Saturday, December 14, 2013

12 Blogs of Christmas - Blog post # 7 - Where is your hope?

Hi friends,

Today's Christmas post is about hope.  Recently I listened to an excellent podcast by a great and inspiring speaker - Andy Stanley.  The topic of the message was 'How to be Rich.'  No - I didn't make a typo - the message wasn't how to get rich - although I'm sure there are plenty of podcasts on that.  His topic was how to be rich because he states that he wants everyone to be prepared in case they become rich they will do it well (much better than how most rich people we know do it.)

I can't possible do the message justice, but I'll try to share the ultimate message he was driving at. Regardless of how much wealth any one person or family has, it is very tempting for each of us to begin to put our hope in our wealth and not in God.

First, let me tell why putting all your hope in wealth is a bad thing.  Do you think all the money in the world can cure a terminal illness?  If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness (and let's be frank here, all of will die at some time - so in a way - humanness is a terminal illness) would your wealth help you out?  Of course not. When you are faced with the immediacy of death, your hope suddenly shifts from your money and wealth toward God.  God can be with you in the transition from life into death and if you call out to God, he will even help you achieve ever-lasting life - life after death.  Can your money do that?  No, of course not.

So, if you are going to put your hope in God at the end of your life, why not consider putting your hope in God in the middle (or beginning!)

Another reason why it's not always a good idea to put all your hope in wealth is that it is fleeting.  History shows us many, many situations where hard working, smart people lose their fortunes.  Yes, sometimes (okay maybe many times) people lose their wealth over foolish or greedy choices.  But it happens often enough that circumstances beyond someones control cause it all to be lost (stock market crash anyone?)

One more reason why it isn't wise to put all your hope in your wealth is that wealth rarely satisfies.  Have you ever spent time with a rich person?  When I was a teenager we had wealthy neighbors.  These people were RICH (at least in my mind.)  They had a house way bigger than ours in CT that was just for weekends.  They had more fancy cars than room in their 4 car garage.  They had 4 nannies for their two kids (two nannies for their Manhattan flat and two for CT.)  Anyway, I was amazed at how stressed Michael was - all the time.  When he spent a fortune on landscaping for the yard, he was freaking out because he couldn't get well water to irrigate it.  You'd think when your rich you could avoid stress, but my experience showed it only magnified it.

So what's the alternative? Well, put your hope in God!

God will provide for you for your physical needs in times when you are stretched beyond your own resources.  I have a friend who shared a story of one time when her and her husband had no food in the house and no money in their wallet or bank account.  A bag of groceries arrived on their doorstep that fed them and their 3 little children.  Stories like this are not uncommon - even though they are hard to believe.

God will provide for your satisfaction.  Think about yourself.  Think back to times in your life when you felt whole and complete and satisfied?  Are those times when you had some great material possession?  Are those times when you had a huge wad of cash in your hand or your bank account?  Probably not.  Most likely you had those feelings during times of helping others, feeling loved unconditionally or being charitable - things that God says will fulfill your purpose on earth.

God will provide eternal life.  Do you wonder what happens when you die?  Do you hope their is something beyond the grave?  God promises there is life after death.  When Jesus was dying on the cross - two thieves were on crosses next to him. He said to one thief 'Truly I will see you in paradise.'  He offered eternal life to the thief dying on the cross.  He will offer eternal life to you two.  Think you are too far gone for God?  You are wrong.  If it wasn't too late for that thief in Jerusalem, it's not too late for you.

'Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.'

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  If you are curious about Andy Stanley's podcast I included a link below to the series.  The one I am referencing in my blog above is 'Be Rich part 2 - side effects.'

Andy Stanley Podcasts

Thursday, December 12, 2013

12 Blogs of Christmas Blog # 6 - Listening to the lyrics of beloved Christmas Carols

Hi friends,

I don't have a crafty thing to show you today.  Things have been quite busy here as we prepare for the arrival of my daughter Sarah, future son-in-law Ivan and son Eric on Friday night.  But I do have a post for you today for 12 blogs of Christmas.

So, do you ever stop and ponder the lyrics of the beautiful and classic Christmas Carols that play this time of year?  The lyrics are stunningly beautiful and most of them are right on target with accurate biblical theology. Let me just share one famous carol; Joy to the World!  The music was written by George F. Handel and the lyrics by Issac Watts.

