Thursday, December 25

Christmas Countdown! #25 - O Holy Night!

O Holy Night 2x2

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Wishing everyone a
beautiful and blessed Christmas
spent with those you love.

See you next year!


Wednesday, December 24

Christmas Countdown! #24 - Mary's Letter to Joseph

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19)

I know we've heard and read a lot of  poems and stories about celebrating Jesus birth... and I hope those I've shared with you this month have touched your heart. But perhaps none has tugged on my heartstrings like the treasure I am sharing with you today. It is a letter that could have been written by Mary. Peek over Joseph’s shoulder as he reads this letter from his beloved.

Image result for images of written letters

I had a dream Joseph. And I don’t understand it not really. But think it was about a birthday celebration for our Son. Well I think that’s what it was about. People had been preparing for about six weeks. They had decorated their house, bought new clothes, gone shopping many times, and bought elaborate gifts. But it was peculiar though because you see, the gifts weren’t for our Son. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes! A tree, Joseph, right in their house. They decorated a tree.

The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. And there was a figure on top of the tree that looked something like what an angel might look like. Oh, it was so beautiful. Everyone was laughing and happy and all excited about the gifts. They gave gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don’t even think they knew Him. They never mentioned His name.

Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate somebody’s birthday when they don’t even know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration, He would have been intruding.

Everything was beautiful, Joseph. Everyone was full of cheer. But it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus, not to be wanted at His own birthday celebration. I’m glad that it was only a dream. What if it would have been true?

Is it true??? This year, let’s make sure to invite the honored Guest to His birthday celebration. Set Him a place at the table. Read about His birth on Christmas morning. Wrap Him a gift and place it under the tree. Perhaps write what you’re giving Jesus on slips of paper, wrap it up in a little box, and place it by the nativity. It could be a commitment to pray more, love better, forgive quicker. That's the kind of list I'll be making and checking it twice.

Tuesday, December 23

Christmas Countdown! #23 - Grandma's Little Elf

 Even before Brayden was born, Holly started their family tradition of making a Gingerbread House each Christmas. This year was no different... we set aside one night last week and had a blast!
Finished Product
Brayden even decorated his gingerbread cookie
he got at Christmas in the Park on Saturday.....
He's taking a picture to send to Grandma D...
it was her birthday the same day so we
said we made it for her!
Notice here he added Mr Gingerbread....
And here's my little "elf"....
(can you read his t-shirt?)
Psalms 37:4 Take delight in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart!

Monday, December 22

Christmas Countdown! #22 1Corinthians 13


If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and
arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,
but do not show love, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and
give all that I have to charity,
but do not show love, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and
crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and
sing in the choir's cantata
but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has
coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return
 but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Skateboards will break, 
new earrings will be lost,
golf clubs will rust,
but giving the gift of love will endure forever!
Love is Patient, Love is Kind - 1 Corinthians 13 - STAIR CASE Stair Riser - Vinyl Decal

Sunday, December 21

Christmas Countdown! #21 - A Merry Little Wish....

I wanted to send you....

This adorable card was made by Nikki Spencer....
love the layer of Iridescent Ice embossing powder...
She also made several "matching" cards
 using the same colors... with Festival of Trees!
I also created many and I mean MANY card packets
(like 40+ with 4-5 cards in each packet) from my
inventory of Christmas cards and gave them as
gifts to the girls in the office and friends at church.
Absolutely the perfect gift...
they all loved them.
All Made from the Heart!

Saturday, December 20

Christmas Countdown! #20 - From the Cradle to the Cross

The story of Christmas is the ultimate story of life, of hope, of freedom. The beautiful and mysterious intersection of humanity’s depravity and Divinity’s provision. A complex invasion of darkness by light. By love. By a love that breathes life and brings beauty.


In the beginning, Love breathed life into the made-from-dust lungs of Adam. Life-giving love. The perfect and complete love of a holy, eternal God who spoke words and created new galaxies – new wonders – new worshipers. All was made so that He might be glorified. We His image bearers, however, are different from all other creation in that we are made to know Him. Personally. To know Love. True, pure, eminent love.

Then, stains of rebellion brought separation. Rebellion of God’s plan – of His spoken word, of His will. Human wants and desires rose to rule – our own wills were done instead of God’s: in the Garden… in my life… in yours.

And though rebellion demands death, (Romans 6:23) God’s love pursues with life-giving power. This Love that descended from heaven to earth, came to speak life to death through the incarnate Grace that was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a humble manger. From the cradle to the cross, Jesus came on a love mission.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10


Jesus came upon the no-vacancy scene in Bethlehem to annihilate death – so that we, who are hopeless without Him, could experience love, forgiveness and freedom. Full life. Abundant life. Beauty-from-ashes life.

