OK, we discussed frozen candles several months ago as The Frugal Catholic Tip #1, but today I have another great frugal handy helper for you, CREAM RINSE or conditioner– the kind which you use after shampooing. What many extra things it can do!
SHAVING CREAM–Since my hair is really long, I only wash it once a week, and of course, the final rinse is with “cream rinse.” What I discovered though is I can take my long hair covered with conditioner and rub it on my legs, then shave them. Of course, you can use just plain cream rinse in your hands and put it on your face or legs too for the same effect, but by using the leftovers from my hair, I get a free shave.
STAINLESS STEEL POLISH–This idea is particularly helpful if you get several of those free bottles found in hotels. No need to use really good stuff. Just dab it on a wet towel and move in a circular motion across your appliance. Doesn’t leave a harsh smell like some stainless steel cleaners.
GOOP GONNER– Have some goop in your life that needs bleeping? Well instead of finger nail polish remover, use hair conditioner. Rub some over the sticky spot, such as a label, and then gently rub off. Conditioner doesn’t damage plastic like finger nail polish often can.
SHOWER POWER CLEANER– Notice the shower needs scrubbing. then put some conditioner on a rag and go for it, even while showering. It seems to cut the scum and mold in a quick manner.
CHECK OUT YOUR CONDITIONER– Ever wondered what exactly is in the products you use on your skin, teeth, and hair. Well then hike yourself over to your computer and go to http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ (The Environmental Working Group). Their mission is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” You can type in any brand of cream rinse or conditioner you use (or any other cosmetic product) and find out its safety rating–something truly worth knowing since many products we use on our hair or skin contains deadly carcinogens.
Of course this thought isn’t Biblical, but it is a practical saying from The Great Depression era: “Make it do. Do without. Use it up, and wear it out,” is a four-pronged saying worth following because it lets us understand that one item can sometimes do many things. So cream rinse away and save money at the same time. It is definitely worth a try.
Imagine you could carry your brain as it is now– sharp, focused, and wanting to learn– and arrive in your 60’s and beyond thinking well. What would it take on your part to ensure you hit that age mark with minimum “brain drain”? Well, you have it totally within your power (and God’s help) to do just that.
My older sibling had been having basic Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and felt it was worsening. So when she came out to Seattle this summer for a visit we took her to see a specialist. What I learned from her clinical neuropsychologist, Kristoffer W. Rhoads PhD, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of dementia and neurodegenerative disorders with UW Medicine at Harborview Medical Center Seattle WA can help you too and those you love.
Physical Exercise— High intensity aerobic exercise for 45 minutes four times a week such as walking, running, and swimming is more effective than any brain drug out there according to “a glut of new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July….” (Time, August 22, 2016) Of course, weight lifting is important, but it doesn’t count in this case because increased heart rate equals increased blood flow to the brain.
Classical Music— Listening to classical music in the background of your day is again a brain grower. And it needs to be classical.
Learning–TV watcher? Well Dr. Rhoads shared that television is passive; so to make the brain grow, play cards, learn a language, pick up a musical instrument, do cross-word puzzles, play Scrabble, get a new hobby, read a book. Learn and keep learning.
Society—Having social ties is imperative. That means opening your life to old and new friendships with whom you meet regularly. That also means volunteering, serving in your Parish, and reaching out the hand of fellowship. Sirach 9:10 RSVCE says, “Forsake not an old friend, for a new one does not compare with him. A new friend is like new wine; when it has aged you will drink it with pleasure.” That’s because friends challenge us to be the best versions of ourselves, brain and all.
Organizational Lists –If you aren’t writing your day down already then begin to. Use either a paper calendar or your smart phone. Then transfer what is undone to the next day. The act of “writing it down” helps with the organizational strategies of our mind. And when thinking about organizing, work your mind with space retrieval too. Meet someone new? Say their name to yourself 5 seconds later, then 20 seconds later, then 1 ½ minutes later. Space retrieval provides targeted brain training.
