A Whole Lotta Gift Ideas for My Neighbors

Gift Ideas for My Neighbors ~ Plumfield Dreams

I was trying to have this post up before it was scheduled to go out to your inboxes today, but Noah was all, “Hey! You’re my mom! Aren’t you supposed to feed me, and change me, and generally keep me entertained?!” I felt he had a point, so I put the writing on the backburner for a while.

(Hey, while we’re on the subject, you can get these posts delivered straight to your inbox mostly on time, you know, if you wanna…)

You know, people used to be neighborly, back when we lived and worked in the same community, and didn’t have so much excess we were able to pretend we don’t need one another. And I don’t want to pretend we don’t need one another, because people are literally the only thing on this earth that matters. I want relationship, and I want my neighbors to know they can come to us whenever they need help or a listening ear. But the thing is, being neighborly has gone so far out of fashion it feels awkward to try to start a conversation. And that’s where these fun gift ideas come in handy. Christmas gives us the perfect opportunity to build goodwill among our neighbors and start working on that relationship we value. (A Christmas card is entirely appropriate, but please, resist the urge to include a tract. Don’t let your neighbors think you are trying to sell them something. What they need, and what you need, is relationship. With the relationship will come the privilege to speak Truth into their lives.)

This year we’re hoping to take baked goodies and a spice rub to our neighbors (see below). Click on the images you like to be taken to them on Pinterest.

Spice Rub

Spice Rub

Whisk You a Merry Christmas

We Whisk You a Merry Christmas

Apron in a Jar

Apron and Recipes in a Mason Jar

Hot Chocolate Sticks

Hot Chocolate Sticks

Candy Cand Marshmallow Stirrers

Candy Cane Marshmallow Stirrers

Movie NightMovie Night Snowman Kit

Snowman Kit

Merry Kissmas

Merry Kissmas and a Chappy New Year!

Candy Jar

Candy Jar


Soda-Lighted You’re My Neighbor

Stovetop Christmas Scent

Stovetop Christmas Scent

Candy Sleighs

Candy Sleighs

Chocolate Bread

Chocolate Bread

Cinnamon Almonds

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Butter

Cinnamon Butter

Cinnamon Butter

Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread with White Chocolate

Peppermint Fudge

Peppermint Fudge

Candy Cane Popcorn

Candy Cane Popcorn

How to Buy the Perfect Christmas Gift

How to Buy the Perfect Christmas Gift ~ Plumfield DreamsI enjoy trying to find the perfect gift for an individual, so I’ve become fairly skilled at it. Some people are easy to buy for, because they collect something and will be thrilled with anything that fits in that collection. For most of us, though, it’s not so simple. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years for how to buy the perfect Christmas gift.

Only give items you are comfortable with. Sometimes I receive gift suggestions that I am not comfortable giving. I give gifts to the people I love, and if I love you I am not going to give you something I feel is not good for you, even if you ask for it. It is okay to choose to not provide the thing that has been requested. Do consider the person for whom you are buying, though – don’t just get them something because you like it or think it would be good for them. If you approach gift giving that way, you are giving for your sake, not theirs.

Focus on things you have in common with the person. What things do you both like? What things do you like you feel confident the recipient would also enjoy? What things do they like you think you could get into with them? It’s fun for both of you if you can connect over the gift. Consider the gift a way to deepen the bond between you. (Giving a handmade item is another way to do this, but it won’t be one of my points because I am not crafty.)

Look for gifts that create memories. Instead of giving an item, give an experience. This year we’ve asked for a family zoo membership, and another family has requested a state park pass. In my family we have often given the gift of concert or theatre tickets. An item can be wonderful, but an experience creates a memory. A couple of years ago Andy’s siblings got together and we purchased tickets for all the adults to see Bill Cosby as a family. We kids purchased our own tickets, and provided tickets to Andy’s parents as a gift. We also went out to dinner together that evening. Andy’s dad loves Bill Cosby, and that was a great memory-making experience for us. This year, rather than purchase birthday presents for each other, Andy and I have tickets to see Jim Gaffigan.

Look for nostalgic gifts. What stories does your loved one tell? What are memories you share? One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever given was to a friend, many years older than myself, who had told me in one of our lengthy conversations about a movie she used to love. She now had grandkids, and wished she could share that story with them, but she knew they didn’t make it anymore. Lover of online shopping that I am, I knew immediately I could find that movie for her. I got on eBay and found a used VHS tape. When I gave it to her, she cried. I think I enjoyed giving her that gift more than she enjoyed receiving it.

Give to a charity. If the recipient has absolutely everything they need, and giving an experience is not a good option for you (perhaps there’s nothing that fits, or perhaps it’s out of your price range right now), you might like to give to a charity in honor of your loved one. This can be the perfect gift, if you make it personal to the recipient. For example, I have a passion for orphans and underprivileged children. It would mean the most to me if someone were to donate to an organization that provides relief for mothers and babies or cares for children.

The most important part of choosing any gift is considering the recipient. I promise you, it doesn’t matter what you ultimately give or how much you spend, if it is obvious you were thinking of your loved one’s individuality when you chose their gift.

An Open Letter to My Children

Plumfield Dreams ~ An Open Letter to My ChildrenOn Sunday we dedicated you to the Lord before our blood family and our church family. We did it because we wanted to make a public statement that the Lord is your true Father, and has entrusted you to us to shape and mold in His likeness. We wanted to make it clear we know to Whom you belong, and we are committed to the hard work of loving you into His kingdom.

At the end of the dedication, your grandpa said that each of his children is a better person than he is. I hope he’s right. Your grandfather is a wonderful man. Your dad and I are blessed to have been raised in wonderful families. But I still hope he’s right, because that’s how it should be. Because he and your grandmother were faithful, the Lord has honored their faithfulness by growing their children just a little bit past their scope. And that’s my prayer for you, too. I pray that you will grow to be better people than your dad and I.

Sometimes I get nervous because I can see the ways in which life could be very difficult for you if you choose to follow Jesus with the abandon I hope you will. And that’s exactly why I want you to be a better person than I am. Because the more you are abandoned to Him, the more He can ask of you. I read recently that we give with abandon to our children because the more we give the more we can require. So as you grow we are going to do our best to pour into you with love and patience and grace, to show you Jesus through our lives, with the prayer that the Lord would turn you into people who are so filled up with His love that He can require far more from you than He could have from your grandparents or your parents.

I pray you are joyful about following the Lord wherever He leads you. I have so many hopes and dreams for you, and I’m sure those will grow along with you over time. Ultimately, though, the only thing that matters is that you love the Lord with your everything.

We sing this song with our church family, and whenever we do I pray that these are sentiments that will guide you passionately through life.

To know and follow hard after You
To grow as Your disciple in the truth
This world is empty pale and poor
Compared to knowing You, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after You

I love you the most there is.

How We Do Bible Study

Plumfield Dreams: How We Do Bible Study

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Personal Devotions

I’ve written before about my participation with HelloMornings. Right now I don’t do very well at keeping up with my group. Honestly, we don’t have our schedule nailed down well enough for that right now. On a “perfect” morning, I get up well before the kids and study, then tweet with my group. Regardless of whether the day is perfect, my “quiet time” consists of four things:

  • Prayer
  • Bible study
  • Journaling
  • A parenting book

The first thing I do is pray that the Lord would guide me in my reading, helping me to get from it what He would have for me. Ideally, throughout my study time I am in continual conversation with the Lord about what I am reading and on behalf of others. I say “ideally” because the truth is that some days I become too focused on crossing the entire exercise off my list, and I never open that line of communication with the Lord.

Currently, I’m using the Bible study Glorious Grace to guide my reading. This book leads the reader in an in-depth study, focusing on a single short passage for a full week. I’ve done other studies by the same authors, and really enjoyed them. After I’ve read the passage for the day, I journal my thoughts. The Glorious Grace study has prompts for each day’s consideration. Sometimes I write based off those, and other times the Lord leads me elsewhere. I try to also journal any prayer prompted by the passage.

I made my own journal page, which I print a couple dozen at a time and keep in a 3-ring binder. You’re welcome to use the page, as well, if you wish. You can find it here: Plumfield Dreams Journal Page.

Lastly, as long as no child is calling for my attention, I read a chapter from a book about parenting. Sometimes the book is practical (perhaps about discipline) and sometimes it is philosophical. Sally Clarkson and Rachel Jankovic at two of my favorite authors to read during this time. Right now I’m reading Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

Devotions with the Kids

My absolute favorite Bible for children is the Jesus Storybook Bible. My parents gave Aria this version. It’s beautiful. Right now we read it each morning while Aria eats breakfast. I have tried reading it to her at various times, but she’s not patient, so the result was usually that I read the first page and then she started trying to turn pages constantly. Eventually I had the epiphany that if I just read it to her while she’s in her high chair, she is excited and engaged, and doesn’t try to wrestle it away from me. We usually read two or three passages each morning.

Right now that’s the extent of our routine. Aria is not even two yet, so we’re not in a stage that allows for any in-depth discussion. I try to remember to pray out loud throughout the day when I’m thankful for something, or when I (or we) need help in our attitudes, and we always pray with and for Aria before she goes to bed each evening. (In fact, for awhile there she would start to sob as soon as she heard me say “Father…” because she knew it meant she was about to be put to bed. Tee hee. Sorry about that, God.)

Family Devotions

Andy and I have never done devotions together, but we’re starting. So far we’ve been incredibly inconsistent, so…I’ll tell you what our goal is, rather than what we’ve actually managed to this point. 🙂

The idea is that each evening at dinner we will read a passage of scripture together. Of course we eat dinner as a family, so we will all participate in the exercise. At first I thought we would try to use some sort of guide, because I wanted something to help focus our discussion. However, I discovered it’s difficult for my picky self to find something we would like, so instead we are reading through the Bible chronologically. The One Year Bible Online gives you a reading plan for doing this in a year. We’re not attempting to actually finish in a year (good thing, because we got behind on day two), but we are using the plan as a guide. We are purposefully informal in this study. We don’t want it to feel like a chore, or be boring for us or the kids. Our purpose is to make engaging with scripture together a normal part of our day-to-day lives. The inspiration for doing so came from Ann Voskamp, whose family keeps their Bibles by the table and opens them before they get up after each meal. I’m hoping this will just become part of the dinner process, like setting the table. The kids will grow up thinking it’s just what you do at dinnertime.

We have plans to hang a shelf for our Bibles and journals in the dining room. (Just as soon as my father-in-law can locate his stud finder. I know. Ironic.) Once we get it up I’ll post a picture.