Simply Noel: December 22 – He is My Peace

Simply Noel:

December 22 – He is My Peace

Every Christmas season comes with its beautiful moments and its stressful ones. I think it’s inevitable, especially if you are juggling multiple responsibilities…or multiple small humans. And if you’re juggling both, well, then God bless you with an extra portion of grace.

We took our small clan to see “The Man in Red” today, and it went well – kind of.

For the first time ever, all of the children smiled. It was a bit surreal, and I sort of wanted someone to “act up” so it felt a little more normal, but it didn’t happen. One by one, they took Santa’s hands and whispered their wish and then all four sat doll-like on his little couch, and I had to blink extra hard to believe my eyes.

My husband drove separately, so I stayed behind with my *angelic* children to pick up a few last-minute gifts. I also had to buy some new chocolate, because our dog found my stash and ate the Christmas chocolate. No, he hasn’t died, and apparently he thrives on several ounces of really expensive tree-shaped chocolate.

As I swung into Hallmark in search of replacements, it started. Screaming, whining, swatting, pulling things off of every shelf we passed. I thought I was going to pass out from the cocktail of panic and embarrassment coursing through my veins. After about six haughty looks from strangers and two minutes that felt like an eternity, I abandoned my plight and thought I’d have better luck at Marshall’s (where the shelves are widely spaced enough that my minions can’t reach the items from the stroller). I forgot about the clothing racks, though. And the screaming and wailing continued. They broke about four hangers, pulled approximately seven shirts onto the floor, knocked down a picture frame and inspired three individuals to strike up pious conversations with their frazzled mama.

One woman in particular thought it a great time to chat with me condescendingly about 529 plans and another woman acknowledged my “bad one” after our joint potty break.

Point being…it was anything but glorious. My Christmas spirit was Christmas-kaput. I wanted to throw the looks right back at people, and if one more person had mentioned how full my hands were, I don’t even know what I would have done.

As we walked the length of the mall back to the exit nearest the car, I said outloud, “Man, we got about twenty dirty looks today.” As a few strangers passed at that moment, my seven year old (without missing a beat) quipped, “Better make that twenty-one.” It.Was.That.Bad.

I came home today seriously exhausted. And then I read Micah 5:5:

“And he shall be their peace.”

– Micah 5:5

Even on the hardest of days, He is our peace. My worst day with Him is always better than my best day without Him. What would I do without my Savior? Sometimes, life is just hard. Other times, it’s downright beautiful. In the joy and in the stress…He is the same. He does not change. His love for us does not change. He is our Rock, our Redeemer, our Strong Tower, our Firm Foundation, our Joy, our Guide, our Hope, and our Peace.

If you are “going through it” and you feel like you’re about to break under the pressures that Christmas can bring, lean on Him today. He is your peace, and He asks you to come to Him. He promises rest and He promises that if you lay your burdens at His feet and take His yoke upon yourself, that His load is light.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

– Matthew 11:28-30

Do not carry burdens at Christmas. He has come that you may be freed from the pressures of this world and the burdens it tries to heap upon your shoulders. He came so that we could be filled with joy and hope and walk in peace. Lets remember Him tonight and carry Him in our hearts and minds. When it feels like too much, lets take a minute to quiet ourselves and whisper, “He is My Peace.”

xo,

Kristi

peace

Klover House Christmas:

Well, friend, we have three sleeps until Christmas morning. Are you doing okay? I hope that you are! You are probably in full Christmas mode by now, but my hope for you is this: Slow Down. The 25th is coming whether you’re ready or not, whether your house is tidy or not, whether your kids are naughty or nice… Don’t sacrifice your sanity over the next few days. You’ve got this. Do you have something meaningful for under the tree? Who cares about the price tags… Do you have a tasty meal to enjoy with some people you love? Wonderful. Do you have someone to hug on Christmas Day? You’re winning. Do you have a warm bed to fall into after a day of visiting? You’re blessed. Do you know Jesus – the Savior that you are celebrating? I hope so. Nothing else matters. So, my prayer for us is that over these next few days, we keep on that perspective and lay those burdens down. Take each hour in stride. Tackle your lists with intention and give yourself grace. Shoot for peace not perfection, and love your people above all else. What good is a celebration when you’re all cranky, right?

Tomorrow, we are going to set the bar low. I’d like to accomplish laundry and a gingerbread house. That’s it! There are sooooooo many more things that could be done in the name of “getting ready for Christmas,” but when we keep it simple, anything more than those few goals will feel like a big bonus. I’d rather cross off a few bonus items and feel extra productive over making myself a list of ideals that, if I don’t get them done, leave me feeling like a failure. Christmas is about Jesus, family, and bringing the Kingdom of God to earth, and if you ask me, that looks like a whole lotta peace and a whole lotta love – everything else is just noise, and you have divine permission to turn it off. 😉

 

::December 21::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 23::

Simply Noel: December 21 – The Man in Red

Simply Noel:

December 21 – The Man in Red

Santa Claus. St. Nick. The Man in Red.

When we became parents seven Christmases ago, I remember asking my husband for his thoughts on Santa Claus. As Christians, should we be upholding all-things-Santa? All of a sudden, I was so nervous to dive into the realm of fantasy with my children, and I couldn’t remember when I stopped believing as a child myself, or how I even felt about it all. I recall posting my questions on Facebook, and I remember the assurance I received from a multitude of other Christ-loving, God-honoring parents – Yes, we “do Santa,” and the “magic of Christmas” and the “spirit of Christmas” go hand and hand.

We take our girls to see Santa (or one of his secret helpers – we never know 😉 ) around this time each year, and fortunately, we have yet to receive any hard questions. Who knows what this year will hold. Our girls constantly surprise us. But, as I was thinking about Santa and the harder questions that could arise, I started thinking about his character and his attributes.

Thinking back to St. Nicholas, who it is said, gave to the poor out of the compassion and generosity of his own heart, it is easy to see how the love of God and the compassion of Christ reigning in his heart drove him to be such a generous and compassionate man.

Who is Santa Claus?

The giver of good gifts.

The man who can stop time itself to deliver gifts to children who believe all over the world.

A master observer and lover of children.

A jolly man, who sees you when you’re sleeping, awake, and knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.

A kind man.

A generous man.

A compassionate man.

A joyful man.

A man whose legacy has no end.

A man who gives gifts to the rich and poor alike.

A man in red.

I know another man who fits every, single one of these attributes – a different man in red. A man whose blood shed on the Cross, gave us everything we would ever need in this life. A man whose stripes and brokenness gave us every opportunity to have a life of wholeness. I know a man who gives good gifts…perfect gifts…every gift… I know a man who is joy and love personified. I know a man who knows my coming and my going. He knows when I rest and when I rise. I know a man whose conviction and mercy provoke me to kindness. I know a man whose existence is timeless. I know a man who loves us all the same. I know a man who is unrestrained by time and knows every detail of our lives, down to the number of hairs on our heads. I know the ultimate master and observer of children. I know this man in red.

And when I am asked the hard questions someday, I will be sure to tell my children that, “Yes. Santa Claus is very real. I just know Him by a different name.”

xo,

Kristi

red

Klover House Christmas:

Tomorrow we will be taking the girls to see Santa Claus. My hope is to help them rewrite their lists for the 10th time, and honestly, clean up our home! lol My messages have been encouraging you to take it easy this month and focus on what matters, and I hope that you’ve been able to do that a little more intentionally. I also realize that clutter and chaos add unnecessary stress to what is meant to be a simple and relaxing season. So, with that, I will use the help of my little elves tomorrow to straighten up our house before the big day. My goal is peaceful not perfect. We are going to work room-to-room, until our home feels peaceful. I’m not deep-cleaning anything. We are going to tidy up, take lots of little breaks (aka eat the chocolate from our missed Advent calendar days), and keep our moods upbeat in preparation for our evening with the Man in Red. 😉 I hope you enjoy your day today, too, and remember – keep it simple! xo

 

::December 20::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 22::

Simply Noel: December 20 – Out to Sea

Simply Noel:

December 20 – Out to Sea

Last night, I sat down to watch a movie after everyone else went to bed, and something kind of odd happened. A Christmas commercial flashed across the screen, and I had this brief vision of myself floating out to sea in a sturdy, little boat. The song, “Oceans” came to mind immediately, and I knew what this moment meant in my spirit. In a sense, it reflects what is and has been taking place over the course of this month, while working on this devotional. As I have been more intentional about what Christmas means to me and to our family, I have, in a sense, drifted out to sea in the process.

I have been drawn away from the “norm” – the commercialism, the rituals, the status quo, and I have found myself floating in the deep of Christmas. I long for something more than mistletoe and gingerbread. I require a relationship more than words in a bulletin. I feel desperate for the divine, and I feel like I’m watching the familiar fade into the distance as I drift into the deep.

As you can imagine, it feels strange at times, and it puts me in this awkward but wonderful place. When I look at the world, I see the things that I think I should be doing…things I think I should be caring about…things I should be striving for… Then, I look into my spirit, and I see that none of those things even compare to the true meaning of Christmas, and none of them are worthy of taking attention away from the purpose of this season.

As the commercial played, depicting children in complete exhilaration over material possessions, and I saw myself drifting into the sea… I knew that in that flicker of a vision that it was confirmation that the Holy Spirit was calling our family’s focus away from what the world was trying to emphasize as important and inviting us to stay in pursuit of Him this Christmas.

So, as you approach the wonderful day, Christmas, if you feel yourself being pulled further into Christ, embrace the peace that comes with the drifting. It may feel unfamiliar, and you may be tempted to paddle back – there’s so much to do, still stuff to buy, so much to strive for in just five days, but don’t. Don’t paddle back because it’s what you know and it seems predictable. Keep drifting into the mysteries of Jesus and the depth of God. Keep seeking a relationship that reforms Christmas for you and your family.

xo,

Kristi

sea

Klover House Christmas:

Tonight, we took our kids to see Christmas lights. We had an early dinner, baths, and donned pajamas, all before 6 PM. Then, we packed up our Christmas cookies (these really easy Chocolate Crinkles – made with coconut oil) and hot chocolate and headed out. Christmas can be hectic enough without extra bells and whistles. My hope is to keep these next few days as easy and simple as possible, so we can focus on the “feels” and not the “stuff.”

 

::December 19::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 21::

 

Simply Noel: December 19 – The Guest of Honor

Simply Noel:

December 19 – The Guest of Honor

Ever plan a birthday party for someone? A spouse maybe? A son or daughter?

