It Was Good

My church is doing this plan to read through the bible and see the over-arching story of God – it’s His Story, and it’s Our Story. We started at the beginning the first week of January. Now that we’re halfway through February (guys, HOW do the years go by so quickly? HOW), I’m looking back over my notes and desiring to share some of the things that God is showing me in this sweet time reading His Word.

I noticed as I was reading through Genesis 1 that it repeatedly states that God’s creation was good. In verse 4, God sees that light is good. In verse 10, God sees that earth and seas are good. In verse 12, God sees that the vegetation on earth is good. In verse 18, God sees that the separation of day lights and night lights is good. In verse 21, God sees that all the living creatures of the sea and air are good. In verse 25, God sees that the beasts of the ground are good.

Then in verse 31, after God creates man and woman, it says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Neat. He says it is good 6 times, and then when he makes humans, everything is very good.

How often do I take the time to note the goodness of God’s creation?

Every face, every life, nature, technology, the vast contrast of different parts of the earth, the sounds surrounding – all of it. With even just my physical senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, I can see God’s heart a hundred billion ways.

Why does it matter that God took the time to point out the good of his creation? Why did he take the time to say that it was good before he moved on to his next creation?

As an artist, I have to wonder if this is stating that God took the time to analyze, critique, and appreciate his work before moving on. As he completed each part of his purposeful project, he demonstrated satisfaction at each completed step. He wasn’t scattered or floating from thing to thing, but completing each, and completing it well.

Lord, help me to take the time in each day to see what is good. Let me do this especially in my work, where I feel like I’m always falling short. When I create, in a pale imitation to what you create, let me be orderly and purposeful, qualifying each step as critically good before moving on to the next thing. Help my scattered brain be disciplined and focused, as you were when you made all these good things. Complete your work in me so that you can call me “good and faithful servant” when I finally see your face.

That Crazy Mama Bear Love

It’s crazy how parenting helps you understand the character of God a little better.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not seeing God in myself or anything. I screw up like every 3 seconds, especially in parenting. God doesn’t screw up.

But…

I’ve always struggled with that weird combination of characteristics – the ones that say God loves us exactly as we are and God wants us to become like Christ. I’ve always been like, well, which one is it? Cause I am not like Christ as of right now, so does God want me to be like Christ or does he love me like I am right now? It really can’t be both.

Somehow, it is both. And I never really understood that. That is, until I had kids who exerted independent will.

Then I was like, oh. I get it now.

I see exactly who my kids are. I know them better than anyone. I can predict exactly how they are going to react in almost every situation. I see the extra smart things about them – their biggest strengths. I see how Jared’s little brain can work logic so quickly and come up with a new way to look at any given situation (and he does this so that he gets his way – he’s rather strong-willed)(understatement of the century). I see how Ellie is the kindest, most sensitive, sweetest spirit, who has mercy on everything, living or unliving. I see how much she cares about people, their feelings, and things being right and fair. She’s the kind of child who would bawl her eyes out because someone killed a spider that she was scared of. She’ll be one of those people who thanks her clothing and cries over it when she gives it away.

It makes me wonder – what does God see about me like this? Does God fill up with pride when he thinks about me making music for him or having a greatly successful moment teaching kids? Does he swell up with joy when I recall something later that I had studied in scripture that morning, and it clicks in my head, the way I see letter sounds clicking in Jared’s? Is God happy with the things that I do well for Him? I know he is – I can feel it.

Sometimes, Jared or Ellie will just be snuggling right up to my cheek or my forehead, and I’ll be so filled with crazy love for them that I can barely stand it. They are such wonderful little ones, and it brings me so much joy to know that I am part of them and they are part of me.

Does God do that with me? In my treasured quiet moments with Him, its like our foreheads are touching. When I remember to be grateful that I have a family to dirty up our dishes as I’m washing them, it’s like He’s giving me a butterfly kiss. When I tenderly fold the 1,000,000th tiny onesie and praise God for my third precious baby who is wearing it, it’s like he touches his cheek to mine.

I also see just exactly who Jared and Ellie are, and not in the good ways. I see that strong-will that Jared exhibits getting in the way of potentially meaningful friendships. I see a total disregard in him for the feelings of others – he truly only cares about getting what he wants and being in control in every situation. I see Ellie’s sneaky nature – her crazy curiosity gets the best of her every time, and she is always into mischief, just constantly. She has destroyed so many things and made so much extra work for us constantly cleaning up after her. I see both of their constant, constant, constant disobedience. Like right now, while I’m typing up this post at 8:49pm and they are laughing their heads off playing while they’re supposed to be sleeping.

