12Great news! You have a chance to win six Christmas books from the generous folks at Zonderkidz. All you have to do is visit the Simply Faithful page on Facebook and tell us what your favorite Christmas book is by Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Easy, right?


(Also, we are all already winners because we can get  30% off ALL kids books and Bibles from Nov. 17 to Dec. 1. To shop, visit www.Zondervan.com, click the tab at the top that says “Children,” and choose the category on the left side that best fits what you are looking for. Once you’ve selected and added all of your items to your cart, click Checkout. Type CHRISTMAS2015 as the discount code. Enjoy!)


4 5



My husband was driving us home from a farm stand, and as we topped a hill I saw one of those sunsets that makes you draw in your breath. I must have watched it for a good 10 minutes as the sun lowered to the treetops and then touched the horizon. Streaks of color were layered on top of other streaks of color, and I just soaked it all in as the sun slipped from view.

I’d never thought much about the beauty of endings until then. Oh, I’d sing the praises of change and tell you that I need a bit of change to feel alive, but the truth has always been that I’d rather add new things, not say goodbye to the old – whether that’s letting go of the day or of a job or of a relationship.

But the funny thing is that the sunset can be just as gorgeous as the sunrise.

So why do I welcome the beginning and not the end?

In fact, I worry and fret about the kind of change that brings loss, even the loss of my black-and-white expectations. When I married, I expected to stay home with our future children. Maybe I’d write a little on the side, but my main focus would be our family and Brian would be a steady career guy. Except it didn’t happen that way.

Brian’s career faltered just as children arrived, so I stayed at work and he stayed at home.  And for a long time I struggled with that change, that end. Even though Brian was loving and patient and completely devoted to the boys. Even though I had a job I loved and more writing opportunities than I had imagined.

I held tight to my expectations, to my desire to see a sunrise, and I almost missed the color that the sunset offered. I almost missed that Brian and I are in this together.

I almost missed that every fading sunset gives way to a stunning sunrise, and there’s nothing to fear.


I was in search of a gift bag when I found four yard sticks just to the right of the wrapping paper, leaning against a corner of the closet. Why would I have yard sticks tucked away like that, I wondered as I reached for them. Then I saw it: Doenges Brothers Ford stamped in black ink.

I remembered. 

Daddy built his career at Doenges selling car parts and these two yard sticks had been at my parents’ house since before I was born. When I was little, Daddy and I used to argue over who loved the other one the most. He’d throw his arms open — about two yards wide — and insist that he loved me this much and more.

The two other yard sticks sat for years in my grandma’s sewing room and helped her piece together quilts that still warm my family today. As soon as I realized what they were, I put them in an oversized canning jar and propped them up next to my vintage telephone sign in my home office.

It was there that Colt came to me, still wearing the tiger’s whiskers I had drawn on the night before, and asked me if I liked him just the way he was. 

“I want to be like Benjamin,” said the sweet boy about to turn 5, the sweet boy who wants every toy his older brother has.

Of course I love you just as you are, I told him as I scooped him up onto my lap. “God made only one you, and you are really special.”

My hugs and my words seemed to comfort him. It was enough, for now, that I said he was valuable — that he measured up just the way he was.

And there, in the shadow of the yard sticks, I felt it, too. There is a sense of relief when you know the ruler you’re being measured by is owned by the One who loves you. One who has seen you at your worst and at your neediest and still chooses you, still calls you beloved. One you can trust.

I knew then that I’d leave the yard sticks out for a while because we all need a reminder of our worth and a reminder of whose measurements really matter.


Photo by Lisa Ruth Photography

Photo by Lisa Ruth Photography

At least once a day Colt pretends to be a train. He’ll come running down the hall to my home office, his arms pumping like the side rods on a steam engine.

That’s why I was surprised when he came up next to my chair and just marched in place.

“Look! I’m moving my legs but I’m not going anywhere. I’m stuck,” he said, acting like he had a heavy trail of train cars behind him.

“Oh, Sugar, you have to lean forward,” I said as Colt took off with a whistle through the hall and I returned to sorting through my notes and combing through my past mistakes.

Oh, Sugar, you have to lean forward to get anywhere uphill, to pull any weight.

Photo by Lisa Ruth Photography

Photo by Lisa Ruth Photography

Could it be that simple? Does it really work that way with these two legs of mine and this one grand life?

It’s simple physics, they tell me. We lean forward for better balance, a surer footing.

And that makes me wonder, if I’m behind with my work or I’ve been a less-than stellar friend, can I really lean forward into forgiveness? If my relationship with the kid or the in-law or the neighbor has my stomach in knots, can I lean forward into love? If the chaos and burdens of the world ring in my ears, can I lean forward toward stillness and calm?

Sometimes I spend too much time looking back and worrying about the weight of those train cars, the regrets and the missteps. Or, I’ve been known to get distracted by what’s beside me and I compare my mismatched furniture to what I see in the magazine spreads and I think I am the only one who can’t remember which son has the dentist appointment today.

But moving forward requires looking forward. Even more than that, it requires putting your heart and your faith in what looks like a vulnerable position — suspended momentarily over nothing but hard ground. Still, the physics and the metaphysics work.

A lesson for Colt, and a lesson for Mom.

imageWhen I talked my mom and my sister into helping me sew Advent calendars for our three boys, I must not have been thinking about the 75 gifts it would take to fill all of those little pockets we designed. I guess I just got caught up in the glittery snowflakes and colorful buttons and ignored the hidden cost of three Advent calendars.

So, I’m starting early this year – not to rush the season, but to be better prepared to enjoy it. I thought some of you might also be looking for low-cost, low-clutter ways to prepare hearts for the gift of Christmas, so I’ll share some of the ideas I’ve been gathering. 

imageI knew we’d be visiting with out-of-state family, so I made a tiny notebook for each boy and asked family members to write something they love about each one. I used about eight small squares of scrapbook paper and bound them with a spiral, but you could keep it simple and use a hole punch and yarn or even a paperclip. You could do the same thing with favorite scriptures or holiday memories.

I also plan to upcycle some business card magnets by covering them with sayings and pictures that the boys would like, and I’ll cover some of our tea tins in paper or paint them to look like garages and houses – or maybe use one to make a stable for a nativity scene.

imageI love watching the boys create, so I will have a Lego-building challenge for them and print instructions for folding an origami star to remind us of the shepherds’ journey. I may also use some of our waiting-to-be-recycled cardboard and cut it into ovals for the boys to paint and then write on with chalk. Messages like joy and hope would be perfect on any Christmas tree.

I’ve also heard of families tucking in Christmas puzzle pieces as daily gifts and others using Advent as a time to do acts of kindness. Over the years we’ve collected plenty of Christmas books for special reading times, but for those just getting started, most local libraries have a wide selection if you visit early in the month. Some of our favorite holiday books came from thrift stores, so consider checking there, too.

Hopefully this year we’ll all, from the youngest to the oldest, enjoy the journey to the manger.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,260 other followers

%d bloggers like this: