Creating Christmas Décor

How to decorate your home for Christmas without breaking the bank

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There are parties to host, marshmallows to toast, and caroling out in the snow (well, maybe not snow for us Southern Californians). However, it is the season to bring loved ones together in the comfort of our homes to celebrate the Christmas season, and we all have this to be thankful for.

As the season approaches, I recall a period in my life when Christmas didn’t feel so warm. In the midst of my college years, I worked on campus through winter break all the way up to Christmas Eve. I was far from home and too preoccupied with schoolwork to participate in any seasonal festivities. Most disheartening was the fact that neither my dorm nor campus had a hint of decoration. It just did not feel like Christmas to me.

It wasn’t until I came home on Christmas day to my mother’s home thoroughly decorated—fire burning, Christmas music filling the house and a decorated tree—that I actually felt like it was Christmas. This is not to say that it can only be celebrated with these things present, but we are sensory human beings and atmospheres undoubtedly affect the way we experience a moment. So in my current humble abode, I prioritize decorating as much as possible during the holidays. Creating an environment with physical reminders of the Christmas season help me to be mindful of what this time of the year means to me. But for a young adult like me, it seems that it will take a lifetime to accumulate the same amount of decorations for my own home that makes Grandma’s so magical (Not to mention a small fortune!) during the holidays.

Over the last few years, I’ve resorted to many DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Christmas decoration projects to help fill my home with Christmas spirit without breaking the bank. As the season commences once again, I figure I’m not the only one with a budget and a passion for the holidays. Therefore, I would like to share some of the projects I have completed to adorn my home with you all!

Perhaps you are in the same boat as me and want to create some decorations on a small budget. Maybe you are looking for something crafty to do with family as we enter the Christmas season. Or, you might simply be looking for a gift idea to give to someone who appreciates holiday home décor. Whatever the circumstance, I have provided my favorite DIY Christmas projects below to help you make your home feel like a home for the holidays.

From my home to yours with love,

Miranda Sprague




Garlands are a great way to make a bold statement. Use them to adorn bookshelves, tabletops or a fireplace mantle.



– Twine

– Old book paper

– Red paper

– Scissors

– Glue

– Pen



  1. Cut out multiple pieces of old book paper.
  2. Draw the shape of a mistletoe leaf on the top piece of the old book paper (the leaf should be about 3” long from point to point).
  3. Cut out the leaves from the stack of old book paper, according to your leaf outline.
  4. Draw circles on your red paper and cut them out.
  5. Do this as many times needed until you have enough of each to make your garland. Each mistletoe requires 3 red circles and 2 leaves.
  6. Glue two leaves together at their points. Then glue 3 red circles on the bottom where the leaves meet.
  7. Cut out small rectangles from the leftover book paper. You’ll need one per mistletoe.
  8. Fold the small rectangle in half and put glue on the end of each side. Glue it onto the BACK of the mistletoe toward the top, by the berries. Leave a small gap of open space in the middle of the paper rectangle.
  9. Thread twine through the small rectangle on the backs of each mistletoe.
  10. Hang garland wherever you think looks best!




Vine-wrapped wire

Floral wire

– Greenery (Can be fresh or fake; I used fake so I can use it again each year)

– Wire cutters

– String



  1. Bend the vine-wrapped wire to make each letter. They should be 8-12 inches long and 5-6 inches wide. Make them as straight as possible.
  2. Once you’ve bent all the letters, cut small pieces of floral wire (about 1 inch). Lay a piece of greenery on one length of the letter and cut it so it fits the vine-wrapped wire length. Use your floral wire and wrap it around the greenery and vine-wrapped wire to keep it firm in place. Do this as many times as needed until it is secure. Make sure to secure it at the top and bottom.
  3. Repeat step 2 for each section of the letter and for each letter until you complete all of them.
  4. Take your twine and leave a good portion on each end to hang the garland (at least 2 feet). Using small pieces of floral wire, secure the tops of each letter to the twine. You will need to secure it in more than one place at the top of each letter.
  5. Once you’ve attached the twine to each letter, hang the garland wherever you think it looks best!




