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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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Why I Disappointed my Daughter for Christmas

Yes, I disappointed my daughter for Christmas, and I think it was the right decision.

But it was so hard to stick to my guns.

Why would I deliberately disappoint her for Christmas?

When she was five, she had asked for a $5 set of orange and blue ponies with hair to brush and braid, a minion toy, a Barbie that rides a horse that really walks, and a big white horse like her friend has.

(This site uses Affiliate/Referral links-purchases never affect your cost.)

Every night for a week before Christmas, she reiterated her list.

I had shopped for her gifts months ahead of time. All the gifts were bought and wrapped. There would be no big white horse under the Christmas tree. I had disappointed my daughter.

My mommy heart wanted to search every website, race to the store, and spend more than I should just to see her overjoyed face Christmas morning. Yet, something said, no, this is a small lesson you can teach her now, for free.

My mommy heart wanted to offer her every precious thing that would bring her joy, but I knew the better lesson in disappointment.

Be happy with what you have. Disappointment brings a lesson of having a grateful attitude not an entitled one. Click To Tweet



We aren’t wealthy, but despite living on one income, we’ve been tremendously blessed to provide her with more than she could ever possibly need.

And she doesn’t understand real want.

I wonder if I’m doing her a disservice by not giving her more realistic expectations for life or age-appropriate growth opportunities.

She had fairly simple requests, but she didn’t need both horse toys. Her Nana had already bought her the Barbie Horse toy, and I didn’t want to overshadow it.

Plus, she was getting a pots & pans set and “Live” pet bird along with boxes of books, clothes, and educational games. She was getting too much already. I wanted fewer toys to spark interest and creativity, not overtake her imagination.

I disappointed my daughter for Christmas. I wanted fewer toys to spark her creativity not overtake her imagination. Click To Tweet

After all the gifts had been opened and we passed around the cards on the tree, including the White Envelope, I asked her, “Did you have a great Christmas?” I wondered if she even noticed.

She looked at the stack of presents around her, her face falling just a bit.

And I knew I had disappointed my daughter for Christmas.

“Well, I didn’t get a big white horse . . . ” she said quietly.

I smiled and gave her the words for a proper perspective.

“No, instead you got a tan horse with a barbie. You can’t get everything you want all the time. Maybe another time or you can save up for it.”

She wasn’t devastated. She was disappointed, for a rare time in her life.

And it was good for her. Learning to control her emotions is one of her personal challenges. Not receiving one unnecessary gift gave her a chance to deal with disappointment on a tiny level and successfully overcome it, gain perspective, and learn to be grateful, not entitled.

While chasing the ethereal ‘perfect’ Christmas for each of my children, I forgot to consider the expectations and lessons I was teaching them. Getting everything you desire for Christmas isn’t reality. It’s commercialism.

Focusing on what really matters (the coming of Christ and family, friends, togetherness, giving) is the lesson I really want to teach.

As I watched her process her emotions, she looked up and said, “It doesn’t matter. Jesus is the best gift of Christmas anyway.”

Lesson learned – for both of us.

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Jesus as Clark Kent

Jesus as Clark Kent lived knowing he was sent to be Superman - Heaven Not Harvard

My inner geek is going to show for just a second here. I love superhero origin stories. My favorite part of the story is watching them learn who they truly are, struggle with their powers, choose the responsibility of sacrificial heroism.

Can you imagine Jesus as Clark Kent?

Jesus is the ultimate hero, but we really don’t know what his life was like before he was the teacher we know. I really wish we could see those early moments of Jesus’s life. Talk about the origin of the hero of all heroes!

This advent, I’ve been really focusing on Christ’s coming to earth, becoming human, really imagining what that had to be like for Him, to live as a child while being God.

We know from Luke 2, that he was recognized as the Christ by Simeon at 8 days old when Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple for the traditional circumcision. During the Feast of Passover, when Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph found him conversing with the Jewish teachers who were all amazed by his wisdom and understanding.

But precious few verses summarize 30 years of his life. Jesus came to earth as an infant, and lived quietly unknown, unrecognized. He knew His purpose and mission but had to wait for God’s timing. What was he doing all that time? I can’t wait to ask him. Jesus as Clark Kent lived knowing he was sent to be Superman - Heaven Not Harvard

John 1:1 ESV “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He was GOD and had to still wait for God’s plan, thirty years before it was his time to reveal his true identity.

He was GOD and still had to wait for God's timing in his Jesus as Clark Kent beginning. #JesusistheReason Click To Tweet

John 2:1-4 ESV “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 

He could snap his fingers and heal the sick, think a thought and bring back the dead, but he was hesitant to perform miracles until God’s appointed time for him. But his mother asked . . .

The fact that Mary comes to him gives us a glimpse into this Martha Kent and Superman moment. I wonder what signs and miracles he must have done at home in private – perhaps none, but Mary obviously knows who He is, that He came to save the world, but His Father hasn’t instructed him to stop being Clark Kent just yet.

As I watch people living hurt and broken lives, I wonder how Jesus handled hurting people before God called him to start his signs and wonders. Living around broken people, how did He, knowing what He knew, WAIT for God’s appointed time to start teaching, doing miracles and wonders?

Sometimes the minute God gives me a little understanding, I want to rush off and share it with everyone. I wonder how He did it, Jesus as Clark Kent, not revealing His true nature?

The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of insight into those early days, but His witness had to be in how he lived.

If none of us could ever witness to anyone except through our lives, what would your witness be?

Would people see Superman peeking through your Clark Kent exterior?

Jesus came as an infant, had parents, lived as a man, so we could know our God understands, has felt the struggle of being Clark Kent in a world that desperately needs Superman.

And this year, as I picture Jesus as Clark Kent, I’m moved to tears by the humility of not just becoming human, but the lowliest of humans, an infant born in a stable, so that his miracles and wonders could only be attributed to the power of God.

He put on the pain of our human bodies, the wounds of a fallen world, and did so just to die an agonizing death, for me, for you.

I wonder if our fascination with superheroes really stems from trying to understand Jesus and his sacrifice beyond understanding. Click To Tweet

I wonder if our fascination with superheroes really stems from trying to understand Jesus. His sacrifice is so beyond understanding, we try to grasp it through fictional characters who pale in comparison, but the analogy really personalizes his birth and life and death for me.

And I’m really thankful for Him in a deeper way every year.

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The Light of the World

Letting Christmas be about reflecting the light of the world

I’m a work in progress. I was a bit of a pushy, bossy porcupine for a long time, intent on controlling my world and all the hurtful things in it. Every day, I work toward being different and walking the difficult road to change people’s expectations of me. Christmas is a huge chance to demonstrate a shift in my heart towards humility and gentleness.

1 John 1:7 ESV  “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

My house is decked with lights and holiday greenery, wreaths and stockings hung with care, but it’s all window dressing if my heart isn’t set on reflecting the light of Christ. And, let me tell you, God is definitely giving me lots of chances to practice my obedience and devotion to Him through loving my family this year, or even just this week!

Being His light means putting myself humbly last, letting God care for my heart when others don’t. And not acting like a martyr in the process. Easier said than done, but I’m growing in grace. Letting Christmas be about reflecting the light of the world

Christmas is MY favorite time of year, while my husband does his best to pretend he isn’t a scrooge with all the stress of shopping and worrying about money and making people happy. Warming his heart to the real meaning of Christmas has to start with demonstrating CHRIST in Christmas and being intentional about the environment of our home. How can I love him with a generous spirit? With quiet kindness and invitation rather than expectations and perfectionism.

I’m finding little ways daily to do that, rather than get caught up in just the decorative trappings.

For example, like having a good attitude and a servant’s heart when my plans get rear-ended by the army. I learned about his “office” Christmas party very last-minute, and even more last-minute that I was to prepare a side dish and three dozen cookies for an exchange. I had a couple of slips of irritation, but I could choose to adapt and overcome or cause an argument and bitter feelings. It says a lot about the work God is doing on my heart that I could see his need for me to be cheery and relaxed, so I was, because I love him, instead of holding onto my “right” to be upset that my weekend wasn’t going my way.

1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV  “Let all that you do be done in love.”

As I baked and cooked, my husband spent most of the day resting on the couch. While I was feeling like my to-do list for Christmas was growing with every thought, it was hard for me to watch him doing nothing. It took quite a bit of self-control to keep my tongue quiet. I could see a long list of things that needed his attention, but rather than react with my panic over what wouldn’t get finished, I quietly struggled with my attitude in prayer.

And God gave me the heart not to see my to-do list, but my husband’s “what I’ve done list.” He was wiped out from working 18-hour days, weekends, and nights. I realized what a tiny gift a few hours of quiet really was, and how simply I could give that with grace, not bitterness.

Romans 15:1 ESV  “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

In that moment, I needed to find the compassion to be strong. Other days, his strength and energy have carried me through. A few days later, my husband was able to tell me how exhausted he had been, and how much he needed that rest, even though it wasn’t really enough. He really appreciated those precious hours in which he had no demands placed on him, a very rare time he didn’t have to be moving at warp speed.

Leviticus 19:34 ESV  “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself . . .”

Trying to have a Godly attitude, I imagined how I could love him as I would like to be loved. Convicted that my heart needing adjusting, I finished the baking and cooking without saying a word, letting him rest.

So, not a single present is wrapped, I haven’t even finished shopping, the stockings are going to be full of candy and not much else, cookies may or may not get baked, and no one is getting a Christmas card this year. I could look at all these things as failures, but in them I see a woman who realized how I act is way more important than how much I get done, and if that means some things don’t get done, God sees, he understands. And I think he’s way more impressed with my heart than my hearth.

I am not the light, but I am learning to be a reflection of the light by learning how to truly love those around me, by seeing them with the same eyes that offered me grace and the gift of Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Adventures in Advent

I’m trying to catch lightning in a bottle, carefully crafting my daughter’s impressions of Christmas as being magical, one of family and warmth, of cozy reading and precious traditions passed down to her, bonding her to our family, rooting her in love, creating the foundation of celebrating Christ’s birth in our adventures in advent season.

She is four and a half, young enough that everyday moments still inspire wonder and excitement, old enough that these moments are becoming memories, hopefully that she will pass onto her own children someday.

When I think back to my Christmases as a child, I struggle to remember more than a handful of specific gifts. A favorite sweater, my first Walkman, and a guinea pig all stand out, but very few presents ended up making much of an impression. Yet the holiday magic my family created some of the warmest and fondest memories of my life.

Celebrating every day of the advent season - Adventures in Advent Heaven Not HarvardWe start our Christmas season the weekend after Thanksgiving. Here are a few of our adventures in Advent this year.

1. Trimming the tree

My family used to cut down a real tree, which is a magical memory to have. We traipsed through the snow, Dad with a hacksaw and carpet square. We spent hours standing in the freezing cold arguing over the perfect tree. I remember watching Dad try to tie it to our woody station wagon with a minimum of frustrated grumbling, later turning the bad spot to the wall and anchoring the tree so it doesn’t crush anyone. Mmm, seems like my nostalgia is perhaps better than the actual experience was.

But with concerns about fire plus the joy of not having to string lights means we opted for a pre-lit fake Christmas tree from Home Depot. I think it looks pretty anyhow. I tucked a scent stick in the tree so it even smells piney.

Heaven Not Harvard Christmas Tree - Adventures in Advent Daddy hauls out the box of ornaments. He unwraps and secures a hook to each one while I share the history of each ornament, from the angel playing the flute the year I joined band to the diploma ornament from the year I graduated.

Our daughter sits wide-eyed listening with rapture. She already asks me to tell her the stories for each of her ornaments and feels the connection to our history as a family. Especially as an adoptive parent, I want to give her these roots in our past.

We spent the day listening to Christmas music and trying to be patient with a little girl who was way too excited. After the tree is trimmed decorations start to fill shelves and tables, candles get lit, and the house starts to feel like Christmas.

2. Nativity

One of the final touches is the nativity. Daddy reads the Bible story while we place the pieces in the nativity set as they are mentioned, starting with Mary and ending carefully with baby Jesus. My parents had all the pieces wrapped in newspaper so we had to scramble to unwrap each piece to find the correct character. Ours were in an old stocking and she had to reach in to find the sheep or camel or angel. She had so much fun listening to this story for at least the hundredth time, trying to anticipate which piece would be next.

3. Countdown

We usually do a Snowman calendar countdown, but this year I found a great little thing at a dollar store. Tear Off Activity Advent Calendar - Heaven Not HarvardI love it because it is teaching her to countdown, plus has a daily activity. Yesterday was a coded mystery word puzzle. I showed her how each letter related to each picture in the code, and she wrote out the “Happy Holiday” all by herself. She couldn’t read it, but wrote all the letters so carefully. She was so proud of herself.

This has coloring, mazes, puzzles, drawing and more – for $1. This was a fun way to countdown the holiday season.

4. Advent

We have an advent calendar that we open and read every night, but this year we’ve added reading a portion of the story of Jesus’ coming every night from the Christmas Bible Reading Plan for Children. While some of the scriptures are over her level, we read them together as a family and talk about how each one is part of Jesus coming to redeem us.

Before we read, we summarize the story so far, and then read the next scripture, adding in the next part of the story. We talk about how Elizabeth must have felt preparing for John’s birth or how Mary must have been so surprised when the angel first appeared.

5. Books and Trinkets

This is a new tradition, I saw someone doing the 25 books of Christmas on Facebook and thought that sounded like a lovely idea. After we finish with the Bible reading, she gets to open a tiny trinket like glitter pens or a new book. I started with the idea of doing a book every night Dec. 1-24, but that is a lot of books and was going to be too expensive. We ended up with 12 books and 12 small toys or treats.

We can read our new books building up to Christmas as her bedtime reading. Most of the books are winter or snow related, a few are Christmas themed, some are books I remember from my childhood and a few are books she can enjoy all year round. I will share our list of books with reviews in another post.

6. Movies, music, and munchies.

Filling our home with the sounds and smells of Christmas is important to me. We are taking time to bake, watch old favorites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and listen to hours of Christmas classics.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so we watched the movie, sang the song, and baked reindeer cookies with her friends (I will share the recipe later). It was magical. The kitchen was full of squeals and giggles, hands full of dough.

I can’t create a Hallmark movie out of our life because it isn’t real or fair to set such expectations, but I want to create a sense of growing closer, being more focused on Jesus and God’s love for us all as we head toward Christmas and the coming new year. And I want her to forever be reminded of love and home and family and Christ when she celebrates the holidays with her family.

*One thing my parents did was carefully weave together the serious focus on the true reason of celebrating Christ’s miraculous birth into our traditions and yet leaving a little room for the fun of Santa.

I’m still working out how to do that for my little one and be true to the woman God is calling me to be. I know the Santa issue is a source of real debate, but for right now, we are trying to walk a careful middle line as Jesus being the main focus, but letting Santa, the Elf on a shelf, and Rudolph be fun characters that help us celebrate.