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?

Comments { 19 }

Developing a Personal Mission Statement

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Simplifying and prioritizing in your life all begin with developing your core foundation, a vision, a mission, a plan. This is a key foundation for the second step of developing a structure, routine, and schedule for your life. We need to build a foundation. What are your priorities? Are you doing the right things that God has assigned for you? What does this look like in my daily life? Having a mission is a beautiful thing. It brings clarity, purpose, and direction for your life. Every decision and event that comes to the table can be filtered through your personal mission statement.

I began developing my mission statement this last year, and have found it extremely inspiring and beneficial. Two resources I found extremely helpful in the process of developing my mission statement, were Kat’s Mission Statements for Moms and Tell Your Time by Amy Stephens. Here is how I did it:

1. List your Roles.

Start by making a simple list of the important roles that you have been called to fulfill. You start with the question: what the the important roles in my life? Amy Stephens shares, “Your roles are not the same as your activities. Roles are who you are; activities are what you do in your roles.” Then list them in order of priority in your life.

My list is as follows:

1. Self
My body – including mind and soul, need nurturing, rest, and refreshment daily. In order to be effective, joyful, and fruitful in my other roles, I need to prioritize taking good care of myself. This doesn’t mean I am spending hours in front of the mirror. No, I am referring mainly to my soul – nurturing my soul through the Word of God and prayer, followed by exercise of my physical body. These two things are essential for keeping me healthy and fit for the Lord’s use.

2. Spouse
I am Aaron’s wife. He is my husband and the most dear relationship I have in my life. I have committed to being married to him for the rest of my life, and I fully intent, by God’s grace, to carry out my covenant with him. This relationship needs time, attention, and nurturing in order for our marriage to be satisfying and influential. We want to labor together, utilizing both of our skills, for the furtherance of the Kingdom. My husband’s needs come before my children, and I need to constantly evaluate where I am at in this area.

3. Parent
I am the mother of two beautiful children with an additional precious life in the womb. I want to cherish, love and nurture them, as my precious little disciples.

4. Educator
I want to be the primary educator of my children. I want to nurture a love for learning and be actively involved in their education.

5. Homemaker
After the nurturing of my primary relationships, I am primarily responsible for the maintenance of our home. For me, this means I have a goal of maintaining a simple, peaceful home. I am not about perfection, but basic cleanliness, healthy meals, and such.

6. Ambassador for Christ
I am personally passionate about living intentionally to further God’s Kingdom, so I like to detail what this looks like for our family. It is more clearly laid out in our family mission statement, but I am also committed to showing hospitality through our home, offering encouragement through my writing, and striving to inspire others to see the true delight of following hard after Christ.

Other roles that may be on your list: Employee, Student, etc.

2. Dream.

Secondly, I mapped out my main goals in each area of my roles. Part of this was already defined above as I listed out my roles. I sought to dream. What do I want to be known for? How do I want to influence others with my life? What is my main goal in my relationship with Jesus, my spouse, my children, etc?

My mission is:

  • To passionately pursue Jesus, by committing every action, thought, and care to His Lordship in my life.
  • To passionately love and help my husband by affirming his leadership, meeting his physical needs, and partnering with him in serving the Lord for all our days.
  • To cherish, love and nurture our children, acknowledging them as my first ministry, my disciples, to train them to follow Jesus with their whole hearts and serve others for the furtherance of the Kingdom
  • To manage my home simply and peacefully, making it a haven of rest and refreshment for my family and anyone the Lord sends our way. To encourage an atmosphere of learning, love, and encouragement in our home, being quick to forgive, extend grace, and invest time in the souls of my children.
  • To inspire others to see the beauty and value of following Christ through my writing, hospitality, notes of encouragement, and my life. May every action whisper his name.

