Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ordinary Circumstances and Mighty Plans

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus 
that all the world should be registered.
...And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, 
to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, 
because he was of the house and lineage of David, 
to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
- Luke 2:1, 3-5


How many of us have this iconic Christmas passage from Luke memorized?  Don't feel bad if you don't, my point is simply how this passage is among the most quoted from the historical story on the account of Jesus' birth.  It is easy to take for granted and begin to quote as rote.

My passion each Christmas is to not take this life-changing TRUE story for granted and this year, my angle is to see the extraordinary inside the ordinary....

A call had gone out for all to report to their "own" towns, where lineage lied, to be counted.  If God is a God over ALL, including governments, it could be reasonably stated that this call was inspired by God in order to have Jesus born right.where.He.wanted.  And so there they were... in the town of Bethlehem, the city of David.  What is so significant about that?

The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, 
since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?  
Fill your horn with oil, and go.  I will send you to Jesse 
the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons."  
And Samuel said, "How can I go?  If Saul hears it, he will kill me."  
And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come 
to sacrifice to the Lord.' And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, 
and I will show you what you shall do.  
And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you."
Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem....
- 1 Samuel 16:1-4a (emphasis added)

Every single detail of Jesus' birth was prophesied about: when, WHERE, how and so on, another fact which can quickly become rote if we are not careful.  Aside from prophesy, what grabs me about this narrative today is how Jesus' birth; a consecrated event of the Lord; mirrors that of another consecrated event centuries before in DAVID's city. 

Samuel was greatly upset at King Saul's waywardness.  But God says, 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps man, I got this...'  God has a plan, he never didn't have a plan, and HE knows what he is doing.  Samuel is scared though... if Saul learns of his excursion it could be death, so God says, you know what, let's go into this under the auspice of a sacrificial ceremony and we will make it happen that way.  No one is the wiser, Samuel lives to pray another day.  From there, a child, David, is whom God says YES to. 

Fast forward and the ruse is a Census, the 'child' is a baby born, and the work to be done... will be the greatest, most profound in all of history.  They walked the streets Samuel and David walked.  They revelled in hope and mighty God as Samuel and David did.  This trip to Bethlehem was no ordinary trip... no.  It was wrapped in something much more extraordinary.

Wonderful.
Powerful.

You may be in awe right now.... or, you may be thinking, 'Yeah, that's cool and all, but....' other than the 'awe' is there a take-away?

I think there is.

Where are we right now?  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.... God has us in a specific place, at THIS time, in particular circumstances, for a specific reason.  Mary traveled heavy with babe.  Google maps tells me their trek took, at minimum 4 hours and was just over 9 miles.  That may not seem like a lot but OVER four hours, 9+ miles on sandaled foot over harsh terrain....pregnant.  Circumstances weren't peachy-keen.

They may have traveled simply thinking on responding to Cesar's order, however, we have the benefit of a historical lens, able to see how it wasn't really Cesar commanding their presence, but rather, God called them there using Cesar.  God knew Mary's condition.  God knew the inns would be full.  One could have mourned the situation, as Samuel did with the Saul dilemma, or they could see God's hand, and go.

Do we see God's hand right now?  Are we prepared to trust Him?  To be used by Him in what appears to be the ordinary in order for Him to perform the extraordinary?  It could be as big as a ministry response He is calling you to.  It could be as simple and ordinary as letting a frazzled mom cut in front of you at the grocery store.  Whether you are having a good day or a bad day... whether your finances or marriage or relationships are in good shape or not... GOD SAYS GO and we can trust Him to take care of it all.

We know the rest of the story here.  Long journey, tiered body, no room, baby is coming.  They were put up in a dirty, germ-infested, animal filled stable and there, in the middle of ordinary filth and darkness, something extraordinary and pure took place.

I pray your heart would find go at Christmas.  To respond to God, even in the form of ordinary duty, and welcome opportunities to be part of extraordinary blessings which breathe hope to those in vicinity.  

Merry Christmas Blessings,







Looking for an Advent Bible Study?  It's not too late to jump in. 
Option 1: Follow me on Instagram (link in text) where I have posted a link to my FREE Advent Bible study
... OR... 
Option 2:Subscribe to my newsletter by December 20th and I will send you December's issue which contains the Advent Study along with other great articles and FREE printables!  Info below... 



