That “never enough” feeling at Christmas? You’re not alone.

Never enough time. Never enough done. Never enough presents. It’s the place we can find ourselves as Christmas day closes in on us. That’s how it can feel, right? Like time is closing in. Our finances are stretched and we are looking around thinking, have I done enough? Will my kids feel like this was a good enough Christmas? My parents? My friends? Did I make the most of this Season of Joy?

I get it. I’ve been there. As a mom, I’ve counted presents under the tree wondering did I get enough, or too much? Are the number and value of the presents about the same? Maybe I should put one of my daughter’s presents away for her birthday so it looks more even between the kids. And then my gaze falls on the stockings hung by the chimney with care. Is it my imagination, or does one look fuller than the other? Maybe the drug store is still open, I think. I could pick up a few more stocking stuffers.

On Christmas morning, it’s over in seconds. And never enough becomes a pit in the stomach. Where has the joy of Christmas gone? you may wonder. It’s still there. It always has been. Hidden behind the lights and glitter and parties and presents, the joy of Christmas is waiting.

Remember Me, Christmas asks. Remember Me.  

As wrapping paper flies, thoughts of Jesus are a million miles away. I get it. I was there with you. Gauging the looks on my children’s faces. My husband’s face. My parents’ faces. Is it enough? Did I do enough?

And then one Christmas morning my family did something different before we opened our presents. We acknowledged Jesus by giving Him gifts before we opened our own. Mittens and gloves for someone in need. Food for the hungry.  Freedom for a child enslaved on a fishing boat, purchased for $14.00. Dear Jesus, we prayed, We give these gifts to you in honor of your birthday because we know you want us to take care of each other. You don’t want people to go hungry, or be cold. You want us to be light in the darkness of this world. So with humble hearts, we give these gifts to You. For you taught us that whatever we do for those in need, we do for You. Thank you for the gift of your love, Jesus. Thank you for coming to earth as a baby to teach us about God’s love and how to love each other. We love You. Happy birthday, Jesus.

With those words, never enough became more than enough. Christmas became love overflowing. Right there in our living room, we experienced it. God’s love with us! Emmanuel. Our hearts sang with joy beyond measure–and nothing needed measured again. It was enough. Every gift, every treat, every carol, every moment was infused with the love of Emmanuel.

The experience of giving Jesus a gift can’t be adequately described in words. It’s like the birth of a child, or the kindness of a stranger that is so profound you wonder if you were visited by an angel. Until it happens to you, you can’t truly imagine it.

We want you to experience this love more than anything. Christmas Eve is the perfect time to think of a gift for Jesus. Put it under your tree. You can put the gift in a Sparkle Box if you have one, or in a gift bag if you don’t. And then—don’t skip this part—read your gift to Jesus on Christmas morning, thanking Him for becoming God with us. Feel the joy that comes from giving a gift to the greatest gift of all.

Visit for gift ideas for Jesus. You’ll find a link to Network for Good, a national organization with over 100,000 nonprofits you can search for by cause, name, or even location. You’ll also find ideas for how you can bless someone in need in your community or neighborhood. We love giving a gift to Jesus on His birthday so much, we give Him a birthday gift every year. It’s even changed the way we live, love and serve year-round…bringing more joy to our lives than we ever dreamed possible. The Sparkle Box is an award-winning children’s book written to share this tradition with people of all ages, and it’s available to read online for free through Dec. 31, 2018, courtesy of Worthy Publishing. I hope you’ll read it:–and share! Merry Christmas!

My encounter with Jesus.

The handshake was more hand-grab. A claiming. He was not going to let go as soon as I’d anticipated or wanted and his face showed it—victory.

I was captive, so he thought. My reaction to pull away was met with a firmer, doubling of the grip—smooth, unworked and warehoused hands holding unto a new friend. A passerby naive enough to make eye contact and say, “Hello, how are you?”

And so, temporarily at least, I submitted, hovering over his wheelchair-bound frame wondering how many times a day he sets the bait of extended hand and catches nothing.

Christmas can often be a time of guarding “our time,” a season of conflicting, battling schedules. Swirled into our normal day-to-day events, we scamper to and from all things Christmas. We dodge suggestions for our time accepting or declining requests however the almighty schedule directs us. It’s exactly what brought me to our local nursing home this Tuesday afternoon. I had plans to visit my friend Chris, but in the walk to his room, was snared unscheduled by a trapper. 

