Category Archives: Financial

Halfway is Okay

If you’ve lived by the mantra, “If you’re going to do it, do it right,” and it’s kept you from doing things, take heart–I’m giving you permission to do it half-way.

I can’t tell you how many things I’ve put off because I didn’t have the time or energy to do them perfectly, and the sadness of missing out on them.

Recently I made a half-beautiful table and breakfast, and was doubly blessed–by the fun of it and by my children’s gratitude.

Here’s my wrinkled tablecloth and placemat,


store-bought berry,


white-flour waffle on a thrift-store plate,


gravy-boatin’, HFCS syrup,


dollar-store mug,


finger-licking good


family breakfast.



Rethinking Christmas: Accepting Gifts

My husband gave me a priceless gift. He gave me something I cannot pay back. Something he had to sacrifice for. He gave me what he knew would refresh me and fill my soul with joy.

He gave me the dinner and concert I cancelled.



How could I accept this gift, when I had nothing that came close in value to give him? When I knew I did not deserve this? How could I accept what I could never hope to pay back?

Would I react with guilt? Deny the gift based on my feelings of inadequacy? Try to come up with something to bless him as much?

Or would I just accept the gift and his love poured through it?

Or would I just accept the gift and his love poured through it?

Or would I just accept the gift and his love poured through it?

There is another gift I am unworthy to receive. Weightier than any other I have been offered. Eternal in its impact. Something even my very life could never satisfy in return.

His name is Jesus.

Rethinking Christmas: Tough Decisions

Have you ever had to say “no” to something you just love? To memories that would last a lifetime? I did that today, am feeling super-sad.

A precious friend invited me to join her at our favorite local cafe for dinner and a concert with one of our favorite music groups. My heart so wanted to join her that I said “yes.” My hubby said we’d work out the finances. I commmitted and began planning my outfit.

Then…I began budgeting–for our bills, Christmas, our upcoming trip to New York, our annual Nutcracker night out…and I realized I just had to say “no.” I was on the verge of tears calling her, knowing I was going back on my word, knowing I was saying no just because of money.

Used to be I could find a few dollars for anything I wanted. I’d strut into a store and pick up a $50 bottle of perfume just because it smelled good. Now, I maneuver the bottle I already have sideways and upside down to pump the last spritzes out, and get out my Christmas list.

I’m not bellyaching. I hope not, anyway. I’m just verbalizing a few thoughts you might share with me. A couple dashed hopes you might empathize with. I know I can only weather this because of the Hope that is in me. What turns my head aside from grieving these earthly losses is the One who holds eternity in His hands, the Memory Maker Himself.

Do you know Him? You sing the carols about the baby Jesus coming to bring us joy, but do you know Him fully grown, taking your punishment for sin? Do you know Him risen, having conquered death? Do you know Him who reigns for eternity? If not, I’d love to introduce you to Him. He’s a good friend of mine and He’d like nothing more than to meet you.

Rethinking Christmas: More Traditions at Home

Just after I found myself wondering how else to make our Advent and Christmas special, my laptop crashed and I had to head downstairs to use my desktop. Voila! The answer to my prayers for more good ideas was waiting on my hard drive.

I’m so happy to inspire you with these free and almost-free traditions. Happy reading!


The night we put up our Christmas tree, we act out the nativity story–usually several times so each child has the opportunity to play the part he wants. They love putting together their own costumes. I hope this tradition lasts forever.



My favorite Mommy tradition is having a cup of hot cocoa by the light of the fire and tree lights after the children have gone to bed.



Each year we put up a new ornament. Some years they remind us of a spot we’ve visited or something we’ve enjoyed as a family. Last year we tried ordering one from Snapfish. 



My kids wouldn’t believe it was Christmas unless they got to squish at least one batch of chocolate chip cookies with their little fingers, and lick the beaters. They love to watch the cookies bake, then eat them hot with some cold milk. Yum!



It just wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t decorate a Gingerbread house. This year we’ll do it on Thanksgiving Day, just the six of us.



A “must” for me is making “real” hot cocoa with Hershey’s cocoa powder. Swiss Miss is fine for the rest of the year, but Christmas just isn’t complete without a mug of steaming hot Hershey’s. Mmm…hmm…



Brooke loves making tea for her favorite doll, Libby. It’s become a tradition, and gets fancier each year.



Last year we celebrate the season with two precious families, making gum drop trees with one,


and gingerbread houses with the other.



My boys love visiting their barber, Mr. Walt. He gives them a classic boys’ haircut for all the Christmas photos I’m about to take. My boys won’t go to anyone but Mr. Walt.


I’d love to hear more of your ideas on how to celebrate the Lord’s birth and reign. Do comment.

