December 8


Christmas presence: Stocking Stuffers 1-7

By Jessica Allen

December 8, 2020

I have a present for you!  Well, presents, plural.  PRESENCE, actually. 31 little gifts of presence for the Advent season.    

Like it or not, 2020 just keeps ripping along, and we're unbelievably walking into December.  My living room looks like the North Pole exploded, my children decorated one half of our tree to the fullest extent of heaven's glory (I can't look at it), and we just polished off the rest of the Thanksgiving pie. I wouldn’t change a thing.⁣

I realized something when I reflected on the most important areas of my life (as I always do this time of year).  In the seasons of my life where I've felt most settled, peaceful, balanced, and - yes - truly happy, it's come as a direct result of intentionally nurturing those important parts of my life.  For me, those areas are:⁣

  • My own personal health and wellness⁣
  • My marriage, family, and relationships⁣
  • My grief/stress ⁣
  • My physical and mental organization⁣
  • My recreation and play⁣
  • My spiritual life⁣
  • My intentions and goals⁣

⁣So as we're heading into what tends to be the most hectic month of the year, my gift to you is 31 Stocking Stuffers for your Soul!  One little nugget a day to nurture your wellness, relationships, emotional health, logistics, sense of humor, spirituality, and forward thinking. The art of becoming who we're meant to be isn't easy, but it is simple.  Even the smallest intentional daily effort makes a huge impact.   ⁣

⁣These little treats will be posted on Facebook and Instagram daily, and I'll put them up one full week at a time on the blog and in your inbox.

Please feel free to share these and invite people to come along for the ride.  We can all use a little more peace and presence coming on Christmas.  ⁣

Questions?  Requests?  I want to know!  You mean the world to me, and if there's something specific you'd like to see come your way, I can’t wait to hear from you.⁣  Drop a comment here or come find us on social.

Here’s to a peaceful, present, fulfilling December. Your amazing life is worth it. 

Jessica smiling

Dear reader: you're magnificent.  Your life matters, and so do your heart, your thoughts, your relationships, your questions, your hurts, and your dreams.  It all matters... to me, and to God, and to everyone who cares about you.  Love, me.

Stocking Stuffer #1: SOUL CARE

If you’ve been here a hot minute, you’ll know my heart shares equal parts love for Jesus, dedication to mental and emotional wellness, passion for personal growth, and acceptance of the hot mess we all have to slog through sometimes. We talk about IT ALL here, because the good, bad, and ugly are all part of the delicious human experience. And only by embracing IT ALL do we get to live fully, becoming more everyday the amazing creatures we were knit together to be.

A quick note: If Jesus isn’t your thing, that’s okay. He loves you no matter what, just because. So stick with us this month, knowing that every few days you’ll learn a little more about my faith practice, and that you’ll never feel shame or guilt from me for holding a different one. (My favorite mug EVER is in the pic below. Christian humans get it shamefully wrong all the time but Jesus never did. All he is, is love.)

So for Stocking Stuffer #1, let’s kick it off with WHO you are, because once you get that settled, the rest of everything else makes a lot more sense.

What beats at the very center of you is your heart and soul, created by God himself. He knows and understands every fiber of your being. There’s no one else before or since who’s just like you. No one in the history of time or space who can carry out the work you’ve been uniquely knit together to do. The light you bring to your family, to your work, to your community, to the world, is a light that will continue to shine the larger and more impactful your influence grows. That’s why it’s so important that you don’t burn out. ?❤️

Between now and the new year we’re digging into some really important stuff on this page: Mental health, simplifying your task list, prioritizing, honoring what’s truly important to you, making intentional choices for a fulfilling holiday season, navigating family relationships and traditions, coping with grief and loss, and some other silly fun stuff to keep this season merry and bright. You’ll find a little nugget of truth everyday on our Facebook and IG pages (and on the blog too) - something bite-sized to nourish the important areas of your life. And be sure to check out my stories for candid surprises you’ll love throughout the month too.

