Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Concepts that Help Me Live with Less]

Our home was built in the 1940's. It's a cute, quaint little place that drew our attention for many reasons. First was the giant yard, second the porch, the garage, the excess of storage space, and all the potential the space held. We've been working on that potential, while quickly filling that storage space. Suddenly this space we thought was enough was not big enough for me. I wasn't satisfied with the small closets. I wanted a walk-in closet. I wasn't satisfied with my library, thinking a whole room would make me happier. Although a walk-in closet would be nice and a whole room as my library with floor to ceiling shelves would be amazing, those things are not going to make me happy eternally. Besides, when I die, I can take none of this with me.

It wasn't until a few months ago that I realized that the stuff was causing me to lose my Christ-centered focus. It made me overwhelmed and frustrated. There was no joy in picking up, it was simply a never-ending task. Most of my day was spent in general pick-up and I couldn't take it anymore. I was tired of being frustrated with my girls every time I sighed, "time to pick up!" (Deep breath needed even as I type that.) Suddenly the idea of a tiny home appealed to me! I could so easily leave everything in this house behind and start over. I was secretly hoping that God would pull an Abraham and tell me, "Becky! Go from here to the land that I will show you, tomorrow." That would mean that I could only take what I truly wanted or needed. Instead I decided to take a more realistic approach, so I began watching minimalist videos online. Reading blogs. Soaking in the idea of less is more! I read The Joy of Less by Francine Jay and I was hooked.

Then - in God's perfect timing - we hit a verse in 1 John during our Sunday morning study that solidified this minimalist mindset:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17
Our pastor kept asking, 'what do you value the most?' If the answer is not Jesus Christ, re-evaluate. I did some deep soul searching, praying that God help me value HIM most.

Confession: I am a shopaholic, especially when it comes to thrift stores and garage sales. It's hard to pass up those deals! So my home filled with more and more stuff I didn't need. It wasn't until God convicted my heart that I was blown away at how the world entices our eyes and the desires of the flesh. They advertise "BUYING THIS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY!" or "Owning THIS is the key to your happiness!"

It is not the things of this world that bring happiness. It is the memories. The experiences. The people in it. Most importantly, the ETERNAL joy is in Jesus Christ alone.

With that story comes ten concepts that helped me purge my home. I have donated or trashed 19 trash bags full of stuff. I've sold countless items and I'm already noticing a difference when it's time to go to work, for example. I don't stress over what I'm going to wear or trying to find what I want to wear. The house isn't left in a disaster. My children see less of my wrath as I stress to get out the door on time. I found out that packing, even for a weekend getaway, is way less stressful! And I STILL have more work to do! Even with more to purge, I can already see the results of how less stuff = less stress!

Also, that cute, quaint little home I talked about in the first paragraph is beginning to shine again. I'm back to loving the SPACE and all the potential it contains to play and make memories as my husband and babies use the stuff that actually helps us in our day and/or offers enjoyment.

Our focus on Christ is central because there's less to distract us!

If this rings a bell with you, my suggestion is to follow the advice of those who have been down this journey for years. My journey is brand new. It's only a few months old and I have a lot of work to do, so I joke I'm only a minimalism enthusiast at this point in my life.

Read Francine Jay's book, visit minimalist blogs and websites like:

Take their advice. I'm glad I am. Here's some concepts they shared that have worked for me:

1. Start small. I began with the decor on my walls and shelves. I spent hours decorating for each season. My upstairs shelving served no other purpose than to decorate. I began to sort through what was already there and purge the items that held no significance what-so-ever than to be pretty. I repurposed it as a shelf that held my favorite books, with a few decor items I enjoyed. I fell in love with its purpose, the memories they held (books do that for me), and its aesthetic value. I moved on to the kitchen, then my clothes (which took FOREVER, see #10), to the playroom, my library, and now I'm moving on to another section in another room. I only tackle small pieces at a time. I'm months into it, but my suggestion is to start in one spot in one room.

2. Celebrate the small things accomplished! What I found is that I thoroughly enjoy repurposing and purging! I celebrated each bag filled and again with each bag donated. I danced or jumped or squealed in the new found space! I also found that as each bag was passed on, I couldn't remember what was in it! YAY! Not one item is missed.

3. Make it fun. One minimalist suggested that you turn on your favorite, most motivating, or calming music, make your favorite drink, and enjoy the process. When the time came to purge, I found that by doing these simple things, I couldn't wait to do it.

4. Make a goal. My goal is fill and donate (or trash) 40-50 bags/boxes. I wrote this goal down in my bullet journal so I see it everyday. I'm well on my way with 19 donated, many more trashed, and countless other stuff sold.

5. Include your kids. I didn't do this at first because I feared the battle over their stuff. I didn't purge stuff they actually played with, but I would sneak something I never see them play with, hide it, and if they didn't notice it for a month, away it went. That isn't a bad idea, but I realized after one mom suggested teaching your children the value of less stuff and giving to others, that I needed to apply that concept. We read the story Jesus told of the man who found a treasure chest in the field, sold all he had to purchase the land that contained this hidden treasure. Her thoughtfulness about building treasures in heaven helped me understand the value of less stuff and more Jesus. Bean enjoys the process as much as I do!

6. Keep reading and watching and learning from others. If you type 'minimalism' in the YouTube or Pinterest search bar - you will find countless others who have the same mindset. Listening to what they have to say is motivating and you will learn something. Hearing someone else's story is inspiring! I can't get enough of their wisdom.

7. Reason for each item. I'll use my decor to explain this one: I love books and to me they make wonderful decor. Poetry books are some of my favorite to pull off the shelf and read one or two. Top it off with a frame of my adorable children, and I have the perfect decor in my opinion. Plus I like to have things hanging that remind me of my purpose: Christ alone. Love God. Love others. etc. etc. As I purge, I'm realizing that most of the stuff I collect serves one purpose: aesthetic value. If that was the case, most of the time, I chucked it. Especially if it was easily broken. I don't want a space where my kids are not free to be kids. For each item I asked: does it point me to Christ, or take my focus away from Him? Does my husband need or appreciate it? Do my children need or appreciate it? Does it give me joy? Why? Thinking through each item as I struggled on whether or not to rid the house of it, really help me determine why I wanted to keep it or if I should keep it at all.

8. Multiples? This was especially helpful in my kitchen and closet. I had two dresses, same cut, one black and red the other multi colored. One I hadn't worn in years. Gone. I had multiple blue T's and many, many high school and college T-shirts. I kept one or two and threw the rest. I felt no guilt. In fact, I felt freedom as I LET IT GO! In my kitchen I had two sets of wine glasses - ugh - TWO! Why?! I kept my favorite set, donated the rest. I had 3 mixers. Seriously. I only need one. Many crockpot cookbooks. Again, why? 3 sets of bowls. More coffee cups than fit the cabinet. &etc. Although it's embarrassing to admit this to you, pulling out what I had multiples of and keeping my favorites helped clear space in my over crowded cabinets. Also, the coveted counter space has improved, I'm no longer battling the stuff to make dinner and clean up is so.much.faster!

9. Create a mindset. Francine Jay compared purging to dieting. If you go into purging without a lifestyle change, you'll end up back where you started. Be mindful of the things you purchase. If you purchase a new dress for your closet, for example, get rid of another. That way your stuff isn't growing and you spend less. I loved this concept. I also wanted to take it from a Biblical perspective. The message in 1 John was so helpful and it was then I began searching for Christian minimalists, because I do believe, the more I dive into it, that minimalism is (as my pastor's wife puts it) eternal living. Allie has a post that helped me create this mindset: How Minimalism is Biblical. Also, my mind is set on Christ. He permeates into every other portion of my life and I do not want to be in the place I once was - when I let my stuff get in the way.

