GUEST POST – How to Journey Creatively Through Advent as a Family

Welcome everyone to November, the month where I am starting to make sure all my plans are in place to have an awesome December and festive period!!!  So I was over the moon when a friend in blogging approached me to write a guest post for us all so get us thinking about advent this year.  So without further ado, I will hand over to Lucy to tell us more…..

How to Journey Creatively Through Advent As A Family

Lucy RycroftI think we can all agree that December is a busy month.

With presents to buy, cards to send, food to prepare, and road trips to plan – on top of all the other daily pressures of having a family – it can be all too easy to allow ourselves to be distracted from who we’re celebrating.

And yet there is so much potential, as the nights draw in and we spend more time indoors with our families, to use this special pre-Christmas period – known as ‘Advent’ – to focus on Jesus.

As a mum of four children aged 5-10, I have tried and tested a huge range of different approaches and resources over the years, always knowing that we wanted our children to be in no doubt about what we were celebrating each December.

One thing we have always stressed is telling the Christmas story interactively throughout Advent.

Don’t rely on school or church or outside influences to do this work for you! As we know, sometimes the story gets distorted (anyone remember Octopus no.8 in the Nativity play featured in Love Actually??).

But even if it doesn’t, our children need to know that the Nativity story is important to us as their parents, and they will know this if we prioritise sharing the story together with them. We can also take time to explore different thoughts about the story, answer their questions, and ponder with them the unanswerable ones.

We are much more likely to remember things we do than things we read, so why not use a Nativity set to share the story simply with your children? This could be over breakfast, after nap-time, just before bed, or whenever suits your family best.

As your children get involved in moving the figures and saying the words, they will absorb the Christmas story from head to toe!

Another activity our children love is our Advent basket. It comes out at the start of December and you can read more about it here, including what we put in it.

Very simply, it’s a basket full of Christmas story books, toys, games and puzzles. Most – not all – are focused on the Nativity. The novelty of it only coming out for one month every year means that our children get excited to see it, and re-connect with items they haven’t seen for 11 months!

Why not group together all your Christmas resources into an Advent basket this year? If you have a few pounds spare, you could even buy a new book or two to add to old favourites – and this is a great time of year to scour charity shops for Nativity books and toys.

The beauty of an Advent basket is that it encourages unstructured, free play around the story of Jesus’ birth. You’re doing the ‘structured’ stuff of sharing the story most days – but the free play bit is where our children get to really absorb what they’re learning. Often we will be challenged too, if we take a moment to watch.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t LOVE an Advent calendar! Instead of – or in addition to – a secular calendar, why not buy a Nativity advent calendar which tells the story each day? This can become your daily storytelling, or add to what you’re already doing.

If you have a perpetual Advent calendar (i.e. one with pockets or drawers which you can use each year), why not fill it with small Nativity figures, pictures representing the Christmas story, or words/Bible verses telling the story?

You could even link it in to a Jesse Tree, with a new ornament to hang on the tree each day.

Along with this, our family have always appreciated having a simple Advent candle (you can buy them from Eden, or your local Christian bookshop or Fair Trade shop, if you’re lucky enough to have one).

When it comes to sharing what you’re celebrating this Christmas, don’t underestimate the power of decorating your tree in ways which point to Jesus. I’m not saying burn all your Santas or snowmen! And I’m definitely not saying you should only buy twee Christian ornaments with Bible verses and bad art.

But how about a subtle shift from celebrating Stuff to celebrating God-Made-Man? I’m a big fan of hearts on our tree – love, after all, was the motivator to God sending Jesus to live, die and rise for us.

Lights are traditional, of course, but we can ‘reclaim’ these to share our belief in Jesus, Light of the World. I love having loads of lights up around our home during Advent!

Small Nativity figures, crowns, babies, angels – when you spot something which will help communicate what we’re celebrating to our families, friends and anyone who visits, snap it up!

And, finally, don’t neglect yourself this Advent. We parents spend our lives caring for others – but if we don’t care for ourselves, we’ll be no good for anyone else!

Make sure you’re topping up your tank this Advent by making a habit of spending time with God. You could use an Advent devotional to do this – my book, Redeeming Advent, was written to help busy people doing All.The.Things to connect with Jesus. Each of the 24 days starts with a typical Christmassy family anecdote, which leads into a Bible reflection, questions to ponder and a prayer suggestion.

There are plenty of other devotionals out there if mine doesn’t appeal. Or maybe you’ll make a habit of weekly meeting with a prayer triplet, or joining an Advent course.

However you connect with God this Advent, I hope and pray it will give you the fuel to ignite not only your passion for Christ, but your children’s passion to get to know their Saviour more.



10 things to do this Christmas Break

WE ARE THERE!!!  Yes – parents across the UK have heaved a big sign of relief as the busiest term at school is over and we are now in the Christmas holidays.  Yes there might be a few days of excited pre-Christmas children to put up with before the big day, but you made it.

So what now?  I am sure there are many things on your to-do list, but I want to share with you 10 things that I will be doing over my Christmas break this year to invest in both myself and my family and set us up well for the start of 2019.  Perhaps you’d like to join me in some of them:

  1. REST and RELAX.  This is your Christmas holiday too, and you shouldn’t have to do all the jobs of all the child care.  Make sure you plan in time for you to rest and relax.  And if that means not planning hundreds of trips or activities, then thats fine!  Let the kids be wild for a bit, let them play with their new toys and watch hours of TV.  It is not going to break or ruin them, but it might just give you that bit of space and recharge time that you actually need. Accept offers of help from family members (or ask if you need help), curl up with a good book or have a nap and rest.
  2. FIND A BIBLE VERSE FOR 2019.  Maybe you already do this, maybe you don’t, but I have found it useful the last few years to pray over and find a verse for the year.  This gives me something spiritual to focus on, and often it reflects where God is taking our family that year.  I find comfort in it when life is hard, and I often write it somewhere so I can see it throughout the year and reflect on it. (You can read mine from last year here)
  3. REFLECT ON 2018.  Did you have a list of goals, aims or activities that you wanted to do in 2018?  Then take a look back and see what you achieved or didn’t.  That way you can congratulate and celebrate the successes of the year, take stock of what didn’t go to plan, and maybe refocus for the year to come.  Its great to do this at least once a year, as we often forget how far we’ve come!  Me and my husband like to do this on New Year’s Eve together with the next step…
  4. WRITE GOALS FOR 2019.  Whilst we are reflecting on the year gone by we look to the year ahead and write some goals and aims we have for the year.  This keeps us focussed, and the span various elements of our lives.  They might be personal, work related, hobby related, spiritual.  Whatever you want to do in the next year, write it down and keep it safe!  This really helps us to get rid of the unnecessary things we are doing and focus on what we are passionate about for that season.
  5. MAKE YOUR FAMILY YEARBOOK.  Whilst looking back on 2018, you might also want to remember the times you’ve shared together as a family.  I like to do this by creating a yearbook with all the photos we’ve taken.  We download all the photos from our respective phones and filter through for the best, then I put them in a photobook online ready to be printed.  I love this time of remembering the highlights of the year, birthdays, holidays, big events.  And to have these in print makes them even more special.  Photo books normally cost around £35 so its a good way to use any Christmas money you might get!  (We love this one with the cut out numbers on the front from photobox)
  6. CREATE A READING WISHLIST.  Leaders are learners, so as the leader of your household (and whatever other ministries you are involved in!) you should be planning to learn more over the next year.  Whether that is books, audio books, podcasts or you tube videos, make a list of topics you want to grow in over the next year and research what books and resources will help you do that.  Then collate a wishlist of what you want to read/watch/listen to over the year.  Be realistic – we are mums and don’t always have a lot of reading time!  So maybe 1 book a month might be achievable, or 1 every couple of months.  Why not add a few books for pleasure to the list too from your favourite fiction authors.   Watch this space for my list…..
  7. WRITE A FAMILY BUCKET LIST.  I am sure we all get lost in the routine and busyness of school, swimming lessons, football, etc.  So its great to sit down with your kids and chat about what extra things you might like to do this year.  We did something similar over the summer holidays, but a bucket list for the year could include places to go, activities you want to try, restaurants you’d like to eat at, people you’d like to visit, films you’d like to see.  Let everyone contribute and them type it up and frame it, so you can tick things off throughout the year.  Then when you have a free Saturday, you can look at the list and do something fun together!  Make sure you add a mixture of free/cheap/treat things to the list so there’s always something to suit your budget. (Here’s ours from last year – I think we managed 9 out of the 20!)
  8. PLAN IN THE BIG THINGS.  Buy yourself a planner, calendar or diary and book in the important things of the year right now!  Holiday weeks, special birthdays, trips to family members.  The non-negotiables of life go in first, and then the things that you really want to find time to do.  Without planning, we can miss out on some great things and seeing important people, so make sure you plan to have a great 2019.
  9. BUY NON-PERISHABLE SUPPLIES IN THE SALE.  This might just be me, but I like to alleviate the stress and cost of next years Christmas really early by getting non-perishable things in the sale now.  Christmas cards, wrapping paper, even reduced gifts to stash away.  You can also get the next size up clothes for your kids ready for the coming year, and even buy all the birthday cards you will need now and write them ready! If you can take some stress out of 2019, then do it!!
  10. RECYCLE THOSE CHRISTMAS CARDS.  Maybe you don’t get as many now, but we always try to recycle what Christmas cards we do get.  The fronts get cut into tags for presents next year, and the bits with names on get put into a box and made into prayer cards so we can pray over those close to us over the coming year (thanks Gospel Centred Parenting for this fab idea!).
us all with santa

