Keeping Your Marriage Strong

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A strong marriage forms the foundation of our society. But in our current culture, “till death do we part” has been replaced with “till I don’t love you anymore”, “till you stop meeting my needs”, or “till when I’m not happy anymore.” Divorce has ransacked every portion of our society, with the church sadly leading the way. Couples now prepare prenuptial agreements, maintain separate bank accounts (without the spouse having access), and forgo adopting or changing to the husband’s last name. It’s an issue of the heart. It’s the mindset of separation when God has designed marriage as the joining together of one flesh – sharing equally in all aspects of our lives together and committing ourselves to being together. The idea of separation in these financial and personal aspects is a mentality of preparing for our divorce before it even happens. If the enemy can tear down the marriage, he can tear down our society. Marriage is designed my God to be a beautiful reflection of His relationship with His church, with His people. It requires self-sacrifice. It requires laying down our own desires and seeking the others interest, and that is where our joy can be found.

Christ must be the center. My dad always gave me one piece of advice for selecting a mate:Make sure he loves God more than he loves you.” This has stuck with me through it all. He must be one who is more desirous of pleasing Christ then pleasing me. And the same must be true of me. If I don’t keep Christ on the throne in my life, I will start wandering towards raising up ungodly expectations for my man. Because if Christ is the center, then our marriage will be strong. If Christ is the center, I will be passionate about exalting Him and magnifying His name, not exalting my own interests and feelings. Marriage is a beautiful way to exalt Him. It is the dance of a husband and a wife to join their various giftings together in bringing the most glory possible to their Maker. My husband is strong, steady, sensitive, compassionate, and servant-hearted, and I compliment him with my love for hospitality, organization, and support. Together, if we aim straight and true, by the grace and mercy of God, we accomplish much for the furtherance of God’s glory. Sisters, God has given you beautiful gifts and your husband beautiful gifts. Have you sat down and considered what they might be? Have you acknowledged them? Partner together in utilizing them.

Because ultimately, marriage is not about meeting your needs. It’s about God’s glory. And the beautiful thing is that when God’s glory is first, our needs ultimately are satisfied, either by our realization that they are not really needs but the idolatrous desires of our heart, or by the Lord blessing us in fulfilling them through the dance. The emotional, physical and spiritual needs must be satisfied first in Christ followed by the extra blessing of joyful intimacy in marriage. When we get beyond seeing our needs as the end result, we will become less susceptible to the attack’s of the enemy, our marriages will grow stronger, and our joy will be greatly increased.

Marriage is a covenant. It is a commitment. Let’s commit together to not even allow the “D” word to enter our vocabulary. Aaron and I have committed our lives to each other. Divorce is not an option no matter what happens. Through the greatest trial or conflict, God desires to bring about His beautiful work in our lives. Conflict is for the purpose of pruning away the dross and making us clearer reflections of His character. Let’s not run from it but fully embrace it.

So in what practical ways can we grow in keeping our marriage strong? This is far from an exhaustive list, but a few areas that I have personally experienced radical growth in our marriage when we practice them. I will be expanding upon some of these in the upcoming week.

1. Pray together.

I have been challenged this year to commit to praying together with my husband once a week for at least 30 minutes in the morning before our little ones are awake. Why? Because I have seen it bear much good fruit in my parents lives, who have faithfully prayed together every Saturday morning, and another couple in our church who prayer walk together early every morning. It is beautiful! When we started, I found it a beautiful way to pour out my thoughts, burdens, and fears before the Lord rather than dumping them on my husband. It was a way to share with him my struggles, but not burdening him with discovering the solution. God is our solution-maker. It also helped us start praying more intentionally for our family ministry, our church, and the nation. Now, we don’t have any specific formula for doing this…we simply just take turns praying whatever the Lord lays on our heart. And it truly has been a bonding experience.

2. Pray for your man.

I yearn to be more faithful in this area myself. My husband needs my prayers more than anything else I could give him. It is the way I can serve him in helping to guard his purity and diligence in the workplace, to being a man of the Word, to being a strong husband and father. It is the best way I can be his help-meet. Check out the 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband Prayer Guide to help you out. This is a powerful free tool that I keep in my Bible for daily prayer prompts on his behalf. And remember, before you consider confronting your husband in regards to some conflict or sin issue, take it to the Lord in prayer.

3. Take consistent date nights.

Whether it be once a week, twice a month, or once a month, make a commitment to getting out together on a consistent basis. Put it on the calendar. Especially for couples with young children, it is so easy to get caught up in their care that we neglect our marriage. We need time alone together to invest in each other’s lives. If you have family in the area, ask if they can schedule it on their calendar to watch the kids on a regular basis. If not, build a babysitting co-op. We have being doing this lately with two other families. Tuesday night is date night and we take turns watching each other’s kids. So we get dates out three times per month and every third week we watch all the kiddos. It works. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Utilize services such as Groupon.com and Restaurant.com to find cheap dinner dates at 50% off in your local area. Take a coffee or dessert date. Go browse a bookstore together or simply take a walk. The key we have found is (although there are exceptions)…it really helps us to just get out of the house. Away from what needs to be done and various technological distractions and just enjoy each other no matter what we do.

