Simplified Living

Being organized is really just about learning to live simply.  Now, don’t hit the exit button quite yet!  There is minimalism ( a huge trend right now and worth pursuing) and then there is a more simplified life.  I am not a minimalist.  I love home and all the things that make a home beautiful and comfortable.  So, I have holiday decorations, more than two sets of dishes, seasonal throw pillows… You get the idea.  So, how do I keep a clutter free home?  How do I manage to have time to exercise, volunteer, take a nap, have date nights and entertain?  I manage those things because I choose to keep the number of things pared down.

Being organized is about learning to live with less, so your time is not spent managing stuff.  Being organized is also about learning little tips and tricks along the way to make the most of what you have and to simplify your decorating, cooking, cleaning and entertaining.  In honor of spring cleaning, I’ll share a few of those tips over the next few weeks.

Menu prepping and meal prepping are becoming a more integral part of my weeks as I continue on my health journey.  I’m still a pen and paper gal, so I love the InkWell Press “Eating Well Planner” my sister-in-law got me for Christmas.  I write down the recipe for each day’s dinner (adding in at least one breakfast meal and lunch idea for the weekends) and the location of the recipe.  I then make the grocery list.  I am a coupon girl, so Sunday afternoons are my time to clip paper coupons and download my Kroger digital coupons.  Once my grocery list is complete I go through the coupons pulling any that match to needed groceries.  I keep thinking I am going to shift my grocery shopping to Tuesday evenings, but so far I still find myself running to the store for my major grocery shopping on Saturdays.  We will see how I progress-this is one of those goals in my Cultivate What Matters planner-reminding myself to cultivate this one and that progress doesn’t happen over night.

Once back from the grocery store I immediately put things away.  I put grains, chips, cereals etc. in their respective bins (helps us see what we have and keeps things fresh).  I fill the kitchen sink with cold water and one cup of white vinegar.  All of the fresh fruits and vegetables go in to soak.  They are then rinsed and dried.  I then chop or cut anything I can for the week.  We just eat more vegetables and fruits if they are washed and ready to go.  I love using the Rubbermaid Freshworks.  You can find them here:  http://www.rubbermaid.com/en-US/freshworks-produce-saver-green

This week, with strawberries coming into season, I found myself needing to cut strawberries so I could mix them with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of Stevia.  They will be great with yogurt, cottage cheese or as a stand alone dessert/snack.  One of my favorite tricks I learned from a Pampered Chef consultant.  Use your boiled egg slicer to cut strawberries.  It cuts them quickly and in perfect slices!  I did two containers of strawberries in under 4 minutes.  I promise, once you try this you will never go back to cutting them any other way!

I’d love to hear your tips on menu planning, grocery shopping or meal prepping.  For more tips on managing errands:  https://wordpress.com/post/simplifiedorganizedstyled.com/1815

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Don’t Plan Your Week, Guide Your Week

I love organization:  calendars, baskets, hooks, notebooks, planners, colored pens, labels, label makers… the list goes on.  It is in my DNA.  The first born.  Type A.  Disc profile C.  Perfectionist.  Scheduler.  The list could go on, but I am sure you get the drift.

My bent towards organization hasn’t always been my friend.  In fact, it has often been my enemy.  I may appear on the outside to have it all under control, to be gifted and skilled at juggling life’s demands.  On the inside though, it has often been a different story.  The expectations grow and with them the voice in my head pushing me to perfection, telling me “I am not enough”, “do more”.  The anxiety driven by the fear I won’t keep it all together.  The laser like focus keeping me from seeing opportunities and moments around me.  The pursuit all consuming and confining, leaving little room for vulnerability, allowing others to help.  It can be and has been exhausting.  It can be and has been my worst attribute.  But, it is also a gift.

So how do I keep the gift from becoming my demon?  I embrace who I am.  I am created in God’s image, to serve Him and to be reconciled to Him, engaged in the daily ministry of reconciliation.  He is a God of order (simply read the story of creation).  His Word provides a road map.  I am bent towards organization and in His sight that is good, it is just as He desired it to be, just as He created me to be.  However, I have to remember, managing my life:  my things; my activities; my people, is simply a tool to be used to serve Him.  I can’t let it become about CONTROL.  Yes.  Too often  my pursuit of organization is more about my attempt to CONTROL, than to be and serve.  I have to remember He is in control, and my attempts to manage are simply a part of a process.  He teaches me, He guides me, He directs my paths.  CONTROL is the demon.  When I use my talents and my gifts to follow His direction, I relinquish CONTROL, and He is in control.

