Friday, January 20, 2017

Impossible Task? You May Just Need to Slice it

My kids love being given an entire apple. Every time we're going to eat apples, they beg me, "Mom, PLEASE don't cut it! Give it to me whole!"

Inevitably, I know what will happen. In ten minutes I'm going to have two apples with their surfaces covered in tiny teeth marks... but no substantial eating done. The novelty wears off, it just seems like too much fruit for them to finish, and they walk away, leaving them to get brown, soft, and yucky. Then I feel guilty throwing so much food away two hours later.

To better accommodate everyone, we've made a little switch. I still give them a whole apple each. Now I just require them to finish it. When they tell me that it is too big, I offer to slice it up for them. Although they'd rather die than have a sliced apple initially, once they've enjoyed a shiny round orb for a few minutes, they are willing to have it cut. When the apple is divided into nice, manageable pieces, they can usually finish it up pretty quickly.

The other day as I was slicing yet another nibbled over apple for my son, I thought about how his apple is so much like many of life's difficult tasks. Presented as a whole, a job can seem overwhelming and impossible.

I might peck and peck, here a nibble, there a nibble, and see very little progress. But when I look at the goal, determine how it can best be divided, and attempt it one little slice at a time, it suddenly becomes more manageable.

I'm finding this to be true of running a smooth and orderly home- one little load of laundry done from start to finish every day, making sure the dishwasher runs every evening after dinner, and cleaning up a few minutes at a time as I go about my day makes my home far less overwhelming.

It was true of compiling my ebook- I wasn't able to get it together as fast as I wanted to, and I still have behind the scene's work that I'm doing spread the word {that I wish I was already done with}. But I made a list- sliced up that seemingly mammoth goal into one step at a time pieces, and I still can't believe I did it!

Whatever might be overwhelming you today, one of the best things you can do is stop staring at the giant apple and telling yourself how impossible it is. You've tried before with so many bites... now it's time to just get out a sharp knife and cut it right up. One manageable bite at a time.

By God's grace, you can do this!

Monday, January 16, 2017

God's Will for You

Often in this life, believers long for clear-cut direction from God. We want obvious, miraculous signs to show us if we should make a career change, have another baby, move cross country, embark on a new adventure, or just stay put and be faithful right where we are.

How can we know what God is calling us to do?

Certainly God does direct us especially clearly at times through our circumstances- an opportunity just falls into our laps, doors open or shut, the writing is on the wall. Other times we are left waiting and wondering, unsure of His movement.

Waiting and uncertainty are difficult. Ask me how I know :).

Today, if you are unsure of the next step and looking for direction...

here is God's revealed will for you:

1. Your sanctification.

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor," 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

2. Lack of conformity to the world, transformation of a mind renewed in His Word.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." 
Romans 12:2

3. Obedience and good work from the heart.

"Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heartas you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man," 
Ephesians 6:5-7

4. Constant prayer and thanksgiving.

 "pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

5. Do good.

"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." 1 Peter 2:15

If we make it our business to obey God's will for all Christians as revealed in His Word, I have no doubt that He will attend to all of the circumstantial aspects of our lives. Instead of floundering while we wait for a sign for our next step, let's strive after greater obedience to God {grounded in grace, of course!} and trust Him with the rest.

He's got this. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

2 Strategies to Improve My Homemaking Game

Keeping a neat and tidy home is not my forte. I'm not the messiest person on earth, but I'm a far cry from the cleanest. I aspire to greater order and cleanliness {especially when I spend time on lovely websites like Clean Mama and Just a Girl and Her Blog, for example}. There have definitely been improvements in my housekeeping abilities since getting married and inhabiting my first apartment 8 and a half years ago, but I still fluctuate in consistency, and there is marked room for improvement.

This New Year I'm trying to adopt two major habits to conquer the beast that is housework.

