Monthly Archives: January 2014

“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun”

The laundry room.

My arch nemesis.

It’s the room in our house that seems to collect everything that doesn’t have a “home”…it’s the designated place for everything that doesn’t have a designated place.  It’s a very small room that doubles as our primary storage closet in our little home that seriously lacks storage space.  So clutter builds up…things get shoved in and piled up…it’s bad.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is the reality of what our laundry room often looks like:

It’s so bad.  Horrible.  My least favorite space in our house.

And yet, I need to be able to use this room.  My family insists on wearing clothes every day, so I need to be able to wash clothes every day or else laundry gets out of control.  And it often does.  Because I hate this room.  And I hate doing laundry.  So doing laundry in this room is just plain miserable.

I finally got to the point last week that I couldn’t even get to the washing machine without crawling over piles of stuff and moving things out of the way.  Something had to change.  I knew I had to do some major work in this space (which is one of the reasons I’ve procrastinated it so long…I knew it would be a lot of work and a pain in the booty). But enough was enough…no more procrastinating.  The laundry room makeover HAD to be done!

But the task was a bit overwhelming.  There is no way everything that was stuffed into that room would fit back in and still be a functional space.  And I had a very limited budget (like $20 limited).

I had to get creative.  And I had to purge.  A lot.

It took all week, but I finally have a clean and organized laundry room!

Ahhhh….soooo much better!

Here’s what I did to get there:

  • I pulled EVERYTHING out.  every. thing.  It seriously FILLED my dining room and kitchen.  It was ridiculous.
  • I threw out and got rid of a LOT of stuff.  Basically, if it had been sitting in there collecting dust for like 3 years and we never used it, it was gone.  If it served no function or purpose, if I didn’t love it, or if it was broken or otherwise unusable…it was gone.  I only put things back into that room that I knew we would use.
  • I took down most of the existing shelving and moved it around. I moved all shelving onto the one wall above the washer and dryer. (Before, there was shelving on every wall…it was ok, but made the room feel even smaller and more cluttered than it already was.  I just moved the shelves around so that it looked a little less chaotic. I didn’t lose any shelving space…just organized it differently.) Then I used a tension rod I already had from a previous project and hung a little “curtain” in front of the top shelves to give it a nice, clean look above the washer and dryer. (The curtain was made from a half-panel of an old shower curtain that I saved for some reason. I may replace it with a different fabric if I find one I love…but this was free, so it works 😉 ).  And it’s super easy to slide and get to anything I need on the shelves.
    (I realized in cleaning out this room that I had a bit of a laundry detergent hoarding problem going on, as you can see by all the All on that shelf…I counted 13 of them!…lol.  Lots of coupons and great sales lately…so I have enough laundry detergent now to last me quite a while.  I love couponing…but that’s another post for another day.)
  • I painted the walls.  The walls had not been painted…EVER.  And they were in BAD shape.  So I filled all the (many) holes all over the walls and put on a coat of primer and then topped it off with a nice, crisp coat of white paint.  I’m really loving white paint lately…it’s just so bright and clean. (This step of the process was a pain because of the limited space I had to move around in…especially when trying to paint beside and behind the washer and dryer…which is why I never ever painted that room…and why it probably will not get painted again for a VERY long time 😉 ).
  • I cleaned everything.  (It is so gross how much gunk builds up under and behind that dryer….so gross…just so gross).
  • I painted and hung up a peg board.  This was the only thing I spent money on (the board itself was only $6, and then I purchased a pack of assorted peg hooks for about $8…so $14 is all I spent on this whole project).  I’ve been wanting a peg board for a long time…I just like them, and I had found all sorts of cool ideas of ways to use them on Pinterest. (I love Pinterest).  We don’t have a garage, but I think if I ever had a garage I would probably have at least one wall be a solid peg board.  Anyway…I love how my peg board turned out and how it allows me to organize all my random little things. (And I can change them around and add more buckets and containers if I need to…I love it!)
    peg board(This is on the tiny wall directly opposite of the washer and dryer)
    I painted a section of the peg board blue (just because) and mounted it to the wall using some scrap wood I had, and screwed it into the studs. (The wood pieces behind it allow for the hooks and brackets to go in the holes without scraping up the wall behind it). This was another step of this whole process that was a pain…but in cleaning up I found a stud finder and laser level I didn’t know I had (it was like Christmas all over again, lol!)…so I used those and that helped the process 😉 ).mason jars to organizeThe set of brackets and hooks I purchased included two “shelf brackets”…so I used an old fence board as a makeshift shelf, and then sorted some of my supplies into mason jars and stuck them on the shelf.  (I love using mason jars…they have so many wonderful functions! But that’s a whole other blog post too 😉 )
  • And then…to finish it off…I made some art!

    And I used a quote that I love from Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun”…because finding that element of fun when doing laundry is a little challenging for me (because, like I said, I hate doing laundry 😉 ). But now with my nice and organized laundry space, maybe I’ll be able to find a little more fun in this job that must be done 😉 .

Mary Poppins laundry room artwork

I made my large laundry room artwork using watercolors and a Sharpie marker (what would I ever do without Sharpies?!).

Unlike Mary Poppins, it’s not practically perfect in every way…but I like it 🙂

I also made a smaller version and used it to help me create a digital version of the same art…a version to share!

So if you’d like to print your own Mary Poppins art, just click below on the size and version that you would like! (*It is free for personal use only…please do not sell or use it for profit…thanks!)

MaryPoppinsQuote

Mary Poppins Quote (Original)
{Click below on the size you want to go to the PDF file}
5×7
8×10

MaryPoppinsQuote_color

Mary Poppins Quote – Full Color
{Click below on the size you want to go to the PDF file}
5×7
8×10

MaryPoppinsQuote_blackandwhite

Mary Poppins Quote – Black & White
{Click below on the size you want to go to the PDF file}
5×7
8×10

Oh, and that cute little printable hanging above my dryer?….

