…a few of my favorite things…

My friends.  We sit with just 9 days until Christmas.  Nine!  Why does is seem like we have all the time in the world & then “BAM!” out of no where, we’re almost out of time?  If you’re feeling behind, I’m here to help.  In the spirit of Christmas with a little inspiration from The Sound of Music together with a little Opren {that’s Oprah & Ellen}…I give you…

My Most Favorite Finds – 2016

  1. This has been at the absolute top of my chart for years now.  It is my absolute favorite!!  My dry, winter skin needs SO much help.  You have no idea.  Cracking, itching, awful.  This year is particularly bad with all the extra hand washing I’m doing.  And this little treasure is the best I’ve ever found.  L’Occitane Hand Cream.  Hand down the very best!  $28 very well spent.  And if you signed up for eBates {which I know you did} you’ll get 3% back on each one.  
  2. I received this as a gift from seven of the most amazing women in my life.  Scattered all over the planet, they coordinated this gift as a comfort when Sweet Ginger began his chemo treatments.  It is most wonderful throw blanket in the entire world.  Softness does not even begin to adequately describe it.  It is cozy, weighty, 100% lovely.  If you have someone on your list who might need a luxurious throw, this! is! it!!  Pottery Barn’s Ruched Faux Fur Throw.  Regularly priced at $149, it is on SALE today {Dec. 16} only.  What a steal at $104.  Don’t miss this deal!
  3. This year I did my first Whole 30.  It was a good experience and I am sure that after the holiday eating is over, I’ll be looking at another go around.  I really did feel better, sleep better and have way more energy while on it & I think I could go again here in the new year.  Anyway, while doing that I discovered my next favorite find – Bubbies Sauerkraut.  It may be a bit more expensive than other sauerkrauts out there, but for good reason.  This is true sauerkraut.  Made with cabbage, water, salt.  That’s it.  Naturally fermented like our great grandparents would have eaten it.  Delicious!!!  You can pick it up at lots of you favorite food stores in the refrigerated section.  
  4. These past few months I have become somewhat of an expert on winter head ware.  Living in the frozen tundra with a completely bald bald has required us to find the most fabulous hats known to man.  While the absolute best have come from an amazingly talented friend, the next best have to be the ones from Love Your Melon!  Hands down.  Warm, soft, comfortable.  And 50% of profits go to cancer research. Winner, winner.  They come in a multitude of colors and styles, but are so popular that they are often low or short on their most populars.  Luckily they restock often and add to their styles regularly.  They range in price from $30-$45.  A great deal on such a wonderful hat…with a fabulous cause.
  5. My final favorite find for this year is Isaiah 41:10.  “Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Especially over the past few months, I have needed this reminder almost daily.  Do not fear.  Do not be dismayed {agitated, discouraged, disheartened, frightened, horrified, rattled, scared, unnerved, upset}  God is with me, he is my God, he will provide the strength & help necessary and he will hold me up when I ca no longer stand on my own.  This doesn’t mean that every moment is rosey.  It doesn’t mean that in the end this will turn out the way that I think it should go.  It means that however it goes, I’m not alone.  This verse.  So for my final favorite find, I have a FREEBIE for you.  Simply click the “like” at the bottom of this post {or better yet leave me a comment!} and download your free printable.  Simply download & print on your home computer & printer.

printable

I hope you have a wonderful eight days of shopping or relaxing by the fire sipping hot cocoa, whichever.  I hope you enjoy this list of my most favorite finds.  Buy one for a friend or for yourself, no matter, you’l be glad you did!

And if you still need to sign up for eBates & start getting some cash back in your wallet, click here.  Get shopping straight away because they’re giving you an extra $10 just for signing up & shopping.  Don’t delay.  There’s money waiting!!

#Perfect

May I be honest?  The past few weeks have been a bit rough.  Cancer is dying {can I get a hands-raised hallelujah?!} but the chemo rounds are getting tougher on sweet ginger’s body.  More side effects like nausea, fatigue & chemo brain are creeping in. He’s a bit more, let’s say ornery, for good reason. And my patience often feels fleeting.  Cancer, chemo, all of it is just plain no fun!

Now how about we throw Christmas in the mix?  Why not?  I will admit up-front that online shopping has saved the gift giving aspect of the holiday.  I have not stepped foot in an actual brick & mortar since Black Friday.  This has no doubt helped to save my sanity.  And while the boxes are filing up nearly all my adequate hiding spaces, I would say that shopping has come to a close.  That’s the good news.  Cancer cannot win the gift giving battle!

I think what has been getting to me…is all the “perfect” Christmases I see everyone else having out there.  And by everyone, I mean a bunch of people who mostly I don’t even know.  Don’t.  Even.  Know.  And by perfect Christmases I mean the ridiculously faux, staged, photoshop perfected, do-people-even-live-in-your-home posts filling my Instagram & Facebook feeds.  I don’t know most of the folks & I know that there’s no way their homes looks like that 100% of the time.  Yet for some reason my Christmas feels downtrodden and frankly lacking when their homes, cookies, decor, Christmas lights, trees, parties with every ounce of their perfection fill my screen.  Here’s the amazing tree at the nurse’s station on the oncology floor:

The “perfect” tree for the cancer kids of the 7th floor.

For many, who are in far worse circumstances than ours, this is the only Christmas tree that they will be enjoying this season.  It hardly compares to the ones coming across the wi-fi.  And I have spent too much of my recent days a bit on the angry side about that.

OK!  I’ll say it so you don’t have to.  Jealous much?  Yes, I would agree.  There is a jealous covetousness that sits inside of this little annoyance of mine.  Jealous.  Covetous.  Ugly.  Really…I’ll say it..:: I really just want a perfect Christmas, not a cancer Christmas.

A “Perfect” Christmas

What exactly is a perfect Christmas?  From my feeds, I might conclude it’s in the tree, the decor, the food, the parties.  So what to do about that?  I could cancel my Instagram & Facebook accounts.  But I don’t actually think that would solve the root of my problem.  Instead it would perhaps just mask it for a while.  I would say the best go-to is always…wait for it…prayer & the Word.  So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  And here’s how the story looks this morning.

Yesterday, while feeding the chickens in temperatures that make your face hurt, I was complaining {pretend you’re shocked} about all the frozen poop in the coop {that’s a fun rhyme} it occurred to me that Jesus was born in a stable…basically a big chicken coop.  The poop in that stable was likely not frozen and instead horribly stinky.  And that is where Mary delivered him.  Mary.  What on earth would have gone through her mind if they’d had Instagram back at Jesus’ birth?  All her other friends would be posting full make-up smiles holding precious pink newborns wrapped in striped blankets from clean beds with hashtags like #perfectbundle and #amazingdelivery, while she was holding her precious bundle in some old strips of cloth Joseph found on the ground of the stable and shook off.  There would have been dirty animals, straw & stinky poop in the background of her photo with Jesus.  Not exactly hashtag worthy?

But as I envisioned this, about the King being born in a dirty old barn, I couldn’t help but smile.  Jesus really isn’t interested in our “perfect” Christmases.  His Christmas {if you can call it that} was less than picture perfect.  He isn’t necessarily impressed with our picture worthy Christmas decor or our Christmas cookies or parties or any of the things we pretend are perfect & post for some “likes” and accolades on social media.  All those things I’ve been jealous of lately.  Jesus came for people.  Christmas is about people.  Christmas {coupled together with Easter} is the gospel…the whole story…the perfect story.  Christmas is about Jesus.  Coming to earth so humbly it’s ridiculous. Remembering this, made my jealous rage {yep rage} seem so misplaced.  And rather silly, really.

