Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas Thoughts: On What’s Important

6 Dec

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is watch cheesy Christmas movies. Lifetime and the Hallmark channels are gold mines for these, but we don’t have cable. Luckily, Netflix has quite a few of these movies too – and most of them, I haven’t seen before.

Like all cheesy movies, the plot lines for each movie are pretty similar. There’s the guy or girl who has gotten sucked into living for fame, money, or success, and lost sight of what truly matters (friends, family, true love). They end up having an experience that lasts only a few days (whether it’s going to their hometown, seeing an old flame, spending time with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to) and it reminds them of all that they’ve forgotten. They have a change of heart, make things right, and the movie ends. Aw, so happy.

I think the reason why stories like that appeal to me is because at my core, what I really want is to slow down and connect in meaningful ways with those around me.

Instead, I far too often prioritize the things I can check off my to-do list or the things our society says are valuable.

The Christmas season is full of fun activities — baking cookies, mailing and receiving cards, singing in or attending concerts, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and home, and viewing light displays. And there’s this notion that enjoying the season to the full means Doing Stuff.

Doing Stuff at Christmas time is fun, but not when it comes at the price of your sanity, health or relationships. How many years have I let my to-do list and grand plans of festivities set the agenda and stress me out? Too many.

So the past couple of years, I have been earnestly trying to let go of my perfect plans for the holidays — even the spiritual ones like our Jesse Tree — and instead focus on walking in step with God. This means a few things for me practically:

1) I declare that nothing is necessary.

I don’t have to bake cookies. We don’t have to put lights up outside. We don’t have to attend a holiday concert, lights show or go sledding.

If we have the time and desire to bake cookies, great. If we forget the dough has to be refrigerated after being made and then we try to speed things up by freezing it which just makes the cookies impossible to roll out for cookie cutters, we can just bake them normally.

Or if we plan on tromping out into the middle of the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree but everyone gets the flu Thanksgiving weekend so we end up buying one from Menards again, that’s ok.

When inconveniences and setbacks happen, I take them as hints from God to slow down and look around, and to remind myself, “Embrace slowing down. Embrace doing less. Embrace life as it really is.” Christmas festivities are fun, but what really matters is who you do them with.

2) I say no when I need to.

It’s hard for me to say no to fun things. Especially around the holidays. Especially when a bunch of my friends are going. I was invited to a cookie exchange this year but I know that making that many cookies will stress me out. So I declined.

I also have “said no” to social media for the months of November and December this year. I plan to do a separate post on this in January but for now, I will say that it has been so. refreshing. to just BE with my family instead of being distracted by notifications of what others have posted, or by what moments in my day are “worthy” of social media. I am most likely going to return to Facebook and Instagram in January, but my involvement will be very decreased from before.

3) I prioritize the right things.

My three most important roles in this season of life are, in order: follower of Christ, wife, mom. I am a firm believer that when I spend time with God in the morning, play with my girls instead of just moving them from babysitter to babysitter while I get stuff done and connect with my husband at night instead of getting stuff done or going straight to bed, I am a happier person. My to-do list has to include quality time with those I love, not just tasks I accomplish in a flurry of activity.

But this is real life so do I always prioritize quality time like I should? No. I get sucked into what I call “task mode.” I hate quitting a project in the middle so I stay up too late, or let the girls fend for themselves (with supervision). But I don’t beat myself up for failing; I just begin again. Everyday, every moment is a chance to do things right, to live how I really want to live.

Swimming against the tide, of both society and my natural tendencies, will require a concerted effort. But it’s worth it. Because just like those cheesy Christmas movies show, we lose out on life when we lose sight of what’s most important.

Being a Thoughtful Valentine

14 Feb

One of the things that I took away from the marriage conference Travis and I attended at our church back in January was that as a loving wife, I should desire to do more thoughtful things for my husband. So I’ve aimed to view this Valentine’s Day (and every other holiday, whether cheesy or not) through that lens.

One thing that has always hindered me from doing romantic, thoughtful things every year is the feeling that “Well, I can’t top that…so I might as well not try!” For example, last year on Valentine’s Day, I took Travis snowshoeing up in the mountains, then we went to a natural spa in Glenwood Springs, and then I made a delicious dinner at home (though the dinner ended up being the day after Valentine’s Day because we got home so late from the mountains). The raspberry-chocolate angel food cake I made for dessert last year was one of the best desserts I ever made. It was quite a bit of work, but oh so worth it. You can find it here. Needless to say, after a Valentine’s like that, I felt like I had my work cut out for me.

The same goes for Travis’ birthdays. Two years ago, I surprised Travis with Avs tickets (and they were playing the Wild!) and a birthday party with our friends downtown Denver. This past year, I was at a loss. What do I do now? I’m running out of good ideas! And frankly, I’m out of energy. I kept asking Travis what he wanted to do for his birthday but he doesn’t make a big deal out of them (the opposite of me!) so he just hemmed and hawed, “I don’t know…” We tried to go bowling but the lanes weren’t open for free bowling until 10:30 pm on a work night. So I made him an angel food cake and we went out to dinner but that was about it.

