Monday, December 31, 2012

My Personal Goals for 2013

Yesterday, I posted our family's goals for 2013. Some of my personal goals are the same, but I wanted to share some additional ones to keep myself motivated throughout the year. 


1. Learn how to use my DSLR camera. 


For Christmas, Daniel bought me a Canon T3i camera. I know absolutely nothing about cameras, so the Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600D for Dummies book was the perfect gift from my mother-in-law. I am hoping to save money by shooting my own pictures of our children instead of doling out the big bucks for professional photographers. I also want to take more of my own pictures for my blog. 


2. Read 50 books this year.


PhotobucketI don't normally keep track of the number or title of books I read in a year because other than writing them down, there isn't a good way to do it. However, Goodreads is the perfect tool for not only listing and reviewing the books I've read, but also for finding book recommendations based on my personal interests. Are you on Goodreads? If so, why not join me as a friend.

This year my aim is to read 50 books. As I mentioned recently here, I plan to take part in Quirky Bookworm's Classics Catch-Up, so 13 of the books will be those she's selected.

3. Try one new recipe or craft every month from Pinterest.


I don't know if you've been sucked into the black hole that is Pinterest, but I have tons of pins just sitting there, waiting to be tried out. So, each month I will pick one recipe or craft idea to make and report my findings on here. Kate suggests we start with these sugar cookie bars {yum!}. I would love for you to follow me if you aren't already.

4. Run a 5K.


This is not only a personal goal, but a family one as well: my husband and I are training to run together in our first 5K in the spring. I have been running since last summer when I was determined to get in shape and lose some baby weight. Now I am eager to do something with all that running, and a race just sounds fun. With my husband joining me, I can't think of a better way to exercise, lose weight, and de-stress. We're gearing up for our first 5K in March, so I'll keep you posted.


5. Keep a family notebook.

Not to be confused with a household notebook, a family notebook, as I see it, is a place to keep record of the activities, goings-on, and everyday life of our clan. I hate feeling like a year goes by, and I don't remember what we've done, where we've been, or how we've grown. And while I love writing, journaling enervates me--probably because I'm too detail-oriented.

I'm not really sure what my family notebook will look like, but I will post my progress as I begin to piece it together. Right now, I've procured an unused extra-large clear three ring binder with a few dividers, a spiral bound notebook, and loose-leaf paper as needed. I think having a space to add brochures from places we visit, pictures, programs, tickets, etc. will be nice. And each year I will create a new notebook to store all our memories. Plus, someone can get all creative and make a fun cover for the notebook :)

 6. Organize all my recipes. 


Oh, this is a HUGE project that I've been putting off and putting off forever because I honestly don't know how to tackle it. Over the years, I have accumulated recipes from magazines, the internet, family and friends, and newspaper that I threw together in a big photo album. Originally, all the recipes were divided into categories, and all my recipes were neatly organized in their place. But years and hundreds of recipes later, I've got a big fat mess.

My goal is to find a way to access all my recipes with ease as well as add more recipes as I find them. Going digital might be ideal, but I would much prefer something I can touch. It's like my problem with Kindles: I crave the feel of paper pages turning in my hands.

Whew! There are a lot more areas in which I really need to work, but I'm starting here with these six goals for 2013. Each month I will give an update of how I'm doing.

What about you? Do you have any personal goals for the new year you'd like to share?

Praying God's richest blessings on you in 2013,

If you would like to have Growing in His Glory delivered to your inbox, click here: Subscribe to Growing in His Glory. Or join us on Google Friend Connect, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Family Goals for 2013

On a recent drive to a family Christmas event, my husband and I hashed out a notebook page of goals for our family, specific items we need or want to see happen this year. Everyone knows that the key to accomplishing anything of importance is to break down your goals into manageable, doable parts. So, that's what we attempted.

Our family's goals for 2013:

1. Kate's future schooling. Our oldest daughter will not officially start school until 2014, but I'm a planner and this is a BIG decision. We have considered homeschooling, but we aren't so sure that's what's best for the family. So some thorough research and serious prayers are necessary to find the best fit for our daughter.

2. Revising & sticking to the budget. We didn't end 2012 with a good grasp of our budget at all. So, we're calling for a do-over. Daniel has already set up a new budget for 2013, and we're back on the cash-only envelope plan. To keep us in check, we're also planning monthly meetings to discuss progress and make revisions where necessary.

3. Run a 5K. I've been running off and on since October, but at Christmas, I committed to run my first 5K in March. Daniel and my dad intend to join me. That means more frequent trips to the gym for training and some research on preparing to run a 5K. I'm excited but oh how my poor body aches.

4. Sell our house. Last year we put our house on the market and had no success. In the spring we intend to take a second run at selling our home. We've created a punch list of items to complete. Now we just have to motivate ourselves to do the painting, cleaning, and minor repairs needed.

5. Organize family photos better.
I'm pretty good at taking pictures but rarely do they get organized and printed. This year I want to create an online photo album so when Christmas rolls around, all I have to do is hit print and I'll have instant gifts. My husband bought me a Canon T3i for Christmas {he's a keeper!}, and I'm using iPhoto to organize my pictures by event and date to make this goal a reality. Plus, I'm really liking Smilebox for its kids' scrapbooks.

6. Mission work. This year we really want to work on ministering to family and friends who aren't in church. There are so many loved ones whose souls and hearts we've been praying for for a while now, but this year, we want to be more vocal in sharing the gospel and more available in serving others. We've also committed to sponsor a child in Kenya through Compassion International, a mission opportunity overseas. We do need to work on hashing out more specific plans for this goal.

7. Family dates. My husband is really good about taking the girls on daddy/daughter dates every couple of months. Kate and Cora love to spend time with their Daddy, and going for breakfast at Chick-fil-A is a sweet treat. This year we want to be more intentional about our dates. We also want to let each of the older girls have one-on-one time with Daddy and Mommy. Additionally, Daniel and I are going to take a once-a-month date night ourselves, so we can spend some QT, just us.

8. Daily Bible time & lessons with the girls. Before Annabeth was born, we had a good routine going with daily "school" and Bible time in the mornings, but since May, that's been erratic at best. I'm getting myself geared up to re-start our ABC Jesus Loves Me, preschool Bible curriculum. If you aren't familiar with ABC JLM, it's completely free and really fun! My girls have loved the activities, and you can tailor the lesson plans based on the attention spans of your children.

While I have my own personal goals in addition to these that I hope to post in a day or two, these are our family's goals for 2013.

What about you? Do you set goals for your family?

Blessings to you & yours in 2013,

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Top 10 Posts of 2012

Happy New Year 2012!
Photo Credit: Creativity103

As the 2012 draws to a close, I wanted to share with you the top posts of the year at Growing in His Glory. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

(1) Preparing for Childbirth: 10 Scriptures of Comfort & Encouragement



In early May, we welcomed our third daughter, Anna Elizabeth. The all-natural labor and delivery still weigh heavy on my mind nearly eight months later, but these verses from God's Word truly helped me through the daunting moments when I didn't think I would survive. He is faithful!

(2) Kitchen Tip #4: How to Cook Dried Beans

From childbirth to economical cooking tips... Apparently, the state of our economy has prompted some people to look for cheaper ways to prepare meals, and learning how to cook dried beans is affordable, filling, and very healthy. Beans. They're more than just "good for your heart."

(3) "Saving at the Grocery Store": Where to Find Coupons & Other Deals


In light of rising food prices,  I started a series earlier this year on ways to save money at the grocery store. This post shows you where to find coupons and features links to my favorite money-saving blogs.

