Advice for a Simpler Christmas, Part One

Are you feeling just a little frantic this December? It’s a busy time of year, and with so much to do, it can be easy to be stressed during a season that’s supposed to be about “peace on earth.” Some of our authors are here to give practical advice on ways to slow down a bit this year at Christmas.

One of our decorations in the Bethany House library.

One of our decorations in the Bethany House library.

Mitchell_SiriIt’s always been difficult for me to enjoy Christmas because there’s just so much to do. When I found myself cooking the traditional batch of family candy all by myself one year, I began to think that maybe some of “our” Christmas traditions might not really be all that important to anyone else. My advice for a simpler Christmas? If it doesn’t give you joy and no one else in the family cares, then stop doing it! Eleven months’ worth of happy memories shouldn’t have to be crammed into one month every year.

Siri Mitchell, author of Love Comes Calling

CAMDEN_ElizabethI’ve often heard people suggest a halt to gift giving is a great way to simplify Christmas, although it is perhaps easier said than done. One easy gift solution for adult friends and family is to select an item from one of the many religious groups that sell homemade goods to generate revenue.  Handmade soaps, jam, candles, or candy make for inexpensive but still useful gifts, all while helping support the people who have given their lives to help lead our religious orders. I usually order a caseload of a single item, and then everyone on my list gets a jar of jam or a similar modest gift. If you don’t know of any religious groups that sell such products, Monastery Greetings is an online website hosting dozens of monasteries, convents, and seminaries which sell their homemade goodies. Happy shopping!

Elizabeth Camden, author of With Every Breath

Nathan Ham Photography|www.whataham.comOne way to keep the holidays simple is to decide upon one special event that will create a memory for the family to enjoy. Rather than rushing around and attempting to “do it all,” sit down and discuss some ideas with your family.  The event needs to vary depending upon the size and age of your family, but here are a few ideas: Have a family or special picture taken that will be treasured later in life; go to a Christmas play or musical that your family can enjoy together; go sledding or ice skating together if you live in a cold climate; drive around town and look at the variety of holiday decorations and then go out for a special meal; have the family help you make holiday treats so you’re creating memories as well as cookies—and if you can all decide upon someone to bless with those treats—all the better. Whatever you decide upon, make certain you find time to enjoy each other as you celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Judith Miller, author of The Brickmaker’s Bride

If you had to keep just one Christmas tradition, which would you pick?

Author Roundtable: Garden Favorites

Did you know that the lovely bouquet you’re eying in the florist shop could actually contain a secret message?

Well, not today, maybe. These days, a rose is just a rose. But in the Victorian era, young people would use the commonly accepted meanings of flowers to express their feelings for each other. (Pity the poor suitor who didn’t know that yellow tulips meant “hopeless love” or that snapdragons meant “deception or presumption”!)

Here are a few of our authors’ favorite flowers and their corresponding Victorian symbolism.

Becky Wade: Geraniums

GeraniumMeaning: True friendship

Kimberley Woodhouse: Tulips

TulipsMeaning: Declaration of love

Jen Turano and Elizabeth Camden: Sunflowers

SunflowersMeaning: Loyalty

Ann Tatlock: Violets

VioletsMeaning: Faithfulness

Melissa Tagg:  Daisies

DaisiesMeaning: Innocence, hope

Nancy Mehl: Irises

IrisMeaning: Faith, wisdom

Ann Mateer: Gardenias

GardeniasMeaning: You’re lovely, secret love

Regina Jennings: Zinnias

zinniasMeaning: Thoughts of absent friends

Dee Henderson, Leslie Gould, Kate Breslin: Roses

RosesMeaning: Love

Mary Connealy: Daffodils

DaffodilsMeaning: Respect

Here’s a fun idea: Look at the meanings of certain flowers and think of friends who fit that description perfectly. Then buy seed packets of those flowers and mail them to your friends with a note about why this particular flower and meaning made you think of them. (Zinnias are always good for a “Thinking of You” card!)

What’s your favorite flower, and what does it mean? (There are some variations in meaning from place to place, but most of these I found here and here.)

Our Authors’ New Year’s Resolutions

Happy 2014, everyone! In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I sent to following question to several of our fiction authors:

If you had to pick one fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) to work on in 2014, which would it be?

tablespoon.com fruit

For me, of course, the answer was simple. I mean there’s . . . but also . . . and what about . . . hmm. Maybe all of them?

