Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Secret to Making Your Routine Work

Yesterday was a better day than today.  I wrote an article about Taming the Chaos: 5 Principles for Creating an Effective Routine. And then today I realized that I actually listed SIX principles, and no one noticed. (Or maybe they noticed, but never told me.)

It was one of many things that went "wrong" today. I didn't feel like getting up this morning. I was lazy. I got on the computer and scrolled (1,000 pageviews on my article! Wow!). I didn't get up to fix breakfast until after 8:30. We didn't eat until 9. We DID do school... thankfully it was a light day and we were finished by lunch time.

But I didn't clean my kitchen. And I didn't do any chores, even though the bathrooms need cleaning and I really ought to go to the store at some point and pick up some things.

I'm not sick, I'm not overly tired, I'm not unhappy... I'm just... bored. And lazy.

That article I wrote yesterday? It's all good on my motivated days. But what about my unmotivated days? How do I get up and keep going when I just... don't wanna? 

Some days I still don't know the answer to that question. 

Some days I just wallow. I wallow in the laziness, in the sense of my own inadequacy, in the tinge of guilt that I feel for not doing "more." 

But you know what? 

Some days I NEED to stop and rest, and the guilt is misplaced. 

But other days I'm just being lazy, and I ought to get up and move. 

I just have a hard time sometimes figuring out which day is which. 

But I have something good to say!

Now, stick with me here. Don't let your eyes glaze over because you've heard this so many times. Just slow down a bit and let it soak in:

Even when I'm at my worst, Jesus loves me. 

In fact, He knew I would be this miserable person who keeps getting new chances and messing them up, and yet He loved me anyway. (See Romans 5:8!)

Here is the beautiful paradox:

-Jesus, blameless and pure, loved me and took my sin and my wretchedness upon Himself and allowed Himself to receive my judgement. (1 Pet 2:24)

-Now, because Christ took my place, when God looks at me, I am blameless and pure. I am loved and made able to love others, without a speck of wretchedness remaining. (2 Cor 5:21)

You see, when I get stuck in myself, focused on me and all my problems, it's really hard to get out of that place. But when I stop and look at Him, I get pulled out of myself and am free to be me. 

I am so not able, folks. He makes my heart to beat and His Spirit breathes life into my lungs. He has given me my precious children and He alone gives me the strength to keep going on the days I just don't wanna. 

"I have learned the secret of contentment in any and every circumstance. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Taming the Chaos: 6 Principles for Creating an Effective Routine

When I first became a mom, I didn't have much of a plan at all. But as more children joined our family, I began to get overwhelmed. I realized that we NEEDED some structure to our days! Our home is busy!

I mean, look! At meal times I feel like a cafeteria worker!

But as I began to try to figure out a routine, I have had a hard time coming up with a routine that works for us. I have read books, researched articles, and interviewed other mamas.

Here are the 6 things I've learned:

1. My routine will not look like anyone else's. 

When I first started researching how to "do" life with my kids, I had a hard time finding an example that was PERFECT for my family. Probably because no one's family is exactly like mine!

Here's my life: My husband and I have been preparing to be missionaries. I do not work outside the home. I have 5 children 7 and under, and we homeschool. My hobbies are writing, reading, and watching movies (also Facebooking). For exercise I do yoga and go for long walks.

Whose life is exactly like mine?


At the end of this blog post, you will find my current routine. But DON'T try to follow it exactly! Your home, your family, and your LIFE are all different than mine!

When you are trying to formulate your own routine, it can be frustrating that you can't have an easy answer. But it can also be freeing: You don't have to be tied down to someone else's routine! You can find what works for YOU and run with it!

2. The most effective routine removes the extras and sticks with what is best. 

I used to imagine a PERFECT schedule. The morning looked something like this:

6:15- Wake up, make bed, prayer time
6:30- Read Bible
7:00- Do yoga
7:30- Wake kids up, fix eggs and toast
8:00- Eat breakfast while we listen to classical music and read poetry

Let's stop right there. 

Can anyone else see the problem with this picture of perfection? Actual day may run like this:

6:15- Reset alarm because I'm tired
6:45- Go yell at kids because they're fighting and I'm trying to sleep
7:00- Drag myself out of bed and open Bible, but get interrupted by child in poopy diaper
7:05- Open Bible again, but get interrupted by kids who are "starving." Try to read again, but then kids says baby's poop came out of diaper in bed. Change sheets. Yell at kids. Feel guilty for not reading Bible
8:00- Stare at the pots crowding the counters, realize we're out of eggs and milk, and give each kid a tortilla for breakfast
8:15- Cry


You know, all those things were GOOD things to do. Getting up earlier, Bible reading, etc. But they weren't right for MY life with MY kids. I was trying to cram in too much "goodness" and it ended up being a miserable failure!

Another thing is that for ME, the clock is NOT my friend. I need a morning routine that looks more like this (in fact, this IS my current morning routine):

7ish (no alarm): Wake up, do yoga/prayer time (when kids poke their heads out of door remind them they may come out at 7:30)
7:30- kids wander in and watch if I'm not finished yet, then we move on to couch time
(whenever)- I sit on couch and tell the olders to get dressed while I snuggle the kids one at a time and change and dress the youngers
(whenever)- I fix breakfast and then we do our morning chores (more on this later)

We're usually done with all that by 8:30 or 9!

Do you see? I have what is MOST important to ME in this season of my life, which is starting with exercise, time to snuggle the kids, no clock to watch, and a focus on chore training. 

All those extras: Reading my Bible in the morning, poetry, music, cooking a nice breakfast... those may work out better for me in ANOTHER season. 

3. A routine will only work if I am willing to work.

I hate this one. I WISH a routine were a magical thing that just flew into my life like Mary Poppins come to make my life beautiful, but it's not like that. I have to be the grown up. I have to be diligent.

 I have to discipline myself. There is no one else to do it. 

I used to spend hours planning, but very little time actually working. Proverbs 14:23 says, "There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty." 

Ouch. That's so me, so much of the time!

Here's another verse that stings: Proverbs 13:4: "The slacker craves, but has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied." 

Hard work brings great reward. 

HOWEVER, that leads me to my next point: 

4. A daily rest period is a life saver

We can get so caught up in hard work, that we forget to rest. Work and rest are equally important. BOTH are vital to a successful routine.

The way I incorporate rest into my routine is by having a 2 hour rest period every day after lunch. We call it "nap time." It's nap time right now at our house, and the silence is blissful! The baby is asleep in my room. The 2 and 3 year olds are napping in a bedroom. The 5 year old is playing quietly in another bedroom. The 7 year old is reading books in the living room. And after I finish writing this, I'm going to go doze for a half hour.

Doesn't that sound wonderful!?

I can do whatever I want for 2 hours, but I'm not allowed to do anything I don't enjoy. I must rest. I also have a "no work after dinner dishes are done" policy, and a "Saturdays are usually unscheduled" policy. Of course, these "policies" get broken occasionally for something important, but we try to maintain the seasons of rest.

In fact, did you ever stop to think that the first FULL day that Adam and Eve were on the earth was a day of rest? God intended that they rest so that they could work. We often get it backwards: "I have to work hard SO THAT I may rest." But God's design is different: "I have to rest SO THAT I may work."

 Because we were created to work. We find our greatest fulfillment in work. 

Teach that to your children and their lives will be easier.

5. Once I get used to working and resting, the routine will run itself

This is the point where I was pleasantly surprised. Once I got used to regular periods of work and rest, the routine kicked in. My kids knew what to expect, and they were happier and more ready to comply with the next thing on our schedule. I knew that nap time was coming. And as time went on, we could do our routine without really thinking about it.

You just have to buckle down and work hard for a few weeks (or months) before you see the fruit of your efforts.

6. My routine will constantly change (and I need to be okay with it). 

This one stinks. I wish I could have ONE routine that works for ALL TIMES. If I could come up with ONE perfect routine, I'd be rich! But there are many things that can throw off my routine. 

Here are some:

-Baby stops morning nap
-Toddler potty training
-Rebellious child who keeps defying me every step of the way
-Adding a new child in school

See? Things keep changing. There are many seasons in life. 

So I have to be flexible enough to change my routine when it needs to be changed.

If you need more help, here is The Secret to Making Your Routine Work

"So, what IS your routine like?"

