On the 2nd Day of CHRISTmas….Giveaway with Marybeth Whalen

Welcome to day two of the 12 Days of CHRISTmas giveaway!!! There will be holiday ideas, easy recipes and both practical and pampering prizes to win. Best of all, each day you will meet one of my fellow “sistas” from the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaking team. Get to know them and their wonderful resources including books and teaching cd’s. Why, you might even just discover the speaker you have been looking for to appear at your next event.

So get in the holiday spirit. Tune in each day. Hop on and leave a comment. The more you leave, the better your chances of winning. The 12 daily winners will be announced on the 13th day of December so comment on all 12 posts if you can! 


What fun I am having reading all the ideas and traditions you love and can’t live without! Let me tell you…..one thing I just can’t live without is my every-once-in-a-while marathon phone conversations with my friend and fellow speaker Marybeth Whalen. What seemed to be a chance meeting in a break room at a Hearts at Home conference in the late nineties has turned into one of the coolest friendships ever! (Marybeth and I are both still very 1980’s thus I say ‘coolest’) Although I am a member of the Proverbs 31 speaker team because of God, He used Marybeth to introduce me to this wonderful ministry. 

So today, on day two of this series of give-aways, please meet my friend Marybeth Whalen.

Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt (also known as Earl) and mom to six unique individuals, ranging in age from teen to toddler.  Three of her kids attend a local charter school and three are homeschooled. 
Marybeth is the author of several books, including For The Write ReasonA Recipe For Christmas JOY (ebook), and a new book which will be released in March 09, entitled Learning To Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom For Saving Your Marriage and Your Money.  Currently, Marybeth is working on a follow-up book to For The Write Reason (for Christian writers) which will be entitled The Reason We Speak (for Christian speakers).  That book will be released in June 09, Lord willing– just in time for the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks Conference
In addition to writing and speaking, Marybeth loves blogging at her blog Cheaper By The Half Dozen, reading, participating in her local Community Bible Study, and cooking.  Someday Marybeth hopes to find time to catch up on her scrapbooks, which have been painfully neglected in recent years. 
  • Marybeth, tell us a little bit about what the holiday season will look like at the Whalen house this year.

We attempt to simplify everything we can. I had a friend challenge me years ago to stop running around like crazy and carve out time to just be at home, enjoying each other and the peace of the season. Prior to that, we ran ourselves ragged trying to get to everyone’s houses– all the grandparents and great-grandparents wanted us at their homes in a span of two days.  We finally had to stop and say no, that we were going to be at home primarily, and that they were welcome to visit us there.  Now we do some visiting but not as much as we used to.  It is a nice balance, and one we work to maintain by continuing to set boundaries.

  • What are some of your kids’ favorite Christmas traditions?

Every year we have a family screening of Home Alone. We never get tired of watching it!  And decorating the tree is always a fun family time, taking out the ornaments we have collected and reminiscing. My daughters and I usually attend a Christmas tea in our area, which makes for some nice “girl time.”  Oh, and baking and enjoying treats galore!

  • You have written an e-book that deal with finding joy during this crazy, busy season. Tell us what prompted you to write it and a little bit about what it includes.
Well, last October I was thinking ahead to the holidays and how we would spend our time, gathering recipes and craft instructions, things like that.  As I did, I had the idea to compile it all in one place.  While I was doing it for myself, I figured I would make it available to others. This book is a collection of the best ideas I have found for keeping our focus in the right place and making great memories as a family at Christmas– without stressing ourselves out or blowing our budget! 
  • What advice can you give to moms who are stressing and obsessing over the many tasks that must be done at this time of year? How can they find joy?
I begin the ebook by sharing a story of how I created a centerpiece for Christmas dinner, and how I planned my whole meal around that centerpiece, laying out the place settings and other elements of our meal according to the the theme of that centerpiece.  Later, I realized that that was a great visual for how I need to plan my Christmases– keeping Jesus at the center of all I do, and making my Christmas plans accordingly.  We can take everything we do to Him, asking Him for wisdom about how to best spend our time, money, and energy.  I think much of what we put on ourselves each year is unnecessary.  That if we would take it all to Him and ask, “Do I really need to spend this money?”  “Do I really need to commit to this event?”  “Do I really need to worry about the way my house looks?” He would remind us that, no, we do not.  He frees us up because His burden is easy and His yoke is light.  Stressing and obsessing is the last thing He wants for us, but too often we get so caught up in the chaos that we forget to turn to Him. 
Thanks so much for taking time to chat with us!
You are welcome Karen!  I loved stopping by! 
Okay now gals, can I tell you how I love, love LOVE Marybeth’s concept of the Christmas centerpiece and keeping Christ at the center of our celebration. So, today let’s dive in and share any ways you steer clear of the commercial and cleverly weave the true meaning of Christmas into your festivities. Here is one of ours:

When we welcomed our first child nearly 18 years ago, we approached our first Christmas with her with a bit of apprehension. Sure, we were typical parents excited at the notion of buying gifts for our little one. However, we also feared that our children might grow up thinking, as many kids in society do today, that Christmas was all about getting and greed. We feared Jesus just might be left out of the very celebration of His own birth!

Thus we began a tradition that has stuck at our house; through 18 years and three children, mind you! It is the practice of giving our dear offspring just three gifts each Christmas. Of course they still get a stocking full of goodies. However, there are no mounds of presents presenting the opportunity for wanting more, more, more!!!! Our kiddos get the same number of gifts as were given to the very first recipient of a Christmas gift so many years ago. Three. Ahem! Anyone remember baby Jesus and the gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Here is how we tweaked the idea to make it fit and to make it fun. For a few years, they received one present that was something to play with, one that was something to read and one that was something to wear. As they grew older and acting on a tip from a gal in one of my workshops, we modified a bit and tied these items into the gifts Jesus’ received. Here’s how:

·      First, they get a “gold” gift. Gold is precious and priceless and highly desired. So, they get one item they really, really want! It is their gold gift.

·      Next, we have frankincense. It burned and arose during prayer. It was meant to draw you close to God. So, their frankincense present is something that helps them in their walk with Christ. It can be a new Bible, a musical CD, Veggie Tales DVD or tickets to hear a concert or Christian speaker. Maybe it is a weekend youth retreat pass or a new book or leather journal that will help them in their spiritual life.

·      Finally, we have myrrh. This was a spice that actually accompanied burial and covered a person from head to toe. So, they too get something that will go on their body. Perhaps it is a new coat, an awesome outfit they have been eyeing. For my boys it has been hunting clothes and boots or for our daughter it has been jewelry. Anything that they can wear.

Being purposeful in limiting the amount of gifts and tying it in with that first Christmas long ago has been a bright spot in what could otherwise be a very commercial Christmas. And it has forced me, as a mom, to be intentional and creative rather than just picking up all of the latest “must-haves” of the season. You just might want to try it!

And, you can also pray for me. You see, I am really good with this “just three gifts” idea. It is their stockings that I tend to overload!!! YIKES!!!

Now for the Giveaway: Leave a comment telling us how you tie in the first Christmas to your family’s celebration or perhaps how you’d like to do that more effectively this year. Just leave a comment on this topic in order to be entered in the give-away. Marybeth will be sending one of you a copy of her great e-book A Recipe for Christmas JOY

Here is an overview of what you will find in this book:
* how to make Jesus the center of your Christmas
* a complete menu for Christmas dinner and a traditional New Year’s Day meal (with recipe’s!)
* a week by week checklist for organizing your Christmas
* helpful websites
* suggestions for easy meals on those busy nights
* how to observe advent in a way that will work for your situation
* ideas for decorating for Christmas and instructions for gifts you can make
* many tried and true recipes for Christmas goodies
* 25 ways to make the holidays holy days
* fun and creative ways to reach out to others at the holidays
* list of great Christmas read alouds for you and your children
* a week of devotions for the week between Christmas and New Year’s

This resource will be a HUGE blessing to your family and your sanity. So hop on now and leave a comment. And remember, winners are not chosen until the 13th of December so catch up on any other posts and leave a comment there.  You just might be selected as the winner of that day’s gift !!!

Joyful Blessings,



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  2. I love the idea of three gifts and their meaning. I’m going to implement this next year for Christmas and try to focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

  3. I just forwarded your 3 gift idea to my husband. My daughter (our first) is 21 months old and we want to eliminate the focus on gifts at Christmas. We had been saying that our kids would get just one gift and then we could wrap some clothes that they would get anyway for something to open. I love the 3 gift idea, though!!

    Something that I am waiting for more information on from my sister-in-law is that her family does a Jesus tree. All the ornaments on that tree point to Christ – the only one I can remember is a light bulb with a bow for “light of the world”.

  4. One special thing I have started with my daughters is that on Christmas Eve they each get to open a gift (which is pajamas – no surprise to them, but they love it). They get their PJ’s on, we read a couple books about the birth of Jesus and head to Christmas Eve service at church. It starts and 11 pm and they always fall asleep on the way home – ha ha they are already dressed in PJ’s! No fuss when we get home!

  5. That sounds like a fabulous book. I just had foot surgery, so slowing down is not the problem. LOL!

    It’s a good life!
    Terri E.

  6. We don’t do any one specific thing to keep “Christ” in “Christmas.” All season long, we talk about what the holiday is truly about. We steer clear of the Santa-Frosty-Rudolph stuff, and try to surround ourselves with the stories and music that emphasize the celebration of God’s Gift of Jesus. We do not go overboard in the way of gifts for our kids–usually only two things, though I love the meanings behind the three gifts, and we may try that next year!

  7. We share a home with my in-laws, and my mother-in-law collects Nativity sets. So we have about 3 dozen around the house. We have a wooden one that the kids can play with, and each of them have a plastic musical one that they can carry around. On Christmas morning, we read the Luke 2 version before anyone opens any presents.

  8. We use the ornaments called Adornaments – getting one out each night. Each one reflects a name of Christ. Since our children were tiny we have also told them the true story of St. Nicholas. I don’t feel like they have missed out at all by not having the “magic” of Santa. Christmas is such a spectacular time.

  9. This year I am taking the baby Jesus from our nativity and wrapping him up in a box. When its time to open presents – he will be the first one they open. After all, He was the BEST Christmas gift EVER!

  10. We are doing the three gifts idea. I got it from you at last year’s Hearts at Home conference and my husband was totally on board! My shopping stress has gone down considerably, and I’m already mostly done with shopping for the season!

    The other thing that we never miss is the 11pm candlelight service at my church on Christmas Eve. We even take the children. Some people think we’re crazy. At the end we all circle around the sanctuary with our lighted candles and we sing Silent Night a cappella. When we finish…IT’S CHRISTMAS MORNING! We get to start Jesus’ birthday with our church family and it’s a wonderful way to get in the right perspective for the events to come.

  11. This year i noticed i’m surging more to simplify x-mas…In a way it started last year bc i noticed that most years i miss peace and quietness…..
    My dh’s runs a beauty bussiness and i work in an elderly home in different shifts…….So beside the tension of combining the extra x-mas stess of both our job’s and the holiday of the kids and sth request of family to visit them around those days……
    I’m always late in sending cards and shopping for presents…
    So i switch from sending cards more to e-cards or only sending cards to my family( parents and in-laws) abroad

    X-mas eve service is my favorite above x-mas morning so since the kids were small( they are now 10 and 7) I always went with them no matter the fuss and hectic.I loved the year this day was on a sunday or monday bc than we could go to the service as a family….
    it is really crazy “house” in a beautyshop around this time of the year….
    X-mas morning…day is our family day ….church going.brunch or dinner with presents…..
    Some years i make thypical dishes from my country other years my dh’s from his……
    2nd day of x-mas ( i don’t know if this is also a free day at your place.) is resting and or visiting friend or family our out eating in a restaurant or 1 year as a fimily we went to a x-mas celebration…….

