Be Generous at Christmas without Spending a Dime


A few years ago I was reminded of an experience I had in college.

On a mission trip in San Francisco, one of our days was to be “homeless”, utilizing free food organizations and getting around on public transportation.  One objective was to have a handicap.  It was my turn, and my handicap was to be blindfolded and led around the city.  When that blindfold covered my eyes, my world got very dark.

Fear consumed me.

Those in my group took me by the hand and led me onto a city bus.  I had to depend on them to be my eyes.  Terror and insecurity set in.  The ride was bumpy, and I lost my footing a few times. They showed me where to hold on, spoke words of encouragement when I was frustrated and afraid.  I was unable to guide myself through that dark time.

I lost something that I had depended on.  Now I had to depend on something else, someone else.

When a seat opened up, they led me to where I could rest.

Looking back, I remember the darkness, fear, and lack of ability to walk in my own strength and guide myself through the darkness.

For many, the Christmas season is like that bus ride and the pains of life bring a darkness unlike any other time of the year.

For me as a child, the scene of Christmas was exciting.

It meant presents, family time decorating the tree to Nat King Cole’s Christmas album, packages in the mail from far away relatives and staying up late watching holiday specials.

Unfortunately, as a teacher in an impoverished city, I see this joy is not the norm for many children.

Unfortunately, having grown up and ministered to many women the holiday season only brings feelings of inadequacy, loss, depression, and fear.

One of my hardest Christmases was when my husband and I were living in Wisconsin.  Our family was far away and we did not have a church community to call home.  My husband had to work Christmas day and the packages from relatives had not arrived.  I woke up with two little ones, an empty tree and feeling all alone.  It was as if Santa had forgotten to stop at my house.

During that time and for many years to come, we struggled financially.  When Christmastime came around, the financial deficits in my own life spoke the lie that I had nothing to offer.

As a mom of young children, I was spent emotionally.

Eventually, I lost sight of what Christmas really meant, and every time the holiday rolled around I braced myself for the emotional roller coaster that the season took me on.

The hard parts of our stories blind us to really living through this season generously.

Our generous eyes can lead a hurting friend through pain, loss and fear that may blind them to receiving the joy of the Christmas season.

Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has generous eyes will be blessed, for he gives bread to the poor.”

The ability to truly have generous eyes this Christmas season begins with the Christmas story.  It begins with a generous God who sent His son to us.

We have a generous Savior who paid our bus fare with His own life.  He has taken the wheel and invites us on a journey with Him.

But the journey isn’t meant to be traveled alone.

We need to have generous eyes to see each other through the bumpy rides.

During this Christmas season are you willing to have generous eyes to see for someone struggling?  Are you willing to be someone they can trust through the darkness, to encourage through the pain?

Remember that Christmas that I spent alone?  Later that day a friend invited me over.  She had stockings full for me and my children.  She saw I was alone.  She saw I was hurting.  She was a light during that dark time.

Generous eyes – a gift we could all afford to give this Christmas season.

Free Ebook: Pilgrim’s Progress

pilgrims progress

Right now you can download a free copy of Pilgrim’s Progress from Amazon (originally $5.99).   The price of this ebooks is currently $0.00, but that could change at any time so be sure to verify the price before checking out.

If you haven’t read this before you’ll want to snag it while it’s free.  I often think of the illustrations from this book that I haven’t read in many years.  It’s a fabulous book!

Free Ebook: Just Us Girls – Bible Study

Just Us Girls Devotional

Right now you can download a free copy of Just Us Girls: A Bible Study on Being God’s Girl in Middle School from Amazon.   The price of this ebooks is currently $0.00, but that could change at any time so be sure to verify the price before checking out.

It’s Not Just Me

Friendship is born - so true!

When you are going through something in life.. that “something” that seems to take up every spare inch inside of your heart, soul, and mind…and you finally get the courage to speak up about it or write about it – are you surprised when you find out others are going through something similar? That you aren’t the only one who feels those feelings?

What’s that about?

When you are feeling lonely and so many others come out of the woodwork saying they, too, feel lonely.

