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Entries in Holidays (7)


Holiday Hope for Aging Parents

Including aging parents in our holiday plans can take some extra thought, but as Cynthia Ruchti shows us in this Holiday UPGRADE, it's so worth the time and effort!

"Aging parents—and caring for them—can upgrade the holidays for us," Cynthia says. "And it’s about time."

I (Dawn) like that. I like any time we can upgrade the holidays. We do it with decorations and events, but what about the people in our lives? How do we give a meaningful dose of holiday hope to our aging parents?

Cynthia continues . . .

In many families, Grandma and Grandpa once provided the setting for all the holiday memory-making.

Theirs was the groaning dining room table with a feast and decorations that revealed days’ worth of cooking, baking, preparation.

Theirs was the backyard hill for sledding and snow forts.

The presents under the Christmas tree might have crowded against each other with the grandparents’ generosity and homemade gifts.

But now, a hospital bed might occupy the spot a glittering tree once claimed.

The living room of the grandparents’ home is “decorated” with the trappings of ill health and aging—walkers, commodes, lift chairs. The sounds of Christmas music in the background competes with the sound of the oxygen machine.

Or Grandma and Grandpa are in reasonably good health, but living in a small apartment or an assisted living home.

We can change the setting for holiday gatherings. Christmas at Aunt Cheryl’s this year. Or Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Grandma and Grandpa’s eldest child.

But how do we keep our grip on cherished traditions, include rather than exclude the aging, and find new ways to “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12 KJV) when the holidays include tasks of caregiving for aging parents?

And how will doing so upgrade our holiday experiences?

I love how God included the elderly in the original Christmas story.

Luke 1 starts not with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, but with Zechariah, an aged priest, who by God’s grace had a son despite his wife’s lifelong barrenness. That son—John—prepared the way for the coming Messiah.

Bookending the story of the birth of Christ are other characters of many yearsSimeon, who blessed the eight-day-old infant Jesus in the temple, and Anna, a prophet described as “very old.” She’d been married only seven years, and at the time of Jesus’s birth was an 84-year-old-widow.

Anna was among the first to Tweet the news about the birth of the Messiah.

(She “tweeted” with whole sentences, though, telling everyone she knew, everyone who had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem that He had been born, according to Luke 2:38.)

Zechariah, Simeon, Anna—their ages added to the encompassing picture of the Christmas story.

And so can the elderly in our families, even if their needs require special accommodations during the holidays.

  • Encourage Grandpa or Grandma to pray over the holiday meal, if that’s long been a tradition in your home and they are still able to communicate.
  • If you host the holiday gathering at some place other than their residence, consider bringing something familiar to anchor them in the new scene—a favorite afghan, their heirloom nativity set, Grandma’s good china or silverware.
  • Use double-sided name tents at each place setting to boost Grandma’s or Grandpa’s memory about the names of their loved ones.
  • Unless it’s physically impossible, include them in safe but meaningful ways in the food preparation. Some aging parents/grandparents grow restless and uncomfortable around the holidays because it’s a reminder of traditions in which they can no longer participate. Even if someone else needs to yield the knife, can Grandma arrange the vegetables on the crudité platter? If Grandpa once carved the turkey but can no longer manage the task, can he be given the honor of making the first slice?
  • Reserve time for aging parents to tell their stories.
  • Show consideration for their tolerance for noise and commotion. Plan quiet activities in addition to what was once delightful chaos for them.
  • Consider, too, their nutritional restrictions. Rather than making them bypass their favorite foods, find ways to accommodate an extra bowl of salt-free gravy or seedless blackberry jam for their dinner roll.
  • If aging parents or grandparents are confined by health needs to a nursing home facility, give the gift of your extended presence sometime during the holidays. Unhurried. Reminding them, and the staff, that they are treasured, dearly loved. If they live far away from the family festivities, bring video messages from their children and grandchildren, so they know they were thought of, remembered, cherished.
  • Even if you send Thanksgiving or Christmas greetings only by email and Facebook, take the time to send cards to the aging.

God did not tell us to honor our father and mother when it’s convenient.

Or when their needs don’t interfere with our plans.

Or only when they … and we … are young.

What does your family do to honor elderly members during the holidays? In what ways have you discovered that “it’s about time”?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women. Her recent book—As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love, and Change—addresses many challenging and tender aspects of caring for aging parents or grandparents.,


5 Tips to Strategically Simplify Your Holiday Season

Because Marcia Ramsland is one of the most organized people I know during the holiday season, I asked her to prepare us for Thanksgiving and Christmas with some helpful strategies.

