Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Simplifying: Laundry

My next few posts will mainly be practical ideas of how I am simplifying my life.  Often, when we hear about simplifying, we think of clearing out the clutter and all of the non-essentials in our homes and removing things from our jam-packed calendars.  However, the basic premise of simplicity is organization and that is the direction from which I am coming.

Today's topic: Laundry.

The never-ending, time-consuming, oft-overwhelming monster in each mother's life.  The laundry room is usually the off-limits room in an otherwise hospitable home.  I have illogically tried to conquer the unconquerable in this never-ending battle.  Unless we go back to the Garden of Eden, we will always have dirty clothes, towels and sheets.  It's just a fact of life.

A few months ago, a friend told me about a new laundry system she was implementing with her family and, to be honest, I wasn't sold on it right away.  She was having each of her children do their own laundry.  I wasn't against the idea, but I was unwilling to try it as, by doing so, I was admitting defeat in the Laundry Wars.

However, after a couple of more months and continual piles of laundry I could not keep up with no matter how hard I tried, I was ready to surrender.  So, one day in October, I went to Walmart, picked out 7 collapsible laundry sacks and distributed them out to each of my children with the instructions that, once their sack was full or near-full, they needed to get their clothes washed.

For those who did not already know how to run the washer and dryer, add soap, and dryer sheets, I taught them how. Then they all were on their way to independent laundry care and I was on my way to semi-freedom!

Here's a run-down of how this works and has benefitted our family:
1.  For my six-year old who is too small to reach into my top-loading washing machine, I change his clothes from the washer to the dryer.  I also fold and hang his outside clothes while he takes care of his underclothes, socks & pjs.

2.  All the other children are to keep track of the washer, get their clothes switched to the dryer and out in a relatively decent period of time in order not to occupy the machines when someone else needs it.

3.  The children are responsible for folding their laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer.

4.  The girls and my oldest son are responsible for their own ironing.

5.  I don't care if they wash colors & whites together.  In fact, I prefer them to in order to consolidate loads.  Shocking, I know.  We love to walk a bit on the wild side around here.

6.  I don't have assigned days for my children to do their laundry.  They do it as needed.  If a couple of them need to do it at the same time, they work it out.

6.  For the most part, I wash the towels and sheets they use, but that is it.

If my children don't have a certain item of clothing, I tell them they only have themselves to blame.  This is teaching them to take responsibility for themselves and their things a bit more and also teaching them a bit of foresight.

I am amazed at how much stress this has relieved me from and how much more free-time I have to do things I truly enjoy each day.  Clothes are clean, the laundry room isn't a disaster, and I am able to keep up with the relatively little laundry for which I am responsible.  I am grateful to have friends from whom I can learn and who encourage me to try new things.

So, how about you?  Are you willing to give this system a try?  Maybe you have a system that works for you and you'd like to share.  I would love to hear it!

Meanwhile, may the whirring of the washing machine and the rhythm of your dryer be music to your ears!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome to...My Life: Jury Duty

A couple of days before Christmas, it came. The jury summons.  A lovely little gift for me from the town in which we live.  Just what I always wanted.

Actually, I am one of the rare ones that enjoys jury duty.  *Stop looking at me that way.*  Ten years ago, I was summoned to jury duty at the county court.  I was selected to be a juror for the trial to be held.  Of all things, it was a bank robbery case.  I kid you not.  It was a 2-day trial and we found the defendant guilty, which was actually more difficult than I imagined it would be.  We all felt the future of this man in our hands and we really weighed our decision.  The family was, let's just say, less than pleased with the verdict.  Their displeasure resulted in the court officers kindly escorting us to our cars.

Judges in robes, officers, witnesses giving details of the bank robbery and suspect, legal terms thrown carelessly around by lawyers, menacing glares from the defendant, courtroom drama.  It really was a fantastic experience.

Something told me town court wouldn't be quite the same.

I needed to report for duty at 9:00 a.m…SHARP.  I left my house last Friday at 8:40 a.m.  It only takes me 5-10 minutes to get to the Town Hall from my home, but I had a very important stop to make before heading there.  It was absolutely essential that I stop at Dunkin Donuts and get a large French-vanilla cappuccino.  I drove through the…, paid my $3.77 and headed to my community service assignment.

Now, the Town Hall to which I had to report is really like most small village town halls - not much at all.  The parking lot is even less…especially with a semi-truck parked in the middle of it on a Friday at 8:53 a.m.

Did I mention I drive a 12-passenger bus van?  Not exactly a vehicle you can just squeeze in.  So, I drove my Gold Monstrosity out of the parking lot and all around town (which, as I mentioned, is not that big.  Thankfully.).  As I went to pull out onto Main Street, however, I saw that we were, at that exact moment (8:54 a.m.), setting a record for most traffic ever in our village's 200 year history.

What are the odds?

I finally found a parking spot in one of the municipal lots and trudged through the Upstate New York snow to the Town Hall.  With coffee in hand.  I was so looking forward to sipping that warm addictive liquid.  I was going to need it.

I arrived at the Hall, and walked to the back where the courtroom is located.  And there, on the door was a sign with big bold letters:  NO FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED IN THE COURT ROOM.

Really? Seriously?  What would they do? Throw me in jail?!  Um…well...maybe.  There is actually a judge in there and everything.

I walked in and wandered to the back desk where other citizens were reporting for duty.  I saw a small bathroom located next to the desk with a garbage can.  I snuck in there to throw away my hot, large, French-vanilla cappuccino.  Because the garbage bag in the can was empty and because my large cup was STILL FULL, I didn't want to just toss it in the empty bag knowing it would make a terribly loud thud in the you-could-hear-a-pin-drop courtroom.  So, I reached in and very carefully let it down.  "Good-bye, dear coffee.  We were so briefly acquainted."  *sigh*  Then, as I lifted up my arm, the heavy metal lid of the garbage can came with it and 
So much for order in the court.

I got the lid settled as quickly as possible and nonchalantly walked out of the bathroom into the courtroom pretending nothing happened.  Yeah, I'm cool like that.

I turned over my paper-work and was told to sit down.  So, I found a nice empty row of chairs, made myself comfortable and began to mourn my full cup of coffee sitting at the bottom of the metal garbage can in the next room.  Then the friendly court attendant asked me to move to the other side of the aisle.  Apparently, all the potential-jurors were to sit on one side and all the criminals and family members were to sit on the other side.
30 jurors.
1 criminal.
3 family members.
If we were a ship, we would have capsized.  Of course, I got the end seat of a full row right next to a guy who smelled of cigarette smoke.  Oh, this day was getting better by the minute.

After 2 hours of orientation and listening to 12 of my peers be interrogated grilled raked over the coals questioned, 24 of us were dismissed, leaving 6 of our comrades sitting in the jury box, looking at us with sad and envious eyes.  We were given a certificate of service as we were herded out the door.  I began the walk back to my van leaving cigarette-man, the criminals, and my coffee behind.

That was just the beginning of my day.  Trust me, it didn't get much better.  But, sometimes, that's the way it goes.  I still look forward to getting called for jury duty in the future, because, in the end, it's a great way to take part in our great justice system.

I think next time, though, I'll skip the large French-vanilla cappuccino.

Welcome to…My Life!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Where My Feet Are, My Heart Will Follow

This month, along with my daily reading through the Bible, I am reading through Proverbs.  You know, the Proverb-of-the-day-thing.  I don't do it every month as I have a bad tendency to just gloss over the oft-read words.  As it is, this month, I still need to make sure I am focusing and really thinking about the familiar verses.

I came to Proverbs 7:11 and read the phrase I have read hundreds of times and heard preached dozens: "…her feet abide not in her house."  While I am a very busy person, I rarely thought that verse really pertained to me as I was interpreting "house" that as "home."  Home is not always a physical place.  It's where my family is.  We often minister together.  Why do I have to be in my house if I am traveling to ministries, special meetings and fellowships that will benefit my home?

Also, I am not out gallivanting around with my friends.  I am not looking for trouble (as, obviously, the woman in this chapter was doing).  And, c'mon…I am a HOMEschooling mom.  Of course my feet abide in my house.