Other Helps –As I was working on this piece, Time August 12, 2016 published “Untangling Alzheimer’s,” which further cataloged the following:
Shore Up Your Heart…reducing the risk of heart disease has the strongest evidence of benefits for the brain.
Emphasize Exercise—Aerobic exercise has been shown to grow the volume of certain brain regions that tend to shrink during aging.
Learn New Things…writing letters and reading has been linked in brain autopsies to better cognitive health in old age.
Be Social—Loneliness…is connected with poorer brain health.
Treat Depression—Depression…is linked to twice the risk of cognitive decline, though it’s not clear if that’s a cause or an effect.
Sleep Well—Improving poor sleep appears to reduce these risks. [for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s]
Wisdom 4: 8-9 perhaps states best the simple life changes all of us should heed. It says, “For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age”
In September of 2015, my husband of 35 years and I embarked on a new phase of our married life, retirement! We took off together in our little 19 foot trailer and lived there together for six months within its confines while we renovated our first son’s mobile home. During that time, we rediscovered what it meant to “date your mate,” and we reaffirmed what Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly says we must incorporate into our lives—a monthly day of carefree timelessness. From that period we experienced the knowledge that marriage is indeed one of our seven Catholic sacraments, but monthly dating helps keep it sacred. So if you want to add some romantic spark to your sacramental union, give a few of the following a try. The only thing you will need is a journal to write down your thoughts and the knowledge that each date will only draw you closer.
Dream Together— Check out some travel videos from your library like Rick Steeves. Imagine together.
Get Season Tickets— Invest in season tickets to whatever activity you both enjoy. We have been going to the Seattle Symphony for twenty years now and sitting in the cheapest seats. It is our six-times-a-year dating insurance.
Unplug the Drug— Turn off the TV for an evening and together brainstorm for one fun activity to do. Try one of your kid’s games or cards, or give each other a leg massage or a hair brushing and talk as you go.
Celebrate Sabbath Rest— Really take Sunday off, after Mass of course. Go for a stroll or enjoy an activity together like gardening. And have an easy breakfast meal for Sunday dinner.
Create Your Own Wine Tasting— Purchase two or three wines (or beers), and from the comfort of your home savor and describe and journal them. No need to worry about driving home!
Enjoy the Music— Music sets the mood for love so share the songs you both enjoy and discuss why.
Go Family Camping— That’s right. Dust off the tent and bring the crew. Your date time begins around the campfire when you get the kids to bed.
Try a Round of Miniature Golf— It is still as much fun as it was when you were a kid.
Do a MU— Take each other to a museum like Seattle Art Museum (SAM) then visit the museum gift shop and choose a small item together as a remembrance.
Enjoy It Conjointly— Experience something together like ping pong, Frisbee, hiking or Sunday walks.
Plan a Picnic— Pack it up and go to your local park for a meal. Kids really enjoy this too.
Remember— Pull out the wedding album and reminisce. What would you keep the same? What would you have done differently?
Read a Book— Get The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman out of the library and read it together. Take the test to determine your love language and begin employing it. This has really helped our marriage.
Be a Tourist for a Day— Together visit your town like a tourist would. See places you’ve always wanted to explore but haven’t taken the time to do so.
Lunch on Love— Meet your spouse for lunch. It is less expensive than dinner and often more enjoyable.
Marriage is a sacramental gift, and with any sacrament, it has the power to change us. So make some changes in your schedules and reschedule in marital dating. You’ll be glad you did.
You want to have a lovely dinner, something magical. What is one of the easiest ways to create magic? Candles of course. But what do candles, especially frugal candles purchased at The Dollar Store usually do? Well, they drip like crazy and get wax all over the table. And when you blow them out, more wax ensues. What to do? Try this simple old trick for Frugal Tip #1– store them in your freezer!
Yes, to get drip-less expensive candles from tapered candles (long ones) out of Dollar Store ones, simply put them in the freezer for a few days. No need to remove them from their packaging. Then after they are thoroughly frozen, put them unopened back into your candle drawer, and enjoy them when you want to produce a romantic or magical dinner. You will be thrilled that messy drips are a thing of the past.
I first learned of this tip from my older sister, Marjorie, who lives in Mississippi where she has hosted her share of lovely dinners. It seemed a bit odd, but after dealing with so much candle wax on my nice dining room table, I felt it was worth a try. So I took my dollar candles (two for a dollar), threw them in my freezer, and left them there for several days. Evidently, freezing them does something to the wax which prevents dripping. And you don’t have to re-freeze them again either. One freezing does it all, and then you use the candles as you normally would. Freezing seems to curb “the drips.”
So go ahead and create magic, flickering and all. And do it at a much cheaper price than expensive drip-less ones. And don’t forget too, that a lighted candle is a wonderful reminder any time you say the Rosary, read Sacred Scripture, or pray that God’s light overcomes the darkness and His light and love are always with us so that we can pass that light on as Matthew 5: 14-16 (NRSV) tells us:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Truthfully, I don’t know when I decided to embark on a smaller existence. It must have been a night I was in an adventuresome mood and recommended to my husband that we investigate purchasing a 19 foot trailer or “caravan” as they say in Europe. He had dreamed of owning an American-made design called an Airstream, which is made from shiny aluminum. He now describes it as bear food because it looks like a large can of green beans. But the “silver bullet” became ours after much comparison-shopping. We purchased an older model and had our tiny house.
It took about four more years until (after Michael’s retirement) our lives were in a position to pack up and go where we wanted in our Airstream. That is where this “Living Small Part I” adventure starts. Because living in a 19 square-foot home for six months taught me much about downsizing.
The transition from our 3000 square foot house to around 120 square feet in our trailer (and that includes beds and built in tables AND about 24 square feet of actual walking space) began in October 2015 when I left our home in Washington (WA) state and traveled to Bellingham, WA to live with Michael who had moved there with the Airstream to do renovations on our first son’s newly purchased used mobile home. I would be there to help Michael; and although I had never done construction before, Michael, an expert in renovations, was going to teach me his passion. Not only did I learn how to use power tools and conquer black mold and dry-rot, but living in our Airstream provided me with a glimpse of how so many in the world live everyday—in simplicity and smallness versus in consumption and possessions. So with that background in mind, I want to share in Part I what I have learned about “Living Small—Food.”
Our Airstream has a kitchen with a stove, an oven, one small sink and refrigerator. My total kitchen counter space amounts to approximately two inches, and I am not exaggerating. That is not a lot different than most people around the world. The normal kitchen size of most North American homes is often large: not so for the food preparation space of many others in this world. Thus, food downsizing became a constant theme, for there was really no place to prepare victuals, and after preparation, one needed to store leftovers, and that was my biggest challenge. So each trip to the supermarket came with much forethought.
I had to learn to think “Small, Rich, and Real” (somewhat like last month’s blog entry). Small because the refrigerator and freezer space were tiny. Rich because there wasn’t room for choices of 1%, 2%, or 3% milk but just one container of milk or cream so we went “full-fat.” And Real because when you are living with less space, you want to eat wholesomely even if that nutrition means beans, rice, and corn tortillas. One wants to use his/her money wisely, for food becomes not just what you live to eat, but it assumes the natural position for which God intended: Food becomes what we eat to live.
Frugal dinners looked like a three-point picture. We consumed meat, often within a casserole type meal; vegetables, usually within a salad or canned vegetables; and a starch, generally incorporated within the casserole. The freezer/ refrigerator space negated ice cream or generally any kind of dessert so fresh fruit and nuts were our desserts. Leftovers were carefully packaged in small, clear, containers and all stacked cautiously on top of each other for maximum storage. But what I noticed from this three point presentation is that I gave much more thought to utilizing everything in the refrigerator—a concept which one doesn’t need to do when one has more refrigerator storage space because when food is out of sight, it usually is out of mind, and will go bad. Thus, I was much more economical in our food consumption because I was completely aware of what the refrigerator held. That is good!
