Naptime is Stamptime // Stampin' Up! Sponsor Spotlight

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
— 1 Peter 4:10

This has been one of my favorite passages in my adult life. We all have different gifts. What are yours?

Keeping house? I wish this was one of my gifts!

Mothering your children? Oh, how often I feel I fail at this one.

Musical talent? I have a little bit.

Public speaking? Not me.

Teaching? Yes! That one I can do. For several years before kids, I was a teacher. Now I use my teaching skills in different ways every day.

As a mother, I teach my children the simple tasks of life – how to brush your teeth, how to put on your own socks and shoes, how to make your bed. 

But my favorite way to use my teaching skills these days is in my “job” as a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator.

I use quotation marks because while I do make a little bit of money doing it, I don’t look at it as a job. For me, teaching others how to make handmade cards and gift packaging or preserve their memories is a creative outlet that lets me use the skills God has given me, and I really enjoy it!

If you’ve never heard of Stampin’ Up! before, you might be wondering what exactly it is. The company started out with rubber stamps, but has grown into much more than that! Now we offer three types of stamps, as well as coordinating cardstock and paper, ink, ribbon and embellishments. And that is one of my favorite things about Stampin’ Up! – everything coordinates so you don’t have to go to the trouble of matching products yourself.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite products with you – things that I think anyone could use and enjoy!

The first is called Paper Pumpkin. It is a monthly kit subscription that can be purchased month by month or by a prepaid subscription. It costs $19.95 + tax each month, and you get everything you need to complete a crafty project.

Sometimes the kit includes supplies to make cards, and other times it makes a home décor project or some fun gift packaging. The kit is always a surprise, and it’s such fun mail! 

The other product I wanted to share with you is called Project Life

If you are like me, you have a ton of pictures of your kids and family on your phone or camera. But that’s where they stay. Project Life is a form of scrapbooking, but it’s really just putting your pictures into an album so that your family can enjoy looking at them.

Stampin’ Up! has exclusive Project Life card kits and accessory packs to help you get your pictures into albums. Here are a few pages I’ve done to give you an example – they go together pretty quickly! 

This is just a taste of what Stampin’ Up! has to offer. If you’d like to learn more, you are welcome to join my Naptime is Stamptime Facebook group where I share projects I’m working on, tips for stamping, and sales.

Something Beautiful In You

“Wow! God made you so very beautiful!”  

Usually I make more of an effort to point out more meaningful attributes in my 3 year old, but that moment just struck me.

 

“Yeah! He did!” When she responded to me the way she did, the Lutheran in me cringed! “Oh no! Vanity! Arrogance! Sinful PRIDE!!” But, no! Not at all. Because HE DID. Our loving Father’s hand created her beautifully.

norahsleeping We fight pride so, so hard. And we should fight it! C.S. Lewis has quite a bit to say about pride, including this:

 

“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

Scary stuff, that pride. So scary that we sometimes find it difficult to admit that we have any strengths at all. There are so few people I know that know how to take a compliment.

 

We can get too caught up in humility, I think, that we miss the entire point of it.

C.S. Lewis also has a thing or two to say about humility:

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."

We get to the point that we realize that we are nothing without God. We are powerless. We are deserving of death. We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. It’s all true. But then we dwell there. Why would we stay there? In a place without God?? Why would we want to be anywhere without God? The point is that we DO have God, and He has given us incredible blessings in our lives, and created us with great care and greater purpose.

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

 

It is not sinful pride to acknowledge that the Master and Creator of the universe has made something beautiful in you when you are acknowledging Him and thanking and glorifying Him with it! My husband and I lived in China for 2 years after I graduated from college. Our last year there we met a woman who had a huge impact on my life. She was incredible. She had so many talents and gifts. She could play just about any instrument, had a gorgeous singing voice, and was just a beautiful, giving, loving woman. She knew very, very little English. We met often in my last few months living there. Whenever I or someone else would compliment her or acknowledge her gifts or talents she always responded the exact same way, “God give me”. With exactly half of her whole English vocabulary, the thing I heard her say more than anything else was the beautiful distinction between pride and humility.  I know half of my vocabulary isn't currently dedicated exclusively to glorifying God. How wonderful it would be if the things people heard us say more than anything else pointed them directly to God.

Humility does not mean living in a way that denies any strengths or admirable qualities in ourselves. It is living in a way that sees those gifts, doesn’t compare them with the gifts of others, but gives 100% of the glory and credit to God. If someone tells you that you are beautiful or talented, rather than the awkward responses we usually have which direct as much attention away from ourselves and to our flaws, someone else’s strengths, or whatever else, we could try directing that attention toward God!

“Thank you! I am daily humbled that God made me the way He did or even made me at all! Believe me, I have countless flaws, but it is pretty incredible to be a work of creation made perfect in the eyes of God through Christ!” or maybe even just “Glory to God!”

Make it your own, of course. And don’t be prideful, but don’t downplay the beauty God has created, even when it is in you. What if someone else tells my daughter she’s beautiful? What do I want her to say? “No, I’m not”?? Of course not. What a beautiful thing it could be for someone to point out the beauty of my daughter and for her to point directly to God, with full confidence that He made her just the way she is, and she couldn’t be happier about it.

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lovely, happy gift ideas for the last minute shopper

One week until Christmas!!! And now the question everyone is asking.

Are you ready? 

If you're anything like me, you might still have a few gifts left to purchase or make before The Big Day arrives. Whether you always wait until 11th hour or you just can't seem to come up with a present for that remaining person on your list, help and inspiration are here! I've put together a little collection of some lovely, inexpensive, sure-to-make-them-smile gift ideas for you.

Holy Hen House Holiday

1. The internet is plump full of gorgeous, FREE printables like this darling reindeer one. All you have to do is download, print, and stick it in a frame. Merry Christmas! You have a sweet, easy present that any hostess or friend would love to unwrap and display.

2. Stop what you are doing now and whip up these simple, delicious, fabulous Oreo truffles. Oh my chocolate loving heart! Pass them out with a cheery smile to everyone to know - the neighbor man, your kiddo's bus driver, your best friend, and the mail carrier. You will make.their.day.

3. The new year is knocking at our door. What sweeter gift to give than this best of my days notepad calendar?! It's a place for someone to jot down special memories and thankfuls at the end of each day. Add some simple, fun embellishments to the FREE printed calendar and you have the perfect, thoughtful present for friends, grandparents, neighbors, and teachers. Is there a person on your list who has everything? This is for them!

4. I am crazy in love love love with making wreaths! And I love jingle bells. Who doesn't?! Put them together and you have a darling, happy decoration anyone would be tickled to have hanging in their home. So put on some Christmas tunes or your favorite holiday movie and get those hands busy! You'll have the wreath done in no time. Falalalalaaaa!!

5. Do you have a favorite thing? Perhaps a scarf you feel good in, a lip balm you can't live without, or a hand soap that smells amazing and is always at your sink? Of course you do! So share the love. You don't have to be Oprah to do this. ;) Purchase that favorite thing and wrap it up pretty. Be sure to let the recipient know it gets your stamp of approval!

6. Gifts that bring the comfort, joy, and love of Jesus to someone are always going to be on the top of my list! Giving away a copy of your favorite devotion book may be just the thing that person is needing/wanting/hoping for this Christmas.

 

There you have it! Six happy, easy-peasy gift ideas for the last-minute-shoppers out there. Now go get busy so you can cross everything off your list! What would you add to this collection? Please share! The more the merrier!  

 

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fall into grace // a collection of short stories

My favorite thing about Autumn is the harvesting. Food and grace bring people closer. A gift from God.

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.

The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. Psalm 65: 11-13

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  • A sweet older German woman from our church comes rushing to our door with paper bag after paper bag filled with seasonal vegetables, plums, and apples. She doesn't have time to stay because she has to get back to her garden. I call and tell my Mom about this and she informs me that my Grandpa (diagnosed with acute-leukemia) coincidentally said that he missed the mini plum-tree from their old house and wondered if she remembered how sweet they were in comparison to the store-bought plums. IDEA! I quickly strap the kids in the van and we cruise off to complete a special delivery. We are not able to see my Grandpa in person as he had completed his first chemotherapy treatment hours before but we are greeted by my Grandma and Mom in their driveway. My Grandpa has very little appetite these days but the site of the plums made him want to taste and remember. Our hearts are full. Abundance. 

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  • A woman in her 90s with wit and humor quicker than my own welcomes my family over to have complete access to her garden and pick fresh raspberries. Her eyes smile as she watches our kids run and eat raspberries without abandon. Their energy enlivens her. After our long day at church (no nursery for two years! but behavior improving nonetheless) she calms my conscience by pulling me close and telling me that she loves hearing the kids in church and urges me to keep on... to not stop bringing the little ones to Jesus. She continues, "The years go by so fast... I still remember the years of being that needful mama and I miss them." A reminder. I hug my children closer, look at their tiny hands and am filled with gratitude. Our time together warms my heart and she calls later to tell us what a happy time she had as well. What is her gift? What else is she harvesting? Gladness.

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  • Upon pulling into my driveway I stop short of almost hitting our neighbor - I'm holding my breath, no joke. His form was hidden behind a large tree. I roll down the window to say "Hello! Oh! Please excuse me!" but he doesn't answer or even acknowledge that my van is within feet of him. I quickly realize that our new neighbor, a 92 year old Chinese man, is hard of hearing. I park the van and walk near to tell him the crab apples that he is sweeping off of our driveway will be cleared by my husband. He cannot understand me so I say in Chinese, "Mei guan xi!" that means "No problem, it does not matter!". He insists on clearing our driveway and I relent pushing the matter. I continue to practice my broken Chinese with him and learn where he is from. Our little conversation reminds me of my love for his home country and my heart is so happy to have made this new friend. Almost everyday I catch him and his wife outside my window working together and enjoying this simple task of sweeping the crab apples from our driveway back on their lawn.

