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?


Housekeeping Tip #6: Feed Yourself Beautiful Truths

My body curled into a ball as my face became drenched with tears. Shame and regret washed over me while I cried. Harsh words had been hurled at a loved one, the unlucky recipient who had unjustly borne the brunt of my overflowing stress.

I wished I could take those ugly words away from the hearer’s ears and shove them right back into my mouth, then swallow them whole and allow something kind and gentle to flow from my lips instead.

I desperately want to be a life giver. To refresh, uplift, and renew those around me.

But sometimes, I fall painfully short of that desire. Sometimes my attitude or careless words drain hope and happiness right out of someone’s spirit.

Because words and deeds are like that – they hold great power. And we can’t undo what we’ve already done. We don’t get a rewind or a do-over on life. We only get one shot at each moment.

In those minutes after my verbal storm, I felt unlovable and nonredeemable. I fed myself lies because I didn’t feel worthy of Truth. And the truth is that, yes, I should have responded in a kinder way, but one bad moment does not make me a bad person.

One bad hour does not have to accumulate to a terrible day.

One slew of unkind words, though not excusable, does not take away the thousands of beautiful sentences I’ve woven into someone’s heart.

Mess-ups, sins, shortcomings, they’re all redeemable. But to grow, we must feed ourselves life-giving truths. Dear friend, if you’re struggling with feelings of defeat, I want you to tell yourself these truths. Say them out loud. Feel the healing that can come from believing these words:

  • I am lovable.
  • I am capable.
  • I am valuable.
  • I am redeemable.
  • I am enough.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:13-14, NKJV

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, NKJV

Do you deeply believe the words you just whispered to yourself? If you don’t, write them down, print them out, put them on your bathroom mirror, or stick them in your pocket. Tell yourself the powerful truths over and over again until you believe them. And then keep on telling yourself, so you never forget.

Because if we want to move forward, if we want to do well in life – whether at parenting, homemaking, a career, or any other desired goal, we must first believe that we can. We have to internalize the knowledge that every inch of us was lovingly created. We must know that we’re not beyond help.

Beautiful Tidy Up Friends, one of the worst lies we can tell ourselves is that it’s too late.

We eat another brownie and decide it’s too late to make healthy food choices today so we reach for even more. We waste the morning on electronics and berate ourselves for not accomplishing needed tasks, then we turn our defeated faces back to the brightly lit screen.

We make a bad move at the office or in a relationship and our stomachs sink because we know consequences will arise and people may be hurt.

But you must know, it’s not too late to alter the path you’re currently on. It’s not too late to make good choices and it’s not too late for you.

When we begin to feel defeated, we can pray for guidance and gently correct our inner voice by saying, “It’s not too late. I can help redeem this.”

When our little ones want us to snuggle with them in bed and we say no, we can return to their room, whisper an apology, and ask them to hold back the covers for us as we climb in.

When we eat too much dessert, we can set a bowl of fruit on the counter so it’s easier to make a healthy choice the next time.

If we make a poor decision in a relationship or at work, we can seek forgiveness from the people we’ve hurt. Because even though we don’t like drawing attention to our poor choices, it’s often the fastest way to restore a relationship.

If we live in a chaotic home, we can wallow in self-pity and defeat, or we can choose to start where we are to restore beauty and peace as we lovingly work to make imperfect progress.

We can stop waiting until the next big event, or next month, or even next year. We can stop waiting until the mood strikes and start now.

Because as my mother used to tell me, “Mind over matter, dear.” In other words, we can choose our attitude and choose our mood, regardless of the circumstances.

We shouldn’t make excuses for poor habits. But we don’t need to wallow in self-defeating ugly talk, either. We can gently acknowledge where we need to improve. We can kindly feed ourselves truth.

We must believe that we will make a difference. We will change. We will improve. We will learn to be okay with imperfect progress.

Because when we take the pressure off of ourselves to do things in the perfect way at the perfect time, we’re giving ourselves permission to move forward, right where we are, starting today.

Lasting change won’t happen perfectly right away. And a positive difference isn’t always noticeable from the outside until great progress has been made within our own hearts first.

But when we refuse to give up, we will begin making improvements. Yes, it might be two steps forward and one (or three) steps back, but we can dig in our heels, climb the mountain, and refuse to walk away.

We keep trying because every positive decision helps to propel us forward. We refuse to give up so we can mature into the women that God created us to be. We can choose to be refined (Zechariah 13:8-9).

And it will be beautiful.

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Friend, this week’s assignment is to give yourself a small housekeeping success so you can start believing in yourself. Catch up on laundry, clean out your closet, tidy one room in your house, or gather a bag of gently used items for donation.

To really give yourself a boost, share this article on Facebook or with a friend, join the free Tidy-Up Club, or leave a comment letting us know a truth you’re working to believe. Immerse yourself in beautiful community so we can encourage and inspire each other as we work together to form positive, life-changing habits, one step at a time.

And to make it easy for you to encourage someone you love, I created printable You Are Enough notecards that you can share with a friend. Go here to receive your free notecards.

FreeNotecards

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I’d love to hear: What truths do you need to tell yourself today?


Show Love with Clean

“She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household… She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night.” (Proverbs 10:15, 18 NKJV)

I pause to absorb the timeless message. That woman had great self-confidence, to know the merchandise she was creating was good enough to sell.

I read on. “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed in scarlet…”

I tilt my head, thinking. My kids still fit into last winter’s coats. I wonder if that counts as being ready for winter. I continue reading. “…Her clothing is fine linen and purple.”

Ohh, fine clothing! I just went to the mall and bought new jeans on clearance – I bet that counts! “She makes linen garments and sells them…”

Hmm, maybe the clearance jeans don’t count. I wonder if she was irritable from spending long hours sewing by herself late at night. “…She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

On her tongue is the law of kindness. I contemplate those words. She must have been tired, but yet she chose gentleness. How did she do it? My eyes focus in on the next verse. “She does not eat the bread of idleness.”

Excuses start rolling through my mind. Conviction begins rumbling in my gut. I want to close my Bible, to turn away from the uncomfortable. But this time, I make myself consider the words I’d just read.

I think of the 30 minutes I spend reading my favorite blogs before I roll out of bed most mornings, the 15 minutes I use browsing social media when I arrive home from work, and the 45 minute television show my husband and I regularly watch before we go to sleep.

None of these things are bad.

But then I think about everything I want to do. Declutter my house again. Publish the book I’ve written. Read to my kids more often.

Those little minutes are adding up.

I rapidly calculate the numbers, grasping for something measurable amidst the emotions swirling around my heart. Not counting in-between moments I spend throughout the day, I’m wasting at least 10.5 hours of time every single week. My mind whirls with the possibilities of what I could accomplish with that much free time.

If somebody told me they were going to gift me with 10.5 free hours each week, or 45 free hours every single month, what would I say I’d do with the time? Would I want to write another book? Take a warm bath every night? Exercise daily?

I know what I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t say I was going to spend that time staring at my phone.

Sometimes we think we’re too busy. We don’t think we have time to keep a clean home or to linger over a great book with our kids. And yes, there are seasons of extreme busyness. But there is a very wise observation that says,

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

My question today is this: Are we finding a way or are we seeking an excuse?

This year, let’s love our families well. Let’s stop playing the part of the martyr and start welcoming our loved ones’ interruptions – and their messes – with warm hugs and gentle words.

Here are a few simple ways to start:

When we see photos of roses, chocolate, and other romantic gestures popping up on social media, let’s choose to also intentionally offer love in less flowery, but longer-lasting, ways. We can pour ourselves into our homes and our families. We shouldn’t clean because we need something in return or to make ourselves feel valued.

Cleaning runs much deeper than that. We want to live a life of no regrets, a life that isn’t held back because of a chaotic home. We desire to create a clean, calm environment that our family members want to come home to each evening.

We don’t always know what life holds, but whenever something comes our way, whether good or bad, we want to be ready.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her…” Proverbs 31:28

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Friend, I know that sometimes we’d love to create a clean environment but we aren’t sure where to start. So I want to share a fantastic series that’s going on right now. It’s all about How to Organize Your Life in 30 Days, and it’s written by authors who hope to encourage and inspire you as you work to create space in your own home for love, laughter, and warm memories.

The best part is there are no rules – you can join in anytime and do as few or as many of the challenges as you’d like! Go here for details.

And don’t forget that you can read Chaos to Clutter-Free or join the Tidy Up club on Facebook for year round cleaning encouragement.

How to organize your life in 30 days- Instagram