This is a great craft to add to a wall to tie in the space to the rest of the Christmas cheer! Replace a picture or add it to an empty space.


– Holiday-themed or color placemat

– ½-inch wooden dowel cut in half

– Hot glue gun

– Twine

– Optional: paint, stencils, buttons, etc.




  1. Fold both corners of the placemat into each other to make sure they are even and centered. If your placemat has a proper back, make sure your folding into the back of the placemat and not the front.
  2. Apply hot glue all over the corners you now see because of the crease from folding.
  3. Firmly press the corners down so that the glue can stick.
  4. On the other end, lay the wooden dowel about 1-2 inches from the top. Apply hot glue on the top seam then fold it over the wooden dowel. Press firmly along the seam to ensure the glue adheres.
  5. On each end of the wooden dowel, wrap the twine around a couple times. Make sure to knot it so that it can hang on a wall.
  6. Find a desired open space on your wall and hang your Christmas banner!

Optional: To add a little more to your banner, you can use paint and stencils to add any Christmas saying or image. You can also embroider or sew on buttons and other decals. Get creative!


Ribbon Christmas Tree Ornament:ornament

Whether you do a themed tree every year or fill it with memorable keepsakes, ornaments are a great DIY craft to help save money or to give as gifts! Here is one of my favorites I did last year! I used them as my gift tags on presents to family and friends with our last name on the back of them so they can put it on their tree for years to come! Because I did it last year, I don’t have how-to pictures, but please follow the steps below.


– A long twig (about 4 inches)

– Different shades of green ribbon (or any color you choose).

– Twine or ribbon

– Small jingle bells with string

– Scissors

– Hot glue gun


  1. Cut multiple 3-inch long pieces of ribbon and twine.
  2. Starting at the bottom (leave room from the tree trunk), begin tying the ribbon around the twig. You’ll want all the knots to face the same way.
  3. Once you’ve tied ribbon all the way to the top, take your scissors and begin to cut the ribbon diagonally to make the shape of a Christmas tree. Leave the bottom ribbon the largest and the top ribbon the smallest.
  4. Using other ribbon, tie a small bow.
  5. Take your jingle bells and string and wrap some of the top of the string around the top of the Christmas tree twig.
  6. With your hot glue gun, take the small bow and glue it on top of the jungle bell string and top of the Christmas tree twig.
  7. Test the string after the glue dries to make sure its sturdy and able to be used to hang the ornament.
  8. Hang it on your tree or give it as a gift!

Optional: Using a thin and light-colored piece of ribbon, glue it to the back of the ornament up the “tree trunk”. Using a sharpie or marker, write your family’s name and this year’s date.




Miranda Sprague is a woman of many trades and talents. She has a love for the outdoors and anything connected to it—whether it be hiking, backpacking or camping with her husband and friends. She is not only a wife of four years to her dreamy husband, Joey, but also a newly pregnant mother to a precious baby arriving in May. Also a businesswoman, Miranda is the owner of her own event coordinating business that creates, plans and coordinates weddings/parties. Being a dancer for ten years, she now teaches studio dance and is currently working toward becoming a yoga instructor. She serves readily as a minister at The Father’s House taking on many different staff roles over the course of six years.

Aside from these hobbies, she and Joey share a passion for working on and decorating their home. Whether it be constantly finding new, unique ways to reinvent their space or crafting handmade things to adorn their space, the duo knows how to DIY. With a continued desire to be involved in church ministry, Miranda and Joey dream to one day own their own property and use it as a wedding and special event venue.


Healed and Whole

After years of hearing only silence in my conversations with the lord regarding a chronic condition, i’ve been healed

BY Tori demaria

Walk in my shoes for a brief moment: My entire life, I have been known as the “sick kid.” From a very young age, I’ve struggled with various infections, very frequent bladder infections and trips to the doctor just to be put on antibiotics once more. Minor infections like these don’t seem like that big of a deal to someone who does not struggle with chronic discomfort. These things have never been life threatening, and I have never had any cancers in my body—just small, annoying ailments. I was missing so much school every year because of so many bladder infections. The doctors diagnosed me with chronic UTI with no clear solutions except for years of antibiotics and reassurances that “you will grow out of it one day.”

