Tag Archives: Christmas

A few months ago I literally had a day where I re-applied my makeup four times. I am a mascara girl so you get the picture of the multiple messes I needed to clean up.

Grief was the instigator.

My mom passed away earlier this year after a brave battle with cancer. I shed tears then, of course, but life continued. I got busy and distracted with work and travel and kids and laundry.

And then in totally surprising moments, grief would overcome me and the tears would burst forth uncontrollably. This was a new experience. I tend to be the odd emotionless person at appropriate tearful events (like funerals or a sad movie or when my child tells me they want a tattoo).

One of these unexpected moments occurred this summer while I was pumping gas. I had just checked Facebook (I guess I do this when I am filling the tank?) and saw that it was one of my mom’s best friend’s birthdays. This caused me pause since just a couple of weeks earlier I found myself overcome with grief on my birthday when I realized I wasn’t going to get a call from my mom singing “Happy Birthday” in her gravely but on pitch voice as she had for the last thirty years.

I thought Tammy might experience the same wave of loss on her birthday so I started to type a message saying that I was thinking of her and that I know my mom was singing to her anyway….but I couldn’t get past “Hi Tammy…” before I fell apart in sobs. As the numbers ticked up on the pump I leaned in the passenger side of the car and just shook with grief. It was such a strange place to be crying uncontrollably, but yet, here were those tears–they did not vet location or convenience or whether I had touch-up mascara in my purse.

I was sharing about this wave of grief with one of my closest friends over Voxer (when you are really busy and your friends are really busy, Voxer is the best. It’s a walkie talkie on your phone. Try it). Anyway, a few days later she showed up to my house for an event and handed me a blue tube of waterproof mascara. It was the best gift I received this year….it said to me, “I’ve got you. I know you. This might help.”

A smart person would have plopped that in her purse for future gas station melt-downs, but I didn’t. Because that season passed and the tears waned.

Until yesterday. I was sitting in church with my husband and the worship band started their second song…it was a Christmas song and out of nowhere the emotion welled. Grief. Christmas. My mom. Memories. And my self- conscious self lowered my head because now I had the sniffles and couldn’t stop wiping my eyes with my sweater.. and darn! Why didn’t I pack mascara and even better Kleenex in my purse? I kicked myself for being so unprepared. When the tears kept coming my husband put his arm around me and asked what was wrong. I whispered, “My mom.” Ahhh. He got it. “Could you please go get me some tissue?” He came back a few minutes later with toilet paper.

I have been learning more about Advent this Christmas than other years. Advent is a season of preparation. We anticipate the event of the birth of our savior…we daydream about the heavenly host of angels announcing to the shepherds’ the birth of Jesus…that starry dark night, the manger, the cries of Mary and then Jesus, the wonder, the hope.

We prepare our hearts once again to celebrate, to welcome, to embrace and renew our faith.

Preparation. I have not prepared for the tears with tissue and waterproof mascara with me at all times. I have been caught off guard, self-conscious, and embarrassed because inevitably the black smudges, watery eyes and half applied makeup look reveal to everyone that I have been crying. I avoided talking to my friends in the lobby after church that day because of the tears, or felt embarrassed to go to a client’s house after the stop at the gas station with clearly something “off” with my face. My lack of preparation made me want to not engage with people in my day…which is not like me.

With God, we can also be caught off guard. He enters into our lives and hearts unexpectedly at times. With an answer that we desperately needed, a gentle conviction, or guidance in the midst of confusion. We can be wholly awed by a sunset, or a snowflake or a baby’s tiny fingers.

And if we are not prepared, we can miss it….Him. We brush the holy presence of God as a “gut feeling” or “coincidence” or most often and most detrimental, we proudly think we came up with the answer or the solution all on our own, or the moment in nature as just…nature. It is like just reading the back cover of the book and saying, “I don’t need any more that that.” When the treasure is inside, in the words of the author, in the story that he or she brings alive. There is a depth and richness and power to understanding that there is more than ourselves in this world.

Lack of preparation distracts us from what we could really experience, in the small moments, and the miraculous.

So how do we prepare?

We RECOGNIZE

We try as best as possible to recognize the handiwork of God in every situation. When we are in a long line at Starbucks…he is teaching us patience, when we hang an ornament on the tree, we recognize this is a symbol of what we are celebrating. When we suddenly have an answer after praying, we connect the two. We recognize God because we have prepared our hearts to do so.

We REMEMBER

We are thankful… in everything, because we remember the child, the wonderful counselor, the mighty savior in soft newborn flesh, who through him we connect to the God of the universe, and the God of our hearts. We remember in the stress of the season what is most important. We remember that he is in all things good, and is beside us in all things bad.

We RESPOND

We respond to God’s voice, His nudging, His creation, His forgiveness. We bend an ear to listen to the gentle whisper that comes. We change where he is asking us to become more loving. We give to those who have so much less, taming our ravenous desire for gifts and material wants and sharing some of that overflow with others who we don’t know. We respond with simple prayers that invite God into our beautiful messy lives, with showing up to church with an undistracted, open hearts to learn.

I didn’t prepare my “crying clean up kit” in my purse because I didn’t expect the tears..even though if I was honest with myself I knew that they would come at some point. Like this, we often don’t prepare for God’s presence in our lives because we just don’t expect it…even though we know he is there and we will experience Him at some point. And we miss it.

A small pack of tissue now resides in my purse, next to a make-up remover packet, a small tube of concealer and of course the blue tube of mascara.

Are you prepared for the arrival of the birth of the Savior of the world that we will celebrate next week? It has profound implications on our lives.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and hope you can find a couple moments in the next few days to feel the joy of the season.

XOXO

Amy

                           http://www.amyleehayes.com/connect

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

(this post contains affiliate links)

By now my guess is you have most of your Christmas decorations unpacked and beautifully displayed around your house, but maybe this year you are still wanting to add a new look in a couple of areas and are not quite sure how to accomplish that.

I wanted to give you some ideas in this blog and make it EASY to copy!  I am including links at the bottom so you can just order and create this exact look, HOWEVER Amazon changes its supply often, or you may not be able to get it by Christmas.  So order for next year’s table setting OR search around and see if you can find something similar online or in stores and use these pictures as examples.

IDEA #1  KITCHEN TABLE CENTERPIECE

This whole look is from Amazon and is the perfect Christmas ensemble.  I started with the tray which is a distressed mirrored glass bordered by rustic wood.  Round trays look good on both round and square tables.

Then I added the pine tree in a pot.  The pot was a little deep so I crumpled up some paper to lift the tree up.  The deer figurine is small but beautiful, and could really go anywhere in the house, but I loved it right here.

I found this “Merry and Bright” wood sign which is small enough to perfectly fit on this tray, and then added the gold pinecone (which I love!) and tapered candle.  To pull it all together I cut some branches off a pine tree in our yard and circled them around the bottom (you can use any kind of pine branches).

 

IDEA #2:  DINING ROOM TABLE

Sometimes bringing a centerpiece together is a matter of collecting things you love.  This setting has a mix of old and new, gold and candlelight, farmhouse and traditional, with a few pine needles from the backyard.   And it all works!

These rope gold candlesticks bookend the decor and add a hint of traditional and formal.

And more gold pinecones..

(Note: Amazon recently changed their supply–this particular one is not available but I’ve included a link to a similar set)

 

I found this white deer at Lowes–they have great Christmas decorations this year!

And, from Magnolia Market…the salt and pepper shaker. 

A great table runner creates the foundation for any table setting.  The one if found has a warm, natural, creamy look.  I love it.

 

 

One more look:

I have listed below the links to find most of these items so you can create these looks if you want.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xoxo,

Amy

Links:

Round Mirrored Wood Tray

Gold Rope Candlesticks

Gold Pinecone Holders

Magnolia Market Salt and Pepper Shaker

White Deer with Wreath on Neck

Small White Deer Figurine

Small Pine Tree

Merry and Bright Wood Sign
DII Cotton Everyday Machine Washable Chindi Rag Table Runner, 14 X 72″, Natural

 

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Not every year, but most, I give the ladies in our family (mothers, sisters, daughters) a devotional for Christmas.  It is my way of saying “I love you and here’s some hope and encouragement during the good and inevitable not-so-good days of the upcoming year.”  (Oh, and I always get one for myself too!)

This year I found mother/daughter devotionals that have the same theme for the year and they are at great Cyber Monday prices:

1. COLORING DEVOTIONALS (the new trend)

Wholehearted: A Coloring Book Devotional

Moms, do you daydream about slowing down? Here’s a way. Picture a morning cup of coffee, an array of pencils and a few minutes to color your thoughts on the devotional you just read.  Click on the picture or the link above to see more:


Faithgirlz: 60 Days Of Discovering God’s Hope and Love

This is for girls 8-12 years old..a great present for your daughters or nieces or granddaughters! I love anything that encourages creativity and provides an alternative to screen time.

 

2. PRAYER JOURNALS

My Prayer Journal: A Three Month Guide to Praise and Thanks

I shared in a recent FB video about how writing down my prayers has really helped me focus during my prayer time.  This prayer journal might be the perfect gift for yourself or for others who want to grow their prayer lives.

My Kid’s Prayer Journal: 100 Days of Prayer and Praise

What a gift to our children to help them learn how to pray and give praise to God! And, this is something you can share together if you both have a kickstart to your year with these devotionals.

 

3. QUALITY TIME WITH JESUS

JESUS ALWAYS: Embracing Joy in His Presence

These devotionals are timeless-I read them year after year and the truth is fresh each time. Of all the devotionals out there, Sara Young’s speak to my heart the most.


JESUS ALWAYS: 365 Devotions for Kids

This is one of my FAVORITE kid’s devotionals.  It is simple but full of truth.  We used to read it at the dinner table for our family dinners.

Hopefully you found one of these types of devotionals that you would love for yourself or for a family member (or friend!).  Starting the new year on the spiritual right foot is a beautiful gift!

xoxo,

Amy

PS: Please share with friends and family if you think they might like this post!

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In December on the Blog- another kitchen makeover, holiday design tips, and more Christmas spirit coming your way!

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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I shared in my last post about our house journey over the past year, and how unexpected so many pieces of it were, and not in a good way.  There was disappointment and questioning and difficulty coming to grips with the fact that the story I had written for myself wasn’t the story that was actually happening.

Yet, in the end, it was the best story for us. Not because of how the chapters wrapped up, but because of what change occurred in me and our family in the middle of the book, when the ending was unclear.  I am a different, better version of myself this year…more trusting in God and more faithful in my worship of Him.  Two things that are priceless to me as I continue my journey in life.

What story is being written in your life right now? Is it different than the story you had mapped out for yourself?

Just like Jesus arriving in baby flesh and total dependence instead of pomp and circumstance and royal authority, we have a story that is often different than expected. But there are great gifts waiting if we choose to embrace the story (regardless how different) our heavenly author has written for us.

Gifts of maturity and faith and total dependence on something wiser and greater than ourselves~ultimately gifts of peace.

Maybe this is why Jesus’s birth was the perfect example of dependence. He was a helpless, vulnerable babe, accepting the story his Heavenly Father had written for him. Jesus has always lived out reality for us in human form, from the very straw and night and stars and mother’s kiss that welcomed his arrival.

This Christmas, when we are in the thick if a story we didn’t write, lets remember that we have a God who only writes perfect stories.  And in His stories He cares deeply about us, and wants to draw us near Him as we learn to trust in His goodness and embrace our dependence on Him.

He will bring us peace and hope.

Have a blessed Christmas.

~Amy

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Hello! Today on the blog I am sharing a story I have been wanting to tell for months…but it just hasn’t seemed like the right timing.  And then the Christmas season arrived and I began thinking about waiting– waiting for the celebration, anticipating the excitement of the season, and the waiting that happened for the generations of Israelites in anticipation of the birth of their King.

It reminded me of my story from the last year–one of anticipation but of much waiting.  A true time of testing for me.  You may want to snuggle in for the video which is a bit longer than I wanted–it is, after all, a story of waiting.  But it is a message of hope and encouragement for those of us who are expectant of life to somehow work itself out differently than it seems, that there is One who knows us and sees us while we wait.

 

You may be in a time of waiting, and it may not be wrapped up neatly in a bow like ours was in the end.  It may take a long, long time for the story to play out.

But please hear this–it is not how the story ends that is important…it is how God changes us in the midst of our waiting.

THIS is when he pulls up a chair to talk, because we are often ready to listen. Hear what he is whispering, lean in to his voice of love and grace and trust.

He’s got this.

Merry Christmas to you!

PS:  Please join me on my Facebook Blog Community page!  I post several times a week–notes of encouragement or I share great articles and tips I stumble upon:

https://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

Also, I am on Instagram @amyleehayes–would love to connect with you there too!

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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