Working Towards Contentment

Calm.  Peaceful.  Happy.  Content.
Happy Family 1955 Eloise Wilkin
No more mad morning dashes out the front door.
No more being late to work.
No more snapping at the kids.
No more schedule rearranging.
No more sick days.
No more melt-downs in the mornings.
No more, “Who is picking up the kids today?”
No more, “Who will pick up dinner?”
No more, “Who will stay with the sick child?”
No more, “Not now, I’m working.”

How would your life change?

He begged her to stay home.  She didn’t feel adequate.  She couldn’t accept his care of her.  She feared abandonment.  “What will it take?” he asked.  She jokingly replied, “A Porsche Cayenne.”  Within a week he had one delivered and demanded she resign.  He told her that he and the kids desperately needed her to be at home.  The chaos and negativity of her job was destroying their home life.  She quit, and the above was her partial list of what changed.  Does your husband really want you to work?

What used to be a normal way of life is now a precious calling for Christian mothers to be dedicated to the family at home, doing the work themselves that others hire out.

I wonder if people really are happier caring for strangers, than for their family?  Are they happier:

  • Teaching 34 kids instead of 2?
  • Caring for 30 patients instead of 4?
  • Waiting on 300 customers instead of 4?
  • Getting meals for dozens of families instead of 1?
  • Doing taxes or bookkeeping for others instead of 2?
  • Cleaning 15 homes instead of 1?
  • Caring for a dozen children instead of 2?
  • Counseling other families instead of strengthening their own?
  • Providing excellent customer service to hundreds instead of service to their husband?
  • Spending hours talking to clients instead of their own children?

If you are a Christian who has children at home, and are working for another, are you sure God is really calling you to do that?  (I imagine some are, but I’ll bet many others are not.)

Are you working for free?  And I don’t mean motherhood or volunteer work!

#1 I was at the doctor’s office filling in my paperwork when the receptionist said to another gal working there:  “You know, I only break even when I get my paycheck.  After I pay for daycare, my car, and gas, I have nothing left over.”  Woman #2: “Then why are you working?!”  Young woman:  “Because when my child is in Kindergarten in two years I know I will be making more money plus I won’t have to pay for childcare anymore.  I’m working for the future.”  

This young woman chose to work for free instead of staying home to care for her own child.  She has chosen to pay someone else to raise her child at the most critical time in her child’s life.  She did not need to work to pay rent and put food on the table.  She said she was paying for daycare and the means to get to work!   This woman was either discontent or believed the lie it is better to work than care for her children.

#2 A friend had happily been at home for over a decade.  Then she got talked into a new car for herself by a salesman (to give her a credit history in her own name), along with a new car they were buying for her husband.  Quickly, she found out she was going to have to get a job to pay for the car.  But when she got paid, she realized that after taxes, the car payment, gasoline, and insurance, her paycheck amounted to nothing. 

#3 Another woman I know went back to work after many years at home.  She is absolutely beloved at work because she is great at what she does.  She is still beloved at home, of course…but she feels like a failure.  And when a woman fails at home, she feels like a failure in everything… and begins to gain weight.  She begins yelling.  She is constantly stressed.  She is torn between her boss’s needs and her husband’s needs.  No one is ever home in this expensive house any more.  What is there to come home to?  It is a place to sleep, and that is all.

#4 Yet another woman could have continued staying at home caring for her family, but she was talked into the “having it all” life.  She went back to school and found a job paying twice what she used to make …but discovered that she too is working for free…because she has to pay back the school loans.

#5 An acquaintance announced that she was putting her six year old in private school and would be working admin at the same school, because they needed more money and she must work.  She reasoned that this would also reduce the expensive tuition.  But it also meant long hours away from home, a new wardrobe, and most important, that her toddling twins would be put in daycare.  Which meant that not only would she now be working for free, she would, in fact –oops!- actually be losing $200/month!  That’s $2400 a year! 

If she had stayed home with the twins, she’d come out ahead financially.  But in reality, she didn’t want to change diapers and read baby books and cook and clean.  She wanted a new wardrobe, dinners out, a housekeeping service, and the kudos her job gave her.  She was discontent being at home.

#6 A retired couple I met have a beautiful dream home with an incredible view.  They love spending time with their grandchildren.  They are very energetic, helpful people.  But apparently, both wanted a second career and the chance to make even more money.  I can only imagine that they were talked into a franchise by a salesman telling them they could leave their kids millions (they won’t), because they bought a store.  They appeared to be living cushy, but instead of retiring and helping those around them, they now work 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, have gone through their savings, and have put their lovely home, which they had poured money into for years making it their dream home, up for sale.  Why?  They had it made by most people’s standards!  Could it be…discontent?

Content makes poor people rich; 
discontent makes rich people poor.  ~Ben Franklin

If you are at home and are discontent, look at why, because I don’t want YOU to be caught in one of the disastrous situations above!

Begin at your doorway and choose to see yourself blessed instead. 

If your house is too small, too ugly, bad neighborhood, not yours…start praying over it.  Pray for your neighborhood, your neighbors (meet them!), your house and your family.

Grab a pen and paper and put on a realtor’s hat.  If you were going to sell this home/apt. what would you change?  Write it all down.  This is just a master list.  (See Home Beautification Plan).  You will be done within 15 minutes, and years later when you find this list again, you will be amazed at how much of what you wrote down was actually accomplished!