This Holiday UPGRADE is based on her practical book, Simplify Your Holiday Season, and it includes a free download!

“If you do anything more than once in life," Marcia says, "organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork. “  

I (Dawn) totally agree with the "organize and simplify" concept. Along with walking in the Spirit and experiencing His peace in our hearts (Galatians 5:16, 22), one of the blessings of being properly prepared for the holidays is the peace that flows into our celebrations and activities!

Marcia continues . . .

There is ONE DATE that signals it’s time to launch your holiday planning every year—November 1st.

Knowing that, you can be ready and sail through the holidays by taking these five action steps early. These five steps—and my free 8-Week Holiday Planning Calendar—will get you ready early and make it the peaceful Thanksgiving and Christmas season you’ve always dreamed of.

1.  Mark Your Holiday Dates for November and December.

Thanksgiving is “early” this year on November 23, which means Christmas is a little over four weeks after Thanksgiving. That’s really good news!

But you still need to follow a good Calendar Plan so too many details don’t mount up at the end to cause you holiday stress.

2.  Write A Master Gift List.

List the names of people that you are planning to give gifts to. Better yet, FIND YOUR LIST from last year and follow that same order early in November.

Can’t find last year’s list? You could download my free Master Gift List.

You can download the 2017 Free Master GIFT LIST and Holiday CALENDARhere.

(NOTE: If you already have my Holiday planner, put the list in the front pocket!)

3. Organize Your Gift Wrap Center.

Right now, you don’t have to wrap any gifts. Just organize your Gift Wrap Center with 7 key items all together, say in an under-the-bed box or drawer. 

Include: holiday wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tags, fresh tissue paper, bows & ribbons, scotch tape and a dedicated pen. Get it organized and ready to use.

4. Plan Ahead by Writing Things Down.

Mark your calendar with family coming to town, favorite concerts, kids school vacation dates, and business vacation days. This forms the structure for your holiday season.

5. Sort Your Holiday Decorations Early.

The best weekend to put up Christmas decorations this year will be Thanksgiving weekend or the weekend after, but not turning on lights until December 1.

That way you can enjoy them for five weeks before taking them down after New Year’s weekend.

Donate what you don’t use early in December. Why?

1) Someone else can enjoy your excess decorations this Christmas.

2) Charities won’t take them after Christmas, because they don’t have room to store them for 11 months.

Free up space by donating this year!

Planning is powerful! And with a good plan and your eye on the calendar, you can simplify your holiday season.

Instead of playing “catch-up” and feeling stressed, you will experience freedom and calm.

With an organized plan in action every week—written out on an 8-Week Holiday Calendar Plan—you can say wholeheartedly like the angelic heavenly host who praised God when they appeared to the shepherds and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” Luke 2:13-14.

Let me share a holiday prayer just for you.

"Dear God, today as I work on preparing my heart and home for Christmas, may I reflect on the events of the first Christmas and find strength in knowing you have a special plan for my holidays this year.” Amen

What holiday activity will you start this weekend to make sure you’re calm and ready to celebrate this holiday season?

Marcia Ramsland, the Holiday Coach, is the author of two holiday books: Simplify Your Holiday Season: Turn Seasonal Stress into Holiday Success” and Simply December Devotions and was a spokesperson for Sam’s Club Holiday Entertaining. Download Marcia's free 2017 Holiday Calendar and Master Gift List HERE

Thanksgiving/Christmas blocks in the graphic available at BuzzingBeesCrafts on, while quantities last.


21 Ways to Thrive through the Holidays

Poppy Smith’s personal blog banner reads “Inspiring YOU to Thrive!” I thought she’d be the perfect one to help us thrive all December long in this Holiday UPGRADE.

“We’ve all heard flight attendants instruct passengers to put their oxygen masks on first before helping others in an emergency,” Poppy said.

“Well, if we want to thrive rather than barely survive under the added pressures of the Christmas season, and if we want to shine with God’s love and joy rather than be grumpy and upset, we need to follow the same advice.”

I (Dawn) don't know about you, but I always end up exhausted by December 31st, and it's not just about being organized and prepared—because I am. So I was looking for some suggestions to make this year different.

Poppy continues …

Pay regular attention to your own physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. By doing this, you’ll avoid blow-ups and melt-downs that come from too much stress and low blood sugar, and instead, have what it takes to thrive and bless others.

In announcing Christ’s birth, an angel of the Lord said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” Luke 2:10. Christmas is a time for joy, smiles and delight in all God’s blessings.

