Lessons from the Boutique 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Prada Fashion Fall 2011

Prada Fashion Fall 2011

This article took an unexpected turn. It was supposed to go up two weeks ago, before the Red Heels article. But, providentially, it has gone from expounding my husband and I’s view of fashion as Christians to a re-examination of that viewpoint, lengthy discussions over meals, and articles written by both of us. So this is not so much a lesson, as it is a story of growth and change. This is a transition article from where I was to where I am. Hence, it’s the last Lesson from the Boutique.

Over the years, I’ve traveled from self-righteous frump, self-focused goth, respectable yet loud fashionista, to a woman who desires Christ’s commands. He stripped away the world’s varnish one layer at a time until I’m more concerned with Christ’s kingdom and my Church family than this fading ball of dust. Christ is thorough. He doesn’t leave any part of our heart and mind uncaptivated by Himself. Nor does He dictatorially force us. He leads us like lambs, sanctifying us.

After a year out of the boutique, I’m still sorting all this fashion stuff out. What liberty do I have in Christ? What influence should my church family play? How much can I pull from my culture? I hope you can be understanding  as I think through fashion via my keyboard and seek to apply what I’m learning.

From the boutique, I learned valuable lessons, which helped me see how selfishly I dressed most of my life. They showed me that I had gone from a holier-than-thou wardrobe to a shock-value wardrobe. (“You can tell I’m holy by how little thought I put into my outfit. See how holy and modest I am. I’m way frumpier than you!” to “If I can get one more home school mom’s mouth to drop open, I’ll have twenty points just this morning.”)

Lesson 1: Image is important because what you wear says something about you. Are you saying what you want to say?

Lesson 2: Image is important because what you wear communicates respect. Are you respecting those around you with your clothing?

Lesson 3: Image is important because it is a form of honesty. Are you sharing yourself honestly, or hiding behind your clothing?

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I lived and breathed these three principles for over 10 years. They were my guiding stars every morning when I got dressed, when I shopped, and when I critiqued wardrobes. But, I’ve come to believe I missed important Biblical principles. Who is my standard for respectability? Did I go to the Bible first, before my culture? Unfortunately not. I moved fashion entirely into Christian Liberty, and then looked to the world for what it considered respectable. God has some very real and important things to say about fashion. I never did the hard work of paying attention to His Word except in the widest application.

We’ve all been told that we should dress up on Sunday morning because we’re going before the King. This is true. But, this King doesn’t want all the pomp and show that our worldly kings desire. He wants a humble and pure heart. This is what He values. We, as Reformed Baptist, preach and believe that you can’t worship God how you want to, but that you must worship Him according to the commands in His Word. Why do we think coming into His Church as His bride is any different? God tells us how we are to dress in a way that honors Him the most. This must be what informs us. What a humble King we have. Look how He commands us, His faithful daughters, to come before Him. He doesn’t set an impossible standard of beauty and wealth that none of us can reach. He doesn’t pit us against one another in a constant game of cutting-edge style. He is far more merciful than we are on ourselves. And yet, at the same time, He is far harder. He is far more concerned with our hearts than with what we’re wearing.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 “Likewise also the women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.”

 

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

 

So, transitioning out of the boutique and into a housewife, I’m trying to relearn some lessons. Here is where my husband and I are so far.

1. Respectable apparel: The clothing you wear as a daughter of the Lord, first off on Sunday, but influencing your wardrobe as a whole, should be respectable. It should be clean, in good order, and put together, a bit dressy, but with self-control. Sunday is not a fashion show. Our society does help us define what is respectable in our day and age. It would be inappropriate for a woman to arrive in a respectable Victorian-era gown to church. Nor would it be appropriate to come to church in “denim underwear”. That may be stylish for young women today and the Victorian gown may be modest, but one isn’t self-controlled and the other is distracting. You have to live when and where you live, not defining respectability by a different ages standards. We are called to dress with self-control, not flaunting ourselves, or our clothing.

2. Good Works: God is more concerned with our good-works than our wonderful fashion sense. We spend a fair amount of time thinking about what we’re going to wear when we’re going on a date, or out with girlfriends, or even on Sunday morning. God wants us to spend more time thinking about good works than about wardrobe. The context of these good works in Timothy is the managing of the Church. Men are to put on prayer and women are to put on good works. Does what you wear on Sunday Morning communicate this concept? Are you ready with a helping hand to those in need? Are your children behaved and your husband respected by you? These are far more beautiful to God than what you’re wearing to cover your skin.

3. Submissive: You’re clothing should communicate a submissive heart, a meekness of spirit. Have you ever shopped asking yourself if what you’re wearing communicates submissiveness? It messes with your mind, believe me! The context of the 2 Peter passage is abuse by authority. God tells women that if your husband is abusing you, look to your wardrobe. What? Don’t nag your husband. Don’t belittle him. He should see you not as all the other women in the world who fret and worry over what they will wear and this wrinkle and that wrinkle. He should see you  worried about spiritual matters. He should see you without a fearful heart. Submission is honestly very scary. (I’ve written about that before.) It requires a complete giving up of yourself to the authority of another. Your husband should see that while you submit to him, it’s to Christ that you ultimately submit. Think how our marriages would be transformed, Ladies, if instead of spending so much time in front of the mirror, we spent more time working to lovingly submit to our husbands.

4. Hope: I’m getting older. Every day my skin seems more dry, my hair more gray, my energy sapped. I swore I would age well. I would not hide from my wrinkles or gray hair. But, there are days I’m so tempted to test out the latest serum to see if it will magically remove the aging of my body. Look to the Bible ladies! “Imperishable beauty” is what Peter calls a gentle and quiet spirit. Look at this great hope given us. If we seek first the Kingdom of God, God Himself promises us Imperishable Beauty. This doesn’t mean that we won’t age. It does mean we’ll become more beautiful to Christ, our Husband, as we grow in good works, a gentleness of spirit towards our earthly husband, and poverty of spirit. The world will see old women, but Christ will see great beauty.

This is where I’m at right now. How has it affected me practically? I’m testing out several new systems to cut down on my dressing time. I need to make sure I’m wearing respectable things that are encouraging to others, which takes planning and time. But, good works are to be my main adornment, so I don’t want to spend as much time fretting over my wardrobe.

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As I’ve thought about this, I’ve been convicted about what I wear on Sundays. I tend to be a very loud dresser. I love big jewelry. I love mixing things up that don’t exactly go together. None of those things are sinful in and of themselves, but Christ has said how I’m to come to Him on Sunday. I need to listen and make sure I’m on the same page. I’m going to try to wear more simple outfits on Sunday. Respectable? Yes. Stylish? Yes. Simple? Yes.

I’ve also been convicted about how I view other women who don’t dress “stylishly”. Could it be that after all these years of groaning about horrible home-school-mom-fashion, that I was wrong, at least on a certain level? That what I saw as frumpy might in fact be a woman seeking submission, self-control, and good works instead of fashion as the world sees it? I think so. You won’t catch me in a jean skirt and sneakers anytime soon, but you will catch me—I hope and pray—trying to submit my wild heart to the dictates of my most beloved Husband, and my loved earthly husband.

Now, done with Boutiques and on to Housewife!

Thoughts???

The Housewife and her Man!

The Housewife and her Man!

If you would like to read some very well done articles on Modesty, please check out my fellow 1689’er Queen of Scotch and this Matt Walsh article. Also, I hope to share some of my husbands thoughts soon. Here’s the first one from his blog: Rod of Iron!

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

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Lessons from the Boutique 5: Red Heels

red heels red bag 2I have one more lesson after this that will transition us from boutique to housewife. Today’s lesson is about attitude. I call it my Red Heels Philosophy. It isn’t about strutting, but about how to help bad attitudes by not indulging in them.

