Tuesday, December 19

Christmas blessings


Hello, friends. It's been a long time since I've written anything in this space. It's been a long, hard year at our house, and continuing to show up here just hasn't worked for me. But I've missed being here and especially missed interacting with you all.

Now it's less than one week until Christmas, and I'm excited to say that I'm going with my husband and sons to see a movie tonight. See if you can guess which one:

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” sing Clark and Ellen as their station wagon zooms down a freshly plowed highway. Russ and Audrey roll their eyes in the back seat. The search for the perfect Christmas tree is about to begin.

Yep, we found a theater with a special engagement of Christmas Vacation on the big screen. You know, I never saw this movie when it was first released, but then I had three sons. . . and watching Christmas Vacation every year became one of our family traditions. I know, I know—it’s dated, it’s silly, and sometimes it’s inappropriate, but year after year we follow along as the Griswolds make their way through December. We laugh until our sides hurt as Clark cuts the rope binding the Christmas tree (“Little full. Lot of sap.”), pours egg nog for Cousin Eddie into a moose-shaped mug (“Drive you out into the middle of nowhere, leave you for dead?”), and investigates the noise in the living room (“Squirrel!!”). If you’ve watched Christmas Vacation over the years, I’ll bet you have your favorite lines, too.

Of all the heart-warming Christmas movies available, all the beautiful musicals, all the rollicking comedies, why does this one endure? Why do we watch it over and over? Clark Griswold is a farcical character, so why do we identify with him so enduringly?



I think it’s because we’ve all been there. In our sometimes crazy-busy lives, who among us hasn’t aspired to create the perfect Christmas?

Who hasn’t tried to create a lasting memory by tracking down the perfect tree? Or attempted a stunning lightscape in the front yard? Or labored to plan the merriest holiday party? Or slaved to cook the most toothsome holiday meal?

We have good intentions. We want to make the holidays memorable for our families. And everywhere we look, we find inspiration. With all the magazines we read, the blogs we peruse, the Pinterest boards we scour, and the Instagram photos we scroll through, we’ve convinced ourselves that every element of the perfect holiday should be within our grasp.

This influencer has a different tree in every room of her home, each one decorated with a particular theme.

That influencer boasts the most beautiful front-door wreath and garland we’ve ever seen. 

One magazine features the six most elegant holiday desserts ever created, while another provides recipes for ten kinds of homemade candy that we simply must try.

We start with good intentions, and we work hard to create something special. But as we collect more and more inspiration, our plans for Christmas have enlarged to include more, more, more.

Somehow we imagine that we can take the best elements of everyone else's holiday plans and combine them into one stupendous effort. Clark Griswold called it a "fun old-fashioned family Christmas." These days I have my own term for it. I call it the Mythical Composite Christmas.


Many years ago my husband told me that I was constantly comparing myself to everyone around me. He said, "You choose the best attribute of everyone you meet, and you assume you should share that attribute. You've created for yourself a Mythical Composite Woman made up of all those attributes, and that's who you think you should be."

I struggled with comparison for so long that I finally wrote a book about my journey of wrestling with it. InterVarsity Press published the book, called Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison*. (You can read about the book and even read the first chapter here.) I'm finally finding some freedom from the trap of comparison.

But then Christmas comes, and if I'm not careful, I'll slip right back into my old ways of trying to create the perfect Christmas. This year, I'd like to leave the farce to the Griswolds, so I'm taking my own advice.

In Mythical Me, I tell a story that I'm remembering this Christmas. One week I was rushing around like crazy, trying to pack too many activities into too little time. In the middle of one of the busiest days, a friend asked how I was doing, and I answered honestly: "Frantic."

My friend pressed for details, and I shared them: in addition to the normal activities and responsibilities of the week, my son was celebrating a milestone birthday, I was hosting a dinner party for an important client, and I was preparing for a business trip that would keep me away from home for a week. With a haircut and a dentist's appointment thrown in for good measure, I had way too many things to do and not enough time to do them, at least not the way I wanted to do them.

And how did I want to do them? Well, I had great examples. One of my friends makes each family celebration unforgettable. Another is an ace hostess. Yet another glides through business trips with apparent ease. I wanted to perform at least as well as the people I was comparing myself to, if not better than anyone else could.

Had I stopped to think about how privileged I was? Did I pause to consider how rich my life was? Not one bit. Instead, I let myself be frazzled by trying to be the best at everything.

My friend prayed for me, and I heard God's voice speak to me. Simply and clearly, God said, "I made you to bless, not to impress."

Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized that truth. The reason I was working through my long list was to bless people. When I got stuck in comparing myself to others, I lost sight of that purpose. My talented friends had inspired me and taught me, blessing me with their examples. But when I started comparing myself to them, I twisted that blessing into a kind of contest that no one could win.

