Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31 - Goal Setting

As December comes to a close, I want to thank you for participating in this month's 15-minute journey with me. I hope your life has been enriched by the activities we did together this month. I know that I stepped out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion to do some of these activities, and I was always pleasantly surprised!

For our last day together this December, I want you to think about a goal for yourself for 2011. If possible, stay away from the "usual" goals. I don't have to list them, you know what they are. Try to choose a goal that doesn't require a daily commitment, because sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves if we fail! What's something you've always wanted to do? Make that your goal for 2011.

When you think about your goal, what are some small steps you'll need to get there? Write these steps down. It's much easier to accomplish a goal when it doesn't seem so overwhelming. After you've written down the steps to your goal, make a rough timeline of when you'd like to accomplish those little steps.

For example, if you want to read a certain book in 2011, break it down by how many chapters you'd have to read each month. Take it easy - accomplishing a goal should be FUN, not stressful!

It's a proven fact that you're more likely to accomplish a goal if you have some accountability, so share your goal with a friend or family member. You can also share your goal with me - I'd be happy to email you and help you stay on track to meet your 2011 goal!

Here's to a wonderful 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30 - Plan

Before I introduce you to today's activity, I have to tell you about my walk yesterday! I had planned to walk to the library to return a book, but when I got home from work, I noticed a small gray dog trotting along the sidewalk. I slowed down and looked closer at that dog. He looked so familiar to me. He looked at me, and trotted even faster!

It became obvious to me that I knew where that dog lived. In good conscious, I could not just get home from work and put my feet up. I felt compelled to check in with his owner. I walked through our neighborhood to the supposed owner's house, and just as I approached the door to knock, a woman with a walker made her way to the door. Before I could even say anything, she knew why I was there. And, at that moment, the gray dog made an appearance.

Well, the dog was playing some sort of game with us where he wouldn't come to me - at all. The woman couldn't come out of the house on the icy steps, so it was up to me to entice the dog back to the yard and into the house. I asked her if she had any treats, and she reemerged with a cream wafer. I wanted to eat this treat myself, but decided to use it for its intended purpose.

I learned the dog's name was Ringo, so I squatted in the driveway and proceeded to command, encourage, bribe, and plead with Ringo to come back. Finally, between his owner and I, he made his way up the steps to the door, and we swept him into the house.

It felt good to help out a neighbor. I'm glad I followed the tug on my heart to do the right thing. And from now on, when I pass by that house on my walks, I can greet Ringo by his name!

Now, for today's task at hand. I've been thinking how important it is to relax, and how I usually leave relaxing for last. You see, when I get to a weekend, I end up doing all the things that didn't get done during the week, then doing some laundry, cleaning the house, getting together with friends, and then before I know it, it's Monday! The weekends slip away and I get into a go-go-go pattern.

Today I want you to think about 2011 and how you can relax. What would that look like for you to schedule in relaxation time? Would it be one day a week where you plan to do nothing except stay at home and relax? Is it one weekend a month where you commit to not planning anything? Is it scheduling a babysitter so you can have a night away from the kids? Is it having a movie night each month?

Think about what it looks like for you, and then mark some days for relaxation on your calendar. If you're feeling brave, write down relaxation days for the ENTIRE year! I did it, and it feels really wonderful. I marked one "stay at home" weekend on our family calendar for each month. I know we'll be home more than one weekend a month, but this "stay at home" weekend is also one in which we won't plan anything.

Now that we have these on the calendar, I will do my best to make sure they stay priorities. Zac and I find we are so much healthier when we have down time to relax.

I'd love to hear how you like to relax - drop me a line!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Make time today to go for a walk outside. Enjoy the scenery and breathe in that fresh air. For those of you living in Minnesota, make sure to enjoy this time outside because its going to get icy soon! If you're feeling artistic, bring a camera. Send me some of the pictures from your walk.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28 - Remember

I read a wonderful book entitled, "Slow is Beautiful." It encourages the slowing down of our hectic schedules. Just reading this book brought me peace - it was amazing!

In this book it talks about how sometimes our schedules are so full - even with good things - that we fail to enjoy what we're doing.

When only one thing is planned in a week, we tend to look forward and anticipate that activity. We enjoy it while it happens, and we savor it after it's finished.

