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!

 

Simply Noel: December 18 – The Ordinary Days

Simply Noel:

December 18 – The Ordinary Days

Sometimes I find myself reading the “On This Day” in Wikipedia, and I enjoy apps like TimeHop and checking out my Facebook memories daily. Not all of our days seem special, but in hindsight, isn’t interesting that all of these “ordinary” days are actually quite special? Maybe it was something funny that one of my daughters said at dinner or a flashback to a sweet date night with my husband before we became a family of six. Maybe it’s an image of a little one’s birthday party or a scene from a family hiking trip.

At the time, while we are living these days, they seem so ordinary, so mundane, but all of these mundane moments and ordinary days become our lives, and our lives are so short and precious that it would be such a shame to race through these days, tossing them off as “ordinary,” unimportant days.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it is so important to slow down and live each day like it matters, and not just see them as the “filler” between each holiday event. And to race through each wee is almost second-nature. It takes intention and determination to grab the reigns and slow the pace of life for ourselves.

I read Wikipedia today, December 18th, and to me, it was just a no-big-deal, ordinary day, but history tells a different story… I looked at the important events that had taken place over the course of generations, and the births of people that would change the face of humanity – for better and for worse. For us, each day may be just another, boring day, but in another place, in another’s life…it has the potential to be the most remarkable day in history.

I often read the book of Ecclesiastes, mostly because it perplexes me. It makes me think. For the longest time, I thought I was missing something (maybe I still am), and I tried to understand how and why I was supposed to adopt this “everything is meaningless” kind of mentality. Why would God have me do such a thing, especially when it seems like He would want me to live as though the opposite is true? Every thing, every person, and every day is full of meaning and purpose. Maybe that’s the actual point of the book? Maybe He wants us to see the fruitlessness that comes from living as though nothing matters and we’re just taking up space and time?

I do that as a mom, sometimes. I’ll say things to my children like, “Sure. Don’t wear your coat. Then, you can freeze, and catch a cold, and we’ll have to get some icky medicine. It’ll be great! Who wants to be healthy on Christmas, anyway?!” And as children, my sarcasm is lost on them, but God’s sarcasm is not lost on me. In fact, I hold dear to David’s prayer in the Psalms:

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

– Psalm 90:12

Yes, Lord. Teach us to number our days, so that we may live these precious days wisely. Thank you for these ordinary days and mundane moments, and thank you for giving your all so that we could abundantly live in each one of them.

days

Klover House Christmas:

Last night, my husband and I made plans for the rest of this week. We don’t want to miss out on opportunities to fulfill our Christmas wishlist, as far as things we hope to do as a family before Christmas Day. You won’t find events or parties on this list. Instead, you’ll find items, such as:

  • Make a gingerbread house
  • See the Christmas lights
  • Make sugar cookies
  • Visit Santa at the mall
  • Attend Church services
  • Read the Christmas story

We checked “Watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” off the other night, and, despite neither of us feeling well, it felt so good to belly-laugh together.

What is on your list this week? What is going to make you smile, laugh, and feel thankful to be alive? It’s these little moments that make our holidays (and our lives) extraordinary.

 

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.

 

Simply Noel: December 15 – Ten Days of Grace


Simply Noel:

December 15 – Ten Days of Grace

Ten days.

Ten days until Christmas Day. Are you ready? No, don’t answer that, because if there’s one thing that I hope I have helped you with this Christmas season, it’s that there is really no pressure of “being ready.” Instead, be present. Be intentional. Be honest with yourself, and be realistic with your time, money, talents, and needs.

Give yourself grace and truth over the next ten days, friend.

Don’t bake all the cookies. Pick two favorites and roll with that.

Don’t go to all of the events. Pick a couple that work with your schedule, and decline the others with love – “Please, think of us next year, but this year, we have to pass. I love you, though!”

Don’t buy all the presents. Pick the most meaningful gifts, and write a great letter to that special someone, instead. Give gifts that never expire, need batteries, or grow old. An “I love you, because…” or an “I am thankful for you, because…” goes a very long way and ripples through a lifetime.

Spend time with the people you love.

Reach out to the people who may need love most. It just occurred to me the other day that 10% of our day is over two hours. Simple math, right? But, gosh. What could we do with two hours? Makes that ten minute phone call seem a lot less intrusive on our day, doesn’t it? Make yourself a cup of tea, grab the phone, and take two minutes to tell someone you’re thinking about them.

Slow down. I know it’s so hard. We have so many opportunities within reach, but, as one of my favorite writers reminded me earlier this year, for every “yes,” there is a “no.” Say “yes” to the simple and the meaningful, and forgive yourself for saying “no” to the “muchness” of Christmas.

One of the things that I have taken on, as a mother who enjoys sewing, is the crafting of Christmas dresses for each of my daughters. This will be my third year making them, if I get around to it. But, unlike in the previous years, if I don’t get to it, I need to just be okay with that. Rather than pull all-nighters, I need to know 1)my girls are loved, 2) my children have store-bought dresses that are just fine, 3) the only person judging me if I don’t do it is me, so I need to just get a grip and get over it.

For the next ten days, will you commit to living under grace with me? Give yourself grace. Give your children and spouse grace. Give your co-workers grace, and give every bah-humbugger you meet along the way extra grace, too.

This is not a countdown, friend. This is a call to live for the next ten days (at least) with intention, purpose, meaning, and the most severe grace you have ever given yourself. Free yourself up to love, and free yourself up to feel and be in the moment. It’s so hard sometimes, isn’t it? Our lives are so full that we feel we have no choice but to stay on our toes, keep everything overly organized, and constantly look ahead for the next mark on the list and the next thing on the calendar. This is your stop sign, or at least your blinking light. Stop fretting and get ready for a lot of breathing room this week.

Stick with simple gift-wrapping. Stick with recipes you know and love. Ask for help, even if you don’t think you need it. You may not need the extra hand, but that person whom you call upon, well, he/she may need to feel useful today. Maybe you were an answer to an unspoken prayer with your fellowship.

Keep your heart light, because, like all the Christmases before this one, you will blink, and it will have passed. It won’t matter if you had casserole or soup. It won’t matter if you tied ribbons or pasted bows. And it won’t matter if you spent $6 or $60. Don’t sweat the small stuff, as they say, but rather, enjoy the small stuff. Life is found in the random moments. People will remember how you made them feel, and when you carry grace with you, it’s bound to rub off on others.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

– John 1:16,18

Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” I believe that these words are special, because when you are walking in grace (knowing where your strength comes from and that you have humbly received the undeserved gift of salvation from a Father who loves you) and truth (you know whose you are and that you have authority to live a life free from stress and chaos), then you have room to experience love, joy, peace, favor and gratitude. You have room to operate out of hope, patience, kindness, wisdom and generosity.

So, know whose you are today, and, for these next ten days, accept the grace that is actually yours to keep the whole year through.

xo,

Kristi

grace

Klover House Christmas:

Today, I made myself a list of ten areas in which I am going to give myself grace over the next ten days. I invite you to make your own list. What can you say “no” to, in order that you can have enough “yes” moments that really matter?

I will give myself grace (temporary exemption, mercy, pardon, kindness, courtesy, privilege, blessing…) in the following ways:

1 – Housework – I will say “no” to my never-ending list of chores today and say “yes” to taking my daughter for a new violin, spending time with my mom, and wrapping gifts with my husband after the kids go to bed.

2 – Family – I will say “no” to my own personal to-do list and say “yes” to playing with my kids and watching a movie with my husband.

3 – Pride – I will say “no” to the desire to make “bigger and better” meals and say “yes” to simple and familiar, so that I can enjoy an early celebration with family.

4 – Cell phone – I will say “no” to the endless gazing at my phone and say “yes” to offering my family my full attention for the afternoon.

5 – Sleep – I will say “no” to staying up too late tonight, so that I can say “yes” to being mentally and emotionally present for my daughter’s field trip.

6 – School – I will say “yes” to keeping my daughter’s school party simple, affordable, and fun and say “no” to trying to impress or go overboard, planning elaborate or costly activities.

7 – Business – I will say “no” to the desire to push myself too far in order to finish too many things, and I will say “yes” to checking in on a few customers/friends.

8 – Plans – I will say “no” to scrambling around at the last minute and say “yes” to being satisfied with what I have accomplished so far, so I can enjoy these last days before Christmas.

9 – Mom Guilt – I will say “no” to staying up all night to finish the girls’ dresses, if they aren’t finished, knowing that they have beautiful clothing and this isn’t a “need.” In doing so, I will say “yes” to my sanity.

10 – Christmas Eve – I will say “no” to anything unrelated to this holy night and say “yes” to making it meaningful for my children. I will say “no” to the distractions so that I can remember to say “yes” to my heart’s desire for my family to know and feel my love for them.

What will you say “no” to this week so that you can say “yes” to who and what you treasure?

You can do this – I believe in you. Write it down as simply or elaborately as you’d like, and carry it with you or put it on your refrigerator. Let’s make these next ten days the easiest days of your month.

Everything you need for a beautiful Christmas, you may already possess.

 

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.

 

 

Simply Noel: December 11 – The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Simply Noel:

December 11 – The Way, The Truth, and The Life

You know, God is so amazing. The way His purposes and plans are so divinely woven through all time – from the first word spoken at Creation to the words yet to be spoken in eternity, His words and work never cease to amaze. For generations, God foretold the coming of the Christ child through prophets, psalms and angelic visitations.

As I was reading the story of Jesus’ birth again last week, I saw a beautiful thing, and I was reminded of what Jesus said, as recorded in John 14:6.

And Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”

The way. The truth. The life.

And then it hit me.

The star. The angel. The birth.

A star to lead the way… An angel to announce the truth… The Son of God bringing life to a fallen world through His birth…

Even as Jesus’ beginnings as the Savior unfolded, the mysteries of Heaven were being revealed.

The Way:

The wise men in the field – the dreamers, philosophers, those watching in anticipation and expectation, observed the night sky and saw the sign pointing the way.

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

– Matthew 2:9-10

The Truth:

The shepherds tending their flocks received the word of truth from God’s messenger:

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

– Luke 2:15-20

The Life:

The birth of Jesus brought life to a dying world – a world lost in and bound to sin. His very delivery beat all odds – birthed in a manger, hunted by a jealous king…

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

– Matthew 1:21

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

– John 10:10

His life brought life. His life beat death from the start.

I live because He lives.

You live because He lives.

Enjoy the amazing and sweet parallel between the story of His birth and John 14:6 today. Share the miracles of His story with your friends and loved ones, and don’t be afraid to read your Bible with expectation. When the Word of God comes alive and amazing revelations start to knock at your spirit, embrace them. God is speaking to you, to me, and He tells the best stories, so let’s always be listening.

xo,

Kristi

 

truth

Klover House Christmas:

Today, I’d like to pray with you and for you, friend.

Father, thank you for revealing yourself to us daily. I was amazed by the way Jesus’ coming unfolded, and I see now that the accounts that you left for us to read weren’t just stories or fairy tales, but rather details that you planned specifically. Through them we see who Jesus was, before He even spoke the words – the way, the truth, and the life for all.

Thank you for caring about details. Often, we wonder why things happen. One minute, we think that you are orchestrating each step, and the next minute, we wonder if you are seeing us at all. Your word says that you know us, you formed us, and that you have made good plans for us. We are each here for a purpose. Help us to trust in those truths today, Father. Let our hearts be thankful for mercy and grace, and let our minds be fixed on your goodness and heart for us.

Thank you for sending Jesus to the world, Father. Thank you for being the kind of Father that would make a way for us to be with you, even when it meant breaking your own heart in the process. Thank you for caring so much about us and the details of our lives that you would give us dreams, visions, angelic visitations, and divine appointments.

For those around us hurting this Christmas and for those that are seeing your story only at surface level year after year, our hope is that you would wrap them in your love this season. Reveal yourself to them in a deep, new way.

Thank you for the reminders found in this story – to be looking for your signs and wonders, to be listening for your truth, and to be sharing the gift of eternal life with those that still don’t know Him.

Thank you for Jesus, and in His holy name we pray. Amen.

Simply Noel: December 10 – Jesus, the Evergreen

Simply Noel:

December 10 – Jesus, the Evergreen

I know that the Christmas tree can be a controversial element in the Christian home. Maybe not as much these days as in some other generations, or maybe more so. To tell you the truth, I don’t really know. What I do know is that when I started looking at my relationship with Christ more seriously, more personally and intimately, I started questioning the traditions and rituals often overlooked at Christmas. I began looking into the “whys” of Christmas.

“Why do we put up a tree?” and “Is it okay, or is God displeased with this tradition?” were two questions that I had.

Maybe it’s the parent in me, but I felt the need to know the reasons behind the traditions and be able to explain them to my children.

What I realized in my studying was that many of traditions do in fact have non-Christian roots, but, as you probably already know, many of the traditions are also in place, as the result of sincere, God-loving, God-fearing Christians trying to point a lost world to the birth of Jesus.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Some may conclude that perhaps I’m not taking my Christendom seriously enough, and others could argue that it’s all done with good intentions and even worrying about such things is silly, but here is where my heart has found rest on such matters…

God requires that we do not make idols of anything – people, objects, decorations…

God sent His beloved Son to our dark world as a gift, and one that we did not deserve, at that, and Christmas is not about presents and trees or beautiful songs; it is about that gift.

Our focus during this season, during all of life’s seasons, should be love, generosity, and pointing others to Jesus.

So, with this understanding, I have resolved to let every aspect of Christmas, each piece, each element, speak something to our family about Christ.

Jesus Christ is my evergreen.

He is the life that grows even in the dead of winter. He is the covering that falls upon my heart, drowning out the threat of weeds, bringing warmth and protection to the tender saplings of truth deposited in my spirit. He is the vibrant green against the sea of white and brown, reminding me that, even when my surroundings seem cold and quiet, even when my dreams are dormant and I feel lost in hibernation, there is still growth happening in my midst. He is strong and mighty, and He can weather the storm. He is a shelter and a place to rest.

Jesus Christ is my evergreen, and that beautiful tree that stands with gladness in the corner of our living room is reminding me daily that He is here. He is here in our home and in my heart, and when I look upon the tree, I will think of Him and be thankful.

xo,

Kristi

tree

Klover House Christmas:

My children are still very young. I can’t wait to ask them why they think we put up a tree at Christmastime and hear their responses. A great and easy way to have a fun, imaginative chat with the kids about anything is to break out the crayons and scrap paper and just allow them time to talk while they create. I like to make them a cup of decaffeinated, flavored tea with a little honey, offer them a sweet, little snack or treat, and, while gathered at the kitchen island, we talk and draw.

A conversation about holiday customs and their origins would most likely soar over their sweet heads. They are all about the magic of Christmas, the mystery of Santa, and the joy that comes with celebrating their beloved Jesus’ birthday. I love, love, love that they already understand, even during these early years of their lives, that Jesus’ birth is our reason for the season. Spiritual conversations are so commonplace around here, which I also love. I am thankful that my children talk about God all day, every day, as if He is right here in the room with us. And we actually believe that He is! He is present with us always, and since every good thing is from Him, we are aware that every wonderful thing around us is pointing back at Him. So, rather than get caught up in “silly myths,” why not apply our spiritual life to our holiday routines and rituals?

While this is our third year using an artificial tree, I know that my older two understand that real or fake, the tree is part of His magnificent creation. Strong, colorful, fragrant, and cheerful to the eye, I can easily talk to my children about how we can often find “clues” about who God is and who we are meant to be by looking at the beauty of the world He created. My adult mind can comprehend how Christ is the “evergreen” in my life, while their childish minds can understand how the characteristics of the tree can be translated to who God wants us to be – strong, withstanding drought and circumstance, bright and cheerful, carriers of light, and a home for His good gifts…

As you gaze upon your tree tonight, all lit and cozy, reflect on Jesus Christ, the eternal evergreen. He is unchanging, sturdy, strong, and very much alive and thriving during the coldest, darkest seasons of our lives.

 

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 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…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 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 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 and then, I plan on sprinkling some raw sugar on top to give them that holiday sparkle. Simply click the link below to find you way to this decadent recipe. Enjoy! And if you can make biscotti…come see me. 😉

Salted Caramel Oreo Truffles

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.