Some will be easy…pulling weeds, pulling down cobwebs, painting (not that painting is easy or cheap, but it is doable).  Decluttering is a big one that is not only doable, it is cheap and blesses others.  Having clean horizontal spaces makes a home larger instantly.  (See Happy Organizing).

Your attitude can change things so easily.  Pray over it all.  Get a friend to pray with you as well. (When I did this I had a major attitude break-though!)   Pray with your children for the things that need changing.  God loves to answer children’s prayers.

The majority of us, for myriad reasons, will not be able to leave the home we are currently in for a bigger one…we HAVE to make-do with what we have.   And guess what?  God actually cares.  I know, because He has not only answered my prayers about learning to love my small home, but he has helped many women who have written books about it, and many women who have not!  When you pray over it, He will direct you not only as to WHAT to do, but He will provide you the means, the pieces, the people, the WAY to accomplish making your home nicer for your family!  He is a God of order and beauty!  He wants it for us, too.

It all begins with prayer and reading the Scriptures.  

  • Instead of wishing for a bigger home, make your home bigger by getting rid of things.
  • Instead of wishing for more money, pray what you need, in.   
  • Make a list of what you need and want.  Write it down and carry it with you.  When you go to garage sales or thrift shops, refer to it and don’t waste money.  If you need more money you need to track what you spend and plug up the holes.   
  • Read the book "Your Money or Your Life."  (Read I Held The Key to My Own Happiness.)
  • Instead of wishing your children were older, you must embrace life as it is now and bless each stage, because it will be gone in a blink of an eye.  (Read Perfect Conditions.)
  • Look at all the blessings around you.  What are the good things you can see, right this minute?  Can you see the sky, or are you in jail?  Are you at work, or at home?  Do you have a home?  Is your husband working?  Do you have a husband?  Do you have health?  Healthy children?  Good doctors?  A car that runs?  Roses in a neighbor’s yard?  Good neighbors?  Close family?  Write down all these blessings.  
It’s wonderful to read and get encouraged from others’ experiences, but at some point you have to stop reading and start DOING.  (Read Organization and Doing Hard Things First.)

Your attitude is the key to living in contentment.   
And YOUR attitude triggers or calms your husband’s attitudes, and your children’s.   
Are you a whiner? Or do you bless your family?
Start living in gratitude and contentment!



The Job
A. Sarnoff
When my baby was 2-1/2 years old, my old job called to see if I could fill in for two and one-half weeks while someone was on vacation.  Lured by the easy money, I readily agreed.

I was to begin on a Wednesday, so my DH took off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  I left a full fridge, no dirty laundry, and a sparkling clean home.  I was gone 10 hours.  I came home to dinner and a clean home, happy to see baby and daddy.

Thursday, same scenario, except the house was no longer sparkling.

Friday, I came home to no dinner and a messy house.  I was exhausted, and as I hadn't made the mess, I went on strike.  I wasn't going to do any dishes, laundry, or housework on my weekend.  I did take over caring for baby.

For the next two weeks, daddy took baby to grandma and grandpa's house.  Then he went to work.  When he picked little one up, grandma had dinner ready and waiting for him.

I began working 12 hour days.  As long as I was away from home, I might as well earn as much money as possible!  Still on strike, I had my lunch and dinner out.

The Experience
I'd give a kiss at 7:30 am, then a kiss at 8:30 pm.  But when it came to putting baby to bed, he no longer wanted me.  He wanted daddy to do ALL for him and I was GLAD!  As soon as I got home I felt exhausted.  I was gone 5 hours longer than my husband and felt that I had worked much harder.  I wanted nothing to do with rocking baby, changing diapers, or storytime.  Grandma had already bathed him.  He would pull away from me to get into daddy's arms.  (Daddy was loving it.)

When my 2.5 weeks were up, and I stayed home on Monday while daddy went to work, I held baby close.  He pulled back.  In trepidation he asked, "Mama...work?"

"No baby, mama is never going to go back to work again."  He asked me this every day for almost two months.  I think he liked hearing me say I would never leave him again.  He had fun at grandma and grandpa's, and he was well cared for and loved.  But we both missed our special relationship.

Was it Worth it?
Was the money worth it?  It paid an entire year of home and car insurance, and property taxes?  NO.
Was the experience worth it?  YES.

The experience helped me remember what my husband goes through daily to support us:
early mornings,
some late evenings,
watching the clock,
bumper to bumper traffic,
lack of sunlight,
lack of exercise,
lack of spontaneous fun.
The best hours of the day belong to someone else.
Having to do work that is no longer fun or challenging.
Only getting a few vacation days.
Being grouchy.
Not feeling a part of the family circle.

I was able to put myself in my husband's shoes, an experience I won't soon forget.   
That helps me to:
  • not complain; 
  • set a good mood in the home; 
  • keep up with laundry and dishes; 
  • make home cozy; 
  • keep decluttering.  
  • And it especially helps me to be thankful to him for working to keep me at home with baby.

It also was a great experience for him - he got a taste of how impossible it can be to care for a toddler and keep a clean home.  He found out what I did all day, first hand!  (If you have a child under five, you do not need to volunteer for anything at church, school or in the community.  Caring for a toddler is enough!)

Will I do it again?  Never.  The severing of the emotional bond we experienced will never be worth any extra money.

I learned, with God's help, to instead cut our budget by 60%.  I say with His help because I prayed over everything I bought, including groceries, and He brought me resources and books, free clothing, unexpected financial gifts, ways to make money from home like pet sitting and e-bay selling, and doing all the things I outlined in my Living on one income post. 

One more thing.  I think tithing is super important.  All the people I know who have been successful staying home on one income, and not in debt (or are working out of it), are Christian tithers.  Just begin, even if it is at 1%, and work your way up.  I mention this more in my post On Being Debt-Free.

If you are a Christian and you WANT to stay home, God will help you find a way.  

“Today’s wives and mothers have found their total freedom.  Freedom from tyrannical bosses. Freedom from unfair wages and promotions.  Freedom from dividing our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls between work and family.  We’ve found our freedom by coming home.  Here we are truly free:  financially, emotionally, and creatively.  Our hearts are free to love, free to give, free to be and become who we really are, free to get to know who we really are, and free with our schedules. We manage all of these freedoms with perhaps more skill, professionalism, and resourcefulness than ever, and it’s healing us, our families, and our nation.” ~ Mrs. Wayne Hunter from the Article “The New Women’s Movement: We’re Coming Home”


On Being Debt-Free

I used to pay off a credit card, and then, as soon as it was at zero, I'd go out and shop, spending more each time.  When I confessed what I had just done, a wise friend told me I was more comfortable with debt than I was with being debt-free.

I wasn’t comfortable not being poor.  Being poor, I could commiserate with friends.  Research has shown that poor families are happier than rich families.  Poor families give more than rich families.  Poor was good.  Rich was bad. 
A. Sarnoff, artist

This conversation took place 20 years ago.  I took to heart what he said.  My problem in my 20’s was Nordstroms.  After that conversation, I paid off my bill (took about 1 year), and for the first time I did not get back into debt on that card.  Over time, I learned to not be in any credit card debt.  I did this by brainwashing myself:

Automatic Millionaire
Renee Ellisons’s CD on money
Mary Hunt’s newsletters and books
Your Money or Your Life book
Developing a Prosperous Soul, Vol 1 & 2 by Harold R. Eberle
Finding Your Way Home
There’s No Place Like Home
money principles from the Holy Bible ( http://www.biblicalmoneyprinciples.com/verses/ has some of them)

Some answers to prayer from 2005-2009:
Received an unexpected paycheck from unused vacation days (an audit discovered this)  $1500
An unexpected $700 refund from home insurance
Unexpected gift from a relative to cover dental work
An unexpected tax refund check (because I quit working the year before and I had overpaid!)
An unexpected $1000 from a relative’s will
Husband received an unexpected raise
Retirement plan changed so that work now pays more
An old friend repaid a very old loan
We brought our giving into alignment (only 10%) (we were actually giving more than we could afford; Eberle’s book taught me how to figure this out)
We no longer buy the cheapest thing – like tires – but more quality items that have to be replaced LESS often (Eberle also taught us this)
Unexpected gifts of cash – always just enough to cover what we need
Doing odd jobs and getting paid more than contracted for
Pay cycle changed from every twice a month to every 2 weeks – we learned to live on less and the “extra” 2 paychecks paid insurance for the year – just when we were wondering how we’d pay it
Overtime checks
Debts paid off – freed up money to cover living expenses
Rewards on visa card to help PAY the card off each month (not buy another item or get a gift card)
Utility payments down due to good weather, and avoiding peak times when possible

Now, lest you think all was peaches and cream, this is how many of my entries read from my journal:

2/1/08 2:30 am (I couldn’t sleep as usual for fear of not being able to pay bills).  Well, it’s happened.  We don’t have enough to pay our bills.  As usual we are approximately $1500 behind.  I’m going to have to pay a credit card with another card’s check.  We’ll see what the fees are.  Zero percent, but fees.  We’ve been careful this month with putting things on the card.  We’ll see.  Had electrical problems.  Cost $500.  3 installments of $165.  Car insurance due – first time we can’t pay in full.  I’m disillusioned.  I got asked to work.  I don’t want to, but the Lord doesn’t seem to be providing.  What am I to learn?  What is DH to learn?  I’m jealous of others.  I wish we didn’t have a car payment – that would help.  Lord, please help us work out how to live on his income.  I’m cleaning things out to sell on e-bay, and because I think we will have to move (we didn’t!).  Show us how to pay our bills, Lord. 

SAME DAY  2/1/08 9:00 pm  I’ve been reading about God being our provider today.  I’ve been conversing with Him about our bills.  I read that God is slow.  But never Late.  I didn’t have peace about paying a credit card with another card.  Bill is due 2/7.  The Lord just told me to put all my bills on a calendar – pre-write them on their recurring due dates in so I don’t forget to pay them – not just to list my bills on a piece of paper.  Then He said to pay just the bills that are due.  Lo and behold I realized that the paycheck on the 13th CAN cover the house payment due on the first – but not LATE until the 15th!  It’s cutting it CLOSE, but I think it will work if I set up an automatic payment on the 13th.  Putting this off leaves enough money to pay all the bills.  Plus!  Grandma sent money for toddler classes for something fun to do!

3/14  I got a $1 calendar to use just for bills.  Just by rearranging my dates and pay periods we are going to have enough.  I called all the utility companies to move the payment dates to correspond with our new pay periods – instead of being due on the 28th, they will be due on the 3rd.  It was so easy and it solved my dilemma!  I’m no longer behind!  I made the last payment to the electrician today.  But then how will I pay the visa bill?  Ugh! It’s a never ending cycle. 

3/14 PM   DH was invited to Rotary.  They had a raffle.  His friend bought him two tickets and he won $140!  That pays the visa bill!  And buys a new toaster that broke last week!

5/31  He got a raise!  What an incredible surprise!  Every little bit helps! 

3/11/09  Well, somehow we keep making it, in spite of all the things that keep breaking down.  Both cars and the dryer on the same day! Luckily, both cars just need batteries.  We got a great deal on a dryer – the catch – it won’t be delivered for a month.  We gave $1809 LESS than last year, but still gave 10%.  I haven’t been worrying, since we are doing okay.  I’ve been home 3+ years now.  Plus, I just won a $100 gift card (to a seaside town 3 hours away).  The hotel for 2 nights will be $328.  The hotel will give us $25 for gas.  The $100 gift card pays all of our food and the rest of the gas.  I brought in $334 doing typing and proofreading for a friend.  Thank you, Lord, vacation paid for!  First one in YEARS!  Whoopee!

8/23/10  Called phone company to complain about internet charge going up.  Held for 5 min.  They reduced it, and now I can pay for the class for little one!

God is obviously providing for us in so many little ways….we pray about it, and eventually our answer comes.  The only clothes I’ve had to buy little one is pj’s, socks and underwear.  All else come from friends and the free table.  If I was rich, I would miss seeing God’s provision….I would depend on our paycheck only. 

Little one asked if we were rich, and I said, “Yes, we are.  We have everything we need, and I am at home with you.  Our roof doesn’t leak, even though it is 50 years old.  Our car runs, even though it is 15 years old.  Our pantry is full…I haven’t gone hungry since 1999, and you’ve never gone hungry.  Daddy has a job.  You have toys.  We have friends, and our family, and our church, and our health.  We are very, very rich.”   He then asked for something outrageous…and of course I said, “no dear, we can’t afford that.” 

Make a great deal over little pleasures.  People need joy.  ~Unknown

2015:  The kicker is that we live on less than we ever have before, but we have learned to live on less and watch God provide.  We are now out of debt and we seem to never run out of money – we always have JUST enough.  It is simply amazing.  Over this last decade God has taught us so much about finances, greed, jealousy, trusting Him, self-control, waiting on Him, praying things in, grace, giving, compassion. 

When you are in the midst of debt, life is hard.  If you are in debt, and you are a Christian, please prayerfully read the Bible first, then the books I’ve mentioned above.  If you are not in the habit of giving, begin with 1% and work up to at least 10%. 

Before I met my husband, I lived in financial fear.  I began tithing 1%.  I went to 2% 6 months later.  Then   3%, then 4%.Then I paid off a huge debt.  I asked myself how much 10% giving would be and without this debt, I jumped to 10% and my financial problems diminished.  When I married we had plenty of money, but then I came home with little one.  I had to learn to live on one small income.  My post on that tells it all.  

A. Sarnoff
You have to DO.  Read, pray, and DO the baby steps.  Don't just read and wish.  Read how I paid off the car 6 months early for more encouragement to BEGIN.  I want everyone to be debt-free!

That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.  ~Henry David Thoreau


Mother is My Favorite Pin-Up Girl!

Children think their mothers are beautiful!

We are so very beautiful to them, no matter if we have make-up on, are overweight, or are wearing old pajamas with holes in them.

They say the sweetest things about how we look that are highly exaggerated.   Write them down!  I keep a small book in the kitchen of all the funny and sweet things my son has said over the years, and funny events, comics, etc.  (I began with scraps of paper I threw in a box.)  How we giggle when we go through it!

He just told me I didn't look any different with make-up on, so why do I wear it?  "It's the same old, adorable, beautiful face!"  Ha, ha!

When I saw this boy's pin-up, I realized that is truly how our children see us - we are the most beautiful gal in the room.

both ads by A. Sarnoff
Happy Mother's Day!  You are blessed!
 “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” -C. S. Lewis

“Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.” -Swedish Proverb

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” -Nelson Mandela

“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” -Josh Shipp

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” -Neil Postman

 “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” -Andy Stanley


How I Paid Our Car Off Six Months Early

He who waits to do a great deal at once will never do anything. ~ Charles Simmons

Artist - Sarnoff

Six months doesn’t sound like much, but boy did it relieve our budget.  When we obtained a loan for the car it didn’t seem like much.  But now I was at home with our toddler and the car payment seemed to be going on and on.  With taxes and interest it was too much. 

What I did is simple, so “yes, I know that, duh, I’m looking for something big that will pay my car off today…,” but really, this is the only way I know how to do it that works.

I committed to go to the bank EVERY Monday.  I deposited every spare penny – I broke two old piggy banks that had several dollars of pennies that were taking up space.  I found pennies on the sidewalk. I took my husbands change from his pockets every night.  I gathered every stray penny in the house and garage from junk drawers, in amongst paperclips, etc.  If my budget for groceries was $140 and I only spent $130, I put the $10 with my pennies.

Then I went to the bank, deposited it, and immediately wrote the check for the same amount or even a few dollars more.  I had pre-addressed envelopes and payment coupons, and my stamps were a collage of every old stamp I could find in the same junk drawers – the 1 cent stamps, the 29 cent stamps, the 4 cent stamps… I used them all up.  On the way home from the bank, I mailed the coupon and payment.