I love and treasure you, and as I was thinking of what value I could possibly bring you this Advent, the best gift I have to offer is to help you see, know, and truly believe how magnificent you are. Every last molecule of you.

I hope you’ll invite someone you love to join us for Christmas Presence this December 2020, tag and share posts as you feel led, and help others find the peace, presence, and connection we’re all craving this year.

With my whole heart, J ❤️

coffee mug with a picture of Jesus saying "OMG guys that's not what I SAID"

This never not makes me laugh.

Stocking Stuffer #2: HEART STUFF

You’re a soul who happens to have a body, not a body that happens to have a soul.  (breathe that in for a minute.)

Similarly, you're a "human being," not a "human doing."

Advent is the season we take "human doing" to epic proportions.  We engage in SO MUCH OUTPUT.  And if you’re experiencing extra stress or grief heading into Christmas, you’re probably standing at the starting gate feeling empty already.  

The pain of grief or stress can make you feel even more depleted during the holidays.

We buried our son in October, and that first holiday season felt like a disaster.  LJ was our first baby, and his nursery was heartbreakingly full and empty all at the same time.  Thanksgiving and Christmas were insulting reminders that the rest of the world was merry and bright while we felt crushed beyond repair.  I didn’t want to be in a single family picture pretending to smile, and I didn’t want to sit around the table pretending I was grateful for anything.  And I was paralyzed by the idea of decorating and shopping for gifts.

Most holidays since haven’t been so acutely painful, but they’re still hard.  And this year is SO BIZARRE because everything feels extra complicated with additional health and relational factors added in.  

So if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, know you’re not alone.  Be good to yourself.  Say no a lot.  Give yourself some grace and remember you won’t feel this way forever.  But while you DO feel this way, the best thing you can do is stay afloat by staying connected.  Be honest with the people you love about what you need and how they can help.  

There’s nothing more important than your wellness.  This doesn’t mean you have to be “okay,” because sometimes we’re just not okay.  But it does mean you get to lean into community to help support you until you are okay again.  

HP, J <3

Handmade christmas ornament and infant loss remembrance ornament

One of my favorite ornaments, handmade by my grandmother, and LJ's ornament for our first Christmas with and without him.

Stocking Stuffer #3: $TRE$$ LE$$

I don’t know what overachieving people pleaser (besides me) needs to hear this, but thoughtful gifts don’t have to be expensive. Financially overextending only adds to your stress and mental junk, especially during the holidays. There are countless ways to say I love you that don't cost a penny.

Here are a few quick low-cost/high-reward love language ideas specifically for Christmas:

  • A Smores and Cocoa date (spouses or kids) or a toes-painting party (mothers/sisters/daughters) on the back porch (Quality Time)
  • A coupon for a free chore of their choice done by you (Acts of Service)
  • A handwritten love note telling them why they're your favorite (Words of Affirmation)
  • Your favorite picture of the two of you printed and framed (Gifts)
  • Snuggle up and watch their favorite Christmas movie with popcorn and box candy (Quality time, physical touch)

Here's the whole list of 101, perfect for any day of the year.

Get creative. None of these gifts will ever break or need batteries. And they'll nourish your most important relationships, which is the best part of all.

HP, J ❤

101 Ways to Say I Love You

Stocking Stuffer #4: TREASURES

What’s your favorite Christmas keepsake that you can’t wait to pull out of the box each year? My heart melts over all the homemade things. I still carry a clothespin baby Jesus in my purse, 365 days a year. My favorite grown up decoration are our hand-beaded and embroidered stockings, made by my grandmother, which I tried once (and failed miserably) to make. Maybe someday!

What’s your sweetest treasure?

HP, J ❤

children's craft with baby Jesus in a footprint manger

All these little handmade treasures are just my favorite.


