10 Ideas for Simplifying Christmas

Jesus is God's Best Gift at Christmas and Ten Ways to Simplify Christmas

We’re now in the countdown days to Christmas and many of you might be in panic mode. I remember those days well. I even remember crying to my husband that I just couldn’t do it as our family continued to grow with our four children’s marriages and grandchildren. I needed his help, but he had a bewildered, “I don’t know what to do?” look in his eyes.

I wanted to enjoy Christmas. I was excited about having a large family and grandchildren. When Dave and I married, I went from having one child to four. That was manageable. When the four got married, we doubled. Still doable. Then the precious grandkids started coming and coming and coming, and I was still trying to do all the things I did when we were a small family!

Added to the mix was leading Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, my career, attending seminary for the first few years of our marriage, and writing deadlines!

I was trying too hard to make everything perfect. I was assuming all the responsibility and thinking I could do everything with a family of 21 that I did with a family of two!

As much as I tried to keep my focus on Jesus, the Reason for the Season, I was focusing on:

  • trying to keep the same number of gifts for all the grandkids,
  • getting everyone the perfect gifts,
  • decorating the entire house,
  • sending everyone I knew a Christmas card,
  • making amazing Christmas goodies,
  • hosting Christmas parties,
  • trying new recipes,
  • pulling out all the best dishes . . .

You get the picture because you’ve been there . . . maybe you’re there now.

We also had an annual birthday parties for Jesus, and one year 300 people attended in our 1800 square foot home! I tried parceling out some of the work, but you know how that goes when it’s at your house. I loved it. Everyone loved it and still talks about them. But every year I tried to add a new element to the party and come up with even better party favors and different food than I had the year before.

Looking back, I was competing with myself. Could I top the last party? Could we give the grandkids the best gifts? I worried that we weren’t giving them as many pricey gifts as the other grandparents?!

Then it all came to a screeching halt the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started radiation December 17, 2002, two days before our 10th wedding anniversary. Oh yes, did I forget to mention I also planned our wedding on December 19! It seemed like a great idea the first few years, but then adding in an anniversary getaway or celebration in the middle of Christmas preparations added another activity to my already overbooked schedule.

The unexpected breast cancer diagnosis coincided with a kitchen and living room remodel and all the family “coming home for Christmas.” No kitchen counters or sink because they cut the counter tops wrong. The dishwasher was still in its box in the middle of the kitchen! The new hardwood floors were in, but I had no energy to figure out how to protect them with our traditional live Christmas tree. That year changed everything and actually brought sanity to our Christmas.

Here are some changes I made that “radiation Christmas” that might help you too. Don’t think you have to do all of them, but maybe pick a few that give you more time with Jesus and reduces Christmas stress.

  1. We used decorative paper plates, plastic silverware, and paper cups. Everyone loved how easy cleanup was after a meal. (We put a tablecloth over the dishwasher box and the kids joked that I had always wanted an island in the kitchen.)
  2. We set up a small manger scene instead of putting up a Christmas tree. After that year, we switched to a beautiful artificial Christmas tree, but also added a manger scene to emphasize the real meaning of Christmas. The grandkids decorated the tree. To this day, I let the grandkids decorate the Christmas tree. They do a great job!
  3. First grandchildren usually get many presents. You’re so excited to have a grandchild. As more came, we decided on three presents each like the three Wisemen. But as we hit eleven . . . we had to scale down to one nice present each.
  4. Instead of doing the full birthday party for Jesus, which I wrote about last week and in a blog last year, I ordered online children’s costumes for the Christmas story and had the grandchildren play out the manger scene while I read it from a Children’s Bible. Here’s a YOUTube of a live enactment. Then we kept the Birthday Bag for Jesus under the tree and maintained the tradition of having guests fill out a card with a gift they would give Jesus. On Christmas we have a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
  5. 5. Scale down your Christmas card list or send by email. I love getting Christmas cards, but noticed we received so many with just a signature, nice but not personal. So I had been writing a poem every year for our Christmas card, but our list seemed to double every year.

