The Center of Our Home-Where Things Change

The center of our new home is literally my great room coffee table.  Our home is a very open concept, so you walk in the front door to a large entry from which you just flow right into the dining room, great room and kitchen.  I LOVE IT.  And literally in the middle sits my coffee table.

Advent has been a part of my family Christmas off and on for most of my life.  As a pastor my dad loved to include the advent candle as part of our worship.  Some years we did the same at home, others not.  With my own children we have attempted some form of Advent each year.  When they were young it was about the Advent Calendar.  My mother-in-law purchased a wonderful nativity scene advent calendar from World Crafts years ago.  My children loved trying to figure out which pieces to put in the pockets so the story unfolded correctly.  We also used the Advent box purchased through Family Life, where the children open a new gift box each year.  As they grew it sometimes amounted to nothing more than reading the daily scripture.  Then, last year I came upon Ann Voskamp’s, “The Greatest Gift”.  We purchased an Advent Wreath and candles.  We are using the same this year and have added to it our “Gather Round” from Barbara Rainey’s Ever Thine Home and the “post-it” notes provided on Ann Voskamp’s website.  (Each morning after reading the “post it ” reminder, we place it on the Gather Round Wreath.)

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It is here our hearts are stirred.  It is here our minds are cleared.  It is here the quiet settles in and His truth permeates the stillness.  The center of my home is where things change.  Each morning the “post it” cards prompt us to new thoughts, transforming thoughts and action.  Action following love, the love He imparts through grace.  Each evening our spirits are quieted as we stop to relinquish the day, prepare for rest.  Life may get messy in between.  We will fall short of His glory.  We may even lose sight of Christmas, but this place, this centering spot, brings us back.

If Advent has not been a part of your Christmas, head over to Holly Gerth’s site (see the button over on the side).  Today is a round up of Advent Resources.  You are sure to find something.  You won’t regret adding this to your traditions.  And remember, if you miss a night, life goes on, don’t give in, just pick back up.

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Are You Going to Do More Than Survive the Holidays? PLAN

I was asked to speak recently at a church women’s event, one of my favorite things to do.  With the holidays upon us, I was asked to speak on surviving the holidays.  For most of us that is exactly how it feels-like we are just surviving.  Much of life used to be that way for me as a strove to find success in my career, sought to have the cleanest house and most organized pantry. Life was often nothing more than moving from task to task, falling into bed exhausted, praying for a little respite to come my way.

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God’s plan for our lives holds so much  more than that.  There are no promises of pain free, sorrow-less days, but there is the promise of transformation, healing, strength, hope and joy.   We are reminded life is lived in the ordinary moments of our days as we love others.

P.L.A.N.

There is a way to develop habits and lifestyle which lead to more than just surviving the days, the holidays.  I’ve not perfected it for myself, but it gives me a guide, an accountability tool to use.  As we plan our days, determine our “to do” list, we need to filter everything through the PLAN.

P:  Purpose/Priorities

L:  Limits/Letting Go

A:  Acknowledge/Assign

N:  Nurture

Purpose and Priorities.  Too often we move through life allowing others to determine our choices and actions.  We say “yes” in order to please, gain a sense of accomplishment, fit in with a group, to avoid guilt, and the list goes on.  We give no thought to our purpose and priorities.

As I have sought to simplify my life and live a more organized life that reflects who I am as a Christian woman I have come to realize I must spend time here-in this place of determining priorities.  Scripture tells me I am to place Christ first, which means daily I must spend time with Him, study Him, seek Him.  Then I must care for those He has entrusted to me, my family.  I then consider the gifts and talents He has given me and consider ways to use those gifts to serve others, whether it is through paid employment or volunteer work.  When you set these priorities and limit your “yes” to only those things you have talents and gifts for, it really isn’t hard to determine priorities.  (The next step will be critical, so come back Monday.)  Interestingly, for those of us who call ourselves, believers, the priorities are pretty much the same.  He has a clear road map in the Bible.  The only real variance is the latter, using our specific gifts and talents.

To live according to our purpose and priorities, we must allow God to transform us.  Transformation begins with the renewing or our minds, thus the scripture reading, bible study, prayer and corporate fellowship.  Scripture also tells us the heart is the wellspring of life.  While we want to think through our decisions carefully, often those “best yes” decisions are the ones made with our whole being.  The one that just “feels” right as it aligns with our minds.  Those decisions you can smile at, settle into like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.  The one that when carried out gives deep satisfaction, peace and joy.

I have come to ask myself this very important question as I try to make that final determination between “want to” and priority. Will doing this “thing” affect someone’s body, mind or spirit.  If not, if it only affects me or has no real relational value, then I don’t do it.  It simply isn’t part of how God has designed us.  Now lest you think that means you can quit cleaning toilets, exercising or all that other mundane, not so much fun stuff, stop and think.  As a wife and mother (or husband and father) the care of my home impacts my family’s mind, body and spirit.  A clean, well managed home provides them a place of shelter in which to find safety, rest, health.  It is a place meant to refresh and prepare them to go out and carry out their purpose and priorities.  Exercise helps me maintain or regain strength.  It offers an opportunity to release stress and ensure my cardiovascular system is staying healthy.  I can then serve better, care for others better.  I can inspire or encourage those around me to do the same for themselves.

