Sunday, November 25, 2012

20 Inexpensive yet Heartwarming Ideas

Christmas is a time for giving, loving and sharing.  

If you are like me, you have so many people you want to give to but finances just don’t allow you to give at the level your heart desires.  

Instead of cutting people off of your list, adjust it a little bit with some inexpensive gifts that are easy to make and will warm the heart with fond memories.

Practical, easy….memorable…let’s get to it hmm?  

(Read all the way to the bottom to see how easy it is to make gifts dipped in chocolate, I think you’ll be surprised.)

Inexpensive, Easy yet Heartwarming Gifts:

  1.  Notes in a Jar – This gift can last an entire year long! A gorgeous jar from the dollar store and 365 notes, quotes, smiles and virtual hugs will warm hearts each day for an entire year!  You can easily doll up the jar with ribbon found in the dollar store as well.  Using notes like “Cause JOY”, “You Matter” to inspire them or use your favorite quotes.  If you know they love the Bible, mix it up with your favorite encouraging Bible Verses.
  2. Framed Photo – Give a gorgeous photo of the family that is already framed.  Take a beautiful sunset/sunrise photo and add a quote to it and frame that.  If they love the ocean or mountains, use a picture from there, add in a verse or quote and frame that.  Every time they look at it, joy will fill their heart with thoughts of you!
  3. Cup of Joy – Take a gorgeous coffee cup, tea cup and saucer and fill it full of sweet treats, coffee, coffee creamers etc for the coffee enthusiast in your world.  It will serve double duty as it holds some delicious treats as well as provides them a cup of warm thoughts throughout the year.
  4. Homemade Treats – Easier to do than you realize! Bake up a batch of brownies, chex mix or even dip some pretzels, marshmallows or Nutter Butter cookies in chocolate and drizzle with favorite sprinkles for a sweet gift.  You can get the little kids involved here and have a day of making memories as well as gifts.  The sky is the limit with these delicious gifts!
  5. Heartwarming, hand written letter – Sometimes there is just nothing better than a hand written letter of thanks, love and appreciation.  It can be read and re-read anytime!  You’d be surprised a just how heartwarming this gift truly can be.
  6. Photo Collage – We love photos and when you add 3 or 4 in one, the smiles just get bigger.  Make a photo collage of your times together, the parties or celebrations.  Do one with kids through the years, skipping a few years in between so they can see how they’ve grown.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this will surely be priceless!
  7. A box of Kisses – With the decorative boxes that are available these days, this will be super easy and bring lots of smiles each time a kiss is unwrapped.  Find a cute box, fill full of kisses and toss in a handwritten card and you are handing over a gift of love!  Mix it up by giving “hugs and kisses” together.
  8. Handmade Ornament – For the crafty types, this is quite an easy gift.  Me, not so much, but some of them, I feel like even I could do.  Take a clear round bulb, square or whatever you have, toss in some gifts you’ve cut off a garland, some shiny gift filler, or write on it with paint pens and poof, you’ve got an awesome gift that will be treasured each Christmas.
  9. Gifts in a Jar – Brownies, cookies, soups and spices can be amazing gifts when you toss all the dry ingredients in a jar, attach instructions and package in a fun, creative way.  Thousands of recipes will provide HUGE smiles as they are being prepared! If the jars are too expensive, use some Ziploc bags and then place in a Christmas Cello Bag that you get 10 in a pack from the dollar store.
  10. Personalized Cookie Plate – Using a Christmas plate from the dollar store and some markers, and a little baking in the oven, you can personalize this gift and then add some cookies you’ve prepared just for them.  The plate can also have a memory such as hand prints, feet prints etc.  When you combine a foot with 2 hands, you have an instant angel for Grandma and Grandpa.  Be sure to jot down what year and the age of the child.
  11. The Write Stuff – Give a nice journal and gel pens to someone.  On the first page tell them how thankful you are for them and that you hope they can fill this journal with warm thought s from their grateful heart.
  12. Board Games & Snacks – inspire a time of food and fun with friends with this gift. There is nothing like game night! Great laughter, lots of memories and some whining….if you are like me and lose most of the time.  PRICELESS!
  13. Note Cards and Stamps – A gift that will keep on giving! The stamps will cost the most, but you can get the cards for a buck at the dollar store.  Package it in a nice cello bag and know that your gift will encourage more than the one you gave it to.
  14. Fuzzy Socks & Lotion – What a nice treat for the often forgot about feet.  Use jergens or another non girly smelling lotion just in case someone is particular about smells, toss in some cute fuzzy socks and you’ll be warming hearts as well as feet.
  15. Cocoa – A cup, chocolate dipped spoon, chocolate dipped marshmallows, chocolate dipped peppermint stick and you’ve got a sweet treat!
  16. Strawberries and Chocolate – After you’ve dipped your strawberries, place them in some mini cupcake liners, put in a cute Christmas box and you’ve got a sweet treat that is sure to impress!
  17. Candies in a Jar – You’ve seen it in Cracker Barrel and other country stores, talk about easy to make. Purchase some fireballs, m&m’s, reese’s pieces or other old fashioned candy and toss it in a jar, add ribbon and card and instant goodness! Did I mention fireballs?
  18. Fudge a little bit – I’ve never made fudge but hear that it’s really easy.  Pour it into metal cookie cutters or muffin liners, wrap and you’ve got a perfect little gift that is sure to please.
  19. Personalized Survival Kit – By personalized I mean things that the recipient will adore, personalized. For instance, one year the kids got their dad a survival kit, it included his favorites & things he uses often: Honey bun, Starbucks cold coffee, BC Powder, cassette tapes from the thrift store, tie (also from the thrift store), note pad, pens, Sponge Bob stuff, gum, mints, and other things that I can no longer remember.  Point is – everyone has little things that they love and adore, why not package it up and make is special just for them.
  20. Video – One True Media will take your pictures and make them into an amazing video for FREE.  What a gift!  Have fun gathering up all the memories and preparing them for a video that will easily import over to youtube.
There you have it! 20 easy, peasy ideas that are sure to warm the heart.

