Part of a Beautiful Picture : Christ and the Church

part of a beautiful picture

Let’s look at Ephesians 5 together:

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

 

I put the parts of this Scripture that directly speak to wives and their part in this beautiful picture in bold so they would stand out to us.

Wives, we are to be subject to our husbands, submitting to them as unto the Lord (vs 22), why because we are part of a bigger picture…. a picture of what the Church looks like. Unfortunately in our American culture, many marriages and many churches don’t look like this, so it can be difficult for people to wrap their minds around. Many people call themselves Christians, but do not submit themselves to the Lord Jesus with their lives. Unfortunately for these people they have bought into a lie, they think that saving faith is merely giving a mental acknowledgement to the truth of Jesus’s death on the cross and being raised from the dead, followed by simply confessing it with their mouths whether or not the truths or words impact their lives. The truth is in Scripture we see other descriptions of a true believer that don’t line up with this idea. Take this one for example:

Romans 6: 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

 

Being under grace means that we no longer let sin reign in us; we are now instruments of righteousness.

The Picture: Christ and the Church

It is the same in many marriages today, people don’t see the value in serving their husbands and submitting to them as unto the Lord. Now truly, you are in a marriage commitment whether you submit or not (the analogy does break down at this point), but try to follow me here on the topic of this bigger picture.

We are a part of a picture that we see here in Ephesians represents Christ and His Bride- the Church. For this reason our submission is very important so that we can be an accurate representation of this beautiful picture.

The S word

“Did she just say submit?” To some women this may be almost repulsive. Our culture has taught us to fight for our rights to be equal with our husbands, and to have equal say in everything….. or perhaps even fight to run the show. Many television shows today portray the father is the dumbo who doesn’t know anything and messes up everything; and mom is portrayed as the completely competent hero. That is a message that is being sent in almost every teen Disney or family sitcom out there. It’s sad.

Truth is, that is a total mockery of what Christian marriage is designed to represent. As the Church, we are not equal in authority with the Lord Jesus, He is our master! He does love us, He has called us friend, and He even gave up His life for us and bore the wrath that was meant for us because of our sins, but He is still our Lord. If we are in Christ, we do not run our own show, we are not in charge, we don’t even have equal say in what we are going to do…. we are to submit to His Word and commands.

Submission in marriage is a part of God’s perfect ordained order, and it has a greater purpose because of this profound mystery of us imperfect people being able to reflect the beauty of Christ and His Church.

Many women fear this submission thing…. they are afraid of becoming “door-mats”, or being taken advantage of. The believe that their husbands will make a bad decision that will affect them negatively, but this is where we have to trust that God’s wisdom is much wiser than our wisdom. This would not be in His Word if it were not true. We need to trust the Lord in this! And we can not do this without His Spirit indwelling us!

I believe that this looks a little different from marriage to marriage, some husbands desire more input from their wives, and others desire more respect without many questions being raised against what they are leading them to do. Sometimes this varies from situation to situation and we need to learn our husbands and learn to be discerning in each of situation. We should honor our husbands by communicating and asking them how and when they want our input and help in decision making. Within my own marriage there are many decisions that we make together and my husband desires my input and wants my help with discerning what we should do, and there are other instances that he makes a decision for us and even if it may not have been the decision I would’ve made, I agree and commit to it with him with my whole heart. This is a picture of how submission works in our marriage. I have to admit, this isn’t always easy. But the Lord continues to work in me and make my heart more submissive and less self-seeking. We must be honest with ourselves, and repent to the Lord and apologize to our husbands when we push our own will against theirs. We are not perfect, neither are our husbands; thankfully we can confess our sin to the Lord and He will forgive us. The more we walk in the Spirit, the easier submission becomes. We must be abiding in Christ in order to have the humility it takes to serve our husbands and think of them more highly than ourselves. We all know this truth, and it applies to this aspect of marriage as well: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

And we really can!  And when we are walking in this way, what a beautiful part of a picture we get to represent! To be a part of that glorious picture of Christ and the Church is a great honor!

I hope you continue to be encouraged by this, I know that this is not often talked about in certain churches, and for many of you this really upsets you because of the things you have been taught by our culture, and maybe even things you have been falsely taught from churches. Many pastors tip-toe around these Scriptures and change the meanings of them to fit with the ideas of the culture. I pray that you will be receptive to God’s truth. If this is not something you’ve ever heard before, or even if this is something that upsets or offends you, I beg you to seek the Lord in prayer and search the Scriptures for yourself to see what they say on this subject. The above verses are not the only ones that you will find if you look, there are many others.

Blessings to all of you as you serve your husbands this week!

For your further pursuit:

She Wears Purple : Modern Modesty

“…her clothing is fine linen and purple.” -Proverbs 31:22

How do we promote modesty within our own spheres of influence? I think the answer is two-fold.

First things first: we should talk more about who God is than about how we should dress. Good Biblical teaching that exalts Christ must come first before any discussion about modesty. These larger Biblical truths are to be the catalyst for teaching on modesty because a desire for true God honoring modesty is not born out of rule following or even some external reward, but instead out of exalting Christ with our bodies. Our hearts are only drawn to exalt Christ when we see Him high and lifted up as the Scripture displays Him to us. When we see His work of love on the cross that cleanses us from all sin in our past, present, and future. When we see His empty tomb as confirmation that we are also raised up with Him: raised out of a pit of sin and death, and enabled by that same power that brought Him from the dead to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. This must come first.

Secondly, I believe that we should demonstrate that beauty is a good thing! A lovely dress, a tasteful pop of color, your favorite shade of pink lipgloss…. these things are not evil, and in fact these things can be pointers to the one who created colors, the one who is Himself described as beautiful. Modesty does not mean dressing frumpy, ugly, and with no personality. I think there’s a reason why we get this little detail about the color that the Proverbs 31 woman is wearing. Be who you are, let that distinct personality and passion that God put in you come out in the things you wear. This is not wrong, and in fact I think the more we do this while dressing modestly, the more we will be able to promote modesty to those around us in a winsome and loving way.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to share.

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This is one of my favorite dresses, and has been for years now. It’s just a simple purple maxi dress from Target. It was definitely $30 well spent because I’ve have been wearing it like crazy for almost 4 years now. it has held up so well! These pics weren’t taken for an official outfit post, but they work. And I obviously like them which is why they are currently being used as my profile picture. Really I just wanted to share some of these thoughts, and since I love this dress and it made me think of the Proverbs 31 woman, I thought I’d share here too as  Modern Modesty post.

Want to learn more about modesty? Check out a few of my posts.

 Modesty an Act of Love

Modern Modesty

My Journey to Modesty

Hope everyone is having a happy Friday!

,Stacey

linked up with The Modest Mom

Our Classical Homeschool

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Quite a few things have changed since I shared our homeschool journey a little over a year ago. It’s amazing how a year of trying something new can change your mind. I mentioned in that post a love I had for Classical Education and Charlotte Mason, and to put it in a nutshell, I sorta fell in love with the classical model in a new and fresh way, and discovered in the process that it is the best fit for our family. If you are unsure what classical education is then read this for a general overview it is written by Classical Conversations, there are many other articles and books out there as well. I originally thought classical education would be too much work for me to implement with our ever-growing family, but actually we joined Classical Conversations this past year and it really served our needs and gave me some clear direction. My children learned so much and grew as students through the Classical Conversations materials and community. As we moved along in the year I began trying out classical approaches to various subjects and I just liked it a lot, and so did my kids! I have also been doing some reading and research on Classical education, and I’ve been able to catch a more long-term vision.  At this point, I’m totally sold! The more we do, the more fruit I see, the more I believe in the model and what it can do for the minds of my children (and me for that matter since I’m learning many things along with them). As I experience classical education first hand I honestly begin to wish I had been taught this way. I feel like I am learning more than I ever knew before, and I have my masters in education so that’s saying something! I genuinely enjoy our material, and of course if mama likes it that encourages my children to view it as exciting and interesting as well. I once also thought classical education would be boring and intense, but as it turns out we have never enjoyed our school more than we do now that we are on this classical education path. It’s interesting, challenging, and fun! And surprisingly, it’s restful and relational. I find that we spend more time having conversations about our subjects. Impromptu research projects come up all the time. Memory work songs can be sung while folding laundry or jumping on the trampoline. Everyone is having fun with it! Even my child who previously disliked school enjoys most of our subjects now. My children actually enjoy the work more because it is more suited for the way that the child’s brain works and for their capability levels. It feels like a breath of fresh air from some of the more traditional things we were using. I could go on and on, but I think you get where I am coming from. I love that I know where we are headed.

Now, what I really want to do with this post is share our curriculum for this year, and in future posts I plan to break apart exactly how we are approaching each subject with these materials. I want to do this because classical education can be done in so many different ways. It’s fun to get to peek into another family’s homeschool from time to time and see how they are accomplishing their educational goals. I know posts like this by other bloggers have really helped me shape our homeschool; they’ve also introduced me to curriculum that fit our family well. Overall, I’ve learned that there are SO many ways to do this homeschool thing. I love how many of us who may even carry the same education philosophies and Christian vision for our families can do it so differently. We are not in a competition! We are raising up arrows side by side, it’s hard work, and we should be helping and encouraging and praying for one-another. We can share our curriculum choices and at the same time be excited about the curriculum choices of others. A curriculum or philosophy or method that is a great fit for one family, may not fit another at all,;and that’s okay! I just want you to know that I’m not putting this out here to say, “look how great our curriculum choices are” or anything like that. I am still learning and growing with each year that I homeschool. I am excited about the year ahead; and we’ve already started many things I list below and have found them to be wonderful for us. Maybe this can give you an idea or two, or maybe not and that’s okay too because you will find the curriculum and style that works for you and your kids. So without further ado, here it is.

Our Classical Curriculum for the 2016-2017 School Year for a 2nd and a 3rd grader

Bible: Polished Cornerstones by Doorposts for our Biblical Womanhood character training, Truth and Grace Memory Book (This is what we use for a Children’s Catechism), daily Bible reading alone and out loud.

Language Arts: Classical Conversations, First Language Lessons, and Writing with Ease

Reading: Both of my girls are reading well so no formal reading curriculum is needed anymore. Woohoo! We used “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons“, and loved it for both! One of my children had to go through it a few times, but it did the job! For reading, we will practice reading aloud, reading alone, and narration from living books, classics, and biographies for children. I also have them participate in reading the Scripture out loud. My 3rd grader will be reading through the New Testament for the second time independently. I may start my 2nd grader reading through the New Testament the second half of the year depending on her progress, we will just play it by ear and see if she is ready then.

Spelling: All About Spelling and Spelling Power

Handwriting: Classical Conversations prescripts cursive workbooks, Writing with Ease. We currently write in print, but will hopefully move to cursive this year with my third grader for notebooking and Writing With Ease. We are wrapping up Simply Charlotte Mason Print to Cursive Write the Proverbs with my 3rd grader; she has worked on it all summer, and it was great!

History: Classical Conversations, Story of the World, and other biographies and books on our CC topics (here’s one of my favorites, actually all from this series are great!) We do CC related reading from the Story of the World books as well as listen through the audio books straight through.

Science: Classical Conversations, reference books, nature journaling and classification guides (like this one). We will also be drawing a labeling drawings from the beautify book Nature Anatomy. (go look inside, it’s gorgeous!) Eventually we will add in a formal science, I’m leaning toward apologia, but that will be 5th or 6th grade and it will be done independently.

Latin: Classical Conversations and Sing Song Latin DVDs and Text with CD

Math: Classical Conversations and Teaching Textbooks (for my 3rd grader), Splash Math, and math practice worksheets (from workbooks like this one), math fact flash cards, and working with manipulatives (this is the set we have by Saxon and we love it).

Geography: Classical Conversations and we will use the method described in the geography chapter in The Core.

Art: Classical Conversations, Drawing with Children, and See the Light. We will also play around on Art Hub a little bit for fun.

Music: Classical Conversations, hymn singing/memorization, they are both learning to play the ukulele, and we may add piano lessons (not sure yet though). I also use Faber Music flash cards to teach music symbols, note names, rhythms, and basic theory.

Some things that are shaping my year:

This is my homeschool planner, it may be a little pricey, but it literally has everything I need to plan and track the homeschool and the home in one place. It includes meal planning, budgeting, lesson planning, grade keeping, attendance tracking (for up to 4 children), and more. Also, there is a printable insert on CC connect where you can place all the memory work in a spot in the planner on your CC day to be able to quickly access and plan accordingly.

I’m on CC connected (I mentioned it above) which is a great resource! If you participate in Classical Conversations it is really affordable and worth it to me (currently $6 a month for foundations), this is a great place to ask questions on the forums and to find CC related printables and add-ons. These add-ons aren’t necessary at all, but they can be fun! There are history coloring pages that correlate with the history sentences which my girls loved last year. There are many practice worksheets and things that expound on the core information. There are presentation planning sheets. There are songs and mp3s to help with memory work. The list goes on, but a quick word of warning….don’t get too ambitious over there. With so many ideas and printables it can be easy to over-plan and create busy work instead of productive work which usually leads to burnout for the kiddos. Unless you have one who loves busy work, then hey, go for it!

These are the two books I read over the summer which sharpened my vision for the coming year: The Core by Leigh Bortins and Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. Both very different books, but super helpful!

If you are looking for a book to help you understand the Classical Education model as a whole as well as in each phase of education then I recommend The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer.  I often pull that out and give it a good look-over because it’s almost a “how-to” guide. I don’t do everything the way she says it, but it definitely gives me good ideas to draw from.

My Heart on this Journey

The Lord has been so good to me this year, in many many ways. I feel like I have grown and matured in the skill of homeschooling, which I believe is a grace and help from the Lord. It probably has much to do with gaining a greater vision for the path we are on. I am also growing in my understanding of who He is and loving Him in deeper ways. Knowing Him on a deeper level through His Word has been the thing that has encouraged my heart to press on in homeschooling and in the vision He has given us for our family when things were hard this past year. The reality is my strength and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my life and my portion. He will sustain me through the hard days, through the times I have doubts, through the days when it feels like there is no way to get everything done that we need to get done, through sick days or weeks or months, through welcoming another sweet baby, through another postpartum period. He will lift my head and keep me putting one foot in front of the other, seeking to do His will by diligently teaching and training these little ones which He has entrusted to me.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
-Psalm 73:26

Happy homeschooling to all you homeschool mamas out there!

,Stacey

Homeschooling with Little Ones Underfoot

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I have lots of little ones, currently we have three little ones: 3 years, 2 years, and 10 months old with another little blessing on the way. We also have a second and third grader, and that requires a good bit of teaching and interaction with me since they are still in very formative years. So inevitably, one question people often ask me is “how do you homeschool with all these little ones around?” The general answer is that it’s not easy, but it is doable. And I have found some methods for getting it done, but it is often less than picturesque. The thing we homeschool moms of many eventually come to understand (otherwise we’d lose our sanity) is that we are running a HOME-school…. major emphasis on the home. We are a family in a home environment, and we happen to do school here, among many other things. It will not, and should not (if our priorities are in check) look like a traditional classroom.

Now mamas these are just methods, but we are talking about real-living, active, and energetic babies, toddlers,  and preschoolers….. so you know what that’s like right? There are interruptions, and often times those interruptions are put there for a very important reason. How we view those interruptions and respond to them is often times more important than what we need to accomplish with school that day. So with that little bit of encouragement, here are some methods for occupying little ones that do work for us most of the time so that we can get our schooling done.

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Methods for Occupying Little Ones:

big sister time/ one on one time : Often times I will have one of my older girls play with the little girls in the next room (babysitter style) while I have one-on-one lesson time with the other. This is usually in 15 to 30 minute increments, it works great for working in a quick reading or language arts lesson. Sometimes a snack time is needed to break up the switching of sisters, and sometimes if things are going well the switch can be made pretty easily.

play-pen, high chair,  gated independent bedroom play: This has worked for almost all of my babies, toddlers, and preschool age. I will say this is my primary go-to method that I use all throughout my day. It may take the child a few days in a row to get use to it, but they usually catch on and will learn how to play in the contained place with the assigned toy(s) that they are given. I put babies in a play pen with a few toys. Toddlers and preschoolers I put them alone in a gated child-safe bedroom (the gate is more of a reminder because they can get out if they want, but they are trained not to unless they need to go “potty”). I don’t give them full access to all their toys (this keeps the mess down), they usually only have one or two sets; sometimes I choose the toys for them and sometimes I let them choose. I don’t let my 2 and 3 year old play together in the room alone, that is a recipe for a melt down or for mischief. They do much better separated! High chair play is usually with things like coloring, puzzles, water painting, or play-doh. All of these can usually work for 30 minutes, and sometimes up to an hour unless it is at nap or meal time.

a learning dvd in a high chair: I’m not a big fan of media for kids, but one way that I do use media to my advantage is this. I put my preschool/ toddler children into their high chairs, buckle them up, and show them a carefully selected learning or Bible memory DVD. I use a small portable DVD player at our kitchen table for this since we do not have an actual TV. I like this method for many reasons: First because it forces them to actually watch the show instead of playing and having it as background noise to glance up at every now and then. I also like that it limits their time to that one 30 minute long DVD,  and when it is over it is over, and that is our “show” for the day. I like that I have full control of it, I’m very picky about what my kids watch and with the portable DVD player there is no opportunity to switch channels or click on another option.

My thoughts on “blanket time”: Some people swear by “blanket time”, but honestly I’ve never been able to have tons of success with that. “Blanket time” for those who don’t know is training your child to stay on a blanket and play with a specific set of toys. You train them to do it, and increase the time. I have trained my 2 and 3 year old girls to do it, and they can for a time, but it’s more trouble to me than it is worth, and it’s definitely not my ‘go to’ during the homeschool day. It works great at the park or at someone’s house if I’m talking with another mom and want my child to stay close, but it doesn’t buy me as much time as these above mentioned options, and it requires pretty close supervision and pausing to discipline when they eventually get distracted and climb off the blanket. I could possibly invest more training time in this and see more success, but for now I definitely prefer the other methods because for me they bring about less interruptions.

  1. “Together time” (also referred to as “morning time”, “basket time”, and other names) : This is also a popular method that many of my friends and mentors love to do with their homeschool. I do this for a short time in the mornings for Bible, hymns, and memory work. This time also doubles as church training time for my younger ones. I require them to sit still and quiet just as they will be expected to do in church. This training time for the littles is so valuable! We use this time in the morning and our family devotions in the evening as our set aside time to “church train” the smaller ones, but it also gives us time to teach. I dream of one day adding read aloud books to this, but the variety of age range and abilities to sit still make adding anything extra too much for us. I like to do Bible, hymns, and catechism because I want all of my children biggest to the smallest to hear these things each day. Memory work is also great because those little ones sing along with history sentences and Latin songs so easily. They are learning even if they have no clue what they are memorizing! 

 

outside or inside free play : On nice days we will all go outside, I bring a few lesson books so the big girls and I can sit on the deck and work through lessons while the little ones play in the yard. Other days when it’s not as nice out, I let the littles have free play time in the living room while I do lessons with the big girls. Sure it brings a few extra distractions, but sometimes I think that’s good training for my older girls since real-life is not typically “library quiet” every time you need to use your brain.

nap time/rest time : This is definitely some prime time for homeschooling, but it’s also prime time for other restful and refreshing activities which is why I really try to do our schooling with the little ones awake. Sometimes we use naps for special lessons, crafts, science experiments, or read aloud time, but for the most part I have all of my children have a quiet hour right after lunch (even the older ones, they color and draw and listen to an audio book). This is when I get a chance to really dig into the Word, journal, and pray. Morning devotions are much more rushed and groggy for me and often times include morning snuggles with a baby or toddler which is lovely, but can be a bit distracting. I really enjoy having this scheduled time with the Lord in the middle of the day when I’m alert and when I really need a refresh the most. My kiddos do often sleep longer than an hour in the day, so after my set aside time in the Word, I often use that extra time for schooling or for chore training (teaching my big girls how to do a new chore, always time well spent!) And sometimes I use it that last half of naptime to get my own nap or a shower when it’s needed.

baby sitter/ mother’s helper : This is something we are pursuing this year for the first time (Lord willing! But we are still praying about who to hire for this.) Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m only imagining how I think it will work, but I can’t wait to find out first hand. After discussing it and praying about it with my husband, we really feel like it will be a good investment for us to have a Christian young lady come to be a mother’s helper two mornings a week. I’m planning for her to watch my three younger children in my home while I teach my older two in the homeschool room. Really this is such a win for everyone! This girl will get valuable experience learning about caring for children, homemaking, and homeschooling, as well as an opportunity to make money in a safe work environment.  And I will have a very needed extra set of hands to help with the little ones so that I can focus more time on teaching the older two, because like I said above, schooling with lots of little ones is not easy. There are ways to do it, but it requires a lot of intentionality, focus, and energy…. and let’s face it, some days we mamas just don’t have that in us and school has to take the back seat. It will be so nice to know that two days out of the week are truly set aside for teaching my older children. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s certainly worth praying about and considering. I mean, isn’t this kind of help all year long way better than a vacation? It is for me! One thing that helped us decide to pursue this was weighing out other potentially helpful options: I looked up some information on a few local co-ops where homeschool students would be taught core subjects in a classroom setting two days a week and have home school assignments for the others. We decided this was not a good fit for our family for three reasons: They cost WAY more than hiring a mother’s helper for those two days. And I would not be able to choose the curriculum I want. I also could not choose the teachers or the kind of students that would be influencing my children for those two days each week. We already have Classical Conversations one day a week and our church community at least two days a week, and I feel like that is all of the peer time that I want my children to have at this stage of life. That will likely change as they get older, but for now I see good fruit by keeping that time with peers and other influences limited.

***(((updating)))***

I wanted to update this to share how the mother’s helper thing is going. In three words: I LOVE IT. We were able to hire a sweet 16 year old young lady who is also homeschooled. She is on the older end of a very large family, so she works well with little ones and is very capable of handling all the various situations that come up with three children who are 3 and under. To be honest, I’m learning a thing or two from her as I watch her interact with my littles through the glass doors of our school room. She comes from 9am to 1pm. I use the morning hours up until 11:30 to homeschool the big girls. I try to get through all my “with mom” lesson loops for each of my girls. (I’ll share more about this in the next section because it has also helped tremendously with juggling homeschool and littles). At 11:30 I send my bigs outside because they need to get some energy out, and that’s when I make lunch for all the crew. We all eat lunch together. I like this because I get to chat with my mother’s helper about how the kids are doing and about things in her life; I like getting to know her. After lunch my bigs get some time with her because they love older girls, they usually play a board or card game together or go outside and play tag or do tricks on the trampoline for about thirty minutes before she heads out; while they do that I lay the smaller ones down for afternoon naps. It is a perfect fit for us. We get so much done on those mornings, and I love that she is such a good example and someone my bigger girls can get to know and look up to. So I will say this, choose your mother’s helper wisely. This was something we prayed about quite a bit, and the Lord has really answered by giving us a great one who has been raised and trained well in a Christian family with very similar convictions and ideas to our family. I’m so thankful!

Independent Work list and “With Mom” Lesson Loops:

I’m adding this in as well because this was actually something I tweaked and added in a week or two into our school year; and it has worked extremely well! I’ll do a detailed post on this soon, but the short version is this. My girls have a list of things they can and are expected to accomplish on their own each day. Things like Bible reading alone for 30 minutes (or Bible listening for they younger who is not quite ready to read it on her own), Scripture copy work, cursive practice, memory work practice, geography practice, Teaching Textbooks, math review worksheets, and music practice. They are expected to get through this list every single day without me having to help direct very much. I might sound like a mean old mama, but I discipline if they are off task; they can play when they are done. I interrupt them when I get little ones settled into something for a few minutes giving me a chance to do a “with mom” lesson. The littles might be playing contently or watching a learning DVD and I make good use of that time by grabbing up one of the bigs to do a 15 to 20 minute lesson. With Mom lessons are exactly what they sound like: they are one on one lessons with me and my child. I have created a loop list of lessons I do with my girls. On my loop I have: First Language lessons, Writing with Ease, reading/narration with history/science/biographies (CC matchups or -whatever I choose- They read out loud to me to work on reading skills, I read to them a bit, they narrate and sometimes do some notebooking), math lessons (with my younger), All About Spelling, and Polished Cornerstones (our Bible character study). On the mother’s helper days we do lots of “with mom” lessons, but on the other days I have my bigs work through their independent work and we usually only get to two with mom lessons a day with each child. I just work through a loop, when I get them all done then I start back at the top. The loop helps so much because I found that if I started with Language Arts every day then we never got around to history or science reading or Polished Cornerstones. The loop ensures we get to everything I want to get to. I also have a rest time loop for my girls each day they do a different thing during the quiet hours so that I can get some quiet time alone with the Lord each day to study, pray, and journal. Their loop is currently: Story of the World audio books and map tracing, audio book and free art or coloring, and Sing Song Latin DVDs. They just do one a day for an hour to an hour and half.  This whole system has been working extremely well for us. Balancing our homeschool and little ones finally doesn’t feel so impossible for me. There’s definitely a learning curve to all of this so my best advice is to dive in and tweak as needed. The thing that is working for me now is working only after much tweaking and many rough days where I thought, “this isn’t working!” So if that is you, don’t lose heart…. you WILL find what works for you. Pray and ask for wisdom and start trying different methods. Give yourself lots of grace!!! You can do this mama!

Hopefully you got an idea or two for homeschooling with little ones. Feel free to share some of your own methods in the comments. I’m still learning too and I love to hear what works for you!

Happy Homeschooling!

-S

DIY Picnic Farmhouse Table (no building required)

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Super simple diys are kinda my thing…. mainly because I’m not all that crafty, and I don’t have tons of free time either. I am convinced that every easy peasy diy has a story behind it, well here is the story behind this one. We had been needing another table for quite some time, I was dreaming of a farmhouse style table, but I had more of a craigslist budget to work with. My husband is certainly handy enough to build one, but he is already double loaded with projects. Adding a table to the list just wasn’t an option. I literally prayed about this, I’m learning to pray for things we need and to wait on the Lord to provide the right thing or idea. I had been shopping craigslist and many other options, but the right fit had not come along. I had found a simple farmhouse table with benches for about $600 a few hours away, but the drive really detoured me and so did the price. I also was concerned about the benches tipping over, and I pointed out to my husband that I would love for them to somehow be attached. Then it happened, we passed a Lowe’s and spotted these $98 wooden picnic tables out front. My wheels began turning….. what if we bought one of those, sanded it and stained it and brought it in the house. And that is just what we did! We ended up spending about $120 on the table, and putting in about 4 hours total. I couldn’t be happier with the result! I just love our picnic farmhouse table!

DIY Details:
We used an electric hand sander like this one. (aff link) This was a must because there were definitely some rough places that could cause splinters. We sanded all of it pretty generously.
After the sanding, we put on 2 coats of Poly Shades stain (aff link) which is a stain and polyurethane in one. It’s always nice to kill two birds with one stone. The shade we used was “honey pine”, and it is linked above, but there are more color options available. I loved this product! We got a beautiful natural wood shade and it was sealed well so I could wipe the table down when it got dirty, every single day. ;) We left the bottom of the wood unstained since the wood will be drying out as time goes by, we didn’t want to trap water inside.

This table is already well-loved, and holding up well.

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Suffice it to say this may be the easiest and cheapest way to get the farmhouse table look. And really, I LOVE that the benches are connected to the table because our dining room clean up is SO much easier than when we had a bunch of chairs to move around. We’ve also seen when guests come over that we can pile tons of people (especially little ones) on these benches. I even think that two of these could be attached to each other to make a really long farmhouse table, which we may have to attempt if our family keeps growing.

So if you’re in a pinch and need a new table, I hope this idea can help your family!

Have a blessed day!

,Stacey

The Pursuit of Minimalism : Part 2

1464292104275This is a bit overdue. Homeschooling mom life happened… oh and stomach bugs, and playdates, and fellowship, and meal planning, and you know how it goes. But here I am so let’s talk about this again. Last time I wrote about minimalism, I shared my story of pursuing minimalism and how it has drastically changed my life for the better. I shared the Scripture that inspired me down this path, and a few of the practical ways that I went about that. I’m very much still in the process, I’m not where I want to be but I’m well on my way, and way better than I have ever been before at being in control of our things. I wanted to come back to the topic to share a few other thoughts as well as a few more practical outworkings as to “how” to go about this pursuit. Although I think there are many ways to accomplish it, I will share how I went about it.

 Pursuing Practicals

When I finally caught the vision for minimizing, I began to hear of a book that was gaining popularity at the time and so I bought and read the book. You’ve probably heard of it, ” The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I’ll just speak candidly, I did not care for the book at all. She’s very new age in her philosophies and has some major quirks that actually weren’t endearing (as some reviewers describe them), but rather seemed superstitious and weird.She tells people to talk to their things, set them free, etc…. she talks about how many things to put in your shrine and how long the charms have luck or power. Yeah, not my cup of tea, hopefully it isn’t yours either. However the basic concept of how to sift through things and decide what to keep and what to get rid of resonated with me…. and I began to get an idea of the “how”, eventhough I didn’t fully agree with her philosophies, ideas, or even her methods. The idea of keeping things I actually *really* liked and needed was a good concept to be able to grasp through her descriptions of various clients and the things they had to process through keeping or not. As I said before, I didn’t care for her method much either…. her recommended process (which she believes is the one and only way to really go about it) is definitely more fitting for a single person or maybe a person with 2 kids tops. It is just impractical to pile all your books, clothes, etc in the middle of the floor when you have many little people about. Trust a voice of regretful experience, if you want order in your house, do not put all of your things in the middle of the floor to be sorted, I repeat do not. ;) If your littles are normal kinds of kids who can make toys of anything, your pile will just become the coolest new thing to ransack and your house will be an even bigger mess than when you started. I recommend finding an off limits (to children) room or area to sort things in.

Kondo says don’t do things by area, but instead by category and personally I disagree. I did my sorting by area and it worked great. It was very logical to me. Bathroom closet, under the sink, kitchen, and so on…. I tried to pick some one day projects and then would take a break and pick a week long project. I simply took everything out and put back ONLY what I wanted to have in that space, if it didn’t fit and didn’t belong somewhere else that I could put it away, then I got rid of it. Even if it was useful or neat or whatever our random reasons are for keeping things that don’t fit in our homes. I still got rid of it if I could not find a place for it. I have a small house and a lot of people, I was insanely picky. I have gotten rid of 5 trailer loads full of stuff to donate, more random trips to donate here and there, and even more to a burn pile. I used the method I shared back in November. It worked for me, I feel like it would work for anyone who is ready to let go of the junk.

Maintenance:

Here are a few of the ways that I maintain, and do not allow myself to become a minimalist backslider. This is such a wonderful way to live, and I’m determined not to go back to my old ways.

I have changed the way that I shop big time! I don’t buy things just because they are on sale or look neat or fun to have around. I try to be very intentional with all of my purchases. This has a double blessing, it keeps clutter down and we save lots of money. When I buy things for my kids for birthdays or special occassions, I either get them big items that I know they need and will use (like a bike or a new pair of shoes or a camera) or I buy them a crafty type thing that they can use once, keep for a few weeks, and then throw away.

I get rid of a few things each week. I have become hyper sensitive to things that are wasting time and space in my house. A few examples: I wore a shirt a few days ago, and at the end of the day I thought to myself, ” I always dislike wearing this shirt, it doesn’t fit right and it’s uncomfortable.” I washed it and added it to my donate bag. Easy peasy, now that’s one less piece of clothing to clutter my closet, and one less shirt that will bother me when I wear it. Often times if I put on an dress, top, or bottom and decide I don’t want to wear it, then I just put it in the donate bag. If I don’t like it, then there is no sense in keeping it.  I also recently cleared off my deep freezer where some random decor and vases had collected, I couldn’t find a place for them (although I did really like them) but I just donated them. It will bless someone else, and I don’t have the space. For me ultimately it has been about not being greedy and loving my things too much. I only want to keep the things I actually want or need in my life. Keeping a shirt I don’t like just because I bought it for $20 last summer is just silly. I wouldn’t pay $1 for it now, so why keep it? If I don’t like or need an item or have space for an item, not being able to let go of it only indicates a heart problem concerning my things. I just remind myself that we as Christians are not to love the things of the world…. yes that applies to a variety of sinful behaviors, but materialism is definitely one of them, I believe. If you are controlled by your things and can’t “give them up” then I truly believe you should examine your heart to make sure you aren’t loving the things of the world too much, and remember that love for the world is enmity with God. We can not have a whole-hearted pursuit of living for the Lord when our earthly belongings have such a strong hold on us.

Christian Minimalism

This brings me to a few quick thoughts. Minimalism is a huge buzz-word right now. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.I talked about this in my last post too, but I’m going to put even more words around it because I think it’s important. I want to distinguish what I am pursuing by adding the word Christian before it, because this is not for some selfish gain like having a perfect home or traveling the world fulfilling the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.

Christian Minimalism is getting rid of anything that hinders you from walking in full obedience to Jesus.

Here are some examples how this can play out:

If you are married, then by default you are a keeper of your home and should keep it orderly. That is a part of walking obediently to the Lord in that role.

If you are a mother, then you by default are teaching little ones how to live a life of order because God is a God of order and purpose and He calls His people to walk in this way as well.

That is not to say your house won’t get messy! Please don’t hear that! But it needs to be at a level you can maintain and tidy up each day. My house gets used and messy every day…. we dirty dishes, we fill trash cans, we pull out toys and books and homeschooling materials…. every single day. And that isn’t counting special projects. But every single day (unless there is an extenuating circumstance, such as sickness or a new baby, etc…), we do what is necessary to bring it all to order. My older girls and I have morning, afternoon, and evening chores which keep things pulled together. But to keep things at that maintenance level, I have to make sure everything has a place and can be easily put away and we just can’t have tons of stuff to have to deal with. So you can see how getting rid of things that don’t have a place and that won’t be used or loved has enabled me to more obediently walk in my roles as wife, keeper of the home, and teacher to my children on orderly living.

Another huge blessing is that when I sit down to spend time with the Lord my house is not always beckoning me to clean it as it once did in the past. I am finally able to focus on what matters most. I treasure being able to come to the Lord with the heart of Mary and not Martha, that alone makes this pursuit so worthwhile!

Furthermore when I sit down to read to my children or to home school or to have a conversation with my husband, I am not constantly thinking about the endless piles of things that need to be addressed. I know that we have a schedule and I know that we will get to the duties that need to be done at the next chore time. I finally do not have to worry about what I will do with *that* huge pile of things that I just can’t ever seem to get cleaned up. Thankfully, those piles don’t exist anymore, and it is SO freeing!

You can do it too!

This probably sounds too good to be true. I know two to five years ago it would have sounded that way to me as well, and perhaps even a bit insane, if I’m really honest. I know what it’s like to live with clutter and to keep trying to organize it and clean it up to no avail. I know what it’s like to have a pile of things you feel like you have to or need to keep, but having no clue where to put any of those things. I know what it’s like to feel like a failure as a homemaker, and to keep wondering what it is that could fix the problem. But I promise you this is doable. It isn’t a quick fix, and it does take work. And it definitely takes intentionality! Begin to work diligently at de-cluttering various spaces in your home and you will begin to notice almost instantaneous difference in your daily workload. The project mode can be hard because at the time it is extra work, but when you finish that project is when you begin to reap the rewards. And don’t stop with one or two projects, be intent on de-cluttering every part of your home. It didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t be changed overnight, but if you will diligently pursue minimalism you will eventually get there. And I have no doubt that it will revolutionize your homemaking forever.

So there’s part 2. And I’m sure more on this topic will come in the future. Hope it helps!

,Stacey

Spring Day : Modern Modesty

It’s about time I put a spring outift up this season. :) I love when the weather warms up and I can live in skirts and dresses! So comfy, feminine, and modest…. perfect combo! This is one of my casual outfits to wear at home, for a play dates, or errands. Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with a6 preset skirt : ross
shirt : target
undershirt : target
shoes : chacos

Want to learn more about modesty? Check out a few of my posts.

 Modesty an Act of Love

Modern Modesty

My Journey to Modesty

Hope everyone is having a happy Monday!

,Stacey

linked up with The Modest Mom

My Journey to Modesty

Sorry friends, this about a month later than I said it would be. Life with five littles happened, but here I am now. And I am excited to share where I have come from and where I am now in this journey. I want to share because I want you to know this isn’t something I have always been aware of. If there’s anything I’ve learned since trusting in Jesus to save me, it’s that I have to be humble, ready, and willing to have my mind renewed from what it once was. It is good to make changes in areas of our lives that do not fully reflect the heart of Christ. We may not (and probably don’t) see all at once every area of our lives that need to be changed. It may be something we have to slowly grow into. It may be strange or uncomfortable at first. But shedding off sin and giving more and more of ourselves to Christ is always worth it! There should not be any part of our lives that we withhold from him.

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My Journey to Modesty

For many years I had NO concept of modesty…. even after becoming a Christian. I was saved at age 19. In those early years of my walk with the Lord when I was confronted with my immodesty I protested that pursuing modesty was legalistic. (I had no clue what legalism was, for the record, people who call obedience to God legalistic don’t know either). Truth be told, modest clothing didn’t appeal to me because I thought I would look frumpy and unattractive, and I didn’t really see a problem with my current clothing choices (they didn’t seem like sin to me). I didn’t want to look weird or ugly, and I wasn’t willing to even consider that changing the way I dressed was something the Lord desired for me. This is certainly not the way I would’ve articulated it back then, but it was what I can see in hind-sight was happening in my heart. Because of my aversion to modesty for myself I made assumptions about girls who talked about and pursued modesty; I believed their modest dress was just as much for attention as immodest dress; only it was that they wanted people to look at them and think “oh how modestly she dresses”. I thought it was prideful and assumed they had a “holier than thou” attitude. I reasoned that if it wasn’t for the praises of others or for self-righteous pride, that if they *really* felt it was Biblically necessary, then they didn’t understand Christian freedom. Turns out I was the one acting like a pharisee, judging the intentions of others’ hearts…. “thank God I’m not like those self-righteous modest girls!” (sound familiar?Luke 18:11) I shudder to think of my sinful heart back then, and I honestly had no clue. God is so patient and gracious with His children. He had saved me and He wasn’t about to let me stay where I was.

Another anti-modesty soap boxes I stood on back then:

I protested that men’s lust was their own problem, that they would lust no matter what women wore if it was in their hearts to lust. I thought dressing modestly to love my Christian brothers and assist in the effort to keep their hearts from lust was like saying they couldn’t help it and it was all the girls’ fault….. and I believed that line of logic lead to even more disturbing ideas; such as the woman being blamed if she was raped, and things of that nature. Maybe some modesty proponents think like that, but in reality I didn’t know any and was simply making a straw man up to build my case against the idea of Christian modesty.

If I’m really REALLY honest, it was all just a huge excuse to not give that part of my life up. I didn’t want to admit I was wrong for dressing the way I was dressing, and I didn’t want to change the way I dressed either. Truth be told, I liked my short dresses and shorts and bikinis and strapless & spaghetti strap tops. I looked cute in them (according to worldly standards). I turned heads. It fed my flesh and my pride. I liked it and didn’t see why I would have to give it up…. I wasn’t saved by works but by grace! (I had Ephesians 2:8 &9 down, just failed to read on to verse 10) “A short skirt wouldn’t make me unsaved”, I’d reason. And I didn’t want to admit the trouble dressing that way often lead me into. I was too stubborn to admit that it attracted the wrong type of guys with expectations that I knew very well were wrong. But again, that was ALL their fault, not mine.

It was very wrong thinking to say the least.

I had never been taught at my church or the college groups I attended that dressing immodestly was sin, so I had no real reason to give up the cute clothes I loved to wear. The conversation only came up every now and then with Christians I considered to be a little over the top, and so I never took them very seriously.

This stubborn mind-set went on for about six years after my conversion! (seems crazy I know, but as I said, the Lord was very patient and gracious with me! He would work in a perfect timing on my heart.) Eventually, some difficult circumstances in my marriage lead me to pursue the Lord much deeper than I had previously before. I began devouring sermons and the Word and spending much more time in prayer. The Lord was my only real joy during this time, and I wanted to be as close to Him as possible. His presence was the only place I could find joy. That was a good place for me to be, and I knew it! With all of this Biblical teaching and reading and prayer, my mind began to change about things, not just dress, but everything! It was unintentional, I didn’t set out to become a radically different person, but it happened when I began taking the Bible more seriously and reading it more earnestly. Life looked so different through the lens of Scripture! My mind was really being renewed, I no longer wanted to be conformed to the world. I didn’t know fully what that would look like, but things were shifting and the Lord was opening my eyes to see sinful ideas in my heart that I needed to turn from and sinful ways of life that I needed to quit walking in. I learned during this time that repentance wasn’t something the Christian does one time, it’s something the Christian walks in. We are constantly repenting of our sin and putting our minds, hearts, and bodies in subjection to Christ….. it’s just what Christians do. Christians aren’t perfect, but we are being made perfect! And by God’s grace we will be one day!

What happened next:

Shortly after this the Lord brought friends into my life who didn’t look like the world, including in the area of modest dress.  Before I would’ve thought these people were too over the top, but now they were beautiful to me! They were never unkind or judgmental to me even-though I had not yet made the complete shift in my clothing choices, but their example and gentle exhortations were convicting and helpful for my growth in the Lord, especially in this particular area of my life. The Lord had already made my heart soft to the subject and I was ready to receive Biblical advice from others. It made me sad that I had never really been taught on it before. It made me sad that more ministers didn’t actually teach or preach about this common (seemingly acceptable) area of rebellion. I was sad that I had been so stubborn and unwilling to change. But at the same time I knew myself loved and forgiven by the Lord through the blood of Jesus; I was able to see how He faithfully pruned me and lead me in this journey. Sanctification is such a beautiful thing! The Lord used many people and situations to teach me the Scriptures regarding modesty and to show me the loveliness and beauty of modesty. It became overwhelmingly desirable for me to make a change in the way I had been dressing. So one day I went through my wardrobe and I pulled out everything that I (at the time) deemed as immodest. I tried to discern if I could layer it and make it modest, if so I kept it and if not then out it went. I put t-shirts under strapless and spaghetti strap dresses and tops. I tossed out my skirts, dresses, and shorts that didn’t come down to just above my knees. I tossed out my bikinis and purchased a few cute one pieces and swim skirts. I also purchased a few long skirts and long (tunic type) shirts to wear with skinny jeans. (I’m not trying to say my standards are what everyone is called to, but this was what the Lord had laid on my heart.)

Honestly, it was a bit of a difficult adjustment for me at first. My mind had been so conformed to the world, that it was hard for me to know what beauty and femininity really were. The first time I wore my one piece and swim skirt, I felt somewhat insecure…. it was SO different than my tiny little bikini that I was use to. I felt like people were staring at me (I’m sure it was totally in my head!). My body hadn’t changed at all, in fact I was the most fit I had ever been. Prior to my mind change on modesty, I believed a girl would wear a bikini up until the day she didn’t look good in one, then she’d move to a one piece, but here I was all covered up, but totally not insecure about the way my body looked. I was constantly having to remind myself of what was really true, and what wasn’t. In the beginning I also had to fight feelings of frumpiness. Sometimes I felt ugly in my modest clothes. I think this was two fold: one reason was because my mind was still being renewed to understand that tight fitting and skin showing didn’t equal beauty and the other reason was that I hadn’t yet learned how to be me and be modest. I thought I had to have the same style as other modest girls, and it took me a bit to learn how to have the style that reflected my personality and still be modest. It was definitely trial and error for a while. But it was definitely worth it! Even though I struggled to “like” the new look, I loved the freedom I had gained! Freedom from sin and worldliness, freedom to walk in obedience to the God I loved so dearly. It was a true victory God had won in my heart! And in time, I grew to see so much beauty in modest clothing. Now it is worldly immodest clothes that seem unbecoming to me.

5 quick reasons it was worth it to submit to God in this!

1. I was able to cast off sin and grow in obedience.

2. My walk with the Lord got sweeter because I was not withholding parts of myself from Him.

3. My husband felt more respected by me than he did before the change.

4. Other men and women respect me more than before the change.

5. I am able to teach my daughters by words and example how to worship the Lord with our clothing choices.

This is just my personal journey to dressing modestly. If modesty has been something you are considering, maybe you know you need to make a change and your heart is being drawn to honor the Lord more with your clothing choices. Pray about it, consider what your clothes say about you and the God you claim to serve. And then just do it! Get in your closet and make some changes. Do it out of love for the Savior who died for your sins. Do it seeking to obey the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37-39). Do it as an act of love.

I hope that gave you a little glimpse into why I’m passionate about modesty and why I’m doing these Modern Modesty posts. My hope is to help others see modest dress as beautiful too. 

So how about one wintery look before winter has completely passed us by (not that I will be the least bit sad about that!)

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I love to pair tunics with skinny jeans and boots! It’s one of my favorite looks!

top : rue 21 online

jeans : delias

boots : belk

blanket scarf : spoiled rotten (in Knoxville), a gift from my amazing mom

Psalm 16 bracelet : a gift from my sweet friend Jessica

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,Stacey

Spring Cleaning that will change your life : the Pursuit of Minimalism

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This is going to be a series. I sat down to type this out and quickly realized it would not all fit into one blog post. There is just way too much to say about it! Before we dive into a how-to post I have a few stories, clarifications, and persuasions for you. It may be tempting to skip over this part, but I think it will benefit you to read it. Mainly because minimalism is much more a mind-set than it is a method. You really have to have your mind reshaped to pursue minimalism.

I want you to learn how this can really help the home-maker who is struggling to keep her home organized. I want you to pursue it for the right reasons. I want you to know that it *can* work for you in whatever situation you find yourself in. (big house, little house, big family, small family, it can work for anyone!) I want to persuade you to view your belongings in a totally different way. I want you to know why you have to be “all in” committed to minimalism for it to really change your life. Then I want to tell you ‘how to’ pursue it starting now with your spring cleaning efforts. I hope I don’t sound like a sales-woman when I say, this could be the spring clean that will change your life!

I will share how to begin living a minimalist life-style, which I promise is not as hard as you may think! Once you change your mind-set, doing it is actually very easy! And I will tell you how to continue to grow in it and to perfect it, that is the phase I am in now, and it has become so easy and fun. It no longer stresses me out to organize or find places for things like it use to. I will help you get there, if you are willing to change your mind about your things!

Again this is a mind-set, not a method. I can give you steps (and I will eventually give you steps), but you can do the steps and stay in bondage to your things if you don’t build the foundation first.

How I Became a Minimalist:

So let’s kick it off with a testimonial of my personal story. I want to tell you how I went from an unorganized mess to a minimalist. I use to really struggle with keeping an organized home. I don’t any more. Now my house does get messy with toys and our daily things, but they are easily picked up; in about 10-15 minutes my house can be entirely clean. Not just look clean, but have stuff crammed, I mean actually clean! A few years ago this was not so, I really struggled with keeping my home clean and organized! It was bad! There were some areas I kept clean (my living room and kitchen mostly), but there were many areas that no matter what I did I could never keep organized and put together. I’m not talking about dirt and grime and cob-webs, I’m talking about our stuff. The task of organizing was absolutely daunting to me. I’ve never been a good organizer, I’m still not great at it, but minimalism makes it easier because there is way less to organize. Back then I hated it!!! Organizing was the bane of my existence. I wasn’t a hoarder or anything, in fact, I felt like I had the same amount of stuff as all the other people I knew. I just couldn’t manage it. I always had a room where I stored a few boxes of junk that I needed to sort through. I always had a mess of school and craft supplies and miscellaneous papers shoved in the corners in my office floor and piled all around my desk and shelves. I would spend hours picking up my children’s bedrooms, the toy/school room and my own, but in about three hours they would be destroyed again. I would pick up and organize all the time, but it never seemed to help! I constantly had an organization project going. It always flopped in the end! I’m not a lazy person, and I am passionate about my job as a homemaker, so I was perplexed by this whole cycle. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I put SO much work into it and yet the end result was *still* a messy house. I always questioned, “Why can’t I keep my house clean when I work so hard?” My husband would wonder what I had been doing all day, when in fact I had been cleaning and organizing all day. That caused conflict. It hurt him and communicated disrespect. It hurt me because I felt like a failure as a wife, homemaker, and mother. It hurt my children because they were learning my example, and they were witnessing the conflict between my husband and I. It hurt and it was very hard on my heart. I knew there were more important things than a clean house and I pursued those and focused on my areas of strength such as teaching my children diligently, but I believed a clean house was important too. I was suppose to be a keeper of my home. I was suppose to be building it, not tearing it down. A clean house is right, and I knew that. A clean house is a noble desire and we should pursue it! A clean house brings so much peace to the family! God is a God of order, and I knew that it would honor Him for me to run a home of order. I wanted it SO BADLY! But continued to walk in defeat no matter how hard I tried.

I just knew there had to be a way off of the hamster wheel! I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom. I would say, “Lord, you know my heart, you know I want to be a good homemaker and to work as unto you, please show me what I’m doing wrong!” (in tears, begging, pleading, I was desperate)

The Lord did finally answer. Almost a year and a half ago we took a long work trip with my husband to Western Canada (about 3 days of driving for us). We had four children and as anyone knows when packing for a trip with lots of littles, we had to pack JUST the essentials to last us for six weeks. So I put together all that we needed: a week’s worth of clothing for everyone (we would have access to a laundry mat), toiletries, our current home school curriculum, our current read aloud books, 3 small toy sets, a pack n play, booster, diaper bag, blankets and pillows, an ergo, a stroller, my camera, my laptop, our homeschool ipad, and my husband’s work supplies. It seemed a meager amount to me, but still stuffed the 12 passenger rental van pretty tightly. Once we settled into our hotel in Canada, I was AMAZED at how light my work load felt while I was there. Sure, we had room service to come in and make the bed and clean the bathrooms and yes the hotel provided dinner 2 nights a week (amazing!), but I could’ve managed those things easily. The lightened load wasn’t from my relief of chores or dinner preparations; it was from the constant organization and picking up, and from being surrounded by my junk. It made a huge difference in my perspective to not be surrounded by a house that always seemed to be reminding me that there was so much work to do. The truth was, I couldn’t relax in my own home! I loved the simple hotel room with just the things we needed! It was SO much more manageable for me! What amazed me was how peaceful it felt to be surrounded with only the things we needed. The whole place could be picked up and put in order in five minutes flat. I could actually sit and read to my girls and enjoy it without feeling like it was taking away from homemaking. We could take outings without me feeling like I had work left undone. I could have my quiet time undistracted by a lingering pile of junk in the corner. It was wonderful! And it hit me then and there, I don’t need those things we left behind, in fact those things were a hindrance! My stuff was the problem!  As I processed through this life-lesson I was learning, the Lord brought this Scripture to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1

 

I just knew this was the answer!!!! Yes, we lay aside sin, but not only sin, also weight….. to me that means anything (my belongings included) which caused me to not run the race with endurance. It was clinging to me, it was holding me down, it was distracting me from the Lord and my work for him, and it needed to be thrown off! Isn’t it so sweet when the Lord finally answers! It was like a glass of fresh water after being lost in the desert! I was thrilled to say the least.

This was before I had ever even heard of minimalism, I truly feel the Lord revealed this concept to me through His Spirit and by His Word first, then allowed me to learn more about it through other means later. He used my circumstances of the trip to Canada to graciously give me a taste of how wonderful it would be to live that way, which motivated me even more. It still motivates me!


How I got started:

While still on my trip and learning these things,I endeavored to get rid of everything I didn’t need or love as soon as I got back home. I knew it would be a lengthy process because I had accumulated a lot, but I was set on starting as soon as possible! When we returned, I chose an area (my office) which had been messy for years. I used the method I shared in my No Clutter November post. It worked! Four huge trash bags later, and my messy office was cleaned up in a day!!! It was the first time since I had moved into that house four years prior that the office had been clean! And I had organized it and worked on it countless hours in months and years prior with no lasting result of organization. It felt so good to have it really done! A few days later, it remained cleaned. Weeks later, it remained cleaned! I was amazed and relieved! This small victory motivated me to continue…. I started getting rid of more things. Every day I was throwing stuff away like crazy or putting things into a huge donation pile and taking trips to donate trunk loads at a time. “Ruthlessly Purge” was my motto. I showed no mercy for things. If I didn’t love it or need it, out it went. I had a lot of stuff and four children so this was (as I had assumed it would be) a long drawn out process. Becoming a minimalist isn’t something you can do in a week. It took you a long time to get all those things, it will take a little while to get rid of them. That was my thinking, and as far as I can see, that is the truth. I did it by areas; which later I found out wasn’t the best method, but that’s okay, it was still a huge help! In the middle of my homemaking reformation the Lord led us to sell our house and to buy our current farmhouse. I then turned my attention to packing up for the move. We had to do it quickly because the house sold two weeks after being on the market, It was such a rushed thing, and I was pregnant with morning sickness so my pursuit of minimalism was put on halt. We had to put most of our stuff in storage for about 8 months and I didn’t have time to purge as I packed; the farmhouse had to be gutted and reconstructed before we could even move in. We lived with the in-loves, with our basics and even still I felt like we maybe had too much with us for the space we had, my cue was that perpetual messes were becoming a distraction again. That is when I began researching for ideas on living with less, and that is where I stumbled across this wonderful concept of minimalism. It was exactly the life-style I knew the Lord was leading us to! The possibilities were inspiring me. The objective was becoming very clear. I knew where we were heading when we opened that storage building. I would be extremely selective about what I brought into my house, and I was. That storage building is still stacked full of stuff. We took out what we needed and wanted, and stopped there. And we have been living quite well with the things we have in our house for months now, in fact, I purge from this small amount we brought in all the time. I have grown to love the simplicity and order so much that I just keep pursuing it more and more. I plan to tackle the storage building in the spring (it’s just too cold for me right now), but I’m not planning to keep the stuff, but instead to get rid of it properly. There are only a few things I have remembered and wanted out of there that I plan to keep. The rest is going!

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I can’t tell you how much I love living with less! It seemed hard at first, but the more I got rid of, the easier it became to get rid of even more. My trajectory is definitely to continue in this direction and to teach my children to do the same. Minimalism has made home-making a joy to me again and I no longer feel like a failure.

what is minimalism?

So you may now be asking, “what is minimalism?”  I think some people have a misconception that minimalism is only for singles or for childless people who live in 500 square foot houses. The tiny house movement has made minimalism a bit trendy with the hippy crowd. Most people think of that type when they think of minimalism. It’s totally not like that for everyone! A basic definition of minimalism is:  living with ONLY what you NEED and LOVE. Also, I would add it is a whole knew way of viewing your things and your home. You become much more intentional about the things you purchase or receive as gifts . You do not allow yourself to feel obligated to keep anything (either a gift or something you spent hard earned money on) if it hinders you from doing what the Lord has called you to by causing messes that you are continually spending time and energy on. Minimalism looks a little different from person to person and family to family, but it’s premise is pretty much the same for everyone; living with the things you absolutely want to live with and having your space look the way you want it to look. Minimalism is like organizing in reverse: instead of deciding where to put things you have, you look at your space and decide the very things you want to be there. Everything else needs to go somewhere else that you want it to be or out of the house. You also reshape your view of “need”. Our culture has made things into a need that are certainly not necessities. Figuring out those things that your family actually does use and need is a process, but it’s worth it!

Do it for the right Reasons

A quick word of warning: if you begin to research “minimalism” you will sadly find very little Christian perspective on the topic. There are a lot of great “how to” articles out there, but the motivation for most of those authors is not living for the Lord, but instead living for themselves. That is NOT where I would encourage your heart to be in this pursuit. If you want to get rid of your things so that you can do whatever it is that makes you happy, then you are worshiping yourself, and that is very dangerous for your soul! (call me dramatic if you want, but it’s just the truth) You will hear a lot of selfish reasoning in most articles on the topic, and actually it can sound appealing to the flesh….. travel, see the world, focus on climbing the career ladder, sit in silence, read, meditate, sip tea, retire early to a life of leisure.  I just want to gently warn you that is not Biblical! That is not how Christians live or think. If your heart is being drawn towards living a minimalist life then let it be for the glory of God. Let it be to honor your husband and children. Let it be so that you can work less on organizing your stuff, and spend that (undistracted) extra time in prayer, the Word, diligently teaching your children, and in service to God. There is nothing wrong with silence and relaxing with a cup of tea or traveling, those are blessings to refresh us, but those should not be life objectives for the Christian.

Minimalism does work!!! It will get you the freedom from the mess that you’ve always been wanting, but I pray that you pursue that with a pure heart and not out of selfish ambition.

Can a big family live a minimalist life-style?

