Our First Advent



We never celebrated advent growing up.
The only people I knew who celebrated advent were Catholic. We were Baptist. So I always assumed it was a Catholic tradition.

But recently I learned what advent really is. It's about the anticipation, preparation, and recognition of Christ's first coming at Christmas. It isn't just about getting a piece of candy out of a box everyday, it's a time of readings and teachings to prepare us for His second coming.  This totally applies to us too!

Several of my fellow bloggers shared The Truth in the Tinsel with me.. It's an ebook designed for families with young kids.

Each day has story, scripture, lesson, and craft (ornament) planned to help your family focus on the advent season. Most of the crafts can be whipped up based on what supplies you already have (the crown ornament above was supposed to be decorated with plastic jewels or flat marbles.. we only had mini-pom poms but it works!)

I hope this will be a great opportunity for us to practice part of what (I envision) homeschooling will be like - having a devotional and craft to do each day with Evelyn (from now until Christmas!)... and all I had to do to prepare for it was print the ebook and gather supplies!

I might post some pictures of our crafts and a summary of our lessons once a week (more likely I'll probably post them on my Facebook page).


Do you have any special advent traditions? Are you doing Truth in the Tinsel with your young children?


Full Disclosure: If you buy Truth in the Tinsel through my affiliated link, then Amanda will throw a couple cents my way... maybe I'll end up getting my copy for free :) Okay, I'm not that popular.. but any discount rocks, so thanks! You will love it!


Thank you following along on our journey to simplicity & contentment. Please be sure to learn about our family, like our page on Facebook, and visit the right column to subscribe to future posts!

I'm not buying a single gift this Christmas

Christmas gifts.

I have the unique situation that I share my birthday with Christmas Day. So of course I've always expected gifts (and my parents were very good to make sure I receive them for both occasions).

But over the past few years I've felt really challenged in this area. Even though receiving gifts isn't one of my love languages, I still feel the natural pull to give seriously awesome gifts to everyone at Christmas time.

Which makes striving for simplicity and contentment during this season a challenge.
I'm thankful God is making a huge change in my heart for the desire to consume, consume, consume "just because" it's the holidays. 

But how can I fulfill this desire to give and bring joy to others through presents... If I want them to be filled with contentment and appreciation for God's love too?

And how can I personally celebrate the holiday simply if everyone is expecting a fancy gift? And how can I express my contentment so that people don't feel the need to give me more?

This has been the conversation in my head for months leading up to the holidays.

And a big part of that conversation was me asking myself, "Why do we give presents at all? Well, Jesus was God's present to us. And the three kings brought him presents. So should I give everyone gold and essential oils? Do I buy them a Bible? Do I buy them nothing?"
The Compromise

Most would agree that America has succeeded in building up this traditional, historical holiday and making it less about Christ's birth and more about having the biggest decorations, the biggest gifts, and the biggest party to celebrate it all.

Let me preface by saying I love the Christmas season. I love the decor, the parties, the celebrations, the music. (Umm, I decorated my house before Thanksgiving)

What I don't love is the sense of entitlement, greed, and discontentment that I have seen in my own heart.

That's not the mindset I hope to pass on to my children. I want them to cherish this holiday as the celebration of Christ's birth, family, and giving out of love, not to receive. 

Contentment. No big presents? Perhaps no presents at all?
Simplicity. No big decorations? No big parties?

This does not sound fun at all.

How can I continue to change my heart to celebrate Christmas to honor the birth of our Savior without being completely radical and making our friends and family think we are crazy ungrateful cheapos...?

I have to give gifts. 
Well, I want to give gifts.

I want to share what we've been blessed with with our family and friends.. but, I don't want to give to impress. I want to give to challenge people. 

Challenge them to think about what they are truly celebrating - God's holiday? Or the world's holiday?
I want to challenge them about what they're expectations are and what ways they are searching for fulfillment, because in the end, they aren't going to get true fulfillment in any Christmas gift.


So now I've found the message I want from my gifts and my reasons for giving them. I'm not giving gifts just because "it's what you do" and because "I want gifts back". I hope my gifts will be received with a special message.


And to try and create that message, 
We decided to make all of our gifts this year. 

Not just a one or two. Not a handful. Every. Single. One.
And you know what I love the most about making homemade gifts?