The first verse says more theology than many sermons.

'Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room and heav'n and nature sing; and heav'n and nature sing; and heav'n, heav'n and nature sing.'

  • How beautiful to consider that the Lord came to earth.
  • How wonderful that earth (and the humans that inhabit it) would receive the long awaited for King - Jesus Christ - Promised Savior.
  • How hopeful that each person would prepare their heart to receive the glorious salvation and grace that Christ Jesus offers.
  • Of course, all heaven and nature would sing when this happens.

And I'll leave you all with verse 2 & 3.  Won't you ponder the lyrics of this beautiful hymn and consider how God may be asking you to respond?

'Joy to the world!  the Saviour reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains - Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.'

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Stop by again this weekend.  I should have another post on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

12 Blogs of Christmas Blog # 5 - How to celebrate Christmas if you are a type A personality!

Hi friends,

Before I get to my Christmas post, let me share a Christmas Card with you.  This uses the darling Christmas Tree stamp and die set from Papertrey ink.  So gosh darn cute!  I love it!

Today's Christmas post is on a lighter topic.  For those that know me I'm a type A personality.  Well, maybe a type A+ personality.  What is a type A personality?  Well, here is the wikepedia definition.

Type A[edit]

The theory describes a Type A individual as ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, can be sensitive, truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.[citation needed]
So, how would a type A personality 'do' Christmas?

Well, let me describe how I do Christmas and you can get an idea of one.  Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that ALL type A's do it this way, but it's how I do it.

First of all, Type A personalities LOVE lists.  So Christmas starts with an excel spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet has pages.  The first page is for the budget and includes mostly gifts.  Every person I expect to buy a gift for is listed in a row.  Each name is listed, The next column is called budget.  This includes how much I intend to spend on gifts for each person.  The next column is called Final.  This is a calculated field so as I buy gifts I add them into the final number.  So for instance if the person has 3 gifts, when I buy the first one is says =10.00.  Then if I buy another gift at 35, I make it = 10+35.  and when the last gift is bought I add that amount = 10+35+17 and the cell displays 62.00.  If my budget was 50.00 it tells me I am over budget for that and at the bottom I keep a running tally of budget vs actual.  I add another column called 'done.'  Then if I have bought all the gifts for that person it shows yes and I can visually get a sense of what % of my shopping I'm done with.  Are you with me so far?  Do you think I'm nuts or are you thinking - 'hmmm, that's a great idea.'  come on now all you type A's out there......  you know who you are!
  • Christmas 2013
    EricHeadphones, jacket150
    JessaYoga Clothes50

After the gifts come other things we spend money on at christmas.  I have a row for decorations, a row for wrapping and a row for charity.  Our goal is to spend as much on charity as all other people on our list so once I have a budget for all the people we buy for, i put that amount in my charity row and yes, this doubles the amount we spend on christmas.  Yes, we give a lot to charity at Christmas and yes, it also keeps us more focused on our budget.  A budget of $750 times two is $1,500, but a budget of $1,200 times two is $2,400.  As for which charities we give to at Christmas time, we do a few things.  First we do a few shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Second I sponsor 2 social service kids at work and third (my favorite) is we pick items from the World Vision Christmas catalog and give the bulk of our spending there.  We give goats, soccer balls, portions of a deep well, portions of a cow, bicycles, medicine, school supplies etc.  Every year on Christmas eve we, as a family, look through the catalog and argue about what to give to until the money is gone.  It's actually a lot of fun.  Oh, and I'm not bragging, I hope you don't read it this way, but we don't only give money to charity at Christmas.  We give every month to church and we have 7 world vision children that we support.  We believe very strongly in giving back so part of our month to month budget and Christmas budget are focused on charity.  We have been so blessed and it's not that big a burden to take 10% -15% of what we get and give to others.  I feel very blessed that we have extra and can do this without sacrificing food or heat.  For many, this isn't an option, but for us it is, so it's what we do.  

Okay, enough about that.  What else do type A personalities do?  Well, for me, I plan and plan and plan.  For instance it's December 10th and I can tell you what's going to be for dinner on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 20th & 24th.  Yup.  I've actually started making some of those meals.  I make a calendar every week of the upcoming days.  I note if both Bob and I will be home and if so I decide what we'll have for dinner.  I buy the ingredients during my weekly shopping and often prep some of the food before hand.  For instance on Friday the 13th we will have minestrone soup.  I have already cut the meat, browned it and put it in the freezer.  I will cut up the vegetables tomorrow and put them in the fridge.  Then Friday morning Bob will put them all in the crock pot before he leaves for work and we'll come home to home made minestrone soup.  I'll whip up a salad and heat up some rolls (or make grilled cheese) and yum - dinner is ready.  The same is true for the 'big' holiday meals.  I have 12 for dinner on the 20th and I've already planned lasagne and cherry pie.

Another list making thing I do is I send myself e-mails of 'things to do.' So when I'm in a boring meeting at work and am not especially paying attention (don't judge me - lately I spend 6 hours a day in meetings with my projects and trust me, not everything being discussed pertains to me)  I go into my e-mail and send myself a message.  I send it from my work e-mail to my personal e-mail.  It goes something like this:
It's way better than writing a list and then on Friday I can open my e-mail (from my phone if needed) and ensure I got everything on my to do list done.  So what happens if I run out of time?  No problem.  I just transfer things from Friday's to do list to Saturday's to do list.  and yes, if you are wondering, almost every day has things to do!  I told you - not just type A, probably type A+.  and yes, it's a 'good' day if everything on the list gets done! And yes, sometimes I put things like 'shower' on the list and 'nap' on the list - partly so I have more things to check off but more importantly so I make sure to do them!

Lastly, I color coordinate all my gift wrapping.  What does that mean?  Well, I buy 4 different rolls of gift wrap (all in complementary colors that 'coordinate.)  Then we decide which paper is for which person and all gifts for Sarah get wrapped in 'her' wrapping paper.  Then I don't have to do tags and on Christmas morning, everyone knows whose gifts is whose (well at least for the gifts from someone in our house.)  This year I bought 5 rolls of paper because this year, we'll have gifts for Ivan (our future son-in-law.) Note - Jessa gets a gift too, but I put that in a gift bag this year!

So, are you type A, type A+ or something else?  Are you inspired?  Are you intimated?  Are you sorry for me?  All are fine.  I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season.  Thanks for stopping by today and visiting my blog!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Denami Blog Hop - Razzle Dazzle

Hi friends,

Are you here for the DeNami Blog Hop?  Welcome!  The theme for December is Razzle Dazzle.  I added a bit of bling to my Christmas card to fit the theme.

I used the DeNami polka dot border and stamped it up in Red and Green.  Then I added red sparkle stickles to add a bit of bling. For the main image I used the Merry Christmas sentiment and added holly and berries to the edge.  Voila - Razzle Dazzle Christmas!

I also made a few other DeNami Christmas cards.  Want to see?

Which is your favorite?

Leave a comment below to be eligible to win DeNami prizes!

Your next stop on the blog hop is:

Emily Keaton's Blog

12 Blogs of Christmas - Blog # 4 - Drawing near to God

Hi friends,

Today's Christmas blog post is about drawing near to God.  When you think of drawing near to God what emotions does that invoke in you?  Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling or does that give you a feeling of being 10 years old in the principles office?  I think for most people they get more of the principle feeling than anything else.  Don't feel bad about that, I think most of the people in bible had a strong fear of being near God too.  In most all bible passages when God revealed himself to someone the first thing that is said to the person is 'fear not.'  I think that emotion is natural.  But I would challenge each of us to fight that instinct and instead overcome our fear and look at drawing near to God as a positive.

So often God's blessings came when people slowed down their day to day and listened to the 'still small voice of God.'  So what would it mean to draw near to God and how would it benefit us?  Well for me I think the way I best draw near to God is to slow down, get outside, listen to uplifting music (Mandisa!) and read my bible.   For many of you the thought of reading a bible is akin to having nails on a chalk board, but you should try it.  The stories are so interesting (well don't start in Numbers) and you'll be surprised at how the insights and messages are totally applicable to your life!  Start with the book of John or Proverbs.  Start small and see how it goes!

I find it easiest to draw near to God when my life is in balance and I'm not over-committed.  I love when the pace of life is such that in the morning I can drink my coffee and read from my devotion book 'Jesus Calling.'  These are one page inspirational messages that I can read and ponder in 10 minutes.  It's a great way to slowly start my day.