This is a question I get sometimes when I explain to people that I am a minimalist. It is asked in a variety of ways, “is that house going to be big enough?” “don’t you need…. (fill in the blank item)?” ,but the big question above is at the heart of all the other questions, and so I think it a profitable thing to answer. In a word, yes! A big family absolutely can live a minimalist life-style! And let me explain, In truth, a big family only *really* needs a few more things than a small family with only two children. In fact, I had way more stuff when I just had my first two children than I have now for all of us (with the exception of beds and carseats). Kids don’t need every gadget and toy that comes along! They only need a few toy sets and puzzles. I promise they play in a much more content fashion with less than they do with more. I have seen the fruit of both first hand; I saw clearly that more toys only makes them play less! It doesn’t seem like it would be that way, but it definitely is! They don’t need a closet full of clothes and accessories.  And (this is a big one!) you don’t have to keep everything someone gives them for Christmas and birthdays! Gifts are a great way to see what toys work best for your family. If a toy becomes a nuisance or a constant mess maker, then get rid of it. The person who gave it did not want to give you something that would make your life hard, they wanted to bless you. So feel no guilt and donate it or give it to someone who will actually be blessed by the item. Give thanks to the person who bought it when it is received, give thanks to the Lord for the way you feel so loved by the person giving the gift, teach your children to do this because we give thanks in all circumstances, and then if you don’t love or need it, get rid of it! If people ask what you want, tell them exactly what you want! I recommend crafts (which can be done and then thrown away) or good books that you want in your family library, or experience gifts like season tickets to a local theme park or zoo or art classes. It most certainly can work for a big family, but you can’t have it in your head that you and your children must have whatever people and the world tells you that you need. You really probably don’t need it!

I believe this can work for anyone and any situation if you want it to and that it can be altered to fit various life-styles. If you have a huge house and lots of space to put things, then you can likely have more things than someone like me. And sure, there are things I wish I could buy and find a space for, I’d love to have some work-out equipment, but I don’t have the space for them so I will just workout outside and chasing my kids. If I don’t have a place for it, then I don’t get it. However, if you have space for a work-out room, can afford it, and you want one, go for it! That is still minimalism. It just looks different depending on the space you have to work with.

Now I will say minimalism is not for everyone. If you are a great organizer and you easily keep your house in order….. then keep your things. But I’m not bent that way, and for me to continue down the path I was on was like trying to shove a circle puzzle piece into a square spot. Nothing lined up! If you hear this concept and think it’s not for you, then great, but don’t quickly discount it because you are not ready to get rid of your things. If you are struggling with organization, at least give this a go in a few areas of your life and experience what a difference it makes. Try out my no clutter method, and get rid of everything you don’t need or love.

This conversation will continue…

I’m going to stop here for now. This series will definitely continue with the things outlined above.

Now here’s something fun!

Spring Cleaning IRL Blog Hop!

Spring Cleaning IRL - Love these tips and ideas for spring cleaning I can actually do!

I’ve joined together with some friends to bring you a BIG giveaway and a great set of spring cleaning posts to launch your efforts! Spring Cleaning IRL (in real life) is brought to you by these lovely ladies. Be sure to visit each one!

Spring Cleaning for the rest of us

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The Busy Mom's Guide to Decluttering(+Giveaway & Bloghop)

 

Spring Homemaking Giveaway!

SWEET! The InstantPot pressure cooker has been on my wish list, and Amazon gift cards are my love langue. :) Awesome spring homemaking giveaway!

Enter to win the Spring Homemaking Giveaway to bless your home and family! The winner will receive an Instant Pot Duo 6-quart 7-in-1 pressure cooker! ($234.95 value) AND a $50 Amazon gift card!

Giveaway runs until 11:59pm PST on 4/10/16. Winner will be notified via email and has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you win!

-Stacey

 

Modern Modesty

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31

I’m super excited to introduce something new I’m staring here at Abiding Woman.

Modern Modesty

In a nutshell, these will be modest fashion posts to inspire the modern woman to dress to the glory of God.

Why modesty?

I’m passionate about modesty, partially because I think it’s greatly untaught about in many Christian circles: perhaps for fear of offending people, or legalism, or both, but it just seems to be a taboo subject for many. But the thing is, we need to be taught about this! It is important.  I’m also passionate about it because of my own personal journey leading me to care about modesty which I will be posting next week.

Why modern?

As I’ve pursued modesty, I have learned that it is very possible to dress in modern clothing and be modest. BUT (and to be clear, this is a huge “but”) ultimately if being modest meant that we had to wear old fashioned clothes, I would be completely content to do that. Now I want to be careful here, I have grown to see a beauty in older styles of clothing, and many women and their husbands love that look! I think it is quite lovely too, it just my first preference for myself.  I have found that I enjoy dressing modestly with affordable clothes that are currently in fashion. It may not always be this way, but for now clothes that are currently sold in stores like Target, Old Navy, local boutiques, and more can absolutely be worn in a modest way. You just have to be intentional about it. You can’t always (or often) wear it like it’s advertised on the models. Take the style you love and layer it so that you can enjoy your clothing and be modest. That is what “modern modesty” is about on this blog. I have a deep desire to teach the why of modesty with Scripture and to demonstrate the how of modern modesty with “modest fashion posts”.

Now let’s get one thing straight

I am not a model. I’m 5 feet even and a mom of 5 (and hoping for more kiddos one day). My size and weight change often, and I am having a really productive day if I find time for a shower and makeup. So I am nowhere close to being a model, and I’m good with that!

But here’s the thing I’m not going to let that stop what I’m trying to do here. I’m passionate about helping women see that modest dressing can be beautiful, stylish, and even demonstrating that our creativity and care we put into our clothing choices can cause people to delight in the Lord.

How this will work.

I will share a few photos of my outfit and I’ll share where I bought the items I’m wearing. Not necessarily so you can go and buy the exact thing, because it’s likely that most of it won’t still be available, but instead so that you can see “how” I piece modern modest outfits together. I have some old posts (here and here, back when I was pregnant) where I did this sort of thing, but I had not yet caught the vision for “Modern Modesty” fully. I went back and re-labeled them as “Modern Modesty” because my heart for it was there, just not the full workings of the idea. So this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this type of post with me, but it is the first official Modern Modesty post.

Styles and Standards:

I know that we all have different styles. I’m not sharing these to say my style is the best. You may not even like my style for yourself. These styles are just what I like and what I wear. I tend to be drawn to slightly bohemian styles. You probably have your own style preferences, but that doesn’t mean these posts still can’t be helpful. I want to encourage women to find the styles they like and to wear them in modest ways. I love how God made us all different, and I love to delight in the different styles of my friends. Some are more classic, others casual, others sporty, and others vintage. I love the variety! Christian women don’t all have to dress the same! :) And I really believe we can dress with our own style preferences in a modest way.

Furthermore, we will likely have different opinions about modesty, my standards are just that…. my standards, granted, I have come to my standards through the Scripture and through what I consider to be sound teaching on the subject. Aside from this so many things have shaped my personal standards, and I’m sure the same is true for you. I realize others may have a different take, even on the exact same Scriptures. I always want to be careful that I’m not adding to the Scripture in any way. I look forward to posting on what the Scripture says about the way we ought to dress and even sharing my standards eventually, but even still I will share them as my personal standards and nothing more.  My standards may change or shift as I grow in my understanding of the Scriptures. I want to be ever-learning and ever-growing…. don’t you? So changes and humility are par for the course in the Christian life in all areas, even in the way we dress.

Finally, with this introduction to what modern modesty is about we’ll kick this thing off in one of my favorite dresses.

So here we go….

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dress : Rue 21 (online, I always shop their store online because call me crazy if you want to, they have some ridiculous music in their store that I can’t stand, so there’s that.)
scarf : Rue 21 (online)
belt : Target
leggings : probably Target ;)
boots : Belk (watch for the boots to go on sale soon, usually March or April you can get them for super cheap ((like 75% off)), that’s how I got these.)

A few reasons why this dress is one of my favorites. First of all, it’s cotton and feels as comfy as pajamas! Secondly, it’s black and white and pretty much goes with every accessory I own. Third, it’s knee length and flowy. I love the style and shape of it!

So that was the first official Modern Modesty post.

Ultimately, I hope these will be an overarching encouragement towards your pursuit of modest dressing, whatever that looks like in your current stage of your Christian walk, take a step… evaluate your clothing, be intentional to love God and others with the way you dress. And while you do, give grace to others in the process. We are all learning here.

Hope everyone has a great week!
Abiding in Christ,
-Stacey

PS These will NOT normally be this long.

linked up with The Modest Mom Blog