Housekeeping Tip #7: Bring Your Basket

The sun slowly lowered, casting a glow on the trees. The crowd stood shoulder-to-shoulder, crammed together as they hung on every word. There was nothing fancy or attractive about the speaker, but the message He offered was enthralling.

And then, there were whispers of sending them home. At a late hour, empty bellies. Their spirits deflated.

But, wait!

The voice was direct, “You give them something to eat.” Did they hear right? They held their breath as they strained to hear the response. And there it was again – instruction to gather what they could.

Somehow, it was enough. 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish filled 5,000 men, plus the women and children. And 12 baskets of food remained!

{Scripture References: Isaiah 53:2-5; Mark 6:34-43; Matthew 14:19-21}

Friend, I’ve mentioned before that Sarah Mackenzie’s book Teaching from Rest has challenged and transformed me in ways that nothing other than the gospel ever has.

One of my biggest takeaways from Teaching from Rest is the concept of bringing our baskets. In this section Sarah says:

Just like the disciples, I see this huge throng of people to feed – this seeming impossibility. The shaping of souls and raising of children, the mopping of floors, washing of dishes, bandaging of scraped knees and hearts and worries, the teaching and admonishing and loving and doling out of myself. It’s all too much…

But I have my little basket. I can read aloud pretty well. I’m good at organizing things on paper. I can make a decent pot of chili and I know how to push a vacuum. I love my children with all of my being… It’s just a couple loaves of bread and a few fish.

Apparently, that’s all He needs…

If you are being asked to feed a multitude with a tiny basket of loaves and fish, then bring your basket. He starts with that. Just like the crowd in the wilderness, which had been faithfully following Jesus for days, sitting at His feet, savoring His words, seeking Him earnestly, we do the same. We bring our basket – whatever talents, skills, abilities we have – and we seek Him with everything we are…

Surrender everything. Bring your loaves and your fish, even if you think them completely insufficient. They are insufficient. You are insufficient. But His grace is not. God is not limited by objective reality.

– Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest

Sarah also reminds readers that Jesus didn’t work with nothing – He had the disciples bring what they had before He performed the miracle. He also desires for us to use our own baskets in loving service to Him.

And before you decide that your own offering is too small, I want to assure you it’s not. You have something beautiful to offer to your home and your family.

I’d like to pray for you.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for giving each of us unique skills and interests. Please help my friend to see what she can bring before You. Help her to rest in You as she prioritizes her life so she can thrive in the season You’ve placed her in. Show her what her basket holds and guide her heart so she can use her creativity well.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

While you’re scrubbing toilets, washing dishes, or bandaging scraped knees, think about your own basket. What do you love doing that you’re naturally good at? And how can you use your basket to bring life and light into your home?

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Friend, if you’re new here, make sure to sign up for the FREE 10 Day Making Your Home a Haven email course, complete with inspiration and assignments to help you completely freshen your home in just 10 simple steps. It’s coming this fall and you won’t want to miss it! Go here for details.

 


Q&A: How to Manage Your Home When Life Gets Chaotic

Friends, I’m starting a Q&A column on the blog! Here’s how it works – you email in to ask me any housekeeping question you have, and I’ll answer it. About once a month, I will choose one question & answer to share on my website to help other readers going through similar situations.

First up is Jen from Australia:

Hi Davonne,

I am a homeschooling mum in Australia. I have 5 children (13 years down to 4 years, 3 girls and 2 boys), and an amazing husband who sadly has cancer.

Would you have any suggestions on how I can get into a better, realistic routine with 5 kids and an unwell husband? I really struggle with getting a balance of cleaning and teaching as well as decluttering. I often feel like I’m just surviving rather than really living.

My house often looks like a bomb has gone off inside – not to even get started on the pets (4 guinea pigs, a chicken, 2 rabbits and 2 dogs!).

A major hurdle for me is my anxiety. I get stressed easily and it’s often easier for myself and my family if I avoid things. But that only makes things worse. I know I have to face my fears and that the cost of fear is too great in the way of time and energy, but I haven’t been able to find a good balance.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

God bless,
Jen

Jen,

I am incredibly sorry that your family has been walking the difficult path of cancer. I can’t even imagine the heartache and fear that must accompany all of the unknowns you’re facing, and I’ve added your family to my prayer list.

I do have a few suggestions that I think may help you to allow breathing room in your schedule and cultivate a culture of peace in your home.

1) Simplify your housekeeping.

