It’s Christmas…don’t be a jerk.

Do you remember what Christmas was like as a child? If you have kids, or are around kids during the season, then you probably know exactly what I mean. Christmas is full of magic; tinsel, lights, pretty packages, time with family and friends, hot cocoa and Christmas cookies, lots of fun things happening at church, and tons of arts and crafts. The month of December guaranteed a smile from ear to ear.

Then, we grew up. And you know what I’ve found as an adult? Adults have the capability of making the Christmas season kind of sucky.

When we were young, we were naïve. We were protected from some of the unpleasant things that happen around this time of year. But as an adult, the innocence is lost, and you become fully aware of just what this season does to some people.

1. Commercialism and materialism is just overwhelming.  

Occupy Black Friday.

Occupy Black Friday.

The ads, commercials, sales, super sales, super huge sales, stores open 24 hours…STAHP IT. All this does is create a nervous, panicky feeling of, “I MUST BY ALL THE THINGS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE!” in most of us, and I hate it. I don’t want to purchase a gift with little to no meaning out of the simple feeling of obligation, because that’s not fun (also, you don’t need new mixing bowls, slippers or a neck pillow). I want to find something special and meaningful, with an enormous emotional value, and not necessarily an enormous monetary value. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect gift, people.

2. People can be jerks.

Prepare to go postal.

That lady in the coat knows what’s up.

On the road, at the grocery store, in the mall, at the post office, everyone is in a hurry, and so many people are focused only on themselves and what they need to accomplish. Nevermind the gal (ME) with a kiddo (MILES) in a stroller, trying to wrangle four priority envelopes and two packages at the automated postage machine. Because if you really super hurry, you can cut in front of me in line. Yes, Season’s Greetings to you, too, jerkface.

3. You think people can be jerks? Well, guess what family can be…

Left alone? Guess what...

Probably has some jerky family members.

You guessed it. When we’re young, we have the joy of being completely oblivious to the fact that the holidays can exacerbate the existing stress/drama/malarky that families tend to carry around throughout the year. Not speaking to a sibling? Can’t stand your great aunt? Avoiding in-laws like the plague? That everyday behavior becomes even jerkier around Christmas. And do you know who suffers as a result? Not only you, but the rest of your family. You might not be in the mood to see Uncle Joe, but guess what? Your cousin might be. Is it fair to them that the holiday is spent broken into segments of family members who get along? Probably not. So next year, build a bridge and get over it. Christmas is not about you.

4. Loneliness. 

Not even cake can conquer loneliness.

Not even cake can conquer loneliness.

It happens whether you’d like to admit it or not. This time of year can be a total bummer sometimes, especially when you think about the family and friends who are no longer in your life; whether they’ve gone to Heaven, have moved across the country, or they’re just jerks who have disappeared. Regardless of the reason, there are times now that you’ll feel a twinge of sadness (most likely when a Publix commercial comes on…) and that’s okay. Not every minute of every day is going to be a holiday explosion of joy and glitter in your face. Sometimes, you want to cry. Guess what? Lots of people do. Have you listened to the lyrics for “Auld Lang Syne” lately? Grab a Kleenex and let go.

In our home, we do our very best to keep this time of year special and sacred. I want to keep that magical Christmas feeling forever; not just a few weeks a year, but every single day. And I don’t want the aggravation that can come with this time of year to slowly find its way into my mind.

This is immensely important to us now that we have Miles. That same joy and love and peace and fellowship should fill our home and lives constantly. The importance of Christmas and true reason for the season – that our Savior came to earth for us – should be remembered each and every day. Kindness, generosity, the gift of giving, time with the ones you love…365 days a year. The magic of Christmas.

No stress, no drama, no bleeding ulcers, no 24 hour shop-a-thons and no arguments. Just love for everyone…even the jerk at the post office.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34



Love love love,

Slow. Down.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, and not just for the endless array of casseroles, gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, dessert (and dessert wine).  It’s a time that we get to enjoy at a slower pace, surrounded by friends and family, wearing stretchy yoga pants, watching football and just enjoying each other’s company.  Right?  RIGHT?!

I have never been a Black Friday shopper.  I hate the mall, I hate the crowds, and I really don’t enjoy shopping (my nineteen year old self just rolled her eyes at me…) Some people love Black Friday; the thrill of the hunt, getting up at 3am, standing in line, fighting over Tickle Me Elmo dolls and arguing with the barista when she forgets the triple shot of espresso. 
And each year, stores open earlier, stay open longer, offer more insanely unreasonable sales to drive the hoards of crazies through their doors.  Thanksgiving is no longer a holiday to be celebrated; it’s become a minor preamble that we rush through just to get to the 100 MILE PER HOUR GIVE ME ALL THE STUFF CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EXPLOSION IN YOUR FACE.  NOW WITH MORE STUFF!!!
The commercialism of the holiday season is overwhelming.  There are too many screaming TV commercials with blinking lights, bells, dancing elves, annoying music and size 72 font prices for me to handle.  This time of year is not about getting a Hamilton Beach crockpot for 83% off retail price, just because you can.
People, you don’t need this stuff.  You have enough stuff.  You don’t even have room for the new stuff.  You can’t even name all of the stuff you already have.  Do you know what you really need to do?  Slow. The. Hell. Down.
We wait until after Thanksgiving to put up our Christmas tree.  We wait until after Thanksgiving to do any Christmas shopping.  We want to enjoy each moment, day, holiday, gathering, activity, as it comes.  If you’re constantly racing to the next event, can you truly enjoy and appreciate where you are right now?  Stop.  Sit with each other.  Talk.  Laugh.  Drink more wine.  Eat more pumpkin roll.  Enjoy your time.  And be thankful.
We have instilled a “Get One, Give One” mantra in our household.  If you get a new toy, you must give an old toy to Goodwill.  It’s important to us that our children understand that receiving gifts can be fun, but giving is so much better.  Because if you feel a thousand rays of sunshine happy when you get something, don’t you want someone else to experience that same feeling?

We are also making an effort to spend less because, again, stop it with the stuff.  I have a decent list of DIY Christmas gifts I have put together over the past few months (friends and family, be prepared…)  If spending money on a gift, we are considering things that are practical, enjoyable and most importantly, meaningful.  And if I actually go through with any of this DIY business, rest assured there will be a post about it, wink wink.
We will focus on our time together, more than ever.  Ignore Pinterest, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram and television.  You have enough sugar cookie recipes; you will never get around to making those votive holders (unless it’s a gift, then have at it…), and there’s no need in making yourself feel holiday guilt by comparing your tree, house, gifts, etc., to those of your 1,872 “friends” on Facebook.  Look at each other.  Spend time with each other.  Put down the smartphone, close the laptop, and connect to something other than your wi-fi for a change. 

This really is a time of thanks; if you stop for a moment and take inventory of your life, you will find you are immensely, tremendously, incredibly blessed.  And it’s not just the stuff you have; it’s the people, the relationships, the memories, the time together, the experiences, the laughter, the love. 
Ferris Bueller said it pretty well back in 1986:
“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Taking it easy,

Jesus and Politics

Today is local elections day, which is also known as, “No One Knows How to Park” day in my neck of the woods, because of where our office is located.  We share a parking lot with Club Square; for those unfamiliar, it’s a massive, four block parking lot where the city holds the farmer’s market and other events throughout the year.  It’s also the parking lot used by several local business, restaurants, bars, and a church.  This church just happens to be a local polling spot.
And so, with every election, our parking lot becomes filled with eager voters who have total disregard for pedestrians, the right of way, handicapped parking rules and what those white lines painted on the asphalt represent.  Yes, it is as much fun as it sounds.
Seeing the parking lot today reminded me of our national election last year.  Remember the debacle that was “counting votes in Florida”?  Our polling locations staying open until 11pm, with numbers not being reported until well after midnight?  The lines and lines and lines of voters?  Ah, Florida election process…the reason we have always voted absentee, and will continue to do so.
I remember that last year’s national election just happened to fall on the same day as the regular delivery for the Budweiser truck at a bar adjacent to our building.  The poor delivery guy spent the better part of four hours wedged between angry voters and poor parkers.  Silver lining: at least it was a beer truck, and if there was ever a day deserving of a cold brew at 11am, well, national election day was it.
Politics are such a touchy subject, right?  It’s something that we tend to keep to ourselves in the Coke House.  Not because I wouldn’t want people to know who I voted for (Ron Paul 2008 2012 Ron Rand Paul 2016!) but because I’m consistently overwhelmed with the amount of negativity and manipulation involved in the campaign process.
My biggest political campaigning peeve?  Manipulating Jesus for your platform (and this goes for both sides of the spectrum).  Because, to be honest, I don’t think the Jesus I know would share some of the opinions that some of you feel he should have his name attached to.
I don’t believe that my Jesus would use platforms of hate, or scaring the bejeesus out of people, to get his message across.  I don’t think my Jesus would guilt you into feeling we owe people something that we can’t even afford to give.  And I most certainly can’t imagine my Jesus slinging mud, calling names and pointing out faults to get his point across.  He’d also probably want us to stop being so damn selfish.
The Jesus I know would want us to govern ourselves in our political lives in the same manner we do our spiritual lives, or at least the way he’s called us to live.  Decisions based on love and truth, on honesty and well being, on what would help us to create a nation and world that would make him proud.  He most definitely would want us to give of ourselves to help others; giving time, talents and money, in a sacrificial way.  You know, that whole “being a good steward” thing. 
Politicos: Stop using Jesus to try and get others to share your ideas; start putting him at the center of your life, and start sharing his ideas.  Base your decisions and ideas on his, and you may find that others are willing to follow suit for all the right reasons.
Let’s start by loving everyone.  Yes, everyone.  That includes people who voted for Michelle Bachmann, folks who believe in banning gun control, and those who supported the Affordable Care Act.  Because it’s not our place to judge those decisions, remember? 
Jesus isn’t Red or Blue,


