Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jesus is the Light...

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Show -n-Tell...

How is your Christmas season coming along? Up until now, we're been focusing on preparations for the Advent season. But now it's truly Christmastime.

Would you share your Christmas with the readers of our little blog?

We are looking for photos of specific decorations for a special set of posts that we'll be doing in the coming days. Would you please consider snapping a shot of...

... your front door
... your entry hall
... your mantle
... your Christmas tree
... your special Christmas collection (snowmen, gingerbread men, stars, snowflakes, cardinals, whatever you collect!)

We would LOVE to see what wonderful ideas our readers have for decorating this special season!

You can email your photos to We'll include your first name only with your photo. And of course, we'll not even mention your location. If you prefer to remain anonymous, let us know and we'll just call you "A Friend." We need all submissions by December 7th.

Thanks for your help!

Get Ready, Get Set, Go!

Well, friends... We hope that you have found what we have found during this week of Thanksgiving: our blessings are without measure!!!

And now the turkey is almost gone and the scarecrows are back in the attic. So for those of us who have a hard time getting into Christmas before Thanksgiving...

It's time!

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent. Is your wreath ready? Do you have candles to light? Have you selected the devotional you're going to read? If not... let's get going! Don't pressure yourself to make the perfect Advent wreath. There are wonderful Advent rings available in just about every Christian book store. And if you prefer a simplified, minimalist look, feel free to grab three purple, one pink and one white votive candles and place them on a glass plate. We did just that with items we purchased from the local dollar store. This Advent wreath cost only $4 to make.

Many Advent devotional readings are available online. You can Google "Advent devotionals" or some variation of that concept and select just the right set of readings for you. It's not too late.

Our family usually lights the Advent wreath on Sundays and opens the Advent calendar during daily family devotions every year. But we have always done both with just the people living under our roof. This year we are going to try something different. On the Sundays of Advent, we are having guests over for Sunday dinner. I know! Almost no one does that on a regular basis anymore. But we're going to give it a shot. Tomorrow... Gramma is coming, and we are so excited!

How are you doing Advent this year? Will you take a quick minute and leave a comment, sharing your ideas with others? We know you'll be a blessing...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving...

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

His love endures forever

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to he Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1-3

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saying "Thanks!"

"Thank you!" Two little words that go a very long way. They say far more than we can ever imagine.

First, they point out that we noticed someone outside ourselves. We don't go around saying "Thank me." No, "Thank you" points to the outside, which is a very good thing. In our busy-mess of life, we become all too focused on ourselves... what we don't have, what we need to do, what we want, what we need. "Thank you" is a wonderful way to remember we're not in this business of life alone.

Second, these words indicate that we have a debt of gratitude to that someone-outside-ourselves. The etymology of the word thank relates it to an Old English noun that means "good thought; gratitude." Somehow these sweet people have met a need in our lives and we are grateful.

In this week of Thanksgiving, reflect on the people who bring good thoughts of gratitude to mind for you. Take a minute to thank someone-outside-yourself specifically for how he or she blesses your life.

Here are just a few ideas of people you can thank as you go through your day.

* the cashier at the very busy Thanksgiving eve grocery store
* your husband who leaves home daily to provide for the family
* your child who unexpectedly gives you a hug or a smile
* your parents who love you
* your friend who is always at the other end of a phone call or text
* your neighbor who doesn't complain when the lawn isn't mowed right away
* your Bible study leaders, small group and lecture, who prepare to shepherd and teach you
* your pastor's wife who encourages you
* your children's teachers who plan lessons and crafts week after week
* your teenagers' coaches who pour their time and energy into helping them grow as athletes and people
* the postal carrier who brings the mail day in and day out
* the buddy whose blog makes you laugh out loud
* the encourager who refuses to let you sink into self-pity
* the driver who yields so that you can go somewhere in a hurry
* the women in Moms In Touch for your school who pray for your children as well as their own
* the stranger who holds open the door for you at an office or school or store
* the first responders in your local fire or police station who keep watch over your safety
* the IT people who keep your computer network functioning day in and day out
* the server who brings your meal
* the stylist who cuts your hair just like you like it
* the military families whose sacrifices make our freedom possible
* the one who takes the time to say "Thank you" for whatever reason. It's always a blessing to be appreciated.

