Friday, February 25, 2011

Home Management: Some things that make for a peaceful attidue

Proverbs 31 tells us two important things about the worthy woman:

1) She was clothed with strength and dignity and
2) She was able to laugh at the days to come.

The most loving of home managers are women who are at peace with themselves. They do have strength and dignity to sustain them during trying times. They are confident in the future and do not fear what might happen.

When our minds are torn by things such as insecurity, fear, and bitterness, our attention is divided as well. We are not able to look well to the ways of our household. We may try to love our husbands and children but find that we cannot get past our own pain well enough to love as we want to.

So, the question for us is, how can we as home managers cultivate the inner peace that we need?

1) We must look to God for peace, for strength, for dignity, and for hope for the future. Peace within comes from peace with God. Phil. 4:4-8
2) No home manager (in fact no person) lives entirely up to her own goals. When you fall short, ask forgiveness if sin was involved or if you hurt someone, even inadvertently. If it was merely a mistake, let it go. Once you've dealt with a shortcoming, forget the past and press on. Phil. 3:8-9
3) Don't try to live up to unrealistic expectations from the media or our culture. Be careful what standards you absorb from the culture around you. Let God's word be your standard.
4) Humbly learn from other women, particularly those who can train you according to Titus 2. But, be encouraged by an excellent example rather than discouraged. Don't compare yourself in such a negative way that you become discouraged. Each woman has her own home and her own family; her own strengths and her own weaknesses.
5) Cultivate a sense of humor and a sense of proportion. Don't make mountains out of molehills, as the saying goes. In our pursuit of excellence in the home, we mustn't become uptight. Children will remember the love and joy and peace in a home more than they will remember whether or not lesser things were perfect.
6) One reason that the worthy woman could laugh at the days to come was because she was prepared. We can't prepare for every event in life. However, we can do our best to be organized and to keep a well-stocked home so that life will flow as smoothly as possible.
7) In our planning, we must be flexible. We can't be thrown off course emotionally if our day doesn't go as planned. In fact, many days will not go as planned. Be open to whatever a day brings, and, then, get back on course if you need to.
8) Sometimes, peace comes only by appealing to God and surrendering to His will in focused prayer. We can take our example from Jesus, who prayed intensely before going to the cross. If He who was sinless needed such prayer, then how much more do we!
9) Sometimes, issues from the past tempt us to be fearful, anxious, or easily angered in the present. One clue that this is happening is that our reactions to present happenings are out of proportion -- either too extreme or too numb. We need to do what we can to resolve these issues through prayer and the wise help of a friend or counselor.
10) Sometimes, fatigue, hormonal changes or illness can tempt us to be overly moodiness. At those times, it's good to realize what's happening and to take ourselves in hand, so that we don't allow our circumstantial emotions to control us. At the same time, it's wise to do what we can to better our physical health, such as to get more rest, eat more nutritious foods, get fresh air, and to exercise.
11) Remember that both tears and laughter are healthy in their right time.
12) When we feel anxious or insecure, our instinct may be to try to control our life more tightly. We may even try to control other people in unhealthy ways. Yet, true peace comes from surrendering to the Lord and letting go of the impulse to control everything. God does give us the gift of self-control, and He does expect us to exercise this gift as is appropriate. Yet, we must remember that we exercise self-control under the umbrella of His ultimate sovereignty. That's a good thing, for He is all-powerful, all-wise, and great in mercy and love.

Home Management: How I divided areas of my responsibility in home

In one sense, I don't like to break down my life at home into areas of managerial responsibility. It seems a little cold and business like.

On the other hand, my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach hasn't worked that well. Not having a clear overall picture of the various needs in my household means that I concentrate on the things I like and neglect the things I don't enjoy taking care of. It also means that I often focus on little bitty details that could wait and miss the larger picture of what urgently needs to be done in the moment.

We can see from the example of the woman in Proverbs 31 that she looked well to the ways of her household. I think that at least part of this had to do with her keen sense of faithfulness to all of her endeavors. She had in her mind the things she needed to accomplish to make her household run well, and she oversaw them carefully. She took care of all the needs of her family and did not neglect any area.

A good home manager may or may not be the best cook in town or the pickiest house cleaner. She may or may not spend a lot of her time shuttling children to various classes. But, she sees that all needs are sufficiently met. She knows where to put her time and when.

In keeping with yesterday's approach, I jotted down a plan of responsibilities based on my current situation in life. If you are in another stage of life than I am, your list will look different than mine.

I am placing my list in a plastic folder, along with my other goals. So, far, we've written a mission statement for keeping a home and determined what areas of the home that we manage.
Another good sheet to put in a home management folder or notebook is an inventory of your and your family member's current clothing, along with sizes, measurements, and a list of things you need.

Focus areas

A. Relationship with God

B. Relationship with husband

    1. companionship

    2. help in his business and church responsibilities

    3. provide relaxing, healthful environment

    4. keep self attractive and healthy

C. Relationship with children and their spouses

D. Relationships with people at church, other relationships – really love 12 people

E. Clothing – selection, repair, laundry, neat closets

F. Steward of physical house and possessions, maintain inventory

G. Use home for hospitality, ministry

H. Outreach, serving people outside family, giving to those in need

I. Take care of elderly parent – companionship, health, finances

J. Errands, paperwork,

K. My writing career – revive

L. Food, nutrition

M. Flower beds, front door area, windows, etc.

N. My character, hobbies, development of skills, etc.

O. Thriftiness, prudence, frugality

P. Atmosphere in home – creative warm, welcoming enviornment

Q.. Love!!!!

Happy Home Keeping

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What do we manage?

Thought for the Day: One should not be assigned one's identity in society by the job slot one happens to fill. If we truly believe in the dignity of labor, any task can be performed with equal pride because none can demean the basic dignity of a human being. Judith Martin
The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 managed her husband's estate so well that he was enabled to fulfill his duties in the community. When I was a little girl, people largely saw her as a housewife. When I came of age, the view had changed, and people saw her as a woman with a career.