This is the trap I'm especially susceptible to at Christmastime. Maybe you struggle with it too? Then maybe you'd like to join me.

We were made for mutual blessing, not comparison and competition

This year I'm choosing to remember God's words to me: "I made you to bless, not to impress."

When freed from the burden of wanting to impress people, we are able to bless them and be blessed by them. That's the way God designed us to be, at Christmas and all other times.

May you be both blessed and a blessing to others this Christmas! 

*This is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase after clicking on this links, 
I will earn a small commission. Your price will not be affected in any way.

Thursday, July 13

Grace at Home No. 512


Hello, friends! I hope you're having a wonderful July. We're now in the time of high temperatures and high humidity. Funny—I've lived in the Southeast most of my life, but somehow the degree of humidity surprises me every summer. It's as if my mind can't quite hold onto the fact that summertime could be quite this oppressive. Do you know what I mean?

I'm very glad to welcome you to the Grace at Home party, where we pause to celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace and beauty. Here are some features I think you'll enjoy.

Ever wish you had that one perfect piece of furniture that would just make your room? CoCo from The Crowned Goat shows you how this special French country hutch came to be—and it didn't start out looking like this at all! (You won't believe the "before"!)


Need a new "little touch" for decorating your kitchen walls? Emily from Hunny I'm Home DIY has free printables for you.




Have you collected lots of stuff that you need to get rid of? Maybe a yard sale is a good strategy for you. Melissa from Blessed Simplicity has some great tips to get you started.




Need a delicious, refreshing summertime dessert? Check out this recipe for Orange Cream Pie from Kimberly at LouLou Girls.
Could your marriage relationship use a little kick? Lyndsey from Perfectly Imperfect has a great idea: a couples' bucket list.


Last but not least, some food for thought. You'll be inspired and challenged by this post on steadiness of soul from Barbara at Stray Thoughts.


Thank you to everyone for linking up!

Here are the Grace at Home party, you can link up any post you've written that demonstrates how you're filling your life with truth, goodness, and beauty. For instance, 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 or sphere of influence 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 to your site's home page. Please let people know that you've linked up. No more than three posts per person, please. If you link a post here, you re giving me permission to share your post, including a photo. And please visit one or more of the other participants—that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Thursday, June 29

Grace at Home No. 511


Hello, friends! How many times have you winced or rolled your eyes when someone said, "The days are long, but the years are short"? Well, that may seem corny, but it seems like 2023 is just getting started, and here we are at the halfway point. Whew!

I'm truly grateful that you've taken a moment to visit me here. I'm proud to host this weekly gathering called Grace at Home, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace and beauty.

Here are some highlights from last week's party.



Need a small project to brighten up these hot summer days? Julie from My Wee Abode shows you how to create a container garden.


Sometimes having the kids home all day every day can make a parent despair of trying to make a beautiful home. Kathryn from The Dedicated House has some tips for combining a child's needs and a parent's desire for a lovely space.


Looking for an easy and fun treat for July 4? Alea from Premeditated Leftovers has the solution!


Do you struggle with anxiety? In the wake of a global pandemic, I think many of us do. Maria from Krafty Planner has found help in Bible journaling, and she offers a great list of prompts to help with finding peace.




Thank you to everyone for linking up!

Here are the Grace at Home party, you can link up any post you've written that demonstrates how you're filling your life with truth, goodness, and beauty. For instance, 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 or sphere of influence 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 to your site's home page. Please let people know that you've linked up. No more than three posts per person, please. If you link a post here, you re giving me permission to share your post, including a photo. And please visit one or more of the other participants—that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Thursday, June 22

Grace at Home No. 510


Hello, friends! How thankful I am to say that today is a very special day in my life. Can you guess?


Yes, I was a June bride—38 years ago. It's amazing to me how quickly the years really do fly by! 

You know how the wedding vows include the promise to love "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health"? Well, this year of our marriage has included some of the greatest challenges to those vows we've ever faced. So I'm really grateful to say that we've made it to another anniversary of those vows.

Now I'm glad to welcome you to the Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace and beauty. Here are some highlights I think you'll enjoy.

Want to decorate for July 4? Here are some ideas for you, and each post includes full instructions for making your own.





MaryJo from MasterPIECES of my Life created this cool ribbon flag.




I hope that this summer gives you a chance to get away from home for a vacation. If you'll be doing some hiking with kids, you'll appreciate these tips from Dave and Jamie at PhotoJeepers.


Looking for a fresh new recipe to try? Check out this Cucumber Caprese Salad from Ann at Ann's Entitled Life.

Some of us love the "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer". . . and some of us find ourselves a bit discombobulated with the lack of routine. But you can develop good spiritual habits to keep yourself grounded, and Michele Morin has some great ideas for you.


