Simplify: Slow down!

LanternOne of the toughest decisions our family made to simplify the holiday season was to stay home on Christmas Day. Since high school, I had been part of a tradition that made EIGHT stops between Christmas Eve and Christmas night. The first year after our oldest daughter was born, we scaled back to six stops and realized that it was still just too much. I was stressing out about what else to cut out (without hurting anyone else’s feelings) when my husband announced that we would just stay home from now on. I confess that I was both appalled by the idea and excited about the opportunity. The first year or two were kind of tough, but that one decision has been one of the best things we’ve done for our little family. We LOVE our lazy Christmas days at home. Sometimes we have other folks in; sometimes we don’t. Either way, it’s no-fuss family time that works according to our priorities.

Simplify: Use Cash

One of the biggest ways we have simplified our Christmas season is to set a budget within our means for our kids’ Christmas gifts. My husband and I have a mutual understanding that stuff does not buy happiness, but that too much stuff often brings about entitlement and discontentment. If we cannot pay cash for their gifts, they do not need what we want to buy.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a sense of security.

Simplify: Stop It!!

gateI don’t know if you’ve seen that old Bob Newhart clip where he “counsels” a woman to just “Stop it!”, but it makes me laugh every time. (You can always pull it up and watch in on youtube for a good laugh.) I think I find it so funny because there is so much truth in it. Yes, we do need to just STOP making bad choices. It’s that simple. But, as we all know, it certainly isn’t always easy.

One of the things I have had to do in order to simplify my Christmas season (and beyond) was to stop giving gifts out of obligation. There were so many people I was buying for just because I felt like I needed to–teachers, co-workers, neighbors, distant relatives. And, for many of them, I WANTED to buy them something…but I just didn’t have the financial resources to back me up on that.

I’ve learned that giving out of obligation is not the joyful kind of giving God calls us to do. There are often strings attached, and the financial ramifications of over-spending can last well beyond the life of the gift. This is not true generosity.

I love to give gifts, and I recognize that sometimes my gift-giving makes other people uncomfortable when they have nothing with which to reciprocate. I am not expecting anything; I just want to give to them. Why, then, should I feel uncomfortable when someone gives a gift to me when I have nothing for them? I don’t know, but I sometimes am. I think most of us are.

Interestingly, while we are all called to give, I think God can call one person to GIVE in certain situations and another person to NOT GIVE in those same situations. Know what I mean? Sometimes we need to remember our true priorities and make sure that the choices we make today are moving us closer to our long-term goals.

Simplify: Plan for Down Time

pond1For many of us, simplifying the holidays means scheduling in some down time during the Christmas season. It’s difficult to find peace and feel joy when we’re scurrying from one place to another. We must be intentional about leaving some of those squares blank on our calendars. Remember: If we do not rule our calendars, our calendars will rule us!

Simplify: Let it Go!

pinetreeSince we’re on the topic of simplifying, we have GOT to learn to LET IT GO! We have all experienced the “Christmas Decor Nazi”, the one who tries to stand under the “I’m-just-a-perfectionist” banner. Well, as many of you know, I’m married to a counselor. That excuse doesn’t hold water in my home.

I learned that “perfectionism” was a cover for my own insecurity. I wanted to appear to be perfect–even after I had sucked the spirit of the holidays out of everyone around in me in order to put on a good show for my guests. For a few years, I made the decorating, the entertaining and the gift-giving about ME–wondering what people would think of ME, hoping they would be impressed by ME, wanting them to like ME! When “ME” is my focal point, I can pretty much assume that disaster will ensue.

Speaking of perfection, if we REALLY want to make that our goal, how about we look at the only One who is perfect and work at being more like Him in the areas of love, patience, kindness and self-control.

Sometimes, it’s tough being married to a counselor.

Simplify the Holidays

giftgranolaIt may sound…well…simplistic…but there is one surefire way to reduce stress through the holiday season.

Simplify!

The Christmas season is so much more enjoyable when we simplify. Sometimes, the initial changes are difficult ones to make, but those changes can pay out big rewards over time.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of the ways we have simplified our holidays to obtain those elusive holiday tenets of PEACE and JOY!

Freezing Spring Produce on Indy Style

This is a segment from an Indianapolis-based talk show in which I demonstrated how to take advantage of local spring produce.

http://wishtv.com/2015/05/26/save-money-and-time-with-seasonal-eating/

When produce is at its peak in freshness and nutrition, it is a cost-effective time to acquire bulk amounts to preserve for enjoying year-round.  While many people are hesitant to jump into canning, most spring produce can be preserved easily by freezing.  For leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard, remove any woody stems, wash well, blanch in boiling water for a minute or two, then remove greens to an ice water bath.  When cool, place in a colander to drain.  After draining, put greens into a freezer container, being sure to label with contents and date.  These greens can easily be used in soups, lasagnas, smoothies or creamed in au gratin-type dishes  Asparagus uses the same freezing method, though it is helpful to spin or towel-dry the spears a bit before freezing.  This last step will keep quiches from getting soggy when using the asparagus after being frozen.  Strawberries can be washed, topped, sliced and frozen in portions that are conducive to making pies, smoothies or jams.  Rhubarb is also easy to freeze.  Just wash, dice and put in a freezer container in desired amounts for use in Victoria sauce, breads, jams or crisps.  Eating regional, in-season produce is a great way to save money, take in higher nutrition and support your local community.