Let's reflect on our Christmas this year (and for some of us, it's still going!). Take 15 minutes today to write down or type up some of your favorite memories from this Christmas. Save them in a special place and savor the holiday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27 - Relax Update

I found my relaxation today with my husband and sister-in-law. We each grabbed a book, claimed a couch in the living room, and read our books together. The smell of the Christmas tree wafted over every now and then, and occasionally a turning page could be heard. It was glorious. At one point I looked up from behind my book and noticed my sister-in-law sleeping, open book resting on her stomach.

Ah, an afternoon well spent.

December 27 - Relax

Sometimes the holidays can be stressful, so today, make yourself a warm drink, find a cozy spot, and relax.

One of my favorite spots in our home is the kitchen chair closest to the window. I love the way the warm sun pours in through that south window. I sit there, sometimes looking into the backyard, sometimes just staring into space. I like drinking tea in that spot, or reading a devotional.

Enjoy a few moments of peace today.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26 - Thank You Notes

Today, spend some time writing a hand-written note to say thank you for a special gift you received. Maybe that gift was time, a good meal, or a conversation. Who can you write today to let them know you care?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25 - Encourage a Child

In honor of our Savior who came to us as a little baby, encourage a child today. Even if there are no children with you at your holiday gathering, you can encounter children in the stores or in your neighborhood. Look for the good a child is doing, and praise them for it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24 - Your Future Self

My friend Cathy shared with me this fantastic concept - taking care of your future self. What can you do today to take care of yourself in the future? I realize that this kind of relates to yesterday's activity, but it is different enough that I want us to do it.

One example from my friend is that when she is going out of town, she'll put fresh sheets on her bed just before she leaves so when she comes home, she has clean sheets. Such a simple thing that makes you feel VERY cared for.

When she told me about this, I was going through a particularly stressful time at work. I was going to be away for a few days, so I went to the grocery store and bought some chocolate to take with me on the trip. It was a special treat that made me smile - just what I needed during a stressful work week.

What can you do today for your future self? Are you going out of town for the holidays? Maybe you could take your garbage out before you leave, or put fresh sheets on your bed like Cathy. Maybe you could pick up a pizza from the grocery store to stick in your freezer so when you return you'll have an easy meal ready to go.

Are you staying in town? How can you care for yourself? Can you check out a movie from the library to watch while you relax? What about treating yourself to a new book?

I'd love to hear how you are planning to take care of your future self. Accountability is sometimes helpful in doing this. If you're like me, it's oftentimes easier to put others first and forget about taking care of yourself. Drop me a line if you need some accountability, or also to let me know your ideas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23 - Plan and Prepare

Today let's try to do something that will make any possible Christmas day chaos go smoothly. For example, does your holiday shirt need ironing? Make time to do it today. Are you supposed to bring a dish to a Christmas gathering? Go to the grocery store today and do as much prep work on your dish as you can. How about Christmas gifts? Are yours wrapped? If not, spend 15 minutes working on that today so you're not up until 2am on Christmas day!

Plan and prepare today so that you can enjoy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22 - Christmas Music

Just over a week ago, we listened to Christmas music as we drove around looking at Christmas lights. Today the focus is Christmas music again, but this time I want you to choose one of your favorite Christmas tunes. Preferably something very meaningful to you.

The inspiration for today's activity comes from a moment I had last night while taking care of some laundry. I had begun to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman's "Music of Christmas" album when Advent sort of just came together for me.

You see, all too often I get wrapped up in all of the details of Christmas. I'm a logistics person. I love details and am always thinking about what needs to happen next. Also, I am a person with high expectations. Sometimes too high. Okay, most of the time too high. This combination does not often afford quiet evenings by a fireplace contemplating the virgin birth during this holiday season. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Instead of moments of quiet reflection about the true meaning of Christmas, I find myself quietly reflecting on my shopping list. Or cleaning list. Or packing list. Somehow the really big event in December gets elbowed out of the way by all the tiny, little, generally unimportant lists.

Today as I sat in the living room folding my sweaters and listening to Steven Curtis Chapman, it hit my heart. This month we celebrate God sending his very son to us. My small gifts to friends and family seem utterly miniscule in comparison. The way I flutter here and there to get Christmas preparations done seems so foolish. God. Sent. His. Son.

So please, choose a special Christmas song to you and listen to it today. Maybe even put it on repeat for a round or two. Think about the biggest gift we have been given, reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and check to see if your heart is ready to celebrate God's wonderful gift this season.

If not, don't worry - there are still 3 more days until Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow Angel = AWESOME!

December 21 - The Real Nativity Picture

There are a few blogs I follow from time to time. I usually read them at the end of the work day or the end of the night to wind down and relax. Today I was drawn in by one blog called, "It's Almost Naptime." Check out how the author Missy paints a realistic picture of the first Christmas in her blog post titled, "Birth Stories."

I don't want to say too much about it so that it can unfold before you like it did before me. What I will say, though, is have a tissue handy. I found myself moved to near-tears a few times.

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20 - Thankful ABC's

Well, I was finally able to buy someone coffee yesterday! After church, Zac and I got in the drive-thru at Caribou Coffee and I prayed and prayed for someone to get behind us! "Would I be able to treat someone today," I wondered. Sure enough, a little blue car with two lucky winners pulled in behind us. I was delighted when we were able to buy them coffee.

Where's the picture of my snow angel from yesterday's activity, you ask? Well, you'll just have to check back later!

Now, on to today's topic...thankfulness. When I was a camp counselor, we'd sometimes have the kids write out their Thankful ABC's as a devotional. All you'll need for this is a computer or a pen and paper. Begin thinking of something you're thankful for for every letter of the alphabet. Here are my Thankful ABC's:

Autumn colors, Birds chirping, Crisp nights, Donuts (jelly-filled), Excitement, Friends, Grandparents, Home, Inspiration, Joy, Kindness, Laughter, Mochas, Nodding off on the couch, Openness, Prayer, Quiet evenings, Rest, Snowy Saturdays, Tree-huggers, Unity, Voices singing, Whimsy, Xerox machines, Youth, Zeal.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19 - Angels

Did you get a chance to buy someone coffee yesterday? I tried to buy some snacks for the guy behind me at a gas station, but he wouldn't let me! I think the drive-through is definitely the way to go on this one; then people won't be able to turn you down. I'm giving it another go today - hopefully I will be successful in my mission!

Zac helped me in choosing today's activity. He suggested snow angels - how fun! If you're in an area with snow, get some warm clothes on, find a nice section of lawn, and throw yourself into the snow. Flail just enough to make some nice angel arms and legs, then carefully hop back up. Ta-dah! How does your angel look? I'll show you a picture of mine later...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18 - Caffeine High

Treat yourself - and someone else - to coffee today.

Whether you purchase the person's coffee who is in line behind you, or you take a friend out for coffee, treat somebody today.

If you're not a coffee person, what other way could you surprise someone?

A local Minneapolis radio station does an event called the "Drive-Thru Difference" once a month. Read more about it here.

I hope you have a wonderful experience surprising someone today. Let me know how it goes!

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17 - Candy Cane Patience

I think it's safe to say that most of us have at least one Christmas decoration up in our house. Many of us have a Christmas tree, a Nativity set (still haven't located our baby Jesus yet), or even a Christmas candle.

For today's activity you'll need a candy cane. Once you've got your candy cane in hand, sit in front of your Christmas tree or another special Christmas object. Look. Listen. Enjoy your candy cane and don't get up until it's gone!

The purpose of today's activity is to stop and reflect. To create margin in your day and to clear your head. Savor your candy cane and the sights around you. Take note of the sounds you hear. Relax. Enter into the spirit of Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16 - The Story: 2010 Version

Today, get a "digital age" perspective on the Nativity Story:

The Digital Story of the Nativity

I thought this was pretty great.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15 - The Gift of Relationships

Hands down, people are the most important gift I have ever received. I am blessed to have a wonderful immediate and extended family, and somehow I got fortunate enough to also have a large group of supportive, kind friends.

I shake my head in disbelief when I think about all of the outstanding people in my life.

Today, take time to connect with an important person in your life. You can connect by writing a letter or email, calling them on the phone, or even getting together with them for lunch or coffee. Let them know what a gift they have been in your life.

I hope you enjoy this special Christmas task! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14 - Christmas Cruise!

I hope you found yourself in the Christmas story yesterday. I think I'm one of the 3 kings, searching for the special baby and waiting with eager anticipation to see him for myself.

Today's activity - boy, I can hardly wait! - is to go cruisin'. When I was younger, my family used to pile into the van and drive around to look at Christmas lights. We'd usually have some Christmas music on; more often than not it would be Mannheim Steamroller. :) We'd ooh and ahh as we drove by the impressive displays.

Tonight after supper, grab a travel mug of hot cocoa, hop in the car, and check out the lights in your neighborhood. I hear Caribou has $2 medium hot drinks today, so I recommend starting there! Pop in a Christmas CD, or tune your radio to a Christmas station and enjoy!