*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Newsletters and Our 5 Faves

It's newsletter week.  No, not my Faith and Home Times edition (check the bottom of this post if you are interested in that one!)  No, the annual family Christmas newsletter writing week.  With ALL of our family and the majority of our friends living long distance, this is a critical part of catching up we all look forward to each year.  Print AND pictures help us 'see' each other grow and go♥️ (we don't all have/use Facebook or Instagram)

I know some of you may have already stamped and sent your yearly correspondences but I am a bit behind the game this year... and I suspect others might be as well!  So, to inspire my fellow stragglers out there and get our creative juices flowing  I thought I would share our top 5 favorite annual updates from years past!

17 Stats From 2017

... was an homage to my oldest's university graduation with double majors in business and economics.  We re-capped the ups and downs from the year, ranging between graduation travels, book publishing, formal dances, new jobs and my step-dad's cancer diagnosis along with various other in-betweens! It took one page, front + back, and family loved the details!

"The Jones Family 2008 In 150 Words or less!"
... was actually a time and money saver resulting from my husband's lay-off during the recession!!  I could fit TWO color copies on ONE page printed from my home computer!  Short, sweet and garnered many emails and phone calls from family I hadn't heard from in years.  They were desperate for more details and I loved the unexpected opportunity to catch-up!!  We broke the updates down by family member and included a favorite picture from the year of each of the kids.

Top 20 of... (year)
Inspired by popular Late-night T.V. lists of the time, we highlighted highs and lows from the year.  Similar to the 17 Stats from 2017, but different in that the top 20 list was more incremental; building to big praises from the year. It took one page, front + back and included updated pictures of the kids.

The 12 Months of Christmas
 
My personal favorite as we looked back at the year with the focus on pictures captioned with brief descriptions.  This letter took just ONE page (front only) and really helped all of our long distance family SEE life from the past year.  I ordered copies from the printers in quality gray scale (a small handful of color prints for grandparents, aunts and uncles) since the heavy picture load didn't print well at home (and likely cost less in ink from a printer!)

"The Jones Family By the Numbers..."
 This was an all-time extended family fave.  Years after it's issue I had relatives tell me how they STILL had their double-sided bookmark style family update tucked into favorite books/Bibles to this day!!  The idea was found in a Family Fun magazine article.  I don't remember if it was originally a 2-sided bookmark but that is what I went with (pictures on one side, stats on the other)!  I printed them on my home printer using card stock.  I think I fit 4 on a page and used a paper-cutter to separate them.  Each was mailed in regular letter envelopes with Christmas Greetings.

So now for 2018...

  • Another graduate (only one left now)
  • Adult "children" with not a ton of pictures or news to report on them.
  • Travels to highlight
  • Some interesting 'news'

Still not sure where to begin with this year's missive!!

How are you doing (or have you done) your newsletter this year?  What has been your favorite family Christmas newsletter from the years?

Merry Christmas Blessings,







In case you haven't heard, I put together a HUGE printable package for December's newsletter which I would still love to share with new subscribers!  It contains information and an array of helpful worksheets to get all the tidbits of your holiday season organized including pages for tracking names, addresses, and Christmas card correspondences by the year.

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter by December 20th will receive this month's issue which includes "The Homebody's Guide to the Christmas Season" and MORE!  Details below...


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

HMJ: Christmastime meets Homeschool Schdule

It's time for a Homeschool Mother's confession... one which I feel I won't be alone in expressing... although, maybe alone in expressing OUT LOUD... here goes...

I don't like doing homeschool in December!!!  Unless every lesson is 'Christmassy' or tied into our current plans, it is just that ONE MORE THING to do.  Even with just one kiddo now, a Junior in high school, even her self-paced lessons are more for me to do because they still need grading and logging. 

Every year since we began homeschooling I have thought of just taking December off.  I've heard of other families who enjoy this type of reprieve, but we never have.  We change up lessons to coincide with holiday plans but otherwise seem to try to truck on as if life is still status-quo... but it's not.

So here is an even bigger confession... through the course of this week we filtered our lesson plans down to only 3 basic classes with the intention to start back into regulars in January.  I'm not even worried anymore if we get to EVERY.single.lesson by May.  I keep remembering that public school rarely ever finishes text books.

So what did we keep in the schedule?  Well, after pulling out her 2 main maths (Geometry and Pre-calc) and the bulk of her other book work and science we were left with:
  • Consumer Math (because we can wrap up this one semester course and be DONE with it by our official Christmas Break which will make her other math load easier after the new year)
  • Geography (only because we can't afford to miss any of this class but I am changing up some of the lessons)
  • Foundations (an online class which requires NO work on my part and Brooke has more disposable time than I!)