I'm not sure she fits either of those models exactly. While all of her activities were centered in her home, she did have some business dealings that grew out of her work in the home. Yet, she did not leave her home in order to establish herself a career, nor did she take her children out of the home so that she could accomplish this. This passage tells us that she had servants. If some of these servants helped to care for her children, these servants were in her home and in her presence. They were under her direct observation and direction. This is different than a day care situation.

She lived in an agrarian society and a society of small home businesses. In such an economy, the husband, wife, and even the children work together as an economic unit. Readers who live on a family farm can identify with her business dealings. Also, women who run cottage industries or who work from home will relate to her days.

The pattern of the worthy wife and her husband has been common to many centuries and many places. In the beginnings of the U.S., women often helped their husbands manage their estates so that the husbands could be either traveling preachers or statesmen. A good number of male historical figures that we Americans hold dear owe a lot of their success to the wives who were their partners in life. Instead of competing with each other for dominance and worth, husbands and wives of that time saw dignity in the respective roles they played. They sought to further their common interests as a family.

In today's world, we live in more urban environments. Yet, we can still learn from the marriage described in Proverbs 31. One woman whose example has impacted me was a woman who took a great deal of interest in her husband's work. She also reached out and was a mother to the young men and women who worked for her husband and also reached out to their spouses. She was a wonderful hostess and made all who entered her home feel welcome. She was truly one of her husband's greatest assets.

How do we apply the example in Proverbs 31 today? Whether or not you work outside the home, it's good to take a look at the areas of home management in which she excelled.

1) She was such a trustworthy manager that her husband trusted her with their property.
2) She brought her husband good all the days of her life. (In Acts, our Lord Jesus is spoken of as having gone about doing good. Tabitha is also mentioned as a disciple who did good.)
3) She knew how to choose quality goods and how to find raw materials that had quality. She knew how to shop for food for her household. She was a shrewd consumer.
4) She clothed her household.
5) She fed her household.
6) She planted a field and a vineyard. Why was this important? Wine was a staple in the home. It provided liquid and medicine. The field provided food. Since ancient Israel had no super grocery centers, she grew her own food and grapes for wine.
7) She was involved in caring for the poor and needy
8) She took care of her bed chamber and made it attractive
9) She presented herself well.
10) She taught with wisdom and kindness.
11) She maintained her relationship with the Lord and was a woman of strength and dignity.
12) She sold sashes, which was an extension of her home sewing. In other words, she brought in income to the family by being a seamstress.

What about you? What areas of the household do you manage?

Kathy Peel, who wrote the Family Manager, divides her home management in this way:

1) Time management: managing time and schedules -- getting the right people to the right places at the right time -- so that the household can run smoothly.
2) Food -- nutrition --
3) Home and Property -- overseeing the maintenance of her family's tangible assets, including personal belongings, the house, and its surroundings.
4) Finances
5) Special projects -- birthdays, holidays, garage sales, family reunions, vacations
6) Family members and friends -- dealing with family life and relationships and acting as teacher, nurse, counselor, mediator, and social chairman
7) Personal management -- growing and caring for herself spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

What about you? What are the different areas of your household that you manage? Do you home school? Do you have an at-home business or work from home job? Do you handle the checkbook? Taxes? Or, does your husband do these things? Do you care for extended family members or for older parents? Don't forget to add things like these into your list of home "departments".

You might want to write the areas you come up with down on a piece of paper to use in a home management notebook. Or, you might want to start a home management notebook on your computer and include these areas in a page there. You might also set up your actual or virtual notebook with dividers that are labeled according to the different areas for which you are responsible.

If you have a lot of responsibilities outside of your home, it's tempting to keep a separate management book or calendar for that. However, you're more likely to see the bigger picture of your life and to manage your life well if you stick to one management notebook or calendar.

If you're not the type who keeps up with a management notebook, at least do this exercise so that you can visualize the results in your mind.

A good family member needs to be balanced. Sometimes, we focus on what we enjoy -- say cooking -- and neglect other areas that need attention. If we are to be effective in managing our homes, we need to understand the different areas that fall under our management.

It's helpful to list these areas. Don't try to write down every little job on your to-do list. Instead, take a look at the broad categories that have to do with running your household well. Jot them down so that you can get a look at them on paper. Organize them how you see them. For example, you could label one area clothing management -- purchase, sew, clean, maintain.
Of, you might add a category concerning your family's health. The key is for you to have in mind the various aspects of your home. Confer with your husband to make sure that you are in line with his priorities and that you and he are united in the way your home runs.

Happy Home Keeping!

Communicating via posture and expression

Thought for the day: You may move in and out of other careers, but you will likely be a home manager for life. Kathy Peel.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. The good home manager is empathetic to other people. She knows how to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:5). She is also a fully alive woman and not a robot, so she has deep feelings of her own. So, there will be times in her life when her tears flow freely in response to something and -- we hope more often -- times when her laughter adds a merry note to her household.

A good many moments of our life are spent neither mourning or rejoicing, but pleasantly attending to the moments of our days. It's in these times that we need to watch what our posture, our tone of voice and our facial expressions communicate to others. This begins first of all by controlling our thoughts. Do we dwell on worries, frustrations, and burdens? Or, do we dwell on things that are pure, noble, true, honorable, and lovely? (See Phil. 4:4-8) Recognizing and praying about troubles in life is healthy. Brooding about them is not. If the thoughts of our heart are focused on all things good and lovely, then likely our expressions and our tone of voice will be lovely and good, as well. Even our posture will be affected, for we will most likely stand up straight and walk with a spring in our step. Since practicing cheerfulness begets cheerfulness, we will find ourselves feeling more cheerful if we manage our habits and thoughts well.

Why is this so important for the home manager? Her habits of thought, speech, and posture communicate loudly to our families. Our husbands and children can read in our faces, posture, and tone of voice whether or not we love them and are glad to spend time with them. They will know whether or not we enjoy making a home together with them. We also send this message out into our sphere of influence within the world.

