5 Last Minute Free or Low-Cost Gift Ideas For The Procrastinating Shopper

We are hours away from Christmas today, and excitement is filling the air. If you are not quite done shopping, that excitement feels more like panic. No one wants to get to Christmas without presents for the ones they love. In this post, we will discuss some ideas you may not have thought about and some ideas that cost nothing but your time.

1. Time

The one thing your loved ones want more than anything on their Christmas Wish List is your time. The following are some creative ideas to give your time as a gift. To make it a present for them to unwrap, create and print a gift certificate on the free Canva app or your word processing program of choice.

  1. Do something they have asked you to do for a while such as fixing a door or baking a specific dish they love.
  2. Turn off your phone and devices to spend a certain number of quality hours with them in person.
  3. Complete an act of service for them such as grocery shopping or cleaning the kitchen.
  4. Make dinner (Bonus: Make it dinner and a movie!)

2. Talent

The gifts that have the most “wow” factor are the gifts that are well made by hand. Think of what you do well either as a hobby or business, and turn that into a product you can wrap and give away. The following are some creative ideas to give your talent as a gift.

  1. Make jewelry specific to their style, features, and interests.
  2. Make recycled art. Everything from jewelry to clothing to journals and more is trendy when it is made from discarded wrappers, pop cans, plastics, and other odds and ends.
  3. Make a work of art (painting, drawing, song, poem, wooden craft, etc.) specifically for them.
  4. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating something they enjoy or some of your best memories together.

3. Treasure

The gift your loved ones won’t expect at Christmas is the gift that requires you to sacrifice something you own and love. Think of what you have that they have commented on and/or may be something they will enjoy. Look for the gifts that are a little hard to give away not the ones that you got all the goodie out of and should rather throw away. The following are some creative ideas to give your treasure as a gift.

  1. Can you wear the same size? Give away some of your favorite clothing pieces. Don’t give the worn out pieces; give the pieces you put in special storage to protect.
  2. Give tech. Some of us have extra devices and accessories beyond what we actually use on a daily basis. Give your excess away–especially if it is still relevant (not your 8-track player from the 80s).
  3. Raid your storage. It’s amazing all the gently used gifts (kitchenware, house goods, etc.) that can come out of boxes and totes you’ve stored away for some future time and space.
  4. Gift your sparkles. Thin out your jewelry collection of the pieces you don’t really wear. Clean them up and package them nicely to give away. You can make a very professional looking card with some precut cardstock, holiday washi tape, and a hole punch. I wrap carded jewelry in individual jewelry boxes, small bags, or treat bags.

4. Adventure

For the adrenaline junkies and all those who can’t sit still, the gift you need to give is an experience. This type of gift pairs well with gifts of your time because most adventurers really would rather do life with you than on their own. The following are some creative ideas to give an experience as a gift. To make it a present for them to unwrap, create and print a gift certificate on the free Canva app or your word processing program of choice.

  1. Buy tickets to a play, concert, or museum. Go on a musical adventure through the Museum of the Bible with For King and Country. Tour the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York. Sit down with your favorite recording artist for Christmas. Many events are streaming online to a whole group of people for a single ticket price. Others are available online for free.
  2. Give a scavenger hunt. Whether you lead them to hidden or buried treasure from gift idea number 3 or to something completely new, the gifts they have to hunt for will be the gifts you are still talking about years later. I made the mistake of doing this one year for my sister. I buried her collected treasure in our backyard’s sandy soil. By the time she went hunting it, the gift had sunk lower into the ground, and she had to dig a 6 foot hole to get to it. Lesson to learn from this: Put buried gifts in black trash bags to protect them and bury them closer to the surface.
  3. Go on Groupon or AirBnB. Tickets to all sorts of events from Broadway shows to dancing to sky-diving get cheaper on Groupon than anywhere else. Unique classes and experiences (like horse trekking in Ireland) and places to stay (like an exotic island treehouse) can be found around the world on AirBnB.
  4. Give the gift of learning. Masterclass and other platforms offer short classes with famous professionals on a range of subjects from cooking to dance, sports, and writing. You can learn how to write a children’s book with Judy Blume or a mystery/thriller with James Patterson. For book nerds like this writer, just being in the room with a best-selling author is a dream come true much less in a class with them.

