Second Week of Advent : Holiday Values: What Would You Rather Do? *

20Not everyone feels the same about holiday baking or decorating or the value of attending The Christmas Carol.

Before you make another list for the next 20 days, stop and clarify your holiday values so you can invest your precious time and resources in the places most meaningful to you.

In my Christmas workshops, I ask the attenders to rank the following values 1-10.  Try it and see if you can identify what is really important to you. Avoid “all of the above” and really rank them. You might be surprised!

Important disclaimer:  There are no right values, just yours!  Answer what you know is true, not what you think you should answer!

Please rank these values in order of importance to you

Christmas is…

___A time to celebrate with my immediate family

___A time to celebrate with extended family

___A time to celebrate with friends

___A time to go to special events

___A time to decorate my home and/or be creative

___A time to prepare special Holiday foods

___A time to give gifts to those I love

___A time to help the needy in the community

___A time of spiritual renewal

___A time to kick back and relax


Tree cutting with my family is a high value!

When you’re done, if applicable, ask your spouse or significant other to also do the exercise.

I am now able to forego baking cookies and use the time to celebrate with my friends.  Much more enjoyable🙂

Once you know what you really want to make time for, be sure and do just that!

Hope for the best,


A new giveaway raffle  for Getaway with God, includes a Vera Bradley travel bag: Enter here.

*Popular post

First Week of Advent…Are You Ready?*

Blog 2012 006Twenty-six days til Christmas, do you know where your Advent wreath is?  Celebrating Advent is a way to keep you and your family focused on Jesus while still enjoying the cultural celebrations.
Here is an excerpt from my first published Advent article. Kids are grown now but I still celebrate Advent every day!

Three weeks and two days before Christmas and the heated discussion among my four children is not about which video games they want for Christmas but whose turn it is to light the candle at family Advent. It’s the first week of Advent season, the observance of the four weeks preceding Christmas, a tradition started in the Middle Ages. My kids want to make sure they each have a part in the celebration.

More than any other activity, Advent can restore Jesus to the center of the Christmas celebration, because on each Advent day the birth of Jesus is read, sung and talked about. The whole family can participate and find the observance meaningful. The props are simple and inexpensive. The memories and training will last a lifetime. Although the common tenets of observing Advent are shared by many churches, each family can add its own flavor. Following is a basic primer on how to start celebrating Advent this year.

When: Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Because Christmas falls on different days each year, Advent can last 22 to 28 days.

What you need:

    • An Advent wreath,  available  at most Christian bookstores, on-line , or made of fire-safe materials. Perhaps it could be a family event to choose or make the Advent wreath.
    • Four candles, three purple and one rose, and an additional white candle for Christmas Eve. A box of four Advent candles available at  Christian bookstores or  on-line.
    • A Bible for readings and, for younger children, a selection of children’s Christmas stories that focus on the birth of Jesus.  My favorite resource is “The Advent Book.”
    • Advent readings.

Optional items:

    • An Advent calendar, available where cards are sold, with 24 windows to open each day in December or a paper chain of 24 red and green links to mark the number of days until Jesus’ birthday.
    • Christmas carol books.
    • The Advent Book


Advent Book

The Advent Book

Beginning the celebration: On the first day begin with either a prayer or a Christmas carol. Light the first purple candle, known as the prophecy candle. The liturgical color purple is a sign of penance and longing as we wait for the birth of Jesus. With the lighting, talk about Jesus being the light of the world. Read the Advent Scripture of the day. Conclude by singing or praying. Have one child blow out the candle.

Light the same candle each day of the first week. Follow with the reading, Christmas carols or other meaningful activities. On the second Sunday light two purple candles, both of which are re-lit each night. The second candle is known as the Bethlehem candle.

The third week light the two purple candles and then a rose candle, or shepherd candle. Rose is a sign of joy and hope that He is coming.

Light the last candle, known as the angel candle, on the fourth Sunday. All four candles are lit each night that week to symbolize the growing brightness of Jesus’ coming.  Some families choose to light a white candle on Christmas Eve.

Long after the new toys are banished to the back of the closet and the decorations stored away for another year, the memories of the four weeks of Advent will remain. Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be your favorite tradition!

Additional Advent Activities

    • As Christmas cards arrive, save them with the Advent wreath and use your Advent prayer time to pray for the senders.
    • Do an Advent service project for the needy. Collect money or goods and use a portion of the Advent time to decide whom to help and how to do it. Some possibilities are to join a church’s gift-giving project, call the Salvation Army for names of families who are needy, send a special food or gift package to a missionary or give anonymously to those you know in need.
    • Use your nativity set with as many animals as possible to enact the story. (Great for younger kids!) Some families set up the manger scene and each day move the people and animals in a little closer.
    • Add occasional craft times to the end of an Advent ceremony. Make ornaments using salt dough or glue pictures of family members on flat foam shapes and decorate.
    • Make cookies or candies to share at the conclusion of your Advent time, or make special Advent cookies different from Christmas ones.
    • Have children bring homemade instruments to enhance the singing.
    • If you have competitive children, alternate who will light the candle, pick the carol, lead the prayers and read the Bible.
    • Invite your friends to share an Advent evening with you.

Advent Readings

The length of the Advent season depends on which day of the week Christmas falls on. This schedule includes all possible 28 days of Advent. For shorter seasons adjust this schedule by doubling up on some readings or eliminating the final two readings, which record events after Christ’s birth.

First Week

  • Sun. Is. 40:1-5
  • Mon. Is. 52:7-10
  • Tue. Is. 40:9-11
  • Wed. Gen. 3:8-15
  • Thu. Gen. 15:1-6
  • Fri. Deut. 18:15-19
  • Sat. Ps. 89:1-4

Second Week

  • Sun. Is. 11:1-10
  • Mon. Zech. 6:12-13
  • Tue. Mic. 5:2-4
  • Wed. Mal. 3:1-6
  • Thu. John 1:1-8
  • Fri. John 1:9-18
  • Sat. Mark 1:1-3

Third Week

  • Sun. Luke 1:5-13
  • Mon. Luke 1:14-17
  • Tue. Luke 1:18-25
  • Wed. Luke 1:39-45
  • Thu. Luke 1:46-56
  • Fri. Luke 1:57-66
  • Sat. Luke 1:67-80

Fourth Week

  • Sun. Is. 7:10-14
  • Mon. Luke 1:26-35
  • Tue. Is. 9:2-7
  • Wed. Mt. 1:18-25
  • Thu. Luke 2:1-20
  • Fri. Mt. 2:1-2
  • Sat. Luke 2:21-35

Hope for the best,


PS My new book on personal retreats is out! Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat.

PPS * Popular post

The Thanksgiving Journal*

Thanksgiving JournalThanksgiving morning our family crowds around a card table to eat breakfast in the living room.  Sipping eggnog in champagne glasses,  we give thanks.  For the new job, the fun summer vacation, grandma’s successful surgery, the basement stayed dry…from the spectacular to the mundane, we are grateful.

As the self-appointed secretary, I write it all down with cryptic notes and initials of who was grateful for what. Not nicely at all but rather fast and furious, in between sips of tea, so as not to slow down the flow. Later that weekend I will carefully transcribe this year’s thanks into the Thanksgiving Journal, a simple fabric lined blank book we started in 1982.

The favorite part of breakfast is next:  We open the journal and read aloud lists from the past.   We used to read ALL the entries from every year but now each of us chooses a year or two to read before the turkey needs to get put in the oven. The early years are most often chosen.

Much laughter ensues as we recall a four-year-old’s gratefulness for a new tricycle, the year we got our winter coats at a great garage sale, the addition of a guinea pig to the family circle.  We also remember the family triumphs: the completion of a project at work or the beginning of a new baby-sitting job, the mastery of a hard piece on the violin, the winning little league team.

Friends who have moved on often show up in the journal, the upstairs neighbors who provided the playmates, the best friend from kindergarten, the work colleague who was so helpful. Some people in our paths have many entries in our journal:  the teacher that taught all four of our kids, the children’s pastor at church, grandmas and grandpa’s and our close friends who live two doors away.

Vacations are always remembered with thanks, Niagara Falls, the ocean, the campsites, and the family van that took us to all those places.

The harder stuff of life transforms into thanks in the pages of the journal as well.  We’re thankful that our friend who died is in heaven; grateful that mom’s car accident  wasn’t worse; glad for the new bike to replace the stolen one.

We also recall the guests who joined us each year as their names are in the journal as well.  Remember John and Sue?  Whatever happened to Mark?  Who is Terry?  Wow, the Bowkers have come 17 times!

By the end of breakfast we are full from the special foods but also of rich memories of fun times, friends along the way, places we have been, and God’s faithfulness.  We will spend the rest of the day with family and friends, and later also record all the details  such as the weather, special treats, new games, and assorted tidbits such as the year the plumbing backed up.

Later in the day, the same card table will hold a jigsaw puzzle for old and new friends to work on while drinking hot cider and waiting for the traditional dinner.  Following the feast is a group walk around the block and spirited game playing.  One of the beauties of Thanksgiving is that we all know the script!

The journal will stay the rest of the weekend out for browsing, laughing, and remembering.  By the following Monday it will return to its place on the shelf next to the one that holds the Christmas memories.

We remember what we have written.

Hope for the Best,


PS It’s never too late to start!

*Annual post

Five Steps for Christmas Planning to Start Now


This Year’s Notebook

I know it is 10 days before Thanksgiving but the holiday music is on the radio and it’s time to start the Christmas lists! I crawled under the front steps last week to dig out the Christmas planning box and pulled out THE NOTEBOOK which contains all the details.

I love Christmas but enjoy it so much more with a plan for action and celebration so I can keep my focus on the birth of Jesus.  Based on my years of coaching and workshops on this topic, I think most of you want a plan as well.

Here’s how it goes…


First step: Gather the planning supplies:

  • Blank calendars printed from the computer, one for the rest of November, and one for December.
  • My plastic box of Christmas files which include recipes, gift lists, receipts, past newsletters, Advent activities, inspirational articles and decorating ideas.
  • A stack of old-fashioned steno notebooks which is my main planning tool each year.  One page per person, event and activity.
  • The December Good Housekeeping magazine for fun ideas.
  • Christmas journals from past years.
  • An old article from 1979 which always inspires me.
  • A Christmas CD or Pandora station
  • Hot cocoa🙂

Second step: Review the past few years of celebrations.  What worked, what didn’t and note questions I need to ask my husband, adult children, and friends about this year’s gifts/events.

Third step: Fantasize about all the magical things that could happen!

Fourth step: Do the planning

  • Begin to pencil in the calendars for what happens when.
  • Start each list in this year’s notebook including: to order, to make, to shop local, stocking stuffer ideas, etc.
  • Decide about services, projects, parties, performances.
  • Detail the steps in sending out a card.
  • Make a budget and review often.
  • Plan an item or two just for me such as attending a Lessons and Carols service or re-reading The Christmas Carol
  • Check for upcoming Holiday Specials on TV or favorites to add to my Netflix Queue.
  • Buy tickets for any upcoming events if it’s in the budget.
  • More details on this:  My Best Christmas Planning Tool

Last step:  Put it all away and enjoy Thanksgiving

Stay tuned for more holiday helps!

Hope for the best,


PS Need a little more help?  Ask me about Christmas coaching and planning classes.

PPS Are you on Goodreads? Enter to win a copy of my new book Getaway with God: Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat giveaway


Your BONUS hour is here: Claim Quickly!*

Hour GlassYour wish has come true, you really will have an extra hour in a day! Before you mindlessly reset the clock on Sunday, think of all the things you would love to do if you had an extra hour and do one of them!

I have a ritual of keeping one clock on daylight savings time until sometime during the day when I can enjoy my gift of a FREE hour. At that time I announce that the next hour belongs to me and spend it lavishly.

Some years this hour’s spent taking a long walk, reading a fun book, sorting photos, something truly lifegiving. At the end of the hour, set the clock back to the real-time and you’re on schedule with the rest of the world again!

I spent the most memorable extra hour a few years ago developing a “Life List”..also known by some as “Bucket List”….all the things I hope to yet do in my life from the mundane (learn how to French braid) to the exotic (visit all the oceans). That list now gets frequent review as a planning tool as I look ahead.

This is how I would like to spend my hour!

Choose carefully how to use your extra hour, you won’t get this opportunity again for a whole year!

What about the hour you lose in the spring? Just pick something you DON’T want to do that takes about an hour and don’t do it!

How will you use yours?

Hope for the best,


PS Are you on Goodreads? Enter to win a copy of my new book Getaway with God: Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat giveaway

*annual post

Five Things I Like/Don’t Like about Halloween*

pumpkinsThe lawn decorations have definitely escalated, don’t you think?  Each year I seem more ambivalent about this almost National Holiday, Halloween.  I remember years I loved it, and other autumns I couldn’t wait for it to end.  Do I like it or not?  I’m still not sure but here are my five reasons for each side of my personal debate.

Like # 1: You get to talk to all your neighbors on the same night!  My favorite Halloweens were the years we took the kids trick-or-treating in our neighborhood.  I loved the meet and greet that occurred at each door.


Easy costume!

Dislike # 1: I am a definite non-creative when it comes to costumes, the kids or my own.  I had a bad case of costume-envy every year.  One year in a rare act of domesticity at the machine, I sewed  costumes for my boys.  I don’t sew!  I thought they looked adorable but more or less made them wear them until they outgrew them and passed down to the girls.  They still lurk in the garage I think.

Like # 2:  I love seeing kids, i.e. my grandchildren, light up when they talk about what they are going to be for Halloween.  Such a magical transformation that trumps an afternoon rummaging through the dress-up box. Can’t wait to see them tonight!

Dislike # 2:  I don’t like being scared and don’t get why people think Haunted Houses are fun.  Horror movies? Don’t get me started! I can still call up some Twilight Zone episodes and feel all the fright. Why invite fear?

Like # 3: I like the mostly universality of the holiday. Families all over the country are gearing up for the big night and I like being a part of that large scope and seeing the spillover on my sidewalks.

Dislike # 3: I have encountered the real spiritual dark side and there is nothing fun about it.  Hard for me to enter into any celebration that honors this in any way.

Like # 4: Seeing retail and other employees in costume for a night is really fun. Catching glimpses of their whimsical side showing up is usually delightful. The grocery store was full of fun headgear today and everyone seemed friendlier🙂

Dislike # 4: I don’t get the “Dead” thing either with all the tombstones on the lawn.  My chaplain job often takes me into the real thing so it is hard for me to appreciate the decor.

Like # 5:  I love the opportunity to make pumpkin-anything:  soup, pasta, bread, and so many more orange gastronomical concoctions.

Dislike # 5:  The leftover candy can start a just-one-more slide that lasts into the New Year!

How about you?

Hope for the Best,


*adapted from previous post

Who is Writing Your Story?


So what were you doing 28 years ago today? I took my daughter to the bookmobile and we all had an early dinner and watched “Our House.” Exciting, right?

Some decades of our lives can just swoop by leaving a handful of memories like a few vacations or special events. Yet we are all writing in the book of life every day. Do you ever ponder where all that time went?

Twenty-eight years on a nondescript day in October of 1988, I looked around at my four children aged 2-10 and wondered what any of us would remember about these days of playing house for real. So much of our time was all about making lunches, preparing dinner, cleaning up, tossing another load of laundry in and…you know how it goes.

That afternoon, in a rush of inspiration – the kind you have to act on immediately or it is gone for another decade – I piled them all in the van and drove to the nearest bookstore that sold blank fabric books. The next morning (because I’m not very creative at night!) I wrote this on the front page of the book:


And then I jotted a couple of lines about what we did the day before:

10/18/88 (Saturday) Spent the day doing a marriage conference and Karla took the kids to the Art Institute. Christa was at Cooneys all day. Ordered pizza from Little Caesars and ate it sitting on the floor watching the 1st game of the World Series. Dodgers vs Oakland A’s.

For the past twenty-eight years, I haven’t stopped.

Each morning in around 100 seconds I can record the happenings of the previous day in about three lines. Most days are just not that sensational! The notes are all about the facts, what happened. I save my emotion for my prayer journal. Can you tell I like to write?

Funny but the journals, I’m on # 27 now, have evolved into our family’s Google system. Questions like “Who did I go to prom with junior year?” “When did I get braces?” “Where did we go on vacation in 1993?” are all answered in the journals.

I hope to keep this up, for let’s say another 28 years. Maybe no one will really care that one day we ordered pizza and watched a ball game. Could be said about many days around here! But I care….and that is enough.

What is not recorded is not remembered.

Who is writing your story?

Hope for the best,



My new book releases in a month!

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Letitia Suk, Author, Speaker, Life Coach

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