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Free Yourself from all the Christmas Expectations this Year

Do you need to free yourself from all the Christmas expectations this year? Reclaim joy before December rushes by in a miserable haze of disappointment.

Do you need to free yourself from all the Christmas expectations this year? Are you starting to feel like December slides into January in a miserable haze of rushing around and the “not enough” voices echoing in your head?

Where does all this pressure come from?

I know the media does its fair share of applying the pressure to create a magical holiday for our families.

The problem is that even those perfect holiday movies aren’t perfect. Just watch one of the military themed ones with my husband, he’ll tell you all about it!

(this site uses Referral links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

After the media, the commercialism of the holidays is a major factor.

America starts celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier each fall. At this rate, I’m pretty sure the decorations will hit the shelves the weekend after Labor Day next year. Santa Claus was sitting next to Jack o’Lanterns as it was!

via GIPHY

Then, we see the decorations and subconsciously begin to craft the perfect holiday in our hearts and heads. Our imaginations conjure a Christmas that would put June Cleaver to shame.

And we set ourselves up for failure, robbing our family and selves of so much joy.

Too many of my friends and family are feeling the weight of Christmas expectations already. We’re only five days into December, but the pressure is so high to make the entire month spectacular, to fill each day with magic and meaningful moments.

Even amongst Christians, we succumb the idea that we’re supposed to be celebrating advent, volunteering, giving, learning more about Jesus in some super serious, dedicated manner. And we’re heaping tasks on ourselves that Jesus never meant us to have.



Set yourself FREE of those Christmas Expectations right now!

One, manage your own expectations. Be realistic with what you can do while having peace and joy.

I guarantee you that your family will enjoy your peaceful, joyous heart more than a million seasonal activities.

Have a kid fighting cancer? Christmas magic isn’t the priority this year. Give yourself a break.

Even if you are just having a normal year, in 24 hours, you sleep 8 (I’m being optimistic – go with it), meals take about 4-5 hours a day between prep, eating, and clean-up (longer with toddlers or nursing), subtract at least 3 more for hygiene and parenting (double that for each kid under five), which leaves 8 hours or less for work, housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc.

That doesn’t leave you much time to make Christmas magic.

Choose your battles!

You can’t do everything. What are the most important parts of the holidays for you that are manageable? Hot chocolate, candy canes, and Christmas movies are pretty magical with very little effort. Add some whipped cream to that cocoa and you are super mom, I promise.

Decorations don’t have to be HGTV worthy the day after Thanksgiving (or ever). We’ve tackled one task a day for the last week. My tree was half-lit for 24 hours. I had a sinus infection and thought I was dying. Trying to stand long enough to decorate the tree wasn’t going well. We finally finished today. And it’s not perfect, but I have my twinkle lights and candles which are my two favorites.

The year my husband was deployed, I was on my own with a colicky infant and working full-time.  I put up a two foot high, slightly tacky Walgreen’s tree from a box. And it was enough. My daughter’s first Christmas was magical because of family, not because my house looked like Martha Stewart was my decorator.

That pesky elf might be really important to your child, but everyday doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Make it harder to find instead of an elaborate production each day. My daughter has the most fun when she can’t find hers and has to really search.

Play your favorite Christmas music as often as possible. Everything is more magical to an amazing sound track. Even if life is hard, Josh Groban singing Ave Maria takes my breath away and reminds me why we celebrate at all.

Manage your expectations for your children.

When you do summon energy to plan and organize something special, the kids will often not cooperate. They’ll be too young for your favorite holiday movie or hate the music you cherish.

They will miss naps and have too much sugar. Company throws everything out the window.

Expect your kids to be the tiny maladjusted tyrants they are when their schedules get disrupted.

via GIPHY

It’s okay.

Take time to recognize the magical moments that happen naturally, like laying on the floor coloring our advent color calendar together listening to Christmas music.

Your children didn’t get the memo this is supposed to be fun/amazing/magical.

Consider their attention span, energy level, and interests in your planning. My daughter REALLY wants to see the Nutcracker but the production at our local theater is three hours plus an intermission. There is no way I’m spending $100 to take her to that for her to spend three hours fidgeting in her best dress and trying to jump out of her seat. But her friend is in a shorter dance company version, and we can still enjoy the holiday classic and support her sweet friend.