5. Memorials

If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who wants nothing at all, give the gift of giving in their stead to a charity they would appreciate. Be careful who you give this gift to, however. Givers are often giving from their love language and want something that is just for them too. The person that appreciates a memorial gift is not necessarily your typical giving, humanitarian friend.

This type of gift can also be used to honor the memory of someone you have lost. Whether it is your first Christmas without them or your 7th, a gift in memory of a lost loved one can be a way to keep them a part of your life and honor the causes they championed while they were with you. The following are some creative ideas to give a memorial contribution as a gift. To make it a present for someone to unwrap, create and print a gift certificate on the free Canva app or your word processing program of choice.

  1. Give to education. Whether to a place they worked, attended, or admired, giving to education can establish scholarships in honor of the person you are gifting or honoring. Depending on the organization, those scholarships can be given to specific needs or groups of graduates. For example, a scholarship could be established to sponsor all emerging entrepreneurs with a 3.5 GPA. Note: Establishing a scholarship takes time, so this really isn’t a last minute gift. However, you can print a certificate stating your plans to establish it in the coming year.
  2. Give to veterans. The Wounded Warrior Project and the Disabled American Veterans are two places I would recommend to honor past military service. They are good stewards of your investment and use it help real veterans. To give to active duty military and their families, consider a contribution to the USO.
  3. Give to those in crisis. There are a lot of organizations that help people in their time of greatest need whether they lost everything in a storm or they are hiding from an abusive relationship. If you want to keep your support in specific communities, find a church or non-profit that is stewarding their resources well and servicing the people you want to help. There are too many of those to count, but you can find some we love in the Humanitarian Causes part of the Bohemian Princess Journal. For national and international support, give to the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, 700 Club, or Joyce Meyer Ministries.
  4. Give to the forgotten. Whether it is a single parent, an orphaned child, a homeless person, or the elderly, we will always have the needy among us. Find a charity whose cause you believe in and give a gift in honor of the person you want to gift this Christmas. We like to give in this area to our local church or denomination because we know how they use the funds, but you can also choose to give to a non-profit making an admirable difference. Two of our favorite non-profits are The 4 Day Movement and Hope Centers. (Look for more about both organizations soon on the Bohemian Princess Journal.)

Hopefully these ideas got your creative pot stirring. May you find creative ways to give life and love this Christmas, and may you be challenged to give sacrificially to show the love of Christ this Christmas.

We would love to hear how these ideas impacted your Christmas. Leave a comment below if you use one of these ideas. Let us know what you did and how it was received.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Ugly Christmas Ornament

Every time I see her, I want to throw her away. She’s just some ugly ornament, I tell myself. Who’s really going to care about one two-inch Styrofoam ball haphazardly covered in cheap sequins?

Then I look at the white ribbon forming a loop hanger on the ball. In thin blue ink I read: made by Rebecca Whitman, Kindergarten in Peyton, Colorado.

All of a sudden, I am five years old again sitting at a round table, smiling with a pin in one hand and the ball in the other. I feel so much pride at my ability. I’m so grown up to be able to hold this dangerous object: a straight pen. My teacher fills my heart with hope and praise as she tells me how beautiful and well done my ornament is. When I take it home, it is celebrated as a truly wonderful work of art. I feel affirmed as an artist: fully alive and fully seen.

It has been over thirty years since that ball first became a part of our heritage tree. There are ornaments to celebrate every year of our lives across nearly two decades, but this one ugly ball starts and stops the Christmas magic for me.

The magic of Christmas, the hope of Christmas, came as a very imperfect thing. He was the hope of all mankind, the promised king sent to save a nation, but he came as a baby to a barn full of animal dung.

He never lived in a palace. He never wore a crown till it was one made of thorns. His people did not celebrate his progression to the throne, they went into hiding over it.

No one could see the beauty in an ugly life.

Everyone expected a trumpet-blazing, sword-welding, battle-winning King, so what was so amazing about a baby born in Nazareth?

Could anything good even come from there anyway?

We say a lot of things in ignorance when our faith is weak. God chose to save the world not just one nation through the sacrifice of the one thing he loved the most: his son, Jesus Christ. It was a sacrifice of a little bit of ugliness for an eternity of beauty restored in fellowship with us.

