Tag Archives | christmas

it’s the most wonderful time of the year {besides Fall, of course}

Dear Christmas,

You are right around the corner. While we love you and are counting down the days until you arrive, we always seem to get caught up in the hustle & bustle. Sometimes we lose sight of your true meaning come December. Perhaps I can work hard to plan now so that our focus will be on the gift of baby Jesus and not on buying presents for our loved ones. Thank you for being the most wonderful time of the year. I want to savor every glittering light, special cookie, dazzling tree, choo-choo train, gift of service, lit candle and sacred Christmas carol this year.

All my love and devotion,

*laura*

Here is some content that I have posted before.  I hope it inspires you to get going on those gifts so that you can enjoy the holiday season as well.

Our goal (for Christmas & birthdays throughout the year) is to give gifts that express our love but also make less of an impact on landfills and clutter in our homes. This is not always possible and yes I know that some people find this impersonal but let’s be honest for a minute. How many gifts do we get every year that just fill up our home with more stuff? Not that stuff is bad (we Americans love stuff) but with the exception of a few things…here or there…I for one really do not need more of it!

So here we go with a few ideas:
*Consumable Gift Ideas*
*CERTIFICATE for TIME SPENT
*CERTIFICATE for A HOMEMADE MEAL
*CERTIFICATE for a SPECIAL TRIP
*HOMEMADE FOOD (such as jams, breads, nuts, cookies)
*CERTIFICATE for a SPECIAL CLASS (such as cooking, sewing, dance class or swim lessons)
*GIFT CARDS (for meals, clothing stores, grocery stores, movies, spa treatments, shows, events or even flowers)
*GOURMET GIFT BASKETS (chocolate treats for a chocoholic or for a friend with a special diet like celiac you could group together specialty gluten-free products)
*For KIDS: Bubbles, Chalk, Art Supplies, Stickers (one can rarely have enough of these things)
***
DSC_0654
*Giving Back Gift Ideas*
*Have you heard about Operation Christmas Child from Samaritans Purse? Click on the link to check it out and look-up how it works and where you can drop off your box this year! Hurry because the deadline to drop off your box is in a few weeks. Our MOPS group is doing it this year as a fun way to give back and get our kids involved.  Maybe even consider giving a box in place of a gift for a family you know and on Christmas present them with a description of why you have a box in their name and a picture of what you put in the box and where it went.
DSC_0667
***
*Do you know about LOVE146 yet? Their mission is to END CHILD SEX SLAVERY AND EXPLOITATION.  I learned about this organization at Blog Sugar and have not been able to get it off my mind. Items can be purchased in their store as gifts (most of the money goes back to their organization).  Check it out and be ready to grab a tissue for this one.
***
*And of course you can give to Compassion right now. Year Round: Compassion is an organization that allows you to sponsor children all over the world in order to help them with basic physical (and spiritual) needs. You pay a monthly fee and are able to write letters back and forth and give extra money for their birthday’s and Christmas if you can.  We have really enjoyed doing this and wanted to spread the word!  Check them out if you are considering a new way to give-back this year!  And one more thought…if you have a baby or small child and are not sure what to get them for Christmas (because after all they are a baby and have no idea what is going on) consider looking up a Compassion child to sponsor by the birthday and gender of your child.  We did this for both the kids for their “Baby’s 1st Christmas” gift and it has been fun watching other children grow up with their birthdays (even though they are not their age)! It’s a nice way to have something in common with these beautiful children all over the world. Just something to consider as you make your lists!
31 days (250)
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mylittleGREENheart {GIFT GIVING}

Consider buying your loved one’s gifts that are consumable or that give back to someone or something else!