When you are feeling empty, angry, or weak – and so many others chime in that they are dealing with those emotions too.

When you felt as if you were the only one and suddenly you realize it’s impacting not just a few…but many, many others? Why does it seem that themes of emotion in life occur to multitudes all at once?

Maybe…just it so that we can help one another through it?

Maybe is it so that we can teach each other because of it?

And maybe, just maybe is it possible that God is trying to bring us together instead of allowing Satan to push us further into isolation and apart?


All I know is that so many times I have struggled with something and finally, when I’ve felt like I can barely think or breathe anymore and I come out into the open and speak of it – I’m touched and renewed to know that not only is it not “just me,” but that there are others who are ready to give me just the words and hope I need at that moment because they’ve been there. They know “there” so well.

It’s not just me.

It’s not just you.

We are a gift to each other. We just need to have the courage to speak up so we can lean and learn from one another. For that’s God’s built-in blessing to us. Each other.

I Don’t Want to Be Holy

My middle child has been ridiculously punky lately.

Bossy Girl

By “ridiculous” I mean “lying next to her older sister in bed and continuously punching her in the arm” and “kicking the chair mommy is sitting in and moving her feet closer and closer to mommy’s legs while looking straight at mommy with a scowl until she finally kicks mommy. Hard.” and “full-body tackling her eight-month-old baby sister”.  That kind of ridiculousness.

Part of the trouble is that she’s been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately.  Part of the trouble is that she is three.  Part of the trouble is that she is human and doesn’t want to obey or be loving much of the time.

Cranky Girl

This is me.  It is most of us when we are honest with ourselves.

Don't Want to Obey

Be holy” says God.  But we don’t want to be holy.  We want to cling to our busyness and our pride and our little insignificant sins that really are more foundational than we would like for them to be.

There is a piece of all of us that doesn’t want to be healed, a piece that is a bit afraid of what we might grow up to become.  We want, instead, our own way.  We desire to gain the things that we want rather than the thing that we most need.


So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

We all have some malice deep inside of us, that part of our heart that does not want what is best for everyone else around us.  We all put on our masks of deceit and hypocrisy to hide the complex struggles that wage war within our hearts.  We all feel the sharp stings of envy and overlay a caricature on those around us, one that often keeps us from loving them.

Yet every now and then, even in the midst of this world and even in the middle of our own lives that try to hide from holiness, we feel a pang of longing, we catch a glimpse of overwhelming light, and it stuns us into silence.

Glimpse of Light

Monet -Coin du bassin aux nympheás

Perhaps it happens while standing in front of a painting by a master.  Perhaps it happens in the middle of a piece of music or at the end of a book.  Perhaps it happens when you see one child helping another.

Holding One Another Up

Every once in awhile we surprise ourselves with a longing to be holy, a yearning to have what Jesus had.

And yet we have our moments.  Every once in a while, I think, we actually long to be what out of darkness and mystery we are called to be; when we hunger for holiness even so, even if we would never dream of using the word. ~ Frederick Buechner

It is just because of these moments that I believe that we truly belong to holiness.  It is because we belong, in the end, to God that we are so deeply moved by these moments.

So be kind.  Speak honestly about the ways in which you doubt and fear.  Give away when you can manage to overcome your desire to clutch tightly.

(These are some) of the doors that holiness enters the world through, enters us through. ~ Buechner

Art credit: Light photo by Kirk SewellCoin du bassin aux nympheás by Monet

It’s Easy To Love God When Things Are Going Well

Praising God because of who He is!

It’s easy to love God when things are going well.  When the blessings come my way, when my prayers are answered, when I’m feeling the “sun” shining down on me.
It’s easy to praise Him in those times. Easy to tell others to hang in there and that God has reasons for what He does.

It’s hard to praise God when things aren’t going well. When the job is terminated, the finances are a mess, and the bitter cold of the world seems to rest on your shoulders.

It’s harder to love Him when He seems so silent in answer to your prayer request. When the blessings don’t come and when everything seems hard.  But that’s when our true faith is able to shine. That’s when what we really believe comes out. That’s when we grow.

