Christmas, where are you?

 (originally published December 21, 2007)

I’m usually very transparent on my blog. I figure, if I can’t tell it to a group of strangers who I probably won’t know this side of Heaven, who can I tell? It is harder, now that I know some of you and have established friendships with many of you.

That’s my round-about way of saying that I’ve gotten a little more opaque lately and good at keeping things more fluffy.

Not today. Today, I am hurting and trying to work through some things. I know that as I write this, I will keep wrestling with myself, telling myself to just delete it, once I write it and get it off my chest. But I wonder if others can relate?? So, I’m rushing through it, misspellings, poor sentence structure and all… before I can change my mind.

The best way to explain, is to sum up how my morning went:

Abbie was allowed to not wear her standard school attire to school today because she has had no violations in her dress this year. The note home said “jeans and/or a holiday shirt”. Abbie had no holiday shirt. She was upset, but she worked hard to get over it. I was frustrated because I would have loved for her to have a holiday shirt. But, even a cheap one wasn’t in the budget. I raced her to school. She got out of the car and ran towards the school.

Suddenly, she went down. And landed in thick gooey mud… I got her to the door and then raced home to get her clean clothes.

In the meantime, her teacher called and said that Abbie was crying and embarrassed. My poor, sweet, forlorn girl.

And I barely had enough gas in my car to drive back over.

I started crying because of the frustration of the gas, the no-holiday-shirt, the mud and the child trying to be okay with it all.

But I wasn’t okay with it.

Why? Because this Christmas we’ve struggled with getting presents, let alone extras. We’ve got medical bills that have to be paid and we are still trying to take care of bills that went to collections when we lived in Maryland. We’ve been poor stewards of our money in the past. We’ve been trying to catch up from our year of constant errors and times are especially lean. When we do have extra, it’s like a gorging feast that gives you indigestion when it’s all over. It’s not frivolously spent – but in the lean times, our list of things we need when we have extra money grows longer and longer.

So I’ve cried this morning. I’ve cried for my daughter who is so sweet and tender and wants to be wearing a cheery Christmas shirt at school today, but isn’t. I’ve cried over the fact that were it not for other family members thinking of us and sending gifts, the tree skirt would be showing all of its un-hemmed glory. I’ve cried over the simple frustration of day-to-day life.

And then I remember Jesus.

And I remember His words.

And I remember what He gave me and what He did for me.

And I remember that Mary and Joseph and the shepherds didn’t have festive holiday attire at that first Christmas.

Rather, they were in a smelly, cold stable. And it was still the most perfect Christmas in the history of the world. No festive lights (other than that shining star), no shiny bows and trimmings, no Ho Ho Hos… 

The Gift that was laid in that manager so long ago is still my gift. It is far better than anything that could be under our tree or that my daughter could be wearing to school. Because of Him, I am redeemed and justified. And no one can snatch me from His hand.

Not bill collectors.

Not grumpy holiday shoppers.

Not advertisers that tempt me with all of the things they say will make my holiday perfect.

I am beginning to remember the real reason for this Holy day. The reason my home is decorated and presents are wrapped.

And I’m praying my heart will be filled with His peace and love.

And I pray the same for each of you.

Merry Christmas, friends!

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

~ Luke 2:8-14 (the Message)

2010 Digital Trends

3573703421_1b93e157af_bphoto credit

Wondering what the trends will be in the Digital world next year?

Here are some ideas from around the web:

1. Facebook Replaces Personal Email (via Marketing Charts)

2. More Flash, Not Less (via Marketing Charts)

3. Brands Must Become More Social Online (via DesignDamage)

4. Marketing Platform Extends to Mobile, Social, and Local in Real-Time (via DesignDamage)

5. Open source software starts making proper money, thanks to the cloud (via Branding Strategy)

Click on the above links to see the lists in their entirety.

What trends do you think will take place in 2010?

Ask Deals: weed out the junk and find real savings

save money

Even though the economy is showing signs of improving, I think that all of us have realized the need to be smarter with our money. We’ve all seen too many people suffering from the consequences of careless spending and not enough saving.

The thing is, sometimes, it’s just hard to find the deals that are relevant to us. There are a lot of sites who post coupon and discount codes, and I love writing about them and sharing them with you. One common problem, however, tends to be the need to wade through a bunch of expired junk in order to get to the current deals.

Ask.com has launched Ask Deals to help remove that obstacle. Now, you have a place to find current and relevant deals. It does the searching and scanning and puts any current deals in one place, under organized categories.

ask_deals_screenshot

There are several ways to locate deals: by zip code/location, by category, by store, offers with only free shipping, offers expiring soon etc.

Each category also features a “deal of the day”, which you can sign up to have emailed to you daily.

It really is as simple as that. All of those savings will add up, so you can be prepared for a future rainy day.

Do you have a site that helps you save money? Share it with others in comments. I’ll highlight them all in a future post.

Track Your Money with Mint.com

Almost all banks give you access to online banking, so Mint.com isn’t a novelty in that regard. But what makes it unique is the extra tools that it offers.

mint.com welcome

How to budget with Mint.com ..

mint.com

View graphs of your spending

See your spending

Tools to help you reduce your debt

Access it anywhere, choose what you’d like to have texted to your phone; there is also an iPhone app…

Mint.com is completely secure: no money gets moved around; they use the same security as banks.

It’s free and easy to use.

Saving Money on Your Cell Phone Bill

I usually feel like an oddball when it comes to this topic, because I am one of the few people who doesn’t seem to have unlimited text and calls on my cell phone. I have a really basic phone (It does take photos) and a prepaid calling plan. It helps us stick to our budget.

But if you are have to have something other than a prepaid plan but also need to fit it into your budget, I would suggest trying out the following sites and tools to see if you can bring down your cell phone bill.

billshrink

Bill Shrink: Find the out if you are getting the best price on cell phone plans, but also check on gas prices and credit cards. (free)

Over My Minutes: Want to make sure you don’t go over your minutes, but are too busy to keep track? Sign up at Over My Minutes and you will receive an alert on your phone when you are getting close. (free)

Or, you can go all crazy like me, and just use a prepaid card. Frankly, I can’t stand being on the phone all of the time, so it suits me fine. Maybe it will work for you too.

Sound off: How do you save money on your cell phone bill?