1. No Money

Money is tighter right now, I'm being honest. We just bought our first house and are still adjusting to the unexpected/additional expenses that come with maintaining a home. (Almost) every material we are using to make our gifts we already own (or have been able to find for free from family members and Craig's List).

We are spending less than $100 total (but I think closer to $50... and a lot of that is on stamps!) for over a dozen gifts (and 50 mini-gifts).

We know making our own gifts won't make them less adequate for the person receiving them, but they will allow us to keep a larger "cushion" in our bank account if, say, we end up needing (another) unexpected $850 repair...

2. No TV Time

When we moved into our new house, we chose to not have cable anymore. This literally gives us hours every day that we used to waste watching random sitcoms and HGTV reruns. Having projects to work on has given us something to do in our "down time" (and it forces me to spend time doing something I enjoy... which is easy for us moms to skip!)

3. Teachable Moments

Spending time cutting, pinning, painting, designing, and sewing gives me plenty of opportunities to talk to my toddler about gift giving - and have her help! Even if it's just scribbling on envelopes or stuffing fabric scraps into a bag.

Is making homemade gifts 100x times more work than buying them? Absolutely.
Are there meaningful store-bought gifts out there? Absolutely.
But instead of dreading to fight the crowds and have my recipients 
potentially use their gift receipt, I'm preserving materials, saving money, and making something unique.

It's simple. And it makes me feel content. And thankful for the opportunity to bless others.

Do you have any unique traditions for gift giving?
Thank you following along on our journey to simplicity & contentment. Please be sure to learn about our family, like our page on Facebook, and visit the right column to subscribe to future posts!

Homemade Alfredo Sauce

I am not going to pretend I am a five star chef.
I enjoy cooking. And preparing meals from scratch/at home is not only healthier but far more inexpensive, even though it does require some skill and time.

If you ask Tommy about my cooking at the beginning of our marriage, he'll laugh and without hesitation tell you about the time I almost burned down our first apartment making chips and cheese.

It's okay. I'll admit it.
I've come a long way on my homemaking journey since then. I don't think Tommy would ever tell me he didn't like my cooking, but the true sign that I was actually improving my culinary skills was the first time he asked me to make chicken alfredo again.

I think it's every housewife's dream to have a husband who enjoys her cooking. And by cooking I mean mixing. Because literally all you do in the recipe is mix things together, on low, on the stove.

Little heat, mixing, happy husband.


I can't take credit for this recipe. It is adapted from one my beautiful italian friend Megan taught me.

For more recipes, beautiful writing, and inspiration please go visit her at her blog Love Letters 7.10... and tell her thank you while you're there!

Now time for some pasta!


Homemade Alfredo Sauce
(Even for the Domestically Challenged?)

Ingredients

1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of flour (I use spelt but white flour will also work)
Milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
Optional: Diced Bell Peppers, Chicken

IMPORTANT: Keep your sauce pan on low for this recipe, even though I have the constant urge to crank up the burner and speed the process up I've learned that it ends up making the sauce too thick.
And honestly this only takes like 7 minutes anyways.

Directions

  • In a small sauce pan, melt butter on low. 
  • Slowly add in your flour, whisking out any clumps until there is a smooth consistency. (Umm, like thick melted butter.. because that's what it is)
  • Add milk until you reach your desired consistency (this is totally a preference - I know some people prefer thicker while others like a soupy sauce)
  • Add parmesan and a pinch of salt. 
  • Continue to whisk together until completely mixed in
  • Add more milk if necessary until consistency is perfected
  • Optional: Add in diced bell peppers and/or chicken (I like to use green and red bell peppers to make it Christmas-y.. oh yes)

Done!


I use this recipe with regular-ole-whole wheat spaghetti. Somethings I add chicken if we have some leftover (tonight I used shredded chicken left over from making stock and there were no complaints).


Thank you following along on our journey to simplicity & contentment. Please be sure to learn about our family, like our page on Facebook, and visit the right column to subscribe to future posts!

