Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I’ll be signing off the blog for a little while to spend some time with my family (especially now that my older daughter is home for a few weeks!). My column will still be up this Friday, but I won’t be back until the New Year.

One of the things that I’ll be thanking God for over this Christmas season is the tremendous blog community we have here. I’m so thankful for all of you who comment and send me encouraging emails. I appreciate you, and you make me smile!

And I’m so blessed that God has used this little blog to help marriages. Pray that Google continues to bring me favour, so that when desperate people are searching for advice about sex, marriage, and even what to do with a porn addiction, they end up here and not somewhere gross.

We have so much to be grateful for this Christmas season, and one of the things that I often think is that Jesus left perfection to come and walk on earth with us. He experienced sickness (without the benefit of Advil or Kleenex), and He experienced loneliness, and He experienced death of those He loved. He really does understand.

And the Christmas season offers us new hope–that life will not always be like this, because He came and made a way so that we could know God intimately.

“Emmanuel”–God with us. That is what Christmas is. God with us. A God who understands, a God who wants to be intimate with us, a God who wants to change us from the inside out.

No matter where you are in your marriage right now, I pray that you will experience “God with us” Emmanuel this year. And I pray that He will give you hope–hope for your marriage, hope for humanity, and hope for the world to come.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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RoundUp of Christmas Links

Have you been enjoying your family and huddling around drinking hot chocolate? I’ve been knitting some Christmas stockings! The girls decided that we’ve used the same tired ones for too long, and it was time for some new ones.

I’ve finished 2 1/2, which isn’t bad. At least the girls will have new ones! I think I can finish 3 by Christmas, and then I’ll just knit my own before next year.

And we went to see The Desolation of Smaug last night. I just love Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice as Smaug. Can hardly wait for the new Sherlock to come out, too! We rail on the media so often for having so little that’s any good to watch, but honestly–there have been a ton of GREAT movies and great new series to watch on Netflix recently. Stuff that I can share with my teenagers and my husband and we all can enjoy it. I am grateful for that and for family time with my oldest daughter home.

The really exciting thing that’s happening here, though, is that we’ve had the worst ice storm in twenty years. Rebecca blogged about it here, but here’s a picture of her SKATING ON OUR DRIVEWAY.

Skating on Driveway in an ice storm

Yep. That’s how bad it was! She’s got more pictures here.

I’m having a wonderful time with my family, especially with Becca being home from university. But I thought I’d share just a few things with you in the meantime.

1. Tons of Christmas Posts from this Blog

I’ve sent out my marriage newsletter and my parenting newsletter in the last few weeks, and each had a ton of links to various Christmas posts I’ve written over the years.

See my Marriage Newsletter – with tons of stuff on marriage & Christmas

See my Parenting Newsletter - with tons of stuff on kids & Christmas

2. Anniversary Links!

December 21 was also my anniversary. We got married right around Christmas, so we’ve just celebrated together again. Last year I hit the milestone where I had been married for half my life, and this year Keith hit it, too. Pretty cool!

Here’s a post on my twentieth anniversary you may enjoy.

And a wonderful Anniversary Link: This couple has been married for 61 years, and for their anniversary they took “Up” themed pictures. Remember the love story from Up? So precious. And you’ll love these pictures, too!

3. Christmas Conundrums

One reader sent me this newspaper article asking that difficult Christmas question: what do you do when you have relatives coming to stay with you who live together (or date), but aren’t married? Separate bedrooms or the same bedroom?

My quick answer: If it’s your kids, it’s your house, your rules. Separate bedrooms. No doubt about it. If it’s a sister or something, I’d be a little more lenient perhaps. Your children you raised with certain values, and I think it’s okay to still enforce that in your home. Your siblings is a little different, and I can’t give a quick answer. What do you think? Talk about it in the comments!

And that’s all for now! I’m going to go finish up my stocking and do a bit more Christmas shopping. Loving the time off, and may you all be blessed, too!

 

Seeking a Wise Man

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. I’m taking a bit of a hiatus from my column this month as I finish up the second edition of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum. So I’m rerunning some Christmas columns that I enjoyed from years past. Here’s one that won a Canadian writers’ award:

Seeking a Wise ManRight now, many men are obsessed with that age old question: “how can I earn major brownie points this Christmas?” Well, if you want to find the road to Christmas success, it’s always advisable to follow those who have blazed the trail before you. And who better than those we now call “The Three Wise Men”, all because they mightily impressed an important woman that long ago Christmas.

What did they do that was so wise? First, they brought gifts.

No matter what your wife says, a package under the tree is non-negotiable. But not just any package. I heard the woeful tale of one husband who bought his wife a scale. As my husband said, that level of stupidity doesn’t come naturally. You have to practice.

The gift, then, must be good. The Wise Men came bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I’m sure Mary greatly appreciated those things. I’m equally sure she and Joseph promptly sold them to pay for their flight to Egypt, thus ushering in that other sacred Christmas tradition of returning gifts for the cash.

The Wise Men’s gifts, though, did show great forethought. They brought gifts to honour a king, just as you must buy gifts to honour your queen.

But the wise men remembered that first rule of Christmas gift-giving: under no circumstances should you buy her something you think she needs.

First, you’re probably wrong; and second, even if she needs it you’re bound to buy the wrong one. If she needs it, make a date to go buy it together on Boxing Day. Don’t make it a gift. The Wise Men, after all, didn’t bring diapers and Vaseline, though those would have been useful. They brought something symbolic of who Jesus was to them. So think romance, not necessity. Think meaningful, not useful in the laundry room. It’s the wise way.

The Wise Men, however, were not merely gift toters. They also were wise because they were on the look out for danger, avoiding the homicidal King Herod and protecting Mary and Jesus in the process. This may not be a very women’s lib type thing to say, but I think “protecting your brood” comes right after “it’s the man’s job to kill the bugs” in the official marriage rule book.

Now, men must understand that many dangers in a woman’s life are of her own making.

Women naturally expand to fill the void—and no, I’m not referring to the lady who required that scale. If there is work to be done, and no one to do it, women naturally step in. That is why we are chronically exhausted and grumpy. Men can protect women by helping us do some of that work, and by gently helping us see when we’re getting out of control, preferably while handing us chocolate truffles in the process.

Finally, the wise men took their eyes off of the camel races and other ancient entertainment to search for signs of something important. They saw that star only because they were looking up. This Christmas, we all need to get our eyes off of the screen and onto the faces of those we love. How are they doing? How are you doing? Don’t be afraid to ask.

When the wise men saw that sign, though, they didn’t back away.

They knew that sometimes you have to take a journey to find something truly important. I don’t mean heading down to Home Depot to get the latest power tool; I mean going places you wouldn’t normally venture. Maybe you need to take a journey this Christmas season; a journey back to that place in your heart where you first fell in love. Maybe you need to journey to church, to a marriage counselor, to more of your children’s pageants. Maybe you need to journey to a place of forgiveness. Maybe you need to reach out to an estranged brother, father, or son. Maybe you need to take a journey to a place where you can be free to say “I love you”, “I cherish you”, “I need you”, or to find an answer to the question, “what am I here for?” Seek out that which is important this season. It is there to be found, and it is a wise man indeed who does not pass it by.

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The Power of Words

The Power of Words Post--Tell them what you think

My oldest daughter is home! We picked her up at the train station last night. She’s been at university this semester, and I haven’t seen her in two months. I feel like my family is complete again.

And so in honour of her being home, I thought I would tell you a story about her.

When my younger daughter Katie turned 15, Rebecca, 17 at the time, made her cry. It was a beautiful moment.

Rebecca wanted to get something for Katie for her birthday that would be memorable. And so she sent out a Facebook status saying, “if you could describe Katie in one word, what would that word be? Make it good, because I’m collecting them for her birthday!”

She hid the status from Katie’s account, and from a few of Katie’s close friends where she might see it (she sent them private messages instead), and then let the responses roll in.

She had over 50.

And then she created this “scrapbooked” picture, writing all the words out.

The Power of Words Gift

Here are just a few of those words:

Inspiring. Fun. Godly. Beautiful. Fun-Loving.

For Katie’s birthday the four of us and my mother and Keith’s parents went out to dinner, and we gave her her presents. She received a brand new computer from her father and me (she needed it for school). She was thrilled to bits.

But when she opened Rebecca’s gift, which cost a grand total of $10, her eyes welled up with tears once she realized its significance. “Who send words in, Becca?” she asked. “What did Jillian say? What did Gab say? Which words are from Micah?” Throughout the evening she peppered Rebecca with questions. And between bites she’d reach down and glance at that frame again.

It was such an amazing thing to know how all of her friends saw her, and to see that she was so admired.

Do we realize how powerful our words are? Do we realize how much praise can mean to a person?

When was the last time you gave your husband praise? Or your kids? I’ve been convicted lately that while I say “I love you” a lot, I don’t actually tell my family members WHAT it is I love about them. And after seeing the power of words on Katie’s birthday, I’m determined to change that.

Christmas gifts don’t always have to be expensive to be meaningful. Maybe you could take Rebecca’s idea and run with it yourself!

For more ideas on inexpensive Christmas gifts you can make, here’s a post Becca wrote. And if you want to know Becca better, here she is talking about “Why I Won’t Court“. I love my girls!

Planning Now for Normal Christmas Disappointment

Avoiding Christmas DisappointmentToday’s post is a Guest Post by my good friend and frequent commenter Cheri Gregory, writing about dealing with disappointment at Christmas.

For my nephew’s 3rd birthday, my sister-in-law, Karen, ordered a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cake. Her instructions for the baker were crystal clear: NO FLOWERS.

But when she went to pick up the cake, the plastic figures of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael stood–in all their Ninja fighting glory–in the midst of blue, yellow, and pink icing roses.

With no time for a re-do, Karen improvised Plan B. She smeared all the frosting flowers together into a brown puddle atop the cake and stuck the four Ninja Turtle figures in the middle.

Little Justin’s first response to seeing his cake was,  “Eeeeewww!  What’s that?”

When Karen replied, “It’s sewer slime!” Justin was thrilled.

And I was in awe of her ability to flex instead of fume.

To Avoid Christmas Disappointment, Plan Your Attitude Now

With so much happening during the holiday season, there’s a lot we can’t control. Yet I often act as if I do. And it starts with an attitude of how things “have to” turn out.

  • I have to find the obscure ingredients for this one exotic recipe
  • The kids have to be well-behaved during photographs.
  • She has to be excited about the gift I I give her.
  • He has to be in a good mood while gifts are being opened.
  • We all have to have fun together.

Now don’t get me wrong: It’s wonderful when everything goes smoothly. And I always hope it will.

But I also need to recognize that nothing has to happen the way I want it to. I’d prefer if it did. But it doesn’t have to.

The sun will still rise on December 26 if none of the above happen.

The opposite of the “it has to happen” attitude is the “it will be what it will be” approach, which I’ve always found rather fatalistic.

I prefer a “We’ll make the best of what we’ve got” perspective: proactive yet flexible.

Make Your Back-Up Plan(s) Now

Aside from all the unnecessary stress and anxiety that an “it has to happen” attitude can cause, it can also delude us into thinking that we don’t need any back up plans.

But what if…

  • …someone (or everyone!) gets sick? (1992, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2009)
  • …the food turns out awful?  (2003, 2010)
  • …someone’s in a bad mood? (every year since 1988)
  • …the power goes out? (2005, 2009, 2011)
  • …the car needs 4 new tires? (2012)
  • …the cat almost gets killed by a coyote? (2013)

Without any contingency plans, the only fallback reaction is “This can’t be happening.” Which is not particularly useful when, in fact, “this” actually is happening.

Here’s a starter list of Plan B preparations:

  • ___    Water bottles
  • ___    Staple food items
  • ___    Medications (pain, allergy, cold & flu, stomach, etc.)
  • ___    First Aid kit
  • ___    Baby/Toddler needs (bottle liners, baby food, diapers, Pull-Ups, etc.)
  • ___    Feminine supplies
  • ___    Power bars
  • ___    Flashlights & batteries
  • ___    Back-up meal(s) in the freezer (or ingredients for a throw-together rescue meal)
  • ___    Other:  Add your own based on your own location, circumstances, and family needs!

Plan Your Non-Negotiables Now

What’s the one thing that really says “Christmas” for you?

For me, it’s sitting in front of the fireplace, with all the lights out (except, of course, for the Christmas trees) and listening to Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, especially “Silent Night.” For Daniel, it’s watching Miracle on 34th Street. For our kids, it’s listening to us read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever aloud on Christmas Eve.

Find out what the one most important thing is for each member of your family. Make those your priorities. Even if plans have to flex and change, make sure everyone gets their one thing at some point during the holiday season.

Trade Christmas Expectations for Christmas Hope, Starting Now

One word I learned not to use when our children were little was “promise.” As in, “I promise that we will…” They took it so literally that when life happened, I had to choose between looking like a liar by breaking the promise or tying myself into pretzel bending over backward to fulfill my foolish promise.

Although expectations can build anticipation, they can also lead to Christmas disappointment when things don’t turn out. The dictionary definition for “expect” includes words like “necessary” and “require”…rather inflexible terms.

In contrast, the definition for “hope” includes the far less rigid terms “wish” and “possibility.” And Romans 5:5 says that “hope does not disappoint.” That’s because while expectations are about what we want to do, hope is about what God has already done: “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas­­–whether or not you end up using your back-up plans!

FREE Resources to Help You Expect Less & Hope More:

  • Free eBook: Top 10 Priceless Gifts for Each PURSE-onality that Don’t Cost a Dime
  • Audio: De-LIGHT-full Giving in a Weighty World
  • Videos: “Personality Puzzle for Parents of Preschoolers” and “You’ve Got PURSE-onality!”

Gregory_Cheri_Photo_Square

Cheri Gregory is a Certified Personality Trainer; contributor to half a dozen books, including Wired That Way (by Marita Littauer) and 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids (by Kathi Lipp); and frequent speaker for MOPS groups, women’s retreats, parent workshops, and educational seminars. She holds an M.A. in Leadership and is working on her PhD. Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, a pastor, for over a quarter-of-a-century; they have two college-aged kids. She blogs about expectations, “baditude,” and hope at CheriGregory.com/blog.

No More Naughty and Nice

Good-Girls-110Just a quick note: The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex is on for just $2.99 for the ebook version! Now’s a great time to pick it up if you don’t have it yet. See all the places you can get it here.

 

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. I’m taking a bit of a hiatus from my column this month as I finish up the second edition of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum. So I’m rerunning some Christmas columns that I enjoyed from years past. Here’s one that ran in Saskatchewan today, about giving ourselves a fresh start at Christmas.

No More Naughty and NiceHave you been making a list? Checking it twice? Do you know who’s naughty and nice?

Of course you do! Most of us can easily identify the two or three people in our families who are complete screw-ups (though of course we’d never put ourselves in that category). We can recite their faults at the drop of a hat. In fact, it’s one of our favourite hobbies when sitting around the family table. “Hey, kids, do you know why Billy Bob’s nose is crooked? It’s ’cause twenty-four years ago he tried to rob the Kwik-E-Mart with Nana’s Queen Size nylons over his face, but he tripped on the curb since he couldn’t see and spent the night in the ER instead!” We can never get enough of stories like that.

My theory is that we do this because human beings are essentially lazy.

And one way that we avoid work is we like to categorize things, and people, so we don’t have to think anymore. My little brother is the black sheep. My mother is the martyr. Uncle Jim is the drunk. We’ve got it all sorted out.

Once that category is created, though, we don’t like to change it. It requires too big a shift in our thought patterns. So what if Uncle Jim has been sober for nineteen years? Let’s still laugh over the time he passed out and landed right in the Christmas cranberry sauce.

Family may love you, but quite often they pigeonhole you, too.

People tend to have an easier time reinventing themselves outside of the bosom of their families, because families remember your infractions. My brother-in-law, for instance, failed his driver’s test on his first attempt because, though he is an infinitely superior parallel parker than yours truly, he failed to get out of the way of a wailing ambulance. That Christmas, his father helpfully wrapped up one of those Tonka toy ambulances, just so he wouldn’t forget his stupidity. He may be a successful businessman now, but the family still likes to laugh about it. I, of course, am the exception, since I would never try to rub that one in by announcing it to the world or anything.

Another friend of mine has had a rough adult life. Things have just not gone his way. Recently, he pulled up stakes and moved to the other side of the country, where he’s thriving. People don’t think of him in terms of his past mistakes, because they don’t know them. They look at who he is now and at what he’s capable of doing. And they love him for it.

Perhaps this Christmas might be a good time to start treating our family members as strangers.

Don’t think of them in terms of all the mistakes they’ve made, or the ways they’ve hurt you in the past. Don’t replay those cruel words they said ten years ago. Instead, while you’re sitting down to turkey, look at everyone in your family and ask, “who are they today?” And if they’re kind, if they’re successful, if they’re trying, then celebrate that.

After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The Christmas story is one of new starts: in the religious tradition, God sent His Son so that we could be forgiven. We’d have a clean slate. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could extend that kind of grace to others in our families this year?

Everyone deserves a new start. Even you.

So Merry Christmas to all of you, and to all of your families, too. May this be a season of grace, forgiveness, and new beginnings.

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Sexy Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband

Sexy Stocking Stuffers for Your HusbandDo you want to make your husband’s Christmas Super Fun (and maybe a little bit HOT?) Get him some sexy stocking stuffers you know he’ll love (and that don’t have to cost very much, either!). After all, it’s the thought that counts–especially if your thoughts go in a certain direction!

My most pinned post ever was last year’s Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband. I had a section  for sexy stocking stuffers, but I thought I’d add to it and turn it into a post here, because I know many of you are looking for ideas to keep your marriage fresh and fun.

So here goes!

Sexy Coupons for His Stocking

1. Honey I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight  Coupons – FREE
I’ve got some other downloadable hot coupons you can print out and put in his stocking–coupons like “Night of Passion”, “Quickie”, and “A Hunting I Will Go”. You get them free when you sign up for my marriage newsletter!

Night of Passion

2. Romance Toolkit - $4.99
Want more romance in your marriage? Here’s a collection of awesome printables to put in his stocking–inviting him to different romantic date nights! Turn your marriage from boring to blazing!31 Days to Great Sex

3. 31 Days to Great Sex: ebook- $4.99, paperback $12
What man isn’t going to like getting a copy of 31 Days to Great Sex? It takes you through 31 days with short readings and then a challenge to help you grow more intimate, communicate more, and spice up your love life! You can either buy the ebook (much cheaper) or the paperback.

But how can you give an ebook in a stocking? Well, great news! I’ve got coupons now that you can download and print out to put right in there. There’s a link in the book that takes you right to the coupons, but you can find them here. Here’s a very small version of one of the coupons:

He’ll love it! You can buy it either on Kindle or as a .pdf (read on your iPhone, iPad, any ereader, computer, or print it out!). Or get it as a paperback. Read more about it here.

Sexy Games for His Stocking

Deck of Dares4. Deck of Dares Printables – $6.99
Want to spice up your marriage? Here are 40 sexy dares that you can do together! Purchase the download, and then you can print them out to put in his stocking. Or you can dole them out one by one….”Wanna do this tonight?” :) Great to enhance any marriage TASTEFULLY without delving into anything gross. Check them out here!

5. Dice
What’s sexy about dice, you ask? You can play the dice game! Assign a body part to each number, 1-6 (lips, neck, ears, breasts, etc. etc. Get as racy as you want). Then assign an action to each number, 1-6 (lick, suck, stroke, etc.). Then roll the dice, and do what it says!

You can also add another dice for the number of minutes (or the number of 30-second intervals, whatever you’d prefer).

Here’s how it works in a stocking. In a ziploc bag, put two (or three) dice of different colours. Then write out the Dice Game instructions on an index card and put some lipstick kisses around the card. Stick the card in the bag, and you’re all done!

The Dice Game6. Playing Cards for Strip Poker – $4.48
Put a deck of cards in a bag, and then write on the outside: How About a Game of Strip Poker? The greatest game where the loser doesn’t really lose.

massage candleSexy Scents for His Stocking

7. Sensual Massage Candle – $9.59
These are awesome! You light them, and then the candle melts. But the “wax” is actually a massage oil that won’t burn your skin. So you can pour it on him, or he could pour it on you, and you can massage it in.

8. Sensual Massage Oil – $14.49
I’m more a candle person, but massage oil can’t be beaten, either! Here’s a great massage oil from Body Shop with scents to help you feel frisky. Added benefit: we women often feel more in the mood if things are dragged out a bit. Show him that massaging you helps you relax and helps you focus.

9. Old Spice Soap – $6.15 (2-pack)
Tape a little note to the soap saying, “Let me wash all your troubles away.”

10. Nautica Cologne for Men – $9.99
Who doesn’t like their man smelling a little sexy?

11. Kenneth Cole Black Cologne – $32.19
Is your man more discriminating? Here’s a classier cologne.

Sexy Things to Wear for His Stocking

Women's Apron Sugar n' Spice12. Sexy Red Thong – $3.99
What guy doesn’t want a sneak peak of what you may be wearing later, so he can imagine it? Even if you don’t like wearing thongs during the day, it can be fun to put one for a few minutes (chances are it won’t stay on long).

13. Funny Sexy Christmas Boxer Shorts – $19
The sayings on these are kinda cute. And they will definitely help you get into the spirit of things!

14. Sexy Apron – $29.95
Pin a note to it saying, “how about I whip you up something special, wearing just this.”

Super Flirty Things for His Stocking

15. Whipped Cream
Use it however you’d like! The promise is awfully fun.

16. Gourmet Chocolate Sauce - $10.95
Make your bedroom fun delicious!

17. Hershey’s Kisses, Dark Chocolate – $6.76
Take them out of the bag and sprinkle them throughout the stocking. You can’t go wrong with dark chocolate.

Skor bar for sexy stocking stuffer18. “Skor” Chocolate Bar or “Mr. Big” Chocolate Bar
Get him a chocolate bar with a name that could be a double entendre and leave a nice note on it. Something like “You’re going to Skor tonight!”, or “You’re my Mr. Big”. Thanks to a Facebook commenter for that idea!

19. Lips Temporary Tattoos – $6.63
These stick on with water and come off with baby oil. Put them in his stocking with a note: “I’m going to put these on areas of my body that need attention. Then you get to play Seek & Find!”

Sexy Getaway for His Stocking

20. Coupon for a Hotel Room
If you want something really special, how about booking a night in a hotel where you can get away? Or, alternatively, ask your parents or a friend to take the kids for a night so you can spend the evening at home together–alone.

Put the coupon in an envelope and write on the outside: “So excited to have you for a night all to myself!”

There you have it–20 ideas that will make this holiday really memorable. Give him a gift you BOTH will enjoy, and that will add some flirty play back into your marriage! And I just want to point out that you don’t have to be gross to be sexy. When it’s just the two of you, you can have a ton of fun without indulging in a lot of the weird stuff our culture says is sexy.

Do you have any other great ideas for sexy stocking stuffers? Leave them in the comments!

Wifey Wednesday: Talk About Your Christmas Expectations NOW

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all chime in by linking up your own marriage posts to the Linky below! Today I want to talk about stress in marriage.

By 4 a.m. on Christmas morning, my brother-in-law’s house is bustling. Wrapping paper is flying, Christmas music is playing, and laughter is bubbling.

But it’s not the kids who wake everyone up at 4. It’s my brother-in-law. He does Christmas BIG.

My house is very different. We try to sleep in until at least 8 (I’ve got teenagers, after all), and then we do stockings and get out the hot chocolate and take things very leisurely.

Much as I love my brother-in-law, I’d be driven nuts if I were married to him, because I just could never get that excited about presents. He, on the other hand, would likely be driven nuts by me because I’d be throwing a damper on Christmas.

Do you and your husband see eye to eye on Christmas, or do you do the Christmas Clash? I had a wife tell me once that her husband bought her a digital bathroom scale for Christmas, which has to be the Worst Gift Ever. If your husband buys awful Christmas presents, especially if you drove yourself to exhaustion all month getting things perfect for Christmas, you’d likely be pretty ticked.

Want to avoid that ticked off Christmas morning feeling? Get proactive and do something about it now! Here are just a few thoughts:

Husband Buys Awful Christmas Presents: Avoiding Disappointment

1. To Avoid Awful Christmas Presents, Lay Out What You Expect for a Gift

If gifts are important to you, tell him what you expect. In detail. Don’t expect him to read your mind! Maybe you’ve been hinting for months that you want a Keurig coffee maker or a Kindle, but he hasn’t really picked up on it. A lot of guys don’t. I firmly believe in making it easy for people to buy me gifts. Here are just a couple of ways to simplify things:

  • Create a Wish Liston Amazon and add anything you would actually like. They don’t even have to buy it at Amazon, but it’s an easy way for your husband, kids, parents, or friends to see everything, all at once, that you would enjoy.
  • Start a Pinterest Board called “Gifts I’d Like”. You can’t get easier than that!
  • Tell your best friend in detail what you’d like, and then tell your husband to ask her advice. Ditto for children, if your kids are older. My youngest daughter knows a number of possible gifts I’d like for her to tell her dad (and her sister!)

And have an honest conversation about it, too, where you agree on how much you’ll each spend on each other. If debt is a problem for you, and he’s really dedicated to paying it off, then he may honestly feel that it’s not right to spend $100 or more on something for you. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you; it may just be that he wants to be responsible. If you each agree to a spending limit, then there’s less likelihood of a big surprise (like you buy him a 4 wheeler and he gets you a blender).

My husband and I have the opposite problem. I’m really not big on gifts (gifts are a NEGATIVE love language; on the whole I’d rather not get them because I feel obligated or awkward, and I buy myself the stuff I do want anyway). So when I tell my husband to NOT get me anything, and we agree that we won’t, I often stick to it, but he doesn’t. And then it’s awkward all over again.

I’ve had to ask him to be totally honest with me about whether he’s planning on getting anything, and how much he wants to spend, so that I can then try to be creative with gift ideas for him. I think I’ve made his Christmas less fun in the past because I can be a bit of a Scrooge, so I’ve tried to get myself more “in the mood” over the last few years.

2. The Person Who Cares About It More Should Take Responsibility For It

Here’s another scenario: you have visions of the family Christmas carolling, and baking cookies, and going out shopping, you with half the kids and him with half the kids, as you work through a list together. At the end you’ll meet up for some hot cocoa in the mall, and you’ll have the kids sit on Santa’s knee. It’ll be wonderful!

But he really doesn’t want to go to the mall. He doesn’t care much about baking. Sure, he likes Christmas, but he’s tired, and he’d rather do his Christmas shopping in a hurry, without the kids to drag along.

Or perhaps you have a Christmas card list of 150 people, including many of HIS old university friends, and you’d really like it if he would sit down and do the Christmas cards with you, or at least address the envelopes. But it’s like pulling teeth.

Do you get mad at him for it?

I think that’s a little unfair. You have one vision of Christmas that involves a lot of activity, but he has another vision. And one of the things that we often get most upset about our spouse for is that they’re not excited about the things we’re excited about.

We want them to FEEL it, not just DO it.

Avoiding Disappointment this Christmas

That’s asking too much. If it means more to you, then you should take more responsibility for it. It’s not fair to ask him to be excited about something he’s just not excited about.

Now, if there are a whole bunch of things that must be done, like buying presents for his nieces and nephews and parents, or picking up all the groceries for the big dinner you’re cooking, or mailing packages, it’s perfectly reasonable to sit down and list all the things that need to be done and then divvy it up. But it’s not reasonable to ask him to do things that are “extras”–and Christmas cards and sitting on Santa’s lap are extras, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you–and to be excited about it. He may see Christmas in a very different way from you, and that’s honestly okay.

3. Create New Christmas Traditions

If you both approach Christmas differently, then what about finding a third way–another way to do Christmas that’s different from what either of you envisioned? One thing that our family has done for the last few years is Board Game Boxing Day, where we stay in our pjs all day and go through the board games we have (I usually buy a new one for the family each year). It’s really fun! And it’s not something either of  us did as kids.

Another big tradition is the Christmas Eve service. It seems like all of us are involved in one way or another–my girls with music (and sometimes me), or any of the four of us in drama. So Christmas Eve has become not about presents at all, but about church and worship, and it’s wonderful. Now we have that to look forward to.

For many families, the biggest source of tension is that you CAN’T seem to create your own traditions because you’re expected to play musical chairs all through the holidays, visiting everyone’s family and never being at home. And if divorce was a factor in your parents’ marriages, it’s even more complicated.

Pick a time when you’re not stressed, sit down with your hubby over coffee, and ask, “what do we really want our Christmas schedule to look like?” Jessica Fisher, author of A Simpler Season, suggests that you always spend Christmas at home, and then alternate years when you visit one family or the other. Or you could even visit both families one year, and the following year spend entirely at home. I think those are great ideas! Talk it through with your hubby and see what you can come up with so that you both can look forward to Christmas. Sometimes one of the reasons we dread the season is all of the traveling. It’s okay to sometimes say no.

4. Leave Some Space to Breathe

Perhaps the most important thing about Christmas–leave some space somewhere to breathe–to have fun as a couple, and a family. To sit around in your pyjamas. To think about the meaning of the season. To not be rushing around to everyone’s houses trying to visit family, and you leave no time to enjoy your own.

You’re much less likely to be annoyed with your hubby if you have some downtime to spend with him. If you need some help with all this, the ebook A Simpler Season helps you think through what’s really important, and comes with tons of planning sheets to help you focus on what’s meaningful, and let the other stuff not take as much time.

When you’re making your Christmas plans, then, remember that your marriage is more important than all of this fuss. Make sure you do things this month to make your marriage smoother, not to put bumps on the road. And if that means doing Christmas smaller, do it. If it means doing Christmas bigger (like it does for me!), then do that too. But in all, keep the focus where it should be: that we have a loving God who left Paradise to live among us, so that He could make a way for us to live forever with Him. That’s a wonderful thing to celebrate, and don’t let bathroom scales steal that joy.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of a blog post about marriage in the Linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can read this great marriage advice!



On Teens, Christmas, Pride in my Daughter, and a Great CANADIAN Staples Giveaway

I have a bunch of things to share with you today, along with a cool giveaway.

First, as many of you long-time readers know, my oldest daughter left for university this year. So I’m a partial-empty-nester. She’s doing wonderfully, but it’s hard on the rest of us (especially her younger sister) because we really miss her.

In the midst of writing papers and making friends, though, she’s decided to start a blog. And her post last week was really good (and got a lot of traffic). She’s asking, “are we more concerned with appearing to be Christian that we forget to show Christ?” Go check it out (and leave her a comment to encourage her!).

Do we forget to show Christ?

See! There’s hope for teenagers yet.

Yet teens can pose a bit of a conundrum around this time of year because they’re awfully hard to buy Christmas presents for. One of the most popular posts on the blog right now (it’s my most pinned post ever!) is Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband. I guess people really want gift ideas. Kids are much easier (just get them toys!), but once a kid hits 11 or 12 gift giving becomes more complicated.

So when Staples approached me recently and asked me to write about things you can buy your teenagers (or other kids at heart), I was excited to do it. I thought it was time my teenagers get some equal treatment, and I was hoping that, while shopping, something would occur to me.

I actually spend a lot of time in Staples stores, because I buy a lot of office supplies. But one of the reasons I like stores like Staples at Christmas is because they tend to be stand alone stores, not in a mall. And you can’t even park in our mall parking lot right about now. It’s ridiculous. I hate malls in December, but big stores I can still usually handle.

So armed with the gift card they sent me, I decided to take my youngest daughter along so that I would have a teenage “expert” and ask, “what would teens like here?”

The first thing we saw was this gumball machine. The thought of it makes my jaw hurt, but Katie agreed: kids would like this.

Bubble Gum Machine

We found really cute organizers that any girl at least would want in a stocking:

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In fact, we found a whole lot of cute things that you could use to buy for a teen, often really inexpensively.

What to buy at Staples for Teenagers

Okay, the camera isn’t cheap. But cameras DO make a great gift (albeit not just a stocking stuffer), and they’re quite inexpensive now. The first digital camera I bought, back in 1999, was $1000. It’s hard to believe now.

Anyway, we actually decided against all that and got very practical instead. When Rebecca left for university we helped her select a new computer desk, chair, home office equipment, etc. But Katie really hadn’t gotten anything. And so while we were in Staples, she announced that what she could really use is a computer desk chair. Since we homeschool, she does all her work at her desk, all day. And she’s currently using an old dining room chair.