I don’t just love God because of what He can do for me. I love Him because of who I believe He is.

I don’t praise God because all is right in my world. I praise Him because of who He is.
He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the same whether I am blessed or whether I’m challenged. He is the same whether He answers me “yes” or “no.” My view of Him may change – but He does not change. I just can’t always see the reasoning or the full picture.

Ultimately, I trust God. I have faith in Him. I adore Him. I trust Him even when my heart is aching and I wonder why the timing isn’t “now” for what I’m seeking in life. I have faith in Him even when I don’t think things are fair – for I know He wants what is best for me. Oh yes, I adore Him. I adore Him even when life gets ugly.

I believe in my Lord and Savior. And that – for me – trumps everything else I go through.

So it may be easy to love Him when thing are going well, but it’s natural for me to still love Him when they aren’t. I just can’t live any other way.

– Dionna Sanchez
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In the depth of human suffering…

In the depth of human suffering
In the depth of human suffering we discover the reality of God.  It’s here we learn to cry Abba Father.  It’s the cry we make when we can make no other cry.  I’ve felt a little like this lately, okay, a lot like this.  Not so long ago I struggled with things.  Things that are hard to put into words.  Day in and day out I try to meld my internal struggles, eternal truth, and hopefully the product of that will be a life that is honoring to God.  Recently my thoughts became overwhelming.  Crushing.  They stole my happiness.

My to-do list became more than I could bear.  My morning sickness didn’t let up no matter what I tried.  I was tired.  Emotionally and physically exhausted.  The emails and calls of people who were counting on me for this or that slowly drowned in the background of a huge white static.  I don’t know where this static came from but it overpowered my thoughts and replaced them with a feeling that I can only describe as a numb feeling.  I distanced myself from my blogs, from email, and from most phone calls.  I lost a ridiculous amount of money because I didn’t follow through on several campaigns I had said that I would complete.  I wasn’t myself.  I wasn’t faithfully serving God.  I was barely providing food for my family.

I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.  I didn’t even cry because I was numb.  I think professionals might say that I was experiencing “burnout.”  I’ve been stressed out before but I’ve never been burntout at all.  Before experiencing it I thought burnout was just something someone said when they were over committed and decided to quit several things at once.

I went to the She Speaks conference just as I had planned to go even though my heart wasn’t in it.  My husband’s high school reunion was the same weekend so I tried to get out of it the conference and give my ticket to my pastor’s wife but my husband insisted that I go.  I packed my bags to meet a roommate I didn’t know, mentally prepared myself to kindly force myself in dozens of conversations because I didn’t know another lady there (except a few hosting the event which I thought were surely too busy for me this weekend), and braced myself to walk much more than my pregnant body wanted to.

The conference was lovely, well decorated, ran smoother than any conference I’ve ever been to, and had incredibly friendly staff to help out at every turn.  Before the conference was over God broke my heart and gave me my happiness back.  I don’t know what it was that changed my heart.  It was probably a combination of things that God perfectly orchestrated to bring me back to Him.  I’m thankful for God’s love and that He lifted the fog from around me.  I don’t know why God allowed me to go through that and maybe I’ll never know on this side of eternity.

Truthfully, I feel pretty foolish sharing this with you and pouring my heart out as tears stream down my face.  I’m not even sure this makes sense really but I was challenged at the conference to share with my readers the “real” side of me.  I don’t exactly put up a facade on any of my blogs, at least I try not too but I do avoid sharing the embarrassing, not so fabulous moments of my life.  I’ve always thought that if I could share happy things things then I would be uplifting you and encouraging you.  Almost as if I could protect you from the bad things in life.  Saying that now I can see how foolish that way of thinking was.  I don’t want to follow someone who is perfect or pretends to have it all together.  I would much rather follow someone who goes through tragedies and comes out on the other side more in love with their God than before.

I’ve thought a lot about sharing this post with you since the conference and the other day it dawned on me…How can I identify with those who are suffering when I want to put my best face on and pretend that I’m not suffering?  To do so is to violate what we find in the NT.  Multiple times Paul talked about how we can have joy in our trials.  Joy can exist contemporaneously with tears and with sadness.  It’s not a joy that says I’m so joyful that I don’t cry but  it’s the strange paradox that says even though tears are streaming down my face I know there is a joy that transcends what I’m experiencing.

