A tip for timeliness

Please, if you know me, do not laugh at me trying to write about being on time. In no way am I an expert on punctuality, but I do get to practice at it every single day. This little tip is beginning to change how I work to meet a deadline.

Hurry before you need to.

How many times do I find myself hurrying the kids to finish breakfast before we need to leave for church? Hurrying to pick up the house before company arrives? Hurrying to get my homeschool plans in order before the first day?

Bleck, bleck, and bleck. I don’t mind hurrying, but I hate feeling rushed and forcing others to rush. And I really hate that realization that no matter how much we hurry, we will already be late.

So I’m working at hurrying before we really need to.

I encourage myself and the kids to get ready quickly in the morning even when we woke up on time; choose a reasonable amount of time for breakfast and then end it; plan time to actually clean off the table, get our Bibles, and get in the car (stepping into another area of preparation there), but making ourselves do it quickly even if according to the clock we’re looking good. (this scenario applies to our Sunday mornings)

If I’m prepping vegetables or setting the table for company that night, I push myself to work as quickly as I can – feeling that hurry – even if no one will be there for an hour and a half.

When I sit down to homeschool plan I love to take my time and look through the books and think, but realistically, I only have those chances every so often so I need to  pick up the pace and get my assignments written down as efficiently as possible. Right now, some plan for two weeks is better than an extensive plan for three days.

It may sound like a silly mental game, but it really has helped me. And I really need help!

What about you – do you struggle more with the preparation or execution stages of punctuality? (I have my hands raised for both) = )

I’d love to hear what has helped you.

Here is a fun article I found after I wrote this. I seem to spend lots of time reading about how to save time. = ) Secrets of people who have all the time in the world.

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There is so much about this picture that cracks me up! Sorry if it’s only funny to me.

 

 

The Great License Plate Game

It all started on a long car trip from North Carolina to Indiana.

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Paul challenged the girls to find the license plates of all fifty states. And it became a family project that is probably one of the sweetest collective memories from the last few years.

Of course we found a ton on the trip. I was delighted by how quickly even the little girls could recognize plates that we had seen several times. (I should add that just a month or so earlier Paul had helped the girls memorize all fifty states. So it was easy to keep track of what we had already seen and still needed.)

We all were so in tune to license plates for months! Every trip to the store or anywhere the girls were pointing out states. It’s amazing how many are around all the time if you just look.

Confession: sometimes we would drive around parking lots looking for plates.

On two occasions we found new ones we needed at a mall about an hour from our house. I can’t even explain how excited we all would get when we found a new state. The rules were just that one of us had to see it with our own eyes. And it had to actually be on a car, not like on the wall at Cracker Barrel.

So around October we had narrowed it down to North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Hawaii. And pickins’ were slim. We were all sure that Hawaii would be the last one we’d find.

Owen’s due date came and went.

We even got my mom in on the excitement, but still nothing.

October 31. We had realized the night before that we needed to go buy candy. Around 11 that morning I began having contractions and by lunch around 2 or so, we were pretty sure this would be the day. (for the baby) So we stopped at our grocery store about five minutes from our house, and on the way back to the car…we saw a North Dakota!! In the parking lot! Of our grocery store! Five minutes from our house!

It was unbelievable! Such a sweet little blessing in the midst of another big blessing! (Owen)

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We were over the moon excited and incredulous. Only three more to go!

Some weeks after that, I was invited to a little Christmas party at a friend’s house and left Owen home with a sitter for the first time since Paul had a late appointment. Hating to be away from him, I kept my phone close just in case I was needed. We were eating dinner at this gorgeous table when a text came through – I tried to check it discreetly but gasped out loud when I read the message: Paul had found South Dakota!!!

That was fun trying to explain why that was so exciting.

So Vermont and Hawaii remained.

I mean, we should see a Vermont. It’s not like we’re on the other side of the country from it or anything.

We totally gave up on Hawaii. I hatched this scheme to buy one online and give it to Hope for Christmas.

So in early December we were out shopping for Christmas decorations, and by a miscommunication on my part we ended up at a shopping center we are not normally at. Between taking six kids (including a newborn) up and down the aisles of Michaels, and Mommy who has trouble making her mind up, we were all fine, but borderline cranky.

After getting in the car Paul started to wind through the parking lot, you know, just in case. And I saw it.

My arm shot out and grabbed him, “I just saw Hawaii! Go back, go back!”

He was unsure, “What? No you didn’t.”

But I knew I had seen it. “I did! I did! Go back! It had a rainbow on it!”

He circled back around and sure enough we all saw it. Hawaii!!

Evening made. Month made. Holiday season made. Year made.

We had found Hawaii!!!

And we were all together when it happened!

The parking space next to it was open so Paul pulled in and we got out and stared at it and took pictures with it like crazy people.

We literally talked about it the whole way home, replaying how it all happened and how crazy it was that we were even there, and how we all felt when we saw it. And that we were all together when it happened.