I'm so glad you asked! Here's what our basic routine looks like:

1. Early Morning Routine (starting 6:30 or 7ish)
-Get out of bed, get dressed, do yoga and prayer and read Bible if there is time

2. Morning Routine
-Get everyone dressed, prepare and eat breakfast
-Table Chores (*)
-School time

3. Afternoon Routine
-Stop school and eat lunch at 12
-Table chores
-Nap at 1
-Laundry time while we watch a show (kids help fold)
-Finish school (if not finished yet)
-Go outside (if time and weather is nice)

4. Evening Routine
-Prepare and eat dinner (timed to when hubby gets home)
-Table chores
-Free/family time
-Story time/kids to bed by 8
-Couple time/to bed by 10ish

*Table Chores
-Kids clear and wipe table, sweep, take out trash, pick up toys, and in the morning brush teeth/make bed
-I clean the rest of the kitchen and in the morning start laundry and do at least one chore in my chore rotation


Books that have inspired me:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Review: A Note Yet Unsung

The year is 1871. Rebekah Carrington returns to Nashville after spending years training as a master violinist in Vienna. She would love to join the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic, but women are considered "far too fragile and frail" for the hard work of being in an orchestra. As she runs from her difficult past, she finds herself forced to work with the conductor of the Nashville Philharmonic. He would like to earn her friendship, but she is upset by his refusal to let her join the orchestra. 

A Note Yet Unsung is the third book in the Belmont Mansion series. However, I enjoy the fact that each book can stand on its own feet. Each of the books in the series is an enjoyable read. The characters are well developed, the plot is interesting with some good twists, and the ending is satisfying. A great leisure book if you want to stay up late reading!

You may learn more about the author HERE

I received this book from Bethany House for this review.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn't Give You What You Want.

Ann Swindell tells us the story of the Bleeding Woman, who waited 12 years for her healing. In our own lives, we know that God is good, we know that He is all-powerful... Why doesn't He always act when we know that He could? Sometimes we are called to wait. Swindell encourages all of us who are on our journeys waiting for God to change our circumstances. Waiting can be painful, yet all of us are called to wait on the Lord. 

God certainly has a sense of humor. Just as my husband and I received news that we must continue to wait for something that we have already been waiting for (for too long, we feel!), this book came in the mail! I spent a couple of weeks in this book, and I was encouraged in the middle of my wait. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him." He is working for good, and He uses us as we wait, and some day we will look back and see the whole story and how much better it is this way than the way that we had wanted things to be. We just have to continue to wait on Him... to trust Him while we wait. 

To learn more about the author, click HERE

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Book Review: The Newcomer

After developing a romance with Bairn during their 10 weeks at sea, Anna steps off into the New World with her Amish church. The church has many more dangers to face in the new land. As they begin their journey to the land they've acquired, Bairn decides to make just one more crossing. A newcomer arrives and joins the church, and Anna is torn between her love for Bairn and this dynamic newcomer.

1. When will I learn to pay attention to the books I select to review? This is book #2 in the series, and I had to spend quite some time trying to figure out who was who and what was what. 

2. This is a good book!! Last night at 11 p.m. I decided to stay up and read "just one more chapter." When I finally put the book down, I had reached the end and it was 1 a.m. Some of the story was predictable, but in a friendly, comfortable way. This is the type of book you read if you want to be entertained and don't want to think too hard. This is the type of book you read if you want to be cheered up by some happy light reading. Exciting story, happy ending!

To learn more about the author, click HERE. 

I received this book from Revell Books for this review.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: Long Days of Small Things

Motherhood can be demanding. I have 5 small children, and though motherhood is a joy, it can also be very difficult. In her book, Catherine McNiel strives to encourage moms so that they are able to recognize and savor the sacred amidst the mundane parts of life. 

I was so excited about this book! The subject matter is exciting, the title is perfect, the picture on the front is beautiful! But when I opened it and began to read, I was disappointed. Instead of the deep spiritual book I had been hoping for, this book is more shallow. It is more a coffee table book to pick up and browse when you have a few spare minutes. The tidbits of advice are good: pray, love people, read the Bible, etc. But the heart of the message seemed to be based more on "works of righteousness" than on truly resting in Christ to bring about transformation. If I keep trying to "do better" in my own strength, I fail every time. I just wish she had spent less time on what I "ought" to be doing, and more time on what Christ has already done for me. 

To learn more about the author, click HERE.

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

Book Review: Life After

A terrorist bombing on a train leaves 22 dead and one survivor. A year after the attack, Autumn is still haunted by survivor's guilt as she scrambles to remember the details of the days surrounding the attack. A widower with two children is haunted by his own grief and guilt. When he and Autumn are suddenly thrown together, they must work through their unique issues as they begin to heal. 

This is a fascinating study of survivor's guilt! The story line is interesting, with a few surprise twists and turns. The characters are nuanced and realistic. As the plot thickens, you may find yourself laughing and crying along with the characters. I cannot think of anything negative about this book, and don't want to say much more, lest I give away too much information! Such a great read!

To learn more about the author, click HERE.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.