I am still requiring her to finish her assigned reading, A Christmas Carol, especially since we hope to see the play next weekend.  I also gave her a Christmas Themed writing project which is due this next Friday and I will have 2 weeks to grade it!  ha.  I'm really hoping to wrap up ALL schoolwork by Friday, giving us the ENTIRE week before Christmas off to cook and craft and generally hang out.

Brooke likes to keep busy, it is the only reason I left anything in.  But she also likes to join in on the errand running, baking, and general Christmas frivolity.  I think the new plans will work but next year, even though it is our LAST, I am hoping to remember to reconsider our December schedule.

One thing which prompted this schedule reassessment this week was how crazy distracted we were with:
Christmas concert at church.  We joined the choir to sing back up for Rush of Fools in our 3-night program which began last night.  It has been a BLAST, the guys are amazing, and we are all loving the experience.  We have done the choir for other holiday performances at church, but this is the first "rock concert" style experience working with a major band for an event like this.  I hope to share more pictures next week.  Last night we were mostly getting our bearings about our part. I do have some videos posted on Instagram and will be sharing more there this weekend.  If you are interested, come follow!

Other miscellany this week:
Went to a local mega-sporting goods store to Christmas shop.  The girls tagged along and thought they could pull a "twin" moment by donning the same hat and attempting to fool the camera on who was who... except mama is NOT fooled! 4.5 years difference in age aside, I know my girls!  I am glad they take pride in the similarities though.  Sister love always warms my heart!

Brooke went with a MAJOR change when she had her locks lopped off for this stylish do!  I was nervous at first but we all love the look, even hubby who typically hates short hair.  We won't talk in too much detail about the chop job I've had to endure.  Apparently my stylist though I wanted to revive the Mullet! *ugh* I did figure out a way to style it so my retro flare is hidden when in public!  Simply: thank you, Lord, for headbands!

 Her kitty was moping.  She took a homework break to show some compassion!

Another kitty moment!  Hubby's new cat still loves those naps, especially when studies are happening and he knows we aren't going to be on the move!  We are buckling down on the Rules of the Road since she tests for her permit a month from tomorrow.

I started sharing a sort of un-official pictorial series on Instagram with daily scripture and/or poems and thoughts from my Advent study and the Everything Christmas book I reviewed a few years ago.  It has been fun and inspiring even for myself!  The kids and I are walking out the Advent study together which I wrote (see the end of this post if you want a copy).  I love hearing their Biblical insight when we get together each Friday to discuss what we have studied.

Commin' down the pipe...
We look forward to a bit of a slow-down next week.  Hopefully we can focus better on the schoolwork we have remaining. I do need to write, print, address and mail our family newsletter!!  I guess that is sort of a big job, I will employ help!  I've waited because hubby interviews Monday for a new job and I don't know whether or not to include the results in our annual update.  The week after will really re-ramp up though, as we bake goodie gifts and prepare for Zach (and possibly my mother-in-law) to be in town for Christmas on the 21st.

It goes too fast!

How are you maneuvering the holidays in your homeschool?

Merry Christmas Blessings,







Looking for an Advent Bible Study?  It's not too late to jump in. 
Option 1: Follow me on Instagram (link in text) where I have posted a link to my FREE Advent Bible study
... OR... 
Option 2:Subscribe to my newsletter by December 20th and I will send you December's issue which contains the Advent Study along with other great articles and FREE printables!  

also... 

In case you haven't heard, I put together a HUGE printable package for December's newsletter which I would still love to share with new subscribers!  It contains information and an array of helpful worksheets to get all the tidbits of your holiday season organized. 

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter by December 20th will receive this month's issue which includes "The Homebody's Guide to the Christmas Season" and MORE!  Details below...


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Five Minute Friday: Balance

Christmas Card, Christmas, Atmosphere, Advent

As I stared down at my half-filled journal page this morning I couldn't get past the gnawing sense that something was "off".  Here we are, basking in the glow of the brightest, most beautiful time of year... and yet I was feeling progressively more over-run.  I don't have one of those crazy schedules like many do.  My drive is more intrinsic. 

Christmas presents purchased... check
Family letter on the burner... check  
Advent study on schedule... check  

What was this gnaw.  And then I realized.  In the bustles of checking my lists, plowing through my advent study and posting pretty pictures of morning musings, I hadn't been taking that real, meaningful, valuable quiet time to just sit with the Lord.  To spill and soak and be.

So, I laid my pen down, took a deep breath, and began fumbling out my 3 days past due prayer.  Each sentence halted and returned because I knew in my Spirit it wasn't getting to the heart of the issue.  Another deep breath, a quiet heart, and suddenly it came to me...

Lord, please help me find balance.

I could pray and ask for mountains to move but the fact is, that wasn't what God wanted for me today.  No, if we are called to pray into HIS will, not our own, I knew I needed to search deeper.  I needed to go until I felt I had struck gold and there it was: balance.

Life in this Christmas season had been so caught up in the play of tradition and rote, I had forgotten to FOCUS, collect, rest in His presence, and breathe.  All parts of the critical balance this time of year benefits most from.

I pray you know His divine hand and presence of balance in your life this Christmas season.

Blessings,








This has been a Five Minute Friday Post where writers tap away for 5 minutes, un-edited, on a predetermined topic.  Check out other great posts by visiting:
http://fiveminutefriday.com/


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ordinary Mary and a Mighty God


26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
- Luke 1:26-33

Every year, as Christmas Advent begins, I'm always captivated by Mary's encounter with the Angel Gabriel.  It is a conversation which tops the list of passages often taken for granted in the timeless Christmas Story.  So pause with me for a moment and consider as we set the stage to switch from ordinary to extraordinary...
  • Mary was young.  We often think of betrothed women to be in their late teens or even twenties.  But, no, Mary was likely early to mid-teens.  A mere girl.  By 1st century standards, she was ready... but she was young.
  • Mary was betrothed.  According to Jewish custom, betrothal was as big of a deal as marriage itself - nothing like a modern-day engagement.  Once the betrothal ceremony was performed, you were as good as wed as you waited to finish the final ceremony and consummation based on a contracted dowry the groom had to fulfill first.  This stage could last months or years.  
  • Mary was likely not of a very high class.  Some scholars have suggested that marrying Joseph was an opportunity for her to marry "up".  What we do know is that Nazareth was not a high-standing community. (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” -John 1:46)

So here is this young Galilean girl from Nazareth, of a very basic station in life, going about her daily business, just waiting for the time when her betrothed would arrive ready for the final wedding ceremony.  

Basic, normal, humble, life.

But it isn't her betrothed who arrives.  No, it is an Angel of God with a life-shaking, normal breaking, message from the Almighty Himself.  God reaching down to the lowly and proving; He uses whom He pleases and whom he chooses may not always make sense to our finite thinking...

Why not a rabbi's family?
Why not a prestigious family?
Why not a more stately region?

However, He has a purpose and a plan, yet, this initial greeting has Mary troubled.  Not just a little troubled, no, the passage says she was greatly troubled and trying to discern what was going on.

When we seek answers, God will provide.

Here He first provides comfort through Gabriel and then he offers up explanation.... detailed explanation!  Life-changing information.

Was Mary's head spinning with all this info?  Was she thinking, "How will I tell Joseph?"  We don't know.  We do know she asks "How?" and Gabriel answers. More details.

Soak it in.  Think it through.  What would you do in Mary's sandals?  Afraid, young, possibly poor, realizing she could loose her husband-to-be AND her reputation in the process.  But instead, once she gets past the craziness of it all, she says some of the most profound words in all of the Christmas story:

... "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
- Luke 1:38b

When faced with a difficult call from God, whether it is as simple as, 'Be nicer to your sister-in-law' or as huge as, 'Sell everything and become a missionary', are we as ready as Mary to say, "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word"?  I wonder how ready Mary even felt.  Was it a matter of readiness or of obedience and faith?

This Christmas season let us look up from our mundane lives and SEE God's messengers.  Let us respond in faith and allow God to work in magnificent ways through us.  Ways which can extend beyond December and into the year(s) ahead.

A post-note on this section which also strikes me as quite profound: A large part of the story often has us looking, understandably, at Mary as a main character when, in fact, she is a beautiful footnote to Who truly takes center stage here.  This entire section is not about Mary, it is about God: what He is doing, how He will work.... and my heart flutters: Let us be happy footnotes to the greatness of God at Work in, through, and all around us.

Merry Christmas Blessings,







Looking for an Advent Bible Study?  It's not too late to jump in. 
Option 1: Follow me on Instagram (link in text) where I have posted a link to my FREE Advent Bible study
... OR... 
Option 2:Subscribe to my newsletter by December 20th and I will send you December's issue which contains the Advent Study along with other great articles and FREE printables!  Info below... 



*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Monday, December 3, 2018

When Holiday Home Isn't So Merry

As December dawns and the chug of the Christmas engine seems to pick up speed, I look at my lists and to-dos and remember the traditions and practices of years past.  Yes, you have seen me promote how keeping track of your yearly holiday plans can become a reference point aiding in greater efficiency as time go by..  But what happens when looking back stirs emotions almost too deep to bear?

The last few years have held the hardest Christmas season years in my life.  Even harder than the year we lost my mom 2 short months before holiday celebrations hit.
  • My kids aren't "kids" anymore. 
  • An engagement break-up weeks before the New Year's Eve wedding.
  • An adult child who opted to spend a few of the Christmases with people other than us.
  • Favored traditions falling by the way-side.

In the midst of this growing and hurting, I sat in front of my computer screen one Christmas Eve, Facebook chatting with an old friend.  I never saw myself FB chatting on Christmas Eve before, but there we were, crying across the miles together at what Christmas was becoming with babies no longer babies anymore.

Younger moms out there: hold those babies close.  Treasure each beautiful tradition.  Read that same story for the 100th time.  And don't loose hope; these truly are golden years, even when Sally won't shut her eyes and go to bed or Billy begs for just one more hug!

Older moms: You are not alone.  The more I talk with other parents of late-teen and adult age "kids" the more I actually find peace.  Most kids go through a stage of groaning and stretching.  Some, sadly, flat out wander off while we are stuck just watching them fumble through darkness and brambles, our hearts aching and begging them to take the easier path.

But this is their time.  Their stories.  Their opportunity to learn even the hard and tough lessons in some of the most difficult ways.

Ours... ours is to be there, like the prodigal son's father.  We give them the world and then set them free.  We leave them their choices and wait for their return. When the day comes, whether months or years down the road, and we see them walking towards us again... we can run to them and embrace them with love and grace.

My mom came to Christ a few years before I did.  My grandmother was a fire and brimstone Southern Baptist and I didn't like the taste of her hard handed 'testimony'.  But my mom, gentle and patient and peaceful, a stance that truly was never her character with me and my unruliness before, was truly a prodigal mother.  She gave me the world and let me go.  I wandered.  I said mean and hurtful things.  I ignored her.  I hurt her.

But then, one day, I quit fighting.  I quit wandering and turned around.  I spoke softly and asked genuine questions.  I noticed her, and our relationship began to heal.  She stood, waiting, and, I am certain, crying.  But she Trusted and hoped and, before long, I went to her and she ran to greet me on the path, celebrating my return.

I owe a lot to her and how obedient she was to God's Word.  Through her, God showed me what strength and grace was.  I am grateful for the space she gave me, even though I mucked up quite a bit in that span.  We are never too far from grace when the time comes.


So, in our holiday homes this Christmas, even if you have a loved one who is running the wrong direction and making your heart hurt as you remember what was and isn't anymore, be strong.  Stay firm where you are in Christ, seeking to show hospitality and love to those who ARE still around you.  I think we can get so wrapped up in what we don't have anymore and what we miss, that we miss what we DO have and all the new ways God may be calling us to share or spend the holiday cheer.
  • That lonely neighbor we could invite in
  • The children's shelter we could donate time and resources to
  • The goodies we can make and share with the community 
  • A nursing home elder who would delight in companionship
  • A cancer ward patient who might welcome being read to
The list could go on.  Simply put: let Christmas, with or without the void of a child or family member struggling, become the catalyst to new life you can walk forward in year round, sharing hope and grace and peace with those who are just waiting for it.  Christ doesn't call us to trust and be strong after the storm is over... nope.  He calls us right smack-dab in the middle of it and he gives us the strength we need when we trust Him for it... especially in a season filled, at every turn, with reminders of His great Love and grace!

Most of all, trust... the money will be spent and the experiences will take their toll and one day, your dear one will come back.  Remember, they are watching you.  They may not act like it - but they ARE.  They will see your love for others, your warmth, your grace.  They will miss your affection and remember that home is always home.  Be ready to run and greet them on the path, with open arms and a heart full of grace, but don't stop living NOW.

Put a candle in the window for those who wander.  Pray they see the Light in the Darkness, whether by your holiday home or someone else's, and that they will bow their hearts this season to renewed in hope.

Do you have hard holiday memories you are working through this season?  I pray you will find strength in letting go and allowing God to light up your heart and your home in spite of it all.  If you don't have this struggle, can I encourage you to pray for God to show you someone in your life who might need to see that Light in the darkness.  Someone whom you and your Holiday home could be the vessel God may want to pour that Light through to reach? 

Merry Christmas Blessings,







In case you haven't heard, I put together a HUGE printable package for December's newsletter which I would still love to share with new subscribers!  It contains information and an array of helpful worksheets to get all the tidbits of your holiday season organized. 

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter by December 20th will receive this month's issue which includes "The Homebody's Guide to the Christmas Season" and MORE!  Details below...


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

HMJ: Thanksigiving to Christmas Decor

Well hello there!  I'd like to say the last (almost) two weeks off were a nice 'break', however, they have been packed!! The newsletter made it out 12 hours late (you can still sign up for your copy at the right) but packed full of goodies!  My decorations made it up after a long weekend made more difficult because of foot issues I am having.  And we finally made it back to our schoolwork! 

The biggest challenges of the two weeks, however, were the small life upsets as my girls wrestled with friend and job issues.  Knowing I have less than 2 years left with Brooke has really brought into sharp focus the importance of sitting and listening when hearts are hurting.  It's time-consuming and often pushes out other need-tos in life... but it is an investment worth the sacrifice.

Now we are on the other side of it all, including a BIG (for me) meeting with my pastor which resulted in what looks to become HUGE open doors for 2019.  I look forward to sharing more detail as further meetings solidify the fine-print.  I am hopeful and excited, not just for these new developments, but also that the Christmas season is finally here. 

But I am getting ahead of myself.  The past (almost) two weeks looked something like this:

 Brooke made her mini pumpkin pies as we baked and prepped Thanksgiving week.

Grateful for YouTube making this annual tradition possible.  We don't have subscription t.v. but I was able to catch a live stream for the first time in probably 10 years!  I grew up watching Macy's with my mom and, before she passed away, she would call across the miles which separate us and we would 'watch' Macy's together while we each did dinner prep.  The Christmas season seems so much more official when you've seen Santa make his way down the parade route!
My kids aren't super into football (except for my oldest) but when some friends invited Brooke to come watch a scrimmage Thanksgiving morning, she showed support for her big brother's favorite team as she watched locals play.


Since Thanksgiving dinner is just us these days, I like to set the occasion apart by requiring everyone to dress nice.  This year I snapped a few photos and learned it is STILL hard to get everyone behaving and looking nice at the same time for the camera!  Although, the single shots of the girls are some of my favorites in a long time, Ashley's impromptu big sister hug really stole my heart too!

 
Friday dawned and while neighbors headed out to grab those black Friday deals, I began the decoration chaos!  This year Brooke helped out and I couldn't have done it without her!

 
Holiday home♥️


 Monday we hit the books... and kitty Aslan was wiped out from all the studying!  He slept most of the time in Brooke's lap!
 Come Friday she was turning into 'Crazy Cat Lady' in training! 

We have decided to put Geometry off until the beginning of the New Year and we actually didn't start back from Thanksgiving with Pre-Calc mainly because, in all the bustle of holiday miscellany, meeting prep and newsletter deadline, I didn't have a chance to study up in order to be ready to teach!  *Disclaimer: you don't need to be an 'expert' in the subjects you teach but it is nice to have a leg up on the next lessons in lessons you aren't the strongest at... math is NOT my strongest!

We are all doing the Advent Bible study together as well.  The picture above was actually from our 'family meeting' where we discussed the plan.  (If you want a copy of my advent study you can either follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my newsletter, details at right)

 
The week wrapped up with the Lady's Christmas Party at church.  Brooke put together a nice arrangement of some of the fudge she helped me make the week of Thanksgiving and I did up a platter of cream cheese rolls.  It had been so long since I made these I actually forgot an ingredient!  They were still good though!

We were suppose to dress super festive so the both of us got all decked out.  Brooke enjoyed the evening listening to us older ladies talk as well as spending time with one of her closest friends.

And now we look down the scope into next week.  Concert practice to prepare for singing in the back-up choir for Rush of Fools as they put on a Christmas concert at our church this next weekend.  Also hoping to attend a rural parade tomorrow.  Hopefully I can get good and studied up for our Pre-calc by Monday!!  We're diving into The Christmas Carol as well.

How have your last few weeks been?  Do you do anything different in homeschooling through the holidays?

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you December's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Advent Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help you organize and enjoy your holidays more!