I think one of the challenges we face, as those who profess to be followers of Jesus, is the challenge to show the world how to be sad.  At least I know I struggle with this.  I’ve never given this much thought until this until my recent circumstances and conversations with godly women who shared their struggles with me at the conference.  Christians seem to have it backwards when we think the way to be spiritual is to say that “Everything is okay, I’m not sad.”  If someone’s mom just died and they said that they weren’t sad but joyful because of where she is I would think they were either crazy or lying.  While joy may still be present, sadness is there too.  Sorrowing in the reality of joy isn’t a marginalized suffering.  Grief is grief.  Sadness is sadness.  Nicholas Wolterstorff once said, “Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved.  That worth abides.”  Grief, sorrow, and tears are all things that we have to experience on this earth but I find it very comforting to know that The Comforter has experienced them too.  He loves me and can give me indescribable peace.  He loves you too!

When You Think Everyone Else Has It All…

Do you ever battle with comparison or giving in to illusions that are not truth?

When you think everyone else has it all – or at least has it all together – you can trick yourself into comparing and thinking you are ‘less than’, in two seconds flat!  You may not even be aware of it.  We have all done it… we see someone whom we admire or want to be like, and we tend to see only what they project.  We don’t mean to be judging on outward appearance, or social status, or what they seem to have or not have, but it happens.  I think it would help us to remember that while they may appear confident and sure of themselves, chances are that may not be their reality.  

They may appear to have it all, but the secret is they are most likely just as nervous, scared, uncertain, or insecure as you are.  We seldom get a glimpse inside to know if the image they project is an act of courage on their part or something they have had to fight for and grow into.  Either way, we can learn so much if we are willing to be honest and share real life.

We all want to give off a great first impression, to put our best foot forward… Oh we want to be confident and secure, bold and loving life.  Some days, we are.  But if we’re honest, we all have those other days – and I think that if we would be more open to sharing our true lives, we’d find a deeper sense of connection to one another! Often  as we really get to know people, we are surprised to find out that they have struggles, too.

I remember hosting a gathering of amazing women in a living room last winter. We chatted over coffee and watched Ann Voskamp talk about finding joy, counting gifts, and being real. The video was over and we were daring each other to share truth… to share an insecurity, a prayer request, something that we could come around and pray in agreement for the power to overcome it – whatever ‘it’ was!

We went around the room, one by one, giving a glimpse into something that we struggle with… self-doubt, fear, lack of confidence, a poverty mindset. The list went on and on, but what I found the most intriguing was the look of utter shock on the faces of the women around the room.

This gathering was one filled with impressive talents and giftings… with powerful women, mothers, servants, leaders… and what we found the most surprising was not that they would admit these vulnerabilities, but that they had them at all in the first place!

We seemed at a loss for words when one of the gals who appears so put together and in control of things shared how she was afraid of rejection… at once, all of us thought, “Wait? You?” (or more accurately, “Wait? You too?”)   When we are honest and willing to share our real lives – even the lives that we live sometimes hidden behind masks – we find that we are not alone.  We find a surprising Community that invites us in, that knows what we feel like and what we overcome on any given day because they feel and overcome the same things. We find we are more alike than we once believed… and in finding that, we find the boldness to keep on being real; to keep on living out loud.

So I encourage you to take down the masks… stop bowing to the pressure to be anything or anyone more than who you are, right now, in this day!  We don’t need to be perfect…


Let’s give grace… to ourselves and to others around us. When we are scared, when we fail, or when we want to run and hide, let us find community both here online and there (wherever that may be for you) in real life.  May we take the risk to be real… to not hide or project an image that is not us.  May we be vulnerable enough to let others see the real us… and in doing so, may we see ourselves a bit more clearly, too.  