The marriage conference helped me realize that I don’t need to continue “topping” the past year’s holidays/birthdays. I would probably run out of ideas and I would definitely run out of money. Rather, what matters is being thoughtful and doing things (whether for them or with them) the other person would enjoy. So that’s why this Valentine’s Day I created a crossword puzzle (one of our favorite past times) using words and clues that relate to our relationship. I think Travis will enjoy it. I am also going to make a delicious dinner of butternut sage lasagna, steamed green beans, red potatoes with rosemary and thyme, crescent rolls, champagne, and chocolate cherry pie for dessert. Mmmm… I can’t wait!

Hope you have a very enjoyable Valentine’s Day as well!

Photo Update

28 Nov

Despite my getting sicker (I now have an ear infection!), we had a very good Thanksgiving. As I mentioned before, we went over to my old boss, Carol Ann’s, sister-in-law’s house. Yes, it was a big group but it was a lot of fun. The food was great and we played cards and watched football afterwards. But then I discovered that I was getting an ear infection–and a bad one at that. My ear was throbbing all night (hence my doctor’s visit today for some antibiotics).

But that didn’t stop me from getting up at 5:20 AM to go shopping on Black Friday! I went with my friend Carrie and her almost-2-year-old daughter, Ruby. The first stop we made was Walmart, where I picked up a new DVD player for $35 (because ours has been on the fritz for a long time) and a dustbuster/swiffer/vacuum thingy for cleaning our kitchen floors.

Then we went to the Flatirons Crossing Mall, where I bought these 2 cute things from American Eagle.

A puffy vest--the fabric is so smooth.

A puffy vest--the fabric is so smooth.


Long sleeve tee with embroidered detail

Long sleeve tee with embroidered detail

I told Carrie as we were walking in to the store that I love shopping when I actually have money to spend! They were having a Buy One, Get one 50% on all Tops. I asked one of the employees if the vest was included in that sale and he said yes. When I finally checked out (with a different employee), the girl said that the vest was technically outerwear so that it shouldn’t be in on the deal but since I was “braving shopping on Black Friday,” she gave it to me. 🙂

After looking at some tall dressy boots with no luck, we headed over to Panera so Carrie could work a little (she has an internet job that she does 3 days a week from home). I had a chocolate chip bagel and a hot chocolate. Delicious… I heart Panera.

Then we went to the Westminster Mall to go to JCPenney, since they had some really cute boots in their newspaper ad. Carrie bought some white, moccasin-type boots that were super cute but I didn’t find anything that I liked (or thought my feet could fit in–I have very wide toes so the pointy boots are outlawed for me).

After that store, Ruby had had enough so we left. We had been shopping for about 4 hours though so we thought she did very well for having to get up at 6:30 to go shopping.

When I got home, I did some Christmas decorating. Travis helped by putting little screw hooks into the wall. This is what I put up:

Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath

Santa I got from Travis' aunt last year for Christmas

Santa I got from Travis' aunt Terri last year for Christmas

Our little Christmas tree that we bought last year when we lived in an apartment.

Our little Christmas tree that we bought last year when we lived in an apartment. We'll eventually get a bigger one but right now, this will do. 🙂

Our stockings that I decorated.

Our stockings that I decorated. The little santa stocking holders were a Christmas present from Travis' aunt, Cheryl.

The poinsettia plant Travis bought me for our 1 1/2 year anniversary.

The poinsettia plant Travis bought me for our 1 1/2 year anniversary. He knows how much I love Christmas!

Ornaments in the window. I still have to replace the middle one...a couple of the gems fell out (that's what you get from Walmart!)

Ornaments in the window. I still have to replace the middle one...a couple of the gems fell out (that's what you get with Walmart!)

Wreath on the outside door--I'm in love with it.

Wreath on the outside door--I'm in love with it.

Snowman was a Christmas present from Travis' mom

Snowman was a Christmas present from Travis' mom

Nativity set was a wedding present. It's sitting on our kitchen windowsill.

Nativity set was a wedding present. It's sitting on our kitchen windowsill.

Our house decorated with lights

Our house decorated with lights, thanks to my hubby (and YES, it is snowing!!!)

Our garage with the extra lights that we planned to put on the tree in our backyard but couldn't (the back door closes too tightly to run an extension cord through it).

Our garage with the extra lights that we planned to put on the tree in our backyard but couldn't (the back door closes too tightly to run an extension cord through it).

One last thing: I had looked through the Victoria’s Secret catalog and found some boots I liked. I waited until today because I would prefer to buy them in a store, if I could. But after finding nothing I liked, I decided to spring for the boots in VS. They are Skechers so I tried to find them on their website, but couldn’t. I’m thinking that because they aren’t pointy-toed boots, my feet will fit…hopefully!! I bought them today on the VS website. This is what they look like:

I bought the brown ones. I'm excited!! They should get here by Dec. 12th--just in time for our vacation to MN.
I bought the brown ones. I’m so excited!! They should get here by Dec. 12th–just in time for our vacation to Minnesota!

Anyway, I’m glad that even though I’m sick, I’m not just laying on the couch and doing nothing. That is the biggest frustration about being sick: being out of commission for everything. I haven’t exercised all week (though I had dreams that I did and in them, I ended up passing out!)

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!!

Holiday musings

26 Nov

I’m so glad that I have the next 2 days off from work. Not only do I still feel under the weather, there’s not much work to do (can you tell how my job is a rollercoaster–nothing to do one minute, overwhelming the next…don’t even get me started)?

Tonight, Travis and I are getting together with some friends from church for dinner and game night. It is the night we usually have our care group but with a lot of people out of town, we decided to just do an informal get-together. We are having stirfry with (I hope) couscous. Two things I have been craving lately: butternut squash and couscous. I know, it’s weird. And no, I’m not pregnant.

Tomorrow, I plan on sleeping in. Then I will have to cut vegetables for our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We are going to my old boss Carol Ann’s sister-in-law’s house. 2 of my other co-workers (who are married) are coming as well. But we’re not the only ones…there will be 47 of us there. It’s good I grew up with a big, loud family I guess or that might be overwhelming! 

But I still always get a little nervous before meeting a lot of new people at one time. Luckily, I relax after about 10 minutes or so. And if they’re all as friendly and welcoming as Carol Ann, then we’ll have no problem fitting right in!

The day I’m really excited for is Friday though. Travis and I are going to get up early and go shopping for a new DVD player. We saw one at Big Lots for $35 and it’s a VCR/DVD combo, which would be great (we currently have to switch the wires back and forth from the DVD and VCR…yes, I still have VHS tapes. Thanks.) I wish we had everyone’s Christmas list now so that we could do our Christmas shopping when all the deals are going on. But we don’t.

After shopping, we’re going to decorate for Christmas. I already started a little (I love Christmas way too much to have it last for only a month!) but we still need to put up our tree and hang the lights outside. We’re going to decorate our lone tree in our backyard because we look out at the backyard a lot. It’s my family’s tradition that we listen to Manheim Steamroller while decorating for Christmas and opening presents. I told Travis that we must carry on the tradition. Maybe we should start our own tradition as well…something like hot chocolate with a little Peppermint Schnapps? 🙂

Saturday we’re going to The Nutcracker with our friends Paul and Carrie. Our other friend Amy is performing in the ballet, which is the main reason why we’re going. I’m really excited (I love doing Christmas-y things! And I love the ballet!) but Travis wishes we were going to see The Nutcracker on ice. Maybe next year…

Sunday we work in the Toddler classroom again (we did last Sunday too) and then the day is pretty much wide open. I will be baking a cake though because it is Travis’ 24th birthday on December 2nd.

I am very thankful for Thanksgiving and the break that it brings from the daily grind. I am thankful that we decided to say here instead of doing the weekend marathon, driving to MN and trying to see both families. Whew! I get tired just thinking about that. I am thankful most of all for my husband, who makes life just that much sweeter. I am so blessed by him.

Another great thing about Thanksgiving is that it means Christmas is almost here. Yay! It is seriously one of my favorite times of year (and now that I live in Colorado, it may just be my #1 favorite, since the previous #1 was fall and well…they don’t really have fall out here–at least, not MN fall). I love the excitement, the coziness, the family, the cheer, the generosity, the colors, the snow, the cold, the songs, the services. I love that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth because the atmosphere of the season is so fitting. It breaks my heart to know that not every one in the world can celebrate Christmas like we do–and I’m not talking about the presents. I’m talking about the family, the food, the togetherness, the warmth.

Travis and I donated 2 shoeboxes full of toys and school supplies to Operation Christmas Child this year again (though we were a little more prepared than we were last year, when we ran around buying our stuff before church the day it was due). Last year, we got to go volunteer at one of their processing centers in Denver. We missed the boat on that this year, which is a bummer, but hopefully next year, we’ll do it again. 

The Lord miraculously worked it out that Travis and I get to go back to Minnesota for 10 days over Christmas. We’re leaving on the 19th (driving) and coming back on the 29th. Because we want to go to Mexico with my family in March, we were planning on taking a shorter Christmas vacation (I have only 10 days of vacation a year…and I have to accumulate them). But I have 3 holidays (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after). So yay for us!

After hearing tragic stories of people losing their jobs, being foreclosed on, and the other sad things that are happening, I am reminded of all the little things that I have to be thankful for: a roof over my head, food on the table, friends and family who care about me, a loving husband, a job that pays the bills (and is rewarding too!), and most of all, a Savior in heaven and a Father who loves me more than I can fathom.