Embrace JOY

Celebrating this season means recognizing the grace that heaven sent to walk among us. Grace that we lose touch with when we heap faulty and impractical expectations on ourselves, our family, and on the holiday.

At the end of the day, Christmas wasn’t the day Jesus was born, not really, and the hype is over in less than an hour of torn paper, gleeful screeches, and disappointed “socks” groans.

Having joy in Christ should last all year long. Do the things this Christmas that leads your heart closer to His.

You don’t have to spend an hour a day journaling or mapping each verse to have quiet time that counts. Even if your Bible time is listening to the audio version on your phone, having the right heart is all that matters.

We are reading a Character-Filled Christmas by Megan Ann Scheibner together, learning about having a heart for giving, service. We’re learning that giving matters most when it costs us a little something. (Check back later this week for our next post!) We add to our list of Christlike character each day after reading a Christmas themed book and opening the door on our advent calendar.

Release yourself from the trap of Christmas expectations this year. Let yourself embrace the joy in this messy, beautiful life without worrying about the perfect tree, daily magical excursions, or any of the craziness we are led to believe everyone else is doing. 

The only expectation that really matters is the expectation of Christ’s coming and just resting in His love is always exactly enough.

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My Cyber Monday Gift Guide

Cyber Monday is HERE!!! You can keep all the craziness of Black Friday! Give me my laptop and credit card. Here are my choices for online shopping today!

Cyber Monday is here!

I don’t know about you, but this is MY shopping day! You can keep Black Friday and all the bickering and busyness.

I want to shop from my couch in my jammies and have Christmas delivered to my house!

Whether you’re a homeschooler, grandparent, spouse, or just want a few things for yourself, this list covers it all.

(This site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Some of these are not my referral links but are great deals that I have found for my own shopping use today!

Mindware is one of my favorite shops for Christmas gifts. Their products are always creative or educational. We keep the toys coming into our home focused on either using her mind or creativity, and Mindware has lots of great toys that do both. Last year, we got Twangled which is a really fun team building game. No one loses and everyone wins with the crazy twists and knots everyone get into.

This year she really wants to paint her own stepping stones for our garden and the Family Charades sounds like a fun family game we can enjoy for a long time to come. Since coloring is one of her favorite things, I also want to get her a map she can color of the USA for American history this year.

Mindware’s Cyber Monday Deal is Free Shipping on orders over $50 and $20 off an order over $100 or $10 off orders over $50.

If educational gifts are your priority as well, I love subscription box services like Kiwi crate. They have so many choices for all ages and interest levels!

60% off first month of any KiwiCo line

One of my go to sites for ALL my shopping is always Christianbook.com ,and their Cyber sale is ALL WEEK LONG!! Free shipping on orders over $35, just use BOXOFJOY17 at checkout!

I use ChristianBook.com for everything from homeschool resources to the Baptism gift I got my daughter yesterday. She LOVES her new ICB Glitter Wings Compact Bible!

 

311194: ICB Glitter Wings Compact Bible for Girls ICB Glitter Wings Compact Bible for Girls

Specially for little girls, our shimmery ICB Bible closes with butterfly wing design and features clear beaded handle with floral accent trim. In coolshades of lavender/blue/pink, with sparkle detail, this contains the entire text of the International Children’s Bible and comes in window gift box; with presentation page; 7″ x 5″ x 1.25″ not including handle; pink satin ribbon page marker.

I love the Women of Faith Mixing Bowl. It matches my kitchen perfectly and would make a perfect gift for the chefs in your life.

 

566640: Woman of Faith, Mixing Bowl - Teal Woman of Faith, Mixing Bowl – Teal

Women of Faith mixing bowl with Scripture trim; features handle and convenient pouring spout, safe for microwave, and dishwasher. Oven-safe ceramic; eight cup capacity, for batters, mixes, salads and more.

Blessed is a woman of seasoned prayer, generous spirit, and overflowing love..for she shall be called a Woman of Faith.

Around the rim with floral trim: Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.2 Timothy 2:22. Boxed.

Honestly, I could probably spend WAY too much money on this site. I love their family plaques with lots of Bible verses to know and center our lives around. I love the prayer shawls and coffee cups of course. The magnetic bookmarks are ones I use all the time.

Christianbook.com is having their BEST SALE of the year – up to 87% off! thru 12/4 coupon code BOXOFJOY17

If you’re planning ahead for Advent, they have all sorts of resources for you and your family.

