Saturday, April 9, 2016

How Minimalism Has Made Christmas More Peaceful In Our Home

"Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. 
The Lord be with you all."
2 Thessalonians 3:16
(KJV)

Everyone who knows me well at all knows how much I love Christmas.
I love to talk about how Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, was born.
I love to decorate for Christmas, 
participate in all of our Christmas family traditions,
play Christmas music,
 (yes, I have been known to listen to it at times other than Christmas,
and yes, Kevin and I might or might not have been caught on more than one occasion breaking out into "O, Christmas Tree" at sundry, unusual times throughout the year),
but, a Christmas blog post in April?
Seriously?

I'm sure you are wondering if I have finally lost my last marble
and thinking I am surely mixed up about what time of year it is!
Well, the jury is still out on the loss of the last marble,
but I do realize that we are now in the month of April,
and there are still over 8 months to go until Christmas!  

I just wanted to share this post early in the year, so you can join me in my endeavors to make Christmas 2016 less stressful, more peaceful, and mostly centered and focused on Jesus,
the real reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

In our culture, we have developed and succumbed to a sense of pressure.
It is a hard taskmaster.
It has convinced us that things have to be done a certain way,
that it is imperative that Christmas cause a certain amount and level of stress,
and that we have to participate in a certain number of events, in order to not "look bad".
We have become obsessed with not being outdone by "The Joneses" down the road or "Miss Suzie Homemaker" at church or "Miss Homeschool Teacher of the Year" in our homeschool co-op.

The demands we have self-inflicted can sap every ounce of joy out of any happy season of our lives,
including Christmas.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to take a step back and convince ourselves that we don't have to fit into anyone else's mold and we don't have to conform to this world and its never-satisfied demands?

In fact, God's Word tells us NOT to be conformed to this world.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:2

What a relief!
God's expectations of us are worlds apart from people's expectations.
But, before we can realize that, a transformation has to take place...
in the mind.

"...be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

In other words, stop thinking like the world. 
Start thinking like the Word.
Align with what God expects.
Throw away people's expectations, because truly, they do not amount to a hill of beans.
(Below, I will talk more about not conforming to the world and being transformed instead.)

So, what does this have to do with minimalism?
And Christmas?

Just everything.

This past Christmas was truly one of the least stressful Christmases the three of us can ever remember having.

The reason for this didn't occur to me right away.
But, then it began to dawn upon me.
The reason we can call it one of the best Christmases ever had nothing in the world to do with...
well, the world.
And, that is the main point.
Though we have all always dearly loved Christmas,
and though our memories of every Christmas together are beyond precious,
the reason this past one was so incredibly special was because, for the first time ever, 
we totally broke free from all worldly expectations.
We refused to be enslaved.
We followed Jesus, and we, and consequently our home,
were filled with an incredible sense of calm...and peace...and true-from-the-heart joy.
I never even considered, ahead of time, how profoundly our Christmas would be impacted by our intentional mind-shift towards living a simpler, less-consumerism-driven life.
But, our journey towards Biblical-based minimalism absolutely spilled over into our Christmas,
and the result was such a welcome reprieve.
(To read other minimalism posts, click the following links:
So, here they are....
some points and lessons we have learned and how living a simpler, more minimal life has made Christmas in our home a very peace-filled season.


1.  Get back to the basics.
Christmas is all about Jesus.
It is all about the fact that He left the glories of Heaven,
laid down His rightful position,
chose to willingly come to this sin-blighted world for the sole purpose of becoming the supreme and all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins,
and be born, a helpless infant, under the most simplistic of circumstances.
We don't know the exact date of His birth, but somewhere down the line, 
December 25th was chosen as the date to commemorate it.
We should celebrate the wonders of His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection,
every, single day we live and breathe.
He should, at Christmas and always, be the main focus.

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, 
but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Micah 6:8


2.  "Be not conformed to this world."
We are not "of this world", remember?
Jesus said, 
"I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, 
because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
John 17:14
We live here, but we are only passing through.
As followers of Christ, we are never going to fit into this world's mold.
And, we shouldn't want to.
And, we should stop trying to.
It is an endless pursuit, anyway, just like the racing horse chasing after the dangling carrot.
No matter how fast it runs, the carrot will always be the same distance away.
It cannot and will never be reached.
It is a futile endeavor.
Release a worldly mindset.
Let it go, and stop trying to conform.
The world says,
"Buy more gifts."
"Spend more than you make."
"Eat, drink, be merry...and convince yourself there are no consequences or repercussions."
"Buy now, pay later."
"Impress others, at any cost."
"Outshine, overdo, and impress, no matter what you lose in the process."
"Wow everyone on December 25th, as if December 26th isn't coming."
"Worry about the cost in January."
On and on, the voices drone.
And, like lemmings, we follow their command.
And we lose ourselves and our sanity as we feverishly run around in circles.
It is time to turn off the voices of consumerism.
Just shut them down, and let go of all of the above.
Trying to satisfy the appeals of the world's expectations will leave you exhausted
and deep in debt, with profound regret.