And not only did we need to monitor the refrigerator space, but every item in our cabinets also became subject to scrutiny. Did I need two types of rice when one would do? What about keeping the dry foods in jars or containers so they would be easier to store and stack on top of one another? Everything had a place and a space for that place, or it didn’t deserve to be in our tiny home.
Another concept which became very important was to NOT buy the biggest size of an item, but the smallest. For example, instead of purchasing a COSTCO size jar of mayonnaise, I now shopped the Dollar Store to get tiny versions of my favorite products, and I found that they were often a better deal than their super-sized counterparts.
One area in which I became quite adroit was in using up leftovers. If you think about it, God is a master of knowing what He has, for scripture says that not one sparrow falls to the ground which He doesn’t know about so why couldn’t I be that prudent? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matthew 10:29 NRSVCE Once, for example, I had to feed six people (we always had someone over for dinner) by using one and one-half chicken breasts. In the past in my bigger-house kitchen, I would have used six breasts. Now I had to stretch the one and one-half into six portions by using vegetables, pasta, and cheese. It was a success for everyone became members of the “clean plate club.”
So what did this six months of living small with food teach me when we came back to our elder house?
Well for starters, we let our old freezer in the garage go to Habitat for Humanity. I wasn’t going to go back to buying in bulk and having things in the freezer expire for lack of use. And simultaneously our outside older refrigerator died too leaving me with one normal sized refrigerator inside of the kitchen. From these letting go’s, I am now not buying less food, and I am really using up everything which we have. I even look in the refrigerator with each meal to see what might be going bad and how I could incorporate it into the evening’s dinner. Last night for example, I put dying home-made blue cheese dressing on my steak and old jam in the canned corn for a zippier flavor. It was wonderful and “very frugal.”
So the moral to this Blog is that truly LESS IS MORE. That applies to not only food, but to possessions, which I will cover in “Living Small—Part II—Possessions.” Stay tuned for May.
The Frugal Catholic Stretched Casserole by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.
leftover starch like rice or potatoes
a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
canned vegetables if needed
a cup of grated cheese or any old shredded cheese
Combine the above and cover with cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45–60 minutes. Serve with the candles lit, some boxed wine, and heated bread spread with butter. Delicious!!
Before I start this article, I want to make it very clear I am NOT a nutritionist or an expert in the field of health. What I am is a 67 year old mother of five adult children who has recently lost about 15 pounds rather effortlessly, and I thought you might be interested in knowing how. So do your own due diligence on the internet and you will see that this method is being touted by various nutritional folks.
Let’s start with a little history. In the 1960’s the fat consumption of the average person was about 45% and obesity was about 12%. Now in 2016, the fat consumption of the average person is about 33% and the obesity rate in America is around 50%. What has happened and why?
Since I can look back at my life and the eating trends, I can say that before fast and packaged foods came into being, people generally made everything from scratch. They used real ingredients versus names you can’t pronounce. We used whole milk, real butter (not margarine), full-fat or home-made mayonnaise, real cream, full-fat cheese, good natural unprocessed non-nitrate meats, and other whole foods which had not been processed. Milk didn’t come in 1% or 2% fat. It was just regular whole milk. And cheese and all of the other aforementioned foods were generally pretty simple. People were thinner; furniture was smaller; and people just didn’t eat the massive size portions which are now served now in American restaurants. We didn’t have the amounts of obesity in children which we see now and the challenges which come from being overweight. We ate SMALL, RICH and REAL in our portion sizes and food choices because that is what was available.
Now days, if one goes to a restaurant in America, the portion sizes are just massive. Simply view the movie “Super Size Me” if you want to see how big!