3. Define Your Roles.

After defining what was my main goal in preserving each of my roles, I went through each of these roles and asked the question: what specific simple steps can I take to accomplish this dream? What do I want this to look like in my daily life? Think of 3-5 activities that will help you move toward reaching your goals. So again, here is what it looks like in my life:

Self:
Daily time in Bible reading, prayer, and thanksgiving
Regular soul care (sleep, exercise, planning retreat)
Attending church each week
Reading 25 books each year

Spouse:

One on one time with Aaron each day after kids go to bed
Date night at least twice a month
Weekly prayer time together (every Sunday morning for 1 hour)
Annual getaway – schedule a special trip for our anniversary each year

Parent:
Focused, one on one time with each child each day (tea time, games, etc)
Daily devotions at breakfast and dinner time
Rocking, singing, and praying over them before bed
Monthly family outing

Educator:

Four times a week – 30 minute school time with Karis
Library story time each Thursday
Monthly field trip
Craft project once a week
Read books for 1 hour each day

Homemaker:

Prepare healthy quality meals for my family
Clean our home and launder our clothes every Monday
Regular planning retreats on Sat morning (menu plan, errands, to do lists, review goals)

Ambassador for Christ:
Write two blog posts each week
Host hospitality twice a month
Reach out to mothers at library story time and invite to lunch as we develop relationships
Write a note of thanksgiving or encouragement to one person each week

4. Make it Beautiful and Visible!

Write it all out. Make it beautiful. Post it on your walls, in your bedroom, in your home planner. Write it out in calligraphy and post it somewhere special. Keep it visible so it is there to inspire you onwards. Chose a regular time that you can sit down and review your mission and your progress. I have found it extremely helpful to start my weekly planning retreat with this activity. I read through it and then I pray and ask the Lord how I am doing. I then ask: what practical steps can I take this week to strengthen my relationship with the Lord? My husband? My children? I chose just one thing I can do this week. I follow this up by asking: How can I serve others, express thankfulness and/or encouragement to one person this week? And finally, what is one area I need to simplify to provide more peace in our home?

This is the way I seek to make it doable and yet intentional. You might find it helpful to review daily at the start of your day, asking what simple step could you take that very day. Add it to your to-do list. Or you may chose to review once a month. Either way, find a suitable time for review in order that it might stay fresh on your mind and heart, keeping your striving towards the ultimate goal of using your time most effectively for God’s glory.

From my mission statement, I can now map out my daily schedule and routines, which come more naturally once I have defined what I really want to be all about. Stay tuned for what our schedule looks like…

I love how God’s grace is sufficient to pick us up when we stumble and fall. I love how He is there to guide us, to hear our cry’s for purpose and mission, and that He will hear your prayer to develop your own mission statement. Make sure to entrust every step into His care, and He will bless you!

May you be blessed as you seek to develop your own personal mission statement!

Comments { 37 }

Organizing a Natural First Aid Kit

Post written by monthly contributor, Michele.

If you have been working on stocking your home first aid kit with natural remedies this past year or so, you may eventually realize that it’s time for some reorganization! The beginning of a new year is always the perfect time for a fresh start (for anything, really).

Those jars of lovely calendula salve, people’s paste, thrush remedies, homeopathics, juices, and more can get quite jumbled and hard to find as the months go by. Bags of bulk herbs can end up pushed back into dusty cupboards, and forgotten. Bulk ingredients may have melted or crystalized in a back corner.

A hard-playing summer, followed by a winter of sniffles can leave the first aid kit needing some attention. Take some time this week to sort it out, and plan for the year ahead!

This is a wonderful time to jot down notes for your garden planning (add some medicinal herbs to your seed catalog list!), and prepare for special life season/events (such as pregnancy/birth).

Supplies:

  • A clean, sturdy box, ready to use for your First Aid Kit. (Empty out your current first aid kit to reuse the box, or find a new one.) I use a cardboard box (cover it with pretty paper, if you want).
  • Basket and/or clean jars for sorting Bulk Herbs. (Canning jars, reused condiment jars, etc. work well.)
  • A sturdy, clean box (preferably waterproof) or cupboard for Bulk Ingredients.
  • Pen & Paper for listing needed items.

Steps:

  1. Empty out your current first aid kit.
  2. Check all items for expired dates, moldy salves, broken bottles, etc, and discard. (Make note on your list for any items you need to replace!)
  3. Make sure to check the refrigerator, too, for any remedies stashed in there.
  4. Sort items in a way that is convenient for you. (Perhaps by type/category, such as tinctures, homeopathics, salves, etc. or by illness (cold remedies, baby/mama needs, etc.)
  5. Again, make note of needed items on your list. (Is anything running low or missing? Add it to your list.) Consider the needs of the past year, and your plans for the year ahead, and try to prepare accordingly.
  6. Neatly restock your sorted items into your first aid kit box.
  7. Make sure your staple first aid items, such as bandages, thermometers (check the battery!), ice/heat packs, etc. are stocked, as well.

Bulk Herbs/Ingredients:

  1. Clean out your bags of bulk herbs/ingredients from wherever they are hiding in your cabinets/drawers.
  2. Sort out any old or spoiled items and discard. (Make notes on your list of items to replace.)
  3. Depending on the storage space and supplies you have available, make sure your herbs are stored in safe, air-tight containers. You can pour them into clean, labeled jars, or store sealed bags in organizing baskets.
  4. Organize your herbs in a way that is suitable for your use (alphabetical, by type/use, etc.), and neatly restock your cupboards. (Make note of any needed items.)
  5. Look over your supply of bulk ingredients (such as aloe, beeswax, oils, butters, etc.). Check for any leakage or spoilage, or anything running low. Make note of anything that is missing or needs to be replaced.
  6. Pour any leaking container into a clean, airtight jar, and wipe down all containers to remove dust or drips. Bulk items in plastic bags can be poured into jars, too, if desired.
  7. Neatly restock your cabinet/box with ingredients in a way that is convenient for you to use.

Bonus:

At the same time, prepare a small selection of your remedies to keep in the car! Be prepared for the scrapes, stings, and motion sickness that may arrive while you’re away from home.

A small canvas bag works well to store a basic kit. (Use plastic or stainless steel containers rather than glass, to avoid breakage, and some remedies may need to be sealed in a plastic storage bag, just in case of melting/leakage. Reused plastic spice containers work well.)

Final Step:

Review your list of needed items. Could you make any of the remedies? Make a notation by those items, and plan a date for a “remedy-making day!” Add any remaining items on your list to your grocery/seed orders.

Let’s prepare to bless our families, by being ready to soothe the inevitable ‘owies’ and to nurture wellness, ministering to the physical needs of those entrusted to us.

If you’re looking for more natural health remedies, you may want to check out Michele’s eBook, Herbal Nurturing: A Family Healing & Learning Guide. Michele is offering all Passionate Homemaking readers a special discount on her books. Enter: JANPH25 at checkout to save 25%. Sale ends 1/20/11.

Comments { 2 }

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

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:

How do you keep your heart free of clutter?

A. ANN @ MISSION-MINDED FAMILIES:

We all realize that our homes don’t stay clutter-free by themselves. Clearing out paper-piles, castoff-shoe-corners, and mountains of outgrown-kids-clothes takes persistent effort and a vision for a clean and peaceful environment. In our family’s home, there are certain areas I call Hot Spots; for some reason, if anything lands in these convenient (yet forbidden) zones, the item instantly transforms into a magnet for a giant mess. These Hot Spots include the stairs by our entryway, a chair in our master bedroom, and a bench by our kitchen table. If I don’t “fight” for these Hot Spots to be spotless, they take over.

The same holds true for my heart.

My thoughts and attitudes don’t stay clutter-free, kingdom-focused, and unselfish on their own accord. There are certain places in my mind and heart and emotions that I need to diligently guard against continual distraction and discouragement. For me, a few Hot Spots in my heart are keeping vision for homeschooling (even after 20 years), staying consistent with our ministry correspondence (especially when I don’t feel like writing our newsletter), or being frustrated by ministry leadership decisions that are not my concern or responsibility. I know that I can’t trust the foolishness of my momentary emotions, and just do or say “whatever I feel like.” If I’m grumpy, I can’t just “let go” of my unruly thoughts and dump everything I’m thinking on my husband, kids, or church friends, any more than I can continually display all of our family’s dirty socks and stinky rags on our dining room table.