This last one I came up with because I tried many methods to slim down my closet, and they failed. This was the only one that worked for me:

10. Find joy in giving. Although I knew it was a source of stress for me, the one place where I was struggling to let go was my closet. It drove me crazy how much time I sat staring at my clothes wondering what I should wear, if I wore such-and-such recently, and that it was so overstuffed that I had a hard time searching for things. I followed the advice of others to completely empty the closet and sort your "I love it!" pieces from the donate or why do I want to keep it piles. This helped a little bit, but when I began putting everything back, I was still overwhelmed with how much there was. I liked everything in it! So I began praying, God, put someone to mind that would want or need cute, clean clothes. He answered my prayer immediately with a name. So I messaged her and she told me, There's a reason I came to mind, I've been praying about clothes, mine are all starting to wear out! Hallelujah. This time when I sorted I thought, Ooooo! This would look great on her! I changed my focus from what I like or want, to her! It was so much fun. I filled two trash bags for her. It was so incredibly freeing and fun! It was a huge answer to prayer for both of us! As another week went by I realized I needed to do it again. So I began praying about it and messaged another person who was my same size, asking her if she'd like some clothes. I had another woman to think of and bless as I went through everything with her in mind. For me this was the only thing that worked because my mindset was changed from me, me, me to spoiling someone else. I am so thankful for a God who takes care of one person's prayer by answering mine - I can actually look in my drawers and closet without the muscle needed to shove stuff to the side and I'm less overwhelmed. He works in miraculous ways.

Plus one: talk to others. Someone asked me what I was reading as she checked out her pile of books. When I told her how much I was enjoying Francine Jay's book, The Joy of Less, and why I picked it up, we had an amazing conversation about Jesus! Come to find out both of my sister's were thinking the same thing and it opened another avenue of motivation when I talked to them about it. I opened up to my pastor's wife and the women I discipled. My pastor and his wife had been purging their home longer than I had and we couldn't get over how God was working in our life through our stuff - together - without ever knowing it! And one of the women I discipled was encouraged to do the same, for the same reasons. I stand in awe at how God worked in the lives of those around me, while also doing the same work on my own heart.

God is so incredibly good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Ways I Express Myself Artistically]

I am one of those people who have an interest in many subjects related to the arts, but I would not venture to state I'm an expert in any one specifically. Still, besides my head in a book, these are the ways I fill my "free" time. (Haha, is there any such thing in motherhood?)

1. Writing. My degree is in English/Language Arts, which might explain my list today because it means I'm able to teach anything from drama, writing, reading, elements of literature, or speech to any 7-12th grader. Reading and writing are two of my favorite ways to spend those precious few moments of free time. Writing is one of those ways that reveals my imagination, knowledge, and overall self - hence the creation of this blog!

2. Decorating. My debate out of high school was whether or not to become an interior designer, a PE teacher or an English/Language Arts teacher (pretty broad, right?) but that's how I approach life. I want to try everything! My home decor definitely reflects me.

3. Clothing. I do not have any one favorite color. I like them all, which is hard when picking outfits! I have favorite color combinations, but that list is also quite extensive. My attitude about clothing is this: I have to wear them, so I might as well have fun getting dressed up. I will admit it's something I've come to enjoy very much! In fact, I've written about this very topic quite often...

4. Doodling. My mom is an amazing artist. I have a pinky of her talent. I do enjoy painting and coloring, but I would not dare say I'm at her level. I'm simply a doodler. And thoroughly enjoy it. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to this task (I just doodled.)!

5. Crafting. I love creating something of nothing or turning trash into treasure. Like old books into wreaths or initials. Or the top of a shelf into a sign worthy of being a focal point in my home. Or an old mirror that reflects what I believe...

6. Music. Since 5th grade I have played the clarinet. I played it so much as a child that my sister got so tired of my squeaky practice that she smacked the bell, jamming me on the top of the mouth. Haha, it didn't keep me from playing! I've played in many honor bands, which were a highlight of my musical "career", and continued playing in the pep and concert bands up until into my junior year of college. I tried my hand at the baritone saxophone, the piano, the bass guitar, and now the dulcimer. Music has been near and dear to my heart and although time has made me rusty, I still love dusting off an instrument and entertaining my babies.

7. Costumes. I love dressing up! My favorite was when my husband and I dressed up as Mayhem and Flo for Halloween one year. Also, themed parties are so.much.fun.
 My all time favorite costume creation was when Bean was a robot for Halloween. Talk about adorable!

8. Photography. My sister Mel is the expert photographer. She has some photos that will blow your socks off. I have a camera, per her recommendation, that I enjoy using. It is definitely a hobby I want to know more about, and thankfully I have someone I can learn from first hand! I feel another top ten coming on... perhaps one of these Tuesday's I'll share my favorite pictures that I snapped.

9. Party Planning. I have shared countless baby and bridal showers on this blog and am years behind on sharing the more recent parties I've hosted (I need to get on the ball). I host so many because I'm in charge of this particular ministry at our church and it's one that I really enjoy. Not just because it's an opportunity to decorate and eat and fellowship with other women, but because the momma's and brides walk away feeling spoiled. Visit this link for some of them I've shared here.

10. Teaching. If there is an area where I might be considered an "expert" it would probably be this one. My Master's degree is an education speciality: curriculum and instruction. Call me a nerd, but curriculum and lesson plan design is one of my favorite things to do. I love the 4MAT method and the challenge it presents to develop lessons that will engage all types of learning styles. Constructing lesson plans makes me all sorts of excited to teach it. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Girls Love It When They Have to Pray for Mommy's Heart

I yelled at the girls for the umpteenth time. It wasn't until the umpteenth mommy-temper-tantrum that I realized I needed a heart change. I was grumpy and my babies could do nothing "right." By mid-morning it was turning out to be an awful day. While on the verge of tears, we all sat in the middle of the living room floor, arms around each other, and prayed. Afterwards Brielle couldn't stop giggling. The table was turned! It was Brielle and then Ele who prayed for Mommy's heart and they loved it.

I felt like a weight had been lifted and although I still struggled through the day, I was more conscientious of my actions. I spent the day in silent prayer that God would relieve me of my bad mood. I put on praise music, stopped to read my Bible, prayed continually... all because God answered my little girls prayer, which changed my mind-set. It didn't immediately change my mood, but it did change my focus from myself to Jesus!

Praying for hearts is a regular occurrence in our house. We recognize our sin and ask God to continually work in us as we thank Him for the work He accomplished on the cross! Even mommy needs Jesus every hour of every day. How wonderful that there are opportunities like this to show my imperfection and my reliance on Jesus?! These are helpful reminders when my children need a heart change and I can remind them of the time they had to pray for my heart, we both need Jesus. 

Prayer Example:

We have daily devotions, so many of the terms like selfless, kind, Author of faith, gospel, perfect, &etc. the girls know, understand, and use in their prayer time. Also, as you pray together, teach them to pray by praising God, thanking him, and asking him. If you like acronyms, think P.A.T. For little people it's best to start small. I've seen acronyms more than 5 letters long, and that's too much for a 2 and 4 year old. Build a foundation and as they grow, build upon it.

Most importantly, the secret to a true heart change is to focus on Jesus, the only One who can change it.

Also, the Bible quite clearly states to pray with confidence and without doubting,
"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." James 1:5
There is no reason to doubt that God, in His almighty wisdom, is able to change hearts, teach and sanctify in moments of struggle - big and small. I believe when we practice this in these "small" moments, it will be second nature when those big calamities strike.

Praise Him.

Jesus, You are selfless, kind, obedient to the Word of God, perfect in every way.

Ask Him.
Make us more like You. Selfless, kind, obedient... we can never reach perfection, but we can rely on You, Lord, to change our hearts day-by-day, moment-by-moment. We need You!

Thank Him.

Thank you for the work you accomplished on the cross when you died for our sin and defeated death by rising again! We can never repay You for this incredible gift, so help us remain thankful as we focus on Jesus, the Author of our faith.