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All that to say, around 12 or 13 years old, I did in fact grow out of it. I did not have any infections for quite some time. I don’t think I even went to see a doctor once, except for the occasional flu. I went through high school fairly healthy and active and normal. It was not until after I graduated that my health began to be an issue once more.

The first struggle came again in January 2014. I was in the Immersion internship program with The Father’s House at the time, so I viewed it as spiritual warfare (I still think it is). My mom (bless her soul for always selflessly taking care of me in my sickness!) took me to the emergency room, where the doctors told me I had a severe kidney infection. They sent me home with medicine and told me everything I had heard before. I have continued to wrestle with recurring bladder and kidney infections since that day in January to present day, and I have gone to the ER three times in the past year and a half. It has interfered with my job, my personal life and my spiritual life. The doctors just kept telling me that my body is changing and that it will fix itself. For whatever reason, my body and the doctors have never agreed on this issue.

Between being raised in a Christian home, attending a Christian school and having amazing friends, I know the heart of Jesus and I know He cares for me. He wants us to be whole beings. He suffers with us in our suffering, mourns when we mourn, rejoices when we rejoice. I have seen these things firsthand throughout my life. I know for a fact that our God is a very good God. I have been covered in prayer by my family, my pastors and my friends. I have had hands laid on me, fasted and interceded for my own health, and I have come up empty and discouraged for such a long time. It has affected my walk with the Lord at times and made me question His love for me. “What can I possibly learn from this?! I am not dying, or even in severe pain. I just want to go to the bathroom in peace! It isn’t fair.” These are the daily thoughts I would have—the conversation I would have with the Lord month after month. I would hear only silence.

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The last time I had a bladder infection was just less than a month ago, so normally at this point in time I would be expecting another very soon. I sat in my mom’s room a month ago, crying out of frustration just asking “why?” Antibiotics make me more sick and my immune system more weak. I was angry with God. I couldn’t engage in worship or in the service on Sunday mornings. I was distracted, uncomfortable and confused with no answers.

Until Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016.

I was standing in church during worship, finally having a moment with the Lord. No discomfort or distractions. I felt His presence and peace for a moment, and with a very clear mind I just enjoyed His nearness. Worship leader Ryan Reyna was in between songs, and just for a second he paused and said something like: “I feel like the Lord is healing someone with long-time bladder issues. I just want to let that person know that the Lord is healing you right now.” He moved onto the next song without any fuss or emotion. And in that moment immediately following what Ryan said, I felt an intense but gentle heat from my kidneys and throughout my entire urinary tract system. Overwhelmed and honestly in disbelief of what had just happened, I began to cry and talk with Jesus. “Did you really just have a grown man say the word bladder during church?! Did you REALLY just heal me?” Yes, HE HEALED ME!

It sounds silly but let me say, it burned every time I use the restroom. Every time is not an exaggeration—whether I have had an infection or not, the damage has been done to my poor urinary tract system. Since that Sunday, I have had not a single moment of discomfort or pain. He has healed me and restored me thoroughly and completely.

Still, I am curious as to why the Lord has had me struggle with such an odd discomfort for so long, but I am choosing to focus on how He heals. I witnessed so many aspects of our Jesus through this. Not only did He meet such a specific need of mine, but the way He did it was so personal to me! I got to see how our worship leader was so in tune with the Holy Spirit and how the Lord can use anyone to speak if they are open to it. He healed me in such a way that wasn’t special for anyone but myself. I have used this testimony to encourage my friends and family. But He has used this longtime struggle of mine to greaten my faith and to suppress my doubt that He indeed is a healing Father. For these things I am grateful and thankful for my pain. It was no walk in the park, but I am healed and free and whole. Our God sees us and hears us. Although it may seem small and insignificant to others, it isn’t to the Lord. Praise and honor be to the Ultimate Physician.




