Friday, September 29, 2017

Your Fall Checklist for Less Stressful Holidays




It’s officially fall, which means shorter days and cooler temperatures. Yay! October 1st begins the last quarter of the year, can you believe it? We’re just over a month away from Halloween and then it’s full swing into the holidays.

As I’ve been looking at my calendar and thinking over my own holiday plans, I thought I’d share with you a checklist of things to help you prepare for all of the fun of fall and the holidays. A little preparation and planning can help your family to really enjoy these last months of the year.

Talk It Out Together: The most important item is discussing the items below with your family. Talk about what’s really important to each member of the family. Sometimes we think we know what’s important to someone, but tastes and opinions change, so it’s important to seek input regularly.

Figure Out Halloween Costumes: Give your kids a deadline to decide what they’d like to dress up as, the earlier the better! If you decide during the first week or two of October, you’ll be able to shop and price compare their costumes. If you have to order online, you’ll have enough time to pay for standard shipping instead of expedited. If you’ll be making costumes, starting early will give you a chance to find supplies and have ample time to complete the project. Nothing takes the joy out of something like feeling frustrated under a time crunch.

Plan Your Fall Activities: There are so many family-friendly events that go on during the fall: football games, apple-picking, pumpkin patches, fall festivals, Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, to name a few. What would your family most like to attend? Look at your calendar and decide on the events that work best with your family’s taste, schedule and budget in mind. If events require tickets, get them early; sometimes the price is less and you have less risk of it selling out.

Start Packing Operation Christmas Child Boxes: This is such an awesome holiday service project to do with your family! For less than a family dinner out, you can give a gift-filled shoe box (or two) to an impoverished child. You can even track the country your box is delivered to when you print an online label. Visit Operation Christmas Child for more details. Collection week begins November 13th.

Figure Out Where You’ll Spend Thanksgiving: Again, the earlier the better on this, especially if you’re buying airline tickets or booking a hotel, as the prices increase the closer it is to Thanksgiving.

Start Your Christmas Gift List and Shop: As of today, we’re 87 days away from Christmas! It’s going to sneak up quickly. If you start your gift list, you can find items on sale and purchase them ahead of time, which will give you more free time come December. If you plan to make or buy customized gifts online, you can beat the holiday rush. If you haven’t yet budgeted for Christmas gifts, start doing so now so that you can pay cash for gifts instead of charging them. (Don’t forget your kids’ friends and teachers on your gift list.) Decide as a family who you can buy gifts for and for whom you’ll make homemade treats.

Take Your Christmas Photo: Fall is a great time for outdoor photo sessions. Research photographers and get a session booked. You’ll have ample time for ordering prints or Christmas cards.

Figure Out Where You’ll Spend Christmas: At least start the discussion, so that you can get the best deals by booking travel early.

Plan Your December Activities: The month of December can get filled up really fast, so make sure to update your family calendar regularly. If you do an Advent calendar with your kids, start planning activities or buying treats when they’re on sale. Again, talk about the activities that are important to your family: putting up the Christmas tree and lights, Christmas parties, baking, skiing, snowboarding, concerts, the Nutcracker Ballet or theater, etc., and find a healthy balance of doing what you love and leaving white space for spontaneity and relaxed family time.

I hope you found this little checklist helpful! Planning ahead of time can truly help us enjoy, not just survive, the busy holiday season to come. Having extra margin can help us stay focused on what matters most: faith, family and friends.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Voices



 Have you ever had a divine appointment—a time when God planned for you to meet up someone you needed in that moment or season of your life? Maybe it was someone who stopped to help you when your car broke down. Or maybe it was someone who had expertise or encouragement to help you in an area of struggle.

This has happened to me several times over the past month or so: God allowed me to cross paths with someone I needed to connect with in this season.

We had a wonderful conversation last week and I can already see how she is helping to challenge me and grow me. One of the things we talked about were some of my fears and doubts and how they hold me back from fully living out God’s calling upon my life.