Doing Well vs. Doing Good

When I saw this quote posted on Facebook, I initially gave it just a cursory glance and moved on (there were recipes with chocolate and things about Fall fashion in my newsfeed and those things were important)  But something made me go back and read it again, and that same something made me start to actually consider the words.
If society has taught us anything, it’s that doing well is of the utmost importance.  Go to school, get a scholarship, go to college, get a degree, start a career, climb the ladder, buy a nice car to park in the garage at your nice house that has plenty of room to fill with lots of nice stuff.  He who dies with the most toys, right?  The idea of “toys” applies to lots of stuff; not just actual toys.  The most money, the most popularity, the biggest stock portfolio, the most trips around the globe, the best dinners at the finest restaurants. 
At the end of the day, this stuff is exactly that: stuff.  And you can’t take that stuff with you.

Listen to George, folks.
A former pastor gave a sermon once in things with “kingdom significance.”  The sermon was essentially about the stuff in our lives, and its importance (or lack thereof).  She asked us to go home, and place a Post-It note on everything in our house that had kingdom significance.  Think about each room, and the stuff in it, and whether or not at the end of the day that stuff is important.  If you’re like me, you wouldn’t have many (if any) Post-It notes attached to your stuff.
That isn’t to say we shouldn’t do well; we absolutely should, and God has given each and every one of you gifts, talents and abilities that will help us to do well in life…but they will also help us to do good.
I like to think that in our home, we do keep it pretty simple.  I have learned that stuff isn’t all that important (and trust me, this was a lesson that took a while…you can ask my husband about the $95 blue jeans – OY!)  As I simplified, life became easier.  There was less stuff in the way.  Less stuff, more room for good.  More room for God.
Opportunities to do good present themselves each and every day.  No, it won’t always be rescuing a baby from a burning building, or landing a plane on the Hudson River, but the moments are there if you’re paying attention.
My husband is constantly on the look out for ways to help others.  One of his favorite things to do is pay the toll for the cars behind him in line at the bridge.  It’s just $2, but it’s also an act of kindness that maybe the person behind him needed right at that very instant.  One of the very small ways I do good is letting folks cut me in line at Publix.  Sometimes I have to insist to get them to accept the offer, but I know deep down there’s no way they wanted to wait behind me with my 72lbs of produce, 20 cups of yogurt and crate of pet food, when they just have a simple basket of items. 
I like to imagine that one act of goodness will encourage a “pay it forward” that just keeps going.  Showing kindness, goodness and love to someone else has a lasting effect, and could be planting the seed for future great acts.  Faith in action.
About six years ago, Evan and I went out to lunch at a little pizza joint near my office.  We enjoyed our slices, and just sat there, talking to each other.  When it came time to get the check, our waitress informed us someone had already paid our bill.  I was in such shock that someone would be that generous (lunch wasn’t expensive, but the act itself was generous) and that was a reminder to me that again, there are lots of little ways to do good if I just open my eyes.
There’s and old song called, “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.”  Just that simple phrase serves as my reminder of how important doing good really is.  I want someone to ask us why we did ____________, and I want to be able to respond with, “Because we love you, the same way Jesus does.”   
Like I said, it’s not a bad thing to do well in life.  But for me, the ultimate measure of how well I’m doing is actually how good I’m doing.
Planting seeds,
We are one in the Spirit,
We are one in the Lord,
We will work with each other
We will work side by side

And they will know we are Christians by our love.