Tori De Maria is 21 years old. She lives at home with her hard-working parents and two younger sisters, who double as best friends. She was raised in a Jesus-filled home and has had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ her whole life. She has known her two best friends since she was 8 years old. She did the third year of Immersion directly after high school. Tori has just recently completed her last season of life being a barista in San Marcos and is looking forward to attending Bellus Academy in Poway this month.

Processing Grief Through the Holidays


How i cope with and learn to live with my loss
BY Tina kain

When I was asked about sharing my thoughts on grieving and the holidays, my first thought was, “How ironic! Here we are, the holidays upon us, and I have been bawling my eyes out for days trying to cope.”

This season is an ever-present reminder of my loss—the loss of my son and the person I was before the death of my son. This is not to say that I am not coping, because I am. However, coping with and learning to live with a loss are two very different things.


In coping, I kind of have a checklist I go through regularly:

  1. Am I connecting to God?
  2. Am I connecting with the people who love me, the people who are still with me on this journey?
  3. Am I visiting the place I have set aside for this grief … or am I avoiding it, knowing full well that it will find me in my least favorable place?

In learning to live with my loss, there is no checklist. It’s just an exhausting reminder that things will forever be different, and different is my new normal.

I am often reminded that being sad and crying are extremely necessary for the constant healing that I now own. In learning to live with my loss, grief is treated like a member of the family; I make time for it, I make a place for it, and whether I like it or not, I accept it.

After all, what are your options? To forget?! One of my favorite quotes is:
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” —Queen Elizabeth II
I remind myself that I would rather remember than ever forget how very much I love my child, my son.

This is the fourth holiday season since my son, David, left this earth. He was 32 years old and a hundred years wise. When I look back now at all the holidays we shared, I see that even then, he was teaching me to not take the holidays so seriously. He was respectful of all of our family traditions and he always showed up! But David would have rather been meeting God out in the ocean on a wave Christmas morning or taking the family on a long hike on Thanksgiving Day.


David had a way of making sure you knew exactly what—and why—you were celebrating. He never understood the need for it to look the same twice. Funny enough, that has ended up being my approach on how to deal with grief during the holidays. There have been times in the last four years I would have loved to cancel every holiday and just sit and meditate on how very empty it is to be without David, or how different it is now that I am missing such a huge piece of my heart, but then again, what about love? What about the delight in my heart for my younger son, Andrew, and now his loss? Was the loss of his brother supposed to take a back seat to the pain of a mother losing her child? What about my beautiful grandchildren who teach me everyday that our lives continue to move forward quickly whether or not we participate? I am so grateful for the 32 years that I had to love and care for David. I am reminded daily how blessed I am to have a family who loves me and is on this journey with me to find peace in the emptiness of losing our David.


So, I have learned to approach each holiday with first examining and asking myself, “Am I up to it?” or “Do I need to change it up?” Whether it is changing up the menu, the place or the way it’s done, I make a place for it. I allow myself to remember and to miss him. Somewhere in the sadness of my family celebrating another holiday without his presence, I have a candle burning to remind me that the memories with David are not just in the past, but very much a part of every holiday to come. He may not be cracking new jokes or sarcastically pointing out the obvious, but he will always be there. He is forever in my heart and will always be welcome to show up in a memory or a tear.



screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-11-16-30-amMy name is Tina Kain. I have been married to my husband, Thomas, for 30 years. I am a wife, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother and aunt. Additionally, I am the care provider for two beautiful, adventurous, foster daughters that joined our family after we moved to Wisconsin two years ago. It’s my honor to hold these titles. My day job title is school nurse and I love it. I spend most of my spare time trying to find some spare time!

How do we appreciate a Veteran?

Understanding and relationships may be the key to showing appreciation to our service people and Veterans.


This writer retired this year from 22 years in the Navy. He is married to a beautiful wife of eight years and they have a precious five-year-old daughter.

Discussing appropriate appreciation from civilians towards active duty service members, or Veterans, is not something I ever expected to write about.

I have the good fortune of being enlisted before, and after, 9/11.  I say this because prior to 9/11, the war on terror, it seemed expressions of gratitude were rare. I typically only saw civilian gratitude on Veterans Day.  After 9/11 I experienced people thanking me more often and I really didn’t know how to respond. I also found it strange people would say thank you, and not wait for my response. After a while, I decided my best response would be an acknowledgement of their gratitude.

So, what would I like to hear from civilians? I don’t really need to hear anything. What I need is your understanding; understanding takes education and time. Do what you can to really comprehend what it means to volunteer for service that could mean consequences that aren’t made in most civilian jobs. Try to understand what it means to volunteer for something that has you live and train with a group that are, in ways, closer than your own family. And then, possibly, say goodbye to them in ways no one outside the military could grasp.

holding-flagThe people that take the time to thank us, are not wrong for what, or how they do it. But, it may be a double-edge sword. Saying “thank you” may be assuming more than you know. When someone says, “thank you,” I feel it’s implied understanding of the task it took. And in saying “thank you” to a service member who has lost friends and/or to someone who had to kill in duty, could run a chance of sounding token or ignorant.

I can’t really tell you how to treat veterans without offending them. We are all different. But, here are some ways I came up with to show gratitude:

  1. I would like to see more people educating themselves. Try to learn what it truly means to serve.
  2. I would ask for people to educate themselves on policies that make sense and then vote.
  3. And finally, if a person really wants to help, go to a Veterans’ Retirement Home … sit and listen to someone who most of our country has forgotten.
  4. The last thing I would say is, never forget. As long as there are countries of people, there will always be a need for people to sacrifice their lives to defend them.

This writer works is retired from 20 years in the Marines. He is married with a baby on the way. Additionally, he and his wife work hard to homeschool and raise their 12-year-old daughter.

dog-tagVeterans are an intriguing group—we know you want to know our story. Our story is an interesting one and we love to tell it. But, sharing with civilians often times leaves us feeling pitied, judged, or like an outcast. Someone who doesn’t understand the Veteran experience can end up making missteps in their quest for understanding.

I grew up in a military family, my father and mother both served in the military. My father served a tour in Vietnam. Around 12 years-old, I asked my father a question, that to me seemed very simple, “Dad, when you were over in Vietnam did you kill any women or children?” I could see that was a tough question for my father—he seemed noticeably uncomfortable.  There was a long pause between my asking the question and the answer, so long that I thought it might not come. With a choked up sound in his voice and a glaze in his eyes, my father looked up at me. Then with intention and kindness, while fighting back, what seemed like a hurt long forgotten, he said, “Son … I shot at anyone who shot at me.”  He said nothing more … his words were very impactful and I have never forgot them.

Think how hard it was for him to be vulnerable with his own son. Now imagine what it would be like if someone less familiar asked this question. I never truly understood his words until I too was faced with the same challenges and similar questions. With that, my advice would be, build a relationship first with the Veteran and then maybe you can ask the questions … or find there is no need to ask such questions.

Should you want to do more, below are a few ways to thank a Veteran, and a few areas to steer away from.

  1. Spend time and get to know one. Ask to know about us not what we have done, we are more than the sum of the things we have done.
  2. Say, “Thank you for your service.” So we can say, “You are welcome.” Or say, “We support you.” Because we desperately need to know that you do support us.
  3. Remember our families. The strength it takes for our family members while we are gone is immeasurable. Knowing someone is watching out for the safety of our families gives us peace of mind when we are away.
  4. Stay away from back-handed gratitude. “Thank you for your service, but I don’t think we should have been there in the first place.”
  5. Don’t ask the inappropriate question, “Have you ever shot/killed anyone?”
  6. Don’t ask, “What is the worst thing you have seen/done in war?”
  7. Don’t ask them if they have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Not everyone has PTSD and if we do we’re still people, not cyborgs.


Surviving and Thriving at Holiday Gatherings

Practical steps for turning stress into an adventure


Ahh, the holidays. Some of us think of the smells, sights, sounds and have great memories. And even with the great memories, the holidays can be an overwhelming task-list ending in exhaustion. On the flip side, others of us cringe when the weather starts to change. Bad family history or spoiled memories can really affect our mood when the holidays approach. But, whether you love or loathe the holidays, here are some practical steps in dealing with gatherings that may just turn your good (or bad) stress into an adventure.

