It’s here! The most wonderful time of the year … to read! Reading together is a favorite activity in our family, and over the years, reading aloud has become a cherished part of our family’s Christmas tradition. I’ve spent years scoping out books at yard sales and thrift stores looking for hidden treasures to read to the kids. I won’t lie to you—I’ve also purchased some books that were total losers, and they ended right back where I found them. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I had a great response to the list of favorite Thanksgiving books last month, so I’ve compiled a few of our favorite Christmas books too, in case you needed some inspiration as you start or continue to build your own family library.
Remember, these books can be found at the library, thrift stores, eBay and a host of other places. If you’re like me, and you want to build a family library, make some room in your budget to purchase at least one or two every year. Those books will create their own special memories for you and your kids in the years to come.
Coupla’ things before you see the list: I think moms need to be sneaky if they’re gonna teach their children to love to read. Sneaky moms put books everywhere.
Would you like your children to read more? You can put your Christmas books into a basket and simply put them in a cozy spot, complete with couch pillows and throw blankets. Don’t be surprised when you find the kids going back to those baskets over and over again.
You could wrap each one, then pull out one each day to unwrap as you count down the days. You could pick a few favorites that lend themselves to great crafts and make a special day out of each one—or— you could grab a few that specifically teach about some of the traditions in your home. Keep it simple, busy mom! (Remember: Your kids won’t miss what you don’t create an expectation for.)
And for the record:
I don’t do most of that stuff I just suggested. (sorry.) I just put books in cozy places all over the house and when the opportunity arises, we read. Voila! Take the pressure off and enjoy this literature-rich season with your children— toddlers, tweens and even teens. Here are just a few of our family faves. Merry Christmas! Continue reading The Busy Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books→
I’ve been telling you guys about my favorite date night plan for a couple years, and it’s just as important to remind you about it at Christmas when we’re tempted to let our priorities get all out of order. The best part is that my reminder comes with a stocking stuffer idea! Melt is launching its own LIMITED RELEASE massage oil, and if you buy a bottle of the oil, you get 40% off the video series! If you already have the series, you get other options available for $3! Read on to be reminded of why I love MELT Massage Courses so much!
It’s so easy during this busy time of year to get overwhelmed with details – gifts, parties, baking, stockings – and forget the main man right in front of us. So what is at the top of your date list this Christmas? If you answered “nothing,” or “folding laundry,” keep reading—because I get you. It’s not that we don’t love our husbands, right? It’s that we’re just.so.tired. After a long day checking things off the list, intimacy is often the last thing on my mind. I just want to unwind and relax. Trouble is, my husband’s idea of relaxing and mine can look very different, IYKWIM.
Does this sound familiar? “Hot monogamy, you say? I just want to sleep!”
Statistics tell us that men and women struggle to find time for intimacy in their marriage. In fact, most married couples I speak to tell me that one of the first areas in the relationship to take a hit when the stress of life comes is physical intimacy. It’s easy to put a tender caress to the bottom of the list amidst the busyness of life—when in reality, physical touch is one of the best de-stressors we have in marriage!
Two years ago, I was introduced to a series of videos that I knew were going to change the way my husband and I saw date night, and I was right. I figured I’d check them out and was so impressed, I’ve been sharing them with you for almost two years. Let’s just say I think you’re gonna love this idea. 🙂
Looks good, right? Show this to your man, ladies, because I know he’ll want to give it a try after seeing this video. My husband was actually more stoked than I was—because he knows that it’s difficult for me to switch out of laundry, carpool, dishes and meal mode and just focus on being together. Massage gives us the gift of relaxation and time together to reconnect with my husband and spend time thinking about just the two of us. A simple massage with some essential oils (mixed with Denis’ new oil) allows me to focus on how my body feels—and for me (and many other women!) that’s 9/10 of the struggle. When I’m focusing on my body and my husband rather than my to-do list, good things happen for both of us.