She tried about a bunch of chairs (checking them out for spinnability, of course).

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And that’s what we settled on. I think getting something to make a teen’s home office more comfortable is a great idea for Christmas, because it’s something that will prove handy for years to come (she can take that chair with her when she goes to join her sister) and it’s something they can actually use now to make their lives better. It isn’t a fad they’ll use for a few weeks and then forget about.

Speaking of handy, one of the things that can make a huge difference in a home office setup is a quality router for your internet and wireless devices. I really need to buy one of these desperately, along with a wireless printer, because to print stuff out I have to cart my laptop upstairs, plug it in to the printer, and print, which is hassle. Katie’s even worse; her computer isn’t compatible with our printer, so she has to email a file to herself, then open her email on my computer and cart my computer up to the printer. So we’re looking at saving some money up so we can go totally wireless soon. I’m asking for a wireless printer for Christmas, and then a router like this will help the internet, and the printer, and even our Wii that hooks up to the internet, work much better.

Here’s a picture I took of one, but it’s so blurry. I seriously have issues taking pictures with iPhones. I guess I’m used to the built-in stabilizer in my camera!

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So here’s a better picture with description from the Staples website:

Wireless router from Staples

They have a whole bunch of different routers, but they’ll likely make your internet run faster, and help you hook up all your different devices.

Staples has generously offered to give away a FREE router (under $100) to any Canadian–so only Canadians can enter. You can choose any router up to $100 from this page.

I’ll be drawing for a winner on December 10, so enter now!

For those of you who aren’t Canadian, sorry you’re excluded from this one, but we Canadians often are excluded from most giveaways, so it’s nice to have one that’s just for us.

Now, be careful at those malls, and may your Christmas shopping go quickly and easily.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received the chair that we purchased for Katie for free from Staples. Thanks, Staples!

Rocking the Boat

Rocking the Boat: Resolving Family Conflict
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s is on resolving family conflict, and is a reprint from 2007.

We’re a week past Christmas now and as we take down those lights and dismantle the tree so we can sit in the living room again many of us are breathing a sigh of relief. We made it through a family dinner without any fights! Hallelujah and pass down that Christmas angel.

Families often pride themselves on the absence of conflict, as if not fighting means that we’re close. But I wonder, instead, if the opposite is actually the case. Think about it this way: in order to have a close relationship with someone, you have to be sharing your true self, which the other person then has to accept. And, of course, this sharing goes both ways. Sitting in a room together as you chat about the weather and the price of gas and did you see the colour Aunt Ruth dyed her hair? is not sharing yourself. It’s passing time. And the more we engage in this kind of surface relationship with people with whom we should have more intimacy, the more we build walls between us. It may buy us time, it doesn’t buy us peace. That’s because real peace isn’t not fighting—remember the Cold War?—it’s knowing someone and accepting them anyway.

Serious as this problem may be with extended family, it’s even more grave with our immediate family. We don’t confront our spouse on things that we consider serious, because we’re scared of the reaction. Instead, we bottle it up, pretend nothing’s wrong, and add more bricks to that wall. But is this really what we want for our relationships? If we want true intimacy, we’re going to have to share what’s in our hearts, what’s bothering us, even secrets that we’re afraid may cause that boat to keel over. There’s little lonelier than sharing your life with someone who doesn’t even know you.

Spouses, though, aren’t the only ones we hide from. How many of us really fight for that relationship with our kids, especially our teens? Too often we allow them to push us away, because we’re afraid that if we confront them, we’ll find out how alienated they really feel from us, or we’ll push them away even farther. We’d rather have the semblance of a relationship than acknowledge that there are severe problems. But how can we deal with those problems unless we name them? And most children, though they may not admit it, appreciate being fought for, rather than being allowed to do anything and everything just so you don’t have conflict.

Of course, some of us aren’t in the position to open up and share what we’re thinking and feeling. The relationship itself seems so fragile that sharing may be the final straw. When you’re afraid the person may bolt, opening yourself up just doesn’t seem worth it. But I wonder if settling for the shell of a relationship is really the better course? Only you can be the judge of that, and waiting for the right time to deal with something big may be appropriate. But putting something off indefinitely won’t build you the kind of relationship that your heart dreams about. Sometimes we need to go through a period of conflict in order to get to the other side. Taking bricks down is messy, but think about how wonderful it will look later on.

Nevertheless, while rocking the boat may be necessary, it shouldn’t be a goal in and of itself. We want intimacy, not just fights! So as you share, remember that you don’t get extra points for being loud or angry or making the other person look like a fool. That’s not removing bricks; that’s adding more. So calm yourself down, search your heart, and figure out what you want. Then decide how you’re going to get there. Letting things go on as they always have isn’t necessarily going to help. It’s going to build more walls. And then, who will be there to help you tear them down?

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