This is even more important as we grow older. Younger women look to see if the choices we have made to love our families are worth it. Also, gravity pulls at both our posture and the lines on our faces. Good habits of keeping our face uplifted with a smile and our posture erect will help us age with more energy, health, and joy. A smile on our face and healthy posture will be more inviting to young women we might be in a position to mentor than a worn-down looking expression and slouching will.

Good posture gives our internal organs room to function. This contributes to health. Equally important as overall posture is dong our best to keep our inner alignment by doing Kegel exercises and/or some type of exercise that works our core muscles.

Mireille Guliano, author of "Women, Work, and the Art of Savoir Faire" offers these words of wisdom for women in the corporate world. She says that upon a first meeting, people will notice your hair, your eyes, your smile, and your shoes. Note that two of these -- eyes and smile -- have to do with our expression. She also advises that you take the time to make proper eye contact with people, as this sends a message that you are interested in who they are and what they have to say.

In his book, "Real Life Discipleship", Jim Putman notes that we live in an age when people give each other what he calls "continuous partial attention". It's not uncommon to see couples eating dinner while simultaneously chatting on their cell phones or texting others. They are in each other's physical presence, but how much communication is really taking place between them. Likewise, within our families, it's so easy to get busy with things -- including time on the Internet -- that family members fail to give each other any moments of full attention. As managers of our homes, we lead our children, at least, by example. We need to make sure that we give our children adequate and full attention when they need it and before we move on to another task. That doesn't mean that you allow your children to interrupt you any time they feel like it, but it does mean that you make sure their needs for full attention are met. One way to do this is to take some time out to meet our spouses and children at eye level and really listen, with all of our attention focused on them. We can give to our families by our smiles, our tone of voice, and our eye focus.

Please note: An acquaintance of mine told me about one young man who learned the importance of good eye contact. However, he lacked a sense of those unspoken social cues we all send, and he overdid the attempt to have eye contact. He spooked everyone by staring at them too intensely. If you're not sure how to make good eye contact, watch someone who does it well and learn from them.

My biggest posture hurdle is not letting my head hang too far forward, which is a common problem in today's world. I also need to work on my expression, and I can squint and look like I'm frowning whenever my eyes become tired. What part of your posture do you want to improve? In what ways are you standing strong and with a feminine manner?

Some helpful links:

1) How to develop poise. (I'll add my 2 cents to what she's written. 1) This helps you think what your posture and your sense of or lack of poise might be communicating. However, you don't want to fall into the trap of spending too much time on this. 2) Poise begins with your heart. Are you trusting and full of faith or worried and anxious? This question has everything to do with our poise.)
2) Personal presentation
3) Prevent back pain with good posture
4) Importance of posture and smile in job interview -- apply to our time at home, as well.
5) Walk This Way

Happy Home keeping!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dressing for the Home -- Lessons from the woman described in Proverbs 31

In Proverbs 31:10-31, we have a depiction of a woman with a full, many-faceted life. The only thing that is said about her appearance is that she dressed in purple and fine linen (the word that is rendered "silk" in the King James Version refers to fine linen of the type that was woven in Egypt in that day.)

Since this passage concerns a mother's instructions to her son, she emphasizes that he should choose a wife wisely. She cautions him not to choose solely based on physical attraction, which will fade over time. Instead, he should choose a woman who will be a worthy life partner.

This poem has traditionally been recited in Jewish homes through the centuries. It has taught young men to value women of worth and dignity and not appreciate a woman solely for her looks. Likewise, countless young girls who have memorized this poem -- which is written in the form of an acrostic in the Hebrew language -- have been given a vision of a life in which their character, wisdom, and talents are far more important to the Lord than their physical appearance. Since the Bible is God's everlasting word, we still learn these lessons from Proverbs 31 today.

While the worthy woman's appearance gets only one brief description in this panorama of her life, it is an important piece of her character. Such a faithful, industrious, and discipline woman would not let her own person become unkempt. From the phrase that she is dressed in fine linen and purple, we can deduce that she dresses and presents herself in a way that brings honor to her husband and family. Her dress reflects her creativity, skill, and attention to detail.

We are also told that she makes coverings for herself, but his more likely refers to bed coverings than to clothing. Since everything else in this portrait of a worthy woman emphasizes her handiwork, we can assume that she made her clothing, as well. It probably would have taken her quite some time to fashion each of her own garments, as she would have sewn by hand. Perhaps, she even spun the raw materials for her dress into cloth before even beginning to sew. In light of the time and labor involved, she would have had only a few garments. We can assume that those garments would have been finely made and well cared for.

The purple in that day came from a rare and expensive dye that came from shellfish found in the Mediterranean or from Tyre. Since it was not a product of Israel, she would have traded for or purchased the dye.

To be dressed in purple and fine linen denotes purity and righteousness, as well as nobility of character. Fine linen and purple were worn by priests in the temple. Purple was also a color of royalty. This woman's outer clothing reflects her inner clothing, with is that of strength and dignity, faith and faithfulness, virtue and ability.

Likewise, her clothing speaks to others of her skill. We are told that she made sashes to sell and that she conducted other business transactions.

Elizabeth George says, "...She is a walking advertisement for her skillful handiwork. A seamstress certainly should not dress shabbily."

Similarly, she added to her husband's reputation as an elder in the city gates. The way she dressed and the way she carried herself reflected well on him. Her skillful management of their estate and her ability to govern herself as well freed him to fulfill his duties as a community leader.

In his commentary on Proverbs, George Lawson says, "If the virtuous woman has coverings of tapestry for her house, she makes them herself; if she is clothed with silk (or fine linen, as it may be rendered) and purple, she earns it by her labors and good management. She does not starve her charity by her finery, nor spend upon her dress that which might support a poor family, and she does not reckon herself superior to the duties of a wife, nor exempted by wearing silk and purple from using her spindle and distaff."

