When “Tidy” Doesn’t Come Easily

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Dirty clothes littered the floor everywhere, stuffed toys were strewn in all corners, used Kleenex and broken pencils spoke of too much time having passed this summer and I desperately wanted to close the door again, pretending it wasn’t a problem.

But I couldn’t. It was a problem, and not just for me.

You see, I’ve read all the same “feel-good and lift-this-guilt-off-my-shoulder” posts you have – the ones about how it’s better to teach “Susie” to ride her bike rather than be caught up in housework, and the one about how we are stifling “Jimmy’s” creativity if we force him to clean his room, oh, and yes, I even know the one about how “Jenny” will pull it all together when she’s grown and want to keep a clean house.

But can I be honest? I just don’t think its true.

Seventeen years of parenting, a whole lot of reading and listening to others are telling me a completely different story.

You can teach your child to ride a bike like a racer and still keep a tidy house, your child can develop the art skills of Picasso and still pick up his room, and as for “Jenny”? I’ve talked to enough “Jenny’s” who are grown young women, and with salty tears filling their eyes, they have whispered their fears of not being able to keep up a one-bedroom flat or even get their bed made and the “WHY-DIDN’T-SOMEONE-TEACH-ME?” echoes with hurt in their words.

If I’m ruining your day or even your parenting philosophy, you can click the big “X” up in the right-hand corner and it honestly won’t insult me. But if you are brave enough to read a little further, you may be surprised how some pieces fit together in the bigger puzzle of life.

First, let’s lay a little groundwork…
1) I will always struggle with wanting to take the easy/lazy route
2) My kids will always struggle with the same thing
3) It’s never easy to keep a standard for anything long-term; we will ALL feel like giving up at some point but we have to choose our battles

So, now that you know the truth about me, let me tell you why the “keeping things tidy” (note, I will never say perfect, just tidy; because there is a world of difference) is a battle I continue to fight in our home with our prone-to-be-lazy children… It’s because all of life moves in a rhythm around the basic structure of our homes and we can’t bring beauty where there is chaos.

It doesn’t matter whether we work in the home or out of the home, whether we are raising our girls to be homemakers or lawyers, or our boys to be businessmen or garbage men – rivers of LIFE flow from our homes. The core of getting out the door on time, whether we can find what we need before that next appointment and even the joy of being together as a family ALL HAPPENS IN OUR HOMES!

I have never desired perfection at home, and now with 7 people sharing one shower and an even smaller home than in the past, I have given up all hope of being a Martha Stewart! BUT there are some basic life skills that I think all children deserve to be given.

- We do chores every week because everyone needs to know how to vacuum a floor and clean a toilet (oh and yes, to answer your question, I DO know that it takes twice as long to have young helpers than to do it myself).

- We ask that everyone makes their beds to their ability because everyone feels better about life when their bed is made (but we keep it age appropriate, i.e. a 2 year-old has very little to do than pull up a blanket but a 14 year-old can even change their own sheets).

- We remind over and over and over again that rooms need to be picked up, because someday a house is going to need to be picked up and that is a lot more work (and yes, it takes years to help a young one master this skill but eventually ALL personalities can get there).

Beauty at home is a rare gift these days – our children’s souls need to be refreshed and someday God will desire for our children to be refreshing other people’s souls. These few simple and basic goals are the battles I choose year after year, sometimes cheerfully and sometimes very tiredly, but always for the same reasons. God has called us to train up our children in the way they should go and they all will need some basic skills to take into their beautiful futures.

May you be blessed as you bring beauty home today!

P.S. PLEASE REMEMBER that, yes, sometimes life gets busy and, yes, sometimes everything slips and so it should. I am looking at the bigger picture of life and the way that our lives are characterized. No one can maintain everything through all stages – so if there is a new baby at home, or you are madly packing for a holiday, or someone is sick; ignore everything above…these words are for the day-to-day life that we can control. I love you all – praying you will be encouraged and not dismayed!

A Book That Brings Beauty- Beatrix Potter and Her Animal Friends

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What book do you think of when you desire to look at something beautiful? What stories come to mind when you want to read something wholesome and satisfying to your children? We’ve all heard of them, and a lot of us have read most if not all of them, but Beatrix Potter’s animal stories are some of the most treasured and classic of tales, beloved by children near and far.

Not only are these stories a delight to children, but they have been and still are a delight to adults as well. It has been said that even C.S. Lewis himself was captivated by the likes of Squirrel Nutkin. So why is this? What causes these stories to stand the test of time?

Maybe it is because what is conveyed through these stories is not bound by years or decades. What is gleaned in Potter’s pages is timeless because stories of value and substance, that lend direction and offer a moral compass, are as much needed today as they were in the early nineteen hundreds. From The Tale of Peter Rabbit to The Roly-Poly Pudding, children are reminded of the importance of obedience and honesty, and that there are very real consequences for the decisions one makes.

So many other great things can be awakened in a child as a result of delving into these classic tales: A love for animals, a desire to experiment with watercolor paints, sketching the natural world, or writing creative narratives about the creatures one comes across on a nature walk.

To help aid you in your rediscovery of Potter’s Complete Tales, I want to introduce you to a quaint and beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Beatrix Potter, written by Alexandra Wallner, simply titled Beatrix Potter.

 

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Her childhood becomes very real and relatable as this book portrays her time spent drawing, painting flowers, and secretly keeping pet rabbits, frogs, lizards, salamanders, and snakes.

 

Beatrix kept a diary written in her own code. The sights and sounds of the woods were like magic to her.”

Children are invited into the pages of this little gem to discover that things were not always easy for Beatrix. She often battled loneliness and was plagued with bronchitis and rheumatic fever which left her with a heart condition. These things, however, did not keep her from finding comfort in the natural world around her and recreating God’s creatures on paper with pencil and paint.

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If I have done anything – even a little to help small children on the road to enjoy and appreciate honest, simple pleasures, I have done a bit of good.

If you would like to delve even deeper after reading this charming picture book biography, , I recommend picking up Beatrix Potter: A Journal,published by Penguin Books. It is made to look like Beatrix’s own scrapbook with black and white photos of her and her family, journal cards, and original sketches and paintings.

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Delve into these wonderful books with your children and let the love of nature take root and blossom in a bounty of creativity and wonder. And go out and enjoy God’s creation with your children!

A Story of Missed Love

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By Katy Rose

It was several years ago, back when we lived in 250 square feet. One evening there was a knock at the apartment door and my husband peered out the peep hole, then opened it up.

There stood Mr. Peters from two doors down, ragged, frail, and weathered. We had passed him on the stairs for almost a year, smiling and making small talk here and there. Several flights up in a no-elevator building seemed almost impossible for his stooped frame.

He dove right in feebly, without a smile. “Hi there. I was just seeing if you all would come down here to my apartment for just a minute and take a look at a couple things.”

Our dinner was hot and ready but we shut the door behind us and followed.  In seconds we stepped into his home, and it appeared we may have been the first guests to cross the threshold in decades. Thick dust and trash mingled with dirty dishes, stained shirts on a clothes line, and mountains of paper.

 “I’m done. Can’t survive another winter here. I’m flying to California in the morning.”

We stood, trying to not appear struck, as he bitterly laid bare his life story.

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The woman he once loved was gone.  He held up a faded picture of his son but, well, things had fallen apart years back. His mother had been estranged before death. His army days, his working years; life had been hard and dark. There wasn’t a shred of hope.

He led us around the narrow space picking up various trinkets. Instead of wood floors there was cracked, bare concrete. Piles littered tabletops, relics from his past, reflections of his heartache.

   “Please just take anything you see that you might want. It’s yours.”

At first we thanked him effusively for his generosity but felt hesitant to take anything. Quickly though, we realized the most loving gesture was to collect our treasures.

We asked questions and took interest.  We probed him about his plans once in Los Angeles.

   “Paradise Hotel is where I’ll go first. Not quite sure after that.”  We tried to get more details and a contact number but he didn’t offer much. We were concerned.

After talking a while longer we reluctantly gathered our pile of books, a Spanish travel poster, an old measuring stick, and an assortment of other odds and ends, and headed back to our apartment.

The cold dinner sat waiting, but we couldn’t eat. The burden of Mr. Peters weighed heavy.

We talked about what to do and within minutes my husband grabbed his Bible and was out the door.

We really only had one thing worth offering him.

Kristian returned a while later.  At first sight, the Bible had angered the old man. He rejected a God who allowed for such a decayed life. But there was desperation in his aged eyes, and tears, and so my husband humbly persisted. He apologized that we hadn’t engaged him earlier. He shared that there was Someone who loved him, with a love counter to anything he’d experienced on earth. Mr. Peters’ clinched jaw relaxed momentarily, and he listened. He kept the Bible.

The next evening we called the Paradise Hotel. There was no record of a Mr. Peters checked in, no reservation. We called back a few days later. Nothing.

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Kristian and I struggled with remorse over not having engaged with Mr. Peters sooner. Both of us had felt prompted throughout our year sharing the stairwell, but didn’t want to intrude, and probably more accurately, didn’t want to be interrupted.

And there is grace in this. God is sovereign and his plans won’t fail because of my possible disobedience.

Yet… what joy did we miss out on? What if we had knocked on Mr. Peters’ door before he knocked on ours?  What if we had listened to that still small voice compelling us to enter in?

I’m empowered by the Spirit to serve as Christ’s hands and feet.  He doesn’t need me to accomplish His work on earth. But he allows me to play a part in the story, because He loves me and he loves my neighbor.  Our gracious Savior knows we will find more satisfaction in looking beyond ourselves, stepping outside our comfort zone, and offering Love.

Great joy is found in obedience, and I believe there is joy lost when we fail to obey.

We don’t know where Mr. Peters spent his final days, but we do know how his life affected ours.  He was a glimpse of the reality of our surroundings- the lonely, hopeless, the forgotten and bitter.

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Every home we have lived in we’ve quickly learned that one or two doors from us there is someone desperately hurting. Several of them have knocked on our door.

As a mother, I long for my children to know the power of love. I want them to know the astonishing love of God and for that reality to shape them. And I want them to witness the life-changing strength of love in the brokenness surrounding them.

Because I’m increasingly convinced that in reaching out to people in deep need we experience in our own hearts deep, God-given joy, I’m praying for less forfeited opportunities to sacrificially love.

Running with God – Breathe Deep!

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I am a runner of the 5K variety.  I like to get out a few times a week for a few miles. This summer, however, I have been terribly inconsistent.  If you’ve ever taken a break from exercise, you know how long it can take to get back into it, both making time in your schedule and getting the old body back into condition.

While out doing the latter a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about breathing.   When I’m on a flat stretch, I need to keep my legs moving and breathe evenly.  Breathe in, two, three.  And out, two, three.   But if I want to be able to make it up a hill ahead of me, I need to breathe evenly and deep.  I’ve got to inhale and exhale hard, so I can still be standing when I reach the top!

On all types of terrain, a runner must keep breathing.  Lose control of breathing and languish.  Quit breathing and collapse.  Those realities remind me of our need as Christians to breathe deep of the Lord.  Life is a course with wide-open, flat stretches of routine, unremarkable days, steep hills that push us to our limits, downhills that bring peace and relief, and lengthy, low-grade uphills that require long-suffering endurance.

While running the terrain of life, we cannot stop breathing deep of the Lord.  For we, like a runner, will stumble and fall, or collapse, without faith-sustaining breaths.  The good news?  We don’t have to run through life gasping for air!  The Good Shepherd loves us and has provided for us.  Just as a runner trusts that deep breaths will fill her lungs with what she needs to keep going, the believer can trust that breathing deep of the Lord will provide what she needs to stay strong and press on in the faith.

How can we breathe deep of the Lord?

Thankfully, breathing deep of the Lord does not require any special degrees or spiritual superiority.  Everything we need to breathe deep is readily available to us: the Word, prayer, and worship.  We breathe deep by taking advantage of God’s Word and His presence.    Concerning these basics, it can be very helpful to do two things: establish a baseline rhythm and breathe deeper when life is hard.

  • Establish a baseline rhythm.  When I am out running, I often inhale and exhale in rhythm with my steps to help my endurance.   Walking by faith is similar.  Regular routines for Bible reading, prayer, and corporate worship help us to get in the habit of processing life through the lens of faith so we can endure to the end.
  • Breathe deeper when life is hard.  As I start going uphill when I’m running, I have to take longer, deeper, and more frequent breaths, maintaining a rhythm but quickening its pace.  It is tempting to stop trying to control my breath and gasp my way to the top, rather than fight to maintain even, deep breaths.  Similarly, on life’s hills, it is tempting to get frantic, pull back from faith-strengthening habits, and try to hurry away from the difficulty, and maybe even away from God.   But the Lord invites us to breathe deeper of Him on those hills – to suck truth into the lungs of our faith with determination and to exhale with zeal the lies that undermine our faith.  God is the breath of life for all who believe; we must breathe deeper when life takes us uphill.

May God uses these words to spur you on to breathe deep of the Lord, showing you specific ways to apply what you read here to the stretch of road you have before you to run today.

Keep running by faith, dear women, and don’t forget to breathe deep!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Delicious Curry Chicken Salad {Perfect weekend recipe!}

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{Today, Brandee is sharing a truly amazing chicken salad recipe. Enjoy!}

My girlfriend and I headed downtown for a day of adventure. As we walked into a cooking class and grabbed our aprons, we were delighted with the aroma wafting in the kitchen. As we began to chop, simmer, and adjust flavors of these amazing recipes we were being introduced to, both of us decided the chicken salad was not only easy to make but also going to be a favorite in our home immediately! For those of you who say curry is not your thing, you must try this before throwing out this amazing spice all together!

I revamped this recipe by adding some of my all-time chicken salad favorites to this already lovely recipe! In India, they eat this meal with pan-grilled flatbread. We love to eat this as a sandwich or place a generous scoop onto a salad. It makes for a lovely luncheon option when feeding the multitudes! At Sally’s Intensives, this is a favorite! All you need is a croissant roll, chicken salad, and fruit and you have a beautiful plate that will wow your guests!

Ingredients
4 boneless skinless chicken breast (you can use a pre cooked rotisserie chicken in a pinch)
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise (may add more if needs more)
4 stalks celery – diced small
1/2 cup green onion – minced
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons fresh parsley – minced
4-6 teaspoons curry powder (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups of red seedless grapes – halved
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup sliced almonds (to sprinkle on top before serving)
8 croissants (optional)

Directions
Place chicken breasts in med. saucepan and cover with water by one inch. Bring to simmer and adjust heat to maintain low simmer. Cook for 20 min. or until chicken is cooked through. Drain & let cool. ( drain well or you will have watery salad)
Shred chicken into small bite-sized pieces. Mix chicken with remaining ingredients.
(Add more mayo or seasoning if needed) Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Yields: 8 servings

Give this recipe a try this weekend, and “wow” your family with a unique, tasty meal that is perfect for a summer lunch or dinner!

Blessings,
Brandee

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