4. Take time to evaluate and grow together.

One of the elders in our church recently offered a helpful document titled State of Our Union for couples to utilize in prayerfully evaluating where they are at in their marriage, recording specific things they appreciate about each other, and steps they can take to grow and enrich their relationship. It was such a beautiful tool and one I want to use regularly. Download your own copy and take some time to go through it separately and then together. Your eyes will be opened in good challenging ways.

May you be blessed and equipped to keep your marriages strong for the glory of God! Embrace it as your opportunity to reflect the self-sacrificial love of our Creator!

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Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: MARRIAGE

by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.
Ann’s monthly contributions will be in a Q & A style format, as we hear her heart
(balancing raising 7 children while also being passionately involved in missions).

Q. LINDSAY @ PASSIONATE HOMEMAKING:

What practical ideas do you have to strengthen your marriage?

A. ANN @ MISSION-MINDED FAMILIES:

Years ago, when Jon and I were newly married, we felt the Lord speak to our hearts saying, “Your family will not be characterized by your ministry, but your ministry will be characterized by your family.”

Over the years, we’ve come to realize that nurturing our marriage (along with raising, training, and enjoying our 7 kids) is not a “distraction” from the mission work God has called us to; caring for our marriage and family is a vital ministry, in and of itself! When our marriage is strong, and our kids are spiritually healthy, we’re all free to focus on God’s purposes and as we work together, empowered by the grace and anointing of God, we can multiply our efforts as an effective and powerful team!

As for practical ideas: Every afternoon my husband and I have “couch time” — where Jon relaxes on the couch with his head on my lap, and we simply talk about our day. We always joke with our kids, if they come in the living room and see us being sweet, that we’re helping them “to feel secure.” We also enjoy taking walks together, and visiting in our hot tub nearly every night. (You might find it funny to hear that a MISSION-MINDED family would splurge to get a hut-tub, but it was a gift from God; we get some of our best family talks and teenage discussions under the stars and in the bubbles. It’s a little example of how we place a priority on our family and marriage.)

Even when we’re apart from each other, we send frequent text messages and love notes whenever we can. When Jon is on a mission trip, I support him (and participate in the outreach) by sharing with others about up-to-the-minute prayer needs, writing online reports, being enthusiastic with the kids about what Dad is doing, and usually through fasting and serious prayer for the mission. If I’m leading a mission outreach for women and orphans, Jon does the same for me. Whenever we get the opportunity to travel and minister together, challenges can definitely be marriage-stretching . . . yet it’s always fabulous!!!


(As a side-note, we’re excited about two Harvest Ministry mission trips this month. On February 7th, Jon heads to preach in a remote area called BUDUDA, UGANDA, and just a few weeks later, our newlywed son and his bride, Josh and Anna, are pioneering a brand-new mission, establishing a new orphan home for 10 children (married just 3 months and already going on 10 kids!!! WOOHOO!!!) along with a national village evangelism outreach. It’s called PROJECT INDIA, and we’re all so excited!!!)


A loving and vibrant marriage displays to the world the amazing love-relationship between God and His Church. As the wife loves and admires, and esteems, and obeys, and submits to her husband . . . and as the husband lays down his life for his wife as Jesus did for us, our marriage reflects a bit of heaven. When the world sees a couple living in a happy fulfilled marriage, the example glorifies God.


Q. LINDSAY:

What ways do you make an extra effort to make your husband feel loved?

A. ANN:

Just this year, Jon and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. I’d treasured so many hopes and dreams about this day, practically since the day of our wedding. I always imagined a very special silver anniversary, and it was a wonderful dream-come-true. I’m quite the romantic. For years I’d dreamed about having a 25th anniversary “wedding” that would give a testimony to the world of a match-made-in-heaven that was all about God’s purposes. I wanted the day to focus on God’s mission-purposes, and the nations, and for all the glory to go to God. When the day came this past July, Jon and I were asked to speak about marriage (tag-team-style). We invited some relatives for the weekend, and planned for a special salmon reception after the service (all caught by Jon, who’s not only a fisher-of-men, but an amazing fisher-of-fish!!!).

During the first church service that day, Jon and I shared marriage highlights (including tips from our lives — as “semi-pros” — and from both of our parents — as “pros” — each with over 50 fabulous years of God-glorifying marriage). But the second service was incredible.

During his preaching, Jon invited me up to share my part, but instead of my “scheduled” first service highlight, I SURPRISED HIM (and most of the congregation, other than the leaders)!!! The sound guy started a special anniversary video I had made, based on the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and our 25 years of life and ministry — with 7 kids, going to 70 nations, and to all 7 continents. While the 4-minute movie played, I slipped out of the church, quickly changed into a white dress, and some amazing college friends instantly transformed our sanctuary into a wedding scene, complete with hundreds of balloons, Roman pillars, netting down the aisles, flowers, and bridesmaids (including my sister, who was my maid of honor at our wedding, our two daughters, and our then-soon-to-be daughter-in-law). Our worship leader had written an incredible song, “It’s a Wonderful Life We Live, Serving the Lord.” As he played, my dad walked me down the aisle . . . and I can’t even describe the JOY of the moment.

