So many good things

There are so many things I want to do in life, and so little time to do it all. There are many different career paths I’d like to take, hobbies and skills I want to learn, places I want to go, and things I want to see and experience. Each day my list of things I want to do is longer than what I can possibly get done.

Because there are so many “good things” that I could spend my time on, I have to be very cognizant of making time for the most important things.

Have you seen the illustration of the jar with pebbles and sand? Imagine that the jar is your life. The biggest rocks are the most important things in life, smaller pebbles are not as important but still very good and beneficial, and the sand is all the extra stuff that fills in the rest. If you pour the sand in first, then you will not have any room for the pebbles and rocks! But if you put the rocks and pebbles in first, then you can pour the sand in afterwards and it will fill in all the gaps.

rock-pebbles-sand

In other words, it is imperative that I make sure my big rocks are in the jar before I start filling in with sand. The biggest rocks for me are spending time with my family and teaching my children, spending time in God’s Word and prayer, and being part of a church fellowship. Smaller pebbles for me are exercising, cooking healthy meals, adequate sleep, having quiet time each day to reflect and ponder – still very needed in my life, but not as important as the big ones. Then the sand is all the other stuff – tv, facebook, gardening, traveling, reading, hobbies, and so on.

Notice here that the small pebbles and even all the sand particles are still beneficial, good things. I’m not advocating for making room in your life for any unfruitful endeavors or unhealthy leisure activities. Your rocks, pebbles and sand will be different than mine are, and that is fine and good, but all the things we are filling our jar with should be beneficial things.  And then out of those good things, we need to prioritize.

This reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible. Martha was busy busy busy with “good things”. She was rushing around trying to get some food together to serve Jesus. She had invited him in, so of course she wanted to serve him perhaps some tea and cookies, or maybe even a whole Thanksgiving dinner. It seems noble and good to serve Him some food. He is a guest in her home after all. But sadly, she missed out on the most important thing. Her day ended up being filled with small pebbles and sand, rather than a huge rock of the most important thing – sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Luke 10:38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

I can relate to Martha in this story, because each day, there are so many activities clamoring for my attention. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness, and forget the most important things. It’s tempting to turn on my phone and check facebook “just for a few minutes” before reading my Bible (which just happened last week as you can read about right here). But if we spend time on our “sand” first, then what so often happens is that we end up filling up all of our time with sand and leave out the rocks and pebbles of the most important things. Facebook is not wrong to spend time on, but if it is taking the place of the more important things, then it’s got to get out of the jar until the rocks and pebbles are in place.

There are so many wonderful things we can spend our time on in this life. Good things, beautiful things, helpful things, fruitful things. But we must not fill our jar with so much sand that we miss out on the rocks and pebbles. Look at your life and consider your rocks, pebbles, and sand. Does your day reflect that? Are the most important things, the rocks, getting a prime spot in your day? Do you ensure the rocks and pebbles get time in your day, or is the sand filling up so much that you can’t squeeze the rock in?

Prioritize. List out your “to-do’s”. Make sure that the most important things get done before spending time on your not so important ones. Rocks before pebbles, pebbles before sand.

I will never have enough time on this earth to do all that I want to do. Too many places to go, things to do, ideas to explore. But I do have time for the most important things.

Mark 12:28-31: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And get those rocks in the jar first.

Planning my time

Every morning, I wake up with a whole list of stuff I need to do, an even longer list of stuff I want to do. Goals for the day. This morning, I woke up at 6am, so I could read my Bible and pray until 6:30, and then exercise for 30 minutes until the baby woke up at 7am. Well, I decided to check my phone/email/facebook for just a minute. I’m sure you can guess what happened. I got sucked into facebook land, and I glanced up at the time and it was now 6:20. I wasted 20 minutes of my precious morning time. With my houseful of children, my 1 hour before their waking is PRECIOUS. And I wasted 20 minutes of it on scrolling through facebook. So now it was 6:20am and I was already behind on my day. I got my Bible reading in for the day, but no exercise. This is my example of what not to do to have a healthy, happy, fruitful life.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not villainizing facebook. Done in moderation it’s great for keeping in touch with friends, discussing topics important to me and so on. But facebook time needs to be planned into the day, or it becomes a huge vacuum that sucks in my time that is needed for my other goals. Just as leisure of any sort is not wrong in and of itself, it needs to be put in its proper place. Work and then play. Get done what is on my list of daily goals, and then fill in the rest with leisure if there is any time left.