WHY didn’t I use online banking for this?  Because the car company HAS to understand that this is an EXTRA payment – it is not to be saved until the full payment comes in once a month.  My car payment coupons had a line that stated this, and I was sure to fill in that correct line of payment. 

The same holds true for making an extra house payment.  I have heard tales of lenders holding back the extra payments until the full amount came in. 

With credit cards you should be fine just using online banking.  They credit immediately. 

If you are disciplined enough, then keep the extra money in a jar, deposit it once a month, and then add the extra amount to your regular car payment.  But temptation runs high to spend it on something else.

I got so much satisfaction sending in extra payments that it helped me spend less and less of our real budget so that I had more to send in.  For me, it worked really well.  And it was a big surprise to my husband when the pink slip came in the mail six months early.  He had no idea I was making extra payments. 
A. Sarnoff

I used Mary Hunt’s Rapid Debt Repayment Calculators to encourage me and watch the balance fall.  Every time I made payment I plugged it in and re-ran the payoff numbers.

You can do the same thing with savings.  You can add to savings $1 at a time, or you can increase automatic savings $1 at a time.

I know that my credit union does not accept coins anymore.  They have a coin machine that we must deposit it in.  At first, we could do this for free.  Now they take a percentage.  But they don’t take a percentage if CHILDREN use it.  So today, I take my child with me, we deposit all our change, and take the receipt to the teller.  If it is for $11.83, then we take out $11 and my child gets to keep the change in his account (because they don’t give out change, and I’d rather pay my child than the bank!).  Of course, many times we keep more than the change in his account.

If you don’t have a child, perhaps you can set up an account for a niece or nephew, or even a neighbor, and do something similar.  Better to borrow a child and encourage him to save, than pay a bank fee!

So the bottom line in paying something off early is to be DILIGENT.  Keep plodding and planning.  Don’t take on any more debt.  STOP LEAKS!  YOU HAVE ENOUGH!

The only way to pay it off early is to begin with baby steps.  I’m amazed to say, that today, this very minute, I have absolutely no debt.  Not one cent.  All my bills are paid in full.  I am AMAZED. 

He who waits to do a great deal at once will never do anything.  ~Charles Simmons


Lucky Mrs. Hen - Lucky Mrs. ME!

Richard Scarry's A Story A Day 365 Stories and RhymesWhen I was growing up there was a book in our church library that I loved to check out.  It had 365 short stories and poems, and my favorite one was Lucky Mrs. Hen (page 77).  I had even copied down the end of the story on a postcard, and practically memorized it. 

The story starts off with a dark rain storm.  Mrs. Hen decides to clean her house, while the neighbors just stare out the window and lament the rain, having wanted to work in the garden.     

But little Mrs. Hen put on her apron and cleaned her house.  When every corner was spick and span, she did her baking, clucking happily to herself.  Then she made doughnuts.  Just as she was sprinkling them with sugar, the rain stopped and pop! out came the sun!   
photo credit

“Just in time,” clucked Mrs. Hen.  “I’ll wash windows.”  She did. And she cut her grass and planted her garden.  Then, since the day was so beautiful, she packed a picnic basket.  

Then I recall that she asked all of her neighbors to go on a picnic, but each one said that the bright sunshine made their homes look so dirty that they had to clean them after weeding, and they couldn’t just go gallivanting off any time they felt like it.  They sounded very snippy, but she didn’t notice.

The story ends…She waved good-by, and without a care in the world she went off to have her picnic in the beautiful, sun-shiney, springtime woods.

Back then I couldn’t see that doing your work first thing instead of moping could later result in “being lucky” by freeing up your time to do what you wanted.  Of course I would clean my house if it rained, I thought.  I’d love to.   Today I can see the wisdom more than ever.  How long did I go without doing the basic morning work because, “I didn’t feel like it”? 

Little girls love to “keep house.”  It is naturally ingrained, unless someone important in their life diminishes its value – either an overwhelmed (or sometimes lazy) mother who hasn’t yet learned how to properly keep house, or someone who, not seeing the blessing in a wife who keeps house, demeans it.  Often little girls enjoy making the beds, dusting, setting the table, etc. if they are allowed to let their imagination run while doing it, and not be micro-managed, bossed around, or have their work redone.  I can remember doing these things and thinking that when I grew up I wanted to be a maid! (Hmmm, in some ways I am.)  But that is the power of little girls – home-keeping is such fun that they think it will always be so. 

I also remember going off to school and looking longingly back at my home in the morning sunshine.  I wanted to be in the kitchen with the sunlight pouring on the counters, baking.  I love sunlight shining in a mixing bowl.  I even wanted to hang laundry on the line, like our neighbor.  I wanted to make sure all the beds were made and the house picked up and dusted.  I wanted to cook and bake, but once I arrived home from school, the sunlight had shifted out of the house to the backyard, so I typically played out there, unless it was too hot, and then I stayed inside and read.  We played with friends from 3:00 to 6:00, dinner was at 6:30, and homework was begun at 7:00.  How I would have loved to have been homeschooled.  I would have learned to keep house while I was naturally interested in it, instead of having it demeaned while in school. 

Of course, little girls aren’t dealing with bills, deep cleaning, feeding real babies on little sleep, and cooking.  It gets a lot harder as we grow up.  Unfortunately, many women who do not keep their own house, but hire it out, still live with the fantasy that it is easy, and therefore demeaning.  When they decide to have children and come home to reality, they get the biggest shock.  Keeping one’s house clean and organized, along with cooking and caring for self, husband and children, while making ends meet on one income, really is a full-time endeavor. 

When I finally woke up to the fact that working for myself and my family was infinitely more pleasurable than working for others who reaped the benefits of my labor, that it is easier to cut expenses than earn income, and much more fun to stay home and do whatever I pleased whenever I wanted to, I also had to learn the hard way how to actually take care of my home, my child and my husband, and that all the excuses were gone. 

Keeping house was supposed to be so easy….so why was it so hard?  Reality is much more difficult than the fantasy our culture imparts.  However, there is great news!  Once you have decluttered your house, your life, and your thinking, once you have routines and have learned to cook nutritious food every day (I’m still working on this one), and once you know what cleaning methods work best for you and your family, life starts to really hum. 

Every day taking care of your family and home becomes more enjoyable (even while learning), and you can really live in the moment and focus on the pleasures of each day.  Now, when the sunlight peeps into my kitchen, my son and I have a picnic breakfast or lunch on the floor in the patch of sunlight.

You can use the dark, stormy days of raising little ones to your advantage so that pop! out on the other side comes Lucky Mrs. You.  You’ll be the one driving off with your husband and children to the sun-shiney, springtime woods as your neighbors bemoan their ill fortune, jealous how you, a simple house wife, can go gallivanting off whenever you feel like it, because, “she doesn’t work, you know.”


I held the key to my own happiness

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You can alter your life by altering your attitude.  ~Unknown

I embraced my situation in life on April 3, 2000.  I found a support group for a problem in my life that filled me with fear.  I took baby steps in ending the reign of my clutter (I believe I was one of FlyLady’s first 100 people).  I was also one of Rhonda Britten’s (of Starting Over fame) first clients.  I acknowledged myself for the many baby steps I was taking in several directions and my self-confidence grew.  I began to visualize how I really wanted my daily life to be. 

It was indeed a journey and I had many instances of confusion deciphering, “What am I committed to?  How do I act?  Where do I spend my time?  What do I want out of life?”  Yet because I was now consciously searching, writing and taking notes, spending an hour a day in prayer, devotion and learning, I had many key instances of clarity, vision, and discovering who I really was, what I wanted from my life, and the realization that I was my only solution (with God's leading).  Only I could choose what I wanted.  Only I could limit myself and live in fear.  Only I could take conscious steps in deciding how I wanted to change my life.  I held the key to my own happiness.
First you make your decisions, then your decisions make you.  ~Howard Hendricks

I put down on paper my five-year goals and I finally realized that if that was really what I wanted then I’d better start taking those first baby steps in getting there!  I wanted a house, a career (an income), two kids, healthy husband, church family. 

I began attending a church and went there two years before I realized I needed a more intimate church family – 400 was too many, so I changed to a smaller 100 person church and was much happier.

I didn’t think I’d be able to buy a home, but I started a dream box of clippings and pictures and began to clean up my bad credit.  I closed all but two credit card accounts.  I settled my outstanding debts.  I wrote and cleared off late payments.  I paid down my debts.  I began living within my income.  I took a free real estate class on buying a home.  I began budgeting.  I finally read Your Money or Your Life to the end of the book and completed many of the steps.  I stopped buying junk trinkets.  I cut back on all extras.  I read 40 books from the library on budgeting, living and housing.  I did the truly scary things like calling a mortgage broker and getting pre-qualified.  Calling a realtor and getting rejected as his client! (He said he didn't have any homes in my price range.)  Calling another one…

I put my t.v. in the closet until I was “unaddicted.”  I canceled my newspaper – it was too time consuming, depressing and irrelevant – interesting, but it didn’t move me any closer to my dreams!  It wasted my time and it was negative.   (Don’t put 2nd things 1st!  ~Unknown)

I also cancelled most of my magazine subscriptions for the same reasons, especially the beauty and home ones.  They filled me with discontent of myself and my apartment.  I found myself coveting things that were not on my NEEDs list.  I remembered the old saying, “Only one life, twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  I looked at everything in my life and asked, “Does this really matter?”

I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. ~Abraham Lincoln


If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done

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We always think we are going to get our life together after the wedding, when we have a better job, after the baby is born,  when the child goes to school, when we get a raise, a dependable car, a bigger home, better organized, finish college, lose ten pounds...

Alfred D. Souza said, "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business...then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

Instead of being surprised by hardships, I've come to expect them.  When I have a great day, I rejoice!

I've recently learned three things:
1)  To accept and bless my present circumstances - there is no better time to be happy than right now!  I have finally accepted the silliest things that bothered me in the past.  I have blessed my small house.  I went through each room and found something to be thankful about.  When I fold laundry, I thank God that I have laundry to fold - it means that I have people in my house whom I love and who love me.  

2) To give thanks, instead of complaints, to God.  I remember an article by Bill Yount that said prayer without thanksgiving is like mailing a package without postage.   (I don't know who Mr. Yount is, but I googled "thanksgiving is postage" and his article came up.  http://www.tidenstecken.se/enreturn.htm).

This mental image of our prayers having postage has never left me.  Phil. 4:6,7 states, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  My gratitude helps me to focus on what is right in front of me and be content, and not just launch into my worries and requests.

3.  To get going!  There are some things that I have prepared for and prepared for but never did.  There are half-finished projects that don't matter, and are being booted out the door.  There were organizations whose purpose I no longer could see the benefit of and I got out.  I pray for the courage to live the life God wants me to live, to give up activities that are not beneficial in the long run of my life, and to feel grateful for the life God has given me, obstacles and all.

So get going - call that friend, read that book, declutter, try a new recipe, change your mind, budget, do the thing you've been dreading, make that difficult phone call, begin to pay off that credit card, mentor a neighbor's child if you don't have your own, act as if you are grateful to be alive, accept your circumstances, scatter joy.  Accept whatever is in your life that needs accepting.  Say it out loud.  Whatever you complain about, reverse it.  Find a reason to accept it.

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.  Ecclesiastes 11:4 (Today's English Version)


Life - In Order

I love to do things in order – everything simply turns out better!  Our God is a God of order! 

He tells us that when we seek his Kingdom first, our other concerns will fall into order.  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

Your home can be a place of order, but FIRST it needs to be a place of WORSHIP.  Silence, or reading in the sunlight and listening to the everyday sounds of a child playing, or a dishwasher humming, is relaxing and well-worth turning off the radio, computer and t.v. to attain.  Singing a cappella, or with a CD, is a way to bring worship into your home.  You don’t need to practice yoga and sit in silence, emptying your mind, to find serenity.

In fact, as Christians, we are called to FILL our minds with Scripture.  When we have questions for God, He often will answer us through memorized Scripture.  And if you haven’t memorized any – or rarely read your Bible – well, you might not hear as clearly as those who have.  He will often call Scripture to a person’s mind for advice on how to deal with a problem.

My new favorite version of the Bible is NLT - The Daily Walk Bible.  BUT!  You can ignore the dates on which to read the chapters!  This is just a guideline to read it in one year - 6 days a week with a catch-up and devotional day!  However, you do not have to complete the readings in one year.  JUST BEGIN TODAY.  The date you read it doesn’t matter – it just matters that you DO read it!

When I worked full-time I read my Bible in the car during lunch.  After my son’s birth, I tried mornings.  It did not work for me.   Around his first birthday, we began each day by reading him Bible stories (The Rhyming Bible , then The Young Learner’s Bible Story Book for preschoolers, and then, Devotions for the Children’s Hour by Kenneth Taylor.  Some like Catherine Vos' The Child's Story Bible but our favorite is the 10 volume set The Bible Story from “Uncle Arthur” Maxwell, along with his Bedtime Story books. 

While we often read from a variety of versions, my favorite for studying has been The International Inductive Study Bible because of the incredibly wide margins!  I love to write in my Bible.  I write the date I read verses or chapters.  I also write notes about what I’ve learned.  My notes have been very helpful in helping me connect material.  

Reading the Bible daily – for 5 minutes, or 15 minutes – or 1 chapter – or 4 chapters – helps us to live a conscious* life.  We don’t have to do it perfectly!  We just have to DO it.  Satan will want you to feel behind – that’s why you can ignore the dates – you are not behind!

Let God speak to you and fill your mind as you read.  Satan wants you to give up, forget, or fall asleep

YOU need to pray and charge through and read 5 minutes a day.  If you get stuck – do 3 minutes!  Once you start, you’ll see the benefits and keep going.  Begin today!  Find your time.  Don’t try and be perfect.   

Remember that the Amish purposefully put in a few imperfect stitches into every quilt they make to remind themselves that only ONE was perfect – and it isn’t them.  It isn’t us, either, so don’t try and read the Bible perfectly!  Just begin.  Today.  Print, get it ready.  Find your time.

*con·scious (from Dictionary.com)  adjective

1. aware of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.

2. fully aware of or sensitive to something
3. having the mental faculties fully active
4. known to oneself; felt
5. aware of what one is doing

To read posts on organization, go here.
(This article has been updated and reposted because the original file became corrupted.)


Consider BEFORE

Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. ~ Ben Franklin

It occurred to me that my last post, “An Overheard Conversation”, may have sounded flippant to some.  I did not mean it to be.  My coworker’s remark (paraphrased), “Mothers should really consider these things before they work and put their children in daycare” was truly an “ah-ha” moment for me.  It was the moment in my life when I resolved to not work when I had children. 

She said, “Consider before.  She implied that her mother didn’t.  Her mother, she shared with me, did not have to work at all.  Her dad made plenty.  Her mother wanted to work, and her daughter felt that she came second…or third.  Her mother especially did not have to work 12-13 hour days!  But her mother reveled in her work.  She was highly paid and loved what she did.  Her daughter felt her mother loved work more than she loved being with her.  Her words, not mine.  My coworker carried a grudge against her mother, under the surface of their relationship. 

Please hear my heart.  Her words helped me to “consider before.  And I found out years later my coworker chose differently from her mother.  Perhaps she has gone back to work now that her child would be in school.  I don’t know.  My message was simply – “Consider carefully what the ramifications may be to your relationship with your child before you choose to put them in daycare or school with after care.”

I am NOT speaking to single mothers who must work.  I’m pretty sure your children “get it” that you must work to eat.

I am speaking to the many mothers who say they have to work when it is SO OBVIOUS that they don’t.

If you are married, your mortgage is over $3,000/month, you drive a luxury car, you have maid service, and your kids are in private school (even when you live in a great area!), then mom, YOU don’t have to work!  So stop saying you do!  You have many ways to cut expenses.  If you WANT to work, that is fine.  But to say you "have to" is ridiculous and insulting to women who really have to.

Maybe it is just where I live, but I know quite a few mothers whose DH’s earn enough to pay 3 of the 4 above, but she works to provide for that 4th item, such as $900/month preschool (for EACH child).  Or for the exotic vacations.   And I am not thinking of just 1 mother, but quite a few.  She doesn’t HAVE TO work.  She thinks she does because of her striving.  Sometimes she claims she is quite impoverished.  She has more than most, yet wants more, because others around her have even more (or pretend to).  
The solution is so simple for these women (IF they really want to quit).  Be content with what you have.  Stop hanging out with people who claim to live story-book lives, living in mini-mansions.  Scale down.  Because you are trading your kids for houses.  For views.  For clothes.  For vacations.  For self-esteem in “helping” others (but not your own kids – someone else helps them). 

The women I am thinking of are married, and their husband can provide sooooo many luxuries – the BMW, the private school, the maid service – the but $7,000/month mortgage?  Well, that needs to be scaled down.  So she keeps working to pay for that mortgage.  She’s traded a great lifestyle and being at home with her kids to paying off the dream house mortgage. 

Others bought their dream home in the 1990’s, and so they can afford the house, the maid and the BMW, but not the school.  Yet she can’t live without her kids going to that prep school.  Did you ever ask your kids – private school or mom at home? 

I drop by my old office, child in tow, every year to have lunch with my ex-boss.  So I’ve kept in touch with many of my old coworkers.  So far, I’ve had 8 e-mail me, call me, and cry on my shoulder that they worked making “good” money because their (now ex) DH’s couldn’t bring enough in.  He couldn’t provide the luxury they craved.  But now her kids have grown up, her DH has left her for another, younger woman who was satisfied with what he could provide, and all she has is her large home, her luxury car, a fabulous closet, her scrapbook of exotic vacations, and her cat.   You may think I’m exaggerating or thinking of only 1 woman.  No.  Eight confirmed, and many more are headed down that road.

And then there are another 8 women who are still married, but their kids are grown and gone, and they have confessed to me that it hasn’t been worth it!  They see me with my child and they say they wish they could do it over!  They willingly missed out being home with their child for their house!  It is too late and they cannot go back. 

I tell them to begin now.  Begin to be that Christian mother you set out to be.
The first thing you must do is call or write each of your children and ask their forgiveness.  Ask them what their grudges are.  WRITE IT DOWN as they speak.  Then ask forgiveness for specific items and pray with them to remove any bitterness over these hurts.

One mother did this and won one of her two children back.  The other has yet to forgive.  This mom chose Prada, clothes and jewelry over her children.  Her (now ex) DH provided a really nice home, car, private school…but she still wanted more.  Discontent.  Unsatisfied.  Both children have rejected her lifestyle and are home with her grandchildren.  She is trying to make amends by being a better grandma, but she is rarely invited over.  She regrets her covetousness.  “How much I’ve missed,” were her words.

Another woman I told needed to start now to be the mother she should have been, had one blissful year of closeness with her 20 year old before she was killed in an accident.  She has many regrets…but at least she knows her daughter had forgiven her.

Another woman, when I told her to trust God and stay home with her toddlers (after she told me "I wish I could stay home") told me it was impossible.  When I reminded her that nothing is impossible with God’s help, she smiled and now avoids me.   But the other woman who was in the church nursery where this discussion took place, called me and thanked me for giving her “permission” to just be at home with her 3 kids and not have to juggle school to become a nurse.  She’s since read my 2 favorite books, Finding My Way Home and There is No Place Like Home.

A woman down the street asked me why I stayed home since I only had 1 child.  Puzzled, I asked her why only having one would make a difference.  She said if she had 2 or 3, daycare costs would prohibit her from working, but only one….   But it is not about daycare costs.  It’s about providing a home for the child you bore.  Her husband agreed and she got to stay home for several years.  She needed “permission” – because her extended family told her to work.

One last story.  Right after the overheard conversation incident, I had lunch with a pregnant coworker.  She mentioned she was only taking 4 months off.  I asked her, “Why only four?  Why come back at all?”  Her DH provided a lovely home for her and her drive was insane – 60 minutes each way.  “Benefits. Bonuses.”  So she came back.  And cried at her desk looking at baby’s picture, and gave her notice.  She quit, and yet she was soon able to buy her dream house, because this woman needs no sleep and opened an office in her home.  When her second child turned 3 I was invited to the party.  She told me it was because of our conversation she was home and didn’t miss out on her children growing up.  She only takes on as much work as she wants.  From her home.  Where her kids are.

So again, the purpose of my last post was that “Mothers should really think about these things beforehand.”  That was my point.  Really think it through.  Finding My Way Home has a great checklist to help. 

My coworker’s comment helped me to think it through beforehand.  I looked around me and didn’t like what I saw.  I chose differently.  You may be one of the women who say they are better mothers when they work.  Just so long as you’ve thought it through, I’m fine with you working.

But, I can hear the majority of you saying, we aren’t living in luxury! We don’t have a large home, we don’t drive luxury cars, our kids are in public school, we don’t have maid service, and we don’t even go on vacations! There is no way we could make it on my husband’s income, but I WANT to be home!  What do I do?   That is what my next post will be about.

Pioneering conservationist John Muir once stated he was richer than railroad magnate EH Harriman.  When asked how that could be, Muir noted, "I have all the money I want, and he hasn't."  A great attitude to have.  Contentment.