This week is a fairly full one for us, but it also has a rather gentle rhythm to it. Rather than go-go-go-go, which seems to have been our past few weeks, this one is an activity each day. So while we have a full plate, it's not going to be as hectic. I'm so thankful for that.
However, no matter how chaotic each day is we have been intentional in slowing down and taking time as a family to celebrate Advent. To do that, we've made our lives sweet and simple. That means taking care of certain cleaning tasks earlier in the day, instead of at night. That means getting into a mindset of worship and unity, instead of feeling exhausted. That means simplifying our meals so that our evenings are free to enjoy our time together reading about the promised Messiah and celebrating the Advent of His return.
Advent has changed our hearts, and as a result our lifestyle. I'm a big fan of what we look like now, with our simplified evening routine, laughter and discussion about the relevant Bible study, and calmer bedtime. Who wouldn't be? One of my more perceptive children shared that this was their favorite time of year because family really does come first and no one remembers to be tired or stressed; we all just love each other. Okay, what more of a wake up call do I need? I want to continue this long past the season of Christmas.
I'm often the kind of mom who is exhausted by 2:00 in the afternoon and "needs" her "down time." At least I used to be. God is teaching me that what I need is more of Him and more of His grace. Because there are lots of days that my older kids need that time when the littles are napping for me to pour into them, and they need to be my priority. However, I do make sure to take 5-10 minutes with a cup of tea and my Bible each afternoon to recharge my 'grace reserve' so that I can pour it out over my kids in the evening, which is when I normally start to get tense and easily frustrated. I'm learning to do that with them, to encourage them to turn to the Word and recharge their batteries, too. It's discipleship at its most simple, and it's pretty profound to me. I never knew I could enjoy sharing my quiet time, but I do!
So my advice this Advent? Make life sweet and simle:
- Streamline your routine, and clear out an extra 10-30 minutes in your evening to enjoy each other and the Word of God. Use this time to spark discussion with your family. Pray for one another. Take care of business before dinner, so that afterwards all you need to do is enjoy one another and God's grace.
- Take a few minutes after all that business is done to pray and let God renew your spirit. This will enable you to be more gracious.
- Simplify your meals: make a menu plan, use your crock pot, do prep early in the day if you're able -- just make it sweet and simple, whatever that looks like for you.
- Treasure these moments and realize that they can happen all year long, if only we would be as intentional in June as we are in December. I'm working on that.
And here is our simplified Menu Plan for this week (you'll notice that we are re-using a few dinners from the last two weeks that were particular favorites, because I am teaching my older two how to prepare them so that they can start making dinner once or twice a week -- I'll share more about that in the future).
- Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa
- Stuffed Peppers **please note that others who have tried this recommend cutting the chili and cayenne to half; we like our meat zesty here!
- Empress Chicken
- Chicken Cauli Bake
- Sloppy Joe's
- White Chicken Chili
For the frugally minded, we buy dehydrated beans and soak them. Rice and lentils are also very frugal. We use 1 lb of meat in the (un)Stuffed Peppers for all 8 of us. We'll use 2 lbs of chicken in the Chicken Cauli Bake because we're having company on Wednesday and we'll be feeding 10-12 that night. We're all about stretching meat and using rice, beans, and veggies to make a meal more filling.