Timeliness Update & December’s Challenge

November’s goal was simple: to get ready FIRST.

What does that mean?

It means getting church clothes laid out and the diaper bag packed Saturday night.

It means collecting the stuff we need for our trip and making sure the kids have shoes on and have gone to the bathroom before I throw the dishes in the dishwasher.

It means getting all those odds and ends (like the copy of Making Babies a friend wanted to borrow [enter to win a copy here!], the book I borrowed, and the shoes that my sister left) gathered and placed by the door right away, instead of waiting until it’s time to head out the door.

It’s amazing how much less stressful my life has been by implementing this one simple habit! We’ve been on time more regularly, and at least when we’re not it’s usually because of something out of my control.

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December’s Goal: Drink More Water

Anyone else have trouble with dry skin during the winter? As soon as the cold, dry weather hit, my hands started to looking like deserts. Putting raw shea butter (or coconut oil) on my hands right before going to bed has really helped.

But, that’s just taking care of one of the symptoms. My real problem is not drinking enough water. So that’s my goal this month: to drink at least 8 cups of water or fresh herbal tea a day.

The children are doing much better about answering adults audibly, so this month I’m going to have them join me on my habit challenge!

What about you? Have you been working on any new habits lately? How are you doing?  


Habit Updates and November’s Challenge

Want a peak into our home about thirty minutes before we need to get somewhere?

9:30 “Kids, we need to leave soon. Time to clean up the schoolroom,” I say, and then hurry through the house, making sure the floors are tidied and the laundry is put away.

9:40 After stepping on at least twenty crumbs in the kitchen, I decide I simply can’t leave before sweeping.

9:43 As I sweep, I notice a couple icky spots on the floor. Ugh! Those spots really need to be wiped. So, I grab a rag and wipe them up.

9:45 “Oh no! Kids, we’ve got to get there in fifteen minutes,” I realize.  “Run to the bathroom and get your shoes on.”

9:48 “Mama, I can’t find my shoes!” Will says. I find them and put them on. Then take him to the bathroom.

9:50 “Rose, those shoes really don’t match,” I notice. “Run put the brown ones on.”

9:51 While she hurries to change shoes, I buckle the other kids in the van.

9:53 Kids are buckled and I get in the van, but realize my phone isn’t in my purse. Where could it be? I wonder, as I race back inside. I finally find it, in the kids’ room.

9:55 Dashing back to the van, we head off. We need to be there in five minutes, but it’s ten minutes away.

10:05 We pull up to the location. I get the kids unbuckled and out of the van. We walk inside.

10:10 We arrive. Ten minutes late and out of breath.

October Update: “Be on Time!” 

(Is the fact that this habit update is two days late, mean that I utterly failed October’s habit challenge: be on time? Hopefully not!)

How did I do this month? Better. I’ve consciously tried to be on time. I’ve looked up directions to see how long it will take, before leaving. I really focused on pushing our get-out-of-the-house pattern back a few minutes.

And, we have actually started getting places closer and closer to on time this month. We even managed to be early once (and a couple times, we would might have, but circumstances were out of my control.)

But notice how crazy our get-out-of-the-house routine is? It wasn’t until reading this post, Why You Should Get It Done Early, that I realized the problem that was staring me in the face: I was trying to cram in all sorts of other projects before getting ready to walk out the door. 

One Habit a Month: November

So what do I need to work on in November? Yep! Get ready first. And once the children and I are completely ready, if there’s plenty of time to spare, I can sweep the dirty floor.

Children’s Habit Update

I’m simply loving working on one habit at a time with the children. It’s so much easier and more fruitful than trying to instill twenty good habits at the same time!

This past month, we focused on developing a good bathroom routine. They have done so well. At first, Rose would say to herself, “Do the five things. Shut the lid, flush the toilet, wash my hands, turn off the light and shut the door.” Now, she generally just does it. Will also remembers well.

I’ve had to remind them occasionally, but it’s so nice to have it be something they generally just do. With no nagging from me.

One Children’s Habit a Month: November

Isn’t it so wonderful when a child looks you in the eyes and answers your question audibly and politely?

Rose and Will do a good job at home (for the most part) but when we’re out and about, it gets more difficult.  That’s what we’re going to work on this month!

What about you? Have you been working on a new habit? How is it going? 

 

Resurrection: Art Missing from The National Gallery

While we were in London, Joshua and I visited The National Gallery to admire the artwork. It was simply amazing walking through and pausing in front of one masterpiece after another.

After we made our way through several galleries though, I began to notice a missing theme: the resurrection.

Much of the religious artwork was of Jesus, but it focused almost exclusively on His nativity and on His death, with an occasional painting from His ministry. We probably saw close to a hundred pieces celebrating His birth and as many (or more) of his death.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Guido Reni

But as I started to actively look for art celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and triumph over death, I found it eerily lacking.

Maybe we happened to walk through all the wrong rooms. Maybe somehow I missed a gallery full of triumphant paintings celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. Maybe.

I hope so.

But the missing artwork has come to mind multiple times. As Christians, it’s so easy to focus on one part of Jesus’ character, to the exclusion of others.

To focus on His love, but not His righteousness. “To worship the babe in the manger, but forget the Christ of the cross.” Or to think of Him only as the suffering Messiah, and not also as the conquering, risen King.

That God the Son was willing to come to earth as a baby, should forever make us pause in awe. That He was willing to take the sin of the world upon Himself, should make us eternally grateful. But that He rose again, defeated death, and now sits on the right hand of God the Father, “ever living to make intercession for us”, is the pinnacle of the story.

To paint all of Christ’s life but stopping before the resurrection, is telling the grandest story, but stopping before the very happiest of endings.

October’s Habit: Be on Time (and an Update)

Can it really be three months since I last posted a habit update? I knew that moving would take time, but I really didn’t think it would take this long to finally feel fully settled and back into the swing of things.

Not that I have pictures on the walls yet, but I feel settled. Boxes are unpacked, life has settled into a nice rhythm, we’ve started school, and we’ve even broken the house in with our first round of stomach flu. Yep, it’s definitely home now.

Anyway, back to the habits. My habit for July was to work on proper posture. This one is going to be an ongoing struggle for me, but really focusing on it has helped so much. I don’t have to remind myself 35 times a day to stand up straight. Only 8 times a day.

(That’s good progress, right?)

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For October, my goal is to be on time.

Yep friends, you heard me. Anna is going to [try to] be on time!

I’ve been trying, really I have. But not quite hard enough. I’ve realized that if you want to arrive on time with three little ones, you have to plan to leave in time to get three little ones out of the van and inside. Which, ahem, means getting places a few minutes early.

So, that’s my goal this month.

Kids habit of the month

Do you ever feel like you remind your child to clean up the same toys, set the table properly, or practice proper bathroom etiquette every single day? I do!

And it really oughtn’t be necessary. So, I’m going to start working on “kid habits” with my children.

This month’s habit was inspired by a scary news story of an infant that fell into a toilet. Teaching them to properly close the seat and door could save us from icky scrapes down the road!

So, we’ll be working on bathroom etiquette, broken up into five simple steps: 1. shut toilet lid; 2. flush toilet; 3. wash your hands; 4. turn off the light; 5. shut the door.

This shouldn’t be too terribly hard. I hope! 😉

What about you? Are you (or your children) working on any new habits this month? 

God is Wiser Than I Am

“It is easy to believe that God is more powerful than us,” said Martin Luther*, “it is much harder to believe that He is wiser.”

Since hearing this quote on Sunday, it has come to mind multiple times. Of course I believe that God is more powerful than I am. I witness His power in the grandeur of golden sunsets, the majesty of mountains, the beauty of a newborn. It is evident everywhere I turn.

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Creation also declares His wisdom.

But even though I mentally assent to God’s wisdom , it is harder for me to really believe in it when it comes to the details of my life. Do you struggle with this too?

  • Do you want to grab the pen and write the next chapters in your life, rather than trust His wisdom?
  • Do you doubt the wisdom of His plan as it unfolds?
  • Do you doubt God’s commands and think another way would be wiser?

I’m guilty.

Our family has been playing the waiting game for months now. We are quickly approaching the date our lease expires but are still waiting for answers about jobs. Even the state we will live in is still uncertain.

If God would have let me decide, we would have had this planned out months ago. He didn’t.

I don’t like waiting. (Who does?!)

Few of us would choose the trials God has chosen to weave into our lives. But He IS wiser. His wisdom holds the universe in balance. His wisdom wrote the pages of History. And His wisdom writes the pages of our lives.

As Corrie ten Boom so beautifully put it,

“My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oftimes he weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.
Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned.”

Someday we’ll understand.

For now it is enough to trust that God, in His wisdom, weaves the tapestry of our stories. It is enough to rest in the knowledge that He is more powerful and more wise than we are. 

*Quote paraphrased from Sunday’s sermon. I cannot find the original! 

One Habit a Month: Posture

(I’m took a break from adding to my herbal collection in June since I’d prefer moving as few little glass bottles as possible! I plan to be back with my monthly herbal additions next month.)

June was busy. July will probably be even busier. I struggled to work on my reading habit last month so plan to keep on working on it this month.

Rather than adding another habit that will require a time committment, this month’s habit won’t take even a second of time: work on good posture.

Good posture is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve made excuses like, “I’m really tall” or “I’ve been pregnant/nursing most of the last six years.” If you try hard enough, you can make an excuse for anything!

Such lovely, rolled back shoulders! 

Honestly, I hadn’t even realized how bad my problem was until my brother took some candid video while the munchkins and I were up in Missouri. I’ve been working on sitting and standing up straight ever since watching it.

However, since I still have to remind myself 35 times a day, it is a habit I want to focus on all month. Maybe, just maybe, when we move home I can utterly surprise and shock my dear mom by no longer needing her reminders!

Hopefully you don’t have a posture problem, but maybe there’s some other personal habit you want to conquer. I’d love to have you join me!

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Six Months of Habits: Check-Up

June is over. 2012 is half over. Can you believe it? Though at times the waiting and waiting for answers about our next step seemed to drag on forever, in all other ways this year has flown by!

The monthly habit check-ups have been a great incentive for me. Since the habits are ones that I really wanted to incorporated into my life long-term, I thought it would be fun to look back on the habits from the first six months of this year and see if they have really made a difference in my days.

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January-Get dressed before breakfast. Though it’s such a small thing, getting dressed at the beginning of the day helped me feel more productive all day long. Since January I have changed my morning routine to make time to exercise [though two long trips in one month haven’t helped on that front!] and prepare a better breakfast. So, some mornings I’m not dressed before breakfast. However, I no longer even want to linger around in my pajamas till noon. That is a change I hope stays with me!

February- establish a lunch routine. If schedules aren’t your thing, I would highly recommend adding basic morning, evening and lunch routines to your day. In February we worked on establishing a lunch routine and the change in my day has been wonderful! I keep on top of laundry better, the kitchen is cleaner and the munchkins and I are loving reading through chapter books together. Budgeting the time for these things has been very good for me.

March & April- establish technological guidelines. This spring I was nearing the point of techy obsession. It simply had to stop. I’m still not quite as disciplined as I’d like, but thankfully the online world doesn’t have quite the pull that it did before really focusing on saying “NO!” to technological distractions. It’s a habit I will probably still have to work on the rest of my life though.

May- Spend time outdoors daily. I love being outside in the spring and fall. When I have to contend with extreme summer or winter weather it’s much harder. I’m lazy that way. However, it’s worth it! I’ve missed a few days in June, but having worked on it in May makes it much easier to just get outside (first thing on these really hot days) Of course, once we’re outside it’s hard to want to come back in.

June-Establish a reading routine. Um, so hopefully you’re not still reading. I did really, really awful with this months habit. I’d like to blame it on two long road trips. However, I could have read more had I really made it a priority. July is going to be equally busy as we pack up our home, but I hope to do better and squeeze in time each day to read… even if it’s just one chapter.

What about you? Have you worked on any habits this year? How have they changed your days? 

550.5 miles, 3 kids, 1 Police Man and Me

Last week I drove 1283.7 miles alone with three kids, found a home and signed the contract.

That sounds more impressive and less interesting than it really was,  so (as promised yesterday) here’s the story.

First, a bit of back-story: two weeks ago Joshua was offered a job in our home state. The thrill of getting to move “home” was still fresh upon us as the reality that we only had six weeks before the lease on our current home expired sank in.

As we started looking at rentals the cost kept surprising us. We had planned to rent and save up to purchase a home. However, the housing market was so wacky that it would cost considerably more a month to rent than to buy.

Crazy.

We were going to let our Realtor and parents look for us, but Joshua thought it would be good to have at least one of us see the house we were going to buy. Since he had to work, that left me… and three kids, of course!

Looking for a house sounded exciting, but getting up there? Not so much! A ten hour road trip with three kids wasn’t exactly my idea of a leisurely day’s activity.

I began mentally syking myself up for it, when we realized that we needed to find a house ASAP. Which meant leaving a week sooner than planned.

Wednesday morning we decided for sure I should go. I roll out of bed a bit past 7.

7:12 I realize, If I want to miss lunch hour traffic in Memphis, I have to leave in half an hour!

7:13 The kids jump out of bed when I tell them, “Get ready to go to Grandma’s house right now!”

7:14 Scarf down breakfast, thr0w clothes in travel bags, and pack snacks for the road so fast I don’t have time to ask myself, What on earth are you getting yourself into?

7:50 We pile in the car, pray for God’s blessing, and waive good-bye to Joshua.

7:51 Start the long drive.

8:34 I ask myself for the 20th time, What on earth are you getting yourself into?!

10:30 Meg wakes up from her morning nap. Needs a diaper change. We’re in the middle of nowhere and none of the exits have rest stops or gas stations.

10:40 We’re still in the middle of nowhere. So I pull off onto an exit and decide to do a diaper change at the stop sign.

10:40:30 Apparently we’re not as “in the middle of nowhere” as I thought. Two cars pull up behind me. Thankfully they have pity on mom-changing-diaper-at-stop-sign and get around me.

10:45 Meg didn’t like getting put back in her seat. We break out the graham crackers to appease her (and Rose and Will!) We’re making good time and I promise them french fries if we make it past Memphis before we stop.

11:15 We’ve made excellent time and reach the outskirts of Memphis.

11:28 I warn the kids, “If I tell you to be quiet right now, it’s not ’cause I’m mad, it’s just because the road is so busy and I have to concentrate.” Will responds by wailing uncontrollably.

11:30 As I try to calm him down, I miss my exit.

11:31 Now I have to calm my spirit.

11:32 The awesome GPS on my phone (that my wonderful husband insisted on getting for his highly directionaly-challenged wife) re-directed me to an even nicer route.

12:25 We leave Memphis far behind… and also all Chick-fil-As.

12:45 The first restaurant in miles appears. The fact that it is McDonalds doesn’t matter. We pile out of the van, stretch our legs and head in for lunch.

1:35 The fact that “quick stops” with three little ones aren’t quick fully sinks in.

1:45 Finally back on the road (armed with coffee.)

2:11 Children nap while I talk on the (hands-free) phone, pray, drink coffee, and try to stay fully alert.

3:32 We’re finally nearing the end of the windy, hilly Arkansas highway. Normally I’m a pretty slow driver, but the roads are good now, coffee drained, kids up, and I am sick and tired of driving. I haven’t noticed a speed limit sign in miles but 65 seems safe.

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3:33 As I pass a semi-truck I pull behind a police man. Oh, this is great. I can just follow him! I think.

