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Entries in Christmas (23)


5 Tips to Strategically Simplify Your Holiday Season

Because Marcia Ramsland is one of the most organized people I know during the holiday season, I asked her to prepare us for Thanksgiving and Christmas with some helpful strategies.

This Holiday UPGRADE is based on her practical book, Simplify Your Holiday Season, and it includes a free download!

“If you do anything more than once in life," Marcia says, "organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork. “  

I (Dawn) totally agree with the "organize and simplify" concept. Along with walking in the Spirit and experiencing His peace in our hearts (Galatians 5:16, 22), one of the blessings of being properly prepared for the holidays is the peace that flows into our celebrations and activities!

Marcia continues . . .

There is ONE DATE that signals it’s time to launch your holiday planning every year—November 1st.

Knowing that, you can be ready and sail through the holidays by taking these five action steps early. These five steps—and my free 8-Week Holiday Planning Calendar—will get you ready early and make it the peaceful Thanksgiving and Christmas season you’ve always dreamed of.

1.  Mark Your Holiday Dates for November and December.

Thanksgiving is “early” this year on November 23, which means Christmas is a little over four weeks after Thanksgiving. That’s really good news!

But you still need to follow a good Calendar Plan so too many details don’t mount up at the end to cause you holiday stress.

2.  Write A Master Gift List.

List the names of people that you are planning to give gifts to. Better yet, FIND YOUR LIST from last year and follow that same order early in November.

Can’t find last year’s list? You could download my free Master Gift List.

You can download the 2017 Free Master GIFT LIST and Holiday CALENDARhere.

(NOTE: If you already have my Holiday planner, put the list in the front pocket!)

3. Organize Your Gift Wrap Center.

Right now, you don’t have to wrap any gifts. Just organize your Gift Wrap Center with 7 key items all together, say in an under-the-bed box or drawer. 

Include: holiday wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tags, fresh tissue paper, bows & ribbons, scotch tape and a dedicated pen. Get it organized and ready to use.

4. Plan Ahead by Writing Things Down.

Mark your calendar with family coming to town, favorite concerts, kids school vacation dates, and business vacation days. This forms the structure for your holiday season.

5. Sort Your Holiday Decorations Early.

The best weekend to put up Christmas decorations this year will be Thanksgiving weekend or the weekend after, but not turning on lights until December 1.

That way you can enjoy them for five weeks before taking them down after New Year’s weekend.

Donate what you don’t use early in December. Why?

1) Someone else can enjoy your excess decorations this Christmas.

2) Charities won’t take them after Christmas, because they don’t have room to store them for 11 months.

Free up space by donating this year!

Planning is powerful! And with a good plan and your eye on the calendar, you can simplify your holiday season.

Instead of playing “catch-up” and feeling stressed, you will experience freedom and calm.

With an organized plan in action every week—written out on an 8-Week Holiday Calendar Plan—you can say wholeheartedly like the angelic heavenly host who praised God when they appeared to the shepherds and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” Luke 2:13-14.

Let me share a holiday prayer just for you.

"Dear God, today as I work on preparing my heart and home for Christmas, may I reflect on the events of the first Christmas and find strength in knowing you have a special plan for my holidays this year.” Amen

What holiday activity will you start this weekend to make sure you’re calm and ready to celebrate this holiday season?

Marcia Ramsland, the Holiday Coach, is the author of two holiday books: Simplify Your Holiday Season: Turn Seasonal Stress into Holiday Success” and Simply December Devotions and was a spokesperson for Sam’s Club Holiday Entertaining. Download Marcia's free 2017 Holiday Calendar and Master Gift List HERE

Thanksgiving/Christmas blocks in the graphic available at BuzzingBeesCrafts on, while quantities last.


Really ... the "Elf" Made Me Do It!

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn reminds us to make wise, proactive choices—even at Christmastime!

My Christmas "Elf on a Shelf," Ella Noelle, is responsible for all the things going wrong in my life this Christmas.

She's responsible for:

  • My cookies that burned.
  • My nearly-empty wallet.
  • My 2-1/2 pound weight gain.
  • My overbooked calendar.
  • My angry outburst at the guy that cut me off on the way to the mall and my impatience waiting in a 40-minute line because I waited too late to shop.

Yeah, right.

I can say Ella Noelle is responsible all I want, but it doesn't make it so.

It's sort of like "The devil made me do it." 

No. The devil may tempt us, but he can't force us to sin.

I remember when comedian Flip Wilson (no relation) made that remark famous in the early 1970s. For some time after, many of my friends used that as their excuse for foul-ups.

I remembered my childhood imaginary friend, Stinky Sam. Whenever I was caught in a sinful act, I'd tell myself, "That was Stinky Sam"—while I'd stand there looking totally (and adorably) innocent, sometimes holding the evidence of my "crime."

I think with some Christian maturity, I've finally outgrown those silly blame-game episodes. I've put the childish ways of blaming others behind me (1 Corinthians 13:11). I've taken more responsibility for my foolish choices.

Until I haven't.

Just yesterday, I caught myself blaming the devil after I took the third Christmas cookie.

I asked my husband, "Who emptied my wallet?" (after a trip to the mall).

I couldn't believe it was ME who uttered those nasty, impatient words at the store clerk.

The truth is, I still have to learn a lot about "owning up" when I blow it.

We're all responsible for our own ugly stuff.

The scriptures teach us the concept of personal responsiblity (see Ezekiel 18:20). Both negatively and positively, we all will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8; Isaiah 3:10-11).

Here are biblical examples of some who tried to dodge responsibility when they sinned:

  • Adam and Eve tried the blame game, but God confronted them about their sin (Genesis 3:12-13).
  • Cain tried to cover up his sin, but God found him out (Genesis 4:9).
  • Jonah tried to duck out of his disobedience, but he still had to answer to God (Jonah 1:7-8).
  • Achan was responsible for his hidden sin at the city of Jericho (Joshua 7:14-15).
  • David finally had to "fess up" to his sin—and he recognize who he had ultimately sinned against! (Psalm 51:4).
  • Pontius Pilate said he was innocent and blamed the Jews for Jesus' crucifixion, but God saw his heart (Matthew 27:24).

God's word of warning to us is: "Be sure your sin will find you out!" (Numbers 32:23). God sees and knows. We are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

He takes note of even our secret sins  (Psalm 139:1-4, 11-12, 23-24; Psalm 69:5; 90:8; Jeremiah 16:17-18). But He can help us turn from those sins hidden in our hearts (Psalm 19:12).

Today, I praise the Lord because He has a solution for our sin.

The great gift of Christmas is God reaching down to man with abundant grace.

In great love and mercy, when we confess, our faithful Father forgives (1 John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13).

The biggest responsibility we have is to repent, believe the Gospel and live for Christ—making the wise and godly choices that please Him (Mark 1:15; 1 John 4:9-10).

We can't blame anyone but ourselves if we fail to do that: not the Elf, the devil, or even Stinky Sam!

Are you blaming others or trying to cover up your sin? How can embracing the great truth of 1 John 1:9 encourage you to come clean before the Lord and move forward in freedom?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Heartsand a writer at She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.



5 Tips to Jumpstart Your Holidays

The first thing I learned about Marcia Ramsland is, she cares about people. The second thing I learned is, because she cares, she creates constructive ways to help them. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she encourages us to jumpstart our holiday preparations so we can experience peace at Christmas and not stress.

“If you do anything more than once in life,” Marcia says, “organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork!”

I (Dawn) have learned so many things from reading Marcia's books, and appreciate this approach ... because they work!

Marcia continues . . .

After staying up late Christmas Eve to wrapping presents for years, I finally figured out “The Holiday Plan” to simplify the whole season! Now we all get a good night’s sleep at Christmas.

You can, too!

To get you started on the right foot for the busy Holiday Season, here are “5 Tips to Jumpstart Your Holidays.”

1) Look Ahead and Mark Your Calendar.

Mark family celebration dates, guests coming, vacation days, holiday parties, church concerts, plays, and annual holiday events you enjoy. Post the calendar where you can see it regularly—like in your kitchen.

This is a unique time of year you need especially good planning skills.

2) Schedule 2 Hour Segments of Weekly Holiday “Prep” Time.

Schedule weekly shopping time online or in the mall, cleaning house, decorating. Schedule Thursday nights for shopping, Saturday for baking and decorating, and Sunday afternoon for wrapping presents.

3) Write a Master Gift List on One Form.

Pull out your gift list from last year to create a duplicate. Don't have one? Download my annual  FREE Master Gift List  to stay organized with your ideas, purchases, and budgets. Use it every year to keep your ideas organized.

4) Make the Most of Your Limited Time.

Combine your limited social time by inviting friends to an upcoming event and getting together for dinner ahead of time or dessert afterwards.

Create a memory on one night instead of two.

5) Sort Your Holiday Decorations Early.

Sort your Holiday decorations when you put them up the first weekend in December.

Immediately donate what you don’t put up to a charity so you can help someone else have a light and bright Christmas.

Planning is powerful! And with a good plan and your eye on the calendar, you can simplify your holiday season. Every year over 800 people download my week-by-week holiday planning calendars and Master Gift List to put in the front pocket of their Holiday planning book, Simplify Your Holiday Season (see book link, below).

Instead of playing “catch-up” and feeling stressed, you will experience freedom and calm.

This year with your advanced planning you can say—like the angelic heavenly host who praised God when they appeared to the shepherds—“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).

Be sure to bring the Lord into the midst of your holiday preparations.

You might pray:

Dear God, today as I work on preparing my heart and home for Christmas, may I reflect on the events of the first Christmas and find strength in knowing you have a special plan for my holidays this year. I ask you turn my mental chaos into calm with your presence every day. Amen!

What will you do better this year to ease the stress of the holiday season?

Marcia Ramsland is known as The Holiday Coach, author of “Simplify Your Holiday Season” planning book and “Simply December Devotions” devotional. Download your FREE Holiday Planning Calendar and Master Gift List and join her weekly Monday Holiday Class at

Graphic adapted, courtesy of morguefile.


Christmas Wrap Up: Two Families

When I saw this sign, I thought, this is true on two accounts.

First, today (Christmas) is a wonderful opportunity for family members to "get all wrapped up" with one another. For some families, that is easy. For others, it's tough.

Some families exude the kind of love and kindness that are the hallmark of this "hap-happiest day of the year."

I am so grateful for my own family members who selflessly care and pray for each other. They don't hold grudges. They respond rather than react. It is a joy to spend time with them ... and not only during the holidays!

Other families have to wade through the drama of past hurts and present bitterness. Times of joy together seems so impossible, such a sad struggle. Sad to say, I even see this in some Christian families who have never learned the power of forgiveness.

I encourage those who struggle with relationships not to give up! Figure out how to reach out ... and keep reaching out ... until those relationships are rekindled or restored. It truly would be the best Christmas present you could give one another.

A one-day holiday may not be enough time to accomplish this great task, but it is so worthwhile to make the choice to love. (A helpful resource is the book Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.)

But second, I'm also thinking today of the family of God.

I'm thinking that the the best—or at least, one of the best—gifts God gave to His children (Christ-followers) is a "family all wrapped up with one another."

I thank God today for my Christian family members. I am grateful for their encouragement. Their prayers. Their wisdom. Their counsel. Their love. And so much more.

It is because Christ came that we have this forever family.

And because of Him, we'll have an eternity to grow in our relationships together.

But even now, we can learn to model the character of God in our relationships.

There is great insight for relationship-building in Ephesians 5:1-21:

  • We can learn to walk in love (5:1-2), just as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35).
  • We can learn to walk as children of light (5:8-10) in all that is good, and right and true (Philippians 2:15; 1 John 1:7).
  • We can learn to walk in wisdom (5:15-17), using discernment (Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5, 3:13, 17).
  • We can learn to walk in the Spirit (5:18), filled with the fruit of that relationship (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • We can learn to walk in gratitude (5:19-20) with a joyful, worshipful heart (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Colossians 2:6-7; 3:17).
  • We can learn to walk in humility (5:21), submitting to one another (Philippians 2:3-4).

In other words, we can make much of this marvelous gift God has given us — a family in Christ!

Merry Christmas to my Brothers and Sisters in the Family of God!

Are you part of God's in Christ forever family? If not, here is how you can become a Christ-follower.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM San Diego) and is a contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.



Don't Let It Be 'Just Another Christmas'

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson asks us to pause to be sure we're thinking straight.

Another Christmas. Another opportunity to remember the birth of Christ and why He came.

We don't want it to be "just another Christmas."

And we don't want to jumble it up in our minds with other beautiful-but-lesser things.

Some time ago, Stephen Colbert joked about the mish-mash of Christmas hoopla in his wacky, "Just Another Christmas Song." Although he wrote it to make money and "help the Colbert Children eat," for me, the song also describes the confusion surrounding the holiday. As Colbert sang, "The manger's on fire, the holly's aglow; Hear the baby Jesus cryin' 'Ho, Ho, Ho'."

No, no, NO!

Christmas is a sweet time of blessing with families. Christmas is joy and feasting and all the holiday trimmings. But Christmas—at least as it's been celebrated for many years by Christians in the United States—is supposed to center on Christ.

Let's not confuse Santa with the One who created and sustains all things and holds them together! (Hebrews 1:3a; Colossians 1:16-17).

Jesus came, doing the will of His Father (John 6:38), which included many things:

There are many other reasons why Jesus came, and as we think about the love and grace of God toward us, we can celebrate His coming with fresh enthusiasm each year!

Let's not let the beauty and truth of Christmas get tossed away and forgotten like torn and discarded wrapping paper. 

In the joy of the celebrating with loved ones, let's take plenty of pauses in our busy holiday to thank God for the Amazing Grace of Christmas!

How will you insure that this isn't "just another Christmas" this year? Maybe you would like to join me in singing this Hillsong version of "O Come Let Us Adore Him."

Yes, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning.

Jesus, to Thee be all Glory giv'n.

Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing. ...

O come, let us adore Him—Christ, the Lord. 

 Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons,