Friday, December 30, 2016

Out with the old


Everywhere I look, I find people eager to begin the new year. My inbox is flooded with offers to help me set goals, get organized, and accomplish more in 2017 than ever before.


We love a fresh start, don't we?

Yet January 1 is just the next day on the calendar. It will be the start of something new only if we put an end to something old.

Here's what I need to put aside before I can begin anew:

Wasting time. As much as I hate to admit it, this has been a big problem for me in 2016. At first I was puzzled about it, because this is a new problem. I never used to waste time! 

Finally I realized that I didn't waste time in other seasons of my life simply because there was never any time to waste. When I had small children, a house to keep on a tight budget, and a small business to run, I had to steward my resources--including time--very carefully. These days I have fewer constraints on my resources, and I confess I've been wasteful of them. 

Good stewardship requires great intentionality. To stop wasting time, I've got to understand what I mean to do and stop allowing myself to be distracted by activities that add no value to my life or others' lives.

Wanting credit. This is a big one for me, although I've only recently realized it. I'll be very happy working, serving, doing things for others, and then bam! I'll be hit with a wave of self-pity when no one recognizes my contributions. 

How often have I read that there is no limit to what can be accomplished if you don't care who gets the credit for it?  (The actual quotation is from Charles Edward Montague, the English essayist: "There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.")

The inverse of that is also true, I've learned: there's very little that can be accomplished if you care too much who gets the credit for it. I need to kick this habit to the curb.

Comparing myself to others. I'm pretty sure that I struggle with this one more than anyone I've ever known--although of course I'd have to do a careful comparison in order to be sure. Ack! I'm determined to get to the bottom of this one. As a matter of fact, I've been doing a careful study of why I'm so prone to comparison and how I can change. 

I want to be free of the shackles of comparison.


As I look forward to the fireworks of celebrating a new year, I know that I need to put the old year behind me. Doing that is going to require hard work on my part and a lot of help from God. 

What about you? What are the old habits you need to bid good-bye so that you can embrace the new?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Home Tour


Welcome, friends, and welcome, Christmas!

Every year since 2009 I've shared a tour of our home at Christmastime. This year I won't do much talking, but I will share lots of photos of our house all dressed for Christmas.

Fair warning: you won't find anything trendy in my home tour. But if you like traditional Christmas decor, you've come to the right place.

Let's pretend that you've just driven up to our house in Durham, North Carolina. Here's what you'll see as you approach the front door. The large JOY sign was a simple DIY project a couple of years ago; click here for instructions. My prayer is that joy is always the theme of Christmas at our house.


Oops! I see a couple of ornaments have escaped from the outdoor lanterns.

I hope you'll feel welcomed when you see the front porch sitting area:


The furniture in our "outdoor living room" got an update this spring. Now that the furniture cushions are neutral, I can use any color I like for accessories. At Christmas, I like lots of red! The plaid pillows on the sofa I made from placemats. Easiest pillows ever; instructions can be found here.

See the ornaments hanging in the windows? Our dining room is right inside there.


A closer look at the French door will reveal the loudest part of your welcoming committee: Snickers the beagle and Cocoa the pound puppy. Can you see them?


Sometimes our December weather is warm enough to relax out here. It's 31 degrees outside today, though, so come on in!


Our wreath this year is dressed with just a plaid bow and a "Joy to the World" ornament. The door opens to reveal the foyer:


The stairway always wears a lighted garland that I accent with bows and magnolia leaves. The magnolia reminds me of my mom, who died many years ago. (Click here to read my favorite Christmas memory of her.)


You'll see that most of decorations this year are very simple, like this little vignette in the foyer.


To the right of the foyer is the dining room.


I made a fruit centerpiece for the table. In the windows I hung ornaments suspended from ribbons (click here for complete details).


Also adjacent to the foyer is the living room, which is the hub of our Christmas activities.


All five stockings will be full on Christmas morning. I'm so grateful that my oldest son, who is a U.S.Navy officer, will be home for Christmas!


Plaid is a favorite of mine for Christmas decorations, so I made new throw pillows from a blanket scarf. The scarf produced plenty of fabric to make four identical pillows.


The tree stands tall in the corner, just waiting for my sons to hang the ornaments. I'm hoping they'll be glad to do that part of the decorating when they see that I've been busy wrapping presents! Our Nativity scene is on the chest beside the tree; this is its 23rd Christmas in our house.


Now on into the kitchen. I'm still loving my green island, which is just perfect for Christmastime.


I made a little country store vignette for the top of the island and hung a live garland and my DIY NOEL sign in the window.


Our huge eating table is dressed with a blanket and a very simple centerpiece that can be whisked away for eating, crafting, LEGO building. . . you name it! My antique dough cabinet holds the Dept. 56 village I set up every year.


Here's a look back at most of the kitchen/breakfast area. The stairs to the right lead to the terrace level. We have a home theatre down there, which is a favorite spot for watching Christmas movies. The wall of the stairwell holds a DIY family portrait wall clock that I made years ago.


Just beyond the breakfast room is our screened porch:


The porch eating table is dressed with the world's easiest centerpiece: three lengths of ribbon stapled to the table, a couple of candles in hurricane globes, and some fresh greenery.


Our porch is not big enough for a large seating area, but we do have a cozy spot for relaxing.