  6. When we have a dinner party, it’s potluck. When we first moved to Idaho, we had a small dinner for our “neighbors” in the mountains. Then as we met more people, we started inviting neighbors and friends. Soon, I was back to having large groups that didn’t fit into our house! It’s hard to curtail a sanguine. So now we’re back to small, intimate groups.
  7. I mentioned in the blog post Love Your Body: How to Survive Holiday Eating, that I curtailed the baking frenzy. I make something when we’re invited to a party, but now that we’re empty nesters, we don’t need all the goodies sitting around to tempt us.
  8. I still love to decorate the house and have lights. But I don’t feel like I have to bring out every box, every Christmas, and have something in every crook and cranny of our house. Even still, I always get the comments that our house looks Christmassy, warm, and cozy.
  9. Since we now live an hour from town and shopping, we order many gifts online. I say “we” because I include hubby in the shopping. We also wrap presents together, after all, they are for “our” family, and he’s actually a better wrapper than I am. We put something on TV and sit in front of the fireplace by the Christmas tree. Two are definitely better than one!
  10. Start everyday reading a part of the Christmas story or a Christmas devotional. It helps you focus all the day’s activities around the ONLY reason we celebrate Christmas. It reminds us that Jesus doesn’t want us stressed or in a frenzy. He came into the world for one reason, to offer those who believe in Him eternal life, not to add a burden to our life but to lighten our load: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I’d love to hear how you lighten your burdens and simplify Christmas. Please share with us.

I’ll close with a timeless poem I wrote in 2004. You may have read it in previous years, but sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and read it again.

Time To Sit With You”


Lord, so many things to do,             

No time to sit with you.

There’s presents to buy,

And I must bake a pie!


 But isn’t it all about Me?

What’s closed your eyes to see.

The purpose of Christmas day,

Isn’t how much you pay?


Lord, each year we hear that said,

Yet, still it comes with dread.

Anticipating all to do,

No time to sit with You!


This is MY day.

Don’t I have a say

In how you spend your time?

Remember, you are chosen…Mine!


But Lord, relatives will soon be here,

And the lawn Santa still needs reindeer!

There is so much to do,

Still no time to sit with You.


Relax and enjoy Me this season,

Let your activities have a reason.

This is My Birthday celebration,

And all I want is your attention.


Oh, Lord, we’ll make it all about You.

Do You think we should have fondue?

We’ll read the Christmas Story,

And give You all the glory.


Sit down and read My Word.

Your craziness is absurd.

Come spend some time with me,

Forget the Christmas tree.


Oh, Lord the cookies are all baked,

I have such a headache.

I know I need to pray,

But I’ve had such a day!


Lives are waiting to be saved.

Did you hear Me when you prayed?

It is certainly no wonder

Your world is all asunder.


No, God, I didn’t hear a word,

I was busy stuffing the bird.

I want to just slow down,

But I feel I’m losing ground.


You’ve made it all about you,

And all your parties too.

My message to the lost,

Overshadowed by homemade cranberry sauce.


Lord, that’s not true,

You know I do love You.

It’s just I feel a call,

To make this the best Christmas of all!


You’re wasting your time.

Do you think you could top Mine?

I had a virgin birth,

As my entrance to earth.


Oh, Lord, I’m beginning to see,

How You want to use me.

Telling Your story to all who will listen,

Is the true Christmas mission.


Spending time with Me,

Is the only way to flee

The world’s strangling control

On your time and very soul.


Oh, Lord, Your music softly plays,

As the candle glow displays,

The beauty of time spent

With our Gift heaven sent.


You’ll go against the flow

Taking time to help a lost soul.

But when the day has come to end,

You’ll have the joy of a new friend.


Oh, Lord, forgive me please.

Help me put down my car keys.

It really is so true,

There’s ALWAYS time to sit with You.

Our prayer for our friends and family is that you focus your life on only those things that will have Kingdom value. It’s the only legacy worth leaving. Merry Christmas, Janet & Dave

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Grandparents Changing the Culture

A Million praying grandparentsIn the Generation to Generation section of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, I stress that the most important task for parents and grandparents is to pass down to future generations the goodness of our Great God, and help their children and grandchildren enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus.