We’re not getting any younger. The sands of time are always drifting away, and so we’ve got to be very aware of the way we are using our time.

hourglass8

Ephesians 5:15-16  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Having a schedule or plan for the day is the first half of the battle. I look ahead at the time I have available, and figure out ahead of time how to utilize that time to reach my goals. I’m constantly tweaking our schedule to try to fit in all that we need to do as a large homeschooling family. I like the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. A lot of truth in there. If I had no plan for the day at all, then I would not accomplish half of what I do. I plan in my work, and I plan in my time for hobbies, relaxing and reading, and facebooking. I have a plan for when to cook, eat, sleep, exercise, garden, rest.

HOWEVER, merely having a plan isn’t the end, as you saw with my morning of time waste. We can have the best laid plans, but still not accomplish anything. Actually implementing the plan and following through is integral. A plan without the follow through is pretty much worthless.

 

So I make a plan, and I stick to the plan as best I can. Sure, sometimes things outside my control will happen to change the plan, and that’s okay.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV

If a child wakes up sick, I roll with it. If my car breaks down, I go with the flow. These things happen, and we can’t hold our plans so tightly that we can’t adjust and adapt when these out of the ordinary things happen. But wasting time, scrolling facebook when I should have been accomplishing my goals and following my plan for the morning, that’s not the way to lead a fruitful life. So please don’t follow my example from today 😉

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And make the best use of your time.

Simple, quiet habits

I’ve always been fascinated with the Amish life. Although i don’t want to give up my electricity (can you imagine washing clothes by hand for 7 children!?), I do like to glean some life habits from the Amish who have been able to avoid the rat race mentality of modern American culture. Constant noise makes me feel jittery. Constant entertainment leaves me feeling empty and depressed. And what is our culture made up of predominantly? Jittery depressed people. It’s no wonder.

The average Joe wakes up, checks his phone, browses facebook, turns on the tv, gets ready for work, listens to music  or talk radio in the car, then works all day, drives back home in rush hour traffic with more music or talk radio, turns on the tv when they get home, browses the internet some more until it’s time to go to bed. Busy busy busy, Rush rush rush. Noise noise noise. No silence. No contemplation. No peacefulness.

The Amish? They wake up to a relatively quiet house. If they have to leave for work, they ride in a horse and buggy. Quiet, slow. They work with their hands. They spend time enjoying dinner around the table with their family. Slow and relaxed. No internet, no tv, no radio.

One habit or practice the Amish have is that they simply enjoy routine, mundane, quiet things. There’s something to be said for just being quiet. Now I’m not saying there’s no place for tv, radio, internet, but moderation is key.

One habit I like to do everyday is hang a load of laundry on the clothesline. It started years ago with trying to save money, and by drying on the line, we saved the electricity cost of the dryer running. Our financial situation is a little better now, to where the small amount I save in line drying doesn’t make a huge difference, and at first glance, it may seem like a waste of my time. After all, it takes me 10 minutes to hang it up, and 10 minutes to take it down in the afternoon, when I could just throw it in the dryer and save myself some time. But here’s the thing – while I’m hanging it up and taking it down, I can hear the birds sing, I feel the breeze in my hair, I see the clouds gently rolling over the sky. It’s quiet. It’s simple. I have time to think. I consider how huge the world is and how small I am. And about how women across all of time and in all places hang out the laundry. There’s a connectedness there with generations past.

maxresdefault

I love to sit on the front porch, watching the leaves dance in the wind, listening to the music of the wind chime, seeing a butterfly float past. Rocking in my chair, oblivious at the moment to the world news or the latest viral video on facebook, because I left my phone in the house.

rockingchair3c

I work in the garden, digging in soil, planting something small that may one day grow big and feed my growing family. Seeing the way the little worm burrows deep in the soil. The way the bean tendrils wrap around the fence. The way the plump blackberries shine in the sun.

DSC_0164

Stillness is a rare thing in today’s culture with the bombardment of media. But it is in the still, quiet moments that we can begin to understand who we are, who God is, and where we fit into His plan. When we develop quiet habits in our life, we regularly get to pause, unplug from this modern world, and enjoy the simple things.

Maybe hanging  clothes outside sounds like drudgery to you. Or the thought of gardening sounds dull. But find something you can do during each day to “stop and smell the roses.” Maybe take a quiet walk. Notice the sky. Notice the sounds you hear. Or just really look at your child or spouse, concentrating on the small details. Notice the freckles on her face. See how his eyes twinkle when he smiles. At the very least, turn off your phone and tv for a time each day so you can clear your mind.

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And be quiet, enjoying the simple things.

One in, one out

Is it just me, or do we all have way too much stuff in our homes, with more coming in nearly every day? Most of us have closets full of clothes, but we still buy more. We have cabinets full of kitchen gadgets, but we still buy more. We have bookshelves full of books, and we still buy more.

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to hold to the rule of “one in, one out”. If I buy a new shirt, then one old shirt must be donated. If I buy a new pair of shoes, one old pair must go. I also keep this rule for my children as well. When toys come in, toys go out. When clothes come in, clothes go out. I keep a “donate” box in the closet so I can easily add to it, and then carry it to my van when it’s full to drop off the next time I’m out running errands.

For us, this is integral so that we don’t literally drown in stuff. We have 7 children, and live in a 2,000 sq. ft. house. I know this is not small by world standards, but here in America, this is smaller than the average, and we have double the people than the average home.

overflowing-closet (1)

By keeping to the one in, one out standard though, we never accumulate more than we have right now. We get new stuff of course, because old things wear out or stain, but we don’t gain additional volume.

I honestly can only imagine how stressed and overwhelmed I would feel if our home was more cluttered or full than it already is. “Stuff” adds stress. It honestly does. I’m so pleased to see the minimalist lifestyle becoming popular! Americans are infamous around the world for over indulgence in all aspects of life, and the minimalist idea runs completely counter to that.

If this sounds like a good idea for you to implement, I just read about a new program that helps you with the one in, one out. I haven’t personally tried it out yet because I drive by a donation center every week, but if getting to a drop off to donate your stuff is a problem, then this seems to be a great solution. This is a charitable organization that will give you a postage paid label to put on your amazon box (or any other box) that you fill with your old stuff and then it’s free for you to ship to them. You even get a receipt for your giving. Here’s the link. Give Back Box

Give Back Box® provides vendor services to retailers and charities, giving each and every cardboard box a second life to help people in need. So it is also a ‘green’ solution! Reuse your online shipping boxes in which you received your purchases, or any other cardboard box you may have, to donate your unwanted household items: such as gently used clothing, shoes etc., to make a major difference in the life of another person. www.givebackbox.com

The next time you go shopping, consider removing a few of your old things to donate to someone else. It will give you a clearer mind, and a cleaner closet. Win win.

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And donate your old stuff.

Just do it

There’s a house near us that’s been two colors for years now. What I mean is the homeowner has been in the process of painting his house for a few years now. Yes, a few years. He keeps the scaffolding up. He does a little bit every few months. Now, I don’t know him personally, so I don’t know the story of why it’s taking so long to get finished. But I can bet that this unfinished job is like a dark cloud hanging over him. He’s already started the job- the house is now two colors. He knows he needs to get it done, but maybe he just doesn’t feel like doing it. Or he feels like he just doesn’t have the time to get out there to paint. But every now and then the cloud just gets too heavy so he goes out and paints another small section. But then the cloud continues looming for the next several weeks before he does it again.

Back when I was in college, many classes would have one BIG semester long project due at the end of the semester. Can I just say how much I hated these types of assignments? I would work on it bit by bit, but there was still just this big cloud hanging over me all the time. It was a big “to-do” list looming over me like the cloud over poor Eeyore, until the end of the semester when that project would finally be completed and submitted.

eeyorecloud

Occasionally I get these types of clouds hanging over me. Several months ago, I realized that we had not had any photos printed for nearly 3 years! We had absolutely no printed photos of my toddler (2 years old) or our baby (9 months old). Everything was digital and dependent on our electronic devices continuing to be reliable. (and I recently had a friend lose ALL her digital photos! A lesson to me – Don’t rely solely on your electronics!)

So, we uploaded all our photos to an online store (snapfish), and thankfully found a coupon for 40% off before hitting the submit order button. We had over 1,000 photos to print. And they arrived at our house over 6 months ago.

And then…..they sat in the closet. And the cloud was now over my head. Looming. Following me. Now I had this big project of putting a thousand or more photos into albums, arranged by date. Ugh. The thought of it just made me want to cover up my head with the blanket and go to sleep. (Anyone else deal with stress by sleeping or is it just me?) When I had an hour of free time I would consider those photos, but would put it off and do something else instead. Procrastinating. 😦

Folks, having a cloud like this hanging over you is not conducive to a healthy clear mind. It follows you. It taints your clear thinking. I know, I know. It’s just photos. But it’s still a looming cloud of something that I needed to do.

Well, several weeks ago, I decided to just do it. Just do it. Yes, it was going to be time consuming. And with 7 children, I could not devote an entire day to doing photos. It was going to have to take place in steps. A little here and a little there. But I just had to do it. My husband helped organize the photos by date and put them into numbered envelopes one weekend, and then I set my reasonable goal of going through two-three envelopes each week until it got done.

I’ve been chipping away at it for weeks now, and I just finished! (cue: Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus) Look at these beautifully organized photo albums! Maybe it doesn’t look like much to you, but this was hours of work for me!

IMG_6130

The cloud has lifted. Now instead of Eeyore with a rain cloud following him, I feel like cheery Mary Poppins. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, my looming project is done. I can breathe easier. Rest easier. This project has been completed. It’s no longer that dark cloud over my head.

Mary Poppins

Whatever looming project you have that you need to do today, just do it.  Don’t let it follow you like a dark cloud. If you need to break it into smaller more achievable goals, then do that. If you can get it all done on your next day off work, then just get it done all at once. Clean out that garage. Organize your closet. Print out your photos. Fold that mountain of clean laundry. Weed the garden. Finish painting your house. Whatever it is, just do it. Get rid of the cloud. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You’ll feel better having it finished.

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. Clear your mind. Finish those projects. Just do it.

Reading Challenge 2017

I’m a homeschooling  mom of 7 children. I barely have time to shower. I have to keep up with housework, laundry, schooling, meals, and countless other things to keep a large family running smoothly. So of course I don’t have time to curl up in a cozy chair and read a book, right?

Wrong.

Reading is a priority for me. This wasn’t always so – I used to think I just didn’t have time for something so trivial and enjoyable as reading. And of course it is true that I can’t spend countless hours immersed in a good book like I could before becoming a momma. But I now see that reading is so important for me as a mom. It’s not usually directly related to me being a mom (although I do occasionally read books about parenting), but reading a wide variety of books is so very pertinent for my personal growth. If we’re not growing, then we’re, well…stagnant. And no one wants to be stagnant. The word stagnant makes me think of slimy stale pond water. I’d rather be like a lively, bubbling spring of freshness.  Reading a variety of books enlarges my world, gives me new ideas, new dreams, and new ways of relating to the world. It helps me have a healthy mind.

And as we all know, children often model behavior. I remember seeing my mom read books, and going to the library was not only for my sister and I but for her too. I definitely attribute my love of books partly to my mom’s example. So, I think that by me reading books and loving books, it is much more likely that my children will love books too.

This year I’m doing a Christian Reading Challenge that my Pastor recommended. I’m currently 2 months into the 2017 challenge and I’m really enjoying the wide variety of books I’ve read. It has encouraged me to go outside of my typical genres which makes it a growing and stretching experience! The challenge doesn’t tell you what specifically to read, but instead gives a checklist of categories, such as a biography, a classic novel, a book about history, a book targeted at your gender, and so on. This is great for me, because I still get to choose books that I’m interested in, but by having categories to check off, I am expanding the types of books I read.

It’s not too late to join in if you want to try it out! Here’s a link to the reading list: 2017 Reading Challenge

The books I’ve read so far this year:

  • Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford – I highly recommend this one! Its about focusing on what really matters, putting away distractions in your life and being truly present.
  • Commentary on Ephesians by Matthew Henry
  • Simplify your Life – a book about organization
  • Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper
  • Boring: Finding and Extraordinary God in an ordinary life by Michael Kelley
  • Confessions of St. Augustine – interesting in parts, rambling in parts, but definitely the oldest book I have ever read. It was written in 400 A.D.!
  • Sugar Crush – this one scared me away from eating any sugar for a while – I learned about additional health impacts of sugar that I didn’t already know though
  • God is Red – a book on how Christianity grew and flourished in communist China – this one was kind of boring – I don’t recommend it
  • The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippets- this was great – a book on the real-life faith and suffering of a sister in Christ with cancer

The books I’m currently reading:

  • Commentary on Galatians by Matthew Henry
  • Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
  • Moby Dick – I’m having a hard time getting through this one :/
  • Covered Glory  by David Phillips – this is about headcovering in the Christian church There will probably be another post about this topic in time!

 

I already have several more books in queue! If I can ever get through Moby Dick anyway…

Catalogs and Coveting

Do you struggle with discontentment or coveting?  Maybe you don’t – and just maybe this post is  me preaching the truth to myself 😉

Hebrews 13:5 – Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

I find that in my life, I don’t have too much of a problem with coveting or discontentment  unless I open up a catalog or magazine or start browsing around on Pinterest.  When a clothing catalog comes with the new season’s clothes, I want a new outfit so much! “Just look at how awesomely cute that suede skirt is! And that denim blazer! With the ivory turtleneck sweater! Ooooh, and I could wear my brown riding boots with it. And I already have that turquoise necklace I could wear with it! I just have to have it!”

Ten minutes prior, I was perfectly content with my wardrobe. Now I suddenly need to spend “x” amount of dollars to be happy.

Maybe it is a Southern Living magazine with a beautiful living room, perfectly decorated. “ooh, those lamps would look perfect in our house!” Or those Pinterest photos of bathroom remodels. “those countertops! beautiful! And the custom rough lumber cabinets!”

To be blunt, it’s a sickness to the Christian soul. God does not want me to be discontent or to covet. He has blessed me with what I have. And He has given me what is best for me. And so when I sit around wishing I had something different….. well…. That’s pretty ugly. It’s saying to God “what you have given me is not enough”. That’s really ugly.

And so how do I combat this? For one thing, I avoid looking at things that will tempt me to covet. I throw away the catalogs when they come. I don’t open the emails notifying me of the weekly sale at a shopping website. I avoid browsing around on Pinterest.

And then I saturate myself with Scripture. And consider all the blessings He has given me.

And the truth of the matter? God has blessed me way beyond what I deserve. So I don’t need to be wasting my time wanting something “cute” to wear.

Matthew 6:25 – Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?