Thus, she does not clothe herself at the expense of her family. Nor, does she neglect her charity toward those in need. She is not vain. She does not spend hours and hours thinking about her outer person. Instead, she attires herself neatly and beautifully, and, then, she gets on with the other things in her life.

Psalm 62:10 tells us, "..though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them."

Psalm 49 hints that we cannot save ourselves by our riches, but that we must hope in the salvation that comes from God alone. "Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me— those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them— the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough— "

Verse 31 tells us that this worthy wife does trust in the Lord. She puts her hope in Him and not in her riches, nor even her own hard work. Her industriousness is held up as an example for us to follow. We see from many scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments that God expects faithfulness to the work He has given us and that we will have to answer to Him for our stewardship of His blessings. Yet, our ultimate hope is not in ourselves or in anything we do, but in Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it this way, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman of the Old Covenant, in which outer things are used as foreshadowings of the spiritual things to come in Christ. The outer clothing she did have -- which was achieved through her smart management and industriousness -- was costly for her day. Yet, it was in keeping with her station in life and reflective of her inner nature.

In the New Testament, we are cautioned not to be anxious about what we wear (Matthew 5) nor to dress in a way that calls attention to the costliness of our outer attire. (I Timothy 2:9). We are to clothe ourselves with Christ, as God clothes us with Christ when we are baptized. (Galatians 3:27). We are to be adorned with a calm and gentle spirit, just as the women of the Old Testament, such as Sarah, made themselves beautiful by their hope in God. (I Peter 3). We are also to be clothed with good deeds, as befits women who believe in the Lord. We are also to be clothed with humility.

We can be thankful that the Lord has given us such rich spiritual adornment. Isaiah 61:10 tells us that He arrays us in the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness. Elsewhere in Isaiah, it tells us that He gives us a garment of praise. What joy and delight that should give us!

Note that it is the worthy woman's husband and children who arise and call her blessed, not herself. The worthy woman did not brag about either her inner or her outer adornment. She humbly trusted the Lord, lived as a faithful servant of the Lord, and trusted Him to lift her up in due time. Likewise, when we put on the spiritual clothing that the Lord provides for us, we cannot boast in that. We have nothing that did not come to us except by the grace of the Lord. That He does care for us so richly should fill our hearts with humility and gratitude.

Like the worthy woman in Proverbs 31, we focus most of our attention on loving God and others. We trust the Lord to clothe us, so we are not anxious or insecure about what we wear. We seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first in our lives and we regard our own outward adorning as a lesser priority. If we find ourselves in situations in which outer clothing is hard to come by, we trust that God will take care of us.

This does not mean that we are to dress in rags or to let ourselves become sloppy in our outward appearance. In the normal scheme of things, a woman who is happy and healthy will attend to her grooming and appearance. Letting ourselves go is often a sign of depression. It can send a message to others that we are unhappy and uninterested in life. Dressing inappropriately or sloppily can communicate to others that we do not care about them. If we habitually neglect how we look, we may need to ask ourselves "why" so that we can correct any bad habits or problems of the heart that have crept into our lives.

As we've said, the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 makes all of her own clothes. So, what do you do if you are not a skilled seamstress as she is? You do not have to have the exact same lifestyle that the worthy woman did in order to imitate her heart. In today's world, it is possible to manage a household well without learning how to sew. Sewing does come in handy, if for no other reason than to repair torn clothing and to alter things that need fitting. Many women also find that sewing gives them great satisfaction. Some find that sewing clothing and household decorations also saves money. There's no doubt that having at least a basic knowledge of sewing can help a woman greatly, and I think it's wise to learn ourselves and to introduce our daughters to sewing techniques. However, if you are not a seamstress, you can still learn how to shop wisely and how to care for bought clothing so that it lasts well. You can still prepare yourself and your household to have the clothing you need for all types of weather and for all activities. It's the heart of the worthy woman that we aim for, not her daily schedule.

What lessons can we learn form the worthy woman about how we are to dress? Here are are a few lessons that I want to learn:

1) Dress and groom yourself in a manner that speaks well of Christ, of your husband, and of your family. Dress in a way that communicates that you enjoy what you do and that makes your calling attractive to others. This does require some attention to detail.
2) Don't spend so much time and money on your outward appearance that you lose focus on things that are more important. Seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first. Cultivate contentment.
3) Don't fear aging. Instead, invest in the things that will last for eternity.
4) Be secure in Christ. Don't succumb to the world's values. Basing your sense of worth on your appearance will make you insecure.
5) Choose the best quality clothing that you can afford. Learn to shop wisely. Take advantage of sales. Choose clothing that will wear well and not fall apart easily. Yet, remember that quality clothing doesn't have to be expensive. Also, hone your grooming routines so that you can perform them quickly on a day-to-day basis. Dress attractively, but not in a way that calls more attention to what you wear than to your inner beauty. Don't compete with other women to have the finest or prettiest clothing. Dress in a way that is respect-worthy, but so that others are not intimidated by what you wear. Be creative in your dress, but don't be consumed by it.

If you are single, can you still apply these lessons about grooming and appearance? Absolutely. We are all the bride of Christ. Too often, single women dismiss these attributes of the worthy woman as being only for those who are married. Yet, this misses a great point: All
Christians are part of the bride of Christ and, as such, can apply the principles of a worthy wife to their walk with Christ. Also, some of us have learned the hard way that it is easier to prepare to be an excellent wife before you are married than it is to learn it all "on the job". The discipline of acquiring a worthy character and a neat, attractive, modest appearance will serve you well throughout all of your life, whether you marry or not.

Happy Home Keeping!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Home Manager: Dressing for the Home

The Shoe: Good footwear is as essential to our effectiveness in the home as the type of clothes we wear. Four things to consider when choosing every day shoes for your work at home are attractiveness, practicality, comfort, and adequate protection for the foot.

Honestly, when I'm inside my home alone, you'll find me barefoot or in ballet-style soft slippers as often as in shoes. There's a case to be made, however, for wearing shoes throughout your day at home. Anyone who's stubbed a toe while making a bed or dropped a can from the pantry on bare toes will understand what I mean. :)

Even if you do wear slippers in the home, there's a need to have shoes handy for going outside. We garden. We walk dogs. We run errands. We meet friends for lunch. If we run a business from home, we may go out for business meetings. We attend luncheons and church functions.

So, it's wise to have a good all-round pair of flats or low heels that you can slip on in an instant. From the moment you get dressed in the morning, think about what foot gear you will need during the day and how it will work with your clothes. Bring out your pair of flats and keep them where you can slip them on as needed. Put them away when you retire for the evening. Don't allow shoes to accumulate by the door, unless you have set up an attractive way of storing them there.

There are several shoe styles for the keeper at home to try: ballet flats, short lace-up boots, loafers, etc. The shoes pictured at the top of the page are an example of a style which you could wear for any number of activities in and out of the house.

It's good to have two pair of everyday shoes to alternate. This will make them last longer. Leather is usually the longest lasting and nicest looking option. (See the Elegant Woman for a discussion of how to build a classic, pretty, minimal shoe wardrobe. Note, she speaks about "court shoes", but most of us in the U.S. would say "pumps".)

This year (2011), as in the late seventies, "nude" colored shoes are all the rage. Actually, actress and models often wear taupe or some type of flesh toned shoe even at times when this is not the style. This is because there are two main advantages to choose shoes in a color near to or blending in with your skin tone:

1) Shoes that blend with your skin tone go with everything!
2) Shoes that blend with your skin tone make your form look sleeker and more graceful. They do not pull attention downward to your feet, away from your clothing and face. They create a long line, rather than visually shortening your leg as some colors do.

So, when evaluating your foot gear for the next year or so, consider a shoe that blends in with your skin tone. Don't try to match your skin exactly, but rather look for something that creates a blended look. Note: Not all nude tones are created equal. Some are pinker; some are more yellow. Some are lighter; some are darker. Choose a flesh-colored shoe that works for you. Also, beware of flesh-toned shoes that look dull on your skin.

Many women will not find their blend-in shoe among the various tints and tones that are actually labeled "nude". Nude is a particular color that's not really the exact color of most skin. It reads as "flesh-tone" for a good many women, and can be very flattering to those with light to medium-light skin. Yet, there are a great number of women (perhaps the majority of women in the world) for whom "nude" is too light to blend in. If you have darker skin, you may find that you can still wear "nude". On you, however, lightest "nude" will read more as a pretty, feminine, and light color than as flesh-toned. You may enjoy it, since it is a color that does match everything. If you have darker skin tones and want to go with a truly "blend-in" look, however, try the darkest beiges, the darkest taupes, camel or deep browns (especially chocolate) instead. Since camel and browns can read as warm, they may not go with a closet full of very cool-toned clothing. In that case, remember that a woman can never go wrong with a basic black shoe. Sometimes, a cooler toned, dark chocolate-brown shoe can work.

Whatever your coloring, if you don't want to go the flesh-tone route, there are any number of color options to choose from. One good hint is to have neutral skirts and neutral shoes in tones that go with your hair. Also consider using one of the usual neutrals: white, ivory, beige, taupe, black, bone, navy, tan, camel, gray, brown, cordovan, etc. Almost any color can work as a neutral if you coordinate your wardrobe around it. You might have to work a little harder to make sure that shoes in a distinct color actually do coordinate with your clothing, but it can be done.

If you are on a tight budget and/or want to keep your closet pared down to your simplest choices, choose one neutral for shoes and purse and choose only colors for your wardrobe that coordinate with that neutral.

Of course, if you would like to, you can add pairs of shoes in fun colors to your one great pair of every day shoes. And, you may also want to keep a pair of neutral, low-heeled pumps handy in case you want to dress up your every day outfit for a special daytime event. A somewhat higher heel can take you into evening or an even dressier occasion.

With all shoes, make sure that they fit well, that they don't hurt and that you can walk correctly in them. No matter how cute shoes may look in the box, they won't be cute if they make you look and walk as if you are in pain. Some shoes do require breaking in to be at their most comfortable. Be sure that you have done so before you wear them outside of the house.

In a world in which many women don't have the means to buy shoes for themselves or their families, it's wise to think about buying fewer items of the best quality you can afford rather than to acquire lots and lots of shoes. I was touched when our church gave shoes to a clinic in a poor area of a large city in a foreign country. It came out that many of the people who work in the clinic had sacrificed high paying careers in the medical field in order to care for the poor. Even the doctors, nurses, and educators working in the clinic struggled to put shoes on their children's feet. That doesn't mean that we need to feel guilty for having and enjoying pretty and workable shoes. However, it's a joy to realize that we are blessed to have shoes and to be able to give to others who need shoes. If you are interested in being able to open your arms to the needy, keeping your wardrobe pared down to only those things that you really need and that you really enjoy is one good way to save funds for that purpose.

Happy Home Keeping!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Home Management: Dressing for the Home

How to dress modestly in an immodest world...for ourselves and our daughters.

Some tips to try:

1) The most beautiful clothing draws attention to the wearer and not to the clothing, itself. That principle not only promotes modesty, but it enhances style, as well. Think of your clothing as the frame and yourself as the portrait within. Artists choose frames to bring out the best qualities in a painting, but they don't want people to become so distracted by the frame that they miss the artwork. Likewise, choose clothing that frames your inner beauty, rather than distracting from it. In this way, people will notice and remember you for the person you are, rather than dwell on what you wear.

2) Try on things already in your closet or that you plan to buy. Bend over. Sit. Move in all the ways you would ordinarily move around in that outfit. Take note of whether you can move freely and maintain modesty in that garment or not. If it's already in your closet and you find that it is too revealing -- especially when you move around -- ask yourself if there is a way to make it more modest. Often, you can find a way to make it work. If not, get rid of it. If it's something you are considering buying, ask yourself if there is a way you can wear it modestly or not. If not, pass it by.

