Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus

As Christmas approaches it can be a challenge to focus on Jesus, the real reason for celebrating. God showed His love in such an amazing way. He became a human, lived, suffered and died in our place. Miraculously He rose again and wants to live in relationship with us!

I wrote Christmas is About Jesus: An Advent Devotional to help my family focus on Jesus in a busy season, a busy culture, that is often sending conflicting messages about what we are doing, or should be doing, and why. The links below are to posts I have done in the past that can enhance use of the devotions in the book or help you focus on Jesus even if you don’t have the book.

Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season!


Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus Preparing to Prepare

Preparing for Christmas can take on a life of its own. Some where in my past I became convinced that Christmas had to be “prefect”. Trouble is I wasn’t even sure what prefect was, I just knew I wasn’t, my home wasn’t, my children weren’t. So here’s this hoped for “prefect” season that does nothing but magnify my failings and I’m trying to sell my children the idea that Christmas is about Jesus.

Christmas 2012 snowI am very grateful God walked me through this when my children were young. I didn’t want to model Christmas being about stress and unattainable perfection on any level. I wanted to live that Christmas was about Jesus, not just say so. I will not say I have arrived. I go through the process I am going to lay out for you every year. Some years I do better than others. Some days I do better than others.

Here’s my process for preparing to prepare for Christmas.

Evaluate expectations: Are my expectations from God?
I create a great amount of stress for myself if I do not take the time to sort through what I am really expecting of Christmas. For me it’s a whole season, not a day. I am naturally idealistic. So I recognize my dreams and expectations and take them to God. What is doable this year? What is most important? Thankfully I can let many things go when we have this conversation. Time with Him and time with family are really all I want. Everything else is fluff. Fluff is okay as long as there is no stress attached.

Evaluate traditions. Does this bring God glory?

When I began having children I looked at every Christmas tradition through this lens. Does this give God glory? If I could not see a way it brought God glory I modified it or threw it out.
CIAJ slideThis is actually where my first book, Christmas Is about Jesus, was born. I wanted to do the advent calendar where there is a window to open each day. I wanted it to be more than counting down days until presents. Everywhere we went we were bombarded with things that have nothing to do with Jesus coming to bring us salvation. So I wrote the daily devotions to point us to Jesus each day and made ornaments so my children would have something to “open” each day. The ornaments also helped us talk about the devotion throughout the day. We usually hung them where we could see them from the table.
I am not saying fun activities like gingerbread houses or games are out. God loves families. He loves families enjoying each other and making memories. For me activities like pretending Santa was real were out.

Ask kids what makes Christmas special to them.

A few years ago while I was stressing over all the baking, decorating, making gifts, and whatever else was in my ideal Christmas that year God inspired me to ask the kids what made Christmas special to them. Their list was short and totally doable. It made letting my list go much easier. They wanted to look at Christmas lights, go to Gramma’s, and make gingerbread houses. Gifts at Gramma's
Now every year I ask after Thanksgiving and we schedule what’s most important to each of us. Anything else that happens is extra. Way less stress. Way more time for peace, the Prince of Peace.
What do you do to prepare to prepare for Christmas?

Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus Week 2

Our first week of Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus did not go as planned, or more accurately, as pictured in my head. I really neglected to plan.

We missed more devotions than we read.
We were far from having peace in our house the beginning of the week.
We spent 3 days focused on a new truck.
What I picture – what I long for, is quiet moments – hours, with the Lord in front of a beautiful tree and candle light. There it is easy to focus on Jesus.
I realized last night that with less than 3 weeks until Christmas we are not ready. AT ALL. No gifts. No plans. Almost no preparation. There has been no quiet contemplation in the peaceful setting I desire.
It has been better – though I didn’t realize it until this morning.
My husband plows snow for extra income. We don’t count on it but in the midst of our God Sized Project extra is good. He feels a strong sense of responsablity to his customers. They count on him. So when it snowed at the beginning of the week and the old faithful plowtruck barely limped through the plowing it was more than a little stressful. Our mechanic didn’t even want to hear the  truck had been on the road at all much less on a regular basis. Needless to say it is not worth fixing right now.
I share that because the search for a new truck brought the blessings and focus on Jesus that I had not planned.
The whole family together in a new level of transparency and connectedness prayed for God’s direction and provision.
I followed my husband in praying, declaring, and praising in a way we never have before. Since finding the truck we were blessed with His praise has not left our lips.
We were/are busy finding the truck, taking care of paperwork and getting it ready to plow but our focus is on Jesus. Amazed again and again at His goodness.
Blessings sometimes come wrapped in strange packaging. I am blessed with eyes to see the gift inside.
What unexpected packages have come your way?
Is there a way God can use them to turn your focus to Him and His promises?

Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus

December 1st.
The day to start counting down to the celebration of Jesus birth.
We didn’t start off so well. The book and ornaments only came in this afternoon.
Attitudes amongst the natives were far from festive this morning.

Preparing to decorate

My daughter worked hard to begin the transformation. Maybe next year I’ll be more organized, better disciplined or whatever it is I’m lack so I can enjoy doing it with her instead of directing her while I’m busy with other things like school, making dinner, or blog posts.

We're getting closer

I really do want to focus on Jesus.
His sacrifice.
His humility.
His love.
For me.


We’ll read our devotion tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll ask the kids for their top Christmas wishes. I started this a few years ago when I was overwhelmed by my wish for a “perfect” Christmas. I asked what traditions were important to them, if there were any new ideas and we just focus on everyone’s top thing. If we get to more- bonus! I intended to ask this morning, but like I said, it was less than festive here…

How are you preparing to celebrate Jesus?
How is it going?

Resting in Celebrating

It’s the week before Christmas and all is at rest. 
Wouldn’t that be lovely? To rest in this beautiful time of year? 
I really enjoy sitting on the couch with only the Christmas tree lights on, preferably white. This year they set up the tree so we can plug in colored, white or both! Mostly only the white get plugged in. I think I have won my children over from colored. This seems so peaceful to me. How often do I take the time to rest and enjoy my tree? Not often enough, the list of things to do is too long. Who still needs gifts? What will the gifts be? What about the annual Christmas letter? Gifts to send to family far away should be gone already and they’re not done either.
It is a struggle to rest in the midst of all these extra demands. I’m getting better about not caring if I meet expected timelines. It would be nice to be one time, but I may have to be okay with being late. It’s better than being stressed. Every year I let go of a little more. Next year we’ve been talking about simplifying even more. Rest has to be important enough to make time and room for.  That means other things have to be adjusted, reduced or even eliminated.  
I also realized this morning I have not been taking time to meditate on the richness of God’s gifts to me. We often say God’s greatest gift was Jesus being born. That is really only the beginning of the story. All the wonderful gifts God has for us are only possible because Jesus followed the plan through death to be resurrected and glorified.
How lost do His great gifts to us become in the midst of all the holiday traditions and demands? In trying to prepare gifts and treats I am missing out on rest, not just because I’m busy, my mind is not at rest. I am missing out on the reason I say we are celebrating. I struggle not to lose Jesus in the holiday preparations.
Jesus came and that changed everything. 
It’s worth celebrating.
It is worth so much more than celebrating.
It’s worth changing for, living for, dying for.
He did. 
Will I? 
Will you?

Eternal Encouragement FREE!

Lorrie Flem, founder of Gabby Moms and Eternal Encouragement has a gift for you this Christmas. Her wonderfully encouraging, colorful magazine is going digital and it’s free! You can read and share all you want in December because it’s free! I hope you’ll take the opportunity to read this holiday issue and see if it is an encouragement for you. Articles are written by real moms who love Jesus. Many of the advertisers are moms as well. 

It is in a new format and it is FREE….you read that right FREE!!!!
To view it go to and click on the button that looks like this:
Inline image 1 
Please read, be encouraged and share with other women who could use some encouragement, too.