Mary’s Instagram would have looked absurd.  Imagine it.  Baby Jesus in a feeding trough-#cozy.  Holding baby Jesus while the cows lick his face-#madcowsnotspreadthroughsalivaright.  Selfie with Mary, Joseph & baby Jesus in the barn-#atleastitscovered.  Jesus surrounded by dirty, stinky shepherds leaning in, touching baby Jesus’ face-#strangementouchingmybaby. Mary holding Jesus while wise men bow with amazing gifts-#theybroughtembalmingfliud.  These pictures would have been so foolish by our current Christmas standards but each embodies the Perfect Christmas. And each should have #perfect.

I don’t post this to judge anyone.  Please don’t take it that way.  I think these pictures of trees and decor and parties are beautiful. I just needed to realign my heart, remember what Christmas is really about, and appreciate my cancer Christmas.  When I look at Mary, I can see that this Christmas perhaps is closer to the Christmas Mary experienced…dirty, ugly, less-than-ideal.  But because of Jesus–absolutely perfect.  If your Christmas is not exactly Instagram-worthy, remember neither was Mary’s.  But she treasured up every, single moment.

Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

day 23 :: Winter Snow

First off, if you downloaded the free Christmas Carol advent cards & have been following along, there is an error on today’s card.  The song listed on the card is Winter Storm.  However, the actual title of the song is Winter Snow.  You can find it here.  It’s gorgeous!


John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Christmas is really about the cross.  About redemption.  Salvation.

Philippians 2:5-8

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Christ was God.  Is God.  It’s so confusing.  It’s beyond logic.  And yet it is. I believe that – because I believe the Word of God.  But it’s a conundrum in the brain if I sit & try to piece it all together for too long.  That’s faith, I suppose.

Notice the bold emphasis in the verse above.  I added those because I think they’re worth noting.  I sometimes forget that Jesus didn’t have to come here to Earth, be a human & die an awful death.  He didn’t.  He could have kept on being the King of the Universe with all the privileges that such a title holds.  {I’m imagining those would be substantial & quite nice}

Rather HE CHOSE to.  There’s a huge difference in having to do something & choosing to do something.  Ask my kids. Jesus chose!  He GAVE UP his divine privileges, He TOOK the position of a slave, He TOOK the form of a human, He HUMBLED himself & CHOSE to die a criminal’s death.

HE CHOSE.  At any moment, I truly believe he could have called himself out of this world, out of his pain, out of his suffering, out of his humanity.  He was absolutely still 100% God while he was 100% human {I know, …it hurts my brain too}  But instead of fleeing back to his privileges, he CHOSE you.  He CHOSE me.  He CHOSE whosoever.  And he remained.

I don’t understand why he chose to save the world this way.  As today’s song says, he could have come in like a hurricane, or with such force that no one could disclaim or disregard his entry, his deity, his power.  But he didn’t.  He came in as a baby, in a most quiet fashion.  Still, hidden, quiet, soft, slow.  I don’t understand it.  I wouldn’t have chosen that method.  But then again, I perhaps wouldn’t have given up my privileges & my position & humbled myself at all.  Good thing it wasn’t up to me to redeem humanity.  Good thing.

Christmas is the celebration of this choice.  That the God of creation, the God who reigns forevermore CHOSE to put aside his comfy existence in Heaven, his position, his privilege, his very existence as deity to come and rescue us all.  To return us to him.  Because he loves us so very much.

 Love wins!

A little perspective today

Yesterday’s first world problems were ridiculous.  The mere fact that something so insignificant made up such a significant portion of my day is sad.  I was reminded this morning that the world is bigger than my horrible internet speeds & there are people who are facing so much worse than slow internet & horrible customer service.

In light of that, I would love for you to take a gander at the 20/20 program from this past weekend.  Here’s the link to the broadcast called Escaping ISIS.  Great perspective on the refugee crisis our world is currently in the middle of.  Interested in taking action?  I would recommend giving to GAIN. I personally know the President & CEO of this organization & they do great, great work & are responsible with the donations they receive.

