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,



  1. We just really try to remind the children daily of the true meaning of Christmas. We sing the traditional (hymn) Christmas carols, and we read the Christmas story. We really try to instill in them that the holiday isn’t about presents, but it’s about Jesus.

  2. We have baby Jesus in a gold gift box that is on the entrainment center. Before any gifts are opened on Christmas morning, we open the box with Jesus and put him in the manger. It allows us to put things into hopefully the right perspective before the mayhem begins.
    I already have Marybeth’s book, it is awesome.

  3. I was brought up believing in Christ, but not making Christ the center of our lives and family. Married just last year, I am trying to learn how to shift from the Christmas day/season that I’m used to in to one that brings more focus and attention to what the celebration is all about!

  4. I love the three-gift idea – thanks for sharing! One thing we have started with our kids (ages 3 & 1) is that one of their gifts each year is a donation to Samaritan’s Purse. We use the annual gift catalog that the ministry sends out , and give a gift in honor of each child. It’s a great way to share with someone who does not have as much as we do, and I hope as our kids grow up, they will learn that Christmas is not all about them.


  5. Karen your ideas are great and I can’t wait to spend more time looking through Marybeth’s.

    At our house, we have always done the 3 gift items, though we do 4–add in swaddling clothes and changegold to special fun myrrh to the something special and long lasting.

    We just started an advent wreath this year (my boys are 6 and 2) and its amazing how quickly they caught on to the idea. They even ask about the wreath in the car and they always make sure they can see the candle from where they sit at the table (we used little votives instead of tapers–I decided with two active boys it was safer).

    Our church adopts families from the community for christmas, so we pick off 4 names (the same number in our family) and we try to match our family to theirs–so Sam our 6 year old finds a 6 year old and so on. Then the boys help me shop, I wrap, and they carry them into the church to deliver them. It just makes them aware that others need our help and its our “Jesus Job”.

    Thanks for the new ideas!

  6. We love our advent calendars at the Lewis house! We have one with chocolates in them but we also have a set of little booklets that are in a large advent “book”. Each day a booklet is pulled out, according to the date, and we read the story of Jesus’ birth bit by bit. Sometimes it is the angels telling Mary the good news, to the angels proclaiming the news to the shepherds. Each day is something to add to the story and the chocolate adds to the fun.

  7. Something we’ve done with my daughter (now 8) since she was really little is to do an advent devotional with her….including lighting the advent candles. She LOVES that! Recently as of the past 2 yrs. my husband and I have been letting her choose something to add to her nativity set. For example, it started with the manger scene and then we added “odds and ends” stray pieces of other nativity sets that were missing pieces. So there are some pieces that don’t “go” with the other ones, like the 3 wisemen are plastic and then Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus are more fragile but she LOVES that set. I’m glad I didn’t throw any of them; I couldn’t bear to part with them! So, now she chooses one item to add to the scene. Last yr. she choose a “chicken coop”…..yes, a chicken coop by Fontanini. (quite expensive, actually!) Sometimes we go to Steins.

  8. I started with my kids when they were very young this tradition. When Christmas cards come in we place them in a basket on the table. Every night we take a card and pray over that family and any needs that we know of. We comitte to praying for them as well for the rest of the holiday season. It has made my kids more aware of the card when they come in .

  9. Hi!!
    Reading the Christmas story every Christmas eve
    has always been my husband’s important part. Now
    that the children are grown we also read at the family get together,but sometimes the reading is delegated to one of the grandkid’s father and my hubby shares
    a story of a moment in his life God seemed more real.

    This year I gave each family of grandkids a countdown
    to Christmas chain that has scripture or activities
    for each day leading to Christmas.

  10. We have celebrated Advent since my boys were young. Also we tried to stay home as much as possible on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day except for church. Thanks for all of the great ideas.

  11. Wow – so glad I found a spare moment to peek in on your blog. The holidays already have me tangled up and I have not enjoyed blog time in a couple weeks now. sheesh! Anyway: we enjoy counting down to the celebration of Jesus’ birthday through advent. We do advent candles each Sunday at dinner time. We also have Advent boxes that each child gets to open (starting Dec 1). One of our favorite things is that I put out several nativity sets throughout the house BUT Jesus is not put in until Christmas. It’s so fun to watch the little ones go looking in each little manger to see if Jesus is lying there when they wake up in the morning!

  12. Hi Karen,
    Keeping Christ the center is very important to me and my family.
    My mom started this tradition in our family and I have kept it up in mine.
    As we decorate the tree we talk about the color of each light and what it means to the birth and death of Jesus.

    The green of the tree–shows God’s everlasting Love for us by sending His only Son Jesus.

    The red lights—stand for the reason Jesus came to save us from our sins by His blood on the cross.

    The Yellow lights—reminds us about the star that guided the wise men to the Christ child.

    The blue lights remind us of how dark the night was fro theshepherds before the angels brought the good news. Our lives would be that dark too without Him.

    The gold beads that garland our tree—The three precious gifts brought to the Christ child.

    The ornaments–remind us to be cheery and giving in our own celebrations.

    Lastly we believe in Santa Clause, but in a different way than the rest of the world. It is more of a Santa’s CAUSE. My mom taught me that God loves the idea of Santa Clause because we cannot hand Jesus presents on His birthday. His gift is watching all the children open their gifts and experiencing the Joy of His birthday. So before we see Santa’s gifts we sing Happy birthday to Jesus! As we got older this became even more special and not so much as to what we got but how we could be Santa’s CAUSE to everyone else in the family. Another side effect is as the world’s idea of Santa faded ours never did. I still believe in Santa!

    Thanks for allowin g me to share.

  13. Hi!

    My husband and I have a two year old (and one on the way!!) – so we are just now in the process of setting up traditions and things that we want to do every year!

    I want my kids to really get that Jesus GAVE himself for us. So I would like to do something every holiday season that encourages my children to GIVE of themselves in some way.

    What a cool thing you are doing on your blog!

    Have a lovely week!

    Kate :)

  14. We do several things that keeps Christ the focus. Since several of them have been mentioned already in the comments I will choose one that hasn’t been mentioned.

    This year we are using an advent wreath to help us focus on Christ through the whole season. Each night at dinner we light the candle (or candles) and read a portion of “One Wintry Night” by Ruth Bell Graham. The book is a great weaving of the whole of scripture from the Garden to the Cross.

    This week the candle represents Hope so we spent some time discussing what hope was, how we see it in scripture (OT & NT) and what our hope is. (Our advent wreath isn’t very wreathish. I took a pedestal plate and added votive cups with small purple and pink candles and then put a larger white pillar candle in the middle. Then added some pretty gold ribbon. It turned out to be a beautiful centerpiece that is helping us focus on Jesus.)

    We also do the three gifts and I have been wondering how to modify it as they get older. Thanks for the modified idea.

  15. For us this year the way we plan to keep Jesus the focus is to stay home for Christmas eve and Christmas day. In the past we have always traveled and now that we have a child it was very important to stay home. On Christmas eve we will read the story of Jesus’ birth. I am also incorporating some advent activities and daily stories with my son.

    A little funny for you. I took my son shopping on Sunday evening and on the way home we were looking at all of the Christmas lights. I was going on and on about how pretty they were and how they remind me of bright stars like the one that glowed over the manger when Jesus was born. My 4-year-old son from the backseat said, “Mom, please be quiet. I’m praying to Jesus and thanking Him for the lights.”

    It is things like that that really make the season special!

  16. This seems pretty simple (I’m LOVING reading all of your ideas here) – but we have the Little People nativity set under our tree. We have 4 kiddos – all 5 and under – so it is so fun to see them playing with the little set, and we talk about baby Jesus so much with it being right there all season. WIth much fussing, I do put the set away with the other decorations after Christmas – so that it remains ‘special’ to get out each year.

  17. Great ideas Karen and Marybeth. We too do the 3 gifts for Christmas and I love the new spin that Karen gave to it.

    I am really wanting to do The Advent more. I have two adorable daughters. My oldest has a brain injury and the youngest is 4. I want to make sure they know and feel the true meaning of Christmas. CHRISTS LOVE!!

    Thank you so much and God Bless!

    Tricia in Ky

  18. We always do a birthday cake for Jesus, complete with candles and singing Happy Birthday. Also, before opening presents, my husband reads the Christmas story.

    I wish I had known of the 3 gifts idea before my kids were born!

  19. We do an Advent activity (a special book with a devotional for each day or The Jesse Tree or candle-lighting). The most awe-inspiring thing we do, my now five-year old son instituted two years ago. It reminds me of his outright love for Jesus…

    As we were gathering the Christmas decor in January, wrapping it in tissue paper, and gently placing it back into the totes, I started handing him a figure from the nativity scene in our dining room. He held the Baby Jesus in his three-year old hand, looked at me and said, “But mommy, Jesus doesn’t belong in a box.”

    Out of the mouths of babes! We keep that nativity set out year-round. And whenever guests comment on its presence, we share the above story. So, we keep Jesus the center of Christmas all year long.

  20. We make a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. We also start the morning praying and thanking God for His gift.

    I love the idea of 3 gifts all tied to those original 3. I will be talking to DH about this for next year. Thanks Karen!!

  21. Celebrating Advent helps us keep the focus Where it belongs! Thank you for sharing the original gift idea!
    Merry Christmas!
    Lisa in WA

  22. Karen. We also do the three gifts with our children and I like the fact that they don’t think Christmas is all about the gifts. I hadn’t tried to tie them into Jesus’s gifts like you have, but that is a neat idea. We don’t go crazy on the stockings, though. They always get one DVD, one book and then there’s the tradition of an orange, a chocolate bar and nuts – because that’s what my mom always put in our stockings because that’s what was always put in her stocking!

    Sometime when I feel Christmas is getting to be “too much” I ask my kids what Christmas is all about and the first thing out of their mouths is that it is to celebrate Jesus’s birthday, then I remind myself that we are keeping the focus on Christ.

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