There are lots of things I do, big and little, to convey my love. It could be as small as giving Jon a spontaneous hug in the middle of the day, taking time to do a simple job he specifically asked me to do (rather than working on one of my own projects), or giving him a loving “look” that lets him know he’s the most handsome man in all the earth, and that I’m his greatest admirer.


Q. LINDSAY:

How do you keep your husband your first priority after God? Guarding against the kids coming between you?

A. ANN:

At this stage of life, the biggest way I guard the priority of our marriage (over our kids) is to go to bed when Jon does, even if it’s earlier than I want to. This is especially a big deal when our big-kids are home from college. Our young adults love to visit when it’s late; but if I stay up after Jon’s gone to sleep, it’s not good for our marriage.

Other little ways I show that he is still the love of my life . . . is going on trips with him (this year, we went on a family fishing trip to Alaska, and on a second honeymoon to Hawaii), keeping in shape (which is a continual big-effort and really shows him that I care) . . . and putting extra “effort” and preliminary “thought” into our times of affection.


Q. LINDSAY:

What is the most important thing you have learned about resolving conflicts?

A. ANN:

Both Jon and I are very strong-willed people. In fact, when we went through pre-marriage counseling, we took this Christian personality test and our counselors advised us that we probably shouldn’t even get married because our personalities would clash. But I knew, especially because I was a strong woman with a leadership-personality, I didn’t need a weak apathetic husband, but a strong godly one who would lead me and our family; and if we could pull in the same direction, God could work through us.

As a 19-year-old bride, I knew that God’s word would be the ultimate authority in our marriage — and if Jon and I disagreed, God’s word would be our tie-breaker. And I knew that God’s word has established the husband as the head of the home. For over 25 years, we’ve been serving God every day. Yes, we’ve had disagreements, but we have a commitment “to never let the sun go down on our wrath” Ephesians 4:26 (or as we interpret it, “to never part company until things are worked out” — even if that means being late to church, or missing an important meeting). We admit our mistakes, and we’ve learned to give and to receive forgiveness.

A vital key to a happy marriage is this 3-part phrase:

(1.)“Honey, I’m sorry . . .

(2.) I was wrong for ______________ (and be specific to apologize for each specific mistake or bad attitude . . . )

(3.)Will you forgive me?”

Something specific I also really need to continually work on is to not exaggerate my point of view. If I make a situation bigger than it actually is, or read “extra” details into something Jon says or something he did, it just stirs up a conflict. Many times, it helps just to let things go. I also read in Heidi St. John’s book, The Busy Homeschool Moms Guide to Romance (which I highly recommend!!!), it’s important to seek God (like Esther did when approaching the king) for tact and timing when talking with our husbands about a situation or disagreement which is on our hearts.

And most of all, we need to rely on God’s grace. God wants to give us HIS love and HIS forgiveness and HIS joy for our marriages and our home life. Real love is displayed best in the relationships that are closest to us. As we love the ones we live with, we can really love others. Marriage will likely be the closest thing to either heaven, or hell, that anyone will ever experience here on this earth. (And actually, even the gut-wrenching grief of a broken marriage or relationship can help people realize what God’s love is supposed to be; the covenant of marriage represents God’s unfailing, perfect sacrificial love, and when the object lesson doesn’t match up, it HURTS worse than anything most people have ever imagined).

With God’s help, may His Kingdom come and His will be done in our homes and marriages . . . and may our families not only reflect heaven, but also lead others to respond to God’s life and salvation through Jesus, so they can go to heaven too!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Delights – the perfect treat for your man!

Want to make an extra special treat for your husband or the special man in your life? These chocolate peanut butter delights will surely bring a smile to his face and increase his love for you! Remember the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I have found it to be true. They are a true favorite for my hubby! Don’t stop creating special goodies for him and he will be a blessed and happy man!

1 cup peanut butter (creamy is preferred)
2 cups powdered sugar (you can substitute with ground rapadura/sucanat, if desired)
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 oz chocolate chips
3/4 Tablespoon paraffin household wax, optional (can be found in the baking section of your local grocery store)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the peanut butter, powdered sugar, chopped nuts, and softened butter. Cover and chill in refrigerator till firm.
  2. Roll into small 1 inch balls and chill again till firm.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips and wax together in a double boiler, mixing constantly until fully melted.
  4. Place a toothpick in each ball and dip balls into melted chocolate and set up on wax paper.
  5. Chill balls again till firm. Serve and enjoy! Store in refrigerator.

The paraffin wax is an optional ingredient to help increase firmness and presentation. It can be easily eliminated or you can experiment with beeswax as a viable alternative.

Other yummy valentine treats:

Healthy Valentine Day Treats

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12 Ways to Love Your Hubby Without Saying a Word

Republished from the Archives…

Did you know that there are many ways you can love your man without even saying a word? This is one list of creative ideas to get you going, but certainly don’t be limited to these suggestions. Use your creativity and love on that man!