We recently had our family over for my oldest daughter’s birthday. We asked her about her “theme” preference this year. “Princess Elena,” she said. So, I started planning our typical pizza party fiesta-style. I’m not exactly as Pinterest-savvy as I’d like to be, so that basically meant I ordered primary colored banners off of Amazon and had Princess Elena printed onto a store-bought birthday cake.

After tackling the decorations, we moved onto the guest list, aka our family members, aka our loved ones. And after that, we knew how many favors to buy and what kind of food to serve. The kids like cheese pizza, the hubster loves bacon and banana peppers, the safe and obvious choice is pepperoni, so we order a few extra of those. I also prepare a salad for the adults, and it’s usually my Caesar or my mother-in-law’s dressing recipe that is served, because, even though I personally love the balsamic dill the best, the other two are the crowd-pleasers, and we want our guests to leave with happy bellies.

The day comes and the guests arrive and they are greeted with smiles and hugs and a, “Thank you so much for coming!” We eat, chat, laugh, sing to our special birthday person, lavish him/her with gifts, indulge in cake and ice cream, and then our guests leave in the same manner as they arrived – smiles, hugs, and a, “Thank you so much for coming!”

As I have been preparing for Christmas with my children, I have been intentional about reminding them that we celebrate Christmas because it is Jesus’ birthday. We exchange gifts because it’s representative of His gift of eternal life to us…the Wise Men bringing gifts to Him…and basically because you exchange gifts on birthdays, right?

One of my pastors recently said something so profound. I can’t offer a direct quote, because I heard it through the grapevine, but essentially it was something like this: Jesus isn’t the reason for the season, you are.

As I thought about my role as a parent throwing their child a party, I saw something pretty remarkable. While my child is the one we are celebrating, my focus and attention is actually on the guests.

When you are invited to a birthday celebration, why is that? I would gather that it is because you are loved. You are family. You are someone that is treasured, valued, and included on purpose. You are honored. It is an honor to host you in our home, and we do our best to make you aware of our gratitude. We prepare a table for you. We set the stage to fellowship with you, and we welcome you into our intimate space – our home.

And this is the Father’s heart on December 25th.

His beautiful, perfect, blameless Son was born, and every year on Christmas we celebrate His life – His birth. The Father says, “Come. Come to His party. I have prepared a table for you. We invite you in to this sacred place in order to fellowship with you. You are loved. You are our honored guest. You are family. Welcome.”

So, on December 25th, as you exchange gifts with the ones you love, and you receive gifts in return, yes, remember His great gift. As you sit at a table and break bread with your people, remember His table, prepared for you. And as you focus on the Lord this week and you make your preparations for His “party” – find joy in the fact that more than anything you could possibly have to offer Him, the Father is just so pleased that He has invited you and knows that you have every intention of attending.

xo,

Kristi

birthday

Klover House Christmas:

We are so blessed that our children attend a school in which they can celebrate Jesus openly, as well. Part of the Kindergarten celebration has been to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus during their school party.  That is also one of the traditions that we have adopted here in our home. We bake a cake or brownie pan, whatever works out best for that year, in honor of Jesus’ birthday. Even if it’s just a candle in a Christmas cookie, it is a simple and meaningful way to remind the children the reason behind our celebration. We also have a Heaven Baby, and I love that we have made it a habit to acknowledge our Heaven Family (Jesus being in that family) on their birthdays. We celebrate Him just as deeply as we celebrate our child.

Do you celebrate Jesus’s birthday in any literal ways in your homes? Or do you have a certain treat recipe for this purpose? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, if so!

 

::December 18::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 20::

Simply Noel: December 17 – A Season of Self-Care

Simply Noel:

December 17 – A Season of Self-Care

Last night, I shut my computer down just before midnight. We returned home late, after an early Christmas celebration with my husband’s side of the family. I bathed the littlest ones, we put the kids to bed, and I opened my laptop to write this post with heavy eyelids. As I typed the title that was on my heart all day, I realized that the most important thing about this devotional project wasn’t the deadline each day or being able to choose the most eloquent words…it is its authenticity. Am I practicing what I am preaching? Am I taking each day’s message and honestly applying it to myself first, before I expect anyone else to follow suit?

Self-Care.

Sleep.

I made the better choice, and went to bed.

Isn’t it true for so many of us that the holiday season is the one in which we usually practice self-care the least? We are running around, finishing errands, attending parties and events, stressing over tasks and purchases, taking care of sick babies and overexerting ourselves physically to decorate the house, staying up too late baking and cleaning… Christmas, at least for me, has been a time of great sacrifice in regards to my own health, sanity, and needs.

Do you remember a certain set of sisters in Luke, chapter 10, that had to choose between busyness and rest?

Martha and Mary

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Martha – “worried and bothered about so many things…”

Mary – “seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word…”

One chose work; one chose rest. And just one of those choices was the necessary one.

You see, there are times in our lives and in our days in which it is necessary to choose between what we think we should do and what we should actually be doing.

God in the flesh was sitting in her home – Martha should have chosen to sit with Him.

Worried and Bothered about So Many Things?

There are times to clean and cook and work, and there are times to rest, relax, and sleep. There are times to run errands, and there are times to say, “No, that can wait,” or, “That’s really not a necessity.” There are times to visit and attend gatherings, and there are times in which you should give yourself permission to stay home and focus on yourself and your family.

