Monday, December 5, 2011

Homeless for Christmas?

I've seen this image posted and reposted on facebook for a few weeks now... it tugs at my heart. It makes me sick to my stomach... And when I really examine myself, it brings tears to my eyes...

We are a nation of excess... despite these hard times we're in, which are the hardest my generation has ever faced, the restaurant parking lots are full, the Toy R Us lines are long, and the Christmas wish lists are even longer.

Many of us are scaling things back this year out of necessity. Everything is just more expensive this year! {anyone else notice the 20%+ hike in groceries?!?!} But there are many families in my own little world who aren't just struggling, but seriously hurting. Not just living on a tight budget, but living on nothing.

Every year we do something charitable at Christmas. In years past, we take the kids shopping to pick out a toy for the Toy for Tots campaign. It's been a good lesson for our kids. They want it, but they learn the joy of sacrifice. But this year I had to ask myself, what do hurting families really need? How can I do something that will teach them to fish, instead of just handing out fish?

Both acts of charity are necessary! You can't teach someone to fish on an empty stomach! But in the long run, what can I do that will impact another family and put them back on the road to self reliance.

I've been very blessed! In more ways than I can count! My husband and children are all safe and healthy! We have a roof over our heads and food in our cupboards. We have the love and support of extended family. And a faith that will take us through any storm!

What kind of person am I, if I take what I've been given, and bury it in the ground? Like the servants and the talents from the parable Jesus told.

{Matthew 25:14} 2 servants were smart and invested what was given to them. They were able to give back the Master more than was given to them. The 3rd servant, wasn't a total fool. He didn't gamble his talent away. He didn't want to loose it, so he buried it. Left it. And waited for the Master to return...

I'm no fool either {at least not usually after a cup of coffee}. I know better than to take what I've been given and waste it completely. But I do really identify with the servant who buried the talent. If he was able to make it grow, then he could have given the Master something more to use to bring about good things for others. If I'm able to take what God has given me {my talents, abilities, treasures, and time) and invest in others, I can do something that will really help someone who's in need...

Last week, my husband found a video on Youtube about homeless families in Florida, a place that's been one of the hardest hit in this recession. It really hit home... seeing good, hard working, families with nothing... just trying to make it to another day.

It pierced my heart.
How could I spend $100 just to fill the stockings of my 5 kids, when $100 could feed another family for a week!

So there's my heart... It's been weighing on me all weekend. I've been praying and asking the Lord, what He wants me to do. What He wants us to do!

After watching that youtube video, my husband had this wonderful crazy idea about spending the night in our car, to bring awareness to the difficulties of the homeless in our area. I'm putting all this in God's hands and asking him how he wants me to invest myself.

Maybe it is something as simple as giving a toy, He could somehow, use that small gift to affect a huge change in someones life.


Maybe He's calling me to something that would require a much more difficult outpouring of myself...

Either way, I can't wrap my heart around a bunch of stuff this year...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Business Saturday!

Now through Monday you can snag some incredible deals in my shop

Organic Mama's Shop

~One of a kind necklaces

~Design your own earrings!

~Big deals on bracelets

~and MORE!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Advent is my favorite season of the year!

If you ask the department stores, it's been Christmas for the past month already! I seriously went to find a last minute pair of angel wings at the store, but couldn't find them b/c they'd shoved all the Halloween stuff aside to make room for CHRISTMAS! Most would agree that's a bit early... But the majority of people I know, still celebrate Christmas before it's time!

Did you know that Christmas season doesn't end on Christmas Day, it STARTS on Christmas Day!

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation!
Isaiah 9:2 "The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great Light."
This little verse is our theme, so to speak, for Advent. We, like the people of the Old Testament, and like Mary and Joseph, are in darkness, waiting for, praying for, and longing for the birth of our savior and king! This season is a time to prepare our hearts and homes for the coming of God!

Are you ready??

No? Me neither ;) That's why I LOVE Advent! It's the perfect opportunity to slow down

...Wait?!? What?? Slow down!?! Don't you know it's almost Christmas!?! I still have a shopping list a mile long! Cookies to bake, ornaments to buy, relatives to visit, cards to write, address and mail out, gifts to make, parties to attend...... {THUD... this is the point where I fall over on the floor from exhaustion}

The crazy business that we always associate with this time of year, is NOT what God intends for us. This insane shopping, decorating, spending frenzy is a product of the world. Don't let that drag you down and wear you out this year! If you're worn out it's too hard to allow the simple beautiful truth of God becoming man, to really sink in and take root in our hearts...

Think about that for one moment...
God is so crazy about you, that he came down to Earth. Not only that, he came humbly... Not like a mighty warrior on bolt of lightning an peals of thunder, in the grand and magnificent splendor that is befitting of our Diving King. But instead His birth is a story of humility and simplicity, to be an example to us. To give us something very attainable. He didn't come flashing His awesome power to impress us or subdue us. He came in the most humble way possible! A very far cry from the scene that will take place on Friday, the day that most of the world sees as the start of the Christmas season...