In the end Love Wins!  But we must be willing to be love, using wisdom, in order for it to have a chance.


day 22 :: Born to Die

Can you believe it’s December 22????  Holy Hannah!

Thumbnail.aspxHere’s a link to today’s song.  It is definitely a favorite {yet unique} Christmas carol of mine.  Listen carefully to the words – powerful stuff he’s singing.  Powerful!

Today we look at John 6:48-51

verse 51:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

Jesus came to earth as a tiny, helpless baby {just the way we all arrived here on earth}.  But his purpose from the beginning was to bring life to all.  And this life would come at a great price – his own.  The baby came to die.  Let those words settle in your soul.   His purpose, yes to show us how to love, to show us what was important, to remind us that it’s relationship over religion, but ultimately his flesh for our souls.

It seems a ridiculous way to save the world.  I believe it, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea sometimes.  Why would the ruler of all decide to come to earth to be a human and die in order to reconcile humanity to himself?

I heard the best sermon illustration of this exact conundrum:

A man watched as him family left for Christmas Eve service.  He didn’t believe that the God of the universe would come to earth as a baby and live among his creation.  He felt it was all a tall tale, a fairy tale, a lie.  He settled in on the couch to watch some t.v. while they were gone.

All the sudden a bird flew right into the window next to where he was sitting.  Then another bird, then another.  He jump up from his seat & ran outside to see hundreds of birds flying over his home.  One by one they were breaking off, flying into the picture window & then falling to the patio below.  The man waved his arms in circles and yelled to the birds.  He threw pinecones into the air to try to distract them or scare them away from the danger.  But nothing worked.  And one by one more and more birds hit the glass and fell to the patio below.

Frustrated, the man yelled “I wish I could become a bird and show them which way to fly!!”

The man fell to his knees as he realized that as ridiculous as it sounded that is exactly what the God of creation had done.  He had seen humans ‘flying in circles & crashing into windows’ and became one of them in order to show them the way.  The man ran off to the church to meet up with his wife and children to listen to the Christmas story with fresh perspective & a different heart.

 

day 18 :: He is Called Jesus

It’s a favorite of mine…this story about Simeon.  Luke 2:25-35

It’s not normally a part of any Christmas celebration, but I just had to include it in my advent cards this year.  Plus I love, love, love this song by Todd Agnew.  Take a listen to it here.

Simeon waited on the promise of the Lord.  And when he saw the baby Jesus, he took him in his arms and proclaimed:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Like the wise men, Simeon held on tightly to a promise from God, believing it would be fulfilled. He waited & watched for God’s salvation. He was ready {albeit old} when that fulfilled promise was brought to him.  simeon

{click on the picture for this printable coloring sheet}

day 17 :: We Three Kings

Matthew 2:1-11 is where we find ourselves this morning.  The key Scripture from today’s advent card {a free printable advent card} is Matthew 2:2.

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”

Let’s start today with some myth-busting about the story of the wise men:

Myth No.1 :: the Wise Men were Kings. False.  The wise men were not kings, much to the disappointment of the writer of today’s song selection.  The wise men were magi & magi was the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.  In all likely hood the wise men were more akin to magicians/scientists than kings.

Myth No.2 :: There were Three Wise Men.  Perhaps.  The word used to describe them in Scripture is plural, so we know there are at least 2, but that’s as much as we know for sure.  We know they brought 3 specific gifts -gold, frankincense & myrrh.  Two could have brought these gifts or 10 could have brought them.  We just don’t know.  Again, unfortunate for the author of our Christmas carol today.

Myth No. 3 :: The Wise Men were at the Birth.  False.  Although nearly every one of our nativity scenes includes them, they most likely didn’t arrive until Jesus was a bit older.  Matthew 2:11a “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.“.  {emphasis mine}.  It is also likely the reason that King Herod had all boys 2 and under killed…Jesus was likely thought to be closer to 2 years old than a newborn.