Dayspring is having a HUGE sale today!

One Day Only! Take 35% off sitewide in DaySpring’s Cyber Monday Sitewide Sale. Use code MONDAY17.

Of course, I’ll be shopping Amazon today. I have a list of great ideas that I’ll be picking up. But this Cyber Monday deal is a steal!! Under $100 for a product normally $219. And any home with pets or kids (or husbands) must have a good carpet cleaner. It has saved my sanity more times than I can count.

Buying gifts for my young adult boys is really tough this year, but I have a few ideas that seem perfect for my on the go guys!

My oldest stepson loves fishing and country music, but keeping headphones in his ears while fishing can be a challenge, this hat serves a dual purpose in keeping his head warm and music close by while he fishes.

In fact, this might be a good gift for all my guys! If I buy 2, I get an extra 10% off! I know my husband would use this while he rides his new dirt bike, fishes, or hunts!

If you’re shopping for the family or yourself, these are some of my favorite finds on Amazon today. The baby monitor is over 50% off and most nursery items are a minimum of 30% off today. The instant pot is 38% off! If you do a lot of cooking, this product is the hottest thing to save time!

Also, this herb garden is 50% off and a great idea for the chefs in your life. Who doesn’t prefer fresh herbs to dried?

And Lego builder sets are on sale 30% off. Have you seen the price of Lego lately? These classic builder bundles are on sale. Lastly, my daughter has caught the rock painting bug sweeping the nation. The Crayola set is on sale today under $20!

I have so much shopping to do!

Another of my favorite sites is Hammacher Schlemmer. They have some of the neatest gifts. And I love their 100% Lifetime guarantee, seriously no hassle! They are offering free shipping today on orders over $100. I order at least one thing from them every Christmas. The battle tanks and compact binoculars were huge hits last year!

We all know that the real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the gifts under the tree, but if you shop, I encourage you to be a wise steward of the money God has provided your family.

Happy Cyber Monday, let Christmas season commence!

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Will you take the BOLD 30 days without complaining challenge?

Going without complaining has been my annual November challenge the past few years. Nothing sets my heart on thankfulness more than going without complaining.


30 Days Without Complaining???

Going without complaining is hard enough to do for five minutes much less 30 days, but I’ve learned that the secret to thankfulness is changing my heart from the inside out.

Between October 30 and November 1, already the thankfulness and gratitude challenges have begun popping up in my newsfeed.

While there’s nothing wrong with having gratitude or doing thankfulness, I’ve found that people post about being grateful in one post a day, but spend the rest of their day complaining.

Posting one #Grateful #Blessed #Thankful post a day wasn't changing anyone's heart. Click To Tweet

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Posting one #Grateful #Blessed #Thankful post a day wasn’t changing anyone’s heart.

I wanted to do more than spend five minutes considering what I’m thankful for.

Being thankful comes out of a true sense of humility regarding the gifts that God has given us, which sometimes, include suffering because it is preparing us for eternal glory in Heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

In recent years, I’ve learned a lot about different kinds of suffering: financial struggles, physical challenges, marital difficulties. And I’ve learned that being thankful in the midst of all my challenges changes how I face them. People around me see what’s happening in my heart and my life and are encouraged.

Just today, my friend Rebekah shared my episode of her delightful podcast about Trusting God in Adversity.

020: Trusting God in Adversity with Jennifer Defrates

The past few years I’ve been doing this 30 days without complaining challenge I started it in 2014. It has become my annual November tradition.

Will you take the bold 30 days without complaining challenge?

Pledge to go 30 days November 1-November 30 without complaining. Ask your spouse and besties to hold you accountable. Ask your kids to hold you accountable. My seven year old is on it!

WHY take this challenge? 

When I cannot complain, I find ways to choose joyfulness that I might not if I weren’t taking the challenge.

Going without complaining helps me be more intentional with every word I speak. Intentionality really changes the tone of my home. In fact, doing this challenge for the last couple of years has been a tremendously helped in changing the way I speak, think, and feel in general.

God has used this challenge to convict and restore me to a gentle spirit. And, it’s been a very powerful in my family as we celebrate the harvest season and prepare our home to celebrate Christ’s birth.



So what does it look like to go without complaining?