I found that little one on Pinterest over a year ago.  You can print your own over here: http://apopofpretty.com/giant-laundry-room-sign-tutorial-endless-love-laundry-free-printable/ 

I am already loving my “new” laundry room.  Doing laundry, although still not my favorite thing to do, is not nearly as miserable. And I can find everything I need very quickly without having to dig and make a mess in the process.  Now to tackle our tiny hall closet….if I can organize the nightmare laundry room, surely I can handle that black hole in the hallway 😉

Snow Day

I haven’t sat down to write in several days.  Lots going on around here…including crazy winter weather that brought SNOW to our little house here in central Georgia!!

I know it’s not much compared to the blizzards and mountains of snow the beautiful northern states get every year…but around here, 2 inches of snow is rare and exciting and a big deal.  The last time it snowed this much here was about 4 years ago… (The pictures below are from February, 2010):

2010_snowday1

2010_snowday2

2010_snowday3

The girls were so little!  And so was that cute little puppy…hard to believe this is that same silly dog now:

The girls don’t really remember that snow day four years ago.  But they were sure excited this week when school was cancelled because of the impending snow heading our way.  They waited by the window all day Tuesday.  I can’t even tell you how many times I was asked “when will it start snowing??”  It didn’t start falling until after they had fallen asleep that night, but the next morning brought squeals of delight as they looked outside and saw the yard covered in white.  It really was beautiful. 

{We even made a little snowman!}

We have thoroughly enjoyed our snow days…but today the ice and snow began to melt away.  Our little snowman looked pretty sad tonight.  And so did the girls as they resumed their regular early bedtime to rest up for school…life will resume as normal tomorrow.

This week did not go like I had planned.  I didn’t have “snow days” penciled in on my calendar, at all.  My daily routine was put on hold…checklists were put to the side…lots of things did not get done.  But as I look back I am so thankful for this week…this little break in the routine, this unexpected and complete slowing down.  The snow days that slowed us down…made us stop…gave us time, together.

I’m still working on that whole slowing down thing…making space in the pace…finding peace.

I wonder…I wonder if sometimes God has to send a “snow day” into my life just to make me stop.   Not literally snow necessarily, but sometimes He sends something rare and unexpected to shut down the busyness in my life, to slow me down enough to pay attention.

The snow this week got our attention.  It stopped everything around here…schools, businesses, roads.   Things that seemed so important and pressing ended up not being as urgent as they seemed…after all, it was SNOWING in middle Georgia!  Who knows when this will happen again…it’s exciting…we didn’t want to miss a minute of it! (Yes, we are silly crazy when it snows here…and I’m ok with that 😉 ).  So we went outside, we played in the snow, we built a snowman, we had a snowball fight.  We cuddled up under blankets and watched movies, we made hot chocolate and spent so much time just gazing out of the windows at the crazy white that covered the ground.  We had so much fun!  Those snow days are now special family memories…they were just what we needed, even if we didn’t plan it or expect it.

Not every day can be a snow day (not here in Georgia anyway 😉 )…and we can’t totally stop everything every day.  But we can slow down…we can look for “snow day” moments and capture them, embrace them.  Because sometimes the unexpected things become the most beautiful things, and the unplanned moments make the sweetest memories.

Family Game Night {and some free printables}

Last week we had a Family Game Night as our weekly family night together.  Game night is always a favorite…and it’s pretty easy to do because it doesn’t really require much prep time.  Just grab some snacks and pull out a bunch of games.  Super easy and lots of fun!

Game Night

This time we added a new simple and fun twist to our game night: we had “medals” for the winner(s) of each game.

Candy Medals

I was inspired by this pin I found on Pinterest, where someone had made “Olympic Game Medals” out of candy bars attached to pieces of ribbon.  It looked super simple, so I made a bunch of our own using a variety of mini candy bars (which I found on sale at the grocery store for $1 for a pack of 6-8, but you can also usually get them at the dollar store too) and I used ribbon that I had leftover from other projects.

Candy Medals Supplies

Here’s the supplies you’ll need to make your own:

  • Mini Candybars
  • Ribbon (any kind), cut into about 30-inch lengths
  • Tape

All you do is attach the ends of the ribbon to the back of the piece of candy using the tape and you’re done!  Super easy!

Candy Medal

If you don’t want to use candy as prizes, I’ve also made a set of “medals” that you can print out and use:

Game Night Winner Medals Printable{Click on the image to download the PDF}
Just print them on cardstock, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon.  Or you can print them onto full-sheet label paper and cut them out and use them like stickers.  Or you can even attach them to a goody bag or some other kind of prize…the possibilities are endless!

My girls LOVED winning the medals….and eating them 😉  It just added a little extra fun to an already fun family night.

 

Planning your own Family Game Night soon?  Here are some extra printables that can use to decorate for your fun night ~

Here’s the small Family Game Night sign and “Prizes” label that we used (Just click HERE, or on the picture below to go to the PDF file):

Family Game Night Decorations

If you want a larger sign, this one (below) will print out 8×10 so you can frame it or hang it up somewhere in your house each time you have a game night:

Game Night Sign{click on the image above to download the PDF}

And here’s a banner/bunting you can make, as another option:

Game Night Banner{click HERE to download the PDF}

To make the banner: After you print and cut out each letter, just attach it to a string or twine in one of two ways:

1. Glue the string to the back of the letters using hot glue,

OR
2. Punch holes in the top of each letter and string your twine or yarn through the holes to create your banner.
(my letters look pink because my poor printer is running out of ink…they should be more orange-ish…oops)

You can save the banner to use again when you have another Family Game Night.  We usually hang our banners on our fireplace mantle, but you can hang it on the wall, above a doorway, over a window…anywhere you want 🙂 It’s a fairly easy, fast way to add just a little special touch to your home for a family night.

Game Night Banner(I’m going to remake mine after I get more yellow ink for my printer…although the pink and purple look works too 😉 )

And if you’re looking for some fun family games to play, here are a few of our family’s favorites:

Blokus
In a Pickle
Sorry
Aggravation
Apples to Apples (Disney version)
Monopoly
Jenga

Happy Family Game Night!!!

Planning a Family Night

Family Nights. Intentional, focused family time. Consistent investments of time that pay huge dividends in our family in the long run and make a lasting impact on our hearts. Creating memories together by just slowing down and having fun as a family.

Sounds great. Sounds simple enough. But it’s one of those things that tends to be easier said than done.

We love Family Nights around our house! We’ve been doing family nights for a couple of years now, and they have made such a difference in our family since we started intentionally planning this special time together. We are not perfect at it, though…we have struggled over the years with being consistent with this time. We try to have at least one family night every week. We don’t always succeed at it, but that’s our goal. It doesn’t seem like it would be difficult, just one night a week, but life can get pretty crazy and finding that one night every week can sometimes be tricky…it’s easy to get so busy and overwhelmed with the day-to-day, so easy to let our calendars fill up with other activities and events, that stopping to spend a couple of hours of focused time together can be challenging.

That’s why I’ve found that planning ahead can make a HUGE difference. If I can look ahead, even just one week at a time, and set aside one night every week as designated intentional family time, then we are much more likely to spend that time together, and other things are less likely to creep in and suck up that time.

This year I’ve made myself some planning sheets and checklists to help me as I plan ahead for our Family Nights. I want to make sure that we are making consistent investments in our family, and intentional time together is such an important part of that. I’m hoping these little planning sheets will help me easily and quickly plan ahead for our family nights (or family days) so that we can be a little more consistent and intentional this year.

Family Night Planning Sheet

Family Night Planning List

The checklist has several different ideas for the types of Family Nights that we do. Here’s a quick explanation of each one:

  • Game Night – On game night we pull out the board games, video games, any kind of games that we can play as a family. We usually pop some popcorn or have some other kind of snack as we play together. We just did a game night last week and we had “medals” for the winner of each game…it was a fun little addition to an already fun night. (More on those, including some printables, in another post later this week!)
  • Movie Night – We love watching movies together. We pull out the blankets and sleeping bags and cuddle up together in the living room with some popcorn or snacks and watch a movie (it could be one we already own, or one we rented from Redbox, or a new one we recently purchased). Sometimes we will theme out this night based on the movie…there are so many awesome ideas on Pinterest and all over the internet for just about any movie, so it’s easy to add some activities and snacks that go along with the movie we’re watching.
  • Art Night – Painting, coloring, drawing, making a mess…this is Art night! We might just draw on paper, or paint canvases, or experiment with different kinds of art supplies…but no matter what we do or create, art night is always a favorite!
  • Craft Night – Especially around holidays, we make lots of crafts together. We’ve made ornaments at Christmas, decorated Valentines in February, and made turkeys around Thanksgiving. We’ve also painted birdhouses, made decorations for the house, created our own jewelry…..there are so many fun and simple crafts out there, Craft Night can be a great time to try something new and have fun together.
  • Baking Night – My girls love to help in the kitchen…whether it’s making and decorating sugar cookies (a favorite in our family), or a Make-Your-Own-Pizza night, cooking in the kitchen together makes for a great family night.
  • Science Night – Science experiments are a LOT of fun to do as a family…just be prepared to make a mess!!
  • Service Night – This night is all about intentionally serving others as a family. This might mean volunteering together at a soup kitchen, or delivering goodies to neighbors, or visiting a nursing home, or doing random acts of kindness for strangers around town…there are so many awesome ways to serve others as a family. And this kind of family time can make a huge impact in our kids’ hearts as they see and experience us living out what we believe about loving others. (This is one we hope to do a LOT more of this year!)
  • Celebration – Sometimes our Family Night is a special celebration, like a holiday or birthday or special event. For example, we always have a special family dinner for Valentines Day, and we have a Birthday Party for Jesus at Christmas…we also celebrate special accomplishments within our family (like recently when Lilly finally conquered her habit of sucking her thumb – this was a HARD one for her, and she was so proud when she had gone a whole month without sucking her thumb at all…so we went out to dinner and dessert and celebrated as a family!). Celebrations are fun, and are a GREAT reason to spend some extra time together as a family.
  • Kids’ Choice – This is a fun one…let the kids (or one of them) choose what we do for Family Night!
  • Adventure is Out There – Not all Family Nights have to take place in the house. We love to go out on “adventures” and explore the world. This may be going out stargazing at night or going on a hike together or taking a road trip to a new place or going to a park or the zoo or an aquarium…there are so many options, and so many ways to explore the world together.
  • Family DAY – At least once a month, we try to plan a Family Night that lasts all DAY long…a whole day of focused, intentional family time! Usually our family days are on Saturdays or school holidays…but we have to plan ahead because the calendar will fill up fast with other things. We’ve had hiking days, movie marathon days, pajama days, photo adventure days (road trip with random stops to take pictures of things we find)…or sometimes it’s just clearing the calendar and making a point to just spend the day together at home having a day of rest

I’m sure there are LOTS of other Family Night ideas out there. I’ve started a board on Pinterest with ideas that I’ve found…feel free to check it out and add to your own list of ideas. You can follow my Family Night Pinterest Board HERE. I’ll also try to blog about our Family Nights and share as many of them as I can, as well as any printables I make and use along the way. And if you have an awesome idea that you do as a family, please comment below and share!!

Family Nights can be ANYTHING you want them to be…there really is no right or wrong way to do a Family Night…the main thing is that you are spending intentional and focused time together as a family, and having fun!

Even though there’s no right or wrong way to do a Family Night, we do have a few general rules that we follow:

Family Night Rules

  1. Put Away Distractions and Devices – Phones, iPods, Nintendo DS, and all those other hand-held devices are put away for Family Night. Texts, emails, the latest Facebook updates, and that next level in that game can wait….this is family time, sacred time. Put away the distractions and focus on this time together.
  2. Everyone Participates – We ALL jump in and participate…everyone paints, everyone gets messy, everyone takes a turn. Calendars are cleared, no meetings or appointments interfere with this time (which is why planning ahead is important)…we will change the date of our Family Night before we will have a Family Night without a member of the family.
  3. Relax and Smile – No stressing allowed. (This is usually directed at myself, because I stress over details and worry if things don’t quite go according to plan). The cookies burned? No biggie! That craft didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to? Oh well. The little one has a meltdown? It’s ok. Things didn’t go perfectly? Great! That means you had the opportunity to model for your kids how to react and what to do when plans go awry….Family Nights usually make for great teachable moments. Just relax and smile through it all…this is about spending time together as a family, about investing in your relationships with one another…it’s not about baking the perfect cookies or painting that picture just right. It’s about the TIME together.
  4. Talk to Each Other – This one is so important…communication. Family Nights are the perfect time to have conversations together, to listen to each other, and to really communicate. Ask questions, really listen, share stories…this is just so important.
  5. Have Fun – No matter what goes wrong or what is planned, we WILL have FUN, by golly!!
  6. Eat Dessert – Because dessert just makes everything better! We always eat some kind of treat for Family Night.

Feel free to print and use these rules for your own Family Nights {just click on the image above to go to the PDF file}…or make up your own!! I’m also sharing my checklists…feel free to print and use these for your own personal family use {just click on the image to get the PDF}:

Full Page Planning Sheet:

Family Night Planning Sheet - Full Page

Planning Sheet with Two Per Page:

Family Night Planning Sheet - Two Per Page

I printed the 2-per-page ones, printed 26 copies (52 total, one per week of the year), cut them in half, and then used the tutorial I found over here on Skip to my Lou to make them into a little notepad for the year. {Actually, I didn’t have any silicone gel that the tutorial called for, so I used glossy Mod Podge instead…it worked GREAT!} Now I have a whole notepad for planning a year’s worth of Family Nights!

Family Night Planning Notepad

Enjoy!! And I wish you all some amazing and fabulous Family Nights this year!!!

{Side note: Isn’t this little owl pen holder just awesome?! My hubby gave it to me in my Christmas stocking…I just love it! It’s perfect for my favorite Sharpie colors of the moment 🙂 }

Fabulous Little Owl Pen Holder

Because sometimes parenting is just plain HARD…

Ever have those days as a parent when you wonder what in the world you are doing?  Ever get to the end of a day and collapse into bed with a huge sigh, weighed down with all the frustrations and imperfections of the day, and just pray that the next day will be a little easier?  Ever have a day when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, and you just cry because you really don’t know what else to do?

I’ve had several of those days lately.

It’s easy in those crazy days, in those hard days when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, to maintain perspective and focus in this whole parenting thing.  Because parenting is just plain hard sometimes.  There are days that stretch you so far you feel like you’re going to pop…days that break you…days that wear you down to the very end of yourself.

Parenting is hard work.

Which is why I think it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day…it’s easy to only focus on just containing the chaos until bedtime (and even then it’s not guaranteed peace because sleep is never a guarantee, at least not in my house 😉 ).  Each day is full of the urgent: there is food to be prepared and laundry to wash and homework to finish and teeth to brush and arguments to mediate and meltdowns to manage…and the list goes on and on.

Parenting is hard work.

But it is also the most important work.

Because it is not just about getting through each day.  It’s not even just about making sure these crazy kids survive to see age 18…or that they are “smart” and “successful” when they grow up.  There is a bigger picture…a bigger story…a more important mission at stake.

I often wonder what in the world God was thinking when He made me a mom.  Imperfect, insecure, unsure, mess-of-a-person ME?…a mom?  He put into these imperfect arms an eternal soul, to raise and teach and love and train.  He gave me this unique and precious little person and entrusted me with her physical, emotional, mental, AND spiritual well-being.  What an incredibly huge responsibility.  It can be so overwhelming sometimes.  I am so not qualified or equipped to do all of that…what if I mess up and mess her up in the process?

I had Emma when I was 23.  We had only been married one year when I got pregnant.  We were so excited.  But we had no idea what we were doing….seriously, no idea, lol.  I look back now on those early years and I see that I really was just in a survival mode, for a very long time.  Emma didn’t eat well…she didn’t sleep well…she cried a lot.  Parenting back then was just plain exhausting.  And it didn’t really get easier when we added Lilly to the mix when Emma was 2.  Ever since then it really has felt like long periods of chaos and craziness, with moments of sanity sprinkled along the way.  I feel like I have fumbled my way through this whole parenting thing…and just when I think I figured something out, I stumble over a new challenge and once again have no idea what I’m doing.

The girls are 10 and 8 now, and you would think I’d have it down by now. Yeah, no…not so much.  Actually, I think these next few years are going to be even harder work in many ways.  Teenage girls.  The very thought sends Mark, my husband, into mild panic attacks ;).

We still really don’t know what we’re doing.  But there are a few things we have learned.  And relearned.  And then learned again.  God has to keep reminding me of these things, because I tend to forget and lose focus.  And because if I don’t keep these things at the front, the “urgent” things in each day will crowd out the “important” things.  The difficult homework assignment, the dinner that burned, the argument, the piles of laundry, the temper tantrum…these “urgent” things that demand immediate attention will overshadow the “important” things, and before I know it we have kicked back into pure survival mode as a family and we are just counting down the minutes to bedtime.  We just “get through” the day instead of embracing the day, whatever it brings, and counting it all joy.

Now, none of these things are my own original concepts or ideas…I’ve heard them at conferences and in podcasts, I’ve read about them in books and magazine articles, I’ve even shared these concepts with other parents, particularly during the time that I was Preschool Director at our church.  These concepts are nothing new, but really putting them into consistent daily practice can be challenging, especially when the demands and responsibilities in the day-to-day are pressing down hard.

So what are these things that I need to remember?  What do I remind myself when we’ve been in that survival mode? What am I telling myself today as I am coming out of a few days of just surviving?…

1)  There is no such thing as a perfect family.  That picture you have in your head of how you think your family should look, how you should act, how you should be? Throw it away!  Let it go!  And quit picking it back up and putting it on the mantle of your heart as if that “picture-perfect” family is your goal.  There’s no perfect family.  Only a perfect God.  In fact God says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)  So don’t stress about the imperfections…God’s power, His strength is its best, perfect, in our weakness.

2)  God is writing a bigger story.  He’s writing a story that goes beyond that really bad day…it’s a story that is bigger than that temper tantrum, that mistake, that poor choice, that ruined dinner, that dirty toilet, that crazy homework assignment, that argument, that pile of bills, that unfinished list…His story is bigger than all of that, and what’s more, He’s using ALL of that for a purpose in His bigger story.  He’s writing a story through you, and your imperfect family.  It’s a story of love and forgiveness and redemption and grace and mercy….He’s been writing it since the beginning of time…a story of a God who takes us, in all of our mess and imperfection, and redeems us through Jesus…and your children are getting a front row seat to that story being lived out every day in YOU.  And guess what?  He’s writing that story through them, too!  So point them to this bigger story….show them how God is using everything in your life to shape your heart and mold your character, because He has a plan and a purpose…then help them see how He’s doing the same in their hearts and lives too.

3)  Keep the end in mind.  You don’t have forever.  You only have these children for a short time.  It may seem like a long time from now, but the years will fly by and before you know it you are sending them off to live out God’s story on their own.  If you intentionally recognize that your time is limited then you will intentionally make more of the time you have.

{I have this nifty little app on my phone called “Legacy Countdown.”  It counts down the weeks, days, hours, minutes, even seconds that we have left before each child graduates high school.  Kinda puts things in perspective, and helps me remember that my time is limited…there is an end. (Not that all parenting ends at high school graduation…but it is a key event that marks a change in our role as parents).  Anyway…it’s a great little (free) app that I highly recommend.}

4)  Consistent investments over time WILL make a difference. Keep investing.  Every day.  Keep praying with them, keep reading God’s Word with them, keep talking about God, keep spending quality time together, keep doing things together, keep laughing together, keep exploring the world together…don’t grow weary…don’t get discouraged…keep investing.  It WILL make a difference.  You don’t have to do it all.  You don’t have to do it perfectly.  Just keep going.  Trust that God is working, even if you can’t see it.  Keep leaning into Jesus…keep trusting Him and following Him.

5)  Pray.  Pray, pray, pray.  Lay it all at His feet.  On the days you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and even on the days you think you do…ask God for wisdom and listen to His voice.

Usually it’s the days that I am too “busy” to slow down and really take time to spend time with God, to really listen to Him…those are the days that I feel most in survival mode…those are the days that the urgent things scream so loud that I ignore the important things that are whispering to me, gently tugging at my heart.  But if I take the time to slow down, if I intentionally slow the hurry and set aside the urgency of the busy, and just spend time with Jesus….if I make space in the pace for Christ…then I am able to focus…my heart can have peace.  And then I can parent my girls with a little less crazy and a little more intentionality.

Being a parent is hard work.  No doubt about it.

And I am so far from having it all together…I am so very imperfect at this thing.  But it amazes me how God takes someone like me…how He can take a couple like me and Mark, so far from perfect and such a mess on our own…and He allows us to be a part of His story in these amazing little girls’ lives.  He fills in the gaps…His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses…and He comes right alongside us and writes His story of grace and forgiveness all over our family.  We mess up, and He uses it to teach His forgiveness.  We fall down, and He uses it to show us His grace.  We love, and really He’s showing us HIS love through each other.  He uses our lives to shape our children’s lives.  Who we are, what we say, what we do…it matters. Because it’s shaping them.  It’s an incredible, (sometimes scary), amazing, wonderful thing.

Today I embrace whatever comes, and I pray that God will give me wisdom to live a life in front of my girls that just draws them to Him.  Because really it’s not about me being a “good” mom, or a “perfect” mom…and it’s not about creating a “perfect” family…it’s about pointing my girls to the only perfect One, the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes, Jesus…so that one day they will leave us and go out and do the same thing, point others to Christ, as they live out His plan and purpose for their lives.

Parenting is hard.

But what an amazing privilege and awesome adventure it can be!

For the Deep Waters {a printable}

Today we are going to a funeral.

There will be tears and hurting hearts and brokenness.  I will hug children, my nephews and niece, who will never get to hug their own mother again…who will never feel her arms around them, will never hold her hand, will never hear her voice again.  It will be an emotional day.

These are deep waters.

I know people who are hurting.  People with deep heart wounds who are struggling just to make it through each day…struggling to hold it together…struggling to just remember to breathe.  Feelings of loss, betrayal, loneliness, depression…they can wrap tight around a soul and make you feel like you are sinking, drowning, unable to catch your breath.

These are deep waters.

Some of my favorite verses are in Isaiah.  Chapter 43 begins like this, the first four verses:

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.’ “

I just love those verses.

“When you go through deep waters…”  Not IF you go through them…WHEN you go through them.

This life is full of deep waters, rivers of difficulty, fires of oppression…storms can beat down hard…waves can rise high and crash down fast…flames can press in and strip us of oxygen, making it hard to breathe.

But God promises some pretty incredible things: “I will be with you…you will not drown…you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  Why?  “…because you are precious to me…you are honored…I love you.”

I just can’t get over that. I am precious to God.  He loves me.

Yes, there will be deep waters.

Yes, there will be difficult, hard, challenging, heart-breaking times…but God loves me.

This is the God who calmed the raging storm, whose voice the wind and the seas obey…the God who joined Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that fiery furnace, full of flames made “seven times hotter than usual”, and they walked out without even a single hair singed…the God who sealed the mouths of the lions in that den and rescued Daniel from certain death…the God who parted the sea, straight down the middle, and made a way for His people when there was no way…the God who made rocks pour out water and manna fall from the sky…the God who healed the sick and raised the dead….who RAISED THE DEAD….this God who gave His Son to prove His love…this God…THE God of the universe who holds all things in His hands and can do anything…He. Loves. Me.