  1. Clean Laundry – clean socks, clean t-shirts, and clean under garments folded & put away. A simple service but keeps the man happy.
  2. Warm Bread, Favorite Meal, and a Cold Beverage (or just a nice dessert) waiting on the table when he comes home. (Maybe not necessary every night. I aim for a special meal or dessert once a week.) Serve him a candlelight dinner every once in a while!
  3. Not nagging during those times when he needs to rest and relax to be doing something else. Give him thirty minutes after he returns home to just rest and not demand his help with the kids, take out the trash, or some other service.
  4. Not nagging period.
  5. Not nagging about your period. ;)
  6. Smiling when your eyes meet his.
  7. Washing his truck, car, motorcycle…whatever his big boy toy might be. (Bonus points for cleaning the interior too ladies!)
  8. Stopping whatever “busy” work you might be doing to just sit and join him in whatever activity he is doing. Does he like puzzles, books, building things, playing music, watching football? We need to stop considering these interests to be a burden and learn to enjoy doing them with our husbands. This is one of the best ways to build your marriage…to simply enjoy being with him! When we stop to enjoy what they enjoy, it will grow to become our delight as well!
  9. Hold his hand whenever you can. Be it the mall, the grocery store, the neighborhood, or at church. Just whenever you can.
  10. Get to bed before him, take a nice warm bath, put on some perfumed lotion, something frilly or whatever you know he likes and wait.
  11. Schedule in times to rest. If our schedule is so full, my hubby tends to get really stressed out. A simple service to him is scheduling in periods of rest (whether it be a weekly Sabbath or vacation trips throughout the year).
  12. Greet him at the door with a smile and a kiss. How often do we get caught up in dinner preparations that we don’t even notice our husband’s return? Make a habit of stopping at the sound of his footsteps and give him a welcoming smile and kiss!
Thanks to ElizabethSue for the original list!

Do you have an idea to add to the list? Please share!

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The Best {Natural} Valentine to Give Your Husband

Photo by Marcus Hansson

Photo Credit

Post written by contributing writer, Michele.

Have you pulled out your wedding photo album in awhile? Go dust it off, browse through, and reminisce for a moment with me.

Remember that day…

The joyous leap of your heart at the sound of his voice…

That moment of walking down the aisle, giving him your hand and heart, your eyes drawn to his…

Feeling the rightness of his ring, slipped onto your finger…

The surreal discovery of oneness and laughter on those early honeymoon days…

The marriage of two imperfect people…

Storms of life can (and will) appear. Emotional scars, disconnectedness of busy schedules, tiredness of intense parenting seasons, and distractions of many kinds, can chip away at the sanctity- and priority- of marital intimacy. But Matthew 19:6 says, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Joining Hands…

Is your husband receiving your rich desserts or weary leftovers? Are you busy doing “good things” for him (and your family), instead of giving him yourself? All of you- Just as you did that blessed wedding day those years ago.

If we allow the storms and distractions to divide and interrupt the intimacy of our marriage, it may not be “divorce,” but it is the beginning of separating what God joined together.

As you prepare your personal/family mission statement, intentionally plan and prepare to bless your husband in the bedroom- not just in the rest of his home with helpful home-keeping routines or meal plans.

Beginning Anew…

Prayerfully consider this aspect of your marriage. You may find a book such as Intimate Issues helpful as you prepare your heart anew; perhaps with some focused reading and prayer times in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day (or any day). Ask God to show you (and heal you of) any hidden areas of pain, distraction, guilt, etc. that may be hindering intimacy with your husband.

Just as we are conscious of avoiding artificial/chemical additives or spoilage in our food and choose healthy, natural options to nourish our family, we need to examine our heart to make sure nothing is “contaminating” the oneness of our marriage. What needs to be cleansed from your heart, to allow for greater intimacy?

Nurturing…

As you strive to nurture the marriage relationship with your husband, you can create a fun date night at home with whatever you enjoy as a couple; such as a candlelit romantic meal or a massage with some rich, natural homemade lotion (a recipe is available in my eBook, A Natural Noel; perhaps substitute a more “manly” scent such as cedarwood essential oil instead of orange, if he prefers).

But in your preparations of cooking and lighting candles, don’t forget to focus on preparing your heart for him in oneness and vulnerability. Intimacy isn’t just another “thing to do” or a “quick fix” for your marriage; it means being transformed. Let him fully see the the gift of your heart, and the authentic joy he brings you.

More than anything else, the most precious, valuable gift you can give your husband is intimacy with you…. au naturale.

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January at Our Home

It’s been an exciting month of settling in, getting used to a new city, and adjusting to a new routine at our home. The Lord has been gracious every step of the way. I have made the error of turning the wrong direction on a one way street (and enjoyed a nice pregnant mommy cry in response). We found having a lock on the kids bedroom door was not a good idea when Titus locked himself in (thankful for the locksmith who rescued him without a charge!). I have discovered that consignment shops in the city are ridiculously priced (who wants to pay $12 for a used shirt?). And that you have to go to the outskirts to find good deals on pretty much everything.