STAY TUNED for the next post in the series, Rethinking Christmas: Around Town

Rethinking Christmas: Traditions

This year we’ll have something we’ve never had before at Christmas: a budget. We’ve set spending and giving guidelines in years past, but never because we had to. This year we cannot spend and give what we want.

So rather than agonizing over what I can’t do, I’ve been spending time recalling our favorite



(as found on Miiko Gibson’s blog, Our Grace Journey)

This study is so fun! Ms. Zweigle uses the inductive study method, providing coloring pages for the children. My friend Mandie suggested instead of just looking for certain words visually, add sounds for children to make every time they hear a certain word. Or actions for the littlest ones. We start every morning with this study during Advent.



Turn the kids’ excitement about coming “gifts” into an excitment about God’s “gift,” Jesus. Create “ornament” representation of Jesus’ earthly family tree to help the children see God’s plan of salvation from the foundations of the earth. You can find plenty of free resources, but here’s one I particulary like. It includes the artwork for the youngest ones to color. If you have older ones, you can have them draw their own ornaments. While friends of ours hung their ornaments on a tree, we taped a construction paper stump to our pantry door and a green ribbon up as the branch for our ornaments. I’m a linear thinker, so I needed to see the chronological progression of Jesus’ human bloodline.



Christmas Eve day we bake Jesus a birthday cake and decorate it with whatever goodies we have in the kitchen. We set it aside for Christmas morning. You’ll see why as you read on.



After the children go to bed on Christmas Eve, while hubby puts together the toys that need a screwdriver, I line up our slippers by the back door and hide Baby Jesus (a naked plastic baby doll wrapped in an old teatowel) in a toybox full of hay left over from fall.

Christmas morning, the magic of coming down the stairs is turned from finding gifts to finding Baby Jesus. My kids run to the back door, eager to brave the cold to bring in Baby Jesus to warm Him by the fire. After they dress him, we sing Happy Birthday Jesus and eat cake to celebrate. It is our favorite part of Christmas Day!



Growing up, my favorite Christmas gifts were ones I could toy with all day. Art supplies and craft kits kept me quietly busy in a magical way into the cool, dark afternoon. This year I plan to put together craft supplies we already own in little self-contained craft kits. A few pieces of fabric, a pair of scissors, and some fabric glue to make dollhouse furnishings. Cardboard cereal boxes, scissors, wrapping paper and tape to create box-cars or Webkinz homes. Small mittens cut from felt, white embroidery floss, glitter glue, and white hanging ribbon to create a cute winter banner for our dining room.

Welcome Christmas

Christmas has been knocking at our door. The kids put together shoe boxes full of gifts for children around the world through Operation Christmas Child. You still have this weekend to put together your box!


Now we’re looking through Gospel for Asia’s Gift catalog, trying to decide if we’ll gift a pair of bunnies or a goat. The children will make cookies and goodies to “sell” (ask for donations) to benefit a family in India. They love this! I love that one hundred percent of our contributions to GFA go to the mission field!  

As far as our own Christmas here at home, we’re scaling back financially. Hubby is with a great start-up company this year…start-up being the operative word. It’s really just getting started, so we’ve tightened the purse strings. I can’t tell you what we bought for the kids (because my oldest reads this), but I can tell you they’ll love it! And I got it at a great discount. Hubby and I will buy one small gift for one another, and the children and I will make gifts for family and friends.

I really, really wanted to re-do our whole Christmas decor thing this year. Homemade is looking like a great new theme–paper chains from scrapbook paper in our stash, colored-in Jesse Tree ornaments, pine cones from the nearby park. I think we can get pretty creative without breaking the bank.  I’ll just look at it as a sort of challenge. Maybe a “Natural Christmas” theme. Really, paper is from wood, and wax crayons are…where is wax from? That sounds like a unit study to me!

So, I’m curious–how are you honing your Christmas focus this year?


I usually think of that number as the “perfect” or “complete” number. It is, however, how many points the market fell today. I was panicking–not as in, “Will we recoup our losses?” but as in, “Will we be able to feed our children if our country falls into a full-fledged depression?”–when hubby said, “It fell triple 7’s, which of course means God’s in control.” Such faith. I love him.

My grandmother was a child of the Great Depression. When she moved into a small room in my aunt’s house for her last few years of life, she brought 7 partially used rolls of scotch tape. She had a “use what you have” mentality. Now the phrase the Lord has been speaking to me makes perfect sense: Use What You Have. It’s precisely what he’s been whispering to me whenever my hand is on my wallet. Use What You Have. He is always so gracious to pre-empt my fears with His great ominscience.