Friday, November 30, 2012

Making Christmas Special Not Stressful!

It truly is the most wonderful time of year. The nostalgia of the music, smells, traditions and memories of Christmas bring such joy. My delight for Christmas has caused me to go overboard in the past, I must admit. Last year, I was new to Pinterest and wanted to do every single craft and homemade gift I pinned. Reality hit when Christmas time was more of a burden than a blessing. This year, I have been very intentional about not making that same mistake! As a family, we have done 25 days of Christmas for a few years now, but I learned a very important lesson last year: I do not have to do everything to make Christmas special. My hope and purpose for this post is to share with you ideas and tips that will help you create a Special, not Stressful, Christmas.

When our kids were small, we began traditions that have become such a part of our Christmas that our kids would probably think Christmas couldn't happen without them. I absolutely love traditions and it absolutely delights my heart that our little family shares in memories that are all our own. A few years ago, I used our already established traditions to begin doing 25 days of Christmas together as a family. My reason for starting this tradition of 25 Days of Christmas was to take the focus off of the presents and to create opportunities for us to make memories as a family (and I am really just a kid at heart and want Christmas to last as looooong as possible!). Now, my first few years of planning were wonderful and realistic. As I stated, though, last year not so much. This year, we've gone back to simple! I've been writing down ideas over the past few weeks, then a few nights ago, during our family devotion time, we made our final list. I've taken all of our favorite ideas and plotted them based on our family calender for the month. Several of our 25 Days activities are simply our already established Christmas traditions. It just helped getting those planned on our calendar. Others are new ideas we wanted to try. They all are scheduled on days that realistically fit our schedule, won't be a burden to do, don't cost much money (if any) and won't take much planning or preparation. I was able to weed out and narrow down my beloved Pinterest ideas by sticking to a few main things:

  • Does it create family time or tension (I may love crafts, but not my boys so picking cute crafts projects would be about me not them.)
  • Does it work with our schedule (For example, my husband is a pastor so Sunday's and Wednesday's are extrememly hectic for us. Those days need very realistic activities. First, I made out or December calendar with all of our church and school activities. Then I planned our 25 Days according to our calendar. This may seem like a no-brainer but trust me, it's easy to loose sight of the obvious!)
  • Does it fit our normal routine (Part of keeping the calm during the chaos of Christmas is to stick to the normal routine as much as possible, so what activities would be simple to make a part of our normal routine rather than trying to change everything just to say we did 25 days of activities....that would make for 3 cranky kids and 2 stressed parents! We already have family devotions so rather than not do our family devotion, we have our devotion focused on Christmas. Another example is that every week we do Family Friday night with pizza-frozen or homemade-and rent a movie. I would be excommunicated if I did away with this part of our normal family routine for an entire month so we are doing our established Family Friday night during December but will make Christmas shaped pizza's and watch Christmas movies!)
  • Does it fit one of these purposes? All of our activities fit into 3 basic categories (my brain has to think this way because it helps me weed things out-if it doesn't serve one of these purposes then it's not an option):
    • Family Togetherness (Simple Memories and Traditions)
    • Family Focus (Devotions and Prayers that keep our focus on Christ)
    • Family Serving (Acts of Kindness)
  • Does it fit our budget? There are some things are not an option for us either because they cost too much or they will unnecessarily prevent us from giving to others. 
Most importantly, keep in the forefront of your mind that Christmas is all about Christ. You do not have to do everything to make Christmas special so no guilt allowed! Perhaps begin with 12 Days of Christmas instead of 25 or just pick a few things that you know you would like to do with your family and go ahead and plan when to do them. My biggest advice is to plan out because that will save you the most stress and's those last minute impulses that cause chaos. The marketing of Christmas plays to our nostalgic emotions-don't get sucked into the trap. Keep your focus (again why I have the categories-so that I can walk into Wal-Mart and not be lured into spending more or when I'm looking on Pinterest not be guilted into doing more)!  Ok, I think that's all of my tips! Here is our list of 25 Days along with some other ideas.

Noel Family 25 Days of Christmas
1.    Christmas Tree Waffles Breakfast; Put up the tree ; hot cocoa & Christmas music
2.    1st Advent Sunday Devotion
3.    Christmas Brownies for dessert (after Evan goes to bed, share story of St. Nic to E & Ab)
4.    Christmas Wish List (our kids get 3 gifts each for Christmas; I also love the read, wear, play, share idea!)
5.    Christmas Card Prayer (we will pray for the family's who we have received Christmas cards from)
6.    Christmas Tree Cones for snack & Samaritan’s Purse /Homeless Shelter gifts
7.    Church Musical & Living Nativity
8.    Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls and Day of RACK (Tim thought it would be fun to do our RACK's all in one day but most of the idea's I've seen are spread out over the 25 days-just following my husband's lead on this one!)
9.    Church Musical; 2nd Advent Sunday Devotion
10.    Snowflake Dessert (cinnamon and sugar tortilla’s)
11.    Christmas Tree Treat for after-school Snack; Make Beach Memory Ornament
12.    Christmas Card Prayer
13.    Eli Christmas Choir Program
14.    Christmas Movie Night with Christmas Shaped BYO Pizza’s
15.    AM-Gingerbread House; PM-Dad Date for Mom’s Christmas gift shopping while mom goes to women's Sunday School class party
16.    3rd Advent Sunday Devotion; Host Church Staff Christmas Party
17.    Make Cinnamon Dough Ornaments (This is the one craft we are doing because it was my daughter's only request!)
18.    Read Christmas books under the tree  (make a pallet!)
19.    Christmas Card Prayer
20.    Make and Take Mrs. Sandy a gift/treat (widow next door)
21.    Family Gift Shopping & Ice Skating in LR with Matt & Kristin
22.    Christmas Pancakes for Supper; Christmas Lights (Harding and Berryhill)
23.    4th Advent Sunday Devotion; Kids’ Church Christmas Program
24.    Annual Movie & PJ Day; exchange family gifts
25.    Christmas morning!!! Christmas Breakfast & Immanuel Devotion

Just a note about our "Annual Movie and PJ Day;" This has become our favorite tradition. We began this five years ago when we moved to Searcy and began traveling back home during the holidays. We wanted a Christmas day all our own since the actual December 25 Christmas Day would be different every year for our family. Normal families would probably watch Christmas movies all day, but since we aren't normal, our movie day is a Star Wars Movie Marathon. We literally stay in our pj's, graze on snack food all day while snuggled up on the couch watching our movies. It's AWESOME and I must admit, one of my best ideas yet :)
Other ideas:
-Pinterest has great pins on RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) ideas.
-Make family Christmas Art (we did the Christmas tree with our handprints on a canvas last year-adorable!)
-Host a cookie swap party
-Happy Birthday Jesus Party
-Jesse Tree (Advent Tree)
-Candy Baking Day
-Christmas Movie Marathon Day
-Red and Green Supper
-Mommy Express (cocoa and lights) then watch Polar Express
-Take fun pictures for Christmas cards and gifts
-Gift wrapping night (Tim and I would rather do this together just us two but you might enjoy letting your kids be involved!)
-Take donations to local shelter, food pantry, etc
-Go shopping for local foster children, angel tree children, etc
-Go caroling to your neighbors or a nursing home

As we begin our Advent Devotions and I get our Immanuel Devotion written for Christmas Day, I will share those as well. It is so worth the memories to take a little time planning special activities and treats for your family. Just remember to keep it simple and stay realistic. It breaks my heart to hear people talk about how stressful the holidays are. There are many events during this time of year that we say no to, just to keep the stress from stealing the joy of Christmas.

Have a blessed Christmas filled with special memories! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

One Day At A Time

This nagging, recurring theme keeps invading my thoughts. Today, Heather, today. Last week, I read the story of Mary and Martha; it was Mary who chose right. Yet, I am the epitome of Martha. I've even found myself getting frustrated with my husband for praying too long in the mornings. Did you catch that? Talk about confessions of a pastor's wife. Well, this one does not have it all together! I am Martha to my core. As many strengths as there are to my personality, there are as many (probably more) weaknesses. But He is made perfect in our weakness. This task-driven, busybody thrives on getting my checklist done. And here comes Jesus, saying stop. Stop? How in the world can I stop when I have more to get done than what is humanly possible? Ah, I think that's His point. In that same week of reading, Jesus said, "you will not always have me, but you will always those in need." Jesus isn't teaching a live in the moment, carpe diem mumbo jumbo. He isn't saying neglect the needs of others. It isn't a reality, with our many responsibilities, to literally sit, all day, everyday, at the feet of Jesus nor is that what He is saying. What I am learning is that in my heart and in my mind, allow Him to calm all of those racing thoughts of what's to be done next, and simply abide with Him as I live. Amidst the chores, errands, laundry, work, kids, the presence of Christ is my reality. A light bulb went on for me over this past few weeks. I've always thought of "storing up treasures" materialistically. I thought I had that one down pretty good. We have a simply home. We don't try to give our kids everything. We give to others. We are in the ministry for crying out loud! Leave it to God to want to refine my pride. Being a busy body, consumed with my checklist for the day is just as much storing up here on earth as loving money. I have today with Jesus. He is the treasure that I am to seek, but my life says that my treasure is my checklist. God's longing and desire is simply for me to walk with Him today. Our entire day to day life makes a radical transformation when we begin to realize that in this moment, in my heart and mind, just sit. "My presence is here and you're missing it because of your busy work." Yes, it's all necessary. We must prepare meals and do laundry and go to work. But "today, delight in Me. Don't trade my presence for your to do list. Delight in today because my presence exists in your reality."

Is this even possible? Am I living in a fantasy world? Oh, I must be one of those women who has the perfectly tidy organized house so I can have the audacity to say such things and believe such an idealistic mindset. Actually, my dishes are dirty, I've washed a load of clothes twice because they sat in the washer too long and my daughter's room looks like a bomb exploded. Jesus told Mary that she chose what was right. Jesus said "do not worry about tomorrow." Paul tells us to walk in the Spirit-that's present tense ladies; present, continuous tense. In this absurd, Americanized Christianity in which we live, we have bought into this lie that the presence of Christ is set aside for Sunday. Or that He is some burden we have to tack onto our already hectic day. We act as if adding Him to our day is "just great" another burden to carry. And satan has us right where he wants us. We don't add Jesus to our day. He is our day. Jesus said His burden is light. If we are feeling weighed down by the demands of God or of life, the truth is we are being deceived by the lies of satan. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The reality is, He is calling you and me to be still. Be still in our spirit and allow His to rule-yes, even in the grocery store line. When we allow His presence to invade our midst, the demands of the day cease to weigh us down. Our thoughts no longer race and we are released from the guilt of needing to do just one more thing. It is possible to allow our hearts and minds to rest in Him. And every once in a while, literally sit down, hide the checklist, tell your mind to stop and just sit with Jesus. 

Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Blessing of Family

I just returned home for a week with my precious sister. Next to my dear husband, she is my best friend in the world. Twelve hours separate us but it makes our time together that much more special. When I was ten and raising her, I would have never dreamed that she would be the mother that she is. She won't take insult to that! She remembers her whining and stubbornness and dramatic emotional outbursts that would lead to passing out. She is now one of the most gracious women I know. She tells me what I need to hear, both good and bad. She may be my baby sister but I learn so much from her. She carries such grace, a trait she learned from our great-grandmother. I'm not sure she even realizes it, though. It is not easy living so far apart. I don't have to joy of watching my nephews grow up or helping her paint and decorate her new home or going on lunch dates together. It is true, though, that absence does make the heart grow fonder. Our time together is just that much more sweet. When the kids and I arrived home, we had to anxiously await for Tim to arrive home the next night from a 10 day mission trip to Honduras. I was is west Texas and Tim as in a 3rd world country for our 13th anniversary. What is it about being apart that makes you realize how blessed you are? My husband is the absolute delight of my life. Being apart from him makes me grow more in love with him. Everyday that Tim was gone and the kids and I were in Texas, my wonderful father-in-law called to check on me. What a precious man that loves me as his own. God gave me the most wonderful in-laws. When Tim arrived home, he showed me pictures from his trip, many of which included pictures of children at an orphanage. My heart completely breaks for children who have no family. As I've pondered over these past few days, God has gently reminded me of the blessing of family. His establishment of the family was to give us a glimpse of His love and our relationship with Him. The love I share with my sister, my husband, my in-laws, my kids, my grandparents, my parents, all give me a picture of my relationship with God. And what a good God He is to bless my life so richly. My seven year old and I were having a conversation a few months back, and he said "Mom, we aren't rich in money but we are rich in love." Oh the heart of a child. There is no greater blessing in life than family. As women, we must be diligent about protecting our family relationships, cultivating a deep love and providing for our children that glimpse of God's love through the relationship that we have with them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Servant's Heart

One of the many things that God has had to teach this pitiful heart of mine was how to truly be a servant. Being in the ministry will put your servant's heart to the test for sure; serving others regardless of what we receive in return. As followers of Christ, we know that He came to serve, not to be served. However, I'm not so sure that we translate that into our everyday life as wives and mom's. As women, we may serve others well, but when it comes to our family, we store up a little bitterness. At best, we serve with the expectation of something in return; praise, appreciation. We wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook multiple meals all the while, storing up frustration, bitterness, anger, when we aren't thanked or recognized or appreciated. God has had to teach me that that is not a true servant's heart. That is doing things out of a need for self-approval. Ladies, we must find our worth in Christ, not in others acknowledgement of us. Taking care of our family is the greatest way we serve Christ. When we realize that all of those mundane duties are for Him, we release our families from our expectations. This was one of my primary motivations for this blog and one of the greatest reasons my tagline is "How to delight in everyday life." The everyday mundane is not so delightful when we are waiting on others to appreciate and approve of us; when our focus is on what they give us in return, the chores of the everyday are a frustration at best. When we gain a right perspective that we are serving Christ, not our family, our entire attitude changes. I still don't enjoy doing the dishes, but I don't whine about it anymore! And what I've discovered is that when my attitude and perspective changed about the duties of everyday life, so did the attitude of my family. They naturally appreciate me, they aren't forced or guilted into praising me. A few months ago, I began reading the book "One Thousand Gifts." If you've not read this book, I encourage you to take the time. It is no coincidence that as God was teaching me this truth, I began reading this book. In her book, Ann Voskamp (mother of 6) states, "When the laundry is done for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it's true, I think I'm due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightening strikes joy. But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all. When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone-the bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to its purest state: eucharisteo (thanksgiving). The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness." Mother Teresa once stated, "The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action. If we pray the work...if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus....that's what makes us content." I didn't realize it until the past few years, but this is what my precious great-grandmother was teaching me each day when she would sing her hymns while washing the dishes, doing the laundry and working in the garden. I pray that today, your heart of worship flows from the duties of everyday life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Household Harmony

I'm still trying to determine the easiest way for my readers to navigate my blog. Right now, all I know to do is to tell you when I've posted on one of my pages. Although I am not yet posting as regularly as I had hoped, among my summer chaos, I've managed to find a few moments to post on my 'household harmony' page, a "parenting with purpose" series. I am far from a parenting expert but I hope that what I've learned over these past few years will offer encouragement to you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Chaos

Well, I've already not started out so great with this blog adventure. I promise, I've not abandoned Heather's Homemade Haven. Summer has gone from restful to chaos in a hurry! After the first two week of summer break, life got a little crazy for our family. A dear friend became engaged and decided to get married six weeks from her engagement. Who, might you ask, is planning this wedding? This girl! Oh yes, then there was a week of teaching at Vacation Bible School, followed by chaperoning our kids from church for a week of children's camp, followed by a week at a pastor's convention, which I'm currently attending with my husband. No complaints, just letting you know that I've not forgotten about my blog. I cannot wait to return home so that I can get to posting! It has been a slow process getting started. It is so much in my personality to do things all at once so this has been hard for me to just be patient with the building of this ministry blog. My initial concern about the slow start was that those who came over to visit my blog would think, "Is this all she has to offer?" God took care of that real quick because this blog has nothing to do with anyone being impressed with me. There are so many women with blogs who have so much more practical information than me to share and that's okay. My purpose is to help women to become wholly healthy in Christ. Once God and I worked through my initial pity party of feeling like a failure, He began to confirm to me the need for women to have a resource of Godly truth and wisdom. Not that I have any amount of wisdom, but the passion of my heart is to go along side women, helping them seek God. We as Christian women have become so spotted from the world in our thinking, actions and attitudes. The purpose for this little haven is for us to escape the lies of this world and to find the truth of God in our lives as women. When we become wholly healthy, our homes will become delightful havens. As Romans 12:1-2 says, I do not want to be conformed to the pattern of this world. I do not want to be shaped and fashioned, think of a sewing pattern, like worldly women. That statement is not made in arrogance or pride. I've been that woman, a woman who looks like women of this world; self-sufficient and self-absorbed, prideful and caddy, bitter and harsh, controlling and fearful, insecure and unwise, and I don't like who she is.  I want to be the woman God has called me to be; a woman with a gentle and peaceful spirit, a woman of wisdom and kindness, grace and humility, a woman who is diligent and faithful. Thank you, deeply, for your patience with me. Once we get through the craziness of our summer, my devotion will be to get content loaded. My prayer for you now, is that God will begin to stir in your heart a deep desire for you to become healthy in your mind, your emotions, your spirit.