Forget “50 Shades of Grey.” The real thing is better.
Marriage should be a passionate love affair that never gets boring.
In short, monogamy should be hot!
If you’ve “lost that loving feeling,” here’s my challenge: This December, mark a few nights off on your calendar (yes, in the middle of the to do list!) and make an evening of relaxing together. If you enjoy wine, put the kids to bed and take some wine and cheese to your room. Light a candle (or ten, if you’re candle-obsessed like me) turn your favorite music on, and watch these videos together. (I tell you my 5 favorite things about them at the end, so keep reading!)
Not sure where to start? Check out MELT as you make your plans. Not gonna lie: When I told Jay I was looking into this last year, his smile said it all. We have loved using these this year!
Build Intimacy and Trust in Your Marriage through Massage: Here’s Why It Works:
1. Massaging each other is an opportunity to slow down… together
High-speed internet. 24 hour email access. Real-time status updates. Is it just me? Or does the world seem to spin faster these days? Sitting down to a decadent massage together provides a rare opportunity to stop and be together, focused entirely on each other. For just 30 minutes, you can dim the lights, play some soft music and treat each other to a muscle-melting massage. This is a wonderful escape for multi-tasking wives and the husbands who love them.
2. Massage in marriage is a 100% “hands-on” experience
It doesn’t take a marriage therapist to tell you that giving your spouse a massage enhances your intimate connection and builds trust in your marriage. Intimacy is a requirement for healthy relationships, but it doesn’t always come automatically. We need to make space and time to foster our intimate connections, and massaging each other is one very simple way to do that. On top of the time you spend together, you very literally have your hands on each other, helping to reinforce the intimate bond. As you start to work knots from aching muscles and your partner falls back into you, you can take that as a sign of complete trust. The entire experience is seriously incredible. And, if you are both so inclined (and I promise you, it will be hard not to be) it can lead to wonderfully intimate and steamy sex, too.
3. Massage speaks to several “love languages” at once
Treating your husband to a massage is a beautiful way to show him that he’s very much appreciated and loved. In fact it hits almost every Love Language, if you think about it. Massage very clearly speaks to the Physical Touch love language, of course. But if you think about it, it’s also Quality Time spent together,it’s an Act of Service (especially if you don’t ask for one in return!) and if you play your cards right it can make for a gorgeous gift… just package up some massage oil and a scented candle in a big bow and then go on to actually massage your husband and watch him melt with joy.
Last year, I visited my massage therapist several times, due to complications from surgery. The last time I saw her, I asked how I could teach my husband to do some of her techniques at home. “Training,” was all she said. So imagine my excitement when Denis Merkas, a Registered Massage Therapist, contacted me about the MELT: Massage for Couples video series that he did with his wife Emma. I was really excited (and not just because I got to watch the videos, too!).
Denis shows couples that massaging properly is easier than you think!
I really do think this can lead to closer marriages, and can help to reduce stress for both of you. If you’re worried that your husband will never understand how much you need massage, ask him to watch these with you and practice what you’ve learned together. It’s a great way to bring something new and needed into our marriages and invest in our future. Even the arrangement of how you sit is no mistake – before any technique was created or routine designed, Denis and his wife researched the most romantic way to position our bodies, because the bed simply wasn’t good enough.
It’s easy, too—Denis recommends you stage your massage experience into three separate date nights… “it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before. Simply add oil and follow along to the videos online. Use your iPad, Laptop or even SMART TV, the videos are device ready.”
Here are a few things I loved about the MELT series:
1. Denis keeps things PG-rated.
Sure, there’s romantic music and the couple is massaging each other, but clothes stay on, and the focus is on learning how to give a massage. (Yes, she’s wearing a strapless top, but that’s so you can see the proper technique on her shoulders). As Denis says, if things lead somewhere else, that’s fine–but that’s not whathis video series is trying to teach you. So you don’t have to worry that this is pornographic in nature! It isn’t–it really is just about learning technique.