Maintaining the balance isn’t easy.  The past has taught me.  I have learned to spend less time planning, and more time simply developing a road map/a guide, full of white space, breathing space.  The white space and breathing space give the opportunities to stop, to pray, to listen, to adjust.  My life is fuller.  The pursuit is no longer for perfection or control.  Instead, the pursuit is for relationship, obedience with the One in control.

If you, like me, struggle with this balance, here are a few tools and tricks I use.

  1. I LOVE my Cultivate What Matters planner.  This is not a weekly or daily planner, but a great tool for setting yearly goals, determining what matters most and then cultivating habits to bring it to fruition.  If you haven’t checked this resource out, head over to https://cultivatewhatmatters.com/.  I am not paid to endorse, this product.  I genuinely LOVE and USE this product.
  2. I am a recovering planner addict.  I have spent more money on planners than I ever care to disclose.  Seriously, it is an addiction!  I still struggle.  Each November my Facebook and Pinterest feeds fill with cute images of beautiful planners, stickers, pens etc.  My heart races and I begin to think, “what if…”  I am pleased to tell you though, going on THREE years strong, I have stuck with my Planner Pad planner.  It isn’t all sparkly and cute.  It is practical.  But the layout works for me.  It is a weekly planner format that allows you to “funnel” your tasks, beginning with broad categories, moving to daily priorities, and ending with time specific tasks.  You can find out more by going to https://plannerpads.com/.
  3. I set aside about an hour every Friday to create my road map for the following week.  This helps me focus on the critical and important Friday and keeps items from falling off my radar, as they get moved to the following week.  I am able to assess how much white space I have and make necessary adjustments.  A packed schedule only leads to stress and stress minimizes productivity.  Leave room to breathe, to be the boss, wife, mom, friend you need to be in the moment.  Leave room to run back into God’s presence, seeking His guidance.
  4. Pray.  Years ago, while reading an Emilie Barnes book, I began to practice the habit of praying over my calendar daily.  I am not 100%, but the weeks and months I am faithful to this habit, I am amazed at how my plans change, the resources that come my way or the amount I am able to accomplish.  I am able to view the items in my planner as simply a guide for my week and the unexpected aren’t viewed as distractions, but as opportunities.
  5. Last but not least, I remind myself the goals I have written, the filled in to do lists, are simply guides.  I can’t plan for the future, for I am not in control of the future.  I can establish guides for myself and I can take one obedient step at a time.  When things go awry I remember I am not in control.  When tasks build up or remain undone, when there seems to be no movement toward a goal I step back and reassess.  More often than not, I simply need to make an adjustment, either in my routine or my schedule.  However, sometimes the pause, the prayer helps me see the goal was something birthed out of my desires, and is not a part of His plan.  Sometimes the goal needs to go away.  Sometimes I need to scale back and focus on some small part of the larger goal.  Sometimes I need to ask for help.  Adjusting is better than quitting.  Adjusting is better than making futile plans in pursuit of perfection or control.  Adjusting is bending to His will, growing in faith, growing in relationship, growing in His image.

 

Little Spice in Life

Fall is coming y’all!   I love fall.  I love the change in the temperatures.  I love getting back into a more structured schedule.  I love sitting on the back porch by the fire (having a good old s’more every now and then).  I love thinking about the coming holidays.  All of it spurs me to clean, to get up a little earlier, to read more and to cook more.  Fall just seems to be the season for hospitality and adding some spice to life.  It’s a time for laughter around the table, brisk walks in the cool morning air.  It’s a time to cheer on our favorite football teams.  Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg.  Barbecue sauces, roasted chilies, peppercorns.  Fall.

My weekly menus needed a little spicing up.  I was growing tired of our favorite summer recipes.  As I began this past week to think through some old fall favorites and peruse Pinterest for some fall cooking inspiration, I found myself inspired by the colors of fall.  Reds, green, oranges.  Apples, peppers, carrots, pumpkins and squash.  Yum!  Immediately I knew it was time to pull out one of my “tweaked” family favorites.  I grew up eating candied carrots.  The good old Southern kind smothered in butter and brown sugar, slow cooked until glazed and slightly browned.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that good old Southern recipe, adding a little spice always makes everything nice!  Honey Glazed Pepper Jelly Carrots.  Yep.  Nothing better.  Even grandma approved! Yes, the same grandma who taught me the traditional candied carrot cooking method.

IMG_5371

I promise you will want to try this recipe.  Go for it!  It’s the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.  Just enough heat to make you perk up, but sweet enough to comfort.

Honey Glazed Hot Pepper Jelly Carrots

I apologize to all my readers for my recent absence.  Life has just been happening and frankly, I needed a break.  However, speaking of needing a little spice in life.  I have a lot more to say on that subject.  I have been in a leadership training the past few days, and as I was prompted to think on my mission, think about my behavior style, I was reminded I need to be bold, to take more risks, to speak up and doubt less.  It’s time to get back at this blog thing!

 

You Can Have it All, Just Not All at Once

This week I have been doing a little evaluating of my current life.  Back to full time work, two girls graduating high school, a home to manage, friends to see…  As I pondered my own frustrations, disappointments, I also saw a post from another hard working mom asking if there was such a thing as balance.  Another young mom messaged me asking how I managed, what could she do different.

As women we all struggle.  It is hard to be all the things we want to be.  Sometimes we have choices, other times the circumstances of our lives dictate whether or not we have choices.  As Christian women the struggle can run deep.  Not only do we hold ourselves to the standard of the world, but we hold ourselves up to the Proverbs 31 woman and create expectations we often can’t meet.

Going back to work at age 50 is a completely different experience from that of my 20s. It’s not better, it’s not worse.  It is just different.  Experience has taught me.  Struggles with anxiety and fear have moved me.  As I thought about the questions of dear friends, as I pondered my own momentary frustration I was reminded that today matters.  What I choose today is what matters most.  Who I am today affects my tomorrow.  I cannot be all things to all people at all times, but I can be who I need to be today to the persons God brings across my path.  I can choose today to return home from work and turn my attention to the ones I love most, preparing food, washing clothes, caring for their needs. There is not a lot of time for relaxation, for outings, for extra time with friends.  But that is okay.  All too soon the girls will be gone, their adult lives unfolding.  I will no longer have the chance to wash their clothes, light a candle to say welcome home, cook their favorite meal.  When that time comes there will be more time for friends, for personal rest.

Life is a journey.  Spiritual growth is a journey.  I can have it all, just not all at once.  Each season brings new opportunities.  Each season requires saying no to some things, so others can be cherished.  As I read back through scripture I am reminded the Proverbs 31 woman lived a full life.  She too experienced and lived her life in seasons.  And most of all, I am reminded that what God desires I learn from her is her character traits- patience, love, perseverance, joy, hope.

Remember.  God has you in this season to do His work where you are at this time.  You won’t be able to do it all right now.  But over a lifetime you just might have the chance. Be patient, love well, persevere, and hope in the future.

 

Proverbs 31:10-31New International Version (NIV)

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [a]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Serve One Another

As a missionary kid I grew up in the midst of people giving their whole lives to service, to making the difference in someone else’s life, seeking to help and to share the gospel. Opportunities to travel the globe as a child and youth exposed me to needs, to political structures which stifled and caused harm to citizens.  I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to work in public service.

This week thousands of us in public service, join the Points of Light Foundation in remembering President Bush’s inaugural speech and his call to action.  We honor him, the legacy he built.  I remember watching the speech.  I remember the reference to the non-profit and government programs spread across the country “like shining stars”.  I remember, in those moments, knowing I had chosen the career that was right for me. Today, as I serve the citizens of Arkansas, President Bush’s words continue to inspire me. Programs and processes do not change people.  Programs ad processes may offer help, they may meet a concrete need, but they do not change people.  People change people.  I believe that, not just because of years of service with government and nonprofit organizations, but I believe that because I know we were created by God to have relationship.  We were created to need one another.