When I look at my ugly Christmas ball, I am reminded of all the things that bless our lives from unexpected places. I am reminded that hope is alive even in the darkness. I am thankful again for the happy childhood I had that so many children didn’t. And I begin to see the beauty I saw thirty years ago in my creation.

Magic happens.

A spark ignites.

I celebrate all I have to be thankful for.

What makes you feel the hope and joy—the magic—of Christmas?

What to Do When Loss and Loneliness Cloud The Holidays

I have to say that Christmas is my all time favorite holiday of the year. We get inundated with romance, mystery, presents, family time, and good food. We get more time off and, if we are lucky, snow to play in. We drink eggnog or hot cocoa and nibble on baked goods while we overdose on Hallmark movies, Christmas music, and light displays. There is an overwhelming sense of magic and belief in happy endings. Nothing is impossible at Christmas.

But what do you do when the thing you want most really can’t happen?

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you know that the thing you want more than any present under the tree is more time with that loved one alive again. If you just came out of a breakup or you’ve been single for a long time, the last thing you want is to be reminded of how alone you are romantically. Holiday gatherings get harder when people are missing from them–and that’s true whether it is a lost loved one or a missing partner that you haven’t even met yet.

My paternal grandfather loved family gatherings, and he made an especially big deal of Christmas. Before Christmas Eve, he took my cousins and I out for dinner and a movie at the theater. Then he took us to the local mall, gave us each twenty dollars, and let us shop. He was genuinely happy to see all the things we bought with his money that brought us joy. Then, on Christmas Eve, he would cook a steak dinner for the whole family. After dinner, we would gather in the living room, sing carols, read the Christmas story in Luke, and open presents. Presents were always extravagant toys or collectibles for the kids and nice kitchen goods for the adults. I remember one year when we all got Nintendo 64! My sister and I went home, set it up, and played Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt till our eyes nearly fell out of our heads. After presents at granddaddy’s house, there was still more. Gallon bags filled with candy, fruit, and nuts were passed out along with money envelopes to everyone present.

I never thought about money back when I was growing up, but I do now. I know my grandparents weren’t as rich as they seemed; they saved all year to be able to splurge like that on their family for Christmas. My paternal grandparents had come from less and worked hard to have more. Spending money on their family now made them feel joy and fulfillment. Nevertheless, the first Christmas after granddaddy passed away, it wasn’t the presents we missed from the room. There was a sadness and silence we could only address in prayer as we blessed the meal: we missed him. All we wanted, as we gathered together that Christmas, was more time with him.

Christmas is not Christmas anymore when grief over loss enters the room. Substitute whatever holiday in there that is important to you, and the same is still true: holidays suck when the people you love are missing.

Whether you are in the fresh wake of grief or you are a seasoned veteran to it, it can be hard to be cheerful at the holidays. It is okay to acknowledge your feelings while they are raw, but don’t let yourself be trapped by them. Grief is a process that has no timeliness, but emotions will control you if you don’t take control over them.

What I ultimately found helpful in my own seasons of loss and loneliness at the holidays was this: focus on the good you have not what you are missing and be thankful for the memories.

Sometimes forcing yourself to be cheerful for holidays’ sake brings the good memories to the surface. You begin to remember good times you had with your missed loved ones. Smile-worthy memories surface in the flood of sadness, and you find yourself thankful and happy again.

It may be hard to remember why you celebrate or to even celebrate at all, but do it anyway. Eventually it gets easier as you honor those who are passed as well as those who are still around to enjoy the holidays with you.

Celebrate the ones you love and the One who gave up His Son, Jesus Christ, as a gift of love for you.

Know that the pain you feel now will dissipate in time. Just don’t give up.

Breaking Up at Christmas

One Thanksgiving I was excitedly making plans for my boyfriend to come visit for the holidays. He was from out of state, and we didn’t see each other much. Coming together on a holiday was a BIG deal. It meant sharing families, sharing lives, and sacrificing traditions that were important to us. The deal was that he would come see me for Thanksgiving, and I would go to him for Christmas.

As excited as I was to have him come and share my home, though, I remember feeling pressured and embarrassed. My home was not fancy, nor was it as pristine and spacious as what my boyfriend was used to. I felt pressure to make everything perfect for his arrival, but there were some things I could not change. For example, I could not add on extra rooms to provide separate spaces for all the family coming home for the holidays. When my boyfriend stepped off the plane, he stepped into a whirlwind of holiday activities, cooking, and guests packed so tightly in that they were sleeping on couches and floors.

While he kept his polite composure through most of the holiday, he flew home, called me, and broke up with me thereafter. His reasoning went something along the lines of “we have too many different values” and “I don’t see this going anywhere”. I should have considered it a sign that I felt like I had to struggle to measure up for him. How can you really love someone when you are always looking through them to the person you want them to become? Still, I stayed and ignored all my own red flags until I had grown so acceptant that the breakup hit me like an unexpected car crash.

My head swirled from the accident, and I struggled for the right words to say back to him. I was convinced that only a coldhearted, miserly Scrooge would break up with someone at Christmas, and I poised and email to tell him just that. Before I hit send, I read it to my grandma. Grandma Irene was well known and admired for the fact that she never said an unkind word to anyone. She listened to my email, put down her needlepoint, smiled at me, and said that was not the way I should use my words. No matter how badly he hurt me, she said, I should not strike back. In the midst of my pain–and her own disappointment with the man that caused it, she encouraged me to check the motives of my heart and make godly choices.

Our lives are shaped by the choices we make, the opportunities we take, and the obstacles we shake.

Break ups are especially hard on holidays. Movies, stores, family, and friends all work overtime to find you someone to love and a box with a diamond ring in it for Christmas. But as much as we want to believe that only a Scrooge would break up with us at Christmas, that’s simply not true. There is no good time for a break up. When you know that a break up is inevitable, you just want to get it over with as soon as possible. In fact, it can seem even more cruel to hang onto a relationship through the holidays knowing all along that you want to break up with them. It can come off like you just held onto the person for more presents.

I love presents. Anyone that knows me knows I put a lot of thought into them. I search throughout the year for just the right gifts to buy at just the right deals, and I make handmade gifts too. I enjoy making gifts that surprise people and bring them joy. Most of my Christmases are ready before December ever arrives because I am on this perpetual elf duty. Some people say that holiday break ups happen to save money on gifts, but a break up at Christmas costs me time and money.

Knowing all of this, I still chose to break up a nearly five year relationship at Christmas. I loved the man with all my heart and planned to marry him. He was warm, romantic, and passionate and he loved me purely, the way a woman only dreams of. But for five years I listened to him promise me things and never follow through with them. For five years I watched him live his life in a circle; he was always fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I began to wonder if five more years with him wouldn’t just be five more years of circles.

When you love someone enough to plan a home and future with them, you don’t want to let them go. Nevertheless, when you have loved someone that seems to be a waste of your time, you are anxious to end it so you have the chance to find a working relationship elsewhere.

My Thanksgiving Scrooge wasted no time getting back on the market. He went online before the dust settled from our relationship and met another woman. He married and divorced her within a year of dropping me. He reached out to me, thereafter, asking for a second chance. Fresh from the break up, I would have said “yes!” in a minute. Years down the road, I had the insight to see that I didn’t want to be his wife number three. It’s funny how time has a way of bringing such clarity.

We talked for a while as casual friends after that. That was another thing we could not have done fresh out of the break up. When emotions are fresh and raw, talking to an ex just keeps the wound open and alive. You can’t heal and, nine times out of ten, you end up going back to him.

Loneliness creates a powerful hunger in a person. You will convince yourself things weren’t so bad and you’ll take back even the most abusive ex if you think it will save you from the dark abyss of loneliness.

I am old enough now to feel the tick of the biological clock and the fear of loneliness that comes with it. Most of my peers are married with children. Children are having children now before me. I feel dangerously close to spinsterhood in a house full of cats, yet I will not pick up the phone and text my ex or go see him again. As hard as it is to close the door to a man that passionately loved me, I have done it. Now what?

I have a lot of questions for God on this subject. Like much of my life, I felt God had a hand in my relationship. I was committed to working through our issues and getting married. I was committed to being patient with him to change. I was convinced this was what God wanted for me, and yet I couldn’t understand why God would saddle me with a man as disrespectful of my views as Hosea’s prostitute wife. I yelled and screamed at God for giving me a man that so repeatedly disrespected me.

Did you catch that? I loved a man so much that I stayed with him past all good Christian sense. I fought God about him and never once considered that all the warning signs were God’s voice telling me to leave not stay.