2. We learned that we were doing massage wrong—and how to do it right.
These videos break down our misconceptions about massage—which shows what we’re doing wrong—and how to do massage right! (hint: no thumbs allowed!) I have now become the massage favorite during movie night at our house. It’s easy!
3. The videos are short to watch together.
Each video broken down into short tutorials that are under 5 minutes in length. Each focus is on learning one technique. About 6 videos form a series, and there are 3 series altogether: The Basic Strokes, the Highlights, and the Deep Tissue stuff. The Basic Strokes Series teaches you how to actually move your hands to achieve maximum impact–and maximum ooohs and aaaahs.
You’ll watch 7 short videos and learn a new technique with each one, and then at the end there’s a 15 minute video that features a routine using all your new techniques. The Deep Tissue Series focuses on how to use your thumbs to really work out knots. It’s so helpful–and at the end is a 30 minute routine that you can use on each other.
4. Everything builds on each other.
It’s amazing! Each night you feel like you’ve learned something new, and at the end of the series, you will have confidence in your technique and understanding of how massage works.
5. They’re easy to watch together and do together.
(Translation: great date night!) You just watchone of the short ones a night and then practice on each other. Because you’re watching the technique, it’s easy to say, “I’ll go first, then you try it.” Or, to make it more enticing for him, let him massage you first. That way you can’t fall asleep because you have to massage him afterwards–so he won’t worry that if he massages you the night will be over because you’ll be in dreamland. I’ve been saying a lot on this blog that it is so important to start going to bed together at the same time so that you have opportunity to connect.
Instead of watching one more show on Netflix, or browsing Pinterest, or playing one more round of Words with Friends, this gives you a reason to head to bed.
You watch a video, pull out some massage oil, and then do it! And as you touch, it does help nerves to fire. If that leads to something else, woo hoo! As someone who does carry a lot of stress physically, massage is such a service to me and helps me feel closer to my husband.
So many men carry stress on their backs and necks, too, and if we can learn to release that, we can actually change the dynamic in the marriage.
Visit MELT: Massage for Couples—because, as Denis and Emma, the creators of MELT, say every couple deserves a little massage.
I sent these to my daughter and her husband because they have a preschooler and a toddler—and as you know— “T” is for “toddler” and “tired.” 🙂 I’m winning points like crazy this season… and I’m not even counting the ones I made with my sweet man.
I dare you to try it and not have fun. 🙂
Give each other a romantic back rub at home – it’s the perfect date idea, dim lights, scented candles and massage oil makes for the most memorable Christmas date you’ve had in a longtime!
Oh yeah and one more thing… these are not only great for cheap stay home date nights (works out at around $25 a date night if you split it over three nights!), they also make amazing gifts for any couple. You can buy a few gift vouchers at the promotional price now and use them whenever – they never expire! That means you can stash them for birthdays, Christmas or even wedding presents and gift them along with a beautiful massage oil and a scented candle for a unique, awesome gift that will really make an impression!
Yes! Leaves are falling, candles are lit. Cider abounds. Bring it, holiday season! This year, maybe more than ever, I’m ready for some good old fashioned holiday rest and love. 🙂
I’m a little bit of a fanatic about Thanksgiving—because it allows us to be thankful for what we have without the pressure of gift exchanges. Thanksgiving offers us the chance to focus on what really matters in this life. To slow down. To reflect.
The school busses are running in my neighborhood again. And can I just be honest about something for a moment? This can be hard time of year for the “regular school” and “homeschool” moms to understand each other. Sometimes it can be downright depressing to watch other moms send their kids off to school. I know, I know— I CHOSE this. I get it. But still. Reality is reality—and homeschooling has it’s own reality. Good, but hard. Like all things that are worth it.
Listen. My best friend in the whole wide world sends her kids to “regular” school and so this is NOT a “dig” , it’s just a reality check.
