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.”

 

 

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 16 – Wrapped in His Love

Simply Noel:

December 16 – Wrapped in His Love

Last night, my hubby and I sat down to wrap some of our gifts. Usually, it’s kind of a grumpfest, but this year was actually pretty nice. We sat and talked while we wrapped. I tied bows, while he updated our spreadsheet, double and triple checking each gift and recipient (I married an “organized professional”). It was just a really sweet time spent with him.

Once he went up to bed (I’m the night owl of this house), I started thinking about today’s post, and, having just wrapped gifts for people that I love, the concept of “being wrapped” rolled around in my head. I thought, “Isn’t it so good to be wrapped in His love?” I started thinking about all of the people in the world that are missing out on His love, His care, especially at Christmas.

Maybe they are completely unaware of His existence and they pursue various means of feeling worth and value. Maybe they know of Him, but have no relationship with Him. They go through the motions of church and prayer, but their heart is missing that deeper connection. Maybe they know Him, but they’ve abandoned Him, and don’t know how to turn their story back around.

I started thinking of all of these people out there in the world, and my heart hurt for them. And while they may be completely happy, have-it-all-together people, to not know what it feels like to live wrapped in the arms of the Father, I felt a pang of sadness for them. It was a case of “If they only knew…”.

How awesome it is to live knowing Him. We wake up every morning, and regardless of our moods, or what the day holds, we are held. As we go about our way, working, visiting, reading, breathing, He is holding us. As we lay ourselves and our children down to sleep…He is holding us, loving and caring for us in a way that only a perfect Father could.

I am so thankful for His love. I am so thankful for His concern for me. I’m so grateful that I can walk through my life with an advocate, a guide, and a God who calls me “child.”

He gave His Jesus so that each of us could join the family. And furthermore, Jesus isn’t just a “ticket” into the Kingdom. Jesus is our brother who, through His life and death, said to all mankind, “This is for you.”

You are loved that much.

xo,

Kristi

love

Klover House Christmas:

Are you on a tight budget this Christmas? Do you enjoy festive gift wrapping but not the time and energy it takes to create perfect bows? Join me tomorrow morning on Facebook Live, where I’ll be taking just a few minutes to show you the simple and inexpensive ways that I chose to wrap gifts this year. It doesn’t get much quicker or easier! I’ll also show you all a cute and creative craft project that I did recently with my daughters using some of the same supplies. They loved it!

I’ll be adding pictures of these ideas and crafts soon, but, if you can, stop by and chat with me on Facebook tomorrow morning!

 

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 14 – For the Joy Set Before Him…

Simply Noel:

December 14 – For the Joy Set Before Him

We’re almost halfway through the month. How are you holding up? Are you feeling frazzled or has it been smooth sailing so far? I sensed today I need to write about joy. Maybe it’s because I had such a crummy night with my kiddos last night? I feel a pulling towards the subject, and so, I will follow the Holy Spirit’s advice and talk about joy.

As soon as the topic was laid on my heart, Hebrews 12:2 came to my mind…

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

How quickly, as the world seems to be whirling in preparation around us, do we forget our joy? Remember on December 1st I asked you to put on hope? Well, I feel like we also need a reminder to put on joy. “…everlasting joy will crown their heads…” (Isaiah 35:10) Put on your crown of joy today, daughter of the King.

So, where do we find this joy?

1 Peter 1:8-9 tells us that it is found in the truth that we already carry:

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Though we have not seen Jesus, we believe in Him and we love Him. That’s it, friend. That is why His joy is our strength. That is why no one can take our joy from us. If we believe in Him and love Him…we can rejoice with inexpressible, glorious joy, knowing that the outcome of our faith is an eternity spent with Him.

Things are going wrong? Plans unravelled? Relationships unsteady? Jobs uncertain? Money is tight?

We can still have joy, because our joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is dependent on our truth, and our truth is the joy set before us – the hope we have in Jesus and the hope we have in Heaven.

For the joy set before us, we endure our circumstances, knowing they aren’t the last word.

The hope of the righteous brings joy,
    but the expectation of the wicked will perish. 

– Proverbs 10:28

For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…

For the joy set before God the Father, He endured the pain of sending His only Son to us as a baby in a manger…

For the joy of eternity with Him, He sent His Son to die…

For the joy set before us, we celebrate Christmas.

Put on your crown of joy today, friend. It’s an early Christmas gift from your Heavenly Father.

xo,

Kristi

christmas

Klover House Christmas:

If you had to pick one thing that brought you joy at Christmas, what would it be? I tried thinking about that today, and I had a hard time settling on just one thing. I love when we drive through Oglebay in our pajamas, sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies in the car, aka the garbage mobile (and all the moms of many messy children said, “Amen.”) I love opening the cards we receive and looking at them with my kids. We then hang them in the kitchen, and I love looking at them throughout the day. I love making sugar cookies with my daughters, mom, and nieces. My sister-in-law was working last year, but I hope she can join in this year, because I love spending time with her, too. I love wrapping presents with my hubby on the living room floor, even though he can’t stand it. I love hanging out with my husband and kids by the tree on Christmas Eve. I love Christmas morning breakfast with my in-laws. There are soooo many things that I love about Christmas, but you know what they all have in common?

People.

Christmas is about people. It’s the one time of the year in which we intentionally carve out time for others. You know? So, today, I am going to keep carving out time for my people. When other things start to stress me out and try to steal my focus and my joy, I am going to remind myself that the people I love are what I most value during this time of year and that they should be my focus. And wouldn’t it be something if that intentional devotion stretched itself past December 25th and found its way into the all of the other seasons of the year?

 

 

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.