Childhood gave way to manhood, and at the age of thirty, Jesus Christ made his love mission known. While in a synagogue in Galilee, he unrolled an ancient scroll and found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:14-21

The story of Christmas is the story of Jesus. The story of captives being set free, of the blind gaining sight, and of our stains of rebellion being washed white in his blood.

The story of Christmas is the story of life.

Friday, December 19

Christmas Countdown! #19 - Attitude of Gratitude

Is your heart overflowing?? I hope so... and as I examine mine I want to be sure that I'm not just being emotional (the ooey gooey kind), but externally being thankful during this holiday season and letting my gratitude show! Sometimes that's easier said than done... but it's vital for those we love and cherish... whether it be our physical family or spiritual family or our friends and neighbors, old and new!

Yes the "reason for the season" (as it should be every day) is the gift God has given us first and foremost, his Son... and our spiritual family... and because of that we have been given all the gifts we need in our physical family and friends. That's the truth and that's what I often overlook. If I'm being honest with myself, I realize my expectations and anticipations are often far beyond what any human could possibly deliver... so I wanted to share this korny poem I found... but it really does say it all... no matter who my "honey" is... it's my attitude of gratitude!
Honey You Are..
My sunny sky
My favorite high
My sweetest gift
My emotional lift
My best friend
Until the end
My inspiration
My destination
My shining light
My day and night
My heart healer
My anger chiller
My gem so rare
My answered prayer
My heart and soul
My life made whole
My merry-go-round
My “up” when I’m down
My best chance
My last dance
My best shot
My kumquat
My energizer
My appetizer
My morning sun
My evening fun
My dancing partner
My heart’s gardener
My source of laughter
My ever after
My heaven sent
For who I’m meant
My burning fire
My greatest desire
My soul mate
My sweet fate
My dream lover
My “before all others"
My confidence
My common sense
My reason why
Until I die

Thursday, December 18

Christmas Countdown! #18 - How Far Would You Go?

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:1   

 An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.
When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.
The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.
“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”
His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”


Don't you just love that story? During the holiday season, we scurry about swiping those plastic cards through the credit card machines faster than a speeding bullet. And yet, God has already shown us that the most precious gifts cannot be bought or sold.
The magi also knew about the joy of giving. While they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know that it was a distance that took months, perhaps years. Their long walk was part of the gift.
I wonder how far we are willing to go to worship Jesus…to bring our gifts to Him. I wonder how far out of the way we will go to praise Him. Do we only give to Him when it is convenient or easy? Or do we give what He wants most—a portion of our selves, our very lives.
I think the little African boy had the right idea. The real gift wasn’t the shell; it was the sacrifice he had to make to give it.
God gave us an incredible gift through is Son. I pray that we all will keep gift giving in perspective this holiday season and give gifts from the heart rather than the pocketbook. Most importantly I pray that we give God the only gift he wants... us.


Wednesday, December 17

Christmas Countdown! #17 - My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned, and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground and figured out how to attach nine patches onto my daughter's girl scout sash with staples and a glue gun.

I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my Christmas wishes:

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache after a day of chasing kids (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't flap in the breeze, but are strong enough to carry a screaming toddler out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.

I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like a car with fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays big-people music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking daughter doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with one potty-trained toddler, two kids who don't fight, and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools. I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting, "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.

And please don't forget the Play-doh Travel Pack, the hottest stocking stuffer this year for mothers of preschoolers. It comes in three fluorescent colors and is guaranteed to crumble on any carpet making the in-laws' house seem just like mine.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.
If you don't mind I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It would clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family; or if my toddler didn't look so cute sneaking downstairs in his pajamas to eat contraband ice cream at midnight.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the chimney and come in and dry off by the fire so you don't catch cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table, but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Your's Always,

P.S. One more thing: You can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young...

Tuesday, December 16

Christmas Countdown! #16 - My Secret Santa List

 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 
Every year, I make a Christmas list comprised of every person for whom I am buying a gift. Beside each name, I write what I am getting for them - with an idea of what I want to get and how cost to spend on that gift - and whole-heartedly declare not to spend one penny more. Somehow, the amount I actually spend rarely coincides with the amount I intended to spend, but I digress!

With every purchase, I then mark it off my list.  Done!

I carry that list everywhere I go because there are evil people lurking in my home who will go to any lengths to find that list. Why? Because I am the Queen of Christmas Surprise! I have to guard the Secret Santa List with my life in order to keep my “Queen-ship” status secure.
The Secret Santa list is hidden in unusual places such as a random file on my computer, in the pocket of an old purse, in my underwear drawer – you get the picture.

I know where that Christmas list is at all times because it is my gift-giving plan for the holidays.
I wish I were just as concerned about my God List.
I know I need to seek God and His plan for my life through the Word, but there are days when I don’t spend enough time reading and studying the Bible to discern that plan.

I know I need to pray like crazy to make it through each and every day. Instead, I plead for escape routes from the problems staring me in the face.
I really want to carry His life plan for me in my heart and mind, constantly making choices and decisions in light of that list, guarding it like the treasure map of eternity that it truly is.

But I have come to realize that just knowing God’s plan for my life does not guarantee success.
I must do the plan. That is where obedience comes in. An obedient heart is a “fixed” heart - the only gift God wants from us this holiday season.
Psalm 108:1
“O God, my heart is fixed!”

A “fixed” heart is a determined heart, a steadfast heart that is rightly focused on God and on His plan instead of insisting on clinging to our own personal agenda. When we choose to follow God’s plan, the desires of our heart will line up in obedience to that plan, and we will do what we were created to do.  It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t.

I must be deliberate in my obedience. Every choice I make, every word I say, every thought I have demands a radical obedience to the standards of God.

Life is so daily, isn’t it? And just about the time we think we have it all figured out, God arranges a reality check to remind us that without Him – we will fail.

Failure is not final. It is inevitable. We are frail human beings. We are mortal.
But there is good news! Our greatest opportunities to grow are often packaged in the ruins of failure.

The fact that we are frail humans makes us desperate for God. Our greatest hope is fulfilled by the fact that Jesus came, lived, and died to make it possible for us to know Him.

Knowing God changes absolutely everything.

Maybe today is a good time to stop, go back over my list, and review those life lessons I have learned, checking to see where I really am in my walk with God.

Maybe today is the perfect time to revisit the manger and truly celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by giving Him the gift of obedience.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

Monday, December 15

Christmas Countdown! #15 - Animals of the Nativity

You gotta get this book... not just for the kids.. but for everyone!


This children's book tells the story of the very first Christmas through a new perspective - through the eyes of the animals that might have been around Jesus at his birth! The book is made up of four poems that tell the story of four animals - the camel, donkey, sheep & cow. Each of the animals focuses on one of the reasons that Jesus came to earth - hope, joy, peace and love. This book will help you and your child celebrate Christmas in a new, fun way! And what better way to celebrate Christmas than to help kids in a different part of the world? The profits from this book will go towards Aide La Vie - an organization that gives a special, life-saving food to children who are suffering from severe malnutrition in Benin (West Africa). Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14

Christmas Countdown! 14 - My Hero - Be Still My Heart!

Today is Jerry's celebration of life day.... yes every year he gets mixed into the Christmas festivities.... but it actually is very appropriate as he's such a gift to us! Love you bunches honey... I'm so grateful I have the gift of YOU! You are my Hero!

And I know our best gift is our little b.... after all he's stolen our hearts for sure.... see how 'Thankful' we all are for our little super hero!

....and we had such a "Thankful" day together...

Dinner was just taking way too long for him...
couldn't stand it any longer and got to the black olives...
kindred spirits for sure!

who wants Pumpkin Pie when
you can have a Purple Popsicle???

Thank you God for all our Blessings!

Saturday, December 13

Christmas Countdown! #13 - Twelve Days of Christmas!

Today starts the 12 Days of Christmas... such a special time for me as I love love love each year putting together little treasures for my awesome sister... no, I dont give her a patridge in a pear tree... instead she picks out a gift to start her day... but it's not really the gift, itself.. it's the gift of "time".... in years past I've given her one card/coupon per month for the year and it contains something we'll be doing together that month... she's to open each the first day of the month that way it gives us time to plan date to make it happen....


Here's some ideas if you'd like to give it a try:

January -     Drive up to the mountains together and build a snowman

February -   Have a great heart-to-heart talk, it only draws us closer

March -        Let's go Midnight March Madness shopping

April -          Take a walk during April Showers - umbrellas not allowed

May -           Tea Party Time.... hat & gloves optional.

June -           It's time for cinnamon bun at Del Mar Fair... let's go!

July -           Take a Moonlight walk on Moonlight Beach

August -       Road Trip to Hobby Lobby

September - Go pick apples in Julian and bake a pie together
                      (or just go buy a pie and eat together!!)

October -     Go Pumpkin Pickin' at The Pumpkin Patch

November - Tour as many Fall Festivals as we can find

December - Invite all our friends and host a Birthday Party for Jesus


Friday, December 12

Christmas Countdown! #12 - The Light Shines On!

I just can't get enough of yesterday's project... so here's some more Light 'em Up ideas from Courtney to try...