I am finding that as we do this, we will remember that no one really has it all together. We’re also more open to learning from others’ strengths and to reaching out and helping in their weaknesses.  When we know that we know that we know that we don’t have to have it all together, …there is such freedom in that!

How do you battle being Vulnerable? Have you found Community that is willing to risk being Vulnerable, and willing to live life out loud? I’d love to hear about it!

Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On.


Karrilee is a Wife, a Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend…
She is a Writer, Reader, Pray-er, Photographer, Beach Lover, Laugh Seeker, Life living person, serving God to the best of her ability! She lives in the PNW with her husband and nearly grown girlie and is passionate about diving in deeper with the Lord and inviting others to discover how personal, intimate, abundant His Love is for them! Her life message? Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On.  She loves to share what is on her heart and what the Lord is speaking to her at:


Our Plans Sometimes Fail Bitterly

What to Do When Your Plans Fail Bitterly

I remember the night well.  I had wanted to make a big move in our newly married life and our plans went all awry due to someone else.

I wept bitterly.

I didn’t understand why God wouldn’t allow it to happen.  Later of course, I did, as God (in His own perfect timing) took us somewhere else – somewhere where He worked deeply in our hearts and lives.

There are many nights and moments like that one.  It seems (often) as if MY plans and agenda are delayed. It’s always frustrating. But hindsight often teaches me what that moment was about. What lessons and truths I would have to learn through those stretching times.

MY plans.

It escapes me why I fail to see that life is like a river. I’m in that river trying to flounder and throw my weight around to swim against a current. A current that God has me in, for a reason. He wants me to go a certain direction at a certain speed. But I fight, and I flounder. Sometimes making progress, other times running out of breath in tears and finally giving in – letting that current take me where it will. It is in those moments that I see relaxing and giving up my control was the best thing to do after all. For that current often leads me to a rock where I can throw out my arms, grab hold, and rest on its strength. IT’S strength. Not my own.

We dive in so often. We dive in headfirst, feet first, or with a little flip in the air. We think we know what is best for our lives. Dipping our toes in and testing out the waters – that too, happens. But we don’t see the whole river and we think we know. WE THINK WE KNOW what it will be like.

I think that’s the beauty of God’s grace. He is there to catch us when we fall. When our own plans fail. Sometimes we fail to consult Him in our dreams and our choices. Other times, we do…but we think we hear His voice and then get confused when everything falls apart.  And they do…sometimes….fall apart.


But you know what?  It’s okay.  God is always there waiting for us to call out to Him.  He’s never tired of hearing our voice; always willing to bail us out and redirect us.


That’s a perfect Father, right there. And I’m so thankful.


~ Dionna Sanchez

When You Feel Worthless

When You Feel Worthless

Someone very close to me recently went through a tough situation. They basically discovered something that made them feel totally unappreciated.


It caused them to feel pretty low about themselves.


I tried to encourage them and remind them that the world doesn’t say who we are – God does. But it was a tough struggle for them. Their self esteem took a big hit.


It caused me to think about all the similar times I’d been through where my own self worth was damaged because of someone else’s thoughts, actions (or inactions) towards me. How easily satan can use those times in our life to make us feel small and worthless.  He’s really good at doing that.


But, if we go around feeling worthless; aren’t we then agreeing with the perception of the other person? Aren’t we in fact, telling them that they were right about us in the first place?


Sure, sometimes someone else has a basis of truth in their assumptions or perceptions of us. Maybe we needed a little humbling. Maybe we needed to be reminded of some things or our character needed to be built up. But most of the time, we feel cruddy and worthless because we allow someone else to place a label on us. One that doesn’t really belong.


No one is worthless. Not you. Not me. No one likes to feel like the efforts they’ve made aren’t appreciated. It’s discouraging and frustrating. And it does make you take a second look at yourself and how you come across.  But other people don’t have the right to say who we are, either.


God says we are valuable. Priceless. Worth far more than rubies. He finds us beautiful, loveable, and He invests in us constantly. So it’s our choice to believe what “so and so” believes and says about us – or what God says about us.  For me? I choose to believe that God is right. That I AM worth something special. That I AM valuable. That I AM loveable.


Who do you choose to believe?