Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The heart of her husband trusts in her...growing in character

Thoughts for the Day...

On being orderly in mind and orderly in schedule: "Organized people think organized thoughts and that's why they use words like always and never. You would not hear an organized person say sometimes, usually, sort of, or 9:30-ish. Organized people have their minds set on just about everything. They don't guess, they don't try, they don't wait, they just do it. Things are cut and dried in the world of the organized." by the Slob Sisters.

Importance of Homemaking: "I am accountable for creating a climate of love, peace, joy, beauty, abundance, health, and order in my home. I am raising responsible citizens of the United States of America. What do you do?" by the Slob Sisters.

On how we view the past and present: It's never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot

Developing Trustworthiness as a Keeper at Home:

We encourage our husbands (and other people in our lives, not to mention feeling happier in our own skins) when we are trustworthy in certain areas:

1) We demonstrate consideration for our husband and others when we are diligent in time management. When we are able to complete tasks on time and to be on time, we make life more pleasant and smooth for ourselves and for others.

One key to being considerate with our time lies in how we think. Timely people tend to think in an orderly fashion. They are definite about their plans and goals. They internalize good scheduling. People -- like me -- who struggle with time management are reluctant to commit to definite times and schedules and goals. We would rather take life as it comes and see how things turn out. We also don't want to disappoint anyone, so we are reluctant to say, "No, I cannot do that," and we take on more than we can handle and just hope it gets done.

A little flexibility is a good thing. We who are time-management challenged will stop and smell our roses! We will also nearly kill ourselves trying to do what you want us to do. But, when we allow ourselves to think and speak in vague terms -- I might; when I get around to it; maybe; let's meet around noonish; I'll try to get that done -- we fail to make concrete steps to manage our time. We do not do ourselves or our husbands or anyone else any favors by being indefinite in thought and action.

The woman who is trustworthy with her time makes her home pleasant for her husband and for herself. She also encourages her relationships by promptness.

2) We show love to our husbands, children, and others when we grow in our emotional maturity. If every small crisis throws us off, we will not be able to function in our relationships.

The mature woman understands that life presents challenges and even troubles, but she meets those with faith, determination, and hope. She is able to graciously work through emotional conflict with others. She nurtures a peaceful heart. She does not seek instant gratification but is able to wait and to work patiently.

The emotionally mature woman is not contentious toward her husband or rebellious to God's plans. She is at peace. She does not envy other women, but is happy to be the woman God made her to be. She knows how to strive for improvement without falling into dejection over where she is now. She is responsive to God's leading and is quick to confess her sins and faults. She is also able to accept forgiveness. She entrusts yesterday, today, and tomorrow to the Lord, and she focuses her attention on what she can do today.

She does not throw fits when things don't go her way, but she entrusts her circumstances to God and works to better the things she can. The mature woman knows that love is a choice, and she chooses to love even when her feelings may pull her to be selfish. In fact, one of the greatest signs of emotional maturity is the diminishing of selfishness in her nature and the growth of unselfish love.

A woman who is emotionally mature herself draws out the best in her husband and others.

3) The trustworthy woman is trustworthy with her tongue. She does not betray her husband's secrets. She does not gossip. She is not rude. She does not nag. She knows how to state her convictions with graciousness. She understands when it is time to speak and when it is time to be silent.

Mastering the tongue is one of the most challenging things in life. The woman who has learned to speak well-timed, fitting words is a true encouragement to those around her. A husband can delight in the woman who has the law of kindness written on her tongue.

4) The woman who is trustworthy treats her marriage as a holy thing. She also treats the marriage of others as holy and gives honor to those who are living a holy and single life. Her husband can trust her to be faithful not just in action, but in thought. She does not compare what her life might have been like if she had married another man or if she had never married. She does not indulge in fantasies of the perfect man. She cultivates a devout love of God and an appreciation for her husband in her thoughts. She chooses wholesome entertainment. Life may present her with opportunities to let her thoughts wander, but she chooses instead to fix them on things that are pure, true, and lovely.

5) The woman who is trustworthy does her husband good not harm all the days of his life. She prays for him daily. She thinks how she can serve him as she would serve Christ. (Note: women sometimes hear this as a put down to women, but, in truth, we are all called to love others the way Christ loved us. Christ did not come to be served, though that was his right in every way. He came to serve. We follow his example and trust God to lift us up.) The trustworthy woman is careful with her husband's reputation. If she seeks advice about her marriage or about something in her husband's life, she does so discreetly. She speaks well of her husband to others. She remembers that she is encouraged when well spoken of, and she extends her husband that same respect and courtesy.

The woman who is not married can grow in these qualities, as well, for they help all relationships. Every woman creates some type of home life around her and some type of atmosphere about her as she goes out and about. A woman of great character exudes a lovely, homely atmosphere even if she occupies a tiny work cubicle for most of the day.

The wife who keeps growing in great character is a wonderful blessing to her husband. Rather than weighing him down, he feels that she lifts him up. The woman of great character sows seeds of love that will reap a harvest in some way.

Happy Home Keeping!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Love at Last Sight -- Wonderful Book.

I received a review copy of Love at Last sight; Deepening Your Relationship, 30 Days to Grow and Deepen Your Relationship. While I'm not required to write a positive review, this is one that I will rave about. I've already been telling my friends how much I'm enjoying it, and I've already shared a quote from the book with a dear friend.

The book suggests that you take 3 or so close relationships and spend four weeks giving those relationships focused attention. The book walks you through the process. It also gives a web site, which offers supplementary helps.

Who of us wouldn't benefit from taking 3 of our close relationships to a deeper level? All of us have good intentions of really loving those who are closest to us. Yet, the business of life can so easily crowd out our best intentions. This book provides inspiration to help us put our intentions into practice. I recommend this book to any person, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The heart of her husband trusts in her...preparing for marriage or singlehood

Our growing up years are to prepare us to take on adult roles someday. For a young girl, that training should include the possibility of marriage, motherhoods, and managing a household. It should also include the possibility that God might call a particular woman to either be single several years into her adult life or even to be single for life.

