Family Life

All Kids Want For Christmas Is…EVERYTHING: A Perspective on Presents

gifts

Perhaps you are just recovering from the retail mayhem of Black Friday. You mentally and physically trained yourself for this challenge. You carefully mapped out your itinerary. And you polished off two or three (or four) cups of coffee just to give yourself some edge. You sprinted to thee isle, perhaps weathered some hostile co-shoppers, and survived mile-long lines all in attempt to give your children everything they asked for.

I’ve fallen prey to the hype of the deals a time or two. It’s true! But not this year. And it’s not because I wanted to make a stand for Thanksgiving: “Give us our holiday back and start Black FRIDAY on Friday!” And although I am very baffled by the display of insanity, this is not even a rant about Black Friday at all. Not even a little bit. This is about how Christmas has become nothing more than kids (and even some adults) getting whatever they want.

I saw a restaurant sign the other day that said “Pie is the Reason for the Season.” I mean What? What has Christmas come to? And why does it keep getting worse? After all, what’s salvation from the Son of God without a warm cherry pie, right?  I digress….but this somehow prompted this subject to mind.  We raise our children in a Christian home. We tell them the story of baby Jesus in a manager, the three wise men, and the star. But I couldn’t help but wonder- are we showing them the meaning of Christmas or are we falling in line with the worldly temptation to feed our flesh and buy more, more, more?

But let’s be honest- as parents, we have this inborn desire for our children to be happy. That means the best schools, the best clothes, having the latest iPads, iPhones, and everything else that begins with a lower case “i”, signing up for EVERY sport known to man, and buying them everything on their Christmas list. I get it- it’s Christmas!

Unfortunately, what we fail to realize is that on our journey to provide our kids with every luxury and ensure their happiness, we are sacrificing something much more! We’re providing them comfort over character. Materialism over contentment. And happiness over holiness.

Don’t get the wrong idea- I’m not against giving my children presents on Christmas. But like all things in life, we want to practice moderation with how much we buy our children. Even the less fortunate in our country are considered rich in the eyes of others around the world. And yet with all the conveniences of our modern society, we still aren’t satisfied and want more!

I am, however,  against spoiling my children on Christmas. And not just because I don’t want my kids to grow up with backward notions like Christmas is all about gifts or “Pie is the Reason for the Season,” (both of which are good enough reasons to instill moderation) but because I care more about my kids’holiness than their happiness and I refuse to give in by giving them everything they ask for.

After all, what message am I sending my kids if I always give them what they want? Life will always go your way? It is better to receive, rather than give? Life is about the pursuit for more stuff? Contentment is found in acquiring more things? This is a false message we are sending our children about life and Christianity. 

I know many of you might think I’m taking this point to the extreme. But that’s probably because our culture works so hard to indoctrinate us to believe more is always better and never to settle for anything less because we deserve it. We don’t even deserve the gift of God’s grace, but He faithfully and lovingly gives it anyway, despite ourselves.

And we must remember that in every decision, we set a precedent for our children.   What I desire most for my children is for them to know their joy is in the Lord, not a present. That nothing beyond soul winning has eternal value. I want them to learn contentment and have a heart of gratitude and not lust for the things of the world.

Now before you think my kids are getting nothing but socks for Christmas, I will tell you that they are not being deprived of gifts. I still anticipate to be woken in the wee hours of the morning by eager children and I anxously await to see their little brown eyes light up. But I also want them to understand the truth-  that Christmas is not about the gifts and it’s not even about them.

Last night, as I read Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” even the Grinch came to terms that Christmas wasn’t about packages, boxes or bags. One phrase in particular stuck with me that I yearn for my kids to grasp: “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” And that something more is Jesus! And just to set the record straight, pie is and never will be the reason for the season because “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!”

I pray you take these words to heart and put them in action. I know it’s not an easy task, but like parenting, nothing in life worthwhile ever really is easy.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Home

Humble Hosting

welcome-mat

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! A time of giving thanks and simply giving! A time to gather together, make memories and extend love.  It’s also the season for hosting. Whether it’s hosting the biggest “stuff- your- face” day of the year- also known as Thanksgiving- or a Christmas party for friends, we’re busy making purchases and plans.  This year, I am honored to be hosting Christmas (my absolute, hands down favorite holiday). I’m so excited, I literally feel like a kid on Christmas morning!

As I began plans to research and write on this topic of hosting, titles like “How to Impress Your Guests” came to mind. However, God led me to instruct (and learn) a much more gracious concept.

Even though I have been assigned dessert duty for Thanksgiving (which I still can’t believe is just around the corner), I already have my wheels turning with concepts and ideas for Christmas.  As I was sitting down the other day, searching Pinterest for the most jaw-dropping table scape and perusing Food Network for the perfect Christmas menu, a conviction stumbled upon my heart.  In fact, I know it didn’t stumble there on accident- because it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

This may come as a shock, but I am a detail-oriented, type-A personality with extreme OCD (obsessive CLEANING disorder) and a well-known perfectionist to my friends and family.  I see hosting as a challenge- one in which I must maintain my goal of perfection by simply out-doing myself. Sounds exhausting just thinking about it!  But God revealed to me, The Humble Homemaker, that my hosting isn’t humble at all. In fact, it was chalk full of pride. And pride has no place in a humble home or a humble heart.

This truth came to me when I asked myself why I care so much about every single detail when I host? Why does the house have to be spotless? Why is serving my guests with paper plates simply unacceptable to me? And the answer: p-r-I-d-e. See how “I” is in the very core of the word? That’s because I wasn’t so concerned about every.single.detail for the sake of my guests. It was for me.

I’m not sharing this because it feels so good to put my flaws in the spotlight. But I know many other women who can easily identify with this same struggle. The desire for perfection- the desire for performance-and the desire for praise. 

I was striving for praise, when I should be striving for service. That is the ultimate goal of hosting- serving those whom you have welcomed into your home.  Hosting is not about the presentation- it’s about the heart.  I shamefully admit that I have allowed pride to even keep me from blessing someone by hosting them. I wanted to wait until the bathroom was remodeled or we had more furniture for seating, because heaven forbid my house not be just so.

Last week, a woman from my Mom’s In Prayer group at my daughter’s school invited everyone to her house for prayer, food and to watch the movie, War Room.  I was expecting this immaculately gorgeous house, but was immediately humbled when I entered her home. It was quaint and cozy. Even though she and her husband have lived there for almost ten years, there was still the same 70’s inspired style since the construction of the house.

Her home was clean, but certainly not spotless. She unapologetically had a sticky spill on her table, dishes in the sink and toys scattered throughout.  And yet, I felt as though I was at home in her house.  I felt completely comfortable and welcomed. She wasn’t striving for perfection, she was striving for servitude. It wasn’t about her. She opened her home so she could have an opportunity to bless our Mom’s In Prayer group. And she accomplished that goal! Even without the table scape!

It made me ask myself: how do people feel when they come to my home? Do they feel at home?  But more importantly, what is the condition of my heart when I am hosting?   I was humbly reminded of the words in  Matthew 23:12: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I’m not suggesting to not prepare a beautiful meal or plan for the occasion. I do still enjoy those aspects of hosting. But I want to make serving others in the name of the Lord my ultimate focus, rather than receive prideful honor. Even though relinquishing my perfection may cause me to die a thousand slow deaths inside, (and that’s ok-I’m still working on it!) I pray with God’s help, I can let go of pride and be the humble host He calls me (and you!) to be.

When we are hosting, we are not only welcoming people into our homes, we are welcoming them into our lives.  And our lives aren’t perfect. But with a humble heart, I believe our lives (and hosting) can be a blessing and give honor where it is due- to Christ!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Food and Recipes

Favorite Fall Soup

sweet-vegetable-soup

Believe it or not, it is still fall- in spite of Christmas catalogs and your eager neighbor’s decorated tree in the front window. Now, when you think about fall soup flavors, you might often think of warm spices and full body broths.

You’re probably already dreaming of rich broccoli and cheese soup or a hearty beef stew. But even though I openly profess my love for all soups- I am an equal opportunity soup eater-  there is one soup that remains my favorite: my sweet vegetable soup.

Yes, that’s right! I said vegetable soup. And this is not your traditional tomato-based vegetable soup, which I have no objection to.  This soup is perfectly light, which is what I love so much about it. But don’t worry, this simple delight does not skimp on flavor! It will warm your belly and soul all at the same time! Bonus! You won’t even have to unbutton your jeans, because it’s healthy too!

Because of it’s sweet ingredients and earthy warmth from the bay leaves (I can’t say enough good things about bay leaves!), it will quickly become a family favorite- even for the pickiest of eaters!  Pair this soup with some crunchy croutons on top or crusty French bread on the side, and you have the perfect weeknight meal to heat up these chilly evenings!

Sweet Vegetable Soup

2 Tbs. Butter

3 Medium Carrots, Peeled and Thinly Sliced

2 Parsnips, Peeled and Thinly Sliced

1 Medium Leek, Thinly Sliced

1/2 Cup Frozen Corn

1/3 Cup Frozen Peas

32 oz. Carton of Chicken Stock ( if using broth, add chicken bullion)

2 Bay Leaves

16 oz. of Ditalini Pasta

5 Cups of Water

Salt & Pepper, to Taste

Directions

  1. Melt Butter over medium-high heat in a Dutch Oven.  Add carrots and parsnips. Salt and pepper, to taste, and sauté until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the leeks. Sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.  Add corn, peas and bay leaves.
  3.  Add the chicken broth, water and more salt and pepper. Cover and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat t0 simmer and cook for 35 minutes.
  4. Bring soup back to a boil and add pasta. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper, if desired.
  5. Remove bay leaves and serve.

 

Hope your family enjoys this sweet, simple comfort!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

Weekend Projects

D.I.Y Welcome Sign

welcome-sign

I’ve had these two pieces of wood sitting in my shed for over the past year. They were originally used as bench seats, but the legs were removed. I knew I didn’t want to simply toss them aside, but had debated (multiple times!) as to what purpose they could have. I considered re-making them into bench seats or even mounting them as floating shelves. It was as though they sat dormant, full of potential, but lacking inspiration.  But if there is anything I love in homemaking more than cooking and cleaning, it’s transformation.

I love watching something that many people would deem as junk and transform it into something amazing!  I suppose this concept reminds me of how Christ, in His perfect love, can use something like mere mortal humans, and by His grace, transform us into something beautiful- something anyone else might see as worthless and rather than toss us aside, make us dearly loved sons and daughters.

And the lightbulb was lit. The inspiration was found. I knew then that there was no better use for this piece of wood than a welcome sign- A HUGE welcome sign! It’s a bold statement of our open door policy we have in our home. We truly want people to feel welcomed when they visit our family, in the same way Jesus invites us into His family. “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened  to you.” (Matthew 7:7).

Like all my home projects, I always strive to maintain a humble budget! It doesn’t take an experienced crafter to grasp the simplicity of this project. Since the sign is pretty self-explanatory and needs no specific directions, I will instead offer you some helpful hints. First, be resourceful! A lot of times when we aspire to embark on a new craft or Pinterest project , we search to find the closest replicable pieces in order to make it look exactly as we see on the internet. DON’T DO THAT! Taking this approach will likely cause you to spend more money, when you may find something usable right in front of you for a more economical price.

I understand not everyone has reclaimed wood in their shed to use at their discretion, however, do not try to just buy your own welcome sign or a perfectly distressed, thick piece of wood at an antique shop that can justify asking double based on the label that it’s “rustic.” Making something rustic isn’t hard at all! It mainly requires just some good ole’ fashioned elbow grease. Look around! It’s easier to find wood than you think. Reclaimed stores, garage sales, old wood furniture pieces not being used. Remember, mine was once a bench seat! Think outside the box of what requires a check out line!

Secondly, price out the letters.  I checked about four different stores, all varying on pricing and size. I purchased the largest letters (that fit the sign) at the most reasonable cost. Since my wood was free and I already had wood glue on hand, the total cost of this project was $34. 83 (which included gray spray paint and wood letters).  I’d say that’s pretty humble, considering other specialty-made signs comparable to the size of my sign were marked anywhere from $50-$150. Another economical suggestion is to paint with letter stencils on the wood, as opposed to using wood letters. Of course you could add distressed paint on the wood, paint a beautiful design around the letters or add a rustic straw bow at the top of the sign, but I chose to keep it simple.

Hope you enjoy this weekend project and happy homemaking!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker