Wednesday, August 31, 2011


We have been in a state of emergency in Church Mouse's little world for about a week. Now the dust is beginning to settle, and happily, I'm getting everything put to right. In the meantime though, I missed two linkups I've been faithfully following and this makes me a little bit sad. :( Even though I'm too late to link up, I think I'll add my thoughts on the final chapters of Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains over the next couple of days.

A bit ironic that I missed the linkup on the appendix of Large Family Logistics because my life was in crisis, while the two sections are entitled, "Coping While Exhausted and Overwhelmed" and "Moving Beyond Survival Mode". :)

I have said it before and I will say it again, the book is worth the price for the appendices alone. Seriously.

I was experiencing a temporary crisis, but there are times in life where survival mode goes on and on and on. (First trimester anyone?) If you have been there before, you are familiar with that helpless sort of feeling that comes from many months of exhaustion, illness, and just trying to survive minute by minute. In these two sections Mrs. Brenneman gently takes you by the hand, encourages you to keep on, and leads you step by step through what you need to do to bring things into a state of order once again. You don't need to feel helpless any longer. 12 steps, that is all, gets you right back on track.

"Do the Next Thing" is a fine saying, but if everywhere you look you see things to do, you wonder which thing is next.

And that is where my Home Management Book came in. Even in its skeletal state, it has been a tremendous help for me during this difficult week. Instead of looking at it and feeling guilty that I was not able to stick to the plan, I was able to use it as a guide. It helped me prioritize. Certain things were put on the back burner while I took care of what was urgent.

For instance, Monday is supposed to be laundry day, but I did zero laundry. I tackled my most pressing projects and took a nap! Laundry is being handled little by little throughout the week instead. I feel like just today I have things back on track, so tomorrow I jump right in with both feet into "Town Day". Having a focus for each day eases my mind and lightens my general to-do list considerably.

Crisis will come and go, but by keeping a good attitude and relying upon your well-thought-out plans, you will be able to overcome.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shelter in the Time of Storm

Sunday Hymn Post

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Refrain -

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Words by Ve­rnon Charles­worth

Monday, August 22, 2011

Redeeming the Time

Another study of Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains. Linking up with the Common Room. See the link for more hospitality-related posts.

peaceful morning

Chapter 15 - Stewards of Time
Looking long and hard at time - this one unalterable, precious gift which we cannot change, but only learn to use well, I asked, "Am I being a good steward of my time?"

Sometimes I do quite well. Sometimes I fail. I fight being affected by the weather. I'm full of energy on sunny days and get so much done. When it is cloudy and rainy I feel like a slug, dragging myself to get my work done all day. When emotional stress hits, I tend to just give in to depressive thoughts and wallow. Wallowing, is decidedly, a poor use of time. I would be so much better off if I would use that time in prayer. It's a good thing that I have a lifetime, Lord willing, to work on myself!

So am I being a good steward with my time?

The best answer I can give right now is, "I try. Lord, I really, really try. And please help me to do better!"

The amount of time available to us determines the quantity and personality of our hospitality... On the other hand, there are people who can devote large amounts of time and energy to hospitality. The temptation which always accompanies this situation is to do more than is required. It is easy to spend days in elaborate preparations which have nothing to do with ministry but a great deal to do with demonstrating one's own abilities. One must look carefully at those hidden motives and ask, "Am I really seeking to serve, or am I trying to impress?"

We must be sure that "extra frills stem from a desire to give, to minister, rather than from a desire to impress."

A good thermometer as to whether pride was rising in me was to ask two questions: Am I nervous? Am I fussing? These were pretty good indicators of the true nature of my intentions... Again, the answer was pride rearing its subtle and manipulative head, forcing me to think self.

I am not one of those people that can devote lots of time and energy to hospitality. (I used to be, and perhaps that is a big part of my problem.) Elaborate preparations are simply not my style. So you would think pride would not be an issue for me. It is.

Oh pride. What a beast. I try and try to banish it far away, but oh how it loves to creep back in. Learning to be hospitable with Littles has been a good exercise for me in putting away my pride. I simply cannot do what I once could in terms of food preparation and house cleaning. I have to do much of the cleaning last minute for fear that it will all be undone by little hands. Decorations? HA! I'm doing well to light a candle in the bathroom!

I admit that I recently served a bakery dessert for guests and I really struggled with my injured pride when I simply ran out of time to make a homemade dessert. The truth is, I didn't really "run out of time", it's just that my time was needed more elsewhere and a homemade dessert was not the highest on the list of priorities. It happens. I don't regret the way I spent my time. I'm just learning to not let my pride keep me from serving.
Being a good manager of your time makes you a good manager of life.

Oh so true. And we've been talking about that a lot with the Large Family Logistics discussion haven't we?

Chapter 16 - Shortcuts
Most of us don't have all the time we want to carry on ministries of hospitality. We seek to discover shortcuts so that we can open our homes with a minimum of effort.

Yes, please!

1. Never clean before company.
I learned this one after the first couple birthday parties we hosted where the entire house was scattered with cupcake crumbs after everyone left. I vacuum on Tuesdays and Saturdays and do spot cleaning if there is a need. If you visit on any other day, our floors may not be spotless. I'm ok with that. After having large groups of people in your home, the floors will need to be vacuumed again, whether you served food or not, so you may as well save your time and energy and do the cleaning after.

Now DO do the basics of cleaning before company - wipe down the bathroom, tidy and straighten, make the beds with fresh sheets for overnight guests, but if you keep up with your general house cleaning and everyday routines, there shouldn't be a need for much cleaning before having company.


2. Don't be afraid to do things with flair.
I am a rather understated individual and my tastes are very simple, so I'm not much of one for flair. I am learning though. To me, the loveliest addition is a beautiful flower arrangement. It seems like a bit of an extravagance to me, so I don't do it often unless it is my own cut flowers, but a pretty arrangement certainly adds flair!

Daisies are the Friendliest Flowers

3. Do as much ahead of time as possible.
This is key for keeping my stress level to a minimum. Use the freezer! Have dessert, breakfast muffins, and part of the meal made up and frozen ahead of time. Take it out to thaw the day before. Use the crockpot! Nothing is nicer than having a hot meal ready to go, and best of all, you don't have to be a slave to the stove as your guests arrive! Prepare the guest room the day before and close the door to all tiny invaders, and you have one less thing to worry about. As much as you can, get things done ahead of time!

4. Clean as you go.
Confession: I'm still working on this one. I'm notorious for leaving the kitchen in a wreck while I do meal prep and often, the dishwasher is full of CLEAN dishes, leaving no place for the dirty ones to go! Yes, I need to improve my skills here!

Munch Plate Supplies

Wash dishes as you cook, put things away as they are finished, But DON'T unsettle your guests by fussing too much with cleaning. Believe me, it IS unsettling. Your primary concern should be the comfort of your guests, not keeping things as pristine looking as when they arrived.

5. Use all the help that comes your way.
Many hands make light work! If you receive an offer of help, accept it with grace. This would include help in meal preparation, setting the table, cleaning up, planning an event, or bringing food. Allowing guests to help makes them feel more at home... like family. And it takes a burden off of your shoulders. It's a win-win! I LOVE her idea for a "Bring a Pie Night" where each guest or family brings a pie of their choosing. The hostess provides drinks, plates, and silverware. Brilliance!

6. Keep files.
She recommends keeping files of magazine clippings of hospitality ideas. Pinterest anyone? (Sometimes I really love technology!)

Each of us must learn to determine what is important in our lives. We must come to an agreement with the time which we have been allotted. If the Lord is asking us to carry on extensive ministries of hospitality, we will then be able to know the human limitations within which we work. We will learn to adjust our attitudes and discover shortcuts.

Better to just DO IT and show hospitality with shortcuts than to utterly neglect it because you simply haven't the time. (This means you have not made the time.) There is no shame in taking shortcuts. Don't let pride get in the way!

(Just two chapters remain!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Church Mouse Gone Wild

It is rare for someone to see me in public without my Littles, but last night, it became necessary.

I went to the grocery store ALL BY MYSELF!

I don't remember the last time that happened. Now I'm not expecting this to be a new trend, I enjoy going grocery shopping with my Littles, but last night, I enjoyed myself to the fullest!

  • I may or may not have been seen picking up an iced tea at a drive through.
  • Others may or may not have heard Peter, Paul and Mommy blasting the song "Leatherwing Bat" out of the car windows. Church Mouse may or may not have been belting it out along with Mary, accompanied by air (folk) guitar (Hey, I forgot to bring MY music along! Normally, you would have heard me belting out "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal" or something classical.)
  • I may or may not have let my hair out of a bun!
  • I may or may not have been in such a terrific mood that I got treats for everyone and blew through two weeks of grocery money! (A good reason that this won't be a regular occurrence.)
  • I DEFINITELY ditched the ginormous two-kid diaper bag and brought along my nice little "pre-kid purse" and I was absolutely giddy over the fact that it only held 4 items - wallet, keys, grocery list, pen
  • I was definitely thrilled to walk back in the door after being gone for an hour and a half to see my guys dancing around the living room, happy as could be. Hugs and kisses all around!

I think if my high school self could see my current mama self, she would be in disbelief. But I think she would also be happy to see that I am filled with joy to be able to love and serve my family and that I am tremendously blessed.

Life is good!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Which Church Mouse Gives Herself a "Talking To"

While we do not yet have a large family, I have benefited greatly from the ideas shared in Kim Brenneman's book, Large Family Logistics. I'm joining the Four Moms today as we share from Chapters 28-47, the part of the book that gets down the the every day, nitty-gritty part of managing home and family. For a brief overview of each chapter, visit Connie's post on Smockity Frocks. The nice thing is that most of these chapters are very short, so you can easily hop around and read what is most needful for your family at the time.

For my post, I'm focusing on daily routines. For the past several years, I've been a bit of a free spirit. It has been nice, especially while I was figuring out how to be a mama, but I am feeling a little more urgently, a need to bring some more structure to our days. Big Littles, in particular, really thrives on routine and knowing what to expect, and our days run so much more smoothly when I put some thought into what we do, why and when.

Some words of wisdom from God -
Proverbs 16:3 - Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

Some words of wisdom from Mrs. Brenneman from Chapter 28 - Morning and Evening Routines

Here's what I have learned: When we are prepared, then we have no fear and are calm. When we are calm inside with surety as mothers, we speak with calmness to our children. On the other hand, if the children wake with no direction at all, they learn to be wasteful with their time. When our children wake to a plan and a calm and kind mother, then they in turn have pleasant mornings.

And part of this is making myself have the self-discipline to GO TO BED EARLY so I can wake up to be that cheerful direction for my children.

*shaking my finger at myself*

*nodding back meekly*

She goes on to say,
Children thrive on order; it gives them security. They want to know the plan for the day. They want to know what to expect when they get up. They are healthy in a home of order, peace, and security. As home manager, this is your duty to facilitate. Planning and preparation help build a happy heart in yourself which overflows to your children.

As my sweet friend Amy commented in regards to not planning, her husband says, "You can hardly call it Plan B if there was no Plan A to begin with."

So very true. In my previous line of work, I had to do extensive planning. It was drilled into me time and time again to do this planning in a very careful and explicit way. When the time came to execute the plans, I found I actually felt much more confidence and freedom diverting from the plans when the need arose because I was so familiar with my plans and goals that I could be spontaneous (not a strength of mine) and creative and get the job done WELL! I think it is the same way in managing my home. The plans are like the safety net of the trapeze walk that is my life. I'm going to be thrown off and I will lose my balance... I KNOW it. But I can jump right back on and keep going or even go in a new direction if needed because I have thought of a plan ahead of time.

Speaking of plans, this is what I have worked out so far -

Morning routine:
1) Coffee time/pump milk for donation (hopefully before everyone awakens) - I usually check the internet during this time
2) Start laundry
3) Nurse baby
4) Fix breakfast - water pitcher for the table
5) Eat with a Psalm
5) Vitamins for all
6) Wash faces/brush teeth
7) Clean up the table (dishes are rinsed and stacked, washing happens after lunch though), sweep crumbs
8) Everyone gets dressed
9) Make beds
10) Go to chore time = hang up a load of laundry + chores for the day

Stuff in the middle:
Playing, book reading, lunch/clean up, toy pick up, quiet time, more play time and book reading

I would really like to work in some more structured "school time", but we aren't quite there yet. I'm working on strengthening my morning routine just a leeeeetle bit more before adding it in.

Evening Routine:
1) After dinner clean up
2) Children's Hour- baths on bath night (which is also when I clean the bathroom), play games, wrestle, take a walk, etc...
3) Toy Pick Up
4) Get ready for bed routine (brush teeth/potty/pajamas)
5) Read books
6) Bed for the Littles
7) Sit with them until they are asleep and then I have free time with my husband until we go to bed.

I try to have chores done so I can just relax with my husband in the evenings, but I do sometimes throw in a load of laundry to soak overnight.

The morning routine is still tough for me. It just takes so much self-discipline especially when I am so groggy from waking up a thousand times the night before with a teething baby. I just keep plodding along, working at it each day until it becomes a habit.

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.—Charlotte Mason

And children cannot be expected to have those good habits if the mother herself does not have them. Self-discipline, folks, it takes plain old self-discipline.

As Auntie Leila says, "trying to do all the stuff you have to do, today, with a loving heart."

Do your duty! Be diligent!

*more finger wagging*

I mean YOU Church Mouse!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Lord, Create in Me an Open Heart"

I'm writing a bit more from Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains today. I finished the book on Saturday, but now that I'm ready to write, I have to go back and skim the chapters because the Littles decided that playing with my sticky notes would be a fun thing to do. :P

peaceful morning

We've been slowly pressing towards this point... the point at which I visibly squirm while I'm reading and have little to say because I am realizing my inadequacy more and more. So I will plod along through this post, but I am letting you know that my next post, thankfully, will get much lighter in nature as I tackle topics which are nice and comfortable for me... things like not bothering to vacuum before company is coming, but rather after. I really do love those practical, organizational types of tips. This heart work is hard for me. Hard, but necessary. And after all, we Do Hard Things. (Our family motto.)

Chapter 11 - The Finest House in Town
You really must read it yourself to get the full impression of the parable she weaves with this story. I'll share an excerpt in summary:

We have barricaded our lives from one another... We no longer know how to coexist in the seasons of one another's lives... Consequently, newborn babes often starve if they can't find a spiritual household with an open door and provision of sweet warm milk and protein-rich meat of the Word. Slightly muddled, not sure what we are about, we allow the infant to fend for itself. Our house stands; it is there for all to see. It has been crafted in perfect intent by the Master Builder, but all too often the spirit of those within is feeble. Those who abide in these nearly emptied edifices can scarcely hear the cries of strangers beyond the gates.

BUT... are being thrown open, rooms aired, fires lit on the stone hearths, dry fountain plumbed, food stocked in empty kitchens, the front doors flung wide, gardens tended, people welcomed.

Each renovation makes place for the Spirit of Life to build also into human efforts, to tabernacle in this once locked room, in this formerly dusty attic. Christians are growing into an organic temple.

Reading this strengthens my resolve to continue the work we are doing to strengthen our local body of Christians and to keep pouring our hearts and our lives into that work. Evangelism is important, but having a solid structure to which new babes in Christ can be welcomed is vital.

Chapter 12 - Householding
The home of the Christian is a tool for ministry. Ask the Lord how He wants you to use it... If we understand that we are stewards to a divine Master, we must consider why we are in this place at this time in this town. He is not haphazard in His planning.

Ouch. I guess I need to do this. (making notes...)

(Insensitivity to the needs of others) is not just my problem; it is often the major fault of the church. We become ingrown. If we are not what Christ expects us to be, we have nothing to share; and if our household is filled with His presence, we often become so enamored with... this warm brotherhood that we forget to look for those... waiting for an invitation.

Sensitivity will come as we labor in prayer. In fact, if the work of evangelism is not first instigated in prayerful conduct, that's a pretty fair sign it will have only human results.

Ouch again.

Do you ever feel lonely? I do. Often. In fact, it is a common complaint of preacher's wives. This next bit really pierced my heart. I need to do better.

I am not lonely, because I refuse to be alone, and I have never met anyone who was offended because I opened my door and invited her (or him) to come in.

See what I mean about the inadequacy? *sigh*

These are Hard Things.

Chapter 13 - Open Hearts
Christ came to all men, but His message of redemption found particular appeal on the part of those disenfranchised, without hope, under the heel of unrighteous oppressors. We dare not neglect those who are abandoned by their fellow humans. For the Christian there is no caste, no race, no sex discrimination. We must minister to all people.

I find this to be a VERY difficult thing to balance. We have multiple calls every week from very needy people. We cannot possibly help them all... and really, many do not want what we do have to give - physical and spiritual food. Most just want cash... right now... and they will tell a very good story to try to get it. I feel inadequate and frustrated by this.

I also tend to be very inwardly focused and I feel like I have more than enough work to do keeping my own home and teaching my own children. I could throw all of my life into saving others, but what would be the cost? Would I lose the souls of my own children? It is difficult. I think I need to pray for wisdom in this area... to feed my own lambs and keep them safe and well, but to be open to ways to stretch my capabilities without sacrificing their well-being.

Chapter 14 - The Hospice
Hospice care steps in when the situation is dire. It is a last resort. In this chapter, Mrs. Mains describes radical steps in hospitality and opening our home to those with dire situations with no other hope. She emphasizes that this kind of ministry is not for everyone. Yet, it would be the sort of thing a man aspiring to be an elder ought to be capable of doing.

Maybe someday I will be in that place, but this next part describes something I can do NOW -

You can be a part of the work of the Kingdom though you may not be on the front lines. Think of yourself as a behind-the-lines supply depot, a resting place away from the heat of the battle. Find ways to use the good things the Lord has given to you to ease the battle-scarred veteran or that fresh young recruit.

Hospitality is an open heart as well as an open home. All of us must develop this attitude whether we feel the Lord would have us invite people into our homes twice a year or two hundred times a year. I am not concerned so much about the quantity of hospitality, but I am concerned about the attitudes from which our practice springs. We must all have hospitable hearts...

And that is how this book has opened my eyes more than anything. I am realizing that I have some more heart work to do and that this is FAR more important than improving my culinary skills, and even more important than being more socially gracious to those who are guests in our home. The problem is not in my abilities, it is in my attitude.

A reminder to myself -

family motto

Joining The Common Room for a study of the book, Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"To Everything There is a Season"

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

I feel like I go through periods where I am somewhat manic in my blogging. I have so much to say, and I just spout away. Then the pendulum swings the other way and I become more contemplative. I feel an urgent desire to read and seek wisdom and feel ill equipped to provide commentary for a while. Such is the nature of things.

So I've been doing lots of reading lately and have been mulling over many worthy thoughts. Here are some of the sources of my inspiration this past week:

Preacher Man says these Raisin Bran muffins are his new favorite! I quadrupled the recipe. (I found boxes of Raisin Bran for $.99 some time ago and they have now expired! Oops! They make wonderful muffins though!)

I finished reading, "Open Heart, Open Home" by Karen Mains. There are so many deep thoughts in this book. I am feeling the need to turn them over in my mind for a few days before sharing my comments.

Large Family Logistics routines are going swimmingly! I'm looking forward to blogging about my daily routine on Thursday with the Four Moms. Part of the reason for my quietness has been that I've been so busy catching up on mending yesterday for Laundry Day and whipping the kitchen into shape today for Kitchen Day.

I've been doing some quiet contemplation reading on "Like Mother, Like Daughter". Oh that we all had an Auntie Leila! Oh wait, we do! She is kind enough to embrace us all (via blogspot) and share her wisdom. Her latest post, "Self-control and Where to Get It" is worth reading half a dozen times. She expresses so well what I have been coming to grips with in my own life:

Here's the thing -- I really feel that most of the frustration parents feel at their children's lack of self-control is firmly rooted in their own lack of self-control!

There is nothing more painful (or motivating) than looking at your beautiful child, the apple of your eye, and watching your own flaws, failings, bad habits, and weaknesses rear their ugly head right in front of your very eyes. Sometimes the answer to training problems out of our children is to first remove the beam from our own eye and retrain ourselves. It is difficult work. It is necessary work. It causes me to pause and reflect. (And while I have not examined each and every article yet, all of her articles on raising children that I have seen are EXCELLENT! Go click on the category for "discipline", spend an hour soaking it in, and gain some wisdom.)

Your Baby Shouldn't Read - Share books with your baby... LOTS of books... yes. Plop your baby in front of a DVD every day and do flash cards... no. Everything in its time. (Back to Ecclesiastes!)

And lastly, The Modest Mom wrote an excellent, excellent article on Being Chaste in Marriage. Very worthy thoughts here, ladies!

So what have you been reading lately?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Work of Art

School Supplies

I am realizing that I may be a little late on this tip because many of you may have already begun your school year, but if you are still seeing loss leader sales* on school supplies, you may want to stock up to get the best prices of the year on these items. Sometimes you can even pick up things for free!

Don't need any "school supplies"? Are there any young people in your life that could use a gift some time in the next year? Art supplies make a great gift for birthdays or holidays. I keep some stashed in my gift box. I remember being THRILLED to get my very own brand new box of crayons when I was a child.

Pre-school and elementary age children just LOVE watercolors. If you are yearning for a peaceful afternoon, just bring out the watercolors and water cups. Get a box for each child, turn on some classical music and put a stack of paper on the table. The effect is magical and it is one of my favorite rainy day activities.

Here's some artwork by Big Littles - a family portrait. I love children's art!

Family Portrait

*loss leader sales - A product sold at a loss to the store in order to attract customers. The hope is that you will buy more costly items while you are in their store. But you don't have to! You can just buy the cheap stuff! :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Works For Me!

This is my brain:
my desk runneth over

This is my brain on Large Family Logistics:
Home Management Book 2

(Sorry if the hearts are distracting... had to cover personal information.)

Psalm 90:12 - Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

I LOVE that verse.

This week, I made a Home Management Book. Now I'm one of those weirdos that gets a little high from gathering materials like pretty purple binders, tabbed dividers, post-it-notes, and sheet protectors. But rather than just being a fad that I put a lot of time and energy into creating and drop in 2 weeks (or less), this is a tool that is helping me order my days in a meaningful way, and I intend to use it for a long time.

Ever since I was in middle school, I have had a "brain". I have always called my planner my brain because it remembers everything for me. My planners have taken many different shapes and forms. I have used daytimers, notecards, spiral notebooks, etc... I have changed my systems as my life has changed in complexity. The Home Management 3 ring binder system spelled out in LFL is just the perfect solution to my life at this moment. For the past several years I have been using a spiral notebook, but as life gets more complex, I need to bring more order to my days. I love the fact that this notebook stores all of the most pertinent information for me in a very clear way.

Here are the sections of my Home Management Book and what I put in them:
  1. Front Cover - my daily routine for easy reference
  2. First Page - a piece of paper with my weekly menu, schedule, and to-do list
  3. Sunday - The Lord's Day - Prayer List, Bible Memory Work page, Bible class planning
  4. Monday - Laundry Day - jobs for the day, a page listing current clothing sizes and needs for each member of the family
  5. Tuesday - Kitchen Day - jobs for the day, meal routines, meal lists for planning
  6. Wednesday - Office Day - jobs for the day, list of household staples with current best prices, next week's menu (office day jobs include making a grocery list and planning next week's menu)
  7. Thursday - Errands (aka - Town Day) - jobs for the day, "Watch For" list - long term shopping list for garage sales, thrift stores and best deals
  8. Friday - Garden Day - maps of past and present garden layouts, lists of what seeds I planted this year, long term list of outdoor chores that need to be done
  9. Saturday - Cleaning Day - jobs for the day, spring/fall cleaning lists
  10. Homeschooling - Ambleside Online book lists, goals/plans (remember I only have pre-school children right now)
  11. Holidays - gift lists, menus, other plans
  12. Sewing - list of current projects
  13. Blog - information and ideas for Church Mouse
  14. Etc... - current TCOYF chart

Colossians 3:23-24 - Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

It is worth noting that the days-of-the-week sections are not limited to those days, but that I will focus on that section on those particular days. I find that I am easily overwhelmed by a single, long to-do list. Dividing up my tasks into different days helps me to divide and conquer!

I also enjoy the fact that I can dress for the occasion. I tend to dress in nicer clothes on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and I can wear work clothes for the dirty work that happens on the other days.

I depart from the LFL system with the following:
  • So far, I have boys, and I don't think they'll be thrilled by a "Tea Party Day". We are substituting Pizza Day. :)
  • Instead of one big cleaning day, I still spread many of my cleaning tasks out throughout the week. I simply put those tasks on the pages for the "jobs for the day". I have always preferred doing things this way.
  • Not a real departure from the book, but worth noting in case you haven't read it yet - While I focus more on the jobs on their respective days, I also do laundry and gardening throughout the week because I hang nearly all of my laundry on the line, so these are both jobs where I "make hay while the sun shines". I usually do 2 loads on every sunny day. Remember, there are only four of us. If our family is blessed to grow, we may need to institute the "four loads by four" policy. As it is, I try to do "two loads by noon". Yeah... I have it easy. :)
So that is what works for me at this point in my life. I agree wholeheartedly with what Kim C. says about the book here, "I think Kim strikes a difficult and delicate balance between too much detail (overwhelming) and not enough (lack of focus or direction). She is also very careful not to dictate too many specifics of what belongs on your schedule or list of priorities, while providing plenty of examples from her own personal list and life."

What does your brain look like?

This post is a part of the Four Moms Large Family Logistics Part 2 linkup.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Open Homes - Inviting Everyone

peaceful morning

Chapter 10 - Open Homes

Many a pastor's wife participates in minimal efforts of hospitality because she realizes that, though she invites some, she may not be able to invite all.

I believe that except in very rare cases, you can invite them all.

For several years, Preacher Man and I were a part of a very small congregation that had a beautiful example of hospitality in one of the older ladies of the congregation. For a time before we came, it was only she, her husband and her son keeping the doors open. Everyone who ever visited was invited to her home for lunch, except in the summer time, when they were invited to a picnic at a local park. When we arrived, the group expanded somewhat to 6 people, and then 8. There were just 8 of us for quite a long time. The older woman, myself and another hospitable lady took turns hosting everyone for lunch each week. This three home rotation worked beautifully and we were a very close knit group. The group began to grow, and even though we are no longer there, the size of the group has swelled to many times the size of when there were only 8 of us. The group is now too large to get together every week, but there are still summer picnics, and one woman with a larger home hosts everyone about once a month for Sunday lunch. It is a beautiful example of open hearts and open homes and the growth that can come as a result.

When Preacher Man took a job at a much larger congregation, I soon realized that I could not host everyone in our home. I also realized that it would take years for me to systematically invite each family to our home for a Sunday lunch and I was overwhelmed by the prospect. I did not want to show favoritism though, and I wanted to be sure that each person in the group had been invited to our home. Another PW who is a lovely example of hospitality for me, gave me the following idea -

I tracked down the birthdays for each person in our group. I cataloged them, making a list for all of the birthdays for January, all for February, etc... For one year, each month, on the fourth Sunday of the month, everyone who had a birthday that month was invited to our home along with the rest of their family for cupcakes and drinks. We invited some of the singles or women who came alone with no other family connections to come to some of the months with fewer birthdays even if they didn't have a birthday that month. We arranged for the time to be about 2 hours before evening services, leaving plenty of time to sing happy birthday, to visit, and to get to the place where we meet close by. I kept things very simple - I made easy cupcakes, though they were homemade. Preacher Man makes killer coffee, and I'd put out some sodas. I used paper dessert plates, cups, and napkins, and the only thing I did to decorate was to make a poster that said "Happy Birthday" with the names of all of those who had a birthday that month.

This was a great idea because -
  1. Everyone received an invitation to our house at least once. (Most more than once.)
  2. It always made for a random mix of people... people who might not have a reason to spend much time together outside of our worship... people who might not have very much in common.
It was a little sad when some always declined the invitation, but I hope they still felt welcome here. Admittedly, it was a little exhausting, but I am glad to have done it, and I would like to do it again in the future.

If you feel discouraged by your inability to be able to invite everyone, perhaps this will give an idea of something you could do.

Do you have any creative ideas for inviting everyone into your home? I feel like there are some who are so often left out, and I'm always looking for ways to draw them in and get to know them better.

This post is a part of the study of the book, Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains hosted by The Common Room.

We'll Work Till Jesus Comes

Sunday Hymn Post

This is one of my very favorite hymns. I often singing it when I'm putting the Littles to sleep after a long, hard day. It encourages me to find the strength to keep going. I hope your Lord's Day is a blessed one!

O land of rest, for thee I sigh!
When will the moment come
When I shall lay my armor by
And dwell in peace at home?

To Jesus Christ I fled for rest;
He bade me cease to roam,
And lean for comfort on His breast
Till He conduct me home.

I sought at once my Savior’s side;
No more my steps shall roam.
With Him I’ll brave death’s chilling tide
And reach my heav’nly home.


We’ll work till Jesus comes,
We’ll work till Jesus comes,
We’ll work till Jesus comes,
And we’ll be gathered home.

By Elizabeth Mills (1805-1829)

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Peek in the Parsonage

Some of our goings-on in photos -

I'll give you three guesses what this is:


Sometimes it's fun to play with your food.

play with your food

(And it helps Littles enthusiastically eat their mixed vegetables and turn tears into laughter.)

A volunteer butternut squash.

butternut squash

Getting ready to eat the first BLT of the year! My mouth is watering already!

first tomato

Drying herbs


And all of the general cleaning, laundry, playing, reading, learning and growing that happens every day around here.

And how do you like the new banner and layout? If you subscribe on Google Reader, click over and tell me what you think!

Life is good! We are blessed!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


The beautiful child awakens from rest. Dearest to my soul, loved beyond imagination, we have gone through so much together thus far.

Isaiah 63: 7-9 -
I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD,
the praises of the LORD,
according to all that the LORD has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, "Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely."
And he became their Savior.
In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them;
In his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

A cloud overshadows. His countenance has fallen. If you do well will it not be lifted up my son? He responds with disobedience. Rebellion. Fits of anger.

Isaiah 63:10 -
But they rebelled

and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.

Admonition, correction, punishment. The cycle has begun. We are at war. There is more disobedience, rebellion, and anger followed by more admonition, correction, and punishment. He is overwhelmed by these feelings. He cannot escape by himself. It is too much for him. He has lost his way. If I abandon him, he may never return.

He needs mercy. He must see the light.

Isaiah 54:7-8 -
For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.

I watch carefully, waiting for the moment when I can show my lamb grace and mercy once again. The moment comes and I gently wrap him up with my love. He can feel my smiles now and his trembling soul begins to relent. The torrents of anger are left behind. Peace reigns.

Isaiah 40:10-11 -
He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

This child that I made and have carried in my heart all of these years is restored to me. He is mine once again.

Psalm 100:3 -
Know that the LORD, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

It is bedtime once again and we cuddle to sleep after our prayers. The time of war has been forgotten. Tomorrow we will arise to greet a new day and we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Lamentations 3:22-23 -

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

They are new every morning.

Life with Littles

A few months ago, a sweet, sweet friend and reader surprised me by sending me a copy of the book, Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman. The book is AWESOME, folks! I would say it is worth the price for the appendix alone! If you have one child or 10 children, you will benefit from this book and its Godly perspective on being a mother and manager of your home.

The famous Four Moms are doing a link up today on the first section of the book
and I'm excited to chime in. The only problem is, the first section of the book is 17 CHAPTERS!! Now some of the chapters are short, but it is seriously a LOT of material to cover and I don't think I can do it justice in a single post. I decided yesterday that I would pick my favorite chapter for a post. But this is so hard to do! There are so many favorites! *sigh*

If you are not familiar with the book, Connie at Smockity Frocks does a nice job summarizing each chapter.

I love that this book is practical and that this is a mom that really gets it. I feel like I am reading a letter from a wonderful friend and she is sharing tips on when to take a shower (pg. 89) because there are times when even sneaking in a 10 minute shower seems impossible. She shares how to select modest clothing that is suited to the job of being a mother (ch. 17), how to avoid looking frumpy, and how to organize your clothing when you go through five different sizes in one year. She encourages me to keep denying self and to look to God for strength when my load becomes too heavy. I continue to be blessed by the Bible-based wisdom in this book.

Since I can't decide upon a favorite, I'll share the chapter that seems most fitting for me right now - Chapter 13, Life with Littles.

How Little is Little?
Mrs. Brenneman says it depends upon your family and how you are training them. I like the Deputy Headmistress' definition: a child that still needs supervision to use the toilet. :) Mine are definitely little!

Children don't instantly become helpful when they hit a certain age; it is a result of the developmental training process that you employ at each age. Make work fun, do it with the right attitude, as unto the Lord, and as children grow, they will gradually pick up new skills and slowly become more helpful.

I am big on having my Littles help me around the house. They LOVE to work! Even the baby is so proud to toddle over to the drawer to put away a potholder for me. We work together, we learn together, we play together, and sometimes it is difficult to tell which one we are doing. This is discussed in even greater detail in chapter 9, but I love how she encourages us to work with our little ones. She emphasizes that "Little children can learn to work more easily if their day follows a routine" and encourages developing good habits and routines for self-care and cleaning up. Personally, I really need to work harder at strengthening our daily routine. The day goes so much smoother with that routine, and the Littles appreciate the predictability. Part of the problem is that I need to work on my own self-discipline for self-care and cleaning up! :/ Thankfully, she covers that in chapter 4.

Ease into Homeschooling
I think it is a major temptation of mothers who are eager to homeschool to jump in too hard, too fast, and too soon. Mrs. Brenneman encourages mothers to ease into it, simply adding on bits and pieces at a time to an already structured day.

Do you have a time of day when you read to the children? Tack on a few minutes of phonics... While reading aloud, have the children narrate back to you a little bit at a time... Do you play outside? Get down and find a bug, and then look it up and read about it.
That is the way I do pre-school!