Thanksgiving Week 3: DIY Placemats & Napkin Holders


Thanksgiving.
What sights, sounds & memories does that word evoke in you?
For me, it's the whole package.
It's a time of spiritual reflection and worship, 
as I consider all the bounty God has blessed me with.
It's a relational experience,
as family & friends gather to share food and memories of the past.
And it's definitely a physical experience:
the smells, the taste & the eye candy!


As I prepared the decorations,
I wanted them to reflect all of those things:
Faith + Family + Food.
How much better can it get??!!


Pinterest was my source of inspiration, as usual! :)
I found the idea for these placemats, and although they took a bit of time, they weren't difficult to make.
I used a roll of brown wrapping paper I had on hand, and cut it in half the length of the paper.
Then I guestimated (my typical!) for the actual size I wanted them to be.
I adhered some lace to both edges to dress them up a bit.
Then I bought a white paint marker and wrote "Give thanks" on the one end.
The original source suggested writing "I am thankful for" and then adding lines below that for each person to write their own list. 
What a cute idea!


For the napkin holders, I used some burlap & twine I had on hand
and wrapped it around some basic white napkins,
which I also had on hand.
It's all about using what you got, right?


I used some reclaimed barn wood to display my table setting.
I am in love with old farmhouse tables, but since I won't be needing another dining room table anytime soon, I'll just be content with touches of old wood
in my decor!
I found the branches when Hadassah & I were on a run one morning,
and thought they would be the perfect touch 
with my upcyled vintage jars.
I love the look of tapers, so those completed a simple, yet rustic tablescape.


Today, I get to enjoy round 2 of Thanksgiving,
this time with my family!
I hope your celebration was a beautiful one,
and another reminder of all the gifts we've been given.
Happy weekend, friends!


Used to it


When I first started typing in high school, I used an IBM Selectric and correction fluid which I smeared over mistakes.  It was a mess.  But I was used to it.  Then they invented the correction strips, where I just retyped the wayward letter over the strip and it magically disappeared.  This was such an improvement!  I got used to it.

Then I moved up to a word processor.  I remember the very first day I used one.  I was working in the pathology lab at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, and we had just gotten these newfangled machines delivered.  I volunteered to learn the system first.  They set me up in a little room with a trainer from the company to learn this new way of typing.  I typed my first sentence.  By the second one, I somehow got the cursor in the middle of the sentence, expecting to type over what was on the page.  Immediately I sensed something was wrong.  I turned to the trainer.  "The new letters aren't typing over and replacing the old letters," I said.  "They're adding themselves into the middle and moving the others forward."  He laughed and said, "That's what they're supposed to do!"  What kind of weird system was that?  But I got used to it and learned to enjoy it.  Fast forward to 16 years ago when I started my medical transcription career.  We had a transcription system with a word expander program, where we could actually make shortcuts and type a few letters and the words expanded!  Wow!  It was a clunker, though, and had many drawbacks.  All the transcriptionists shared a database and if one made a change for what typing "cr" would expand to, then all the MTs would be affected.  (That would be a shock if you always used "cr" to expand to "creatinine" and unbeknownst to you, an MT changed it to expand to "cardiopulmonary resuscitation.")  We were also limited to how many of these shortcuts we could enter into the database.  We reached the limit quickly, so every time we wanted to add a new one, we had to come to an agreement on which one to delete.  But the whole system was an improvement on what I used to have, so I gladly got used to it.

Then a few years ago when, after years of this outmoded system, we got a new Windows-based platform and I discovered Instant Text, the creme de la creme of word expander software.  I was in heaven.  The features were extraordinary.  It couldn't get any better.  I got used to it.  Then they improved it, and immediately I wondered how I was ever satisfied with the older version.  This new version is unbelievable!  I am so used to it - used to its perfect design, its comfort on my hands, its intuitiveness, and its production capabilities.  Now I take it for granted that I can transcribe a great volume of work every day.  It's a pleasure to go to work.  I'm used to it.

I guess that's what the purpose of Thanksgiving is - taking the time to look at all the components of our lives that we have become "used to" and breathe a sigh of gratitude.   I'm used to getting all the food I need (and more!).  I'm used to a good job, I'm used to loving family members and faithful friends, I'm used to having enough to wear, a warm house, and a comfy bed at night.    All these things I expect, just like a good production with my MT tools, and because I have had them for long enough I take them for granted.

