A Different Take on Giving This Christmas…

Ok. Before I get started, let me tell you what this is NOT. This is not some amazing philanthropic endeavor, or way to feed 10,000 families in a starving land. Honestly, I wish I was sharing that kind of news, but this is a much simpler idea I’d like to share to help spread the art of giving right in the four walls of your own home.

If your family is like mine, Christmas goes a little something like this: Mom pays careful attention to amazing details of her children. She has listened and taken stock of the desires of her family’s heart for the last 2-6 months. By the time the holidays roll around, she has an amazing list of all the great things she plans to buy. She then tells the hubby, who nods in appreciation and acceptance of these great ideas and after her thoughtful hunt and purchase, she then finds great wrapping paper, stockings and gift bags to present these lovely trinkets on Christmas day. Meanwhile, the kids are ESTATIC with anticipation for yet another joyful season of GETTING!!!! Christmas Day rolls around and Mom sits back and watches her successful gathering session pay off with excitement and happiness for a day where each member of the family feels like someone took the time to consider EXACTLY what THEY wanted, and made those wishes come true. Some amazing moms even yield the credit to a big man in a red suit as the benefactor of this great extravaganza… 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

WELL… after watching that scene for the last 17 years, our family has agreed to switch things up a bit. First of all, I have really been into the idea of enjoying experiences vs. THINGS. As I get older, I have come to realize how short-lived the happiness of obtaining items can really be. It is a plight that sends many into debt and even depression after realizing once you get “IT”, there is always a desire for MORE… “IT” is never enough…  and “IT” never gives the lasting high created by memories or experiences that leave a lasting impression, a lifelong memory or moments for reflection and growth. Over the years, I have come to replace high ticket items, technology, and great trinkets, with opportunities of adventure and togetherness.

While our family will take another trip this holiday season, we will still attempt to give them the “gift under the tree” experience, but this year it will be with a bit of a twist. This year we have set a spending budget of $400. Each member of our family will pull a name from our family of four. They will keep that name a secret. For the next several days THEY will conduct research on their person. They will study them. Listen to them. Consider the desires of their heart. On December 15th, we will wake up early and venture out to the mall. Each family member will get $100 in cash. They will then be responsible for searching for great gifts for their selected family member. As the mom, I will be on hand for advice or guidance if necessary, but it is up to them to make this a memorable experience for their person to enjoy on Christmas day.

I love this idea because it does several things:

  1. It allows EVERY member of the family to appreciate the art of GIVING as well as receiving. I SOOOO love to give. Though our family is a family of givers, I hope our children will see how great the entire giving experience is and make it a part of everyday life.
  2. It helps everyone appreciate and understand the importance of a budget. Though we would LOVE to give a lot more, we must spend according to what we have. Apple can’t determine that amount, we must. There is no joy in giving when you have to pay for it for the next several months. I love that we can share this experience together. Look for deals! Find the sales… Make that money stretch!
  3. It requires everyone to consider another’s desires over their own. They will have to conduct the necessary research in order to be successful in their experience. Too many times we are so wrapped up in our own wishes, we fail to consider anyone else’s.
  4. It takes the weight off one person producing for everyone. Though I thoroughly enjoy the Christmas hunt, purchase, wrap and presentation session, it is a joy I would like my family to practice as well. Especially as my kids are getting older, it will be imperative for them to learn the art of giving for their current and future relationships.
  5. It is a reminder that we all get things throughout the year… All the time!!! We can’t possibly buy EVERYthing for EVERYbody in one month… (Whoever came up with such an idea??? 🤔🤔🤔 lol!)
  6. It helps highlight the idea that the family trip is our true Christmas present. Our undivided time together and the adventures we will share will supersede any thing we could wrap and place under a tree.