And of course...

Thank the One Who lay down all of heaven and wrapped Himself in human form to pay the price for you to know His Father and live with Him forever and ever.

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you...have refreshed the hearts of the saints.

Philemon 4-7

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Enter His gates...

We're going to take a break from Christmas-ing for a couple of days and ponder Thanksgiving. How appropriate it is that we have a holiday of giving thanks to kick off the Christmas season.

Let's take a minute to focus on Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

As we, His sheep, enter into this holy season, let's do it the way our Shepherd calls us to do it... with thanksgiving! Thanksgiving brings us through the gates. Praise draws us into His courts.

So right now, as you're sitting at your computer, take a minute or two and start to thank Him. For the things He's done for you. For the things He's done in you. For the things He's done through you.

Then take this attitude of gratitude to the world around you... your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your neighbors and your co-workers. Let them know why you're thanking God for them today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Advent blogging...

Wow... we've been hitting Advent pretty hard, haven't we? If you're lighting the Advent wreath, then next Sunday, November 30th, is the day that you need to have everything ready to go. If you are keeping an Advent calendar of some sort, then Monday, December 1st, is the big day for you. Pray and ponder and see how the Lord would call you to walk with Him in an extra special way as you contemplate the wonder of His incarnation and the glory of His grace.

Let's bring Advent into 2008 and see where technology fits into the mix. If you are here, you are likely a blogger or reader of blogs... or both. Back in the day, people kept journals. Some still keep a personal journal, but the trend is to blog... keep a web log of important thoughts and events. Unlike the traditional personal journal, a blog is usually for an audience.

One of the most fun things about blogging is getting to know other people. I look forward to reading things like "Stuff I like Sunday" and "Domestic Goddess Monday" and "Friday Favorites." Of course I love it when someone recommends a new blog or shares a recipe or reviews a book or movie. And my friends are among the funniest women in the world, so I always appreciate the laughs. But the biggest blogging blessing for me is getting to know my friends better as I see their world through their blogs. How encouraging!

So... here's a little Advent challenge to all you bloggers out there. What about picking one day each week throughout the season to be Christmas Sharing Day (or something that means the same but sounds much more catchy, as my brain is a little tired from the weekend)? Write a post based on a prompt and either tag others to write about the same post topic or ask that they leave a comment sharing their responses to the same prompt. Or write a post based on a prompt and tag a friend with a different prompt. Then have her tag another friend with a third prompt. And on and on and on.

Here are some ideas for prompts. These are just a micro-number of the ideas that are out there, so be creative!

* My earliest Christmas memory ...
* My favorite Christmas present I've ever given ...
* My favorite Christmas present I've ever gotten ...
* What makes me feel like Christmas ...
* The story of how Jesus came into my heart ...
* Why my favorite Bible verse is my favorite ...
* Five things I can do to show people the love of Jesus ...
* My favorite Christmas carol ...
* Three gifts I will give the King on His birthday ...
* Three gifts I have received from the King for which I give Him all the glory ...
* The coolest Christmas ornament in my collection ...
* How I see the Light of the world shining in the darkness ...
* Three people I want to thank for helping me know Jesus ...
* My favorite part of the Christmas story ...
* Christmas morning at our house ...
* Gifts I'd like to give that don't cost any money ...
* What excites me most about the Christmas season ...
* My funniest Christmas memory ...
* My favorite Christmas decoration ...
* The ugliest ornament ever ...
* A prayer for my friends ...
* Three people I've shared Jesus with this Christmas ...
* 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through my house...
* A Christmas tradition I tried to start ...
* My favorite Christmas cookie recipe ...

Any other ideas? Feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks to Heather for sharing her photography!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Jesse Tree...

Think of it as a little Christmas tree with great big significance. Traditionally a Jesse tree bears either symbols of the Old Testament heritage of Jesus or symbols of the fruit that comes from knowing His love. In earlier days, families would decorate a literal branch off of a tree with these symbols.

The Jesse tree gets its name from the passage in Isaiah 11:1-2:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord---

You can decorate a Jesse tree all at once for the whole season, or you can place one ornament on it each day during Advent so that by Christmas Day, it is complete.

Below is a picture of a Jesse tree decorated with the names of Jesus. Many of these names are found in Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah's coming. Some are New Testament names of Jesus that echo things found in the Old Testament.

The mini glass ornaments each have written on them in gold paint one of the names of Jesus.

Passover Lamb

Alpha and Omega

All you need to make this tree are:

* 1 small (2' - 4') Christmas tree with lights
* 24 mini glass ball ornaments (available this season in the Dollar Spot at SuperTarget and Target Greatland)
* 1 gold or silver paint pen

Here is the list of names of Jesus and their Scripture references:

Son - Isaiah 9:6; Luke 3:22
Wonderful Counselor - Isaiah 9:6
Mighty God - Isaiah 9:6
Everlasting Father - Isaiah 9:6
Prince of Peace - Isaiah 9:6
Creator - Colossians 1:16
Alpha and Omega - Revelation 22:13
Savior - Luke 2:11
Lamb of God - John 1:29
Good Shepherd - John 10:11
Root of Jesse - Isaiah 11:10
Bread of Life - John 6:35
Light of the World - John 8:12
Holy One of Israel - Isaiah 49:7
King of kings - Revelation 19:16
Lord of lords - Revelation 19:16
Anointed One - Psalm 2:2
Foundation Stone - Isaiah 28:16
Redeemer - Isaiah 59:20
Servant - Isaiah 42:1; 49:5-7
Passover Lamb - I Corinthians 5:7
Root of David - Revelation 22:16
High Priest - Hebrews 2:17
Righteous Branch - Jeremiah 23:5
Atoning Sacrifice - I John 2:2

Or you can make your own list. What a blessing to seek Him out in His Word this Christmas season!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Psalm 145 moments...

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Psalm 145:3-7

There's a sparkle to the Christmas season that jumps from generation to generation. Have you watched a child talk about Christmas recently? Put aside the grown up world of shortages of time and money and patience for a couple of minutes and go talk to a kid about the Christmas season. They start with a twinkle... growing into a sparkle... fanning into a flame... until there's a full blown blaze. It's an amazing thing.

As moms and grandmas and aunts and sisters, we have the privilege of sharing the true sparkle of Christmas. You see, kids will sparkle with whatever we get excited about. If we focus on presents, they'll camp on the Christmas gift list. If we delight in food, they'll clamber for cookies and candies. If we value family and friends, they'll jump at the chance to visit with loved ones. Yes, kids have the sparkle all right. But ours is the task of helping them sparkle with love for Jesus.

One of the best ways to share Jesus with a child during the holiday season is by making Advent calendars together. Of course you are trying to stay organized. Of course you are trying to get the house clean for Thanksgiving and the rubber-hits-the-road Christmas kick-off that immediately follows. Of course it will be messy and take twice as long as you planned. But this weekend, consider pulling out the pretty papers and markers and scissors and glue and for a couple of hours and sit down with a child and make an Advent calendar.

Our friend Heather sent the link to a wonderful online newsletter that highlights kids' crafts. Click here to see the issue on making Advent calendars with kids. The traditional lift-the-flap calendar style is just one way to approach this project. This newsletter gives some other... slightly easier (!) ways to celebrate Advent in a crafty way with kids.

What a wonderful opportunity to create and laugh and share your heart. In addition to the newsletter's suggestions for what to write for each day, here are a few more ideas:

* Have an older child share the Christmas Story, in his or her own words, in 24 sentences. Write one sentence for each day. As your family shares the Advent calendar together, read all the sentences to date and make an especially big point to add a new one each day until the story is complete.

* Have each child take turns making thumbprints for each day. Let each one turn his or her thumbprint into a unique little angel. Write a praise to go with each angel for each day of the season. Then you'll have a heavenly host singing praises in your house this holy-day season.

*Together make a list of prayer requests for people and events and situations that are near and dear to the heart of your family. For each day, write down a request per day and pray for it during family devotions. If you want to use pictures, digital photos or even magazine clippings work well as illustrations.

*Encourage serving with a happy heart. Title the calendar "To Show Jesus' Love Today..." and for each day write something that one member of the family will do for another each day of the season. Examples: "Kayley will read the Christmas story to Baby Alex," "Sasha will help Mom wash the Christmas plates," "Ben will help Dad clean out the garage," "Ella will make a special dinner for the family."

*On Thanksgiving Day, divide the number of days in Advent (24) with the number of people in your family. Have each family member write down that number of things he or she is thankful for. (Example: 24 days... 5 family members... 4 "Thanks" per person, plus 4 whole-family "Thanks.") In family worship each day of the season, read each "Thanks" and spend a few moments in an attitude of gratitude together before the Lord.

These are just a few suggestions. What works with your family? Try it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

How to make an Advent wreath...

There are MANY ways to make an Advent wreath, but we're going to show you this way because it is the least expensive way. (And if you've seen the economy lately... you'll notice stuff costs a lot more than it used to and there's a lot less cash hanging around to get spent!)

Supplies needed (Click on the item name to link to a page with a picture):

-1 x 10" Styrofoam extruded wreath ring (preferably green) and
4 x green candle cups
-1 x 10' flat Styrofoam wreath ring

-22 or 24 gauge paddle wire

-wire cutters

-1 x 18" Christmas wreath ($1.99 at Michael's this week)

-Christmas holiday picks or 3' of Christmas garland

-Advent candles

-White pillar candle or taper

Once you've made the big trip to Michael's or A.C. Moore, here's what you do.

If you are using a flat wreath ring, you need to place the candles directly in the ring to make an indentation. Make certain that the hole is deep enough that the candles won't fall over. Once you have made starter-holes evenly around the ring, take the candles back out.

If you are using an extruded wreath ring (which we recommend), place the candle cups evenly around the ring. Using candle cups tends to make the candles more stable that if they are simply mounted on the Styrofoam itself.

With candle holes completed or candle cups secured, use the paddle wire to attach the green Christmas wreath to the wreath ring.

Then decorate the wreath itself, using holiday floral picks or a 3' strand of garland. If you use garland, secure it to both the wreath ring and the Christmas wreath using paddle wire. Make certain to leave room for the candles at the holes or cups.

Finally, place the purple and pink Advent candles in the holes/cups. Place in the center of the wreath a white pillar candle on a small plate or a white taper in a candle holder. Light the candles on the appropriate Sundays of Advent, beginning with a purple one on Sunday, November 30th.

Readings for the Advent-wreath-lighting are available from many sources. Our family uses the devotional printed on an old bulletin from a Christmas Eve Candlelight service many years ago. But two books that we recommend as resources that are available from Christian bookstores and various online booksellers are:

Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas, by Sharon Jaynes


A Family Advent: Keeping the Savior in the Season, new this year from Thomas Nelson publishers

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Advent wreaths you can buy...

This Christmas season, there are many different variations of the traditional Advent wreath. These were just a few of the ones available at the local Family Christian Store.

If you choose to make your own, you can assemble all the parts--wreath, candle holders, floral decorations, candles-- for about half of what you can purchase a comparable store-bought wreath and candles.

