Decorating and Preparation Tips for a Christ-centered Christmas

Do you feel that you are having a difficult time celeratingt he true meaning of Christmas? Do you ever get tired of the more secular decorations? Over the years as we have grown in our relationship with The Lord, He has convicted us about secular traditions and celebrations of Christmas. After all, The whole reason Christmas exists is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The word CHRISTMAS comes from Old English Cristes-messe, meaning Christ’s Mass.

We have secular Christmas ornaments that we have collected over the years that help remind us of family and friends, vacations, special memories. We still display those on our Christmas tree in our family room. We also display ornaments of scripture, angels, and those focusing on Jesus. It’s a way for us to merge the two as important parts of our lives here on earth and our hope for eternity.

In a wooden box in our kitchen, we also have a box of 24 ornaments we use for the advent season that we have made. We handglittered the inside of some of them. Others are filled with trinkets that coincide with names of Jesus, and we have used vinyl to add the names of Jesus on the outside of the ornament. We study a scripture for each name of Jesus that we have compiled over the years. You can find a set of 12 of these ornaments here

 

Traditional, timeless, natural, sentimental those are words I would use to describe our style in decor. That makes it easy to find decorations in green, red, white, and gold. We use these colors to represent the colors of the gospel.

  • GREEN represents God as everlasting and our growth in relationship with Him.
  • RED represents the blood of Jesus shed for us.
  • WHITE represents the pure, sinless life of Christ and our journey of holiness with His help.
  • GOLD represents our hope and assurance of Heaven and eternity with our God.

It’s impossible to escape some of the typical symbols of Christmas. Thankfully, some have an origin of faith but some do not. It doesn’t take much to put a faith-based spin on them, though. Learning to do this not only at Christmas time, but all the time is a good way to teach your children that God is in everything. It demonstrates and includes Him in every aspect of life. That is the way it should be. Here’s a list of typical Christmas symbols that we have connected to God:

  • SANTA CLAUS – Of course the most obvious secular symbol this time of year is Santa Claus. We don’t have many Santa decorations at all, especially those that portray him as a cartoon or some magical character. We have a few old world decorations of him that display him in the way that he truly lived. We have taught our children about the real Saint Nicholas, his life, and his mission. We don’t celebrate him during this time, but we do discuss how his mission on earth was to remind others of Christ’s birth and how he came to save his people. We appreciate and try to honor and carry on his mission and use him as an example of someone who tried to be like Christ. Suggestions: Santa figure with cross
  • GIFTS – Reminders of the greatest gift of all: Jesus. They teach us it is better to give than receive, the generosity of Christ. Suggestions: personalized and jewelry clothing, personalized tumblers, 
  • BELLS – We use bells to remind us to ring out and boldly declare the good news of Christ. Suggestions: Bell with date.
  • GREENERY – Represents the beautiful creation of God, His eternal being, and our growth in Christ. Suggestions: Prelit garland with pinecones, berries.
  • BOWS – Remind us to bind our lives and hearts to God and His Word to our hearts. Suggestions: Bows
  • SNOWFLAKES – Represent the purity of Christ and God’s beatiful and unique creation. Suggestions: Snowflake ornaments
  • WREATH – Remind us of the never ending life and love of Christ. Suggestions: Boxwood, Pine
  • LIGHTS AND CANDLES – Help us remember that Jesus is the Light of the World and remind us also of the great commission to be a light and share the gospel to the world. Suggestions: Window candles
  • STARS – Point us to the Jesus just as the wisemen were directed to Him by His star. Suggestions: Gold stars
  • HOLLY AND POINSETTIAS – Beatiful plants created by God with the gospel colors of green and red. Suggestions: Holly.
  • BIRTHDAY DECORATIONS – Yes–birthday decorations. They help us celebrate the birthday of or Savior just as we celebrate the birthdays of our loved ones. Suggestions: Wall decor, Tablescape and paper supplies
  • ANGELS – Remind us of those precious messengers on the night of the birth of Jesus and many other Biblical events. Angel ornaments.
  • CANDY CANES – Represent the “J” of Jesus, or flipped around the crook of the Good Shepherd, and of course the white is the purity of Christ and red His shed blood.
  • NATIVITY – Of course the nativity is the direct representation of the night of the birth of Jesus. 