3.  Be transformed, by the renewing of your mind.
Align your priorities about Christmas with Scripture.
Focus on GOD and what He wants from you.
Stop caring about what others demand.
You need only please Him, and He is not asking you to follow anyone except Himself.
Ask Him to renew your mind and to transform your thought patterns to the way
  He wants you to think.

"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor."
Ephesians 5:1,2


4.  Stop using credit cards.
In our consumerism-driven, have-to-have-it-NOW society,
refusing to use credit cards is definitely taking the road less traveled.
This, my friends, has taken us a while, and I am not saying it has been easy.
It has required more discipline than any of the other steps I am mentioning here,
but it has been SO worth it.
Paying for Christmas (and all of life, for that matter) as we go, without incurring more debt is very liberating and stress-relieving.

"The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7


5.  Buy a crate.
Do it now...early in the year.
Dollar General sells them for only $6.00 a piece for a 20 gallon size,
which holds a lot of goodies.
Buying a Christmas crate is a minimal investment that will pay off multiple times over the course of a few years.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
Proverbs 6:6-8


6.  Fill it up.
Not all at once, but slowly. over the course of the year.
And only with things you can pay cash for, 
and only as you see items that match up with someone on your Christmas list.
Don't just buy things for the thrill of finding them on sale.
Don't get me wrong....no one LOVES sales more than I do!
I refuse to buy things at full-price, if at all possible.
But, I have learned not to buy things that I don't need or won't use,
no matter how good the deal is.
There isn't a bargain anywhere that feels better than clutter-free!
If you really keep your eyes open throughout the year, you can have your crate completely filled
by Christmas, and your wallet will hardly notice.

"Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand."
Philippians 4:5


7.  Keep it simple.
Instead of worrying about impressing with elaborate gifts,
think simple and basic.
What are things people actually need?
And use?
Focus on practicality...and everyday necessities.
People love getting things they buy for themselves on a regular basis.
Who doesn't love getting their favorite brand of shampoo, soap, or body wash?
Who doesn't feel blessed not having to spend their own money on the things they need?
Gifts do not need to be expensive to be appreciated.
If you see your sister's favorite body lotion on sale during the year, buy it, and tuck it away in your Christmas crate.
If your Dad's favorite brand of t-shirts goes on sale,
pick up a couple of packs for him.
Buy your husband a special souvenir while on vacation,
wrap it in Christmas paper, and hide it in your crate.
You will both smile as you recall the memories together when he opens it in December.

"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:17



8.  Create.
Use your God-given talents.
What do you do well?
Crochet?
Knit?
Sew?
Write?
Cook?
Bake?
Quilt?
Woodworking?
Some creative ideas may be...
crocheted dish or wash cloths,
afghans,
pillows,
an original poem or letter of appreciation,
a small wooden treasure box or wooden cross,
a home-cooked meal during the rushed Christmas season,
some fresh-baked cookies ~ a pie ~ cake ~ rice krispy treats, etc.,
You can wrap them up real pretty and create a precious and cherished gift!
Who doesn't absolutely love getting something that someone dear has put their time and energy and heart into creating just for them?
Homespun and handmade is always best, in my opinion.

"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."
Ephesians 4:28


9.  Avoid stores at Christmas.
I know, I sound crazy, but this past Christmas, we almost completely stayed away from stores.
Granted, there was one particular store that we had to go into in order to buy things for Zach,
and we were a-okay with that.
But, for us to just "shop" and hit stores just to look, we did not.
If you stay out of stores, you will avoid buyer's remorse.
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and buy things that you don't even need.
Marketing experts know their game.
They are strategists.
How many times have you walked into a store, not needing a thing,
then come out with a bag full of stuff, that you would never have thought of,
had you not gone in there in the first place?
Be prepared, by shopping frugally and thriftily throughout the year, faithfully filling up your crate,
and you will have minimal need to go inside a store at Christmas,
when the marketing gimmicks are kicked into overdrive. 
Since your crate will be filled to the brim with goodies,
shop from your crate instead!
Seriously.
Much of our Christmas shopping in 2015 happened in our bedroom
while poring through our Christmas crate that I had been filling up throughout the year!
What joy!
Zero stress!!

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, 
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Romans 8:1


10.  Redeem the time.
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:15,16
Take all that time that you would normally be out running yourself ragged
to study, dissect, and analyze Luke chapter 2,
bake cookies with your child(ren),
spend quality time with them every, single day,
truly listen to your spouse,
plan a special date night,
make goody plates for the elderly,
sit down for an hour-long visit when you deliver them,
get the whole family involved making Christmas crafts,
take your family to a nursing home to sing Christmas carols ,
  fill a few boxes with donations for the Salvation Army,
volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen,
read the Christmas story to someone who can't,
and participate in Operation Christmas Child.
Make the most of every moment.
Refuse to waste a second.
Think "experiences enjoyed" instead of "things accumulated".
Your home will be less cluttered, and your heart will be more full!

I hope you can glean at least a tiny bit of minimalism wisdom from this post
and begin thinking of Christmas now, so when it arrives you will be prepared ahead of time,
and you can sit back and enjoy the season.

Do you have special ways of preparing early for or reducing stress at Christmas?
I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
Please share your wisdom!

God bless you all, dear friends!

41 comments:

  1. This last Christmas we had decided to keep things very simple, not to have a huge meal with far more food than is necessary, and to give simple gifts. Food was in the freezer so I didn't need to go near the shops, gifts were posted. The plan was working well. Then, my husband was rushed into hospital, where he stayed for the entire Christmas week! Just shows, whatever our plans are, they can be changed in an instant. (We are still eating Christmas things little by little from the freezer!)

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    1. What wonderful, cost-saving, and efficient ideas, Elizabeth! But, I am SO sorry to hear about your dear husband's illness. Is he doing better now? I truly hope so. It is so great that you are utilizing all of your stash and eating it up, little by little. Thank you so much for your visit and for sharing with us here! God bless you and your husband!

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  2. wonderful blessings shared dear, love you.

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    1. Thank you so much, sweet friend. Love you!

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  3. Such an excellent post Cheryl. I do the same as you....shop all year and put it in a container for later. Actually I made a big decision last year. We have a Happy Birthday Jesus story and cake ad no gifts. The children and grandchildren love the meal ad party and know that is our gift. I do big birthdays for each and we leave the gift receiving out of Christmas at our house. It worked great and was so stressless.

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    1. Oh, I LOVE that! You truly turn ALL focus on Jesus, and that is just so admirable. You are a blessing to me, dear friend. Thank you ever so much for your sweet visit and input. God bless you abundantly!

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  4. I so enjoyed hearing what you had to share with us over Christmas in April.
    Every point you shared was excellent, Cheryl, Thank you!
    Over the last few years we have made quite a few changes with our family gatherings and gift giving.
    We draw names now and I like that.Our immediate family is small so we don't spend much.
    We love to have a white elephant gift and play a game of some sort to exchange that gift. Last Christmas our elephant gift had to come from your own home, something you were willing to part with, after all, we all have things we no longer want our need.I was able to give a nice cooker that I really didn't use and my oldest daughter with three boys ended up with it.
    Simple things really.

    Thank you for your message and great verses to go with it. You have certainly given us much to ponder on and apply to our lives.
    May we all find the simplicity of Christmas and bring peace to our families as we put Christ first.

    Bless you~~
    Debbie

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    1. So thankful to see you here, dear Debbie! I love your idea of drawing names...oh, that is SO practical and makes such good common sense. We love the white elephant game, too! It is so hilarious and fun! Yes, may we all always put Christ first in all we do...everyday of the year, including Christmas! Sending you much love and gratitude for sharing your heart here. :)

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  5. This was a wonderful post Cheryl. We already do many of them on a regular basis but some of your ideas were new. I agree. A stressless Christmas is definitely doable but not normal in our consumerism driven world.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. Yes, it surely and absolutely is doable, sweet Betsy! I am so grateful for your dear visit and hope God is blessing your time at the lake! Sending you love and blessings today!! :)

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  6. Dear Mrs. Smith,

    I enjoyed reading your post. That's a neat idea...gathering things throughout the year to give instead of buying presents at the store at the last minute in all the hustle and bustle. Last year, I hardly bought any gifts. I made an earwarmer for Sarah, (she wanted one to go skiing) I made mommy a little booklet about "10 things I love about you", and I forgot what I gave the others. I go through my closet and drawers ever so often, and I give clothes that don't fit me anymore to my siblings. Those make good presents too. :)
    I liked how you put verses in this post.
    Love,
    Ashley
    Ps. We send shoeboxes every year for Samaritans Purse. It's so much fun packing them. :)

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    1. How sweet that you made most of your gifts!! SO precious and practical, Ashley! You are learning early in life to save and be frugal and use what you have to do what needs to be done. Wonderful life lessons that will serve you well as you move on into the next stage of life, marry, have children, and guide a home. And, it is just wonderful that you support Samaritan's Purse's ministry endeavors. God will bless your for it...just imagine the smiles of joy on those children's faces!! To GOD be all glory!! Thank you for your sweet visit and comments...they truly mean so much!