To help me narrow down my choices, I read what our authors had to say. Here is how they responded:

Janette Oke

Oke_Janette

All needed. All should be developing daily. I would love to see each one of them in my own life: plump, and rich in color, and ripened to the tastiness they were meant to be. To pick one—it would be love. Because love is needed for each of the others to develop to full potential. Delicious possibilities!

Siri Mitchell

Mitchell_Siri

Patience. I think that as a fruit of the Spirit, it’s highly underrated. Mostly people just kind of skip over it for the more “righteous” gifts, but we live in such an impatient world. It’s easy to get caught up in the “right-now” culture, but really, impatience is making yourself and your needs more important than everyone else’s. So patience is what I’ll be working on this year.

Lisa Wingate

Wingate_Lisa

This being the empty nest year of my life, I think mine would be joy. As a mom who always loved being a mom and loved all the routines that go with being a mom, I’m working on finding joy as life turns a corner. When one (dorm room) door closes, another door opens.

Kathryn Cushman

Cushman_Katie1

Self-control. It’s a constant struggle in almost every area of my life. It’s the main reason my favorite verse is Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”

Laurel Oke Logan

OKE_LaurelAndJanette1

I tend to be a passion-driven person, so I would like to balance that with more self-control.

Melissa Tagg

Tagg_Melissa1

I think faithfulness—although, let’s be honest, I really could stand to use some work on patience and self-control, too. But I feel like in the past year or so, God has constantly been reminding me of His faithfulness . . . there is something so amazing about that constancy. It makes him dependable and trustworthy. I would like to be that way as much as possible in my own life: faithful, dependable, constant.

Leslie Gould

GOULD_Leslie1crop

I’d pick joy! We live in a broken world, but God’s redemption is evident everywhere. In nature. In humans. In art. In stories. I want to be aware of that redemptive work and rejoice in that beauty. I want to delight in creation and relationships and knowing God is ultimately in control.

Victoria Bylin

Bylin_Victoria1

Kindness, definitely. I work part-time in a doctor’s office. Every day I see people going through hard times. A little extra consideration—opening a door, getting someone a tissue—goes a long way to brightening that person’s day. It brightens my day too! We all need help now and then. It’s a fact of life.

Karen Witemeyer

Witemeyer_Karen1

Self-control. That sweet tooth of mine just keeps insisting on having its own way, and I give in far too often.

Kate Breslin

Breslin_Kate1

I could certainly work on them all, but I’ll choose faithfulness. As a new author, I’ve experienced a lot of “firsts” in publishing, both exciting and challenging; to keep my faith constant that all will work according to God’s plan is a blessing to strive for!

Lynn Austin

Austin_Lynn1

Peace. I would like to get to the place where all of the disturbances in life, major and minor, don’t ruffle my composure or make me lose sleep.

Dani Pettrey

Pettrey_Dani

Joy. It’s been a difficult couple of years with a lot of loss, but also with a ton of good. Isn’t it funny how God brings joy in the midst of heartache? This year, I’d love to dwell on the joy and praising God for it.

Melissa Jagears

Jagears_Melissa1

Love—I’m really busy at the moment and my kids and husband and other loved ones need to know that I love them. God too. And so I need to make sure I carve out enough time to show them in 2014.

Patrick Carr

Carr_Patrick

I’d choose them all! If I could only choose one, it would be self-control. This last year with work (I’m a teacher) has been such an eye-opener, and the change in perspective has been difficult but very worthwhile.

Anne Mateer

Mateer_DAnn

Definitely joy. I have a tendency to get bogged down in all I have to do or things that are going on in my life and forget that the joy of the Lord isn’t dependent on my circumstances but on what He has done for and in me.

R. J. Larson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I would choose love. I hope to reflect true and boundless love for everyone in this fallen world, even when some people challenge ideals I cherish, or threaten those who are vulnerable. Practicing and reflecting love also helps me as I pursue the other fruits of the Spirit.

Elizabeth Ludwig

Ludwig_Elizabeth1

Patience. No doubt. I am not a patient person, and reminding me of that only makes me more impatient. Thank goodness the Lord does not grow weary with me. He’s got to shake his head every time I forget to put on the fruits of the Spirit.

How about you? Pick a fruit, and tell us a little bit about why you chose it.