Pencil Dancing Chapter 3

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This man! He’s all wrapped up in my “most important” list!

Pencil Dancing Chapter 1

Pencil Dancing Chapter 2

 

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Poo. Since the holidays are over, I’m itching to do some projects I’ve had to postpone for over a year now. Time to dive back into housekeeping without, obviously, over doing it. I keep repeating this to you and to myself because I’m in grave danger of doing too much the minute I feel even slightly better. Take it slow…

Which leads right into this chapter of the book: Time . . .and time, Again.

This chapter is all about Hurry Sickness. Before last year, I hardly ever took time to just sit and do nothing. Even the idea of quietly letting your thoughts rumble around without being productive seemed, well, sacraligious or something.

Now, after a year of battling this virus, I can say that down time is vital to housekeeping and life in general.

The first question at the end of this chapter is all about doing nothing for 30 minutes. I’ve done plenty of that for a long time, so I think question 2 is a better use of my time.

Make a list of five of the most important things you give your time to. What’s the most meaningful one? Why? Is anything missing from your list that could further your creative growth or add pleasure and dimension to your life? Write your thoughts.

My five most important things I give my time to:

  1. My Church: under this heading, I’m including my husband since he is a fellow church member and my closest neighbor. He is my first field of service.
  2. My Family: I’m fortunate enough to be able to include my family in with my church! But, family day is hardly serving, generally, so that’s why my family is second on the list.
  3. My Home: this sums up the actual brick and mortar location. It includes the yard, trees, cars, and house—both interior and exterior.
  4. Encouraging Others: there is nothing I love more than being encouraging to those around me. Whether this means a smile for the bank teller, a birthday wish on FaceBook, a text to a friend, or a not sent in the mail, I enjoy lifting others up. This often also ties into my family.
  5. Stories: I love stories in any form. From music, movies, books, audio books, my own writing, other people’s writing, I love stories. I don’t know if this should be a most important, but it takes up a lot of my time thus it’s included.
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These people are some of my most favorites!

 

 

The most meaningful one on here is serving my Church. All the other important things flow from it and often tie back into it. Some of them are specific out-workings of that service. As a Christian, based on the merits of Christ, why would I want to do anything other than pour myself out for the church? He died for us, we should live for him.

I don’t think I really see anything missing that could add more creative dimensions to my life. The Stories alone feed my creativity and bleed into the other areas, while they all interrelate and interlock with one another.

It is interesting to note that 3 out of the 5 important things are people related. See why those little online quizzes are never sure if I’m an introvert or an extrovert?

Before I got sick, I spent lots of my time going and going. I tried to keep up with all the projects and was constantly on the go between church and family. Now, my view has narrowed. I’ve had to learn to do many of these things more quietly and less often. I’ve had to learn to send more text messages, FB posts, and Notes in place of my physical presence.

This had not been an easy transition for me. I think that in some ways I was so used to/addicted to the adrenaline from pushing myself all the time that I didn’t know how to quite. God sure did. Thank you EBV.

Life has slowed down, but my priorities remain the same and I’m thankful for the creativity God allows me to express in my service to my church, my love of my family, my home, encouraging others, and through stories.

He is a generous God!

Pencil Dancing Chapter 2

Going Into Your Egg: Write about ways you could change your work space into a more creative space. What could you do to make even a small space more uniquely yours? More private? More comfortable? More inviting?

I’ve always dreamed of having an ‘office’ that was totally mine where I could decorate according to my eclectic desires, where I could draw on walls, and map our huge character timelines. For a short time, I had my desk in our guest room and was able to do this to a point. Then, my husband started teaching and needed that space to study and work out his sermons. At first I was a bit miffed. I had finally gotten the magical space I wanted to write and write and write. A little hidden away place just for me. My husband reminded me that the whole house was my space and he needed this one room. Lol. Well, there I was corrected.

Now, if you will remember I said I was going to look at this book from a homemaker’s perspective and not a writer’s perspective. That’s the point. I never looked at that space or even my whole house as MY SPACE. How silly of me!

After a lot of rearranging last year, my husband now has his own office and I have a guest room ready for company. My small desk had been moved into the living room and stays closed most of the time.