Thus, this past summer of 2015, my dear husband, Michael, of 36 years stated, “We need to start eating smaller portion sizes.” He said that out of the blue, but I knew he was right. The only challenge with that concept of “eating small” is that I figured I would starve to death, for he was preparing the dinners, and they would be ½ a chicken breast with some salad and dressing. That was it for dinner. I acted like I really liked his cooking, but, in truth, I was in rebellion. I knew I just couldn’t go around hungry if I could avoid it, so I decided to start eating RICH and REAL (and SMALL) and see what happened. That was in July 2015. By Thanksgiving 2015, I had lost about 10 pounds by eating SMALL, RICH, and REAL and by February 2016, I was down about 15 pounds and Michael was down 10 pounds—all without any additional exercise. I was shocked at our results. We both needed new (used) clothing since everything was falling off including my underwear.
Since then, I have done some research on the web, and I’ve found that SMALL, RICH, and REAL is even being advised by many in nutritional research. So to give you the full scoop, this is what my eating habits look like.
Morning Coffee– with Sugar in the Raw and lactose-free half and half Breakfast— gluten-free cereal, whole milk with dried fruit and nut mix, or eggs and toast and butter, or a corn muffin with butter and lactose-free cream cheese
Lunch— one piece of gluten free bread, real cheese, non-hormone/ non-nitrate meats, pickles, fruit, carrots Afternoon Snack— fruit with peanut butter, or whole milk Greek Yogurt with a bit of jam or honey, or a hard boiled egg, or several slices of cheese along with green tea for weight loss, pu*erh tea for hunger fighting, or yerba mate tea for blasting fat (tea ideas from Woman’s World) Dinner— a Scotch with seltzer water or a glass of wine, grass feed meat or organic meat if possible, organic salad with as many interesting vegetables and fruits in it along with some more “fruit and nut mix” thrown in if desired, whole-fat home-made salad dressing or a good natural full-fat dressing such as Newman’s Own, and a small amount of starch (1/4 to 1/2 cup) like a potato, brown rice, or gluten free pasta.
Dessert—organic fruit, or more of the fruit and nut mix with some chocolate chips, or 2 or 3 Hershey Kisses and maybe a Pepsi Next if I still need sweets
To help keep hunger at bay, I drink six to eight glasses of filtered water a day or have a cup or two of the aforementioned tea. It is easiest to just carry around a water bottle each day and fill and drink it twice. That is pretty much about it. And it is about that simple. The real and rich foods keep me full; and when I dish up a portion for myself, I try to eat about half of what I used to; or if we ever eat out, Michael and I split a meal–2/3 for him and 1/3 for me. And I have noticed that I no longer seem to crave sweets like before. Odd but true.
I have not been at this weight for decades, and I want to mention that I am a Weight Watcher’s Lifetime Member and still haven’t been able to get to this 127 pound goal. And I am staying at my 15 pound loss rather effortlessly. If the weight does creep up on the scale, as it did last week, I refocus on SMALL, RICH, and REAL more thoroughly, and it starts to go back down to my 127 ideal weight. I will add too that I take a pro-biotic pill once a day for good digestion along with a daily multiple vitamin, and we use lactose-free and gluten-free products since I have lactose and gluten intolerance.
This is a “diet” I can really live with for the long term. It makes me wonder too that if the brain needs “fat” to function, what are we doing to our thought processes by avoiding it? Personally I think I am thinking more clearly too. In addition, if I have to compare this food plan to another country’s eating habits, I would view it as the way most French and Mediterranean people eat– SMALL, RICH and REAL– as natural and wholesome to the earth as possible which makes these food choices a viable long-term alternative to “low fat” eating.
So give it a try if you want, and let me know what your exciting results.
God Bless Your Efforts!
2 cans of chili with beans (read ingredients and make sure you know what each one is–Annie’s Chili is a good choice)
1 can of kidney beans—drained and rinsed
1 cup of brown rice prepared according to directions with about 2 tablespoons of butter
spices of your choice optional
Cook the brown rice and heat up the contents of the three cans. Serve the chili over the rice along with a nice salad. It rates as a #10 with my husband!
My friend, Maria, and her husband Roger babysat for their grandson a few weekends ago and thoroughly enjoyed their time. Maria, however, remarked to me that Roger noticed how neither mother or father failed to say “Thank-you.” It just seemed like the young couple felt the grandparent’s time with the baby was more of a gift to them than anything which needed to be thanked. Roger was the one who had brought up his feelings of being taken for granted, and how it hurt.
In thinking on those grandparents’ situation, I focused back on our Catholic liturgy to a passage I love. Within the Eucharistic Prayer No. 2, it states, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, your Word through whom you made all things, whom you sent as our Savior and Redeemer, incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.” I love hearing our Priest say those words, for it is indeed our duty and our salvation to give God “thanks.”
But why? What does thankfulness do for us? What does it release in our spirits? In 1 Thessalonians 5: the Bible states: “Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Here we can learn that that thankfulness releases God’s will in us. It is not a tricky suggestion to further complicate living, but thankfulness is His desire for those who have trusted their lives into Jesus’ hands.
Thankfulness just plain DISPELS. It rids us of fear, lack of trust, bitterness; and it engenders a human environment of looking for the good in all situations. It makes us open to God’s plan for our lives, not solely our intentions. Thankfulness produces trust that although we can’t understand what might be going on, we can be in peace because we have an Advocate who truly does know.
But how do you become a thankful person if you are a worrier or a doubter? Well again we can find our answer within the Bible from Saint Paul when he states in Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” To become a thankful person who is free from worry or anxiety, JUST DO IT! It really is that simple, for what can one drop of worry do for you? Absolutely nothing!
On a personal note, I decided to quit worrying many years ago when I saw my husband’s mother develop Alzheimer Disease which lasted for 16 years before her death. She was a constant worrier, and in my heart of hearts I couldn’t help but feel that that stress and strain had taken a toll on her brain; so I let worry go and replaced it with thankfulness–my duty and my salvation.
Saint Matthew even addresses worry ( which of course is the antithesis of thankfulness) when Christ says in Matthew 6: 25-25-34, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
By daily practicing thankfulness this 2016, you will grow in appreciation of God’s goodness and blessings. And in turn your life will possess a quiet strength and joy which others will notice. Yes it IS our duty So LET’S DO IT and watch what happens.
This Christmas is going to be simple. We will only be with two of our five children, but it will be simple for other reasons too. We haven’t lived at home for months; instead, we are living out of our nineteen foot caravan (or trailer) parked inside of our third son’s Trayvax factory. www.trayvax.com We are being squatters here while we work on renovating our first son’s mobile home nearby. We have simplified because we have less space in which to live.
Downsizing has made me grow mentally. I’ve become aware of “living small” which is a trend in America now. When we lived in Belgium in the 1990’s, we learned first-hand how most people always live small; in America, however, the trend for most of my sixty-seven years has been to live bigger and own more stuff. The real problem with “more stuff” is that you have to have a place to put that stuff and a space for the place: thus the advent of storage units where one pays monthly to keep his or her accumulated junk. But downsizing is part of the American history with pioneers downsizing to the max to get across this vast and varied country. So this Christmas the only two children whom we will spend it with also live in mobile homes or trailers and don’t have any place to put more stuff either, and both sons have downsized and simplified to the best of their ability.
When I think of simplicity too, I think of that first Christmas where our Lord was born in a stable and then laid in a feeding troth for a crib. There were no lights, but only the light of angels and the star of Bethlehem; and there were no Christmas songs but only the praises and adoration of the shepherds who had been told of Christ’s birth. Mary and Joseph owned nothing, but in that simplicity they had been given their greatest wealth on this earth, Jesus.
So in thinking of this Christmas, I began to ruminate on the best Christmas all my children told me they ever had. It was pathetic in my mind, but to their credit, it was tops.
We were living in Connecticut where Michael was Captain of a fast-attack submarine, so he was gone 70% of the time, and I homeschooled and raised the four children (at that time) all by myself since no relatives were near. During that December 1993, I became very ill with the flu, and wasn’t even able to purchase gifts for the children; and remember back then there was no internet shopping for we were just getting into word processers not personal computers. So I did the only thing I knew I could handle, I gave them each about $20 and took them to Big Lots which is a discount store and let them buy their own Christmas presents. Then we came home and all four wrapped their own gifts with newspaper and laid them under our $5 artificial three-foot Christmas tree which I had named “Humble.” Then I went back to bed.
That Christmas morning they awoke me, and we all followed our old family tradition of lighting a candle and saying a prayer of thanks and praise at the top of the stairs then walking down the stairs with the lighted candle. I collapsed on the nearest couch while my four opened their presents with squeals of delight. The rest of the day was a blur, and how they fed themselves and got back in bed that evening escaped my notice. That candle was the only bright spot in my day, but in their little minds, they each had hit the jackpot with their gifts.
The bottom line of this story is Christmas is meant to be simple yet amazing. It is the story of a loving Father giving His children a path to find salvation through the supreme gift of His Son, Jesus. And it is a truthful tale of how we are each to live, in simplicity with wonder at our many undeserved gifts. We are blessed to bless others.
Merry Christmas dear readers. May you find Him even more fully this year to be your greatest treasure.
My mother, Lila Wild Rife, lived to be 99. Her mother, Mabel Riggs Dunfee lived to be 101. When I last saw my mom about a week before she passed, her final words were, “Remember the poor, Martha.” It struck me as odd because even though she had lived through the Great Depression and had known hard times, she had fared well, financially. Yet looking back on her life, she would often take an entire meal to a family in our church who had lost a loved one or was experiencing illness. I would sit in the back seat with the jar of gravy between my feet while holding onto the warm pot roast surrounded by green beans and boiled potatoes. In addition, in lieu of flowers at her funeral, she requested the monies be donated to a WV church shoe fund for impoverished children. She remembered the deprived and had set a good example.
But even though I haven’t worked outside of the home for 35 years and have been a full-time wife, mother and homeschooler of my five children, how could I remember the destitute? One of the passages which I have loved and striven to read daily is Proverbs 31—the ideal wife. It states, “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.” It further adds, “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant.” (RSVCE) The challenge with the linen garments stuff is I HATE to sew, but I do like to knit so I began knitting simple dishcloths which required little thought, and I started selling them to people with little thought of the unfortunate. The monies went into my own coffers.
That is until I received the Catholic Relief Services Give the Gift of Hope gift catalog last Christmas, 2014.
When I opened that catalog, I was struck by the pictures of farm animals which one could purchase as gifts, and those animals would be sent to a poor farm family overseas. Here I who need nothing could give a gift to someone who has nothing. Well today, after our Bible study class at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Bainbridge Island WA, my dream came into fruition. I sold $95 worth of my Frugal Catholic dishcloths and the members donated $145 more.
Yes, today my Bible Study Class and I are the proud donors of two goats and three rabbits which are being sent. With a bit of handiwork on my part and the wonderful generosity of my group, through the Catholic Relief Services, http://crs.org we are doing exactly what Mom asked me to do. In Mark 14:7, Jesus told us, “For you always have the poor with you….” but it is easy for me to turn away or simply hand them a dollar when convenient. That is not, however, what remembering the poor is about; it is about discovering our skills to help.
Maybe your thing isn’t knitting dishcloths. Perhaps it’s doing mission work building houses in Haiti as some in our church are doing. Or possibly it is serving food to the poor in your community or visiting the sick. Jesus asks us to think on our talents and use them for His glory so He might bless others through us.
One final note is I have a large porcelain rabbit collection which was started as a young girl when Grandmother Mabel gave me my first. Is it a coincidence that I can now use my knitting to give live rabbits away? No, I think that remembering the poor has been built into my heart over the years because when my passing comes, I can take real rabbits with me into eternity. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19
Two of my favorite scriptures when I get dressed in the morning are identical–Matthew 6:28-29 and Luke 12: 27 RSVCE. In them Jesus says, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Bottom line: God provides for His children. He knows what we need before we ask for it; He knows what we need even if we are too dumb to ask for it; and He knows what we require, if we trust Him for it.