This year (for Christmas & birthdays) we’re trying to give gifts that express our love but also make less of an impact on landfills and clutter in our homes. Yes I know that some people find this impersonal, and I get that, but let’s be honest for a minute. How many gifts do we get every year that just fill up our home with more stuff? Not that stuff is bad (we Americans love stuff) but with the exception of a few things…here or there…I for one really do not need more of it!
So here we go with a few ideas:
*Consumable Gift Ideas*
*CERTIFICATE for TIME SPENT
*CERTIFICATE for A HOMEMADE MEAL
*CERTIFICATE for a SPECIAL TRIP
*HOMEMADE FOOD (such as jams, breads, nuts, cookies)
*CERTIFICATE for a SPECIAL CLASS (such as cooking, sewing, dance class or swim lessons)
*GIFT CARDS (for meals, clothing stores, grocery stores, movies, spa treatments, shows, events or even flowers)
*GOURMET GIFT BASKETS (chocolate treats for a chocoholic or for a friend with a special diet like celiac you could group together specialty gluten-free products)
*For KIDS: Bubbles, Chalk, Art Supplies, Stickers (one can rarely have enough of these things)
*Giving Back Gift Ideas*
*Have you heard about Operation Christmas Child from Samaritans Purse? Click on the link to check it out and look-up how it works and where you can drop off your box this year! Hurry because the deadline to drop off your box is in a few weeks. Our MOPS group is doing it this year as a fun way to give back and get our kids involved.  Maybe even consider giving a box in place of a gift for a family you know and on Christmas present them with a description of why you have a box in their name and a picture of what you put in the box and where it went.
***
*Do you know about LOVE146 yet? Their mission is to END CHILD SEX SLAVERY AND EXPLOITATION.  I learned about this organization at Blog Sugar and have not been able to get it off my mind. I’m going to buy a few items in their store as gifts (most of the money goes back to their organization).  Check it out and be ready to grab a tissue or two or twenty for this one.
*And of course there are two ways to give to Compassion right now. Year Round: Compassion is an organization that allows you to sponsor children all over the world to help them with basic physical (and spiritual) needs. You pay a monthly fee and are able to write letters back and forth and give extra money for their birthday’s and Christmas if you can.  We have really enjoyed doing this and wanted to spread the word!  Check them out if you are considering a new way to give-back this year!  And one more thought…if you have a baby or small child and are not sure what to get them for Christmas (because after all they are a baby and have no idea what is going on) consider looking up a Compassion child to sponsor by the birthday and gender of your child.  We did this for both the kids for their “Baby’s 1st Christmas” gift and it has been fun watching other children grow up with their birthdays (even though they are not their age)! It’s a nice way to have something in common with these beautiful children all over the world. Just something to consider as you make your lists!
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what makes you come alive?

To make New Years Resolutions or to Not make New Years Resolutions!?!
That is the question!

The holiday season always tends to be a reflective time for me. I cannot help but think about the past year and dream, plan and wonder about the year to come.  I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions because they just seem like a chore.  How often do people really carry out these goals and how guilty do they feel when all enthusiasm is lost by January 3rd!?!  However, I am a very goal oriented person. I tend to feel more balanced in life when I have a sense of purpose and a few goals in mind. But what are my goals and what is my purpose?

Right now, I would say that my purpose is to serve God, love my husband and take care of my kids…and to be kind & loving to people around me.  But I have to be honest for a minute here.  While it is not all bad and I love being home with my kids, life as a stay at home mom (even with its rewards) can be tough. It is physically and emotionally taxing and unceasingly monotonous. For a person who loves change and spontaneity it is rough at times. I do not thrive on routine…I dread it! Also, I have a few health problems that tend to make life with two young kids difficult at best (but that is a whole different story for another day).  I am often plagued by self-doubt and fears about how to raise our kids & how to love my husband well.  Despite my husband’s wonderful and regular appreciation I often question if I am ever going to get it all right.  When I get stuck in all this stuff I worry about how to set my goals and make time for my dreams. It can all just seem so overwhelming and messy.  And then…every so often…I am once again struck by one of my favorite quotes:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs;
ask yourself what makes you come alive.
And then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
Isn’t that the truth? Really…Isn’t that a great quote? So what makes me come alive?  Being creative, being with people, having fun, learning about God, singing, traveling, being in nature, drinking coffee, reading a good book occasionally and even cooking from time to time (the cooking one is always a blessing and a curse because you have to clean up and I HATE doing dishes…HATE….but where was I?)  Oh Yeah…so when I do the things I love, I usually feel “filled up” and the fun & joyful side of me comes out.  I am realizing that I need to regularly find the time to focus on doing things that make me feel “alive” – so that I don’t feel so bogged down in my day-to-day tasks. And not just for me…but hopefully I can help others around me feel more alive in turn!
I have seen this reality take shape in the past year and a half  as I set out to lose the dreaded “baby weight” of two kids. Through the help of Weight Watchers not only did I lose the weight I intended to lose…but I also have kept it off for the past several months now! It has felt so great to stick with something difficult and see it through and maintain it! There were times I wanted to give up but with my goals in mind I just had to keep going. I will talk more about my weight loss journey some other time but my point is that it helps to remember how great it feels to accomplish goals in life.
Along those lines I am learning that what I am doing as a wife and mommy has dignity and purpose if I am doing it for the right reasons! I am learning to set goals and do the things that make me come alive with the unconditional love of Jesus to help gently remind me of His purposes for me. He gives me new strength every day (and every moment) and honestly I would be lost without Him. I would be lost. So His love and His strength keep me strong…keep me grounded…give me purpose! God’s word tells us that He does have great plans for our lives:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you…to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

