Thursday, October 27, 2016

10 Steps to Simplifying Life

One day as I was planning my week's menu and grocery list, I was dawdling online looking for recipes that sounded good to me. I finally found enough dinner menus to fill out the week and tried to make sure I either had all the ingredients, or they were on my list. Then I checked the clock. How did it get to be 10:30?! I grabbed my list and purse and ran out the door to get the groceries done before I had to be at an 11:30 appointment.


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When I arrived at Aldi, I realized I didn't have my shopping bags. That meant that while I was shopping I would have to be on the look out for empty boxes or buy some bags at checkout. As I wandered up and down the aisles I remembered that I was supposed to remind my husband to bring a book home from his office. I scrounged through my purse for my phone, but I didn't have it with me. Must have left it on the counter.

Have you ever had days like that?

I have to admit that saying, "One day" at the beginning makes it sound like it never happened before. But that has happened to me many times, along with forgetting my grocery list, and many other goof ups. 

How can we simplify our lives and remember the things we want to and need to? I have a few suggestions:

First things First -- The first two big things I do in the morning are have my Quiet Time with God by reading the Bible and talking to God about what He is teaching me from it and exercise. If I don't get my QT done before breakfast, as much as I enjoy it, I have a lot of trouble settling down to do it later in the day. If I don't start my walk by 8:15, it keeps getting cut shorter and shorter, until I scratch it off the list completely. So I have to do these two actions first.

First things Last -- I am a big night before believer. When I had four kids in school I always made lunches the night before and set the table for breakfast then, too. I made sure the kids uniforms were clean and available, checked to make sure they had their backpacks packed (giving this responsibility over to them more and more as they grew.) Those things aren't a part of my life any more, but if I'm planning to work the next day, I plan what I will wear and have a lunch ready. Saturday night I gather all I need to take to church on Sunday morning. The fewer decisions I have to make under time constraints the more likely I am to do well and arrive with everything. (Guess I should do this with grocery lists!)

Do the Big Thing -- Some jobs look big, but really aren't. Things like making your bed. I remember as a kid when I was told to clean my room, if I really didn't want to, I would make my bed and then I would realize it wasn't such a big job. If I was eager to straighten up my room (this did not happen often!) I would do everything else first and then when I felt like I had worked a long time, but the room still looked awful, I would make my bed and voila! my room was done! Dirty dishes and clutter fall into these categories, too.

Do the Little Thing -- When you tossed that paper at the trash can, did you miss it? Bend down and pick it up right away. Did you spill some milk when you poured yourself a glass? Grab a rag and wipe it up. Did you notice the light switch has dirty finger prints? Get a disposable wipe and clean it while you are thinking of it or you will think of it 20 more times. Why waste good thought time? Little things add up to big things very quickly.

Do not Pinterest -- This is the modern way to "keep up with the Joneses." Your house does not have to look like that. Your kids' birthday party does not have to be like that. Yes, I Pinterest, and I recognize that it is fun to look through the ideas. But don't get caught up in yours having to look like theirs. 

Pinterest -- You can use Pinterest to help simplify your life. I keep my recipes on Pinterest. That way, anywhere in the world that I am, I can bring up my favorite recipes. This is great when I'm visiting my daughter in Germany or my daughter-in-law in Chicago. 

Think of Others -- When we are thinking about others, our decisions are simplified because we want to do what is best for them. So whether your goal is to make your neighbor happy, prepare your child for adulthood, or see to the comfort of your parents, when you consider the goal, it makes figuring out what you should do a lot easier.

Think About Yourself -- Whether you are an introvert like me who needs time alone or an extrovert who doesn't enjoy it, having some quality time to think is a good thing. This does not mean zoning out while binge watching Netflix. Adding white space to your life can take many forms--a walk, a talk with a thinking friend, a group Bible study, reading a page or two from a thought provoking book, journaling, praying with a friend, just sitting and enjoying the beauty around you. These kinds of things will calm down your racing heart and mind and allow you to move through life more calmly.

Live for Jesus -- "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33. When seeking God is the first and foremost goal in your life, the other things will fall into place. You will begin to see what is truly important and what is not. I struggled with what to talk about with my 95 year old friend when she was dying. So many things seemed to lack importance in the face of her entering eternity. That kind of rearranging of what's important happens when Jesus is our reason for living.


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For More Ideas and Inspiration:

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Take Care What You Listen To"

I admit that I like to listen.

I usually have something on to listen to when I'm working. It might be an audio book, an Adventures in Odyssey episode, or some HGTV program from Netflix. If I'm ironing I like to watch a British police show. I even have an audio prayer list for when I'm walking.

So these words of Jesus spoke to me.



I know He wasn't talking actually about this kind of listening, but, maybe He was. Have you ever watched a mystery show where there wasn't at least one character who claimed an alibi of an illicit rendezvous? We start to think that's normal. It might make me wonder, "Am I abnormal to believe sex is for inside of marriage only? Does it make me not grieve when I hear of someone in sexual sin?

What about even home improvement shows? When I watch those shows the message is: My house is not good enough. I need a chef's kitchen and an open concept floor plan in order to invite anyone into my house and to be happy myself.

I'm not saying these things are wrong to entertain ourselves with once in a while, but I need to watch them thinking about what Jesus said, "Take care what you listen to." Mark 4:24

He was also talking about being careful of what kind of Christian teaching you listen to. Is it right doctrine? Test it against the Word of God and solid Bible teachers. We absorb so much more than we think we do and it can start to affect the way we think about God and the way we live. Besides, no one wants to be wrong!

So what are you listening to today?



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Thursday, October 13, 2016

How Many Loaves Do You Have?

Jesus had taken his disciples away to a secluded place via a leisurely boat trip to recuperate from their missionary journey. However, the crowds figured out where they were going and managed to get there first. So much for rest in a secluded place.


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When Jesus went ashore He felt compassion for the people because He knew they were seeking the truth, but had no one else to guide them to it. He began to teach them. The disciples grew impatient for their alone time, and were probably hungry too, so they called Jesus aside and suggested He send the people to nearby villages so they could get some food (and go away).

Jesus told the disciples to provide the food for everyone themselves. They quickly did the math and figured it would cost two thirds of a year's income to do that and wondered out loud where that money would come from.

As He so often did, Jesus answered the question with a question. "How many loaves do you have?" (Mark 6:38) When the disciples stood there eyes wide and mouths gaping He added, "Go look!"

The disciples obeyed and found a total of five loaves, and also two fish. Commentators tell us these were probably like bread rolls and sardines, but even if they were full-sized baguettes and twenty pound trout, what would that have done to feed 5000 men?

But Jesus fed everyone. After giving thanks for the food He kept breaking off pieces for the disciples to pass out until everyone ate and was satisfied. (Do you think the Lord's arms were tired?)

When God asks us to serve Him He doesn't want us to wait until we are rich, trained, have a lot to share, or think we are capable. He asks, like God asked Moses, "What is in your hand?" (Exodus 4:2). He wants to know what you already have that you can use for Him, not what you hope to have someday. If you are waiting for "someday" be forewarned: someday seldom arrives. God wants you to start to serve Him today, right now, with what you have not what you hope to get.

How many loaves do you have?


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Here are some ways you can serve right away:

  • Visit a shut-in half an hour a week.
  • Babysit for a young mom so she can take a much needed nap.
  • Invite people over to share whatever you can afford to make, maybe a pot of chili.
  • Sort through your closet and give your unused clothes to a refugee family.
  • Accompany a sick person to a doctor appointment so a family member doesn't have to take more time off work.
  • Mow grass, rake leaves, or shovel snow for someone.
  • Offer to fold and pass out bulletins at church.
  • Or if you have money but no time, give to a missionary.


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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Eight Things You Should NOT Say at Dinner

We've all opened our mouth and listened astonished as words flow out that we wish we could stuff back in. I have probably done it more than most. 

Don't you wish we could have some memorized rules about what we should and shouldn't say, especially at the table when we are trying to make it a fun and enjoyable time.



I've put together an incomplete list in no particular order of things that would be left best unsaid, whether at the nightly dinner table or a special holiday get together meal. Think about these and maybe you'll come up with some of your own.

1. "Can I just have some yogurt?" I actually had a friend whose husband would come to the table and ask this in front of their four young children! Unless you are sick (or severely allergic), you should eat whatever is being served. This also applies to any other substitute food you might wish for.

2. "What is this?" If you have no idea what you are eating, perhaps it's better not to know. But if you must, how about a question like, "This looks really interesting. What is this dish called?" You want to know what part of the cow we were served in South America? No, I promise you don't want to know, but we had the nerve to ask.

3. "Think of the starving children in [insert country]." What good does stuffing myself do for the starving children? If you think your child isn't eating enough, tell them that this is all they get until the next meal, so to be sure to eat enough. Then make sure you told them the truth. Or do a famine meal like the one described here.

4. "You can't have dessert unless you finish your vegetables." We've all said this. One solution is to not have dessert every night. Following that logic, I guess another solution would be to not have vegetables. This is a hard one. We don't want to teach them that they have to slog through the yucky food to get the yummy food, but we do want them to eat the nutritious food. Do you have a solution for this?

5. "Well, somebody is hungry!" If someone is overeating, calling attention to it in a sarcastic way or in front of others will not cause them to change their ways. It will just make them angry with you and ruin any good atmosphere you had going on.

6. "You are picky." If you say this to a child, maybe he'll start to believe it and get even pickier. If you say this to an adult, you are just insulting them. It might be true, but it won't change anything to comment on it.

7. "Did you like it?" [to a child trying a new food for the first time] Did you like broccoli, mushrooms, or olives the first time you tried them? Don't let them make a snap decision on something that needs time to get used to. Instead ask them, "What did it taste like?"

8. "Didn't you like it? You aren't eating much." As a person who doesn't eat large portions, I get frustrated when people think I don't like their food because I didn't stuff myself silly on it. I can't eat so much I'm uncomfortable, but in an hour, I'd be happy to have something again! (But I don't expect it from a host.)

What have you said that you wish you hadn't at meals?
What has been said to you, or in your hearing, that shouldn't have been said?

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For More Ideas and Inspiration:

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Linking with these great blogs. 

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