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Entries in Christmas (33)

Thursday
Dec132018

Three Ways to Make This Christmas More Meaningful

Cindi McMenamin, who writes to strengthen women in their daily walk with God, opens up about how she has changed in her attitudes about the holidays, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she offers suggestions for a more meaningful season.

Cindi asks, "Are you a woman whose goal is to survive the holidays? You go into get-it-done mode and plow through your to-do list and give a big sigh of relief on January 2nd when it’s all over?"

That was my (Dawn's) attitude for many years before God rescued me from undue stress. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one!

Cindi continues . . .

I was that way, too. For years. Then I realized I was missing something very important.

  • Special memories passed without my embracing them.
  • Loved ones came and went and I barely noticed.

Soon the Christmas Season was over and I was tired, but unfulfilled. I knew something had to be done differently.

Today, I’d like to think of myself as a woman who doesn’t just survive the holidays, but, rather, a woman who actually thrives during the most hectic time of the year.

And I’d like to encourage you to be one, too.

Yes, there are extra expenses, extra responsibilities and extra amounts of stress this time of year. There can also be extra expectations—on your part or the part of others—that can cause drama and leave you feeling like a woman on the edge.

Last year, I decided I wanted to be one who truly ENJOYS this time of year, so I started focusing on the few things that matter—and those few things helped me experience a drama-free Christmas that was memorable and fulfilling.

1. Put God First.

You’ll be a woman who is able to accomplish more if you know where your priorities are.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Since Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, what better gift to give Him than obedience? And what better way to show Him we are obeying His command to love Him first by giving Him the first of our day, through our time?

I can honestly say that if I don’t spend quiet time with God every day—preferably in the morning—I’m a mess. My family will attest to that, too!

Preferably, for me, that quiet time consists of at least 20 minutes in prayer and in God’s Word, letting His perspective and principles guide my life. But there are days when that quiet time consists of only a few minutes of quieting my heart before God and asking for His strength to get me through the day.

As we put God first in our day, we are reminded that His approval, His love and His expectations are more important than anyone else’s.

And at this time of year when we can become run down and therefore ultra sensitive, hormonal or just plain cranky, we can tend to have unrealistic expectations on others and be hurt if they’re not appreciating us, supporting us or showing love toward us.

When you are secure in your relationship with God and convinced that He loves you and that’s enough, you can face whatever comes your way.

2. Prioritize Your Loved Ones.

You’ve heard the saying “You can’t please all the people all the time,” right? We have to remember this one at this time of year because there are so many demands on our time.

Often those we live with and love the most get the least of us when we are trying to please everyone.

By asking yourself “What does my family need most from me today?” and then accomplishing that first on your to-do list, you won’t make the mistake of being a people pleaser and a friends and family failure.

Yes, you may be expected to bring cookies to your child’s classroom, but if it happens on the day your child is sick or your husband has a last-minute need that he forgot to communicate to you, or your grandmother is rushed to the hospital, you will have to make a choice to keep yourself sane.

You just may have to let some people down at this time of year in order to keep first things first.

No one likes to do that, but in reality, when you have priorities, it means something else (or someone else) may have to go without. Make sure you prioritize those who love you and need you the most.

Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The ones you live with, eat meals with, and sleep next to are your "neighbors" more than anyone else.

You can prioritize them—while still reaching out to others at this time of year—by making sure their needs are met first and then inviting them along with you to help meet the needs of others. That will keep you balanced, but not at risk of neglecting those closest to you. 

3. Pursue Moments that Lead to Memories.

There’s nothing worse than a Christmas that is self-absorbed.

If it’s all about what we want—or what our children want, or what someone else wants—we can lose focus of what it truly means to give as God gave of His Son, and Christ gave of Himself. As you look around, it’s not difficult to notice so many in need—physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

What are the moments that lead to stories you will tell at the dinner table at night?

  • Stopping to talk to a homeless person and handing them a bag of groceries?
  • Taking your children—or your girlfriends—to a convalescent home and singing carols, or just going door to door to visit the elderly and handing them each a candy cane?
  • Taking a meal to a family at church? 
  • Going caroling and wishing well those that open the door and smile at you?