Thank you to everyone for linking up!

Here are the Grace at Home party, you can link up any post you've written that demonstrates how you're filling your life with truth, goodness, and beauty. For instance, 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 or sphere of influence 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 to your site's home page. Please let people know that you've linked up. No more than three posts per person, please. If you link a post here, you re giving me permission to share your post, including a photo. And please visit one or more of the other participants—that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Thursday, June 15

Grace at Home No. 509


Hello, friends! 

My goal in life is not to be "busy"—I'd rather cultivate a life of purposeful work and rest than try to be busy. But this past week I've been both! I just arrived home late last night after being away for eight jam-packed days. I'm grateful to say that I was with friends and colleagues in Colorado for a Renovar√© conference and then for the annual retreat of the Renovar√© Ministry Team, so it was a good trip! 

And let me show you something. . . during this week, the U.S. Navy has been running a Father's Day message which features my son and grandson! Here's a screenshot of the ad:


That photo was taken on the day my oldest son, a pilot, returned from his last deployment. The smiles on my son's and grandson's faces were shared by all of us who were so grateful for the squadron to have returned home safely to their families.

I'm so glad you're here for the Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace and beauty. Next week I'll be sure to share some features from two parties. For now, 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 or sphere of influence 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 to your site's home page. Please let people know that you've linked up. No more than three posts per person, please. If you link a post here, you re giving me permission to share your post, including a photo. And please visit one or more of the other participants—that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Thursday, June 1

Grace at Home No. 508


Just like that, it's June!

Oh, friends, I know that sometimes the days seem to drag on and on. . . but truly, the months fly by so quickly. That's why I am honored to host this little gathering each week—a brief pause to celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace.

Here are some highlights from last week's party.

Want to spruce up your home for summertime without breaking the bank? CoCo from the Crowned Goat has some budget-friendly ideas for you.




Need a jump-start to your budget-friendly summer decorating? You'll like this free printable from Carol at Comfort Spring.





Summertime means travel for a lot of us. If you like to have books to read when you're traveling, you'll want to read Barbara Harper's post detailing the advantages of the Kindle app.


But if you're like me, you may need to think about just how much you're using your phone. For inspiration plus some practical ideas, read this post from Stacy at A Homemaker's Heart.

Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!

Here are the Grace at Home party, you can link up any post you've written that demonstrates how you're filling your life with truth, goodness, and beauty. For instance, 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 or sphere of influence 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 to your site's home page. Please let people know that you've linked up. No more than three posts per person, please. If you link a post here, you re giving me permission to share your post, including a photo. And please visit one or more of the other participants—that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Thursday, May 25

Grace at Home No. 507


"Whew!"

That's the remark I hear most often this time of year. May is a whirlwind month, isn't it? Somehow I thought that after my kids were out of school this time of year would no longer be so busy. Wrong!

But lots of May activities are fun ones, like graduations. . . or weddings. And I had the privilege of attending the most beautiful one this past weekend.


My darling niece graduated from college a couple of weeks ago, and this past Saturday she got married. Isn't she lovely? And just look at that ring bearer!


It took a lot of doing to get our whole family to the wedding, but what a joy it was to be together. 

And now I need a very long nap.

Meanwhile, y'all have been busy making your homes places of grace and beauty, and I'm so glad to provide a place for you to share the ways you're doing that. Here are some highlights from last week's Grace at Home party.

Need some easy-access storage for your family room but don't have much money to spend? Maybe you'd like to make a cushioned ottoman. Beth from Creatively Beth shows you how.


Would you like to create real beauty in your outdoor spaces? CoCo from The Crowned Goat has lots of ideas that can be completed in one weekend.


Want to create some decor for the patriotic holidays this summer? Carol from Bluesky at Home gives you step-by-step instructions for making these throw pillows.


Or maybe you'd like a super-simple project for updating your summer decor. Debra from Common Ground will show you how to make this garland from seed packets.


Have you seen beautiful pots containing a variety of plants and wondered how to achieve that look? Ann from Ann's Entitled Life will take you step-by-step through the process of creating your own.




If you have little kids visiting you this summer and want to plan some fun activities without breaking the bank, L & L from Our Grand Lives will show you all kinds of things to do with popsicle sticks.  (You'll especially love their blog if you have grandkids!)



While this time of year can be filled with joy, it's also a time of grief for many people. Patty from InstaEncouragements reminds us of five ways to pray in the valley of despair.

Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!

Here are the Grace at Home party, you can link up any post you've written that demonstrates how you're filling your life with truth, goodness, and beauty. For instance, 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 or sphere of influence 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 to your site's home page. Please let people know that you've linked up. No more than three posts per person, please. If you link a post here, you re giving me permission to share your post, including a photo. And please visit one or more of the other participants—that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter