by Misty Umholtz

A few days before Thanksgiving, my stress level hit an all-time high. It starts with a sign from my body that says, “Warning, Warning,” (with an imaginary flashing red light), “Stop whatever you are doing and do not move forward.” I get a headache that starts in my shoulders, goes up my neck and sends shooting pain into my head. That always means something is wrong.

This time last year, I had an infant, a toddler, I was heading up a ministry called MOPS and we were traveling to California for Christmas. I foreknew the holidays could possibly cause me to go over the edge. I wanted to enjoy my kids and my favorite time of year so I made a few decisions that would eliminate extra stress points.  I decided not to bake anything, not to host anything, not to send out Christmas cards and to only buy the kids one gift each. And you know what? We had a peaceful holiday season full of treasured memories.

This year I am not pregnant, I am not nursing, I am not leading a ministry and we are not traveling. I thought,” This is great!”  My 3-year-old daughter is already talking about Christmas, so I figured this is the year to start all the things I really want to do. Let’s line up the service projects, the parties and the decorations! Let the festivities begin!

After the third day with a headache, I called one of my mentors to help me figure out why I was getting stressed this early in the season. I told her I was hosting Thanksgiving at my house and my parents were coming in from California but that did not seem to be what was bothering me. The more we talked, the more she helped me get to the bottom of my problem. My calendar was already full. We had five Christmas party invites awaiting responses and we had three Sunday dinners scheduled in a row of which we were hosting two of them at our house and I was responsible for making dishes that I had never made before! Not to mention our Saturdays were booking up as well.

Just thinking about our schedule was making this secret introvert anxious.  I started eliminating whatever I could to clear my calendar. That meant asking a friend to host a dinner, moving another dinner to a restaurant, saying no to some parties and telling people what food I feel comfortable making.

I am breathing with ease now and my headache has disappeared. I think every year I will decide ahead of time what I can and cannot do to make sure I get to enjoy my family through this blessed season. Who wants holiday memories full of a stressed-out mommy anyways?

Maybe living in peace through the holidays is as simple as eliminating the things that stress us out in the first place.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Proverbs 14:30a

 

 

by Leslee Stewart

Looking for a few gift ideas this season? Here are a few of my favorite Christmas gifts to give that are all under $10.

For my friends, my cousin and my sister-in-law, I love to give a few of my favorite, inexpensive beauty finds from the drugstore. A few of my personal favorites include:

  • Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer – This is one of those items I can’t live without. It’s Burt’s Bees famous, all natural lip balm with a hint of color and shimmer. And it comes in some great colors. My favorite is Cocoa. Under $5.
  • Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Polish – I’m addicted to this stuff. I adore just about every color it comes in, but my favorite part is the extra wide brush. I can honestly paint my toes in one coat with this fabulous polish. And did I mention it’s quick dry, too? Under $5.
  • Sally Hansen Nail Effects – These are fun nail polish stickers that last forever! I wore these on my toes over the summer (prime flip-flop time in Florida), and easily got 3 weeks worth of wear out of them. They come in solid colors, but my favorites are the funky prints like leopard, flowers and the candy cane stripes for Christmas. Under $9.

For my neighbors and my kids’ teachers, I always try to whip up my favorite holiday bread recipe or homemade granola to pass out. Here are the recipes:

  • Banana cranberry nut bread from Southern Living. – Bake in small ceramic loaf pans available at Tuesday Morning or Homegoods. Wrap in an inexpensive holiday tea towel or printed cloth napkin. Tie with ribbon.
  • Golden honey granola from Country Living. – Package in inexpensive glass canisters from the dollar store. Tie with a ribbon and include the recipe printed on an index card.

A few of my other favorite inexpensive gifts include:

  • A small succulent plant or Christmas cactus from Home Depot or Lowes. Not a green thumb? Not to worry. These are the perfect plant for people who forget to water. So long as you place them in a spot with indirect light (like a windowsill), and water them every 2-3 weeks, they’ll thrive.
  • Note cards and decorative note pads. You can usually find a great selection of these for under $10 at Homegoods, Tuesday Morning and Target.
  • Board games and puzzles. My kids love to play games and right now Target has classic board games like Operation, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land marked down to $8 or less. Also, card games like Uno, Phase 10, SkipBo and Go Fish are great and under $10. I also like to give them the 48-piece character puzzles, which can often be found at TJ Maxx.
  • Mini flashlight, screwdriver, tape measure. You can pick up some great stocking stuffers for the guy in your life at Lowes. This time of year they usually have bins in the front of the store with small gadgets for under $10. One of my husband’s favorites was a $5 mini screwdriver that had interchangeable tips stored in the end cap. We keep it in our kitchen for quick fix projects.

 

Today’s post comes from Kim Weizycki, who wrote a review of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

It is a season of Thanksgiving. A time when we more consciously voice our gratitude. But can we practice this kind of gratitude daily, 365 days a year, even without the turkey and the trimmings?  Author and self-proclaimed, “wife to The Farmer, mama to six, determined laundress, chief bottle washer, and desperate Grace-clinger,” Ann Voscamp says, “yes,” and shows you how she does it.  With her journal and a pen.

Mrs. Voscamp’s book One Thousand Gifts is a gift to the soul. She shares intimate details of her tragic losses and fears… anger and redemption.  And she does it through writing that can only be described as if it was painted on the pages with the most brilliant colors and brushes available to a writer. 

“My tongue has had a razor edge and my eyes have rolled haughty and my neck has been stiff and graceless and I have lived the filth ugly, an idolater, a glutton, and a grace-thief who hasn’t had time for thanks.” (p. 115)

She tackles the question: What does it mean to live full of grace? To live fully alive?  Especially when you feel empty?  She recognizes the sin of ingratitude and does something proactive about it.

The emphasis of the book is on one word: eucharisteao, or “charis” meaning “grace.” Grace, meaning thanksgiving and joy.  A humble gratitude.  She beautifully illustrates when Jesus has shown His grace to us. She shows us how Christ broke his heart to heal ours and how his grace never ends.  And in that revelation, her journaling of the gifts begins…

“…windmills droning in a day’s last breeze” (p.48)

“…long, lisped prayers” (p. 49)

“…washing the warm eggs” (p.52)

“…bedsheets in blowing winds” (p. 53)

“…forgiveness of a sister” (p.82)

“…kettle whistling for tea on a cold afternoon” (p 82)

1000 gifts. Naming the moments she is grateful for helps the author live fully the life God means for her to live. And that gift is for us, too. Slow down, see God in EVERYTHING, give thanks, NAME the gifts.

“They say time is money, but that’s not true. Time is life. And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time.” –Ann Voskamp

You can read more about Ann Voncamp on her blog at www.onethousandgifts.com.

 

 

by Julie Jaunese

In the late 1970s, the economy was much like it is today. Unemployment was high and people were struggling to make ends meet.

My husband and I owned our own business at the time. He also went to college at night. Despite working so hard and so many hours every week, times were tough for our family. It got to a point that one day I had to pray that God would supply the food we needed to eat that day. We had plenty of venison in the freezer, so meat wasn’t an issue. We didn’t have store bought meat at that time. We really couldn’t afford it.

This particular morning I realized I didn’t have anything to put with the meat. I had used everything else I had in the way of fruit, eggs, veggies, cereal, pasta, potatoes. Everything was gone. I had flour and sugar in the cupboard but nothing to put with it to make anything edible. This is a frightening thing for a mom with two little girls that needed to be fed. Baking my own bread had become my way of releasing stress, but I was all out of yeast.

I was also embarrassed to tell anyone how desperate we were, so I took all of the “talking to God” on my own shoulders. I didn’t call anyone else to help or to pray with me. It was God and me. When my husband left for work that morning, I began crying out to God. I told him I didn’t know what we were going to do. I knew the Bible said he wouldn’t have his people begging for bread, but we didn’t have any bread. I needed to feed my children and I knew that He loved them even more than I did, so he would need to provide our food.

