Tag Archive for christmas

DIY Doctored-Up Dollar Tree Church Ornament

Wanted to share an easy craft I’ve been working on for Christmas.

img_4432 img_4433

I love New England churches, so when I saw that Dollar Tree had these ornaments, I snatched up a bunch to doctor-up.

I simply added twine, plaid ribbon from Michael’s Craft Store, and mica glitter with a glue gun to add “snow” to the roof line and perimeter of the church. You could also add a silver bell in place of the pine cone that comes with it.

They’ll be really cute attached to brown paper packages.


Books That Challenged and Changed Me This Year {2015}


In case you need some ideas for Santa, here are a few of my favorite books from 2015. These aren’t necessarily new releases, but just books that encouraged and challenged me this year. I’m including the Amazon links below:


We Would See Jesus. A short, life changing read. Every Christian woman should read this classic.

Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. Got hurt issues? This is a great resource.

Women of the Word. Excellent resource for learning how to study the Bible for yourself, without relying on commentaries.

The Church Planting Wife. Great read for any ministry wife.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. Wonderful read.

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. Excellent resource for women who are living for titles or are confused about what Christian womanhood looks like. I adapted this book and taught through some of the topics in our teen girls youth group and I plan to cover the rest of them this winter.

Look and Live. One of the best books on worship I’ve read in a long time. I can’t recommend it cart blanche, as I had a few qualms with it (stylistic), but it’s wonderful for those who feel they are dry spiritually and know they are missing something in their worship of God…aka…they’re worshiping lesser things.

Safe People: How to Find Relationships that Are Good for You. I bristled at the title of this, because I tend to believe that you should get along with the people God sends into your life, but I was glad I read this book. It helped me to prioritize my relationships and find peace with letting go of a few relationships that I knew were no longer healthy because let’s face it–life’s too short to spend energy on people who are toxic.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris. A fun read.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. Peter read this aloud to me and it was fascinating. It’s based on the life work of Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychologist who, after working with the poor and incarcerated for years, noted a common dysfunctional set of values that seemed to keep these people trapped in a victim’s mindset, hence, trapped in their current circumstances with no hope of change. Excellent read.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom:My Escape from North Korea. Peter read this aloud to us as a family and we couldn’t wait to hear the conclusion of this modern day escape!

What books would you recommend? What books challenged you this year?

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting JoyFilled Days!

Mary’s secret for peace {for all of us.}

Do you find peace elusive? Do circumstances dictate your mood? Does the behavior (or misbehavior) of others rattle you and threaten to steal your joy?

On what does your happiness depend?

One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that peace is not dependent on circumstances when you are in Christ. When my peace is threatened, I know my focus is on the wrong things: problems, injustices, situations.

Getting alone with my Bible and some time with the Lord is really the needed re-calibration for my anxious heart. “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.”


Perfect peace.

One of my favorite examples from scripture, as you already know, is the humility of Mary.

Mary exemplifies a peace filled heart.

Mary’s world was turned upside down and we see her in a state of surrender. Angel appears, news delivered: You’re going to deliver the Messiah.

Peace. Belief. Surrender.—>And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Mary was living in a time when women had few rights. She was not master of her own destiny. She was dependent on God and she knew it. She called herself a servant–one who does the will of another.

Mary had few resources. She didn’t have riches or influence or people in high places that could get her out of a fix.

It’s easy to romanticize the manger scene with a soft-focused nostalgia. But think about Mary in her material state, flesh and blood, pregnant and uncomfortable with no where to give birth after traveling on a donkey to get to her birthing room, which turns out is no where, because there was no room for them. Plan B: Give birth in a stable on the ground.