Instead, I know that I need to rely on God’s grace and the constant presence of His Holy Spirit to keep my heart clean. I need to continually bring my emotional clutter to God, and allow Him to filter through my thoughts and attitudes, or even unnecessary busyness.

Proverbs 4:23 NIV says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” and II Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

For me, it also helps to review God’s focus for my life and His call for our family. If the clutter in my heart doesn’t have a place to fit into God’s plans and purposes, I know that I need to get rid of it. Sometimes, a simple prayer walk helps me adjust, requesting prayer from Jon or a godly girlfriend, spending time in worship, or praying out-loud key Bible verses that speak the truth of God’s Word (rather than proclaiming the lie of my negative feelings).


Q. LINDSAY:
How do you keep time with the Lord your priority amidst raising seven children?

A. ANN:

I remember a time early in our marriage (when we had only one baby!) when I was really struggling and feeling guilty for not getting “enough” (whatever amount that is!) quiet time with God. At the time, our church was emphasizing a one-hour early morning prayer time, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to stay consistent. I went to our pastor’s wife to earnestly ask for help. She was so sweet to encourage me, simply saying, “God understands a young mother.”

Over the years, and through all the different seasons of life with a houseful of babies, and toddlers, and kids, and teens, I’ve had to learn to take whatever time I could find. Many times, my only quiet time was in the middle of the night, while nursing a baby (I actually always loved that special one-on-one time to have our newest baby all to myself, and often clung to II Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby…”). Other times, I’d earnestly grab for a few minutes here and there, or Jon would watch our kids while I’d take a much-needed prayer walk. It’s much easier now that our kids are older; nearly always, the kids and I begin our day by having our individual quiet times, often right next to each other. But don’t feel bad if you can only grab a few minutes. Like a sweet kiss and a hug-on-the-go with your husband, special moments with the Lord, sprinkled all throughout the day, can keep you abiding in His presence and continually relying on His grace.

For me, it’s helped to establish a Quiet Time “appointment” and “place” before I go to bed. I’ve found that if I have my Bible, Bible reading chart, prayer journal, pen, a devotional book or Bible study, and a warm snugly blanket waiting for me next to my favorite chair in the living room, I’m more likely to begin my day with God. I’ve also been especially encouraged by the devotional book, A Place of Quiet Rest – Finding Intimacy with God through a Daily Devotional Life, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, this SUPER-MOM vs. ABIDING MOM chart, and here’s my favorite one-year Bible Reading Plan.


Q. LINDSAY:
How do you guard against time wasters (TV, computer)?

A. ANN:

Our family hasn’t had network TV for over 15 years, and we have NO regrets on this decision (especially in regards to the blatant beer commercials or immoral sitcom ads). We do have a collection of wholesome DVDs, and as parents we carefully monitor what our kids watch (and how much). A few times a week, I ride an exercise bike and my 13-year-old does laundry while the two of us watch 1/2 hour of a good-and-pure girl movie (like Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, or Roman Holiday), and several times a week, our family sits down for a fun wholesome movie and a giant bowl of our famous popcorn.

For me, the computer (including facebook, twitter, online writing, and keeping up with our ministry website) is a tremendous tool for outreach, yet it’s definitely my biggest challenge and has the potential for being my biggest time-waster Hot Spot. My current strategy is to not even turn on the computer until 10:30 AM on Mondays through Thursdays. During this time, I’m focusing on homeschooling, getting our home life in order, doing laundry, or even reading a good book or hand writing in my journal. I struggle to keep a good attitude about it, because I want to be diligent with the day’s work that needs to be done, but this current plan seems to be working. I’ve known friends who went off-line for a while, or deactivated their social networking accounts until they could get control of time-wasters. For a long while, I used a timer, where I would keep track of my daily online time by “clicking in” each time I logged onto the computer. Sisters, if TV or computer is a time-waster Hot Spot, we need to get a godly vision for life, and reclaim our time and family priorities for God’s Kingdom.


Q. LINDSAY:

Do you have a mission statement? We’d love to hear how your prioritize your life.

A. ANN:

During college, my husband felt the Lord tell him, “The epitome of your spirit it to win souls,” (and at that time, he didn’t even know what “epitome” meant). Since then, Jon has always been laser-focused on international soul-winning and evangelism. For me, briefly articulating my LIFE MISSION has been much more difficult. As a wife, I know I’m called to support and help my husband in His calling, and I know that I’m called to “mother” our seven children; however, my brain has always swirled with some sort of new idea or ministry plan, and for years my heart has yearned for a specific target-focus or mission statement for my life.

When I was pregnant with Philip, our seventh baby, someone casually mentioned, “You know, Ann, you’re just made to have babies.” I took those words as a beautiful compliment; yet privately, I went to God in prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I SO want to know your specific target and mission for my life. I want to be laser-focused and effective for Your kingdom. Some say I’m just ‘made to have babies,’ and I know that pregnancy and godly motherhood and supporting Jon are my primary callings; but I feel such a yearning, even beyond the personal needs our family, for Your kingdom purposes, and for other families, and for the lost and hurting people of the world. Can You give me a concise MISSION for my life?”

Only a few days later, right between my dreams and early consciousness in the early morning, I believe I clearly heard the Lord answer the cry of my heart. He simply said,

“I’ve called you to BRING FORTH LIFE.”

To me, this is the clearest MISSION STATEMENT I have ever had. It includes birthing and raising children, winning souls and motivating for evangelism, encouraging teens and families for world missions, and even my heart for rescuing orphans. It’s what God has made me for: I’m called to BRING FORTH LIFE!

For more specific details about how I’m continually learning to prioritize my life, and how I systematically seek God for His daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and life-long purposes — in practical ways — you’re welcome to take a look at my 2011 MISSION-MINDED New Year’s Guide, for prayer and evaluation. Over the years, I’ve been tweaking and adding to this FREE 15-page guide pray to help myself and others to discover God’s focus, fulfillment, and fruitfulness. I hope it could be a blessing!

Thank you Ann for sharing your heart with us!

Comments { 25 }

Guarding Against Technology Time-Wasters

Technology is a powerful tool, but it also can be a distracting time-waster. I have been honored to use this tool to not only help organize my life in many ways, to maintain this blog ministry, but I have also experienced its powerful drawing nature. I have seen the minutes and hours tick by as I have been distracted with reading yet another post, or another update, or researching another product. I have noticed a growing trend, especially among stay-at-home mom’s to be sucked into the world of social media. It may be that we are taking care of little ones all day long and we desperately need an outlet. The enemy likes to draw our attention away from doing Kingdom work (and that surely includes your mothering, wifely, and household duties), and waste precious time.

I have had an IPhone for the past two years. It has been very useful for maintaining my schedule, organizing various aspects of my life, and keeping up to date on so many things. Over the last few months, the Lord has been convicting me that it was time to let it go. Why? It had certainly increased my productivity, but it had also become a distraction. Because I had to keep my phone near me most of the day, my temptation was to frequently check email, twitter, facebook, and other updates. It was a hard decision to make, but when the time came to say goodbye…I did feel incredibly free. Sometimes it requires drastic steps to let go of these strongholds.

Here are some practical suggestions that I have found helpful in reigning in this tiger and using the Internet in a wise manner. We women love connecting with people, and so much of that now is taking place online through facebook and twitter. You view someone status and then you get sucked in to view their pictures, which leads you to another’s profile, and it goes on.

- Limit your friends.

As much as I’d love to be friends with everyone that may request it, I must be honest with myself. Do I have time to read all their updates, status reports, pictures? No. We cannot possibly maintain all these friendships. There is no race to gain the most friends, it does not show how popular you are. Only chose those friends that are truly friends.

- Limit your status updates to once a day.

This applies to twitter and facebook. Who wants to read your 10th tweet for the day? Sorry. I stop following those who tweet too repeatedly, or who re-tweet everything out there. Stick with the important stuff. Truly evaluate whether or not you want to communicate something. IS this really that beneficial to re-tweet? Is this really going to encourage or bless someone? A highlight in your day is awesome, but not every passing detail.