But do you know what else I'm used to?  Security.  Freedom.  Peace.  I leave the house every day and I'm not searching in the sky for the next drone attack.  I'm not running to the bomb shelter every half hour when a siren blasts.  I'm not kissing my husband goodbye in the morning, wondering if the next time I see him will be in a coffin.  I'm not coming home to a shattered house.  I'm not getting on a bus wondering if there is an explosive hidden on it.  I don't worry that my grandkids' schools will be bombed.  I don't get up in the morning, wondering if this is the day I will lose my life because I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I'm used to a life of peace.

That's what's so hard about watching the news this week.  Because for some folks in the world, fear is a daily occurrence.  The sad part is - they're used to it.  It breaks my heart.  It should break all our hearts, no matter what "side" you take, no matter what country you think is the aggressor and what is the defender (for both sides in this conflict have blood on their hands), humanity is showing its ugly, violent side, the air has the smell of death, and tears are being shed in buckets.  We have enough destruction in this world from weather catastrophes and accidents.  We don't need to add to it by doing things that are preventable.   Does anyone remember the movie War Games?  If hateful revenge is the answer, it will be the final answer because there is no end in the game of retaliation until there is nobody left to retaliate on either side.  Then who wins?

In our own country, there are people still being discriminated against, but they're "used to it" by now. There are families in abusive situations that are just "used to it."  There are people who know nothing but depression, or pain, or addiction, or illness.  It's gone on so long they're just "used to it" and can find no clear way out.

This Thanksgiving, there are some things we are used to, for which we lift up our hands in thanks.  There are other things we are used to that we shouldn't have to be used to, and for these things we pray for strength, patience, enlightenment, wisdom, and a path to peace.  Yeah, peace.  Some folks could really get used to that.

Thanksgiving Week 2: Wine Cork Place Cards

Am I the only one out there who is getting excited about Thanksgiving?? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am hosting both families here this year, and I don't usually get to do that! Or maybe it's because of my personal rule: no listening to Christmas music until Thanksgiving Day. {I did break my rule, but only one time! My conscience didn't allow it and the music I found on youtube really wasn't that great.} Anyway, I digress. I have been contemplating menus, dreaming up decor and washing windows here in preparation for the festivities! I wanted to make some place cards with the stash of wine bottle corks I have, similiar to those I made for another church's Thanksgiving event.

 
They really are quite simple to make, and give an autumn vibe to your table. First off, I used a knife to slice about a 1/2" deep hole in the top. Then I took my daughter on a stroller ride, and we collected acorns! Just use some hot glue to fasten them on at the base of the cork. I also added a small green leaf for some color. Then you just need to make your name cards, out of any cardstock you have on hand. Or you can be cool and buy them so they look professional :)
 
 
:: A close-up of the cork with the acorn and leaf ::

 
And here you have it: my little "family" of place cards, for my family! Goodness, I'm ready to get this party started!!! And that's not all; be sure to check back next week to see what else is in the works.
 
Switching gears just a bit, I've been thinking alot about a thankful heart, and what that looks like. Some days, especially those that are full of sunshine and happiness, it's quite simple. But it's much more of a choice on those days when the baby is grouchy, the stack of bills seems overwhelming, and my supper is a far cry from the pictures in a cooking magazine. I had a few of those days recently, and the verse that came to my mind was "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." I Thessalonians 5:18 What a challenge: giving thanks, no matter what situation I find myself in! And quite honestly, the struggles I face are quite trivial in comparison to the suffering so many experience on a daily basis. Read Katie's story here and I know you will be touched like I was! Enjoy your weekend....and don't forget to give thanks! 

Why I Won't Be "Celebrating" Black Friday (Anymore)


We decided to have a simpler Christmas this year. We aren't buying any gifts, we are making them all from materials we already have or from the few materials we will be buying. But every gift and every treat is going to be homemade.

But I was still counting down to Black Friday.

Why? Well, our new house came with a not-so-new stove. Literally it's from the 1970's. And when you cook from scratch (especially during the holidays) you tend to use the stove and oven... a lot. So our plan was to spend a few weeks getting settled then we can use my negotiating skills and the holiday deals to buy a newer one on Black Friday.

Then I saw ads like this:
Maybe I was living in a hole of nesting wonder last year at this time (as I was 8+ months pregnant), but I'm certain this is the first time this has happened. 

Black Friday is now on Thursday. And not just Thursday at 11pm. Thursday - right during your family's Thanksgiving dinner.

My initial reaction: This is wrong.

Thanksgiving day isn't about shopping or buying MORE things. 
Thanksgiving day is about appreciating the things you HAVE by spending time with your family, counting your blessings, practicing contentment.

My second reaction: If I'm supposed to already be AT stores when I would normally be flipping through the newspaper, shuffling and clipping ads and mapping out my plan of attack - when am I going to prep?

Then I realized something. 
Whether you are prepping the day of or the day before; whether you are shopping the day of, or the day after. You are missing the most important part about Thanksgiving.

Centering this week around shopping for Black Friday is saying that Thanksgiving is NOT about giving thanks, being content, and feeling blessed. It's saying that thanksgiving is about needing more.


I can't believe it's taken me almost 23 years to realize this.
I don't want my children to remember or associate Thanksgiving as the time when mom leaves on an important 10 hour mission of consumerism. I want my children to associate Thanksgiving as it is meant: Gratitude, contentment, appreciation.


So, no stove shopping for us.

We may end up getting something more basic when we buy our new stove, but I know God will provide the opportunity to buy just what we need and I am incredibly grateful for that. Honestly I will be grateful for anything made in this century... 

(Uh oh, is this when God really tests my heart? I'm not getting a new stove at all anymore, am I?)


If you are able to find a balance in celebrating Thanksgiving and taking advantage of Black Friday deals - it is your choice. But I am a sinner. And I love shopping. And I'm still new to the process of having a content heart. And I know that I cannot be completely present with my family on Thursday if I have the intent to accomplish something as intense as Black Friday.

If you are still going to participate, all I ask if that you schedule your shopping trips around your family time - not the other way around. 



Will you give up Black Friday?


Linking Up with the Barn Hop!

Thank you following along on our journey to simplicity & contentment. Please be sure to learn about our family, like our page on Facebook, and visit the right column to subscribe to future posts!

The song of my heart this Sunday morning





I love this song.   It says the things I want to say to my Lord.



-------------------------------------------------


365 366 Day 323 – Sunday Nov 18th  
(If you haven't been following this, see here)  


  
A pretty blue top that got too tight when I grew fatter.


365 366 Day 322 – Saturday Nov 17th   


    
Sigh.  Another one.  Yes.



Pirate or Policeman?


My remarkable dad, Ensley Tiffin, a man of many talents, had a grand time when he was younger in musical theater in Memphis as a part of Memphis Open Air Theater (MOAT).  He especially held in his heart fondness for the Gilbert and Sullivan shows.  My sister and I grew up with Dad singing from Pirates of Penzance, "A policeman's lot is not a happy one...." - then, as the song dictates at the end, Dad in a deep bass voice would sing the last 3 slow syllables "...happy one."  (My niece Amelia is currently carrying on the family tradition of musical theater in her high school and college acting career.)

How I wish now that I could have paid more attention and appreciated all Dad's stories, but since he died when I was 26 years old, I guess I wasn't old enough and wise enough to appreciate the time I had to listen to this amazing man.  I do remember this, though:  He said in Pirates of Penzance, he had to play double duty.  They didn't have enough people to have a separate cast for policemen and pirates, so the men in the chorus played both roles.  They would do a scene, then have to go quickly change costumes and come out as the other characters, switching back and forth as the show continued.

I think about that story when I think of all the various characters Dad played in his own life - Son, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, father, uncle, father-in-law, grandfather, friend, Methodist Sunday School teacher, choir director, chairman of church committees, lay speaker, bank teller, conscientious objector who nevertheless served in the US Army, passionate Democrat, stamp collector, letter writer, reel-to-reel tape operator, home movie cameraman...not to mention the usual roles of a parent as chauffeur, teacher, homework helper, groundskeeper, grocery buyer, vacation planner, bill payer, etc.  Some of these were simultaneous, and others were of a chronological nature as his life stages progressed.

Then I think of all the characters I have played in my life.  I tend to focus on my failings but I try to concentrate on the successes - from my relationships with family and friends to my jobs and concerts and hobbies.   And so do we all play our roles on this earth.  Sometimes we might wish that the cast could be bigger so we could have more down time, but then when life demands it, we rush offstage and change from our policeman costume into our pirate costume for the next scene.   As they say, life is not a dress rehearsal and sometimes we just have to make up the script as we go along.  I guess that's what makes life adventurous - these tragedies and comedies in which we participate. We're on stage completely unprepared, sharing scenes with others who are likewise winging it, knowing that somehow it all comes together and miraculous things can happen.  One minute we're doing one role and the next minute we assume a totally different one, and the change can happen at any moment.

At this Thanksgiving, besides the usual extraordinary people and circumstances I always have to be thankful for, I am realizing that my role is changing once again - as of January 8, I will be grandmother to 4 instead of 3 grandchildren when little Emily Jean is born.   I will have to say out of all my roles on the stage of life, Grammy has to be one of my favorites!  Am I ready for the next act?  Bring it on!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sorry. Controversial. Sorry.




Roget’s thesaurus is my constant companion.  Invaluable.  Marvellous.

It allows me to say that you may be astonished, surprised, bewildered, nonplussed or disconcerted to hear that I have been taken aback, startled, staggered, rattled, jolted, unsettled, thrown a curve, left open-mouthed and somewhat overwhelmed by the revelations unfolding before me in the course of the US elections.

I never imagined that American and English people might be so different.

Specifically, I am amazed by the difference in political emphasis and ideology between English Christian voters and American Christian voters.

On Facebook I have a number of US Facebook Friends whom I have never met in person but who seem a cheerful enough bunch, keen to share recipes and post links to lovely hymns and photos of concoctions in jam-jars or sewing projects in progress or sleeping grandchildren (I never have any to post because I do almost no cooking and my grandson never sleeps, just larks around and tosses things in the air).  These are mostly calm, sane kind of women (and a few men), with stories to swap about nutritious food and cloth nappies (diapers) etc, and I had been labouring under the illusion that we were all singing more or less from the same hymn sheet in our approach to life the universe and everything.  Until the US election.  Oh my goodness!

Suddenly the masks were torn off and I was stopped in my tracks by the passion – and in some cases vitriol – concealed underneath. 

In England, you see, we think Barack Obama is a Good Thing.  In England, “socialism” is not a dirty word.  Our right-wing party – the Conservatives – are centre-to-left-wing by US standards.  In the Church of England I would hazard a guess that there’s a fair admixture of Labour (socialist), Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters.  The Lib Dems are a kind of moderate, middle of the road bunch, who are closer to the socialist Labour party than to the Conservatives with whom they currently share government in uneasy coalition.  Among (English) Quakers I have encountered almost wall-to-wall socialism – if there are any Conservatives they’re keeping very quiet.  In the Methodist Church, the heavy predominance is Labour (socialist), though there’s a good sprinkling of Lib Dems and a few Conservatives here and there.  In general, social traditions find more Conservatives in rural parts,  and concentration of socialism in urban contexts – or this is the impression I receive.  My own political views are instinctively Conservative (by UK not US definitions) but I have always voted Labour because Labour party policies offer the greatest provision and protection for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society - and I figure that where Conservative types like me can probably make it under any style of government, some who have not had my benefits and advantages in life might would struggle under a Conservative régime.  But I feel sympathy with most political points of view, and overall I feel that it is impossible to legislate goodness, and a country will flourish with almost any political system administrated with compassion and integrity and degenerate under any administration corrupted by selfish hypocrisy.

In England, I have never met a single person who thinks the National Health Service should be scrapped, or that the poor should receive no welfare benefits, or that the government should not provide a comprehensive and responsible programme of education, or that the elderly and disabled should not receive protection and provision by the state.  It’s how we look after each other.  It’s how we make sure that if you have gammy legs or failing eyesight or mental illness but you have no family to take care of you, even so you don’t get lost and forgotten or fall into despair.   Our welfare state is how we make sure that however poor you are you can still get your teeth fixed and have a college education.  Even our most right-wing Tories (Conservatives) who would never dream of educating their children outside the private system, and rue the day that the evil socialist government stopped them riding to hounds to tear foxes limb from limb for a fun day out in the English countryside, stop short of confessing they think the National Health Service should be scrapped as only the poor rely on it.