God is gracious as He has been dealing gently with me in this area for the last several weeks.  A lot of the trouble and complications I have had in my personal life this past year came from not having my feet abiding in my house.  The reality He showed me this week is: where my feet abide there will my heart abide, also.  My feet have been wandering from place to place and my heart travelled away from my priorities - those 8 souls who live in my house with me.

I realize now that house means house.  While ministries are important, they are not more important than the seven children who live in my home for such a short time.  No ministry or special church meeting supersedes the needs of my husband.  Teaching my children Christian love and the character of Christ begins in the home…in the house.  How we interact with one another, how we serve one another, how we keep order in our home…these are all essential to their Christian growth.

My heart wandered with my feet to other people and their needs, other places, other events.  I was not content to just be at home with my family.  If it were just the nine of us, I was bored.  Housework seemed to be a drudgery getting in the way of more exciting and "important" things.  Get it done quick so I can go minister here or fellowship there.

Slowly, in His compassionate way, God is turning my heart back to my home…by placing my feet in my house.  When I allow my heart to be present in my home, I can do my household chores out of love.  Vacuuming, mopping, cooking are not a drudgery or a blockade to my fun.  I can enjoy these things more knowing that I am exactly where I need to be and showing love to my family.  With my feet in my house, I have had made sure my thoughts are in my home, as well, and not somewhere else (planning ministries, counseling others, on the phone with people, extra projects for others), but focused on my family.  While my feet are in my home, I am able to truly rest in God and take time with Him, as well.

No, I am not saying outside ministry is over and I will no longer help others and serve.  That would be wrong.  For this month, however, I am abiding in my house with my family as much as possible.  After this month is over, I will pray more seriously about what outside ministries and service God really wants me to do.  While many may be good, it is not good for me to be involved in everything.   My feet need to abide in my house.  My heart needs to abide here, as well.

The wonderful thing is that as I have made a conscious effort to make my feet abide in my house, it has come to be a place where I want to be.  I have come to truly enjoy being with my family again…I have come to realize that these 8 people are my favorite people in the world and I desire to be with them.

I believe this means my heart is coming home after a much-too-long absence.


Monday, January 6, 2014

2014: The Year of ERIC

So, apparently, it is the latest trend to have a WORD for the new year.  A word that will state your goals, your priorities, your intentions, your theme.  A WORD that you hope will define your year.  I noticed this trend for the first time last year, thanks to Twitter.  I thought it was a relatively dumb idea, but, to each his own.

While I am still not sold on the WORD idea, I did find an idea that was worthwhile.  Sarah Mae made her husband's name her WORD for 2014.  Some of her readers liked the idea and adopted it.  Now, there is a small group making their husbands their WORD.  That, I like.

In 2013, as I struggled in several areas, ERIC became less of a priority.  In my brokenness a few weeks ago, I realized that I needed to fight for my marriage.  I needed to appreciate ERIC, love him, care for him, and not take him for granted.

In the midst of this time and God speaking to me in personal ways, I came across Sarah Mae's indirect challenge.  Make my husband my WORD.  My priority.  My focus.  My theme of 2014.

ERIC.  My man.  My love.  My word.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Committed to Christ

I have been saved for almost 35 years.  In all of those years, never has my commitment to Christ been more challenged than in 2013.  Not my faith in Christ, but my commitment to Him.  Was I going to follow Him and do what I know is right?

In some ways, I failed Him terribly.  My sinfulness and selfishness led me where it always leads - to hurt, regret, and brokenness.  God allowed me to reach that end in time.  Then He was able to work.

I spent days crying.  I got back into His Word.  I prayed and begged God for His forgiveness.  He forgave me.  I asked Him to create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.  He's still doing that work.  I did not ask Him to love me.  However, I feel His love more than ever.  In the last month, He has done things to prove to me that He still loves me…so very much.

His unconditional forgiveness and love have humbled me.  I am unworthy.  I am undeserving.  But because of His love and forgiveness, I am more committed to Him than in all of my 35 years of salvation.

In 2013, I became aware of the extent of my sinfulness, selfishness and weakness.  In 2014, I am finding out the extent of God's grace, love, & strength.  He is good and I am committed to Him.