- Chose your favorite 5 blogs.

I used to be subscribed to 30 different blogs. I finally realized I always skipped half of them. So then why are they still cluttering my RSS feed? Select the unsubscribe button. Ask yourself: does this blog really inspire me? Does it cause me to compare? I weeded out 25 and stuck with my favorite 5 blogs. So yes, if that means unsubscribing from PH, than I encourage you to do so. My goal is not to get the most subscribers, but rather help you weed out distractions, and if this blog is one…I want to encourage you to remove it.

- Use a timer for your computer time.

I found it very helpful to designate a specific hour during the day that could be my computer time. And yes, I aim to limit it to 1 1/2 hours and that being mostly during the children’s naptime period (pregnancy requires mommy to take a short nap myself to maintain my joy and energy!). I utilize Online Stopwatch for 15 minute intervals. 15 minutes on emails, 15 minutes on social media, 15 minutes responding to comments, and the final 30 minutes on blogging. It’s hard to write a post in 30 minutes, but that is my goal. This may tweak a bit with each day, but it is my guideline. Make a plan for your computer time and guard it carefully.

And one final thing to mention on this line…May I encourage you to keep your computer away from your bedroom. I try to store my laptop in the farthest location away from my bedroom and morning activities. Otherwise, it is too easy to check my email. Are you like me who imagines I can do it ‘real quick’? I also believe your bedroom should be a sacred place for you and your husband.

To read my thoughts on Television and movies, check out my Simplifying Entertainment post.

Now it’s your turn…how do you seek to guard your computer time? What practical tips can you offer for protecting against it from becoming a time-waster?

Comments { 64 }

Understanding the Heart of Order

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Genesis chapter 1 begins with a beautiful picture of the creation of the world. We see our God as a God of order. He fashioned this world in six days, with structure, order and purposeful preparation. He did not create the lights for day and night (day 4) without first separating light and darkness (day 1). Fish and birds were carefully put into place (day 5) only after the sea and sky were designed (day 2). And land animals were only created (day 6) after a fertile earth was established (day 3).

There was order with each passing day. And there was no rush either. He could have easily fashioned everything in the blink of an eye. And yet He spread out his plan into tangible, daily steps. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Every aspect was good in His eyes. And there was intentional restful intervals. We see evening and morning passing before the next day of work begins. We see a separation of the seventh day of creation as an designated day of rest.

As we are created in His very image, I believe God has designed us to be creatures of order. God worked in an ordered, simple way, and we are commissioned to follow in this example. If we keep this vision in the foremost of our thinking, that God fashioned you to be orderly in your homemaking and lifestyle, than this goal will be a rock to stand upon. If the pursuit of order is based solely because of our own desires or comparing ourselves with others, they will have no lasting foundation and our desires, goals, and aim will quickly flutter away. We need to do it for the Lord and there it will be blessed.

Is clutter and disorder in our lives a good representation of Jesus Christ? Chaos in our lives may just be a sign or clue that our relationship with Christ is probably askew. If there is disorder, stress, and clutter, we may just want to step back and evaluate our hearts. Am I submitting to your design for order, God? Or is ME on the throne in my home and I cannot let go. Make sure Jesus is the Lord of your home, submit to His design, and He will guide you each step of the way.

Order requires planning. Do you have a specific time designated to plan? Meal planning, housecleaning planning, etc. God gave each tree, plant, vegetable, animal, and mankind a specific purpose. In a similar fashion, everything in our home and life should have a specific intentional purpose. If it doesn’t have a fruitful purpose, that it needs to be removed from our lives. Remember planning is a time saver. It prevents chaos. You might consider adopting the idea of taking a weekly planning retreat, which has provided me with this focused time to plan and prepare for the upcoming week.

Dear sisters, as we begin a new year, let us acknowledge our need for the Savior to enable us to be women of order, women whose heart’s desires flow from the beautiful design we have been fashioned to represent to this day and age. Thankfully His grace is amazing and will never fail us. There is no condemnation but grace and mercy to help pick us up every time we stumble and fall.