So even in the deep waters…even in the hard times…I can thank Him and I can praise Him. Because His love is deeper than the deepest waters…because His strength is made perfect in my weakness…because He makes paths through impossible rivers…because He is writing a bigger story and He’s working it ALL together for good.  I can trust Him.  Because all of this life…every single little thing…even what seems “bad”…even when we don’t understand…He’s got it.  And I can have peace, because He is with me…through it all.

Isaiah Printable_hanging up

I made a little graphic to hang on my wall…to remind me of these verses.

You can print one out too, if you’d like…just click on the size you would like and it will take you to the PDF.  🙂

5×7 Size:

Isaiah 43 verses_printable 5x7

8×10 Size:

Isaiah 43 verses_printable_8x10

Planning for Peace {free calendar and daily checklist printables}

The girls returned to school this week. The weather outside has been crazy cold. So I’ve just stayed inside, kept my fuzzy socks on my feet, and started thinking about getting myself and our home organized for this new year. I really want peace in our home this year. But when the clutter piles up, when the pace is too fast, when the laundry is overflowing and “to-do” lists run long…when we don’t take time to be still, to make space…there isn’t peace.

If I’m going to make space, I’m going to need to be intentional.

If I’m going to make space, I’m going to need to be consistent.

Practically, for me, this means I need to do a little planning ahead.

So I started with a calendar. I scoured Pinterest to try to find one like what I had pictured in my head…no such luck. But I did find this super cute one from The Ink Nest which I downloaded and printed:

minicalendarHere’s the link so you can grab your own: http://www.theinknest.com/whimsical-mini-calendar-2014-social-freebie/

That one is cute and I love the graphics, but I also needed a calendar that had more space for me to write on each day. I couldn’t find what I was really looking for, so I made my own! 🙂

And I’m sharing it with you:

2014 Calendar{Just click on the image above and it should take you to the entire PDF file with all 12 months. Save, Print, Share, Enjoy!}

I’m going to use the 4 lines at the top of each month to list out ideas for Family Nights. If we can do 4 family nights/days a month…at least one per week…then that’s at least 48 intentional, meaningful family experiences this year. Some months we may do more…some months may be crazy and we may do less. But we value intentional time together, so we need to be intentional about planning for it.

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I also made some daily lists to help me stay on track with tasks around the house. Like I mentioned in my last post, I don’t really like to clean. I am terrible about procrastinating little things and letting it pile up. This year I’m going to be more intentional in my job as a homemaker…I’m going to do a little every day so that the housework remains manageable. So I made some lists. I love lists…lists help me remain focused…and there’s just something about putting a little check in that little box beside a task…

I tried to keep it simple. Just a few things each day to keep me on track.

Here’s what my lists for Monday-Thursday look like:

Daily Lists_2014-1

I also made some blank templates…in case you would like to use it too:

Daily Lists_blank-1

Daily Lists_blank-2{Just click on the image above to download the PDF}

Take it, make it your own…you can list anything you want for each day. Just keep it simple, manageable, doable…even just two or three things done consistently every day can make a difference over time. I’m still learning this…still having to make myself remember this truth and allow it to sink deep: consistency over time has the power to influence…like drops of rain, small on their own, but added together over time can become a river. I don’t have to do everything all at once perfectly at the same time. Small, consistent investments – in my home, in my children, in my marriage, in my relationship with God, in anything – over time can make a huge difference.

Anyway…back to the lists…if you would like to customize these on your computer, feel free to save the image files for each page:

Monday-Thursday lists (Page 1)

Friday & Meal Planning lists (Page 2)

To customize your own lists, just insert the image into Word (or Photoshop or whatever word processing software you have). If you’re using Word, stretch the image out to cover the entire page, and then add text boxes on top of the image to add the text you want. Save your file to your computer, and then you can just print your lists every week without having to write out the same words over and over again. It may take a little time, but you can completely customize your lists that way.

Now…as much as I love a calendar and a schedule, and as much as I make lists and plan things out…I have to remind myself that this calendar is not the law, and I don’t want to become a slave to these lists. If something doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world. If I don’t check every box, it doesn’t mean I am a failure.

I am a recovering perfectionist, so this is big for me.

The lists and the calendars merely serve as a guide for me as I look ahead each week and plan for our family. I’ve found that if I don’t at least plan the main things out…if I don’t make space and time for what I value the most…then the urgent things tend to crowd out the important things, distractions suck up time, days get busy and before I know it I’m looking back at the end of a month and wondering where all the time went. (Been there, done that…way too many times)

So this year I’m planning for space. This year I’m making room for what is most important. This year I’m conquering the clutter, in my home and in my life, by being intentional and consistent. And I’m going to watch as peace invades as I make room for Christ…because even in the midst of the pace, and the calendar, and the checklists…He is Emmanuel…God with me.

 

***EDITED (01/28/14): I have created a new version of the Daily Checklists as an editable PDF file, so that you can just fill in your own daily to-do’s to save and/or print!  Just download the file below.  You will also need the font “Always In My Heart”, so here is the link to download that font for free: http://www.dafont.com/always-in-my-heart.font 

Editable PDF for the Daily Lists

(I’m still figuring out how to make these kinds of PDFs…so hopefully this will work the way it’s supposed to 😉  )

When Making Space Means Making a Mess…

The past few days I have been pretty busy around our little home doing something I really don’t like to do: clean.  I’m talking deep clean, pull everything out of every corner and out from under every bed and seriously C-L-E-A-N.  I don’t like doing this.  I actually probably verge on totally HATING it.  Which is why it gets so bad…because I procrastinate doing it for way longer that I care to admit.

Now before you think I’m an utter slob, I do clean my house.  Kinda.  I straighten up every day…even run the vacuum and dust the shelves.  All the open spaces that others can see, I am pretty good about keeping clean.  Unless someone were to look really carefully or open a closet door, you really (hopefully) wouldn’t think that my house is very messy.   But…if you open the hallway closet door, or if you were to peek under my bed or (heaven forbid) go into our back bathroom…you would see…we are a pretty messy family, with some minor (ok, sometimes more than minor) hoarding tendencies.  (Admitting you have a problem is the first step though, right?)

