Stephanie Lynn Stevens

Less Makes Room For More

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Christmas Simplified: Traditions

Christmas Smplified graphic 2

Traditions are one of the best elements of Christmas. 

Part of that Christmas magic that we’re compelled to create for our kids comes from doing the same special things year after year.  Memories are impressed into our hearts exponentially when we do them again and again.

But when traditions make Christmas stressful, it’s time to cut some of them loose.

Sometimes we can build up such a repertoire of traditions that we go crazy trying to do them all.  Some traditions are so elaborate that they become not worth it after a while.  (Elf on the Shelf, anyone?  No offense if you love it, it just sounds exhausting.)


The hard thing about giving up traditions is that people will be disappointed.  So it’s important to choose the ones that aren’t quite as essential (keep the bake-off with Grandma, but lose matching Christmas outfits, for instance).

And remember, you can’t please everyone.  Sometimes there will be a little disappointment for the sake of our sanity and joy.  That’s kind of a harsh truth.

So don’t pitch all your traditions.  Only the ones that are lower on the totem pole, and the ones that aren’t fun anymore.

When you aren’t over-extended, the traditions you keep will be a lot more fun!

How do traditions factor into your Christmas?

Find an index of the whole series here.

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I’ll be excited to see you there!

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Change is Coming

ImageIt’s been a challenging season for me personally and for my writing life.  I’m going to continue to post a few entries in the Christmas series, but it will be light over the next few weeks (as it has been for the last little while).  I’m making some blog changes and I’ll re-launch in January.  Thanks for reading!

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Christmas Simplified: Embrace Imperfection

Christmas Smplified graphic 2

Currier and Ives.  Martha Stewart.  Pinterest.

There has always been a “Christmas Standard.”

Something that says, “This is what Christmas should look like.  This is what you must aspire to.”

Something unrealistic.

What is it about Christmas that compels us to make the season magical?

Let me tell you what’s not magical.  A stressed out, overscheduled, frazzled mom who is trying to make Christmas perfect, that’s what.

The Bible has a good verse for this.  Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” 

Or in other words, it doesn’t matter if you have the most beautifully decorated home, the most succulent brined turkey, and the prettiest matching Christmas outfits if you’re so stressed out that you’re miserable and snapping at everyone.

christmas birds

Let go of perfection.  Just do what you can do.

Decorate less, and less perfectly.  I will be honest, at my house some years this has meant that all we have up is the tree and maybe a Nativity scene.

Scale down your meal.

Use paper plates.

Don’t let yourself fall apart if you have to change plans or if something doesn’t look or feel like it “should.” 

Murder that Christmas idealism monster for good.

Learn to embrace imperfection.

There will be a lot more joy in your world!

How does Christmas perfectionism affect you?  If not, how do you avoid it?

Find an index of the whole series here.

I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter , Pinterest or Instagram.

I’ll be excited to see you there!

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Christmas Simplified: Is the Schedule Killing You?

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Parties.  Functions.  Concerts.  Plays.  Fundraisers. Family gatherings.  Parties, parties, and did I mention parties? 

By the end of December, the Christmas schedule can have us worn to a frazzle.

Here’s an ingenious idea.

Just say no.

“I’m sorry, we won’t make it to the party Friday.  We already have plans.”

“Plans” might be snuggling by the fireplace in flannel pajamas.  Those are perfectly legitimate plans.  You’re taking care of yourself and your family by not overscheduling.

“Grandma, this year we will be coming to your house on Christmas Eve and husband’s family on Christmas day.  I’m sorry, we won’t be able to make the rounds and come to everybody’s house on the same day anymore.”

“No, I won’t be able to man the reindeer booth and the Christmas festival this year.”  No explanation needed.

children snow

Remember, you can’t please everyone.

People might use guilt trips to make you feel like you’re letting them down.  Learn to get over it.

Prioritize.  Make the important stuff, but keep your sanity intact.  Will the world really cease to spin on its axis if you don’t make cupcakes for the class party?

