WFMW: 5 Things You Don’t Have to Do in the New Year


I don’t know about you, but I always feel pressure in the New Year to BE BETTER and to DO MORE. I need to get more organized, get healthier and do it all by spending less. I walked into a store today to look for a coat for my teenage daughter (hoodies aren’t cutting it in our 30-40 degree weather lately) and the entire front half of the store was workout clothes. Talk about pressure.

Everyone’s talking resolutions and I’m definitely not against setting goals. But I think we can do more by actually doing less.

Here are five things we don’t have to do in the new year:

            1. Make resolutions: Since only 8% of people actually complete their resolutions, instead of making unrealistic resolutions, look for small tangible goals you can accomplish. Don’t look to one giant success at the end of the year, look for daily victories.
            2. Announce extreme goals: There’s a tendency to Go Big or Go Home. But the best place to start is small. If you need to lose 25 pounds, start with one and then another. When we vow to complete extreme goals, statistics show that we usually give up because we get discouraged.
            3. Compare ourselves/lives to others: When I start looking over at the neighbor’s greener grass, I begin to feel pressure to have a more perfect life or at least a greener yard. The best way around this is to worry about our own yard.
            4. Forget what the past has taught us: The past has taught me that my goal to have a flat stomach is probably not going to happen. While we can’t change the past, we can learn from our mistakes and successes and let them guide us in the future.
            5. Lose site of why we do what we do: We can’t forget our purpose. Our choices should be moving us closer to our goals. Don’t do things just because everyone else is. Lead your life instead of letting life lead you.

Doing less works for me!

30 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

Our world makes it challenging to keep Christ in Christmas.

Anyone else notice that?

Don’t get me wrong: I love this season. The lights and festivities. I’m a Christmas baby and I find this time of year magical. I love experiencing it with my kids…the excuse to wear Christmas pajamas days on end, reading holiday books, sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies for lunch

But more than anything, I want to make it meaningful. I want Jesus to be the focus. I want my kids to know what the day and all the celebrating is really about. They won’t hear it at school or see it in the sales advertisements. They will know because we will show them.


Here are some ways we make Christmas meaningful (and a few ideas we plan to implement):

  • Set up a Nativity and make it a focus in your home. [We put ours front and center on the entry table in our home].
  • Hide baby Jesus and “seek” Him Christmas morning before opening gifts. [I did this first thing last year. Here's how I found it half an hour later. Turns out Mary had a little Snowman. I love little kids].

  • (or) Gift wrap baby Jesus in your nativity and let this be your first unwrapped gift Christmas morning.
  • Take a cue from the Magi and limit the gifts and reminding kids it’s not their birthday, it’s His.
  • Have a daily family devotion that unwraps Christmas. We are loving The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.
  • Participate in Advent. Anticipate, count down to Jesus’ birthday.
  • Light an Advent wreath each day leading up to Christmas.
  • Have a birthday cake for Jesus or go all out and make it a birthday party!
  • Watch DVDS like Why Do We Call It Christmas? that help you tell the real story of Christmas.
  • Give your kids the gift of giving: Have them shop with purpose. This year we are giving our kids money to shop from the Compassion gift catalog.
  • Or buy something that blesses twice and changes lives (Mercy Shop).
  • Don’t stress about things that really don’t matter this Season. I have been a Christmas hoarder in the past. Last year, I had two newlywed couples come and dig thru my decorations. I saved two boxes of things I value most and gave the rest away. It’s simple this year and I like it.
  • Make the Nativity interactive with tools like What God Wants for Christmas. It’s from the creators of Resurrection Eggs.
  • Do something for someone else on Christmas Day. For the past few years, we’ve played Secret Santa for a family in need. It’s one of my favorite traditions.
  • Talk with your kids about giving God a gift. What does He want from us?
  • Hang a stocking for Christ. Fill it with notes just for Him.
  • Invite someone to share Christmas dinner with your family.
  • Shop for single mom. This year playing secret santa and dropping off gifts for a single mom!
  • Don’t participate in the excessive commercialism. Enough said.
  • Watch The Nativity Story together as a family. We started this tradition two years ago. I think this PG movie tells the greatest story ever told very well.
  • Help your kids shop for their siblings.
  • Talk about the symbols of Christmas.
  • Be generous as a family at Christmas-baking, giving, doing.
  • Hold a Yule log party: it’s an old European custom to bring in an enormous log on Christmas Eve and it in the fireplace (or fire pit) and say prayers. Today, Yule log cakes and eggnog are served. You can sing carols, read Scripture, tell stories, pray for the new year, and have good fellowship.
  • Bake, make or buy a special gift for your Pastor. We did Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls a few years ago. What a gift!
  • Cherish traditions with your family. Start a new one! Like the next one:
  • When preparing your Christmas meal, set a literal place for Jesus, your honored guest.
  • Attend church on Christmas Eve.
  • Read Luke 2 together on Christmas Eve or morning. We’ve been doing this since before we had kids.
  • Leave a Nativity out all year long. I did this last year and it was really special.
How do you keep Christ in Christmas?
[edited repost]

WFMW: 6 Things You Don’t Have to Do This Season


We don’t have to do it all.

Here are 6 practical things you can leave off your list this holiday season.


Blank Gift Tag with Red Ribbon

1. Send out Christmas cards- I was feeling stressed about this and I can’t tell you how freeing it was to just let it go. I am not sending cards this season. Instead, I’m sharing a family picture on social media and that will have to be enough.

2. Go Into Debt-Just don’t. It’s not worth it. Cut back, give acts of service or time if you don’t have the money. Be the gift. Don’t keep paying and paying for the gifts all year long.

3. Spend a lot of time and money on gift wrap-We are talking about something that ends of up in the trash. Cheap paper works. And I’m not even doing bows this year. Scandalous. Let your kids help. Let go of perfection.

4. Continue to Consume-I made it a goal this year to stay out of the Christmas section of the stores. I’m using the decor and ornaments I have. Did you know Americans spend a whopping 6 billion dollars on Christmas decor and lights alone every year?

5. Buy Junk- Instead of buying gifts that won’t last or don’t mean a thing or one more iTunes or Starbucks gift cards, choose gifts that give back. I love these fair trade gift ideas (that have quick, free shipping for Amazon Prime members):

6. Feel Guilty. We are making a conscious effort to do less this season. I refuse to feel guilty about my hodgepodge tree with handprint ornaments. Our kids get 3 gifts from us and it is more than enough. Simplicity feels good, don’t let guilt ruin it.

WFMW: {Guest Post} Easy Holiday Parties

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I work with a group of middle school students and adults at church, and despite the fact that December will make me eight months pregnant, I’ve decided to invite them over for a Christmas party.

Of course, being the slightly crazy person I am, I immediately clicked over to Pinterest – where my eyes quickly glazed over as visions of gift bag tags and tiered appetizer trays danced in my head. Thankfully, I quickly came to my senses and remembered, Hello! Middle school students. And eight months pregnant!

So while I’m still excited to invite my team over to celebrate Christmas together, I’m reigning in my tendencies to go overboard and get overwhelmed. Planning a fabulous party without losing my mind? Yep, that works for me!

I actually wrote a book about planning parties that’s part how-to and part manifesto on preventing the very event planning craziness I’m prone to myself. I’m taking a page out of my book and following these tips for an easy Christmas party.

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Thinking of My Guests First:

  • My first [brilliant] idea was to hold a cookie exchange for my church friends. But then I remembered that two-thirds of my guests are kids and the cookie-making responsibility might fall to their parents . . . who might not be too thrilled with adding that to their holiday to-do list. So instead, I’ll make a big batch of cookies [probably the slice-and-bake variety] and have them ready to serve my guests.
  • While it’s easier for me to invite people to a party at a specific time, I know how busy the holidays are for everyone. So I’ll make my party an open house and welcome guests anytime they can drop by on a Saturday morning and afternoon.

Serve Simple Food:

  • The kids I work with love peppermints, so I’ll make sure to have a big bowl of those – and then follow a red and white theme for the rest of the food.
  • Kids and busy adults alike seem to enjoy finger foods (I know I do), and these things should keep decently throughout a longer open house: Pizza Poppers, chips and salsa, brownies with peppermint Hershey’s kisses, and a veggie tray. If I’m real ambitious, I might even make candy cane shaped rice krispy treats – but I’m playing that one by ear. (Remember? Eight months pregnant. Not losing my mind.)

Choosing Streamlined Decor:

  • In my book I talk about using the Rule of Threes for party decor. Pick a theme, then use it with one larger decoration and two smaller ones.
  • I’m planning a candy cane theme (to go with the peppermints). While I may or may not get my tree up and decorated before the party, I’ll hang some candy canes (such a budget-friendly decoration!) from greenery on top of my blinds and on a few shelves.
  • Then I’ll serve our food on red platters (like this Jesus is the Gift plate from DaySpring) and red and white paper goods (like these adorable Peanuts Christmas plates and napkins). And I’ll tie little candy canes to their gift bags.

Just like that, I’ve got a fun (might I even say fabulous?!) party – and I didn’t have to go crazy or spend tons of money or time. Planning fabulous parties without losing my mind works for me!

Mary Carver 1

And I’d like to help you do the same. I have a discount code just for We Are THAT Family readers, taking 80% off my ebook. Just use the code WFMW between now and December 31, and you’ll receive Plan a Fabulous Party {without losing your mind} for just 99 cents!

Mary Carver is a writer, believer, wife, mom and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life at And she’ll give you a free ebook about romance and real life when you subscribe to her blog.

WFMW: {Guest Post} 5 Ideas to Make This Year’s Thanksgiving Your Best Of All Time


Hi, I’m Robin! When Kristen invited me to step into her space while she and her family are loving on those babies at Mercy House, fistpumping I thought, “Thanksgiving Week?  Yes!!  I know exactly what I’ll write!”

And then she wrote most of it for me in her WFMW last week. ~ smile ~  Wonderful thoughts on taking back Thanksgiving, her ideas embody my soul’s cry for the holidays.

So I re-grouped, incorporating one or two ideas in a new way and adding a few others, and today I’m happy to share What Works For Me this week:

5 Ideas to Make This Year’s Thanksgiving Your Best Of All Time

1.  Require a ticket to the table.

When I host our family Thanksgiving meal, I require a ticket for admission for everyone.  We do this by way of our Thankful Box, and it’s as simple as writing down at least one thing for which you’re thankful and slipping it into the box before dinner.  After we’re done eating, we pass the Thankful Box around, taking turns reading the slips of paper and trying to guess who said it.  It’s a great conversation starter, it holds us together just a little bit longer, and it serves as beautiful reminder for why we’re together.  If you’re interested, I penned a little poem to go with mine, and one year gave it as an inexpensive but priceless Christmas gift, tucked inside a pretty box.

2.  Establish Your Signature Dish.

Can you think of specific dishes made by members of your family, the ones that are as eagerly anticipated as the holidays?  Well, if you don’t already have one that everyone is begging you to cook, make that your goal this year!  Mine is apple pie; it’s a definite labor of love because I have to make two to have enough (four homemade crusts!)…but the lip-smacking and declarations that I make the best apple pie in the world are big paychecks.

3.  Do Something Different.

As host this year, I was thinking through details for dinner when it occurred to me I couldn’t remember a single specific Thanksgiving meal with my parents.  Horrified and wanting to make sure this wasn’t the case for my babies, I asked my youngest (the only one still at home) for ideas.  Though I don’t think I’ll take the advice of my teenage son, I’m cooking up some surprises to go with our turkey.  Feel free to offer YOUR suggestions in comments–I’m listening!

4.  Give Surcies.

Wanna fill your family’s and friends’ cup to the overflow?  Gift them a little something that demonstrates your anticipation of their arrival.  Among family, this kind of thoughtfulness is unexpected.  It’s a way tangibly to express I love you, and can be as simple as a scripture verse rolled in a tiny bottle (I received one of these and it MADE MY DAY!), after-dinner mints (or if you have time,  hand-pressed buttermints) wrapped in a little bag to freshen post-turkey breath.  Love notes at each table setting don’t cost a thing, but they’re word treasures.

5.  Remember Others.

It’s likely you have family members too far away to visit, those who have experienced great loss since last year (through death of loved ones, marital strife), and others who are struggling through difficult circumstances (illness, financal, etc.).  Pick up the phone and call them.  Drop a card in the mail.  Serve with your family at a local ministry.  Don’t feel like you have to talk an hour or write a dissertation–the act of remembering is a beautiful expression of love, and it could be the very thing someone needs to hear.

Heartfelt thanks to Kristen for allowing me to share Wednesday with you, and if you’ve never visited my blog (or it’s been a long while), I’ve just unveiled my new design and I am thrilled to the moon!  Pop over for a visit?  I’ve got a few surprises waiting :).