I take it to a really extreme level. For example, I do not say things like I am hungry but that I would like to eat. By making positive statements instead of negative, I am being proactive rather than reactive.

Going without complaining makes me aware of how often complaining is the first attitude I have. This morning, half awake, I stumbled out of my bedroom door. Looking around the disarray leftover from a busy couple of days I said, “This house is a mess.”

I quickly clamped my hand over my mouth. My husband asked me what I had said. Chagrined, I replied, “I need to straighten up today.” Shoot, I didn’t even make it to the coffeepot.

But being willing to take this challenge does not mean that you will be perfect. It means that you will strive to reduce your complaining. Changing your vocabulary is only the beginning.

Spending time in praise and reading God’s word will change the overflow of my heart so that my default emotional position becomes one of praise and thanksgiving in a powerful way.

Can you think of a better way to begin the holiday season this year than celebrating a true heart of thankfulness, recognizing that life is difficult and challenging and yet it beautiful and wondrous gift?

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Are you looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations?

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don't Stress - Here are some of my favorite ideas & where to find them! 

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don’t Stress – Here are some of my favorite ideas!

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Today, I went shopping for Thanksgiving decorations. I had a coupon for the local home decor store, and I was so excited. All week, I’d been looking forward to this shopping trip.

Walking in, I was prepared to spend a decent amount of money I’ve been saving since my birthday. But wasn’t prepared for the explosion of snow, holly, and evergreen.

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don't Stress - Here are some of my favorite ideas & where to find them! 

Apparently I missed the memo that even though Halloween hasn’t happened yet, it’s already Christmas.

I was so frustrated. 

My family is coming to visit for Thanksgiving. I’ve never hosted the family for Thanksgiving, and I just wanted to add a few touches of warmth to my home.

I picked up a couple of items at Kirkland’s.

Are you looking for cute Thanksgiving decorations last minute? Here are some really cute ones I found!

But I really wanted bright vibrate foliage and flowers. No such luck! I’m going to have to turn to Amazon and Hobby Lobby!

Being Sunday, Hobby Lobby will have to wait until tomorrow, but Amazon . . . my sweet Amazon is always open!

Here are some adorable shelf sitters or table decor. I love the bowls that would be great for leftover Halloween candy (if yours survives the weekend!)

We don’t get a lot of fall color where we live, so adding some in touches at the doorway brings the sense of fall, even if I can’t count on the weather to feel like fall.

I love the light up trees and pretty leaf garland for the entry way.

I’m trying to decide if we’re going to go formal with my china for the main meal or use fancier paper plates. I might get some decorative paper plates for hors d’oeuvres and leftovers for the days following Thanksgiving.

Using my nice china and glassware is fun and fancy, but when my family is visiting, the last thing I want to do is spend an hour at the sink instead of spending time with them.

Growing up I always felt like my mom missed the best parts of the after-meal story telling around the living room. Cheeks flushed with the warmth of too much sugar and turkey, we would laugh and tell story after story.

While we would help her clear the table and load the dishwasher, she still spent so much time cleaning up. I don’t want to miss the stories. My husband always pulls out a new story for company, and I hate to miss them. He is just the best storyteller!

Using disposable plates is one way to keep the clean up a little simpler! Especially if you’re going to be having family staying with you for the days surrounding the holiday. I usually use some cheap foil pans for baking and cooking as well. They can go from freezer to fridge to oven to trash.


Let Earth Be Filled with His Glory – Throw Pillow

from: DaySpring Cards Inc

Since, we’ll be using our spare bedrooms for family, I’m also trying to decide if I should add a few pops of color to the guest room. Maybe some harvest or fall themed throw pillows for the guest beds.

Of course, the harvest theme is HUGE right now thanks to Fixer Upper.

I love the farm theme especially for Thanksgiving decorations!

Celebrating the harvest season reminds me to be thankful for God’s wonderful provision in my life. When I only wanted to be a mother, God answered that prayer. When we needed food on our table, God answered.

Can I just say that it’s totally unfair that my two favorite holidays are so close together! I would totally decorate for Thanksgiving and leave it up way longer if Christmas season didn’t start so soon afterward!

Well, my birthday money won’t quite stretch far enough for all these things, but I certainly found some adorable deals. And I’ll start baking any minute . . .

Can you smell the pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls yet? I hope you love these cute Thanksgiving decorations as much as I do! And find that they warm your home this Thanksgiving season!

