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Lina AbuJamra

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Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

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Dawn Wilson



Christmas Joy

Kelly DeChant is one of the most joy-filled women I know. I asked her to share her take on what brings the most joy at Christmas in this Holiday UPGRADE.

“Christmas Joy—is it what you give or what you spend?” Kelly asks. “Think about it . . . is it what you GIVE or what you SPEND?”

Christians would likely answer, “what I give,” but I (Dawn) think that’s still not the best answer, as Kelly points out so clearly.

She continues . . .

As you meandered down the aisle at Costco, making your way to the pumpkin pie counter for your fall dessert choice (mid-October), what came over you when you saw the nicely manicured Christmas trees adorned with every color bulb imaginable? 

Did you succumb to a numbing effect—ice running through your veins at the very sight of the trees? Did you immediately check you Smart Phone calendar to verify the date? It just couldn’t possibly be that time yet! 

Were you overcome with sheer panic of the thought that Christmas was in fact only 75 days away and you were counting at a warp speed? 

To fight off the anxiety, did you grab the nearest spoon to politely (of course) begin shoveling spoonfuls of the delightful pumpkin pie into your mouth?

Oh yes, it has happened to us all. And once you have recovered from the initial shock, the truth of it all sets in. What are you to do? 

You can commit to spending money on things that people will rarely acknowledge as valuable, or you can rethink your entire Christmas season strategy. I challenge you to sit with a nice cup of peppermint tea and gain complete and total perspective. 

It all begins in the way you think. To change your behavior, you have to change the way you think. Let’s begin with “The Reason for the Season.” Simply put, it’s Jesus. He is the reason we celebrate.

How will you keep Him center stage in your Christmas? He is where our true JOY will be found.

I think of it like this: JOY = Jesus Occupying You

Yes, occupying—occupying your thoughts, your actions, your spending and your giving. 

This is His party, and He wants us to celebrate Him. We do this by keeping Him first in our giving. As we spend time with family and friends, we are giving of ourselves. It’s not about the gift giving, but rather the life living. That is the greatest gift we can give Jesus this birthday. 

How do we celebrate? Is it the Hallmark Christmas movies that tug at your heart to get you in the Christmas spirit . . . or is it the reading of His birth announcement in Luke 2  that sends heart-throbbing joy into your soul?

Think about that journey taken by Jesus’ earthly parents to bring this child to us.  

For unto us a Child is born. . . .” He was born to be our Savior, and there is no greater gift ever given. 

Throughout the season, read each day from the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—their difference renditions of that precious time in history. It will bring a newness to your Christmas season and you will keep Him at the center. 

Remember: Jesus Occupying You! That’s Christmas Joy, not what you give or spend.

What are you doing this December to refresh the wonder of Christmas joy in your heart?

Kelly DeChant, a wife, mother and Grammy, enlists herself as a Disciple of the Risen King. She is passionate about sharing the Gospel to everyone she encounters, and she does so with great joy!

Graphic #1 adapted from Graphic #2, Costco Insider. Graphic #3, adapted, Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


Upgrade My Life with Grace

At Christmastime, we are reminded of God's incredible grace to us in sending His Son, Jesus. Kathy Carlton Willis reminds us to extend that grace in this Christmas UPGRADE.

"God’s grace isn’t merely for the pre-believer to come to faith in Christ," Kathy says. "It is for every day of every soul’s life."

Ever heard the phrase, "give her some grace"? I (Dawn) have, and it usually means someone is doing something wrong and I need to be more patient. But Kathy is using the words "give them grace" in an entirely different way.

Kathy continues . . .

As we enter this holy season, let’s look at this very special Christmas gift—grace.

I remember the Christmas I grew up. Under the tree I found a box smaller than a breadbox that weighed more than the bowling ball I tried to throw down the lane during our Girl Scout outing. What could it possibly be? The tag said the gift was from my brother and parents. Normally sibling gifts were purchased with our meager allowance, so I didn’t expect much.

Finally, Christmas Day came. As I ripped away the paper, first I saw a yellow cardboard box. It housed an entire paperback set of books by Laura Ingalls WilderLittle House on the Prairie. For me? My very own library? One book would be a treat—but an entire set of books? Pure joy!

I was lavished with an amazing gift of great cost, which brought me great pleasure. This was the year I grew up. Books were my favorite gifts that year, not toys or dolls or games. And I think the reason why the experience matured me was not just because of what I received, but because of the way it impacted me.

This was an extravagant present—a generous gift.

My special gift made me realize how to receive love and to lavish love on others. This is grace extended. And isn’t that what the birth of Christ delivered to us all?

As we learn from the gift of His life, how can we give grace away? Give with Grace!

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I say, “I’m at your service,” and I’m really not. I set out wanting to serve—but I want to do it my way. I have terms to the grace I offer others. If I volunteer hours, it has to be when I say it can be. If I offer to listen, it needs to fit around my schedule.

I realize as I write this, I’m not much of a servant at all. Sure sounds to me like I’m pretty bossy!

It’s human nature to want to be in control. If you’ve ever been on top of a horse who suddenly decides to go his own way, at his own pace, and make his own trail (where there isn’t one), then you know how it feels to not be in control. None of us like that feeling very much. So we hold tightly to the reins.

Part of acting in grace to others is not having to be in control—letting God lead us.

One example we can learn from is Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. Mary was a godly young woman, open to receiving an assignment from God. Although many of us are older than Mary would have been, we aren’t that much different as we receive our assignments from God.

Let’s see how God used her.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (Luke 1:28-38 NLT)

God used Mary as an instrument of His grace, and He wants to use us today. Let’s look at several Give with Grace principles:

  1. We have been gifted by His grace and God wants to use this grace in us for His purposes. The angel told Mary that she was the object of God’s favor. This is another term for grace—the grace of being chosen for His use.
  2. God doesn’t look for experts, He looks for people who are willing to be used. Mary didn’t negotiate terms or offer up excuses. She was available for duty.
  3. God is standing by to equip us when we are flexible with how the story ends. Mary was compliant with the angel’s message. She listened and didn’t make demands for more proof when she received the details.
  4. God’s grace makes our weakness enough when paired with His power. Even though Mary was a virgin, that was not an obstacle for her to be pregnant with God’s Son. There will never be another Mary, and there will never be another you, which makes it even more important to listen for God’s custom-fit instructions for your life.
  5. God gets the glory when we yield to receive and distribute His grace. We may not understand exactly why He selected Mary, but His reasons were perfect. We may not understand why He wants to use us, but it pleases Him to use us as ministers of His grace.

God has lavished His grace upon us. Will you extend that grace to others, especially during this Christmas season?

Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published and she has several books releasing over the next three years, including Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers (at amazon: She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas. Learn more at:

Note: Today’s article is an excerpt from the galley of Grin with Grace by Kathy Carlton Willis, AMG Publishers, 2015.


Bear One Another's Burdens

Just a passing thought to UPGRADE your Christmas. Think of all the ways you can bear someone's burdens and brighten their days. This isn't just for Christmas, of course, but it's a powerful way to share Jesus' love while people are even more open to acts of kindness.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ"  (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

Beary Christmas!


The 'A B Cs' of Growing a Child's Wonder at Christmas

A child's wonder at Christmas is a joy to behold. Sue Badeau explains three ways to expand that wonder in this Holiday UPGRADE.

“Growing a child’s wonder at Christmas is as simple as A, B, C,” Sue says, “and you can create many; special memories to ponder all year long.”

Do you have special holiday memories? Unique traditions? I (Dawn) have found they don't have to be complicated, just full of meaning for you and your family.

Sue continues . . .

When Hector and I first became parents, we hoped our children would ask, “I wonder what it was like to be in the field with the shepherds?” or “I wonder how I can celebrate Jesus birthday in a new way this year?” instead of “I wonder what Santa will bring me for Christmas?” So we set about planning Advent activities that wouldn’t focus on material gifts.

We wanted our children to truly experience the fullness and richness of the entire Advent season, and after a few hits and misses, we came up with a three-part strategy that we use to this day—now with grand and great-grandchildren.

A - Activities

Our activities engage all senses in discovering the true Christmas story.

We have a book of daily Advent readings, filled with scriptures and prayers that we read each night at the dinner table, followed by lighting the Advent candles. Everyone has a turn to be a reader as well as a listener.

In addition, throughout the month we find unique and creative opportunities to share, reflect upon, gain new insights into and re-experience the Christmas story through music, art, dance, crafts, baking—we made an elaborate Nativity scene out of bread dough one year—and more.

Our children connect with the miracles of the season by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching things that enrich and deepen their ability to understand not only with their minds, but with their hearts and spirits.

B - Build

Build memories by repeating traditions. Whether it’s baking my mom’s shortbread cookies each Sunday during advent, or Hector’s mother’s tourtiers (meat pies) on Christmas eve or setting out Mexican luminarias for Las Posadas, repeating traditions from year to year deepens family bonding, creates anticipation and provides opportunities for re-telling the stories that illuminate the heart and soul of the season.

One year after our children were grown, we proposed eliminating a couple of traditions and nearly had a riot on our hands!

Traditions link the past to the present inviting memories and questions while also creating a sense of hopeful anticipation of a future where the legacy will be inherited by a new generation.

C - Celebrate

Celebrate every day. We create our own Advent calendar each year with an activity planned for each day, often tying the activity to a cultural celebration unique to one or more of our family members’ heritage.

Some of the activities are simple, such as reading a particular story, or hanging the stockings. (Stockings are hung on December 6th, St. Nicholas’ Day, and we also reflect on the lessons we can learn from the life of the original St. Nicholas about giving in secret.

Other activities are more involved, such as shopping for gifts for needy children or going caroling throughout our neighborhood.

With an activity planned for each day, the sense of wonder, excitement and anticipation about this special season grows just as surely as the lights on our advent wreath grow brighter from week to week.

By the end of each Christmas season, like Mary, I have many special moments to ponder in my heart (see Luke 2:19) and I believe that each of my children do as well.

How can you upgrade your Advent celebration by providing opportunities for your children to experience Christmas with all of their senses throughout the season?

Note: Sue shares more of the wonder of the season in her two newly-released Christmas stories, The Christmas Primer, and Umojaboth released by Helping Hands Press.

Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, author, and child welfare and trauma expert. Sue and her husband Hector are lifetime parents of twenty-two children—two by birth and twenty adopted. They wrote the book Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids. Learn more about Sue at and

Graphic image adapted - Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at


Holiday Hoopla at 50+: Making Memories

Deb DeArmond, the co-founder of "My Purpose Now," eagerly encourages women to live for the Lord in their second half of life. This optimistic mid-lifer has a special Holiday UPGRADE for those of us who still want to make a difference at 50+!

“As we get older,” Deb says, “making new memories is more important than ever!"

I (Dawn) am well past 50, and although I might move a little slower these days, my mind is always dreaming up some ways to create fresh family memories. So I appreciate Deb’s perspective.

She continues . . .

Two years ago we did what most people our age don’t do. We upgraded by purchasing a bigger home. We got an extra two bedrooms and another full bath in the deal and traded a small lot for nearly a quarter acre.

Crazy this late in our fifth decade? Maybe. But it’s all part of the plan.

What plan? To make room for more memories.

This year we will be blessed with five little grandboys gathered in our home for the holidays. (They will be bringing their parents along.) A sixth grandson is waiting in the wings, arriving after the New Year. The boys range in age from three months to seven years old.

It’s going to be noisy.

          And messy.

                    And all kinds of wonderful.

I do enjoy watching the kids as they open something special—selected just for them. But the holiday hoopla includes the marketeers working to convince the little ones that “this new thingamajig” is something they can’t live without.

As grandparents, how do we bring balance, with a focus on honoring Christ and enjoying the season in awe of the depth of God’s love for us?

As it says in Proverbs, "A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren . . . " (Proverbs 13:22, The Message).

Several years ago, my hubby and I proposed a new Christmas plan to our sons and daughters-in-law. We concluded we no longer needed anything, wanted anything or had room for anything else in our home.

But just like Jell-O, there’s always more room for memories.

Our suggestion? A shared experience in place of gifts. There were a few raised eyebrows and requests for clarification, but eventually, thumbs up all around.

The first year we rented a mountain cabin where the snow and the crackling fire kept us inside playing games, watching movies and talking. Remember talking? It’s been downgraded thanks to the (anti)social media mania.

The kids skied and we all indulged in a furious snowball fight. We exchanged letters on Christmas morning, each writing a note to the others acknowledging the gifts and gratitude of doing life together. One of the best holidays ever.

Disney was beautiful the next Christmas, and one year we opted for California sunshine. Eventually, the first couple of kiddles joined us as travelers. I wouldn’t trade those trips and the time together for anything.

This year with three babies 18 months and under, plus a very pregnant mama-to-be, travel is not an option. At least not one sane people would choose. So we’ll be making holiday memories with a new flair this year. Here are some tips on how to do that with your tribe.

(1) Turn holiday chores into an event. A baking date with my daughter-in-law, or a tree trimming extravaganza with food and holiday music can make the mundane magic.

(2) Expand holiday traditions to the next generation. The traditional holiday tea with my best friend will include our daughters this year at a lovely public garden. Wrangle the older kids to deliver gifts at a nursing home or sing carols to shut-ins. Dress up the littles in their holiday best and go to a holiday concert.

(3) Select experiences that are new for the entire family. We’re planning a ride on a local version of the Polar Express aboard a restored vintage train. Perhaps a holiday “cook off” with each of the couples taking on a day of the week-long menu plan. Vote for your faves and award “family chef” prize to the winners.

It’s easy to buy a gift. Creating memories might require more imagination, but is worth the effort. Perhaps we can help influence the grandbabies to choose wealth by wanting less stuff and living more life.

As grandparents, we have a responsibility to the next generations so Jesus, not things, becomes the focus.

This year, upgrade to making holiday memories!

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her recent book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between moms and the girls who marry their sons. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her “My Purpose Now” site and her "Family Matters" site.