Give Yourself Permission to Nix the Christmas Card (and other trappings)

December 5, 2016

Only 20 more days until wide eyed kids tiptoe down halls in unabated excitement.
Only 21 more days until stressed eyed parents pack it all away in unabashed exaltation.

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Contrary to what you are thinking right about now, I am not a scrooge!

But sometimes the trappings of Christmas seem to do, just that – Trap us.

Trap us into believing every one of those trappings has to be done, every single year. And not only checked off the list, but completed in perfection.

Christmas Lights  Advent Calendars   Locally Sourced Gifts   Christmas Cards   Homemade Desserts   Wreaths on the Door  Christmas Caroling   Kid Made Ornaments   Trees   House Decor   Christmas Parties

The list is never ending and there is a pressure you feel that if you even just dip your toe into a certain area the result has to be Pinterest perfect.

For those around me, Christmas cards seem to be the biggest hold up. You spend a fortune on a professional photographer or try to find the just perfect candid photo of kids having a sweet moment. It all ends as you begrudgingly hand write more addresses than you thought possible.

Why is it that family photo shoots make root canal dentist visits seem more enjoyable?
Bribes and Lollipops just don’t cut it and temper tantrums erupt when your 8 year old is asked nicely forced into a collared shirt.


So this year, instead of giving yourself a guilt trip over all you haven’t done this Christmas season..
Cuddle up in front of the fire with your kids.
Give a hug to your elderly neighbor.
Read the Christmas story from the Bible.
Nix the cards and Just Be Still. {This is what I’m doing this year!}
Don’t fill up every second of your time. The world will not end if you don’t send out cards.
Invite your brilliant sister to town and let her make elephant toothpaste for your kids

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Most of all, repeat this mantra… trappings are NOT what make the Christmas season.

Christmas is a time to remember God’s love for YOU and share that love with all mankind.
His love isn’t found bundled up in a card, present, or tree.
It’s found in the quiet and in the simple… giving a hug, bestowing a smile, or laughing together.

Christmas is found in the every day minutia of the relationships we share with those around us.

Merry Christmas!





How to find Christ this December? And not run the race of frenzy?

Her, her with the aged worn glasses slipping down her nose, she bends achingly over that soft hewn piece of white pine. With her carving knife in hand, time slips away and something simple and beautiful is created from a formless blank slate.


My grandmother, Grandma Buckner as I called her, spent a lot of time carving wood. When you carve, you start with this piece of nothing special, non descript wood, and the end result is something to be admired and treasured.

So how does any of this have to do with the Christmas season? Is what I am about to write going to be worth a Nobel Peace Prize or be words you haven’t heard before?


But here’s the thing…the question of this and every Christmas season…how do we get to the 25th of December and not feel like we just ran a never ending race? When you wake on the 20th of December {that last Saturday before the big day} how do you not mutter the words “I just want it to be over with”?


This Christmas season, how do you stay focused on what really matters?


By carving time out of every single day.

Carving time that is filled solely with Him.

By creating space, moments, in your day where you commune with Him.
Time lapses where your sole focus is to re-nourish yourself.

For how can we have joy, hope, peace, and love if we aren’t filling ourselves up with
His Joy, His Peace, His Hope, His Love?

I know, I know…not rocket science. Nothing you haven’t heard before.

But what if this December, this Christmas season, you simply said STOP?

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What if instead of running to the mall in those 25 unexpected free minutes, you ran to His word instead? Which leaves you sustained for when the kids come home and you’re suppose to be offering grace but it’s more often like a mutiny of words rushing unfettered out of your mouth?

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When the gray skies dawn early and the warm sheets beckon you to snuggle in, what if instead you woke 32 minutes before your kids footsteps slumbered down the hall? Would you perhaps have a smile on your face when they rounded the corner because you had filled your heart with words of truth?

I know, I know…it’s hard in this world of ours to not feel the tug of “but this present has to be just right, so I need to spend more time, more money, more sanity…”

I personally get how hard it is to wake before the kids bound awake each. and. every. single. morning at 6:02am. I struggle with these same things and each December I get to the 23rd and wonder how I’m gonna make it the last 2 days. I put way too many demands on my time when instead I need to simply curl up with the Bible and read scripture.

For how can any time together {with family or with friends} be uplifting if I am worn out & spent?


So…what if I spent 30 minutes every day alone with Christ?

Reading scripture, pouring out the aches of this heart in my prayer journal, or delving into an advent devotional?

Would my December be a little less harried?

Would I get to Christmas day and have peace despite the chaos of family dynamics, be hopeful despite the circumstances I find myself in, be joyful that God wants to have a relationship with me and He is the one that did all the hard work that I could never accomplish myself?

And filled with His Joy, Peace, & Hope, would my heart, then, overflow with His love?

If I carve time out of my day for my Savior, would I not leave better than I came? Doesn’t he start with all of us as non descript pieces of wood and out of them sculpts us into these treasured images of Himself?


And if that doesn’t make you want to spend time with God, every single day, then what about this…

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”. Mark 1:35

If Christ, who was all things Holy, needed one on one time with God the Father, then how much more do I myself need time with the Lord before I start my day?

So this December, join me?
Carve time, out of those precious 24 hours He gives every day, to find your sustainment in Him?





Child Like Magic

On Christmas Eve I am often surrounded by memories and I wonder what your memories are this evening.

My memories as a kid are simplistic…of a sleepless night anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival, Christmas carols sung around a piano, the hilarious gift my ‘gran’ gave every year. And then I transition to memories more recent…the first Christmas spent with our son, to the now joy I experience as my two kids open up their Christmas Eve gift. But I also guess you may have some somber moments, like me, as the day passes…when you remember simpler times or remember people who are no longer by your side.

So what I wish for you and yours this Christmas is child like magic. The ability to see hope in our lives, to see the good in others, and to see the strength that comes from a warm embrace. I hope you look beyond a hectic day of going here and there to see the joy spent among friends and family. And as tomorrow dawns, I hope you are able to see all the blessings in your life and give thanks to God for the birth of His son. And if tomorrow dawns and it isn’t quite the situation you would ask for, I hope you are able to still give thanks to God for the wondrous reason we celebrate and to know that you are not alone. No matter your circumstances or where you are spending Christmas, you are forever in God’s loving embrace and I pray His peace will be with you tonight and tomorrow, as always.

May you have a joyous and memorable Christmas Eve and Christmas.


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies for Santa

If the Santa and Elves in your household enjoy chocolate then this recipe is for you! Its got semi-sweet grated chocolate plus milk chocolate chips. And, if you love oatmeal in cookies, this recipe delivers on that too! This is one of my favorite cookies…I’ve been known to devour 2 dozen in 2 days, all by myself! So be careful…they are addictive!

Pure Chocolate Delight!

Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you Google this recipe you’ll find lots of different variations and an interesting story of how the recipe came to be. I’ll save the story telling for someone else but this variation came from a friend’s mom a few year’s back. The chocolate has been scaled back and the recipe is halved. Even with halving the recipe it still makes 4-5 dozen cookies. But that’s good right…the more for you to eat?


1 cup, 8 oz, unsalted butter, softened
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 brown eggs, preferably farm raised, slightly beaten
1 to 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups organic all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups quick 1-minute oatmeal
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz bag milk chocolate chips
4 oz chocolate semi-sweet bars


To soften butter, leave out at room temperature for 30 – 45 minutes. You don’t want to microwave it as that messes with the make up of the molecules so the cookies don’t have the right texture. Also, organic flour (or at least the brand I use, King Arthur) has a higher protein make up of the flour which limits how much the cookies spread while baking. Also, I’ve found that if you use 1-minute oatmeal versus old fashioned you will have more moist cookies. And if you slightly beat the eggs before hand it ensures you get no shell in your dough and also distributes the egg more evenly into the dough, in my opinion!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.

Grate chocolate bars into a medium size bowl.

Measure oatmeal and blend in food processor.

Next, cream together butter and sugars. When I first started baking a lot, I would wonder “how do I know when it is ‘creamed'”. Well this is what I consider ‘creamed’ to look like and takes 3 to 5 minutes to achieve.

Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Next, add the flour and oatmeal mixture. Then mix in chips and grated chocolate.

Spoon the dough into tablespoon size and place on cookie sheet and bake for 6 minutes at 375 degrees. The few minutes pass quickly so set an oven timer for these cookies! Transfer to baking rack as soon as cookies are set enough. And ENJOY!

Now, the best part…Lick that bowl clean!

I’d love to know, what cookies do you bake at Christmas each year?



Advent…this wonderful time of year

So I have to admit, until I became a Sunday School teacher 3 years ago, I had no idea what Advent meant. I grew up in a deeply rooted Christian household (think Southern Baptist mixed with Penticost/Holiness churches! Imagine the stories I could share on just that topic!) but the word Advent never came up.

I’ve since learned that Advent means “arrival” or “coming” and the purpose of Advent is to focus on two things…the celebration of Jesus’ birth and the anticipation of his coming return. Now, I’m not going to get into his coming return…I’ll save that for some Southern Baptist ministers…but I did want to share some ideas on how to keep this Christmas season focused on the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Idea #1…An Advent Calendar that encourages children to do missional work…

Missional work doesn’t have to be grand to make a difference, it just needs to be done in love. Each day include a note for your child such as…”Give a hug to someone you love”, “Share a toy with your sister”, or “Thank your teachers for being so great”. If kids are older, the notes could be to complete little jobs for neighbors and friends such as sweeping someone’s porch or taking our their trash.

Here’s a picture of our Advent calendar that my 3 year old son and I created with old Christmas cards, paper bags, numbers cut out from magazines, and Christmas tree stamps that my son wanted to place on every surface in the house!

Idea #2…Spend less and Give more…

Do you ever buy a Christmas gift in obligation for someone without really wanting to and just marking their name off the list because you feel like ‘you have to’?  Or you get so tired of all the commercialism surrounding Christmas and some years you just want to throw in the towel for all gifts? Well what if, this year, you bought one less gift and had more time and thought for the gifts you do give? I know this idea may seem crazy but sometimes I think its so easy to get caught up in giving gifts that we buy just because we think we have to. So here are some ideas on ways to spend less money but give more with the thought you put into your gifts.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried.com

What if you made at least one homemade gift this year? Homemade gifts are so nice to receive and they are a lot of fun to make! You can have a creative crafty day with your kids painting ornaments for grandparents or spend the afternoon with girlfriends making preserves and sugar scrubs.

Here is a neat rule for buying family members’ a present…spend no more than $20 on the gift, it must be purchased from a local store, and it cannot be made in China! How is that for staying local and giving a gift that someone would probably be thrilled to receive.

For additional ideas on how to put more thought into your gift giving and find cool homemade gifts to make, check out this blog post from Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried.com.  I’ve just recently found this blog and thought this post perfectly summarized how commercialism for Christmas gets so out of hand and shares ideas for making gifts with lots of heart.

Idea #3…Make a donation in honor of someone…and if possible, make it a charity that has special meaning to that person

So in the past I’ve made donations in honor of people as gifts but I’ve never really picked a charity that would perhaps have a special meaning to that person. So this year, I am trying to do that…. to give a gift to the VA Hospital for a retired veteran …. give a gift of school supplies and uniforms in honor of someone who lacked those when they were a kid.

Or instead of buying gifts for family members, go in together and ‘adopt’ a family in your community for Christmas.

Another idea a friend shared with me today that I think is wonderful…make a donation in honor of your child. If you begin this when they are a child they will grow up with the experience and hopefully pass it along to their children. What a wonderful tradition to begin. You could choose a child related organization when they are infants and as children get older they can choose the charity they’d like the gift to go towards.

I hope these ideas help you enjoy this wonderful season as we celebrate the birth of Christ and share His love with others.

Merry Christmas,