(4) "Saving at the Grocery Store": Making a Price Book" 

We also looked at how to put together a price book, an essential money-saving tool. Prices really aren't the same everywhere, so you need to know where to get the most for your money. A price book is a go-to guide for finding the lowest prices on the items you buy most often.

(5) "When God Says 'Not Now'



In August, I was offered a position at the university where I used to teach and attend. But after much praying and consideration, I had to listen to God and decline. Because sometimes God says, "Not now."

(6) 10 Ways to Prepare for Baby: The Final Weeks


Sure there are nine blessed months to get ready for baby's arrival, but time slips by quickly. It's in those last weeks when you're exhausted, fearful, and anxious that a little perspective comes in handy. This post gives some helpful tips to moms-to-be as they prepare for a calm labor and delivery as well as those harried days after baby arrives.

(7) Let's Play!



 In July, I started yet another series called "31 Days of Play!" which was a challenge for me to spend intentional time each day playing with my kids, something that does not come naturally to this to-do list driven Mama. To see the activities we did each day, click here.

(8) Pursuing Holiness, Not Happiness, in Marriage


When the world tells us we deserve to be happy, we need to know that happiness is not what God calls us to. Instead, He calls us to pursue holiness: to keep loving our spouses even when they no longer make us happy. Satan wants our marriages to fail. Ignore him. Tell him to flee! Turn to God to get your marriage back where it needs to be.

(9) Are You Suffering From Parent Burnout?


In this post, I break down the five stages of parent burnout according to James Dobson in Parenting Isn't for Cowards and offer six ways to cope when being a parent is a constant source of frustration. Parent burnout is real. If you're experiencing it, read my post and get some help if you need it!

(10) Five Reasons Why We Go to Church When It's Easier to Stay Home


Church of St Mary, Thornham Parva
Photo Credit:
If you struggle with attending church with kids in tow and wonder if it's really worth all the effort, read this post. With three children 4 & under, I know how tough it is to get to church on time, teach your children to sit still and be quiet, and glean an ounce of anything spiritual from your time there. Be encouraged, Mamas. This is just a season!

This has been a busy year but I've enjoyed sharing with you some of the lessons I've learned and the ways in which God has been growing me as a wife, a mama, and His child.

I hope you will continue with me in 2013 as we grow in His glory!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading the Classics: Why it Matters

Books HD
Photo Credit: Abee5
I am a bookworm. If I'm not tackling the neverending piles of laundry, cooking, or tending to children, my nose is in a book. But I'm picky. I don't like bestselling fiction and haven't found any Christian novels worth reading except for Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love (by the way, that's a classic).

I prefer classics; mysteries; nonfiction with a focus on food, child-rearing, and Christian living; and anything by C.J. Sansom (think Matlock circa Henry VIII).

But as a recovering PhD student, I miss reading really good classic literature. And none of this modernist/postmodernist stuff either.  Call me a snob, but when I read, I want to be inspired, moved, prompted to change and grow. Sure, I like some escapist literature every now and then {enter Sansom}, but when I really want to expand my sense of self and enlarge my worldview, I turn first to the Bible and then to Jane Austen or Agatha Christie.


But What is a Classic?

What makes a book a classic is, I think, entirely dependent on the reader. What I value as a reader is writing that stirs my emotions, that takes me outside myself, that refreshes but also agitates me.

To me, a classic is one of two things:
(1) A book I should have read in a high school or college English class, a work that is considered part of the Western Canon, a text that distinguishes the intellectuals from the common man {Do I sound snobby and elitist yet?}, a book that has a Cliff Notes' version for those needing some elucidation; and/or

(2) A book that I did read and not just once but over and over again because of its relevance to my life, identifiable characters, mass appeal. Something about these books resonates with me.
Classics have stood the test of time. They appeal to a wide range of readers from diverse backgrounds, and can be read, enjoyed, interpreted, and analyzed on many different levels. These books are read, reread, and read again because of their universal themes of love, hate, beauty, and death. They're found in libraries, marked up with notes, highlighted, and eventually passed down to our children for their enjoyment.


Why Should We Read Classics?

Italo Calvino wrote that “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say." That is, in each reading, something new and beautiful can be gleaned from it.

Classics have a way of speaking to us regardless of our educational background, socioeconomic status, or geographical location. They open our eyes to different perspectives, points of view, and ways of thinking.

Classics like Moby Dick or Of Mice & Men do more than keep us up all night reading; they inspire us to be more empathetic toward others, they challenge our perceptions of beauty, they make us get us outside ourselves.

We can read scintillating books like Fifty Shades of Gray {not a classic and certainly not recommended} that inflame us with passion and motivate us to buy the next in the series, but do we grow in any useful way by reading them? Most likely the answer is no. But read a classic like Beowulf and learn what 8th Century England was like all while fighting sea hags, dragons, and hairy monsters.

When we incorporate good literature into our regular reading repertoire we choose to grow, not only as readers, but as people.

If you are interested in catching up on the classics you missed in school or want to read some excellent literature, I would love it if you joined me in The 2013 Classics Catch-Up Challenge at the Quirky Bookworm. We'll be starting in January with Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights (your choice or read both).

Do you read the classics? If so, what is your favorite?

If you would like to have Growing in His Glory delivered to your inbox, click here: Subscribe to Growing in His Glory. Or join us on Google Friend Connect, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.

Linking up with: The Better Mom, Raising ArrowsTime-Warp Wife, Artful Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Top 10 Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Leaving a Legacy, Women Living Well WednesdaysRaising Homemakers, Cozy Book Hop, Raising Mighty Arrows

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Menu Plan for the Week of December 16th

peacock feather menu
Photo Credit: 2bsquared designs

I haven't posted a menu plan in a while but Christmas is fast upon us, and I wanted to share some simple, easy meals if you're like me and planning a lot of baking and candy-making this coming week.

Here's what we're having, just to give you some idea:

Sunday: Revolutionary Mac & Cheese with steamed broccoli {Delicious, easy, & hearty even without meat. Just use whole wheat pasta for extra protein or stir in some bacon bits or hamburger.}

Monday: Penne with Shrimp & Herbed Cream Sauce with salad {Shrimp has always been a "Christmas food" in our family. Giada de Laurentiis' recipe just looks so yummy.}

Tuesday: Juicy Roasted Chicken with carrots, celery, onions, & potatoes (sweet & russets) with green peas {I think roasted chicken is the easiest, most economical meal ever AND there are lots of leftovers that you can freeze or use up during the week.}

Wednesday: One-Pot Pinto Beans on flour tortillas {I've never made this recipe before but we eat tons of beans. This recipe has a Mexican flava to it, so we'll probably make quesadillas or burritos.

Thursday: Leftovers {We'll be gone all weekend, so we need to eat this food up!}

Friday: Pizza with Pioneer Woman's pizza crust recipe {This is THE best recipe for pizza crust!}

Saturday: Christmas with my family

It's easy to get overwhelmed at Christmas time and resort to fast food and eating out, but planning ahead with simple, economical recipes like these will save you money and are better for your health.

I hope you have a blessed week! Merry Christmas!

If you would like to have Growing in His Glory delivered to your inbox, click here: Subscribe to Growing in His Glory. Or join us on Google Friend Connect, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.

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How long, O Lord?

Photo Credit: quiet wave photos

"How long, O Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, 'Violence!'
but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds."

Habbakuk 1:2-3

Photo Credit: quiet wave photos

"Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?"

Habbakuk 1:13

Photo Credit: quiet wave photos

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights."

Habbakuk 3:17-19

Photo Credit: quiet wave photos
     Oh, Lord, I do not understand why the wicked prosper and the innocent suffer. I cannot comprehend why You allow violence and destruction when You Yourself "are too pure to look on evil." My heart breaks as I watch the events of this evil world unfold and know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. 

     But I have hope, Lord, that You are in control. This unnecessary death and destruction will end. Evil and injustice will not prevail. You will! You are mightier, your ways eternal, and You will deliver Your Your time. Help me, Lord, to take confidence in Your promises, to trust in Your goodness and faithfulness, and to rejoice that You will overcome evil. You are our God and Savior always and forever, Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

For When You Feel Consumed

Prayer Cloud
Photo Credit: traqair57
What consumes you? When you wake up in the middle of the night, what's racing through your mind? 

Do you find yourself wondering...
  • How can I make more money?
  • What can I do to win a particular person's love and approval?
  • How can I grow my blog to increase my readership?
  • When will I be happy again?
  • Does my husband still love me?
  • How will we afford Christmas gifts for everyone?
  • What more can I do for my kids?
  • How can I get more people to like me?
  • What can I do to protect myself from getting hurt again?

It's natural to be concerned about any of these issues. Money, relationships, and influence: In the world's eyes, they are vital to success.

But when our self-worth is tied up in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ then we set ourselves up for a world of hurt and disappointment because...

People will fail us. 
Money will never breed contentment. 
Happiness is fleeting.
Popularity is meaningless. 

When we try to measure up to the world's standards for success, we will fail in some way every time:
We may have more friends but not the right ones. 
We may have happiness but not true joy. 
We may be a person of great influence but at the cost of our own family. 
We may have great riches but lose Christ.

But when we put our faith in Jesus, when we devote every ounce of our being to Him, surrendering our entire lives to His will, we will have all we ever need.  

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is head over every power and authority."

Colossians 2:9-10
Our self-worth needs only to be wrapped up in Jesus Christ, not money, not people, not personal achievements, not influence, not possessions. In Christ alone are we complete.
What keeps you up at night? What consumes YOU?

Take peace in knowing that Jesus Christ provides EVERYTHING we need. 


Praying God's richest blessings of peace & joy for you,

If you would like to have Growing in His Glory delivered to your inbox, click here: Subscribe to Growing in His Glory. Or join us on Google Friend Connect, Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Nicholas: An Alternative to the Santa Dilemma?

Santa Claus
Photo Credit: Richard Pilon
I have had several people asking me lately how we do "the whole Santa thing" at our house. I must admit that I have been reluctant to really pinpoint my feelings on this matter because I have fond memories of the jolly old man. 
Then there's always the question: "How do you tie Santa Claus in with baby Jesus?" It's really hard to reconcile the two at Christmas time.

Santa brings presents.
Jesus brings peace, hope, & love.

Santa is here for only one month out of the year.
Jesus exists for all times, in every season, on every day.

Santa "sees" if we're being naughty or nice.
Jesus looks beyond our actions & into our hearts.

Santa rewards the good with presents.
Jesus rewards the faithful with salvation.  

Of the two, which would you rather teach your children about? The obvious answer is Jesus.

But there is a way to reconcile the two extremes at Christmas time, and that is through a man known to many as...

Saint Nicholas

I will note that I am not Catholic, nor do I participate in saints' day observances. However, from my research I have found that St. Nicholas was a Godly man who deserves our consideration, not because he was any better than you or I, but because he is the source of today's Santa Claus. 

St Nicholas of Myra, Ozleworth
St. Nicholas of Myra {nicksarebi}


Who was Saint Nicholas?

Nicholas was born in Turkey during the 3rd century to wealthy Christian parents. After his parents died in a plague, he was left a considerable inheritance. In his devotion to Christ, Nicholas practiced what Jesus said about selling your possessions and giving them to the poor. As a result, he became known far and wide for his generosity and kindness to the poor, especially children.

Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra at a young age and faced imprisonment, persecution, exile, and torture for his faith at the hands of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Still, he persevered and held fast to his faith.

Nicholas died on December 6, AD 343. Today, many people celebrate "St. Nicholas Day" on the anniversary of his death in celebration of Nicholas's life of faith and devotion to God.

Nicholas became a saint many years before the Roman Catholic Church canonized him. However, we know that by 200 years after his death, he was already recognized as a saint throughout the world.
Many legends surround St. Nicholas but all attest to his love of children, his compassion and charity for the needy, and his selfless devotion to Christ.

St. Nicholas
Photo Credit: Dierken


What's the Connection Between St. Nicholas & Santa Claus

**So, what does a 3rd century holy man have to do with the jolly old man in the red suit?
Many theories are known to exist, but here's what I have gathered from my research.

The first European settlers brought St. Nicholas to the New World. Christopher Columbus even named a Haitian port for him on his first voyage. The New York Dutch brought St. Nicholas to New Amsterdam (a colonial Dutch town on Manhattan, later renamed New York).

In 1809, Washington Irving wrote Knickerbocker's History of New York in which were numerous references to St. Nicholas described as a jolly elfin Dutch man with a clay pipe.

The 19th century was a time of cultural change, especially for children who were beginning to be viewed as innocents in need of protection, education, and training.
The image of St. Nicholas also began to change. In 1823, the anonymous poem The Children's Friend was published, describing "Sante Claus" as coming from the North in a sleigh with flying reindeer. Imagery and depictions of St. Nicholas shifted from saintly bishop to giver of gifts to good boys and girls.

Then, in 1823, the image of the jolly old elf received further support in Clement Clark Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now better known as "The Night Before Christmas." In this classic piece, St. Nicholas looks a lot like Washington Irving's version: a jolly elf-like man with a round belly smoking a pipe. Moore's poem has had the greatest influence on the Americanization of Santa Claus.

"Along with appearance changes, the saint's name shifted to Santa Claus—a natural phonetic alteration from the German Sankt Niklaus" (St. Nicholas Center).

Santa Claus
Photo Credit: MoonSoleil
In the 20th century, companies like Coca-Cola began using Santa Claus to advertise their products. By this time, Santa had become life-size with a flowing white beard and wearing his classic red suit, a far cry from the saintly Nicholas of the 3rd century.

Today, Santa Claus has become so commercialized that St. Nicholas, upon whom Santa originated, is no longer clearly evident.

This saint, known for giving generously and anonymously and for his faithful devotion to God in the face of intense persecution, has long been forgotten.
Santa Claus is comin' to the Amelia Earhart Center
Photo Credit: USACE Europe District

So Can We Celebrate Christmas with Santa and Jesus?

I think every family has to come to that conclusion on its own. Whether Santa is a part of your Christmas is up to you. For me, one way to reconcile Santa Claus with Jesus Christ is to teach my children about the real St. Nicholas. I say this not to equate St. Nicholas with Jesus because we all know Jesus Christ alone is our hope of salvation.

But, if we want to celebrate Christmas with Santa, the key for me is Nicholas, the good man who practiced what Jesus preached about giving all he had to the poor.

That being said, these are the things I desire for my children at Christmas time:

  • Joy in knowing that Jesus is God who came as a baby
  • Hope in knowing that His birth brings us life
  • Peace in knowing that Jesus' death and resurrection mean our salvation
I also want my children to participate in the Santa Claus experience. Not in the modern sense with the emphasis on gluttonous gifts and extravagant spending but true to the character of the original Santa Claus--St. Nicholas. 

My hope is that Christmas will be a time of giving, serving, and loving. 

Some Ways to Share St. Nicholas with Children

For those who want to educate their children about St. Nicholas or simply teach them the value of giving over receiving, here are some suggestions:


1. Watch the Veggie Tales movie St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving {great for younger children} and/or What's in the Bible? Buck Denver Asks...Why Do We Call it Christmas {excellent, but for older kids}.
2. Read books about St. Nicholas. I found these two at our local library that are great, but there are also others: 

3. Take a spin on the classic Santa letter by having your child write what she would like to give to others.

4. Have a sibling gift exchange. Let each child buy or make a small gift for his sibling. The focus should be on really thinking about the sibling's interests.

5. Emphasize giving over receiving by seeking out opportunities to give this Christmas. Some examples include the Angel Tree, Toys for Tots (Some Walgreen's have a toy drop off from now until December 15), area food banks, local charities, and people in need in your area.

6.  Make St. Nicholas cookies also known as "Speculaas" to deliver anonymously to a friend. I'm planning to make Kitchen Stewardship's recipe tomorrow in celebration of St. Nicholas's feast day. 

I'll be the first to admit that I do not have the answer to the Santa dilemma. Whether you decide to do Santa or not is a personal choice. 

But if you're looking for a way to bridge the gap between all or nothing and want to emphasize giving over receiving to your children, then I recommend at least taking a look at St. Nicholas. 

He isn't Santa as we know him today, but at least, unlike Santa Claus, his life does point us to Jesus Christ. 

For more information about St. Nicholas, I recommend St. Nicholas Center.
What are your thoughts about the Santa dilemma? Is it a dilemma for you?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Praying God's richest blessings on you as you grow in His glory, 

Linking up with: The Better MomMonday Mom MusingsRaising ArrowsTime-Warp Wife, Artful Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Top 10 Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Leaving a Legacy, Women Living Well WednesdaysRaising HomemakersRaising Mighty Arrows 

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Pursue Peace this Christmas: 10 Ideas

 As we continue in our series "In Pursuit of Peace," Christmas is only three weeks away. I admit that I have already given in to frustration, anxiety, and stress, and the month is still young! 

There's so much to do at Christmas time, in addition to all the everyday chores, that it's easy to lose sight of what truly matters this time of year.

Christmas can easily become a time of stress and misery if we let it. That's why we must make a proactive choice to pursue peace.

christmas tree
Photo Credit: Milele


10 Ways to Pursue Peace this Christmas

1. Pray, pray, pray. 

The first step we should take any time we undertake a new task is to pray. Whatever we ask, Jesus promises to do, but, first, we need to humble ourselves before Him. Start the pursuit of peace by taking our requests to the Lord. 
"If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."

John 14:14 

2. Make amends

If you've had a squabble or disagreement with a family member, co-worker, or friend, work towards a resolution. There is no better time to forgive and forget than the holidays when love is truly in the air. 

Christmas is also the perfect time to share the Gospel. Songs of baby Jesus filling the air can provide the perfect segue into a discussion of salvation with the spiritually lost.

"For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall..."
Ephesians 2:14

spinning top
Photo Credit: Creativity103


3. Just say "No!" 

The holidays can pull us in a hundred different directions if we let them. We need to go shopping, visit family, attend countless parties and events, set up the tree, wrap gifts, and on and on. Unless we want to end up a stressed out, frustrated Humbug, we simply need to invoke that two-letter word. 

Determine top priorities this Christmas. Mark special events on the calendar. Plan for all the holiday cooking, baking, entertaining, gifts, and all the expenses associated with each. When a new event springs up, consider the cost--whether in time, money, or both--and, if necessary, very politely say, "Thanks, but no thanks." People will understand. 

"For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors."

Ecclesiastes 7:12 

4. Keep gift-giving simple.

Picking out gifts is my biggest stressor at Christmastime. I really want to find something personal and thoughtful, but often times I totally miss the boat. This year I'm trying to reduce my stress by (1) shopping online and (2) only selecting 1 or 2 meaningful presents instead of 4 or 5 like I have in the past

One thing we're using this year (and that I wish everyone in our family would create) is Amazon Wishlist in hopes that family members will purchase gifts based on our personal needs and wants. The wishlist makes it easier for people to find and buy just the right gift. It's simple!  

Tauna of Proverbial Homemaker has a great post on simplifying Christmas by limiting the number of gifts and buying only what is practical and of good quality.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have..."

Hebrews 13:5

5. Do random acts of kindness.

To have a heart filled with peace, we need to reach out to others and lend a hand where we can. When we find opportunities to serve--whether strangers or friends and family--we show Christ living in our hearts. And we find peace.

Some ideas might be to... 
  • Reach out to a new mom by bringing her a warm meal
  • Leave an extra tip for your waitress
  • Send a card to a widow letting her know she's in your prayers
  • Drop off a plate of cookies at your neighbor's house just because
I love Lil Light O' Mine's list of "100 ways to light up your community with kindness."

There doesn't have to be a reason to be kind to others. We just need to take the initiative. 
"Be kind and compassionate to one another..."

Ephesians 4:32   

A Perth Shopping Mall at Christmas
Photo Credit: Oatsy40


6.  Stick to the budget.

As I mentioned in #2 & 3, one important key to peace within the home is living within your means. For most people, that means having a budget

Knowing how much you intend to spend on gifts, groceries, and other holiday-related items is only part of the equation. We have to actually stick to the budget for it to work. When we overspend, we feel anxiety and stress, certainly not peace.
"The rich rules over the poor, 
And the borrower becomes the lender's slave."
Proverbs 22:7

7. Let it go! 

Sometimes we need to put our pride on hold in order to keep the peace. If mom or mother-in-law wants to buy oodles of toys for the kids, don't get irate even if she goes overboard. Just let her. Consider her joy as she watches her grandbabies open up her fun gifts.

For one day, let others do what makes them happy, even if it makes us cringe inside. We can always take back the toys. Christmas only comes one time a year. 
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Philippians 2:3-4

8. Lower our expectations.

Okay, usually we want to have high expectations, right? But for the type-A woman, sometimes aiming lower is better. For everyone.    

Christmas time isn't about having the schmaltziest decorations or the fanciest hors d'oeuvres. We perfectionists need to stop looking at Pinterest or reading Martha Stewart Living and give ourselves a break. 

We want to enjoy the holidays, right? Well, that may mean not putting up the fifth Christmas tree or baking seven different types of cookies. We need to revisit our goals for the holidays and focus on achieving those--for everyone's peace of mind.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."

1 Peter 5:7

9. Remember the real reason for the season.

If our priorities have veered a little off course, we need to redirect our focus by reading Luke 2. Even with the best of intentions, with all the talk of Santa Claus and finding the perfect gifts, we can easily lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.  

Here are four activities to keep our minds and hearts on Christ this season.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

Colossians 3:2 

Egg Nog With Cinnamon
Photo Credit: Dinner Series

10. Have some egg nog & relax.

Many women have a hard time sitting back and relaxing when there's work to be done: I know, I come from a long line of Martha's. But our memories will either be of all the stress and headache the holidays gave us or the fun, good times, and laughter we enjoyed. Find a way to step back from all the hustle and bustle, sit down with some egg nog, and enjoy being with family.
"...for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His."
 Hebrews 4:10

How do you plan to find & pursue peace this Christmas? What would you add to my list?

I'm praying God's peace for you & your family this Christmas,

Other posts in our series on Pursuing peace:
Pursuing Peace Week 4: 10 Ways to Live at Peace with Others
Pursuing Peace Week 3: 5 Tips for a More Peaceful Holiday Shopping Experience
Pursuing Peace Week 2: Submitting Our To-Do Lists to the Lord
Pursuing Peace: A Series to Help Us Enjoy the Holiday Season
Pursuing Peace Week 1: What is Peace?

Linking up with: The Better MomMonday Mom MusingsRaising ArrowsTime-Warp Wife, Artful Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Top 10 Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Leaving a Legacy, Women Living Well WednesdaysRaising HomemakersRaising Mighty Arrows