Review: Wish Upon a Star with Santa at Meadowhall

wish upon a star meadowhall

Are you looking for something a bit different to do with your kids this Christmas?  Are you sick of the same old Santa’s grotto, where you wait in line for an hour at your local garden centre for your kids to rattle off what they want and then head on out, missing the magic of Christmas altogether?

wishmas forestWell then, you might want to take a look at the “Wish Upon A Star” Christmas experience at Meadowhall in Sheffield.  Yes, Santa is there in the mix (so your kids won’t be disappointed) but there are lots of other great surprises along the way.  They have dubbed it an “immersive theatrical experience”, which basically means there are very good actors looking after you and impeccably dressed theme rooms as your go through.

wishmas forestThe premise is that you are on a journey through the “Wishmas Forest”, meeting the “wish gatherer elves”.  This takes you on a 30-40 minute trip through 3 rooms.  The first is the forest, so it is decorated with Christmas trees and lots of tree stumps for the kids to sit on and watch a film explaining it all.  There is a very chirpy elf who teaches the kids the wish gatherers salute – something the boys found hilarious as it is a mixture of silly noises and actions.

From there they go into a second room with a giant telescope in the middle and a male elf who tells the story of Santa crashing into the forest.  All the whilst, we are told that shooting stars carry wishes.  The boys loved this room as there were big bean bags to curl up to and listen to the story, then they all got to look through the giant telescope and spot a shooting star.

From there we went into a workshop themed room where the kids could decorate cardboard stars with their wishes on.  This was a nice practical activity after a lot of sitting and listening, and there was glitter, ribbon and pens to decorate with.  I did feel that this was quite a basic craft, and that perhaps a little more could have been spent on a bigger mix of materials to decorate, or they could have been wooden to look a bit more substantial.

All the actors were very friendly and encouraging to the kids, speaking to them individually (which was achievable as there is a limit on the number of families going through in each session).  They were definitely in character, which the kids loved, but I found a bit annoying and far fetched! If you are not a cheesy Christmas person then this might not be the thing for you.

santas grottoFrom this room we were taken in to see Santa.  Now this was my favourite part.  It was a very intimate and cosy room, and Santa spoke with the kids about how Christmas is a time for giving and not just receiving.  He sprinkled some extra glitter on their wish stars and asked them to close their eyes and make a Christmas wish for someone less fortunate than themselves.  Sam, my eldest, ran over and whispered in my ear that he wanted to make a wish for his sponsor child in Africa, which just melted my heart.  Reuben, my youngest, wished for pine cones!!!!

There was no asking them what they wanted for Christmas, just a really sweet moment where they had a photo with Santa and got given a Mr Man book (an amazing gift as my boys LOVE the Mr Men!).  They left having had a lovely 40 minute trip. I left feeling slightly overwhelmed by jolly elves, but all in all it was a much better experience than standing in a queue for 5 minutes with Santa somewhere else.

price listThe best thing about this was that you book a slot online, so there’s no waiting about.  The groups are small and the price is actually very reasonable considering all that you get.  Its £6.60 for kids and £3.60 for adults (obviously only the kids get presents!).  So if you are happy with a non-traditional Santa’s grotto then book online here.  (Photos and mementoes were extra – here’s the price list)




My only concern (and final comment!) is that in trying to make this a magical experience, are we diluting the true Christmas message?  By adding wishes, and wish gathering elves, are we just confusing our kids more?  I am not sure, and on the surface it seems harmless, so I will let you decide upon that yourself.

Rachel x

us all with santa

advent 2018

ADVENT – How are you doing it this year?

advent 2018

Before we even get to the big questions of Christmas (how do we explain santa to our kids, what  evangelistic events can we put on for our neighbours, who is going to get socks as a gift this year?!), we come to the question of advent.

Have you even thought about it?

Or is it one of those things that just happens – it suddenly becomes the 1st of December so you rush down to B and M bargains and buy a cheap chocolate calendar and let the kids have two chocolates tomorrow!  This year more than ever before there are so many secular advent calendar choices – lego, sweets, beer, and even this one:

tool kit advent calendar

I want to challenge you (with just over 3 weeks to go) to think outside the box for advent this year, and really use it as a chance to deepen your own and your kids relationship with God.  Below are some great ideas for advent, please pick and mix to suit your family (and share this post with others too!!).

Jesse Tree

jesse treeUntil recently I’d not heard of Jesse Trees, but this year I myself have bought a set of these lovely ornaments from Gospel Centred Parenting ready for advent.  The idea is that each ornament has a bible verse accompanying it, telling the story of the bible from creation to the birth of Jesus.  It is a celebration of Jesus’ ancestors and everything leading up to him coming.  I am excited to explore this with my boys this year, as in the last few years we have just explored the Christmas story in isolation.

My plan is to do this in the evening as part of their quiet time, so that we can get the next decoration, add it to the tree, read the bible verse and discuss it and pray about it as a family.  If you would like your own set, then head over to Gospel Centred Parenting where you can get the full set for £35.

GOdventure sticker advent calendars

sticker advent calendarLast year we used a fabulous sticker advent calendar from Godventure to track through the Christmas story each day in advent.  If your kids are sticker addicts then they will love this!  I had to give up my desire for the stickers to be completely straight, but it was lovely to see the picture fill up with stickers over the 24 days.

You can get a giant A1 sized poster for £15, or if your budget is a bit smaller then the A4 sized one is only £5.

reverse advent calendar

You may have seen this one on Facebook a lot last year – the concept is that instead of getting something each day in advent, you give something away.  For most people this was items of food which would be donated to a food bank at the end of advent.  What a fantastic way to teach your kids about generosity and to have a tangible impact on their local community.  It would be great to take them each day to the shop (on the way home from school maybe) to choose something to go in the box for that day.

bible society Advent Challenge

advent challengeIf you are looking for a way to cultivate generosity even more, then perhaps take a look at the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge.  There is a task of kindness for each day in advent, and last year it included things like “say three kind things today” and “let someone out before you when driving”.

shepherd on the search

shepherd on the searchIf you have ever been tempted to join in the “elf on the shelf” crave then this one is for you!  All you need is a cuddly shepherd toy to hide around the house each day (you can buy the specific branded one or just use the shepherd from your existing nativity set).  Then on the website there are downloadable cards with activities and thoughts for each day throughout advent.

Make your own pocket advent calendar

If you have a pocket style advent calendar (or fancy a bit of pre-Christmas sewing!) then why not include some bible verses in it this year.  Godventure has free downloadable cards you can add which work really well, and you add a bit to the story each day.  The sky is the limit when it comes to other creative things you could add to the pockets.

The real advent calendar

real advent calendarIf your kids would still be disappointed not to have a chocolate advent calendar, then the real advent calendar is a great choice.  It comes with a nativity story book and the chocolates are nativity shaped too.  Some of the big super markets do stock these now, but you can also order online from

Our boys have been given these for the last few years and love them – my eldest who is five was able to do the puzzles inside the little booklet last year which made him really happy!


Thanks for checking out this post, and I hope and pray you have found an idea to inspire you for advent this year.  Please do let me know if you choose one of the options and how it goes!

christmas pledge

The Christmas Pledge for Mums

christmas pledge

Sitting in my parents bible study group this week, I heard all the stories of stressful Christmas decisions.  Who’s house to go to this year, which grandparents you would see on the day, who was going to do the cooking.  This, I know, is just the tip of the Christmas stress iceberg.  After hearing all that, I was moved to pray for us all – that we can make godly and wise decisions before Christmas that will ensure this can be a day where we celebrate and focus on Jesus and his birth.

So I want to ask you – what is stressing you out or making you dread Christmas this year?  Is it the millions of plays/parties/commitments you will have to go to in the weeks before?  Is it the cost of Christmas shopping and who to buy presents for?  Is it the logistics of the day and who’s house you will go to?

Have you thought of something?

Right.  Take it to God.  (And your husband too!)  And make a pledge to decide on how you’re going to handle those things now to take the stress away from them.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), and he especially wants to do that at Christmas.  He wants to do the best he can to distract us from what this season is really about and to destroy any chance that Jesus is worshipped during this time.  He wants to kill our nice family time and steal the joyous moments with friends and colleagues.  So lets pledge to not let that happen – when we know that its Satan doing all that then we can disarm him.  How, I hear you ask!  Well here are a few ideas that you might want to add to your Christmas pledge this year:

  1. Pledge not to get annoyed that you are really busy in this season.  Instead, rejoice in the busyness!  Don’t complain about how many things you have to go to, but instead be present at each one and revel in the people there.  Whether its parents at the school nativity play or colleagues at the Christmas party – be with them and remember this is a great chance to build relationships and invest in others.
  2. Pledge to stop feeling guilty if you can’t do everything! We all know, as I said above, that this season is ridiculously busy.  If you are a working parent then you need to make your peace now with the fact that you can’t get along to everything.  So this November, sit down and look at your calendar and decide what is feasible and what isn’t.  By doing this then you can confidently say to others what you can do (and not feel pressurised into doing more than is realistic) and you can also prepare your children for any things that you can’t get to so they won’t be disappointed.  There are so many great things going on, that if your kids have to miss out on a trip to Santa’s Grotto or you have the sacrifice the sixteenth Christmas party for a team at church, its not the end of the world!  Prioritise what is important to you and let the other things go.
  3. Pledge to spend Christmas how you want to. Ok, so this a tricky one and we are always weighing up the feelings and needs of others, but take some time out with your husband to decide where you both want to spend Christmas and how you want to celebrate before the questions and pressure comes from others.  Just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean you always have to do that.  Think about the implications for your own mental health and also whether you can truly celebrate Jesus’ birth where you are going.  Prayerfully consider the best option for your family.  If you give people enough notice and explain the reasons why you have made your decision then you have done your part.  How they react is not your responsibility.   Believe me – you’ll feel a lot better once you’ve made a decision and it’s sorted!
  4. Pledge to only spend as much as you can afford.  Another big cause of stress is the money Christmas costs.  So lets pledge to be good stewards of the money God has blessed us with,  set a budget now (if you haven’t already) and don’t be pressurised to sway from it.  Just because others are spending lots doesn’t mean you have to.  Don’t get drawn into extra present giving – if someone gives you a gift and you haven’t reciprocated thats ok!  Enjoy their generosity and be blessed by it.  You might be able to go above and beyond another year.