Top Light ‘Em Up Ideas To Try (continued)

6. Encourage Great Customer Service

Everywhere you go, you can find someone doing their job really well. Stop to take time to fill out the survey. Courtney was so impressed by this sales lady – that she walked back and found her manager in the Macy’s girls department. She told her boss in person how great she was – and they asked her to fill out a card/report for her so she’d get recognized. This was her smile afterwards.


7. Feeding Someone Hungry

We need to widen the perspective in our world. Our kids need to see and understand food is a gift. And some people in our own neighborhoods do not have lunch every day. And, we can help in small ways and big ways. This is often on the heart of our kids. First find out what your kids want to do and plan something specific together. They are far more engaged when they are involved.


8. Let’s Go Big

Go BIG unexpectedly for others. Courtney was at the Americasmart and this lady at Starbucks just loved her necklace. Full story here – but short version she went and bought her one. Her smile is one you can't forget. She was stunned. And thanked God, and gave Courtney tons of hugs. What fun to just delight someone in a huge way.


9. Expand Your Territory

Isn’t it much more fun when we have a group? How about inviting your kids playgroup over and make cookies together and of course you also have to plan what you'll do with them after they're made! Maybe share with the other neighbors or visit your local Children's Hospital or Ronald McDonald House to distribute.


10. Meet Needs In Unexpected Ways

One mom took her family and taped quarters to washing machines. Because during the holidays, it would be a real treat for many to save this money. Meeting real needs.


Now run with it!
And make your own plan....
and tell me all about!

Thursday, December 11

Christmas Countdown! #11 - Light of the World

This is an absolutely incredible project for everyone to get involved in. It will carry you through not just the holidays but will impact your kids entire lifetime and mold their personality and character to become kind and genuine and grateful towards everyone.

Do you understand by one simple gesture, one kind act, one remark, one genuine “thanks” … your family can change your neighborhood?  In fact, your family can change a community. There's an army of moms around the world that lock arms during Christmas to say: let’s focus on GIVING, not GETTING! Let’s teach our kids through experiences vs lectures.

The program is Light 'em Up and they support the Art of Neighboring and it's gone viral! Once you start you can't stop. You continue to serve and love your neighbors in amazing ways. You'll show your kids just how GOOD it feels to give and a way to shine God's love into your community.

I've been reading Courtney DeFeo from This Little Light of Mine blog and am so encouraged by the resource and advise she freely shares with everyone to teach our kids in the way they should go to be a light of the world. She's author of In This House We Will Giggle.. I can't wait to read it too!


Get those little hearts engaged. Let them help you with the planning. Let them brainstorm and make their list. Give God a chance to move in their hearts. Help them have the courage to follow through on their ideas.


Top Light ‘Em Up Ideas To Try

1. Love Your Garbage Collectors

Here are kids from Raleigh to Orlando making it happen. They made posters and gift cards along with donuts and coffee for them to enjoy... anything works!



2. Hide Dollars With Love

Kids will love this sneaky adventure. Just put $1.08 (so tax is included) in a baggie with the “surprise” gift tag and tape them all through the dollar store. Can you imagine finding free money as a child? Or even a struggling adult that could use a break? When one family was doing this they met a homeless woman in the parking lot as they left and of course was out of money – so they drove up to her and just told her “Ma’am – we just hid dollars all through that store.” And she lit up to go find some treasures. The point is often not the others – it’s how he works in us and our kids.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 8.12.46 PM

3. Dazzle the Mall with Candy Canes and Love

Stroll through any mall and be a candy-cane-giving-machine. Hand them out with gift tags attached. And simply said “thanks” to anyone working the week before Christmas. From security guards to makeup artists. Be prepared for tears and hugs. “No one has ever thanked us.” The kids may be shy at first but soon they'll RUN to find the next person. Your heart will melt.. and don't forget to love up on Santa too!


4. When a Tradition Meets Your Passions

Find a way to merge your passions with a tradition. Could be you enjoy caroling so why not arrange with an assisted living home in your neighborhood and plan a visit! It can be so simple. This sweet family is helping out the salvation army with the bell ringing!


5. Pay It Backwards (or Forwards)!

Did you hear about the family that paid for a Starbucks customer behind them in  the drive through window line?  She went back in the next day and the employee let her know that her kindness rippled on – it went on for 40 cars!!! People kept paying it back and paying it back – or forwards! Incredible. In Tampa is summer – it went almost 400 cars.


Don’t forget to DITCH the guilt! No guilt mommas!
If you get to one – that is enough.
If you do it every day – that is great too.
Don’t compare. Let God and your kids guide this –
so it is a rich experience for all.