A Candid View of the Holidays (Through the Heart of a Single Mother)

A Candid View of the Holidays (Through the Heart of a Single Mother) | Collaboration by Sally Smith & Sonya Finley

Sonya Finley: My memories of being a single mother at Christmastime takes me back to when my own mother was doing it, single with five children. Back then, I am not sure if I understood how she struggled just to survive daily life. But, add to that the pressure of trying to provide us with joy at Christmas, well, now you know who Wonder Woman was modeled after.  There was never “a lot”, yet somehow she managed to make Christmas special and memorable.

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I remember the little 3 foot artificial tree that was the center piece for most of our Christmases. It sat atop a small round end table and was decorated with all the handmade ornaments each of us created at school. At some point it was so covered with our creations you could barely see the tree. Oftentimes presents did not appear under that little tree until Christmas Eve. It turns out a lot of the time that was just when she was able to pull something together, whether from her pocket or various last minute charitable donations.

My mother was the master of innovation. Her creativity during times of struggle created some of our favorite holiday traditions we follow today. For instance, because she could not afford to give us all money to buy presents for all five of us, she instituted the “draw names” tradition. Each child would pull a name and that would be the person they Fotolia_125617063_Subscription_Monthly_M.jpgwould buy a gift for. Our budget, $5. It wasn’t much, but boy would we make it stretch! More often than not, we would have change left over and so would combine it to buy a
special gift for our mother.  Believe it or not, we still do this today! And we have passed it down to our own children. Finding stocking stuffers for five kids was another budget buster, but my mom, true to form, came up with a creative solution for that. Bubble gum machine toys!! Yup! My mom and sometimes my older sister would stand out by the gum machines of whatever store we were shopping at, putting in nickels, quarters, and dimes and pulling out fantastic treats we would later open with childish glee on Christmas Eve. And yes, stockings are still a must have in every household! My oldest sister even sent hers from Georgia one year to be “stuffed”.

I grew up and I too found myself single with children at Christmas. And while loneliness can be an issue—especially when everyone else in your family is married—oddly enough it was not my most pressing concern.  My struggle arose from simply not having enough
to do what I wanted to do for my children. I was barely getting the bills paid and then had to find “extra” to bring a little joy to my sons. Of course, having watched my mom navigate through those rough times with love, laughter, and creativity I was found the strength to do the same. I did what I had to do, I accepted charity (in many different forms)—no matter how humiliated I felt in the process—and believe me, sometimes the processes for receiving charity were humiliating indeed. I vividly remember one year I signed up to be adopted. I sat and went through the long process, hoping to be selected; then only to be given a small bag of four, dollar-tree toys—one for each son. When I questioned it, I was told that since I had nothing, I should be grateful for whatever was given to me. I was so broken. I was so disappointed. I so wanted to do more for my sons. Believe me, it is a most horrible feeling to want to do for your children but then not being able. I do not remember how things worked out that year. I think family pitched in, but I am certain that somehow my sons had gifts they were pleased with. If you ask them, they never had complaints about their Christmases.

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These days I am still single with children but they are all grown and able to do for themselves. Having gained an understanding and appreciation of past struggles, they have grown into young men who are loving and generous in spirit. Our Christmases are not just about the gifts that mom can give (they buy me gifts now!), but about family and keeping alive the traditions passed on to us by a woman who, in spite of circumstances, created the best Christmases EVER!!

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Sally Smith: Ah, the life of the ‘Single Parent’. Many of us ‘Single Parents’ did not start out single and going it alone. We may have had similar beginnings as lots of the intact families that you know and love… I did anyhow. I had the wedding, the baby showers, the family get-togethers and birthday parties. Year after married year, I had that unit, and fell into the rhythm that comes with two parents and… however many kids.

7cfad5efd14a6cf0e567173a5b5f01c4--christmas-card-photos-ideas-for-christmasRegardless of the state of my family, there was a predictable quality that encompassed the preparations and observances during the holidays. I did not know it prior to my leap to singularity, but holidays were designed around the model of that type of unit. During the first few years of being alone and raising kids, the holiday motions were like learning to walk after losing a leg. This dramatic visual is to say that it was painful, confusing, and imbalanced, but necessary in order for me, and for my kids, to move forward.
I am in no way throwing a pity party; I was the one that set the separation into motion, that needed to create the change that split our family apart. Like I mentioned, I did not realize how different our holidays would be, and I would not have done things differently, but I will fully admit that I had to get on board with the big changes that came my way.

You+Will+Survive+This+Christmas+As+A+Single+MomWithout going into sad and embarrassing detail, I will say that several things are drastically different: finances, traditions, and people that you celebrate with are among the biggies. We Single Parents (maybe not all, but some) have to find ways to maximize financial resources during the holidays in order to create as small of a wake as possible. For me, it is not so much to be an extravagant gift giver, but more so that my kids would not have to experience a jarring difference or lack that might elicit concern over my financial state. I have attempted to stretch and make it feel like holidays of old, but always worry that I might not be doing enough.

Obviously, traditions have to change, too. The schedule of the holidays and the family members that are present change. Knowing that my kids would have to adjust to new scenarios, minus me, was worrisome. I felt sad that they might have to incur awkward times, and have difficult conversations. The new normal takes a while to settle in. I am on year-4, and the holidays are finally starting to take on a new, hopeful shape.

Yes, there is hope! Prayers have been answered, hard work has been rewarded, new relationships have been formed, and children are resilient. Love conquers all! I have held fast to my convictions and stayed committed to my Single Parenthood, and through it all, I have been richly blessed. I am constantly reminded that “It is well, it is well with my Soul”.


Sally Smith is a 40-something Mother of two daughters, both whom are loving, talented, and independent. Lila, 19, just started her 2nd year at GCU, and Rubi, 13, just began attending the Orange County School of the Arts. When Sally is not busy driving to the train station, to dance, or selling two way radios (no, really, that is her job!), she can be found shakin’ it at Zumba, or cooking/surfing/chilling with her main squeeze. Life is Beautiful…

20170113_074913-1-1Sonya A. Finley has been living the single life for 24 years. In that time she has raised four awesome young men (James – 26, Kevin – 23, Joshua and Johnathan – 18), graduated from college with a BFA, and began a huge step in her professional career. She is on the verge of a new season in her single life that now focuses on a journey not centered around child-rearing. She has made many mis-steps, learned quite a few bits of wisdom along the way and is happy to share with women who find themselves in the same place.

A Day for Thanks

A Day for Thanks | By Victoria Gomillion

I would like to start off by saying I absolutely love this time of year! The cool weather, plaid, food, and family is my happy place! I am a high extrovert, so the more people the better. The only idea better than having all of my friends and family living on my street would be if they lived in my house. I love decorating (though I am not the best at it), and I love cooking, and eating. I could write a whole blog on my high, unrealistic, over excited optimism about the holidays, but I would like to share something a little deeper. I want to share why this day is so precious and should be looked at with eyes of excitement instead of dread.

My favorite moment in the day of beautiful chaos, called Thanksgiving, is when everyone shares what they are most thankful for. I love watching people’s “thinking” face as they IMG_3675mentally go through their life trying to categorize the best part. It’s quite humorous. A lifetime of blessings comes down to a five second platform to share something that has made or changed your life forever. How can I name just one thing that is a blessing in my life? Why is it only Thanksgiving Day that we share these deep truths with each other? Why are we not proclaiming all year long, “I am so thankful for my family, friends, food, shelter, freedom”? I’ll tell you why, because sharing what you are thankful for does not mean you have a thankful heart. Believe it or not, there is a huge difference, and that’s what I want to remind us of. When we have a thankful heart it overflows into every aspect of our lives, even the way we think and feel.

Having a thankful heart means we smile with joy and appreciation when we can only afford the lesser quality version of something we really wanted, or when a husband helps out around the house even if it isn’t the way we wanted. A thankful heart means we are truly content with what we have and where we are at, period.