My work plans for 2017 involve the launch of a system to connect people to other people, helping people meet the needs of others.  In my personal life my desire for 2017 is to strengthen existing relationships and open myself up to new ones, to respond to needs when I see them.  As a mother, my greatest desire has been to teach my children to connect to others, to see the needs of those around them and sacrifice their time and resources to meet them.  That character trait is one I have desired to instill and rates high above grades or popularity in our home.  My prayer this week is that they, my girls, and you will read the words of President Bush, be inspired, and then take action.

http://www.pointsoflight.org/people/board-members/president-george-h-w-bush

LoveAllHeart

 

How to…

I am often asked how I get done what I get done.  Let me first say, I honestly don’t think I get more done than most people.  I think it often appears that way because I hold my emotions close, am fairly private and try to maintain my composure.  I fear I sometimes appear “all together” and that is often far from the truth (just ask my family!).  I will admit though, that I have also been a student of time management for as long as I can remember.  I was that child in elementary school who wanted to work my way through every SRA test seeing my name rise on the chart.  I was the high school student who wanted to make good grades, play sports, serve on student council and earn spending money.  I was the college student who had to work her way through college, so I needed to be able to balance studies with work.  I was the young wife who wanted to work, cook fabulous meals, entertain friends and business partners and create a “Southern Living” style home.  And then I became a first time mom to not one, but two beautiful baby girls and I wanted to be present in every way, have our home continue to be a haven and place for gathering, and I desperately wanted my girls to see me serving in the community.

 

I have have learned a lot about managing my time along the way.  Some lessons were learned through painful mistakes, while others were learned as doors opened and new opportunities presented themselves.  I am still learning.  I have revisited many of my favorite tools and books as I have re-entered the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom.  I have given a lot of thought to what advice I would share with others as I prepare to send my girls to college next year.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Choices:  We all have the same amount of time.  We have to make choices.  Anything we choose to do fills our time and requires we say no to something else.
  2. We all need help.  Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help.  She had maidservants.  We cannot keep our homes, do all the shopping and all food preparations, volunteer at our children’s schools and at church, work, serve our friends and maintain our sanity.  We have to allow others to help.  If our budget allows that may mean a hired housekeeper.  If not, it may mean our children have chores and our husband helps. We may need to swap childcare services with a friend.  When I chose to go back to work this year I knew it would require budgeting for a housekeeper and passing off some of the household shopping to my husband and girls.
  3. We need to know our personal rhythm and build our schedule around it.  I am a morning person.  I do my best thinking in the morning.  I have energy in the morning.  As a result I make it a habit of setting my work hours early.  While I would love to be one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30, it doesn’t fit my rhythm. I do much better jumping right into work and then fitting in a workout on the way home late afternoon/early evening, giving myself a time to transition and a little energy boost.  My natural rhythm also means I need to go to bed early.  I am usually in bed by 9:30 and try to have lights out by 10:30.  I have tried many times to adjust my schedule, to be more like someone else, but in the end my natural rhythm is a part of my DNA and there is no fighting it.  I am a better version of me and am able to perform better when i embrace my personal rhythm.
  4. I live by the 15 minute rule.  Any time I feel stuck, am dreading an assignment or find myself with some extra time I employ the 15 minute rule.  You will be amazed at all you can do in 15 minutes.  Giving your undivided attention to something for just 15 minutes can be the difference between never getting a task done, never starting on a project or complete success.  Here is a list of just a few things you can tackle in 15 minutes:
    1. Empty the dishwasher
    2. Clean out your purse or car
    3. Make your bed
    4. Respond to email
    5. Update/sync your calendar
    6. Create a work plan for a project
  5. Always build in white space.  I always add 15 minutes to the front end and back end of appointments.  This allows me some buffer, keeps me from running late, and is often a source of some 15 minute blocks to tackle some of the daily tasks.  I also leave at least two weeknights open.  This means I have seldom joined a book club or a Bunko group.  This means my husband and I say “yes” to very few charitable events.  (we will pay for a ticket and gladly give someone else our seats)  Early on in our parenting my husband and I made a decision to not let hurry and events run our lives.  We have chosen instead a slower paced way of living, making certain we AND our girls were at home as often as possible.  To some this may have meant keeping our girls from opportunities, denying them the chance to be popular, the best at their sport.  All I can tell you is I have well-rounded, happy girls.  They both have activities they love, lots of friends and our home during these years high school years has been the gathering place.  They would tell you they didn’t miss out on a thing.
  6. Use a calendar.  I am a list maker, but that is not why I advocate use of a calendar.  No.  My advocacy for calendars stems from my desire and intent to be aware of where and how I spend my time.  I want to make choices and know what choices I am making.  Life can and will quickly take control if we allow it.  By using a calendar (which for me is still a paper version) I see how our schedule looks, I know what I have planned for the day, week, month.  I become more conscious, more aware.

I do get a lot done.  However, there are also a lot of things I don’t get done, and most of those are by choice.  I try to extend grace to myself.  I try to maintain discipline without being rigid.  The “how to” is a lifelong learning experience and each season brings new challenges, new lessons, new methods.

If you are struggling to get things done, to get our from under the weight of your calendar I hope a few of my tips will help.  Most of all, I pray you will find some time this week to step back from your life, your daily routine and give it some thought.  Take a leap of faith. Say no where you need to.  Make the desires of your heart your priorities.  Reset your schedule and live your life, not someone else’s.

Family: the Ties that Bind

2014-04-20 12.19.06

Father’s Day.  As with any holiday there are those who celebrate with great joy, but I am mindful too there are those who struggle with this holiday, having been abandoned, hurt or maybe even never knowing their father.  I thought of those yesterday, maybe because in my circle I know too many struggling there.  Maybe because it was the Spirit’s prompting as I seek this year to be mindful of joy, to be mindful of others.

My small family is pictured above.  A family my husband and I longed to have, waited to have, and fight for every single day.  As I watched my girls prepare for the day, celebrate their father, I had to pause and thank God, not just for this man of mine, but for giving me the wisdom and the discernment 26 years ago to pick this man.  26 years ago my own family was going through a difficult time.  Relationships were strained.  Somehow in the midst of it all, I was able to see this man for who he was.  He didn’t let the strained relationships of my family deter him, instead he became my rock, my encourager. He often held me accountable, reminding me time heals, and that what I did with the situation would set the course for my life, more than the situation itself.

My girls wanted to get their dad a tie this year.  Yes, the proverbial tie.  It was a stylish little Southern Tide model.  They always seek to keep their dad in the latest and greatest.  He loved it.  He really did!  As I reflected though over the course of the day the tie became symbolic.  My husband works for himself and NEVER dresses up for work.  However, he is a traditionalist when it comes to worship and every Sunday dresses in his very best-right down to the tie.  The tie for him is  a symbol of “best”, a reminder of more traditional days and times.  It is a reminder to me I married a man who values tradition, not in an “I refuse to change kind of way”, but in a traditional values and morals matter kind of way.  He believes in family.  He fights for family.  He encourages family and friends a like to value their family.  He has raised our girls to honor family, even in the difficult times, even when it hurts.  He holds firm to the biblical teaching that God created family, it is His plan for man on earth.  It was created long before the church.  Family matters, and matters more than church, work, ministry.  Family isn’t ALL that matters, but it is priority, it is the foundation on which societies are built.  I am so thankful this man has taught right priorities, has lived what he preaches.

Our family is far from perfect.  On both sides of our family we have those who have hurt us, some who have strayed from faith, others who have never known faith.  I am thankful the leader of my family says, “That’s no excuse to quit family.”  I am thankful my girls are learning grace, how to give it and how to except it through family relationships.

Families are the ties that bind.  They are the building blocks of society, they are the building blocks of the church.  How we manage our families, how we respond to crisis, hurt and disappointment in our families reflects our faith.  Who we are at home reflects our true selves.  Families are the ties that bind.

Home Matters

If you follow my blog, you know I love home.  Having grown up moving a lot (and I mean a lot-like 24 times before I was 30) there was always a part of me that wanted to “settle down”.  However, in all honesty there is still a bit of wander lust in me and I do like a change of scenery every now and then!  Any way, back to my point.  I love home.  As a Christian woman and mother, I have always felt like home was a critical part of my role, my purpose.  Early on I spent time studying about how to care for home. Fortunately I went into marriage and motherhood pretty well prepared thanks to parents who taught and expected a lot.  I remember reading Emilie Barnes’ books and her statement that “wives set the tone for the home” impacted me, stayed with me. I have always wanted my home to be a safe haven, a quiet place for my family to refresh, regroup, share, rest.  I have worked hard at trying to create the right atmosphere-sometimes too hard, sometimes too focused on the material contents and keeping order.  These days, as a mom of teens and quickly approaching 50, I have found myself settling into a bit more balance, lowering some of my expectations, and really focusing on the tone of my home.  Tone of home is a feeling. It is that “home sweet home” sense you get when you walk in that familiar space that makes you feel safe, important, valued, loved.