It’s ok to respond to all of those e-mails on Monday and enjoy your kids instead on the weekends. It’s ok to put the kids to bed 30 minutes earlier and take a long bath. It’s ok to let the dishes wait until morning, so you can turn in early.

Especially if you are under the weather right now, which so many of us are, self-care couldn’t be more important. How can you be your best you and enjoy this season if you continue to ruin your mind and body in the process?

Choose time with Him. Choose time for your family. Choose time to take care of YOU. The rest can wait and can be taken in stride.

Your family doesn’t need a perfect home. It needs your love.

Your friends don’t need lavish gifts and parties. They need your laughter.

The world doesn’t need a rundown mind and body walking around. It needs your smile.

And it’s hard to smile, laugh, and love well, when you’re deprived and just wishing for a long winter’s nap, right?

So, take care of you – your mind, body, and soul, and sit at His feet first and foremost this season. Handle the rest after you’re rested.

xo,

Kristi

care

Klover House Christmas:

Eight sleeps (counting last night, since I’m late posting this), until Christmas morning. If you are like me, can you do me a favor? Commit with me to go to bed early each night leading up to Christmas. My normal bedtime is 2AM. Seriously. It’s terrible. My husband’s bedtime is 10PM. Much more sane, right? So, this week, I am committing to my husband’s bedtime and no later than 11PM, if he stays up a little longer to watch a movie, etc. This is a very practical way that I can take care of myself this week.

What is a practical way that you can take care of yourself this week? Can you say “no” to extra plans and just rest a little more? Can you say “no” to extra errands, and just be ok with what you have already? Can you say “no” to scrubbing a floor and sit down with Jesus for 20 minutes instead?

Let’s take practical, intentional steps this week to make the choices that matter, that are necessary, and the ones that have results that “cannot be taken away” from us. Time spent cannot be taken away. Let’s spend that time well.

Lord, please touch those of us sick in body today. Father, I pray for my friends’ healing and peace this Christmas. May their homes become sanctuaries for themselves and their loved ones. May they feel Your presence there. God, we love you and we want your peace to reign in our homes. Be near to us today and always, Holy Spirit. Guide our hearts and minds to make the best choices today, tomorrow, and each day to come. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

::December 16::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 18::

Simply Noel: December 13 – Let There Be Light

Simply Noel:

December 13 – Let There Be Light

Have you noticed that Christmas has become a hodgepodge of traditions? When I set out to start this devotional, one of my goals was to learn the “why” behind some of the practices. Christmas comes along, and I break out the Advent calendars, the gingerbread houses, the decorations, the wreaths, the lights, the holly, the mistletoe… We bake cookies, special breads, and yule logs… We cook certain meats and seafoods… We sing specific songs and visit Santa at the mall… Those are just some of the traditions we carry on, because our culture has adopted them. I’m sure there are even more, especially when we add in the modern ones…

It can be overwhelming, can’t it? And while I have participated and incorporated many Christmas traditions into our lives here, I refuse to be bound to rituals, especially when I don’t understand them to begin with and it’s become a matter of going through the motions. Are you going through the motions, too?

One of the stories I stumbled upon is related to this day, December 13th – Saint Lucia (St. Lucy) Day, was about a young and devout Christian woman, who was martyred for her unwavering faith in Christ. I’m sure I’ll get part of her story’s details wrong (because I am neither Catholic, Lutheran, or Swedish), but basically, according to legend, in 304 A.D. she “brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs using a candle-lit wreath [worn on her head] to light her way and leave her hands free,” so on this day, St. Lucia (meaning light) is remembered/honored in certain ways, both in places of worship and also in private homes.

One of the practices I read about, in regards to this day, was the eating of a breakfast meal by candlelight. I started imagining how serene and lovely it would be – to serve my family some eggs and Lucia Buns by candlelight one winter morning. There’s something so wonderful about candlelight – so peaceful. Have you ever enjoyed a candle-lit meal on a date, perhaps, or at a wedding? I love the way the light only reaches so far and then fades into darkness. The soft, warm glow that touches each object in front of you… The way it flickers and causes the surroundings to dance… The warmth that it gives off… I simply love candlelight. It’s interesting to me how intimate it makes even the most mundane activity feel. I almost think it brings things into focus, because you have no choice but to only focus on the small area that you can actually see – the face of a loved one sitting next to you, the other end of a table, the page of a book…

I started to think about our candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We could easily flip the switch and illuminate the entire room. Let there be light! Ta-da! But, no, that’s not what happens, right? We start with a real, not artificial, single flame, and person by person, we watch it grow into a sea of the most warm and peaceful light. Furthermore, you and the light are one. It goes where you go, turns where you turn…

There is so much talk about light in the Bible. Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden… He also tells us that while He is in the world, He is the Light of the world.

“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

– John 12:35-36

Sons of light… light of the world… carriers of light…

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.'”

