Author: Jacquelyn

I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian with a passion for Christ and His Gospel. Also web developer, aspiring author, artist, frequent blogger, loving wife, and new mother to an adorable little boy.

His Encouragement: Isaiah 1:18

His Encouragement: Isaiah 1:18

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18, ESV

This is one of many Biblical passages that touch my heart and so, this Thursday, I wanted to share it with you. When this verse is often shared, the focus is on the second part: “…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

And for good reason! This is a beautiful, amazing promise from the Lord that our sins are forgivable. Ephesians 1:7 confirms this promise: “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses [sins], according to the riches of his grace.” (See also Colossians 1:14.)

No matter what we have done, the opportunity to be forgiven is available to us! But how? We must confess our wrongdoing, our sins, to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) This is not a one-off experience, though. It is something we must do regularly, day to day, as we spend time with the Lord in prayer.

That is why I find the often-overlooked beginning of the Isaiah 1:18 verse so fascinating. It reads: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” Our heavenly Father, the Creator of the entire universe, wants to spend personal time with me and you to “reason together” regarding our sins. He desires for each of us to come to Him, to confess our sins, to ask for forgiveness, to be comforted, and to be made new by His Spirit living in us. What amazing love!

Amen!

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Now that the holidays are over, you would expect things to slow down around here but that is not the case. We have officially reached 35 weeks with Baby #2 (we will call him “Pickle” today and see how it feels), and there is still quite a bit to do to prepare for his arrival. Also, at our appointment yesterday, my doctor seemed a little concerned he might come early and wants to prepare for that possibilty.

How far along: 35 Weeks

Size of baby: Pretty big, I would say, but that is just me. We’ll know more after our next ultrasound. (Scheduled for this week!) My belly has expanded quite a bit in the last two weeks, but I am right on target for maternal weight gain at 25 lbs.

Movement: He is definitely a mover and a shaker! It seems that the only time I have a little relief from his physical acrobatics is for a few hours mid-afternoon when he must be napping.

Sleep: I admit that sleep is quite a struggle right now, partially due to Pickle’s propensity for movement throughout the night and partially because even lying on my side leaves my body extremely achy. A pillow between the knees helps sometimes, but for a few nights now, I had to move to the couch so I could sleep in a more upright position. The last three nights, though, I have been falling unusually asleep early while putting Peanut to bed and am so out-of-it that my husband could not wake me up when he tried. Not so sure that is a good thing…

Workouts: Ha! Sadly, I have given up on routine exercise. I do try to walk a little, I take the stairs down (not up anymore), and I try to stand every now and then for a little bit while at work. I am in a bit of an awkward situation: I want to do more exercise but I also do not want to encourage Pickle to come too early. Peanut was two weeks early, and I was on bedrest for the week leading up to his birth.

Maternity clothes: Sadly, due to some weight gain in the thighs and derriere some of my work slacks are now a bit too snug to wear comfortably. I’m wearing my bigger maternity jeans more and more now.

Symptoms: Muscle soreness, joint aches, tightening of the abs, random pains here and there, tiredness… I would say I’m experiencing the usual late pregnancy symptoms. Fortunately, I did not experience any feet or ankle swelling until yesterday, and that was probably due to a number of factors (high sodium dinner the night before, a ton of extra walking in the few days before, and not putting my feet up at work like I usually do). Still, I will need to take it easy from now on.

Cravings/Aversions: Though I usually do not have a taste for sweets or chocolate, because of the recent holidays, we made cookies and chocolate fudge. While I did fairly well with being moderate in my cookie consumption, I found myself sneaking extra bites of the fudge when no one was looking.

To be fair, due to my food allergies and plant-based diet, I have not eaten fudge for almost eight years! But this holiday, I wanted fudge and found a vegan recipe that was amazingly delicious and so fudge-y. Even my non-vegan relatives and co-workers who tried it had no idea it wasn’t “normal” fudge and were asking for the recipe. I will share it on the blog later this week.