About two hours later I received a call from our pastor’s wife. She said that someone had called her that morning and said that God had told her in the summer months to can twice the food she would normally can and when the time came, God would tell her where she was to take the food. Today was the day.

That morning God told her to call Babs, our pastor’s wife. The woman told Babs that God hadn’t told her who the food was to go to, only that Babs would take care of it. Babs told me that at first she didn’t know who the food was to be taken to. But when the woman told her there wasn’t any meat, only fruits and vegetables, Babs immediately knew it was for our family.

Julie snapped photos of her pantry after having it miraculously filled with canned goods.

When Babs arrived she brought boxes of canned fruits and vegetables along with frozen vegetables that filled our freezer. I was in awe as I put the jars on the shelves. It was amazing as I stood back and looked. God had known 6 months before this day that I would be crying out to him on this date and at this time. He had planned ahead for me by prompting this woman to can extra food. He didn’t provide Del Monte or Green Giant, which would have been great. He provided food that was home canned with love.

Why is this story important to you? It is important because we all have times when we are alone with our burden. We don’t always need to be on a prayer list or share our burden with someone else. God is there for each of us individually. He wants you to call on him. He is ready to provide.

With Thanksgiving only a couple days away, we sat down with the GFC Beautiful staff to find out about a few of their favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

What is your favorite food at Thanksgiving?
Kristin Bonham: Stuffing
Paige Eavenson: Turkey and green bean casserole
Vivian Germain: Pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole
Marilyn Hinders: Turkey and dressing
Alexandra Hoeneggar: My mom’s carrots
Leslee Stewart: Pumpkin pie

What is a special tradition your family has on Thanksgiving?
Kristin Bonham:  Going around the table and saying what we’re thankful for. Eating way too much and napping while watching football.
Paige Eavenson: Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and going to Busch Gardens after lunch.
Marilyn Hinders: To invite all our friends and neighbors who don’t have family to join us for a 2 p.m. dinner.
Alexandra Hoeneggar: Baked apples and cranberries.
Leslee Stewart: We always make a new sweet potato recipe each year. My favorite was this recipe for Sweet Potato Cups from Southern Living.

What was your most memorable Thanksgiving?
Kristin Bonham:  When we were in Tennessee eating turkey looking out the window at wild turkeys.
Marilyn Hinders: One year in Germany, when our children were babies, we had 25 military friends over for Thanksgiving and it was the best ever!
Vivian Germain: My most memorable Thanksgiving was in 1999. That was the year I moved here from Colombia and celebrated my first Thanksgiving.
Leslee Stewart: My most memorable Thanksgiving was spending the holiday in New York City with close friends and seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person. Definitely one of those “life lists” things!

What’s your favorite way to prepare Thanksgiving leftovers?
Kristin Bonham:  Turkey sandwiches with cranberries on them.
Paige Eavenson: Making sandwiches out of the leftover turkey and ham.
Marilyn Hinders:
Turkey and rice casserole.
Alexandra Hoeneggar: A turkey sandwich.
Vivian Germain:
I don’t have a special way. Sometimes my husband makes me a delicious turkey sandwich with them.
Leslee Stewart: Turkey pot pie.

Do you shop on Black Friday?
Kristin Bonham:  Sometimes…If my daughter, Abby, will go with me for comic relief.
Paige Eavenson: Yes.
Marilyn Hinders: No…no…no!
Alexandra Hoeneggar: Yes!
Vivian Germain:
Absolutely NOT, I can’t imagine going shopping that early in the morning.
Leslee Stewart: No way. I value my sleep too much!

What are you thankful for?
Kristin Bonham:  Spending time with the ones I love.
Paige Eavenson: Living close to my parents and having family to celebrate with.
Marilyn Hinders: I am thankful for my amazing family and especially my husband, my children and my grandchildren!
Alexandra Hoeneggar: I am thankful for all God is doing in my life. He has blessed me with wonderful friends, family, mentors, and my church!
Vivian Germain: I am thankful for my husband and my children.
Leslee Stewart: I’m thankful for this time in my life, and the gift of being a wife and a mother.