Friday, May 24, 2013

waiting for someday

Do you ever find yourself longing for "someday"?

As a young(er) mom of four babies under the age of six, I often looked at the piles of toys and books and dishes and laundry and thought, "when... then... if..." At one point in my life I was searching and waiting. Waiting for something big to happen. For God to write out words in the clouds revealing to me what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, for some grand calling. "When these kids grow up, then..." I wondered what my "spiritual gifts" were. I wondered what my ministry was. I looked at all the other moms and how they served over there and did this and worked on that and felt like I was doing nothing worth while.

"When these kids grow up, then..."

Paul and Silas didn't seem to have that attitude. They were wrongfully arrested, falsely accused, beaten with metal rods tied in a bundle, and thrown into the deepest part of the prison where their legs were spread as far as they could go and their ankles put in stocks. And there they waited. For what? A trial? More beatings? Death?

I don't know what these men prayed for at midnight. If we know Paul, we can guess he was praying that God's word would not be bound, that the door to be wide open for gospel! They certainly were singing hymns of praise. And you know what? The prisoners were listening.

And when God moved, did they take off running? No, they stayed right were they were. They were instrumental in saving not only the physical life of the jailer but also his spiritual life. They spoke the word of the Lord to him! They told his family about Jesus. They baptized him.

I can get so caught up in my circumstances. Like I'm in a holding cell, waiting for my "real ministry" to begin. I overlook the ministry of my "right here and now." I get myself over-committed because I push aside my babies, looking over the tops of their heads, trying to catch a glimpse through the crowd of what I perceive to be a better ministry  "out there."
What would if have been like if Paul and Silas thought the same of the other prisoners? What if they saved their songs and prayers for when they were released?

God has placed me in a country where I am free to teach my babies at home. Free, without fear of reprisal, to teach them about how He made everything, and how He made them, about our sin and His grace, about the absolutes found in His word. God has placed in my home four babies that are sinners and need to hear His story of redemption everyday--24/7! I get to mentor them and disciple them every single moment. It's not about "when... then... if." It's about here. It's about now. It's about this man and these kids and the people at the grocery and the doctor's office and the gas station and sitting in the church pew next to me, and wherever else God sends us.
Look at your current season in life as an opportunity. Work now to create a vision for the ministry of the home that God has entrusted to YOU.

Start with your husband. What needs of his are you setting aside until "when... then... if..."? Are you committed to praying for him? Do you have a spirit of "singing hymns of praise" while you do your chores, make dinner, care for the kids, fold his socks? What does he desire that you can take the initiative to do without him asking? What's the one thing he dreads doing that you could do for him? How can you make his mornings run smoothly and his evenings more peaceful?
Then look at your kiddos. Are you looking over them to other ministries outside the home. Are you gazing longingly at "someday"? Do you pray and sing hymns in their presence? Do you speak the word of God to them? Do you take them with you in ministry opportunities? Do you save your best for someone else, some other time, a different place?
God has given me a grand calling. What bigger words of confirmation of my ministry do I need than a positive pregnancy test? Seriously, words in the clouds would be fun. But isn't it enough that God, the creator of the universe, saw fit to put these kids in my care? Truth is, all that He has given, my "right here and now," is enough. I don't need to wait on a better calling!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

evening routine*

It's no secret that a mom with multiple kids has a hard time getting out of the house in the morning. And those of us that homeschool might be particularly challenged by gathering up the gang (brushed, washed and dressed, no less) for morning appointments, co-op classes, and even church on Sunday.

There are those days that didn't start out well and are spinning out of control. Or the days you get unexpected phone calls, or the baby won't nap, or the sink started leaking and now everything's off.

And then there are days I'm just lost. I have about a million to-do items running through my head at any given moment. Some important and note-worthy, some just white noise that don't pass the "so what?" test. You know, just like the news ticker at the bottom of the screen on your favorite news channel. Constantly scrolling.

Add four kids in and out of the room, asking for help with dictation, wanting you to grade their math, arguing over who gets the pink skirt, and another looking for his left shoe, and I'm spinning in circles, wondering what to do next and what was I doing in the first place? 

These are the days lists and routines keep me sane and focused. The most important are the morning and evening routines. The morning routine is what starts the day right. As the morning goes, the rest of the day goes. But if something is off that morning or the day spirals out of control, it's the evening routine that saves my sanity and the next day!

When I have one of those days the goal for the day shifts and my main question becomes: 

What do I have to do today to make tomorrow morning run smoothly?

Seriously, I like all my days to be predictable and easy going. But they're not. I don't want to say that I give up on the day, but putting aside the current crazy and focusing on the next morning relieves that I-have-to-do-it-all-right-now-or-I'm-a-failure feeling. I may not be able to save today, so I focus on making tomorrow a better one.

These are some of the questions I would ask myself on just such a day:
  1. What's for dinner tonight?
  2. Do I have clean clothes to wear in the morning? Find them and set them out, including shoes! If they're dirty, put them in the wash now.
  3. What is on the calendar for tomorrow? Do I know where my purse and keys are? 
  4. Do the kids have appropriate clothing to wear including both the left and right shoes... of a matching set? Find them and set them out (older kids can do this for themselves).
  5. Do I have all my materials ready for the next day? If I'm going to the library, find the books and put them by the door. Church? Bag up the Bibles and notebooks, stock the diaper bag, set them by the door. Going to the grocery? Do a quick clean out of the fridge, plan the menu, and make the list. You get the picture. Get it all ready now so tomorrow you're not scrambling and your morning runs smoothly.
  6. After dinner, do the dishes. Waking up in the morning to a sink full of dishes is a bummer! Don't let that happen. Then prep the kitchen for breakfast. Set the timer on the coffee pot, set out bowls, spoons and cereal options for the kids. Pack lunch for hubby, put it in the fridge.
  7. Set the timer on the washer to finish running just before you wake up. It'll be ready to switch to the dryer and you can start the next load at breakfast. I love having a head start on the laundry, even before I get up! (If you don't have a timer, fill the washer with soap and clothing so it's ready to start and can run first thing while you're getting dressed.)
  8. Everyone go to bed at a decent time. Take the time to tuck the kids in and read them a book, give them kisses and hugs, and pray over them (even the older kids love this). Tomorrow's gonna be a brighter day!

On more predictable type of day, my typical evening routine looks like this:

  • Dinner (clean up as you go)
  • Prep for breakfast
  • Shine the sink
  • What's for dinner tomorrow (defrost meat?)
  • Where's the laundry (switch and load, set timer)
  • Check the calendar
  • Set out clothes and shoes 
  • Get ready for the next day (set out items needed for outings, if any, make sure school books are in their place and can be found, etc.)
  • Hot spot (declutter one area that gathers all that stuff throughout the day) 

 *My ideas on routines and the evening routine are inspired by Flylady and her book "Sink Reflections." This series of posts chronicles my efforts to get back to routines, cleaning zones, and other specifics of the flylady system that I have used in the past.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

the organized homeschool

Each of my kids gets a daily "what I did today" sheet in their school planner. This is where I communicate to them what they need to accomplish each day and where they record it. On Friday they get out their notebooks and show their Daddy just what they were up to all week. Day by day.

Now I used to plan their studies down to the pages of each book they were to read for all four kids, 12 weeks at a time. That was exhausting! It took me a week of doing nothing but planning. And what happened when we got behind? Because we did. It was hard to climb out of the guilt and get back "on schedule."  

Then it happened: I saw that my detailed schedule was taking the love right out of the learning. Not where I wanted to be.

Planning and record keeping looks so different now. 

We use a literature-based method of educating based on the writings of Charlotte Mason, a British education from the 1800's. We plan the books they are to cover for the year and just start reading--about as much as a child can comfortably narrate to me in a sitting. Sometimes they beg for more and we have the time so I keep reading. Sometimes there is an illness or we're reading a particularly difficult book and only a few paragraphs are covered at a time.

The key is to keep reading from the book everyday until it's finished. 

When we're done, we cross it off the list and pick up the next book.

It's really that simple.

Periodically I evaluate our progress and we push ahead or slow down depending on the need. We sometimes take bunny trails and insert other books as an interest develops. But we work the list until it's complete. That's it.

You can read more about my planning a school year and how we keep records here.

Monday, April 01, 2013

the never ending quest for an organized house

My goal this week is to get the house back to a functioning level. I pulled out my old control journal and found some impressively organized--but seriously outdated--stuff! Most of the electronics were replaced or broken some time ago, the info on the appliances were from the last house, my routines included nap-times, and diapers/wipes were on the grocery list.

Still, I was glad to find my detailed cleaning lists by zones. Joy of joys, right?

It's becoming clear that i'm not going to get this all together in one week. So we will focus on our morning and evening routines and will be working in one zone: the bedrooms! The upstairs was the first area to lose my attention as they usually aren't seen by the public and it is in sorry shape. So that's where we will focus our attention during our afternoon chores: declutter, wash sheets, clean under beds, empty out the closets, etc. etc.

I'm working slowly on my control journal. Today I reinstated our daily routine sheets for each of us, myself included. They look something like this for the kids:
I'm being purposely vague on the times. I find when I post a schedule that is to-the-minute specific we don't stick with it for long. I can always hand-write the times if we need them. I plan one week at a time. I hand-write appointments or things we have planned in the appropriate day and I add things I want them to focus on in the notes section. Goals for the week can also be listed here. This doesn't have to be perfect. When I focus on perfection I don't get anywhere because, well, I'm not perfect. Scratch things out, hand-write items in, get over it and get to work.
Each child has a clip board and the routine sheet goes on their clipboard. I print several of these at once but only write in specifics for one week at a time. This list keeps us focused and on track when we get distracted. After Bible on Monday we discuss our lists and the plan for the week so we all understand the expectations. (It drives me nuts that the hanging clipboards don't line up. But we're not going for perfection, here. Just trying to get to a place where we function!)
This is my daily routine plan. I hand-write any extras we'll be doing each day. For example, on Saturday we usually go to the grocery but some weeks that changes. This week I have it written on the Friday square. I'm also adjusting my hours to resemble my second-shifter husband and the times are a bit up in the air right now. This is my starting point and I'll adjust and fine-tune it as time goes on, which I can easily do cause I'm only doing one week at a time right now. I write my goals for the week in the notes section. These sheets go in the calendar section of my control journal which sits on my hutch in my kitchen, open to the week in question.