Missing most: Breathing when bending over, lifting my 15-month-old without straining, sleeping through the night without being kicked or waking due to various pains, and being all-around more physically active.

Preparing for baby: We are getting a toddler bed for Peanut so we can begin the transition from crib to big boy bed now, before the new baby comes. This also means we have to get the boys’ room done in the next week and a half! Since we have limited storage space, I also want to go through all of our baby clothes and keep only the ones we are going to use. We’ll also need to pack a hospital bag, confirm arrangements for Peanut, and get the bassinet assembled again. I should also get out the breast pump and make sure all of the parts are whole, sanitized, and do not need replacing. So much to do!

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am kind of hoping he will be a little early, because I would love a January baby. We do not have any January birthdays among our close family and there are already two birthdays in February.

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 1:4-5

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 1:4-5

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” — Jeremiah 1:4-5, ESV

The time for our second child to be born is quickly approaching, and at almost 35 weeks, I must admit that this time I am feeling very ready — physically, mentally, emotionally ready. Every day is a bit of a struggle to juggle the late pregnancy symptoms with daily routines and obligations, and I feel huge, uncomfortable, tired, and sore. (Other mothers out there probably understand!)

But this is also an exciting time. Eager anticipation of a new life, a new unique individual, a new precious child of God, and all of the potential he has. (Or she! But we are having another boy.) I cannot wait to see my little son’s face and hold him in my arms. I am so excited to be able to watch the relationship between our older son and the new baby bud and grow with time.

So with my mind filled with such expectations, I was reminded of the conversation between the Lord and Jeremiah when he was called to become a prophet of Israel. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah and said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” It is always a good thing to remind ourselves that we are not an accident. God formed each and every one of us Himself and knew us before we were even born!

That is how precious we are to Him!

But the Lord does not stop there. Oh, no. He continues: “…and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet…” I truly believe that the Lord has special plans for each one of us. Some may refer to it as a special calling, and it is connected with spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:1-31) But we need to be living our lives inline with His will and His Word if we are to be ready when He calls us or opens up the way to the plan/opportunity.

Just as Jeremiah was appointed by the Lord as His prophet, you and I have a special purpose, a unique calling, that He is waiting for us to embrace. Whether you are called to be a missionary afar or near, a pastor or evangelist or Bible worker, a teacher or greeter or deacon at your local church, a volunteer at the community soup kitchen or food pantry, a light reflecting Christ in your workplace or at the grocery store, or a godly role model for your children, remember that the Lord knows you, has appointed you to His purpose — His ambassador to a dying world! (2 Corinthians 5:20) — and He has given you the gifts that you will need to fulfill it.

So this new year, I challenge us all to spend some extra time in prayer with the Lord, asking for His guidance in showing each of us His purpose for our lives, our calling, and His strength and wisdom to be able to fulfill it.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Titus 2:11-13

His Encouragement: Titus 2:11-13

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” — Titus 2:11-13, ESV

Continuing the thought from the last few weeks, let us take a closer look at why Jesus came. What was His mission, His purpose?

Way back in Eden after the dreadful plague called sin entered our world, humanity was separated from our loving Lord and Creator (Isaiah 59:2). Jesus came to bridge that gap, to bring reconciliation and redemption. (Romans 3:23-25) After all, the ultimate penalty of sin is death, but through His life, death, and resurrection, Christ conquered sin and offers the gift of eternal life to all who accept it. (Romans 6:23)

The Bible also promises that one day soon, He will return again to purge the world of sin and bring complete restoration. (Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21, 22) This is our blessed hope! This hope gives us peace and strength to face a world filled with trials, sorrows, tragedies, death.

 

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

‘And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”‘ — Luke 2:10-14, ESV

This time of year can get busy with festive parties, decorating, various holiday activities, rushing to secure presents for loved ones, enjoying traditions, and visiting family and friends. To some it might even be stressful as you try to balance all of these extra activities on top of your usual routines. While many find this time of year to be filled with joy and love, it can also be emotionally challenging for others.

Christmas is only days away and I am so tired.

Unlike previous years, I am not taking any extra time off so I am only getting the official holidays provided by my workplace. This is for two reasons: I used the majority of my vacation hours back in November for the family trip, and I’m trying to accrue as many new hours as possible so I can use them towards the end of January before our second son is born.

Working all day, trying to doing at least some holiday stuff during the few hours available in the evenings while playing with our toddler, finding gifts for everyone while staying in budget, sending out cards (very late), trying to make holiday desserts, and whipping together a last-minute wiseman outfit for Peanut for this Sabbath’s special Christmas program — it is not easy.

I now understand why some people get holiday burnout.

But as much fun (or stressful, depending on your experience!) as the holidays can be, I always try to take time away from the hustle and bustle. Quiet time to reflect on the meaning behind the holiday. Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Because He is the promised Messiah, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord”. He left heaven to come to earth, taking on our humanity so that He would share in our trials, all to save us from our sins. (Philippians 2:8-10) Through His perfect life and willing sacrifice, we are forgiven and reconciled to God. (Romans 5:10).

Why? Because God loves us— loves you!— that much. So no matter what you are going through, whether you are worn out or stressed or sad or lonely, always remember that God is with you. That, after all, is one of the titles of Jesus: Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

And that, my friend, is worth celebrating! That is the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that night so long ago.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: John 1:14 & 16

His Encouragement: John 1:14 & 16

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. […] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” — John 1:14 & 16, ESV

In twelve short days, a significant portion of the world’s population will celebrate, in some way, December 25th. While many call this day Christmas, it has not always been associated with Christianity. The pre-existing winter solstice celebrations were eventually adopted into mainstream Christianity as a holy day associated with Jesus’ birth. Over the centuries, many traditions from different origins have merged to create the modern holiday we are familiar with.

While it may be hard to believe nowadays, Christianity has actually had a love-hate relationship with this holiday from its introduction. Due to the pagan origins of the celebrations and most traditions, there have been and continue to be heated debates within some Christian circles on whether or not this holiday should even be celebrated. (The Puritans, for example, outlawed its celebration.)

Interestingly, the Bible does not give us a date for the birth of Jesus. It does give us some clues as to the year and general season, but not an exact date. Why? Perhaps it is because the Word of God places more emphasis on why Jesus came to earth instead of the when. Though His birth was cause for great celebration in heaven and among those on earth who were aware of it (Luke 2:8-20) due to the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies (Matthew 2:1-12), the main focus is on who Jesus is and His mission, His purpose.

Today’s encouraging verse reminds us that Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” … “for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Jesus left His glory in heaven to take on our sinful humanity. He lived a life tempted just as we are, yet He did not commit sin (Hebrews 4:15), so that He could bear the penalty of our sin on Himself. All so that we may have the opportunity to be reconciled with God.

Why would He do such a thing? Why would He leave His glory, leave heaven, to suffer and die in our place? Why not just scrap the whole “humanity” project, erase all trace of sin from the universe, and start over? Because He loves us that much! “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [reconciliation, reparation, peace offering] for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

He loves YOU that much!

No matter your stance on Christmas, what traditions you keep or eschew, there is no denying that this time of year gives us a very unique opportunity to share the love of Christ with family, friends, and neighbors. Individuals who are usually closed off to religious matters and conversations may be a little more open during this unique season. They may even ask you about your holiday traditions or beliefs. We are encouraged to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV).

We should not miss this opportunity! Let us not be so focused on ourselves that we forget to share the message of Christ with those who desperately need to hear it, through our compassion, our words, and our actions! “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Philippians 4:19

His Encouragement: Philippians 4:19

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:19, ESV

Last week, I confessed to struggling with turning my burdens and worries over to the Lord during times of high stress. I would venture to say that a lot of us wrestle with the inclination to try to do it all ourselves, forgetting that we need to surrender it all to our Lord.

Well, when the circumstances of life seem especially difficult, it often happens that our focus begins to shift. That narrowed concentration on the negatives will influence our attitude, our behavior, and even our normal thinking patterns until we only see the rain clouds.

We may even start to exaggerate our circumstances by using broad-sweeping generalizations, harboring thoughts like “Everything is going wrong right now.” or “I cannot do anything right!” or “I can never…” or “Why me? Why now?”

We are like Peter, who began to sink beneath the waves when he removed his eyes from Jesus. He was filled with terror at the sight of the wind and waves all around him. Why? Because he had allowed his focus, though not consciously, to be drawn away from what was most important: the Lord. He desperately cried out: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus, in His love and mercy, did just that with a very gentle rebuke: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (See Matthew 14:19-31.)

Why did you doubt? This is what Jesus asks you and I today. Why do I doubt that the Lord has my life and situation under control? Why do I take so long before asking the Lord for His help and guidance? Why do I try to fix things on my own? Why do I continually treat prayer as a last resort instead of the first (and only) option?

No matter what circumstances you are facing, what worries are bogging you down, or how overwhelmed you may be feeling, today’s verse is gentle reminder that we need to keep our focus on the Lord. Even in the midst of the biggest, darkest storms of life, our Lord is right there with us.

We need to know that “…God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Instead of focusing on the wind and waves battering your life, focus on the blessings He has given to you, whether big or small.

When I begin to really stress out, the Lord often brings to my mind a song that Bing Cosby sang in the old movie White Christmas (1954) called “Count Your Blessings.” (Listen to it.) The simple words of this song are very humbling and remind me to count my blessings, giving thanks to the Lord for each and every one.

When I am thanking the Lord for every blessing, I realize how many more blessings there are in my life than trials. The wind dies down, the waves calm, and the rain clouds dissipate.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

It has been quite awhile since my last pregnancy update. Time sure does fly. We had a very busy November and now we are already at 30 weeks (if the updated due date is accurate).

Jacquelyn Van Sant at 30 weeks pregnant and 14-month-old son at Thanksgiving 2017.
This photo was taken at almost 29 weeks with our 14-month-old son “Peanut” at Thanksgiving 2017.

How far along: 30 Weeks

Size of baby: I’m actually not sure exactly because our next doctor’s appointment is this Friday. They say that an average baby would be about 15-inches long and almost 3 pounds around this time. I do know that usually, from this point on, the baby will grow about half a pound a week.

Movement: This little fellow is extremely active throughout the day and night. His preferred position is definitely long-ways right above my hips. (Like last time, I’m carrying low.) Often when sitting down, my belly rolls like ocean waves as he moves and shifts. He also seems to love kicking the right side of my belly, which gets sore more often than the left.

Sleep: My sleep has been disrupted for a number of reasons lately and not all pregnancy related. We do have an active 14-month-old who has had some difficult nights. Some nights I’m so exhausted that I seem to pass out. Fortunately, when it comes to positions, sleep has gotten a little easier and my body is not aching as much as it was a few weeks ago.

Workouts: I do my usual daily activities and lift/carry a somewhat heavy 14-month-old all the time. I do try to do the kegel exercises and side leg lifts daily, and I have been doing quite a bit more walking the last couple weeks.

Maternity clothes: My stomach is now officially larger than it was when Peanut was born at 38 weeks, and some of my maternity clothes are no longer fitting properly around my expanding tummy. My husband was nice enough to buy me a new pair of jeans in a larger size and a few skirts so I can be comfortable again. Well, as comfortable as possible.

Symptoms: There for awhile, I was experiencing quite a bit of muscle soreness and body aches. This last week the aches and pains pretty much went away. However, earlier this morning I experienced a somewhat painful Braxton Hicks contraction (I’m guessing) that lasted approximately 10-11 minutes. It is like my whole lower belly tightened and would not “release” for over 10 minutes. I was almost in tears.

Needless to say, it was a little concerning, and I am trying to drink more water just in case I am dehydrated. I’ll also mention it to my doctor at the appointment this Friday.

Cravings/Aversions: No cravings to report. As for aversions, rice and beans (which I usually love) have not been sounding good to me so I’m eating more potato, quinoa, and lentils than I usually do. Not sure I am getting enough protein, though. I need to work harder on that this week.

Missing most: Definitely being able to bend over without severe pain and pressure. It is also getting harder to breathe in certain sitting positions, too.

Preparing for baby: We pretty much have all of the clothes, accessories, and items we will need for another baby boy. We have continued to (slowly) work on purging and re-organizing the entire house, both to make it more toddler friendly for our son and also to help elevate the stress of clutter for when Baby #2 arrives.

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am starting to really feel tired of being pregnant. This pregnancy has been harder than my first. I am much bigger in the stomach, more uncomfortable, and my metabolism does not seem to be working as fast as last time either. I know others have it much worse than I do so I try really hard not to complain and to just carry on “as usual”. But some days I’m so wiped out that I collapse on the couch after work and can barely do basic things like make dinner, wash dishes, or play with Peanut.

Is it bad that I’m praying this one comes early like his big brother did? (Just without the worry that accompanied Peanut’s tiny size!) However, it is all worth it to be able to welcome our new son either at the end of January or beginning of February!

I’m still hunting for the perfect pseudonym for Baby #2 to use here on the blog. Since I call our first son Peanut, I was thinking about continuing with the “P” trend or maybe the food theme or maybe both. Pancake, Pumpkin, Pickle… Any suggestions?

His Encouragement: John 14:27

His Encouragement: John 14:27

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — John 14:27, ESV

Some weeks are hard to get through.

I admit it. I have had a very hard two weeks now. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, was recovering from a week long (but nice) trip that required an uncomfortable two-day car drive there and then back again, my sleep has been severely interrupted for a number of reasons, my body was aching something terrible, I was low on my vitamins and iron, I was not eating properly, work is becoming increasingly stressful, and our finances are tighter than I am comfortable with.

I have felt so overwhelmed that I broke down and cried twice in just the last week. And I do not cry easily. One or two or even three things I could handle but it seemed as if everything was happening all at once. As the saying goes: When it rains, it pours.

Perhaps you, too, are going through some challenges right now. Maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances and feeling anxious for the future. Come. Let us read John 14:27 together. In it, our Lord Jesus gives us an important promise that we both need to hear: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…”

Especially during times of troubles or chaos, we need this gentle reminder. The Lord loves us so much and He offers us a peace that surpasses earthly understanding (Philippians 4:7). A deep, reassuring peace that calms our worries and gives us the strength (His strength!) to face the challenges of life. That is why we can “…let not [our] hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

That does not mean it is easy. There are times, like the last two weeks, where I struggle! Really struggle. Sometimes I try to do it all myself and forget to let go and let God. I need to be reminded to turn to the Lord. After all, He wants us to come to Him with our troubles, our worries, our burdens. Nothing is too big for God to handle and nothing is too small or insignificant for His attention either.

How comforting it is to realize that we don’t have to go it alone.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

Here in the United States, we are now in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving has just passed, and with December only a few days away, many of us have turned our minds to purchasing presents. With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and some stores offering deals all week long, a lot of people are eagerly on the hunt for the best sales.

There are plenty of holiday parties with family, friends, or even at the office to attend soon, and many may include secret santa or white elephant style gift exchanges. Charities and various non-profits are also upping their advertising in hopes of getting more donations. There are also adopt-a-child and adopt-a-family style programs to help the less fortunate in our local communities.

With the social expectation of lavish gift giving during this time of year, how does the budget conscience person stay within budget?

I recently read an article on CNBC that shared approximately half of Americans surveyed went into debt to finance their 2016 holiday shopping — and many are still paying it off!

Don't go into debt this holiday season! Here are 10 tips to stay within budget. Click To Tweet

While we have always tried to keep to a reasonable budget during the holidays, this year we are having to tighten our financial belts even more. We have transitioned to a single income household and due to a few unforeseeable emergency expenses over the last few months, it is has been a bit of a struggle to maintain our “normal”. We had to dip into our savings more than I would have liked and have not been able to replenish it (yet).

So this year, we are on a very tight Christmas budget. Here are 10 tips we will be following on staying within budget this holiday season.

1. Set your budget in stone.

Decide on how much you can afford this holiday season. Be sure to think about all aspects of the holidays: gifts, dinners out, parties, decorations, food ingredients, charitable giving, etc. Be realistic but firm in your budget decision. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stay within your budget no matter what amazing “deals” you might see advertised or who asks for donations.

2. Make a list and check it twice.

All joking aside, seriously sit down and make a list of everyone that you would like to give a gift to and/or situation that may require a gift. Set a price limit for each gift and evaluate the total estimated cost. Then prune your list down as far as you can possibly go — both the recipients and the cost per gift.

3. Give a thoughtful card rather than a gift.

In some situations, a nice seasonal card with a personalized note could replace a more expensive gift. If you are like me, then you probably have blank holiday cards left over from previous years so you may not have to buy any new ones! It just costs you a little bit of time to write the note and maybe the cost of postage (if mailing).

4. Make a list and shop carefully.

This is the time of year that retailers and shops use many (often successful) tactics to convince you to overspend. Do not fall for their marketing gimmicks or get sucked into buying more than you need because of “good deals”.

Know what you are going to buy before you walk in the store and stick to that list.

5. Shop dollar stores.

You might just be surprised by all of the things now available at dollar stores. This should be the go-to-stop for the frugal shopper. For example, why spend all of that money on expensive gift baskets when you can put together your own, customized gift basket using items from dollar stores?

6. Shop secondhand.

Not everything has to be bought brand new, in the original packaging and with price tags still attached. There are many thrift and secondhand stores that sell interesting or unique items of good quality at affordable prices.

7. Re-gift.

There are times for birthdays and holidays when we might receive a nice gift that we already have or cannot use for some reason. The thought behind the present is extremely meaningful so why not pass these unused items on to bless others? Just be sure you do not accidentally re-gift an item back to the original gift-giver — that might lead to an awkward conversation!

8. Shop in your home.

While similar to the last tip, this one is even more personal. Who among us is not trying to simplify our lives and declutter our homes? I know we are!

During the purging process, we sometimes find items that we really love or have used previously but no longer need or have a place for. Instead of donating these items to strangers, why not give them as a gift to someone you know (or hope) will appreciate it? To make the gift extra special, write a nice note about what the item means to you and why you are giving it to that person.

9. Re-use gift bags and wrappings.

I started collecting birthday, special occasion, and holiday themed bags and gift wrappings a few years ago when my husband and I married. We even save tissue paper if it is in good condition. (I fold tissue paper neatly for storage.) This has been a lifesaver when it comes to saving a little money on the “wrappings”.

If you don’t have any bags to re-use, go for a fun vintage feel by wrapping your gifts with old newspaper or brown paper from grocery bags.

10. Be honest with family and friends.

If you are going to be changing your giving habits noticeably, be sure to let your family and friends know ahead of time that this year you do not have much to spend and will be cutting back to stay on budget. You do not need to go into detail, but be honest and genuine. Most people will be more than understanding.

Bonus Tip: Homemade gifts

Inspired by the comment below from our friend, Trisha, if you are crafty in any way maybe you had make a few gifts yourself! Handmade gifts are treasures to keep for years to come! Depending upon how crafty you are, you may already have plenty of things lying around your house that you can use to make a homemade gift.

The perfect gift can be anything from a card to an ornament to a home decor piece or framed drawing/painting or going to a local print shop and printing photos, canvas, mousepads, etc. You could put the ingredients for the perfect hot cocoa or cookie recipe in a mason jar and write cooking directions on a little label. If you are not sure what to do, browsing Pinterest is a good place to get ideas!

 

It is our intention that, by following these ten tips ourselves, we will be able to stay within our meager holiday budget without having to sacrifice the joy that comes with gift-giving. It will take careful planning and a commitment to our budget, but if we can do it, so can you!