What’s In It For Me?

What’s In It For Me?

“I can fit in that closet, and maybe I can fit a comfy chair in there, too.. and snacks….”

“If I shower for ten minutes, then today I’ll have had exactly……. ten minutes of quiet time.”

“Maybe I can fashion a mannequin to look like me, stand it up in the kitchen, and sneak away to take a break somewhere…..”

These are some of the bizarre and unfiltered thoughts of a stay-at-home mom. I mean I don’t know WHICH stay-at-home mom.. Just, you know, what I’m GUESSING a stay-at-home mom might think….

….

We’ve all been there. I have worked a couple high stress and big responsibility jobs in my adult life, and can I just say- raising kids is the hardest of all.

There. I said it.

Being at home with my kids means that I am on call every hour of every day and night. There are no lunch breaks, no vacations, there is not even the luxury of clocking out at the end of the day. My ears are constantly perked up for the sound of my name. I am responsible for on the spot problem solving, disciplinary action, cooking, cleaning, cuddling, re-cleaning all the things I cleaned five minutes ago, transportation, and so much more. It brings immeasurable joy to my heart, but oh at the end of those hard days- the really hard ones- there are moments I truly wonder, ‘what do we really get for all our hard work? What’s in it for me?’

(Photo credit: rawpixel)

How grateful I am then for this reminder in Ecclesiastes:

“What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:9-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We get to enjoy the fruits of our labor here on earth, and then one day we get a priceless and eternal vacation with God our Father. And really isn’t every toil, and trouble we go to in a day just wrapped around a treasure; a blessing God has given us?

(Photo credit: Mel)

Our work is not just a service to our family, or boss, or community. It is a way to serve God, to grow His kingdom, and to glorify His name. If we have the right attitude it’s an act of gratitude and love and a way to give back to God as thanks for what He’s given us. And while we work, things are happening. God is using our actions as seeds planted in the soil. He is growing new and great things from every word we speak and job we do, though we may not see it in the moment or by the end of our lifetime.

God has indeed made everything beautiful in its own time, so what a blessing it is to have eyes that see goodness in even the struggles. I mean, when we’re old and weary won’t we look back and long for the days when we had the ability to jump up from our seat and chase the children or mop the floors? And when our kids are grown, won’t we look back and see the beauty we witnessed in watching them grow? Won’t we long to hear our names called at bedtime for one more hug or favor?

God put us on this earth with much work ahead of us. But even so, there is so much beauty in the ability to complete what’s asked of us, and in sharing our life’s work with the ones we love. With each task He grants us the fruits of our labors whether it be a clean house, a full belly, paid bills, or a happy child.

(Photo credit: Daiga Ellaby)

Lord, may we never grow tired of doing the work before us! Please give us eyes to see the beauty in our work and enjoy the fruits of it. Thank you for the ability we each have to complete the tasks before us. May we be your hands and feet in this world. We love you! Amen.

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Living With Less

Living With Less

I remember the threat well: “if you don’t clean your room I’m taking a trash bag and throwing away all your toys!”

Look out! Whenever my mama made a threat like that I knew it was time to get my butt in gear. I really didn’t want my belongings relocated to the local dump, but I looked before me at the mess and was overwhelmed to the point of making no efforts at all. I wasn’t enjoying the benefits of my tea set or my life-sized Barbie when they were buried somewhere under coloring books and Lite Brite pegs. Yet I just couldn’t muster the energy to even begin. I already felt defeated. The things I owned were owning my emotions and draining my energy. I half considered letting my mom follow through on just hauling it all away.

– • – • – • – • –

(Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)

If I’m being honest, I’ve used that threat on my own child before.

It probably sounds irrational until there are heaps of toys, parts, and assorted junk spilling over in front of you. Any parent out there has probably at least thought as much. (Right?)

Toys aren’t the only culprit for that uncomfortable overwhelming feeling, either. I accumulate my own heaps and piles. One of the worst is the closet under our staircase. It catches everything. (Literally…. sometimes you have to toss items into the back because of the slope of the ceiling in there- don’t judge!) It’s perfect for wrapping paper, old paint cans, boxes of seasonal decor, and items I plan to return “someday”. You know what I’m talking about…. we all have that closet. I may go days without thinking much of it, but anytime I reach in there, the excess consumes me.

Over the years I have realized something very important whenever any corner of my home momentarily starts resembling my childhood room or that stair closet: it stresses me out. If I come home to clutter, my anxiety starts in. If I wake up and it’s there, my day can start to derail. It’s why so much of my day is spent tidying: ahh, peace of mind.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that property can penalize you.

But it can.

(Photo credit: Cheryl Winn-Boujnida)

“Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil,” says Proverbs‬ ‭15:16‬. And that’s exactly what excess eagerly gives me: inner turmoil.

After all, “what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mathew 8:36). I don’t want to forfeit my soul or what peace of mind I could have by eliminating the distractions that keep me from living simply in Christ. That’s why “living with less” became my number one resolution for 2019.

I’ve started this process in small steps, and I imagine it will be just that: an ongoing process. It took me years to accumulate my belongings, so it makes sense that it will take a while to weed out the unnecessaries among them. I started in the kitchen by pulling out every pot, pan, and gadget that I have no reasonable use for. Away to donate they go. I plan to continue on this way throughout the year one cabinet, closet, and cranny at a time. At the end of the day, my motivation to make these changes comes from four of what I think are the greatest benefits.

  • Why Live With Less:
    1. Less distracting
      Less costly
      Higher quality (vs. greater quantity)
      Less fuss

    If I don’t have my nose in my shopping apps I have more time for doing what matters. If my goal is to have less, then the intrinsic benefit is that I’m spending less. When I do purchase things, I then have the ability and the space to go for higher quality items which will last longer and not need replaced as often. I’m able to clear away useless items that do nothing more than take up space.

    Now I don’t think this has to be intimidating, and I don’t think it has to mean that you’re going to live in a plain house with a few walls and empty space in between. To me, the whole idea is to take a reality check on your heart and mindset when seeking out material things, and when observing what you already own.

    (Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)

    These are some of the things I ask myself when deciding on a purchase or making decisions of what stays and what goes:

      Am I/Why am I attached to this?
      Is my attachment to this item making me loosen my grip on what God wants for my life?
      Do I spend time on upkeep or shopping for accessories for it and wasting time and money better spent?
      Does the cost of it leave me less inclined to give to church or charity?
      Does the storage of it cost space or money that I could use more wisely?
      Am I buying/holding on to this to impress someone?

    As I move down the list of questions, my motives for whatever item become clear. Sometimes I don’t even realize there’s more to wanting a possession than just wanting it, but there always is. Buying or holding onto things for the wrong reasons just tends to stack them in between me and my Creator until eventually I can’t even see Him over the pile. It blocks my view of what a calming and peaceful environment looks like. It’s not until I start eliminating the excess that I can start to see the blessings on the other side.

    Have you come across any great tips for keeping your home decluttered, or cutting down on unnecessary items? Comment them below!

    “I made this for you!”

    “I made this for you!”

    “I made you this!” These are often the proud words of:

    A. Anyone who has ever considered herself crafty, or

    B. Any child who has ever finger painted, paper crafted, or demolished his or her parent’s personal belongings and glued them into a new creation

    (Photo credit: Karly Santiago)

    It’s a highly anticipated moment to finally gift someone with a creation from your own hands, whatever it may be. The long hours and unwholesome- I mean loving words that go into making a special gift make that moment worth it. Bringing life to piles of stuff and making them into a fully formed and materialized idea is a special experience. Some may see it as a frivolous use of time or materials, but I see it as an opportunity to explore a characteristic of God- one we exhibit because we are made in His image.

    The first five words of the Bible are these:

    “In the beginning God created…”

    God was a creator. It’s easy to remember that He made the heavens and the earth and so on, but have you ever stopped to think how plain and boring He could have made each thing? The sky could have been white and the earth could have been shades of gray, and so on with every creation in between. He could have created one food with one flavor for us. (Thank you God that you gave us good food, amen!) But stop and take a look around- God…. was a creator. He created purposeful things and beautiful things, and countless combinations of the two.

    (Photo credit: rawpixel)

    This is an exciting observation for an artistic person like me because Genesis 1 gives another truth not long after this first inspiring verse. It says that human beings are made in God’s image. So if God is a creator and He made me to resemble Him, that means that there is some creative power in me, too.

    Somewhere along in life I stumbled upon this perspective-changing quote from Leo Buscaglia:

    “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

    Maybe you’ve talked yourself out of creative pursuits, either believing they aren’t worthwhile or that they won’t sustain you. It’s certainly not unheard of for a person to do this, but I’m here to encourage you to make wise use of the gifts God gave you! I believe that there is a way to honor God with every skill and talent He gives us. And what’s more- I believe they are connected to how you pursue your purpose. Our purpose in this life is to love God and love people, but the beauty is that God has blessed us with so many ways to do those things. He made no mistakes when carefully deciding what skills to give to each of us.

