As most of my readers know, our family has been struggling with financial troubles over the past few years.  Needless to say, we were a little concerned that we wouldn’t  even be able to afford Christmas presents for our boys this year.  In addition, as the holidays approached, we were in danger of having our power turned off.

Then the week before Christmas we had 3 pleasant surprises.  First, we received a check from a class action lawsuit – just enough to pay our utility bill.  Next I found out I had won an Amex gift card in an online giveaway.  Finally, Art’s parents sent us a Walmart giftcard to cover Christmas food and beverages.  Now we were set for groceries, gas and a few Christmas presents.

Art and I agreed not to buy each other presents.  We got excited about picking out a few gifts we thought the boys would really appreciate – they both got electric blankets and two other small gifts.  I found some special deals on gift cards and baked furiously so we would have gifts for our parents.  Finally, on Christmas Eve night, we looked happily at the tiny pile of gifts under the tree and breathed sighs of relief.

Christmas morning went as expected – everyone was pleasantly surprised by what they received.  The boys had picked out some very thoughtful gifts for us as well.  That afternoon, Art’s parents came over for dinner, which in our house is cold cuts, cheese, rolls, crackers, and various snacky items.

Afterwards, we had the second round of present-opening.  I did not expect that Art and I would have any presents to open as Art’s parents had been helping us out financially for the past few months and we all were in agreement that it was most important for Bud and Boo to have a good Christmas. But as the gifts were distributed, everyone had one box to open.  I was directed to open mine last.

well-deservedImagine my shock when on ripping open the paper I saw a netbook!  I was completely tongue-tied.  It took me a minute just to be able to blurt out an intelligible “thank you” to my in-laws.  Bobbie said later she could tell by the look on my face it was a complete surprise.  It turned out when Art found out his parents were insistent on buying us presents, he told them not to buy him anything but a bottle of Jack and to take the rest of the money they would have spent on him to buy me a really nice gift.  My old computer is a desktop in the middle of the family room.  I share this space with both boys and their computers, plus their friends and the occasional dog. Art knew I needed a computer I could move around with me; taking it into the bedroom or to the library so I could be alone with my thoughts and  work on my blog.

After the in-laws left, I lost it.  I loved the gift, but I couldn’t justify it in my head.  I didn’t deserve all that sacrifice.  I told Art how I was feeling and he told me he and his parents wanted to give me the computer.  I realized that it wasn’t about whether or not I thought I deserved the gift.  It was about the gift freely given.  I was reminded that none of us deserve salvation either – yet there it is – freely given, as it says in Romans 3:23:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Just as I try to daily honor God’s gift in the way I live, I will also try to honor my Christmas gift by using it to the best of my abilities to write a successful blog.

As always, thank you for being part of the journey.



Shoo those Humbugs Away!!

So if you’re reading this on the day it posts, it’s 2 days before Christmas and I am furiously baking, wrapping and (some embarrassment here) decorating.  Truth be told, I may not even be done shopping.  We have two parties and church tomorrow, church and relatives on Sunday, a trip to visit relatives next week, not to mention work and a house in short sell.  It would be very easy for me to give up and go back to bed (believe me, I thought about it).

I can blame a lot of my stress on poor planning and a lack of funds until the last minute.  It’s possible that better planning and (hopefully) more stable finances might help next year, but how do I keep my sanity and not lose my cool in the here and now?  The following is a list of tips I have gleaned over the years to make things a little easier at the last minute.  If you are stressed and overwhelmed this holiday season, I hope some of these will work for you too.

  1. Make a list of everything you need to get done.  Be general – buy presents, wrap presents, decorate living room, bake cookies, etc.
  2. Next, on a separate sheet of paper, Word doc, Task List or whatever you use, break down the individual jobs.  For buying and wrapping presents, I use the Master Gift List at Organized Christmas:
  3.  If  you are decorating, list the rooms you need to decorate and what boxes you need to take out of storage.  For baking, list which goodies you’re going to make, then break them down by ingredients.
  4. Next make a shopping list based on your ingredients list and gifts list.  Be realistic – you’re probably not going to be able to spend as much money as if you had spaced the buying out throughout the year, but you can still get everyone something they will appreciate.  And if they like goodies – even easier since you are already baking. (Sorry, family and friends – now most of you know what you’re getting from me).
  5. Make a timeline.  With two days left I am spending today baking, wrapping and decorating and tomorrow I will be buying any presents that are left and finishing wrapping.  I like to really break down the timeline on my baking so nothing gets missed.  Here’s an example of my baking timeline:huimbugs
  6. Enlist the help of your loved ones.  Delegate what you can.  Art is a much better wrapper than me, so I will let him do most of that.  The boys like to decorate, so I will let them put up some garland and lights.
  7. Lastly, make sure to take some time to relax and take care of yourself.  In the morning, I will do my devotions, pray, and exercise before I start my baking timeline.  In the evening I will hang out with Art and the boys and watch some TV while we wrap presents.  Later on I will go to bed early and read a good book by myself.

Hopefully I can follow my plan and enjoy the holidays this year, even with the extra stress.