Tomorrow... How to make an Advent wreath.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Advent is much more than a season to count down the days until Christmas Day. It is a season to reflect... to prepare our hearts for the coming of the King. While tradition gives us many wonderful ways to count the days from the beginning of December until December 25th, with a number of them involving chocolate, there is never a more appropriate way to prepare our hearts for Jesus that by reading God's Word. Not that chocolate is bad, mind you. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17).

The drawer calendar above is perfect for placing a rolled up Scripture inside for each day of Advent. You can also include a small toy or... hummm... CHOCOLATE! But the most important thing is the Scripture because the written Word prepares our hearts for the Living Word.

First, write or type a verse or short passage on a piece of paper. At the end of this post, there are two sets of verses you can use, if you want a unifying theme for your Advent verses. Once you've written or typed the verses, cut the paper into strips. Roll the strips tightly to form a little scroll. Place a ribbon around the scroll to hold it together until the time comes to read it.

Place the rolled up Scripture passage in the drawer with whatever else would appeal to the people who open the drawers -- toys, peppermints, CHOCOLATE. Scripture scrolls also work well for Advent calendars with pockets for the goodies instead of drawers.

Below are two lists of readings for the season of Advent, just to get you started. Choose one or the other... or make your own. Short Scripture passages work for Advent calendars, Advent journals, and drawer calendars. The main idea is to get into God's Word everyday throughout the entire holy-day season.

The Birth of Jesus Advent Verses

December 1 - Luke 1:30-33
December 2 - Luke 1:41-42
December 3 - Matthew 1:20-23
December 4 - Luke 2:1,3
December 5 - Luke 2:4-5
December 6 - Luke 2:6-7
December 7 - John 1:14
December 8 - Luke 2:8-9
December 9 - Luke 2:10-12
December 10 - Luke 2:13-14
December 11 - Luke 2:15-16
December 12 - Luke 2:17-19
December 13 - Luke 2:20
December 14 - Luke 2:21
December 15 - Matthew 2:1-2
December 16 - Matthew 2:3-4
December 17 - Matthew 2:5-6
December 18 - Matthew 2:7-8
December 19 - Matthew 2:9
December 20 - Matthew 2:10-11
December 21 - Luke 2:28-32
December 22 - Luke 2:38
December 23 - Luke 2:40
December 24 - Mark 1:9-11

The Coming King Advent Verses

December 1 - Genesis 3:14-15
December 2 - Genesis 22:18
December 3 - 2 Samuel 7:13
December 4 - Isaiah 7:14
December 5 - Isaiah 9:6
December 6 - Isaiah 9:7
December 7 - Isaiah 35:3-4
December 8 - Isaiah 40:3-5
December 9 - Isaiah 40:10-11
December 10 - Isaiah 42:1-3
December 11 - Isaiah 52:13-15
December 12 - Isaiah 53:1-2
December 13 - Isaiah 53:3-4
December 14 - Isaiah 53:5
December 15 - Isaiah 53:6
December 16 - Isaiah 53:7-8
December 17 - Isaiah 53:9
December 18 - Isaiah 53:10
December 19 - Isaiah 53:11
December 20 - Isaiah 53:12
December 21 - Jeremiah 23:5-6
December 22 - Micah 5:2
December 23 - Zechariah 9:9
December 24 - Luke 1:31-33

Some of the most adorable Advent calendars this year are available for purchase in Target stores and online.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I always liked the idea of Him... by Allison S.

As a child, I attended a large, traditional church with cathedral-style, stained-glass windows. There was also a fresco of Jesus and a herd of sheep. I don’t remember much about the sheep – just that they were there – but I do remember that in Jesus’ arms were two or three little lambs looking up at him. He was looking back at them with a grave, tender expression on his face.

We sat in the same place every week in order to be close to the side door, where Grandma could slip out unobserved if she had a coughing fit. It made her feel more secure to sit there, and I got a lot of face time with this fresco while half-listening to a grown-up talk about things I did not understand.

While still very young, I remember gesturing toward the fresco and asking my mother, “Who’s that?”