So now the question is… “What makes you come alive?” and will you consider writing your goals and hopes for your future rather than trying to live up to last years resolutions!?!

God has great plans for you… and hopes for you!

Maybe this year I can give up the guilt, be free and ask myself what makes me come alive…I hope you will too!

Happy New Year!

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oh SANTA

Hmmm…I don’t know about you but I Believe!
 
A friend and I have talked about Santa a lot lately.  She is trying to figure out the best way to handle Santa as her kids grow up.  She is not sure she wants to lie about it…and I totally get that to a point.  This is tough for a lot of people and especially a lot of Christians.  She recently sent me an article about a well-known pastor and how his family has approached it. They have chosen to tell their kids the facts of the “first Santa” and the real story and all the myths that have come along with him since then.  They don’t give him credit for toys under the tree…but they also don’t tell their kids it is bad to believe in him or that they should have nothing to do with this iconic character. While I respect his point of not wanting to lie about it…I have to admit that I just don’t get it.  I just don’t get this whole “lying” emphasis.  Surprises can have an element of untruth to them…but for me the fun of the surprise (especially that of Santa) out-weighs the element of “lying” about it.  For example…will I ever buy a gift for someone or plan a secret trip and ask my kids to “lie” about it to keep it a surprise…probably. Will I be lying?  Technically yes.  But will they care and say, “why did you lie to us?” Maybe/Maybe Not.  If they do care we will have to explain that we wanted to surprise them & so we had to “lie” to them. These are always complex issues but our job as parents (in my opinion) is to teach them the that there is a difference between lying to get out of trouble and/or because it is hard to tell the truth and “lying” to keep a surprise. Will this whole Santa thing teach them to be liars…I doubt it and I hope not.  Our training about lying and truth and all those kinds of things is happening all the time and will be an ongoing discussion with our kids until they are adults.  
 
Now, to be fair I must admit that as a child I was very disappointed when I found out that Santa was not who I thought he was. I can speak from experience that I was really bummed when I learned the news (from a friend who’s parents didn’t believe in Santa) and I probably did ask my mom why she lied…But I believed so strongly in the fun and enchantment of Santa that I told her I was going to believe anyway because I just loved it so much!  To me it was magical…and it still is!  My parents did not model dishonest behavior to us…they always told us the truth…I never even saw them lie to each other as a kid. Therefor I was able to swallow the “lie” of Santa when I realized it had been fun for me to believe! My parent’s ongoing pattern of honesty has helped to shape me and make me a VERY honest person.  But I also believe in Jesus and that He, of course, wants us to tell the truth.  I just wonder if sometimes we “over spiritualize” things…I know we often “under spiritualize” things as well…but for Aaron and I we are all right with where we have landed on this issue!  There is so little magic left in life after the age of seven or eight, when you realize that fairy tales are not true and the tooth fairy is perhaps Mom and Santa’s reindeer may not have been those noises you were sure you heard on the roof when you were five.  I just cannot imagine Paige and Grant missing out on those experiences of magic for the few precious years they have to receive it!  
 
So those are my thoughts.  I’ve been hoping to write about it on this blog but have been hesitant to offend anyone.  Many of my close friends do not teach their kids to believe in Santa…and this used to make me sad but now I realize that it’s just a personal issue for each family. I will respect whatever anyone decides to do…it’s not easy…but I’m sure everyone eventually lands somewhere with it that feels good.  Let me just say that it is getting more and more fun each year that Paige gets older and is finally starting to “get it.” We have also had fun explaining to her that Santa comes to help us celebrate Jesus birthday!  It must be working because she narrated that to me as we were writing her letter to Santa the other night.  I started by saying as I wrote: “Dear Santa, Thank you for…” and she interjected with “for helping us celebrate Baby Jesus Birthday!”  We’ll teach her the story of the first Santa someday…for now we love the magic!
 