Standing, hand captured in the hall near the nurse’s station, I began conversing with the man, looking into his wide and glassy eyes. They widened more at my talk and the man became enthused responding in a babble I couldn’t decipher. Realizing I could not understand, his plea became louder and indignant. Looking to the nurse behind the counter I was met with a raised eyebrow and closed-lip half smile which I interpreted as, “Don’t look at me kid you took the bait, you’re on your own.” I got it, felt no severe judgement against her. Behind her smile, I saw a tired, jaded nurse. I saw myself if I were an underpaid staffer burned-out and poured dry by the grind of eldercare. Selfishly, I saw time slipping, my schedule encroached upon. 

Troubled that I was still subtly pulling from the trapper’s grip, I surrendered my hand a little, then more, then completely. Take it, I thought. I’m not in a hurry anymore. What’s on your mind? What is it you so desperately want me to know? The man began to cry as his explanation continued.

Emanuel is here, I thought. Here is Christ! Right here, is where God with us is born! He comes unexpectedly, unscheduled in the going, challenging us to open eyes and heart. “Here I am,” He proclaims. “Look at me,” he pleads, grabbing our hand passing by. “I’m right here, the lonely, the least of men. Where are you? Where have you been?”

I looked deeper into the trapper’s watery eyes, placing my free hand over his grip. He slowly quieted and the silence closed in on us. Looking back across the counter my human self selfishly wanted the nurse to take notice, to acknowledge the calm. My true self, my child of God self, continued studying this man of heart peeled open with my own heart peeled open.

Lost in that moment, all I could find to answer his pleading look was, “You know, it’s going to be alright. You’re going to be alright.”

He smiled toothless, sprung the trap and uttered clear enough to discern as I said goodbye and walked away, “You a good man, a good man.”

My friend’s room was empty, his brother had sprung him for lunch. I was disappointed not to see him but was hopeful returning to the nurse’s station that I’d see the trapper. But no one. No patients in sight. In the parking lot I sat in the car, effected by and doubting his words. Wanting to be a better man.

Tim Hardie

A Christmas Challenge

The Advent season is here, can you feel it? Can you feel the skipped heartbeats of anticipation, the waiting and excitement for the coming of our King, the Prince of Peace. Yes, Him, Jesus, the reason for the season. The Christ in Christmas is coming, let the celebration begin. Drop what you’re doing and rejoice on bended knee because nothing, nothing else matters more. Right?

Wait a minute, not so fast, you say. I have a lot I need to get done first.

We all do, don’t we? The tree, the decorations and lights, greeting cards, the cookies, the cake for the party, the party, the cleaning before the party and after, other parties to attend, and I haven’t even started my shopping yet! And, I am so busy at work, you have no idea.

Feeling stressed yet? Merry Christmas!

For many of us, Advent is the coming of craziness. A seasonal race to endure. The starting pistol buried somewhere in the corrugated cartons or plastic bins we drag out into our living rooms once a year.

Our 21st century Advent, and the ever-hedging pre-Christmas season, is more like a 23-day plus performance. One that can be so consuming and stressful, we can find ourselves celebrating something else about a week after the arrival of our long-awaited savior—our survival in making it through another Christmas.

I want to challenge you. Take a breath for a moment while you consider these questions. Do you really want another commercial-crusted Christmas stuffed with “have to do’s” rather than “want to do’s”? Do you want to spend the next month chasing the perfect Christmas—earning  empty praise and approval along the way for your effort?

Back to the challenge. Wouldn’t it be refreshing, welcoming and fitting to say the least, to put Christ back in the center of Christmas? This Advent, I invite you to take #TheSparkleBoxChallenge. An easy to do tradition, one your whole family can participate in to put, and keep your focus on Christ.

#TheSparkleBoxChallenge is easy. Put a gift box for Jesus under your Christmas tree this year—a Sparkle Box. Fill it with gifts you are giving Him and open it on Christmas morning. I promise you it will put your focus on Christ as you think about what you will give Jesus for Christmas. We started this tradition in our own family about 12 years ago…and our Christmas has never been the same. The stress. The have-to’s and do-I-have-enough-to-give-my-kids is gone. In its place is Jesus. And the peace and love that fill our hearts when we focus on Him.

Since #TheSparkleBoxChallenge is about honoring Jesus with a gift on Christmas, His birthday, think of how you can really bless someone in need. Be intentional about making a difference in someone’s life. There are many people around the world and in our own communities that lack basic necessities, food, clothing, clean water, education and more. How can you bless them or their family with a gift? Jesus taught us when we take care of others in need, we are doing it for Him. This gift to someone else is your gift to Jesus.