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Posts

For those of you who are visiting my site, please check my page links on a regular basis. When I make new posts to any of the pages, it will not show that a new post has been added. The only time a new post will show is when I add one to the homepage. I will do my best to let you know on the homepage when I'm adding a topic series to one of my pages so that you will know.  I'm currently working on a series for "heart helps," entitles Love Letters: Knowing God Through the Psalms (there are two posts right now, but several more will be added to this series). My goal is to have more content loaded to "home hints" by the end of next week. Today is the kids' last day of school, so we are headed out of town for the weekend to go visit our family and celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Tim's home church. It's always such a blessing to see family, as it rarely happens. Have a wonderful weekend and I'll be back to posting next week!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Homemade Haven" How To

To make navigating around the site as simple as possible, I wanted to let you know how I'm doing my posts. As  I begin to load content, I will post under the subheadings of each page. So when you click on a page, such as "heart helps," the subheading and introduction will remain at the top (the writing that's in aqua). The posts will begin under the introduction, therefore you'll have to scroll down to see my posts. I apologize for the inconvenience of not having new posts be the first thing that you see. I chose to do them in this way so that new visitors to the site can easily find and read the explanation for each page. I am always open to suggestions and ideas for how to better navigate, so if you ever have a suggestion or idea please feel free to let me know! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wholly Healthy

I think that as women, we fall into two different categories: either everything has to be perfectly perfect or we are just so scattered that we are kind of just "whatever." What I've learned over the past few years is that extremes aren't healthy, balance is. Our calling as daughters of God is to love the Lord wholly. The struggle is how to translate that into everyday life. Loving God wholly requires us to be wholly healthy; our hearts, our minds, our emotions, our relationships. Creating balance in our lives paves the way for us to have healthy lives which paves the way to love God wholly. Here is where we discover the delight of everyday life. For example, I'm in love with Pinterest, but I will be the first to admit that it can be useful or harmful to us and our expectations. It can either negatively feed our desire to create a perfectly perfect world or make us feel entirely defeated. On the other hand, there are some very useful ideas and resources. What I've learned to do is decide what is useful and what is unrealistic. There are some "mom" websites and blogs that I follow because I gain some very useful information and wisdom from them. However, I take what is useful and leave what is extreme because it seems as though their days can be extremely planned. The problem is that having an overly organized life is that there is no room for God to show up. My life as the wife of a Senior Pastor is a little different than many women. It is not unusual for me to receive a phone call that requires me to drop whatever I am doing at the drop of a hat. My personality is to be very structured and completely plan each day. However, I've had to let some of that go because it's not a reality of life and especially not for women who want to be available to minister to people. I don't have to accomplish a list of 25 things today to be worthwhile. I don't have to organize 5 areas of my home or cook 10 freezer meals a day so that I can feel like superwoman. What happens is that my day becomes focused on the tasks rather than the purpose behind the organization which is to care for and enjoy my family. Before those of you are are naturally unorganized started cheering and letting yourself off the hook, the other extreme causes the same problems!  When I'm all out of sorts and completely overwhelmed because I don't know which way is up, I'm not going to be able to wholly love God or minister His love to those around me either. There is a huge benefit to having even a small amount of organization. It calms me and clears the chaos so that I'm able to simply enjoy, so that I'm free to love my God and delight in this blessed life He's given me. My prayer for this blog is simply that you are encouraged in your life as a woman. We were created to be loved by God and to love Him wholly in our everyday life. The purpose for this blog is to provide practical tools that may help you create that balance and to encourage you in becoming wholly healthy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Content Coming Soon!

I will be getting content posted over the next few days! Thank you for your patience!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012