IMG_3840In the Bible, Paul told the Philippians that he had learned the key to happiness and that was contentment in all things. He mentions he knew what it was like to be rich and poor, full and hungry, warm and cold, and at the end it all comes down to contentment. I feel convicted even writing this because of how many times my attitude is anything but thankful. The Bible is full of verses on thanksgiving and the importance of having a thankful heart. Probably because life has a way of throwing a huge pile of poop (aka trials or hardships) on the most perfect of days. Are we going to try and focus on the day we wanted so badly to be perfect, or the stinky poop covering it? Though loving Jesus is easy, following Him is not. We want things our way: perfect, happy, blessed, and stress free. So how do we still enjoy ourselves when things don’t go our way? How do we hold onto contentment with a thankful heart?

I know this holiday season is difficult for many people. Maybe someone you loved passed away around this time of year, and when you look at happy people or laughter all you can remember is how you used to share in that kind of joy with them, and now you will IMG_3956never get that chance again this side of heaven. Maybe you are in such financial hardship that even thinking about buying a turkey or decorations seems like a burden, reminding you of just how poor you are. Or maybe your family is toxic and abusive and this time of year means constant fighting and hurt feelings, covered by fake sentiment and crying in a closet alone. I have experienced all of this so I know how hurtful this time of year can be. What should be “the most wonderful time of the year” can quickly become the most dreaded. It’s one thing to go through the holidays, but it’s a whole different story to try and rejoice about it.

I really, really want to rejoice in hard times and make God look good! He deserves that. After all, He made me, pursued me, saved me, redeemed me, and then empowered me! At the end of the day, no matter how good or bad, if we can remember this I think it’s the first step to a thankful and grateful heart. So, when you feel the frustration rising, the chaos beginning, and the expectation of a perfect day dying; try to take five minutes for yourself and say out loud, “Thank you God for not only my crazy family, some food and shelter, but THANK YOU Jesus for never giving up on me, but instead pursuing me relentlessly because You love me so much.” Reminding yourself of who you are and where you would be without Jesus is a sure way to get back a thankful heart! Let’s do our best to be the bright shining lights God created us to be in a dark world! Let’s be the people that rejoice even when it’s hard, laugh when things go wrong, and have love for those that sometimes make it difficult. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, bring on the fat pants!


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Victoria Gomillion has followed Jesus Christ whole-heartedly since the age of 19. All of her success, fruit, blessings, and life she owes to Him. She fostered a child for two years, was married to her Prince Charming last year, and pregnant a month later. The same month she found out she was pregnant, her first daughter’s adoption was finalized. Victoria has had the blessing of finishing nursing school, leading worship, speaking prophetically, and teaching mentor classes. Her full-time joy is now as a wife and mother.

 

A Father’s Day Guide

A Father’s [Dad. Daddy. Daddio. Pops.] Day Guide | by Stacy and Lacey Brown

Dad. Daddy. Daddio. Pops. What is it about the love of a father that makes us feel so covered and protected? Similar to how our Heavenly Father unconditionally loves and cares for us, His children, our fathers here on Earth are entrusted with nurturing and New Photoguiding us from the time we’re born, all the way through adulthood. As tiny humans, we typically know our dad as the leader and provider for our household. Dad is the one who teaches you how to ride a bike, start saving your money early, and to not take “no” for an answer when pursuing your dreams. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that my own dad is not only my biggest fan, but also one of my best friends. A father’s role is all-encompassing and for this, he truly deserves all of the respect and admiration from his family. Proverbs 20:7 tells us,

The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!”

Yes, and amen! I can certainly attest to the integrity of both my dad and my father-in-law, and feel deeply privileged to have been raised by men of such virtue.