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  7. Great thoughts for this time of year. Planning ahead is wise, but planning ahead to not just have more, but to be wise with what we've been given is huge!

    It is so easy to get caught up in the trappings of this flesh. So easy to cross the line from worshipping the Provider to worshipping His provision.

    We can't measure joy by possessions or a number. Thanks for the wise reminder, Cheryl.

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    1. Yes, brother, it surely is easy to get caught up in those trappings....you always articulate it so well and add SO much encouragement here. You are a huge blessing to us and so many. God bless you abundantly, Floyd.

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  8. Dear CHeryl,
    What lovely, Bible-based truths on how to celebrate CHRISTmas, remembering that it is all about Him, and not the consumerism the world tries to push on us. May we be transformed by the renewing of our mind, contemplating the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us, every day of the year.
    Thank you so much for your lovely comment on Saved by Grace, and God bless,
    Laurie

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    1. Yes, may we all allow God to transform us into HIS way of thinking! Oh, if we did this is ALL areas of life, how much better things would go, right? Thank you ever so much for stopping by, Laurie. It always brightens my day to see that you have been here. God bless you abundantly!

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    1. Thank you ever so much, Lydia! So very happy and grateful to meet you today! Come back anytime. :)

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  10. For the past few years I sent people e-cards by e-mail instead of real Christmas cards. The money saved in buying cards, and the postage, was given to charity.

    I also give presents without wrapping them. Money saved in wrapping is given to charity.

    People think I am mean. The S in my middle name stands for Scrooge.

    God bless.

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    1. Oh, Victor! You always make me smile. You are so funny! I can't picture you as being a scrooge in any way! Thank you for brightening my day with your presence here. God bless you!! :)

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    2. Thank you for visiting my Blog. I have responded to your comments there.

      God bless you and your family.

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  11. Hi Cheryl! I have to admit that when I saw the title of your post, I was puzzled. But not anymore! What great advice to give. Love the idea of the tub you bought. My husband and I do a version of that. We shop the after Christmas sales and get great bargains, and are just about done shopping for the next Christmas. I don't always love getting up early after the holiday, but we've saved a ton of money and stress in doing it.

    Being intentional about rededicating the time I save is a wonderful idea. Again, there's that word 'intentional'. It's a big one for me this year, and you remind me that here is another opportunity to turn to the Lord. Thank you!
    Great insights,
    Ceil

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    1. LOL!! I am sure you were puzzled...you probably thought I had finally gone the rest of the way off the deep end! :) We do that, too!!!! We shop the after-Christmas sales, the after-Valentine's Day sales, the after-Thanksgiving sales, the after-Easter sales....well, you get the message! I forgot to mention that, so glad you brought it up. A LOT of what is in that crate is either handmade or purchased WAY below the retail price and will be given as gifts, Lord willing. I love your word "intentional"...it is a good one. So happy to visit with you today. I've been trying to work my way to your place and will do so as soon as I can. I can get behind real quick in this blogging world! God bless you, sweet friend. :)

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  12. This comment post would be as long as your post if I were to highlight all the things I LOVED about it!! :-)

    But I will share this one very powerful excerpt that convicted me and encouraged me:

    "Start thinking like the Word.
    Align with what God expects.
    Throw away people's expectations, because truly, they do not amount to a hill of beans."

    Cheryl, you shared so much wonderful wisdom here! I love all the Scripture verses you shared. And the idea about the crate and gathering thoughtful gifts throughout the year is a wonderful idea!

    I tend to get more excited about the thought behind a gift than the gift itself. One year my son-in-law bought me a cribbage board (a game he and I play together) and engraved it with something that we share and held special meaning. He is quite gifted artistically, and I will cherish it always.

    There was another Christmas that my husband was out of work and we had literally no money and only bought stuff for the children with money they received from their grandparents. Michael and I did not exchange. He went out on Christmas Eve Day and happened to be in Brooks Pharmacy to pick up a necessity and saw on the clearance shelf a small ceramic house for 70 cents. He bought it for me and gave it to me Christmas morning. It is still the most cherished gift I have ever received. Every year I display it lovingly at Christmastime. (I remind myself of Caroline Ingalls when she placed the special figurine on her mantle when they moved from the Big Woods to Little House on the Praire. :-) )

    I enjoyed this post so much!