Here is to Believing!!!
 
P.S. Here’s an article I love from Dr.Sears… it is a response to this: “…we think it’s wrong to lie to him [their young son] about Santa (i.e. building up an idea that there is magic in the world and then letting him fall to earth later!). On the other hand it seems like a bit of a shame for him to ‘miss out’…”
 
 
What?! Santa’s not real? But, I just talked to him today, at the mall!
Yes, you have a point… we are lying to our children. But I personally don’t think it does any harm. While I have talked to many young adults that resent their parents for many things, being tricked about Santa has not been one of them. In my experience with my own kids, as well as many of my friends, the whole Santa thing has gone like this: between age two and seven-ish, it is a fun game, with letters to Santa, half-eaten cookies on a plate Christmas morning, etc. Then the child finally gets in on the secret, probably thanks to one of his friends. At this point, letters to Santa (and the tooth-fairy for that matter) are addressed to “Dad”, and the older child has fun playing Santa games on the younger siblings.
I think most of us have a lot of great “Santa memories”. I vividly remember trying to explain to my 5 year-old why she saw Santa Claus walking down the street! I do get a little bit sad when I think about my little girl growing up and losing that Christmas magic. It seems like a metaphor for life… it isn’t always going to be a bowl of cherries. I guess I wish we could all keep believing in Santa. For now, I need to help my younger one mail a letter to the North Pole, and also teach him the real meaning behind Christmas.
Dr. Jim
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{ANYTIME GOODIES}

Here are a few goodies to share anytime of year!
::Gabrielle’s Crepes::
1 cup milk
1 egg
¾ cup flour
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1/8  tsp. salt
 
*optional toppings: applesauce, whip cream, berries, toasted nuts, peanut butter, chocolate, banana or my favorite NUTELLA!
 
Mix well or blend in blender (the blender is best). Chill for a few hours or overnight for best results. Spread about ¼ cup of batter in a nonstick pan over medium/low heat. Flip once it starts to set up. Add toppings. These can be made and frozen or kept in the refrigerator for days (even the batter keeps for a few days)…so enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dessert!
::Mishawn’s Bisquick Cinnamon Rolls::
Ingredients:
  • Bisquick (about 2 cups) (use as much as you want to make)
  • Milk (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 stick of butter (room temp but not melted)
  • Brown sugar (about 1 cup)
  • Cinnamon (enough to cover dough spread out)
Directions:
1. Mix Bisquick & milk until it sticks together to form a ball (if too sticky add a little bit of Bisquick…if too dry add milk one tablespoon at a time).
2. Flour a cutting board or clean surface with Bisquick and roll out dough ball to about 1/2 inch thickness (will be about the size of an 8″ x 14″ piece of paper).
3. Spread butter over the entire surface of dough…using almost the whole stick  (if the butter is cold put in microwave 5 seconds at a time…trust me if you don’t check it every 5 seconds it will melt and you’ll need to start with another stick).
4. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over surface of dough.
5. Sprinkle cinnamon evenly over surface of dough.
6. Roll up dough starting at small end (8 inch end). Make it fairly tight…pressing into surface as you roll but not too tight.
7. Grease pie plate (cooking spray works great)
8. Cut roll into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces and lay flat in pie dish covering whole surface (squish them in however you can- they should all fit when you are done cutting up the roll)
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes (depending on thickness of dough- should be slightly golden brown)
Icing (optional): mix powdered sugar with milk or coffee or water (one tablespoon at a time) until desired consistency and flavor.  Add a dash of vanilla or any extract if you like.  Put in small zip lock bag and snip off tiny corner. Squeeze icing through the bag & sprinkle evenly over the rolls before serving.
::Peanut Butter Icing::
(perfect on Brownies or Chocolate Cupcakes)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I just used a hand held electric beater and it worked just fine). Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream & beat on high speed until mixture is light & smooth. Use on brownie bites, chocolate cupcakes or whatever you might enjoy peanut butter icing on!  The possibilities are endless!
Recipe from www.foodnetwork.com 2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved
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