Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Privilege

Hello friends,

Wow!  It has been a long time since I have connected with you all!  I spent a couple of weeks ensconced in my recliner with a blanket and a box of Kleenex, then I graduated to the couch and I am finally back to normal life duties... for the most part.  It may be awhile before I can talk a lot or sing, but hopefully the inflammation and coughing will subside in the next few weeks! :)

I just wanted to stop in today and share a quote that I found in an old book by Grace Livingston Hill called "A Daily Rate".  Written in 1900, the book tells about a young lady named Celia who is living in a boarding house in Philadelphia.  The house is unkept, the food is miserable, and the conditions unpleasant.  In the course of the story, Celia comes into an inheritance and decides to use it to become a "home missionary".  She purchases the boarding house and asks her Aunt to come and join her.  Their goal was to create a warm, clean and inviting place to live that would open the doors of ministry for them to share Christ with the boarders.  As Aunt Hannah traveled to meet her niece she was praising the Lord that "He had given to her the privilege of brightening a place that had hitherto been dark."

He has given us the privilege of brightening a place that has hitherto been dark.

For some reason that really struck me.  First the idea of it being a privilege.  A gift.  A sweet task and a way to be a "home missionary" - making my home a pleasant place to draw my family and others to the light of Christ.

Then I thought of the word "brightening".   I have really struggled the past couple of years with the gloominess of my home.  There are only a few hours a day when it is actually bright inside, and often it is oppressively dull and can easily trigger anxiety and depression.   In the story they brightened the home in many ways.  Perhaps it was by cleaning things until they sparkled, or by using fine china rather than a cracked dish, or by adding a dresser cover that had a bit of embroidery on it.  Other times they built bookshelves, made a new couch cover or scattered some bright pillows.  And sometimes the brightening was just a kind word, a friendly offer of help, or a song.   It used to be when I would look at my home with the "Not perfecting, but brightening" idea from the Beautiful Life Management pages I would think of "just making it look a little better".  But now that my home is basically in order, my thoughts turn to sewing and decluttering and having a sweet spirit.  I want to transform my environment so it overflows with love and joy and peace.

The last part of the quote, "a place that has hitherto been dark" may not be as poignant to you as it is to me.  If you have ever dealt with anxiety and depression you know that it can be hard to see that there is any other option than to be anxious and depressed.  Anything can trigger it - even a dirty carpet or a pile of papers - when it is connected to a bad memory in your mind.  So the idea that I can brighten a place that has "hitherto been dark" is wonderful to me.  It doesn't discount the fact that there are bad memories.  There is darkness.  But it does remind me that Christ is the Light and He has given me the opportunity to spread His light, and the darkness can't stand up to it.  This is the gift He has given me.  Light overcomes darkness.  I don't have to let those triggers control me.  Each one just serves to show an area that needs to be brightened with the Light of Christ, and - wonder of wonders - He has chosen me to help brighten the path for others.  What a blessing!


If you don't know where to begin in your Home Brightening, perhaps you'd enjoy taking the 28 Day Challenge or would benefit from the Beautiful Life Management System.  Our free ebooklet, "Planning to be a Blessing" might be a help as well!

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Week's Project

Happy Monday!

The time change has made me think of spring, even though we had a few inches of snow last night, and I have decided to tackle this project starting today...

This is our little tiny guest room - still filled to the brim with things that my daughter left behind when she went to college, and it has become our catch all room as well and it is overwhelming to even open the door!  So, armed with a number of UHaul boxes, I'm going to tackle it one piece at a time.  Today I emptied a bookshelf -- Tomorrow I will pack up most of the decorations -- And my goal is to be able to put some of the furniture that has outlived its usefulness in the bulk trash pickup at the end of the week.   If we can clean it up and move things around, I think it will be a lovely little office / guest room and my daughter can go through the packed up boxes at her leisure.

What is your project this week??

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I Can't Keep Up!

Have you ever felt like that?  "I can't keep up!"  Maybe it is because you have young children, or you work outside the home and are gone more than you are home.  Maybe you are sick for a few weeks with the flu, or recovering from surgery, or fighting cancer, or dealing with depression or a chronic illness.  Maybe it is because you've tried the 28 Day Challenge and found it more challenging than you expected.  Over the past number of years (and even this week!!) I have found myself saying it again -- and again -- and again.  As soon as I would feel like I was going in the right direction something new would happen to throw me off track - a car accident, a family member in the hospital, a teen that was struggling, caring for a sick relative, a death in the family, major surgery, depression... During each of those times and many others, I found myself sitting on the floor in despair thinking.  "I can't keep up, and I'm supposed to be the one encouraging others that they can do it!  And I feel like a complete failure as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker, as "Mrs. GraceWorks" and as a friend."

Here are some things that God has been teaching me over the past number of years...

1. I don't have to keep up,  I just have to keep going.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed when you feel like you aren't enough.  I know that some people that have taken the 28 Day Challenge have felt like that.  "If I can't do it all, why bother with any of it!".  And I know that I have struggled with it myself.  It would be so wonderful if I *loved* housekeeping and was an amazing decorator and was always be on top of things.  But I am not.  Seriously - I missed a chiropractor appointment yesterday afternoon that I had just scheduled in the morning... and it was even written down in my planner!  That is just not the area that I am gifted in, and most days I know that and I am content that I am making progress.  BUT... when I am sick, or off schedule, or struggling with anxiety and depression I become heartsick that I can't do it all.  It is then that God has reminded me that I don't have to keep up with everything, I just have to keep going.  Keep doing my morning routine.  Keep spending time in God's Word.  Keep loving my husband and children.  Keep doing the dishes and the laundry.  Just keep going.  The time will come when you can "catch up" and begin again.

2. Be careful with comparisons.

Comparing myself with others is a sure way to become discouraged.  I am not FLYlady and I am not Suzy Homemaker that writes amazing blog posts everyday in between writing books on how to deep clean your house every 30 days.   I am just a girl that loves my Lord and my family and my home and wants to manage my time and my home to the glory of God.  I cannot compare myself with you or anyone, but only place myself in God's hands so He can teach me and use me as He sees fit.

3. Embrace your new normal.

Each season brings new challenges, and our schedules need change to reflect that, but often it is hard to embrace the new requirements if we haven't first yielded to the change that has made them necessary.  The longer I try to make my old schedule work under my new circumstances, the more frustrated I will become, but if I can yield the area that I am struggling with to the Lord and realize that He has me right here - right now - for a reason, then I can adjust my schedule to reflect how God is currently working in my life.

4. Just because you can't do everything it doesn't mean that you can't do anything.

When I am sick or depressed my first reaction is to want to curl up in a corner and do nothing.  God is teaching me, though, that I can still do something - even if it is small.  Making my bed takes just a few minutes, as do other tasks, and just a little bit here and there will make my home a more peaceful retreat for those I love.  And when I really am unable to function, I am learning that even then I can I can be a blessing to others by my reactions to them and my efforts to stay sweet and trustful under pressure.

5. God has me in this situation right now for a purpose of His own.

Sometimes we can get worn down when we have been dealing with a chronic illness or a life event like long days with young children or caring for aging parents that doesn't seem like it will ever end.  We feel like we will never be enough for all our responsibilities and we begin to pity those around us that everything isn't perfect, and start to think "it's all my fault!" - which just leads to self-pity and hopelessness.  Friend - it isn't true.  Your current circumstance is a gift.  It comes from God and is the way that He desires to use you right at this moment.  It may be that He is giving you the gift of rest that comes wrapped in a package of suffering, or the gift of experience that is wrapped in the package of daily service.  But if you unwrap your gift lovingly, you will find that He will both draw you closer to Himself and give you a greater heart of compassion for others.  Ask God for the wisdom to be thankful for whatever season your life is in just at this moment.

6. A planner is my friend - and also my mind.

My planner is so important to me - whichever planner or notebook I happen to be using at the moment.  It is the place I can put my checklists, my appointments, my goals, my devotional thoughts.  It can be my mind when I cannot seem to think clearly and remind me of things that are important when I can't remember them myself.  Even when I don't complete everything or forget to write in it for a day or two, it is there when I am ready to move ahead and will help me as much as I let it.

7. I cannot go backward, I can only go forward.

No matter how much I might wish that I could go back to the time "before that thing happened", it really can never be.  I'm learning to take what worked "back then" and adjusting it to where I am right now.  For example - when we were homeschooling we always had an afternoon rest period where I could get some things done that I needed to do before the day was over and we could all have some "alone time".  I am no longer homeschooling, but I now have a little dog who becomes very stressed when I go into the basement to pack orders, do laundry or make a card.  Using things that worked in the past, but adapting them to my current situation,  I am starting to give her a rest period in her kennel each afternoon so I am free to do what I need to do downstairs.  Sometimes, though, things just don't work any more, and I am learning to pray for guidance in these situations.  Often that means I will struggle for a bit trying this and that before God shows me the path to take.  Moving forward sometimes involves a road block or a detour, but with God as our guide we are safe on the path.

8. No matter what my circumstances, I can be a blessing to someone else.

We have a beautiful woman in our church who is such an encouragement to me because of her sweet spirit in spite of the fact that she has multiple medical problems.  Though she is often in pain, her smile lights up the room so that you would never know that she was uncomfortable.  Oh, that I might be that encouragement to others!!

9. What I do today might not be possible tomorrow.

One thing I am realizing more and more is that different days have different limitations.  One day I might feel great and get through my entire daily checklist and more.  On other days, though, it is difficult to even make my bed and do the dishes.  I think what I need to do is to work on a separate checklist for "those days".  I need to think through what is possible on my hard days and make a checklist that takes into account my need for rest and the possibility that I won't be able to make decisions well.  It needs to break down my "must do's" into bite sized chunks that I can work on in five or fifteen minute intervals, allowing me to get something done even though I won't get everything done.  I'm going to work on that over the next few weeks, because it is definitely something I need.

10. "There is nothing that I lack in my current situation that He does not make up for in Himself."

I read that quote somewhere and wrote it down in my devotional notebook.  I want it to become a part of who I am.  Any lack that I may perceive in myself or my health or my possessions is not worth mentioning.  Christ is all I need and will overflow from my life to others if I yield myself to Him fully.  Oh, that you and I would be a channel of His grace to others!!

I know that I've rambled a bit with this post, because I have been thinking it out and writing from my heart over a number of days - some of which I was struggling in the very ways I talked about.  I pray that you won't get discouraged and that you will join me in moving forward day by day by day.

Have a blessed day, my friends, as you plan to be a blessing to those that God brings into your path!!


Thursday, February 23, 2017


Do you tend to procrastinate when certain jobs are on your to-do list?  I finished a job this morning that I had been putting off for over a week and it felt SO good to mark it off my list.  It isn't a hard job, necessarily.  It just has lots of details and details overwhelm me, so each day I would look at it and put it off until the next.  But this morning I decided it had been on my list long enough so I did it first thing - before I had even had my quiet time!  And, truthfully, my time with the Lord was less distracted because that project wasn't lurking in the back of my mind.

If you are struggling with procrastination as well here are just a few hints that I have found that have helped me.

1. Write it down -- EVERY DAY.

If I see a project on my list day after day after day I am going to do one of two things.  I will either decide it isn't important and erase it, or I will get tired of seeing it and do it.  The particular job I had to face this morning was bookkeeping related, so I couldn't delete it - which made doing it the only other option! :)

2. Break it into pieces.

Sometimes we procrastinate on projects because they are too overwhelming to process as a whole, or will take so long to complete that we don't even want to start.  One way to face these types of projects is to simply schedule the next step.  I had to do that with this particular project.  One day I worked on income, then I scheduled a day to print reports, then a day to finish.  Sometimes one step a day is all I can handle, and other times one step leads to another and, before I know it, the project is done.

3. Set aside a day.

When you have a project that is hard to work on "piecemeal", set aside a day that is dedicated to its completion.  I like to do this for sewing projects, because I sew on my kitchen table and it is inconvenient to pick up the machine and fabric and patterns and tools before the project is done.  I usually mark off a day on my calendar and plan for it as though it was a vacation day.  I try to have meals made ahead of time and let my family know that the day is dedicated to sewing.  It's even better if I can choose a day where both my husband and daughter are working, but I know that when you still have young children at home that isn't a possibility.  When my children were younger we would call it a vacation day and they would be allowed special privileges (like extra time watching approved videos) while I was working.  We all loved those days!

Feel free to leave a comment with your tricks and tips for dealing with projects!  I'd love to hear them!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Getting My Ducks in a Row

It's Monday again, and it is a Monday that I didn't start with a plan, which is never a good idea for me. Yesterday was busy with a carry in dinner after church and a question and answer time for a new pastor after that.  Then, with another service in the evening and preparing my husband something to eat when we got home, well, I just didn't get my list made for this week. Add that to the fact that today feels like a holiday because there is no mail today and you will find me in my present state of not being able to put all my "ducks in a row" because they aren't even in the same pond!

It's time to go duck-gathering!

First, I'll make an off my mind and onto paper list, just to capture all my "ducks".
Next, I'll transfer any tasks with concrete dates to my calendar.
Then, I'll assign tasks to each day of this week.  I'll also make a "Not now, but soon" list for things I don't think I can get to in the next few days.
Finally, I'll see how many hours are left in my day today and see what I can get done.  I did blitz the house quickly this morning, but I want to be sure to put a roast in the oven for supper and also have the dishes done and kitchen in order when my husband comes home tonight.  If I can work through each step of this list, I should be back on track tomorrow morning.  YAY!!!

It may seem like such a little thing to some of you - but planning to me is hard work and requires lots of thinking.  Organizing my thoughts can be an all day affair sometimes, especially since I haven't been especially careful with my diet these last few days.  On days like today catching my thoughts can feel like trying to pick up water with a fork!!  So - off I go!  I am thankful to know the next step.  Now I need to do it!!

Happy duck-gathering!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Feeling Distracted

Distracted - (adjective)  having the attention diverted


I have a number of goals this year.  Fun goals that are also useful.  Things like cross stitching Christmas ornaments for my family.  Making a quilt.  Finishing my large cross-stitch project.  Making cards to send for special occasions.  They aren't dreary projects that sap my energy, they are sweet encouraging projects that I love to work on.  But somehow I don't work on them nearly as much as I should, or even could.

The funny thing is that I used to.  When the children were younger, even in the middle of homeschooling, being a Stamping Up demonstrator, being involved in a college orchestra and faculty choir, teaching a women's Sunday school class and more, I was able to do these things more regularly.  What is different now??

I've thought and thought about this and I have come to the conclusion that it is the internet.  When the children were young the internet was sort of way out there.  I remember at my first job I was introduced to the Telex machine... sort of a forerunner of email.  It was amazing to me to watch messages come in from Israel and India.  Wow.  

My next job was in a temporary help office, where I used computers to help train people in the skills they would need to get a job.  But my typewriter with the digital screen was still the thing I used most.  

After that I went to work as a secretary in a computer store.  I was surrounded by computers and used them everyday - taught word processing programs and used the latest graphic design programs.  Computers were amazing and I loved them.

When we moved again and I became a full time homemaker and homeschooler we always had a computer in our home.  We used it for games, learning how to type, writing reports, keeping track of the budget - even for running homeschooling programs here and there.  I couldn't imagine life without its ease and convenience.

Having the internet in our home was a new experience all together.  I could email my husband at work.  I could research homeschooling online.  And I found FLYLady!  YAY!  I didn't spend much time on the internet then, though, because I was busy cleaning my house and learning how to run my home.  But then the internet took off.

Blogging - FaceBook - Games - iPhones - iPads - Music - Instagram - Groups - Pinterest

Many of those I have held back on.  I have a private FaceBook account that is only to interact with a couple of cross stitch and stamping groups.  I have an Instagram feed for my cards and cross stitch.  I don't have an iPhone - or even a smart phone at all, for that matter.  

But I do have email.
And I do blog.
And I have a web store.
And I have an iPad.
And I play games.

And I am distracted.

So rather than picking up my cross stitch in my free minutes I pick up my computer and check my email.  And rather than taking time to fold the clothes on the bed, I check Instagram.  And rather than  spending two or three hours working on a quilt, I interrupt my time to play a game or two.

More and more lately I have been convicted of this.  Especially when I find my attention span shortening in my day to day tasks.  Or when I feel that pull in my spirit - "go check the computer".  Just to test my theory I turned off my computer and iPad the other day for about 4 hours.  In the first hour alone I found my thoughts turn to going online or checking something on my computer about 10 times.  That is every 6 minutes or so!!!  Is it any wonder that I struggle staying focused on getting things done??

After that little experiment I decided that I was going to start to consolidate all my computer tasks and only check in online twice a day - morning and evening, and then turn off the computer during the afternoon.  And I decided that once a week I wouldn't go online at all.  And I decided that once every month or two I would go offline for a week at a time.

And then my daughter told me about a fun new game and I forgot all my good intentions.

So when, last night, I heard a still small voice saying "It's a distraction", I didn't want to listen.  I didn't want to hear that.  I *need* a distraction!  But I also need to be spending my life loving others, and if this particular distraction is only causing me to focus on myself, then it is worthless in light of eternity.  God has given me so many things that I enjoy that I do to bless others.  All those projects I enjoy - cross stitch, card making, quilting... all of those have an end result that will bless someone else.  Personally, I need to be spending more time on those and less on empty fun.

But then my "self" says - "But Pinterest is helpful!  I get lots of good ideas that I can make for others!!"  But do you actually do them??  If you can show self-control and surf for 20 minutes, writing down the ideas and then doing them, great.  But somehow I think I have enough ideas to last me for a long, long, long time, without the need to add more.

So, am I saying that I should avoid the internet all together?  No, I can't do that!  I am so thankful that God has given me a web store to take care of and a place here on the blog to connect with you.  I just know that in my own life, I need to limit the hold that the web has on me by being careful with the precious resource of my time. 

Going forward I would like to try to unplug daily,  weekly, and monthly.  So if I'm late answering an email, or at some point you read that I am not going to be blogging for a month, don't worry.  I am just redeeming the time so I can act on being a blessing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Do you have an Evening Routine?

Do you have an evening routine?  I do, but it isn't quite like it used to be, and I often feel guilty about it.   The actual routine before I go to bed is easy... Take the dog out, check the locks, brush and floss, make a few sentence journal entry for the day, read my Bible verses, play a game or read a book for a few minutes, go to bed.  That part is mostly habit.  But the "make sure the kitchen is clean before I go to bed" part that I talk about in the 28 Day Challenge and Planning to be a Blessing??  Well, that usually doesn't happen anymore.  

Have you ever read some sort of self-help book - or maybe even this blog! - and felt "I'm not doing enough!" or "I don't do it that way.  I must be wrong!"  It is easy to compare ourselves with others and struggle with trying to measure up.  

Unfortunately, the perfect life that you see online and in books isn't always the exact truth of how someone's day to day life actually looks.  

Ten years ago when I wrote Planning to be a Blessing, I had an evening routine in place that worked well for our family.  If you read the booklet now you may think - "Wow!  She has it all together!"  HA!  My today looks so much different from my yesterday, and one of the things that has changed is my evening routine.  After my husband's surgery we spent a lot of time together as he recovered.  One of the things he mentioned to me at that time was that he liked to have me near him when he was home.  He works long hours, and after supper there is often only an hour or two that we have with each other before it is time to head toward bed.  Some - maybe most - nights that means that I don't do the dishes after supper.  Instead, we usually just head into the living room and spend time together on our winter hobbies - he, building a model and me, cross stitching.  And that is ok.  (Even though it almost hurts me to write out that permission for myself...).  

My house is going to have a sinkful of dishes in the morning, but I have blessed my husband by giving him my time.  So, really, I have met my goal of being a helpmeet, it just looks a little different at this stage of my life.

Since my evenings are not really free, I have tried to make some adjustments to my schedule to help me get ready for the next day.  For example, rather than laying out my clothes at night I have added it to my morning routine right after I get dressed.  Things like gathering items that need to be taken care of in the morning can also be done earlier in the day.  

If you are reading along here on the blog or following some super organizer or housekeeper on the blog, please don't get discouraged.  Realize that your home and mine won't look the same, and that is ok.  It isn't the look of our homes that we are after as much as the the peace in our home.  Ask the Lord for His wisdom in applying the principles that you are learning and never be afraid to change your routines if you are doing it out of love for others.

May you be blessed today and be a blessing!