We did find an awesome co-op from which we can purchase everything from local milk, to meat, to produce all in one stop – which is a huge blessing! We also discovered it is a 15 minute walk to church and the library, and we have a school playground practically in our backyard. The people we have met have been so welcoming, loving, and smiling. We also learned that it is possible to only have our garbage picked up once a month (you can recycle and compost practically anything in this city – check out Far West Fibers!). Now, does anyone have tips for composting in your back yard? God is good all the time!

1000 Gifts

I am picking up where I left off on my thankfulness list, as I didn’t include any last month, but I am still making my way towards completing my list of 1000 everyday gifts thanks to the inspiration of Ann Voskamp. This has been a transforming exercise and I highly recommend it! Has help transform my perspective in seeing each mundane moment as truly a gift.

#264 – A new home dedicated for hospitality
#265- Ty is rescued from bedroom for free
#268 – The gracious welcome from new neighbors – including dinner
#269 – An easy 5 minute trip to church
#270 – A discarded item is sold for a profit
#271 – An hour nap on a couch
#274- Being able to continue with my midwife – she is willing to make the extra trip! Yippee!
#277- Delicious filtered water
#278 – Fire oven pizza while dating my husband
#279 – All the boxes unpacked
#280 – Three mouths enjoying a juicy grapefruit
#289 – Walking a mile in heels and my feed didn’t fall off
#290 – A tummy beginning to pooch with new life
#291 – Making a new friend a library storytime
#292 – Cream soup – a favorite during this pregnancy!

To be continued…

January Reading

Ruth, A Portrait: The story of Ruth Belle Graham by Patricia Cornwell. I am so thankful for the list of wonderful biography recommendations from you all, and though I had read many of them already, this one stood out to me. It has been such a wonderfully refreshing and enjoyable read about such a courageous woman who was willing to sacrifice so much for the ministry God called her husband too. She was a beautiful and humble woman who did not like the spotlight and would sit somewhere hidden among the crowd rather than center stage. Highly recommend!

February Theme: Strengthening Your Marriage

We are excited to launch our new theme for the month of February here at Passionate Homemaking on the topic of building and strengthening your marriage. We’ll be chatting a bit about intimacy, date nights, special goodies for your man, and more. Do you have a topic idea for us? Please share.

May God richly bless you and yours!

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Resources for Maintaining a Simple & Organized Home

In conclusion to our little series on organization and simplifying our lives, I wanted to share some great resources that I have found helpful in the process of organization. These books have been both inspiring and practical! I have also included a list of previous posts on the topic of simplifying in every room of your home, which includes practical ideas especially for those with limited space. I pray as you go forth, may God continue to equip you for the task of maintaining your home for the glory of God!

The Home Experience by Devi Titus – This beautiful table top book is a wonderful resource for learning to prepare your home as an orderly welcoming oasis. It has a practical study guide to each section discussing home order, organization, cleaning, hospitality, etiquette, decor, cooking, and so much more. It is a wonderful gift for any woman desiring to make her home beautiful for the King.

From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out by Nancy Twigg is my top favorite when it comes to the idea of simplifying because she starts with your heart. I was so blessed by the way this book challenged me to root out all the emotional and spiritual clutter in my life. She addresses how to reduce clutter in your home as well, but most importantly starting with your heart! Read my full review here.

The Intentional Planner by Sheri Graham – Sheri provides an excellent foundation for a home planning notebook with these planning pages focused on being intentional, organized, and focused with your time for the homemaking woman. This planner will provide you with colorful to-do lists, monthly calendars, goal charts, homeschooling pages (if you are a homeschooling mom, but even if not, the remainder of the planner is extremely useful), journal pages, and a wealth of other resources.

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider is a simple practical guide to decluttering your home with intentionality room by room. This book is especially for the individual who does not know where to start, and Tsh offers practical advice, tool guides, and a game plan for tackling every area of your home. It is also in a spiral bound format making it easy to keep open and refer to while you are attacking your space.

Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule and Live your Life Fulfilled by Amy Lynn Andrews is a helpful guide on how to make a time budget and list out your priorities, scheduling and such. Very simple and useful step by step approach.

Shopping for Time: How to Do it All and NOT Be Overwhelmed by Carolyn Mahaney – I cannot provide a list of resources on organizing and such without including this all-time favorite book by Carolyn that provides such grace and beauty to the role of womanhood and managing our homes and lives. If you are feeling overwhelmed, then this certainly is the book for you to help you get back on track! It is one I have read on numerous occasions when I have lost sight of my priorities and Carolyn graciously has directed me back on course with fresh encouragement and inspiration. Read my full review here.

From the Archives

Get a Chef, A Maid, and a Nanny by Creating Effective Routines

Tips for Maintaining a Simple Home

Simple Steps to Declutter Your Home

Building a Home Planning Notebook

Establishing a Morning Routine – Maximize Your Mornings

Developing a Bedtime Routine

Taking A Weekly Planning Retreat

Simplifying in Every Room Series:

Simplifying in the Bedroom
Simplifying Menu Planning
Simplifying in the Bathroom
Simplifying in the Kitchen
Simplifying Your Wardrobe
Simplifying Your Purchases
Simplifying the Toy Collection
Simplifying Your Home Office

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How and Why To Say No

no?

Post written by contributing writer, Kat.

We live in an age of constant communication and abounding options. Stay at home moms are not isolated anymore. We have countless opportunities to get involved in church, the community and online.

While there are many benefits to our connectedness, there is also a greater need for us to become adept at knowing when and how to say no.

Today, instead of hearing about a friend’s need thought the occasional phone call, we get every forwarded email, we read every blog post about everyone we have ever (or never) met who needs our help.
For our own well being and for the sake of our families, we must learn the fine art of gracious decision making. Here are a few tips:

Never Give An Immediate Yes

Consider making no your default. If something particularly strikes you, tell them you’ll pray and talk to your husband about it, but do not take on a new responsibility without stepping away from it first.

Have a Plan

Knowing what you want makes it a lot easier to decide when and how to say no. This is why having a mission statement is so vital, because it is a constant reminder of our priorities and acts as a bouncer toward all uninvited opportunity that could distract us from our most important responsibilities.

Decide and Be Done With It

We can neither live with the burden of extra responsibilities nor the weight of guilt from turning them down. We must be able to decide and be done with it. Don’t wonder, worry or whither.
Being able to say no is absolutely essential to living a balanced and well organized life.
If you’ve measured it against your mission statement and goals, evaluated whether it fits in your schedule, if you’ve discussed it with your husband and if you’ve prayed about it, your direction should feel pretty clear. Be confident in your choice.

Practice: Repeat After Me

“Thank you so much for asking me but I’m trying to honor my family with my time and I don’t think this is something I can commit to right now.”

You might need to practice it one or five hundred and sixty two times before it feels comfortable enough to actually say. That’s alright. Keep practicing.

Make An Exit Plan

Maybe you’re reading this post and kicking yourself (please stop, that hurts) because just the other day you said yes to something you shouldn’t have.

Don’t worry, you’re not stuck. You just need to make an exit plan.

While often even harder than saying no, others understand and are even inspired when someone is brave enough to say, “I overcommitted and need to step back for the sake of my family.”

Conclusion: It’s Really OK to Say No

As women, we often want to help wherever we see a need and especially if asked, well of course, we can’t let them down. But God has a plan for you and just because someone asked for your help doesn’t make them part of that plan.

We need to remember that it is ok to say no. We are not letting anyone down, we are doing the best thing for our families and giving someone else an opportunity to serve.

Is it easy or hard for you to say no? Is there anything you need to say no to today?

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Developing a Simple Schedule & Routine

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Routine…it is a beautiful word. Children thrive on it. Mommy’s fill satisfied and organized when they have it. And Daddy’s get all the benefits of a peaceful home upon their arrival when it’s in place. At least that’s what we strive for. Perfectionism is not the goal…but rather a good structure through which we can maintain our lives, relationships, and homes for the glory of God. It brings peace into our household when all the little ones are well rested. But it can be the hardest thing to figure out what works for your family. But your efforts are well worth it.

After developing a mission statement in which you map out your main priorities and goals, then building a simple schedule/routine can be more easily accomplished. You have decided what are the priorities, what you can and cannot do, and now we will map it out.

Time Budget

You might choose to use a time budget approach (as described in Tell Your Time) which means you take the 24 hours of your day, subtract your hours of sleep, and divide the remaining hours (usually about 16 hours), into your envelopes of priorities. I want to spend two hours of focused time with my children each day, so I put two hours there. I need to spend about 2 hours on meal preparations and clean up, and so I stash two hours there. And so on. This approach really helps for us to see how much time we truly have at our disposal. If used and divided wisely, we can surely accomplish those dreams on our list. Always add a hour buffer to your time as well, taking note that something will not always come out as planned.

Morning/Evening Routine

Another method is the Morning and Evening Routines. Rather than structuring hour by hour, this provides a bit more simplicity by just making a list of what are your morning tasks to be accomplished sometime between 9-12noon, and what are your evening tasks to be accomplished before bed. This method provides plenty of flexibility and works well for those who do not like too much structure.

We use a mix of both structures in our home. I like to schedule out my mornings more definitively, but I do have a rough morning routine  that may not always fit into the hour structure. Here is what an average day looks like at our home:

Our Daily Schedule

6:00 am – Personal Bible reading time individually, plan for the day (make my to-do list)
7:00 am – Shower (3 times a week), dress, devotions with Aaron
7:20 am – Lindsay prepares breakfast, packs Aaron’s lunch (if I don’t get to it the night before)
7:45 am – Aaron leaves for work
8:00 am – Breakfast with kids, read Jesus Storybook Bible together over breakfast, cleanup, dinner preparations (take anything out of the freezer, etc), quick house pick-up, fill up water bottle
9:00-11:00 am – Learning time with Karis (currently we are using the Sonlight P4/5 curriculum and are loving it, along with Singapore Math KA), reading stories, special activity (tea, baking project, playdough, etc)
11:30-12:00 noon – Lunch, cleanup

Variations from day to day: Monday mornings is my cleaning and laundry day. This is the day I am wearing my comfies and just get the house in order for the week. This helps me get the fun stuff out of the way first ;) , and then I don’t have to worry about it so much throughout the week. I spend two hours vacuuming and mopping all the surfaces in our home and clean the bathrooms, while rotating the laundry through. We do about 5 loads of laundry (this is for the whole week). Thursday mornings we attend story-time at our local library. Saturday morning is my planning time, when I go to a coffee shop for 2 hours while daddy feeds and plays with the kids.

Afternoon Routine: Naps all around. The kids will nap for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. During this period, I usually nap for 30 minutes, followed by my 1 1/2 hour computer/personal time. After naps, we have a snack, and then we might go for a walk, visit the playground, prepare dinner, etc. I keep the afternoons really flexible. I may have to complete something that didn’t get done in the morning. We do our grocery shopping (through our local co-op), and various errands on Tuesday afternoons.

Evening Routine:
Family dinner
Clean up dinner dishes while Daddy plays with kids
Kids bath (3 nights a week)
Prepare Aaron’s lunch
House pick-up (this helps give me a good start the next day if the house is picked up, kids put away their toys before bed)
7:00 pm – Titus’ bedtime, 7:30 pm – Karis’ bedtime
One on one time with Aaron

Variations: Tuesday night is our date night. Thursday night we host community group. Friday night is family night. And we usually have hospitality on Saturday or Sunday evenings.

Q & A From the Readers

How do you entertain my children while you maintain the house?

This is a question we receive frequently. How do we get anything done around the house with little ones? We have always emphasized in our children’s training that mommy is not here to entertain them. Since they were babies we were intentional in giving them time to themselves each day so they learned how to entertain themselves. We would set them up in the pack n play, or on a blanket and allow them to have time to play by themselves for 30 minute periods. I would often leave the room for brief periods as well, so they would learn that they could survive without mommy there at every moment. This practice has surely paid off, because my kiddos entertain themselves so well now.

On Mondays, during housecleaning, I do allow Karis to watch a 30 minute video to break it up a bit. This will be either a learning video or family home videos. She loves family videos and will certainly have our family history memorized! For a portion of our housecleaning, the kids will help out. They may play a game of chase the vacuum, or mop the floor, or help me wash the dishes. I try to include them whenever they want to participate, reinforcing good work ethic and responsibility. Otherwise, they like to play with their tricycles indoors or outdoors (bringing bikes indoors is tons of fun!), listen to music on a portable CD player, play with their kitchen set, dress up with the dress up box, or simply look at books. Since we haven’t exposed them to much technology entertainment devises (we don’t have a TV), they have learned to enjoy themselves in whatever fashion they desire.

How do you do laundry all in one day?

I strive to keep the laundry simple. We only have 8 outfits each for the kids in addition to 3-4 pajamas, so we keep our clothing limited. Aaron and I usually wear our clothes at least two times between washing. I combine loads of laundry to make sure I have full loads for the greatest efficiency. This means instead of doing a separate towel load, I combine the white towels with the white clothing, and the dark towels with the dark clothing. The same is true with our linens – they go in with the other laundry. I wash the sheets and towels once a week and they all get stripped down and replaced on Monday, so I can keep track of their cleanliness. This enables me to keep our laundry to a minimum. So all together we have about 5 loads per week – 1 colored loads, one white, one dark (which may have colored additions), one for kitchen towels/rags (as I wash these separately as I don’t want the smells to affect our clothing), and one for cloth diapers. I also do a second load of cloth diapers later on in the week.

When do you exercise?

Good question. Whenever I can fit it in. Sometimes I will run up and down the steps after the kids go to bed for 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I will take a walk with the kids in the afternoon. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. If nothing else, I just keep moving around the house quite a bit.

Do you have any girl time?

Yes, I actually get together with my sister once a week (early Wednesday morning before Aaron goes to work) and we have accountability time together. I also participate in a monthly ladies Bible study. We also like to have friends over for lunch at least once a month midweek to have play times and fellowship.

Overall, it is important to remember that what works for me may not work for you. This is also the beauty of routine. Your routine will be adapted to fit your needs and preferences. There is grace to adapt, grace to flex, and grace to simplify. Try a little of this and a little of that to help determine what works for you. And once you figure it out – stick with it! But remember, it will need adapting in future seasons. Our schedule changes a bit every few months, as something is added or another is dropped. There is grace to make changes as you see necessary. Pray and dedicate your time to the Lord and ask Him to guide you in crafting your own routine/schedule.

In addition, there are many days when all I accomplish is getting the kids dressed and fed. I have to let other things slide and just keep food on the table. If everyone is happy (their cups filled with love), even if the house is a mess, than I can feel it has been a productive day. There is always beauty to find in the mundane! You are a virtuous woman when you take delight in worshiping your Creator through your work.

If you have any questions on our schedule, please feel free to ask. I’d also love to hear your scheduling tips!