The best intentional thing you can do is decide what’s important to you this season. Is it peace? Comfort? Community? What will ease your pain and bring meaning and fulfillment to your heart as you prepare for the holidays? I encourage you to think about that individually and talk about it with the people who live with you in your home. It could be a simple word that you write on the mirror to use as a litmus test as the holidays start getting busier. For example, when an invitation or obligation rolls in, if your word is PEACE, you can ask each other: is this invitation going to bring us closer to peace, or take us further away? It helps take some stress out of decision making. ⁣

⁣If you’re struggling this season, be reassured that you have NO OBLIGATIONS and NO RESPONSIBILITIES unless you truly want them. You are a whole grown up person, and you get to be and do exactly what you want. Nothing more, and nothing less. Don’t worry about ruffling feathers or disappointing people. The people who love you will still love you no matter what. It may take a couple uncomfortable conversations but you will survive them. TRUST ME.⁣⁣

What’s your word, your intention? What’s really important to you this December?⁣⁣

HP, J ❤

advent display with garland, angel, and glass jar featuring the word "Gratitude"

Our little music cabinet in the piano room.  I love this angel - she was a gift from my orchestra one Christmas.  And the sign contains song lyrics, a gift from a dear friend. 

Stocking Stuffer #6: WHAT I KNOW

One year ago, I sent my little book out into the world. I wanted it to be small, because LJ was small. But what’s inside is nothing small. The path through grief towards peace is the hardest road you’ll ever walk. It feels lonely sometimes. But you’re never really alone. There are people and experiences and holy moments hidden in the brambles along the way.

But (spoiler alert): there’s not an “end.” We never really “finish” grief, not until we see all Jesus and all the people who’ve gone before us face to face again someday. Grief never gets easier. It just gets different. The waves eventually come further apart, and less intense. And you just get better at riding them out.

A quick excerpt: "The evolution of our marriage, and the addition of each of our children to the fold, have been uniquely backlit by grief. Every new blessing that unfolds in my life is magnified even sweeter when I remember how broken we once were.

"My life is richer and fuller than I could’ve ever imagined because I've specifically chosen to wrestle with all these experiences, sometimes making it messier in the process, and certainly in spite of my own stubborn desire to avoid the painful stretch of change and growth.

"Grieving transforms you, whether you agree to it or not. I like to think we have the choice whether it shapes us for better or for worse. However, only when we take the time to truly lean into the process, can grief become our most compassionate yet unyielding teacher."

This little book is a 10-year reflection on grief told through the story of the life and death of our son. It was healing to write it, and I hope it’s healing for anyone who reads it. In 2020, a year where grief just keeps running rampant throughout so many aspects of our lives, I imagine you know someone who might be comforted by this unusual little stocking stuffer.

You can find it exclusively at - Include the recipient's name and/or their loved one’s name and I’ll personally inscribe a copy as a gift.

This is my whole heart in print. I’d be honored to put a copy in your hands too.

HP, J ❤️

Jessica holding her book in front of the Christmas tree

I believe everything in this little book, even more after a year has passed.

Stocking Stuffer #7: SELF CARE

Self care isn’t selfish – it’s critical to our ability to serve. Taking even the simplest, smallest time for personal self care is the greatest gift you can give to your people because it allows you to bring your very best self to the table.Your patient self.Your kind self.Your healthy self.Your no-strings-attached self.Your nurturing self.Your generous self.Contrary to world view or popular belief, self-care isn’t selfish or frivolous. Arguably, investing in the most present, nourished, healthy version of yourself is the best gift you can give to the world. Because when we love ourselves well, we can love our people in the ways they crave to be loved too.What can you do today to be kind to yourself?

HP, J ❤
Jessica holding a card that reads: Today I will be KIND to myself

I added "and everyone else" to the bottom of this card and taped it to our microwave.  Everyone needs a reminder in this house - even and maybe especially the adult people who live here.  

Join us on Facebook at Heartfully Present or on Instagram @heartfullypresent to keep up with Stocking Stuffers on the daily!  You'll also find extra quotes, pictures, funny and warm-fuzzy stuff for the holidays.  

OR, check back soon right here on the blog!

XO - Jessica

Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

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