    Another day the children and I are outside raking regular apples in our backyard and we see our neighbor in his garden. I jump and scramble to find several large apples without spots from our fruit trees and have the kids join me in delivering them to him. Again with my broken Chinese I offer him the fruit. He repeats "Bu hao!" which means "No good!" to me while pointing to his mouth of missing teeth. Ah... he doesn't have many teeth to chew the apples with. I nod and leave the apples awkwardly on the bench anyway. My oldest yells "Zai jian!" with her squeaky voice and takes off for the play house.

    Later, I notice a person walking up to our front door. I open it to find our elderly Chinese neighbor's younger daughter. What a surprise! I thought it was just the elderly couple that lived there. Turns out she works at Panera Bread and hands me a large box filled with AMAZING pastries and decorated pumpkin cookies from her work. We quickly learn each others names, her parents' history, her life in America, our brief time in China and we agree to have tea soon. IDEA! Remember all those crunchy apples that I harvested from our fruit trees? I'm going to make some applesauce just for them. Strong and weak teeth can enjoy that. :) Oh! What gifts I have been given just so that I can share them with others! Joy. 

...remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35b

What are you harvesting this season? Who can you share your blessings with if you have an abundance? Perhaps someone who least expects it? Maybe you can share some words of encouragement to reap gladness? Or random acts of kindness to bring joy? 

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A Jar of Christmas Past

I’ve always loved Christmas – and loathed the day after. Therefore, this past weekend was somewhat sad for me as it involved the removal of the Christmas tree from our living room. All of my life, I have had the pleasure of a real tree in the house – my mom always said that the true fresh balsam smell caused by a tree that dropped needles, required the task of watering, and possibly shortened the length of time it could be up made all of it worth it. And I couldn’t agree more.

But the fact that we live in an old 1920’s house which is still heated by hot water radiators means that we have extremely dry air in the winter. I know this is a common problem during these cold months for many, but in our house you can literally see sparks as you pull the sheets back when crawling into bed at night (how’s that for romance?). This means that not only does the tree dry out extremely fast, but it also creates quite the fire hazard in a relatively short amount of time.

After touching the tree last week and realizing that I could snap some of the branches in half and that the majority of them were hanging down quite a bit more than I had remembered them doing the day before, I knew it was time. So Sunday after church, I told the girlies to say “goodbye” to the tree before heading up for their nap and began the tasks of packing away the ornaments and winding up the strings of lights. Once the tree was taken to the curb, I was left with quite the pile of needles, making their way deeper into the carpeting. I was amazed to find that they still contained quite the strong fragrance! My dad happened to stop over during the process and, being quite the “tree lover” himself, he suggested I keep the needles in a box of some sort for a little while – that way I could open it and breathe in that spicy aroma whenever I wanted.

Perhaps it would ease the pain of losing the tree a bit, he had said.

So now the jar of needles sits on our dining room table and I can’t help but open it nearly every time I pass, just to get a whiff of that Christmas smell I’m missing.

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As I was packing away other Christmas-related items this weekend, I ran across some of my daughters’ books which I had specifically gotten out for this time of year – stories that told the story of the first Christmas in a simple way, making it easier for a 2-year old to understand. I was just about to pick up the books and pack them away with the rest of the decorations when I stopped. Why should I? The girls know the story of baby Jesus better than any other at this point in their lives – why stop telling about the true wonder and miracle of Christmas simply because the calendar says that December 25th has come and gone? Isn’t it true that we can’t even technically be certain of the actual day that Jesus was born anyway?

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So in some ways, yes, the end of the holidays has sadly come. Our poor tree now sits, void of any shiny ornaments or brightly-colored lights, at the curb. But as I considered whether or not I would keep those children’s books out during these coming months, I thought about more than just that decision. I realized that I also have a decision to make regarding whether or not I will keep the true joy of Christmas alive in my heart and keep telling my children about the miracle in Bethlehem until we (Lord-willing) will celebrate the next one.  So I’m trying to maintain a different perspective this year. Similar to my newly-acquired jar of balsam needles, the Bible contains all that I need to truly experience the Christmas-like feeling every day of the year.

Perhaps I need to just open that “jar” up a little more often.

After all, the true meaning of Christmas and the reason we celebrate at all was never intended to be packed into a box and brought out only in December -- it is the Savior of all, made flesh in Bethlehem. And this should be reason enough to celebrate each and every single day of the year.

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