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Jesus: The Lord of Order

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Written by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake.

Oh, how I love to organize! How about you?

Whether you love it or dread it, we all have to do it. Which means we all have to decide what to organize, when to organize it, and what to let go. Which means we all need a grid for thinking about how and why to work towards order in our homes!

The Hyper-Organized Homemaker

Some of us are perpetual organizers. This would be me. These people swoon over label-makers, calendar apps, and laminators…all in hopes that we can pull our lives perfectly together. Then, we promise ourselves, we will begin the real stuff of living.

The Mellow Mommy

Others (not me) squeeze a little organizing and prioritizing in on the back end. A little here, a little there. These people like lots of social time, and they are always having haphazard adventures. These people don’t really have much of a plan, because their plan is to wing it! These people figure “it will get done somehow.” Sometimes.  Sometimes not.

A Grid

Organized or not, how do any of us know when to work hard toward order, and when to let it go or save it for later? When do we push forward on a schedule, and when do we relax, or pause to meet the needs of the moment? What is the proper grid?

Our perfect example is, of course, Jesus. We don’t have a copy of his day planner. But in the gospels, we have sketches of the way he made organizational decisions.

You can read through the gospels to find lots of examples, but I want to share the one that has been most valuable to me, a little nugget of a story, from Luke 4:

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.’

Let’s extract some working principles. (This example deals specifically with organizing time, but the underlying principle can apply to all any organizational decision.)

Jesus Flexed

Even though the day was nearly over, Jesus flexed in his time. He gave personal time and attention to all the people who came to him with legitimate needs. He followed through with “every one of them.”

We need to flex. Order is not order for its own sake. Order exists to make life more livable and lovely, for the sake of people. Yes, all you organizational junkies (you know who you are!)…people!

People are precious. They are the only reason we should work toward order. Your laminator and label-maker should never take over your time…they should be used to serve people! Which means on occasion, you won’t have time to make labels! Instead, you will be flexing beyond your schedules and systems, to meet the more important, less schedulable needs of the people in your life.

(If you have an organizational obsession like me, also see Mark 6:30-35, where a tired Jesus cuts off his get-away time, when he sees a crowd chasing him down and feels overwhelming compassion for them!)

Jesus Fixed a Limit

Let’s look quickly at the rest of that passage from Luke 4, for an example of Jesus making order/organization a first priority:

The people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them

The next day, the people came after him again. They wanted him to stay and keep ministering to them, but he didn’t. He knew he had reached a fixed point where he needed to press on in accordance with his schedule and system, leaving the people behind. Rightly, organization took priority.

We all understand and use this principle in obvious ways. Your husband wouldn’t stay home from work because the kids want him to read stories all day! It wouldn’t be in accordance with his purpose, the purpose of loving the family by working to earning money.

Likewise, a mother who just hangs around, hyper-available to anyone and everyone, will probably not meet the needs of her family. Flexibility doesn’t mean you can’t also maintain an orderly, vision-driven, peaceful, well-kept home! But how do we choose between flexing and fixing a limit?

Jesus Purpose, Our Purpose: Love

The problem is that most of us do not have a good understanding of the root principle at work, so we can’t apply it properly in more complicated situations. We end up making our calls about organization haphazardly, or even worse, according to our feelings. Unfortunately, that’s the grid many of us moms oftentimes use, isn’t it?

We do not have a clearly defined purpose for our organization.

But Jesus’ decision was not haphazard. He didn’t aimlessly allow his time to be taken up for a little while, later being forced by boredom or exhaustion to randomly draw the line. He had a clear explanation for the people:

‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.’

Jesus’ grid for organizational decision-making is described last: it was his purpose. And his purpose was love.  He flexed in order to show love through an extended time of healing and teaching, but later fixed some boundaries & moved on with his plan, in order to love those in other towns as well. Love can mean either flexing or fixing limits in our use of organization.

How simple! How easily and beautifully applied! What a resource we have in Jesus we have to draw upon, as we order our homes.

But really, ladies…only if you truly get it in your heart that God, the Great Organizer, in his mysterious way, has both flexed and fixed his standard. For you.

In his love, he planned and organized for you… “[choosing] us in him before the foundation of the world.” (Eph 1:4)

In his love, he flexed for you, left his throne, “made himself nothing…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7)

Some Examples of Flexing in Your Organization:

  • Training children to love and share, rather than bicker, is more important than a nice sock drawer.
  • Dinner is more important than having folders, sub-folders, and sub-sub-folders in your computer files.
  • A child who seems to be grumpy or sad may need affection and additional attention. Laundry, however, does not become grumpy or sad when not folded.

Some Examples of Fixing a Limit:

  • It is loving for a mother to stop for small things like peeling stickers off a page. It is unloving, however, for a mother to allow children to interrupt anyone, anytime, at will.
  • It is great to be a mother who serves. True service to your children, however, may mean that you require your children to pick up after themselves (training them as a service to God, and preparing them for life).

What can you change about your organizational habits to better reflect Jesus, the Lord of Order?

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