Change of Hours

Have you ever taken an objective look at your working hours? That’s what I did recently. I’ve done it before… long ago, but only to lament that my time was so disorganized and I wasn’t working efficiently.

But I took an objective look at my working hours again. This time not to see how they were spent, but to see how many of my waking hours were spent working. Do you know how any of my waking hours were spent in some form of work? All of them. I should clarify that – All of my waking hours were spent either working or thinking about the work that I should be doing. Laundry, dishes, menu planning and meal prep, errands, lesson planning, teaching, cleaning or getting the kids to clean their areas… You’d think I would have actually gotten more done!

So when I realized that every hour of my day was penciled in with some form of work, I decided to make a change. Professionals leave the office, right? And, assuming a healthy relationship with one’s occupation, at some point they finish the day’s work and move on to other things.

Except a stay-at-home mom doesn’t leave the “office,” because she is always on the clock. Well, not this momma. I changed my hours! I didn’t instigate hard hours, because life just isn’t that accommodating, but I promised myself that at some point each day, I would take my break. Not a lunch break, because the littles need to eat, but a kids-are-sleeping-sit-on-the-couch break. Some days it’s in the morning before they wake up, other days it’s in the evening after they go to bed. But every day, I take at least a little bit of time to check “nothing” off my to-do list.

Something counterintuitive happens when you intentionally stop working for a period of time. At least in my house, would you believe I actually get more done? How does that work?

For one thing, with a designated time for rest, I wasn’t tempted to rest so frequently during my working hours. Also, knowing that my working hours had a cut-off meant I work more diligently to get my work done in less time. Besides that, getting more done meant I cut myself some slack, not spending the entire day telling myself that I should be getting more done. Being nicer to myself, coupled with actually seeing some progress, was less of an emotional draw and actually gave me more emotional energy to focus on *tada* getting work done! Beautiful psychology, isn’t it?

Is it time for you to take an objective look at how you’re spending your day?

I’ll add here that this may or may not be the most “efficient” way to get things done… goodness knows I’m NO expert at efficient housekeeping! But I do find that a shift in perspective, even if it’s from A to B and back to A, is very refreshing. So whether or not his will work as a long term strategy remains to be seen. But if it works for now, and I get further than I have in the past, why not stick to it for as long as it lasts?


Rest is Needed

One of the hardest things about being a parent is not knowing what your kid needs. Deciphering a baby’s cry to determine if she is hungry, dirty, tired, scared, teething, etc., isn’t always easy. But there’s another hard part of being a parent, and that is knowing what she needs and watching her refuse it. Whether it’s medicine for an ear infection, a vegetable to stay healthy, a diaper change, or sleep. We can’t make them do the thing their body most wants to do.

That’s where I’m at tonight. Watching my almost-toddler rub her eyes and cry as she sits in her bed, at midnight, refusing to lay down. She’s not hungry. She’s not wet. She’s just tired. And all she needs to do is lay down, close her eyes, and drift off to sleep as she has done every day for her entire life (most days more than once). But she just won’t do it, and I don’t know why.

At one point, I hoped she would fall asleep on my chest. I held her close and she screamed loudly, waking my husband, and pushed herself up. It was at that moment that I understood what God must sometimes feel watching us fight a needed rest.

“Come to me, child. Rest in my presence. Take a break from the things you really don’t need to be doing right now, and rest. All those other things can wait.”

My baby is angry at her tiredness. She wants it to go away and leave her alone, but she won’t concede that she is designed to need rest.

Aren’t we guilty of the same thing? It may not be sleep that we refuse outright (though many of us are functioning on insufficient sleep and, perhaps, excessive caffeine). But we refuse a spiritual rest. We are exhausted mentally and emotionally, but instead of spending time in God’s presence, we are caught up in trying to press through the exhaustion hoping it will go away but ultimately accepting it as a fact of life.

Precious friend, you need to rest. You need to regularly rest. Take time out of the busy day. Take your mind off of laundry and grocery lists and scheduling piano lessons and sit in God’s presence. Like the babe who finally falls asleep (she will… she will… she will…), you’ll be so glad you did. Don’t be hard on yourself. The need for rest is not a sign of weakness or substandard human-ness. It is a reminder that God loves you and He wants to spend time with you. And even God rested on the seventh day.

First Steps to a Healthy Home

When we moved in to our rental unit, I was given full reign in the flower beds. I was the only tenant in the three-family building who had even the slightest interest in maintaining them. Four years in, and I think I finally have a grip on the bindweed and the crabgrass.

*Side note*  Do you know what bindweed is? It is A.W.F.U.L. It spreads underground by the roots, surfaces as a viney plant with little white flowers. It’s aggressive. It’s persistent. It climbs over everything and it doesn’t want to die. (And this is coming from a girl who can kill just about anything… spiders, goldfish, philodendron, dinner…) The garden was so overwhelmed by it that I broke the cardinal rule of weeding: I yanked off the top and didn’t remove it by the roots because I couldn’t even see where the roots were. And I filled a yard waste bag with those tangled up vines.

Anyway… The key to a clean garden, and the key to a clean life, is to start somewhere and maintain it. Then, as you maintain your beginning (no matter how small or simple), slowly take back a little more, and a little more, and a little more, as much as you’re able to consistently maintain. Once I yanked out as much of the surface weeds that I could, I had to go out at least every-other day and find where the roots were, then loosen the soil and tug out as much of the root as I could. The most effective solution (or so I’ve read) for bindweed is to just keep pulling it out until it burns up the energy store in the roots and dies. So every day or two I pull out a little bit more.

