Christmas

Do you remember when it became ok to invite your family into the birthing room with you? Really. I won’t dwell on this for those who couldn’t care less, but in the late 90’s or so it became trendy to let mom or sister or great aunt Lucy into the delivery room to watch these little ones be born. So, as I’ve been known to do, I joined the trend. My sister (and of course my husband!) was present for the birth of my first born. A son.

My sweet sister was 19. I’m not sure she saw anything she would deem miraculous. Or beautiful. Or precious. I don’t think she remembers things like my husband or I do. Poor thing.

Babies are weird. They’re squishy. They cry. They’re completely dependant on someone. They can’t even feed themselves which means their very existence. . . whether they live or die. . . depends on someone else.

Pregnancy is weird, too. Wonderful, honestly. Delightful. But weird. It comes with sickness and pain, fear and joy. So many emotions all compacted into one thing. One time. One moment. One event.

Same with childbirth. Weird. Wonderful. Scary. Painful. Messy.

Christmas brings all these things together. And there’s more. Jesus, who we celebrate at this time, was God. God who chose to be a baby. God who decided to arrive by way of a young girl, pregnant and tired, weary from travel. This God chose to be squishy and fussy and messy and utterly dependant on a woman. Just a regular girl from a regular town in a regular part of the world. His birth was inconvenient and without fanfare. There wasn’t even a place to lay him down. He had to lay in a hard, concrete food trough. But he came nonetheless.

Why? Why would Jesus become human? Why would he choose to be fed and have his diaper changed by a mere girl? Why would he decide to be born into a family of little means with siblings who didn’t even recognize who he was until after he died? I know why. Because of me. Because of you. Because of God and man’s once perfect relationship that had become broken.

God designed a way for this broken relationship to be repaired. Someone had to sacrifice. Someone had to pay the price. And God decided to put on flesh and be born of a woman and be loved and pinched and tickled and hated and mistreated and killed. . . for me.

I know as a Christian I should lean heavy to being an Easter person. He came so that He could die. He died so that I can live. I live freely because he paid my price. But I’m very much a Christmas person, too. I know enough of earthly heartache to be amazed that God, through Jesus, took on flesh. He chose to be squishy and dependant. He came knowing that even as a tiny guy he would be wanted dead and his family would have to flee their home and become refugees. He knew that he would experience pain and heartache and death. He would have family members in disagreement and friends betray Him. We try so hard to avoid pain, yet Jesus chose to walk right into it. To live it, carry it, sit in it.

And so this Christmas I relish in the fact that Jesus loved me enough to take on human likeness. He loved me enough to come to earth, even if it was just for a time. He was born so that I may live. And I am so grateful this holiday season. I am grateful to the God who became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus. Immanuel. God with us. God in us. The light of the world.

May you feel His love and live in His light this Christmas and always.

It’s the last few days of November. Already! Honestly, I can’t believe it. We have come a long way, haven’t we? In these last few days I’m just going to remind you of a few things that we’ve been talking about. We’re going to revisit the need to be outside, to look around us, to be present, to unplug, and ways to make our home a lovely place to be. We’re going to keep the end super simple. I’ve already seen some of your calendars for the month of December, and I realize that we need to have an attitude that reflects our need to slow down. So, today I’m giving you permission to say no.

Today’s challenge is to look over your proposed calendar for December and pick something that you really don’t want to do. And then, just say no. Like, no. Really say it. Let the powers that be know that you will not be participating in said activity.

Guess what? It’s all going to be ok. The world will go on without you. No need to feel bad or fear the response of others. If it doesn’t work for you or your family, scratch it. Done. Need encouragement? Comment below and our little community here will help you out.

Day 26 – Use your time wisely.

Happy Friday to you! I love holiday weekends, don’t you? We have just a little extra time to sleep, time to chat, time to hang out, and time to relax. Use it, friends.

I am so glad to have spent nearly a month alongside you practicing some great ways to slow down. In slowing down, I’ve also been able to find ways to make my home a refuge for myself and my family. Last week’s challenge of cooking ahead has gotten me really excited for actually using the time I’m saving to BREATHE. And sit. And relax. And giggle over a real live home cooked meal with all of my children actually sitting at the table. You can do that as well. If you’re single, maybe it’s your chance to invite others over without the stress. If you work a lot, maybe it’s your chance to have your spouse be in charge of dinner because all they need to do is put your prepared meal straight into the oven! Hallelujah!

Today’s challenge is to use your time wisely! And by wisely you KNOW by now that I don’t mean cramming more stuff into your day. I mean lingering over that hot coffee, staying in your PJs a little longer, or sitting outside for a few minutes. And smile! And breathe. I’m serious. Use your time wisely today.

Day 25 – Be Still

Happy happy Thanksgiving!! This is what it’s all about! That means that today’s challenge is to Be Still! Be with your family. Be with whoever God puts in your path. Be present.

Day 24 – Play

Happy Wednesday to you all! And, as we head toward the end of the month, I truly do hope you have a HAPPY Wednesday. I hope that as you have found ways to slow down and cherish your time and love your home and are living peacefully that you are actually happier. I am for leading these shenanigans. I’ve truly been having a good time. My favorite part is hearing from you. I love hearing what scriptures you’re meditating on. I love hearing about your candles and music choices and ways you like to start the day. It’s been so fun, and it’s not yet over. We still have a few more days to cherish.

Today’s challenge is to PLAY! I want you to take at least 15 minutes and do something FUN! Anything that you love. Read. Go outside. Give your kids 15 minutes to jump in the leaves! (If leaves fall where you are!) Play a game with your family. Go for a walk. Spend at least 15 minutes playing. Tell us what you decide to do, and have fun!

Day 21 – Let’s Cook or Bake ahead now to save us time and bring us peace later.

How have you come along with your freezer cooking plans? Let’s execute some of that today, shall we? Give it some time, maybe an hour or two, and get a few things done. Let me leave you with five tips.

1. Plan Ahead

Ok. We’ve been talking about this for a few days now, so I’m guessing that you have been planning ahead. You need to make sure that you have your recipes ready. Also, make yourself a list of the supplies that you need. You may also want to have a prep sheet ready giving yourself an order in which you want to work. And, make sure that you start with a clean kitchen or you’ll just get frustrated. Planning ahead is key to your success.

2. Don’t Grocery Shop and Cook on the Same Day

I want this to be as simple for you as possible. You might think I’m kidding, but don’t overdo it. In the end, you want to enjoy the process.

3. Learn How to Flash Freeze

This is really important. Flash freezing is freezing things individually before putting them together in packaging or freezer bags. There are plenty of instructional videos and articles online. This would be done for things like waffles, muffins, cookies, fruit, breads, and many other individual items. The last thing I want is for all of my hard work to be ruined by everything being gooey and smashed together.

4. Label Everything Really Well

You might think that you’ll remember everything. Or that it will be obvious. But, trust me, this is important. Write clearly on all of your bags and containers. I like to write the contents, date and time, and thawing/cooking instructions. Even if I think it’s easy and super self explanatory. Do it anyway. Trust me. Plus, you can easily give things away if someone needs a meal or some encouragement, and they will understand the cooking instructions.

5. Don’t Be Intimidated. Seriously. Don’t worry about getting it perfect or getting everything right. In the grand scheme of things, this is to help you, not to stress you out or keep you busy and unsuccessful. You got this.

I believe that it’s the little touches in life that bring us calm and peace in our homes. This little idea – to have a home cooked meal ready for a busy or stressful day – can bring you a smile in the days or weeks ahead.

Day 20 – Find some time to Freezer Cook, Batch Cook, or Bake Ahead

Well, did you do it? Did you get started on some recipes? Did you find a few simple things among your treasures? If not, that’s ok too. I’m here to help.

If I were to do a small first timer freezer cooking session, I would tell you to not have too many rules. If you have 5 recipes, and you get 2 things accomplished, that’s great! Good for you! I’m serious. We are just starting to carve out some time to do this, so don’t worry. No rules. No freaking out.

Over the next few days, I want you to plan and execute at least one freezer cooking session. Now, it’s hard for me to tell you exactly what to do because some of you may have food restrictions or sensitivities. You’ll have to adapt. And, I’m sure you’re used to that. But for those of you who are new to this, I’m giving you a guideline. These are my favorite things to prep and freeze. Here’s what I would do:

1. Waffles 2. Lasagne 3. Banana Muffins 4. Sausage and Potatoes

The waffles can be any recipe you choose. I do a whole wheat one, my dh has a recipe with vinegar that he loves to use. (Really) You can use a box, if you want, I don’t care. I trust your judgement. For the lasagne, I left you a recipe on yesterday’s post. The banana muffins can be any banana bread recipe that you love. (We all have one, right?) Now, the sausage and potatoes is my recipe, and I’m super lame at recipes. But, I’ll leave it at the end.

Today’s challenge: Yesterday you compiled recipes and started to shop the cupboards. Today, nail down your menu and make sure you have all of the right ingredients. Then, plan out your time. Even one hour works. Really. Set everything out where you can see it to remind yourself that you need to do this soon. Formulate your plan and it will be easier to execute.

I welcome your questions! Let’s do this together.

P.S. Sausage and Potatoes Recipe

Mild Italian or Polish Sausage

Potatoes

Olive oil

Rosemary

Using kitchen shears, cut the sausage into one inch pieces. Chop the potatoes into small pieces. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and fill the pan with the potatoes and sausage. Drizzle with olive oil and place fresh rosemary over the top. This can be baked for about an hour at 350 degrees. For freezing, you can bake and then freeze OR freeze without baking. I generally freeze without baking, knowing that it may take longer than an hour to thaw/bake.

Day 19 – Start to compile your favorite recipes.

Hello friends! What a great 19 days, right? We have been putting some emphasis on getting our lives in perspective and slowing down a bit. We have also worked through some ways to make our home comforting, a haven if you will. Next, I want to get super practical. I want to share with you some of my favorite time savers. Here’s why. By saving time in these ways, you will free up extra time for yourselves and your family. This time is not intended to use to cram more stuff in, but instead you are freeing up time in your life to CREATE MARGIN. Yes, you are freeing up time so that you can slow down and do nothing! Or invite some friends over to play games. Or spend an evening on the couch snuggling with your kids. Or watching a movie and feeling zero guilt.

We are going to start with one of our biggest uses of time in the home. The kitchen. This could be one of your favorite places (like me) or a place that is totally loathsome (several of my dear friends). If you have a family, it might take up a lot of time and you may absolutely dread the 6:00 hour. If you’re single, you might hate the fact that Hot Pockets are just so much easier than real food. If you’re busy. . .well, you get it. No matter who you are, we can work at this. I honestly can’t wait to share some of my favorite ideas!

When my kids were younger, I was really into meal planning and freezer cooking. I would also do a lot of batch cooking, as well. This saves time, money, AND is good for the environment because it uses less packaging. And, if you get the hang of it, it’s fun. I really think that you can do this no matter who you are or what your household looks like. It will help, trust me.

So, today’s challenge is this: Start to compile your favorite recipes. Now, I’m not asking you to go crazy or anything. We are going to cook ahead a little and freeze some meals. So many things can go in the freezer. Like this lasagne. You can literally make one for dinner and at the very same time make another one to put in the freezer. Baked oatmeal is also something that is really great to make ahead and keep in the freezer. Most breads freeze well, and you can freeze single items like burritos. I’ll provide some of my favorite recipes, but I also want you to feel comfortable in the kitchen. So, use your own recipes if you wish. That works for me.

After you have compiled and printed a few recipes, shop your cupboards. People, we buy so much stuff that we don’t need and sometimes already have. Look around to see if you have the ingredients necessary for some of your favorites. Then, begin to make a list of what you will need to buy. If you are feeling really adventurous, you could shop the ads, see what’s really cheap, and build your menu around that. For example, if tomato sauce is really cheap, you could make chili or pasta sauce or something of that nature. Same with meats. It’s often good to see what meats you can get on sale. But, that’s not for the weak!  It takes a little practice to shop the sales and begin to build your menu.

Start to think about when you might have a couple of hours to freezer cook in the coming days. Maybe even tomorrow. It really doesn’t take long to get a little bit ahead. In fact, if you give me even an hour, I’ll take it. I’ll show you how to use that hour.

Take the challenge. Do your homework. Tomorrow, we’re going to build on this.

Day 18 – Reflect on what you’re doing right.

Today I’m writing at the end of a very long day. I’m actually not even done with work, I’m leaving town in the morning and I’m not packed, and I’m obviously running behind. This piece should have been done and scheduled long ago. But here we are. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone.

I’m guessing you know the feeling. Trying to keep up, trying to catch a break, but sometimes not really sure if you’re cutting it. That’s why we need practices. That’s why we need to slow down. That’s why we need to bring calm and peace into our lives and homes, right?

So, as we finish our day, I challenge you to reflect on what you’re doing right. We think all the time about what we’re doing wrong. You probably never have to tell me where I’m falling short. I’ve already noted it and am already punishing myself. But that doesn’t bring peace, does it? It may help us work harder or do better, but continuously thinking about our shortcomings doesn’t help anyone.

So, where are you killing it? Where are you succeeding? What is your strong game this week? Reflect on these things and maybe even give yourself a pat on the back.

Day 17 – Do not multitask.

We are busy. I get that. And, this month we’re working on slowing down and filling our lives and homes with peace. I’m so glad. I need it as much as you. Maybe more.

Today is Wednesday. We are smack dab in the middle of the week, and some of us feel the pressure of getting everything done before Friday catches up with us. So, we are going to work on slowing down by single tasking today. That’s right. Today’s challenge is: Do not multitask today. I know it seems like a strange challenge, but we are constantly doing more than one thing at a time. You’ve probably checked your email or looked at a Facebook notification just since you started reading this. Because we do so much at once we have a hard time focusing on what we are doing, and we often suffer because of it.

So, today you’re not allowed to multitask. If you catch yourself doing more than one thing at a time, just stop. Take a second. Refocus.

Truthfully, I’ve noticed that when I single task I am actually more productive and have completed more tasks by the end of the day than if I were multitasking. Let’s see if you have peace and productivity today.

Give it a try. Slow down today by doing one thing at a time!

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