In England, many (but by no means all) Christians feel deeply opposed to abortion, but few would like to see it outlawed – not because they want to see abortions happen, but because they don’t believe you stop abortion by making it illegal.  They think you slow down the abortion rate by lifting children out of poverty, by seeing that young single mothers are housed and provided for, by providing state education and health care and birth control facilities, and a proper social welfare system so that fewer pregnant women are pushed into despair.  They believe that making abortion illegal simply relocates it to the back streets, with all the associated infection, infertility and death.

The rows over homosexuality in the English church are as loud and deeply felt as they are in America.  But in London our buses ride around sporting ads proclaiming “Some people are gay.  Get over it”: and increasingly that is the common view.  Increasingly the approach of individual Christians, whatever their private views, is towards live-and-let-live.  The tendency is increasingly to refrain from seeking to dominate, regulate, espalier, define, strait-jacket or circumscribe the private relationships of others in conformity with one’s personal ideology.

The reason the English Christians I know are in favour of Barack Obama’s election are that he espouses the ideals that we perceive as godly: he openly cares about the environment, equality and the poor.  He wants to put in place a welfare safety net to rescue the poorest from exclusion.  He wants to respect the conduct of private relationships as a personal matter.  He believes in the alleviation of the poverty that increases the likelihood of abortion, rather than criminalising it and leaving the poorest to their despair.  In England, we like this – not just me, most of us.  Not all of us.  Racism exists in the UK as well as in the US, and I have encountered it plainly expressed in the few English voices I have heard raised against him.

But my jaw has dropped in astonishment when I have read on Facebook what my US Christian Facebook Friends (except the Quakers) have to say about Barack Obama.  What has surprised me most of all is the rationale for the opinions I have read.  If I had encountered reasoned opposition on carefully argued grounds to a range of identified policies, that would have seemed reasonable to me.  But I have heard that he is corrupt, that the entire state of the US economy is all his fault (and nothing at all to do with intransigent divisions in the US Congress - if I've got the right term there - and Republican stonewalling), that America has barely survived the last four years and cannot imagine how they can ever get through the next four (but you might like to read this).  And I have come across (again and again) only three complaints against him: 1) He does not wish to criminalise abortion, 2) He does not wish to criminalise homosexuality but to accord equality to homosexual people and 3) Obamacare – the provision of a safety net for the poorest of the poor and the requirement upon everyone else to take out responsible health insurance. 

Yes, my US brothers and sisters in Christ are (in some cases) vehemently, furiously, specifically opposed to the establishment of social provision to rescue the poor from sickness and destitution.   This is what they believe (I would not have believed this if I had not read it with my own eyes) will be the ruin and downfall of America.  In England, we are puzzled.

This morning I left a comment – and then thought better of it and deleted it – at the end of a thread of US Christians spitting tacks about the election of Obama as president.

I feel that in the last month I have been introduced to a side of the American psyche I had never imagined, never dreamed, might be there.  We are so very, very different.  Divided, as has often been said, by a common language. It seems that when we say the word "Christianity", it is code for two completely different social schemas.

I recognise that my task is to listen and learn, to respect and observe, until I understand the riches that lie always in diversity.  For now I am still just comprehensively gobsmacked. 






[Your views as always are most welcome, and I am most happy to be set right by US friends if I've got this all wrong; but in this issue especially it helps if opinions are securely based on evidence.  And both US and non-US friends, please be considerately respectful to those who may disagree, in expressing your thoughts.]
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365 366 Day 321 – Friday Nov 16th      



I was seized with a desire to wear checked skirts after a visit to the Darvell Bruderhof.  However this proved to be merely derivative/plagiaristic – the checks being far too strong a pattern for my real preferences.


365 366 Day 320 – Thursday Nov 15th      



A lacy orange vest.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.


365 366 Day 319 – Wednesday Nov 14th     



Ozark Mountain Daredevils.  Fab.  D’you know their music? 

25 MORE Ideas for a Simpler, Greener, More Intentional Christmas

I really connected with Kelly from Imperfect Homemaking's post 75 Ideas for a Simpler, Greener, More Intentional Christmas.. After all, that is the exact focus of my blog. 