“Let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

Take Action:

1. Evaluate your heart: Is my heart in submission to the Lord Jesus? Is my relationship with the Lord first in my life? Am I cultivating specific times to spend with Him at His feet?
2. Schedule in intentional periods of rest this year. Are there margins in your life?
Ideas: schedule in your vacations now, schedule weekly planning retreats, develop specific steps for preserving Sunday as your day of rest.
3. What one thing do I need to let go of this year that is hindering my relationship with the Lord and order in my life?
This may be facebook or some other form of technology, a draining relationship, an regular outside event you attend, a specific toy or gadget in your home.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (1 Cor. 14:33)

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And A New Year Begins with Overflowing Goodness

Our new abode

Change, transition, emotions, and lots of blessings. That would described this past month at our home. We moved into our own sweet little home on December 30th and have been gradually making the transition of unpacking, cleaning, and making it our home. It has been a sweet time. We have had a generous crowd of friends and family assisting us in the transition, making it such a peaceful event. We now have a yard, patio, and even a hot tub (it came with the house of course, but who would refuse?) all on a quiet little cul-da-sac.We really believe God granted us this larger home so we could be purposeful and strategic in extending hospitality, and what a joy it has been to have our home overflowing with guests over the last few weeks.

So I have been spending my time during this blogging break simply getting my life in order, planning and setting goals for the new year, and getting the supplies necessary to maintain our new abode. Yes, I seriously needed a mop system! Never had hard wood floors to clean. The community in our neighborhood has also been a blessing. We met 5-6 of our neighbors the first day we moved in as they came over and welcomed us, and one family even brought us a meal. I was overwhelmed! Living in the city is such a contrast to a condo development. We anticipate great things as we begin to be able to reach out to our neighbors, co-workers, and others in this new season.

Announcing our new little one to our families over Christmas

We also discovered that a new little life has been forming in my womb over the last 10 weeks. We are thrilled to announce that Edmonds baby #3 is coming in August 2011! I am feeling very well, just experiencing normal tiredness, and wild emotions. It is a sweet time of life to be able to enjoy the blessings of new life.

Here at Passionate Homemaking, we will be having a focused theme for each month of this year – one that will help inspire and encourage you in your homemaking, womanhood, walk with the Lord, and relationships with others.  Our January focus is on simplifying, organization, and goal setting for the new year. February will bring lots of ideas for helping strengthen your marriage, and so much more. I am excited to see all that God will do in and through our team of writers.

We covet your prayers as we seek to be faithful stewards of our time, balancing our priorities, and seeking first the Kingdom!

To God be the glory!

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Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers Giveaway!

Forty years ago the Lord called Cliff Dudley into the Christian publishing field; upon his death some 20 years ago, He called Cliff’s son Tim into this same field. Tim Dudley has served as president for New Leaf Publishing Group (NLPG) for the past 20 years. Through the power of the printed page, NLPG’s mission is to win the lost to Christ and to bring balance to the body of Christ. Ink on paper to change eternity forever… that is our cause, this is their desire. NLPG offers a wealth of resources on Christian living, theology, homeschooling, creation science, classics, and so much more.

New Leaf Publishing Group offers one unique four-book series titled, Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers. This series discusses topics such as The Gospel, The Mission, The Scripture and The Trinity. The most foundational teachings of the Christian faith are presented in this series at a level preschool and elementary children can understand. In simple and precise language, God-centered theology is promoted, giving children a firm foundation in God’s timeless truth.

We simply love using this series of books with our little ones. They are solid doctrinally, simple, creative, and enjoyable to the eye, and in a cute small format. It is never too early to start teaching your children the value and beauty of the gospel. This set would make a great gift to any family with little ones!

New Leaf Publishing has offered one complete set of the Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers to one of our readers plus one copy of each title to four different winners!

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment below and share why you would like to receive this set and how you would use them in your home.

2. For a second optional entry, become a fan of New Leaf Publishing on facebook and let us know in a second comment.

Giveaway Closed.

And the winner is…

Grand prize winner (a complete set of the books): Kristen S. -  kpolywog@….