Picture her giving of herself in order to give life to another, like every mother does. Her delivery wasn’t sterile or pain free. Shaking, sweating, panting, cold, hot, writhing in pain, holding her breath, frantic to survive another contraction and hoping the excruciating pain would soon be over. Her attitude on the dirt floor and hay bed of a birthing room: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”

When shepherds interrupted the scene to see the newborn, and people were invading their space, chattering on and on about the angels and the stars, about the news, and why they were there…

with all that noise and confusion after you just gave birth.in.a.stable.

and we see that Mary is not joining in with the noise and confusion, and is not agitated or demanding her space or rights, but is simply quiet. At rest. Pondering. Unaffected by the outward circumstances. She knew her God and she simply trusted Him. “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

We see very little of Mary during the Lord’s 33 years on earth. We assume she did what normal mothers do. Night after night she nursed baby Jesus. She changed diapers, rocked, burped Him, cleaned a home, made meals, swept floors, cared for Joseph. Nothing spectacular by the world’s standards. Just faithful care for the people around her in her own little sphere of influence. But when we do see her, she was doing the right thing, and following the teachings of God. She followed Joseph when he was warned in a “dream” to flee to Egypt. We don’t see any recorded resistance to Joseph’s leadership. Then, years later, she was faithfully bringing the Lord to the temple when he was 12. Before Jesus first miracle, we see her instructing the servants to “do whatever He tells you.” Her steadfast heart was the same. She still saw herself as a servant of the Lord and trusted in Him.

And this is the secret to our peace as well. We need to see ourselves as servants of the Lord, to do what He commands, to walk where He leads, to serve in humility where He puts us.

Your life may seem mundane and maybe you are doing small things by the world’s standards. You may be obscure and poor and hidden. Maybe you are changing a baby’s diaper, or maybe caring for an elderly parent. And while you’ll never receive recognition for these things, an nobody seems to notice or care, God does see and notice. In fact, you are His servant doing His bidding right there as you feed that baby in the middle of the night, and as you calm that anxious loved one with Alzheimers.

Mary taught us that the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, are to be embraced as “unto the Lord” and as “from the Lord.” This should teach us to say, with Mary, “Yes, Lord. Anything. Everything. Whatever you think is best for me.”

Mary held the “The Prince of Peace” in her physical arms. We have something better: We are “in Him” and have Him in our hearts.

Col. 3:1-3 “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This Christmas, why not hand over that thing that has toyed with you and robbed you of your joy for so long. Why not meditate on the Prince of Peace and the one who did so much to bring peace with God to your life, heart, and eternity? Like Mary, why not trust God with everything and proclaim yourself a handmaiden/servant of God?

Why did we allow that small thing to steal our joy and peace again? What can threaten our peace now?

Frugal DIY Chalkboard Hack

Wanted to share this quick idea with you. I came up with it while trying to think of a frugal way to decorate for a church event this weekend.

Behold, the foamboard “chalkboard.”

Foam board "chalkboard"

Foam board “chalkboard”

My Walmart sells black foam board near the poster board. It was less than $3.

I brought it home, rubbed it over with chalk, then wiped it with a tissue. That gave it a chalkboard look, instead of it being solid black. I sketched words and the nativity (I used a clip art image as a guide) then, when I was happy with my design, I traced it with white chalk marker, also available at Walmart.

What do you think? Pretty convincing for a fake, huh? I don’t think it will hold up to erasing the chalk pen, but I will let you know if it does.

It’s large, so it would also be great as a focal piece on your Christmas mantle.
Let me know if you make one, or share your link in the comments! Have fun!
Magic Cabin

Jesus: The Generous Gift Giver

Friend, are you alive inside? I know you are breathing, but is your soul truly alive and satisfied? Or are you more of an empty shell, numb, searching, and desperate for answers?

Are you searching for the one gift you think will make you happy?

Presents under tree

Jesus promises us life and tries to discourage us from seeking happiness in all the wrong places. He encourages us to come to Him and really understand what it means to be spiritually alive and satisfied.

I always think of Isaiah 55 during the Christmas season when I am frantically shopping for Christmas gifts for my kids.

