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Wife, Mother, Pastor

PASTOR, YOU NEED A VACATION

YOU pastor- you and your family need a vacation.

I know, I  know.  Work never slows, you don’t have enough money, excuse, excuse, excuse . . . However . . .

I recently took an empty-nester survey on social media.  I asked if they could have any ‘do-over’ with their kids, what would it be. The number one response was a family vacation.  Not getting them a specific toy or gadget. Not providing more for their college.  All the responses were wrapped around time, and mostly, the time of a vacation.

I used to feel guilty about spending the time and the money on family vacations.  I used to think, “This money could go to missions.”  or “I could be saving for a car.”

I finally got over it.  Why?  Because  it’s an investment.  We are creating memories and giving them experiences that can’t be found wrapped in a box under a tree.  We are creating memories outside of our home and church that doesn’t include mom being pulled in different directions or stuck on the phone at night.  And on top of it, drawing closer together as a family.

Don’t have money for a vacation?  Join the club!  However, I have done lots of research to make my travels possible. No, I can’t take my whole family to Hawaii or Costa Rica –yet.  BUT, we do the best we can to get out of our state so the kids can see and experience a world outside of their own.

Here are a few tips to help you figure out somewhere inexpensive:

TRAVEL HACKING– Travel hacking is a way to travel for very little money. There is too much to go into, so I suggest looking up these websites to learn more about how to do this.  It will take time, but it’s worth it.  Through travel hacking I flew my family to Florida one Christmas. All ‘paid’ for through airline miles I earned.  I’ve also ‘paid’ for hotels and car rentals this way.

CONDOS VS. HOTELS– I always go to vacationrentals.com when planning a trip.  Most of the time, you can find a deal that is not only cheaper to rent for the week vs. a hotel, it’s more spacious.  We used to get hotels off priceline.com (and I still do sometimes).  However, I have learned the hard way we cannot handle the five of us in one room for more than three nights.  A condo gives you a living room to gather together, and bedrooms to get away from each other. 🙂   You also save money on meals because you can buy groceries when you get to your destination (or bring them) and cook at ‘home.’

MOM AND POP IT– If you have to do a hotel, opt for a mom and pop place.  Yes, they’re more run down, but the prices are right and they might have the amenities you need that big chains do not. Last June we went to Niagara Falls.  The only hotels with outdoor pools were super cheap run down places.  So that’s where we stayed.  We didn’t want to spend our free time in a pool indoors, we wanted to be outside. The kids didn’t care that nothing matched and the TV wasn’t flat.  All they cared about was playing outside and being together.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

KICK IT WITH NATURE– Nature is always cheaper and more relaxing than a great big amusement park.  Your child will not die if they didn’t get to experience Cedar Point.  Once we got a beach condo on the Gulf.  Many asked if we were going to Disney. Nope.  We camped our hinnies on the beach everyday, and swam the pool at night. Not only did we not have the exhaustion of the hustle and bustle of a big park, we relaxed every day while NOT spending money. My kids still talk about that trip.

NATIONAL PARKS– Speaking of nature, National Parks are the way to go.  Nothing says God is amazing like kayaking down the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon, a super cool 150 foot geyser in Yellowstone, or starfish in the tide pools at Olympic.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

There’s plenty to explore at each park with only having to pay the entry fee, (a couple don’t even charge).  Do you have a fourth grader?  Even better! Fourth graders get a free pass for them and their whole carload. It’s part of their Every Kid in a Park program. We’ve been taking advantage of this since we live right by Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can even camp for an even cheaper, more roughin’ it experience (not us, I rented a condo for when we head to the Smokies).

EXPLORE A BIG CITY– A couple years ago I went by myself to London for a weekend (yes, a weekend). I was able to get a free ticket with my airline miles (I did pay some taxes), I spent two days eating street food from vendors, rode the subway (the tube), and I put over 50,000 steps on my fitbit. London has so much to see and so much history that I didn’t need to spend money on tourist attractions. I spent $450 that weekend, and I only spent that much because I brought back so many souvenirs. Washington DC is another great place because you learn about history, and all the museums are FREE. We even stayed at an inexpensive hotel that shuttled us to the subway for free.

GO OFF SEASON– I know, we’re talking about taking a vacation this summer, BUT there are some places you can go that summer is their off season. You just have to do a little research.

Christmas vacation is a great off season time for southern states before January 1st. Prices skyrocket after this for all the snowbirds headed south for winter.

Stay tuned next time for part two, to talk about how to both create and save money so you can take your family on vacation!

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS

“Lord, you see we need to spend time together as a family.  It can prove to be difficult with our ministry life style.  I pray that you would open the doors of opportunity to create an inexpensive vacation for our family.  Draw us closer together and draw us closer to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

To All My Christmas Haters

Do you want to know a secret? I hate Christmas baking with my kids.  Well, hate is a strong word.  Maybe strongly dislike would be better.  So you know what?

We don’t bake.

For real.

I don’t make cookies, bread, candy or anything with my kids. Am I depriving them of this wonderful childhood memory every year? Maybe. But they have a sane mom. To tell you the truth, last year after the kids went to bed I made, cut out, decorated, and ate sugar cookies all by myself. It was awesome! Therapeutic actually. BUT, I packaged up half the batch, some frosting and sent them off to Grandma’s so the kids got a ‘cookie experience.’

My point? We stress out over little things at Christmas and it needs to stop.  We’re so busy doing ‘Christmasie things’ that we don’t even enjoy the season. Not only that, but Christmas is just a plain busy time for pastors/ministry workers. We’re putting together kids programs, Christmas Eve services, benevolence activities, and feeding programs. There is a lot going on, and our family suffers.

The goal is to enjoy yourself and your family this season in the midst of all that has to get done. Here are a few things you, my Christmas Hater, can do now, during and after Christmas that will help with stress.

RIGHT NOW
Sit and write down all your Christmas stressors. Ask yourself what can you do without this year to lighten your load.
Draw names. Why buy something for all your co-workers or all your siblings? Draw names to buy one gift verses five.
Get shopping done before December. I know, that sounds stressful itself, but trust me: not having to go through the chaos of the mall in December is priceless.

DURING
Shop online. Another time and money saving way to go (though not as fun as actually shopping).
Simple gift wrapping.  This maybe fun, but only do the fancy wrapping job if it’s fun for you. Don’t stress yourself out over Pinterest paper and homemade tags.
Elf on the Shelf. Seriously? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Have lots of sex with your husband. Sex is clinically proven to relieve stress.  Plus, Paul told us that we should be doing it often anyway.  So when in doubt, pull the Bible card (“But Paul said!”).
Make Christmas Day about your immediate family.  If you’re worried about grandmas and grandpas then have them come to YOUR house.  Make this the one day you stay home.

FOR NEXT YEAR
Shop the sales the day after Christmas. Don’t ever pay full price for paper and tags. Get it now for next year.
Every month pick up a gift card. Target, Panera Bread, Starbucks. Any place that’s popular. At Christmas time there is always someone we forget to buy for. A teacher, coach, new co-worker, etc. Having those extra gift cards on hand will save time and stress.
Plan a vacation. Depending on you schedule, Christmas vacation might be the perfect time to get away.  We have made many a vacation the Christmas present under the tree, and has been wonderful for our family.

Remember. Jesus didn’t come down for fancy wrapping paper or frosted cookies. Those things are fun, but as we reflect on His birth let’s put into perspective why we are doing what we’re doing.

PRAY WITH ME SISTERS
“Thank you Lord for the birth of your son.  Thank you for this time of year to be able to reflect on the gift you gave us.  Help us and our families to treasure this time.  That we would slow down and make wonderful memories.  Show me the best way to do this, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen!”

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HOW DO YOU DO IT ALL?- Part 1: FOOD

httpwww.someecards.com“How do you do it all?”

I laugh when people ask me this question. I smile and give them all the same answer- I don’t. My house is trashed and the crockpot is my best friend.

My boss (our lead pastor) gave the rest of us pastors the day off today. I was super excited to pray, read a book and work on my upcoming sermon. But what did I do? Grocery shopped and cooked until it was time to pick up the kids from school. Now of course this isn’t bad, it was actually therapeutic to be able to play catch-up; but I still find it a struggle balancing everything. When I asked some of my lady friend pastors what their biggest struggles are as a female pastor, the biggest answer was- balancing ministry and family.

Can I be honest with you? I can’t stand the Titus 2 woman. It says to me, “Cooking and cleaning.” My two least favorite words. So whether I like it or not, part of being a wife and mother is helping take care of my home- and that includes feeding those in my house that call me ‘mom’. Food is a big part of our lives and seems to often fall on our shoulders as the wife so that is where we will begin our series.

Just like you, I’m still learning. I’m no expert, but my desire is for us to come along side each other to help and encourage. As one who may look like she does it all (but really doesn’t) here are a few things that have helped me.


* Shop once a month for all the big items and prepare freezer meals. This has saved my children from starving. It also saves on time, mess and money. I pull something out of the freezer in the morning, and pop it in the oven when we get home.

* Put a bowl of fruit out on the table. Whenever my growing, always ‘starving’ son says he’s hungry I point him to the table. It’s quick, accessible and healthy (and no work for me).

* This bowl is also the ‘before bedtime snack.’ If they say they’re hungry before bed, it’s the fruit bowl or nothing.

* Do crockpot meals on nights when you will be at the church like Wednesday Family Nights or night services.

* Budget in pizza. Once a week or once a month, whatever you do it will bring sanity.

* Make Sunday night soup night. Make a double batch and snack on it all week, especially those nights you forget to pull something out of the freezer.

* Make the same thing throughout the month. Do we really need to have something different every night of the month? Asians eat rice and fish everyday, it won’t kill our families to eat pot roast twice a month.

*On that note, make the same thing every month. This makes shopping a synch. Sure we switch things up depending on the season, but don’t stress out over making something different all the time.

* Keep healthy canned soup on hand. Is is fantastic for nights where I’ve had a long day and don’t want to cook. Keep all natural bread rolls in the freezer and serve with the hot soup.

* Keep canned soup at the church too. Who hasn’t had an unplanned stay with the kids at the office?

* Keep a box of cake or brownie mix in the pantry for those times you end up getting volunteered to make something for your second grader’s class. (I actually don’t do this because I will find any excuse to eat brownies)

* Delegate to your hubby and kids (if they’re only enough). I’ve told my husband, thou he can’t cook, his night is Saturday. It gives me a break and shares the responsibility with him.

* ALWAYS eat dinner together. Lots of things fall through the cracks in our busy lives, don’t let this be one of them. Try your hardest to have dinner together as much as possible. We’ve had many a meal around a pre-school table in the church nursery, even if it was just pizza.

These are just a few things that make my life as a wife, mother and pastor a little more balanced. I’ll post at a later date tips that have helped in my marriage, kids and house. Please comment below what you do. I love learning from others!

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