We all have bad days. We have days were circumstances outside our control seem to pile in on top of us. We have days where we wake up with a bad case of the grumpies, and sometimes we wake up depressed or just plain angry. When this happens, we have two options. One, we can indulge this bad attitude. Or, two, we can combat it. Hopefully many of us had Moms that enforced attitude adjustment, so we have some practice in self-control. But, even practice doesn’t mean we don’t need a little help now and again.

When I managed the boutiques, I didn’t just work on own my attitude, but also the attitude of my employees, and sometimes the attitude of my customers. Dressing up was one of the pieces of advice that I practiced and preached to combat depression, anger, and general grouchiness. When we feel bad, we often dress bad. Have you ever noticed this? We get our ugliest and most comfortable jeans—if we even go for jeans, sometimes we just go straight for sweat pants—our oldest t-shirt, and our slippers and slouch through the day. No wonder our attitudes don’t improve. We didn’t tell that bad attitude to take a hike, we laid out the welcome mat. Now, we don’t only feel grumpy, we also feel ugly and gross.Alexander

“Ladies, put on those red heels!”

You may not have a pair of red heels that refuse to be worn with grungy jeans. It may be a pair of special earrings, a unique handbag, a funky cardigan, or a treasured scarf. It’s not the item that’s important, but the items ability to refuse to indulge in a bad attitude. Trust me, it’s hard to maintain a frown in an awesome pair of shoes.

I don’t wear my heels as often as I used to. Running after nieces and nephews, shopping, cleaning, cooking, teaching, visiting, and serving seems to be better done in TOMS or boots, not stilettos. Now, when I wake up wanting to just go back to bed, not face the day, not deal with my To Do list, not want to do anything but watch TV or read, I usually wear a dress or a skirt. It adds a touch of graceful femininity to my day that my attitude lacked. Again, it’s not so much about the shoes as it is finding something that forces you to get over the hurdle of waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

All the above is the very human, day-in and day-out side, but is there a deeper spiritual way we can do this? Is there something beyond the Red Heels to help us with our attitudes?

04b5a3fb6615746008f5baa38737dc5aOf course! Christ did not leave us without a Comforter. There are many reasons for our emotions. Sometimes we’re mad at our authorities for asking us to do what we don’t want to do—that’s a nice way to say we’re upset with our husbands and God. Sometimes it’s chemical, meaning hormonal, and sometimes it’s sadness and fear. Many different things affect our emotional stability. Where do we turn to stay stable? Where do we go when our sins overcome us? When the world doesn’t just lack any common sense but is out-and-out indulging in sinful and destructive practices while calling them good? When those we love are caving to temptation, or drowning in providence?

Adoption, my dear fellow believer, we turn to Adoption. Our hope is not in our ability to be perfect. Our hope isn’t in the world, or in each other. (Thank the good Lord, or we’d all be in a world of hurt.) Our hope is in the FINISHED work of Christ and our adoption into the eternal family of God. It would have been enough just to be saved. It would have been far more than we deserved to be slaves working in the house of God, but to be adopted? To be made children, brothers and sisters of Christ? What rich mercy is this? Wretched sinners who wake up angry at God for a house that needs to be cleaned again, taxes that need to be filed, children and a husband that need to be fed, clothes that need to be washed, and a body fading, are welcomed into the family of God as joint heirs with Christ. This is hope. This is true help for days when the world is slipping through your fingers one gray hair at a time or possibly much much faster and harder than that.

While the Red Heels philosophy is cute, and honestly helpful, it is nothing compared to meditating on our adoption in Christ as believers. Red Heels are a band-aid. They are a momentary fix, a pick-me-up, a small thing in light of our Adoption in Christ. We are welcomed into the throne room, not as condemned convicts—which we are—nor as slaves to clean and kowtow to an arrogant king, but as beloved children, welcome at the table, bearing the name and rank of our Lord and Father, following our great Captain and King, Jesus Christ.

This is hope.

This is meat and drink.

Red high-heels are just ash helping ash.

So put on your heels, adjust that attitude, and focus your thoughts on Christ and His Finished Work!

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

 

(If I haven’t covered something that you’re curious about, comment below, and I’ll try to do a blog post about it!)

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Lessons from the Boutique 4: Dealing with People

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I have a personal belief that every human being should at one time or another do at least one of these jobs: secretary, retail, waiting tables, janitorial, and catering.  If we all had to experience how difficult these jobs are, we would be nicer.  We would understand that the person on the other end of the phone has no power and yelling at them isn’t going to get you anything.  We would understand that the person helping you with your clothes feels subhuman when you leave them a messy dressing room.  We would tip our waiters and waitresses more.  We would be much more careful in public restrooms and we would RSVP.  If you have worked one or more of these jobs, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  These are servant jobs.  These are jobs which require you to give parts of yourself you generally reserve for only close friends and blood relations.  They require you to clean up other peoples’ messes, literally.  You must handle verbal abuse with grace.  You must deal with the constant unexpected.  Then you go home, have a good cry, eat chocolate, and do it again tomorrow.  They demand the pouring out of yourself if you want to do anything close to a good job.

When we owned our boutiques, we focused on customer service.  My employees will tell you that I never once told them the customer is always right.  I firmly believe that this philosophy is INCORRECT.  In fact, the customer is often wrong, in my experience.  Usually, the customer is upset because you didn’t set their expectations properly.  Sometimes they have a legitimate complaint, but most often the customer is thinking only of themselves and nothing else.  We didn’t have a ‘customer is always right policy’.  We had a service policy.  Part of the issue for us was trying to find a middle ground between customers and consignors.  You can’t bite either hand that feeds you and you can’t choose one over the other.  This made customer service very interesting.

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The hardest part, we found, with customer service was our thought life.  After you’ve been chewed out, belittle, picked on, walked on, and yelled at, it’s very hard to be gracious.  In fact, it is almost impossible.  All you want to do is break that person down.  We spent hours and hours complaining and whining about our customers after they left.  We discussed how annoying they were, how mean, how useless.  It doesn’t surprise me that some people get spit in their food.  I’ve seen how they treat teens just trying to do what their bosses asked them to do.  I’ve had my teens and other staff members yelled at by grown women who should be more behaved.

But guess what we found?  The more we indulged in this kind of verbal and emotional abuse of our customers, the angrier and more bitter we became.  We hated them, our job, and everyone else.

This was when we made a policy against complaining about customers.  We taught and encouraged our teams to stop the cycle.  Instead of verbally abusing a customer after they left, we tried to imagine what could have happened in their life to make them the way that they are.  We asked ourselves if they were really being that annoying or if we were just being thin-skinned.  We tried to turn the other cheek and put ourselves in their shoes.  We encouraged one another and held each other accountable.

If someone complained about what clothes I would and would not accept, I tried to imagine what her day might have been like instead of getting upset.  Maybe she had a fight with her husband.  Maybe she lost a job.  Maybe she’s getting rid of all these clothes because she gained weight and she can’t get it off.  Maybe her kids are sick.  Maybe her dog died.  Maybe she got some really bad news.  Maybe this is just one of those days were everything went wrong.

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When we started showing our customers pity even if they didn’t see it, our attitudes changed.  We willingly put up with a lot more from them.  We found that people we always thought we didn’t like, just needed a smile and a hug.  We found out that angry women hadn’t been told they looked great in a really long time.  We found out that bitter women just needed someone to listen to them.  We found out that messy women had three seconds before their kids, husbands, or parents needed them.  They couldn’t hang everything up because someone else needed them and they needed us to hang the clothes up for them.  We found out that almost all the customers we thought were annoying were just women struggling through their days and lives.

Do you know how much more rewarding it is to bring a smile to someone’s face even when they’re pushing you away instead of complaining about them after they leave?  Do you know people can sense this?  The atmosphere in our boutique was very open, loving, and happy.  Why?  We didn’t tolerate ourselves, our customers, or our consignors complaining about one another.  Yes, we stopped even our customers from complaining for us.  This showed them they could trust us not to complain about them when they left.  It encouraged women to lift one another up instead of knocking one another down.

This lesson is one I have to revisit all the time.  This is one I have to remember even more now that I’m working with mostly just my family and church family.  Just because I love you doesn’t mean that we never hurt one another or even get on each others’ nerves.  We do and we will.  What we need to do is remember that we don’t know what’s going on in each others’ lives.  We should handle one another with grace and pity…and maybe get to know each other better.

footwash_thumb2-264x300Next time another mom in the nursery bothers you, remember that you don’t know everything about her week.  This could be her very last straw.  She could be struggling just to make sure everyone gets something to eat.  Next time someone in lunch line annoys you, remember they could have health problems they’ve never mentioned.  They could be in a difficult relationship.  They may be struggling with some sin, just like you.  Pray for them.  Pity them.  Don’t deride them.  If there are some people in your church you don’t quite get along with, that’s okay.  You can still love them.  Look for positive things about them instead of picking at the frustrations over and over.  Maybe you’re asking them to do something they can’t or don’t know how.  Maybe their strengths are different from yours.  Maybe they’re in the middle of great suffering.  It might be a suffering so deep they don’t even know how to talk about it.

Be long-suffering with your church members.  If you don’t like your church maybe you need to stop looking at yourself and start looking at the soldiers beside you.  Are they wounded?  Are they broken?  Are they haunted by the carnage they’ve seen?  Are you helping them or just complaining?  Are you lifting them up or just being one more person who doesn’t like them?

If this principle was important in our boutiques, how much more do you think we need to practice it with our fellow believers?

These men and women love Christ just like we do.  They are our brothers and sisters.  Are you seriously not treating them with more love than complete strangers?  Are you giving them the least that you have?  They are other adopted children of the Father.  He loves them, and so should you.

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Lessons from the Boutique, Part 3: Have a System

Been there, done that.

Been there, done that.

Once upon a time, this country girl – who can still milk a goat – helped her husband co-found and manage a set of Designer Consignment Boutiques.  By designer, I mean our boutiques carried $10,000 fur coats and gowns with the price tags still on them, $3000 handbags, $700 shoes, and other beautiful, exotic, and limited edition things, which we sold on consignment.  I learned many lessons from managing the boutiques for 14 years, ten of which we owned them.  In the first lesson, I talked about managing your time and worry with the philosophy of ‘first things first and second things not at all’.  In the second lesson, I talked about having an opening and closing to your day to help you prepare for all the little providences God brings your way.  In this lesson, I’m going to talk about systems.

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One of our boutique philosophies was Always Organizing.  We had a system for literally everything.  We did everything the same way, every time.  That way no matter who did it, it was always done neatly, efficiently, and was traceable.  We never let anyone do things their own way.  That would have cause chaos.

But, the systems weren’t set in stone.  We constantly looked for ways to improve.  If an employee or even customer had an idea, my husband and I evaluated it in the grand scheme of the boutiques.  If it looked good, we gave it a test run.  We encouraged everyone to improve the running of the store.  Smooth running gave us more time for our customers and happier employees.

Always Organizing.

This concept applies easily in the management of your home.  You need to have systems.  If you want to keep your home clean, presentable, and open while having time to run to the library with your nephew, take a walk with your sister, and hurry to help a church member, systems are required.  The things you do everyday like dishes, laundry, tidyings, showering, budgets, making the bed, getting dressed, etc., all need a system.  Sounds dull and boring, right?  Who wants to do the same thing every day, all the time…groan.  True, but it’s worth it.  The dull, rut, duty type things have to be done.  They won’t go away.  They won’t complete themselves.  But you don’t want to spend your whole life scrubbing pots and pans, right?

Have a system.

The opening and closing I spoke of last lesson is an excellent example of a system.  Systems can be huge: cleaning the house from stem to stern.  Or small: making the bed.

Always Organizing.

Systems always need evaluation.  Always examine your systems for waste: wasted time, wasted motion, and wasted effort. Always organizing starts with your mind and your systems, not with the order of your canned goods.  Study the way you clean, do laundry, use social media, garden, read, cook, plan out your week, and serve others.  You may think you don’t have a system but you do.  You have a way you do things, but is it the most effective way?

Embrace the freedom to change the system if it’s not working for you.  Believe me, this first year home – yes!  A whole year home! – has been a lot of trial and error.  My most recent change came when I realized I spent a lot of time being grossed out by my own bathroom cause I shed a lot.  By the end of the week, it was just soooo nasty.  Instead of living in my own filth, I started spending all of 30 seconds sweeping the bathroom floor each morning.  Now the bathroom feels cleaner and I’m not embarrassed every time someone comes over and needs to use our bathroom.  I took a system I already had in place and modified it to work better.

My mom and my husband are both very systematic and organized.  I try to apply the things I learn from them in my own home management.  I’m not so much that way.  I tend to be a little more head in the clouds.  But, I have benefited from their examples and their lessons.  I have more time to live in the clouds when my feet have a system for walking the earth.  Don’t kid yourself the earth must be walked.

from Google, by allison712

from Google, by allison712

If you have kids, caretaker responsibilities, or just a busy life and busy husband, you need systems.  If you’re a single women you need systems.  If you’re a college student or high schooler, you need systems.  Systems help us deal with the daily grind and free us up to do the things we love.

Are you good at systematizing your duties?  What are your biggest system struggles?  Not your forte?  Do you get help?  Let’s share our ideas in the comments below!

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Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Lessons from the Boutique, Part 2: Opening and Closing

PhotoSpin Office Imagery © 2001 PhotoSpin www.photospin.com

Owning a business for several years teaches you a few tricks.  This is one that I still use today:  an Opening and a Closing.

At the boutique, we opened at 10.  The thirty minutes before that was ‘gird your loins’ time.  It was the last few minutes you had to prepare for the incoming of customers.  This is when you checked to make sure everything was perfect, settled your heart and mind, dealt with any attitude issues, then click, unlocked that front door, and welcome the world.  Do you see where this is going?  At the end of the day, after we let the last customers out, we had a closing.  This was the wind-down: vacuum, wash mirrors, tidy, review the day, plan for the next day, count the money, lock up, and go home.

I’m a happy housewife now, but I’ve found that the idea, the concept of opening and closing still applies.  I still have things that need to be done each morning before me, my husband, and my house are ready to face the day.  Opening gives me a sense of peace, calm, and control before I get going, while closing settles me down for the night.

The main thing I like about opening, just like at the store, is it gets me ready for people.  One of the hard parts about life is that you can’t live without people.  Accept that.  You aren’t a hermit.  If you were, you’d die.  Now, I can say that because I’m the first to admit that I would be the crazy neighborhood cat lady if it wasn’t for all the rest of you crimping my style.  If it wasn’t for a husband, a family, and a church to serve, I might never leave my house, and I’d have lots of strange pets, and I’d probably scare neighborhood children.  (Remember, I’m a writer, strange comes with the job.)

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But God (my favorite two words) has wisely decided that we are all better off having to deal with one another.  I’m sure it has something to do with sanctification and destroying my selfishness.  Add to that that I’m one of those old-fashioned people who think that people should feel like honorable guests in my home.  I want my husband to feel appreciated for all the work he does, and I want him to be able to study with ease when he comes home.  The fastest way to accomplish this is with an opening and a closing.  The best way to have an opening and closing is to do the same thing every time.  (We’ll talk about systems in a later blog post.)

My day starts at 5.00am.  I get up, get the coffee going, wake up my husband, and drink a glass of water while I check email, FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, and my blog stats.  This prepares me for anything I may need to take care of later today, and lets me get my head in the game.  I try to limit my social media time or it takes over my life.  At this time, I also select blogs to read and line them up in my browser, so that they’re ready when it’s time to take a break.  After that, I see my husband out the door and focus on writing.  I either work on my blog, or on my WIP(work in progress): Icicle Rain.  Sometime between 700 and 730, I head for the shower.  I don’t leave the bathroom until I’m clean, my hair is done, and my war paint makeup is on.  I always put on my makeup for the most significant event of the day.  Meaning, if I’m going on a date that night, I wear date makeup all day.  I usually do the same thing with my clothing unless I plan on working in the yard.  After hair and makeup, comes getting dressed and making the bed.  I get completely dressed in the morning: jewelry to shoes.  This is part of being prepared.

Now that I’m all ready, I get the house ready.  Curtains are flung open to let in the day.  Last night’s dishes, snacks, and dirty laundry are tidied.  Each room gets a quick going over.  I generally start at the laundry room and move towards the back bedrooms.  This quick sweep of the house not only keeps it in order, but also lets me see any areas that are going to need more major attention later in the day.  Finally, I adjust my To-do list, make breakfast, and do a little bible reading.  My day is ready to start.

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At the end of the day, I basically rewind all that I did in the morning.  I set up my coffee.  I make sure my computer and flash drive are ready to go.  I close curtains, shut off lights, and settle in for a quiet evening with my husband.  The main thing about closing is to turn your focus inward on your family.  We have a small dinner together where we talk about our days, make any joint family decisions that need to be made, and plan our schedule.  We take off our day clothes and put on our comfy pjs.  I wash off the makeup.  This is a very important time, because it is us time.

Opening and closing your day gives your body cues as to what needs to happen next.  Are we gearing up or winding down?  It helps you prepare your family for the day ahead and get them all snuggled down at the end.  It lets you know the first things to accomplish so you don’t overwhelm yourself with everything all at once.  It is a good way to stay on top of your clutter even if you know you have to do it every day.  We don’t live in a world where things improve with time.  Everything falls to ruin in this life unless we maintain it.  God doesn’t get miffed that He has to give breath to one more person, even though they’re going to need it again in the next second, and they never even notice He gives it to them.  God is good and generous.  We should be too.  It might seem dull and frustrating to have to tidy up the house yet again, or make the coffee, or the bed, I mean you’re going to get back in it again, right?  It might seem like such a waste to do your hair or your makeup when no one’s going to see you but your husband, right?  Wrong.  It sets a tone of focus, self-sacrifice, and seriousness to your work.  Even if your house is going to have to be cleaned again tomorrow, it is important to clean it today.  That’s being a good steward.  That loves your neighbor as yourself.  That’s being ready for what the Lord brings in your life.

Open your home in the morning, close it at night.

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Lessons from the Boutique: Part 1: First Things First

Boutqiue Lessons

Back in the Boutique Days

My husband and I bought a business two weeks after we got married.  We bought a women’s designer consignment boutique.  A few years later, we bought another one.  We were in the business of designer clothing for ten years.  After our ten-year anniversary, we decided we wanted to apply ourselves to serving our church.  We wanted to store up our treasure in heaven and not here on earth.  The Lord graciously made that possible.  Now my husband spends his free time studying to preach on Wednesday nights.  I spend my time tending my home, visiting, helping, cooking, and serving my church any way I can.  I’m blessed with the opportunity to say yes instead of no.  To the world, our lives look much smaller and less significant.  To us, they’re fuller, richer, and have eternal value.

This is not to say we didn’t learn some valuable lessons from owning our business, we did.  In fact, as always, God used that time to teach me some very helpful things, which I now apply to managing my home.  For a few weeks, every other Monday, I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned.

The 1st Lesson: “First things first, and second things not at all.”

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Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management, coined this phrase.  (Don’t imagine your bad manager, or lots of useless paper work.  Imagine a well-oiled, efficient management machine.)

We went to him, through books and articles, as our business grew.  We had to become good managers.  Not just of our growing number of employees, but also of ourselves.  A manager has to prioritize their time, money, and projects.  Managers have to manage everything.  These same lessons apply to housewives and homemakers.

You manage everything.  Out comes the To-Do List.  Everything.  Feeling overwhelmed yet?  Your brain fragments into a million multi-tasking problems.  But, it’s ineffective to multi-tasking projects.  It’s impossible to get a task done while also trying to get another task done.

“First things first, second things not at all.”

Calling your sister while you’re doing the dishes, or listening to an audio book while you clean and fold laundry is proper multi-tasking.  Those tasks require little use of the brain.  You’ve done them a thousand times.  Cooking dinner while cleaning out the fridge, planning the next day, and texting your mom isn’t proper multi-tasking.  Your stress level spikes, something goes wrong, or is left undone.

This is where the First Things management principle comes in handy.  What is the priority of the moment?  Focus on that.  Don’t worry (Yes WORRY) about the other things.  For you list makers, like me, this is very important.  This form of management frees us from constantly worrying about The List.

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A real life example:  I woke up yesterday morning, Sunday, with the list for Monday rolling through my head.  I have a flat tire that needs to be fixed, a window install that needs to be scheduled, all the normal cooking, cleaning, errands, working out, plus a nephew’s birthday, two nieces’ birthday, taxes to get ready, friends to visit, house sitting to plan for, and articles to write.  It is very hard to prepare for worship when your head is preparing to battle with the upcoming week.

“First things first, second things not at all.”

My First priority on Sunday morning, is preparing my heart for worship.  It is to rest from the world’s demands and focus on the Lord and his people.  This is my First Thing.  I need to ignore the Second Things (the List in my head).  Knowing that it is good management to pack away Second Things, I command myself to stop worrying about the List.  It’s not important.  Going to church with a focused mind and heart is important.  First Things first.

With Sunday finished and Monday morning rolling around, I reprioritize.  My First Things are to get this article written and my husband off to work in as happy a state as I can.  This frees me from worrying about the dishes in the sink, the dirty bathroom, and the phone calls I have to make.  With those First Things done, I re-evaluate my list and find the next First Things.  I consistently command myself not worry about the other things.

In another words, compartmentalize your life, in a good way.  Take all the things you have to do and put them in a box.  Label that box Second Things.  Only get something out of the Second Things box if the First Things are done.

This form of management requires some planning.  Planning in the above Sunday example proves easy: stop worrying about Monday.  There.  Done.  But, when Monday rolls around, the planning takes on a more strategic design.  I must sit down and find out what are First Things and what are Second Things.  This provides me a moment to see if any of the First Things connect to the Second Things.  For example, maybe I’m planning a crock-pot meal for dinner.  Preparing that meal is my First Thing.  Agonizing over the order of my errand running is not a First Thing.  It is a Second Thing.  It doesn’t become a First Thing until it’s time to plan my errands.  I stop thinking about it and focus on dinner preparation.  My worry level drops.  I know that each important task has a place and time, which isn’t now.

This concept proves itself repeatedly as I manage my household, help with conference meals, spend time with my church family, and write.  It helps me apply the Biblical principle of not worrying.  Practice it until you get a hold of it.  If you’re a compulsive list maker, it helps you stop nagging yourself.  If organization isn’t your strong point, it gives you a place to start – the First Things.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 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? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  – Matthew 6:25 – 34

“She looks well to the ways of her household  and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife