Dec
28

Book Review of All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes

I headed south for the holidays this year to visit my family and was eager for a fun and easy. Booklook.com provided me with All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant in exchange for an honest review.

blog photo - book reviewKat loves to experiment in her baking, pairing flavors to create unique tastes. However, she works in her aunt’s cupcake bakery where she’s only allowed to bake vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Her best friend, Lucas, secretly signs her up to compete on a reality TV baking competition and a new door is opened for Kat.

The book is an easy read, perfect for the beach or holidays when you want to unwind and turn off your mind. The story is predictable at times but I enjoyed the characters. A bulk of the book is during the bake-off competition and it’s fun to ready what goes on behind the scenes of reality TV.

I’d recommend the book to anyone enjoying Chick Lit or if you’re looking a leisure read.

Dec
14

Celebrate Like Jesus

I love Christmas time! The lights, the music, the parties, the gifts. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the most busiest time of the year. The decorating, the noise, the packed schedule and shopping. It steals our time and we lose our focus.

So much to do, so little time.
Family traditions, office parties, church activities. They’re all part of the way we celebrate the season but it requires time and energy. These limited resources are depleted quickly in the holiday season.

Each year I tell myself that I’ll cut back and focus my Christmas season solely on God, however, in doing so, I’ve found God saying, “Live life. Celebrate with family and friends. Just be sure to take Me with you.”

Jesus shared meals with friends. He went to weddings. He turned water into wine. He kept the party going.

A way of loving God is sharing life with the people He placed in our lives.

But Jesus also pulled away. He proactively withdrew from the group to pray and commune with His Father. He didn’t allow the busyness of life steal His focus on what is most important.

There is so much good we can do this season with the numerous volunteer opportunities, invitations, family traditions and church activities. It is all good stuff, but is it “God-stuff” and by that I don’t mean does it involve going to church.

Maybe God wants you to invite a friend over and share a glass (or bottle) of wine because this friend is carrying a burden alone. Only time one-on-one will reveal it.

Maybe God wants you to attend the Ugly Sweater office party because He needs you to drive home your colleague who took a few too many dips in the punch bowl.

Maybe God wants you to stay home with a cup of tea and sit in front of the Christmas tree with your family and just breathe and be in the moment.

There are so many opportunities in the holiday season. How do we know what to cut out and what to keep?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Does it cause me internal conflict? Don’t allow guilt to manipulate you. God doesn’t guilt us into things, He guides That said, if your heart is conflicted, prayerfully ask yourself the next questions.
  2. What or who will it take you from? Will a night smoozing up to your boss take you away from much needed family time? Or have you been so kid-centric lately that a night out with your spouse and co-workers be just what you or your marriage needs?
  3. Who will you be sharing it with? Are they people who will build you up or will they bring you down? Is a night of fun worth days of regret?
  4. Is it worth it? Is it worth fighting traffic to have one more stocking stuffer? Or is having the house decorated immaculately worth the stress (and potential knock-down, drag-out fight with your spouse)?

Celebrate like Jesus

Jesus went to weddings. He ate meals with friends. He slept. He prayed. He was present with those around Him.

One occasion He and His disciples stopped at the home of Martha. She worked like crazy to prepare the perfect meal for Him as her sister, Mary, sat as His feet, listening to His teaching. When she complained He told her that Mary had made the better choice.

There is a time prepare. There is a time to celebrate. There is a time to sit at God’s feet and absorb His presence.

God has given us everything for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17). Celebrate. Prepare. Enjoy. But first, begin it sitting as His feet. It is here He’ll let us know what to add and what to cut out.

He is the Reason for the Season!

Cheers to a God who want us to enjoy life with Him!

Dec
08

Tips For A Christmas Of Less Stress And More Fun

It’s the second week of December. Christmas is around to the corner and if you’re like me, your “to do” list is growing and the days to do it all are shrinking. It’s the most wonderful and happiest time of the year but it can also be the more stressful time of the year.

blog photo - ice stormGrowing up in the south, I lived through many ice storms. Instead of white fluffy snow, we’d often get freezing rain that put a layer of ice on everything. It made driving treacherous and walking to your car a contact sport that could land you in the hospital.

Trees and their limbs drooped due to the weight of the ice and could snapped unexpectedly causing damage and sometimes injury. If a storm hit early and the trees still had their leaves, the risk of this happening was even greater.

One of the purposes of a tree losing its leaves in the fall is to prepare it for the storms of winter.

Christmas is the time of year many of us snap due to all the added pressure of shopping, party planning, Church programs, travel, family visits, etc.

The last thing I want to do this holiday season is snap under pressure and self-inflicted expectations and be the drama mama…again. I mean there already are enough embarrassing family stories involving me. It’s not quite the legacy I want to leave behind.

I came up with a few guidelines that might help us all make this be a season of less stress and more fun.

Worry less and laugh more. Drop the idea of perfection, believe me it’s a myth. Give your best not someone else’s idea of it. And don’t forget to laugh off your flubs. Laughter is the best medicine.

Volunteer less and say “no” more. Carefully pray through what you are to say yes to. When you say yes to the right volunteer opportunities, you have the joy and energy that makes it fun for everyone. If it’s not what God’s asked of you, it stresses you out and fills you with resent.

Text less and talk more. Be in the moment. Make everyone around you feel they are the most important person in the room. Be sure to model this for your children.

Expect less praise and give more thanks. Too high of expectations have probably caused more family meltdowns. Don’t look for the praise of others to fill your needs. Instead look at what others have done and give genuine praise.

Complain less and compliment more. This piggybacks off of the previous point. If the turkey is dry, remember you have a plate full of food and compliment the host on the gravy. Focusing on the positive makes everything taste better.

Eat less and move more. Enjoy the blessings of food but don’t stuff yourself sick. You’ll be more likely to get out, go for that walk or run and fill you body with good endorphins.

Do less and enjoy others more. You may want to make the house look perfect, your tree to shine like a star and to buy everyone that perfect gift but it’s more fun to be in a house full of joyful people than a perfect house filled with exhausted people.

Buy less and love more. The pressure of buying the perfect gift often steals our time and energy to fully love those around us. Love takes time and effort and if we expend it in the mall, we come home over-stimulated, stressed and broke.

Schedule less and pray more. Be still before God. Pray. Meditate and ask God what you are to say “yes” to. Remember He is the Reason for the season. We are celebrating the Gift He gave us…Jesus.

So shed off those extra leaves that may be weighing you down and focus on what matters. Love those God has placed in your life. Give to those in need. Express thanks and truly celebrate the Reason for the season.

Less often gives you more.

 

 

 

Nov
26

Bringing Light Into Black Friday

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and that means only one thing…Black Friday is in two days. Some love it and others hate it but with over $54 billion was spent in 2013 over Black Friday weekend, it appears a lot of us love it.

blog photo - Black fridayIt is a great time to find deals on electronics and other normally high-priced items but if we’re not careful, we can impulsively buy something that we don’t need just because it’s a good deal. “What…$49.99 for a bunion massager?! Out of my way granny! It’s mine!!”

Time to upgrade from my garage sale deal

Our family has this round table dining table that I found at a garage sale many years ago. It has served us well but the chairs are uncomfortable and it doesn’t seat many people, making it hard to entertain. I had a little savings set aside and felt it was time to venture out to see what I could find.

Anastasia went with me and as we drove away I felt this urge to pray. Now I know this sounds a bit odd to pray before shopping but we were both eager to get a new table and I didn’t want to waste the little money I had saved. Here’s what I prayed out loud with Anastasia in our car…

“Lord, I know this is your money and we thank you that we’ve been able to save it. We’d like buy a new table. If this is a good way for us to use this money, help us find the perfect table for us. If not, help us to walk away until it’s time.”

I had seen a “Pre-Black Friday” ad for a table and four chairs that was in our price range. We headed to this store and wouldn’t you know…it was closed! I was mad but I couldn’t show it because I had just prayed…in front of my daughter! Argh! Sometimes it’s hard trying to be a good model to my kids!

We ended up going to a different store and I found this awesome table. It was more expensive so we’d only be able to afford the table but not the chairs. The salesman helping us explained it was solid wood and a higher quality than the other tables. Now we had to decide to buy just a table and wait on the chairs or should we walk away.

We kept looking around and came upon a table that looked exactly the same but it was half the price! Turns out it was a display table that had a few nicks. The salesman came over and out of nowhere said, “I’ll mark this down to $100 if you buy chairs with it.”

What?! By doing this we could now afford a quality table…with chairs…on budget.

We were giddy walking out of the store. In the parking lot Anastasia exclaimed, “God gave us that table!” She was right, He did!

Take some light with you into Black Friday

I share this as a reminder to take God with you in every area of your life this holiday season. It may seem silly to spiritualize a shopping trip and maybe it is, in a way. However, if I had bought just any old table it would have been just that…any old table but now this same table feels like a gift from God and that makes us more thankful.

Okay my friends, I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love and wonderful memories with family, friends and loved ones. If you’re brave enough to venture out shopping, take God’s light with you to Black Friday. He’ll lead you to the deals or let you know if you need to walk away.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Nov
24

5 Tips to Surviving the Holidays

It’s a few days  before Thanksgiving. Some of us are wrapping up work, preparing to travel to our loved/loathed ones (Circle correct word).

Some of have already made it to their family and friends. Others are scurrying around getting ready to host a crew. (Lord help you!) A few are already camped out for Black Friday (and that is a whole other blog which will be coming your way in few days.)

I’ve been the cause of some family holiday drama in my lifetime. Let’s just say there were times I pushed my family to maximum emotional limit and I’m amazed the law (or military) weren’t called in to intervene. Can you imagine the questions my future grandchildren would have asked?

“Mommy, why’s grandma wearing handcuffs in this family picture?”

“Oh, that’s the year she dumped her food on Oma’s head and then threw the TV out the window. Yep, our family photos went viral that year.”

This time of year, “to do” lists are long and tension builds as Thanksgiving gets closer. If you’re like me, “to do” lists can help you stay focused but when they are long and there’s a short amount of time, they fill me with anxiety. So I thought I’d share some Thanksgiving 101 in order to prevent a Thanksgiving 9-1-1.

blog photo - thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a day we all come together but if we’re not careful, it’s a day that can divide us into teams…

Pumpkin pie vs. pecan pie.

Deep-fried turkey vs. roasted turkey (or even ham!)

Dressed to impress vs. game-day garb.

And the biggie…

Busy-bees (a.k.a. – busy-bodies) vs. slackers (a.k.a. – couch-potatoes in front of football).

Here’s the thing – there is no right or wrong way to do Thanksgiving. To some it’s about the food. To others it’s about the game. To some it’s about being together. To others it’s about having some time off.

So here are some tips that can bring the two teams together – or at least help them co-exist.

1. Remember that it’s ThanksGIVING – not ThanksRECEIVING.

When we focus on giving thanks instead of receiving thanks it helps us take our eyes off of ourselves. Life is too short to let a personal preference to kill a relationship. Make both pies. Try a new meat.

If you’re a football widow – take you’re hubby a drink as he watches the game. If you’re hoarding the TV, take various breaks to join the Marthas in the kitchen.

2. Find the humor in everything. 

If Aunt Bertha is cranking on how your political party is bringing the world to an end, find a way to laugh it off. Statistics show that laughter brings both short and long-term health benefits. The goal here is not win a fight but to survive a war, I mean, the holidays, with everyone still loving each other (and no one leaving in handcuffs.)

Finding a reason to laugh will send sweet, refreshing endorphins through your body. Just make sure that you are laughing with others and not at them.

3. Get moving.

It may be hard to convince yourself to exercise after cooking for 2 days straight, or sitting in front of the TV for those same 2 days, but the best thing for your mood is 30 minutes of movement – even if you break it up into two 15-minute breaks. Exercise also gets the good endorphins flowing, making us happier, more positive and will help fight depression.

It doesn’t have to be hard. During half-time do a family walk. Take the kids to the park (Just don’t leave them there. That too may be cause for a holiday involving blue flashing lights. Considered yourself warned.)

4. Enjoy the moments together, even if it’s not your idea of fun.

Some of us live for the holidays and family time and others of us are eager for them to be over. No matter which camp you’re in, try your best to enjoy the time together. My grandfather had a massive heart attack when I was 10-years-old. He and I were so close, but in a matter of days I had lost him forever. If I had known that Thanksgiving that it would be my last with him, I would have stayed on his lap and watched the whole game.

It’s not about the event, it’s the people who share them with us.

5. Leave the gadgets.

Don’t bring your gadgets to the table, and if you can stomach it, don’t bring them at all. Live fully in the moment. Make sure those who share the table with you feel as if they are the most important people in the world to you.

Be thankful this holiday season and give thanks freely – especially to God. Your circumstances may not be ideal but if you’re blessed to be sharing a table with family and/or friends, you have something for which to be thankful.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says it best.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Here’s to the best Thanksgiving and Christmas ever! And if for some reason it goes viral, laugh it off and then send me the link!

What helps you have a thankful heart?

Do you have any Thanksgiving 101 tips to share with us?