Later, as I drove to meet my husband for lunch—it hit me: these voices of fear and doubt are the wrong voices to listen to! I give them entirely too much time and attention. I also realized that these voices are tools Satan uses to distract and limit me from being who God designed me to be. I don’t know why I hadn’t ever connected that before!

Do you struggle with these voices too? Voices that tell you thoughts like these:  You’re not enough. What will people think of you? Who do you think you are, trying to achieve _____________? You’re too much, people think you’re too needy. Since no one is responding, it must mean they don’t like you. You’re not meant to do this. Did God really call you to do _______?

I hear them too. And often.

But the more we focus on these voices, the more they’re going to limit us from being the women God created us to be! So instead, let’s focus on the voice that matters—God’s!

I speak to a lot of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and this year their theme is “Free Indeed.” Love this! One of the three principles they’re focusing on is “Let Love be the Loudest Voice.” This week, I keep repeating that phrase over and over in my mind and here’s why: God is love.

When we let Love be the loudest voice, it’s God’s voice we’re hearing. That’s the voice that deserves our utmost time and attention.

So when we hear those negative voices, let’s silence them with God’s truths about us and the plans He has for us! Let’s pay attention to His voice above all others.

P.S.
The day after I realized I had been allowing the wrong voices to influence me, I had a circumstance arise when I listened to the wrong voices yet again. It resulted in a very epic mom fail. Head over to my FB page today where I’ll share the story with you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Don't Quit!




If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen that we’ve been renovating our house. We started mid-June and are still going. We hired a few things out, but we’ve done most of the work ourselves along with help from some great friends, so thankful for them!

We’re to the point now where we see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’ve definitely had some overwhelming moments:

  • My husband took a month off work so we could tackle this project. We were also glad it coincided with the kids’ summer break, but that was more challenging than we anticipated. They were home and needed our attention, so we couldn’t work as quickly as we planned. My daughter had swim team practices and meets. Family came to town. We went out of town. We had a lot of life going on outside the project.
  • ALL. THE. DUST. We removed old tile and it made our entire house so so dusty. I spent many hours cleaning and still have some high areas to reach.
  • While our cabinets were being painted, the hallway to our children’s bedrooms was entirely blocked off for two days. We packed up and spent the night at my mom’s house.
  • Last month we removed the toilet from the kids’ bathroom to remove the old tile and it sat in our backyard for about a week because we thought we could finish tiling quickly. We managed with only one bathroom until my mother-in-law came to visit, so we called someone to reinstall it the day she arrived. We just finished tiling that bathroom this past weekend, haha!
  • Our stove was in our garage for about a month, which means we ate out almost every day. I usually love eating out because it means I don’t have to cook, but it did get old after a while. When we didn’t eat out, it was microwave meals, PBJs or Ramen Noodles.
  • We had to pull up a bunch of tiles that didn’t adhere correctly because the mortar dried out too quickly. It took hours and hours and created more dust.

All this to say that it was tempting to just quit when things got tough. It was tempting to get mad and walk away and just leave things as they were—ripped apart and half done.

But that would mean the vision and plans we had for the house wouldn’t come to fruition. The potential of what the house could be would never be realized.

I think it’s the same with us, friends.

God has grand plans and a vision for our lives. But when His plan overwhelms us or gets difficult, we can be tempted to walk away from it and settle for what feels comfortable. We decide we’re okay with half done.

But then we’d be missing out on all that could be! We’d miss out on all the blessings, growth and opportunities that He will provide when we persevere.

Here’s a picture of my kitchen at the beginning, the overwhelming stage and here’s a picture of where it is now (about 85% finished): 


It shows me so clearly the importance of perseverance, not just in this renovation project, but in all other aspects of my life.

Galatians 6:9 NLT says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

So friend, if you’ve been discouraged to quit lately, don’t give up! Blessings are awaiting you. Persevere so you don’t miss out on them! I’m cheering for you.

“The one who has called you is faithful, and he will do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24