The holidays that have meant the most to me and my family are the ones in which we got outside of ourselves and touched another life, not necessarily because it made us feel good, but because it touched someone else’s life.

It showed our God that we understood a glimpse of what He sacrificed when He sent His Son to earth—and then to a cross—for us.

What will you do to make Christmas more meaningful this year—for yourself, for your family, for your neighbors, for those with desperate needs?

Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mother, and national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and have drama-free relationships. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling  When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Ten Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, and Drama Free.  For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill-111 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Dec112018

A Christmas Me-Lighting

Kaley Rhea is wise and insightful, a witty millennial who loves to tweak our minds so we think biblically in everyday life. This Christmas UPGRADE will take you back to the "why" of Christmas and tweak your joy!

Kaley says, "You like Christmas lights? I got some straight-up Christmas fireworks here for you."

When I (Dawn) read Kaley's post, I thought, "Yes, the truth is what we need to renew our Christmas joy. Jesus, the Light of the Word, is our great Overcomer!

Kaley continues . . .

First, I want to invite you to take a look at 1 John 3, verses 5 and 8 with me:

“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin… Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (ESV)

Now let’s go back to the beginning. Old Testament.

Back to the Genesis garden where the world was perfect, and humanity existed sinlessly and with the mission to get to know God by turning the rest of creation into the kind of beautiful home He’d made for them in Eden.

What did the devil do?

  • He sowed in them doubt that God actually wanted their best.
  • He planted a seed of his own idolatrous ambition to be as powerful as God.
  • And he pointed out that going against God’s command would satisfy a simple, quick-fix desire for something tasty.

Satan built his traps, and through Adam and Eve, the world fell right in.

Poisoned. Sick. Broken.

Fast forward.

Fulfilling an incredible promise, Jesus—Who has always existed, the creative power of mighty God—came as a Son.

And what happened?

  • He obeyed God, trusting His plan even when it led to the cross.
  • He came as a servant, abandoning His place and His rights as God.
  • And He refused every opportunity to take an easier way out or to compromise the Word of God in order to satisfy His flesh.

Jesus did what Adam and Eve could not do.

Jesus did what you and I could not do.

Because of the love He has for us, He took our sin and the punishment we deserve, and He replaced them with a miracle opportunity to become part of His family.

Joint heirs. Adopted by God.

Us. Can you believe it?

Satan had built a labyrinth of sin and disease; he’d manipulated and whispered and painted all his rot to look pretty.

And then Jesus came in like BOOM! He dismantled. Destroyed. Blew up. Everything the devil had built.

Jesus came as the answer to every point humanity had failed, and He came with a love that redeemed. Big enough to light up and echo through the millennia.

You want joy this Christmas? Real, lasting, soul-deep joy?

  • Think about a devastated devil.
  • Think about Jesus—the only One who could solve our sin problem.
  • Think about a future built on His righteousness rather than our lack thereof.

Then, for literal Heaven’s sake, let’s pick up the gardener’s hats Adam and Eve dropped and get with that new commission, fam!

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to light us up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ this day and this season and every moment until we see Him face to face.

When was the last time you thought about Christmas in terms of Jesus overcoming Satan's plans? Take a few minutes now and thank your Heavenly Father for those three reasons to rejoice!

Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind Christy Award finalist novel Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). Kaley also makes up one third of the writing team for the new, non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of chris-1974 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Nov272018

Get Organized with a Holiday Notebook

Marcia Ramsland, The Holiday Coach, has so many ideas for organizing our lives, homes, offices and more; and in this Organization UPGRADE, she helps us organize the holidays!

 “The Holidays are as much a matter of organization as a matter of heart," Marcia says.

"Organize your plans and tasks in a Holiday Notebook to let your heart shine through and be relaxed enough to celebrate the reason for the season."

 I (Dawn) love that... "let your heart shine through." We're to let our light shine for Christ—actually, a reflection of His light—so others will be drawn to the Lord.

But it's hard to "shine" when we're a mess mentally and emotionally with holiday chaos.

Marcia continues . . .

I used to start every holiday season from scratch . . . until I realized my scattered lists from last year weren’t organized enough to give me a springboard to build upon this year.

So I started My Holiday Notebook.

It worked so well even a major retailer had me be a Holiday Entertaining spokesperson and called this “My Holiday Hub.” It works!

Select a three-ring notebook, put in these five tabs, and write in it whenever you get a brilliant idea.

Everything will be in one place and take the mental stress out of the season once you see all your planning in one place.

The goal is to be calm enough to celebrate the season with joy—not stress. 

Remember the angel's words?

“Behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

Tab #1 — THE HOLIDAY CALENDAR

Keep my 8-Week Holiday Season Calendar to improve on the dates you did things last year.

Refer back to what weeks you did holiday prep and events last year. (DOWNLOAD HERE.)

Tab #2 — GIFTS & CARDS

Keep your Master Gift List here so you can regularly jot down ideas and update purchases. Check off with a red pen if is wrapped and where it is stored. (DOWNLOAD HERE.)

Keep your Christmas card address list here, printed from your computer, or screenshot your email holiday list.

Tab #3 — DECORATIONS

Take pictures of decorations as you place them in your home. This will be a time-saving reference.

Neatly label the decoration boxes and donate what is not used by the first week of December so someone else can use it.

Tab #4 — RECIPES

Keep your favorite recipes and menus in this section. It will be easy to start baking your favorite Christmas cookies along with a grocery list for the season.

Include your holiday menus. Next year will be a breeze.

Tab #5 — EVENTS

  • THANKSGIVING This tab with photos, notes, and menus will make next year easier, especially what to do on the days before anything you host. Listing specific details helps you simplify.
  • CHRISTMASKeep your notes and photos here as a memory jogger for next year, such as the family opening presents, eating together, and a journal page of “The Best Things that Happened This Christmas.” You’ll love the annual summaries.

Think of the possibilities for a calm season if you kept all your holiday ideas in one place, followed the Holiday Season Calendar Plan, and cleaned up your notes for next year!

You really could be organized and less stressed for the holidays!

Create a Holiday Notebook and start today.

Do you have a Holiday Notebook?

(If not, I highly recommend Marcia's resources. I think her Holiday Notebook would be a wonderful "heritage" item to pass down to family members someday too! - Dawn)

Marcia Ramsland is The “Organizing Pro,” a Coach and Online Trainer, and author of Simplify Your Holiday Season and Simplify December Devotions. For your free Holiday Calendar & Master Gift List visit organizingpro.com

Graphic adapted, courtesy of jill 111 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec212017

How Ready Are You to Celebrate Christmas?

Yvonne Ortega writes a lot about broken people, and to be sure, there are many broken people who struggle during the holiday season; but God desires to do beautiful things in their lives. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she asks us to examine our hearts before Christmas arrives.

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest," Yvonne says, "how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

I (Dawn) am one of those "ready early" kinds of people at Christmas, because I want Christmas week to be as peaceful as possible. But having a ready heart is not the same as a ready home.

Yvonne continues . . .

I’ve had people tell me, “I’m all set for Christmas. I bought the gifts in August, decorated the house, trimmed an artificial tree, filled the Christmas stockings with small treats, and mailed the Christmas cards.”

Others have told me, “I’m ready as can be. I did everything over the Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I can sit back and enjoy the Christmas lights, programs, and parties.”

From an earthly perspective, the person appears to be ready. However, as Christians with a heavenly perspective, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Our readiness to celebrate his birth has nothing to do with Christmas decorations, a trimmed tree, gifts for family and friends, stockings filled with goodies, or Christmas cards.

These three steps will help you decide how ready you are to celebrate Christmas.

1. Have you forgiven family members, friends or co-workers who hurt you?

You don’t want anything standing between you and God.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Do you still feel unforgiven for past sins? Are you burdened with shame and guilt?

If you’ve confessed your sins, God forgave you. He didn’t make a mistake when he did that. You can do no less.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

2. How often do you read your Bible, pray, and go to church—especially during the Christmas season?

If you do these things, how do you do them?

Do you do them on the run with an eye on your watch?

Do you do them grudgingly or cheerfully?

My late mentor often said, "You make time for what’s important to you."

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (NIV). You show your love by how much time you spend with the Lord and get to know him.

Make time for the most important relationship in your life. It is one that will last for eternity.

3. How comfortable would you feel if your family, friends, and coworkers evaluated your trust in God?

Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a car, or a home. Maybe you received a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or have a prodigal child in the family. You may have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one. Any one of these situations can cause turmoil in your life.

It can also result in your questioning your faith and God’s character.

Rate your confidence in his promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

As I wrap up, I ask you the same question I did at the beginning:

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest, how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle), Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), and Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Forgiveness, all available at amazon.com/books. She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic of candle, courtesy of Pixabay.

Monday
Dec182017

We Rejoice with Them!

Kaley Faith Rhea tackles our "Bah, Humbugs" with a biblical perspective in this Christmas UPGRADE.

Kaley asks, "During the Christmas season, does there come a point when you feel like if you hear one more cheery chorus of 'Deck the Halls,' you know you’ll punch a wall?"

I (Dawn) can't identify with that. I could listen to Christmas songs all year long; but there are some Christmas cheer things that drive me up a wall.

Kaley continues . . .

Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe your “Bah!”s are not followed by “Humbug”s. Maybe you’re not that one friend who feels Christmas is “over-commercialized.”

  • But maybe this year you find yourself trying to force your way into Christmas cheer like it’s last year’s shrunken sweater.
  • Maybe your smiles and greetings feel a bit false, a bit stale.
  • You may even feel like, of all the Whatever-Your-Name-Is-es in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.

Read Philippians 4:4-7 with me:

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always tended to read the “rejoice” of Philippians 4:4 as like a hands-in-the-air, celebrate-good-times-come-on, party kind of vibe. Like I could hear D.J. Paul screaming it into the mic as the crowd goes wild.

And don’t get me wrong, we can and absolutely should celebrate and revel in who Jesus is.

But I’ll be perfectly honest:

Life doesn’t feel like a party a hundred percent of the time.

Even at Christmas.

But the word we read as “rejoice” here is the Greek word chairo—which from what I can tell means to be cheerful, calmly happy or well-off. It’s the same word, actually, that’s used in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

When my four siblings and I were growing up, any time one of us got pouty because someone else got to have something or do something the rest of us didn’t, my parents would ask the same leading question: “What do we do when something nice happens to someone else?”

And each one of us knew exactly how we were supposed to answer in our rolly-eyed, sulky, child’s voices: “We rejoice with them.”

Usually with a distinct lack of rejoicing, heh.

I’m so grateful for that lesson, though. What I FEEL in my me-moments of selfishness or shortsightedness does not change what is true and does not change my call to be obedient. And what’s more amazing is how much happier I was, even in my childhood days, because of that lesson.

Starting with truth instead of starting with what I feel is a million times safer, a million times better, a million times reasonable-er.

Seems like it’s easy for me to feel like I have a responsibility to be falsely cheery through cheerless circumstances. To force a party smile on over a feeling of frustration.

It’s even more apparent around the holidays sometimes, I think—when there’s a lot of added pressure to paste on smiles for the camera and manufacture some cherished memories.

  • You are allowed to feel disappointed.
  • You are allowed to mourn.
  • You are allowed to not feel like celebrating all the time.

But in the Lord, you can rejoice.

Always.

Not falsely, but not necessarily with party poppers.

Read those verses one more time all the way through.

Rejoicing comes from a place of security. Of contentment. Of thanksgiving. Of perspective.

Of knowing that whatever you may be facing, Jesus is who Jesus is, and that means you are not facing it alone.

It leads to reasonableness—the ability to understand that what I’m feeling does not have to dictate how I respond. Even when there are setbacks and regrets and annoyances and disappointments. Even when my instincts are to punch a wall.

My friends, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. He is your peace and safety.

So rejoice in the Lord!

I won’t say it again. Because Paul already did.

With all sincerity—rejoicing in the One for Whom we celebrate—Merry Christmas!

What makes you say "Bah, Humbug!" at Christmastime? How can you turn that around and "rejoice in the Lord"?

Kaley Faith Rhea is a co-author of the Christian rom-com novel, Turtles in the Road, with two more books in the works to release in 2018. She also co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of aaandrea at Pixabay.