This question sparked a realization in me that I need to re-think my small desk. I need to think of it as the place of creative thinking for my home. It needs to be changed to my home space out of which ideas flow, not my writing space. My head is my writing space. My journals are my writing space. If I want to keep my heart and head in the right place with the right priorities, if I want to be a homemaker first, I need to make a home creative place. My trusty desk, once my Mom’s, is perfect.

My desk is already very private with deep heavy drawers and a top that closes. At any point I can just close it up. (READ: hide the mess) What I need to do to make it more comfortable is get it cleaned up, organized and probably design a better filing system. Right now the filing cabinet is doubling as surface space in my husband’s office. This would make my desk more comfortable and inviting. I need to also put pictures up of beautiful homes and delightful gardens. This space needs to change from the geeky writing space to the home space. Charts of what needs to be done, budget ideas, food, and such need to fill this space. I need to train my mind to love these things as much as my writing. I need to see them as part of who I am, not that thing I have to finish so I can write. There is much wonder in a home and I feel like I’ve been missing it due to discontentment. I just kept thinking: Why, oh why can’t the LORD just let me be a reclusive writer who cares about nothing else???

God knows best. I’m called in the Word to be a keeper of my home and I want my home to be a place that welcomes my husband and other saints in for good food and good drink. In and around that, I am free to use and enjoy my gift of writing, but not to the detriment of the other.

I’m really really enjoying looking at my home creatively from the bottom up. Now, little by little, I’ll get that desk cleaned out, cleaned up, and remade so I can use it for my home. I think I should find some room in my closet, or buy a special box to put my writing stuff in. Like a mobile creativity center. I don’t want to lose that part of me, I just want it to sit where it’s supposed to sit. I want it to quit greedily hording all my creativity leaving none for my home.

Cheers!

Pencil Dancing Chapter 1

Someone asked me the other day how I was feeling. As I quickly pondered how to answer that question, I realized that I’m not really feeling kick-my-shoes-off-and-dance better, nor am I feeling in-the-depths-of-despair bad either. I’ve kinda reached a happy medium where I have good days and bad days. I’m on a strict diet and learning the hard lessons of only doing what I can do today.

With that in mind, I’m going to try to do some slaying of two birds with one stone. I’m reading a book called Pencil Dancing by Mari Messer right now. It is intended to help a writer be more creative, but at the beginning of the book she says that her lessons of creativity can be applied to any setting including that of the homemaker. This caught me off guard. I’m used to being creative. I’m a writer after all. But, do I think of my homemaking and my home in a creative way?? I’ve decided to read this book only with a heart for homemaking and not for writing at all. I’ve already found it inspiring. I have lived too long in the shadow of thinking of my writing as creative and my homemaking as my work. I hope to step into the light loving all that I do with the help of this book.

What about those two birds that need to be slain?

Pencil Dancing has some journaling questions at the end of each chapter and I’m going to do that journaling here. See? Blog post and using my book! Two Birds! 🙂

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New Cork Board! Fabric is from the hem of my curtains. Pray Request sign is the inside of a tea box. Fall pictures are from a tissue box. 🙂

Question from Chapter 1: Raffia in the Doorway

What “barnacles,” imposed from outside yourself or from within, are the most stubborn obstacles to your creative expression? What ideas do you have for reducing or eliminating some of them? What do you most want to let go of? Write your thoughts.

When it comes to creativity in my home I’m most impeded by three things: courage, fatalism, and budget. I have always found it hard to do something creative with my home without overspending on the budget. This makes me want to not be creative at all. It’s just too expensive. I hope to reduce this fear by looking at what I already have in my home. I want to learn how to look at trash differently. For example, I used the inside of a tea box on my cork board. I just cut it up, and wrote a quote on the pretty print inside instead of throwing the empty tea box out. I want to balance this with not being cluttered. I hate clutter. So throw away, but don’t throw away everything. Look beyond something’s intended use, but don’t believe everything has a use.

I tend to be very happy with things the way they are, to the point of being fatalistic. I’m not a driven person except in a few areas. This can really hurt me in my home and even in relationships. I tend to not want to worry about new flooring. The flooring we have is fine . . . right? My oven that never cooks the same way twice is fine . . . or it’s easier to be content with it than it is to go research what oven I might like to replace it with. Put that with the budget fear and I will sit on my hands while my appliances slowly die. I hope to get over this, honestly, by sheer determination and maybe scheduled ‘research’ time. Having a set time to research would probably be the most helpful thing to me.

My husband enjoys a very streamlined, modern styled home. I tend to be very eclectic, and while I don’t like clutter, I do like stuff and books. I like books. I love the homey feeling of books, books, books. I also like throw pillows. I would buy new throw pillows every week if the budget allowed. I tend to want to haphazardly mix all the things I love together whether they match or not. Early on in our marriage finding a happy medium between our two taste was almost impossible. I think, through no fault of my husbands, that I still feel like he’ll hate everything I do in the house.

Now, as a stay at home wife focused solely on her home, and my husband really wanting and encouraging me to make the home mine, I’m a little afraid I’ll overdo it. I don’t trust myself. (If you heard some of the ideas I’ve come up with, you wouldn’t trust me either.) This greatly inhibits me. The solution to this problem is to give ideas time while not being afraid of controlled experimenting. I need to be brave enough to try out new colors. But first I need to think about it, and then maybe try it in the laundry room before I make a commitment to a whole wall in the living room. I need to find small ways to experiment before tackling big things.

What to do all these problems have in common: fear. You’d think I was a woman or something. It’s amazing what I fear in this life sometimes. I think there is also a fear of failure. What I need to do is find ways to be creative in each step and each room without being crazy.

Do you struggle with these same types of fears? What obstacles keep you from creative expression in your own home?

Happy Mother’s Day!

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This is both a happy and sad article, so I apologize.

First, I just want to say that I love Mother’s day because I have the two best moms in the world. They aren’t just my moms. They are very dear and special friends. My own mom is on my speed dial even as a thirty-four-year-old when I need a shoulder to cry on or a swift kick in the seat of the pants. I’m old enough to know that having a friend who will kick you in the pant seat is valuable beyond gold or silver. My mom inspires me, reminds me to do what’s right, shares her wine, and opens her heart and home to me at any day or time. Honestly, I love my mom cause she always makes me feel wanted, valued, and like a friend who she doesn’t get to see enough. I feel that way about her and she often tells me the same thing. I would kill off more fictional people if I thought it would give me more time with her. On top of all this, my Mom has her own business, keeps up with my dad, our church, all of us kids, all the grandkids, her own parents, and takes care of my Dad’s Mom. She amazes me! She would tell you she feels stretched, maybe like butter spread over too much bread, but she does a wonderful job. My mom is one of the main reasons I love to write and read. That is a gift I can never repay.

My extra mom is not just my mother-in-law, she is also one of my dearest friends. She is supportive, engaged, and has an open door policy, which I indulge in quite regularly. She has always treated me more as a prize than as an extra child in the family. What girl doesn’t love that? My extra mom is the most amazing cook I’ve ever known. We all crowd in her small kitchen on family days cause it’s the best place to be. She also has the most beautiful yard you’ve ever seen. I love our long talks when I go over to work out. I love the plant advice, which saves me hours of online research, and I love a fellow movie/TV nut to discuss the latest show with. Having a good relationship with the person who raised your husband is rare, so I’m fortunate to have not just a mom-in-law, but a true and real extra mom.

If I can have a home as comforting and welcoming as these two women, I’ll have reached a certain level of success in my life as a housewife. Other than my own home, I can think of no two places I’d rather be than one of my moms’ homes. I love you both dearly!

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This is the part I love about Mother’s Day. I love getting an extra chance to tell two women how much they mean to me. But there is a part about Mother’s Day that gets harder with each passing year. For those of you without children or who have lost children, you know what I’m talking about.

When I was a young lady and Mother’s Day rolled around, I would dream about someday being honored by my husband and my children. I would smile and laugh at all the things done for mothers and wonder what my own husband and children would do to surprise me on this day. (Thank you Hallmark.)

I don’t have kids.

I’m still young enough, I tell myself daily, that I still hope to have children. I squeeze as much hope as possible out of every story about women who have children after they’re 35 or 40…or even 50. I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of why we don’t have kids. Sorry. It’s not anyone’s business but my husband’s and mine. Just know that we want children, but we don’t have any.

So, each year Mother’s Day rolls around and I dream less and less about my own future time to celebrate. More and more, I just try to keep my head down, my heart in control, and think about the women I love who are mothers. And ladies, all of you moms that I know, I pray for you all the time. The older, and more tired, I get the more and more I pray for you. You have the most important task before you. You are molding and shaping the next generation and I don’t think it’s going to be an easy time to grow up. Keep at it. Enjoy this holiday set aside for you, dear moms. I pray for you!

For me, this holiday which was once looked forward to, is now almost dreaded. It is a big billboard of what I long for but don’t have and may never have. But! I do have hope. I have hope that Christ knows this desire. I have hope because I’m not alone in this desire. Many women have had this prayer answered in the positive by the Lord: Hannah, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Sampson’s Mother. And I have hope that He is good. If He answers this prayer with a no, I can lean and trust in Him. In the meantime, I can pour out my heart and mind for my church and my family. I can love on my nieces and nephews. I can love a holiday for the opportunity to tell my Moms how much they mean to me. I can switch my focus from what I don’t have to what Christ has secured for me. I can set my eyes on heaven and know that even if I don’t have children here on this earth, my hope is in what Christ has done for me. I, by His grace alone, will not waste this life pining for something I don’t yet have. I will use it to serve my church in every way possible.

I’m thankful for all you moms at church who take time out of your busy lives to text me, call me, facebook me, join me for coffee, tell me when you need help, and read my random blog posts. It’s a scary thing to reach a point in your life where you realize you may never have children, but you ladies let me be a part of your lives and so in a way I have many many children who I love.

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. (Is 54:1)

Happy Mother’s Day!

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

All that is Gold: So Heavenly minded you’re no Earthly Good

All that is gold does not glitter

“All that is gold does not glitter….”

This cliché phrase gets bandied about all the time.  Everyone’s familiar with it.  I’ve heard many a lesson, rabbit trail, and sermon on how it’s impossible to be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.  I fully agree with my pastors, that it is impossible.  But, it’s taken me some time to understand what this means from a worldly perspective, why people use it, and how I’ve listened to its lies over the years.

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Last year, my husband and I sold our relatively successful small business.  My husband ultimately left this choice to me.  I was the face of the business.  I ran the front end of our boutiques, while he did all the bookwork, systematization, and big picture things.  In many ways, he loved our business far more than I did, but when he asked me if I wanted to sell it, I hesitated.  Why?  Significance.  I had wrapped most of my personal identity around being a business owner.  For ten years, I basked in the praise lavished on me by my community for my wisdom, management skills, and fashion knowledge.  I had successful older women who wanted to work for me.  I had young women who wanted to learn from me.  I had customers who wanted to talk to me every day.  On big sale days, I had lines outside my boutique doors.  I was, in a small way, significant.  When I thought through selling our business, I feared losing that significance.  Who would I be without it?  I would be Mrs. Price Jones.  That’s who I would be.

Oh, the subtle lies of the world, how they twist and turn and steal inside us.  I didn’t find it very significant to be Mrs. Price Jones.  I didn’t find being a housewife and homemaker very exciting….and I feared the remarks I would face when I told my customers that I wanted to sell our business to b

e a housewife and have more time to serve our church.  They would say I was being so heavenly minded I was no earthly good.

There is another side to this story because a woman’s heart and mind is never simple, but always complex.  I always wanted to be a homemaker, since I was a little, little girl.  I was not happy owning the stores.  I felt like they took my best from me and left me with little to give my church, husband, and family.  My husband and I had come to the realization that the sparkle of worldly success was nothing more than that – a cheap sparkle in a $5 ring.  We wanted to use our time and talent to lay up our treasures in heaven.  We wanted to stop saying no to our church family and our physical family and start saying yes.  We wanted to serve them.  We wanted to be so heavenly minded we were no earthly good.

Both of these things were going on in my heart at the same time.  Keeping the store meant a small amount of worldly significance.  Selling the story meant a new life of service to our church that nobody but our church would appreciate.  It meant looking other women in the face and telling them I was a stay at home wife.  Do you know how despised that profession is in our society?  Women look at you like you must sit around all day doing nothing but getting fat and being lazy.  It’s so hard not to qualify the choice we’ve made with a list of all my projects, as if to justify myself.

I think this is where the cliché of being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good initiated.  Christians chose to give up what the world valued to do things the world didn’t value.  For me, it was when I stopped wanting to be an elf, and saw the beauty and magic of being a hobbit, of living a quiet life.  Age does this to you.  You don’t want to live in this earth forever.  I had to learn, and keep learning to trust my significance to my heavenly Father, not to the works of my hands.

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This is an ongoing process.  The Lord has blessed my husband and my efforts to serve our church and our families.  He has shown us the tarnished, worthless sparkle of a world in a pre-ash state.  But we are such sight bound beings, and sometimes that sparkle looks so promising.  So the Lord keeps showing the lie to us.  Recently, He has done this for me by helping me see that I could use my writing ability to edify and help other believers.  I had to give up another small bit of worldly significance.  Not something wrong, but something good for something better, and something only faith can see as significant, not sight.

This has led me to start becoming someone I previously disliked.  Even as a Christian, I would find other Christians who I felt were so heavenly, so holy, they were….well just boring, kinda strange, and so insignificant.  They read all this holy stuff and never Steven King.  They listened to all this Christian music and never Florence and the Machine, or Metallica.  They weren’t up on the latest geeky TV show, or any TV show, geeky or not.  I mean, what was wrong with these people.  They were so heavenly minded they were no earthly fun.

And now here I am.  I would rather be at church, my church, with my church family than anywhere else in the world.  I enjoy old hymns more than I enjoy pop songs.  I have a growing stack of religious books on my desk that I’m actually reading, not just thinking I should probably read them.  I have bible verses on my walls instead of inspirational quotes….though there is still a fair amount of Tolkien mixed in.  Why?  Why this change?  Why this pulling away from the world?  Because the older I get, the more aware I am of my own sin and God’s grace.  I’m not a good person.  I’m a wretched sinner.  I need God.  Not as an opium, I need Him as a savior.  I need Him as my savior.  I am lost without Him.  I have no hope without Him.  The older I get, the more He gently leads me away from this life and towards the one to come.  I am becoming, to the world, of no value.  I live a quiet life, serve my church, and Lord Willing, write moralistic stories for children.  My life is not changing the world.  My talents aren’t being used to eradicate poverty, stop war, or starvation.  My talents are set at the scarred feet of Christ and He is using them in a small Texas church.  And my significance?  I find it all in Him and not in me.  Someday better than others, but He is longsuffering.  He has sealed me and will not give me up even as He helps me give up this world.

Slice of Life: Goals and Resolutions

Slice of Life

Slice of Life

It’s that time of the year.  Vacations are finished.  The holidays are over.  Family from far away has headed home.  Life is getting back to normal.  Articles fill our Facebook feeds, snarky quotes abound on Pinterest, and Bloggers equally groan and rejoice as they write.  It must be time to make Resolutions.

I don’t look at New Year’s Resolutions as a way to break bad habits (I think that’s called sanctification and should be going on all the time).  I see them as a way to examine the past year and set New Goals.  It’s a time to reevaluate, and since it’s the New Year, it’s a good time to start.  Thinking of goals instead of resolutions accomplishes several things for me.

1) Goals: Saying you’re going to keep up with your budget is nice.  Making a goal with a plan of simplifying your home finances is better.  Do you see the difference?  Resolutions tend to be something we try based on force of will.  Goals tend to encourage planning, evaluation, and milestones.

2) Goals have and End Point:  Resolutions can seem overwhelming.  “I’m gonna lose weight by cutting back on chocolate.”  Yes.  I’m feeling very motivated by that resolution.  (Sarcasm.)  Instead, set a goal for yourself to research chocolate.  Plan to learn about its health benefits and value by the end of the year.  Suddenly, the weight of impossible and unrealistic resolutions lifts from your shoulders.  First, you have a whole year to accomplish your goal.  Second, it’s more fun.  Third, you’re not depressing yourself by cutting something you love out of your life.  Forth, when you’re done, you’re done.  Check it off the list.  Goals are completed.  Resolutions go on forever and ever.

3) Goals come in all shapes and sizes:  You can make big goals, little goals, silly goals, and serious goals.  You can really challenge yourself, or you can manage yourself.  Big goals should be broken down into baby steps, which are really lots of small goals reaching towards one big goal.  I always try to set realistic goals, a few big ones and a few little ones.  It’s very rewarding to reach the end of your year and see what you accomplished.  This is going to look different for everyone.  Only you can figure out what is the right size to motivate you while being realistic.

Resolutions often fail because calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutionsthey express a desire to change something about our character.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Evaluating your shortcomings and desiring to be better is a good thing.  But, this should be a constant, weekly, daily, prayerful endeavor.  Not something we do in January.  Setting goals, instead of resolutions, gives you a road map for the year.  It requires you to look at last year and evaluate what you accomplished, what you didn’t, and why.  It lets you see areas of your life that may be out of control or neglected.  Setting goals allows you to accomplish something, not just hope for a few weeks that you’ll do better.

What are my goals for 2014?  Well, that’s still a work in progress.  I have many things I’d like to accomplish around the house.  I need to get my husband’s input on my goals to make sure they’re in line with his.  I need to review last year’s goals and see what needs to roll over into this year.  A lot of work goes into setting goals, and then you have to make a plan.  You have to set smaller goals.  You have to enlist help.  Always enlist help.  Be prepared to be derailed.  Life happens.  That’s why they’re year goals.

This is my list thus far:

1) Simplify our Accounting:  I hate handling bills, budgets, taxes, reconciliation, and anything that has numbers involved in it.  Stronger than my hate is my desire to be a good steward over what the Lord has given us.  This means being wise in the handling of the home finances.  Last year, I focused on getting a handle on life without the stores.  This year I want to simplify the processes.  If it feels overwhelming, maybe it is.  I will be looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.

2)Food Planning:  This is a three-part goal.  I want to make sure we’re eating healthy, yummy meals.  I also want to work on planning those meals out to the best financial benefit.  And, I want to lose weight.  Yes, as always, the New Year starts with new weight goals.  Instead of just saying I want to lose a few pounds, I want to look at the overall eating habits of our family and get a better grip on them.   (If anyone has good books or blogs on meal planning, please send them my way!)

3) Finish the work on the shed:  When we bought our home, we bought all the contents as well.  Everything we didn’t want we shoved in the shed.  My goal is to finish going through the house to make sure we don’t have things we’re not using sitting around, and then to have a garage sale to empty the shed.  I’ve been working on this goal for two years now.  This year it’s going to happen.  How?  I’m going to enlist help.  I think I’ve tried to do this on my own and it’s just not working.  I need help.

4) Continue the re-modeling of our home:  My respect for general contractors has risen dramatically over the last few months as I’ve tried to wrap my brain around how to go about the remodel of our home.  It seemed straightforward when I started and then took a sudden turn for the crazy.  I will continue to plow through this project.  It’s very challenging to try to decided who to use, what products to use, colors, cost, look, and long-term durability.    Trying to weigh what I can do with some help, and what I need to pay a professional to do is frightening.  This is a long-term goal.

5) Time Management: Somewhere between the weddings, showers, conferences, a new niece, and the holidays, I feel like I lost control over my schedule.  I feel like I was so busy running that I was never home.  And I don’t mean ‘never home’ like I didn’t have time to watch movies and eat bon-bons, but like numbers 1 – 4 were not being tended to.  I’ve been a homemaker for almost a year now and I don’t feel like I have a handle on my home.  I want to help everyone who needs me.  I want to spend time with so many people.  This year I’m going to figure out how to manage my schedule so that I can do both.  I’m going to set goals to work on my house, and leave room for people.  I want to leave myself time to do some Bible Study, some exercise.  I want to feel less frantic, and more useful.  I want my first neighbor, my husband, to have a well-managed home, not whatever I got to this week.  I know from running our business that if I can find a system, I’ll have time to do what needs to be done and do what I want to do.

Life is an adventure.  Life is a battle, a war even.  Are you ready to go?  What are your goals for this year?  Do you set Resolutions, or make Goals?