I guess you’d have to understand how long we’d been looking and how sure we were that we would never actually find it. It still makes me smile just thinking about it.

So…Vermont.

We contemplated getting in the car and heading north until we found one. (It’s okay at this point for you to be absolutely certain that we are nuts). But we had come this far and just had to have that last one. We had even looked it up online to be sure we knew what we were looking for. Apparently, Vermont has one style of license plate so that was good.

Christmas came and went.

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On one of those awkward post-Christmas days when you’re not quite sure what to do, we decided to take all the kids for a hike. We were almost out of our neighborhood when a little red car pulled in. Paul noticed the sign on the front of the car and whipped around to check when it passed us.

It was a Vermont.

He pulled in someone’s driveway and turned around action movie- style. The poor little red car, we followed it ’til it parked in a driveway only a street over from ours. Paul parked on the road and jumped out. (I think they were a little perplexed, to say the least.)

He explained our great license plate game and how all we needed was Vermont and they were our Vermont! The man was really good-humored and let us take a picture with the plate and the girls. They had just arrived from Vermont to visit the grandkids. We wished each other well and went on our way.

“Can you believe it?” We kept asking each other. We found Vermont! In our neighborhood.

A better ending to such a hunt could not have been scripted.

We were so excited that we decided to celebrate with milkshakes after our hike.

We went to Sonic. And they were out of ice cream. Are you kidding me? You’re Sonic. #youhaveonejob

But just forget that part because it didn’t matter.

Our excitement could not be dampened. We had found all fifty states.

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Yay for family. Yay for hunts. Yay for memories we will never forget.

On the benefits and drawbacks of being tired

I found this fun little draft from awhile ago. Hope it’s an encouragement to someone today! 

If there is one physical state of being I have experienced most in the last ten years, it is being tired.

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I’m not speaking of the worked-all-day-in-the-yard good tired or the ran-a-marathon-that-I-trained-for-for-six-months good tired, but rather the I’m-making-a-baby-and-carrying-around-a-one-year-old-and-up-and-down-and-bending-all-day-and-woke-up-three-times-during-the-night tired. You will have to decide for yourself what brand of tired you are.

But every stage has benefits and drawbacks. Every one! Maybe pausing to think about the graces given through this “difficulty” could be encouraging.

Here are a few things I can see as benefits:

When you’re tired it is often easier to say “no” to frivolous, external engagements. This is a good thing. No, I don’t want to scroll on facebook for forty-five minutes; no, I don’t want to watch the last three innings of that baseball game; no I don’t need to watch my thirteen billionth episode of Chopped. So there’s that.

When you’re tired it is easier to see yourself as weak before God. This is an especially good thing. Yes, I can do nothing good in and of myself. Yes, if I make it ’til tonight it will be God’s grace that has sustained me; yes, your mercies are new every morning; yes, God’s faithfulness shines brightest against the backdrop of human faithlessness. Relying on Him moment by moment becomes not something we know we should do, but our basic survival instinct.

When you’re tired it can be easier to be compassionate with others. Sometimes you just don’t have the strength to be bothered with the foibles or eccentricities of others. Getting upset may take that last shred of energy that you will need to load the dishwasher that night. Or whatever. Relationships can be the precious comfort they were intended to be through the weariness of life.

Now…

Lest you pull an all-nighter to be on the receiving end of all these benefits to being tired… here are my views regarding the drawbacks.

Tiredness accentuates the difficulty of the spiritual disciplines. It’s hard to gain from reading the Bible when you fall asleep after the second sentence. (and yes, for us mamas of little ones, there will be times when no matter what we do, we will be this tired)

Tiredness exposes our hearts (perhaps this could be a benefit). If bitterness or selfishness or impatience have been lurking under a well put-together surface, being tired will probably bring those to the forefront.

Tiredness keeps our minds from working like normal. And we all collectively groan.

Tiredness keeps us from keeping up with routine tasks leaving us to feel overwhelmed and incompetent.

Sometimes being tired hurts – headaches, soreness from our body not having enough horizontal time… bleck.

Maybe there are things you can do to get a little more rest or maybe you just have to hang in there. Living in community with your husband and other sisters in Christ will help you know if you’re more in the “I need to work at getting more rest” stage or the “I’m doing the best I can and have to fight for joy and contentment” stage.

But there will be times (#youngmoms) when being tired just becomes a part of your life. We can rejoice in God’s sustaining grace and rest in His faithfulness that reaches the sky.

 

 

The Christian life is like sitting in church with kids

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Ever been frustrated by the tension of all that’s (wonderfully) true about the Christian life and actually trying to live it out among others?

A few months ago I had this humorous experience which seemed not unlike the experience of being a child of God still in this world.

Our church was blessed to have a special speaker and he was taking us on a whirlwind tour of the book of Hebrews. (You can hear the sermon here) It was so wonderful! Jesus was exalted. The Word came alive, and my heart and mind were literally thrilled with the truth.

My wonderful four oldest children were sitting with me (Paul was filling in elsewhere during that hour so unlike normal I was alone with the kids), and I guess their experience and interaction with the Word that morning wasn’t quite the same as mine. Exclude the oldest from that statement; she was not causing any problems. I’m too far removed from the scene to remember the particulars, but I had to deal with all sorts of nonsense during that sermon. Wiggles, questions, flipping pages, elbows… it went on and on even more than usual. Not all of it was bad! Of course I want the one just learning to read to ask for help to know where he is when reading Scripture, and of course I want to give a quick definition of an unfamiliar word to the four-year-old.

But I also want to just sit and listen!

See the pattern:

LISTEN: Wow! that is amazing! I cannot believe Christ would lower himself to suffer like we did. I want to love Him more! I want to go home and read the whole book of Hebrews! I am so thankful we have the Bible! God is so good! 

DISTRACTION: ***addresses wiggling***

LISTEN: Wow! This is so wonderful! I’m so thankful my kids can be in church with me. 

DISTRACTION: ***finds verse for child***

LISTEN: I hope I didn’t miss anything. Wow, that is so good. 

DISTRACTION: ***warns child about wiggling***

TRYING TO LISTEN: I wish these kids would just let me listen to the Word! 

GRACE: Wait! This is what it’s all about!

Being filled with the knowledge of Jesus and then lovingly coming alongside others to help them to know Him, too. 

Often, simultaneously.

Why doesn’t God save us and take us out of this world? His image redeemed in us brings us back to a life of worshipping Him and displaying His glory to others.

But often displaying that glory doesn’t seem so glorious. Like reminding a child to listen to the preacher, or encouraging a sibling to be kind, or confronting someone in their sin, or forgiving someone for thoughtlessness, or doing that menial task for the hundredth time, but with joy.

It’s not enough for the pastor to sit in his study and feast on the truths of Scripture – he has to communicate it to the flock and then actively help them grow and mature in what has been said, as messy and hard as that may be.

It’s not enough to sit in your quiet time and be filled with a desire for righteousness – you have to take that into the workplace and shine the light through darkness and confusion.

It’s not enough for a mom to be thrilled with the truths of Scripture in the pew on Sunday morning. She has to translate that to the nitty-gritty lives of her children. Sometimes during the sermon.

The Christian life is both a deep well of knowledge and fellowship with Christ and also a cross-channel swim against the currents of sin, time, and limitations from ourselves and others. We both rest in our position in Christ and work tirelessly to become more like Him and to make Him known in the world around us.

Don’t be discouraged when it all happens at once. God is absolutely able to make all grace abound to you in every situation.

Even when you’re alone in church with little kids.

P.S. You really should listen to that sermon.

 

Pulling them in close

Well hello. I’m coming to you on a lovely afternoon while the kids are playing outside and the babies are napping. Should I be putting away clean dishes in the dishwasher? Possibly. But here this post is in my head and I don’t want it to float away.

I read an about page that made me think this week. She described her writing as for her kids to be able to “read her” when they are older. I think this is a wonderful way to think about blogging. So for them, for you, and even for me a few weeks down the road – here it is.

It seems that we have a cycle of having at least one child who is struggling at all times. Our kids are all still small – so we’re talking disobedience, disrespect, constantly being too wound up, unkindness to siblings. Certainly all our kids – being sinners – will fail in all of these areas every week. But there’s usually one whose transgressions are a little farther past the line. = ) And, in the course of a few months, each one will have their turn being “the one.” It just seems to happen.

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About three kids ago, it ocurred to me that “the one” of the hour seemed to be the first one up in the day. Great. You see them come through the door and brace yourself, imagining the struggles that the day will hold.

By His grace, the Lord helped me to think a little differently. Why not use those few minutes to invest a little love and direction. Instead of sighing or sending them back to their room, greet them warmly and stop to snuggle them in your lap for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll sing them a song, or read them a verse, or say a short – but desperately needed for both of us – prayer. Mostly I just tell them I love them and encourage them to obey Daddy and Mommy and be kind to their sisters that day.

I can’t say that it makes the difficulties go away completely, but it does help my mindset and a lot of times theirs as well.

Very often in the afternoons little ones who are past napping get rather cranky and naughty. I’ve found it’s much better to pull them close than to continue trying to occupy them with toys or siblings.

“Do you want to hang out with me for awhile?”

The answer is usually yes. Sometimes we’ll read a book quickly to snuggle, but then they just sort of follow me around while I do dishes, laundry or dinner preparation.

Of course, it might look totally different in another house or situation, I know that. The main thought is that if a particular child is posing more problems than normal, seek ways to pull them close to you for affection and attention. Involve them in your everyday tasks in a way that is just for the purpose of being together. Or, forego the dishes and laundry and play their favorite game or something.

It’s so helpful in the midst of stressful, merry-go-round discipline situations to also have sweet moments sprinkled in.

Don’t forget to hug them extra tight before bed. ; )

Every moment counts.