 

I like the wise men part of the advent story.  The shepherds had no choice but to hear the news…they were visited by heralding angels.  Now I suppose they could have chalked it all up to indigestion & not given it a second thought, but…

The wise men on the other hand.  They discovered the good news somewhat on their own.  They were familiar with the prophecy regarding the “star”.  This prophecy comes from Numbers 24:17.  And when they saw it, they knew what it was because they were prepared. Notice back to the key Scripture for today:

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him

They knew when they saw this star it was HIS STAR.  And they knew that HIS STAR belonged to the KING OF THE JEWS.  And they knew that the KING OF THE JEWS was to be WORSHIPPED.

So they waited and they watched.  And when they saw what they were watching for, they did what they knew they should do in response.

It’s unfortunate that for whatever reason they didn’t know the prophecy from Micah 5:2 that would have told them were to go.  Instead they just had to follow the star…follow God.  And they ended up having to ask directions from King Herod, who quickly put into motion his horrible, ruthless plan to kill all little boys.  And yet that decree caused Jesus to flee with his parents to Egypt & thus fulfilled more prophecy {Hosea 11:1}.  Amazing!

When I look at the wisemen I can’t help but wonder if I am like they were. Do I know prophecy enough to even know what I should be looking for?  Am I watching & waiting with expectation that prophecy will actually come forth as the Word says?  Am I ready to proceed and do what I know I need to do when I see that prophecy being realized?  Those are good questions to ponder as I listen today to a wonderful {yet heavily flawed} Christmas carol!

day 15 :: Almost There

Today’s Christmas song {Almost There} is a flashback to two artist from my younger years – Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith.  A simple & beautiful song.

FullSizeRender 59
free printable advent cards

Today’s verse is an absolute favorite of mine!

Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The angels had heralded the shepherds, reporting on the breaking news.  The shepherds had gone “without haste” to see what the angels had spoken of.  They didn’t sit around to discuss whether they should go.  They didn’t form a committee to talk about the best way to proceed.  They just went.  And although there are times in which planning, preparation and committee formation are vital, there are times when it is obvious that going without haste is the best choice.  This was one of those occasions.

The shepherds found the situation exactly as had been reported.  Mary, Joseph, a baby wrapped in cloth.  Exactly as reported.  From there the shepherds, we are told, made known what they had seen & heard.  They heralded the news to others.

But Mary.  Mary ‘treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart’.  She had delivered the promised Messiah.  She had done so in a less than ideal location. They had no cradle.  They had no blanket, just some strips of cloth to cover their newborn with.  The first visitors were lowly shepherds.  Stinky, dirty shepherds.  Some women may have questioned the wisdom of the circumstances surrounding the arrival of the King.  Some women might have felt robbed of a grand event with pomp and circumstance & “worthy” visitors.  Some women may have believed that this was wrong and certainly a mistake.  But Mary.  God chose her for a reason, and I can see a glimpse of her character in these simple verses.  Her heart.  Mary treasured these moments – no matter how ridiculously strange they must have seemed.  Because let’s be honest, the fact that deity, the Word made flesh, the Great I Am was born a baby in a stable and the first to visit were some of the ‘less thans’ of the time does seem ridiculous.  But Mary held on to those memories, treasured them up.  They must have carried her throughout her life.

I also am always struck that Mary treasured but didn’t herald.  The angels heralded, the shepherds heralded, but Mary pondered.  Mary didn’t herald.  Mary didn’t appear to need to convince anyone else of the events of Jesus’ birth.  She treasured and pondered.  Of course there was no social media at the birth of Jesus {obvious comment there, yes}  But consider it a second.  Instagram.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Can you even?  The shepherd’s Instagram would have been lit up like a Christmas tree with all the selfies of them and the angels and with Mary, Joseph and the baby. Tweeting #wemettheKing #theMessiaharrived #angelssaiditwesawit. Can you even imagine?  But what about Mary?  From these verses I believe we wouldn’t have seen a post or selfie from Mary with the baby.  Her feed would have been silent as she lived in the moment.  Treasured her baby, her family, her God.  Her memories would have been stored in her heart.  Sometimes it’s not our job to herald.  Sometimes it’s our job to treasure.  Wisdom dictates when.  Mary knew she must treasure rather than herald.