– Ephesians 5:8-15

Christ is the Light of the world, He shined His light on us, and now we are carriers of that light, making us the light of the world…

So, while we can honor and respect the selfless and sacrificial lives of those men and women, like St. Lucia, who have laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel and for the love of others, we mustn’t get caught up in rituals that might distract from the reality that we are the light. We don’t necessarily need a feast to welcome the light to the darkness… We don’t need a ceremony… We need a breakthrough moment – a revelation – in which Christ cracks us wide open and His light bursts from us, like the sun. And then, as we are going about our daily lives, we embody the Holy Spirit’s flame and we ignite the spirit of each person we come in contact with. It may look like the striking of a match, or it may be the gentle and steady transfer of Heaven’s light, but either way, we are to light the world one heart at a time.

xo,

Kristi

lights

Klover House Christmas:

While we don’t celebrate St. Lucia Day, I do love baking festive breads. If you caught my recent post, What You Do Well, then you’ll remember that I’m not the best baker, but breads, I can handle. I really enjoy the process of breadmaking. I found this post for St. Lucia Buns, and they sound tasty. I’ve always wondered what saffron tastes like, so this might be a great excuse to make something with it. Let me know if you try this out, or if St. Lucia Buns are a “thing” at your house, I’d love to hear from you!

Recipe for St. Lucia Buns – click here.

Simply Noel: December 12 – Truest Treasures

Simply Noel:

December 12 – Truest Treasures

Something I have noticed, as a parent over the past seven years, is the undeniable desire to see your children become better than yourself. We want our kids to be better stewards of time and resources, better and kinder humans, harder but smarter workers, better citizens of both heaven and earth. We want our children to grow and mature into responsible, reasonable, honest and trustworthy adults, capable of making tough decisions and caring about their place in the world.

As I began an online search earlier tonight, “popular gifts for teenage girls,” I have to be honest and say that what came up disappointed me. These were items that I, as a thirtysomething, don’t even own or that I didn’t ask for until I was a thirtysomething. DSLR Cameras? A $200 watch? A smartphone… Slippers that would feed a family of four easily for a week?! Really?

I remember when I was a teenager, I was so happy to have a cool bag, some great nail polish, art supplies, and good books. Am I so antiquated that the simple things that satisfied me aren’t the “norm” anymore?

As parents is this what we want for our children? I think that God wants and requires for us to set the bar high when it comes to caring for our families, but somewhere in time, someone decided that the bars had to be gilded, doused in glitter and diamond-studded.

It occurred to me that part of my job as a mentor to small humans is to teach them about the dangerous snare that is the love of money. To be fair, we do not live as paupers, but we are living at our means. I decided when we had our first child that I would neither look to the right nor left. The Joneses could have and do whatever they pleased, and they could shower their children with as much stuff as they wanted, but I was determined to keep my eyes fixed on our path, our convictions, and our goals as a family.

That practice started to waiver once my kids entered elementary school. All of a sudden, you know what everyone is doing and what every kid wants and has. (Don’t even get me started on Hatchimals this year.) And just like some of you, our children have come home with longings in their hearts and on their little minds, and they don’t see dollar signs, they see a “want” that feels a lot like a “need,” and they turn to their earthly providers – us.

And, unlike our Heavenly Father, we start to bend our goals to meet their “needs” and we are swept away into the “more” of Christmas. We stress and sweat over the hottest toys and the nicest clothes, and we feel that pit in our stomachs when the credit card statements arrive in the mail.

And for what? What are we instilling in our children by doing Christmas like this? We could probably convince ourselves that it’s good to make sacrifices for them, but if putting yourself in debt is the outcome, it just seems to be more harmful for our families in the end.

So what can we do about this trend? How do we stop the snowball from evolving into an avalanche?

That’s what I’m working on too, friend. I wish I had the perfect advice, but I don’t – not yet. But I do know that seeing how out of control things have gotten and being willing to adjust the course is a good start.

I want my ceiling to be their floor even in the understanding that there is more to life than what you own. There is more to a person than what they wear. There is more to Christmas than what you find in a stocking or beneath a tree.

So much of life is taking your ideals and realities and allowing the Holy Spirit to weave the two together. God is a Father. He is the Father. He wants to provide for our needs and give us the desires of our hearts, just like we long to do for our own children. He understands both our desires and our limitations as earthly parents. Go to Him with your hardships this season, friend. Talk to Him, parent to parent. Not a parent? Talk to Him giver to giver, and follow the advice you feel Him pouring into your spirit.

We made a practical decision as parents several years ago that Santa would never bring our kids an expensive gift. We knew that someday, if we allowed that practice to take place, that our child would possibly be the one who went to school talking about their trip to Disney World from Santa, and Susie Nextdoor may wonder why he gifted her a doll or a book. We would rather our child come home with questions for us, as opposed to being the child who unintentionally breaks a peer’s heart. One way we know we can explain this to our children is that “moms and dads have the choice on what Santa can bring, and we want our kids to receive certain items of certain value,” and not because they aren’t worthy of more, but because, as a family, we value those heart gifts much more. “It’s better to give than receive.” Our treasures are things unseen. Don’t be afraid to have real-life talks with your kids. If I want my daughters to steer clear of materialism and greed, I have to be willing to have the hard conversations about the state of world (within reason, according to age) and those in it who are less fortunate.

So, with Christmas just a week and a half away, I plan on looking for those opportunities now. And most importantly, if I want my children to be free from a overly commercialized Christmas when they are older, I need to model those intentions now.

And as for those teenagers that inspired these thoughts – they won’t be receiving any smartphones or cameras, but they will receive something that will enhance their lives and included in that package will be a message that expresses a gift that I hope they will carry in their hearts forever – “You are loved. You matter. God has a plan for you, and you are never forgotten.”

That’s a treasure far more valuable than any earthly possession. It’s not found on a shelf, in a wallet, or hanging on a rack. Real treasures are such things as a loving heart, a compassionate soul, and a relationship with a heavenly Father. My goal this year is to fan those embers of truth in my kids’ hearts, so that they grow to long for the truest treasures.

xo,

Kristi

gift

Klover House Christmas:

 

Crafting with a Purpose

My girls are really into wrapping up items from their playroom and giving them to one another. The bad news? All of my tissue paper, tape, and tin foil are now gone. Good news? They are revelling in the joy of giving. “Playing Christmas” is what they call it.

This week, I plan on giving them each a box and heart cutouts. We are going to wrap our hearts up for Jesus and talk about how our love and devotion is all He ever wants for His birthday, and how our brotherly love is all He wants for us to give to others, as well.

Then, we will choose a non-tangible gift to give one another. An example would be (hopefully) something like, “I want to give my sister kindness,” or “I want to give my children patience.”

I hope to use this activity to further emphasize the importance of spiritual fruit over material possessions. “ For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul,” right? (Mark 8:36)

It starts at home, and it starts with us, and it can start as easily as sharing a simple craft done in honesty and love.

 

::December 11::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 13::

Simply Noel: December 9 – What You Do Well…

Simply Noel:

December 9 – What You Do Well…

Every single year, I come up with about four new cookie recipes I’d like to try for Christmas. I dream of perfecting the Peanut Butter Blossoms, attempting a biscotti recipe, and creating a from-scratch masterpiece that no one else has yet to bring to the table.

And every year, my Peanut Butter Blossoms are so-so, I never get around to the biscotti, and every new thing I try is pretty much a flop.

We celebrate Christmas early with my husband’s family, and so, we are heading there next weekend. In years past, I have tried to wow and pleasantly surprise our family with something yummy, but it never fails – I run around like a crazy lady, trying to whip up these “easy” new treats that I spotted in a trendy magazine, something goes miserably wrong, and we show up with a subpar tray that no one even touches.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, has cornered the market on Peanut Butter Blossoms, and her cookie trays look like they belong in a Christmas shop. Always a gorgeous array of festive colors… no bakes… truffles… cute ones that are cleanly decorated… And they all taste amazing to boot!

Bottom line… She is the baker. This lady (me) is not.

My Salted Caramel Oreo Truffles are pretty much the only “cookie” recipe that I have ever pulled off with ease and happy results. Everything else has sort of been a disappointment.

Breads and muffins… Now, those are my jam. Cookies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, etc… not so much.

This year, I feel this tug in my spirit urging me to set the baking bar loooooow. Set it real low, Sister. What you do well… Do that.

What you do WELL… Do that.

I’m not saying that I won’t still try new things, but as far as stressing myself out in order to be somebody that I am not (at least not yet), it’s time to cut that stuff out.

You know what I’m good at? Cooking meals from scratch and using my instincts and senses to do so. I’m also crafty. I love decorating average sugar cookies with my creative and funny kids. I love making homemade rosemary focaccia. I can whip up some pretty stellar brownies. I created this incredibly delicious stuff that my hubby and I call, “Peanut Butter Spoon Fudge.” I can make beautiful and sometimes unique floral arrangements for myself and others, saving us hundreds of dollars a year. I can make stories come alive for my kids when I read to them. I can design and sew dresses. I can serve others with joy. I take very good care of my children.

I can’t bake a decent pie (unless it’s pumpkin), or make beautiful cookies, but I can do those other things, and I can do them well.

God created you to do certain things well, too. It’s not that we can’t grow, evolve, and learn new things, because we can. But I believe that there are also times in which we need to put the other 99 hats on the shelf and just wear one or two for a season.

That person that you are…be her/him well. Love well. What you put your hands to, do that well. What you love…love well.

Spare yourself the extra worry this Christmas. I’m sure you have plenty to do already. Do those things well, and let others do their things well, too.

I am a parent who already sees certain strengths and talents emerging in each of my daughters. I would never want them to feel frazzled, less-than, or not good enough. I would never want them to waste their time striving and trying to be someone that they were not meant to be. It would break my heart to see them trying to squeeze into a mold that doesn’t belong to them, forsaking the beautiful one that bears their name alone.

That’s us. The Father’s children.

Next weekend, I am going to leave the cookies at home, and show up with the few things I can make well and appreciate the gifts and talents that I see in the others around me.

When we stop trying to be everything for everyone, we can actually be who we are meant to be. I’m guessing that if we’re honest, the one person we’re really trying to constantly “show up” is actually ourselves. Time to give yourself a break. Take a moment to realize who you are, what you love, and how beautiful your personal giftings are. Take the same awe that you would give to others and give it to yourself. You are enough. What you can do right now in this season is enough. Know that today, and carry that truth into tomorrow.

xo,

Kristi

gifts

Klover House Christmas:

You know those one “cookies” I said that I can do well? It’s true! They are so good! If you love caramel and chocolate and you own a food processor, then this is a treat for you! The trick is in freezing them long enough so that they are simple to roll in chocolate. This year, I want to use my new Pampered Chef drizzler thingy, that my sister-in-law gifted me with, to decorate them again with caramel. Then, I plan on sprinkling some raw sugar on top to give them that holiday sparkle. Simply click the link below to find your way to this decadent recipe. Enjoy! And if you can make biscotti…come and see me. 😉

Salted Caramel Oreo Truffles

 

::December 8::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 10::

Simply Noel: December 8 – Chasing Rabbits

Simply Noel:

December 8 – Chasing Rabbits

I woke up with several goals today. The first, after seeing our oldest child off to school, was to simply do the dishes. Seems like a no-brainer, right? I also wanted to straighten up our living room and finish this devotional entry. I thought that I could easily accomplish those few tasks with little brain power and minimal kid interruptions, especially since the remaining three children were either still sleeping or vegging on the couch, thanks to feeling icky.

As I tackled the quick clean up and dishes, I notice a reminder in my inbox. A webinar that I had signed up for days ago was starting soon, and I had forgotten all about it. Although it wasn’t on my list, I still wanted to listen in. I figured it would take at least an hour from start to finish, and, because I have a hard time mentally multi-tasking when I write, it was inevitable that writing would be pushed further down the list.

Just as I suspected, the webinar lasted for over an hour, and was full of wonderful, helpful information. I failed to take notes, because I was completing more chores and taking care of the kids as I listened, but one of the many points I remembered from the chat is forever seared into my mind.

A man who chases two rabbits catches neither.

Goodness. That is me pretty much all of the time! I often scurry around the house doing a little of this and a little of that. I’ll start to tackle something only to be called for by a kiddo in the next room. I’ll remember to make a phone call while I’m in the middle of making lunch or writing an e-mail. I’ll pull out my calendar and jot down randomness when I should be praying, etc. I am constantly chasing two rabbits. Gosh, I’m chasing a whole slew of bunnies simultaneously all day, every day.

That simple sentence really impacted the rest of my day. For the first time in months, maybe even years, I committed to a single task as the day progressed. I saw it through and continued on. I even took a break to sit on the couch and watch my kids play in front of the Christmas tree. Actually, they mostly argued over Fisher-Price Little People and I refereed, but still…

I didn’t accomplish writing, but I was able to sort several mountains of laundry, clean up my kitchen, hang out with my mom, who had stopped in for a visit, and take a much-needed breather.

When we commit to tackling one thing at a time, it often sounds great in theory, but it’s the follow-through that tends to bite us, right? Just repeating that phrase to myself continually through the day helped remind me to chase one rabbit – to focus on one thing and one thing only until it was done.

Christmas often creates an environment of chasing, not just one, two, or even three rabbits but rather, what seems like a hundred rabbits at once. We have to-lists that seem a mile long, and we have responsibilities and activities coming out of our ears. Repeat after me tonight, “Only chase one rabbit.”

One rabbit.

Catch it. Box him up, and finish him off with a pretty little bow. Then lock eyes on the next one.

And just as Jesus reminded Martha in Luke, chapter 10, “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her,” it’s vital that our first rabbit every day is the one representing time spent with God. 

Our time with Him doesn’t have to be ritualistic. It mustn’t resemble a chore to be crossed off the list. It is simply a, “Good morning, Father. I love you. What are we going to do today?” Allow the conversation to go from there. Tell Him your thoughts and praise Him for that grace and mercy you hold in each breath, each step, each heartbeat. Thank Him for another day…another Christmas…

And thank Him for the stamina and wisdom to best catch those rabbits.

xo,

Kristi

rabbits

Klover House Christmas:

Today, we had a slow and steady kind of day. Often, Christmas coincides with sneezing and wheezing around here. As much as we love our supplements and healthy diets…sometimes, you just find your house has succumbed to the “Kindergarten Crud.” We are in one of those weeks. So, we’re wearing our pajamas a little longer, eating a ton of soup, and just cleaning, snuggling, and repeating…

Today, I’d like to do something a little differently and offer you one of our favorite soup recipes. It’s an oldie, but goodie, and you can find it by clicking the link below:

Chicken Noodle Soup

One of my favorite things to do is make a hearty bone broth. I just throw the leftover chicken bones into my roaster overnight at 250 degrees along with enough veggie stock or water to cover it, and I add all of the vegetables and herbs I can find – usually carrots, onions, celery, rosemary, thyme, and sage. Then, on the morning of the following day, I add enough water to fill it to the top once more and toss in garlic cloves and a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. I’ll let it simmer until dinnertime, cool, and freeze in cup-size portions. This technique usually makes me about nine cups of beautiful, healthy, golden bone broth.

 

::December 7::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 9::

Simply Noel: December 7 – Humble Pie

Simply Noel:

December 7 – Humble Pie

Last week, I found myself in an interesting situation.

One of my four children participates in speech therapy for a delay. When we first started, she was testing a year behind her age group. After just nine months of therapy, she had grown tremendously, testing just months shy of her goals.

When we first began the visits, our therapist promptly told us about what they call the “Medical Loophole.” Children receiving services can qualify for financial assistance, regardless of their caretakers’ salaries. We were also under the impression that our copay for each visit was just $15. Being the stubborn person that I am, I shrugged off the advice to seek aid, and thought, “We can handle that.” I didn’t want to “take from the system” if we could manage. Meanwhile, we are a family of six (one in diapers), living paycheck to paycheck on a single income. It can be so stressful for my husband at times. Any little help, in hindsight, would have been a relief for him.

Six months into her visits, with momentum building and our therapist encouraging us to add a pre-school readiness class to our itinerary, we received a letter. The letter was actually a bill for a mind-blowing amount of money. Apparently, our copayment was not the $15 that I had been faithfully paying each week, but rather, it was a whopping $50 per visit. So, in my ignorance, I had been accumulating a substantial debt for our family at an exponential rate.

All that to say, all of a sudden, the Loophole wasn’t just a “help,” it was a necessity. After forgetting for weeks, I applied online and was directed to submit some additional paperwork in person at the local Welfare Department. I put it off and put it off. Why was I dragging my feet? The answer was simple – my procrastination was pride.

Finally, on the very last day of the deadline, I picked up my older two daughters at school, while my mother watched the younger ones, and I headed reluctantly into town.

I had never been there before, so at first, I went to the wrong side of town, paid for a parking meter that I didn’t need, and walked the street with my kids in the frigid air. After realizing my mistake, we got back in the car and found the right location. Flustered and cold (because none of us were wearing our coats, even though it was freezing), we entered the office and took a number. We were quickly attended to, but there was a problem – it was the final day of the deadline, and our application was already denied. Probably aware of my distress, the woman behind the counter told us to take a seat, and she left the room.

I’m a germophobe, so the three of us huddled in the corner instead. As we waited, a straight-faced security guard looked at me and said sternly, “Don’t go anywhere when you’re finished.” I nodded and said, “Ok,” completely confused by his directive.

After only a few minutes, the woman returned and said that our caseworker agreed to look at our forms, and she handed me a card with some contact information written on it. I thanked her as genuinely as I could, and looked over at the guard. He motioned with his finger to follow him, and we did. He led us into a back room with tables lined in boxes.

“What sizes are your girls?”

“Sizes?”

“For coats. What sizes do they wear? I’ve got coats for them.”

My brain went into a tailspin. Coats? We weren’t wearing any. All of us had on cardigans on this cold afternoon.

I wanted to tell him that the girls’ coats were in the car. I wanted him to know that we weren’t in need. I wanted to tell him that I was able to give them a coat and to save them for someone else.

And I couldn’t.

I couldn’t say any of it.

The Lord, in that moment, handed me a warm slice of Humble Pie.

All of these months, I had been denying help, and here we were, standing in the Welfare Office, receiving coats from “Operation Warm.” It was as low as my prideful self could go – to be seen as a mother who couldn’t afford to clothe her babies appropriately for the winter… And to think, there are so many parents out there who, because of circumstances beyond their control, can’t clothe themselves or their children appropriately. How it must break their hearts. How it must eat at their souls. One of our deepest desires as parents is to care for our babies, and care for them well.

So, I took my slice of Humble Pie, and I gulped it down. I smiled at the man, thanked him as genuinely as I could, and I left him with a, “God bless you, sir.”

“We take care of our kids,” he replied.

My daughter wore her new coat to school the next day, and I so badly did not want her to. I was quickly reminded of that pie. Did I need another serving?

No, Lord, I understand.

Father, thank you for the blessings in our lives. Thank you for the men and women out there who are clothing families in need. Thank you for bold and unexpected reminders to live with thankful hearts.

What’s your Humble Pie?

We all struggle with some area in our lives. There’s a place in each of us, I’m sure, that has become an, “I’ve got this, but thanks” spot. Maybe it’s keeping up with a task at work? Maybe you’re desperately treading water at home? Maybe you’re juggling schooling, and parenting, and a job? Maybe it’s a secret issue – a sin issue – and you’re too afraid to confide in someone? Maybe you need help financially, but you feel ashamed admitting it? Maybe it’s as simple as thinking, “Cooking for Christmas Eve overwhelms me, and I wish I could lighten the load.” Big or small, I believe that we all have a slice of pie set aside for us on Heaven’s pantry shelf.

Keep your eyes open and your spirit listening this holiday season. It’s a beautiful thing to give, but if you need to be the one on the receiving end, that’s a good thing, too. Remember, where there is a receiver, there is a giver, and when we receive – be it money, a gift, a coat, or even grace – the Giver is blessed, just as we are, if not more so.

xo,

Kristi

humble

 

Klover House Christmas:

A friend in my daughter’s class is participating in a local coat drive. Since we have been blessed with coats this year, today, I will gather our extra coats and coats that the children have outgrown to give to her tomorrow.

If you have a Model Cleaners in your area, please consider taking your old coats to them this week. The company has launched a “Coats for Kids” Coat Drive, and you can give them your coats in as-is condition. They will take them off of your hands and dry-clean the coats at no cost to you. Then, they handle delivering the coats to the Salvation Army. The deadline this year is December 9th, but if you miss the deadline, please consider dropping your coats off at the Salvation Army, as well.

Also, if your child or a child you know is in need of a warm coat this winter, please consider laying your pride aside, if it is holding you back, and visit your local Welfare Office. These are kind, caring people, and I am an example of someone who is not “in the system,” and yet, a compassionate soul saw a need and took action to meet it. There are coats there for your children. Don’t let shame hold you back from a Christmas blessing.

God bless you, friends. Love you all! xo

 

::December 6::    ::Back to the Top::    ::December 8::