A couple of years ago, I heard about this concept to choose one word for the year and use it to guide your decisions, your actions, your attitude. You were supposed to display this word somewhere easily visible, keep it in the back of your mind, meditate on it, let it be there for you to fall back on when you needed it. Well, no offense to the guy (or gal or whoever) who came up with this idea, but a year is a pretty long time. I like to think that we change within a year, growing and moving in and out of different seasons. I’d argue that instead of a word to guide your whole year, it may be more appropriate to choose a word to guide your current season of life.
At the beginning of this year, the word that kept popping up was “grace”. I was about to have our second baby, dealing with a very headstrong “threenager”, my husband had started a new job and was working longer and later hours, and I was a bit overwhelmed with teaching and parenting and wife-ing (is that a word?). So I focused in on the word grace. I doodled it in my journals and began to see it everywhere- in books, in song lyrics, in Facebook posts. And I tried, with all my being, to extend grace to my hardworking (and handsome) hubby, my spirited daughter, and most importantly, to myself. Grace acted as a grounding place for me, to remind me that since I had been given such grace in Jesus, I was completely capable of extending a portion of that grace outward.
Now, however, our season has changed.We have a much calmer, almost 4 year old, a pretty easy-going, chubby, smiley 5 month old, and we are in the process of watching our new home being built while simultaneously readying our current home to be passed along. And the word that keeps appearing, like little whispers to my subconscious, is simplify. Ahhh, doesn’t that word just evoke a deep breath? Some fresh air? Some calm? It does to me, and here are three ways I am working to simplify our life:
1. Our food: I used to hold the belief that cooking dinner should be this elaborate process (although I’m not sure where exactly I learned that). Make sure that every food group is represented, make sure it’s healthy, make sure there’s a treat after, make sure everyone likes it. But, as I described here, I’ve come to view food more as fuel, and so meals can be simpler.
At the grocery store, I try to stick to the outside rim: meats, fruits, vegetables, some high-quality dairy, an occasional snack or loaf of freshly baked sourdough (so not Paleo, but so delicious), and I’m basically cycling through some easy but delicious meals that I know are healthy and will keep us all full and satisfied. This makes grocery shopping easier and there are less choices to wade through during the week. Here are some examples from our weekly lineup:
Chicken Fajitas (easy recipe here)
Mango Chicken Salad (recipe here)
Grilled burgers (my husband is a stud on the grill), oven fries (recipe here), and some kind of leafy green veggie
Sweet potato hash: basically just cube up some sweet potatoes, cook on stove ’til soft in bacon fat or butter or avocado oil, season with salt/pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika (I know you’re surprised), and some cinnamon if you like that kind of thing. Then throw in ground sausage, cook it, and top with a fried egg! #brinner
2. Our schedule: I’ve kind of grown into a homebody since I had kids. I love my Saturday mornings curled up on the couch with a blanket, a hot cup of something, and a good book or some cartoons. And I’ve come to appreciate our weekends as very much-needed quality togetherness. Sure, we have birthday parties to go to, and trips to the pool and museums and the zoo, but I’m trying to ensure that our weekends include at least a little down time, because it is so restorative. I know this will become harder as our kids grow up, so I am relishing in this season before soccer games or gymnastics meets or piano recitals (or whatever life has in store) take over.
3. And finally, our stuff: Confession: I *might* have a slight tendency to collect things (especially shoes and purses and books-again, I know you’re surprised) and I’m afraid my daughter has inherited this, as evidenced by the lovely little piles of rocks and sticks and acorns she leaves around the house. But, I’m working hard against this tendency in myself. It only takes watching about 3.5 seconds of “Hoarders: Buried Alive” to want to burn all. the. stuff. and live in a yurt, but hey, at least it’s motivating right? Even though I may be a collector, I also LOVE to throw stuff away or donate it. Packing for the move is actually an incredible gift. I have to physically put my hands on every item in this house and determine whether or not I can live without it. So far, we are down 3 garbage bags and 4 boxes of donations. We are also downsizing our furniture and decor, choosing smaller, simpler pieces in favor of large, ornate ones, asking ourselves what is truly necessary and what can be let go (except bookshelves, of course, those will always be necessary). As a result, our house somehow feels so much lighter.
The journey toward simplification is, of course, a work in progress. But for me, it’s a goal worth pursuing, and the process is bringing me such a sense of calm in this busy season. What are your favorite tips for leading a simpler life?
Currently Reading: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This one has been on my shelf for ages and I’ve heard such great things, but have avoided it because, #serialkillersfreakmeout. That being said, I’m SO INTERESTED in all the history surrounding the building of the Chicago World’s Fair and Larson makes reading nonfiction actually fun and suspenseful. (Side note: I finished Half Broke Horses and absolutely loved it. You should probably read it, especially if you’re a fan of beautifully written memoirs and stories that contain characters with incredible grit and perseverance.)
Baking Cooking Making: Bone broth and baby food! It’s time for solids for our hungry boy, and he is so far loving avocado and sweet potatoes. This week, I made some bone broth in my beloved Instant Pot (using this method- check out her YouTube video for pressure cookers) from some roasted chicken bones I had stashed in the freezer. I was able to freeze some of the broth into little 1/2 cup portions in a silicone muffin pan to mix with steamed veggies for baby. Next up will be peas, green beans, and butternut squash!
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.