But I am typically pretty good at dusting over the surfaces and cramming the clutter into the unseen corners and closets of the house.  That is, until all those corners and closets get full and can’t hold anymore, and it starts spilling out into the open spaces.  Then it’s just frustrating.  And before long it gets to the point where I just have to break down and suck it up and clean out the mess.

This time it started in the girls’ rooms.  I have two girls, ages 10 and 8.  And they have A LOT of stuff.

We have a fairly small house…less than 1200 square feet…and as much as I love our little home and am very thankful for the space that God has provided for our family, it definitely has its challenges…and storage of all our “stuff” is one of them.  Clutter piles up fast, and if I don’t stay on top of it (which, sadly, I often do not), it takes over and leaves us feeling like we have even less space.

The girls’ rooms were at that point…beyond that point.  Especially after Christmas, when they both had a few new things to add to their already overflowing rooms.  Not to mention, there were clothes…everywhere.  I couldn’t fit the clothes I had washed into their drawers because I had not purged through their clothes in over a year, and so much of what was in their drawers were things they had outgrown or no longer wore anymore.  It was ridiculous.  Something had to be done.  I had put it off for far too long…it was time to pay the piper.

And so it began.

One room at a time, we dragged everything…EVERYTHING…out of the room and piled it in the living room.  This is the part of the process that I dread the most.  The part where it’s all out in the open, the part where we have to look at all of it all piled up and face it…the part where it’s….MESSY.  So messy.  So. So. Messy.

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But it’s a necessary step.  We have to face the mess in order to purge through all the unnecessary things and put things back in order.

The whole reason I started this process was because the clutter was crowding the space in their rooms.  I needed to make space.

And sometimes to make space we have to make a mess first.

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We have to drag out all that is cluttering up the space…the good and the bad, the old and the new, the broken and the beautiful…so we can go through it, one by one, and slowly put things back in order…slowly make space.

So that’s what we did.  We piled it all up, and then we went through EVERYTHING.  Every toy, every notebook, every piece of clothing they owned…and we made three piles: keep, throw away, and give away.

I am always amazed at how much TRASH accumulates in the hidden spaces, under beds and in closets and crammed in the corners of shelves.  It’s insane.

We also filled up several bags full of stuff to donate.  We have more than we need, and we don’t need to hang onto old things just because we can…we had new things that needed to fit in, so some of the old things had to go to make space for the new.

It was quite a process.  It look a LONG time.  The girls grew weary and frustrated.  I was exhausted.  I wanted to quit. They wanted to quit.  “Just throw it in a big box and shove it in a corner…deal with it later” was a thought that whispered through my tired bones as the night hours lingered and I still had a mess to sort through.  But I knew that if I did that, if I put it off, it would be a long time before I dealt with it again.  No, I had to see it through…I had to finish.  I’m tired of letting the clutter take over our space.

So we kept going.

Kept purging.

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And slowly…ever so slowly…their rooms started going back together.  There was space for everything that was necessary and important and that they actually used and loved.  Emma even has an empty drawer in her dresser (seriously!).  And Lilly has a wide open space to play with all her little collections of things, so she doesn’t have to drag them all out to the living room to play with them.

They love their rooms now. And so do I.

And it got me thinking about this whole process of making space.

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My word I have claimed for this year is Peace…making space in the pace for some peace, for Christ.  Both spiritually and practically.

Making space.

If I truly want to make space so I can have peace…in my home, in my relationships, in my life…maybe, sometimes, that requires making a bit of a mess first?

Because…how often is my heart like my home?  I allow things to clutter up the spaces.  I shove things in the corners, under the bed, in the closet of my heart.  The spaces that people see, the ME that people see, seems to be all neat and in order…but really, if you open me up, there’s a whole lot of junk crowding the spaces in my heart.  Old hurts that I haven’t let go of, habits I haven’t thrown out, unimportant things that take up my time and spaces in my day.  I shove them to the side because to bring them out, to pile them up and face them, would be…well…messy.  And it might take a long time to go through.  I don’t even know what all is hiding in there….and, honestly, I don’t know if I even want to know.

But if I’m going to make space in the pace…make space in my heart…make space in my life…for Christ, for His peace….then I need to face the mess.  I need to drag it out before Him and let Him clean me out.

Maybe it’s time to do some deep cleaning…not just in my home, but in my heart.

And then…maybe it’s time to put some steps in place so that it doesn’t get all cluttered up again.  (Both in my home and my heart).  Consistently purge…a little along the way…so it doesn’t pile up so badly and get so overwhelming and make such a big mess when I do go through it all.  Like stop shoving things under the bed or in closets just to put them out of sight…deal with things right away.

And as far as my heart, maybe say this prayer every single day and let God clean my heart and make space in there for peace:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24

More on Peace…{and a freebie!}

I’m very new to this whole blogging thing.  (I don’t really know what I’m doing actually…lol) But I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to write words.  But right now I’m kinda having a hard time finding them.

I had lots of words the first day I started this.  The first day of a new year…the first day I claimed the word “PEACE” as my word for this year, as the one thing I’m clinging to, striving for, trusting God with.

But now the words are harder to find.

Just a few hours after that post…not even a full day into my new year of Peace…we get a phone call that has broken my heart.  My (ex) sister-in-law died suddenly…unknown reasons…just died.

She is the one who had a tough life.  She is the one I tried to share Christ with…the one who had questions and was searching, but who was never ready to take that step (that I know of)…the one I sent books to and had conversations with and sent messages to, telling her about Jesus and how much He loves her.  Until she and my brother-in-law got a divorce and communication faded and I felt like she pushed me away and closed the door…and I let her.

She’s the one with six children who are now without a mother.  Six children ages 2-17 whose lives just changed and whose hearts just broke. Five of those children are my blood family…my brother-in-law’s children who we just spend this past weekend with. And now they don’t have a mom.

My heart is broken for them.

Where is the peace in this?

I am fighting these feelings of regret…for not taking more chances to reach out to her, to share God’s love with her, to bring her to Jesus.

Where is the peace in this?

And God whispers to my heart…in the middle of all the hurt and the pain and regret…Peace is where is always is…in Him. In Christ.

I don’t have to have words.  I don’t have to understand.  I just have to trust.  Trust in WHO He is.

God is always good.  And I am always loved.  And those sweet children whose hearts are breaking…He always loves them too.

God is the master of taking bad, hard things and redeeming them…flipping them around and making something good come out.

The story is not over.  God is still writing.  He has a plan for each of these children, and He has a plan for their family.  As He does for every family that experiences loss, and hurt, and sadness, and pain.

It’s hard to have peace in the middle of pain.  It’s hard to have peace when there is so much hurt in this broken world.

Where is the peace in all of this?

Peace is where is always is.  In Jesus.

So today I am hanging this verse on my wall, and I am making space in the pace, and in the pain, for His peace to rule my heart:

Peace verse 8x10

{and I’m sharing this little graphic with you if you’d like to print it too…just click on the image and it should take you to the PDF version which you can save and print!}

And in case you don’t like the “chalkboard” background…here’s a white version:

Peace2

Side note: I love how this verse that begins about peace ends with the words “and always be thankful”  As I go through this year, I’m curious to see how thankfulness may be directly related to this peace that I am seeking.  I’m pretty sure it all ties together and works together…and thankfulness is a critical part of it. (But that’s another subject for another post… 😉 )

New Year ~ One Word

Photo Dec 31, 1 42 57 AMHappy New Year!!

Goodbye, 2013…hello brand new year full of possibilities!

Every year I usually make a list.  I actually make lots of lists…it’s kinda what I do.  I’m a list-maker.  I have lists all over the place, for everything.  (I even sometimes make lists of my lists…..I may have a minor problem.)

But at the start of each new year, I typically make a special list…the one that sets the pace for my whole year…the one where I list out all my hopes and dreams and goals for the year.  I put my little boxes next to each item and begin the year full of hope that at the end of the year I will look back and see every little box checked.  But that is never…NEVER…how it goes.  If I can even FIND the list by the end of the year (which is kinda ironic, since organization is typically always on the list somewhere), there are rarely more than a couple of boxes fully checked.  I look at that list and it screams at me, “you are a failure. again.”  So what do I do? I get out a fresh new piece of paper and make a new list!  Because that makes sense….I failed last year (and the year before that, and the year before that), so let’s just keep making that list, and this year, I’ll succeed….yeah…

I won’t say how many years I have repeated that cycle.  How many years I have had almost identical lists of [unmet] goals and dreams.  But I will say…I am not doing it this year.  No list this year. (well, no big list of goals anyway….there will be lists made…probably every day…I am a list-maker after all).  But as far as the big giant list of “what I will accomplish this year”…I’m saying no.

Instead, I’m choosing just one word.  One. Single. Word.

I’ve read about this idea in various places.  There’s even a whole website…a movement even…One Word 365 (you can check it out at http://oneword365.com/). So this is nothing new.  (Nothing I do or say really is).  But it is a new(er) concept to me…something I actually have a hard time with…zeroing in on one thing…keeping things simple…focusing.  But this year, I am going to try it.  I’m going to throw away the big list of “new years resolutions” and just focus on one word.

Of course, I completely just about stressed myself out trying to pick just one word.  There are so many good words…and I’m “stuck” with it for a whole year….oh the decisions!  So what did I do?  I made a list of possible words. (Kinda defeating the whole purpose of NOT making a list, I know…it’s going to take me some time to get the hang of this whole not making a list thing…I’m taking baby steps here….baby steps). So I looked at my list, and started narrowing it down.  I thought about it, prayed about it, and then somewhere in the middle of the whole process there’s this word that just kinda kept popping up…every day, for like a week….and it wasn’t even on my list!  But it’s the one I kept coming back to…the one I couldn’t quite shake.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is the one that I need the most right now, where I am.  It’s my one word for 2014.  The one I am claiming:

Photo Dec 31, 7 33 34 PMPeace.

This word started invading my thoughts when I heard something Ann Voskamp said in one of her Christmas videos (found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c110ECbQTc)…she said “Make some space in the pace for some peace.”  She used scrabble letters to demonstrate actually moving the “P” away from the “A” in the word PACE and adding an “E” to make PEACE.  Such a simple illustration.  But it has lingered on my heart for weeks.

Make some space in the pace for peace.

This year I will make space.  I will add some margin to my life.  I will slow down the pace…or at least take a deep breath in the middle of the crazy pace…and make some space…for Christ.  The “E” for me will stand for Emmanuel – “God is with us” – God. With. ME.

As I intentionally make space and slow down my pace – focusing on God with me – every day, everywhere – on the good days and bad days – no matter what comes this year – my heart will have peace.

Our home will have peace.

My marriage…my friendships…my family….will have peace.

Because God fills all the spaces – He is with me. Always.

This does not mean that my days will be perfect. (Slowly, slowly, that perfectionist in me is dying…)

It does not mean that I’ll have it all together or that I won’t have bad days or my heart won’t break or I won’t cry or hard things won’t happen.

It just means that if I can slow down and make some space…even in the midst of the hard and the bad, in the middle of the great and the wonderful, and in every day in between…I can have peace.  I can make room and let God fill all the spaces and fill my heart with His peace.

This all sounds so amazing as I write it down.  A year of peace.  A year of slowing down and making space.

But let’s be realistic.  I will fail at this…a lot.  I will not be perfect.  I’ll stumble and fumble along the way.

But…I won’t give up. I am claiming this word…I am claiming peace this year.  In my home.  In my heart.  In my life.

Peace will be my one word.  And Colossians 3:15 will be my theme verse:

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts….and always be thankful.”

I just started this blog.  (This is my very first post…woo hoo!)  So I have no idea if anyone will actually read this…but in case you are reading this (and survived all my wordiness above), I wish you a wonderful {peace}-filled New Year!!!

{And if you want…share your One Word for this year?…}

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