3:34 The policeman pulls off the road. I continue on my way. The police pulls back on the road and flips on his lights.

3:35 Adrenaline racing, I pull over. What did I do? I wonder.

3:36 “Can I see your license, please,” the officer says. I hand it over and ask what I did. “The speed limit is 55. You were going 65.”

3:37 I resist the urge to tell him that I thought following a police man would be safe and respectfully hand over my info.

3:47 The policeman finally returns, gives me a warning, and tells me to drive carefully.

3:48 As we pull back on the road, Rose says “I’ve never seen a real policeman before!” Glad she enjoyed it. It was my first time to ever be stopped and I didn’t enjoy it. At least I wasn’t the slightest bit drowsy the rest of the trip.

6:00 We pull in to my parents drive after only one more (almost quick) stop, so grateful for God’s protection and goodness on the first phase of our adventure.

 Linked up at Encourage One Another

Proverbs 31: the Portrait of a Lifetime

Do you ever turn to Proverbs and get completely overwhelmed by the Proverbs 31 woman?

The Proverbs 31 woman wisely manages the household, raises godly children, is a blessing and crown to her husband AND manages real estate, runs a home business, actively cares for the poor. I’m left wondering what she doesn’t do.

If you've ever felt hopelessly overwhelmed reading Proverbs 31, take courage. It wasn't the portrait of just one day, it was a portrait of a life of service.

Overwhelmed by the Proverbs 31 woman

This virtuous woman takes “a mother’s job is never done” to a whole new level. “She rises while it is yet night” to prepare food for her household and “her lamp doesn’t go out at night” while she works on her home business.

I think she’d be lucky to be getting four hours of sleep a night at that rate.

And what does the virtuous woman do when she has a baby? Does she rise early, stay up late and spend the rest of the night nurturing a baby?

Her profile used to leave me discourage and overwhelmed. It was clear I could never hope to measure up. Some days I can’t even find time to make my bed.

Then a passing comment put the passage in a new light.

Proverbs 31 is not a snapshot of one day in the life of a virtuous woman. Proverbs 31 is a portrait of a lifetime. 

Proverbs 31: portrait of a lifetime

The virtuous woman lived a life of loving service to God, her family, and her community, but that doesn’t mean she “did it all” every single day.

Life is made up of seasons. Some are seasons of survival. Some are seasons of abundance.

Just because you or I didn’t get up at 4:00 this morning, purchase investment property today, run a mercy ministry this afternoon, or stay up till midnight tonight working on crafts to sell, doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to be virtuous women.

One Habit a Month: Establish a Reading Routine

“Good habits, once established, are just as hard to break as are bad habits.”  – Robert Puller

I am good at making detailed schedules. I am not so good at following them.

However, basic routines help me to fit the important things, like reading to my children, into the fabric of my day.

Each month this year I am working on one new habit. (I would love to have you join me!)

In June, my goal is to establish a routine for personal reading. My reading goals for this summer are ambitious (at least for me) but if I work even 30 minutes of reading into each day, I should be able to finish them (or at least get close!)

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“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them,” said Ray Bradbury.

As I spend more time online, I find myself reading in smaller chunks. A blog post here, half an article there and soon my reading time is over and I haven’t really concentrated on following complicated argument or reading an entire book.

It takes a lot more discipline to read a long, old book like  Confessions by Augustine or Josephus’ History than most online reading.

Much as I love reading blog posts (and writing them!) and love the easy accessibility of answers to my questions, once I’ve carefully selected a book to read, I don’t want to let the difficulty keep me from persevering.

Having a set time each day that is reserved for reading will motivate me to keep going and hopefully (to carry Lewis’ argument, On the Reading of Old Books, a little farther) balance my love for reading 500 word posts.

[Speaking of summer reading, last week I finished two books off my listI Dared to Call Him Father and Grow Your Home While Growing Your Blog (Review coming soon!)]

What about you? Are you working on any new habits? How do you fit in time to read?