I want to encourage you to take a week off your normal routine and work through the biggest time-wasters in your home. Is your laundry mountain costing you precious time every morning? Start there.

Maybe you’re wading through clutter piles in the classroom area – if that’s the case, roll up your sleeves, grab some trash bags and purge, purge, purge!

Whatever areas in your home are causing you the most stress, declutter those. Any time you lose from taking a few days off your normal routine will quickly be gained back because of higher efficiency after you declutter your main problem areas.

More encouragement about housekeeping simplification:

2) Enlist help.

I’m a firm believer that if we’re not making the messes alone, then we shouldn’t be cleaning alone, either. Everyone in the house should be helping at clean-up time, and older kids can do more than just pick up their own things – they can also scrub bathrooms, fold laundry, and help with yard work.

Nobody’s childhood will be ruined by spending an hour a day on chores. Quite the opposite, in fact. They’ll appreciate their free time all the more if they’ve done something to earn it!

In addition to your own kids pitching in, consider trading days with a friend, allowing grandparents to take little ones for the afternoon, hiring a cleaning lady if it’s in your budget, or even just turning on a movie for the kids so you can get 90 minutes to speed-clean.

{Related: 6 tear-free ways to get kids to clean and how to get your kids to willingly pitch in with chores.}

3) Simplify homeschooling.

Sarah Mackenzie has a plethora of incredible resources to help with this. All of her podcasts are so refreshing, but the very first one discusses teaching from rest and simplifying the homeschool day.

I also highly recommend watching or listening to the Teaching from Rest book club videos.

All of those resources are completely free and can be listened to like a podcast while you’re driving or doing simple household tasks, so the videos don’t even need to take extra time out of your day.

One of the things I’ve heard Sarah say that has really stuck with me is to keep simplifying the curriculum until there’s peace in your home. I just love that!

She even gives step-by-step instructions about how to accomplish doing so in her master class about education in an hour.

And if you only do one thing I suggest today, then please make sure it’s this: read the Teaching from Rest book by Sarah Mackenzie. I read the book over summer break and never before have I been so blown away and challenged by something that isn’t pure gospel. Teaching from Rest is absolutely transforming my own homeschool in huge ways, and I know it can transform yours, too.

{Related: 5 books every homeschool mom should read.}

http://www.davonneparks.com/homeschool-mom-books/

4) Streamline your schedule.

While it’s good and fun to participate in outside activities, there are seasons we need to spend most of our time at home. It’s difficult to fold laundry, put better systems in place, and teach school lessons if we’re not actually home to do those things.

It’s okay to say no to outside commitments, to finish out the sports season but not sign up for the next, and to make do with what you have at home instead of running to the grocery store for one item.

And saying no to educational field trips, playdates with friends, or even ministry opportunities isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s needed so we can say yes to our homes, to time with our children, and to having a little bit of breathing room in our days.

5) Offer yourself grace.

As much as we’d love to, we simply can’t be everything to everyone. And that’s okay! God never designed us to be everything, because He is the everything. It’s our job to simply point the way to Him.

Additional reading about offering yourself grace:

6) Rest amidst the undone.

If we wait until everything is perfectly finished before we rest, then we’re never going to rest. And we know that if we want to pour out to others, then we must refill our own cups first. But sometimes that’s hard to do!

So I want to encourage you to practice – take a bath instead of a shower, spend 10 minutes reading a chapter from a book, go for a short walk by yourself, or lay in your room with the door closed and the lights off. Giving yourself time and space to breathe and pray will go a long way in helping to calm your spirit.

{Related Reading: How to care for yourself without being selfish and 8 books that will help you break free from a too-busy schedule.}

7) Nurture your marriage.

With five children in the house and a serious illness, it can be easy to push marriage to the back burner. But it doesn’t take any longer to put on a nice outfit than it does to put on a frumpy one, so wear something pretty and do your hair and make-up on occasion.

Read this article about when marriage is so tough you need a helmet. Also make regular date nights a priority, even if it’s just playing a board game or holding hands on the porch after the kids are in bed.

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I hope this encourages you, Jen. I’d love to hear what you’re doing that breathes life and peace into your home. Thank you for reaching out and God bless you!

Readers, don’t forget to submit your own homemaking question to Davonne@DavonneParks.com – I can’t publish all of them but I do answer as many as possible!

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Tidy Up Friends, Jen recently emailed in to share the sad news that her husband has passed away. She still wanted me to share her question and my response in hopes that it might encourage some of you. Will you please say a prayer for Jen and her sweet children?


What’s in Your Basket? {This Chocolate Cake Recipe is in Mine!}


I’ve always considered myself an introvert, but sitting on my back porch with a mix of close friends and near-strangers makes me reconsider. Deep, vulnerable parts of me are soothed. Laughter is often and loud. Occasional tears hush the chatter as we listen, nurturing the heart of the one who shares about her struggle.

As the last, lingering guest parts ways, I am recharged, picking up items and sweeping chocolate cake crumbs. Wondering. Musing about myself. Am I possibly part extrovert?

I still don’t know.

What I do know is this: During a Teaching from Rest book club meeting, we discussed our baskets that Sarah Mackenzie talked about in her book. She shared about the time Jesus fed the 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44). She also mentioned that Jesus didn’t perform the miracle with nothing. He had His disciples bring what they had, so they filled their baskets with a few meager fish and some loaves of bread and Jesus did the rest.

Sarah then encouraged readers to think about what’s in their own basket.

What’s in your basket? I asked my friends as the ceiling fan rustled the pages in our books. What are you naturally good at that you can bring to your homeschool?

Today, dear reader, I’d like to ask you the same questions. What’s in your basket? What things are you naturally good at that you enjoy doing? And how can you use your skills and interests to contribute to your home?

While you’re considering these things, I encourage you to whip up this moist chocolate cake in your kitchen. My friend Kelli gave this recipe to me when I was looking for a delicious and easy cake, and it is so good that I just have to share it with you!

Even if baking isn’t normally in your basket, this cake can be. And I promise that if you try it just one time, you will never return to a box chocolate cake again!

Print

Moist Chocolate Cake

This incredibly easy and moist chocolate cake recipe is perfect for everything from family dinners and birthday parties to potlucks and wedding showers.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 2 round cakes
Author Kelli and Davonne

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (all purpose or gluten free)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup baking cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter (regular or Earth Balance buttery spread)

Instructions

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients (flour through baking soda)

  2. Mix in eggs and butter

  3. Pour into 9x13 baking dish, 2 round cake pans, or 26 cupcake molds

  4. Bake at 350F until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs attached (about 20 minutes for cupcakes and 30-35 minutes for cake).

Recipe Notes

I recommend frosting the cake or cupcakes with Wilton's Buttercream or Chocolate Buttercream frosting. The cake is so moist that it's also delicious simply topped with powdered sugar after it cools. You could also mix powdered sugar with a tiny bit of water to create a simple icing. Kelli likes to half the recipe and ice her 8" square cake with simple peanut butter frosting made by mixing together 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup peanut butter, and 3 tbsp milk.

I’d love to hear: what’s in your basket? Share something you’re naturally good at in the comments!


How to Care for Yourself without Being Selfish

{When we’re busy every second and continually running on fumes, then our homes, our children, our relationships, and our jobs suffer. So we need to refuel. This is the final article of a 4-part series about how to do just that – read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.}

 

A few weeks ago, I shared about when I became so sick that my world stopped while I spent 5 days on the couch, in fevered pain. And those 5 days felt like a gift. Because, finally, I had a reason to rest.

I bet some of you can relate – we don’t rest until someone gets sick or breaks a bone. And sometimes, not even then.

Being a life-giver started with God, when he breathed life into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7). And now giving life to others continues through you and me. Starting at home. Let’s fill our cups in a healthy, non-selfish manner so we can flourish as we become the women God created us to be, blossoming exactly where He has planted us.

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But nobody else is going to force us to refuel. Nobody is going to shove a book in our hands and say, “Sit! Read this now, and don’t get up until you feel refreshed!”

Filling our cups is up to us. But we need to be careful.

We are absolutely better wives, mothers, employees, friends, and homemakers when we take time to refresh and uplift our spirits. But, while rest isn’t something we should suffer without, it’s also not something we’re entitled to.

Because when we fill our cups to the detriment of our homes or our families, we’ve lost perspective and have put ourselves on a stolen pedestal.

Do you see how either extreme can be damaging? When we’re running on empty, we’re often shorter tempered, tired, and worn down. But when we only concern ourselves with “me time” to the point of regularly neglecting everything else, we can easily slide into selfish attitudes that demand more and more time off.

Let’s seek the balance. And when we swing too much to one extreme or the other, let’s repent.

Now is the time to turn the TV off, set our phones down, and spend 15 – 30 minutes doing something that renews the spirit. This isn’t time to photograph our Instagram-worthy resting activity or to share updates on Facebook. This is time to be alone, refreshing, without feeling a need to justify or explain our rest.

How to Prepare for Rest:

When we’re in the daily grind of life, sometimes we get so busy doing things for others that we start to lose ourselves. We forget to rest. We don’t think we have enough time.

But everyone can find 15 minutes in their day.

Filling our own cup needs to be on the priority list, but it doesn’t have to be an elaborate time-consuming affair. It can be simple. Obtainable.

I encourage you to prepare yourself in advance for rest, so that it’s more likely to actually happen. You can do this by making a list of simple things that refresh you. Keep your list somewhere you won’t lose it, like your bathroom mirror or taped to the inside of your closet door.

I’m showing you my list to give you some ideas. Use this as a springboard when you’re thinking about simple ways you can fill your own cup.

9 Ways I Fill My Cup in 15 Minutes or Less:

  • Read a chapter in a good book (See the books I’ve read so far in 2016 here)
  • Ride my bike
  • Play the piano
  • Bake muffins or a cake (See my favorite chocolate cake recipe here)
  • Write (hand-written note to a loved one, rough draft of blog article, or journal entry)
  • Sip a cup of tea
  • Watch the sunset
  • Sit on the porch and listen to nature
  • Lay in a dark, quiet room to think, pray, or nap

Tips for Your Own 15 Minutes:

1) Don’t worry about relaxing perfectly.

For a long time, I wouldn’t play the piano at all because my skill level had dropped so much since high school. I was discouraged because I felt like I needed to play the hardest songs I’d ever learned in order for it to count.

But, really, I just needed to play.

Not to be great. Not to impress anybody. But because my soul is filled when my fingers glide across the keys. So I pulled out easier pieces and felt the tension release from my body as I created music.

It doesn’t matter that we no longer do something at our greatest potential. What matters is that we’re doing something we love, just because we love it.

2) Think about what you loved as a child.

If you don’t know what will refresh you, think about what you enjoyed doing as a kid – did you love reading? Maybe digging in dirt or taking walks was your thing. Maybe you loved playing an instrument or singing. Whatever it was, write it on your list and try it out!

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3) Be realistic about what you can do in 15 minutes.

Scrapbooking or crafting may refresh you, but can you really pull out the supplies, make progress, and put everything back away in just 15 minutes? Me either!

Let’s save those projects for when we can carve out an hour or more, and focus on the 15-minute items for now so we’re not left with a huge energy-draining mess when our time is up.

4) Set up a Relaxation Basket

Did knitting or crocheting land on your list? Or hand-lettering? Gather all of the supplies you need to do that activity and place them in a pretty basket. So the next time you have 15 minutes, you can spend all of that time actually working on the activity instead of setting up or cleaning up!

5) Don’t touch that phone! (And pay attention to how you feel after you relax.)

How many times have we had a few minutes to spare while dinner simmers or we’re waiting in the car-pool line? And then used those minutes to scroll through Facebook or Instagram, browse the Internet, or play games on our phones?

But let’s start paying attention to how we feel after – are we really charged up and feeling awesome after we spend 15 minutes looking at everyone else’s highlight reel on Facebook? Or are we more refreshed if we take that time to write a letter to an elderly relative or read the next chapter in a book, instead?

Really paying attention to how we feel after – not just during – an activity will give us a lot of insight to the items that should, and should not, be on our 15-minute list.

Related Articles

Friend, I have enjoyed this series so much – writing it and preparing photos has filled my own cup, and I hope you’ve been blessed by it as well! If you’ve missed the other three articles in this series, definitely check them out by clicking the links below:

Part 1 (Introduction): Fill Your Cup: Resting When the To-Do List Isn’t Complete
Part 2 (For the Homeschool Moms): 5 Books that Will Help You Slow Down, Savor Your Kids, and Rediscover Your Love of Homeschooling
Part 3 (For Every Woman): 8 Books that Will Help You Break Free from a Too-Busy Schedule
Part 4 (Today’s Article): How to Care for Yourself Without Being Selfish

And don’t forget to check out my favorite recipe for an 8-ingredient, incredibly moist chocolate cake that tastes amazing, won’t mess up your kitchen, and will turn you away from box mixes forever!

Share in the comments: What revives your spirit? How can you find time in your day to nurture your soul?