Living a simpler, more intentional, and green life
So I decided to add a few more things that we are planning to do this Christmas (on top of dozens listed on her list).



1. Have your kids decorate their own wrapping paper 
2. Take a little extra time to write out your Christmas greeting cards by hand - it's more personal
3. Listen to Christmas music for free on Pandora.com
4. Use last years decorations instead of buying new ones 
5. For every new toy your kids receive, teach them to donate an old toy to church or a thrift store. Or even better - donate the brand new one!
6. Remember the True Meaning of Christmas
7. Decorate with less snowmen, nutcrackers, and Santas and more nativity scenes
8. Use a shovel to clear your driveway instead of your snow plow - and enjoy the exercise!
9. Enjoy the ambiance of candle light
10. Ask your family not to buy any gifts - and if they insist ask if they'll donate it to your favorite charity or shelter
11. Do NOT go to Target!
12. Create a "Countdown to Christmas" paper link chain - and let your kids tear off (and recycle) one each morning
13. Drive to visit family... even the ones you don't care for
14. Decorate a house plant as your Christmas Tree
15. Knit or crotchet your own scarf and hat (and some for your kids!)
16. Take your spouse on surprise date... and go sledding!
17. Diffuse cinnamon and peppermint essential oils throughout the day
18. Sit by the window and watch the snow fall
19. Shovel your neighbors sidewalk
20. Share your favorite memories and Christmas traditions from your childhood
21. Have a Charlie Brown or felt Christmas Tree
22. Host a potluck with friends
23. Have a cookie decorating party
24. Fill stockings with healthy homemade snacks, new socks, and personal letter instead of pointless little toys and unnecessary candy
25. Read the Christmas story from the Bible before opening any presents on Christmas morning

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Stuffy Nose Home Remedy (Baby Safe)

In our home, with winter comes Christmas music, space heaters, and my personal favorite -- snot rubbed over every surface, blanket, sleeve, and towel within my toddlers reach.

It's cold season, people.

Despite my best efforts to keep my family healthy and their immune systems strong, I guess I shouldn't of been surprised that with the whirlwind of moving, lack of sleep, and recent weather changes - our worn out bodies would be a target for infections. 

And by our worn out bodies, I mean my two babies and husband's. Because apparently I am un-infectable. Probably because of the cod liver oil. Which means I get the privilege of playing nurse to three snotty, coughy, sleepy humans.

It's good to be needed.


Honestly though, I don't really mind. It's an excuse to lay low and rest. Colds are common. They are rarely life threatening. 

But as I look at the crusted mustache of snot on my toddlers fatigued face, I can't help but think, colds are pretty gross. 

All the saline drops, humidifiers, and orange juice in the world wouldn't clear any of them up. Then a friend reminded me...


Essential oils, duh. With her recommendation, I gathered up Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon Leaf, Sweet Orange, and Rosemary. 

This combination, when diffused, is said to refreshen, cleanse, revitalize, clarify, purify, and invigorate. So we tried it yesterday.

And it works. Seriously. 

So much so that when I woke up this morning, my husband (who the day before asked me if he could just get some Nyquil) had already gone for round two himself. 

Since we don't have a fancy essential oil diffusor, we went the steam route. All you need is:
  • Essential oils: Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon Leaf, Sweet Orange, and Rosemary. (or a single, pre-made blend) I am currently reviewing this set from Amazon
  • Water
  • A pot
  • Your Stove (or campfire)
  • A cold or cold infected person to be your ginny pig 

1. Fill your pot with 2-3 cups of water.
2. Add 2 drops of each essential oil
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 
4. Enjoy the beautiful aroma now filling your home.

For best results - stand closer to the steam to help break up the mucus. Repeat throughout the day as needed.

The Bad News. This really does work. Kinda. It definitely clears you up - however, like any cold remedy, it's not a cure. It's just a way to release some of the discomfort that comes with a cold. Most colds last 7-10 days and even with adding in this remedy we're still pretty much in that range.

However we are all much more comfortable and my house smells awesome.


What are your favorite home remedies for cold season? Has anyone in your house caught one yet?


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Thank you following along on our journey to simplicity & contentment. Please be sure to learn about our family, like our page on Facebook, and visit the right column to subscribe to future posts!