Elfailure

And so it begins.  Day 3.

Elfailure.

I awoke, bounded down the stairs ready for my day.  I lie.  I drag my sorry self out of bed, barely moving with all sort of stinky breath and eye goop & basically fall down the stairs with only the smell of fresh coffee to propel me forward.  It’s early.  It’s dark.  It’s early.  Coffee.

Small children follow shortly there after.  {They’re not that small…but, please give me this}  As if in a slow motion iPhone video I hear the littlest Weed hopping down the stairs, my eyes widen as I scour the room for our little guy with a red stocking cap.  Oh pickles!  He’s still hugging the fat angel snowman.  Same as yesterday.  Agh!  I grab him & throw him into the closest place I can find.  Kid. You. Not.  The elf was launched in the air as not-so-little child rounds the corner into the room, landing just in the knick of time.

“where’s Flory?  he’s not still hugging the fat snowman.”

“not sure.  haven’t seen that crazy elf all morning.”

“Ohhhhhh, here he is.  Silly Flory!”

Here he is.

IMG_2424

What’s that?  You can’t see him?  It’s like Where’s Waldo.  Play along here with me.  I’m in the middle of elfailure, remember?  Can you find him? Wait.  Here.  I’ll zoom in:

IMG_2425

There he is.  Silly Flory!  Pinterest worthy, don’t you think?  Elf thrown in the poinsettia.  Original.  And it’s a new record for me.  Three days to elfailure this year.  I usually can make it at least a week.  bummer.  3 days.

So my big question is:  Who are you people?  Who are you parents who move that darn little elf every.single.night into fun and exciting predicaments.  Some of you are sewing outfits for your little elf to wear…outfits.  Who are you people?  I googled it.  Creative Elf Ideas.  Do you know what I got?  A hole load of creative ideas {and some mildly inappropriate ones}.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.  Elf arrangements that actually occurred.  Parents took time to arrange their elves in cute situations.  And then snapped a success picture for Pinterest. Who are you people?  I want to gleam your elf wisdom.  I want to peak inside your ideas, into your brain, into your creativity.  I want to be you.  Not the mom that throws her elf into a poinsettia.  Who does that?

Oh, this little elf.  He stresses me out.  I have ideas.  I do. Big ideas.  Fun ideas.  Amazing Pinterest-worthy ideas.  But I forget.  I finish up the night.  I’m sleepy-eyed.  I make the coffee {or watch the hubs make the coffee}.  I kiss the kids.  I go to bed.  I forget the elf.  elforget=elfailure!

It’s just too much.  My parents.  Now they had it made.  $2 to the German Club at the local high school & me and my big bro had a calendar filled with daily chocolate rations.  My parents had zero responsibility at that point.  My big bro and I always remembered the chocolate after dinner.  Always.  And we had to open the little door on the cardboard calendar right along the perforation to get that treat.  My parents did squat.  Who invented this blasted elf that requires so much of me?  So much.  It is too much.  Too much.

I am an elfailure.  Perhaps I will embrace it.  Perhaps Flory will be stuck in the poinsettia plant all advent season.  I will faithfully take a daily picture of him.  Still.In.The.Poinsettia.  *Sigh*  I must up my game.  Or not.  I just can’t decide.  I love that stupid elf.  And I hate him.  Ugh!  Where’s my chocolate?

elfailure


Back to advent {elfless advent}

Here we are at Day 4 already in our advent adventure.  Today the song is a great one.  Son of God by Michael W. Smith.  Simple words, lyrically, but so powerful in their meaning.  “Heaven’s perfect plan unfolds, son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Today, just read over these two verses and consider Mary.  She would soon be pregnant with the Son of God.  Wow!  Too much to even comprehend.