Clean as you go. My husband is definitely the tidier of the two of us, and he is constantly pointing out how much easier my life would be if I just picked up after myself right away. He isn't being mean or unkind, just genuinely trying to help me. So I'm trying to shake off my stubbornness and seriously build this habit.

I've blamed my inability to put clothes in the hamper immediately, hang the kids towels up right after baths, or make the kids put away toys as soon as they're finished with them on the many distractions and urgent interruptions I have as a mom of 3 kids 5 and under. While there is certainly an element of truth to this {hello diaper blow outs, bloody noses, and spilt milk}, if I made immediate pick-up my modus operandi, I'm sure that order would prevail 90% of the time.

When I take clothes off, they need to go in the laundry sorter immediately. Instead of putting dirty dishes on the counter, load them straight into the dishwasher or quickly hand wash. The book I've just finished doesn't go in a pile on my nightstand or desk; it either belongs in my library bag or on the bookshelf. If it takes less than 30 seconds, just do it now.

You might really be encouraged by Katie's article: How I'm Keeping My Home Tidier than Ever When Life is at its Craziest Yet. I know I sure was! I keep coming back to it, both in my mind and as a good reread.

Spend 20 minutes a day cleaning. I first came across the idea in this article {thanks Anna!}. I figured that if a busy homeschooling mom of four could spend find 20 minutes every day for cleaning, and if it made such a big difference in her home, it just might work for me too.

I've jotted down a list of ten basic cleaning jobs that should be done every week in our home. Think bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, etc, divided by area. Each morning after school is finished and the kids are playing I intend to set a timer and tackle whichever two on the list are most pressing.

I'm really trying to develop a good and consistent daily schedule that works for us right now. Thanks to the helpful tools of time blocking my day, a friend to keep me accountable, and this pretty free printable planner, I'm off to a good start.

And if worst comes to worst, we can all take encouragement in this lovely post from The Humbled Homemaker- as long as our family has clean clothes, dinner on the table, and clean dishes, we're accomplishing the most necessary things. Prioritizing our tasks and working hard to do what we can is the goal. Ever-elusive perfection? Not so much.

How do you stay on top of housework? Do you have any new strategies for improvement in this area?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Fun Way to Track Read Alouds

Some of the links below are affiliate links- which means that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. But you should know that I am an avid believer in reading for free through your library. Thanks for supporting The Purposeful Wife!

My oldest daughter is 5 years old. We've been reading chapter books aloud together for several years now, but I've never tracked the books we've read. This year I decided that I wanted that to change.

I want to engage S with the material we are reading in a book club fashion. I want to get inside her head and know what passages or characters stuck out to her, and why. I also want to help her articulate her thoughts more clearly, and to strengthen reading comprehension and memory.

I also just thought it would be really fun if she can look back 10, 20, 30 years down the road and have a record of the books Niall and I have read aloud to her. Won't it be a hoot to remember the funny thoughts she voiced about Ramona Quimby upon their first introduction? Or to point out just what it was about James and the Giant Peach that really captivated her imagination?

At the beginning of the school year I selected a little notebook from our stash and designated it her read aloud journal. Each time we finish reading a chapter book together, I print out a picture of the cover or characters, and stick it to our next open page in the book. Then I ask her a few basic questions about the book. It's a casual and fun time just to talk about what we read together.

Some of the questions I ask are:

What was the book about?

Who was your favorite character? Why?

What did that character do?

What was the most exciting thing that happened in the book?

What was the scariest thing that happened?

What was your favorite part?

What was the funniest thing that happened?

I usually only pick three questions. Then I record her answers in the book. She's getting some good narration practice! If she seems bored or starts answering in a goofy way, I just put it down and move on. Usually it's just after we've read the last chapter, so she's in a good mood from our reading time. And snacks are almost always involved.

It's less of a book report feeling, and more like a book club {like Sarah is always talking about on The Read Aloud Revival Podcast- highly recommend!}.

The Read Aloud Journal is a fun and simple way to keep a record, and I hope it will also become a keepsake to her someday. Reading aloud together is one of our favorite things. I'm so glad we share our love of books!