3) If you have problems with tops revealing too much when you bend over, buy some double-sided clothing tape. This will help your tops stay in place.

4) Make sure that your undergarments fit you well and will stay in place. Also, make sure that they aren't exposed.

5) Learn how your clothing should fit. The proper fit is always more modest than something that is ill-fitting. This is especially true for pants, but it can be true of dresses, tops, and skirts, as well. Remember that size is not always a guarantee of fit. For example, one style of pants in a certain size may fit you modestly, while another style in that same size may be too tight.

6) Similarly, determine whether you are curvy or straight in body line; whether you have an hourglass figure or a pear-shaped figure, etc. Some styles are modest for one body type and not for another. Also, you may find that one particular brand or designer makes clothing that flatters your body shape better than another brand or designer does. Experiment until you find what works for you.

7) Layering garments has been in fashion for some years now and seems to still be in style. Some items you find on the rack may be meant to be worn with a layer underneath. You must add this layer in order for the garment to be modest. Even for items that weren't designed to be used in layering, clever layering can make them more modest.

Happy Home Keeping!

Home Management: Dressing for the Home

Check out My Capsule Wardrobe for a slide show of how an image consultant put together her own wardrobe. She uses 15 basic pieces in pretty, feminine colors to come up with a great number of outfits. She uses both skirts and pants. If you wear skirts only, you can substitute skirts in all the pants ensembles. Likewise, the tops shown in this slide show would also work with longer-length skirts if you prefer your skirts to come down to calf-length or below.

I personally enjoy this example because it shows me how to put together clothes that are flattering to my skin tone. If these aren't your colors, you can always adapt.

Remember, the advantages of keeping our wardrobe pared down to a certain number of essentials are that

1) By buying fewer garments, we save money that can be spent on other things -- including giving to those in need.
2) By saving money on quantity, we can spend more on quality.
3) Having fewer garments makes us think in terms of acquiring clothes that coordinate and that fit our lifestyle. When it comes time to get dressed, we can easily choose something that is appropriate and attractive. This saves us from standing in front of a jam-packed closet and still feeling that we have nothing to wear.
4) It is easier to keep our closets neat and to keep our clothing in good shape if we don't cram our closets full. It's best to give each garment a little room on the closet rack, rather than having to stuff it into place. (I have some closet cleaning to do!!)
5) Saving money by having a compact wardrobe of timeless clothes, shoes, and bags means we will have a little left over to spend on a few inexpensive, fun items. These fun items can be tossed when worn out or when passing out of fashion.

Tip: When determining where to hem your skirts, take the mirror test. Stand with your legs together. You will notice that there are two open spaces, one right below the knees and one below your calves. A hem that hits in the middle of one of these spaces is more flattering than one that hits right in the middle of your calves. Likewise, knee length hems are more flattering if they sit slightly above the widest part of your knees. (Note, this principle also holds true for capri pants.) For ankle length garments, again, avoid hitting at the widest point of your ankles.

Tip: If you don't sew and don't know how to alter clothing, you can usually have your clothing altered for a reasonable price at a good dry cleaner's. Sometimes, a little alteration makes all the difference in the look and comfortability of a garment.

Happy Home Keeping!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Home Management: Dressing for the Home

In my last post, I talked about building a wardrobe of at home clothing. In effect, we are creating for ourselves a home "uniform" -- clothing to wear that signals to us and to others that we are prepared for our role and happy to be about the business of managing a home. So, in light of that, what items should a home manager have in her daily wardrobe?

1) After being "out" for a while, aprons have come back into style -- and with good reason. Aprons protect our clothing while we cook, clean, garden, do crafts, paint, and perform any number of other activities in the home. Aprons are usually less expensive than our clothing and, thus, can be replaced more easily than the items they protect. Aprons are also not that complicated to sew, so women can make them as easily as buy them. My ideal "apron wardrobe" would consist of four aprons -- one for everyday cooking, one hostess apron, one for cleaning, and some type of apron or gardening jacket. However, a woman can easily make do with one sturdy apron for all four functions. Even if aprons go out of style again, I plan to keep wearing them.

2) In addition to aprons, you will need some everyday clothing. Three to seven outfits should see you through a week. If you live in a climate with distinct seasons, you will need lighter weight garments for hot weather and warmer garments during cold season. A sample summer wardrobe could be simple, pretty blouses to wear with skirts, capris, and pants in linen or a cotton blend. If you do not wear pants, skirts and simple shift dresses or shirt dresses are great choices.

You can purchase items for your at-home wardrobe, sew them, or have them sewn. Add to your wardrobe some pretty flats, a few simple accessories, a sweater or jacket, and some
well-fitting undergarments.

With this post, I've included two pictures of items that could fit into your at home wardrobe. The pretty yellow pullover dress is from Chadwick's. The skirt is from Land's End. (Note: I love having dresses in my wardrobe. But, you can get more mileage out of separates, because you can mix and match them. For example, you could wear the Land's End skirt twice in a week with two different tops, whereas you would probably not want to wear the dress more than once a week.

Remember, our goal isn't to accumulate a lot of clothing, but to have a few things that are practical, feminine, and that make us look and feel our best. Jesus' words in Matthew 6 remind me not to fret about having the perfect clothing, but to pray for my needs and trust that the Lord will meet them as He sees fit.

Happy Home Keeping!

Home Management: Dressing for the Home

Clothing experts suggest that we consider our lifestyle when planning a wardrobe. So often, we spend too much for items we will seldom wear and don't invest in quality garments that will last us in our every day life. Shari Breandel, author of Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad, offers a free planning sheet to help you determine what you need for your primary activities (majority lifestyle) and what you need for your minority lifestyle (minority lifestyle). Do you spend most of your time in a workplace other than your home? That is your majority wardrobe. However, you will still need a minority wardrobe to cover your time at home, as well as an outfit or two for special occasions. If you are primarily a home keeper, your majority wardrobe should be suitable for your time there, and your secondary wardrobe should include items for church, meetings, and one or two things for special occasions.