These reminders and representations help us keep the true meaning of Christmas alive and help us to celebrate in a way that draws us closer to Him. Praying you have a Christ-centered Christmas!

Getting What We Deserve…

Getting What We DeserveEver feel like you just don’t get what you deserve? Striving day in and day out, we work extremely hard. We scrimp, save, coupon, lose sleep, work our fingers to the bone. No matter what we do we just can’t seem to get ahead. We want what we think we deserve. Society trains us to believe we are owed something in return for our hard work. The world has even trained some of us that we deserve rewards just for showing up or even just existing.

I’ll be honest with you and tell you what I think I deserve–absolutely nothing if benefit. Forsaken, tortured, spat upon, beaten, whipped, nailed and hung on a cross and crucified for my sins–that’s what I deserve. Over my lifetime, I’ve made decisions and spoken words that were contrary to the truth of God’s Word. I’ve made many mistakes and committed more sins against God than I can count. We all have.

Guess what? By the grace of God, I haven’t gotten what I know in my heart that I deserve.  Jesus paid the debt I owed.  My Lord didn’t deserve them yet endured all of those things for a wretch like me and for you.  My God didn’t deserve to give up His Son for my sake.  I don’t deserve to have the gift of life, my amazing husband, my four precious children which I call my “blessings”, health, material possessions, and freedom. Yet my Father has blessed me with all of these things.

Instead of sulking that we don’t have what someone else has, rather than pouting about not getting things we think we deserve, instead of sacrificing our souls and the souls of others to get what we want, let’s be thankful for what do have.  Let’s seek the face of God, accept His Son, live for Him, accept His Word and obey it, and allow Him to change our hearts and daily mold us into His likeness, and TRUST HIM.  Let’s accept His salvation so rich and free. Let’s share this salvation with our children, families, friends, and even strangers.

I know someone else who doesn’t get what they deserve either: God. He deserves to be loved, appreciated, worshipped and adored for what He has done for us.  He deserves to hear our prayers of thankfulness, not our entitled whining and complaining. He doesn’t deserve to be compromised in any way and deserves for us to stand up for Him at all costs.

Now, I know we can never do anything to earn our way to Him.  But shouldn’t knowing what He has done for us make us want to live a life of gratitude rather than whining?  Doesn’t it make us love Him so much that we will gladly give our very lives for Him?

Do you know how very many completely destitute people there are in this world? There are so very many I’ve known and heard of that are living in their gratitude and their joy instead of wallowing in their lack. It’s time for we pick ourselves up and see our abundant blessings. Let’s dwell in our gratitude and joy this Thanksgiving season.

Tips for an Inspirational and Worshipful Thanksgiving and Christmas

Desiring a more meaningful and inspirational holiday season every year leads me to long for less busyness and more of God. It’s something I strive for every year. This seems like a wonderful goal, doesn’t it? The problem is the holidays come upon me so quickly and I say yes to too many things, so much so that I end up saying, “maybe next year” and I give up. After so many years of feeling defeated, I have finally decided I am going to make it happen this year with The Lord’s help of course. Read tips on my guest post at Raising Homemakers here.

I pray you are successful at a more worshipful holiday season!

Raspberry Cheesecake Shake THM FP

Fall is approaching, but for some reason I have been craving cool, light, summery shakes in the evenings. This week I experimented with a raspberry cheesecake shake recipe. It was the perfect thing to satisfy my craving at the end of these summer days. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some fall pumpkin recipes!Raspberry cheesecake shake #THM www.ruckusandrubies.com

Raspberry Cheesecake Shake FP

1/2 c low fat or fat free cottage cheese

3/4 almond milk

small handful of raspberries

2 tsp Sweet Blend natural sweetener (you can also find it at Amazon here)

Splash of vanilla

Splash of butter extract (optional but will give it a richer cheesecake flavor)

pinch of salt

pinch of glucomoannan (optional all natural thickener that supports steady blood sugar)

1 small handful of ice (optional)

1/2-1 scoop Whey Protein Powder (optional)

Begin by blending cottage cheese and cream cheese in Ninja or other blender.  Keep blending until it is smooth and creamy like this:

#THM Pumpkin Cheesecake Shake

Once the lumps are all blended, add the frozen raspberries, almond milk, vanilla, Sweet Blend, and salt. Blend until mixed well.