Get it?  Setting our purpose and priorities is about perspective.  To have the right perspective you have to stop and give it thought, look in scripture for guidance and seek His counsel that your mind may be transformed and your life may spring up from within your heart.  That is the place of peace and joy.  That is the place that even when tragedy or mishaps occur you can carry on.

What are your purposes and priorities this holiday?  Have you given it any thought?  Mine are:

  1. Create a home environment in which friends and family find peace.
  2. Keep our schedule open enough we have time to fellowship one on one, with family and close friends.
  3. Establish times to serve as a family, remembering Christ came to love, to serve and to save.

Set your “P” today.  Don’t rush into the holiday one more day.  Step back, get some perspective and decide your purpose.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

It has been quite a week.  I didn’t post on Wednesday, life was just too full and in keeping with my priorities, blogging fell off the list so I could focus on family.  We have had a blast finishing up a little Christmas decorating. The tree has been up and the yard has been glowing, but some of our little Christmas vignettes hadn’t quite been completed.  I miss my girls being of the age where Christmas is magical, and mystery awaits around every corner.  However, as much as I miss those days, and that age, I am loving being in the Second Season of parenting.  Christmas magic still exists.  Now though, they are a part of making it happen.  I even had one of those, “Thank you Lord we have done some things right” moments, when my girls finished purchasing some gifts for those less fortunate and in unison (after all they are twins) said, “Mom, it really is so much fun to give.  It makes me so excited.”  Not only that, but in this season they relish in getting out the decorations and helping.  One, I love the help.  More than that though I love listening to them share their memories as they help with the tree, vignettes, the outside etc…  We never really know as parents which moments are catching their attention.  Be assured.  They are capturing moments.  They are making memories.  So, I encourage you if you have little ones.  Enjoy these days.  I know it can be hard, and some days you wonder if you’ll make it through to the next.  Relish the moments.  Make memories.  Be deliberate in the memories you make.  At the same time, be encouraged.  The teen years aren’t bad.  There are new pleasures and new moments to treasure.  You begin to see the fruit of your labor and it is quite delightful.

In the spirit of Christmas and sharing, I leave you with a few pictures of our Christmas.  I won’t be blogging any the next week and half.  It’s all about family, enjoying some time in the ministries we are engaged in, helping others know Christ, see Christ.  I’ll be reflecting on the year behind and the year ahead.  I’ll be praying that in my little world and in yours Christ will make Himself evident and one more life would be changed.  Merry Christmas.  May the Christ of the Season be your Peace and your Hope.

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Get Ready: Holiday Planning Begins NOW!

I allow myself to get through Halloween before I begin planning for the Holidays.  Of course, ideas, thoughts, pictures swirl through my mind, but I make no effort to intentionally plan or write things down until now.  We can get so caught up in planning and preparing, we miss the joy of the season.  Before you begin to think of gifts and decorations I challenge you to follow the advice of Glynnis Whitwer and tackle the food planning first. After all, the best memories are made around the dinner table or at the festive holiday drop in.  And in all reality, the food for the next 6 weeks can cost us as much as the gifts if we are not careful.  Glynnis’ tips are easy – just takes a little planning and a little time.

Let the holiday planning begin!  http://glynniswhitwer.com/2013/11/planning-for-the-food/

A Moment of Holiday Panic and A Money Saving Tip for the Holidays

My daughter came down the stairs last night filled with excitement as she burst out, “There are only 8 more Fridays until Christmas!”  Little did she know these words would send her ever planning, over achieving, type A mom into mass panic. One look at my face and she figured it out and quickly added, “Mom, don’t worry, we’ll help this year.”  I wish I could say the knot in my stomach went away, but…

This blog has been a practice in self-discipline and accountability.  On many levels it is helping.  As I thought today about the quickly approaching holidays, which can seemingly run together in one big blur if we are not careful, I took a deep breath.  It really is amazing what breathing can do for one’s spirit!  I took a few more deep breaths and reminded myself I have a plan. I already have my Holiday Planning pages tucked neatly into my projects notebook (the big green one from last week’s post). I’ve already begun a gift list.  My holiday decorations are neatly stored and labeled.  So, really, there is no reason for panic. What is needed is my mini October 31 retreat.  My time of quiet with a good cup of coffee and my beloved planner, projects binder, Holiday Planning Pages and Bible.  What is needed is to focus my thoughts once again upon all that matters most so the distractions fall away and the beauty of a holiday season full of love, caring and giving of ourselves can emerge.

We moms, especially us Second Season Moms have a way of getting distracted (pulled in a million directions).  We have a way of forgetting to breathe.  I pray this season I will let the distractions fall to the wayside.  I pray I’ll take every opportunity to be still and breathe.

So, tip 1.  Enjoy your day of planning tomorrow.  Take one holiday at a time.  For now, there’s no rush.  Set aside some time and plan.

To save a little money this season make a few extra trips to the grocery store over the next 3 weeks.  Groceries will be at their lowest prices these next three weeks.  Add to that, coupons will be in abundance.  Take advantage and purchase as many staples as you can: sugar, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, sodas, cake mixes, soups, oils and breads (to freeze).  If you have freezer space go ahead and purchase your turkey.  The prices on all these items will rise the week before Thanksgiving and stay that way through the first of the year.