This morning I saw a status from a friend who was “elated” to finally have her children back in school… she was going to the mall by herself to celebrate… oh the plans she had, 7 hours to herself every day! No messy house. Peace and quiet. I confess: I felt the familiar sting of jealousy mixed with a bit of angst about all that was ahead for me this fall.
After all, this isn’t my first rodeo! I’ve been at this for twenty years.
I looked around my house. Grandkids, cousins, siblings. Noise. (Some are even happy noises.) Messy house. Oh.So.Messy. And then, it hit me again: homeschooling is a MONUMENTAL COMMITMENT.
And it’s not for everyone.
Homeschooling families CHOOSE
—more messy house days
—less “me” time
—less “quiet” time
—less income, most of the time
—less trips to the mall…or anyplace else… alone 🙂
But here’s the thing. IN RETURN, if we do not lose heart, if we stay the course, the reward far exceeds the commitment we’re making.
Why? Because in choosing many of the things on my “less” list, we’re also choosing MORE. Homeschool mom, you’re CHOOSING
—more involvement, which means more influence with your children
—more TIME with your children, which means more memories to cherish and to use the influence you have
—more childhood, thanks to just being home more
—more opportunities to shape hearts and minds
—more educational options to meet individual needs
—more interaction, more hugs, more TIME. Did I mention more time? Oh yes, I did.
So homeschool mom, you’ve got this.
When I think about it this way, my heart is strengthened. In this light, less really is “more”. There are no “easy” buttons for educating our children, no matter what we choose to do. But as homeschooling moms, you’re making a commitment to put your heart and soul into the lives of your children in a way that many people would not ever choose to do.
Will it be hard? You know it will. But it will also be worth it.
So take a deep breath, homeschool mom! Let’s embrace the opportunity we have been given and make the most of the incredible opportunity called the homeschool years. They really do go by quickly. <3
#hsjpodcast contest winners: Please e-mail Melissa with your mailing address by September 7 and we’ll get your swag on the way!
I hope you guys don’t mind if I cut right to the chase today… because this is important.
Do you know what happened last week while our nation was arguing over Civil War statues? While demons were pouring gasoline on racial tensions in the US and re-igniting our deep offense toward the Confederate Army (I can’t believe I just typed that in 2017) Oregon Governor Kate Brown quietly signed the nation’s most devastating abortion bill into law.
Last week, just days after the horrible events in Charlottesville took place, Oregon made sure it’s position was secure as the most radical provider of unrestricted abortions in the nation. Oregon’s House Bill 3391-B compels insurers, public or private, to provide a whole swathe of “reproductive services” free of cost and regardless of income, insurance type, citizenship status, or gender identity. Because the bill prohibits insurers from shifting costs to customers in the form of higher deductibles or co-pays, private insurers will be forced to eat the costs — or, more likely, to distribute them among their customers through higher premiums. Medicaid (read: Planned Parenthood) will receive an extra $10 million from the state to cover the procedures. That’s ten MILLION DOLLARS of Oregonians money going to the murder of innocent babies up to nine months gestation for any reason, including gender selection.
Of course, the major media outlets aren’t talking about this American tragedy. No, they’re too busy trying to stir up an angry debate about slavery that was decided during the Civil War. It’s as if we have forgotten who won the war! The outcome of the Civil War determined that slavery in this nation will not stand. And indeed, it does not. Christians all around the world should stand in stark opposition to the evil that is racism—and certainly slavery—but can I suggest that something even more sinister than racism is at the heart of our struggle over statues?
It’s curious to me that old statues getting the attention of popular preachers and teachers while abortion, the horrific murder of babies in the womb that is happening now gets little to no pulpit time. Oregon says that they’ll use taxpayer money to fund your sex-change surgery and your gender-selection abortion… and all we hear is … nothing. The silence is deafening. Where is the outrage over that? Black women are aborting their babies at an alarming rate compared to every other culture in America and we want to march about statues? We are losing thousands of precious black women every year in this country. Feminists? Where are you?
The standard by which we measure offense as Christians needs to be re-calibrated, and fast.
We have lost our way, men and women of God! We have made an idol out of our right not to be offended. Tell me, what good is going to come of this? Do we really want to teach our children to march in the streets because we are offended over statues while real, live babies are callously ripped from their mother’s wombs?
Listen. Offense is a trap; a snare set by the devil to distract us from what really matters, and boy are we stepping on almost every trap the devil is setting right now. It seems that every time I turn on the news, another trap is springing shut. SNAP! Can you hear it, too?
The Bible teaches us that we should be on guard against the snares of the enemy. One of those is the snare of offense. At the risk of boring you, I looked something up. The Greek word for “offense” is skandalon, which literally means the part of an animal trap where bait is hung! In other words, an offense is literally a trap.
We need to understand this deep in our souls and guard against it, because if we’re in a battle (and the Bible clearly says we are), it makes perfect sense that the devil would choose to use offenses to trap and enslave us. Satan lays all kinds of traps for us, and I’m convinced he hunts among the hurting. Think about it— when people offend us, we get angry and hold grudges. Grudges lead to unforgiveness, which leads to broken relationships, or in this case, racial division.
The fact of the matter is that many offenses are going to come our way in this life. When they do, we get to choose how we respond. We can choose to not be offended. In Colossians 3:13, Paul reminds us that we should be “bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
And there’s more: while we’re allowing ourselves to get drug into the swamp of offense, a coup is taking place. We’ve forgotten to keep our eyes out for the REAL enemy. Our enemy, the devil, comes to steal, kill and destroy. Right now, he’s taking direct aim at destroying our unity in Christ.
Offense is one of the enemy’s most powerful weapons, and its primary purpose is to keep us from growing in power and strength in the Lord. Offended people are ineffective in the spiritual battle that we have been called to engage in, because when we are offended, we focus on our own pain, often at the expense of others. The devil uses the snare of offense to take us off the battlefield and ultimately out of the war. His goal: to sideline Christians who would otherwise be effective witnesses for the Lord.
A heart that is easily offended is in trouble. It’s a biblical truth that the pure in heart hear from God more readily than those who are full of bitterness: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, kjv). A heart that is full of offenses and unforgiveness isn’t a pure heart. If we want to hear from God, we have to refuse to allow offenses to rule and reign in our lives. Even big ones.
There’s no question: forgiving the big things is hard. But Jesus, who knows all too well the pain of rejection, doesn’t give us an option. He made it clear: we are to forgive anything against anyone.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
The next time you find yourself struggling with feelings of offense, ask yourself, “Does this offense warrant the emotional and spiritual energy I am giving it? Are there larger issues in play? Am I doing what Jesus commanded?” Jesus’ requirement that we forgive carries eternal consequences with it, and the devil knows it.
The devil loves it when we get drawn into offenses – because he’s got his sights set on a much bigger target: the human soul. He’ll use whatever he can to distract us from the goal of setting people free in Christ. And that’s the bottom line. Paul tells us to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). It’s the Holy Spirit that encourages that unity in the body of Christ. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Christians who proclaim Christ, cherish truth and love others should also pursue unity, because we have been designed by God to be ambassadors for Him: witnesses to the world of the love of Christ. The apostle John makes clear what our aim should be: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35).
We must stop making government our god and return to our first love. Until we do that, healing will elude this nation. John Piper said, “The bloodline of Jesus Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross.”
Let’s not forget what our call really is: to bring the gospel to a hurting world. We can’t do that until we’re willing to let the gospel eclipse everything else in our lives.
Suffering. There is something revealing about it. Something about visceral pain that says to the inner man, “Wake up and pay attention!” Something about feeling helpless in a waiting room that makes you realize how helpless you were before you ever got there.
We don’t ask to suffer, but it comes anyway—and when it does, you discover *for real* what you are made of and who you trust.
It’s been almost a week since our sweet nephew was involved in a devastating car accident that left him comatose and paralyzed with a severe brain injury. My heart is aching, at times, even breaking for my precious sister and her family. Words fail me. I put myself in my sister’s place. More hurt.I find myself asking God for signs … *any sign*, if I’m honest, that says “I’m here. I’m doing something.”
We pray. We sing. We trust—we hope—and we wait.
Wait for an answer that will help us make sense of what seems senseless. Wait for the next MRI, wait for a glimpse of what God is asking of us. Wait for clear direction. Oh, the wait is excruciating.
This is a hard, hard road.
Last night, as I cried with one of my sisters on the phone, it occurred to me that I need to look beyond where Bobby is and begin to look at where my family is. There is so much more to the story than what social media can tell. Isn’t that always the case?
We are a large family… and we’ve been through a lot. We love each other fiercely. But honestly? I’ve never seen my family like this. I’ve never seen such love, such unity, such hope. But then, we’ve never been so full of grief before.
Like most extended families, ours has struggled. Divorce, faithlessness, heartache. Prodigals. We’ve felt all of it, but nothing has done in our hearts what Bobby’s injury is doing. Nothing has come close.
God is using Bobby’s suffering to bring a supernatural healing, one that is being forged in the fires of suffering.
While we wait for Bobby’s healing, I give God thanks for getting our attention and reminding us of what really matters.
Because of Bobby, it’s bubbling to the surface in our family, in our community and in the larger body of Christ.
We trust in the goodness of God and know that He is working, even now. Not only is He healing Bobby, he is healing us.
That’s part of the miracle. While we wait the next step with Bobby, we will keep walking this out together. For that, I am grateful. I am grateful for the outpouring of prayer and love that is being shown to my family. I’m thankful that because of Christ, we do not fear death. I’m thankful to know that God is capable of performing heart surgery (you know, the soul kind) even while is holding and healing Bobby.
I’m thankful for you, Jesus. We praise you in this storm. Thank you that You’re fighting on our behalf. Thank you for the miracles we are already seeing—and ones we have yet to see.
“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'”
2 Chronicles 20:17
It’s 3:35 pm, and after a day of setbacks and frustrations, I finally opened my Bible to write today’s passage. James 1:5 is all about asking God for wisdom. Wisdom, I think, was telling me to ask God for His help at 6am instead of 2:30 p.m. today.
Have you noticed how hard the devil works to keep God’s people from becoming students of the Word?
I have. I think it’s by design. I think the devil knows that a Christian who isn’t in the Word is weak. I think satan is smarter than I give him credit for most of the time.
I can only speak for my own “quiet time,” but I have a feeling I’m not alone when I say that every day, I fight with the enemy of my soul for time alone with the One who made me. I fight my flesh to spend time in the Bible. I go to war just to prioritize prayer over parenting.
There’s always something that disguises itself as being more important.
Laundry calls. Kids argue. Phone rings. To-do list presses harder.
“I don’t ‘need’ to read the Bible today,” I lie to myself.
And so, after a compulsory prayer, I turn my attention to more important, more urgent matters. School. Social media. Housework. Bills. Oil change. Grocery store. Meal prep. Bedtime. Start again tomorrow.
After days of this, (sometimes months… if I’m really honest), I notice my ability to discern good from evil has been compromised. Little by little, my spiritual eyes grow dim. >>Maybe God doesn’t really care about this and that. Less controversy, please. More peace.<< Yes. Peace is what I want most. The demands of a culture that stands in stark opposition to what God says is right makes even the most seasoned warrior prone to discouragement, I tell myself—as I glance in the direction of my Bible.
“Good thing my pastor is reading his Bible so he can tell me what I need to know on Sunday,” said a generation of Christians in crisis.