Even at Christmas  it’s OK to say no. 

Maybe especially at Christmas!

How do you keep your Christmas calendar manageable?

Find an index of the whole series here.

I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter , Pinterest or Instagram.

I’ll be excited to see you there!

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Cozy Homeschooling Spotlight: Cindy Rollins

Cindy Rollins graphic

My favorite way to grow as a homeschooling mom is to talk to older moms who have homeschooled successfully for years. 

I know there are a lot of young moms writing about homeschooling—heck, I am one—but there is nothing like the wisdom of years to bring some sanity to the table.

One such veteran mom is Cindy Rollins of Ordo Amoris. 

Cindy has been married for over 30 years and has 9 children (only 1 girl!) and 9 grandchildren.  Cindy has graduated quite a few of her children, so she is farther down the homeschooling road than I am.

Morning Time

At the beginning of October, Cindy started a 31-day series about what she calls Morning Time.  I can’t tell you what a godsend this has been for me.

During Morning Time she includes everything from Bible to Shakespeare and Plutarch to Artist and Hymn study and more.  This is where read-alouds, theological instruction, and grammar happen, in small chunks according to educator Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of short lessons.  This is a concept I have come to love, and it’s a delight to see it in action through the words of a real-life homeschooling mother who has been at this gig long enough to work out the kinks.

My favorite of her posts in the series was a “day in the life” peek into what her Morning Time really looks like.  It was incredibly helpful as she described the little glitches and how she was able to be flexible and change course as necessary.

I’m seeing, through Cindy’s series, how small faithfulness pays off and how uncomplicated it can be.

Imagine if you read Shakespeare or learn hymns or read biographies with your children several times a week for 5 years. 

How about all 12…or more, if your little ones listen in?

That’s an immense amount of learning!

An amazing foundation!

Another post I loved was this one about raising boys, wherein she deals with common pitfalls of homeschooling sons and how to avoid them.  This comment is insightful:

“There is a certain common trait among homeschooled boys of being pert know-it-alls. This is because they do not get the chance to see themselves in reference to others. This also shows up when they begin to do anything that requires skill. They approach it as if they were the best person ever. They brag before they even try the skill. These are generalizations but I have seen it so many times that I am confident mentioning it.”


But if homeschoolers don’t face their (our) weaknesses with honesty and humility (and often we don’t) it doesn’t bode well for either our families or the movement as a whole.  Cindy has great words of wisdom about raising sons.

I will say that what Cindy shares with my other favorite homeschool mom writers is a head full of common sense.  She’s not writing from a lofty place of idealism or a sanctimonious “do this and your kids will be perfect” viewpoint.  She gets the real nitty gritty daily-ness that is the life of a homeschooling mom, and has enough experience that she can point us younger ones in the right direction.

In her blog sidebar she says this:

“Homeschooling 101

Music is for listening. Art is for seeing. Poetry is for loving. History is for tethering. Stories are for virtue. Let’s not make this harder than it has to be.”

Thank you, Cindy.  I know you are a busy lady and it means so much that you take the time to write for the rest of us.  We need more women like you to light the way!

To my readers: Do you use strategies similar to Cindy’s?  What homeschool bloggers have influenced you most?

I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter , Pinterest or Instagram.

cozy homeschooling graphic

This is part of Cozy Homeschooling, an ongoing series.  For the rest of the Cozy Homeschooling posts, click here.

I’ll be excited to see you there!


Christmas Simplified: 7 Ways to Save on Gifts


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We seem to feel that if we don’t spend a certain (large) amount on a gift then it doesn’t count.

Why do we feel this way?

Isn’t it more important that it’s something that the recipient will enjoy, not how much we spend?

Should it even matter if it was free?

I don’t think so.

Americans incur mountains of debt every Christmas.  We could avoid this if we bought fewer and less expensive gifts.

Here are a few ideas.

1. Hit the dollar bins. 

Michael’s craft store has my favorite—cards, journals, rubber stamps, cute socks, gloves, mugs, and pens are just a few of the great gifts I have found there.  Target has good dollar bins too.