I want so badly for them to trust me, and to learn to obey me on the first try, no questions asked, for their own good. I ache and wish for Jared to care about others. I harp on him to think about how others feel. We watch SO MUCH Daniel Tiger to try to get in touch with our feelings. I purposely point out how people feel when I’m around him to help him be more aware of it. And when Ellie gets into something, I talk to her with tears in my eyes about how hard it is to clean up something else and how tired I am since I feel like all I ever do is clean. And I make her help me clean it up. I feel a pain in my heart for the things they do wrong, and a deep-seeded wish for them to learn what’s right and change their ways. It doesn’t change my crazy love for them in the slightest.

Does God do this with me? I imagine his heart aching when I believe lies – when I believe that I’m not worth anyone’s friendship, and that I’ll never do anything well, and that no one even cares about anything I have to offer – things I think and believe much more consistently than I’d like to admit. I can see God’s heart breaking for me when I make that same wrong choice, again and again – when I’m filled with selfishness and such an ache to matter that I draw attention away from him and onto myself. I can feel God’s desire for me to trust him, obey him on the first try, and know it’s for my own good because he knows better than me, while I continually do what I want instead.

And still.

He loves me so.

He both loves me exactly the way I am and changes my heart to be more like Christ. I get it a little bit better now.

Finances: Savings Totals Chart

GUYS! I hate money.

So. Much.

But money is basically life, unfortunately. I mean, I would argue philosophically that it isn’t, but physically, it is, though.

Money has been a consistent pain in my butt for as long as I can remember. Growing up the child of a Minister of Music and Worship and a music teacher, we definitely couldn’t be categorized as wealthy. Then starting my own adult life as a teacher married to a carpenter/server/massage therapist/salesman/clerk/cashier…well, literal wealth isn’t something I’d say we have. Joy? Sure. Adventure and fun? Absolutely. Sweet, darling times? Definitely. Extra money? Nope.

I regularly, constantly, everySINGLEday remind myself how wealthy I actually am in the grand scheme of things because I constantly feel epically poor. Add to that a crazy sense of adventure and absolutely no self-discipline or enjoyment in saving from both parties in our marriage and YIKES. Ya got issues.

Ryan and I were therefore all the more grateful when we received 4 different books on Dave Ramsey for our wedding. Apparently the people in our life predicted a problematic attitude or two from us regarding money and thusly purchased their gifts to us. We read them, and we completed Financial Peace University (and then led it after that), and we are so thankful. We paid off all of our student loan debt and purchased our first home with a full downpayment only one year into our marriage. We have been extremely careful for most of our marriage, and we’ve managed to live off very little for quite a bit of the time. We aren’t perfect, and we’ve messed up a fair number of times, and we just cannot seem to get completely out of debt, but we are getting there.

One of the tools we’ve used on our way to financial health is this epic chart:

We found that there are LOTS of things that we only pay for every few months or once a year, so we needed to include them in our budget so that we weren’t ill prepared when hit with a giant bill once a year. There’s no reason for the car insurance bill to surprise you – you know it’s coming, and you can plan for it.

This chart started right after we got married, when Ryan’s mom wrote us a check for our first car insurance bill as a gift. She told us that we should pay the first year in full using her gift, and then put aside money in a savings account each month so that in a year, we had enough for another full year. This is because most insurance companies give you a discount for paying in full once a year instead of splitting it up month-to-month. We found that this pattern continued through our marriage with many things, such as:

  • Amazon – once a year
  • This blog page – once a year
  • Ryan’s life insurance policy – once a year
  • oil changes – about every 3 months
  • new tires – about every 2 years (although less often now that we have better cars!)
  • Christmas gifts – once a year
  • memberships and subscriptions that renew once a year
  • Garbage bill – every 3 months

Since we get paid about every 2 weeks and most of our bills are monthly, it makes the most sense for us to budget monthly. In doing that, it’s easy to forget all the bills that you have to pay less often but will be bigger amounts. So, we started budgeting them in every month and moving money into our savings account to cover them. After a while, I started to get overwhelmed. It seemed that almost every month something was coming up that was a yearly subscription or bigger payment that I had forgotten to account for!

Another thing that KEPT happening was that some big thing would come up that we weren’t expecting (like the furnace going out the week before Jared was born and the master bathroom flooding through the kitchen lights two weeks before Ellie was born and having to get a new furnace in our current house when Grace was 2 months old), and it would totally annilate our savings account and more, meaning that all the money we had set aside for bigger bills would be gone and need to be replenished. It was really hard to keep track!

AND SO THE CHART WAS CREATED

As mentioned above, the chart outlines all of the purchases or bills that come up less often than once a month. We have a PNC Bank account called Virtual Wallet, which we love. This account sets us up with a checking account, savings account called “reserve,” and savings account called “growth.” The “reserve” account is intended to be shorter-term savings, and the “growth” account is intended to be longer-term. The online banking with this, or Virtual Wallet, as it were, allows us to allocate specifically what money is in what category. I highly recommend this bank account (and PNC is not paying me to say that – although PNC, if you’re reading this, I would happily take your money for the free advertising!).

The main reason I created the chart is because it was SO HARD to keep up with what the funded amounts for each budget should be in what month. The savings accounts online only indicate the fully-funded amounts and don’t allow for marking in some way the month in which it should be paid in full. I couldn’t remember how much needed to be added each month when I just saw a total, and I couldn’t remember in what month I needed the portion to be fully funded off the top of my head. It was a lot of separate numbers to try to track.

I’m now going to bullet point the main parts of the chart:

  • reserve vs. growth – we decided that if it is a bill that comes out once a year or more often, it goes in reserve. If it either needs to sit forever (like college savings, emergency fund, or actual savings) or will come out less than once a year (such as new tires), it will go in growth. The growth account has a higher yield interest rate, so money sitting in there is better than in checking or savings.
  • the bold numbers – I put a star and highlighted in blue around the squares that signify the month when the bill is full funded and will need to be removed to our regular checking account so that it can be paid. Example: the Christmas budget comes out in December, so December is highlighted bold and has a star. Car insurance is billed in March and September. Trash is March, June, September, December.
  • the regular numbers – the numbers in each box represent the currently funded amount during that month in the year. For example, in August, I have saved a total of $70 toward the cost of my blog.
  • The green numbers at the bottom – These are totals for the reserve account. It is so helpful to verify that I have the correct amount of money in my reserve account each month to take care of all those bills, and then to know exactly how much should be allocated into each sub-group.

Here’s a sample of the savings tool with our PNC Virtual Wallet online banking. I blocked out our actual amounts but left our goal amounts. You can see that it fills in white when the allocated accounts gets full. There just ain’t nothin’ like watching a bar graph fill up!

You can also note the top where it has “savings goals” and “savings rules” to select. On savings rules, I can set how much I want to come out of checking and into reserve or growth savings each month automatically on paydays, which is awesome! I have it set to automatically move all those funds into the designated accounts on each payday, and then I go in and specifically allocate the amounts into their categories. When items are fully funded, they’ll show up on the savings goals with a button that says “transfer.” I just click that, and it moves that particular amount into my checking account automatically.

This chart has been SO HELPFUL to us. It makes things clear and simple, and makes things much easier to track. Paired with our awesome online banking (I heart technology, y’all!), we are well on our way to getting completely out of debt and moving toward more financial freedom.

I would LOVE to create a chart like this for you. If you would like one, just email me at melody.kneezel@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can make that happen. ­čÖé

IMAGE

I’ve always kind of hated that word: image.

It conjures in me some kind of fake mask of perfection. I find this repelling. (insert puke emoji)

I just can’t stand that fakeness – that pretending like everything is hunky dory when it definitely isn’t. That need to have it together or be doing super well at everything – my image, how people see me. Ugh.

It’s probably because I can’t ever seem to live up to what I want to be. Maybe it’s because I’ve had negative experiences with others pretending like everything is fine when it really isn’t, and therefore avoiding coming to a peaceful conclusion, sitting forever in discontent. If you don’t acknowledge it, maybe it’ll go away! Or, it’ll fester and spread like cancer.

These negative feelings related to this dirty word poisoned me toward people at a young age. I distinctly remember blissful happiness in childhood, and then total disregard for me or anything I had to offer starting around age 12. Fine, I thought, if you don’t think I’m worth your time, then you aren’t worth mine either.

For years (YEARS!), I lived with this feeling. I don’t like humans. People are rude and annoying and hurtful and self-centered and I’d rather just NOT with all of them.

Then this one time in college, my friend Jill, who was (is) very beautiful and very loved and very wonderful, said, “I just love people.” I was like, WHAT? There are people who LOVE people? What is this? How can you love people? They are the worst. And I also thought, well, you love people, and people sure like you, so maybe there’s something to this whole loving people thing?

I started thinking about it a lot. I was torn between my desire to be real and my desire to actually care about and love people. But loving people is dirty business. It involves overlooking some nasty, irritating, or frustrating traits that nearly all of them have. But I was determined.

Now, I’m summing up here, but this was a very long process for me. It’s hard business to come to terms with seeing something beautiful in every human you encounter. In case this is a struggle for you – you know, to love, say:

  • that guy that can’t stop talking about himself…
  • that woman who says something awkward every time she speaks and totally halts all further conversation…
  • the kid who is screaming bloody murder in the grocery store when you were hoping for peace and quiet
  • that person who won’t apologize for the way they hurt you…
  • the person who hurt your feelings and has no idea…
  • the one who won’t stop complaining 24/7…
  • the driver who just cut you off…
  • your teenage child who won’t look you in your eye because PHONES SOCIAL MEDIA MILLENIALS (insert other 2018 swear words)…

Again, in case this is a struggle for you, I have some thoughts.

People can be enormously frustrating. Pair that with our own insecurities and our desire to be better than we are, and you have the double whammy of “sinful other people” and “sinful self” that is sure to result in discord.

I was reading this article on Washington Post that was discussing the differences in biometric technology, specificially between fingerprinting and using heartbeat technology. I was floored. I didn’t know that every person has a unique heartbeat rhythm that can be documented. Apparently they do. So in addition to every single finger on every single person in the entire universe being different, every person having unique personalities that are affected and adjusted by their unique experiences (even identical twins who literally come from the very same egg and sperm can look incredibly distinct and have such different qualities), every person’s heartbeat rhythm is also unique. Be still my ever-loving musical heart.

GOD. DON’T. MAKE. NO. JUNK.

In fact, God says that people are created in His image. One of my favorite songs says it best: “I can see your heart 8 billion different ways.” My goodness, do I love that lyric. Why is it so hard to grasp that when we look at people – ANY PERSON – we are looking at the image of God? How holy. How incredible. How unique. How special. Every person you see, EVER, is the only one of that person that will ever exist.

We tend to value people for accomplistments, talents, skill sets, brains, conventional beauty, or because they click with and are similar to us in some way. But what if we start taking a different approach? Any person’s simple existence is a chance to see God’s heart. God made that person with unique gifts, a perfectly strange combination that isn’t like anyone else. Don’t you see the value? Totally one of a kind. This isn’t like the original Blackie beanie baby in 1996 – there aren’t like 10,000 originals so you have to get your hands on it. Every person is only ONE. ONE of ONE. It is crazy!

You, friend, have inherent value JUST BECAUSE YOU EXIST. The God of all creation, who made such beautiful, amazing things as sunsets and bees and oceans and galaxies and ants and those freaky weird fish that light up in the bottom of the ocean thought it was important to make a YOU. You were made by God with a purpose in mind.

And oh. How he loves you. I’m moved just thinking about it. He sees all the best in you, and he sees that sinful nature, too. He sees your aches to be different and your pride for that thing you do so well. He sees your tendency to scream at your kids and then feel utter shame. He sees your voice raised to him in joyful song. He sees your doubts and your fears and your wishes and your dreams and your scars and your pinky toes and your gray hair strands, and he loves every bit of you. So desperately.

Desperately enough, that even though we deserve to be separated from him because we can’t measure up, he left the glory of Heaven to sit among us, teach us, walk with us, heal us, and love us right here. And then he was wrongly blamed by someone who should have been a friend and took on what we deserved to the point of utter humiliation, embarrassment, and death. And then he was raised from the dead, overcoming it all.

For you.

So that you don’t have to be without him.

Don’t you see? You were paid for by God. He traded himself for you.

He didn’t trade himself for no junk.

It’s been a slow, slow time for me to start to grasp this, and, of course, I still forget so often. It is a steady practice to look into someone’s face and think to yourself “Image of God. Made and paid. I’m seeing God’s heart 8 billion ways.” But oh, friend, does it change everything when you do!

See yourself this way. See others this way. It changes everything.

My House Is Put Together: Part 4

Create a schedule, and do whatever it takes to stick to it!

I am categorically a free spirit. Monotony is like a cuss word to me.

At the same time, I get all excited about things that are neat and organized. The reality is – in order for something to remain neat and organized, there has to be some form of monotony, routine, schedule, mundane going on.

I have decided that in sucking it up and being an adult, I must be okay with this.

I also decided that it is healthy for my developing children to have some regularity in their lives. I don’t want them to feel insecure, unsafe, or anxious about what might happen, because that isn’t good for a developing brain.

Additionally, my total spontaneity, at least regarding my home and its level of (un)cleanliness, has caused me to feel stressed and almost at a panic when I’m at home. It was time for a change! Suck it up, MEL.

My actual home in December of 2018

I met with my pal Lindsay about this, and she gave me the truth bomb. “You can’t live like that.” Yes, girl. She knows what’s up. She advised that I make a list of the “absolute musts” or “non-negotiables” about having a clean house and get them organized into days of the week. I┬ácan┬ádo┬áthis, I thought. I’ve┬áhad┬áschedules┬álike┬áthis┬ábefore. And thus, it began.

Our current schedule contains splitting up duties between me and Ryan, each with a job, and with our whole evening planned each day of the week. Lindsay color coded it for whose job is what. This was our starting point, just to get some traction with this house. NON NEGOTIABLES – these MUST happen. It’s working great.

A few recommendations with this:
– write it down! It seems more official when it is written down.
– send it to a friend for accountability and approval. It was so helpful for me to know that Lindsay would ask how it was going – it inspired me to stick to it better.
– hang it up where you can see it. Seeing is remembering. You will constantly remember it if you see it every time you enter the kitchen.
– it doesn’t have to look perfect. I love pretty fonts and beautiful images. Get over it. You just need to see the words. You can make it pretty later, after you have your life together.

Now, part B of this post is the hard part. You see, I LOVE to make plans. Planning is one of the most exciting and fun parts of life. But follow through? That is a whole separate story. I am TERRIBLE at follow through. Give me a fish, I’ll eat it. Teach me to fish, I’ll never do it again even though I’m perfectly capable and starve.

But really, though.

So, I came up with a bunch of things to do that make doing these chores more fun so that they get done.

  1. Laminate or put the schedule in a sheet protector and mark off what you do with a wet erase marker. There ain’t nothing like crossing something off a list.
  2. Make a longer-term plan for rewarding yourself for fulfilling your duties. Like, if you do every chore that day, give yourself a chocolate or maybe one episode of TV. If you do every chore that week, give yourself a Starbucks trip. If you do every chore that month, give yourself a vacation to Hawaii because that’s a straight up miracle and you clearly won the lottery and hired help if that happened. But seriously.
  3. Make it fun. I like to set up the laundry baskets so that I have to shoot and score when I’m sorting clothes. It’s fun, and it engages my kids.
  4. Set timers. There is something about beating a clock! SO FUN. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see if you can get all the floors mopped or all the laundry folded and put away. Set a timer for 10 minutes and work on each room getting it tidied or the floors done or dusted or whatever, and then move to the next room at the end of 10 minutes no matter what. These things make it like an adventure, which takes some of the monotony out of it, if you are inclined to despise it the way I am.

This is just a short list of what you can do.

If you need any help making a schedule for yourself, I’d love to help you with that! Email me at melody.kneezel@gmail.com and we will schedule a virtual meeting to talk through your home and what might work best for you and your needs. I’ll happily be that person who helps you be accountable for your home. It’ll all be worth it when you are at peace. Your whole family feels better, too. Everything is simpler, and everything is more joyful.

My House Is Put Together: Part 3B

ORGANIZE WHAT’S LEFT

I mentioned in my previous post that the main thing I was struggling with in my home was toys. My kids have been blessed with lots of fun birthday parties, Christmases, a total doting mother who LOVES to buy people presents (that’s me, folks), and family who shower them with toys and gifts constantly, but it has become overwhelming. My kids flit and flop from toy to toy, and then they’ll go a whole week just playing in laundry baskets or pretending play-doh is characters from Tarzan. Regardless, I spent HOURS picking up toys and trying to get the reorganized.

Exhibit A – note that my children are snuggling up inside the laundry baskets.

I tried a bunch of methods – organizing everything into small bags, putting things in bins, just throwing everything in the toy box, keeping it all in one room, splitting it up between several rooms, etc. Then a friend of mine posted on Facebook about some research that shows we should limit the toys kids play with to teach them to extend their attention spans and to refresh them toward particular toys, and I was inspired!

I present to you:

DAYS OF THE WEEK TOY BINS

I started by going very hardcore KonMari and putting every single toy in the entire house on my bed. It was special. This really does put into perspective how much of everything one actually owns. My guilty soul envisions starving children in China (my parents always said China, although many of my friends insist it should be Africa, but that’s neither here nor there)(literally, it’s not here, because “here” is central Illinois) aching for something at all while I sit in such incredible excess, throwing my bazillion toys casually over my head in glee.

the beginning. Genesis, if you will

I started with a trash bag for trash, another for give away, and then I left the remaining toys on the bed. I have all these awesome zipper bags that Ryan’s mom has sewn us, so I started sorting the remaining toys into categories as best I could.

The one now containing playdoh – my MIL is the BEST

After sorting everything into zipper bags, I ended up putting a few more toys in the “give away” bag because I didn’t have room for them in zipper bags. I also determined at that point that there would be some toys that I wanted only available with adult supervision. I mean, we all know about #AshesGate2018 and #CabinetsGate2018 – my children, though intelligent and beautiful, are truly gifted at destroying things. I decided I didn’t want to put every toy in the days-of-the-week bins, since I could easily see disaster occuring from that kind of freedom.

So, I split everything that I considered “dangerous” or “PG – Parental Guidance Suggested” in their own bins. This ended up being a lot of craft supplies, like a bin for play-doh, one for crayons, markers, colored pencils, and coloring books, all the K-Nex (because those have teeny tiny pieces that Grace would definitely try to eat), puzzles, and games (again with the small, easy-to-lose pieces).

The K-Nex and Puzzles bins

After putting the items in the boxes, I used little Velcro squares, index cards, sharpies, and our little pocket laminator to make labels for them. #nerdalert but seriously, that was so fun! I ended up putting those bins on the top of Ellie’s closet. Most of the other bins are going to be in Jared’s closet, since playtime is usually in his room.

Here you can see bins for play-doh and accessories, coloring and color wonder, sticker and activity books, and the bag is our library bag – we put our books from the library in there. This is the shelving system adjacent to the back door (to garage) and fireplace in the main living room.

After going through those, I had lots of toys left in various categories. Some examples include Ellie’s people and doll houses, Jared’s vehicles and PJ Masks toys, Ellie’s magnetic paper dolls, Jared’s toolkit, and things along that line. I ended up putting all of Ellie’s bags of toys in one pile, and all of Jared’s in the other.

The next determination was – which toys should they access on which days? They definitely have favorites – Ellie’s people and doll houses and Jared’s PJ Masks toys are definitely favorites. I decided make one bin the Monday AND Friday bin. This was for several reasons – we have two babysitters: a Monday/Thursday sitter and a Tuesday/Friday sitter. Giving the same bin on Monday and Friday meant that each sitter gets to experience the kids playing with their most favorite toys (and therefore not having as many potential fights or grumpies). Also, two days guarantees that my kids enjoy their favorite toys more often, but are still forced to play regularly with their less-loved toys, too.

I labeled one bin Monday and Friday, another Tuesday, another Wednesday, and another Thursday. Then I started putting the zipper bags in each bin based on what the kids like best so that they have something they really enjoy each day of the week. Then I placed them all in the top of Jared’s closet.

I also put all of the stuffed animals, dolls, and doll accessories in some Thirty-One under-bed storage containers that I already had. Ellie really enjoys getting out her stuffed animals, and I really enjoy how easy it is to clean them up now!

We also had some toys that were too big for the kids to fit in bins, but that they regularly play with. These are mostly vehicles that are Jared’s, so I decided they could live in his toy box. We attached a lock (using one of those toddler-proof toilet locks) so that we can open the toy box when we decide to. It has worked well!

During the process – this one says “Larger Vehicles – any day!”

It has been working great! Each time the kids play, they just throw everything into one bin and it goes back in the top of the closet or under the bed or in the toy box. Every toy in the house has a home, and it doesn’t take very long to get it all cleaned up. The kids are refreshed toward their toys because they only play with them once or twice a week, and they don’t mind helping clean up either since it doesn’t take very long.

One other unexpected bonus is that it can serve as a reward. When Jared is particularly good, we make a big fuss about taking down whatever days’ toys he wants. He gets so excited choosing the “Wednesday” bin or the “Tuesday” bin on his special days. (This is also how we approach Saturday and Sunday.)

It has been working great for a few weeks now, with no toys all around the house! I’m grateful for my days-of-the-week toy bins! I hope you find it helpful – maybe you can share about a method that has worked for you!

My House Is Put Together, Part 3A

Get rid of stuff, and organize what’s left.

I sort of subscribe to a mixture between FlyLady’s methods and Marie Kondo’s methods. Marie K is really big right now, thanks to her show dropping on Netflix recently. I am cracking up at all my friends’ facebook posts of all the crap they’re throwing out. I’m also throwing up at it a little bit, because it is truly overwhelming to come to terms with our materialism as Americans (and as humans). WHY? Why do we store up treasures on earth? They just overwhelm us and make us so sad and stressed. It’s NUTS.

I am totally guilty of this. I want and I want and I want and I want and it is just never enough. There is always some other dumb thing I want. I have easily filled homes with so much junk with no place to go and no real use for it and I’VE HAD ENOUGH.

So Marie Kondo’s big thing is to take everything of a particular category, no matter where it is in the house, and get it all in one place. Then go through it, hold up whatever it is, as ask yourself if it sparks joy in you. If yes, you keep it. If no, you toss it. Then you do it again with the stuff you decided to keep and a third time just to make darn sure that everything you own brings you joy. It’s actually really great, because it emits all these great feelings of “yay, I love my stuff” and “it’s worth my joy to have this particular item” as you’re getting rid of stuff instead of the usual “oh, I’m keeping this because I miiiiiight maybe use it someday even though I haven’t touched it until now for the past 5 years but it’s speeeeeeeeeeeeeeecial and I neeeeeeeeeeeed it.” Then, you put everything away in a designated place, and you fold it in a way that makes it take up less room, and voila! You have a beautiful, clutter-free, organized home.

It’s all good, until you don’t have enough time to sort every single item of clothing in your home because you are a total HOARDER and it doesn’t even all fit in one room and you can’t seriously go through it all in a single 3 hour period on a Tuesday night. This was my problem. I got it all into one room and then three hours were gone and I had gone through 1/3 of the clothes in my house. So, then, guess what I did? I threw all the clothes on the floor and went to bed exhausted, just like always. Actually most of them are currently in a gigantic pile on the unfinished basement floor, which is evidence that I need to get rid of them cause ain’t no big pile bringin’ me joy.

So anyway, it didn’t really work great. Marie K even says that in the book – she’s like, “Don’t expect to get it all done in one day.” And I’m like, okay, so where do I put the 80 jillion pounds of crap that I still own until I have time to determine if it brings joy or not?

These are the real questions.

Her method is great, but I just didn’t have the time to make it work for me. And everything was still such a mess. I do dream of really trying her method fully someday, but I have to use a kind of hybrid in the meantime.

So FlyLady’s big thing is kind of the opposite idea. She says just do one thing at a time so that you have some control over your life, and then add things, little by little, until you’ve run your house the way you want through consistent routines. She also is really big into saying goodbye to perfection – the toilet doesn’t have to be perfectly 100% germ free; it just has to not give you diseases.

not clean, but no diseases!
(please ignore, or note, depending on your sense of
humor and germaphobia, the used pullup just *next* to the
garbage can instead of inside it –
this was my life until a few weeks ago)

I have used varying levels of FlyLady for YEARS. I used to have this chore system in our previous house that was seriously the most elaborate thing you’ve ever seen, developed over more than a year of consistently adding one thing at a time until I had things like “2nd Tuesday of every third month, dust the attic” or whatever.

When we moved, we downsized significantly, so everything sort of fell apart and went to crap. I have never developed those great routines again, although I certainly dream of it. It also stems from having worked jobs that average 60 hours a week since living in this house and adding so many children (I have three now)(I think)(maybe four? there might be one hiding in that pile of clothes that I forgot about). I kid. There aren’t piles of clothes anymore, because everything is finally PUT. TOGETHER.

Truly, we are still working on all of this, but at the moment, everything without a permanent home is in the basement collecting dust (also known as the Room of Requirement)(see also: Labyrinth). Everything else has a home and is put together. We now have sucked it up and are acting like adults. And we have now started cleaning up constantly in little bits so that there never get to be overwhelming messes. I have found all three children. There are three; I’m almost positive. And the dog!

one, two, three. Yep, definitely three total kids currently

Now, this post has gotten very long, so I’m actually going to make a separate post to discuss the down-and-dirty of what we’ve done in this, but I’ll briefly say here: our first effort was TOYS. And I’m so excited to show you next time what we specifically did to tackle the crazy toy issue in our house. See you soon!

My House Is Put Together, Part Two

Do it constantly in little bits.

After sucking it up, my next bit of advice is to do the work in your home constantly in little bits, so that it never gets to be a big job.

Take 2 extra seconds when opening a string cheese to throw away the wrapper instead of leaving it on top of the counter.

Take 2 extra seconds to rinse off the plate and put it directly in the (unloaded) dishwasher instead of just setting it in the sink.

Wash the dishes immediately after cooking/dinner – this way, they don’t have time to sit and dry, and then you don’t have to scrub so hard to get old spaghetti sauce out of the pot 5 days later (I’ve never done that, what are you talking about?)(yes, I have).

Put clothes directly in the laundry basket or back on a hanger or in a pre-designated “already worn but not dirty yet” place, instead of just leaving them on the bathroom floor.

my average, everyday bathroom floor in 2018

Go ahead and put the clean laundry away instead of just bringing the clean basket upstairs and dumping it all onto your bed, only to throw it onto the floor so that you can go to sleep when you’re exhausted at midnight.

Go Nike on yourself – just do it.

And do it now.

Since we started this, it now takes me 10 minutes to get the entire house put together to go to bed, because most stuff was already put away. It takes about 5 minutes to get all the dishes completely out of the sink before bed, because only the dishes that we used at dinner needed to be washed or loaded into the dishwasher. Since I’m doing laundry more regularly, the loads are smaller, so it takes less time to put them away (about 10 minutes), so they aren’t .

And the best part is that friends came over yesterday, and I spent exactly 3 minutes tidying up the house before they got here. THREE. MINUTES.

This whole “complete it as it comes” thing has been a GAME. CHANGER. Two thumbs up. Highly recommended.

Coming up next: part 3 – Get rid of stuff, and organize what’s left.

MY HOUSE IS PUT TOGETHER.

My house is put together.

And it’s a miracle.

I went live on facebook on Saturday morning to talk about our little miracle – we’ve had a clean, put-together house for almost an entire month! I decided as a follow up to do 5 posts, one containing each step that I talked about in that loooooooooooong video. I talked forever, but it was actually reasonably simple to implement these things. BUT it made a GIGANTIC difference in our peace of mind, ability to find things, etc.

Step One: SUCK IT UP.

This was the hardest part for me. For some reason, I was battling myself with all these thoughts. I would say to myself, “It’s all too much! I shouldn’t have to do all this. How does anyone do this? I am so exhausted! I work full time in an especially exhausting job. Nobody is as tired as me. My kids are messier than everyone else’s kids, so they don’t have it as bad. If only our baseboards were in, our house would be finished and I could get it cleaned up. We have too much stuff, so there isn’t anywhere to put it, so I’ll just have to live with it all being a big mess. I can’t clean this up tonight; I’m too exhausted. UGH! Why are there so many dishes?”

and so on, and so on, and so on. *insert eyeroll here*

Basically, I was making excuse after excuse for why my house was so disgusting. I am the queen of validating – I can validate absolutely anything to myself.

The problem is that making all of those excuses did not, in any way, assist me in cleaning my home. There was stuff all over the floor all the time. There was so much clean laundry that was never put away and ended up in piles on the floor just to be washed again because I couldn’t determine if it was dirty or clean. Counters were covered in random junk that was left out instead of put away. There were crumbs and sticky spots on the floor all around the dining room table. We had mice at one point – not sure if that was because of dirtiness or just because of our neighborhood being so close to a wooded area. It was impossible to walk through our home without a hundred tiny crumbs sticking on the bottoms of your feet. The bathrooms constantly smelled like urine and feces.

My average, everyday home in 2018

It was all too much. I cried over it so many times, so overwhelmed. Everyone kept saying, “This is just a season. Soon it’ll pass, and you’ll be sad that your kids aren’t little anymore.” I would always think, “Okay, so I’m miserable and sad now, and later I’ll be miserable and sad, but my house will always be like this and I’ll always feel overwhelmed so basically you’re saying I’ll be miserable forever?”

About a week before Christmas, I had an epiphany.

Suck it up.

That was my epiphany.

I said to myself: You are a grown-ass woman. When the age boxes show up on paperwork, you have to check “30+.” There isn’t a world in which you aren’t an adult. You own this home. It is a blessing. You had those kids. They are a blessing. You have a partner who is willing to be helpful. He is a blessing. You have the obligation to steward well what has been given to you. You have been blessed with much, so you must be faithful with much. And how many years did you dream of this exact life? How long did you ache to find such wonderful love? How long did you dream of making your house your own by remodeling and living in a neighborhood with great people and a pool and playground and tennis courts? From what age did you begin imagining having your children and raising them, dreaming of high-waisted mom jeans and a big huge perm? Your life is incredibly wonderful, and you are choosing to complain about how hard it is instead of working this weedy garden. Do. The. Work.

Suck. It. Up.

Now, for some people, this kind of straightforward, rather harsh self-talk might not be helpful. But for me, it is necessary. I need to be brought back to reality when I get in these emotional fits of Mrs. Grumpy Gills.

And reality is: my life is amazing, and I have every power to make it feel so.

I set the tone in my home. I have immense power. I am not weak. It is not impossible. Yes, it is hard. Yes, I am tired. But I will NOT waste this time anymore. One chance. One life. I will never be thirty-one years old again. My kids will never be 5, almost 4, and 7 months again. This. Is. It.

Something shifted in my brain that day. I am not going to waste my only chance at giving my kids a stable, happy home just because I’m grumpy about being a working mom. I cannot stay home in this season of our life, regardless of how much I want to. (I’m truly convinced that if I stayed home, none of this mess would ever be an issue – I know it’s true because whenever I do get to stay home, our house is very put together and tidy.) I cannot change our circumstances in this way. But I can change my attitude. So from now on, I’m going to suck it up.

New phrases for self-talk: You might only get today, and then you’re into eternity. Don’t let the trivial pursuits of this day stop you from the eternal pursuits. When you are a literal mess, you are also a spiritual mess. You cannot give and feed into others when you are frantically clinging on to your last shred of sanity. Push off the weighted demons of perfection, dreams of how you wish things were, and excuses. Work. Tend your garden. With a sweet spirit for Jesus, serving Him in it all. The mundane becomes the holy. The trivial becomes eternal. Your children see this energy. They see your praise to the One who gave you everything. They see your effort to be faithful in these things. They see how you steward what has been loaned to you. This is your only chance to show them Jesus when they are kids, and someday they’ll grow up and have to clean a house, too. Teach them. Right now.

My friend Lindsay calls this the CEO mindset – you are the CEO of your life! And with this mindset of “I will do this,” I was able to move into Step 2.

The #SpousePsalmChallenge – Episode One

My husband and I have always looked for ways to talk about God’s word together in incorporate our faith-practice in our home. We had this idea to read a Psalm separately and then talk about it on camera. We found it to be a really meaningful and rich time!

We’d love for you to join us in the #spousepsalmchallenge!

Step 1: Pick a psalm. (Ryan randomly chose Psalm 33 this time.)

Step 2: Read it separately and write down your thoughts – what sticks out to you? What questions or thoughts do you have related to it? What does it say about God? What does it say about you? How does it apply to your life?

What can I say? I heart pink.

Step 3: Read the psalm together and talk about your thoughts. You can make a video, too, if you’d like. We recommend that you start and end with prayer.

Step 4: You can post the video, or you can post a picture of you and your spouse with the hastag #spousepsalmchallenge. We’d love to see how you’re incorporating God’s word into your home and building into your relationship with your spouse.