It's also good for me to every few months set aside a few hours to get away - to a quiet place and ponder some scripture passages and thought provoking questions.  The last time I did that was at least a year ago, and it's high time I put that on the calendar to do.  Even though I have time off from work at Christmas, the schedule is already filling up so if I want to make that happen before the New Year really kicks into gear in a just a few short weeks I'm going to have to put it on the calendar and plan for it.

How about you?  What would make you desire to draw near to God?  How would you do it?  Will you plan for it?

Friday, December 6, 2013

12 Blogs of Christmas Blog # 3 - Home for the Holidays.

Hi friends,

Before I get to my Christmas blog topic today, let me share another Christmas craft creation with you. This is a fun little creation I made with some scraps.  I have to remember to keep my scraps and save them for another project.  So often (like with this card) it makes the card come together in a jiffy and it's a great use of products that would otherwise wind up in the trash!

Today's blog topic is Christmas -  Home for the holidays.  When you think of Christmas, do you think of home? What is home to you?  Even though this seems very straightforward, this is a difficult and complex question. When you are a child, the answer to this is very simple.  Home is where you live, it is the place you slept last night and it is the place where your toys are and your family.  Even if you've only lived in your place for a few months, to a child, home is where you are now.

When you are not a child anymore, home can be something very different.  For instance for my son Eric, it is not obvious to me where he considers 'home' to be.  It's not Clemson, that is where he lives 9 months of the year while in college, but he may not yet consider our condo in Waltham to be home.  More likely when he thinks of home, he thinks of the house we just left in Northbridge MA where he lived for the last 5 years of his life, where his friends are.  For my daughter Sarah, it is also not clear.  Home is not Ukraine, where she has lived for 27 months.  But home is probably not our condo in Waltham either.  She hasn't even seen the condo, although she'll live there with us for a time until she and Ivan are able to get their own place.

And many people don't spend Christmas at home, when their jobs or other responsibilities pulled them away from the town they lived in when they were growing up or away from their loved ones.  For many people, the idea of spending Christmas home would mean a lonely Christmas since everyone they love is somewhere else.

So I think of the thought of 'Home for Christmas', to me it is much more about 'with loved ones for Christmas.'  How about you?  What does Home for the Holidays mean to you and when do you feel most at home?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

12 Blogs of Christmas - #2 Celebrating Christmas in good times and bad

Hi friends,

Today is blog post #2 in my 12 blogs of Christmas series.  First up, a Christmas card.

So today's Blog Topic is 'Celebrating Christmas in good times and bad.'  Holiday's can be really hard when things aren't going so well.  It is important for us to be sensitive to this fact.  This year is a very happy time for our family.  My daughter Sarah is coming home soon - she's been overseas for 27 long months and her service with the peace corps is over.  It will be very joyful to have her home and back in the U.S. for good.  It is also joyful because my son Eric will be home from college and my immediate family is happy, healthy and thriving.  It seems 'easy' to celebrate Christmas in good times, but there is also temptation in these celebrations as well.  Even though things are going really well, it's easy to worry about things.  For instance there is significant political unrest in Ukraine this week.  I could spend my days worrying about this and fearful that Sarah and Ivan won't make it home.  I can worry about the job situation - will my job continue to be stable in 2015?  Will Sarah and Ivan find work?  So, even in good times, it's easy to let worry and anxiety overwhelm us.

It's also easy to get caught up in envy and greed at Christmas when times are good.  I can look around at other families near me and think  - I should make cookies that look like Martha Stewarts - or I should buy more gifts to go under the tree, or I should have liposuction so I look like a model.  With all the advertising and marketing around me, I can feel like my life is not complete without _______ (fill in the blank!)

And I think it's much, much harder to celebrate Christmas when times are bad.  As much as we can let things get out of hand with greed, jealousy and anxiety in good times, there are far worse things that come along with holidays when times are bad.  When times are bad it's easy to be overwhelmed with grief, loneliness, fear and sadness.  How hard it must be to see other families when you have lost a loved one.  How hard it must be to see the advertising and marketing when you've lost a job and have significant financial challenges.  How hard it must be to see people ice skating and walking around when you have a medical condition that leaves you unable to move around.  I have not yet experienced a Christmas when I've faced these challenges but I'm sure it is very, very difficult.

So what should we do?  Well, I think when times are good we need to avoid the temptations.  We need to enjoy the moment and not worry and envy.  We need to be realistic about our expectations and not try to out-do the others around us.  And we need to be sensitive to those around us who are struggling, because not everyone is experiencing what we are.

When times are bad?  Well, again I don't have personal experience with this, but I've heard one of the worst things you can do is isolate yourself.  It's very tempting to do this - just stay home - not go to events - but that will only make it worse.  If possible, even if you don't feel like it, I've heard its good to get out - be with people - and help others!  And have hope!  If you are facing a difficult time this Christmas, turn to God.  Ask him to show you how to bring joy into your life even as you deal with ________.  Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church has a number of great blog posts about being joyful in the midst of significant hardship - he should know.  His son died this year from suicide.  He won't say it's his best Christmas ever, but he will offer ways to find small joys in life without his son.

I hope whatever type of Holiday you are celebrating this year (good times or bad) you are able to see God's significant love for you and that God meets you where you are at.

Thanks for visiting today.

Monday, December 2, 2013

12 Blogs of christmas #1 - Is Christmas in America about Christ?

Hi friends,

For the month of December I intend to blog every other day on a different topic related to Christmas. I figure everything, everywhere you go is Christmas so why not blog about it too!

So at the start of every one of the 12 blogs of Christmas I will showcase a Christmas Craft. Today's craft is a card!

The card I'm showing you today is a simple design using a classic DeNami image.  It's so fun how much extra just a little glitter on a leaf and berry stamp can make.  I love this and it was super easy to make.

So today's blog post is about Christ in Christmas.  I know lots of Christians who spend a lot of time talking about how disappointed they are in the way America celebrates Christmas, but I'm not one to do that at all. I love American Christmas.  Now, I'm not saying I love everything about American Christmas but the whole package, everything that goes with it - overall - it's a big, big positive for me.

I say that with my faith intact and secure.  Am I ignorant to the fact that many Americans who celebrate Christmas don't know anything about the roots of the holiday or it's meaning?  Of course not.  But I embrace the holiday and the way my fellow Americans choose to celebrate it and I love that for an entire month (for some - way longer) my God is at least at the root of most of the things going on around me.

Let's just talk about Santa for a minute.  Some Christians are very 'anti-Santa.'  Okay, I respect that.  I can see many reasons why a Christian would have misgivings about the big guy, but as for me, I love Santa and what he represents.  Santa is based on Saint Nicholas.  He was a devout Christian who chose to show Christ's love for mankind by providing gifts for children.  That's a good thing.  We always talked about and welcomed Santa in our home and it was a real joy to do so.

Another thing I love about American Christmas is the fact that Christmas Music is played EVERYWHERE; the mall, the skating rink, the grocery store, the radio.  And a good chunk of those songs are about worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ.  I love walking in the grocery store humming classics like 'O Holy Night' or 'Go tell it on the Mountain.'  I also don't mind at all when 'Rocking around the Christmas Tree' comes along.  It's not a christian based song but I listen to country music and the Zac Brown Band singing about Fried Chicken isn't about Christ either, but I listen to that.

So do I think that American's leave Christ out of Christmas?  Well no more than American's leave Christ out of their lives in general.  If you aren't a follower of Christ, how could you, and why would you put Christ in Christmas?  It's really only something you would do if you know the wonderful forgiveness that He offers.  It's only something you would marvel at if you believed that God sent his son into earth to dwell among man and to bring hope to all mankind. Now since I know and believe that, Christ is the center of my Christmas and Christ is the center of every day of my life.  The only reason I'm concerned that American's don't include Christ in their Christmas is because I love Americans and truly desire for them to know the wonderful and life-changing effects of being known by God and being loved by God. I pray that every American can know God the way I do and be blessed in that relationship.  Until that happens, I don't fault them for celebrating American Christmas however they want.

So, how about you?  How do you celebrate Christmas?  Do you love the winter themes that come with it?  Do you focus on the family gatherings that come with it?  Are you like me and marvel at the wonder of a loving God who so loved you (and me) that he would come to be Immanuel - God with us?  However you celebrate I hope you have a WONDERFUL Christmastime!