2. And what about Dollar Tree? 

Pick up a stack of coloring books and crayons, a collection of plastic animals, or a goody bag of art supplies.  They even have sweet stuffed animals around Christmas time.  I have found cute housewares too.

3 .For readers, purchase an out-of-print book from Amazon that you know they’ll enjoy. 

You can find books for as little as a penny.


4. Make gifts. 

If you have plenty of time and a special skill, make gifts—a pretty scarf, a batch of cookies, a rag doll, a doll house.  For crafty people, the options are endless.

5. Photo albums. 

Grandparents love these.  In a digital age, printed pictures are a great, inexpensive gift! Buy albums at the dollar store.

6. Give the gift of time. 

Babysitting, cleaning, yard work, a home cooked meal, or errand-running are all great gifts—ones I know I’d love to receive!

7. Print free art from sites like Erin Leigh and frame in a dollar store or thrifted frame.

If you’re able, there’s nothing wrong with spending a lot, but if you can’t (or don’t want to), there are many ways to give really lovely gifts without overspending.

When you spend less, you’ll be less stressed, and Christmas will be a whole lot merrier!

Do you feel like you have to spend a lot on Christmas?  If not, what are your best tips for keeping the holidays affordable?

Find an index of the whole series here.

I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter , Pinterest or Instagram.

I’ll be excited to see you there!


Christmas Simplified: Give Fewer Gifts

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My parents always got us three Christmas gifts each. 

We also received one gift from each set of grandparents.

That was it.

Gifts are a huge stressor during the holidays, for so many reasons.

We want to make sure everyone is happy with what they got.

We want to meet their expectations—that we spent enough money on them, that we got them a big enough gift, in an adequate quantity, to bring screams of Christmas joy.

So we exhaust ourselves with shopping and wrapping, bury ourselves in debt, and worry that it’s enough.

Giving fewer gifts would eliminate a lot of this stress, but in our minds we feel like this is some kind of Christmas cop-out.  Like we’re somehow letting down the spirit of Santa.

Believe it or not, Christmas shouldn’t be about stuff.

We know this intellectually.

There’s nothing wrong with stuff, but an excessive focus on gifts points to materialism.

Remember The Grinch, that classic Christmas movie we watch every year, when the Whos are happy on Christmas morning without gifts?  That should be all of us. 

In fact, I daresay that if Christmas is primarily about gifts in your family then you have some misplace d priorities.  I know some people really, really enjoy giving gifts—choosing the perfect item, wrapping it beautifully, and seeing the response when it’s opened.  A giving heart is a beautiful thing, but if it’s causing you stress, just enjoy it on a smaller scale.

child stocking

As I mentioned, we had modest Christmases growing up.

Now admittedly, my parents had always done this, so there was nothing to “undo”—but I’ll tell you that we never felt cheated on Christmas morning.  We loved gifts (who doesn’t?) but Christmas was about much more than gifts to us.  It was about Jesus and traditions and memory-making and that special Christmas feeling that came with all of those things.

I’ve heard this rule of thumb too:

Something you want

Something you need

Something to wear

Something to read

Or, instead of giving gifts to each other, give gifts to Jesus on his birthday, like the Voskamp family.

Make this the year that you cut back on gifts. 

Give two, or three, or five.  Pick a number.

Stick with it and don’t feel guilty.

(Don’t let anyone else guilt you either.  This could be the perfect time for a chat about materialism and what Christmas should be about.)

Christmas just got a whole lot easier!

How has gift-giving caused stress in your home?  How do you keep gifts in perspective?

Find an index of the whole series here.

I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter , Pinterest or Instagram.

I’ll be excited to see you there!

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Christmas Simplified: On Keeping Everyone Happy

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Stop trying to please everyone.

That’s one of the most freeing truths, but the hardest for us moms to wrap our minds around sometimes.

But you can’t keep everyone happy.

It’s not your responsibility.  I mean it.