Pledge to make these decisions in advance, so that advent and Christmas can be a joyous, Christ centred season where we can fully take advantage of the gospel sharing opportunities and relationship building it brings.  Take control now and don’t let Satan get a foothold in your Christmas this year!  Happy *Early* Christmas everyone!


Mary mummy meditations

Mary (Week 3) – A teenager in labour

Welcome to week three of our journey into the life of Mary.  Don’t forget to catch up on last week’s summary post over on Naomi’s blog if you missed it.  This week we looked at the exciting story of Jesus being born:

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7

The missing birth-story

This week, whilst pondering this famous verse, I couldn’t help but think  “where is the full story???”.  Back when we looked at Eve, lots of us in our Facebook Group shared our birth stories.  There were stories of joy, of pain, of changes of plan and persistence.  There’s nothing us mums love better than a good birth story!  But in our verse this week, the only thing we are told is that Mary gave birth.

This got me to thinking about what the untold birth story of Jesus would have been like for Mary.  The bible was written mostly by men, to be read and studied by men, and hence with no men allowed to be at births at that time that is why no details are recorded.  It’s a little sad really that the women’s perspective is lost, as women tended to pass on their stories orally and hence they were not recorded anywhere and are now lost.  But I think from looking back at the historical context we can draw out some of the details that might have been true for Mary.

she would have been prepared (but not as well as she would have liked)

Mary mummy meditationsWomen at the time would have given birth surrounded by friends and relatives that she knew and trusted.  It is likely that they would have taken turns to comfort the labouring woman, and it is likely that Mary would have been around to see other women in her village go through this.  Mary would have been prepared from watching others go through the experience.  I am sure that she would also have been given a pack of the things that she needed by her mother and other close friends before setting off on the journey to Bethlehem – she clearly had the swaddling cloths that were traditional for babies to be wrapped in after they were born so she could wrap Jesus up safely.

However, the bible also mentions that women would normally have given birth on a birthing stool (Exodus 1:16), and it was unlikely Mary would have been able to carry that with her on the long journey.  Although she was prepared mentally and with as many things are she could carry, there were some luxuries she would have to do without.

She might have been lonely

We can’t say for sure, but Mary had obviously travelled away from her safety net of female family and friends who would have been her birthing party if she was at home.  Now, they were on their way to Joseph’s home town so it is possible that Mary would have had the help of some of his female relatives to assist her, but I’m sure we can all say that wouldn’t have been the same!!  So either she had a party of in-laws whom she’d never met to help her, or she was all alone.  Neither of which would be in our birth plans I’m sure.

She wasn’t in the most hygienic of places

We read in our verse this week that there was no guest room available to them.  Now this makes me pretty mad.  In our day and age we are always taught to make room for pregnant ladies, let them have seats on the train and bus and to generally look after them.  I am mad that no-one in that whole town would give up their room for a woman in labour.  Maybe it was because of the story that followed her, one of questionable standing given that Joseph wasn’t the babies proper dad.  But maybe, just maybe, it was one of those little details worked out by God.  God knew this baby was going to be delivered safely, because it was the most important baby in the world.  So it didn’t matter that it was born in a room where animals sometimes stayed and fed.  He was going to protect it.  The message that sent of the servant king was much more important than a little bit of hygiene (you OCD cleaners out there will be horrified!!).

I want to send mary a cuddle

After reading this verse and thinking about it all week, I really do just want to send Mary a cuddle through time.  Stepping into her shoes makes me feel exhausted just thinking about it – the travel, the loneliness, the labour in a less than perfect room with a less than perfect support team.  When we moan about our birth plans not being stuck too or not getting the labour suite with the birthing pool, lets stop for a second and think about Mary.  She trusted that God would bring her and the baby through, and He did.

I wonder how amazing that moment must have been for her when it was all over.  When he was safely wrapped in swaddling cloths and place in the manger where he couldn’t roll away.  I can picture the deep exhale, the peace that descended and the feeling of having accomplished what God had asked her to do.  Now that is pretty amazing don’t you think?

Taking inspiration from mary

This Christmas I challenge you not to see the “mother mild” who we are all told Mary is, but to think back over the first three weeks of our studies.  This is a faithful, strong and God focussed woman who knew she needed to play her part.  How can you play your part in God’s plans for the world?

Next week we start to look at the older Mary, when Jesus starts his ministry.  This is 30 years later and so much has happened in that time to the Mary we see here  Why don’t you join me and Naomi in meditating on this verse:

“When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”” John 2:3-4

I hope that you will join us over on our Facebook community to discuss and delve into this even more over the week.  There are free phone lock screens and other resources waiting there for you!  You can join using the form below:

[contact-form to=”” subject=”mm sign up”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″][/contact-form]








advent happy mail

Advent Happy Mail

advent happy mail

Here’s an exciting advent idea for you!  Every day in advent, send a letter.  In this digital era, lets take this advent to get back to writing and encouraging others through it.  Just download your advent happy mail poster below, and everyday cross off one person from it.  You could even change some of the squares and put your own ideas if you want.

what is happy mail?

Happy mail is something that you receive in an envelope that makes someone else happy!  It is not a bill, statement or junk mail leaflet, but a thoughtful item of mail.  It is something you’ve put a bit of thought into and done to make the recipient smile.  The mail doesn’t have to be a parcel, it can just be a well meaning letter, or lots of other things too.   It could be an extra special Christmas card with an envelope you’ve decorated to make them smile!  There really are no rules or limits.

To give you some ideas and inspiration, here are some useful links:


I will be sharing over on my facebook page and instagram account some of the happy mail items that I am sending out, so do check it out for inspiration. I would love to see what you send too, so share your photos using #adventhappymail

free advent happy mail poster

Share The Joy Linky @ The Family Patch
quirky christmas gift ideas

Quirky Christmas Gift Ideas for 2017

quirky christmas gift ideas

Whoop Whoop!  It’s Christmas shopping time, and I wanted to share with you all some great shopping ideas you might not have thought of (that are secretly on my own Chritsmas list)…

For the men in your life
James Acaster Classic Scrapes

A few weeks back, me and my husband went to see James Acaster live on his Classic Scrapes book tour and it was a hilarious evening.  If you or the man in your life enjoys funny stories then this is a great present for them.


for your mum and best friend

gingerbread tea towelEven if you have a dishwasher you still need to dry some things, and everyone will love this quirky and amusing Christmassy themed tea-towel.  Designed by Frog and Gnome, this would make a great present for your mum or a best friend who has a good sense of humour!

Find it here on the Cheerfully Given website.



for your bible journalLing bestie

book tab punchSo this really is on my gift list and will make it easy to create my own bible tabs from whatever paper and design I want to.  So if you are in to bible journalling and have a bestie who loves it too, then why not get them one of these (and maybe you can borrow it!!!)


To keep in the cupboard “just in case”

creative bea christmas decorationI love this little Christmas decorations which feature bible verses.  I have ordered three as little additions to some of my Christmas presents, but they would be perfect to keep in the cupboard in case someone gives you a gift that you might have forgotten to get one for….

You can find these on Creative Bea’s website, and they come in silver sparkly or plywood and are only £3-4 each

My Favourite Christmas Gifts 2016

favourite christmas gifts 2016

We all love having a nosy at what everyone  else got for Christmas, so here are my four favourite Christmas gifts from 2016.

  • Yorkshire Tea – showcased by my handsome son, I was surprisingly excited to get a tin of Yorkshire Tea.  Mainly because I love tea (you rarely find me without tea in my hand) and it has a lovely gruffalo themed tin to go with it.  Nothing brings people together (in Yorkshire for sure) as well as a good cuppa and a chat.
  • Ridlerville Sign – one of our  friends handpainted this for us.  I love that it says there is always room for people in our home (and dessert!), as this is the heart of what I want people to feel when they walk into our house.  It is not just a show home but somewhere everyone is welcome.
  • Hannah Dunnett Print –  During my first blogiversary, my friend Jo introduced me to the beautiful artwork of Hannah Dunnett.  And this year my lovely Mum bought me a framed print of “Do not worry”.  This has formed part of my focus verse for 2017 and it is displayed in our hallway.
  • Craft Boxes – Deep inside me I have a desire to be creative.   Some of you may know I used to run my own Wedding Stationery and Craft company for a few years, but had to pack it in when Sam was born.  For the past few years I have desperately wanted to find time to be crafty, but a mouse in our garage ate through a lot of my supplies.  My hubby bought me some nice plastic (mouse proof!) boxes so I can start the long process of sorting out my craft supplies so I can get back into it again.
what did santa bring you?!

Do share below what your favourite Christmas gifts were this year.  Did you get any to help with your mission?

Inconvenient parts of the nativity story

Christmas is only two days away and I am sure you have had your fill of nativity plays and the like.  The sort that have cute children playing a serene Mary and Joseph, shepherds with tea towels on their heads and girly angels with frilly dresses and wings.   Well I am sorry to break it to you all, but the real nativity was nothing like this, and here are a few inconvenient parts of the story that we like to change/forget:

  • The wise men weren’t there.  Yup, you heard me right.  The wise men/magi probably turned up around 2 years after Jesus was born.  They saw the star that rose when Jesus was born, then had to plan and actually travel there (by camel!).  By the time they arrived Mary and Joseph were long gone from the shabby stable that Jesus was born in, and back home in Nazareth.  So perhaps we need the have a “fast forward” part of our nativity play and show the toddler Jesus trying to break the gold, frankincense and myrrh with Mary chasing him around frantically!  (Matthew Chapter 2 has all the details on this)
  • Mary probably didn’t look as calm and collected .  Lets face it, she had to give birth in a strange town without any of the lovely drugs we enjoy today.  It was normal in the culture for men to not be allowed anywhere near a woman in labour, so Mary probably would have been completely isolated not in her home town in her first labour (she might have had some distant relatives of Joseph with her, but no-one trained!).   My first labour was 36 hours long, so I feel for her.  I imagine she looked pretty tired and sweaty when the shepherds decided to drop by and give her an audience.
  • Shepherd visit might not have been welcome. Angelic kids with tea towels on their heads bringing a cuddly sheep is what we normally think of.  Well change that view to roughest, hardest teenagers around that no-one in normal society wants to interact with and you’re probably closer to the truth.  Known to be dishonest and smelly, the shepherds probably weren’t the first visitors that Mary would have wanted for her sweet baby.
  • Angels were boys (and may not have had wings).  All named angels in the bible are male, so we can assume that the pretty frilly dresses were nowhere to be seen, even though this is traditionally a part played by girls in the school nativity play.  Not all angels have wings either (there are stories of people entertaining angels and not realising it – I’m pretty sure wings would be a giveaway!  Look at Hebrews 13:2) so that shatters that picture too.