November 27, 2017

10 Things You Might Not Know You Need This Christmas

Happy Christmas season! 

But enough with the preliminaries. 

I know you've got a list a mile long and about two seconds to spend on this page. I'm honored you're here at all, so I'll try to make it worth your while in a hurry.

1. If you need an alphabetical assortment of stocking stuffer suggestions: try this joint-effort list my girl Lisa the Syncopated Mama and I put together last year.

2. If you need a festive-looking gelatin salad with no weird chunks of anything in it: this Cherry Applesauce Salad made with fruit juice and unsweetened applesauce and one surprise ingredient that I PROMISE works. But please know that if chunky molded salads are THE thing that makes your family's holiday complete, that's fine, too. My people just happen to prefer smooth, and this salad slips right down.

Cherry Applesauce Gelatin Salad {print}

1 3/4 cup water
2 packets plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (yes, this means you have to open three packets, but it really does make a big difference)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 12-oz can 100% juice apple-cherry frozen juice concentrate, thawed

Pour the water into a medium-sized saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface; allow to stand for one minute to soften. Dump in the sugar and cinnamon candies and stir. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the candies are melted. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the juice concentrate, followed by the applesauce. Pour into a pretty serving bowl and refrigerate several hours until set. Serves 6-8

3. If you need a festive holiday dessert you can make waaaayyy ahead of time (like, yesterday): Peppermint Crunch Oreo Ice Cream Cake

4. If you need a way to get Christmas tree sap off your hands: hand sanitzer. (Yes, really.)

5. If you need a new warm fuzzy Christmas song: Mathew West's "A Christmas To Believe In." Best get some tissues first.

6. If you need a beautiful Christmas quote to read out loud around the table or just ponder in your heart: This. All this. From "10 Gifts We Can Receive From God This Christmas," by Alicia Yoder

7. If you need a real-life way to stay close to Jesus this season (and in the new year and, well, forever): the Daily TruthBytes for Moms app. Short devotionals, words from the Word, prayer paths...all delivered right to your phone. No guilt, just good stuff from God from some moms who need it themselves and figure someone else might need it, too. If you're an Android user, just search "TruthBytes" in the app store; Apple users can follow this link:

8. If you need gifts that encourage and facilitate hospitality, especially if you, like me, are (ahem) "hospitality deficient": a hospitality planner or hospitality calendar from my friend Sue over at Welcome Heart

9. If you need simply gorgeous free printable gift tags that would make a gift of a roll of toilet paper seem lavish: these from Write Them On My Heart

10. If you need to refocus on what--Who--the season is really all about: this CHRISTMAS acrostic. What a beautiful name it is.

{click here for a printable version}

What might I not know I need this Christmas? 
Tell me in a comment, or hop on over to Facebook and leave a message there. 
And thanks for spending a few moments of your busy holiday season here. 

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog link parties.**

November 8, 2017

10 Possibly Weird Things I'm Oddly Thankful For

Thankfulness has been on my mind a lot lately, and not just because it's Thanksgiving season. Last fall and winter, I did a Bible study on the armor of God, and thanksgiving popped up there because it's pretty much the prerequisite to peace. If shoes are the peace in the suit of armor, the soles might be made of gratitude.

I'm thankful for all the usual (but not-to-be-taken-for-granted) things: my faith, my family, a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear. This list alone represents an embarrassment of riches I need to remember to be grateful for every single day.

But lately, a few more obscure targets of my appreciation have come onto my radar. Namely... 

1. Retractable vacuum cord. Watching my canister vacuum suck up the cord when I'm done using it thrills me every time I push the button. This either makes me really pathetic and in desperate need of an actual life or charmingly grateful for the little things. 

2. Notes and reminder features on my cell phone. Longtime Guilty Chocoholic Mama friends, please don't hate me for this, but it's true: I have upgraded from my dumb phone. I promise: I haven't crossed over! It's just that I have teenagers who drive and are out past dark, and my old phone was not keeping me in adequate contact with these treasured people. Apart from the assurance of keeping up with my progeny, the things I love best about my upgraded phone are the "notes" and "reminder" features. Which are the new sticky notes in my life. I use them for mini grocery lists and texts I want to send later and blog post title ideas and (my personal favorite) Bible verses I'm either trying to memorize or just need to keep literally close at hand. (Psalm 5:3 is a current go-to.)

3. B&B Vanilla Bean Noel. Other than the fact that using this makes me want to eat my elbow, it's pretty much perfect.
4. That my 19-year-old still calls me "mommy" when she texts me. Except when she's mad at me. Which isn't very often. And is almost always justified.

5. Cherry Limeade Sparkling ICE. Vitamins, antioxidants, and puckery pick-me-up fizzyness with no calories. I'm pretty sure this is the most I could ask for from a beverage.

6. Toilet paper. I've often said I would have made an awesome pioneer woman on account of their limited wardrobe choices (fewer decisions to make) and limited social lives (see: introvert homebody). But I do greatly appreciate the modern convenience of toilet paper versus whatever they had to use. Which is probably enough said on that topic.

7. The load-size sensor on my washing machine. Several months ago, my old washing machine died after a mere 23 years of service. (It had been a wedding gift from my in-laws, so my husband and I felt rather smug that our marriage had outlasted our appliances.) I went looking for a new one that would wash my clothes; I did not need it to interpret the mood of my apparel or otherwise promise to change my life. I ended up with a agitator-free, front loader which, as it turns out, almost has changed my life. In keeping with the title of this post, I'm oddly grateful for the happy little song it plays when I turn on the power; I think the title is, "Now We're Going To Do Laundry...Won't This Be Fun?" But what I love the most is that I can throw in a load of whatever, close the door, and push start without having to decide if this is a small load...or a medium-ish load but with bulky stuff that could push it into large-load territory...or a small large load. No, I just get the thing going and leave the room while the machine takes its contents for a test spin to figure out how much water it needs to do the job. And then at the end, it chirps to tell me it's done, but only in a non-aggressive, "I know you'll probably ignore this until tomorrow morning which is why there's a 'rinse and spin' option, too" kind of way.

8. The online book request option at our local library. I'm standing in the kitchen. I suddenly think of a book I should read or need to read or want to read. I pop around the corner to my computer desk, log into my account at our local library's website, search for the book, request to have it sent to the branch closest to our house, and wait for a call telling me it's in. Really, a lot more of life needs to be this easy.

9. Electric pencil sharpener. Sometimes, it's the littlest things that wreak the biggest havoc on your emotional stability. Dull pencils are one of those little things for me. I want mechanical pencils to solve this problem, but they come with their own issues. So a few years ago, I broke down and bought an electric pencil sharpener for our home. I really don't think I can adequately describe the calming effect sharp pencils--and the assurance I can resharpen them ANY TIME I WANT TO--have on me. Maybe the best less-than-$20 I ever spent.

10. You, dear reader. If you are my mom, thank you. If you are one of my faithful readers and encouragers, thank you. If you are a new visitor to my little slice of the blog pie and are not sure how you ended up here and are not sure you're ever coming back, thank you. I don't think it is at all odd that I'm grateful for you, and I'm sure you are not weird, or at least not any weirder than I am. And anyway, everyone knows that weird is the new wonderful.

What are you (possibly oddly) thankful for? 
Tell me all about it here in a comment or over on my Facebook page
Maybe I should be thankful for it, too.

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Previous posts that might have something to do with this one:
31 Things I Love (That You Might Love, Too)

This post may have been shared at some of these blog link parties.

November 6, 2017

What My Children's Love Taught Me About God's

My daughter asked to take this picture with me.

"I don't have any pictures with you in them," she told me sternly. "I want one today."

And then the other night, when I tucked her into bed (which, okay, involves me standing at the foot of her bed while she pulls up the covers), she sighed happily and said, "I love our family."

We weren't having a conversation about our family. We weren't having a conversation about anything, actually. I was just telling her good night. She said this wonderful thing out of the blue.

"I'm so glad," I told her. "But what makes you say that now?"

She said, "I don't know...I just love it when we're all together."

I read a post a few days ago that said there's no love like the kind of love your children have for you when they're little.

And I agree: the love our kids have for us when they're small is unmatched and exuberant. Our babies and toddlers and preschoolers and pre-pre teens give it to us freely, without having to think about it. Their fierce hugs and sticky kisses belong to a precious season of parenting that does not last forever. Soak it up and store it up, parents of littles: that kind of love is a precious treasure.

But there is also no love like the love our kids have for us when they're older. Because this kind of love is a choice.

It is on-purpose love.

It is love by decision, rather than by (delicious, delightful) default.

It is love of intention.

And this is where my children helped me understand in a new way something I’d never fully grasped before: why God gives us free will. Why God gives us the choice of whether or not to love Him when He knows some will choose not to.

I'm so grateful to Lori Wildenberg for letting me tell the rest of the story of this lesson I learned from my children. 

Ultimately, it's a lesson about grace I'm not sure I could have learned any other way.

**This post may be have been shared at some of these blog link parties.**

November 1, 2017

How To Act Like a Calm Mom Even If You Don't Feel Like One

Like most moms, I was a perfect parent until I had actual children. 

But ever since that first big "it's a girl!" announcement, I've been messing up with rather alarming regularity.

Thankfully, God has taught me a lot of lessons along the way. The other day, in fact, He showed me that it really is possible for an older mom to learn new tricks.

I'm so grateful to my friend Ruthie Gray for letting me share this lesson. I'd love to have you head on over to read the rest of this story about the mom-with-mileage "aha moment" I wish I'd had when I was a younger mom...

**This post may be have been shared at some of these blog link parties.**