We don’t Use a Chore Chart Any More

We are firm believers in training children to help around the house. It teaches them practical skills, encourages diligence, and helps them to participate in serving others in a tangible way. (You can see this post for more.) We used to use a chore chart, as I felt that it helped me in home management and helped the children to take more responsibility for their daily work without me constantly hovering over them, having to tell them what to do. (That chore chart is still available as just one of our freebies when you sign up for our email newsletter. I’ve also seen a lot about this free online chore chart lately, but haven’t tried it.)

However, it has now been over two years since we’ve used a chore chart. At first, it was because we were trying to sell our house. As a result, we cleaned when we had a showing and it was an all-out effort rather than doing a bit each day as we usually did. Everyone pitched in and did whatever was required.

After we sold our house, I frankly found little use for a chore chart. We had moved from a 3,000 SF house to a 1,400 SF house and there was a lot less to do in terms of maintenance and management. In part because of the down-sizing and also because we prepare our home for fellowship each Sunday afternoon, I found that a once-a-week cleaning on Sunday morning made a lot of sense.

When might you find a chore chart useful? If you have fewer children and/or a large number of chores to split up between them, a chore chart might help with getting things done consistently. Particularly if you do not have a specific “cleaning day” each week, but rather do certain tasks on certain days, a chore chart is excellent for maintaining order.

When will a chore chart not be as helpful? If you, like me, have fewer chores to go around (or more children to split them up between), there might not be as much need to schedule everything.  If you prefer  once-a-week cleaning rather than doing it bit-by-bit each day, likewise a chore chart will likely not be necessary, except if maintenance during the week necessitates it.

Chore chart alternative: In my home management binder (which contains emergency and other contact information, homeschooling records, and recipes), I have  included a page that summarizes our daily routines. A second page details what needs to be managed for the “cleaning day” and during daily morning and afternoon chore times. I’ve also specified which children can be assigned which jobs.Yet another addendum describes the children’s homeschool assignments in greater detail. Sometimes I need this to help me to remain organized, although for the most part it’s all pretty routine. My older children are  able to check the binder if I or my husband are not available for immediate direction. I think it is also a good record to have on hand in case someone else is caring for the children and needs to know “what to do.”

Here’s a simplified version of our Daily “To-do’s”:

(All children dress, brush hair, and neaten beds and rooms upon waking.)

  • Daily: empty dish drainer and wash previous day’s supper dishes
  • Daily: carpet sweep living room and hallway
  • Daily: let the chickens out (this is coupled with another job, as it needs to be done but is not really a “chore”)
  • Daily: set table for breakfast; change little one’s diaper/clothes if Mom hasn’t already done it
  • Breakfast: older children may be asked to make oatmeal, cornmeal, or eggs
  • Check dryer for “leftover” loads to fold and put away (this is unusual but happens occasionally)
  • Older children check laundry baskets and bring full loads to the laundry room. Put in one load.


  • Daily: empty dish drainer and wash dishes from breakfast and/or lunch
  • Daily: check carpets/floors (including kitchen) and carpet sweep/spot mop as needed
  • Daily: Fold and put away laundry, as needed
  • Midweek: Clean toilet and sink in main bathroom; scoop litter box and sweep floor
  • Help with dinner preparation
  • Clear and set table for supper
  • Work on outdoor chores for Dad, if needed 
  • Bedroom pick-ups

I work alongside the children during chore times attending to meal preparation, laundry, sheet-changing, or whatever else needs to be done. The above list acts as an outline for what often needs to be done during chore times, and is good to fall back on, but I often provide direction for other tasks that are a higher priority. By attending to these smaller chores during the week at regular times, we are able to keep the house in good order after the thorough weekly cleaning. 

Feel free to share your methods and systems for home management!

