Thursday, January 28, 2016

Simplify. Organize. Beautify.

Oh, how I love to organize. My childhood bedroom was a minefield of stuff, the floor so messy that only I knew the secret passageway to avoid a booby trap. Yet my closet was impeccably organized into matching labeled boxes, clothes organized by spectrum. There was no danger of falling boxes teetering precariously atop an over-packed shelf. Cleaning my room was a task I did begrudgingly, but I had a system. Clothes and shoes first. Books and papers second. By that point, my room was mostly presentable with only a few miscellaneous items left without a home. 
Throughout my life, I’ve read dozens of books, blogs, and articles about organization. My organization style has changed a lot over the years. What I’ve learned more in recent years is how much better it is to declutter and discard. My big ah-ha moment occurred when I read (somewhere I can’t recall now) that clutter always costs something
It costs space – Garages so full we can’t park our cars inside? Attics or closets where we “cram and slam”? Clutter costs the space we have in our homes. 
It costs money – As if our homes aren’t crammed enough, how many of us have extra storage units to house all of our clutter? That costs money. Aren’t most of us constantly buying all the little add-ons and impulse buys (Target dollar spot anyone??). All those Pinterest-worthy knickknacks are only adding to our clutter and taking away from our wallets.
It costs energy – Isn’t it funny how when it comes time to move houses, all of a sudden we realize how much stuff we have? Where does it come from? Does clutter breed while we sleep? (I think it must.) All that energy is spent just moving clutter from one place to another without ever actually dealing with it. 
One book that has really opened my eyes to the idea of only keeping what I truly love is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up by Marie Kondo. If you were at morning MOPS, you heard me describe the methods recommended in this book.

This book was a revelation to me. The funny thing is, my method of tidying as a child goes right along with this. Instead of location, it instructs you work by category, starting with the least sentimental and working to the most sentimental. What I forgot to mention was the funky “woo woo” part where you thank your possessions as you get rid of them. Yes, that’s right. It’s weird. Why would I do that as a Christian? I thought about it, and what I got was this – As Christians, we need to thank God for all He has given us. We’re called to be wise stewards of our money. Part of why things are difficult to let go is because we spent some of that money that God gave us on these items. Sometimes letting go means we weren’t the wisest with our God’s money. By letting go, and thanking God for His provision of what has become clutter, we can move forward and make wiser decisions in the future. 
A cluttered home is a sign of a cluttered mind. Isn’t that so true? For me, if I see a sink full of dirty dishes and I can’t see the kitchen counters, my mind cannot handle the idea of making a healthy meal. I’ll reach for the cookies or the Cheetos and stress eat instead of throwing together a salad kit. Call me crazy, but clutter stresses me out so much that it affects my mind in ways I can’t explain. By taming the clutter and keeping things organized (as much as life allows), I can think more clearly and make better decisions. As women, we’re called to be the managers of our homes. I think sometimes we don’t see how easily our attitudes and frantic behaviors can affect the atmosphere of the entire household. How we manage our homes has a direct and profound influence on our families.
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27
This is our God-given responsibility as women, wives, mothers… to be the managers of our homes and not to be idle. Idleness, in this verse, does not mean we never sit down or rest (although it might feel that way at times). It simply means not to be lazy. It’s hard work to manage a home! But we are called to point our families to Christ. If our homes are cluttered, crazy messy, and overwhelmed all the time, how will that point our families to Christ?

What if you HATE organizing? Give yourself grace. Give yourself time. Go back to step one. The more you simplify, the less stuff you’ll have to organize. If you’d like more encouragement on Gospel-centered home management, I highly recommend checking out The Homemaking Foundations podcast on iTunes
This is the fun part! After all that hard work of clearing out clutter and organizing what we love, we get to beautify our homes for our families and guests. Make your home a haven. Let it be a place where your family wants to be. A place where they can feel refreshed. Consider playing worship music in the background instead of letting the TV drone on in the background. Create quiet and restful places where your family can retreat to read the Bible and pray. We don’t need to have the Pinterest-perfect house to have a beautiful home. If decorating isn’t your thing, ask someone to help you! I know several MOPS moms that DO love to decorate and would LOVE to help you out (I’m looking at you, Mallory). 

It is important to note that many homemakers are motivated by pride. “I know that when I enter someone’s beautiful house it’s easy to let envy and pride take over my heart. I think that decorating your house can be for God’s glory but it all depends on your heart attitude. Be motivated by humility to serve those who come into your house rather than pridefully showing it off. Try and cultivate humility in your thoughts and actions and this will come out in your homemaking.” – Jami Balmet

Make your home a place where your family can flourish fiercely. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How Can it Be?

I’ve put off writing this blog much longer than I intended…I think a lot of it has to do with feeling a little intimidated and a lot insufficient. I am an anxious person, so my first worry was: “If Erin doesn’t like it, I will be shunned from the church!” That was obviously a harsh generalization of the pastor’s wife, who ended up being so sweet and kind and selfless! I asked a friend, who I would probably call a mentor at this point, and she offered some suggestions and took so much [self-inflicted] pressure off my back. Like our fierce coordinator, Dana, I get my best ideas in the shower. (Sorry, Erin, for being in someone else’s shower thoughts!) I really heard the Lord tell me two things that Erin was trying to convey on Tuesday.

1) God is faithful – even in the strangest, worst, best, whatever circumstances, He. Is. Faithful. God can take your hurts, your happiness, your weird friendships-turn-relationships, your blah days and turn them into something for His gloryEven when you think you’re in the worst or even the best place, God’s not done with you! One of Erin’s life verses was “…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). How beautiful it is to know that God’s not done, even when we feel like we are! And honestly, I feel like I’done much, much more than I’d ever like to admit! Which brings me to Erin’s second point…
2) Every testimony matters – I’m going to be blunt here, I rolled my eyes a bit when Erin described her “apple pie America” life. It was mostly out of jealousy, but also out of my inability to understand or see the bigger picture. I’ve only ever dreamed of an “apple pie America” life/testimony. I was talking with my table leader one night describing some disturbing difficulties I faced as a child and I said, “I seriously thought it was normal – that every family was like that!” So it came as no surprise to me when I took Erin’s ‘easy’ testimony like an unintended jab at my heart. When I get out of my own selfish world and really think about everything, that’s just me being unfair, AGAIN! No one’s testimony is easy, is it? We all have our own struggles and hurts. What matters is what you do with those struggles and hurts.

Finding and believing in God’s purpose for me has always been a difficult task. When you Google “what does the Bible say about purpose in life?” there are COUNTLESS verses! My personal favorite is the beginning of John 15:16, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you!” My husband just shared something with me, “How cool is it that the same God that created mountains and oceans and galaxies and puppies looked at you and thought the world needed one of you, too.” It baffles me every day that God chose me; that He created me, that He sent His Son to die for ME, that I’m that loved by Him!

For those of you who don’t know and don’t follow my personal blog, I’m going through a rough season in my life. Sophia said it best on our MOPS Facebook page: “I needed all of what’s happened to have happened to bring me to my knees.” I’m still learning to let go of resentment and jealousy and pain. I’m still learning to live with my past. A lot of the support and help I’ve received has come to me via people’s testimonies of God’s faithfulness. What I have learned is that it’s equally important to hear about God’s faithfulness in EVERY circumstance, whether it be ‘apple pie’ or painfully broken, so that you know God is constant, even in our erratic, unpredictable world.