Now you’ll need to decide on your optional ingredients.  If you want it to be a little thicker, you can sprinkle in a pinch of glucomannan.  Some people prefer their shakes to be thin, more like a milk consistency.  I like my shakes to be thicker and fluffier, kind of like a milkshake.  If you are like me, add ice.  You can stop right there if you’re making this for a snack or you can add half a scoop of protein powder for extra protein.  However, if you’d like to eat this for a meal like a smoothie, you can add a scoop of protein powder.  This also makes it more frothy and fluffy.  You could top it with a small dollop of fat free whipped cream.  At this point your shake is low carb and low fat, so it is a fuel pull. However, if you add full fat whipping cream it will be an S.

Raspberry cheesecake shake #THM www.ruckusandrubies.com

 

Easy Back to School Meals

For most of us, back to school means busy, busy, busy. I need lots of meals utilizing a freezer, a crockpot, a pressure cooker, anything that shaves time off of my busy schedule. I’ve compiled a list of meals that will makes my life easier, and hopefully yours too!

Salsa Chicken

Roasted or Crockpot Chicken and Veggies (leftovers are great for dinner or lunch the next day)

34 Freezer meals

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti Squash

Crockpot Turkey and Rice

Slowcooker Veggie Omelette (Trim Healthy Mamas can sub cream or almond milk for milk)

Crockpot “Stirfry” 

Pressure Cooker Irish Stew

If you can carve out a Saturday, or a few afternoons of your time, you can put many of these ingredients in freezer bags and just dump them into the crockpot or pressure cooker depending on the recipe. Double the recipes to make twice as many meals or to ensure you have leftovers for lunch. You can also make large batches of waffles, pancakes or muffins and freeze them for breakfasts as well.

I hope these tips and recipes help you. I know they are going to make my life a lot easier!

Back to Homeschool – HIGH SCHOOL!

Another year has passed–I can’t believe it! We graduated our second daughter, and she is now settled into her college dorm. Our oldest is in her junior year of college.

…and then there were two. Our twins begin 9th grade today. I can’t believe I only have two “babies” to homeschool. It will be a big adjustment not just for me, but also for them.

Homeschooling high school brings some challenges (most people start biting their fingernails at the mention of it), but it is not impossible. We’ve already done it twice, and both of our older daughters were blessed with wonderful grades, high GPAs, and offered scholarships to the colleges at which they applied, and are both attending an amazing Bible college. I feel so deeply blessed by all The Lord has done through our homeschooling journey.

I mentioned some “challenges”, but homeschooling high school really isn’t as daunting as you would think. Here in SC, we are required to join a homeschool accountability association. Knowledge, wisdom, and experience is what they bring to the table during these high school years. They gave us a checklist of courses our students needed to take in order to receive a diploma, and some for preparing for college. They’ve always been there to answer questions and guide us.

Of course some high school courses seemed scary because they were beyond what I learned in public high school, but we enlisted friends, family, and other homeschoolers to help us along the way. There are also local support groups, co-ops, homeschool parent/teachers, and resource centers homeschoolers in our area can attend for additional teaching.

This year, we are really taking advantage of the fact that we only have two. We are hitting the ground running, focusing on a goal to accomplish much this year. I would like them to have a heavier load in their early high school years as opposed to their senior year. We are also incorporating many fun activities so we can look back on these last four years as some of the most enjoyable ever.

It helps that we’ve trained our children to love learning and to be independent learners. Of course not all learning styles adapt well to this approach, but I’ve found that as an adult it has served me well to be an independent learner. If they attend college, they will be required to learn on their own. No one is going to hold their hand through all of the work. I also want them to have that sense of accomplishment and also to see what God can do through them when they give Him their best.

I am a pretty organized and structured person, but my son’s learning style does not always flourish with structure. We have had a slightly relaxed atmosphere for the past 9 years of homeschooling him. I’ve allowed his twin sister to learn at her own pace, and it has been interesting trying to incorporate two different learning styles with my need for structure. Looking back I can see one of the many lessons God has taught me in this homeschooling journey–flexibility and humility. I’ve got my trusty binder ready for planning our family schedule and prioritizing.