Having Supper Ready by Lunch Time

The end of 2010 was a little crazy for me. Marc went back to work full time in September (with a three-hour daily commute), plus I was pretty nauseous and tired almost all the time (the first trimester!).  That, along with normal home management and homeschooling responsibilities, left me having to prioritize a little more strictly than usual. No one else can homeschool my children. No one else will love and disciple my children. And even in the area of housekeeping, there’s little wiggle-room. Even though my children do fairly well in the chore department, we are a lot of people and there tends to always be a mess. No matter how good their work is, it doesn’t always pass my quality control check. Not to mention, there still are some things that only “I” can do.

So as it turned out, one of the things I was most apt to give in on was meal planning and preparation.After all, one of the easiest things to do to save time is to pick up some fresh produce for a salad and throw a frozen loaf of garlic bread and a bag of ravioli in the shopping cart for dinner. (The guilt was somewhat lessened knowing that at least I still have some home-canned, garden tomato sauce on the pantry shelf.) Cereal or fried eggs with fresh fruit or child-prepared oatmeal were staples for breakfast. Lunch was anybody’s guess, but thankfully the children aren’t too picky.

Trouble is, relying on prepared foods tends to become a habit. I realized this when we finally hit a comfortable new routine and my morning sickness and tiredness had passed…and I was still buying some of the same packaged stuff. It’s easy. The kids like it. But, it’s not so good for you, nor so good on the budget.

I realized that part of my problem was that the dinner hour was overwhelming for me. I was trying to get the house picked up for when Marc came home from work (no one likes to come in to a  mess, after all.) I liked to spend the half-hour or so before his arrival time reading aloud to the children, just to quiet things down. But that left little time for me to be standing at the stove. If I tried, the toddler would whine at my knees (she was hungry and really wanted to eat at 5:30, but we now didn’t eat for another hour!), the three year-old would find some trouble or another, and the older kids would end up horsing around and the noise level was absolutely irritating.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do to make the dinner hour less chaotic is to prepare dinner by lunch time–at least, that’s my goal. And even if I don’t have it 100% done, at least I’ve managed to have most of the components completed and ready to put together for later…vegetables cut, ingredients retrieved from pantry, fridge or freezer, and so on. I find that this is easy enough to do, since for the most part the children prefer to do their independent schooling around the kitchen table anyway and thus, I am pretty free to cook and yet also be available to them for questions/supervision, etc. So in the evening, I simply re-heat everything at a low temperature in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so…no stress, no mess to clean up before my husband gets in the door, and no child-related stir-craziness! Instead, we sit down and enjoy a good book or talk together on the couch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ve successfully managed some of your greatest home-making challenges! Feel free to leave a comment…

Cover up or Clean up?

In order to protect the innocent, I’m not using real names in this story…but I want to tell you about a man named “Fred.”

Fred grew up in a home where his mom and sisters were in charge of the domestic sphere. In other words, the boys did “guy” things and the girls cooked and cleaned. Not surprisingly, Fred views housework as “women’s work.” Not a problem for Fred…he got married and his wife took on that role. That is, until they divorced. So what did Fred do? Not much. He cooked some simple meals because he got hungry, but otherwise the house just followed the natural order of things, moving from a state of order to disorder. He had a couple of boys  who did dishes and occasional chores, just to avoid total embarrassment if their friends came over.

Now the boys are grown, so what does Fred do? He lets dishes pile up in the sink. When he needs one or two, he washes them. It’s rare that he washes the whole sink full; just the ones he needs will suffice.

Fred’s sheets and mattress start to get a little smelly. What does he do? Sprays some extra strength Febreeze, of course.

And those flies continually populating around the garbage can and open containers of recyclables? Spray them with Black Flag flying insect killer!

Running out of clean clothes? It’s easier to just buy some new ones.

When it gets bad enough, the solution? Hire some help; get someone else to deal with the overwhelming mess!

No, this isn’t an indictment against Fred for laziness or even for what some might consider “chauvenistic” views on the roles of men and women. Instead, I want you to think about how you responded to Fred’s “solutions.” Did you think to yourself, “Why not just keep the garbage area cleaner if you want to eliminate pesky flies?”, or  “Spray Febreeze on dirty sheets! How disgusting! Why not just throw them in the washing machine?” Easy enough, right?