Schedule and Plan for Rest

Are your holiday plans well under way or running away?
To have rest at any time of the year we have to plan and prioritize. Even more so at Christmas. Make sure to plan in some rest. Also be sure to make a full inventory of all you intend to do. What preparation is involved? How many resources – not only money – time & emotions, too.  List EVERYTHING involved, every step in it’s entirety.
Now the reality check. Can you actually do everything on your list? Do you have enough of every kind of resource to pull it off? Another question, do you want to use all those resources? Do you have any reserves?
In the past I have failed in many steps of this planning. Every year I continue to simplify and learn to be more realistic in my planning, in understanding what it will really take to pull off my plans. As an example for many years it was a tradition to make gingerbread houses with two other families. A great day for everyone involved. For the planning though it was not just the day on the calendar. There had to be the rearranging of school plans. How long does it take to get snow gear for three children? What about lunch? A special trip to the store for candy we do not keep around the house but need for our project. This is a great tradition and worth all the effort, I just sometimes forget to plan all the parts I need to plan. It goes better when I remember.
It may be that when you really look at what goes in to some of your holiday plans you will decide you either do not have or do not want to use your resources that way. You may want some time to rest so you can have a better attitude toward your family in this “holly, jolly” season.
Question: How is your planning going?
Challenge: Do your holiday plans include rest? Do they focus on Jesus? 
An invitation: During December I’m posting Countdown to Christmas. Focus on Jesus. At myFocus on Jesus blog. I hope you’ll stop by for a quick note of encouragement.
Christmas Blessing: You can still enter for the $320 prize money until December 11, 2012. There are many great blogs sharing in the blessing. Read and enter on them all!

Rest in the Holiday Season

Rest: v
3. To be quiet or still: to be undisturbed.
5. To be quiet or tranquil, as the mind; not to be agitated by fear, anxiety or other passion.
11. To be satisfied
12. To lean; to trust; to rely;
13. To continue fixed.
16. To abide; to remain with.
17. To be calm or composed in mind.
Definitions from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Does this sound like your holiday season? Unfortunately it often doesn’t sound like mine. I want it to, though. I want to be undisturbed, tranquil. Not agitated! No fear. No anxiety. Satisfied – that’s a big one. How much rest and peace are lost because we are unsatisfied with our looks, house, clothes or cooking skills? Way too much in my house. Only when I remember to lean, trust and rely do I have rest. And no comparing! Comparing destroys satisfaction and therefore our rest as well.
By continuing fixed, abiding in the Prince of Peace I can be calm have a composed mind (I really have to work on that one). I can have rest. I can rest. So can you.
I posted Monday about Resting in the Holy One. I talked about planning my Holidays with God and my family.
Here’s what we came up with:
I am resting in remembering. We are using Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Journey to remember the wonderful story of God’s love and redemption. We are also reading Christmas is About Jesus: An Advent Devotional to remember Jesus in the midst of the commercialism and different ideas we encounter in our culture.
We are choosing one baking project per week – some fun but not too much to achieve (I hope).
I want time for Jesus more than ever, more than anything.
Putting up the tree. Driving to look at Christmas lights. A few favorite foods. That’s all my children wanted. Simple. I’m thankful. 🙂
 I’ll be posting something, though I’m not sure what exactly for my annual Countdown to Christmas, Focus on Jesus.
More on that tomorrow or Friday.
Be sure to check out and enter the Christmas Blessing! Details and participating blogs.

Rest in the Holy One During the Holy Days

>Our culture is so busy. Expectations are so high. Holidays seem to magnify everything. Holidays in themselves are not the problem. God set up days for Israel to remember. They were holy days. (See where we got holidays, and perhaps went wrong). Holy is set apart, different, special. The days were to remember Him, His goodness, His deliverance, and His promises.