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Creative Ways to Have Extra Christmas Money

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical and a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Wouldn’t a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical and a lot less stressful this year? While giving gifts isn’t the main message of CHRISTmas, we do want to show people how loved they are! But we don’t always have the funds for what is in our hearts.

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Every year, I promise myself I’ll actually enjoy Christmas with all the delicious baking and warm family times.

But the stress of the holidays often gets in the way. One way to take that stress down a notch is to remove the worries over money.

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical & a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Are you guilty of treating Christmas like a surprise?

Christmas is the same time every year, but often we start scrambling to afford gifts come October or November, which is really too late. Then we plunge into credit card shopping only to dive deeply into debt. No one wants to start a new year paying off the last one.

Don't treat Christmas like a surprise! Plan ahead to have extra Christmas money now! Click To Tweet
  • DOES this seem like a strange post for me? It might, but going from two good salaries to one has made me realize how much stewardship is involved in properly handling our money. God has been gracious to provide for our family in many ways, but these are a few ways I’ve been thrifty and stretched every dollar!

We’ve been able to have Christmas paid for before the gifts were wrapped and under the tree for several years. Want to know how?

Tip #1 – Take $50 off the top.

Call your bank and have $50 a paycheck/$100 a month directly transferred to a savings account each month. This builds your savings without thinking about it. And gives you $1200 for extra Christmas money if you need to dip into it.

If you think I can’t afford $100 a month for savings, see if there are luxuries you can do without. Living beneath what you can afford makes money stretch.

Tip #2 – Find creative ways to EARN money!

Taking surveys, opening emails, watching advertisements isn’t going to make you rich, but it is a way to make spending money while watching television. I use several sites and redeem my points/cash expressly for extra Christmas money.

My Points is awesome! It’s a website that sends marketing emails. Each email you open is worth five points, some are worth more if you make a purchase or sign up for a service. Also, you can earn points for donations to the Red Cross and animal welfare sites.

Why I love it!

This year, I’ve earned points for up to $100 in gift cards. I can redeem my points for gift cards to many national chains including Amazon, The Children’s Place, Bass Pro Shops, Home Depot, Sears, Kohl’s, Old Navy, even Papa John’s!

Another similar site is Inbox Dollars.

I earn a few cents a day just opening emails. They pay in cash and offer surveys too. I have earned $35 in just a few months. That’s a Christmas gift or movie date night!



SAVE Money on Groceries!

One of my favorite ways to earn extra Christmas money is through the Ibotta app!

Ibotta is like reverse couponing. I scroll through the app after making my grocery list. After shopping, I scan the items I purchased into the app with a copy of my receipt. I’ve earned $182.65 using the Ibotta app so far.

Walmart Savings Catcher is another easy app. Every time you shop at Walmart, scan your receipt into the Walmart App in the Savings Catcher section. I’ve saved $190 using the app. It literally takes seconds as I walk to my car! I deliberately don’t use those dollars until Christmas and can transfer my credit to the Walmart Pay section of the app to pay for gifts.

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical & a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Do you shop online?

I shop online through Ebates – I can shop for Christmas while earning extra Christmas money! This year, I’ve earned $120 buying things I was purchasing already!

I just go to their site or app and shop, earning money back on homeschool products, website subscription services, Amazon, Wayfair, Overstock!

They even have a browser extension that pops up and reminds me to activate their service if I’m shopping a site that works with Ebates.

Last Tip – Shop smart & start EARLY

Shopping smart won’t earn you extra Christmas money, but it can save you enough to be worth doing.

I’ve already begun stock piling gifts.  I usually start in September. If you are saavy, watch for great sales now. A lot of catalogs count on Christmas to make their year, prices right now are often lower than they will be later.

Shopping early lets you have plenty of time to shop around for the best price and take advantage of early sales.

I make a list of everyone I need gifts for and begin keeping an eye out for just the thing that will make them laugh or smile or be really useful. Especially for my husband!

If nothing else, I can earmark all my planned gifts for Cyber Monday and be ready to snag the deals, having my budget set and Ebates locked and loaded.

Plan ahead, budget wisely, use some creative ways to earn extra Christmas money and this might be the most stress-free holiday season yet!

Bonus Tip

Plan ahead to be generous. Set aside some of your Christmas money to give to charities that matter to you.