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Entries in Holidays (9)

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
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.

Tuesday
Nov142017

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. http://www.cynthiaruchti.com, http://www.hemmedinhope.com

Wednesday
Nov012017

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 Etsy.com, while quantities last.

Friday
Nov282014

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net