A lot of us have magical Christmas memories, don’t we?

And we want to give our families the same thing?

That’s OK!

But everyone won’t be happy all the time, and that is also OK.

If we try to make sure no one is sad or disappointed ever, we’ll run ourselves ragged trying to do the impossible. 

We’ll be let down every stinkin time.

Christmas children

So stop the madness. 

Tell your family (or even just yourself), “I want Christmas to be a fun and special time for all of us, but I know I can’t please everyone all the time.  I can’t.  So I hope you’ll find joy in Christmas even if it’s not exactly what you hoped for.”

Take a deep breath.


You can do this.

You can let go of your need to be the happiness-elf, the fixer, the magic-maker.

Because you aren’t any of those things anyway.

You’re a person who loves your family and hopes to bring them joy.

And that’s enough.

In your opinion, why do we feel we have to keep everyone happy at Christmas?  How has this added stress to your season?

Christmas Simplified, Part 1

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I’ll be excited to see you there!


Christmas Simplified: Find Your Missing Merry! (A New Series)


“I hate Christmas.  I can’t wait for it to be over,” my friend said. 

I know her sweet, loving heart. 

I know how hard she works to make Christmas magical for her family, to cook a gazillion different dishes so that everyone has the one they want, even various versions of the same dish to accommodate everyone’s taste, to buy everyone the perfect gifts.

But she’s overextended, overscheduled, and exhausted.  The Christmas spirit has passed her right by.

Does this sound like you?

After Christmas do you just want to collapse with exhaustion and have a good cry over your credit card bill?

children singing

Take heart, there’s hope!  Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful!

It just takes a change of mindset.  (And let’s not wait till the last minute, K?  The reason for a series starting in October!)

Over the next few weeks I’ll tell you how to simplify your holiday so that you can kick your grouchy inner Grinch to the curb, find your merry, and enjoy Christmas once again.

So who’s in? 

Stay tuned! 

Help is on the way! 

Christmas Simplified Part 2: On Keeping Everyone Happy

Christmas Simplified Part 3: Give Fewer Gifts

Christmas Simplified Part 4: Is the Schedule Killing You?

Christmas Simplified Part 5: Embrace Imperfection

Christmas Simplified part 6: Traditions

{P.S. To my faithful readers, I’m back and I’m well.  Maybe I’ll be able to catch you up on what’s been happening in my life at some point, but meanwhile I hope you enjoy the Christmas series.  Love!  Thanks for reading!}

I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

I’ll be excited to see you there!


A Friendly Letter After a Surprise Absence

wandering family

Hello my friends!

I’ve been away. 

(You may or may not have noticed, and that’s fine.  I doubt greatly that you wait with baited breath for my posts.  *smile*)

We hoped our toxic mold saga was drawing to a close, but it came back to bite us.  I’m not going to get into personal details but life got shaken up pretty intensely and is still chaotic and uncertain.

Forgive me for being purposefully vague; I’m just not up for sharing every detail of our personal lives in such a public space.

We’re safe and fine, so don’t worry.  I have such a loving little band of readers that I feel compelled to say that.

It’s a challenging situation that nevertheless has the fingerprints of Jesus all over it–what can I say?  He takes bad things and makes them good.

We wait hopefully for him to reveal the next step.  Meanwhile, we seek to learn what he wants us to during an uncertain season and look for the joy that’s to be found here.

I hope to get back to blogging very soon.  I don’t know when (maybe tomorrow–ha!) or how often.

I know that breaks blogging rules but it can’t be helped right now–so I’ll write when I can, from my heart, and worry about being a more “professional” blogger later if I even decide that’s what I need to do!

Consider what I write my letters to those of you who honor me by reading here.

Because I truly do feel honored. 

I’m so touched by each of you who stops by and takes time to read…It means more than I can say! 

You’re the best!

Love to each of you!


I’d like to invite you to like me on Facebook , or follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

I’ll be excited to see you there!

{art: Laurits Tuxen}