Lace and DadIf you’re like me (Lacey), maybe you’ve struggled with knowing how to honor your dad on Father’s Day. It’s hard when you want to give him something that will let him know how much you appreciate him, while simultaneously being too old for crafts, and having no desire to search for another tie (sigh). Or perhaps you’re like my brilliant mama-in-love, Stacy, who somehow manages to always to give the most amazing, meaningful gifts—usually something that’s way better than what you could have picked out for yourself (#notkidding #sorrynotsorry). As Father’s Day approaches, we thought we’d team up to compile a rather practical “gift guide” for the day in which we let our dads know just how much they mean to us. As we began searching for some of the more “materialistic” gifts, we pondered the way in which we shop for our own dads and/or spouses. How does my husband, dad, grandpa, (you fill in the blank), feel loved and acknowledged?

We couldn’t think of a better way to explore this than by incorporating The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. This book provides insight on each of the different languages in which people share/receive love, which include: Physical Touch, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Receiving Gifts. You see, not only are love languages something to examine in terms of your significant other, but they are equally as important in any relationship. The following are some specific examples of ways to bless your dad on Father’s Day.

 

Receiving Gifts [For Dads from young children]

Does your dad or husband share/receive love via gift-giving? Moms, think about giving your child a budget and let them pick whatever they want as a gift for their dad. Note that this is where self-control comes in (☺). The kids know the budget, and they get to pick the gift. Something homemade is always a good idea too! (Macaroni necklaces from 5-year-olds never get old).

Quality Time (For Dads from adult children)

As many parents do, I know my own father receives love by spending some “QT” together. Why not take him to a Padres game or other sporting event? Stacy recently took her father to Spiritivity, a local “paint and sip” art studio, which turned out to be an outing they both thoroughly enjoyed. Not very artsy? How about a homemade picnic on the beach? Moms, maybe you can help facilitate lunch with your teenage child, but let them go alone for some one-on-one time.

Encouraging Words [For Dads from children of any age]

We can’t think of a more sentimental way to express your love than by writing it out for your dad to cherish forever! Creativity is encouraged, but remember, specificity is best with these types of gifts. Try writing out ten things you admire about your dad, or a classic acrostic poem (great for kids). Go the extra mile and frame it for him to keep in his office.

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Acts of Service [For Dads from children of any age]

Who wouldn’t love a getting good book of coupons for chores/errands nobody likes to do? Mow the lawn, get his car’s oil changed, clean the rain gutters, the list could go on. Scratch a few things off your dad’s “honey-do” list. You’d be surprised by how taking care of simple, very practical things can be super helpful— especially for dads who are older. Remember, it’s easy to give this kind of gift, but execution is crucial!

Physical Touch [For Dads from the wifey]

A good foot or shoulder rub for your dad is a nice gesture, but who are we kidding? Moms, it’s all you for this one!

Although many of these ideas seem pretty fundamental, it’s often simple actions that end up having the most significance. We hope this is helpful as you reflect on your relationship with your own dad this Father’s Day!


About the Authors

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Stacy and Lacey Brown are a dynamic mother and daughter-in-law duo, established in 2010, when Lacey married Stacy’s oldest son, Zac. Stacy is wife to her honey of thirty years, Tom Brown, and mama to four children; Zac, Gabe, Jake, and Megan. Lacey and Zac were high school sweeties and married after nearly six years of dating. They reside in Escondido with their fur-child, Charlie Brown.

 

 

 

Creating Christmas Décor

How to decorate your home for Christmas without breaking the bank
BY MIRANDA SPRAGUE

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

 

PAPER MISTLETOE GARLAND

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

 

Materials:garland-1

– Twine

– Old book paper

– Red paper

– Scissors

– Glue

– Pen

 

Directions:garland-2

  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!

 

MERRY GREENERY GARLANDgreen-garland-3 

Materials:green-garland-1

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

 

Directions:green-garland-2

  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!

 

PLACEMAT HANGING BANNER

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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.

Materials:banner-1

– Holiday-themed or color placemat

– ½-inch wooden dowel cut in half

– Hot glue gun

– Twine

– Optional: paint, stencils, buttons, etc.

 

Directions

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  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.

Materials:

– 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

Directions:

  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.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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.