That's enough pictures for one post, I think! Thank you so much for stopping by. A very merry Christmas to you and yours!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Grace at Home No. 231


Hello, friends, and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party! I'm glad you're here. I can't thank you enough for taking a moment out of your busy day to stop by for a visit.

Here are some of my favorite links from last week's party:

Debi from Surroundings by Debi created a Christmas printable. Isn't this cute? It's sized perfectly to fit into an 8x10 frame. Visit her blog for the free download.


Need a last-minute gift from someone? I always call cash "the universal gift certificate." Andrea from Living on Cloud Nine shares a clever way to present a money gift.


If you need a great stocking stuffer, you might want to check out this Christmas Tic Tac Toe kit from Emese at Pale Blue Corner. Easy to make and adorable!


If you're looking for a spirited drink to share at a Christmas party, then Patti at Pandora's Box has a recipe for you: Dixie Wine Punch. Sounds yummy!


Alisa at Flourishing Today shared four books that help her keep the focus on Christ at Christmastime.


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Grace at Home No. 230


Greetings! Welcome to this week's Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace. I'm so glad you're here.

First, some features from last week's party.

Beautifully decorated spaces can be found all around the blogosphere right now. In case you missed it, check out this lovely family room from Lynda at Gates of Crystal.


Jaclyn from One Thousand Oaks showed us how to make a button garland for a Christmas tree. I love this idea! Old-fashioned charm is one of my Christmas love languages.


Looking for fun gift ideas? You might want to try making a themed gift basket or box. Check out these step-by-step instructions for making an ice cream sundae gift box from Eileen at Just Measuring Up. This will get your creative juices flowing!


I was glad to see this recipe from Kathryn at The Dedicated House. I grew up loving this cherry cream cheese pie, but I haven't had it in years--now I want to make it for my family!


As for me, I've been trying to take a simpler approach to Christmas this year. I tend to get caught up in the comparison game, and this year I'm fighting back. I'd love to know what you think about this. Read "The Thief of Joy at Christmastime" here.


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The thief of joy at Christmastime


Our tree stands fresh and fragrant in the corner of the living room. One by one packages appear below its branches. I listen to my favorite carols, and my heart swells at every note.


Christmas is coming, and I don't wait for December 25: "Joy to the world!" I sing at the top of my lungs.

I find myself wishing that I could sustain those feelings.  I want the joy of Christmas to pervade every part of my life.  

Then I sit at my computer to look for holiday inspiration. And as I browse through all the beautiful images, I feel my joy drain away. Stolen once again.

I see the beautifully decorated houses, and my own home seems plain and boring by comparison.  I get a glimpse of heartwarming family celebrations, and in comparison I feel cold and disconnected.  I click through photos of amazing crafts that someone created, and my efforts seem pitiful by comparison.

Even the good things I do seem to pale in comparison to others' work.  I hear that someone has raised thousands of dollars for a charity, and my gifts seem paltry by comparison.  I try to make Christmas merry for my family, but then I read about the amazing holiday experiences of some families, and ours feel lame in comparison.  Or else I read that some parents give their children only three gifts, and in comparison I feel extravagant and embarrassed. 

Finally I realize that I'm doing this to myself.  I'm comparing myself to others at every turn. Instead of gathering inspiration online, I've gathered reasons to feel inadequate.  Rather than embracing the beauty of the season, I've turned it into a kind of competition.  

Am I the only one?  Or have you done it, too?



There's a way to end the comparison game. There must be, and it has become my quest to find it. 

For now, I simply want to change my behavior. I want to call a halt to allowing the thief of comparison to steal the joy of Christmas.

So this season I will practice two alternatives: gratitude and blessing.  I'm hoping that if I concentrate on being grateful for what I have, there won't be much time or energy left for concentrating on what I don't have.  Then, filled with gratitude for my blessings,  I am choosing to pray for others instead of comparing myself to them.  

This Christmas season, every time I am tempted to compare myself to someone else, I'm going to stop and pray this simple prayer:

"Dear Lord, please bless ___________. Thank you for giving them beauty to share.  And please help me to share the beauty you've given me."

That's it.  Nothing profound or deep; just a simple prayer of blessing.  But I think its effect on me might be profound. 


This Christmas, rather than concentrating on how other people outshine me, I'm going to remember that we all shine because God has given us light. If someone shines more brightly than I do, that's okay. There's much darkness to overcome. Someone else's bright light doesn't eliminate the need for my little light.


Would you like to join me? I believe there's plenty of room for all of us to shine our lights, reflecting the glory of the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.  


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Grace at Home No. 229


Hello, friends, and Happy December!!

Can you believe it's the 1st of December already? 2016 has flown by, hasn't it? I'm so glad you're here for this week's Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace. Here are some links from our last party that caught my eye:

Jennifer from Noting Grace created the cutest Christmas wall art for just a few dollars. Check out her post for full directions.

Kristi from Makin' It in the Mountains completely re-did her family room in just six weeks. You'll want to see her new space--complete with a barn door and a wall finished like an antique chalkboard!


Theresa from Shoestring Elegance shared a recipe for Nova Scotia shortbread. I'm looking forward to making some of these goodies for my family.

And if you're looking for some fun, easy-to-do Christmas crafts, check out this post of mine.

A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!