This may be the easiest Christmas hack you will wish you were already doing. We have been doing this for a few years at our house, and it has allowed us to sit back and relax while the children open their presents. When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, they open their stockings first to find out what wrapping paper is theirs. Santa gives them each their own wrapping paper, and then there is a wrapping paper for group gifts. With a warm cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, I savor the moments while my kids take turns opening up their presents and cleaning up after themselves. Wait! What?! You may be wondering how we managed to get them to do that. I know when I was little, it was my dad’s official Christmas job to stand guard with a trash bag and collect the massive amount of paper flying everywhere. Growing up as the oldest of four, I know how hectic and crazy Christmas mornings can be with a bunch of little ones. This hack will take five minutes and I promise you won’t regret it.With four small children, I am no stranger to online shopping. I can usually count on at least one oversized box around Christmas. Instead of putting it out for recycle, I give it a starring role in our present opening time. Using a coordinating wrapping paper, I wrap the oversized box. This is where I might lose you. As daunting of a task it may seem, it is actually very easy. You don’t need to wrap the bottom. Your edges don’t need to be crisp and you don’t need to use a roll of tape to secure it. Wrap around the sides in whichever way works for your box and the design of your paper. I leave a few inches over the top of the opening and cut slits down to the corners. Then I fold the paper over and tuck it into the box. It is so easy! Now relax because you earned it!
Last Saturday marked the grand opening of the Philadelphia area American Girl temporary store. Located in King of Prussia mall, the store is just a short drive away from Center City. This is the first American Girl store in the area with American Girl Place in New York City previously being the closest. The King of Prussia American Girl store is slated to close on January 28th of next year, which gives you plenty of time to handle Christmas purchases and exchanges at a retail location.
We arrived at 9:00 am knowing that they were handing out tickets, but not exactly sure how that process would work. I later found out that the tickets each had a group number on them and there were 50 tickets in each group. They ran out of tickets after 26 groups, so they handed out 1,300 in total! We ended up being in group 15, so there were approximately 750 people in front of us in line. The first two groups were granted immediate access, while the others were encouraged to shop the rest of the mall. We got our tickets at around 11:00 am, so we decided to walk around and then grab something to eat. We were excited to see that our number was on the board when we returned. We lined up in the standby area and anticipated a quick entry. Here’s where things got a little tricky. If your number was lower than what was on the board, you were to get into a different section to gain entry before the group that was in standby. Based on the timing of everything and the size of the other section, it seems like the earlier numbers flew by because many people were at lunch or elsewhere. We ended up spending an additional two hours in the standby line since they allowed the earlier numbers to go in first. I feel as though it wouldn’t have been so bad if they had alternated the earlier numbers with the current standby. Check back in a couple days to see more pictures from inside the store and see what the freebies were at the grand opening.
Scripture Sunday week six. Six. One, two, three, four, five, six. That’s all, but somehow God is like “ok, let’s just cut to the chase here.” 1 Peter 4:11 says If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Fifteen years ago, I recognized this verse as my life verse. The one verse that defines my life’s mission and gives me constant direction from God. I haven’t always upheld my side of things, but I have always known it was what God wanted from me.
Yesterday I found myself jotting down notes about the anticipation I was experiencing. I wrote about sensing greatness on the horizon. “I’ve been nudged along a great distance and I feel like there may be a giant leap on its way.” “I have felt an enormous amount of fulfillment in the past five months from being obedient to God and living in line with my created self.” “It’s like everything I knew before was coming back. I have a huge restoration of self.” “I find myself asking God ‘what are you doing? What do you have planned?’ when I really need to be asking myself ‘are you willing to follow?'”
Fast forward to this morning. Yesterday I could sense that something big was coming, and today it decided to manifest. Sometimes it feels like it takes forever for God to reveal Himself to me, but then there are instances like this. God didn’t even wait for the pastor to start preaching today. One of my youth group kids sang with the worship band this morning. She sang “Oceans” by Hillsong United. I didn’t think it would affect me like it did, since she had just sang it on Thursday night for the youth group. As she neared the end, a tear dropped down my face. Then another fell. And another. Then I noticed that the top of Asa’s head was covered in my tears.
At first it started out as being proud of her for sharing her gift of singing to glorify God. Then it was because I love her. And I love the friend she was sitting with during church this morning. And I love the row of teens lined up in the middle of the Sanctuary. And I love the ones that were practicing in the teen room during service. And I love the teens that only make it out on Thursday nights. And so forth. My heart breaks over their struggles and I am excited for their triumphs. So as I sat crying, I prayed to God and answered His calling. I have no idea where this will take me next, but i am oddly at great peace with this unknown.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior
My children often refer to it as “nacho cheese,” but this vegan cashew cheese sauce can be so much more! We have used it to top baked potatoes, chili, and tacos. It is great as a sandwich spread, and we try to have it on hand when grilling burgers and hot dogs. We enjoy using it as a dip for fresh vegetables.
Oh, I forgot to mention. If you mix this cashew cheese sauce into warm pasta (make sure to choose a small, sturdy pasta), it makes a perfect vegan mac and cheese!
Reserving the water, place all other items in a food processor or high speed blender.
Pulse or run on low setting to break down cashews and combine ingredients.
If using a Vitamix with a hot soup setting you may add in water and use your preset.
If using a food processor or high speed blender without a heat setting, you will want to heat your water before adding it in. (This will help activate the cornstarch.) Blend on high until sauce is a creamy consistency.
Time to kick of Scripture Sunday: week three with an encouraging reminder of God’s unfailing love! Romans 8:39 says neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No matter the height of my highs or the depth of my lows, I will continue to receive the everlasting love of God. For the days when I find it hard to love myself, God still loves me. As a human being, it is difficult to understand God’s unconditional love. My mind is so trained to think of love as a reward. Well I wasn’t able to do the things that this person needed me to do, so they can’t love me. I fell short of their expectations, so it makes sense for them to withhold their love. These are some of my rationalizations in my human relationships. I have a tendency to transfer these beliefs to my relationship with God. I haven’t lived up to my created potential, so I must be such a disappointment to him. My circumstances that I have created only stand to keep me from openly receiving God’s love because I don’t think that I deserve it. Amidst my darkness, God’s love is there waiting for me to overcome my thoughts and receive it.
This week, I will be concentrating on opening myself up to God’s love. I am hopeful that His love will strengthen me to love others unconditionally, so I can help others overcome their beliefs about what love is. I understand that human relationships will always be flawed, but I am assured that God will use me to assist in building up His Kingdom.