Runner ups…receiving 1 book from the set:

Jenny (cwjdbeak@…)
Amy S. (gottabelooney@…)
Penny (wilmoregirls@…)
Jessica (steveandjessica@…)

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Merry Christmas!

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and let you all know that I am blessed by you! Thank you for taking the time to read, comment, and share your heart here at Passionate Homemaking. Another year is almost complete and we look forward to 2011 where we will be moving forward in continuing to help build, encourage, and inspire you to be passionate in your homemaking!

We pray that you have a blessed holiday season! We will be taking a blogging break till the first of the year as we seek to keep a simple Christmas and focus on the beauty of our Savior’s birth. We will be moving December 31st, so we have some packing to do after Christmas and set up our new home in Portland. We thank you for all your support and encouragement! We will see you back here in the new year!

P.S. There will be two fun giveaways posted on December 29th & January 1st during the break – stay tuned!

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Picture Perfect Families?

Written by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan (with the lovely Dunagan family pictured at left).

Are you putting a family photo in this year’s Christmas cards? If so, I’m curious if you have an “inside” story behind your happy-looking picture?

Have you ever had a bad picture day? I’m referring to one of those photo-effort-extravaganzas which may have captured some successful family smiles, but left everyone, kids and parents included, totally disgruntled?

Oh, my!

With seven kids (and challenges with coordinating college and work schedules, not to mention clothing colors), we have definitely had our share of photo-day-disasters. Fortunately, even in our worst photo-moments, we are usually just dealing with some silly frustrations. In the end, most of us are usually thankful for a current picture of everyone together (or at least Momma’s happy!!!).

One wonderful aspect about having God as our focus and bulls-eye center of family life is that He always knows the inside scoop, even more than we do. None of us can fool the Lord, because He always knows the truth.

We all want happy families, lasting marriages, and good kids — not only for that impressive yearly photo or month-by-month annual family recap, but for that daily, behind-the-scenes, real-life joy. The Lord sees everything and watches us continually. Like that Santa Clause song, God really sees “when you’ve been bad or good”; but He loves our families enough to help us, (and fortunately His love is consistent, whether we’ve been “naughty” or “nice”).

The Lord sees inside our walls and behind closed doors.

He sees inside our “real” day-to-day family life . . . and He cares.

One of the reasons why I wrote The Mission-Minded Family – was to bring encouragement and God-centered focus to daily family life. From God’s Word, I know that it’s not enough to merely “look good” in our yearly Christmas photo, or to sit all-neat-and-orderly in the church pew (or in our situation, church chairs). It’s not enough to accumulate impressive mission-minded adventures, or to raise a houseful of exclusively homeschooled scholarship-winning kids (to make us, as parents, feel approved by others). It’s not enough to just make “enough” money or to live in a cute clean house.

So, what’s it all about?

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14,

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,

For this is man’s all.

For God will bring every work into judgment,

Including every secret thing,

Whether good or evil.”

I love pondering this verse, especially the fact that God sees and judges every secret GOOD thing we do, both the good things we do individually and the good things we do as a family . . . not just the bad stuff!

God has a destiny for each family, and He has a divine balance for each day. He has a plan for each individual member, as well as a “corporate” purpose for each family unit. As Christians, we have been entrusted with God’s salvation and the truth of the gospel – and our world desperately needs it. Every day, across the globe, about 150,000 people will die and face their eternal future; most of these people are not saved; and about 80,000 of them never even heard about Jesus.

As mission-minded families, we love God; we hate sin; and we surrender to His purposes. Instead of living for ourselves, we’re helping to expand God’s kingdom. As we’ve emphasized God’s Great Commission and having compassion for hurting people, along with continually seeking God’s divine daily balance, the fruit in our personal lives has been awesome. By God’s grace, our marriage is strong and full of romance, our home is happy, and our kids are experiencing God’s blessings and favor. But these “perks” of the mission-minded life are not our focus.

God doesn’t want our families to be self-absorbed, merely consuming groceries and surviving another week, or another year. God created us to glorify Him.

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