3 December 2013
Photos of Bucky in full finery were requested — I aim to please.
Hello, friends! Some of you may know that John and I are BIG fans of Adam Hamilton. We worship online with Church of the Resurrection every Sunday in addition to our local church, and we never cease to learn from and be inspired by his messages. Last year, I was moved to post 25 acts of kindness after listening to one of his sermons. (Here’s the list — we’ll be doing some of these this year, and I still think it’s a GREAT way to shine a light outward this season!)
Last year, COR’s Christmas season campaign encouraged members to give a Christmas Eve offering equal to the amount they spent on Christmas gifts. John and I were inspired by the boldness of this challenge, and ended up making a larger-than-anticipated offering ourselves. (Most churches give away their Christmas Eve offering to a particular cause — for example, COR splits theirs between building wells in Africa and working with low-income schools in Kansas City, and our church gives it to one of our main missions, Zoe.) We eagerly awaited the results of COR’s offering, knowing it was going to be exciting, but we were still blown away when they reported raising $1.2 million in one night — far surpassing the previous year’s amount of $650k. I actually cried when they announced it, I was so moved. Isn’t it amazing what God’s people can do when they lean into what He is calling them to?
We immediately set the goal of giving away as much as we spent on Christmas gifts in 2013 (in addition to our normal pledge). There are so many ways to be generous, selfless, and un-materialistic at Christmas, but there are a few reasons why I particularly love this way:
1) It infuses the spirit of Christmas back into our giving, and gifting. This way, they’re not two separate things — they’re interconnected. As we shop and plan, we keep in mind that we have three ways to meet our goal: we can either a) reduce the amount we spend on gifts, b) increase the amount we give, or c) do a little of both. It reminds us that there are trade-offs for every choice we make with our money.
2) It doesn’t require us to stop giving gifts. I LOVE giving gifts! I love selecting things the people I love will love, something that will make their lives a little happier or prettier or easier. I love supporting small businesses, and making handmade goodies, and I also LOVE wrapping presents.
3. It allows us to tell a new story. Signing on for this might require you to make some changes in the way you’ve traditionally given gifts — I know it did for us — which provides an opportunity to explain why you’re making said changes. We’re planning to include a little card with our gifts that says something along the lines of, “This is only half of your present! We also made a donation in your honor to help empower kids in Africa.” What story are you telling with your life? I want my story to be about generosity. I want it to spread light in the world. I want it to be about something much larger than ME.
4) It’s legitimately exciting! For me, it was an almost giddy feeling to drop that check in the offering plate on Christmas Eve. There’s something exciting about being “counter-cultural” and saying YES to what matters most in a tangible way. I believe God’s messengers are everywhere, in everyone… in you and in me. He’s just waiting for us to step into our role, and there’s nothing more exciting than making a small move in that direction.
And then there’s this:
Christmas starts with the poor and the nobodies. I think part of the reason God sent the angels to the shepherds first is because they didn’t have anything to celebrate. Let’s start with them. Let’s invite them to Christmas. We can celebrate every day if we want, and we have lots of reasons to celebrate. But to celebrate Christmas the way God celebrates it, we must start with the poor and the nobodies.
(That’s from Adam. See why we like him?)
In what ways are you planning to make light shine in the darkness for someone else this season? Would you consider joining in this challenge? Whether or not you think you can do it this year, I would love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. It turns out that after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, today has been termed Giving Tuesday. Appropriate, no?
28 November 2013
John and I are prepping and eating Thanksgiving dinner solo today, which we’re actually kind of excited about. We LOVE celebrating with family, but for various reasons (mostly because of John’s work schedule and my older sister’s inability to travel — baby niece or nephew is coming any day now!!), it didn’t happen this year. It’s been a really busy few weeks (months, actually), and so we are relishing in a day or two to relax, eat delicious food, address Christmas cards, listen to our favorite Christmas music, and begin getting our decorations sorted out. I wish the same for all of you, no matter where or with whom you’re celebrating!
P.S. I am thankful for you all — for your encouragement, your emails, and for coming to check in day after day. Much love!!
26 November 2013
I know meal planning is something that a lot of people my age struggle with (I get a lot of emails about it), so I thought I’d share the system we use. It is, like most things, contained in our Simplified Planner, and it’s pretty simple!
On Saturday mornings, John and I sit down and plan out our meals for the week (Sunday to Saturday). Since our default is to make dinner at home, we first look at the calendar and figure out whether there are any days we know we’ll be dining out (maybe dinner at a friend’s house, or a day where we’re running around and don’t have time to cook). We also check to see whether we’re expecting guests any night. Once those are marked on the planning doc, we start filling in meals for the other nights. We pull ideas from Pinterest (meal boards here + here), from our collection of cook books, and from our accumulated meal plans (we have them going back to when we moved to NC, more than four years ago!!). We do tend to have seasonal favorites that show up often — including, as you can see below, BLTs when tomatoes are summer delicious :)
As we put together a week of menus, we also take into account the weather. (Is it going to be hot or cold? Might make a difference in the kinds of meals we want to prepare.) One other really important consideration for us is the leftover situation. John and I both take leftovers to work for lunch every single day, so we need to have a balance of meals that create leftovers and are easy to pack and reheat… and meals that do not (so we don’t end up with too much food).
Once we have our meals planned, they go on the meal planning doc. (Feel free to download your own copy here!) Sometimes I’ll jot down a page number or website next to the meal so we can find it again easily. Then, we put together a shopping list. We generally shop at two places every week: Whole Foods and a Walmart Neighborhood Market (basically a Walmart with only groceries and a very small home and pharmacy section). If our schedule allows, we go to one store on Saturday, and one on Sunday, which makes it seem pretty manageable. I split our list by the stores: below, Walmart is on the left, and Whole Foods is on the right. We generally shop at Whole Foods for most vegetables and fruit, dairy, and WF brands/brands that aren’t available elsewhere. Don’t mind the shorthand :)
We generally don’t decide in advance which meal we’ll have on which day — we kind of play it by ear, taking into account the leftover situation and which ingredients spoil the fastest. Thankfully, John does the cooking in our house, so once the meal planning is done, my job is complete! (Until the dishes call my name…)
I know everyone’s situation is very different, so I would love to hear: Do you plan your meals out for the week? How many nights do you eat in vs. out? Does your significant other play a big role, or not? I hope this was helpful!!
25 November 2013
We had our first weekend at home with no visitors or big events in a while, and it was nice to have a chance to check a few things off the to do list and also have time for some mini adventures!
We got to take a hay ride tour of Maple View Farm while attending a two-year-old’s birthday party. The baby cows were so cute, though the teenagers are pictured above, and they were pretty cute, too! (For those not in the know, Maple View has the BEST ice cream in the area!) We planted tulip, daffodil, and hyacinth bulbs along the edge of our back deck. I have no idea which bulb is which, but there are some really beautiful varieties, and we’re crossing our fingers they’ll all pop up next spring! John finally got a chance to try Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham. I even tried a bite of his shrimp roll, and admitted it was quite good — as you can probably see from the photo, they use many more herbs and seasonings than your average seafood shack. Finally, we completed our first Craigslist purchase on Friday night!! I’d been searching for a Jenny Lind bed on and off for the last year or so, and was delighted to see one pop up on Thursday night for a great price. It felt a little clandestine and weird to arrange the pick-up, but the whole experience was quite exhilarating! :)
What were up to this weekend, friends? Happy Thanksgiving week!!
22 November 2013
The first section in my planner is actually for Em for Marvelous. It’s pretty simple, as there’s really only one thing in it: my monthly blog planning sheets. Though they look like one of Emily Ley’s offerings (she has a fabulous free printable library!), I actually created them myself, because the one she offers didn’t mesh with my workflow.
My goal was to create a place to both brainstorm post ideas for each month as well as to schedule those ideas throughout the month. The top section has blank lines, and ideas get crossed off once their posts have been completed.
The bottom portion is a blank calendar, Monday through Friday. I generally schedule posts in pencil as my posting schedule changes often (just look at my plan below!).
I try to keep sheets for the next six months or so printed out so I can jot down season-specific ideas as they come to me. It’s funny — when I first started blogging, in college, more than five years ago (wow!), I tried to blog five days a week. I usually succeeded; my biggest problem was finding enough topics to blog about. Now, my problem is the opposite — I have more than enough things I want to write about, but not nearly as much time as I’d like to do so! At least having a place to store ideas until they can see the light of day makes me feel a bit better about my erratic posting schedule.
This system has worked great for more than a year now — I hope y’all find it helpful, too!
Click here to download the EFM Blog Planning PDF.