    Thank you sweet Cheryl for always, always pointing us back to Christ and a life that truly lives the verse, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS".

    Sweet blessings to you. :-)

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    1. Dear, precious Karen! Your wonderful encouragement has blessed my heart in so many ways today. I just cannot thank you enough! I love and appreciate you, dear friend, and trust God to pour out His richest blessings upon you and your family!

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  13. Love love love the Christmas crate idea! I know that throughout the year I think of things or see things to get my hubbie and daughter but then when Christmas comes everything I think of seem to just left my brain. Lol I got see what my hubbie thinks about it. I know last year we started to budget money in September for Christmas on top of other things and that was nice. But this seems more practical. Thanks for sharing : )

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    1. What a dear blessing it is to know that you stopped by, Kristina...your visits are always so encouraging to me. I trust the Lord will bless you and your family in a big way! I'm so thankful you enjoyed this post!

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  14. This is such an awesome post in so many ways Cheryl! I agree with you that making Christmas more about the Word, and less about what the world wants us to do! I couldn't agree more with all of your suggestions. Keeping things simple, and more about what Christ would want is where we want to be with Christmas. The materialistic aspect of it all is just not found in scripture, not at all. So, I love what you wrote, and agree that keeping things simple and frugal are the best way to bless, and not be stressed! It does feel so much better to be released from the burden and expectations of the world for sure, and to find ourselves in line with His word, and what He would have us do... such joy that comes in that! Much love to you today dear Cheryl, such a joy to visit with you today :)

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    1. Thank you ever so much, sweet friend...it was so precious to visit with you, too! I am so thankful for God's gracious leadings in our lives and how He gradually brings us around to His way of thinking. It is so much superior to our own. Sending you much love and many blessings!

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  15. That's perfect. It's really good to strip ourselves sometimes of the unnecessary to focus more on the essential.

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    1. Amen, and amen, Lux! So thankful for you and your dear encouragement! God bless you!!!

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  16. Hi Cheryl, this is such a lovely post. God-centred, practical and really joyful. I so agree about the whole worldly perspective bringing stress. I think your utility box idea is great. I will look into it and I have been feeling like i want to be creative. Great time to think about doing something for Christmas, using my talents, sharing them with others, to God's glory
    God bless
    Tracy

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    1. That is so wonderful, Tracy! I am so thankful for your sweet visit and encouragement. May the dear Lord bless you!

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  17. Not only do you remind us to get back to the simple meaning of what Christmas is all about, you show us how to do it. I really like the idea of the crate and storing those thought out presents all year long. You are so right about the cost of things; we're not competing. My daughter is a minimalist and she would be cheering at that one. She is actually offended when the affluent grandparents buy too much to fill up their emptiness. She rents with not much storage room for so many toys, but it goes against what she believes. You should be her mother-in-law! Staying away from the stores may be a hard one for me because I do like the festive colors and decorations. If I was tempted to overspend with big January bills, I would heed that one though. You are a treasure, Cheryl. An absolute wonderful friend. Thank you for all the help you give people.

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    1. Oh, dear Mary! You are absolutely wonderful, too. Such a dear, precious friend to me and to so many others. How I thank God for your dear presence in my life! Your daughter sounds like such a practical and wise person. God bless her, and God bless you, in a special way! ☺

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  18. What a wonderful post! I love that you shared this in April because it starts to help me get into a mind now to make our Christmas this year more focused by preparing now. I love the idea of making more gifts this year instead of buying. Everything you shared just touched my heart so much! Thank you, again, for sharing this beautiful post on the Counting Our Blessings link up. I always love reading your posts!

    Blessings - Julie

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    1. I am so thankful it blessed you, dear friend! I am so grateful each time you visit...you are such a dear blessing to me. :) Sending you love and hugs and hopes that you are feeling well today!

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  19. Awesome post to begin to prepare now. I love your idea of the crate. That would work for Birthdays and Anniversaries as well as Christmas. Christmas for us was much calmer this past year. I had a small tree, but other than that did not decorate. Robert did put out some lights in the yard, but not as fancy as in the past. We are slowing down and that is a fact of life. Christmas is truly about Jesus and His birth. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Yes, you are so right...I do use it for birthdays and other events. Slowing down is good...and it is all about Jesus and focusing on the eternal. :) Thank you for your kind comments, Hazel!

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  20. This is wonderful advice and I am so glad you wrote it early in the year!

    Your pictures are so pretty and peaceful!

    God bless!
    Mrs. White

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    1. Thank you, dear friend. So happy for your visit and grateful for your comments! I hope all is well with you and your family. :)

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