My Week at a Glance {12/25/13 -1/2/14}

Happy New Year! Here’s our Christmas and New Years celebrations at a glance.

(if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a lot of these already)

This was Christmas morning after opening presents.  I used Janelle’s Homemade Cinnamon Roll recipe – yum!


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Then we went to my sister Jen’s house to celebrate with my family.


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Alex and Lexi

Alex took a photo from up above of our family eating dinner.

I am sitting next to my mother and father and across from my sisters and their husbands.

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The cousins ate out in the kitchen (2 are missing- probably sneaking into the cookies. lol!).

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My brother-in-law read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 and then the musical ones in the family played for us.

Lexi forgot her piano music and had to play from memory. She was bummed.

–then we opened presents.

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The day after Christmas, we celebrated with my husband’s family.

My sister-in-law made a huge dinner for 20+ and we had a nice evening visiting with Keith’s family at his brother’s home.

For New Year’s Eve, we used a family recipe for our sauerkraut and cabbage rolls.  This has been our new years dinner tradition – since before I was born!!!!

I’m passing it on to my daughter!

Lexi making cabbage rolls

The dining room table was set!

New years eve table 1

The kids table was set too! (I was reusing some 2013 decorations.)

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After dinner we did a family tradition.  We opened an old time capsule from 2006 and pulled out all the items and enjoyed a walk down memory lane.

Then we passed around a new time capsule (a Quaker Oats can that I will label 2013) and each person in attendance (17 of us) put something in the capsule that represented their year.

It was a very hard year and we shed a lot of tears together as 3 obituaries were placed in the capsule in remembrence of the loss of my Aunt to cancer, and both of my grandmother’s.  It’s been a hard year of loss for my family. :(

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But I am so very grateful for my sisters and family that I get to go into 2014 with!

New years eve with sisters

My family went into the new year with a BANG!  We did a little target practicing Thursday…

shooting range

 

lexi shooting1

 

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And that’s my week at a glance!

Can’t wait to post the Book Club Reading Schedule next week!

Until then have a great weekend and–

Walk with the King,

Courtney

 

 

 

 

Is a Simple Christmas a More Godly Christmas?

Is a simple christmas a more godly christmas

This post is for the woman whose plate is really really full.

As I shared in my last post, my plate has been a bit fuller than I’d like this past year.

Every where I look (including my own archives lol!) I see people saying to “simplify” your  life.  I feel like it’s the Christian buzzword of 2013.  We have full calendars, full laundry baskets, full bellies, full toy boxes, and full closets.  Goodness – the storage units down the road are overflowing and new ones seem to be popping up everywhere!

People’s lives are fuller than they’ve ever been and we just keep on adding more – grasping for the elusive happiness we hope the next thing will bring us.

And so the backlash is to call a time-out and remind everyone to stop it and simplify.

And I get it because it’s what I need to do all year long. I need more boundaries and to learn to say more “no’s” to people, stuff and food!

But here is what is not helpful, telling a busy woman to simplify her life – equating it to a higher standard of holiness or godliness.

Because the reality is, many women are busy doing things that are non-negotiables.  Not all of us are able to carve up our calendars as we please.   Many of you are in a season of life that demands a lot, whether it’s working outside the home to make ends meet, caring for an ailing family member that has no one else but you, or taking care of a special needs child.  Some seasons of life demand around the clock vigilance and telling a woman like this to “slow down” only heaps needless stress and guilt.  And I know if she could escape for a long vacation of sleep and Bible reading – she’d take that opportunity in a second. But there’s no escape for some situations.

But you say – Courtney, this message is even in your book.  {Gulp} guilty as charged.

Here’s the deal…

In some cases (not all – hear me on this friends) simple = selfish.

There is a danger in simplifying to the point that we don’t reach out to the hurting and the lost because it takes precious time and makes life feel full and overwhelming!

Serving is not simple.

Serving is a sacrifice.

And the baby born in a manger – was the ultimate sacrifice.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45)

Simple does not always equal Godly.

So this is for the woman – whose plate is really really full.  God is not looking at our calendars – but at our hearts.

Is your calendar full from striving, serving or sacrifice?

If it’s from striving – stop.  You are grasping for all the wrong things and come December 26th, you will feel an empty hole in your heart from misplaced priorities.  The message of simplify is for YOU!

But if it’s from serving and sacrifice – may God bless you.

Walk with the King,

Courtney

Need a little extra encouragement for this season?
My friend Karen Ehman writes:
Got Christmas?
Then you’ve also got gifts to buy and wrap, halls to deck, goodies to make and parties to host. Don’t forget the cleaning and shuffling of kids. Oh, and the teacher gifts. And cards to address and mail.
And it all must be done whilst donning a seasonal smile and making fond memories with your adoring family.
Its enough to make you simply give up and flop on the couch drowning your sorrow in a peppermint mocha.
Relax. We’ve got you covered.
Welcome to From Chaos to Calm: The LET. IT. GO. Christmas Challenge!
Sign up and for the next five days you will automatically receive a short biblical and practical devotion to help make your holidays less about stressing and more about blessing!
From unrealistic expectations to traditions to your screaming schedule as well as those annual holiday encounters with the in-laws and outlaws, this tool will allow your holidays to go from chaos to calm.
Join Karen >>HERE<< and find the hush among the hustle.

Break the Silence

 

Fish Lunch Brooke, Amy and Aaron

This past weekend, I spoke at the Cleveland Fish Radio Station’s Christmas Luncheon.  In the photo above on the far left, is the hostess and radio personality – Brooke Taylor.  I love her! On my right is Dove Award Winning Aaron Shust who sang beautifully!  And then on my immediate left is our guest here today – Amy Lively.  Amy spoke before me and what she shared struck me like a dagger in my heart.

As you know, I’ve been writing a lot here about practical ways we can Keep Christ in CHRISTmas.  When Amy began to speak about reaching out to our neighborhoods – I knew that this is one area I’ve struggled in.

In my old neighborhood, I lived in the city where I saw my neighbors all the time and I truly enjoyed them as friends.  But in our new neighborhood, we each have about an acre of land, so we are spread out and as a result - I have to be purposeful to meet and friend my neighbors here…and I haven’t been.  I have two neighbors I feel connected with but the others I have not gone out of my way to friend.

So if you are like me – then maybe you need to hear what Amy is about to say below. If you are NOT like me and you have invested in your neighbors – high five to you – and maybe you’ll consider the resource that Amy has below as a way to open doors to deeper spiritual conversations.

Break the Silence

Amy writes:

It will be a “Silent Night” in many homes on your street this Christmas. In fact, one in five of your neighbors suffers silently from loneliness.

Nine out of ten elderly people say a simple chat on the phone would alleviate their loneliness, but one in four have no one to talk to. A 2010 AARP study found that 35% of all adults over age 45 are chronically lonely – a 75% increase in just ten years.

One in four of the homes on your street is occupied by a single person living alone, up from one in ten in 1950. Living alone doesn’t automatically make you lonely. You can feel lonely lying in bed with your husband or with a house full of children—you can feel lonely in the midst of a Christmas celebration. You can be a loyal woman of faith and still feel lonely, because as we’re transformed into the image of God we crave the relationships He designed us to enjoy.

Forty-five percent of people surveyed said they DREAD the holiday season! Yes, Christmas can be lonely. And loneliness can be deadly.

Being lonely can be as damaging to your health as smoking or obesity—and lonely people are more likely to be obese. Loneliness also increases your likelihood of experiencing memory loss, dementia, depression, sleep disorders and heart conditions.

It was a “Silent Night” on that first Christmas, until a baby’s cry broke the silence.

Christmas is the perfect time to break the silence between you and your neighbors with the good news of Christ’s birth. Christmas is a natural time to fulfill Christ’s command found in Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This Christmas, march down your sidewalk, raise a quivering hand and knock on your neighbors’ door. If you don’t know your neighbor, say something like this—

“Hi, my name is Amy, and I live right over there. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name. What is your name? Terry? Hi, Terry—it’s nice to formally meet you, neighbor. Merry Christmas!”   

I have done this countless times, and I’ve lived to tell the tale! On the other side of those doors I’ve met the most amazing women who, once strangers, have now become my friends. A couple of times a year, I invite my neighbors to a simple Open House for coffee and conversation, and I welcome them to come back for Bible study called The Neighborhood Café. This has grown into an international ministry with women hosting Neighborhood Café Bible Studies in their homes from Alaska to California to Florida, and from Canada to Texas! I provide tools, tips and resources that equip you to love your neighbors—without being weird!—by developing natural relationships that lead to spiritual conversations.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s easier to knock on my neighbors’ door with one hand if I’m holding a gift in the other. I take them a little gift—it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. I’ve taken a single serving of coffee or a tea bag, a few pieces of hard candy tied up in a plastic bag, an artificial flower. You could give them a handmade snowflake or a Christmas card your children made. This year, I’m giving my neighbors a Christmas tree ornament with a tag that says, “Merry Christmas, from my home to yours.” Adorable and affordable ornaments can be purchased in bulk at craft stores and adorned with ribbons, glitter and floral stems. Visit the Neighborhood Café Freebies page  to download free printable tags for your own neighborly gifts!

Please break the silence this Christmas, and offer your neighbors a cure for their loneliness.

Merry Christmas to you and your neighbors!

Amy Lively

 Cafe Kit

At The Neighborhood Café, Amy Lively candidly shares how she felt knocking on her neighbors’ doors while her  knees knocked and tells about the friendships that now line the streets of her neighborhood. The Neighborhood Café Kit contains everything you need to host an Open House in your home, including invitations, a planning guide, follow up cards and a Macchiato Moments music CD to set the mood! Through her speaking and writing, Amy equips women to love their neighbors in a whole new way—without being weird!

Feeling Dread, Drained, Depressed or Delight at Christmas?

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Every year we drive around looking at Christmas lights. Before we leave the house, my children color pictures of the nativity.  On each picture we write the note “Thank you for displaying the reason for the season”.

As we drive around, we look and look…and look for Jesus – and when we find him, we clap and cheer and hoot and holler and daddy pulls the car over so one of the children can slip their picture into the homeowner’s paper box.

Look at this house – wow…

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I spy a nativity below – hooray!

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Next house – wowsa beautiful…

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Next house – ding ding ding – we have a winner!!! :)

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Just as my kids have to look hard to find Jesus in the midst of the lights and displays, we too must train our hearts to look for Jesus. This world has so many distractions that keep us from practicing the presence of God in our lives. As a result we miss God completely and do life on our own.

The 4 D’s of Christmas

1.) Dread. Some of us DREAD Christmas.  As soon as the Christmas trees go up in Walmart and Christmas music begins to play on the radio – we get anxious about all the work, money spent and people we have to be around during the holidays.

2.) Drained. Some of us start out well. We are excited about all the wonderful days ahead and we volunteer to lead things and plan to make 10 different types of cookies, do elaborate wrapping and decorate our homes to the hilt.  But come December 26th – we are exhausted and drained.

3.) Depressed.  Christmas is a hard time of year for so many of us who have an empty chair at the table because of the loss of a loved one or a broken relationship. For others – there’s someone in the chair you really wish wasn’t there. And still for others, it’s a time of loneliness or of reflecting over the past year and it can be overwhelming emotionally.

But there’s one ‘D’ we all should pursue…

4.) Delight.  

Psalm 119:24 says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

In the midst of our dreading, draining and depression –the Lord’s word is to be our delight.

His word is to be our comfort and guide.  He will lead us away from the dread, drained and depressed feelings by His good wisdom…but just as my children have to look for Jesus in the midst of the Christmas lights- we must fight to see Jesus in this season.  We must look to Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6 says:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Baby Jesus in the manger is not a warm fuzzy story for our children.  He’s a strong fortress for you and me to cling to!

This child born in Bethlehem – the Savior of the world –  is our Wonderful Counselor!  

Wonderful means – extremely good and delightful!

But we must look for Jesus in His word.

We must look to Jesus in prayer.

We must make time to delight in his statues – that is His word.

Friends, let’s rise above the first 3 D’s – and drink from the living well – the living waters of God – and be women living well as we celebrate the birth of our Wonderful Counselor.

“If you have a better relationship with the Lord at the end of the holiday celebrations, you have had a very successful holiday.”
~ Penny Thrasher, Putting God Back in the Holidays

Walk with the King,

Courtney

**Chime In: What passage of scripture or devotional are you reading during the month of December?

15 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

15 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

 

For God so loved the world –He gave his Son!

Immanuel –God with us!

And because God is love – he has commanded us to love Him and to love others (Matt 22:36) – not just at Christmas time –but ALL the time!

So I want to give you 15 practical ways to keep Christ in Christ-mas.  These 15 ways are not numbered – but the first 9 are in the collage below and the last 6 are in the writing of this post :).   I’ve already begun facebooking, tweeting and pinning the tips below on my Women Living Well pages (I invite you to follow along there).

Keeping Christ in Christmas Collage

 

Christmas time is a time when people are open to talk about spiritual things.  It’s easy to invite family or a friend to church or to a choir concert.  A couple years back, I invited a little boy from my son’s football team and his mom, to our church concert. It was easy – and they came!  And I’ll never forget when the mom walked in – she said, “my son just asked what that thing is, up on top of the church,and I told him a cross.”

 

church cross

 

The little boy did not know what a cross was!  I love that Christmas is a chance to introduce people to Christ in a natural way.

I’ve also given out Bibles or devotionals at Christmas time to baggers at the grocery store, women at the salon, and to neighbors.  It seems to be a natural time to give something spiritual as a gift.  Come January 15th, if I handed someone a Bible they might think that was odd or offensive.

Another thing we do at Christmas time to remind our children to share the love of Christ – is our Jesus stocking.

Our Fireplace and Jesus Stocking

 

We have 4 white stockings hanging on our fireplace and then a special one that is royal red. It’s a stocking fit for a King – King Jesus!  During the month of December, I invite my children to put gift money or chore money into the stocking and then, right before Christmas we give it to a charity.  Last year, we donated toward a well in Africa.   I love how this hangs on our mantel as a daily reminder of the presence of Jesus – our 5th member of the family, in our house.

Need a resource for some ideas of ways you can light up your community with the Kindness of Christ?

Courtney DeFeo (great first name right? ;) ) has created a list of 100 ways here:

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She includes ideas like:

Stage an early morning chalk attack. Pick a street – yours or another! – and write a “good morning” or “have a great day” message on every driveway.

or

Stand outside your child’s classroom and give each child a single flower as they walk in. Then, as the children enter the classroom, have them hand the flower to their teacher. By the time class begins, he or she will have a vase full of flowers!

or

Try to find out when your child’s FRIEND has a game or performance coming up.  Surprise him or her by attending and bringing a poster or other fun ways to cheer them on.

I love these!

Remember, this is not just for the holiday season.  ALL YEAR LONG – spread the love of Christ. We are the light of the world!

I have one more family tradition that didn’t fit in this post – so I’ll write more about this next week.  Until then, have a GREAT weekend with your family and friends and remember –shine sistas –and teach your little ones to do the same!

Walk with the King,

Courtney

Free christmas ebook 2