“That’s God,” she replied, as if I were asking about someone in Bradner’s Department Store. There was no question – just a matter-of-fact, positive ID. So I filed this away in my subconscious: God is a person and he sure takes care of those lambs.

As for me, I had this information, but acting on that information is quite another thing. Time passed and I happily took my eyes off of him. He patiently and faithfully pursued me for decades, through awful choices resulting in pain. He did not give up. He did not even prevent me from making those life choices. In fact, He used them as if to say, as effectively as if He were standing next to me, “Have you had enough of your way yet?”

Eventually and gradually, my flight from Him turned from an energetic run into slow, exhausted steps, until I turned around and, by faith, fell gratefully into His strong arms – just like those little lambs on the fresco.

It is an unspeakable comfort and joy to know that over 2000 years ago, Jesus, Lamb of God, came to this earth as a helpless baby, grew up to be the Good Shepherd and Savior of his flock, died a death that was justly mine. He saved me, He saves me and He will save me.

On what are you relying this day for your salvation? A husband, boyfriend, child, best friend, career, home, good works, yourself? What a relief to know that we don’t have to put that kind of pressure on ourselves or anyone else! This is the season we celebrate the coming of the One who loved us enough to come meet us where we are – on this earth in all our messy humanity – and truly save us.

“Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lay His glory by.
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angel sings, Glory to the new-born King!”

Special thanks to Susan B. of "Handmade to Praise His Name" for sharing her artwork with Celebrating Christmas.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Makin' a list... by Sarah T.

[If you haven't already started planning your gift-giving, now is the time to begin. Start with "who" and "how much," then add "what." Here are some out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for extraordinary presents. Many thanks to Sarah T. for sharing this list of unique gift ideas.]

Unique Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List!

1. Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog - Select a life-changing gift to give in someone's honor through Samaritan's Purse.
2. Comfort food basket - Chocolate, Cheese, Coffee! Give them something to lift their spirits!
3. Movie tickets - Who doesn't love a good movie?
4. Personalized cookbook - Your family's favorites shared with others. Great for college students and newlyweds.
5. Theme park passes - Give the gift of quality time with loved ones!
6. Hobby starter kit - "How to" book and supplies to get started on a new hobby.
7. Cash - But give it in a unique way, stuffed inside helium balloons, a teddy bear, a new hat or a pair of gloves.
8. Candy bar card - Grab a big piece of poster board and spell out a message with candy bars. (Ex. Dear Mr. Goodbar, Now and Later, you make my Starburst! I love you Mounds. You're no Dumb Dumb. Your voice is like a Symphony! OK, stop the Snickers!)
9. Magazine subscription - Cars, sports, underwater basket-weaving: there is a magazine for just about every interest!
10. Workout clothes - Gotta look the part!
11. Lessons - Tennis, golf, sewing, cooking, etc. Learn something new!
12. Scrapbook - Ditch the scissors and check out Snapfish for a personalized scrapbook.
13. Something handmade - Not too crafty? Still want to give something uniquely handmade? Check out Etsy.

And finally... one of my favorite gifts ever...

I'll never forget my first Christmas as a Mommy! My husband, Kyle, woke up early to leave me a special "surprise" carefully wrapped and lying under our tree, fast asleep. I quickly forgot that this was the same little guy who had kept me up the night before! I guess it was the bow!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Got Books?

If you have a Christmas book that has blessed your heart, will you please let us know? Leave a comment on this post giving us the name and author of the book. Share a brief summary of what it's about and how it's blessed you.

What fun it is to point each other to treasured resources!

'Tis the Season...

A few years ago when my husband and I were expecting our first child, I was busy trying to rethink how Christmas was going to look. At the time, we were spending Christmas Eve with my husband's family and driving back to our house 30 minutes away at bedtime. On Christmas morning, we would wake up and read the Christmas story and exchange gifts at 6:00am and then drive two hours away to my Granny's for brunch, which was around 10am. After brunch, we'd drive to my dad's farm a few miles down the road from Granny and spend a couple of hours there. Then around 3:00, we'd drive two hours back to my husband's mom's, where we'd eat dinner and exchange gifts with them.