There is a thing in Biblical theology called the “revealed will” of God. It means there are things we already know are right and wrong because of the Bible, and we are expected to be obedient to those clear instructions. When we know the truth and don’t do it, we step in clear defiance of that instruction and build barriers around ourselves that block other opportunities from getting through. God’s specific will for our lives in relationships works in connection with the revealed will of His Word. More specifically, God is not going to ask me to stay in a dating relationship with someone that doesn’t honor the same values as I do, nor will he expect me to be patiently dating a man that is not actively pursuing God more than anything else in his life.

A break up is a horrible, heart wrenching thing, but it is also a learning opportunity. Every break up gives us the opportunity to evaluate ourselves, realize our strengths, learn from our weaknesses, and reset our priorities. With a truthful eye, you can evaluate your self and learn what kind of person you truly are. Analyzing the types of people you gravitate towards dating can also reveal your expectations and what you think you are.

I learned a lot about myself from breakups.

I learned I am a strong, beautiful woman with a big heart and patient endurance. I am an optimist, and I believe in what can be far more than what is. I have always doubted the transparency of my value, so I have settled for troubled men believing that they would rise to their potential…eventually. While it is true that people change with time, our love should be for who they are as they are whether or not they ever change. Unfortunately, I have not loved like that. I hope I get the chance to love better in the future.

In the meantime, I am determined to live as happy and fulfilled as I can as a single woman. I will surround myself with friends and family, and I will pursue my God-given purpose and leave it up to God to figure out the husband, house, white picket fence, and 2.5 kids. 😏

The Love That Came At Christmas To Heal Us

Around the world right now, trees are decorated with lights, precious trinkets we call ornaments, and wrapped boxes we are anxious to open. Music and food we reserve for just this time of year are shared and relished with family and friends. We hurry to shops and parties we don’t bother with the rest of the year. Then we slow down with a cup of cocoa, a blanket, and a Hallmark movie to feel the magic that anything truly can happen this time of the year. We take longer baths, we sleep in and read books in bed, and we dream of snow all to pamper ourselves. Now is the time of year when we relish the things we have accomplished and the ones we hold dear and seek to show them our love with our gifts and our time.

But none of this gift would be ours without Jesus.

Once upon a time two thousand or so years ago, there was a baby born in a barn because there was no room for him elsewhere. He was wrapped in rags and laid in a feed trough because it was the closest thing to a cradle and diapers in a barn back then.

He was no ordinary baby because he had no ordinary father. His mother was a woman so young that she was practically a child herself. She became pregnant while she was engaged to another man; she became pregnant by God.

I imagine she was a beautiful woman, but beauty would not have been enough to save her from the shame and punishment of an unwed pregnancy. Still, her betrothed loved her dearly and chose to protect her when he was told the news. Not only did he protect her, but he believed with her that the baby was a gift from God not a betrayal with another man. He accepted the role of a stepfather and chose to love the son she carried like it was his own.

A wicked king got word that a baby was coming that would be a greater king than any on Earth, a king of all kings. He didn’t like that, so he made a decree that all the male children in the land should be killed. Many innocent babies were slaughtered, but the young king of kings escaped unscathed.

The young king was born in meager surroundings to parents who could never offer him the riches of a palace. He came at an unexpected time in the middle of a journey to a destination that had to change when news of the wicked king’s evil plans reached his parents. Before he was a minute old, he was challenging and changing their world.

I imagine it was not easy to raise a son knowing he was also the son of your God. How could they instruct the one who was there when the Earth was formed from the black void of the heavens? What could they possibly teach him that he didn’t already know himself? They taught him love. His stepfather taught him the tools and skills of his trade, carpentry. His mother likely taught him manners and social skills. If he knew better than they, he did not show it. He chose humility and obeyed them.

The God child did not come into the world for a fun adventure. He came to meet specific people in history and fulfill a prophesy to restore right relationship between God himself and mankind. He didn’t care about taking any king’s throne; he cared about making a way for all kings and commoners to approach God again (something they could not do when sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden).

The God child, Jesus Christ, chose to die a tortured death with his hands and feet nailed to a Roman cross with nails the size of railroad spikes. It was a death reserved for the worst of criminals, but he did not do anything to deserve it. He chose to die in this way so that he could symbolically suffer for the sins of all mankind and pay the penalty of their sin in their stead.

The sacrifice worked, but it did not come easy. As he pressed against the nails and broken bones, he struggled to breath and slowly suffocated. In a dry voice barely more than a whisper, he said, “it is finished.” The earth shook violently as he breathed his last breath. Inside the temple where religious ceremonies were performed, the veil representing the separation between God and man was ripped in two from the top down. Heaven and earth were echoing the victory of the dead king of kings.

Jesus Christ was buried in a stone tomb large enough to bury a man’s whole family. A giant boulder was rolled in front of the entrance and guards were made to stay behind and keep anyone from coming and trying to steal the body away.

If the story ended here, the redemption would have ended there too because no one outside a certain group of people knew his story. God had bigger plans; he wanted to save the whole entire Earth–including people who didn’t know him yet and people like me and you who weren’t born yet. He would have to do that through the testimony of people that knew him, people that had scattered to the four winds in fear and hiding when he was crucified. He had to find them again and tell them what he wanted them to do.

For three days, Christ laid in the tomb cold, lifeless, and wrapped in nothing but rags much like the day when he was born. On the third day, the tomb burst open from the inside. Warrior angels rolled away the stone and Christ walked out, fully alive and robbed in white.

Christ found his hidden followers and spent forty days with them before he went back home to Heaven. He spent those forty days with them so there would be no doubt in their minds that he was fully alive again. He told them to go into the rest of the world and tell people about him and the hope of forgiveness and love he had restored for them. The followers did what he asked them to do.
This Christmas as you celebrate the holidays with joy, remember that the Christ in Christmas came to save your life too. If you have not chosen him as the leader of your life, it is not too late to do so now. He said that we all fall short of what we are supposed to be and cannot be made right without him. He said that if we confess what we have done wrong, he is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from our sins.  Open your heart and talk to God today.

Merry Christmas!

A Grown-up Christmas Morn

*Twas the morning of Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was resting, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung on the walker with care,

as it rolled through the house…everywhere.

Us grown-ups were waiting in our own recliners,

While visions of gift wrap filled trash can liners.

And dad in his blanket, and I in ice packs,

were switching the channels and eating up snacks.

When out in the yard, there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.

I flew like a flash, away to the hatch;

I turned the brass handle and opened the latch.

The sun on the breast of the sandy farm rows,

gave a lustrous illusion of Christmas’ snows.

Then what to my wondering ears did I hear?

But the curling of ribbon. Presents are near!

With a jolly ol’ lady so lovely and quick,

I knew in a moment she must be Mrs. St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles her scissors did fly,

As she lifted her voice in carols to the sky:

“Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more. Through the years we all will be together if the fate allow. So hang a shining star upon the highest bough, and have yourself a Merry little Christmas now.”

Her voice mingles with scissors, ribbon, and tape;

a melody of sweet holiday escape.

As leaves before a hurricane, she flies;

when faced with an obstacle she takes to the skies.

Surrounded by supplies she’s having a blast

of making grown-up wishes happy at last.

And then in a twinkling I heard from the room,

a crack and a clackle; a monstrous boom!

Just as I got up and began to move around,

Out of the room Mrs. St. Nick came with a bound.

She wore a simple gown with fur at the collar.

She looked frazzled and about to hollar.

A bundle of ribbons were stuck to her back,

and she looked like a jokester just stole her pack.

Her eyes–how they twinkled! Her dimples, how merry!

Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!

Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

and the hair on her head was like silvery snow.

The stump of a pen she held tight in her teeth,

and the ink, it encircled her mouth like a wreath.

She had a broad face and a little round belly,

that shook when she laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

She was chubby and plump, a right jolly ol’ elf!

And I laughed when I saw her in spite of myself.

The wink in her eye and the twist in her head,

told me I had nothing to dread.

She spoke not a word, she went straight to her work;

filling the tree with presents then she turned with a jerk.

Then laying her finger aside of her nose,

and giving a nod, up the chimney she rose.

She sprang to the sleigh and to her team gave a whistle,

and away they all flew like the down on a thistle.

But I heard her exclaim ere she drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”


*This poem was written this morning inspired by the activity in my home and by a few familiar classics. I hope you enjoyed it.

Christmas Time Blues, Doubts, And A Hard Lesson In Valuing Your Health

This Christmas is not setting itself up to be one of my best ones, and it’s not because of what I’m about to tell you. It’s because so far this Christmas season, I have bought all my presents but not wrapped a one. I never found an ugly Christmas sweater to wear to the party, so I was completely left out of the photos. I’ve missed almost every Christmas song on the radio, been too busy-or sick-to decorate, and lost out on all my Christmas parties (even the ones I planned myself). It’s warmer than Autumn, most days this December, it’s not feeling like Christmas at all.

Christmas starts to feel like Christmas to me when the first cup of cider is poured in November, and the craft bazaars start popping up everywhere for early shoppers. This is my favorite time of year, and it excites me almost as much as Christmas morning, because this is the time I get to support local artists and buy gifts for the ones that I love. When we gather and give thanks at Thanksgiving, it just preps my heart more for the appreciation and love to come. The bright lights, the displays, and the holiday specials all feel magical to me. Christmas music and movies on constant play while I’m swimming in hot chocolate and gift wrap is…well…divine. Without all this cheer, all I hear is, “I’ll have a blue…Christmas.”

A Serious Wake Up Call

In the middle of my bustling, busy life, I got a serious wake-up call. I walked out the door, ten days before Christmas, excited to finally be going to a Christmas party, and my leg gave way beneath me. I fall on the steps and cried out for help. Help comes running, and I got back up only to feel my legs crumble again inside the house. I rested a moment, and looked at the clock; I was missing the party.

The shades of blue deepened in my heart. Again I tried to get up and leave. This time I made it to my car and fell completely on the cold, hard ground. I could feel the cold but nothing more, and I got scared. This falling business could be serious. I pulled myself up with a cane and my car wheel, but couldn’t hold it. My right leg was complete jello. All the strength of my left side was not enough to pick up Humpty Dumpty again. This time my cry for help would require a team of EMS workers to lift me.

With the arms of EMS gripped around me, I thought of my students. So many of them have expressed a desire to be EMS someday. I held on to the man closest to me–a volunteer first responder, a neighbor whose name I still don’t know. I let him be my legs that would get me to the stretcher and the ambulance and the hospital while I text work and my students what to do while their teacher missed class.

All Too Familiar

Six months before this moment, I was doing the same thing only much more damaged and covered in blood. I was hit by a van and spun down the highway three times. My brand new car was totalled. My face was cut and permanently scarred. My back was severely shaken out of alignment. Yet, I survived.

I remember thinking, in those few seconds of white as I spun down the road, “God, is this going to be it? This can’t be it. I’ve got so much left to do in the world.”

Then I thought about the tractor-trailer. Where was it? It had been right behind me before I was hit. I closed my eyes and braced for a second impact. “Oh God, Oh Jesus, please help me!”

I knew I would most likely not survive that blow. As my car spun out, I thought about my loved ones and how it would hurt them. I thought of all the things I left unsaid. I thought about my job, my goals, and my dreams. I wasn’t ready for the end.

Then suddenly, the car stopped. I opened my car door and tried to get out as quickly as possible. If I was still in the road, I didn’t want to be hit again. But I was not in the road. Somehow, I had been spun around enough to put me facing oncoming traffic but resting safely on the side grass a few feet beside the road sign.

This was God’s answer: Not yet.

Temptation To Doubt God

Landing back in the hospital, my thoughts spiraled.

“Are you sure, God? If I have a purpose not yet done in this world, why bring me more pain and suffering? How can that further your cause?”

I questioned God, but I didn’t get angry. I didn’t understand the purpose in the pain, but I remembered that we were never promised a struggle-free life.

In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world. –John 16:33 NIV

Four hours later lying immobile in the hospital bed, a CT scan revealed that I had a herniated disc in my lumbar spine. I left with heavy drugs, possible surgery, and weeks of required time off work. When it was all said and done, my body reset itself, and I learned a hard lesson in paying attention to my health.

But in the moment…all I had was the hope that God really was in control.

I wrote this poem:

Now my Christmas may be less active and bright.

I may be seeing your lights from a distance tonight.

I will be sending you gifts of hope and cheer,

while you celebrate with all who are near.

As you open your gifts, there’s one gift I hope we can share:

It’s the gift of the Christ child on Calvary’s snare.

What meant to kill and steal him from the Earth,

Gave to us our second birth.

Merry Christmas!