On a slip of paper, write down your gift and put it in your Sparkle Box. Open the box on Christmas morning and feel the joy.

I invite you to put Jesus at the center of Christmas morning by trying what my family has done for the last 12 years. Every year, we find this experience to be deeply meaningful and a powerful way to usher in Christmas morning. First, before the shreds of wrapping paper go flying, say a prayer. Give thanks. Thank Jesus for coming to us and showing us what God’s love looks like and how we can be that love to others. Open your Sparkle Box and take turns reading aloud the gifts you are giving Christ on His birthday. Feel the immense joy that comes from giving a gift to the greatest gift of all.

-Tim Hardie

The Sparkle Box Challenge is inspired by a picture book for people of all ages called The Sparkle Box. Written by Jill Hardie, The Sparkle Box is based on our family’s tradition of giving a gift to Jesus. Check it out, along with great activities you can do to make this tradition meaningful at And have a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Get up out of the dirt and dust

When I was opening my journal to write this morning, the pages fell open to an entry I made in July of last year. It has to do with forgiveness, and although it’s personal and I’ve never shared a journal entry before, I feel prompted to share this one. I’m not sure if these words are my own, or if they came from someone else. There is no notation in my journal as to where they came from…but they certainly touched my heart today, and I hope they touch yours, too.

Who am I that you would forgive my sin?

Who are You that You forgive sin so easily?

I don’t have to beg for it. I don’t have to earn it. With Your loving heart You simply let go of what I have done and fill the hole of shame with Your grace. You say, I see you and I love you just the same. Get up out of the dirt and dust…I don’t accuse you. I love you. I don’t want to punish you, I want to teach you. I don’t want your heart to be burdened with guilt and sorrow, I want it to love like mine. 

Thank you heavenly Father, loving Jesus, magnificent Holy Spirit. Thank you. 

Grace is a gift. A loving gift we are meant to accept freely through Christ Jesus. What a joy to know how completely we are loved.



Hiding in the Dark

When I was about eight years old my cousins came to visit us in Texas. We had moved from Ohio about a year before their visit, and I was so excited to see them. I had so many plans! I wanted to show them my favorite spots for catching lizards, take them riding on our hike and bike trail, go hunting for crayfish in the stream that ran along the edge of our neighborhood, swimming at the pool…but something happened during their visit that crushed my plans. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember where I ended up. Hiding in the darkness of my closet.

We were roller skating down my street. I remember that. And I remember my lanky cousin skating with what looked like bricks on the ends of his feet, arms flailing wildly as he tried to keep his balance, skates smacking against the sidewalk. Then something happened. Maybe I said something mean to my cousin. Or maybe he said something mean to me and I cried. That wouldn’t be unheard of since I was so sensitive, and sensitivity wasn’t looked upon as a good character trait. All I remember is that whatever happened made me feel like I wasn’t a good person anymore. I never had a great self esteem, so when the gig was up, it was up. I didn’t feel like I was worthy of hanging around with. I didn’t feel like I was fun or had anything to share. I was ashamed of who I was, so I crawled into my closet and hid in the dark. Plans over.

Isn’t life like that for many of us? Without even realizing exactly what drives us there, we end up hiding in the dark. We feel that whatever we’ve done or whatever has happened to us is just too much. It’s beyond repair. So we start turning out the lights one by one. We stop stepping out, sharing thoughts, opening up. We may carefully craft a bright facade to the outside world, but inside, we’re curled up in the dark, afraid to make a move.

That’s what shame does. It drives us into the dark where unworthiness grows. Shame tells us what kind of person we are. Liar. Cry-baby. Brat. Stupid. There is no hope in shame. There is no feeling of belonging in shame. Shame separates us from the ones we love. Most importantly, shame separates us from God.

God doesn’t want us to live in shame, because he knows when we do, even the best laid plans for joy aren’t going to come to fruition. That’s why he gave us the gift of salvation through the Light of the world, Jesus Christ.

There is no such thing as living life to the fullest when we are living in shame. I know from personal experience, because I’ve been there. And I know you may be there, too. Whether you’ve been a Christian as long as you remember, or you’ve never stepped into a church…the darkness calls us all and we can find we’ve made a home there without even realizing it. If you’re there, come into the Light of God’s grace. There is no room for shame in the Light. The Light drives out all darkness. The Light says, you are free.

Stressed this Christmas? Get a Sparkle Box

A salon I drive by on a daily basis has a sign out front that changes to reflect current promotions and seasonal specials. This week, the sign reads, “Stressed this Christmas? Get a massage.” I’ll admit, a massage would feel good right about now. But I know the feeling wouldn’t last. If I could change the sign, it would read: Stressed this Christmas? Get a Sparkle Box.

In case you haven’t read The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas, a Sparkle Box is a gift you give Christ on Christmas. About eight years ago, my husband and I started the tradition of giving a gift to Christ on Christmas morning, and it filled our home with a joy and peace we had never known. As I read the gifts we put in our box that first Christmas morning….mittens for those who don’t have any, a shoebox filled with toys and small gifts for a child in another part of the world… I could barely get the words out. It was the most humbling, moving experience I had ever had.

After that first Christmas, giving a gift to Christ became a focal point of the season. We talked about what we wanted to do to honor Him. We looked for opportunities and ways we could make a difference in the world, for His glory—not our own. And something amazing happened.  For the first time, I wasn’t stressing about how many cookies I baked or whether or not I got my Christmas cards out on time. I wasn’t fretting over whether or not I bought my children enough, or worrying that I bought too much. Christmas wasn’t about any of those things. It was about the joy of Christ coming to this world. It was about honoring Jesus on the anniversary of His birth. It was about celebrating a love that is deeper and wider than any other we’ll ever know.

Stressed this Christmas? Get a Sparkle Box and discover the joy and peace that comes from centering Christmas on Christ.

Who am I to say I’m the light of the world?

If you read my previous blog, you know I felt called to write the book, The Sparkle Box and that I had never felt called to do anything before in my life. In fact, it all seemed a little strange to me. What was even stranger, was the letter I wrote at the end of the first manuscript. The letter was from Jesus and it began, “Dear Child, you are the light of the world, make it sparkle.”


Now comes confession time. Although I had gone to church most of my life since I was about four years old, I hadn’t spent much time studying the Bible. I remembered that Jesus said He was the light of the world, and that recollection left me feeling more than a little uneasy. Who was I to say, “You are the light of the world”? I went to the living room and grabbed my Bible off the shelf. There is a great index in the back so I looked up the phrase, “light of the world.” I found the verse I knew, but I also listed in the index is “You are the light of the world.” I looked up Matthew 5:14 and realized I had read this verse before, but it was like I was reading it for the first time.


“You are the light of the world, glowing in the night for all to see.” Wow. Jesus told us we are the the light of the world? Suddenly it made perfect sense. When we are kind to one another, when we reach out with love or forgiveness, we when are compassionate…we are Christ’s light in the world. And He was calling me—He was calling all of us—to make a difference. 

Every journey begins with the first step.

I was standing in my kitchen when I heard from God, and the words He gave me changed my life forever. I had heard people say they felt called to serve God, or that God gave them a message or spoke to them, but quite frankly, that was way out of my comfort zone. At that time in my life, I thought things like that didn’t really happen.


But there I was, standing in my kitchen. I had just gotten off the phone with a friend who called to cancel our plans because her daughter was sick. I had the morning off and as I looked out the kitchen window, I thought to myself,
I have the whole day in front of me. What am I going to do?
No sooner had I had that thought than the words “Write the book” fell into my vision. I don’t know how else to describe it except to say the words came down out of nowhere. A grayish type that just appeared in my field of vision.  I remember knowing instantly what the book was, and I answered “Now?” in my head. The command “NOW” appeared in response. I wanted to laugh. Really?


I hadn’t thought about the book in nearly a year. My laptop was sitting on our kitchen table and I sat down and opened it up. There was a legal pad to the left of the computer. I picked up a pen and wrote the words, “The Sparkle Box” on the pad of paper. I liked the sound of it. I started typing and when I stopped an hour and a half later, it was done. I put my face in my hands and wept. I felt a flood of light and warmth cover me and fill my body. I had never experienced such profound joy.


At the end of the manuscript, there was a letter. The letter began, “Dear Child, you are the light of the world, make it sparkle.” I believe it’s a message from God to all of us, and that’s why the bookThe Sparkle Box starts out “Dear Child, you are the light of the world, make it sparkle.” 


This blog is about learning to be the light. It’s a journey filled with laughter, lessons, heartache and joy. I hope you’ll come along.