As I sat pondering our first Christmas with a child of our own, I was in tears. Christmas Eve was a tradition with Jimmy's family that began when his dad died. We couldn't cut that out. And Christmas brunch at Granny's? I was confident Christmas couldn't come without that. And Christmas at the farm? How could I be 10 minutes away and not spend time there? And Christmas dinner with Jimmy's family? It's the only time we'd see Jimmy's brother, Tommy, and his wife, Tracy, because they spent Christmas Eve with Tracy's family. And we really wanted to have something special with our family... just us. How? How? How could we do everything with a six month old in tow?

Before it even happened I was lamenting the loss of a quiet family Christmas where our kids would be nestled all snug in their beds and awaken to a relaxed morning of family devotions and gifts and food and laughter. Then one day we were riding in a car to who-knows-where and I was reading a little book I picked up at the Christian bookstore. The name of the book was 52 Simple Ways to Make Christmas Special. Its author's name wasn't even on the front cover, but on the inside I found out Jan Dargatz wrote the little book that changed Christmas. Well, actually it wasn't the whole book that changed Christmas. It was the "Introduction."

I'd love to tell you to buy the book and read it. But, alas, as far as I can tell, it is now out of print and available only on the secondary book market... and not so reliably there.

So, I'm going to share with you that introduction. Full credit for writing it goes to Jan Dargatz. All praise and glory for the revolutionary way it transformed my life... that goes to the Most High.


Christmas is not just a day. It is a full season with three traditional parts:

*The sober, reflective, preparatory time of
Advent, which comes twenty-one to twenty-eight days before Christmas Day. It is during this time that the Church, traditionally, has prepared itself for the coming of Jesus the Christ: His past coming as a squalling infant into the dark grotto of a Bethlehem stable; His future coming as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Messiah who will rule and reign forever; and His present coming into our individual lives and our church communities as living Lord, Redeemer, Savior, Healer, Deliverer, and ever-present Friend of friends.

*The grand celebration of
Christmastide, the twelve days beginning with Christmas Day. It is during this time that Christians around the world have traditionally "made merry" with joyous abandon. Christmastide is a time for family and friends, for singing and feasting, for sending greetings and hosting parties. It is a time for rejoicing that heaven has struck a path all the way to the very gates of hell and has invited every human being to walk upon it toward everlasting life.

Epiphany, January 6, the day that the Church commemorates the arrival of the wise men from the East bearing their precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is a day traditionally associated with gift giving, a day for reflecting upon the Gift of gifts from a heavenly Father to a needy world. Many of us have combined the gift giving of Epiphany with the celebration of Christmas Day.

The three facets of the Christmas season have a wonderful harmony to them. The sober, reflective, quiet days of Advent give way to the glorious light and merriment of Christmas, and out of a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, gifts flow naturally.

In our culture today, the three seasons of Christmas seem to have become a little muddled. Our children often await Santa Claus more than the birth of the Christ child. We put up our Christmas trees just after Thanksgiving and take them down the day after Christmas rather than putting them up on Christmas Eve and enjoying them until Epiphany. We delight in the bustle and parties before Christmas Day and then wonder why we feel a little depressed and lonely in the days that follow it. By New Year's Day, the party seems to be over. We begin the new year in debt, dread taking down the lights on the house and bushes outside, resolve to embark on major life changes, and often harbor a lingering feeling of unfulfillment.

52 Simple Ways to Make Christmas Special
is a challenge to return to tradition. It calls for Advent to be a personal advent, Christmastide to be a celebration, and Epiphany to be a glorious conclusion to the holiday season. This book provides ideas, loosely grouped, for each facet of the season...