If you're wondering, these are the titles we've completed since this Fall:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Everyone {even my 3 year old son} has had a blast with the Ramona books... however I hadn't read them since my own childhood and learned the hard way that some of the content isn't ideal for the undiscerning 6 and under crowd {temper tantrums, boy's teasing Beezus using the Lord's name in vain, etc.}. So I think we are going to wait until everyone is a little older to finish out the series! I just did some fast on the spot censoring. 

We're currently about half way through The Cricket in Times Square and we are loving it. I think after that we will move on to E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan.

Do you track family read-alouds? What are some of the books you and your kids have most enjoyed together?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Do I really want to be godly, or just more put together?

The links below are affiliate links- which means that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. But you should know that I am an avid believer in reading for free through your library. Thanks for supporting The Purposeful Wife!

There are so many things in my life that I would like to change. I long to be more disciplined; to go to bed early, to get up super early, to be consistent and excellent in maintaining a clean and orderly home. 

I want to be a much better mom; to never yell or speak unkindly, to build amazingly close and sweet relationships with my growing kids, to discipline consistently and compassionately. 

I'd like to be a way better wife; to only speak words that build Niall up, to be his biggest cheer leader and helper. 

I want my house to be organized and decorated just-so, to look less like a random collection of hand me down furniture and messes, and more like a Real Simple magazine. 

While we're discussing all of the things I'd like to change, I'll go ahead and admit that I wish I was one of those women who did her hair, wore make-up, and looked sharp every day. If I could just manage to always keep my nails painted {never chipping!] I would feel very put together.

There's the rub. In all my longing for self-improvement, so often I mistake a desire for a better version of myself as a desire for holiness. None of these desires are necessarily bad, but many {if not all} of them are infinitely less important than what my number one desire ought to be- knowing, glorifying, and mirroring Christ. 

Painted nails and tidy homes and self-discipline are lovely things. They can certainly come from the overflow of a heart deeply in love with Christ. And I do believe that growth in grace leads to greater discipline, a greater capacity for working heartily, and greater faithfulness in all of these areas of our lives. 

But having a heart that revels in the Gospel means that my identity and affirmation isn't found in how "put together" I am. My first pursuit isn't meant to be a more glorious version of myself. My first pursuit is meant to be intimacy with the Living God. No more, no less. 

It's a New Year! That is so refreshing and exciting. I certainly have goals and areas of my life that I'd like to make improvements in. Perhaps you do too. In all the excitement and pursuit of these ideals, let's remember to seek first His Kingdom. 

When you fall short of your lofty expectations, don't berate and belittle yourself. Remember that Christ has paid the penalty for all of your sins. He has clothed you in beautiful robes of His righteousness. You are accepted and welcome and beloved. Not because of who you are or what you've done, but because of who Jesus is and what He has done. You, sweet sister, on your bad day with your messy hair and your sweat pants and your disaster house. You are loved and welcomed. 

When you are hitting every ball out of the park, and your house is sparkling and your family is living in sweet harmony and you managed to shower and put on make-up and your manicure is spot-on, rejoice! But don't rejoice in the glory of your great put-togetherness. Rejoice in the glory of knowing and being known by God. Rejoice that despite all of your filthy-rag "righteousness," you are accepted and welcomed simply because God has shown great mercy to you, a great sinner. Use all of that sweet put-togetherness to serve, build-up, and extend grace to others. 

You can be very godly in the middle of a mess {financial, housekeeping, family, what have you}. You can be very ungodly in the midst of what appears to be great perfection. And vice versa. So whichever situation we find ourselves in today, let's check our hearts and make sure our eyes are on Christ and His glory, not ourselves and vainglory.

Let's pursue Christ together this year {and every year!}. Let's not measure our status by the externals, but keep our hearts grounded in the humbling security and life-giving freedom of the Gospel. 


     For good Gospel grounding and encouragement, these three books are at the top of my list.
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