Lillian Penner, National Prayer Director for Christian Grandparenting Network (CGN,) and an endorser of Forsaken God?, shares my passion for mentoring the next generation. Lillian has a dream of A Million Praying Grandparents committing to pray intentionally and regularly for grandchildren and their parents. I asked Lillian to share her dream/passion with you because I believe you share my concern for our grandchildren and children growing up in a broken world that has forsaken and forgotten God.

I joined the Million Praying Grandparents as a grandparent who prays Scripture daily for our eleven grandchildren. It’s part of my morning quiet time, and I have seen God do amazing things, which I write about in Grammie’s Corner in my monthly online newsletter. This month you can read how 7-year old Sienna surprised Grampa and me when she announced that she wanted us to pray with her to accept Jesus into her heart. That blessing was the answer to many morning prayers.

Sienna and KatelynI learned about praying God’s will by praying Scripture for Sienna’s mommy. I share more about this way of praying in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.


In a movement to unite grandparents to pray intentionally for the next generation, Christian Grandparenting Network is launching a globale prayer campaign for 2016: A Million Praying Grandparents. Can you imagine the impact of one million or more grandparents praying for their grandchildren?

The Mission Field

The mission of CGN is the mobilization of grandparents throughout the world to commit to pray daily for their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s parents. In Christian Living Today, Editor, Randy Swanson, wrote:

The role of Grandparenting is becoming more important than anyone would ever have imagined. The rescue of our culture may well rest on the shoulders of today’s grandparents.”

Perhaps at no time in history has the call been more urgent for intentional prayer.

If you grasp the urgency of our time, then I urge you to join the Million Praying Grandparents movement, linking arms in prayer for the next generation.

Our grandchildren are our primary mission field.

Sign Up Today to Be a Praying Grandparent

If you’re as worried as I am about the world our grandchildren are inheriting, I urge you to sign up for the Million Praying Grandparents Movement. By joining, you are declaring your commitment to pray regularly for your grandchildren.

In appreciation for making such a culture-changing commitment, you will receive a free printable copy of a Million Praying Grandparents Prayer Resource to guide in using God’s Word to pray for your grandchildren.

Now you must make a decision:

For the sake of the hearts, minds and souls of your grandchildren, will you say, “YES I will join the Million Praying Grandparents movement?”

Go to the Million Praying Grandparents website and follow the instructions to sign up!

Please also share the vision of a Million Praying Grandparents united in prayer for their grandchildren with your friends and family.

Together we can influence the next generation to know Christ and follow Him wholeheartedly! Together we can change the culture and a world that has forgotten and forsaken God. Don’t let that be your grandchildren’s future.

Excerpt from Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten.

Steve Green wrote a song with the chorus, “Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.” Someday we’ll all just be a memory, but let’s make sure that memory is a good one. In your sphere of influence, starting with your own family and church family, “tell them” all you’ve seen God do and his unchanging truths. Influence the next generations to love and obey God with born-again, Holy Spirit filled hearts.

I pray my [Janet’s] legacy to my children and grandchildren will be—Mom/Grammie was a woman who loved Jesus and lived what she believed.

If you’re a grandparent, you’ll want to join this movement of a Million Praying Grandparents.

If you’re a parent, you’ll want to forward this blog to your children’s grandparents.

If you receive this blog my email, please comment here.

_MG_5006A LIL

Lillian Penner is the author of Grandparenting with a Purpose: Effective Ways to Pray for Your Grandchildren and is the National Prayer Coordinator for Christian Grandparenting Network. An avid blogger, Lillian will break into smiles if you ask about her twelve grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She and her husband, John, live in Portland, Oregon, where they are active in church ministries.

Visit Lillian

Christians Arise!

As many of you know, I have a new book releasing on February 9, 2016, Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten. In the book, I talk about how the Lord put this book on my heart nine years ago, and as I watch world events unfold, I understand why God waited for this book to release now. We’re all watching the outcome of a world that has forgotten God. While the culture tries to politicize moral issues, nothing will ever out trump God’s Word; but all of us will suffer the consequences of those who try to do just that.

I worry the most about the future of those who do not believe in Jesus, and the next generation, my grandchildren. Let me share with you a post I put on Facebook the morning after the horrendous attacks in Paris by Islamic terrorists this past Friday:

My grandkids knew nothing about the Paris attacks yesterday, but when I told them today was mommy and daddy’s 17th anniversary, 10 yr old Katelyn said: “They were married 3 yrs before The attack.” She meant 9/11. So many adults have become complacent and forgotten something we all said we would  NEVER forget . . . a horrendous atrocity/tragedy on American soil. Yet Katelyn is marking personal history by it.

Then the kids went on to talk about ISIS and a rap song about Sandy Hook. That’s the world our children and grandchildren are growing up in as “normal.”

What are we doing to make this world safer for them? I am daily reminded of the timeliness of my Feb. release “Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten.” May we never forget but be forever vigilant and never rest until everyone we know, knows Jesus as their personal Savior!

This is our time as Christians to arise and tell the world about the hope that lives within us . . . just like we did after 9/11 . . . but not like the complacency that followed when everyone went back to “life as normal.” I have a chapter in my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer that talks about “‘Normal’ Isn’t Normal Anymore.” There’s no going back to “normal” after cancer or terrorists attacks. Terrorism may never be completely eliminated: that’s the new normal in our world today. And yet, much of the energy and effort of our government and culture focuses more on eliminating God than the evil’s of terrorism. Yet, without God, evil reigns.

But we Christians know the truth and we need to arise in unity and speak out, step out, and reach out as fast as we can to everyone in our sphere of influence who doesn’t know the Lord. We must not be reacting in anxiety and fear like the rest of the world, but tell others about the origin of our peace, Jesus Christ! Being a Christian isn’t just about our own salvation and maturity in Christ, it’s about the Great Commission that every Christian is called on to go and tell the Good News to a lost world.

Remember all the good God has done in your life and share that with someone today. Their eternal life depends on it!

Here’s the proposed back back cover of Forsaken God?. Does it challenge you?

Our morally deteriorating culture has forgotten God’s goodness to its own peril. Will the next generation even know God? The very survival of the Christian faith depends on creating a culture of God-memories that must start now!

Today’s culture is quickly forgetting the goodness and power of God. The Bible describes the potential destruction through all generations to people who forget God. The dangers are paramount. If we don’t remember what God already has done, we won’t believe what he is capable of doing in the future. Memory builds faith.

“Forsaken God?” explores biblical examples of forgetting God as God repeatedly pleads for his people to remember his mighty acts and deeds. As you read this captivating book, you will have an opportunity to recall your own memories of God and learn new ways to remember God’s goodness and the power of sharing those memories with the next generation. The author and other contributors share open and honest stories of forgetting God’s goodness and offer ways that help them to remember.

“’Forsaken God?’ isn’t a book propagating guilt, it is a how-to manual showing us practical as well as spiritual ways to restore the romance in our relationship with the Almighty.”
—Anita Agers Brooks, inspirational business/life coach, international speaker, and award-winning author of Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over and First Hired, Last Fired

“Thank you, Janet, for giving us what we need: not another self-help book, but a well-timed reminder of profound truth: God is good.”
—Jocelyn Green, author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives

I hope you will help me get the word out about this book written to mobilize Christians and the church who might have . . .

You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.–Revelation 2:4-5, 3:3

Forsaken God? is available right now for pre-orders on Amazon! There isn’t a picture yet of the cover on Amazon, but I’m excited to reveal the cover to you as we have just finalized it after much prayer.

ForsakenGodfina (2)

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Celebrate National Grandparent’s Day with Prayer


Grandparents day

Grandparents laughing with grandchildren 

Did you know there is actually a National Grandparents Day? This year it is on September 13. Have you been planning a celebration?  It certainly isn’t recognized like Mother’s Day for Father’s Day, but those of us who are grandparents know what a blessing it is to have grandchildren…and that’s celebration enough for me!

I LOVE being a grandparent. I like to say that God saved the last for best. My husband, Dave, and I have eleven grandchildren and we plan our schedule around spending time with each of them.

My friend Lillian Penner is the National Prayer Coordinator for the Christian Grandparenting Network and I invited Lillian to be a guest blogger today to talk to grandparents about how to celebrate National Grandparents Day by praying for our grandchildren. I pray for each of my eleven in my morning quiet time, and I can visibly see God at work in each of their lives. Enjoy Lillian’s post today–


Christian Grandparenting Network is asking grandparents all over the world to unite in prayer for their grandchildren on Sunday, September 13, 2013. This date is the official United States National Grandparents Day designated by a Senate proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

            Our grandchildren are living in a desperate moral and spiritual climate navigating in a world hostile to truth. Satan has launched an aggressive attack on our families, schools and our nation to desensitize our children to truth and righteousness. Perhaps at no other time in our history is a call to prayer more urgently required than it is today for our grandchildren.

            The mission of Christian Grandparenting Network (CGN) is to promote effective grandparenting, which is intentional about assisting our children and grandchildren to know and follow Christ wholeheartedly. CGN is issuing a call to all grandparents to join with other grandparents in their churches, community and around the world to “Stand in the Gap” for an intentional day of prayer for the next generation.

Will you stand in the GAP to join grandparents worldwide on Sunday September 13 to pray for the next generation that they may walk in the truth? Will you volunteer to plan an event with your friends or in your church?

To join the movement  go to our Facebook page, “Like” our fan page and under the “more” tab, you’ll find a link to my free e-book Reflecting on My Grandparenting Journey.

For additional information and resources go to www.gocgn.com or contact Lillian Penner lpenner@christiangrandparenting.net.

Character From An 8 Year-old’s Perspective

First day of VBS

The above picture is of the grandkids and me heading off to our first day of Vacation Bible School at our church, located at the bottom of the hill we live on. The kids and I like to walk down to VBS every morning and trudge back up the hill after the hot lunch provided for all the VBS kids!

At the bottom of the hill, we have to cross a two-lane country road, which is the only access in and out of our area, so it’s busy in the morning. Where we live there are no stoplights or crosswalks, so the kids and I stand patiently waiting for our chance to cross the street. When there’s a clearing in the “traffic,” we hold hands and walk across the road to church. As a side note, we live in a rural area, so I use the term “traffic” very loosely!

Several mornings, the kids and I were surprised and elated that cars going both directions simultaneously stopped to let us walk across the road. They were literally stopping traffic for us. We waved a thank you, and in true country fashion, the drivers waved back with a nod of the head conveying: no problem . . . our pleasure . . . have a fun day. We probably looked like a protective mamma duck and her little ducklings trying to cross the road.

One morning as cars were stopped for us to cross the road, 8 year-old Brandon intuitively commented, “Grammie, you know those people who stop for us . . . they are people of character!” I was truly stunned to hear such wisdom coming from my precious little grandson, who gave his heart to Jesus at VBS. I told Brandon that he was exactly right; they truly were people of character. Then I mused that those kind motorists had no idea the impression they had just made on this little guy.

Brandon’s definition of a person of character seems to be someone who does the right thing: goes out of their way to help others, even if it’s inconvenient. A person who sees someone in need and stops to help, even if it makes him or her late, or others are irritated with their act of kindness. Someone who thinks of others needs before their own needs and are always looking for people to help or assist. It made me wonder how many people I influence every day by my actions and my deeds. Would I be considered a woman of character . . . all the time? Am I always looking out for someone, literally or figuratively, standing on the side of the road needing someone to stop and notice his or her dilemma?

In busy towns, I’ve seen so many motorists  who barely let someone cross in front of them in a crosswalk before rushing on through or making an impatient turn when pedestrians just clear the front of their car. These could be drivers headed to church or late for a small group meeting or rushing to do good, while not seeing the good they could do right in front of them.

It makes you think doesn’t it?

Speaking of people of character, my husband Dave’s story of being a father who follows The Father was featured on Father’s Day at The M.O.M Initiative. So proud of the godly husband, father, and grampa he is as the Spiritual Leader of our family. Now that’s a man of character!