Clothing is no different. God cares enough to get me dressed nicely in the morning, and here’s how. We shop at second-hand clothing shops, together.
Now for those of you entering the “Frugal” world which is getting more and more fashionable, there are four basic sources of used clothes:
Someone gives them to you.
Garage Sales where people clean out their attics and basements and sell the items in their garage or front yard.
Thrift stores where the selection can change daily and the price every three to four weeks as it is lowered.
Consignment shops where people bring in their better garments to sell in return for about half of the shop asking price.
As you can guess, the prices go up from “a” through “d” as listed above. And the selection is better in “c” and “d.” That is where God and I prefer to do our shopping. He hasn’t shaped me into The Frugal Catholic for nothing, you know.
HERE IS HOW IT WORKS
Years ago when I began my married life, I also started daily reading Proverbs 31. Solomon relays the ideal wife as taught to him by his mother, Bathsheba. I learned this epitome of a helpmeet is truly awesome: she dresses well, stays fit, eats with intelligence, helps the poor, runs her household smoothly, profits from a home-based business, speaks with wisdom and kindness, and is loved by her husband and children. That sounds like a nice way to end up. The only problem, however, is there are too many attributes to focus on. So the best way was to begin with one—“She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” 31:22. I knew I wanted to look good for my husband, and our funds were limited so thrift shopping with God was a great place to start.
That’s when God began His lily arraying stuff in my life. And that is when I began telling him what I would like to wear and asking if He could find it. He did.
When we lived in Europe in the 1990’s, one had to purchase a wardrobe for the bedrooms because there were none built in like in America. It was clear, as a Navy wife, how very, very many clothes I had compared to the rest of the world. That wardrobe taught me better closet organization and to get a clearer idea of how I wanted to dress. I began organizing my clothes in garment styles. All the summer shirts were grouped according to color, and then the summer pants in a similar manner and so on into the winter items. Clothes which weren’t worn were released. Likewise, it was always easy in Europe to pick out Americans for our clothes were brighter than our European’s counterparts who dressed in blacks and tans. Their closets were lean; ours were stuffed.
So when we arrived back in America, I found more used clothing shops from which to choose. Yes second hand stores are less expensive, but in considering that stuffed wardrobe and remembering the European’s lean clothing style, how many clothes are enough? That is where God really stepped in. We went for comfort and style, not quantity.
Yes God helps me get dressed each day. I look at my outfits which generally match, and think back to where we found those black slacks—$ 5.00 at the Rotary Auction Yard Sale. Then that shirt was located at Bargain Boutique Thrift Shop. The black shoes and red scarf were from the Goodwill thrift store and the purse a local consignment store. Total cost of my outfit for that day is $21. Savings if new would be about $200.
BUT WHAT IF YOU REALLY WANT SOMETIHING?
Did it ever occur to you that God might really want that same something you want–for you? So why not ask? For example, when my daughter and I were looking at possible colleges for her in West Virginia, we found a great women’s shoe store where I purchased her a pair of Birkenstock sandals. I also saw a pair of red patent leather Alegria shoes that I wanted, but they were too expensive. So I asked God to find me the same thing, but secondhand. He did about a year later on the shelf of a thrift/consignment shop where I volunteer once a month. I dust the place with my double-fisted dusting technique where I have a feather duster in each hand. The real reason I dust is so that I can see everything in the shop. And there they were. The exact same red shoes, exact size, only $120 cheaper. I wore them to 10:00 mass last Sunday.
Let God clothe you as beautifully as He garments His lilies. Think of what you need or want. Then ask as it identically says in Matthew 7:7-8 and Luke 11:9-10, “Ask and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” And remember too that although God may not give you exactly what you want, He may provide something even better so it is good to be on the lookout for His surprises. Our Heavenly Father longs to make his children smile.
Equals Living Under Your Means with Wise Fianancial Planning and Discovering the Joys of Good Stewardship