This year, we will need to incorporate more of the corporate and structured learning styles so that he can adapt well to classes outside of our home as well as college if he chooses to attend. We are returning with a little more organization, rigor, and systematic structure to help us stay on track.

It may not sound like fun, but I definitely needed this since I’ve been homeschooling while running a business. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in the busyness of my life that allow it to interfere with our homeschool. It is a huge blessing in our life. Homeschooling is our calling and our priority above all else, because it incorporates our spirituality, family life, and academics into our everyday family life. This structure will lead to more moments of flexibility, laughter, and blessing.

Worry is not on my plate this year for these two 9th graders. My plate is already full so I don’t have time for it. By utilizing some organizational tips, schedules, binders, planners, and pockets, we hope to make our homeschool life a little easier. We are determined to march ahead on this journey while holding hands with Our Heavenly Father! I want them to walk in to these high school years with determination and excitement, and I want them to walk out with wisdom, knowledge, life skills, and most importantly an even closer relationship with family and The Lord.

No high school worries! God’s got this!

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Psalm 125:1-2

I just want to encourage you today.

Don’t give up. Be steadfast like the mountains.

Continue to persevere in doing good, serving The Lord, and following His ways.

I know there are times when the world or even friends and family will persecute you for your stance or actions in the name of The Lord, but let it discourage you.

Don’t be shaken.

Continue to trust in The Lord.

Our Father will surround you with His strength, presence, protection, and blessings. He is all you need.

The Supplier of our Needs

Good ole Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “need” as “a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism”. The KJV Dictionary states the Bible defines “need” as “to compel To want; to lack; to require, as supply or relief.” There is such a sense of urgency in the KJV definition, don’t you think? I can totally relate to the Biblical definition of “need”.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with needing a lot of relief. I’ve been trying to balance all of my duties as a wife, mom of 4, homeschooler, church volunteer, all while trying to help my family financially through this blog and our family business, Treasured Sparrow Designs. It’s much more than one can bear, and there are days when I am simply exhausted. In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about not posting more on this blog…

However, I have a Father who knows my need and is the Provider of my needs or relief just as He provides for the birds of the air, lilies of the field, and bees of the garden. If He carries them, how much more will He carry me. In fact, He has lifted me today through His Word and I’m forever grateful for this relief:

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Matthew 6:32-33 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 40:17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Proverbs 10:3 he Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti Squash Recipe

Growing up, my sweet grandmama had a pressure cooker. She cooked quite a bit of meals in it, but my favorite was her fried chicken. My mouth is watering just thinking about that chicken–juice on the inside, crispy on the outside… Sorry, I’m getting a little distracted by the memory.

Unfortunately, today’s pressure cookers don’t fry chicken like the old ones, but they are much safer. We recently acquired a Cuisinart Pressure Cooker. I know lots of folks who have an Instant Pot. I think the Instant Pot is the more popular brand, but I from what I understand they are about the same.

We’ve made several recipes like cubed steak, whole frozen chickens (cooked in about half the time it takes to roast a fresh one), dried beans, brown rice, chicken and rice, and more. I think my favorite recipe right now is this spaghetti squash recipe I’m sharing below.

I love that pressure cooking shaves so very much time off of my cooking tasks. I’m always looking for ways to lighten my load and give more time to my family. Pressure cooking has been such a lifesaver for us. In fact, my husband is so intrigued by it that there have been many times when we’ve both had something on our evening schedule, and he has come home, thrown ingredients into the pressure cooker, and prepared dinner for us. I think it’s a bit of a Tim Taylor–MORE POWER grunting mentality, but that’s okay…whatever gets it done!

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti Squash

 

  • Spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup water

Place rack and 1 cup of water in pressure cooker. Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds. (You can remove seeds after cooking, but it’s much easier before. I forgot on to do it beforehand on this particular day.) Place it in pressure cooker. Using high pressure, cook for 8 minutes on high pressure and use quick pressure release.

Using a fork, scoop out squash, which fluffs out into strands like spaghetti noodles. Serve with your favorite meats and sauces.