So how do you prepare for the simple, humble coming of the King? Can you make this a season of patient expectation? Anyone who's ever waited for the birth of their own baby knows this feeling! {I know this feeling all to well! My babies are usually at least a week past their due dates!}

That feeling of growing anticipation is what should fill this season ;)

In a nutshell here's what we do! If you'd like more details about any of our traditions, just ask! I love to talk about them! But I don't want to overwhelm you with details. The best place to start is with simplicity. Err on the side of doing to little and add more as the years go on. THere are so many wonderful tradtions you could choose to do with your family, but none of it will do any good if you're overwhelmed and burnt out by Dec 1st! I can't overemphasize this START SMALL. There, was that enough emphasis for you? Probably not... You're probably like me ;) There's so much good stuff and you want it all for your family! But the years I've tried to do it all, I ended up overwhelmed and nothing comes together like I want. But years when I relax and let things fall into place without getting stressed, things, by the simple grace of God, fall into place!
Anywho... here's my MO for Advent...

~In our home, we put off all Christmas decorating, music, dress ect until Christmas Eve. I might string some purple ribbon (the color of the Liturgical Season) if I happen to fond something pretty on sale...
~We begin Advent by lighting our Advent Wreath. (Detailed post to follow)
~We also put up our little Jesse Tree. (Ditto..more info later)
~On Dec 6th we celebrate St Nicolas Day! After all, he's the real Santa. No fairy tale or childhood hoax here! In our house we know that St Nicolas is alive! After all, aren't we more alive than ever when we are born into Heaven? St Nicolas visits our home the eve of his feast day and fills their shoes with a few small gifts, gold coins {those gold colored dollar coins are perfect!}. Our children leave him milk and cookies and write him a letter. They let him know how they are preparing and ask him to pray (since he lives up there in Heaven with Jesus, he can just take a quick stroll to the throne room and let the Lord know their little petitions!) for them, that they might be well behaved enough to get the things they want on Christmas ;) And St Nick always writes them back! He tells them that they remind him of the Christ Child. And he also reminds each child specifically to work on their faults, be extra kind, and to pray and make small sacrifices in order to make their hearts more like Jesus heart. St. Nick promises to come back on Christmas to help the celebrate Jesus' birthday :)
We also go get our tree and put it up on St Nicolas Day, but we don't put anything on it yet!

~Dec 13th is St. Lucy Day! The story of St Lucy is rather gruesome... Her virtue is inspiring! But her life and death were very sad. So we do sort of gloss over the bloody details (gouging out eyeballs...), but we do enjoy her feast day by celebrating the Light of Christ which was all St. Lucy needed to see. Our oldest daughter and I wake up early to make cinnamon rolls. We wake the rest of the family by ringing bells and singing, calling them all to the table!
Since this is the festival of lights, we put our lights on the tree and outdoors (if we're feeling particularly ambitious that year)

~Christmas Eve, we go to Church with our family and come home and eat cookies, drink cocoa and decorate our tree. Then the kids go to bed and my husband and I drink a little Christmas wine and wrap gifts :) It's REALLY important to plan out this evening! Make sure naps are taken, early dinner is ready with time to spare, and that you know where all the shoes, tights, headbands, dresses, ties..... all are ahead of time. Nothing ruins the mood more than Monster Mommy scrambling to find odds and ends, and hollering at tired hungry kids to hurry up and get in the van so we can all celebrate the birth of Baby JESUS!!

I've found LOTS of resources that are helpful! Here are a few of my favorites! And please share anything you've found helpful...

Jesse Tree DVD from Holy Heroes - Great for busy Moms (me!)

Karen Edmisten's No Panic (super long!) Advent Post
- this is just about everything you could ever think of for Advent!

Discover the truth about St Nicolas - If you're in West Michigan, this museum is in Holland! We'll go there this year for the first time, but I hear it's well worth the trip!

Christmas to Candlemas - thinking ahead for the Christmas Season

Smart Martha's Advent Planner- She lays it ALL out for you on a simple calendar! Totally perfect! I also reccommend signing up for her newsletter! Packed with good stuff!
Catholic Icing- always has cute and simple art projects for every season!

Waltzing Matilda- beautiful coloring pages for many Saints including many that we celebrate during Advent!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Paint or not to paint...

Well, that's not really the question... The real question is what color? Bold? Classic? Muted? Vibrant? Dark and Rich? or Light and airy?

I must admit, while I am sorta crafty, I'm TERRIBLE at picking paint colors! I'm 0 for 3... Picked a bedroom color once b/c the name sounded great {something like Caribbean Breeze... sounds amazing to me!}... turned out to be more like Smurf Breath. Then when we were going to paint the kitchen when we moved into our old house, I picked out a beautiful green color, straight out of a Martha Stewart magazine... only I pointed to the wrong color on the little paint swatch... and ended up with 'Amazon River' instead. After such failures, I wanted to pick a simple beige for out stairwell and hall way. The painter handed me a fan deck and I pointed to the first tan-ish color that came up. Can't go wrong with a nice neutral tan, right? Ah... not so much... really more of a flesh tone than tan...

So you understand my trepidation! But when we moved in to our new house last year, I vowed that the white walls would GO! If you know me at all you know I'm not an 'understated' kinda gal. I love color! I love a vibrant room, that just begs to be lived in!

We painted our kitchen first ;)
For about 4 mos our wall looked like an old patchwork quilt! My husband {who's not much better at picking colors..ehem...Soldier Blue living room, really? again, the name sounded cool, I guess...}, discovered those neat little jars of paint samples!
After hemming and hawing for months, we finally decided to pull the trigger and paint it red. Not my favorite color, but it turned out really nice. Except for the fact that we didn't bother to prime the walls, and now you can scrape the paint off with your nail! Praise God for wainscoting!

So, we're finally going for it! The whole house (except the kitchen!) is getting painted starting next week! I'm SOOOOO excited, but now I'm staring at this little Pottery Barn fan deck and scratching my head...

Any suggestions?