As a country, the secularization of Christmas has created a “get” mentality in many of us. A lot of our giving is out of obligation vs. the genuine desire to share. Many of us go into debt to meet unrealistic expectations and fail to see the true beauty in what this amazing time of year is all about. While we will still decorate the tree and enjoy the lights and holiday music, I am hopeful to help create experiences that spread love, joy, peace and the true beauty of cheerful giving, (within a budget of course) that will help produce memories that last a lifetime. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Here’s to all the wonderful ways you choose to celebrate God’s love this holiday season! 😊😊😊😊😘😘😘

Photo: Bplans

“I DON’T NEED TO BE FAMOUS…”

I was boutique shopping with a beautiful friend of mine the other day. She just so happens to be an awesome singer and a super favorite around our small town. The gal working the register, an obvious fan, noted “When are you gonna go on TV???!!! You are SOOOO good!!!!”

My friend responded with great modesty, true to her character, “I don’t need to be famous, I’m happy just playing my music here at home, with my people.”

I was so blessed by her response. I could TOTALLY relate. However, I could also understand how foreign her response was to the clerk. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be famous, right? Who wouldn’t want to be seen and adored by thousands, if not millions, right? Why not share your talent with as many people as you can, right?????

As a society, we’ve gotten to the place where more is better. Where all we do is measured by the number of likes, customers, product sold, people in the audience, etc. We crave acknowledgement, a certificate, pin, title, award, or some sort of notoriety for everything we do. We secretly want our content, our YouTube, blog post, picture, or even rant to go viral. We want to be discovered. We crave validation. Acceptance. And ultimately, love.

The problem with this is, in our plight to be noticed by the masses, we forfeit the journey of growing, learning and allowing God the chance to promote us in His timing. We spin our wheels and max out our resources to produce results, often times based on standards of another person’s success. We are so busy climbing ladders, grinding, and chasing a name, we miss out on the little opportunities to cultivate relationships that produce the lasting love that matters.

Within the last couple years, my singing friend retired from an awesome career in education to be at home full time with her family. Nope, she didn’t pack her bags and move to Hollywood, instead, she volunteers at the school, she helps her husband with his business, coaches her son’s basketball league and tends to her parents and elderly grandparents. When she gets a chance, she sings and plays guitar at local venues, festivals and weddings around town. But SHE is super ok with that. Currently, she doesn’t have a triple platinum album, she doesn’t have a Grammy on her wall, she won’t get Administrator of the Year this year, but in the meantime, her daughter has a friend she knows is always there when she needs her. She has a solid marriage of 17 years. She hasn’t missed a ballgame and is able to take her mom to her weekly check-ups at the doctor.

Perhaps if we get back to some of these things that really matter in this life, we will grow our character. We will develop the characteristics necessary to sustaining greater levels of success. We will have a true support system of people who love us and look out for our best interest along the way. We will have made major impact on individuals and created memories throughout.

I’m not saying give up the pursuit of greater or abort taking your talent and visions to their highest level possible. Go get your Grammy!!!! Just don’t let it be at the expense of the things that truly matter. Don’t let it be an attempted replica of someone else’s journey. Many of the people we all admire, follow on Instagram, and see adorned by millions, go to bed lonely with no one they can truly trust. When their career ends, they have no one by their side. No trusted companions or skills to help them sustain or recover their achievement.

As you pursue your purpose, trust in God’s ability to customize the experience for YOU. Put your best foot forward in everything you do because it will ALWAYS lead to greater. Be sure to enjoy the growth that happens during the journey and develop and cherish relationships with the people in your life right now. You will find, their love is better than the superficial love that comes from the masses. The mountaintop is so much better when you get their whole, with great people on your team, with true love in your heart, and with God leading the way. Until then, sing your heart out and enjoy each time you perform in your hometown, post your best blogs if only for an audience of 100, and rock out that business from the ground up … You’ll get your Grammy soon enough… While you’re at it… enjoy the journey!!!

Proverbs 16:9

You’re Going to Poop the Rest of Your Life… What’s the Rush????

Ok, so I am currently smack dab in the middle of one of the most challenging experiences of my life… I am teaching my 15-year-old son how to drive!!!!!! OOOMMMGGGG!!!! For the most part, I am a pretty calm kinda gal. However, this adventure has required a level of patience like I’ve never experienced before.

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Forget the fact that I am still in awe that I have a child who is old enough to drive anyway! I mean, it feels like we were watching episodes of Little Bill, playing Beyblades and building Lego figures just yesterday!!!! Nevertheless, of course when he told me he was enrolled in Driver’s Ed, had to get his learner’s permit, and actually start operating a real motor vehicle, I had to rise to the challenge and help teach him the simple art of driving, right????? UUUUUUMMMM…. NO!!! This thing is INTENSE!!!! Like most people, I’m sure, we started off in the parking lot, moved to dirt roads, and have now advanced to two lane streets; however, it has taken several weeks (and a few missed stop signs) to get here!!!

Though we have been practicing about 3-5 times weekly, it occurred to me, that unfortunately my son is nowhere near the place where he can have his driver’s license and operate a vehicle on his own any time soon. Now that doesn’t mean I will stop working with him. I plan to work with him almost every day until he reaches his goals, however, rather than risk his, ours, or others’ lives, I have come to accept the fact that he needs A LOT more practice and it will probably be much longer than the 2 months he has left until he completes his driver’s training and turns 16.

For some, automatically this would spell failure. I have to admit, my determination for him being successful was what drove my anxiety and frustration. How could we (ultimately, I) fail to meet such a huge milestone? Then it occurred to me, so many of us are governed by the “milestone timeline.” The idea that things must be done according to the majority of the population. That timeline looks like this: You should graduate college by 21, get married by 24-26, pregnant by 30. Baby should be walking by 1, potty-trained by 2, reading by 4. They should be in the gifted and talented group, they should be in 3-5 different athletic or fine arts activities to prepare for scholarships (in 10 years!!!) and the list goes on and on. And OH MY GOSH!!!! YOU ARE 33 AND NOT MARRIED????? What is wrong with you???? We measure ourselves and our successes by our ability to meet these timelines. But I have an important question: WHO set the timelines? What substance or weight do they really hold in the big grand scheme?

I mean, think about it: does it really matter if your baby walks at 14 months instead of 12? Or for heaven sakes, they are SUPER SUPER special if they start walking at 9 months!!! I mean they would qualify for the “Baby Who Walked First Award” right???? Is that any indication of their intellect? Their ability or lack thereof? Or is it merely a source of pride for parents to brag and post that their AMAZING child has passed the test and is READING A BOOK AT AGE 1!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!! Really????? WHO CARES????

Trust me. I am not making light of us achieving goals for our lives or our children’s lives. However, we must make sure they don’t govern our happiness or reflection of our success. We can’t be filled with feelings of failure if our lives don’t line up with the world’s timeline. You, me, our children were fearfully and wonderfully made. One of a kind. God broke the mold when he made you! Don’t look to the left or the right to determine where you should fit on the marker. RUN YOUR RACE! In all things, we have to seek God for His direction and His timing for the purpose and plan for our life. His ways are so much higher than ours. While we are rushing to marry this man because “I’m getting old and pretty soon I won’t be able to have kids” we settle for less than what He has for us because we are on some crazy time schedule! Because everyone else has a house by “this age,” we go into ridiculous amounts of debt to stay on top of it. We become overly anxious because our kid may not be ready to drive until he is 17…or even 18 and we lose sight of such a great learning experience.

Whatever the case, don’t allow this undo pressure to force a speed race in any area of your life. Slow down and enjoy the journey that is necessary for full completion. Lean not unto your own understanding… let God direct and order your steps and you will always end up on top, finishing at a time suitable for YOU based on HIS timeline.  Ultimately, you/your child will drive, walk, read, talk, poop, for the rest of their life… No need to rush this awesome process!!!

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YOU MAKE ME SICK!!!!

Last week our district had to close school because there were too many kids absent due to various illness such as the flu, strep throat, sinus infections and the like. In all my days, I have never seen this happen, yet recently this was the case in several parts of the country. It was sad to think so many children were at home feeling miserable and fighting for their health. Regardless of their age, most kids are pretty much helpless in this situation because they are unable to make the informed decisions necessary to maintaining their health.  However, we, as their parents can play a more proactive role in keeping them well. I know, I know… we are all super busy, we are on tight budgets, and viruses are highly contagious…we are ALL susceptible. Right? I TOTALLY get it. However, it IS possible for our kids to be in such great health that they are more immune to various illnesses and don’t get sick. Now, this may be difficult to do if our cupboards are filled with Oreos, our menus consist of fried chicken wings from KFC and our schedules are booked to the max, but perhaps we can step up our game on ways to build up a better immunity for them by making some minor adjustments.  Here are 5 ways to help keep our kids virus-free.

  1. Get adequate rest. Kids need to sleep. Though it seems like school is a light-weight job that requires minimal effort, it is only a small portion of their day. Many kids participate in extra-curricular activities, work, sports, church, chores and other things that keep them busy most parts of their day. They need to rest their bodies and minds so they can perform at their highest level. They are still growing and developing and need at least 8 hours to restore, rejuvenate, repair and develop. You will find once they are rested they will be more attentive, can function at a greater capacity and will resist illness. My kids are 14 and 15 and STILL go to bed at 9:00pm! 😨😨😨 (TV’s off, lights out, computers, video games and phones powered down!!!) ☺☺
  1. Eat nutritional meals: I get it, we are on the go, go, go… cooking???? “Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!” lol! 😬😬 However, the purpose of food is not to fill our bellies, but to nourish our bodies. Our children need nutrients for their mind and body to function. It is imperative they get at least 5/6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Start them as early as possible to develop an appetite for healthy options. That will be impossible if tomatoes are in competition with Cheetos. Remember, YOU buy the groceries. They can only eat what you buy. Of course, they can enjoy snacks, desserts and fast food periodically, but if it has become a regular part of their eating plan, their bodies are not getting the nutrients necessary to fight off illness, let alone perform the tasks they need to do each day.
  1. Get that body moving: This can be a challenge I know, as many of our kids are strapped to some sort of device that only requires movement of the fingers, however, we must help keep them active. At least 3 times per week, they should get that heart rate up and get that blood pumping. Consider options such as walking the dog each day, going to the rec center a couple times a week, getting into a local sports team, gardening, or regular household chores. Whatever the case, when that blood is circulating through the body, it can adequately combat various symptoms.
  1. Take a daily vitamin: It can be tough to get in all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals each day through food alone. However, while their brains, bones and muscles are developing, it is important they not lack the essentials. Taking a good (preferably whole food) 1 a day multivitamin, will help pick up where their diet leaves off.
  1. Joyful living: Many of our children are plagued with a stressful existence.  This can greatly impair their defense against illness. They are juggling several tasks before, during and after school and are already starting a life of busyness and stress. We must help them add balance to their daily regimen so they can enjoy their days to the fullest. Each day should somehow include elements of fun, peace, and joy. Their home environment should be a place of safety. Not one where they are overwhelmed with our stresses (bills, money, car trouble, divorce, etc..) each night. When they can live in a place that is consistently peaceful, they can rest knowing they are safe and can enjoy themselves.

I know this is not easy. However, as adults, we can make informed decisions. We are charged with the duty of training our children and helping them develop habits they will take into adulthood. I realize our lives are difficult as well, however, children are innocent bystanders of the life we serve them. Show them early how to defend against illness so they can live long, peaceable, happy, healthy lives. They have a whole world to go impact. No time for being sick! ☺☺☺

Attention: All Husbands of a Stay at Home Mom…

Hello Husbands,

First of all, hats off to YOU for making the selfless decision to put your family first. In an age when everyone wants to pursue an extra income, opportunity and status, you have chosen to work together with your wife making sacrifices to ensure the BEST care for your family. Hats off further for earning a wage and/or choosing a lifestyle where you can afford to do so. Simply put… YOU THE MAN!!!!! 🙂

That being said, unfortunately, what tends to happen during this process, is though you are satisfied with the outcome of your wife being at home, (your kids are well behaved, healthy, happy, safe and brilliant) you can sometimes overlook the effort it takes to get there. To help your AWESOME self, avoid making this AWFUL mistake, I have two simple ideas for you to consider when dealing with your stay at home mom.

Number one: Give her regular and intentional acts, thoughts, gifts, and words of appreciation.  The average employee earns a salary. It may not be lavish, but whatever it is, it is enough to keep them coming back each day. They are rewarded doubly for overtime hours and acts of excellence. Most earn paid holidays, sick leave, and vacation time. There are bonuses to strive for and promotions to look toward. Shoot, some places give certificates for not being late more than 3 times!!!! Lol!

Interestingly, your wife doesn’t NEED any of that. The services she provides and the care she gives is given freely; without expectation and most times without reward. For example, the child she wakes up to nurse five times each night, can’t roll over and thank her for her sacrifice of sleep. He/she can’t understand the benefit of learning how to use the potty. The hours of reading aloud, planning play dates, reciting numbers, watching repeated episodes on PBS, downloading educational websites, won’t pay off until they are of school age (at least we hope). The gratification of the work invested in our little ones are most times delayed by sometimes 18 years, yet she does it all faithfully for the retroactive bonus of great success, for the continued tinkle in the toilet, the health offered only from breastfeeding and the educational advancements that are to follow.

However, YOU can celebrate her during this journey. You have no idea how much your recognition means to her. The sticky note you leave on her mirror in the morning reminding her how you noticed her patiently helping your little one with his homework each night. The certificate you create and print off at work to present to her for being “Mom of the Year”. The public post on Facebook, letting the world know how awesome your wife’s dinner was last night. Or the weekend getaway you planned yourself, would trump every achievement she’s ever earned. Whatever method you choose to show your appreciation, do it regularly. Be intentional about noticing the time, effort and love she pours into your family. You will find it will not only strengthen her devotion to you, but also spark a second wind to continue her plight toward excellence in your home.

Number two: Be sure she gets (regular) temporary relief from her responsibilities.  EVERYONE needs and deserves a break every now and then… no REGULARLY. Again most employees are given at least 2 days a week, 2 weeks a year, holidays and even breaks throughout the day. Too many times, a stay at home mom’s “breaks” are filled with additional tasks. I remember when my kids were little, during their naps, it would seem a perfect time for me to catch up on sleep, reading, exercise etc… NOPE. I used that time to prepare dinner for the evening, mop, clean, wash clothes etc.. Weekends became opportunities to catch up on bigger responsibilities, birthday parties, sporting events and other commitments. Vacation generally meant handling the same duties only in a different location. WHEW!!!! Your wife needs relief.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to hire a nanny or maid, but perhaps you can implement a “No Work on Saturdays” campaign. Every Friday you can plan to eat out or order in. From 4pm-6pm each day, she can go to the gym, take a class, go to the mall etc… Sundays could be HER day. She has no duties or requirements at all on that day and she is free to spend her time wherever she wants to go, doing whatever she wants to do. HELLO DADDY DAYCARE!!! 🙂 🙂 Whatever method of reprieve works for your family is up to you guys, but know that it is imperative for your wife to maintain balance in her life.

As a former teacher of high school students, I have seen the long term benefits of kids who have had an active parent at home. The fact that you have created a lifestyle of support within your family is such a great idea. Ultimately, your wife and children are and will be grateful for the time you put in at the office in order to provide for your family and the sacrifices made to put your children first. Just remember, you and your wife are a team. You both need each other to make this well oiled machine function properly. Be sure your wife gets the necessary regular maintenance she needs in order for her to perform at her maximum capacity. After all, happy, appreciated, balanced, rested wife… HAPPY…EVERYTHING!!!! 🙂

Sincerely,

Enjoying the Journey with Harper