Here are 21 ways that can help make this happen!

THRIVE by Doing What Gives You JOY! (Say "Yes!")

1. Do you love a Christmas concert? Check out what’s available and invite someone to go with you.

2. Take your children, grandchildren, or other little ones to a Nativity display with live animals.

3. Treat an older friend or relative to a special Christmas tea or lunch.

4. Go with a friend (or spouse, if willing) to a new, fun part of town to see the Christmas displays.

THRIVE by Saying "NO" to:

5. Too many events—choose one or two and enjoy others next year

6. Too many invitations—decline graciously by declaring you’re already tied up (you are—at home!)

7. Too much food, drink—eat before you go so you’re half-full. Taste everything. Then drink water!

8. Too much debt— decide NOW how much you’ll spend overall, and on each person.  Shop sales!

9. Spending too much time doing things to please others (or win their approval or admiration.)

THRIVE by Eliminating Pressure:

10. Hosting an event? Invite others to bring a treat or dish to share—don’t do it all!

11. Organizing your extended-family gift-giving? Suggest giving to one person, not ten!

12. Check your card or Christmas letter list. Send greetings to people who truly matter to you.

13. Give yourself permission to quit a tradition if you have no time or energy.

THRIVE by Taking Time For Yourself:

14. Take a long, hot, bubble-bath by candle light accompanied by your favorite music.

15. Go for a slow walk admiring the Christmas lights and twinkling trees in the windows.

16. Sing or play Christmas carols that celebrate the gift of God, His Son Jesus.

17. Sit by your tree, enjoy scented candles, and read the Word for an hour.

THRIVE by Focusing On Jesus:

18. Read the Christmas story to yourself or a child. Make it come alive. Be in awe.

19. Spend time writing down all the blessings you have because Jesus came.

20. Sing—by yourself, or with others. Raise your voices. Rejoice in His love.

21. Encourage children to act out the Christmas story and help them dress the part in creative costumes. Have fun with them so that they experience the wonder of that first Christ-filled day.

Make JOY your goal this holiday season.

Decide what’s important and what you want to say YES to. And, just as important, choose what you’ll say NO to. 

If you ask God for guidance and make some new decisions, YOU WILL THRIVE through the holidays!

Which of Poppy's 21 THRIVE suggestions are already working for you? Is there a suggestion you want to try?

Poppy Smith is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. A former Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader with a Masters in Spiritual Formation, she is a multi-published author who speaks widely, challenging women to make their lives count by looking at their choices, attitudes, and relationship with God. For more about Poppy and her helpful resources, including her book, I'm Too Human to Be Like Jesus: Spiritual Growth for the Not-So-Perfect Woman, visit her website.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of scottchan at



Sparkle for the Holidays

A couple of years ago, Jill Swanson helped me find my signature color and style, and as a busy woman, I love her book, Out the Door in 15 Minutes! I invited Jill to help us "upgrade" our holiday wardrobe style ... without breaking our budget.

"What a fun time of the year - Christmas programs, parties and presents!" Jill says. "So how are you wrapping yourself up this year?"

Wrapping YOURSELF up ... Hmmm... I never thought of it like that. Fun!

Jill continues ...

Stressed about getting dressed? Have no fear ... help is here! It’s as easy as “1 + 1” ... a practical and fun technique that will help you use what you buy throughout the year.

Here’s how it works:

Begin with one basic garment –  a simple dress, crisp white blouse, a solid color sweater or a black pair of slacks - then add one piece of “glitz.”

The glitz is something that can be blended throughout the year into the rest of your closet.

Here is a list of ideas to help jumpstart your holiday wardrobe:

  • Luxurious Lame’ - a gold, silver, bronze or copper scarf with earrings to match can accent a neutral sweater (ivory, beige, gray, black) and a sleek pair of slacks.
  • Ruffled white blouse – the more abundant the ruffles, the better! This holiday staple will become a “romantic go-to” for the rest of the year. Anchor it with a fitted bottom piece and a pair of “diamond” earrings.
  • Dark or black suit jacket – Separate it from its mate and introduce it to a new shimmering tank or cami and some dressy jeans and heels.
  • Metallic leathers – They remain all the rage this year. Add a purse and a pair of shoes or even a jacket to your usual business casual look and you’ll have holiday dazzle in a flash.
  • Color - Try a blaze of bright blue, gold or red in a sweater, scarf or hat. The jewel tones can be segued into the rest of your closet for 2014. If the idea of tying a scarf intimidates you – I’ve given examples of 3 simple ways on Youtube
  • Velvet - This forgiving fabric will play down areas you are self-conscious about and add an air of elegance to everyday pieces. Try it in a blazer, skirt or a jean-cut pair of pants. Use rhinestone baubles to complete the look.
  • Multiple jewels - Co-mingle a pearl necklace and one or two silver or gold chains and layer them abundantly on a solid dressy blouse. Or take a long pearl necklace, double it and fasten it together with an antique broach and wear it asymmetrical and voila - inexpensive and exquisite!

While these are fun ideas, making outer beauty is easier to come by, inner beauty is far more important during this stress-filled season. We need to take time to dress ourselves inwardly before starting our day by giving God time in the morning. Even Jesus did this (Mark 1:35).

Colossians 3:12 gives clear instructions for putting on an attractive attitude:  Therefore ... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And in verse 14, it tells us the essential piece that completes the look and makes the outfit work: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Go ahead, add some sparkle to your holiday look this season - from the inside and out!

Is there something in your closet you can adapt for holiday events? Are you wearing the "essential piece" Jill mentioned?

Jill Swanson is a Christian Image Consultant who works with individuals and speaks for groups/organizations on how to make the most of their God given beauty – in side and out. Her books Simply Beautiful and the newly released, Out the Door in 15 Minutes! are available at her website and on Amazon.



Who's on Your Holiday Guest List?

"As the day shorten and calendar pages are turned, thoughts of holiday celebrations begin to emerge," Pat Ennis says. "Amidst the planning I would like to pose a question: who will comprise your holiday guest list this year?"

I know exactly what Pat means. I remember the years we opened our home to college students and singles who didn't have a place to celebrate for Christmas. Have you ever had that joy? Pat has a knack for hospitality, and her thoughts on this topic can stretch our thinking and help us upgrade the way we bless others in our homes.

Pat continues ...

Before you create your guest list, consider these thoughts:

1. Holidays can be painful times for those without extended family in the immediate area.

It was October of my eighteenth year of life when my Dad stepped into eternity. As a college freshman I not only had to deal with my own grief, I also was faced with the responsibility of helping my mother adjust to a new lifestyle.

When Dad died, Mom not only lost her husband of thirty years, she also lost her circle of friends. Suddenly the married couples—my Dad was the first of their group to die—didn’t know what to do about Mother. So they did nothing. Her grieving process extended because of their withdrawal, even though she and Dad had enjoyed their fellowship for years. 

Our plight was magnified by the reality that we did not have extended family and I was an only child.  Frankly, the outlook for the holiday season appeared pretty dismal!

2. Consider expanding your "hospitality borders."

As the holidays approached, our neighbors, who embraced a different faith than my family, graciously invited us to share their Thanksgiving celebration with them. The sincere invitation, their effort to fold us into their family, and intentional conversation that focused on recounting the blessings of the year as well as looking forward to the next year turned a potentially miserable day into one of joy.

The focus on the Lord’s provision for us through the hospitality of our neighbors (Philippians 4:8-9, 19) soothed our grieving spirits.

3. Extending hospitality may stimulate others to follow your example.

There's a happy ending to my Mother’s loss of her circle of friends. A gracious southern hostess, she did not cease to extend hospitality because of the change in her marital status. In the five years she lived beyond Dad’s death, we frequently extended biblical hospitality.

Eventually our guest list included widows from the group that had earlier excluded my Mother. 

Though her arthritic condition precluded her engaging in much of the food preparation, she continued to help me hone the skills that were second nature to her. 

4. Stimulate your creativity during the holidays.

The loving hospitality extended to us on that first lonely Thanksgiving served as a catalyst for Mom and me to open our home throughout the year—especially during the holiday season!

Consider displaying biblical compassion by including some of the “others”—singles, widows and the grieving in your holiday celebrations. Who, knows, you might be entertaining an angel incognito (Hebrews 13:2)!

Here are some ideas to assist in your planning:

  • Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals.
  • Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality, and purpose to invite your first guests soon!
  • Start simple. Spontaneously inviting someone home after Sunday evening church is a great beginning.
  • Pray that our loving heavenly Father will give you joy in demonstrating hospitality to others.
  • Remember that memories require time and energy to create.
  • Purpose to nurture a heart for biblical hospitality that sincerely communicates "come back soon."

Who is on your holiday guest list? Are you willing to expand that list this year?

Pat Ennis is a distinguished professor of Homemaking and Director of Homemaking Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. Pat is a speaker and author.  Her most recent release is The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook with Dorothy Patterson (Crossway, March 2013).