Content Yourself with Healthy Brain Food
Mrs. Brenneman recognizes the physically taxing aspect of life with littles and the fact that there is a need for mental stimulation. She warns us about the seductive nature of the internet in regards to wasting time and the temptation of online gossip.

If you sow into your mind things that promote discontent... then you will reap discontent in your life... Do not allow yourself to be discontent, but look at all things with thanksgiving and challenge yourself to overcome trials with biblical responses. Look at the long physically hard days as the blessing that they are. This is the school of sanctification. God is growing in you.

Hide God's Word in Your Heart
The best "healthy brain food" is God's word! She recommends working daily on memorizing Bible verses with the Littles and singing hymns while you work, hiding God's word in their hearts, as well as your own. When we do this, we receive strength from the Lord.

We learn to rest in God and depend on Him for the strength we need for each day. We learn to seek Him for wisdom in how to handle all the things that wear on us. We learn to pray without ceasing and make Him our best friend in the lonely days of little adult interaction.

I Can't Get Anything Done!
Do you ever feel like you are just spinning your wheels. *sigh* Some days are like that, but if every day is like that, then it may be time to make some changes. Maybe you need to stay home more and focus on your children, your home, and your routine? Maybe you need to do a better job meeting the needs of your Littles before the meltdowns begin? Maybe something in the routine needs adjusting (earlier lunch or naps, a snack added in, etc...)? Maybe some of your Littles need some intensive work on obedience? I think I have had problems with all of these at one time or another. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, running and running like a hamster in a wheel. Mrs. Brenneman wisely advises that if this is the case, we take a day or two studying the problem and working on solutions that will make our home life more pleasing.

Less is More
I use all of the strategies recommended in this book to keep toys under control, such as -
  • limiting toys
  • keeping only high quality, open ended, imaginative toys
  • keeping toys where I work
  • keeping toys out of the bedrooms
  • rotating toys in and out of storage
  • doing a "10 minute tidy" before naps and bedtime
But it requires constant vigilance! It seems like keeping the toys under control is a never-ending process. Cleaning out toys is on my to-do list right now because things are starting to get out of hand again. Mrs. Brenneman recommends the rule of thumb that if it takes longer than 10 minutes to clean up, it's time to de-clutter again.

What are your strategies for thriving while living in a house full of Littles? Which chapter in Part One was your favorite?

Older posts about Large Family Logistics can be found here - Large Family Logistics and here - The Children's Hour.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Family of Joint Heirs

peaceful morning

A study of Chapter 9, linked with the Common Room's ongoing study of this book.

I feel like my studies on this subject have been pretty gloomy lately. I'm going to try to brighten things up with this one.

Daisies are the Friendliest Flowers

Ah... I feel better already! Don't you think that daisies are the friendliest flowers?

In this chapter, Mrs. Mains discusses our family, specifically, our Christian family. She talks about how to build our relationships with one another. Because closeness doesn't just happen, you know. It takes a lot of work!

I especially enjoyed this bit where she quoted the evangelist Tom Skinner -

We are a family. Brothers and sisters in Christ. What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine.

Then when people ask, "Where's love?" we can answer, "Over here!"

When they ask, "Where's justice?" we can answer, "Over here!"

When they ask, "Where's unity?" we can shout, "Over here! In Christ's new community!"

May I add that when they ask, "What's happened to the family?" we should be able to respond, "It's alive and well. It's here - in this community cluster, this warm, sheltering, loving, accepting body of Christ."

Oh that we could all enjoy this ideal! All over the world, people yearn for this kind of community, and it is becoming an increasing rarity in modern society. I'm afraid it does not come easy. It requires an investment of time to build these kinds of relationships, and many people that gather together with their fellow Christians on Sundays don't prioritize their time in a way that allows this kind of Christian family community to develop. If we are only showing up for the official times of meeting (and perhaps not all of those) and spend no other time with our fellow Christians, it will not be enough to do it.

Her husband David writes,
An individual believer is able to worship or pray alone. He can share his faith apart from the church, and he can even adequately instruct himself along spiritual lines. It is obviously impossible, however, for him to participate in Christian fellowship without others who share his beliefs.

God knew that we needed each other when he wrote this:

Hebrews 10:22-25 - Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

In order to be a family of joint heirs with Christ and with one another, we must spend time together in worship and in fellowship. We need our Christian family. We need to be stirred up to love and good works. We need exhortation. And in turn, we need to give it back to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Long Term, But Temporary

peaceful morning

A study of Chapter 8, linked with the Common Room's ongoing study of this book.

It seems like this chapter and the previous chapter overlap somewhat in their thoughts, but Mrs. Mains introduces a new concept of being welcoming to the people who live with us who are not a part of our nuclear family. I seriously considered keeping my post on this chapter to this:

I wish I had read this a year ago.

But the material here is rich and I think it would benefit myself and others if I flesh things out a little bit more, so I will say,

I wish I had read this a year ago.
But I do not think I was ready to read it a year ago.
And I don't know if I am really ready to read it now. All I can do is to try to learn from grievous mistakes of the past.

Perhaps more difficult than developing attitudes of welcome toward our children is keeping a spirit of invitation open towards those adults with whom we live - husbands, roommates, or parents.

Yes, this is very difficult. Living with people who are not in our nuclear family is very, very, very, very difficult. We have had extra people living with us for roughly 1/3 of our marriage. It is difficult because the persons who have lived with us have not been our children where we could tell them what to do. They have not been our parents. (Though I know some people who are dealing with this challenge, and one day is may be our own.) They have not been employees or renters. They are guests, but very complicated guests, who must bear more responsibility to the functioning of the household with their lengthy stay. There is no pre-existing pattern to use and no real natural order or hierarchy to rely upon. The difficulty cannot be overstated.

I have little wisdom to share on the subject because I feel like a student myself. So I will share a bit of what Mrs. Mains has to say:

We must learn to share our lives, to intermingle thoughts and emotions, and to thereby consecrate our tiny dwellings in this large world as a place in which His Presence is pleased to abide. Disunity is a sure sign that He has not been allowed to become a guest within our inner beings, and therefore has no place in our material abodes either.

I truly believe that whenever we gather together under one roof, be it in a dormitory, a community, or a singular dwelling, we have the opportunity of creating family.

Why is there no welcome in my heart? Is it because of self-centeredness? or resentment? because I have been betrayed? Deep work of the Spirit then has to be done. For most of us, however, it is a matter of simply developing new attitudes.

Simply a matter? Oh if only the matter WERE simple!

Let us work, then, on the welcome we extend to those with whom we live - not just the greeting given at the end of a long day, but the hospitality shared in the moment-to moment meshing of lives. Let us demonstrate to one another, "Your ideas are welcome. Your interests are welcome. Your presence is welcome."

I do not know whether or not we will have the opportunity to have another person join our family for a time. I hope and pray that if there is a next time, I will be able to welcome them moment to moment. As the hostess, it is up to me to set the tone of the home and maintain a positive attitude, no matter how it is reciprocated. This may be the most difficult thing of all and it can only happen with God's help.

Our attitude is what determines if that rare miracle of closeness will occur.

Kind readers, if you have any wisdom to share on the subject, I would dearly love to hear it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For the Love of Casseroles

broccoli rice casserole 2

Today I'm posting two casserole recipes with dairy free options - Chicken Spaghetti and Broccoli, Rice, Chicken & Cheese Casserole.

Casseroles are comfort food for me. I remember begging my mom to make a broccoli rice casserole when I was a teenager. I'm sure she was a little astonished by my request! After being forced to eliminate all forms of dairy from my diet for over a year for a dairy intolerant nursling, casseroles were left out of our dinner repertoire. All of my casserole recipes were full of cream of ____, cheese, more cheese, and sour cream, which are all no-nos.

I recently started experimenting a little and found that casseroles do not have to be utterly eliminated, I just have to tweak them a little so everyone in my family can eat them. I'll share some of the results, with both the regular recipe and the dairy free options. (Dairy free options are in orange.)

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
I combined two recipes - PW's Chicken Spaghetti + the Gluten Free Goddess' Best Cheesy Uncheese Sauce = dairy free Chicken Spaghetti Cassesrole

Not too bad if I say so myself!

Keep in mind that I had not eaten cheese or any type of casserole in over 16 months. Wow, that is a long time! And I really don't think a good substitute for cheese exists. I've tried many and you just can't duplicate cheese. But this was pretty good! It helps if you don't think of the cheese sauce as cheese, but rather a white sauce with some extra flavoring. (At least to me.)

Chicken Spaghetti

the recipe:
*2 c. cooked and shredded chicken
*1 lb. box cut spaghetti cooked and drained (I can buy it in a box pre-cut, if you can't find it that way, just cut it up before dropping it in to boil.)
*2 cans cream of mushroom (1 recipe of the cheesy uncheese sauce.)
*2 c. grated cheddar (if dairy free, leave this out)
*1 finely diced green pepper
*1 finely chopped onion
*2 cans chopped green chilis
*2 c. chicken broth (1 1/2 c. if using the uncheese sauce as it is slightly runnier than the cream soup)
*1 tsp. seasoned salt
*1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
*salt & pepper to taste
*1 c. grated cheddar (french fried onions)

Combine all ingredients except your choice of topping. Dump it into a greased casserole pan. Bake for 350* for 45 minutes.

For the french fried onion option, cover your casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, take off the foil and top with the french fried onions. Bake another 15 minutes.

play with your food

Sometimes we play with our food!

Broccoli, Cheese, Chicken & Rice Casserole
I adapted this from the Hillbilly Housewife's recipe. Note that it can also be gluten free if you use cornstarch instead of plain flour.

* 1/4 cup butter (my nursling handles butter just fine now - If needed, substitute Fleishmann's unsalted margarine. Look for the "parve" marking on the box to indicate dairy free.)
* 1/3 cup flour
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
* 1-1/2 cups milk OR 12 ounce can evaporated milk (or 1-1/2 c. rice milk)
* 2 heaping Tbs. nutritional yeast - optional
* 3 cups frozen or fresh broccoli
* 4 ounce can of mushrooms, undrained (I often leave these out.)
* 3 cups cooked rice
* 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
* 2 cups shredded cheese (I can now eat raw cheddar, so that is what I used. For another dairy free option, top the casserole with french fried onions during the last 15 minutes of baking. Another option is to set aside a couple of portions of the casserole without the cheese topping in its own little baking dish or bowl.)

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter. (Sometimes I'll add chopped onions and garlic and saute it in the butter here.) Stir in the flour, making a smooth paste. Add the pepper and salt and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and milk. Stir it so there aren't any lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until the sauce is nicely thickened. Add the broccoli and simmer it for a few minutes to cook it briefly. Stir in the mushrooms, rice, and chicken. Turn the mixture into a large oiled casserole dish, at least 2 quarts-size or slightly larger. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dish, and bake at 400° for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

broccoli rice casserole

Broccoli Rice Chicken & Cheese Casserole before turning it out into a baking dish. You really could eat it just like this!

Besides the french fried onions, I have found stuffing to make a pretty good casserole topping. I like cornbread stuffing and you just spread it over the top of the casserole and pour a stick of melted butter (or margarine) on top of that. It will get nice and crispy in the oven. I've also heard of people using tater tots and even potato chips as casserole toppings, though I can't vouch for these personally. It helps to think outside the (cheese) box!

I'm happy to have a few casseroles in my life again. Both of these casseroles are freezable. Having one-dish dinner options that are easy to make ahead really save a busy mama's sanity!

What is your favorite casserole?
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