If you're in the Twin Cities area, I recommend heading over to the Summit/Grand Ave area to check out the lights. Gorgeous!

Let me know if you have any recommendations for great Christmas displays, and maybe I'll see you out crusin' tonight!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13 - Part of the Story

Today let's spend 15 minutes reflecting on the Christmas story. Where do you find yourself in the story? Are you the worried Mary, wondering how and where this miracle will take place? Are you Joseph, desperately trying to provide for your family but coming up short? Are you the shepherds, taken by surprise with life-changing good news?

There is so much to be uncovered. Find yourself in the story today.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12 - Indulge!

For today's 15-minute project, you will need boots and a shovel. You are coming over to my house to help me shovel the driveway.

Just kidding!

Today I want you to think back to your childhood and some of the special Christmas treats you loved. Did you like the candy canes? How about the bell-shaped chocolates? Did you love gum drops, or maybe frosted cut-out cookies?

One of my favorite Christmas treats is the Kemps Christmas trees or snowmen ice cream treats.

My Grandma used to give those to my cousins and I at the kids' table after our Christmas supper. They always make me think of Grandma, and also of the fun we cousins would have in the kitchen.

So, today I'm eating one of these snowmen and thinking of Grandma and my wonderful cousins. What treat will you indulge in today?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11 Follow-up

Today I set up my wrapping station:

and watched The Holiday and The Santa Clause while wrapping gifts. Outside was "The Blizzard of 2010," the 5th largest snowfall the Twin Cities has ever seen, but inside I was nice and cozy. :) Here's my finished product, please ignore the slightly blurry photos. I've been wrapping for a long time!

December 11 - Cozy Preparations

Saturday + Movie + Wrapping Presents = AMAZING!

Today, spend (at least) 15 minutes wrapping up any Christmas gifts you have purchased while watching a Christmas movie. Grab a glass of cider or hot cocoa and relax while getting your gifts ready!

I will be watching The Holiday, a movie my friend Julia introduced to me last year. What movie will you choose?

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10 - A Christmas Chain

Growing up, mom always seemed to have some fantastic project to do with us kids. I fondly remember this Christmas project. I hope you enjoy it too!

Materials: Red Construction Paper, Green Construction Paper, Scissors, Stapler

Begin by cutting the construction paper into thin strips, about 1" wide. I recommend cutting across the short way so you get more strips.

Take a red strip, put it end to end so one end is slightly overlapping the next, and staple. Ta-dah! You have a circle. Now put a strip of green paper through your newly-formed circle, place one end of the green paper over the other, and staple. Now you should have two, interlocking circles.

Continue this pattern for as long as you want to. When we made it at our house, I think we wrote one thing to do each day until Christmas. For example, go sledding, make cookies, decorate the tree... I have a vague memory of this chain hanging by our kitchen telephone in the old house. Mom, you'll have to let me know if that memory is accurate!

A few other ideas for your Christmas Chain:
Garland for the tree
A "Prayer Chain" to keep special people in your prayers this season
A countdown to Christmas
A fun to-do list for all those Christmas preparations

Do you have more ideas about how this could be used? Please share them!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9 - Clear Out!

I've lost baby Jesus. More literally in this moment, but sometimes figuratively during this season too. With various home projects and room rearranging for Christmas, our basement has become a catch all and it's getting a little out of control.

Baby Jesus is somewhere in my basement. Tucked away in his manger in a nice cardboard box, he's waiting for me to find him. But which cardboard box?!? Which closet? Which shelf? Where do I begin?

Sometimes it's just easier to watch TV.

As much as I try to stay on top of giving away items we don't use, I know there are plenty of things in our house that are sitting unused. They are taking up space and blocking my view of the useful, important items.

Let's clear out today. Choose 5 things you can part with, pack them up in a paper bag, and drop them off at a second-hand store near you. This task is especially good right now because many people who have had a particularly hard financial year this year will be hitting up thrift stores for their Christmas shopping. We have the chance to add more goodies to those thrift store shelves so that they can find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

As always, let me know how it goes! I hope to post a picture of my thrift-store load later!

Here's what I found around the house - and may I add that it was surprisingly hard for me to part with some items! I hunted around for quite a bit, and found these things:

Single Bed Sheets. Two sets. We've never used them, I don't know where they came from, and I was surprised to discover them in the bottom of an overstuffed drawer. Now I can breathe easier as I try to close that drawer.

Loved this purse but stopped using it when I got another one a year ago. Have not touched it since. I found some goodies still in there when I cleaned it out - that was a nice surprise!

This container is just begging for gumdrops. We have so many wonderful containers I thought I could part with this one.

The egg-carton foam mattress. I think I got this on team from a nice family after I lost my REI air mattress at UCLA. I haven't used it since team. That was 7 years ago!!! It's time for it to go and be loved by someone else!!

Hope you can breathe a little easier now!

And no, I still have not located the baby Jesus.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8 - Bringing Others Joy

Yesterday our challenge took us out and about. Today's challenge requires only you, a computer with sound, and internet. I trust that since you're reading this, we're pretty much there!

Check out this short video which is sure to make you smile. I am continually amazed by these people who go to great lengths to bring others joy. What can you do to go out of your way and bring someone else joy today?


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 6 and 7 - Give

This activity is a one-two punch. And believe me, we're gonna have fun!

The first part of this challenge involves a Salvation Army bell ringer. Now, if you're anything like me, you try to avoid eye contact with these people at ALL costs when you go into a store. Avoiding eye contact when leaving is also very critical. We typically avoid eye contact because we 1.) are afraid they'll somehow force us to put money in their bucket or 2.) feel sheepish for not throwing any money in when we KNOW they know we have money. Duh. We're coming out of the store with a bag. So it confirms that yes, we had money going into the store and didn't put it in when we passed them and yes, we may very well still have some money as we're leaving the store.

So, let's do them (and us) a favor by tossing in some money today. I don't know where you live, but here in Minnesota, it's mighty cold today. As we place some money in their red bucket today, let's also thank them for standing out in the cold to raise money for people in need.

Now, the second part of our give challenge today is to give $10 to charity. Many of you give regularly to all sorts of great charities, but today, let this $10 be on top of what you normally give. Who are you going to bless today? Imagine what good your $10 could do! It could purchase a few meals, it could heat someone's house for a few days, it could buy a pair of mittens for a kid...the list goes on.

Where will your $10 go today? It gets me so excited to think of $10 floating out from each of our pockets and blessing an organization today.

If you need help choosing an organization, here are a few that are near and dear to my heart:

Luther Point Bible Camp
Sky Ranch Bible Camp
Lutheran Youth Encounter
Mennonite Central Committee
ELCA World Hunger
Global Health Ministries
TIE (Together Integrating Everyone)

If you'd like to search some other trusted non-profits, check out Charity Navigator. At Charity Navigator, you can search by topic and also see how thousands of charities are rated on organizational efficiency and organizational capacity.

Drop me a line to let me know how your giving adventure went! I can't wait to tell you about mine!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yesterday, December 5

My apologies for not posting an activity for us yesterday! My Internet was actually down and what a strange thing that was! I wanted to pay bills, but I do nearly all of our bill pay online. I wanted to see if my friend wrote to me about dinner next weekend, but we couldn't access our email. I wanted to check the weather, but no Kare11 website for me! It was a strange feeling, but also liberating at the same time. I had to relax! What is that?!?

That event has made me decide that yesterday's activity (to most likely be done today!) is to unplug for 15 minutes or more. Shut off your computer AND phone. Don't worry, tragedy will likely NOT strike your loved ones in those 15 minutes, so you will be just fine to turn off the phone. :)

Enjoy being unplugged! Listen to the quiet. Let your soul find rest.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December 4

Today, spend 15 minutes writing a Christmas card to someone who may not receive many Christmas wishes this year. Take the time to make them feel special today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2- Back to Childhood

I hope you had a good time reading the Christmas story yesterday. I loved it! It seems too short - only a few paragraphs to document such a huge event.

Today's project takes us back to childhood.

Materials needed: a notebook-sized piece of paper (or more), a scissors

Begin by folding a corner of your paper over to meet the opposite edge. Here's a picture to help you know what I'm talking about:

Then, cut off the excess that isn't doubled over.

Fold the paper diagonally. And again. And maybe again if you're feeling adventurous!

Now, cut various shapes out from the edges. Can you see where this is going?

I like to make some long shapes and some zig-zaggy shapes. Get creative! You may be tempted to unfold the paper before you're all done. Do your best to wait - it will make the "reveal" all the more fun!

When you're satisfied with the shapes you cut out, unfold the paper.

And now you have a Christmas snowflake! A great reminder of childhood, of God's beauty, and of the uniqueness in all of us. Hang your snowflake somewhere where it can remind you of these things.