But how often do we all follow a similar pattern in our own lives, about things perhaps less obvious? When our children are disobedient, instead of correcting them and teaching them how important it is to obey God by obeying their parents, we make excuses. (“Oh, he’s been a little sick lately. He’s really not himself.” “We’ve been out of our usual routines, so she’s really acting up.”) Why do we do this? Sometimes it is a result of laziness. Or, we think these are just “little things” and we don’t want to make a big issue out of them. Trouble is, it’s like piling up garbage and half-rinsed recyclables. Eventually the flies start populating the kitchen and we find ourselves getting out nasty chemicals when all we had to do to avoid it was to keep up with the mess, little-by-little.

Or in our own personal lives, we allow little sins to creep in, which become like dirty sheets becoming smellier and smellier as the little sins snowball into bigger ones–all easily excusable until the stain and odor become overwhelming. Maybe we start by allowing ourselves to express our irritation by speaking harshly to the children. Soon, we are raising our voices and yelling. Then, we become angry and snap, “Are you stupid?” to a child who accidentally spills the milk or makes some other inconvenient mess. Little by little we have justified our actions and covered up these steps of sin, and yet now the words of Jesus remind us,

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22)

So instead of “covering over” our sins until they become a noisome stench, why don’t we just repent? Moment-by-moment, confess those things which are displeasing to God. Seek the grace of God that He gives so that we might grow in holiness and do the things that glorify Him. Let’s toss those proverbial sheets in the washing machine instead of spraying the Febreeze and hoping no one will notice.

I am striving to stay “clean,” not just in my home management but in my spiritual life and parenting as well. Instead of letting things pile up, I’m trying to do regular maintenance to avoid those radical “solutions” that really just amount to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. This means being consistent in discipling (“discipling,” not just “disciplining”) my children; being proactive in maintaining relationships; and especially abiding in Christ–seeking to walk in a manner worthy and repenting when I realize that I have fallen short.

I just want to encourage you today…don’t be a “Fred” in any area of your life! 🙂

Work, Work, and More Work?

Here’s a story (title: “Worck Today”) written yesterday by my seven year-old:

Some days it just feels like it’s work, work, and more work, doesn’t it? I commented about the girl’s smiling face, and my daughter said, “Work is fun! We work a lot.” My husband and I have been getting a good chuckle out of this one. And, no, we don’t actually have a horse. The rest is pretty accurate, though. 🙂

Home Sweet Home: Creating a Joyful Home Atmosphere (2)

(Excerpted from Home Sweet Home: Creating a Joyful Home Atmosphere; available in paperback or on CD)

[I]f you have gone through the last session and can honestly say that you have repented and have a desire to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord—for yourself personally, for your home and family, and for all the purposes of God that will be fulfilled as a result—now you must understand why. Our salvation is not a gift that we selfishly hold. It’s the outpouring of God’s grace that must be shared. Whether we multiply it two times, five times, or ten times, is irrelevant; but if we are not sharing the truth and the love of God consistently with others in our circle of influence, we misunderstand our role in living life for the glory of God. . . .

In contemplating how my life measured up to God’s standard of holiness and how well I embraced the vision of glorifying God, I knew that I, once again, fell miserably short. As I said in the last session, I did many things in His name, and although not all of it was of my own making or in my own strength, I really did not have an adequate understanding of what it was that God wanted from me. He didn’t just want my works and my “doings,” He simply wanted my complete surrender so that He could lead me in living a victorious life and use me as He wanted, for His glory.

My husband, Marc, explains it like this in his book, Keys to Kingdom Expansion (available as a free ebook on our site, www.valuesdrivenfamily.com):

Why do so many people join the Reserves? Is it love for country, commitment to defend freedom, chivalry and public service, a sense of duty and sacrifice? Certainly many do join for such noble reasons; however, numerous other young men and women simply join for the benefits, such as college tuition and other signing bonuses. It may not sound very nice to say it, but let’s be honest—if they would serve without the benefits, would the government even offer them? Absolutely not! However, the government knows that to entice a sufficient reserve force, the benefits are necessary.