How does one yank back the proverbial weeds in a messy life? This time around, I’m starting with a devotional spot. It took me the better part of a morning, but I cleared off the sofa, the love seat, and enough of the living room floor to vacuum the center of it. I found a space on an adjacent bookshelf for my Bible and a prayer journal. For the past three days, no one is allowed to leave anything on the couches or in the middle of the floor, and anyone who tries gets reminded. “Train your brain,” I tell my kids. It’s kind of a slow process to train the brain, and maybe a topic for another day.

So for the past three days, we’ve kept the couches and the floor clear… mostly. Today, I sat down to open the laptop for my morning diversion and it wouldn’t boot up! It’s not a very reliable laptop to begin with, but today it was the interruption I needed to get back into a devotional habit… to begin again to “train my brain” that we start the day with devotions.

In review… First steps to a healthy home: Clear the couches, clear the floor enough to vacuum the center, clear a spot on the bookshelf or table for devotional materials (Bible, journal, devotional book, etc. as you see fit), and start the day with prayer and God’s Word.

Read what you see fit to read, but this morning my Bible “fell open” (I love it when that happens) to Psalm 139. Here’s an excerpt…

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Isn’t it good to know that no matter how messy our life is, whether our home resembles ascending into heaven or making our bed in hell, God is with us? We cannot be messy enough, ugly enough, mean enough, or lazy enough to scare God away from us. He loves us because He created us, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

Have a blessed day!

Overwhelmed? I was, too.

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
Proverbs 14:4, NLT

Life would be so much easier if we didn’t need to interact with other people, wouldn’t it? We wouldn’t need a closet full of clothes to impress strangers, we wouldn’t need a kitchen full of dishes to feed little humans. We’d be fine in a studio apartment with a library card and a couple of takeout menus. Three outfits in the closet, the other three at the cleaners, and then switch.

Life would be simple.

Life would be clean.

Life would be empty.

But then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum, where most of us sit. Life is full. Life is complicated. Life is messy. I won’t bore you with the details of how I’ve maxed out the full, complicated, messy part. I’ll let your imagination fill in the details. I’ll let you picture my house looking exactly like yours. Because, let’s be honest, it probably does. (Give yourself some credit. A chaotic home is more normal than you think.)

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little overwhelmed right now:

  • Overwhelmed by laundry
  • Overwhelmed by meal prep and dishes
  • Overwhelmed by unfinished projects
  • Overwhelmed by meeting kids’ needs
  • Overwhelmed by balancing family and friends and marriage and work
  • And maybe even overwhelmed by an unrealized self-hatred.

Okay, now we’ve crossed over from generic to personal. Deeply, vulnerably personal. Let me explain. It was at a women’s conference where the topic was so completely unrelated to the mess that dehumanized me, and yet the message that penetrated was this: In Christ, you are more! You are more than your shortcomings, more than your circumstances, more than your insecurities and inadequacies.

And there, I went from being overwhelmed by my mess to being overwhelmed by my weakness to being overwhelmed by His grace and strength. I recognized and surrendered that I had been cruel to one of God’s deeply loved creation. I apologized to God and asked for His forgiveness and His help. And I committed to putting an end to the demeaning self-talk. When I got home and saw my messy home, I made peace with the fact that this is where we are right now. It didn’t make me less of a person that I had dishes in the sink and laundry in the basket and food on the floor. (Sadly our current situation prevents us from getting a dog.)

That was three weeks ago. It took three weeks of me frequently, then less frequently, saying “No, I’m not going to talk that way to myself because it’s not true,” before I started to relax enough to be at peace with myself in my much-lived-in home.

And now, after three weeks of retraining my brain (and confessing this struggle to loved ones), I am ready to try again to gain control of my home, this time with Holy Spirit control of my mind first. So we’re re-starting the journey to live the way God intended, this time starting with inner peace and letting it overflow into our physical environment.

Now I’ve taken you briefly through the emotional and spiritual journey, it’s time to start the physical journey.

Welcome, Wife!

Let me start out with full disclosure:

This is a page born out of frustration. I just got off the phone with another friend who says her marriage is ending. And it frustrates me because I see the hurt that led to the decision. I’m frustrated because she was once so in love with the Lord and her husband and life, but is now so caught up in her trials that her love has stagnated. And I’m frustrated because she is not the only  one. 

Some time ago, I had asked a pastor friend about how to respond to situations like this. He advised that it takes two to work on a marriage, so if you’re out for lunch with one, just help the one. Marital problems can take a toll on our spiritual condition, but I believe (and have  seen) a woman can be spiritually healthy in the midst of turmoil.

So here we are. Are you healthy? As healthy as you want to be? As you know you can be? If not, you might not know where to start.

Let’s start here: find a woman that you have at least three things in common with and commit to pray for her. 

Maybe she has the same kind of kids as you, or the same number, or the same age. Maybe she’s in the same line of work as you or her husband the same as yours. Maybe she has the same name as you, or the same birthday, or the same home town. Maybe she’s also a homeschool momma or lactose intolerant, or whatever, the list goes on. 

Get creative, but get connected. And tell her. Then ask her to reciprocate. “We have a lot in common and I’d like to commit to pray for you. Would you also commit to pray for me?” And when your strong-willed child is acting up, pray for her and her strong-willed child. When there’s a threat at school, pray for her kids as well as yours. When your husband complains about your dinner, pray for her cooking skills. When you’re facing layoffs or up for promotion at work, pray for her career. When you face a challenge that you know she is also likely to face, pray for her.

Then touch base from time to time. Don’t be offended if she forgot she was supposed to be praying for you. Praying for her is your reward, as well as the growth in your own spiritual life. My prayer for you is that you will find yourself growing stronger, healthier as you commit to pray for others, and that your marriage and home will be healthier as a result.