now, I can drop my cards in the mail the Tuesday (November 20) before Thanksgiving. Cause I might be competitive about that. (No, he doesn't read my blog that I know of and doesn't know that he is going to lose. But I do and you do. Merry Early Christmas to me.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

FiveMinuteFriday: Welcome

As I began participating in the 31days blog challenge with thenester (and good friends Elisa and Spring), I weighed my commitment to TopTenTuesdays and FiveMinuteFridays. I decided that it would be a fun challenge (and maybe a disaster that I could laugh about) to do both as part of the 31 day blog challenge. 
TopTenTuesday didn't concern me so much. Lists fit right into my topic of getting ready for Christmas. But what kind of word with Lisa-Jo Baker come up with and how would it work for my topic.... I had no control over that. But the thought of making it work gave me a kind of thrill. 

The #fiveminutefriday word this week wasn't nearly as impossible as I had thought it could be. (Thanks LJB.)

Here are my five minutes on "Welcome" and "Preparing for Christmas"

The door opens and the cold air gushes in along with people. People bringing food and gifts. Hours have been spent cleaning our house, decorating our house, and baking. The seasonal candle smells waft through and fireplace is on. A perfect holiday picture.

Unless you look at my heart. Which is tired. Overwhelmed. Still counting the things I need to do before the kids wake up tomorrow. Unless you have heard the arguments about family expectations between Marc and me.

But we clean up well. And say welcome. But not really. 
Insert a new plan. A 31day kind of plan. So that all those preparations and conversations won't happen in the heat of an already busy season. So that my heart will be the picture above – of openness, preparedness, and warmth.

I will say Welcome to Whomever comes to my door this year. I will have time to bask in welcoming Baby Jesus. And to hear Jesus say "Welcome" to me.