Don't worry about assembling your wardrobe too quickly. Take your time and acquire things as you can afford them. Remember that a smaller wardrobe of the best quality you can afford takes you further than a large wardrobe of things that are shoddily made or that don't coordinate. An easy way to keep your wardrobe size down is to work around basics in one or two neutral colors that flatter you. You can add pops of color with tops and accessories.

Traditionally, women wore house dresses and aprons at home. Sometimes, when women sewed or bought a new outfit for "Sunday best", they relegated a still attractive, but more worn garment to the at home work wardrobe. Other women actually sewed or bought dresses specifically for their everyday life in the home. In the fifties, a few women did begin to wear jeans or pants at home on occasions.

In the mid-twentieth century, some women also supplemented their home keeping wardrobe with a couple of informal, but beautiful outfits for lounging on evenings in. The women of my mother's generation generally took care of their appearance first thing upon arising and maintained a neat and feminine look throughout the day. This was seen as being courteous to others, as well as something that added to physical health and a healthful outlook.

Even today, when I visit a nearby assisted living center, I find many women in their 70's, 80's, and even older whose grooming puts mine to shame. I am inspired by their example.

Until recent decades, women did not wear exercise clothing other than when exercising -- if then. Likewise, it wasn't the style to have the kind of comfy pajama type T-shirts and long knit pants that abound today.

We're fortunate today to have better exercise clothing. And, it's nice to have a comfy T-shirt and long pant to wear at night when you are cold, ill, or otherwise want something soothing to put on. However, we also have new temptations today to schlep around the house in old workout gear or knit p.j.s rather than taking the time to put on something fresh and pretty and to groom ourselves neatly. And, it's tempting to rest and sleep in things that are not flattering to us. I know I can fall into that trap.

So, why does it matter how we dress so long as we are in our own homes? Dressing and grooming ourselves nicely does wonders for our attitudes. It also encourages our spouses and children. Aren't you more encouraged when your loved ones take the time to be clean and neatly groomed around you?

Having a designated wardrobe for our days at home and a few pretty things to wear at night helps us feel good about the time we spend there. It helps us to esteem what we do in the home. It signals to others that we care about what we do in life and that we care about them. Likewise, if we make ourselves presentable early in the morning, we will be prepared to answer the door or to run errands or to leave the house quickly if called to do so.

An at-home wardrobe doesn't have to be expensive to be pretty and functional. Nor, does it have to be fussy. Your at home wardrobe should consist of things that are easy to put on and comfortable to wear.

As far as expense goes, determine what your clothing budget is and set price points for the items you want to add to your closet. Look for well made items at moderate prices. Find an easy pattern and sew your own. Visit thrift shops, but be careful even there to look for items that are of good quality and that really do flatter you and that will be an asset to your wardrobe.

Happy Home Keeping!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Home Management: Developing your skills

Growing as managers of our homes means that we need
to take stock of where we are now. Let's look at some things to ponder:

1) What are my strengths? What parts of making a home do I really enjoy? What do I do well?
2) What are my weaknesses? What parts of making a home do I least enjoy? What parts of making a home do I struggle with?
3) What are the strengths of my family members? How can I nurture those strengths?
4) Do I work well with my husband? Am I in sync with his direction? Are we able to talk about and set priorities together?
5) Do I depend on the Lord to build our home? Do I have a growing faith, which is expressing itself in love? Can I take my failings, worries, and insecurities to the Lord and leave them with Him, or do I worry and fret and stew? Do I brood about my failings as a home keeper, or am I at peace with the fact that I am a work in progress? l Psalm 137; I Peter Chapter 3, the book of Galatians

Other questions to ask are What training have I received so far? What was my early home life like? How does that affect the way I love and manage my home now? What opportunities has God put in my path recently? What, if any obstacles do I face? Do I have any physical limitations that need to be overcome? Am I single or a single mom or married? If I am starting out in my home keeping journey, how can I keep developing skills and talents now that may enrich my empty nest and senior years? Am I investing more in people or in things?

The Wise Woman Builds Her House...Proverbs 14:1
Unless the Lord builds the House, they labor in vain who build it. Psalm 127:1

Happy Home Keeping!

Home Management: Learn from good managers

In managing our homes, we can learn from managers in the corporate world. Some of us may even have honed management skills in a job outside the home. Others of us may learn by talking with good managers or through reading.

What are some helps that the most effective managers have in common? There are many, but here are a few I thought of:

1) A clear focus which is communicated through a mission statement and a business plan.
2) Oftentimes, a mentor.
3) A wardrobe that is suitable for the manager's work environment.
4) The ability to allocate time, resources, and personnel to accomplishing goals.
5) The ability to break down large projects into smaller steps and set times for each goal to be completed.
6) Continuing education through books, seminars, classes, or through tackling new responsibilities. Continually learning how to be more effective.
7) Good people skills. The ability to see strengths in other people and to nurture those strengths. The ability to form a team mindset among people who are working together on a project.

What might this look like for the woman who wants to manage her home with skill and love?

1) She could think about what her dream is for her home and family. She could express that dream in a short statement of some kind and pray about and re-read that statement from time to time to help her stay on track.
2) She could find mentors by learning from women who excel in creating loving and godly homes.
3) She could build a simple wardrobe of garments that make her feel attractive, that are suitable for working at home and also running errands or having a cup of coffee with someone, and that are modest.
4) She can think through her schedule and allocate her time and resources well. She can train her children to do their share of household tasks.
5) She can break big chores or projects into simple steps and plan how and when to accomplish those steps.
6) She can continue to train herself to excel in loving her home and family through reading the Bible and books about homemaking and by interacting with other women who can offer her tips or training. She can take classes in crafts, sewing, cooking, etc.
7) She can pray about the members of her family and learn how to inspire them by her words, actions, and example.

