Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Criticism Trap

As someone with perfectionist tendencies and an innate desire to please people and be well-respected, learning to accept criticism gracefully has been one of my struggles in spiritual maturation.  I don't know that there is anyone out there that really ENJOYS criticism, but for me, it went beyond that.  In my younger days, criticism was a personal affront.   I could spend hours and days stewing on a criticism, no matter how mildly-given, blowing it up in my mind to epic proportions.  But the beauty of daily through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading that James and I have done annually for several years now, is that the more subtle scriptures that maybe you missed last time stand out to you in a fresh reading as you grow up in your salvation.  Unbeknownst to me, this time around, the Lord has been plowing over my heart (and yes, that visual is not a comfortable, gentle thing - because it's not MEANT to be) to learn to be a wiser woman who can accept criticism and use it to grow in obedience and spiritual awareness.  Of course, one doesn't become more skilled in anything without practice, which means, yes, I've been given charitable instruction on how I might do things better (because we are new missionaries on deputation, there's PLENTY of room for learning and mistakes, that's for sure).  And the lusts of the flesh are still there.  I still feel the sting of offense and rejection at first.  But the Lord has been gracious to still my tongue and immediately remind me of the many places in Scripture where we are reminded that accepting rebuke with joy and humility is a requirement of the mature believer.  I'm continually reminded of God's great grace in working through me -- a broken vessel who, on my own, can do nothing but continually disappoint the very people I love and am ministering to.  Thank God we have a merciful Father, a loving Son who accepted the penalty due us for our grievous sins, and a Spirit who is given to us as a Comforter and Counselor.


Friday, March 3, 2017

How I Keep My House Tidy Without Going Crazy

This is a paraphrase of Romans 12:13, but it's a good one, I think

I feel a bit strange to be writing this, because I'm far from a master housekeeper. In fact, I would say I'm just very average.  I prefer an organized, tidy space, but I'm not super fussy about details.  But I've had people ask me before how I keep my house mostly clean, most of the time, and I finally decided that maybe an average person can be a good resource for most of us.  First of all, routine is super important to having a clean house more often than not.  If I get thrown out of my routine, my house is NOT going to stay tidy, and will require a more time and energy intensive cleaning at some point.  And those days are not my favorite.  So, I mostly try to do the same things on a rotating basis, especially during the weekdays, when my schedule is quite predictable.  For me, there's a magical time when I'm most motivated and most productive.  I think most of us probably have that period.  Mine falls between when I get home from dropping the older kids off at school until lunch time (8:30-11:30).  So, that's the time I have to tackle the house, baking, and most of my other chores/responsibilities.  Many days I can just dive right in, but on the days I'm lacking discipline, I resort to ye old Timer method.  It works for kids, and I think it works for adults too.  I force myself to stop the "fun" stuff (whether that's being online or reading) and set my kitchen timer for just 10 minutes, and turn on some music.  I start in one corner of my kitchen and work my way around.  I can usually finish up the kitchen in that first 10 minutes, but there's something strange about at least getting started to me - more often than not I regain my motivation and finish up a full tidy of my lower level.  I might just go for it all at once, or I might do a 10 and 10 minute mashup of rotating cleaning interspersed with 10 minutes of leisure time.  And let me tell you, it feels SO good to have that clean-enough house.  It's not pristine.  With 9 (soon to be 10) people living in this home, and a busy and full life, that's just not even something I particularly desire.  But it's homey and inviting, and I'm never ashamed to open my door to an unexpected visitor (which is such a biblical but unWestern concept).  I'll share a few photos, taken just today after my morning sweep that shows what I mean in terms of "livable, hospitable tidiness".  If I can do it, you can do it too!

Music Room - the room our front door opens into.  As you can see, there's still work in progress - some ironed clothing on one chair that I'm in the process of taking pictures of in order to list in my eBay store (I do this twice a year, so it's not a normal thing, but you know what, right now it's what I'm working on, and that's nothing I need to be ashamed about)

Kitchen - Again, it's lived in.  Everything is put in its place, but there are some sticky notes on the counter that have the kids' chores written on them and a bowl of cornflakes that some unknown child poured but didn't eat that will stay on the counter for said culprit's afternoon snack

This is the dining room.  It's not swept (sweeping is a never-ending chore because of our dark wood floors that is more difficult at 8 months pregnant, so it doesn't always happen and I can live with that) and there are boy shoes at the door into the backyard, but the table top is cleaned off, which is big to me - I don't like anything on the table if we aren't eating

Living Room - This room right now looks the most "lived in".  Today is boys' laundry day.  So, one sofa is my laundry station.  There's also some stacks of clothes that are outgrown but need to be put out in storage in the garage up by the tv and some clothes that need to be ironed.  Again, this is a working house, so that's okay!

Office/Playroom - This room unabashedly is a home for the kids, with toys and books.  They all have a storage place, and I try to keep them in there multiple times a day (the kids do too), but I wouldn't have been frantic if some were on the floor either.  The table you can partially see has folded clothes on it that is waiting to be listed on eBay.  Again, it's a workspace, and it's tidy, but there's stuff there waiting to be done.