    Last year i spend x-mas eve with a school friend and her family..
    In the afternoon we cook with the kids and in the evening we went church together……and after that we had dinner..
    I enjoyed that better than coming home alone with the kids to a daddy who is exhausted……. if i’m honest…….

    So what are m’n ours typical traditions….
    x-mas eve…….
    Special family time Christmasday……
    I think bying ( and discussion if this year an artificial or NO tree bc every year i’m stunt about the prices that’s why we extend takig it down every year no matter the MESS ….LOL) the tree and dragging it together on the streets the elevator to our apartment….LOL
    Lastyear i bake cookies with the kids to share and for oureselfs that is a keeper for this year also…..
    AND how could i forget the Children x-mas and play a week before x-mas at church…….
    BUT i feel i need this book to make JESUS more the centerpiece of this season……

    Love to share blessings,,,,

  12. 2 years ago we started doing a paper chain to count down how many days left until Christmas. On each strip, we write down someone/thing we are thankful for or something we can do to help someone else. Yesterday my daughter got a toy she no longer plays with and put it in our box to take later this week to the goodwll.

    We are trying as a family to do a daily reading found through the Jesse Tree link on MaryBeth’s website, but it’s hard for our crazy schedules to do it everyday. I’m trying hard to let go and understand that everything does not have to go perfectly in order for us to have a wonderful Christmas.

  13. We also practice the three gifts and I must also confess that we load up the stockings as well. We have a nativity for the kids to play with and a nativity scene advent calendar. We also hide the baby Jesus everyday until Christmas. I would really love this book! I’m always looking for more ways to stay Christ centered during this season!

  14. I really like the idea of the three gifts and the significance of each. I think we’ll have to try that – great reminder of the gifts brought to Jesus.


  15. Hi. Earl here. I dun figured this computer thing out. Even discovered these here things called blogs. And much to my redneck surprise, you do more then make southern’ chili dip! I didn’t realize ye were the techno type. I’m hoping we’ll get that high speed stuff soon… takes forever to get on your site with my dial up connection. But you know how things are down here in the sticks of NC. Better’n being a dang yankee though… shore ’nuff!

    Well, gotta go take care of those yung uns… tell everybody I said “duh huh!”

    Your friend,

    Earl Hickum

  16. I love the three gift idea.. we will be using that next year. This year I discussed with my children (ages 10 and 8) how some people don’t have all that we are blessed to have so we will be having more simple Christmas. I do believe that it has become a more “me” generated and what I want because it is on tv or my friend has it. So we decided to bake cookies and make presents for our neighborhood and for some of the older people at our church.
    We always read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and talk about the real meaning of the holiday. I think that tied with the three gifts would be a great combination.
    I just found this site and am really glad that I did.. thank you for this great place to share ideas!

  17. We are just starting this year with the 3 gifts: one of value, one for the body, one spiritual gift. And I must say, that being SO simple and yet SO meaningful means that our time (my time) is freed up this holiday season just enjoy my family and bake and watch Christmas movies and play board games!

  18. I love the three gifts idea – I have heard of it before, but not specifically tied in with the gold, frankincense and myrrh. What a great idea!
    We have a large Fontanini nativity set (it includes Bethlehem buildings – the temple, a blacksmith’s shop, the census building, etc.) that gets front and center position in my Christmas decorating. Baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until one of the kids unwraps him as a present on Christmas Eve. We also do a birthday cake for Jesus and read the Christmas story. We’ve also found that the kids’ Christian school Christmas programs, being directly involved with Christmas church services by singing in choirs, and attending as many church services as possible (Advent midweek, Sundays, Christmas Eve regular and candlelight, Christmas Day) help us keep our focus on Jesus!

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