The thing you have to keep in mind is that people will love the fact you took the time to put something together like this for them.

Enjoy Christmas and other times of gift giving without the unnecessary guilt, even times of simple laughter together is a priceless gift that will last for a lifetime.

May I add in one more?  A Bonus:

The Spreading Joy Daily book, pair it with a mug, Reese’s Cups or just a note will be a gift that keeps on giving. You will be empowering others to make a difference without breaking the bank.  It’s filled with practical ideas for each day and you’ll find that as you make a difference, your heart will be flooded with great joy!  (PS, all proceeds goes right back into making a difference for others….double the joy.)

Ohh, I almost forgot -  Giving chocolate dipped items is really as easy as melt, dip, decorate and package.

Many of these white chocolate bars or milk chocolate bars have their own microwavable dish so the cleanup is easy.  

For about 10 bucks, you can get 2 blocks of these melting candies, package of marshmallows, pretzel rods, graham crackers or my personal favorite Nutter Butter Cookies, dip, sprinkle with fun and package for gifting.

I’d love for you to post pictures of what you’ve done over at our fan page –

Also if you have a link on easy gift ideas, please do feel free to share it below in the comment section so others can be inspired and encouraged!

Spreading Joy is as easy as sharing this article on twitter, facebook, pinterest or emailing to your friends.  Use the handy buttons below to do so.

Thank you for your efforts in Spreading Joy and making a difference!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grateful Heart

When November rolls around each year, so many people start the 30 days of Thankfulness on their Social Media sites.  I love reading them, I love seeing what people are thankful for and I love how it encourages others to do the same.

The thing that gets me though is why does it have to end?  

You are already updating your status daily; you are already sharing pictures, plans and pray requests.  You are there, so why not continue it?  Why not share something daily that you are thankful for.

Yes, November is the month that we celebrate Thanksgiving, but why not celebrate all year through?

For me, I want to express gratitude daily.

I look for the beauty in the ordinary, the rainbow after the rain and the good in the pain.  I try to express thanks for something each day, just like I do one act of JOY for someone each day.

Diligence is the key.  Instead of keeping it to myself, I will start posting something daily that I’m thankful for.  It may be online or in my journal, but I won’t let my expression of thanks end after the festivities have ended.  I won’t let April roll through without participating in some type of thanksgiving.

Will you?

Will you give daily thanks when this month of Thanksgiving is over?

I know things may get tough, finances may be difficult and the trials may seem to come in waves, but even if these things happen, there is still something to be thankful for, the question is, will you look up from the muck and mire to find it?  Will you notice the light in the dark?  Will you share what you find so that others can see the light in the dark as well?

I hope you will.

If you start something online, I encourage you to leave the link below, so that others can easily find it and be encouraged. 

Will you start by listing 4 or 5 “ordinary” things that you are so thankful for and encourage others to see the beauty in the ordinary?

I hope you will.

Spreading JOY is as easy as sharing this on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thank you for your efforts in Spreading Joy AND giving THANKS….daily.

PS…I’ll start

My beautifully ordinary things that I’m very thankful for:
  • Christmas Music anytime of the year
  • Silliness with friends
  • Waking up and not realizing I had even fallen asleep
  • Hope for tomorrow
  • Dishes being done by someone else
I could add sooo much more, but am hoping you will too. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Discouragement...Why bother


Its grip is so strong.  Its power to stay wrapped round your heart simply amazes me sometimes.  We get knocked down over and over again and, try as we may, sometimes discouragement simply wins out.
That’s when we grab the remote, a bag of Golden Double Stuff Oreos, cup of milk and just dunk away, ignoring the pain that seems to haunt us.

Trouble is…when the cookies are nothing more than crumbs, the milk all gone and the shows that we normally love don’t even interest us anymore, discouragement is still there.
Never underestimate the power of discouragement.  It happens to all of us.


Even Me….a happy little joy spreader.

How do you fight it? How do you get out of the death grip it has on you?  How do you over come?

You fight it with giving, choosing to see the beauty in the ordinary and pure determination. 

I know, you are already thinking “Marie…I’m not a half glass full kind of person.”

My response to that is you can be. 

You can take action and start focusing on the positive around you, the amazing blessings that fill your world and the great things that bring a smile to your heart each and every day.   

People are typically discouraged when they “feel” like things aren’t going the way they should be or the outcome is not what they desired.  Discouragement comes when feelings creep in and then stand up and shout “look at me, focus on me” even though those feelings are usually not true.

It’s easier to feel the negative things, like:
  • We don’t matter
  • They don’t care
  • It’s not the truth
  • They always lie to me
  • What does “it” matter anyway
  • Who cares
  • Why Bother
Etc etc  etc

We should be focusing on the facts, not our emotional feelings that change with the tide.

Fact is YOU DO matter.  You always have and you always will.  YOU are someone’s entire world.

Fact is THEIR opinions are just that…opinions, and you will likely NOT change their mind, so move on.

Fact is the choice is YOURS and you have the choice to ignore the negative things you “think” others think about you.

Fact is Negative is easier to see and feel but being POSITIVE is a much greater force than you realize.

Fact is, we will always face discouragement, but we don’t have to “stay” and dwell with it forever.  

Face it, stand up to it and then move on right past it.

Here are a few things to help move past the discouragement that grips your heart:
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Surround yourself with the things you love. (inspirational quotes, pictures, uplifting music)
  • Keep your spiritual life in check by staying schooched up close to the Lord. Daily Walk With Him.
  • Give yourself permission to feel discouraged and recharge
  • Move past it with confidence by remembering that sometimes failure is just a detour to where you are going
  • Remember Failure isn’t final – you have the final say.
  • YOU MATTER – remember this!
  • Focus on the facts, NOT feelings
  • Don’t focus on the fear, focus on The Father

How do you face discouragement?

What are some things you do to help get yourself beyond this?

If you’ve written an article on this, please feel free to share a link as well as some words of encouragement below, so that our readers can easily find you.

Thank you for your efforts in Spreading JOY and making a difference!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I LOVE the Ocean

My heart is pounding! You'd think I had not been to the ocean in years, but actually, it's only been a few months. I quickly head to the sandy shores of the Atlantic.   I'm giddy with delight!

No matter how many times I come here, my heart feels as if it’s the first time I’ve seen it in years.

I love the ocean.  I love the smell, I love the sound, I love the sights! I simply love it.

The sand feels so cool on my feet.  I must remove my shoes to get the full effects. I love walking thru the sand to the water.  I reach the edge of the shore, the gentle waves lap up against me, saying "hello my dear friend! Do you know I love having you near me?"  I sit in the sand, near the water but not so close as to get soaked.
I keep my feet at the edge, enjoying the cool water washing over my toes as I gaze out over the glorious ocean.  I look straight ahead. As far as I can see is water.  This mighty ocean is so peaceful, so calming as it rocks back and forth showing the world that God is in control of the waves.

The gentle rocking is luring me into its massiveness by it mighty power.  So gentle, yet so huge and powerful. It can lull the most troubled heart to sleep easily and, yet, wipe out entire cities by its force.  I love the vastness of it.  I look to the left and the waters are never ending…just like God's love for me. I look to the right and the waters go on forever.

I love that.

I look ahead and imagine how deep the ocean must be.  No one can touch the bottom of the ocean.  I think how wonderful that is, because my sins are buried just that deep - as the deepest seas.  And, better than that, God forgets them!  He remembers them no more!


I look straight ahead and admire the utter vastness of the ocean and think of how big and mighty God truly is and yet – he takes the time to love me – little ole nobody – me.  God is bigger than this ocean, mightier than the wildest waves and wind and yet, for some reason, He draws me to Him. He calls me and  HE wants me to spend time with Him.  He can have anyone on the face of the earth, and he wants me.

I look at the sand and the wonderful treasures that are buried there. I see the normal ole seashells, plain,  like me. Millions of them are there.  Usually, I never pick them up unless they are shiny and beautiful.  I smile and wonder why God picks me up.

I’m not shiny and mercy, no where near beautiful.  Oh, I adore the cool seashells! I love when they are in whole pieces, but I rarely find them – and yet – I laugh to myself – when mom comes to the ocean, she comes back with oodles of cool shells that she found as gifts from the ocean. I smile and think to myself, she deserves those treasures from the ocean, she is truly a wonderful woman who deserves more than I can ever give her.

I sit beside the ocean for hours, soaking up every sound, every quiet clap of the waves, every gentle swoosh of the the water retreating back into its bed.  I love the deep and complete peace I feel as I sit there, beside the majestic ocean.   Knowing that as God controls the ocean, he truly controls everything in my life.

I look straight ahead,  a beautiful orange glow is emerging off of the horizon! I didn’t realize that God was giving me yet another gift! Another desire of my very own heart! The desire to see the full moon rise up out of the ocean, to light my night, to light my path,  to lead the way for me.  It creeps up, inch by inch, pouring more and more of its light right down upon me.  I smile and think "thank you Lord for the full moon" I have always loved how I feel closer to the Lord when it is shining down.  The full moon over the mighty ocean -  the greatest gift ever.

I love the glory of it all!  So majestic! The huge moon, watching my every step, lighting my way.  The ocean that is gentle, peaceful, yet strong enough to violently shatter the earth with its great waves.  I sit and dwell on His goodness. I soak up His greatness, His wonder, HIS love for me – thank you Father, that I can always visit the ocean in my minds eye.   Your grace is enough, and it truly does amaze me.  Your grace and love is sufficient and never ending – just like the ocean.

What do you see when you look at the Ocean?  Can you imagine how deep God's love for you is?  Can you look out over the ocean and realize the power it takes to hold the water in place?

My Prayer for you when YOU look at the ocean!

When you see the perfect cute little treasures of the "neat" shells, may you remember that YOU are that special and that out of all the millions of "shells" that you stand out and God is waiting to pick you up and place you with his prized shells so that you may bless the heart of others every time someone looks at you.

When you feel the gentle waves lapping at your feet - may you be reminded of how tenderly God holds us in his hands - and how he comforts our hearts when we are troubled.

When you see the waves clapping - know that HE is coming for us one day.

When you see the waves crashing on the shore - remember that this is a tiny portion of how much power God holds and ALL THINGS ARE possible by him - for his children that HE adores.

When you see the never endingness of the ocean, may you be reminded of how HE loves us - truly deep down loves us. and that love is never ending.

When you gaze at the ocean and wonder how deep it is, may you be reminded that it is sooo deep that our deepest sins are buried there and even God himself can not get to them, nor can he remember them.
May you feel the love of the LORD sweep over you and on to your life as you gaze at the majestic ocean, that is nothing short of awesome!

Last Thought: 

Do you know that with all of the millions of "shells" that surround you, that God chooses YOU too!  He draws you.  He wants you to dwell with him.  Are you spending time with Him.  Are you being still beside the ocean and enjoying the view? *patting the sand* come...sit right here, next to me and let's enjoy how awesome God is - together!

Do you have a special place that puts your heart right next to God's?
Do you have an area that just makes you feel as close as you can possibly get to God?

Share with us in the comments below.  Better yet, if you've written about it, then share the link below so that others can easily find it and be encouraged.

Spreading Joy is as simple as posting on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In or Google + as well as pinning on Pinterest.

Thank you for your efforts in Spreading JOY! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Depression is fought daily by millions and when the winter months start creeping in, it typically gets worse for many.

The days are shorter, colder and many are forced to stay inside due to the extreme cold.

Depression often creeps in without the individual being aware of its sneaky attack.  For me, however, the warning signs are huge red flags and I recognize it immediately.

Charles Spurgeon puts it this way:
 Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.

I’ve dealt with depression on and off like many people for years.  It’s tough to get past and many simply never do.

For me, it comes in waves and usually at the most inopportune time.  It sneaks up when I’m the busiest and I simply don’t have the time, or the energy to fight it.

Many people try to hide it, especially Christians.  Such a stigma comes with it because we Christians are supposed to always be joyful…hmm? There is and can be joy through depression, but we are not always “happy.”

My depression includes lots of sleeping when 6 to 7 hours is usually more than enough, my “gumption” to do anything simply disappears and all that my heart dreams of doing usually comes to a screeching halt.  To sum it up, when my depression hits – I simply don’t care.  I know many others feel that way too.

So, what is a happy little joy spreader supposed to do when this happens?  Just let it run its course?
NOPE…not at all.

Here is what I do to help push past this.  But this is a process and the process is different for everyone.  I don’t want anyone to think this will help everyone, I’m just sharing my heart and hoping others who struggle with this will do the same so that the many people who read this can be encouraged through this struggle.
  • More Sleep - I do allow myself more sleep, as that is something that I can’t avoid.  I’ll decide to stay up all night watching things I’ve DVR’d and then wake up, not even realizing I’ve fallen asleep.
  • PUSH ON – Seriously.  I force myself to do some of the things I need to do and allow the others to wait until the next day or when I can get to it. I’m a list maker and rely on them to at least be somewhat productive.  Then, as I look at the things that I have crossed off, I can see that the day wasn’t a total waste.
  • Ask for Prayer – You should have a handful of friends that won’t “discuss” your issues with others but will simply pray for you.
  • Gratitude – Being thankful for what I do have, what IS going on and remembering just how blessed I am.  DAILY!
  • Start and End the day in Praise and Prayer – Seems simple, but when depression hits many of us, this is usually the first thing we stop doing.  We just don’t “want” to and give in to it.  Praise and Prayer are the best weapons against this, USE them.  (yes…I KNOW it’s a struggle)
  • Give Myself a Break – When the waves of depression hit, I don’t know how long it will tag along with me, but I also don’t let guilt make it worse.  Cut yourself some slack.  If you are doing a few things each day, pressing through, then you are doing well.
  • Remember…This WILL pass – It will pass.  No clue when, but I remind myself it will pass.
  • FOCUS on Others – this is difficult during times of depression but again, it’s possible.  I choose to make a difference for others daily anyway, but during these difficult times I will step it up.
  • Do Things I LOVE – I love being outdoors, I love reading, I love joy riding, I love looking through scrapbooks.  I make myself enjoy the things I love.  YES…make myself.

This is not an all inclusive list by any means.  I’m hoping those that struggle with it as well as those that don’t will leave some helpful, encouraging comments below.

Many ask about Medication – use it if necessary.  When my Dad died in 2003, I was in the deepest depression ever.  I took medication to help get through it.  I literally don’t remember much of the 2 years that followed his death due to depression.  I do know that when I started “pouring” myself into being a blessing to others, I started coming out of it.

Winter is coming; depression will worsen for many as the darkness engulfs their heart.  I challenge you to do a few things here.  This article will be emailed to over 300 people once it’s published and countless others will see it on Twitter and Facebook.

ENCOURAGE someone who is struggling by:
  1. Leave an encouraging comment to uplift, inspire and bring a smile to the discouraged heart
  2. Share some of your story here.  You never know who will relate to it.
  3. Don’t argue, judge or assume the worst about others who are dealing with this daily.
  4. If you’ve written an article on this topic, leave the link below in the comments, so others can easily find it and be encouraged.
  5. Never underestimate the power of being nice!

Here are some articles that may encourage you in this matter:

From my Friend Geoff ( @soulsupply ) – Defeating Depression

Thank you for your efforts in Spreading JOY and making a difference! 

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