Truly it is a marvel that we commemorate Christmas year after year after year. If Christmas were only a time of commercialized gift giving, we might have let it run its course years ago. No, our souls
need Christmas. We have a deep human need to call attention to the origin of our faith on a periodic basis, to become aware once again that God reached down and extended to the earth His love incarnate. We need a starting-over point for our inner lives, a time for renewal, rededication, and rejoicing. Christmas is something we cannot do without.

Therefore, let's make Christmas even more special. Let's delight in it to the fullest! Let's mark the holidays as holy days. In so doing, we will find more meaning, more fulfillment, and more joy.

Looking at our schedule, we realized December 25th wasn't the be-all and end-all of observing Christmas. As we spread our visits out over the whole season, our time with loved ones actually increased since we weren't trying to see everyone within one 24-hour period. Instead of observing Christmas--watching it go by in a manic fury-- we began to celebrate Christmas... to slow down and seek the Christ whose birthday it proclaims.

Since that 52-Simple-Ways-rethink of the schedule, when I hear "Merry Christmas," I think, Yes, it is! And when someone says "Seasons Greetings," I want to say, Thanks for the reminder it's a whole season, not just December 25th! And "Happy Holidays"... I think I love that one best of all. They are, after all, happy, holy days!

Friday, November 14, 2008


We are so glad that you have joined us this year for Christmas! What a wonderful season it is!

To give you a little background about this blog... our church hosts an annual Women's Ministry event early in November called "Holidays Fit for the King." Of course, the King we mean is Jesus. He is, after all, the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16).

As part of the event, we gather together early on Saturday morning for fellowship, breakfast, and a devotional talk by one of the godly women in our midst. Then we break into workshops. Each lady gets to take two. Topics for this year include: finding joy, budgeting and ideas for being elegantly economical, grief-support, travel, decorating, grandparenting, evangelism, Advent, and online photo albums. You would never believe how beautiful this event is. From the tables, each one decorated for Thanksgiving or Christmas by a lady in our church family, to the faces of the ladies themselves... everything reflects the glory of the Most High and His only Son. (We're taking pictures, so look for them in the coming days!)

This blog came out of a couple of things we've noticed about the event since it first began. Throughout the years, we have found that many, many people want pictures and more notes and more Scripture and more resources. When my friend Susan and I (Norma, the blog administrator) led a workshop a few years ago, we could hardly keep up with the number of requests we got to email information to those who had either attended our workshop and wanted more resources or those who missed the workshop and wanted to know what happened. We were swamped. And a little sad because no matter how much information a speaker presents during the workshop, the true gems of the day always come from comments the women make to one another. The ladies who missed the event lost out on the dynamic interaction that led to even more ideas being shared. Then there's also the fact that no one ever really wants to leave when the event is over -- we could just keep going and going and going. Thus... the Celebrating Christmas blog was born. We're looking forward to sharing ideas and comments and encouragement throughout the entire holiday season.

Now, if we're going to practice what we preach about the Christmas season, we are going to have to keep Christ in the center and family circled around Him. Then comes church and work and school and friends and neighbors. To celebrate Christmas there has to be a little white space on the calendar, so we aren't even going to attempt to do this blog alone.

A group of amazing "Friends" has come alongside to do much of the writing and photography. While you'll hear from me some, you'll be hearing a great deal from some amazing godly women who are willing to share their celebrations of Christmas with us all.

On this blog, you'll see a wide variety of content... photographs, devotionals, Scripture readings, crafts, recipes, gift suggestions, shopping tips, organizational strategies, party themes, decorating ideas and more. We hope it will be both spiritual and practical. But above all we hope it will be full of love and encouragement and bring glory to the Lord.

May this blogspot be a special place for you to gather with "Friends" and be blessed. Feel free to link to this blog. Become a follower. Subscribe. Invite your friends to join us too. And comment... share your thoughts to enrich the posted content. As several of our "Friends" say on their personal blogs, comments are like hugs!

With all that said... Welcome to Celebrating Christmas!!!