Monday, December 30, 2019

The 30-Day Habit Challenge

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

A 30-day habit challenge is a commitment to a new personal habit or routine for 30 days.

The purpose of the challenge is to find out if this interesting new behavior is something that works well and improves your life.  Maybe it saves you money or time, maybe it helps you eat more healthfully or get more exercise, maybe it helps you get rid of clutter or streamline your wardrobe, or maybe it helps you be more mindful and grateful.  It may or may not become a permanent part of your life.  It's an experiment, meant to be enlightening and fun.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Song of the Shepherds

Photo by Fabrice Villard on Unsplash

I don't often write poetry, but I recently tried to write new words for an old tune, and this is the result:

Bright stars shine in a wintry sky,
Glory, alleluia.
Moon is rising, night winds sigh,
Glory, alleluia.
Shepherds with their flocks bed down
In the fields near Bethlehem town;
Silver light glows all around,
Glory, alleluia.

Angels come with joyous news,
Glory, alleluia.
A Savior's born for me and you,
Glory, alleluia.
Choirs are singing peace and mirth
To all people of the earth,
For God's love grants all souls worth,
Glory, alleluia.

Through starlit streets the shepherds trod,
Glory, alleluia,
To see the infant Son of God,
Glory, alleluia.
Marvel at the lowly place
Where God comes down to our sad race
And offers His amazing grace,
Glory, alleluia.

Go and tell both far and wide,
Glory, alleluia,
Of Jesus' birth at Christmastide,
Glory, alleluia.
This holy Child, our Prince of Peace,
Has come to give our souls release,
That greed and strife may finally cease,
Glory, alleluia.

Now sing alleluia!

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Best Christmas

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

What truly makes the holidays special?  Jo March in the classic Little Women says that "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," but is that really true?  Jo might be forgiven for that feeling when you realize that she and her sisters were giving up so much else that might have made their Christmas merry:  their father was away serving in the Army during the Civil War, and they barely had money for everyday needs such as food, heat, and clothing, let alone anything special for a holiday.

Do you know of anyone in a similar situation?  A family with a parent on active duty somewhere in a dangerous part of the world?  Someone out of a job (or working two or more low-paying jobs) and struggling to buy groceries, coats, boots, or to pay for light and heat?  Perhaps you know someone dealing with health issues and doctor's bills, or unreliable transportation and large auto repair bills.

To a family in any of those circumstances, Christmas may not feel like Christmas at all, whether or not there are any presents.  In fact, Christmas may seem like the darkest, most dreary day of the year, because their situation contrasts so strongly with what the day is "supposed to be."

It may be a time that makes them feel particularly deprived and hopeless.

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Natural Holiday

Photo courtesy of Bartlett Arboretum, Connecticut, USA

For the winners of the book drawing, see below.... 

One of the best ways I know to limit consumerism is to replace shopping time with time in nature.  The world created by God is an effective antidote to the man-made glitter and hype of the marketplace.  When I'm tired of the crowds or the traffic or the constant pop renditions of Santa songs, even a walk through the park can restore my sense of peace and joy.

For me, being more aware of the natural world seems to deepen the spiritual impact of Christmas.

As the winter solstice approaches, the period of daylight grows slowly shorter.  Sunsets come earlier, and the welcome glow of Christmas lights and candles, and the sparkling winter constellations, remind me that even when things seem dark, the light of faith can shine brightly.  And isn't that the central message of Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays?

Friday, December 13, 2019

Feel the Hygge

Interested in a receiving a free copy of one of my books?  Read on... 

The Danish know a thing or two about coziness and comfort.  During long northern winters when it can be dark for up to 17 hours a day, Danes lift their spirits with hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah").

As days get shorter, wetter, and colder this season, we might all like to snuggle in and enjoy hygge, the Danish concept of positive self-care.  But while hygge has been aggressively marketed of late, it is definitely not about buying something to improve your mood.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Guest Author on No Sidebar

Photo courtesy of Deanna Mills

I'm so pleased and grateful to once again be featured on the minimalist website, No Sidebar.

The piece I wrote is partly about a holiday tradition in my town, and while I like the photo chosen by the editor of No Sidebar, I thought I'd share an actual photo of one house on Toyon Avenue, so you can see the work of some Christmas-loving homeowners.

I hope you're making time to savor the people and traditions that mean the most to you during this season.  Ask anybody what they love most about Christmas.  I've never heard anyone mention receiving gifts.  A few mention making or giving gifts, but most speak of lights and music, snow and coziness, family, memories, and love.  Don't miss it!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Top 12 Gifts for a Minimalist

Ask most minimalists what they want for Christmas, and they'll probably say, "Nothing."

But maybe you want to give a gift anyway, or maybe you're a minimalist (or an aspiring minimalist!) who wants to give gifts, but doesn't want to add to anyone's clutter.

Here's a list of gifts pretty much guaranteed to brighten a minimalist's holiday.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Cozy Minimalism

Minimalism is about owning only what you use and love, but it's not confined to one decorating style.  Your home doesn't need to be all white, with chrome and glass furniture and one piece of modern art.  A home can be uncluttered and still be warm, inviting, relaxed, and personal.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

This Holiday, Give Hope

Photo by element5 digital on Unsplash

If you're reading this, it's pretty likely that you have a roof over your head, plenty of food on your table, an education, and many other benefits of a modern life.

We know, even though we may not like to think about it, that others are not so blessed.  Too many homeless are sleeping on the streets tonight, too many children are going to bed hungry, and too many people are without basic medical care or even clean water to drink.  And, shamefully, that kind of deprivation exists in our own country, not just in some far away locale.

Minimalism isn't just about decluttering our homes and our calendars -- it's about realizing that we have enough, and that we can do some good with our excess.  We can donate items we're not using, and we can be generous with our time or our money to help someone in our own town or halfway around the world.

The ability to be generous is one of the greatest gifts we have, and it should make us feel rich.

And when we give, the impact is greater than we might imagine.  When someone is down on their luck, or has nowhere else to turn, your gift gives them hope.  Your act of kindness gives them the feeling that they're not alone, that they have a future.  It's the greatest minimalist gift of all.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Limits Make Your Christmas Happier

Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

This may sound strange (Or not!  I'm a minimalist, after all.), but the best way I know to make the holidays happier is to create some limits.  Limits are good for several reasons:  they create financial peace of mind, curb materialism in yourself and your children, give you a bit of breathing space amid the bustle and busyness, and force you to choose from among myriad possibilities with thought and care.