Happy Home Keeping!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Home is an attitude:

(Note: Most posts will be shorter than this introduction.)

I tend to think that being a wife and mother and managing a home was held in higher esteem in past eras. Even so, Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe had this to say way back in 1869:
.."the honor and duties of the family state are not duly labor is poorly done, poorly paid, and regarded as menial and disgraceful." from their book, American Woman's Home.
These women were advocating home economics training for women and respect for the woman's domain in her home. They were asking that people give the home and the work that was generally done by women in that day a greater measure of honor. In making their appeal, they state,
"Women's profession embraces the care and nursing of the body in the critical periods of infancy and sickness, the training of the human mind in the most impressionable period of childhood, the instruction and control of servants, and most of the government and economics of the family state. These duties of women are as sacred and important as any ordained to man..."
Advocates like the Beecher women were, in a sense, early feminists. They felt that women's contribution to society through the domestic sphere deserved to be considered a profession equally to the kinds of labor generally done by men of that time. They did not consider the route to equal recognition for women to through escaping from the home. Instead, they sought to elevate women to their rightful place by honoring the domestic sphere.

Because of their efforts, home economics came to be regarded as a science, and the domestic sciences began to be taught in schools. Women still handed down the art and science of homemaking in the home, from mother to daughter. However, they now could also make a formal study of it and gain certification to teach, to use their domestic knowledge in some professional capacity, and, most of all, to practice good home management within their own family circles.

As these advocates for domestic training were making their plea, science was providing new information about nutrition, hygiene, health, cleanliness, and all sorts of matters that were useful to home and family. The study of home economy was seen as a way to introduce families to this new information.

From this period up to the middle decades of the twentieth century, the way women kept home was also being revolutionized by inventions; such as gas and electric stoves, sowing machines, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and the like. Home economists were hired by companies to help women make the change from older ways of doing things to newer and, thus, to buy their products. Henrietta Dull, for example, was hired by the Atlanta Gas Company to help women overcome their fear of cooking on new-fangled gas stoves.

By the 1950's, the greatest changes in how women kept home had been accomplished. Since then, we've added some new time-saving gadgets here and there. We've also seen changes in the quality and availability of goods, some for the better and some for the worse. With the plethora of cheaper clothing around today and the higher of expense of material, fewer women believe that sewing holds an economical advantage for the home, for example. Most of all, we have transitioned to the computer age and communicate electronically now. Despite these relatively recent changes, however, June Cleaver's household didn't run that differently from yours. This is especially true when you compare the gaps in how June's household worked compared to the homes of Harriet Beecher Stowe's childhood.

Today, we reap the benefits of those early advocates for household science. We have even greater access to information that helps us take care of our families and manage our households with efficiency and economy. Our tasks, while still requiring stamina, are no longer so back-breaking as they once were. Advances in medicine have made child-bearing safer. We drive short distances to stores stocked with bonanzas that would overwhelm the women of the 19th century. We are served by machinery that wash our clothes and our dishes and suck the dust out of our rugs. We have cleaner heating and cooling. We no longer lose several children in a family to epidemics of smallpox, childhood diseases, and polio. We could go on and on listing the domestic wonders that would have astonished our fore-mothers had they been able to look into the future and see them.

The question is, with all of this improvement, have we reached the goal of the Beecher sisters? Do we value domestic life as we should, and do we respect the contribution that we and other women do in the home? Or, as Kathy Peel says in The Family Home Manager, does women's unpaid work in the home still go largely unnoticed and undervalued?

If home life is undervalued, what say have women in re-claiming home as the sphere in which we all are nurtured? Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, it was women -- not men -- who labeled all things domestic as drudgery and led the charge out of the home to find fulfillment elsewhere. If we want to be valued in our roles as wive and mothers and not just as wage-earners, it is we as women, who will have to re-define home as an essential component of our lives and worthy of our best attention. Whether or not we also labor outside the home in paid positions, we can esteem our homes and our families. If we do, we will find greater satisfaction in whatever work we do in the home.

Home is not just a matter of vacuuming and laundering. In Home Comforts, Cheryl Mendleson describes how women have historically made their homes alive and welcoming. She states that they make their homes both an extension of themselves and a medium through which they expressed love.
"But it is illuminating to think about what happend when things went right. Then her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens, and good meals; her memory in well-stocked storeroom cabinets and the pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air."
The bottom line is that we can't depend on society to define our homes or the satisfaction we gain in loving our families through how we keep our households. The woman who believes that she is contributing to the world by managing that important part of our economy called the home will find satisfaction there. The woman who questions whether she is accomplishing anything meaningful through her home will find her domestic endeavors to be dull.

It's not about what everyone else thinks, but about what we, ourselves, value. In that sense, we make ourselves happy or unhappy in whatever role we play in the home. We can't blame others if we are insecure about the domestic part of our lives. If we do value our contributions to home life, however, others are more likely to, as well.

This makes me think of some questions to ask myself:

1) Am I content to do whatever I do -- in the home or not -- for God and not for the approval of others? Or, am I easily put down if others' don't esteem what I do?

2) What is my role in my home? What does God say about that? How does my role in the home fit with the roles that others in the family play in our home life? Do we live and function together harmoniously, or are we confused about our respective responsibilities?

3) Do I care about doing things excellently and with passion, or am I half-hearted?

4) Do I view my home as a sphere in which I can express my love for God and for others? Do I see it as a base for ministry to others? Do I see home as a place where I can express creativity and intelligence?

5) Do I conduct myself in the home in a manner that is worthy of respect, whether or not society sees that I do? Do I dress at home in a manner that says I care about my home and family? Do I enjoy my home and family and do my words, my tone, my expression, and my posture convey that? Do I see my work at home as a profession, whether or not I also have a job outside the home?

Happy Home Keeping!