Isaiah 55 pictures a coastal community and a merchant on the dock of a busy port, calling to passersby and anyone who would listen to come and “buy” his product. There are qualifications: you must be thirsty and poor. Upon closer inspection we see that this person is not a merchant at all because he’s not taking money. The goods are free because they were already paid for by another. He’s offering them free for the taking because it’s in his nature as a grace-giver to do so. He knows what will eternally satisfy us because he made us.

Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.

The offer is made to all, and the gospel excludes none, except for those who would exclude themselves.

There are other merchants selling their goods, vying for your attention. The noise. It’s all around us. Blaring advertisements. Promises. Voices. “If you use this product, you’ll be beautiful, or popular, or relevant, or successful.” They offer satisfaction, but the Lord knows that these thing won’t satisfy in the end.

God reasons with us: “Why are you spending your money on things that will never satisfy? Why are you working so hard to get things that will never fill that void?

He’s calling.

He’s saying, “Listen to me. Come to me. Heed, and when you know me, you’ll truly LIVE.”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there are so many people who are unhappy and unsatisfied around us. Men and women who are seeking anything to make them happy. They need this message. We all need this message. We are not just flesh. We are spirit. And our spirits were created to be in fellowship with the Creator. Sin separates us from God, but the best news of all is that grace is for sinners, and Jesus makes a way back to Him by offering us the free gift of salvation. He died for you. He was buried and rose again the third day.

That’s it. That’s everything. And when you realize the impact of this, it truly is everything! No hoops, no penance, no working at all. Just faith. You can’t buy it by good works, friends, because it’s not for sale.

Why can’t you work or pay for salvation?

Because the gift has already been bought and paid for with the precious blood of Christ Jesus on the cross. It was enough. “It is finished.”

Do you fall into the category of looking for something to satisfy that ache in your being?

Are you working tirelessly to earn a good standing with God?

Are you the thirsty and the soul-sick person in these verses?

Perhaps Jesus is calling to you today?

He’s offering you a GIFT. Salvation from sin, wholeness of soul, and eternity with him in heaven. And it’s because of Christ.

Reach out and take hold of the gift by faith.

 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2: 8,9

The Ministry of Jesus: Preach, Heal, Deliver

“The God of the Old Testament is angry, but the Jesus of the New Testament is love.” That’s the faulty view of God that some take. They almost breathe a sigh of relief that Jesus came to save us from the God of the OT.Nothing could be farther from the truth and we see this in Isaiah 61. The prophet is foretelling of the ministry of Jesus and the job He was sent by God to do. (Jesus himself makes it clear that this prophecy was fulfilled in Him when He stood in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4: 16-21 and proclaimed “This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears.”)

starry night

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

The Lord God Jehovah sent Jesus to preach, heal, and deliver:
Preach the gospel to the poor, or poor in spirit as He tells us in the Beatitudes.
Heal the brokenhearted. Just like tightly wrapping a wound (binding) stops the bleeding, eases the throbbing pain, and helps for broken bones and skin to begin to mend itself, Jesus binds up our broken hearts.
Set captives free. Before Christ, we are “under sin”–slaves to it, by birth (original) and by choice (have you ever sinned?). Jesus satisfied the laws demands on our account, by living a perfect life, free of sin, and then dying as the sacrificial lamb. He offers to pay our debt, if we’ll accept the free gift.
In short
For those who trust Christ, He offers these exchanges:

  • Beauty instead of their ashes (laying in ashes was an outward sigh of mourning in the OT times.)
  • the Oil of Joy instead of mourning (like we apply moisturizer to make our face glow, the oil of joy makes our face shine!)
  • A Garment of Praise instead of a heavy heart (festive garments are worn on special days like birthdays and holidays, and a garment of praise reveals a rejoicing heart!)

Not only does God release us from bondage, cure our wounds, comfort our sorrows, but he then PLANTS us, “the planting of the Lord,” “trees of righteousness.”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of symbolically being planted like a tree wherever the Lord is exciting. I embrace my ministry with joy when I know that God has gifted me with certain gifts, responsibilities, and sphere of influence.

And though each of us has different jobs and abilities, just like trees (ornamental, flowering, fruit, boundary line trees, shade trees) the purpose of our planting is plain: that God be glorified.

That means whatever you do, wherever you are, your job is to live in righteousness, reflecting the image of God. No complaining that you aren’t as flowery as the next tree or as sturdy as that one over there. God plants. Bloom where you’re planted for His glory and our good.

Herein is our Father glorified, when we bring forth much fruit.

************I totally forgot to tell you that I was guest posting over here yesterday….talking about how to have a Christ-Focused Christmas! 

Christmas Devotional Winner Announced and Lots of Pics of Our Pinterest Party

We’re announcing the two winners of the  Christmas Devotional “Rejoicing In Christ the Newborn King” today.

The winners are Becky(rcraven@) and Rebecca (becbud@)!!!

I’ll be emailing you both shortly! Congratulations!

Oh, and by far, you agreed that your favorite Christmas carol was “O Holy Night.”

And not to spoil it for you, but have you ever heard this rendition of O Holy Night? It cracks me up every time I hear it. At first I felt really, really bad for him, and thought, “Oh, that’s just so horrible, bless his heart! He has no idea how bad he sounds!” until he gets to the chorus and then I’m thinking, “Make it stop!!” lol

Also, today’s my husband’s birthday and I wanted to mention what a blessing Peter is to me. He’s totally easy going and funny and makes our lives so much fun. He encourages me as I write here, to all of you, and always jokes that JoyFilledDays is his “fave” blog. (He’s not online much, so, it’s probably the only blog he frequents.)

I love this pic because it's a common one. Daddy sitting by the light reading and the kids snuggling in to hear him. Melt!

I love this pic because it’s a common one. Daddy sitting by the light reading and the kids snuggling in to hear him. Melt!


Anyways, I have to share something about him that really touches me every time I “happen” upon it. Very often, I’ll roll over in the middle of night, maybe 3 a.m., and Peter will be gone. I get up quietly, to check to make sure he’s okay. I tiptoe into the kitchen and through to the breezeway, and I’ll see a dim light on in the breezeway. I often see the back of him, kneeling, praying in the dark in front of our couch. I don’t want to disturb him so I tiptoe back to bed and fall asleep easily knowing that my husband is up praying for our family. You have no idea how this scene has impacted my walk with Christ! A guy who forsakes sleep to talk with his God during the night is the best in my book! I’m so thankful for him and his great testimony to me and the kids.

Also wanted to share a few pics from a “Pinterest Party” I had with my sisters and a couple of crafty friends. I don’ t usually post pics of parties I throw, because I can’t always invite everyone and it seems like talking about plans that you’ve made in front of someone who was not invited. {rude! I wish you all could have been here!} But, I wanted to share this event with you, because I was thinking as we were working away, that each of us in the room was smiling and having fun, but in reality, every one of us there has our secret pain, weaknesses, struggles and problems, yet when we join together to do something as simple as making something pretty for our home, we can encourage and strengthen each other just by being together. Just because someone is smiling on the outside doesn’t mean that all is well for them on the inside. We need each other!  Friendship is a good gift from the Lord!

So, We tried our hand at making fresh wreaths and they turned out so beautiful. We all brought greenery from our yards so we had quite the variety to choose from, and the results were so rich looking, when in fact, they only cost about $3-$5 to make. We had a great time eating, chatting, and crafting the night away to Bing Crosby Christmas music. :)

Blurry pic, but the finished product! Lovely!

Blurry pic, but the finished product! Lovely!







craft night sarah and danielle


These two old ladies were in our youth group once upon a time ago. :)

These two old ladies were in our youth group once upon a time ago. :)

finished product

finished product