It is so easy today to get wrapped up in the preparations, the presentations, and appearances. If you go to the store, look at magazines, get on Pintrest everyone seems to have better ideas and everything more together. Do you post your every reality online or do you post your best? Most everyone is posting their best for you to compare to.
I have a challenge for myself this holiday season. You are welcome to share it. See I wrote this book called Christmas is About Jesus. I wrote it because I believe it’s true. Yet every year after the black and orange and skeletons finally leave the stores, replaced with the sparkle and lure of Christmas I get discouraged. I have some ideal so deep inside I don’t even know what all it involves about Christmas. I want a big tree, I want peace, and I want fun, baking, games, and gifts treasured by the receivers. In there I also want the perfect house and quiet conversations on the couch lit only by the peaceful white lights on the tree. None of these things I want are wrong. Somehow without me knowing they become too important. Looking at the decorations in the stores or on Pintrest fill me with a miserable longing and feeling of failure. I have to ask myself, “If Christmas is about Jesus why am I affected so much by decorations?” 
So my challenge is to do with my holidays what I have started doing with every day. I’m asking God what is important to Him. What does he want me to get done? Of course the top of the list is remembering His deliverance and blessings. How will I do that this year? I’ve only started asking.
 In past years I’ve done different things: choosing to express thanks for each decoration display I see, enjoying the beauty where I see it. Asking the children what is important to them and getting it scheduled.
This year I think my method has been to avoid. Not a good choice. So I will take my challenge and plan my holidays with God this year. He doesn’t care what I do or don’t make for dinner or from scratch. He has no requirements on how extensively or simply my home is decorated. He wants me to prepare my heart. Do I cherish the gifts He gave me in Jesus so long ago? Do I cherish the gifts he has placed in my home that I – theoretically at least – would be trying to make Christmas so special for?
I challenge myself and you to have holy days this year instead of just holidays
How can you simplify? 
What is not realistic this year? 
What will you do to remember, recall, and recite?
Ask God, your husband and children what matters most to them, you may be surprised.
Woman to Woman Ministries presents the Christmas Blessing Giveaway!  Join thirty-two bloggers for ideas and advice on how to remain peaceful in a stressful season.
In addition to sweet encouragement on keeping the peace in your home and heart, we are giving away a blessing of $320 in PayPal cash.  The winner will have the money transferred to their PayPal account where they can use it for Christmas celebrations, groceries, bills, whatever they need.  To enter to win simply complete all of the tasks in the rafflecopter below. 

Participating Blogs…Please help support these wonderful bloggers!

1.      Woman to Woman Ministries
2.      Sweet Blessings
3.      Treasures Found in Him
4.      Leaving a Legacy
5.      Kelly Martin Stories
6.      Happy Little Homemaker
7.      The Encouraging Home
8.      Christian Women’s Voice
9.      Beautiful in Him
10.  A Simple Life, Really?!
11.  Managing Your Blessings
12.  Thankful Homemaker
13.  For Unmarried Christian Women
14.  The Chuppies
15.  Homemaker by Choice
16.  Leaving a Legacy
17.  Love, Friendship, & All Things Girly
18.  Simply Audra Marie
19.  Young Wife’s Guide
20.  A Biblical Marriage
21.  Becoming a Strong Woman of God
22.  Unmarried
23.  CSAHM
24.  Renewing Housewives
25.  Mothers on Mission
26.  Awakened Anew
27.  The Father Knows Best
28.  Our Simple Farm
29.  So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler
30.  Getting It Right – Occasionally
31.  Only A Breath
32.  Kove’s Blog

Christmas Blessing Giveaway Rules:
No purchase necessary.  Must be 18 to enter.  Void where prohibited by law.  This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or associated by Facebook.  By entering this giveaway, you agree to release Facebook, Woman to Woman Ministries and all participating blogs of all liability.  Contest ends at 12:01am EST on Tuesday, December 11, 2012.  Winner is randomly chosen by Rafflecopter and will be emailed on December 11, 2012, then funds will be transferred to winner’s PayPal account.