    If you sew, make items for those in need. If you are useful with building, help an unable neighbor with some much needed home repairs. If you paint, make a beautiful piece for someone who needs cheering up. There is always a way show love through your own personal God-given skill set.

    What are some of your skills and talents? How have you found ways to use them to “gift back to God”?

    How Delightful!

    How Delightful!

    The room was dimly lit with the sleepy light of a late summer day of rain. The rocking chair I’d settled into was neatly angled from the corner of our comfortable living room, and in close proximity to the fresh country air pouring in from the wide open window. The sound of water up against the porch awning was gentle and unobtrusive, more comforting than any lullaby.

    I rested my head on the back of the rocker as it glided back and forth. I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. I was thankful that my husband was off working at a job that provided for our family, that my son was sitting in classes he enjoyed, and for the bliss of being nestled beneath the weight of a sleeping baby.

    (Photo credit: Danielle Dolson)

    “This is Heaven,” I thought. I knew even then that it was one of the best moments I had ever, and maybe would ever, experience in my lifetime. I was deeply contented and my heart was truly delighted.

    “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”

    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    Oh, those traveling verses! Have you ever come across a line of scripture that begins to follow you around? You start to see it on wall hangings, on a passerby’s t-shirt, or maybe more subtly in a book you’re reading or in conversation with a stranger.

    This Psalms passage has been making itself known and as I read it again, a line jumped out at me: “take delight in the Lord”. Do you ever find that there are some common phrases in the Bible or church setting that we kind of take for granted and may not have spent time figuring out? This line occurred to me as a “taken for granted” kind of line, particularly because of what is said next: “take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” Well sign me up! The last part peeked my interest because of course, who doesn’t want to be granted their heart’s desire?! It’s like the Bible is saying- God will give you whatever you want, just follow this simple instruction! So naturally you backtrack to examine the instruction more carefully, (and while there is more to it) its true meaning becomes clearer.

    (Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska)

    To get a better grip on the phrase “to delight in”, I tried to plug it into my own life. Here’s what I came up with:

    • I delight in peaceful rainy days with the windows open like the one I described earlier.
    • I delight in funny cat videos.
    • I thoroughly delight in long slow walks through Joann Fabrics with a hot coffee in my hand.
    • I delight in seeing my kids play well together and not push each other into piles of Lego’s.

    The phrase begins to take shape. “Where is your heart?” it seems to say. Now I could edit my post and put “I delight in doing God’s will and studying His Word” at the top, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t the first thing I thought of. The little joys in life- which are certainly supplied by God- were my more immediate thoughts. Of course there is delight in living a God-led life, but it’s often His blessings that catch our attention first.

    While it’s good to enjoy what God has given us, we shouldn’t allow it to replace our delight in the Lord. As the passage says- take delight in the LORD and he will give you your heart’s desires. The gifts in this life are to be enjoyed, but soon pass away. Our heart should find its happiness in the One who never fades or ends or changes, because then our joy will be unwavering, too. If we delight in the Lord, our desires will naturally evolve to ones that are good and pleasing to Him, and I believe He will in turn grant them.

    (Photo credit: Lesly Juarez)

    “He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    So what does God delight in? He delights in us- our hearts devoted to Him! There’s no need to get caught up on figuring out any more than that. Just as we delight in our children, so God delights in us. Psalms makes sure to rule out the unnecessary as well:

    “You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand — you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.”

    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    God doesn’t need us to check serving, attending service, or activity in a small group off of our list- even though those are things that often come naturally as a result of a devoted heart. He just wants to be the priority on our list. When we study His Word and really grasp what it is to have His Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we will find delight in Him and doing His will becomes a natural side effect.

    “I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart. [Heb. 10:5-9.]”

    ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

    It’s the beginning of what I hope is a delightful holiday week for you all! Enjoy your many blessings as you reflect on them this week- and feel free to share a little about them in the comments below!

    Things My Kids Say Thursday #6

    Things My Kids Say Thursday #6

    I am a homemaker and I take pride in that! I enjoy the tasks that come along with it, but sometimes I also enjoy giving my family a hard time.

    Apparently, they have their own ideas about what it takes to keep things running smoothly in the kitchen….

    Me (to husband): When was the last time you cooked?

    Son: It was May! He cooked you cereal for Mother’s Day.

    – • – • – • –

    Good to know this is all the culinary skill it takes to impress my child! 😂

    (In fairness, my husband is the man of the grill because to be honest, I cannot be trusted there. 🙅🏻)

    What are some of your kids’ ideas of a lavish home cooked meal?

    Quarrelsome Wife, Lonely Life: Allowing God to Change My Attitude

    Quarrelsome Wife, Lonely Life: Allowing God to Change My Attitude

    Have you ever read your Bible and come across one of those kick-in-the-gut verses? The kind that makes you say ‘yep, that’s definitely meant for me….’? That happened to me a couple weeks ago when I was reading through Proverbs, one of my very favorite books:

    “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.”

    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭21:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    The conviction is real, y’all. I felt that one in my bones.

    I’m admittedly a little Type A; the (wo)man with the plan. Organization and order put my soul at ease, and disorder always leaves me feeling anxious and stressed.

    (Photo credit: Laura Mitulla)

    My husband couldn’t be more different. Always easy going, calm, and collected, nearly nothing ruffles his feathers. I often hear him say “it’ll all get done,” and it’s always spoken truthfully, without a hint of concern in his voice. His laid back nature makes it difficult for him to understand why I run around like a crazy person with my bright red rubber gloves and messy bun flopping around the day before a holiday or big life event- I just can’t relax or enjoy it without my house clean and in order.

    (Photo credit: rawpixel)

    It’s really no surprise though, that in a busy household of two adults, two kids, and a dog, life can fall into a category that no one would label structured or orderly. It’s in those times that I sometimes become the quarrelsome wife that Proverbs talks about.

    I get an attitude. I reprimand my family members for offenses I know I’ve warned against in the past. I might even toss a misplaced shoe as my lazy lab watches without surprise. These sorts of instances came to mind as I was reading that verse, and I began to feel my perspective shift from details to Deliverer. (Scriptures like this have a way of doing that; of redirecting our focus from the petty things fueled by the values of this world- to the more important bigger picture that God Himself has painted for our lives.) I already knew that my quarrelsome moments weren’t serving anyone in my family well- myself included. But I felt a tugging on my heart from that verse to be more mindful, more intentional, more grace-full in my interactions with my family, and most especially with my spouse.

    That one simple verse became a call for me to put down my bright red rubber gloves and open my eyes to see how God blesses, even in the messes- and allow it to change my attitude.

    Oh, and if that line didn’t say enough…. You can always count on repetition in the Bible where a message is of special importance. (You know how you’re always repeating instructions to your kids? Yeah, God has to do that, too.) A little further on in the wonderful book of Proverbs comes this:

    “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.”

    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭21:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    Ouch. A desert. The Bible says it’s better to live in a literal desert than with me a complaining wife. Pack your canteen, honey.

    And I wasn’t kidding about repetition being a powerful tool in scripture, because then there’s this-

    “A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day. Stopping her complaints is like trying to stop the wind or trying to hold something with greased hands.”

    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    Okay, okay we get it!

    Now. Can we mentally replace “wife” in these verses with “husband” sometimes? Of course we can. But we all know it’s usually us as wives who run the household, leaving us more vulnerable to daily challenges which can spur on an argumentative response. (These scriptures weren’t aimed at wives on accident.) 🤷🏻‍♀️

    It happens. Stress manifests differently for all of us, and that’s where God’s grace (and hopefully the grace of our loved ones) comes in. These little gems in the book of Proverbs serve as a healthy reminder to keep a check on our attitude, which is always a reflection of the state of our hearts. As it’s said in Proverbs 4:23, our hearts should be guarded above all else because “everything you do flows from it.”

    So put down the gloves and let out the messy buns, ladies. Be still and take stock of your precious world around you. Let’s pray for a gentle spirit, which is an attribute pleasing to God, and eyes that see past the mess and the stress. After all, “we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps”- and there’s no arguing with that!

    – • – • – • –

    Encouragement For A Humble Heart, Gentle Spirit, & Kind-Hearted Attitude:

    Philippians 2:12-16

    “….Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life….”

    (My Bible’s comment section says: “A transformed life is an effective witness to the power of God’s Word. Are you shining brightly, or are you clouded by complaining and arguing? Don’t let dissensions snuff out your light.”)

    1 Peter 3:4-5

    “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.”

    1 Peter 3:10-11

    “For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”‭‭