It’s the simple things…

Here I am, still basking in the post-Christmas glow. We still have family in town, stuff to clean up, and laundry to do. But I don’t care. Right now I just feel….content…full…happy. Our Christmas this year was smaller than usual. My kids each had one thing on their list they really wanted, and they got that, and a couple of boardgames and books besides. I got my crock pot and apple peeler/corer, and my hubby got his socks and underwear and something else besides 🙂 . But, it wasn’t like it usually is. We couldn’t do the “extras” this year…and that made me a little anxious. But you know what?? It was still wonderful!!

We had a couple of really good dinners with family. We hung out and watched movies and played board games. We talked and laughed, and got up really early to open presents on Christmas day since my hubby had to work. We read the Christmas story and watched movies and listened to Christmas songs. My oldest son and my uncle played guitar together. The weather was great, and we sat outside by the fire. My cousin, (who is in the navy and has been out of the country for 5 years) was here! We had guests all month and will continue to have them until the end of the new year. I have been cooking and cleaning for weeks, but it’s okay, because I have lots of help.

This wasn’t necessarily that “Christmas card holiday” I pictured, but it was beautiful. I was relaxed and happy, and so was everyone else. There wasn’t a lot of tension and stress. We just enjoyed each other, and that made it perfect! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

A Baby in a Manger

So, here we are about a week before Christmas, and I am wondering how it’s all going to come together. Right this minute, both my older son and I are sick, I still have to shop, my inlaws are coming to visit tomorrow and the house needs to be cleaned, and the only thing I really want to do is sleep! We have been busy with Christmas activities, and for all my plans to spend time each day focusing on the birth of Jesus, those times seem to have been hit or miss thus far….and I am disappointed with myself.

Today, I was sitting in my comfy chair, trying to NOT breathe through my mouth and read my Bible, and I found myself staring at our nativity scene. Ours isn’t anything fancy, just a typical scene my hubby and I bought from Walmart the year we got married. It is currently set up with Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherd and the animals awaiting Baby Jesus to be placed in position.

When I look at it I wonder, what was Mary thinking at that time? A young girl, having her first baby, was she afraid?? Worried? Angry with Joseph for not finding them a room? Did people wonder, when they saw the wise men wandering through town, what could have brought such exotic people to a small stable in their town? He’s just a baby!! What makes him so special??

Of course, now, we have the benefit of knowing the answer to that question. That baby was our awesome and Holy Lord. The man who would bring salvation to all mankind. The man who allows hope into even our darkest of days. This week, we have seen a lot of darkness, and it is easy to wonder where is the hope in our world right now? I believe that when horrific tragedies occur, there are no answers to some of the questions we consider most important, and maybe looking for hope in the situtation itself is not the right approach. Our hope is where it has always been, in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is through Him that our sins are forgiven, through Him that we know that death is not the end for us, through Him that can know that those we love who have left us are free from pain, sickness, sadness.

The baby in the manger represents HOPE for all of us. Hope that even when we fail, we can start again the next day. Even if this Christmas does not turn out the way I thought it would, I can rest in the knowledge that there is still hope for me, as there is for all of us.

I pray that all of you will find hope in Jesus this Christmas season!

Please take the time to visit the Advent blog event I am participating in and read some of the posts:

The Christmas Blahs!

Do you ever feel like Charlie Brown at Christmas?? You know, just not engaged, frustrated, tired, trying to find the “fun”? Well, that’s me right now. I can’t believe it’s only the second week of December and the blahs have already set in!! I love this time of year!! The lights, the music, the movies….but right now, I feel SO bogged down!

First of all, this is our last week of school before our 3 week holiday break, but I just cannot motivate myself to do school, let alone motivate my kids!! I need to write up a plan and print out their schedules…there are things we absolutely HAVE TO get done before our break….but I find myself just sitting there, staring at my clipboard, with my mind wandering all over the place.

We have family visits all month long! With these boys, I’m lucky if the house stays clean for an hour or two, let alone a month!! I can’t have everyone walk into this mess…so I’m constantly cleaning, washing, drying…cooking!! And forget shopping. I tell myself every year that I’m going to start early, but every year, I don’t. The countdown clock keeps ticking in my head “15 days…14…10….7!” Sigh…I swear December is always the quickest month of the year for me, there is just not enough time to do it all! And I promised myself that this holiday season was going to be different…peaceful even…and now I’m just frustrated!!

And then…a message on facebook…an old high school friend of my hubby’s…(in his 40’s)…he’s been waiting for a heart transplant for a while now…he’s not going to get one…he passed away last week, leaving behind a young son….Wow. Hold on, that’s the kind of stuff I don’t have to worry about for a long time yet!! But wait…one of my good friends (in her 30’s) buried her husband a few months ago..they have a 7 year old daughter. Two kids, both spending their first Christmas without a parent, and they aren’t even in their teens yet! Why am I letting all this other stuff stress me out??

I mean, really, we HOMESCHOOL, so if we don’t get everything done that I wanted to this week, we’ll just pick it up when we start back next year. Sure, we might be doing school until the end of June, but is that really a big deal?? And, okay, I can assure you my house will be clean and disinfected when the family comes to visit, but it might not be exactly well-organized…but as long as the bathrooms are clean and everyone can sit down and talk and hang out, that’s okay, right? And, yes, I will probably be joining those last-minute crowds wandering the malls in the days before Christmas, but they have a lot of deals then! So…..where is my focus? Is it on what’s most important???

No…once again, I have allowed the small things to outshine the BIGGEST thing…the birth of our Savior! Because of Him, I am blessed to live a life where I know that death is not the end. I have been given the gift of grace, in knowing that my sins are forgiven. God has blessed me with this amazing family, and the ability to spend time with them…if that means we order out for pizza…so be it!!

I have given myself permission to NOT get everything done this December. I have given myself permission to have a slightly messy house, and order out a little bit, so I can enjoy what is truly important…this family I have been blessed with!! I hope you all will do the same!!

Merry Christmas! Check out the Homeschool Crew holiday blog cruise to see other Crew members thoughts about Christmas!

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Also, check out the Advent Cruise I am participating in as well:

Looking beyond the boxes and bags.

Ahhh, Christmas! The twinkly lights, the smell of the Christmas tree and cookies baking in the oven. Carols on the radio, crowds at the store, wrapping paper and bows. I love this season, and I love all of those things that make this time of year so much fun. But, I also think it is important to remind ourselves, as Christians, what this holiday is really for. It is SO easy for me to get caught up in all the “normal” Christmas activities, that I leave very little energy for myself to focus on the MOST important thing: Jesus. Most often, I find myself exhausted and grumpy as the actual holiday draws near, and I really think this is because I allow all the other “stuff” to overshadow the Lord.

For the last couple of years, I have made more of an effort to spend these days drawing closer to God. In the past, we’ve done a Jesse Tree and some other devotionals I got from my local library. I try to set a time aside each evening in December before the kids go to bed to read these devotionals and maybe do a little activity before listening to a story. My kids have enjoyed this a lot! This year, we are using my sons nook and a Bible app he downloaded. It actually has a lot of Christmas devotionals, and we decided to do the one focused on Christmas Carols. We listen to the carol together, then read and discuss the bible passage and message. So far we’ve done Joy to the World, and we really read the lyrics and talked about how Jesus brought joy to all of us.

I am also committing myself to spending time each morning doing my own devotional, focused around the prophecies leading up to Jesus birth and how his life fulfilled these prophecies. I am finding my prayer time is much more focused, and I have a sense of peace this Christmas season that I didn’t before. Of course, all that other Christmas stuff will still need to be done, but it is less stressful when I keep in mind the TRUE reason for celebration!!

I am writing this post as part of a blog series about Advent. There will be a new post each week this month. To join up, and see what other bloggers had to say on this topic, click here:

Thank you to Trish at A House Upon the Rock and Laura at Day by Day in Our World for hosting!