When those who have signed up with selfish motivations are deployed to the front lines of battle, do you suppose they really want to be there? When they signed the dotted line, we can only wonder if they really counted the cost. Is college tuition a fair trade for the ultimate sacrifice? Without a commitment to the vision (freedom) and the mission (defend and protect), no amount of compensation is worth dying for; but with a sense of duty, honor, and sacrifice—no price is too high. In fact, dedicated soldiers yearn for the front lines.

We can see a fitting analogy. Numerous believers have joined the kingdom “reserves” based on the benefits. They wanted freedom from the penalty of sin and a free ticket to heaven. They may even believe signing comes with others benefits such as health and wealth. Sometimes they reluctantly sign up, almost as if they are doing their recruiter a favor. However, do they really know what they are signing?

Do they know that they are asked to surrender everything to God for the mission? They are told to end all other allegiances: to the world, sin, wealth, pleasures of life, self, the flesh, family, possessions, and to be prepared to even give their very life for the cause. When they sign, they give up all personal rights and privileges. They must obey all orders. In fact, their failure to comply makes them a traitor, and subject to judgment. They not only fail to promote the cause, they hinder it by serving the enemy’s commander.

Do we present the truth and the necessity of counting the cost? Do those in our camps know that when they signed up, we were not at peacetime, but in the throes of battle? We are at war. The enemy has not let up. Why have we? Why are all our troops AWOL? Where are their commanders? Are we AWOL, too?

Recognize that we are at war. Millions are dying without salvation. The main reason is that we recruit our reserves, but don’t give them deployment orders. Even when American soldiers sign for selfish reasons, they still receive the same training as those who sign with more noble intent. They learn the art of warfare alongside the visionaries. And when they are deployed, they are ready to fight with valor and precision. Whether from false motives or true, they are on the mission.

We must learn from this analogy. I don’t care why or how these reserves joined our ranks. However, they need to know that we are at war NOW, and receive their training and deployment immediately. They must be shown the vision by our leadership. But, for them to catch the vision and get on mission, we must recognize we are at war as well, and be willing to count the cost.

Let me ask you—or rather, answer the Lord: have you counted the cost? Would you give up your possessions for Christ? Your comfort? Your freedom? Your wealth? What about your pride? Would you give up your home? What about your family? Now it’s getting tougher. Would you surrender your title? Your pleasures? Your fears? Your hurts? Your sin? What about your very life?

Ok, if you’re still with me, you can rest assured that God does not want you to sacrifice everything on this list right now. There is a better picture of what He wants from you. Just get a blank piece of paper. Now sign on the bottom. He will simply fill in what He wants you to give when He needs it of you. Will you sign the blank piece of paper?

Until we are ready to sign this document, we are not fit to serve in His Kingdom. Signing this document will lay the foundation for His service, and qualify us to train the reserves for the mission. The reserves will not follow us into battle until we take the flag and run headlong through the incoming fire. Reflect upon this.

When I sincerely “counted the cost of being a disciple” (as we are challenged by Jesus in Luke 14) I knew that, although I had prayed a prayer and said I wanted to serve God, I was not prepared to give up everything. I wanted to do the things that seemed good to me; I wanted to hold on to my comforts, my possessions, the security of the world and its systems, my children, my life…and even the less-obvious things like the secret hurts that somehow justified my sins and the selfishness that led to so much of my frustration. Yet, Jesus says, “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

So, I urge you to count the cost and examine yourself. Could you—or did you—sign the “blank piece of paper? Would you be willing to give up your marriage if it served God’s purposes? How about your precious children? Your home and its comforts? Would you willingly undergo persecution, as so many in the world now do? Torture, inhuman treatment, even death? It’s easy to give intellectual assent to these things, but what if God really asked it of you? Examine your heart.

Can you give up the things that come between you and God? Perhaps it’s the bad habits of eating which are really your way of trying to control situations, instead of walking in the Spirit and allowing God to lead. Maybe it’s the petty irritations that you accumulate against the children or your inability to forgive their childish misbehaviors, so that you eventually rage against them in anger. Or it’s past hurts that you stubbornly cling to because by them it’s easy to excuse your present sin. I suggest these things because I know about them–I have struggled with them, too. And in all honesty, I had to say that signing the blank piece of paper was more difficult than praying that little, private prayer I prayed twelve years ago in the church pew. However, this is a necessary first step if you are going to take the next step, which is the Spiritual Inventory. You must first clean the house, as we talked about in the last session, and then transfer authority of everything to God, which effectively locks the door against satan and sin. All for God’s glory! And, yes, you will most certainly experience a “ripple effect” in the atmosphere of your home as you commit (or re-commit) yourself to glorifying God.


Post-script to this session–this is a neat email that I received from someone who had listened to the audio series:

“You must be a kindred spirit because I personally related to
almost every struggle you spoke about in the 4 sessions I listened to.
Thank you for being faithful to share your journey with others, like
me! Now I know I need to sign the dotted line at the end of the blank
piece of paper. After 11 years of being born-again, I finally know
what I’m missing. :)”

I pray that each one of us as women would continually invest in our own spiritual health and well-being so that we can have the joyful and peaceful home atmosphere that God intends for us!

Home Sweet Home: Creating a Joyful Home Atmosphere (1)

(Excerpted from Home Sweet Home: Creating a Joyful Home Atmosphere)

I once heard taught that “The woman sets the tone for the home,” and I believe that this is, in large part, true. Though a husband’s leadership affects much and children’s behaviors are unpredictable, it is how we, as women, respond to these things that dictates what our home atmosphere will ultimately be like. We are the managers of the home and usually the primary caregivers, teachers, and trainers for our children. It is our domain! So of course, we have a great deal of influence on the atmosphere of our home. For this reason, you will notice that in this [seminar series…or paperback book, coming soon!] we will focus on ourselves, as wives and mothers. …

A joyful home all comes down to attitude, and most especially OURS! Whether our house is messy or clean, we determine how we will respond. When our children are whiny, will we encourage them lovingly? If they have misbehaved, will we correct them gently? If our husbands aren’t taking the leadership role that we’d like them to, will we harbor resentment or seek to build them up in love, submitting to them as unto the Lord? I want to emphasize that attitude is a choice—and the Bible says,

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Is your attitude like that of Jesus? Do you willingly humble yourself to receive from God’s hand whatever HE has ordained for your day? Personally, I was more prone to planning my own schedule and then refusing to bend to the work of the Holy Spirit in changing it—or I would give in, but with complaints and frustration. I had my own ideas about how the house “should” look or how the children “should” behave…but God’s standards for these external things often differed from my own. Eventually, God showed me that, very often, the heart of my bad attitude was my own pride and desire for control. And James 4:6 tells us that God actively opposes the proud, but gives His grace to the humble. No wonder I felt like (and often said!) that getting things done around the house was like pulling teeth! I was seriously missing out on the grace of God, which He gives us to make us able to do His will.

Home Management and "Clutter"

The other day I asked a question to our Facebook group: “What’s your biggest challenge in home management?” I half-expected to hear concerns about frugality, and possibly menu planning/cooking. (Maybe there are women like me who get hung up on dinner because they forget to defrost the meat they planned on using?) However, I was surprised to have almost everyone who responded mention CLUTTER.

Which has me thinking about clutter.

When we were in the midst of moving last Spring (and contemplating a move to Africa as well), we had to deal with the clutter thing in a big way. We went through ALL of our possessions and seriously considered WHAT we needed, and WHAT WE NEEDED IT FOR. Needless to say, much of what we had was superfluous and ended up being sold, given away, or thrown away. (The latter option was the most painful, but when you’re moving to a house half the size of your current one–or smaller–what are you going to do?) However, I’m still not sure we “downsized” as much as we could have.

Since this de-cluttering experience of ours, the Lord has really been changing our hearts about the “things of the world” for which we all seem to have an affinity. What I’ve come to see is that, when it comes to “clutter,” we can’t just attack the “stuff” to get rid of it or not; instead, we really need to do what Marc calls a “Root Cause Analysis” and see what the real problem is when we’re surrounded with lots of “stuff” that fills our homes and our lives.

I think that the root cause is that we, as Americans, are spoiled. Even the least-well-off of us in middle America is frighteningly rich compared to someone in even another well-off area of the world, not to mention those in “third-world” countries. (If you don’t believe me, you will want to check out the book Material World by Peter Menzel. The photographic spread for the possessions of an “average” family in Texas took up two pages, versus less than a quarter-page for a family in Mali. The differences, not only in number of possessions but also quality and utility, are striking when you look at them graphically. Or, look at these photos to compare what we eat compared to people in other parts of the world. It’s disgusting, really.) I’m sure we pay some lip-service to this truth, but we’re typically not convicted enough to do anything about it. The world and the lusts of the flesh are too powerful.

Therein, I believe, lies the problem. Even as Christians, we pander to the world much more than we realize. We’re invited to taste, touch, buy on credit, stockpile, and fulfill our every desire. I’m not sure there’s even a definitive line between needs and wants any more, so much have we become accustomed to the full lifestyles that we enjoy.

Yet more and more, I’m being convicted about what we own, how we use it, what our home looks like, and even the activities we indulge in. I’m asking more questions like,

“Do I really need this?”
“Can I use something else I already have or do without it?”
“If we did not have ‘extra’ money, is this a purchase I would consider?”
“How much is too much?”
“Why do I ‘want’ this?”

And it’s that last question that has really exposed a part of me that I haven’t liked. I do not like the lurking covetousness that’s there, the selfish desires and the unwillingness to let go and give away things that I am attached to. And yet, although books like Intoxicated with Babylon by Steve Gallagher have really given me a different perspective, nothing says it better than the words of Scripture:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.“ (James 4:4)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

The hard truth is, I think we (and I do also mean “I” when I say “we”) all, at least on occasion, love the world more than we love God. We’re willing to sacrifice, but only so much. We’re willing to do some things, but only on our own terms. We follow our own plans and ask God to bless them instead of listening for His voice. And of course, His voice is very quiet as we allow it to be drowned out by the world and all with which it tempts us.

So, my “root cause analysis” on clutter is that we simply love the wrong things and aren’t willing to walk in the holiness that is God’s desire for us. We can deal with clutter (get rid of it, or perhaps just organize it better?) but the greater work that God wants to do is to purify our hearts. I, for one, am not perfect in this area, but…I’m listening.

Muddling through Motherhood?

Are you muddling through motherhood? Does it sometimes feel like you’re just going through the paces, but not really connecting with your kids or doing the things that God would have you do? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that, yes, you love your children—but sometimes you don’t really like them? Anxious for those little ones to take their afternoon naps (or the big kids to bed at night) just so you can get away from it all?

Now…maybe you’ve always been muddling through motherhood—or perhaps it seems that way. I find that when I get into habits or feel a certain way, I can get myself discouraged and imagine that it’s always been like that. Chances are, it hasn’t. Chances are, you’ve had lots of good days and maybe just a run of bad ones. Maybe you haven’t responded properly and so you’re kind of “stuck” in some ruts. That’s where I’ve been. I guess a good place to start is to share a bit of my testimony in this area.

I have always enjoyed my God-given roles of wife and mother. Being at home has been my preference, and I dearly love my children. My heart’s desire is to love and serve God and to encourage my children to do the same. I can’t say that I’ve been a perfect mother—in fact, far from it. But there has never been any doubt in my mind that my children are a blessing from the Lord and that I take great joy in doing my small part in raising them to be men and women of God. Even when I have struggled with depression (which I have), it has never occurred to me to despise motherhood.

So how did I get to be in a phase where I’ve felt like I’m “muddling”—not only through motherhood, but even through life? Well, it began this summer when I was deeply hurt by someone that I had considered a friend. Honestly, I harbored some unforgiveness and didn’t deal with the offense in a biblical manner. As a result of my disobedience in that area, there was a certain distance between me and God. Before I was able to be restored, I found out I was pregnant—and my first trimesters are always soooo tiring! There were evenings that I would find myself inadvertently nodding off even during our evening family devotions. And get up early in the morning? It wasn’t happening! As a result, I missed my habitual morning quiet times with the Lord for about seven weeks—talk about a LONG time!! So guess what? More distance!

I believe that this was the root of my own season of “muddling through motherhood.” Add to that my husband being laid off and putting our house on the market—that created an almost constant pressure (albeit self-induced at times!) to keep the house in “showing condition.” My own personal spiritual condition was suffering, and life circumstances only compounded the problem.

I slowly began “managing” rather than “ministering” to my children. Not only was there distance between me and God, but now distance was developing between me and them. I was kind of on autopilot throughout each day. Maybe they weren’t my worst days, but I would say that there was a definite absence of effort on my part in many ways, from homeschooling to marriage-building, discipling my children, and everything in between. After a bit, my husband and I of course got around to discussing the issue. In his usual, straightforward way, he said, “Yeah, you definitely aren’t doing as bad as you could be—but you aren’t doing all that you should be.” Okay, so I got the point. I was muddling through motherhood.

So, what did I do—and what do you do if you find yourself there? If you feel like you’re not experiencing God’s best, you may need to ask yourself some tough questions—this is where I started when I realized that I had been muddling through motherhood:

  1. Have I fallen out of the will of God through some disobedience? (For me, this was true. I knew that I should have dealt biblically with an offense, and I did not.) The Bible is clear that sin separates us from God—but also that God forgives us and restores us when we turn to Him. If you feel distant from God on an ongoing basis, think about when it began and see if you can identify the cause.
  2. Am I carrying a grudge against anyone for anything? (In my case, this was also unfortunately true; though I did “want to” and “try to” forgive, it was difficult.) Matthew 5:22-24 warns against anger towards a brother and instructs us to seek forgiveness if we have offended someone. If we are to love God and love others as God’s word says, it’s vital to maintain right relationships. Interpersonal difficulties can have a spiritual effect!
  3. Do I have a substantial prayer life and a connection to God through the Word? (I would say that I attempted to sustain a substantial prayer life, but I had certainly gotten out of the habit of relating to God through His Word) Prayer life and time in the word are the most important elements in having an ongoing love relationship with God. This is how we hear from and talk to Him. We can’t move forward spiritually without them. Without them, we are bound to be dry inside—that’s where muddling through life can begin!
  4. Am I being distracted from my faith by worldliness and failing to seek God first? (For me, not true in this case—but it is certainly something we all struggle with at times.) If we fail to take the admonition of Colossians 3:1-2 to “set [our] hearts on things above,” we certainly will be focused on earthly things—and that can easily throw us off-track.

When I look back on my season of muddling, I can’t believe the number of factors that contributed to my ongoing difficulties! Yet God was—and is so faithful! If you find that there is an impediment such as one of these in your walk with God, repent. Turn to God and desire change in your heart and behavior. Of course, you’re probably familiar with 1 John 1:9, which is a scripture I remind myself of in such circumstances. It says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And what does God do after that? He begins restoring—bringing us back to an even better place!

Works for Me Wednesday: Soaking Whole Grains and Making Yogurt

After tweeting last night that I was soaking some of my wheat flour to make bread this morning and making a batch of homemade yogurt, I got some comments like, “I need a good yogurt recipe!” and “What?! Soak your grains?” So I thought I’d share some tips on what works for me when it comes to homemade goodness for our family.

Yogurt: Easy, really. It all comes down to good incubation. I’ve had some successes and some flops. Here’s a recipe for making one gallon of yogurt:

In a large dutch oven, heat one gallon of whole milk to approx. 195 degrees (near boiling), stirring occasionally with a whisk. (Use a candy thermometer to test temperature.)

Pour approx. one cup of the hot milk into a separate bowl. Fill sink with cold or ice water so that you can place the hot pot in it to cool without water overflowing into the pot. Leave thermometer in the milk and cool to approx. 110-120 degrees. Whisk occasionally to speed process.

In the separate bowl of milk, whisk in: 1/2 cup or so of milk powder and 1 packet of plain gelatin (these thicken your yogurt as it incubates; I’m not a big fan of runny yogurt!). Add whatever flavorings you desire…vanilla, cinammon, a bit of sugar, etc. When this cup of liquid cools to 110-120 degrees, add approx. 1 cup of plain yogurt (any store-bought variety will do).

Once large pot has cooled to 110-120 degrees, whisk in the contents of your set-aside bowl.

Now, to incubate:

Cover and set in a 110-115 degree oven for 6-8 hours or overnight. Alternatively, wrap in towels and set in an insulated cooler. You can add hot packs on top of the pot if you have them. Set it in a warm place, like near a wood stove or heat register. I’ve also heard of people using the crock pot on low or warm setting, though I haven’t tried that yet.

Don’t let it incubate too long, or it will become more sour than you might like.

Once it seems set (a little “jiggly,”) put it into the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. You can pour off the whey if you like, or mix it in before serving.

Soaking grains: This is relatively new to me, so here’s a link from the Weston A. Price foundation on “why” to soak your grains: http://www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/be_kind.html. And, one of the simplest posts I’ve found to help explain how: http://just-making-noise.blogspot.com/2009/06/soaking-grains.html. It’s also a fairly simple process; you just need to plan your bread-making a bit ahead to give yourself soaking time.

For more Works for me Wednesday tips, visit Kristen at We are THAT Family.

Definition of Success

My husband recently related to me a conversation between two of our friends. One man asked another, “What’s your definition of success: finishing a small number of projects, or starting lots of things and not bringing them to completion?”

Seems like a silly question. After all, we all want to be “finishers,” don’t we? I suppose I’ve always considered myself a finisher. I have goal sheets full of projects and love to check things off of my “to-do” list. However, I have to admit that right now all of my projects are in various stages of completion. Some may never get done. So what is my definition of success? I guess that’s a valid question.

Let’s take, for example, homeschooling. We started a unit study on grains several weeks ago. Got through two sections and now it’s sitting on my desk in favor of other endeavors. I’m sure we’ll get back to it, but I can’t say I have a time line on it. Likewise, we’ve begun several different books as read-alouds but not all of them have been finished. Maybe never will…at least not in the near future. Why does this happen? My answer is two-fold: first, our interests shift and change, and what seems exciting and even needful at one point may not remain a priority. Second, life is busy, we often get distracted, and sometimes it’s just easier to move on to something else.

I like the idea of bringing projects to completion, really I do. I think that self-discipline (which comes from making onesself complete things that have been begun) is a positive character trait and I don’t want my children (or myself) to be lacking in it. However, there are often other lessons learned from “not finishing” that are just as valuable. For example, when we jump from one half-finished project to another, often it’s because we get distracted by things like ministry opportunities, teachable moments, and family times. Which of these are more important to pursue? And if it’s a case of shifting interests, well, isn’t it also important to have the freedom to investigate and learn things that are of intrinsic interest, rather than stay with something that no longer has “life” in it?

So I would say that sometimes I’m a good starter, and at other times I’m a finisher. In the same way, sometimes I insist that my children bring projects to completion while at other times they have the freedom and flexibility to “not finish.” What about you?