8_4_9 home sweet home 2

I want that tone to extend beyond my immediate family.  I want everyone who enters to feel that sense of welcome, to know they can stop and take a deep breath.

As I was reading through Home Life magazine from Lifeway, I came across some word art in the front of the magazine.  It resonated with me.  It reminded me of how very important home is.  It made me stop and voice a prayer of gratitude for these days I am able to be at home, home school, raise my family.  It made me ask forgiveness for those nights I awaken worried about our finances, wondering if I will ever have a job of any substance once the girls leave home and I venture out to help pay for college and all the associated expenses.  It reminded me that while others may seem to have it all, be more together, have less worries, I would not exchange my life for theirs.  Our finances aren’t easy.  I walked away from a career I may never have again.  We have to make choices and our girls are a part of those conversations.  But it is worth it.  Every moment home with them has been worth it.  Home’s importance drew me to my Mary & Martha business, where I have opportunity to equip and encourage women to engage in hospitality.  (www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana).  Home’s importance is why one of my best friends and I run an organizing business.

I have posted the words above my desk-a daily reminder.  Not my words, but words that encourage and remind.  I wanted to share them with you.

We believe in the home. It’s the place where ministry starts and ends day in and day out.  We stand for dynamic marriages that beat the odds and practice commitment.  We believe in family meals and talking about your day.  We believe that your corner of the earth, whatever it looks like, is an extension of the church, a place where community is grown and nurtured.  We believe that if you change the home you change the world.  There’s a lot of life between Sundays. (January Home Life magazine/Lifeway)

I hope those words encourage you and challenge you.  Be grateful for home.  Remember it is a high calling.  The lives I impact in my home will forever impact the world.  Home matters.  It matters enough to give up some other things.  It matters enough to set aside time to invite your friends in.  It matters.  The church does not create godly families.  Godly families create the church.

The Center of Our Home-Where Things Change

The center of our new home is literally my great room coffee table.  Our home is a very open concept, so you walk in the front door to a large entry from which you just flow right into the dining room, great room and kitchen.  I LOVE IT.  And literally in the middle sits my coffee table.

Advent has been a part of my family Christmas off and on for most of my life.  As a pastor my dad loved to include the advent candle as part of our worship.  Some years we did the same at home, others not.  With my own children we have attempted some form of Advent each year.  When they were young it was about the Advent Calendar.  My mother-in-law purchased a wonderful nativity scene advent calendar from World Crafts years ago.  My children loved trying to figure out which pieces to put in the pockets so the story unfolded correctly.  We also used the Advent box purchased through Family Life, where the children open a new gift box each year.  As they grew it sometimes amounted to nothing more than reading the daily scripture.  Then, last year I came upon Ann Voskamp’s, “The Greatest Gift”.  We purchased an Advent Wreath and candles.  We are using the same this year and have added to it our “Gather Round” from Barbara Rainey’s Ever Thine Home and the “post-it” notes provided on Ann Voskamp’s website.  (Each morning after reading the “post it ” reminder, we place it on the Gather Round Wreath.)

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It is here our hearts are stirred.  It is here our minds are cleared.  It is here the quiet settles in and His truth permeates the stillness.  The center of my home is where things change.  Each morning the “post it” cards prompt us to new thoughts, transforming thoughts and action.  Action following love, the love He imparts through grace.  Each evening our spirits are quieted as we stop to relinquish the day, prepare for rest.  Life may get messy in between.  We will fall short of His glory.  We may even lose sight of Christmas, but this place, this centering spot, brings us back.

If Advent has not been a part of your Christmas, head over to Holly Gerth’s site (see the button over on the side).  Today is a round up of Advent Resources.  You are sure to find something.  You won’t regret adding this to your traditions.  And remember, if you miss a night, life goes on, don’t give in, just pick back up.

Mary & Martha: Coming July 2014

I have been struggling to blog lately.  The move, end of school stuff, building needs, etc… are frankly keeping me busy.  Yesterday, in the midst of it all, God answered a prayer.  There are still more to be answered, but it is incredibly cool to see something come together.  I don’t have time today, but tomorrow can’t wait to share a little about the “how this came to pass” part of my story.