  1. Lower your expectations. This many sound incredibly silly. You never hear people telling you to “expect less.” Marketing tells you to expect more! But from my experiences, when I expect less, I gain more. If you’re planning the gathering: reach out for help, you’re not a one (wo)man island. Don’t expect perfection, we are human. Allow for mistakes (because they will occur). These are just some quick tips, but I implore you to sit down and think of some ways you personally will benefit from simplifying. If you work endlessly to create the perfect gathering, work during the entire gathering, and crash after the gathering, what is the point?! Ask yourself, “What is the point? What is my motivation?” If you’re attending the gathering, simply expect to just be in the presence of others. There are also steps below you can apply to expecting less.
  1. Show-up for an adventure. If you have agreed to turkey-too-big‘show-up’ it can be healthy and rewarding if you view the occasion as a new adventure. Rethink of the gathering as a place you’ve never been. Try to see new things; be curious. I was in awe of my two-year-old walking up to a house she had never been before for a pumpkin party. Was she biting her nails worried about what to wear and what will be said of her? Nope. She walked right up and made some new best friends. We can show up in wonder like a two-year-old. I give you permission to make it an adventure. Holiday gatherings can be fun if you use your magination.
  1. Show-up and listen. I can’t tell you how many times I failed to engage with someone because I thought, “What will I say?” I am sure you can relate. If you’re like me, we get stuck in feeling we need to be eloquent or intelligent or funny. What about the age-old practice of listening to someone? Really, just saying “How are you?” and then listening. I bomb at this so often. But, when I remember to practice this, I don’t have to worry about going to impress, I just go to be human and really hear someone. Aren’t the holidays about humanity anyway? James 1 reminds me, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” With that being said, don’t judge what you hear, waiting to retort, just be available to listen.
  1. Bearing presence … and I don’t mean presents. Yes, the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus. And I agree, many of us speak the love language of ‘giving and receiving’ gifts. But, with that being said, the holidays are not about presents. They are about being thankful. They are about people, humanity and love being poured out. I encourage, plead, beseech again you to find your motivation in the season. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is the days of old. Experience your holiday with just being available with the ones you love and be loved.aaeaaqaaaaaaaareaaaajdi0ngiynzbjltjmogqtngvhyi1hm2q3ltk5owmzndlkzgzlng
  1. Practice good boundaries. Luchetta core values encompass four points; one of them is growth and another is relationships. Those two require the constant practice of good boundaries. In essence, set a line, don’t be afraid to speak up (in the most loving way), and enforce your set lines with actions. We make boundaries because we love people, we don’t make them to punish people. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend state in the book Boundaries, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.”
  1. Have an escape plan. When I say an escape plan,I don’t mean what happens when the turkey goes dry. I am explicitly talking to the people who are growing in anxiety about being around the family. I could be in this category. I am already rehearsing 1954 Dwhere I won’t go because who will be there. I don’t want to deal with certain people and the drama/fear/pain/anger/frustration they bring. Let’s face it, some of us have toxic families. I recently experienced this where my husband,
    Vince, and I were reeling with imaginary conflict. We were pre-planning our justified storming out. I am not saying you should storm out of Christmas dinner. I am saying, if the worst happened, if you feel unsafe or you can’t work through emotional triggers; we are adults, we have the ability to move, we aren’t trapped, we can stand up and kindly walk out.


I hope these tips will help you cope with family gatherings this holiday season.


b3Bethany Luchetta is a small business woman who works from home while raising her vibrant two-year-old daughter, Livvy Lou. She is in love with her hubby of six years, Vincent. Bethany is a proud step mama of Vince’s two older daughters, Paige and Makayla. Bethany comes from a very large, complicated family, being raised with two sisters; and additionally has two half-brothers. As an adult, she now has a stepbrother and stepsister, as well as handfuls of brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Bethany is blessed to have handfuls of parents and she adores all her nieces and nephews and godchildren. The family tree of cousins and aunts and uncles seems endless, all of whom she gladly loves, and attempts to like. Additionally, she is blessed to still have two biological grandparents still kickin’.