We who are mothers of daughters should prepare them for whichever calling God has in store for them. Training for marriage and motherhood presents an obvious skill set which we need to pass on to our daughters. We also need to pass on our heart for our family, for managing a home is far more than just the mechanics. Yet, a woman who remains single for a number of years or for life also needs to know how to create a home and to be hospitable. We also need to pass on to our daughters a devotion to Christ and a deep desire to follow God's will, no matter what that might be for their lives. In that way, a daughter can learn contentment in her circumstances, no matter how God leads her.

If we are married, we must be careful not to inadvertently make it harder for single women to be content while waiting to be married or if called to be single. Sometimes, we make well meaning comments at weddings or showers, such as "Your time is coming soon." Or, we will talk about nothing but children and marriage around our single friends. A little bit of this can be helpful to single women by giving them a vision of married happiness. Yet, if we go over the top with this, we can make single women feel like second class citizens without meaning to.

The Bible speaks highly of marriage. Yet it also speaks highly of being single for the Lord as a time when a woman can devote herself fully to him. (See I Corinthians 7). Married women and single women need to show support and encouragement for each other and to help each other reach their best potential in the circumstances of their current life.

What of a young woman's responsibility to train herself for marriage and/or single hood in Christ? Any young woman who is old enough to pray and dream about her future does well to eagerly prepare herself for adult life. A mother and other mentors can provide training and the opportunity to learn their hearts. Yet, if a young woman is distracted and focused on other things, she won't be able to take full advantage of this training. The wonderful thing is that we can always learn and always grow at any stage of life. But, the sooner a young girl seriously begins to acquire the character and skills she might need in adulthood, the better off she will be. Much heartache in life can be avoided by acquiring character and discipline before adulthood.

Large segments of our culture today emphasize academic training, career training, and/or training in athletics. These are important areas of life. Yet, these are not truly complete without training in character, life skills, and domestic skills. These are things that are best learned in the family.

As a girl prepares for her future, she may try out various scenarios in her mind. One minute, she sees herself as a mother surrounded with happy children. The next, she imagines that she is a missionary or a doctor or an artist. This is fine, provided that she does not fall into a habit of being too distracted by daydreaming, turn toward unwholesome dreams, or set her mind on glorifying herself, rather than God.

Dreaming is part of childhood. In a similar fashion to play, it is one method of "rehearsing" for real, adult life. As Mabel Hale says in Beautiful Girlhood,
Dreams have a large place in character building. In them the dreamer works out many problems and comes to decisions as to what is right and wrong in many changing circumstances. If a girl will watch her dreams, she may know what kind of creature she is.
She goes on to say,
Dream, my little friend, dream. But guide your dreams lest they wander off into forbidden paths. And do not let your dreams consume time that should be given to present service...Dream, but let the dreams be of usefulness and service, of purity and truth. Look away to the mountain heights, and, after looking, climb, climb, climb. Make your dreams come true. You can do it, if they are the right kind. God bless the girl with dreams.
What if a woman dreams of marriage, but God's plan is that she remain single. Is she never to know the joys of making and keeping a home or of loving children? Hardly. I fondly remember a single Bible school teacher from my childhood. She loved children deeply. Those of us who, as children, were fortunate enough to know her could see that she genuinely cared about us. She was always neatly turned out, and she always had a wonderful, bubbly smile on her face. She was an old-school Southern lady with gracious manners. She maintained an active interest in life well into her later years, and her enthusiasm made her an interesting person. She not only taught me a lot, but she was a great example to me of someone who was cheerful, unselfish, feminine, and kind. I kept in touch with her until she became quite aged and too infirm to correspond. She did not give birth to any children, but I am positive that many children were blessed because of her.

Happy Home Keeping!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Action item -- weekend of March 25

My action item for this afternoon is to go through my home beginning at the front door and jot down everything that needs attention. From this, I will compile a master cleaning plan for the next few weeks and months. This is a great way to kick start spring or fall cleaning or to simply take an inventory of what your home needs. Include details on this list that are not in your daily and weekly cleaning routine. Dedicate about 12 weeks of your time to doing a thorough cleaning and spread out your findings over those next few weeks.

Also include things like painting, repairs, sewing or buying home furnishings, etc. The goal of this project is to come up with a plan to take care of anything and everything that needs doing. Conceivably, these more involved projects could be spread out over a year or more. For example, if you are renovating an older home with a tight budget and a busy schedule, it may take you five years to finish all of the projects that are involved. Likewise, if you are furnishing a newlywed's nest, it might be some years before you reach your goals for furnishings and the like. Better to take it slowly and do (or buy) it right than to rush and regret poorly done workmanship (or a foolish purchase) later.

Note: No one ever has a perfect home or a perfectly clean house. Be focused, but not uptight about doing a thorough sprucing up of your home.

the heart of her husband trusts in her...

Beauty is greatly prized in our society. If we were to hear that we could have -- free of cost-- the secret of lasting beauty, our interest would be intrigued. In I Peter 3:4 God does tell us the secret of a beauty that lasts forever and that is precious in his sight. It is also how we make ourselves continually beautiful to our husbands.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle (Greek word praus) and quiet (Hesuchios) spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. I Peter 3:4
Praus, which is translated into English as gentle or meek, has a lot to do with our relationship with God. It has to do with our trust in God, the way we accept his dealings with us as good, without disputing or resisting or fighting. It is closely linked to humility.

Sometimes, in English, we hear the words meek or gentle and associate them with weakness or fragility. The original Greek word doesn't have that type of meaning. Instead, we should think of strength yielded to God's control. After all, Jesus is described as being gentle, and He had the infinite resources of God at His command. Someone who could still the seas with a word and raise a widow's son from the dead and walk right through an angry crowd without suffering harm could in no way be seen as weak. He was, however, surrendered to His Father's will.

He said of Himself, "Take my yoke upon you and learn form me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

The Greek word for quiet is Hesuchios. That means tranquility arising from within, undisturbed, peaceable, and quiet.

If you would like a word picture to help you understand the concept of hesuchios, think of a spring bubbling up into a quiet pool. The pool has a deep source -- the spring. Yet, it is quiet, calming, peaceful, refreshing, and a lovely place to be.

Jesus was the perfect example of hesuchios. He was constantly surrounded by large crowds who were needy, sick, hungry, and constantly trying to figure out who he really was, all the while trying to push him to be who they wanted him to be. How patient and calm would you be under such circumstances? I confess that I would be tempted to get flustered. Yet, Jesus was unruffled by the crowds. Once, when people were crowding him and when he was on an urgent mission to save a dying little girl, he calmly stopped and gave attention to a hurting woman who had bled without relief for ten years. He did not let the crowds steal his poise. He calmly carried out his purposes.

When we sense that the presence of another person is soothing and calming, it's likely because they have within them the God-given qualities of praus and hesuchios.

We all need these qualities within. We need them if we are single; in whatever stage of married life we might be in; if we are widowed. Young girls might note that the more you grow in these qualities before marriage, the easier it will be to develop them when married.

Tips to acquire gentleness and meekness:

1) Pray, pray, pray. We know that Jesus prayed often and passionately, with reverent submission to God. If He prayed thus, how much more should we?
2) Study the goodness of God. Meditate on God's love, mercy, and forgiveness. Read about people in the Bible who were in desperate situations which God worked for good. Joseph and Hannah are two examples. View trials in your life as an opportunity for God to refine your faith and to make it stronger.
3) Meditate about the fact that a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is very precious to God. Think about the price God paid to bring us into a relationship with Him. Resolve to care more about what God thinks than what the world thinks, and be at peace even if others do no understand.
4) Remember the verse "He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the King for a friend." If you want to go deeper in your relationship with both god and with your husband, cultivate these qualities of a pure heart and gracious speech. Consider how gracious the Lord is to you. Do you show grace and favor in your conversations with your husband? When you speak about your husband, does it sound like you have favor for him? Gracious speech is not easily summarized, but it has to do with being kind, respectful, considerate, encouraging, affirming, truthful, grateful, and full of compassion and forgiveness. This does not mean that you always avoid conflict, but that you conduct yourself in times of conflict with your husband with compassion, understanding, and respect for him.
5) Think of women in your life who have a soothing presence and who are meek and quiet. Women with these qualities come in many personalities, and some might even be strong leaders of women. But, notice these qualities in women and how women put them into practice. Follow their example insofar as it is godly. Men are also called to have these qualities in other contexts, so you might learn from the example of godly men, as well.

For more study, read "A Gentle and Quiet Spirit" by Virginia Lefler.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts by J.R. Miller on Married Love

Love sees much in a wife that other eyes see not. It throws a veil over her blemishes; it transfigures even her plainest features.

One of the problems of her wedded life is to retain this charm for her husband's eyes as long as she lives, to appear lovely to him even when the color has faded from her cheeks and when the music has gone out of her voice. This is no impossibility; it is only what is done in every true home. But it cannot be done by the arts of the dressmaker, the milliner and the hair-dresser, only the arts of love can do it.

The wife who would always hold in her husband's heart the place she held on her wedding day will never cease striving to be lovely. She will be as careful of her words and acts and her whole bearing toward him as she was before marriage. She will cultivate in her own life whatever is beautiful, whatever is winning, whatever is graceful. She will scrupulously avoid whatever is offensive or unwomanly. She will look well to her personal appearance; no woman can be careless in her dress, slatternly and untidy, and long keep her place on the throne of her husband's life.

She will look well to her inner life. She must have mental attractiveness. She will seek to be clothed in spiritual beauty. Her husband must see in her ever-new loveliness as the years move on. As the charms of physical beauty may fade in the toils and vicissitudes of life, there must be more and more beauty of soul to shine out to replace the attractions that are lost. It has been said that "the wife should always leave something to be revealed only to her husband, some modest charm, some secret grace, reserved solely for his delight and inspiration, like those flowers which give of their sweetness only to the hand that lovingly gathers them."
J. R. Miller

See also How our health and appearance can be a gift of love to our spouses.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

15 ways to encourage your husband...(Some principles apply to any relationship)

1. Memorize I Corinthians 13:4-8. Read it or recite it to yourself often. Choose to love your husband and others according to its precepts.
2. Seek to understand men in general and, more importantly, your husband in particular. Remember that we all tend to show love in the ways that make us feel loved. However, that may not be what communicates love to your husband. Learn how to encourage him.
3. Take one month and resolve to say something positive about your husband to your husband every day of that month. If you find it hard to think of positive things to say, that only means you need to do this even more.
4. Speak well of your husband when speaking to others. Take any problems in your marriage to God, to your husband himself, and, if need be, to a few close and trusted advisors. Otherwise, do not betray your husband's confidences or run him down in front of others. Treat his name and his reputation with honor, just as you would want him to speak positively of you.
5. Respect your husband's work. Show an interest in it. Listen to him talk about work. If the details of his work don't fascinate you or go over his head, learn to listen to the man as he speaks. Take note of his enthusiasm, his creativity in solving problems, and other positive qualities. If your husband has been laid off in this economy, speak well of his skills and continue to build him up.
6. Give your husband grace and also time to mature as a Christian, as a husband, and as a man. After all, you need grace and time to mature as a Christian, as a wife, and as a woman.
7. Keep your appearance neat, feminine, and attractive within the bounds of modesty. A husband is greatly encouraged when his wife makes an effort to keep her best appearance for him. It doesn't matter if you are not a beauty queen or if you are aging. What matters to your husband is that you make an effort to look your best out of love and regard for him. Consider that we, as women, are also encouraged when our husbands attend to the basics of grooming and dress in our presence. Men are even more visually oriented, so this is even a greater blessing to them. As we get older, this takes a little more work.
8. Cultivate a sweet physical relationship with your husband. It is so easy to let this side of marriage go when you are tired and also getting your emotional needs met through mothering. Yet, the sexual relationship is a gift from the Lord that bonds a couple and is good for the physical body and the heart. Read Song of Solomon and absorb the romantic atmosphere the couple create for themselves. Sometimes, a little tension or feeling of isolation in a marriage can be resolved through attention to the sexual element of the relationship.
9. Be a fun companion. Sometimes, as women, we can become too serious as we try to juggle the demands of home and family. We can become even more so if we are also working outside the home. This does not happen as often with men, but in some cases, it is the wife who is more light-hearted and the husband is too uptight about work and family. Including fun, both spontaneous and planned, in our marriage helps us relax, and it also boosts our husband's sense of happiness and peace. Men are greatly encouraged when a wife is someone who is fun to be around. Make an effort to smile more. Think of fun things to do on a regular basis. Find something that the two of you enjoy doing together. Be happy for him if he has a hobby that he enjoys on his own, provided that he does not put it ahead of God and family.
10. Set your heart on Jesus so that you are not tempted to make an idol of your husband, your marriage, your children, your perfect house, your career, or anything else in your life. When you are rightly related to Christ and are seeking His glory, other things will fall in place more easily. Your husband will feel burdened if you put pressure on him to meet needs that only the Lord can meet. He will also suffer if you have any other idol in your life, for an idol eventually consumes you.
11. Don't neglect your marriage in favor of parenting. Your children will benefit if you keep a strong marriage.
12. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit." Phil. 2:3-4. Watch your motives. Are you trying to force your husband to fit your dream of the perfect home life? Are you trying to get praise for yourself? You will be happier and more successful as a wife if you are motivated by love for God and love for your husband, rather than selfishness.
13. Be kind and gracious to your husband's family and friends.
14. Cultivate an attitude of joy, as well as a calm and gentle spirit. Your attitude will pervade the home and will be a great influence on your marriage. Memorize scriptures and quotes that help you to be joyful and to trust the Lord. Memorize Romans 8:28. Be honest about any worries, burdens, and struggles, but take them to the Lord and leave them there. Pray throughout the day. Devote at least some, if not a large portion, of your prayer time to praise and thanksgiving. Rest in the Lord.
15. Remember that your ultimate trust is in God, and not in your husband. That is how we are able to respect and submit to our husbands, even though we know they are fallible. read I Peter 2 and 3. Trusting God is also how we find strength when we are weary.

Take one area at a time and work on it. Don't be overwhelmed by the whole picture. If you invest a little in your marriage and in growing as a wife every day, it adds up over time.

Happy Home Keeping!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The heart of her husband trusts in her...Faithfulness in small things is one foundation of a happy marriage

When I was a young girl and dreaming of becoming a wife, I don't think I realized just how important the quality of faithfulness to duty would be. I dreamed more of romance than I did of being attentive to the details of daily life.

Now, don't get me wrong. Romance is an important part of marriage. However, romance will not thrive in an atmosphere of negligence to duty. If we truly love our husbands and children, we will want to do our best in the home. Taking care of the things that make for a healthy, happy, and more peaceful life is a powerful way to demonstrate our love.

The verses in Proverbs 31:10-31 are really an ode to a woman who is faithful in all that she does. Because she is so faithful, her husband trusts her in his heart. He can take his place as a city elder without worrying how things are going at home.

The Bible praises faithfulness in number of areas. All Christians -- men and women alike -- are called to be faithful stewards of the life and resources given to us, as well as of the treasure of the gospel.

Far from being a dull or outmoded quality, faithfulness to detail has so much to do with our happiness in life and in the home. Managing a household is a large task, one that requires
focus, creativity,competence, and intelligence. Someone has to keep an eye on how things are going, and, in the best scheme of things, it is the wife who sees that the domestic side of life runs smoothly.

I once made a long list of things I needed to oversee in and out of my home. Immediately, I sat down and prayed! In some areas, I am very focused and disciplined. In other areas, I need to improve. In all things, I have to depend on the Lord.

If we are going to be faithful to our duties, we need to know what they are. Each couple must work out how they are going to function as a couple when it comes to building a home together.
It helps to discuss expectations and to clearly define responsibilities. In one home, the wife might balance the finances for example; in another, the husband might do it. Either way, it's best not to leave who does what up to chance. (This applies for women living together in a college dorm or as working singles living in a home, as well.)

Of course, a couple must adjust expectations when live events happen, such as welcoming a new baby into the home, aging, illness, taking in an aged parent, moving, etc. Then, it's wise to discuss how you will function in your new circumstances.

The upshot of it is, however, that if we are to be women of excellence, we must be faithful in the areas that are our responsibility. We must demonstrate ability and willingness. We need not despair if we find ourselves short in either area. Both of these are qualities that can be learned.

Some questions to ask ourselves are as follows:

Does you husband trust that, barring any impediments, you will take care of your duties? When he is called away on a trip, is he confident that you will handle things well while he is gone? Does he know that you can be trusted with finances and that you will not exceed your household budget? If he asks you to do a task and you agree, does he know that you will follow through? (Ouch!) Are you generally mindful or generally negligent in character? Are you too rigid about your duties to the point that you are unable to cope with spontaneous needs or changes of plan? Do you perform your duties out of love or only out of a sense of responsibility? (Responsibility is a good thing, but we must combine love with it in order to fully excel in the home.)

It's embarrassing to admit, but in my assessment of myself, I see that I need to be more faithful in several very small and basic details. These items take only a small time to accomplish, but, when undone, interrupt the smooth running of our household.

I am blessed by God to be married to a man who is very faithful and competent. In all things, he does his best. He has more physical stamina than I do and often helps around the house when I need him to. His helpfulness and his hard-working nature is something that I greatly admire.

However, I have been asked by younger women what to do if they are married to a man who is not competent or willing to be the husband and provider of the home. This is often said in the spirit of, "If he won't, then I won't". The specifics of what to do in such a situation vary from circumstance to circumstance and can't be answered in a blog post. However, if we are doing what we do for the Lord, we will not use another's weaknesses -- even our spouse's -- as an excuse for our own negligence. Besides, our faithful example is more likely to call our husbands higher than nagging or shirking our work will.

Some husbands, especially very young ones, learn that they are to lead the family and start to micro-manage their wives. If this is the case in your marriage, give your husband some grace. His responsibility is a large one. He may be over-compensating out of insecurity. Demonstrate over time that you are faithful and able, and your husband will likely loosen up. If not, you will have the peace of knowing that you are doing your best to be a trustworthy wife. Perhaps, you can seek the godly advice of someone who knows you both to help you work things out. At any rate, if you are putting your hope in God, He will work everything for good.

Faithfulness to duties big and small is vital to a happy marriage and to a happy life. It is also a cornerstone of pleasing the Lord. He has blessed us with so much and our love for Him prompts us to do our best with what He has given us.

Practical: make a list of things you oversee. This does not mean that you have to do all of the things on your list. You may delegate some chores to children, for example. It does mean, however, that you will jot down all of the things that you are ultimately responsible for.

Include the mundane (Do we have enough bathroom paper? Light bulbs?) and the spiritual (What do I need to pray about for my husband? How are my children doing in their friendships?) Then, pray about this list. Ask the Lord to help you watch over the affairs of your home. If you like, make a checklist of these things so that you can keep tabs of how they are going.

Happy Home Keeping!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Relationships in General; loving our husbands in specific

Thought for the day: The keeper of the home is an expert in relationships.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the excellent wife. The first three verses set the tone for her activities as a wife:

"An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
rare, precious
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life."

The last verses put this in perspective of her relationship with God and her worth as an individual in her own right:

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
31Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates."

Her excellence in relationships comes out of her fear of the Lord. Her love for her husband is rooted in her relationship with God. Thus, she is able to give, even when she realizes that our earthly relationships are not perfect and always have room to grow. She finds her ultimate security in God.

Not every woman who is a keeper of the home is married. Perhaps, you are a young girl living with your family who is studying what it means to be a keeper of the home. Perhaps, you are a single woman making her first home. Perhaps, you are widowed or are a single mother. Yet, we all want to do our best to have godly and satisfying relationships. We also, if we are Christians, are all part of the bride of Christ (along with men who are Christians), and we want to do our best to be good stewards of the life the Lord has given us. If you are not married, you can still apply some principles of good relationships to your home life and to your life in general.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be discussing relationships in general and the marriage relationship in specific.

Three quick things to ponder:

1) We don't want to be controllers of people, but lovers of people.
2) We are to love our children, but not to the point that we neglect our marriage, if we are married. Our children will grow up and leave, but we are wedded to our husbands for all of our lives.
3) Good relationships take prayer and investment; they don't just happen. On the other hand, it's great to keep the spontaneity in a relationship, as well. When we say that relationships require investment, we're not talking about over-planning or overly trying to control someone else.

Happy Home Keeping!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Contentment adorns a lovely home...

Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. Benjamin Franklin

I heard a man speak about the power of prayer. He saw that his children were becoming materialistic and dependent on things for happiness. He prayed to God about that. The next thing he knew, while his family was away from their home, their house and all their possessions burned. They spent the next several years making a home in less than what we might consider to be ideal situations. Yet, their family learned many wonderful insights during this time and drew closer together. And, the materialism that he had seen in his children disappeared.

What about you? Could you be happy if your home and possessions burned. I confess that would test me. Yet, at some point, it's all going to go away anyway. The greatest lesson a keeper at home can learn is to carry home in her heart.

When my husband and I first married, we moved to a state with a climate and landscape far different than the one I had grown up in. I also left the beautiful home my parents had created during years of marriage and started out with my husband in newlywed digs. I loved our new home because I was with my beloved husband and also surrounded by a loving church. But, it took me a while to warm up to the different scenery. I did learn to appreciate it. Later on, after we moved back closer to home, I realized even more how beautiful that area really had been.

My situation was not unlike that that many of us face during various times of our lives. At any given time, we may not be living in our dream house or our dream environment. That's ok.

When we are trying to improve our home keeping skills, we have to avoid some pitfalls. These are envy, discontentment with our budget and living situations, comparing our situation to that of others', worry what others will think of our home keeping, and frustration with ourselves.

An antidote to all of these things is contentment.

Some principles of contentment are

1) Better to have a few things well kept than many things poorly kept.
2) A home is a matter of the heart. You can make a home anywhere -- in a one room apartment, in the projects, in one half of a room in a nursing home,in a college dorm, in a climate that you don't particularly enjoy, etc. Remember, Sarah made her home in a tent.
3) Don't wait for your dream house to begin making a home. Do the best you can with what you have now.
4) Remember Cheryl Mendleson's advice (Home Comforts author) -- cleanliness really has more to do with making a home feel homey than decorating schemes do.
5) People matter far more than things do.
6) The things in this world will not last; heaven will be eternal.
7) We can begin now to have our hearts and minds in the heavenly kingdom.
8) Treasure the memories you make together as a family in your home.
9) If you are a single woman, don't wait until you have a husband and family to create a home-like environment for yourself.
10) Show hospitality even if you don't think your physical surroundings are all that they want to be.

Spread out your petition before God, and then say, "Thy will, not mine, be done." The sweetest lesson I have learned in God's school is to let the Lord choose for me. Author unknown

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
C.S. Lewis

Discontent is a sin that is its own punishment and makes men torment themselves; it makes the spirit sad, the body sick, and all the enjoyments sour; it is the heaviness of the heart and the rottenness of the bones. It is a sin that is its own parent. It arises not from the condition, but from the mind. As we find Paul contented in a prison, so Ahab discontent in a palace.
Matthew Henry

Resource: Contentment by Money Saving Mom

Friday, March 18, 2011

Loveliness in the Home -- Mindset

Here are some ways of thinking about loveliness in the home that I know I can learn from. I hope you will enjoy them, too.

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement; a sanded floor and whitewashed walls and the green trees and flowery meads, and living waters outside.
William Morris

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
William Morris

Fashion fades; Style is eternal
Yves St. Laurent
(This quote is about clothing, but applies to how we live in our homes, as well)

Simplicity, suitability and proportion. Elsie De Wolf (early interior decorator)

You may concentrate on appearances all through the rest of your house, but in the bedroom comfort should be supreme. I think that bedrooms should also be very intimate rooms-they should express your personal preferences in every way...Of all the rooms in the house your bedroom is yours. Dorothy Draper

Birds are so much wiser than we! A robin builds a nest for robins. A seagull builds a nest for seagulls. They don't copy each other - or build themselves nests as described in The Birds' Decorating Magazine. Dorothy Draper

Everything in a bedroom should contribute to an atmosphere of peace.
Billy Baldwin

tick to the things you really love. An honest room is always up to date.
Billy Baldwin

Repeat shapes to gain harmony. Eleanor McMillen Brown

The basic rules of proportion and scale are unchanging. They are reinterpreted according to the needs of the time. I like simplicity and I believe in restraint. Above all, there should be harmony-of proportion, line, color, and feeling. The most important element in decorating is the relationship between objects- in size, form, texture, color, and meaning. None of these is in good taste in itself but only in relationship to where it has been placed and what purpose it is to serve. Eleanor McMillen Brown

Make every room a living room. Alexandria Stoddard

I strongly believe that people may not want, or may not be able, to start again from scratch, so giving old furniture a new lease of life is at the heart of my philosophy.
Nina Campbell

There is no reason either in prose or in rhyme, why a whole house should not be a poem.
Ella Church Rodman

There must be fitness, appropriateness, proportion, simplicity, harmony, and durability.
Ella Church Rodman

Neither good taste nor wealth... can transform a house into a home, for a home does not consist in the quality of its architecture or decor, but in the quality of the lives that it expresses. Philippa Tristam

The test of a home is whether it makes the visitor feel at ease. Philippa Tristam

The greatest mistake in the world is to believe that so-called good taste is any use without a sense of comfort to complete it.
Sibyl Colefax

Some helpful resources:

Lovely House -- Don't be overwhelmed by so much design advice.

Don't overload house with too many things -- thoughts on thrifting.

Loveliness in the Home

Dictioanry.com desribes lovely as–adjective
1.charmingly or exquisitely beautiful: a lovely flower.
2.having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face.
3.delightful; highly pleasing: to have a lovely time.
4.of a great moral or spiritual beauty: a lovely character.

A great thing to aspire to as keepers of the home is to be loving and lovely and to create a speace that's loving, welcoming, and lovely. A lovely home doesn't require fine things or lots of decorating money. The chief qualities of loveliness are things that money cannot buy -- particularly in the sense of having a great moral or spiritual beauty.

I have tended to acquire too many things that seem lovely to me, but when put together, create a crowded and unlovely atmosphere. One great quality of loveliness is knowing how to edit -- to choose what really is pleasing to your family and to you. A truly lovely environment is artfully neat. We want to find that balance that's somewhere between being too minimalist and stark (creating a cold feeling) and too cluttered (creating a smothering feeling). Those with a good eye for arranging things can introduce more knick-knacks and sentimental items into their decorating. Others of us have a harder time arranging things and keeping things in a way that pleases the eye. We can always ask a friend with a good eye to help us.

The lovely home has some feminine touches. Again, we need to think about balance. If we live with a husband and sons, we don't want our home to be so girly that it overwhelms the men in our lives. Just as we women enjoy soothing, feminine spaces, men need some more masculine looking areas in which to relax. Yet, the most charming home keepers know how to add soft, feminine touches throughout the house that are soothing to both men and women.

Some things that make for a lovely home:

1) A lovely attitude on the part of the home keeper
2) A home that is airy, freshly clean, and well-lit
3) A home in which there is some symmetry of design and decorating. That symmetry can be obtained through exact symmetry (matching) or through balancing items of similar size and "visual" weight. For example, you could create a mantel with matching urns on either side of a large mirror. Or, you could have a grouping of candlesticks on one side of the mantel that is balanced by pottery on the other side.
4) A home in which there is some unity of color scheme
5) A home in which the many wires of modern life are not distracting to the look of your home. Try to achieve a look in which the wires are hidden, covered, or otherwise not obvious.
6) A home in which the home keeper gives periodic thought to how her home looks. We become used to the way our house looks -- even to things that are actually mildly irritating -- and we let things stay as they are. The skillful home keeper evaluates her house with fresh eyes from time to time and tweaks things in order to improve.
7) A home that contains a few sentimental items, as well as inspirational items. Photographs of loved ones are one way to add to the warmth and loveliness of the home. Note that in traditional decorating, photographs are not used in the more public living spaces. They are reserved for a den or for a bedroom. You don't have to follow this rule of traditional decorating. But, it's always good to know the rules before you break them.

Today's assignment -- peruse a home decorating magazine or a site such as Better House and Gardens. Study what appeals to you and why. Note how items are arranged. Note the lines of furniture. Study how colors are utilized. Take quizzes at sites like Better Homes and Gardens so that you can find your decorating style. The goal is to develop your eye so that

a) You can arrange the things you already have in a lovely way
b) You will develop an instinct for what items are good bargains at store sales, garage sales, or in thrift shops.

We may not all have a natural talent for arranging our homes in a lovely way, but we can all improve.
(Note: the photo above is an example of modern cottage decorating from Better Homes and Gardens web site.)

Happy Home Keeping!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home Management -- an inside job

Thought for the day: Eating slowly and peacefully is good for your health and also helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Housework as a Tool: Denise Schofield from "Confessions of an Organized Homemaker."

"Don't sit around waiting for your mood to change. Act differently first, then your mood will follow along. You can act yourself into feeling differently.

"What you need to do is to put housework in its proper perspective. view it as a tool to help you get waht you want. don't visualize yourself as a dismal failure. Instead, visualize yourself lying down every night with a peaceful feeling, knowing that your work has been done well. You awaken to a house that is in order. The washing has already been sorted and pretreated. The dishwasher or sink is empty and you know what you're going to fix for dinner that night. While you are busy with your morning duties, you are rarely interrupted, because your family can easily find the things they need.

You'll even be more effective and cooperative at work when you walk out of a smooth-running home int he morning. Your mind is free to focus on business project when it's not hampered by whisperings of 'don't forget' or 'I should have".

Sure, things will spill and cars won't start. There will still be life's little emergencies and unexpected interruptions...But even with setbacks, you'll be in better shape than the depressed soul who awakens realizing there is no milk for breakfast; you have no clean clothes for work; and Michael can't find his shoes for school!...

"You can become a happier, more cheerful you. How? keep the vision of the "all together" you in your mind. You have to see yourself succeeding before you ever will. If your mind has a positive goal, your body will follow along...

"Make up your mind right now that it really is possible to become the person in your dreams. Remember, success starts the very minute you do. Put to use some new ideas and you will see your drudgery turn into pleasure."

Practicals, Bathroom organization:

1) Keep at least some of your makeup in a bag rather than in a container or drawer. Have a bag of frequently used items that you can easily pack for a trip or take with you for some other reason.
2) Makeup and toiletry companies offer multiple products that accomplish the same thing. Think carefully before simply buying everything. For example, rather than buying both a base coat and a top coat for your nails, find one product that serves both purposes. Don't be dazzled by the many, many products in one line of cosmetics. Ask yourself if one product will do.

Note: I personally think that you do need a separate shampoo and conditioner, rather than relying on a product that promises to do both. I feel that you need something to get your hair clean, particularly if it is fine in texture, and then moisturize it with a conditioner. I don't think one product can do a good job at both things. However, this depends on your hair washing routine. Some people, especially those with very curly hair, do conditioner only washes. You may find that one product works for you.

Likewise, you do need a moisturizer for your face and a separate body lotion. The skin on your face and the skin on your body are different. There are more oil glands concentrated in the face.

3) If you keep an extra stock of toiletries and bathroom paper goods on hand, resist the urge to open something new from your stock before finishing the last of what you are currently using. A new bottle always seems more alluring than one which has about a third to an eight of product left in it. But, use that last bit! This will save you the clutter of having too many items opened at one time, as well as money since you will use up your products.

4) When you store things in your bathroom, group like things together. Put perfumes together, deodorants together, toothpaste and brushes together, shampoos and conditioners together, etc. This will make things easier to find.

5) Investigate all of the lovely options for bathroom storage that are available these days.

NOTE: Do you have medicines, vitamins, or toiletries that are out of date? Purge your stash at least every six months. Put a date on your calendar to do so.

Happy Home Keeping!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Home Management -- an inside job

Thought for the Day: Being organized will give you more free time, contribute to a cheerful nature, and add to the peace and security of your home. If you want these conditions badly enough, it is worth all the strength you can muster to work at it. Remember that the extreme of being organized -- being over-organized -- will make yo and your family a miserable conglomeration of nervous wrecks. Efficiency is good only when it works for you, not against you. So, find a level of efficiency that works well for you and use it. Denise Schofield.

What does the bathroom that you personally use look like at the moment?
Is it clean?
Are there clean towels ready, as well as all the toiletries needed?
Is it organized?
Are you holding on to any bottles of half-used beauty products that you don't really care for and don't intend to use?
Can you find what you need in order to get ready in a timely fashion?
Do you share the bathroom with someone else? Are you considerate of another's need for bathroom space?
If you are married, is your bathroom so frilly that it's intimidating to your husband?
On the other hand, do you need to add a few soft touches to a bathroom that is too stark or bare?
Do you have a dressing table set up, either in your bathroom or somewhere else? Is it neat? Pretty? Functional?

What about your dresser?
Do you have three good fitting bras (one to wash, one to let rest, and one to wear), as well as a sports bra or two?
Do you have an adequate supply of underwear? Hose? Socks?
Do you have body shapers that are appropriate for your needs?
Do you have slips on hand? Yes, these are old-fashioned, but they really do improve the look of skirts and dresses.
What is the shape of your night wear? Do you need to repair or freshen any night clothing? Do you sew? Can you sew yourself a new, pretty gown?
Do you have a pretty robe and slippers for those times when you need to be modest in a flash or for that part of the evening after you've gotten ready for bed but may not be quite ready to turn in?

What about your grooming routine?
Do you have skin products that you bought with good intentions, but haven't used? Can you start using them in order to take care of your skin?
In the morning, at a bare minimum, do you brush hair and teeth, wash your face, put on moisturizer (preferably with sunscreen in it for the day or else just use a moisturizing sunscreen for daytime).
Do you put on some neat clothing quickly, even if it's only attractive exercise gear for working out?
Do you take off any makeup that you wear every evening, no matter how tired you are?
Do you spend at least an hour a week on those little extras that we all need to do, such as taking care of our nails and eyebrows?
Have you found a hairstyle that you enjoy and that is your basic every day hair style? Do you have a quick way to fix your hair in the morning so that you can look pretty and fresh quickly?
Do you know how to use dry shampoo if you need it?
Do you have a pretty way to style your hair easily when you are sick and in bed, so that you don't tangle your hair and also so you feel better?
Do you have a silk or satin pillowcase? Silk or satin is better for b0th your skin and hair than regular pillowcases are. You can find reasonably priced ones in home goods or bath stores.

What about your closet?
Are your clothes in good repair? Are buttons sewn on? Do you have ironing to do? Do you have things coordinated so that you can pull together something to wear in a flash? Do you make an effort to rotate your clothing so that you wear everything in your closet and not just a few things over and over?
When was the last time you cleaned out your closet? Can you do something to make your closet a more attractive space? Do you share your closet with your husband?
Are his need for closet space met?

What about your purse and other items, such as brief cases, book bags, beach totes, etc.?

Can you easily find things in your purse? Is your purse neat or is it over-stuffed? Do you have what you need with you?
(Hint -- One way to avoid carrying an over-stuffed purse is to make little emergency kits for school, office, and car. You can keep some items in these kits in your car or at your home away from home, rather than carrying them in your purse. Items to include in these might be safety pins, nail files, pain relievers, an extra pair of hose, a little comb, etc.
You can also keep a coupon container in your car, along with all those extra store points cards that you end up with.

These are good questions to ask ourselves, provided that we view the answers in a positive light. If you are on top of all of this -- congratulations! If you, like me, need to work on some of these things -- congratulations to you, too, for you now know some things that will help you make a more pleasing environment for your family, improve your appearance, and feel happier.

Managing our homes and our lives well begins from the inside out. The most intimate factors in our lives are our relationships to God and our relationships to others. In terms of physical space, the most intimate items are -- in this order -- Bible or other spiritual materials, our physical person, our bedroom, the bathroom that we use, and our purse or other carryalls. Often, we neglect these things, and concentrate primarily on the areas that are seen by others. Yet, keeping a sense of order and attractiveness in our most private spaces will help us to function more efficiently, and more serenely.

So, as we go about our week, let's think about organizing ourselves from the inside out -- starting with our hearts and working outward through our most intimate spaces.

Happy Home Keeping!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Managing our Minds -- Spiritual focus Bible study

Here are some Biblical scriptures we can study to help us keep our mental, spiritual, and emotional focus as we become women of excellence:

A. Purpose and Passion

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:5

He has told you, O man, what is good;And what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

B. Mission

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. I John 2:4-6

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Seek first

C. Mission in the Home

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:3-5

She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:12

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. Acts 9:36

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

D. Motivation and Power

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through
our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:3-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ . ( By grace you have been saved),and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2

E. Mindset

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. I Peter 4:7

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully
on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed I Peter 1:13

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Rom 8:5

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

Of course, this is not an exhaustive study, but just a starting off place in thinking about God's focus for our lives.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Managing our Minds -- Let's Get Organized

Did you know that a tidy house may actually help your child to learn to read earlier? Does that though make you sigh, "I already have enough trouble keeping my house neat and orderly. Here's another reason to feel bad about it!"? If so, don't worry. We're all learning together here to manage our time and our homes well. Our goal is not to be perfect, but to provide an atmosphere in the home that is generally orderly.

Managing our time, physical possessions and other resources well begins in our minds. This is especially true when it comes to clearing away clutter in order to attain peaceful surroundings.

Life Coach Tanya Leigh says, "What I’ve noticed in my life, as well as in the life of my clients, is that once they begin to clear the mind clutter, the house clutter almost always follows effortlessly, and as the household clutter begins to clear, the mind follows suit. It is an inverse relationship, one directly affecting the other."

She also says, "A woman’s home is a good measure of her life. The home has the ability to tell thousands of little secrets that a woman herself would never reveal, even to her closest friends. However, the evidence can be found on her walls, in her closets and cabinets, on the shelves of her fridge and pantry, and any other crevice of her abode. I’ve seen this correlation over and over in my own life and in every person that I have coached. Do you know what your home says about you and are you ready for it to tell a new story?"

Currently, my house is whispering (or shouting) to others that it needs some attention. What is yours telling the world? In the end, it doesn't matter what the world thinks it sees in our homes. We are keeping a home not for anyone's opinion, but for God and our families. Our goal is not to be a people-pleaser in the sense of deriving our worth from what people think, but people-servers, who respond to others out of love and faithfulness to duty.

Having said that, reading the message in our own house can help us know ourselves better. It can help us become better managers of our homes. It can help us erase any destructive messages written in our homes and replace them with brand new ones. In aiming for excellence in the home, this is where we must begin.

What attitudes write destructive messages in our home?

1) Trusting in things rather than trusting in God. We fear to let go of clutter. We hold on to things well past their usefulness. We hold on to things we don't need now because we think that we might need it someday. Often, the things we fear to toss for this reason are items that could be easily replaced, but, still, we hold on to them. We forget that our Lord told us that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions.
2) Sentimentality. This is one of my bug-a-boos. We hold on to things because we associate them with the people who gave them to us or with some happy memory. Surprisingly, many people who are highly sentimental about objects will also hold onto things associated with painful memories. They may also hold onto things out of guilt, for fear of hurting the feelings of someone associated with those things. Obviously, we free our minds when we get rid of things associated with pain. When it comes to guilt over something someone gave us, we must ask ourselves if that person really wants us to be burdened with something that we don't want or need. With things associated with happy memories, we can find other ways to retain the memories. Perhaps, we could take pictures of the items to store in a memory book. Or, we could journal our memories.
It's fine to keep some things out of sentimentality. In fact, sweet little treasures and heirlooms add charm to a home. It's when your collection of sentimental items gets out of hand that you run into problems. At that point, it's time to do an edit.
3) Procrastination and laziness: Sometimes, we look at the clutter in our homes and become so overwhelmed that we don't know where to begin. Or, we may not really enjoy house keeping chores. Perhaps, we are physically run down or slightly depressed, and we just want to ignore the clutter building up around us. Every job has routine duties that must be done whether we feel like doing them or not. Getting started and making some progress will actually make us feel more energized and happy than putting off chores we don't like.
4) All or nothing attitude (perfectionism): We make ourselves miserable over what we don't accomplish. Therefore, if we are feeling overwhelmed, we don't even start. Even doing a little tidying each day, along with a little de-cluttering is beneficial to a home. So, if you are in circumstances where you can't get it all done in one day, at least do what you can do. The results may not be material for Home Beautiful, but it will keep us on track in our journey to a well-managed home.
5) We may be so focused with worries or conflicts that we can't concentrate on our work:
Learning how to work through problems and painful feelings is an important skill in life. Sometimes, our emotional distress needs deeper attention. In the main, however, we need to cultivate habits of peace and trust so that our minds are not habitually and needlessly divided by things like anxiety and depression.

What are attitudes that write positive messages in our homes?

1) Love. Loving God and loving others provides an intrinsic (internal) motivation to care for our homes and our families. That doesn't mean that just because we love, we will always wake up with a great desire to attend to household duties. But, it does mean that we will make choices in keeping with what we love and value most.
2) Faith -- It takes fortitude and stamina to be a woman of excellence in the home. What keeps us going sometimes is faith expressing itself in love.
3) Mental Discipline -- Focusing our thoughts on things that are pure, noble, good, and uplifting will fuel our inner motivation. A peaceful mind can focus on tasks and do them with attentiveness.
4) Prayer, praise, and thanksgiving: We need grace, mercy, wisdom and strength from the Lord to manage our homes well.
5) Willingness: The excellent woman in Proverbs 31 was willing and eager to do her tasks. We become more willing when we reflect on the worth of what we do and our reasons for doing what we do. That brings us back to #1, which is love.

Happy Home Keeping!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Some practical exercises --

1) Read the book of Ruth. Examine what makes her a woman of virtue.
2) If you have a pet, consider the following, if you haven't already done so:
a) Choose a convenient place to store all of your pet supplies.
b) Gather up all of your pet's accessories and organize them in the newly designated pet area.
c) Get rid of broken or unused pet toys, rusty leashes, old or broken crates or cages, and any items left from a deceased pet that you are not using for a current pet. (Holding on to clutter from an old pet won't bring your pet back.)
d) Mark on your calendar when you need to take a pet in for shots or an examination.
e) Mark on your calendar when you need to administer things like flea medicine, heart worm medicine, etc. Mark a day every month for the rest of the year if you give monthly meds.
f) Toss food or treats that you pet won't eat or that have passed their freshness date. Check pet meds as well.
g) Wash pet bowls, water dispensers, clean aquariums and cages, etc.
h) If you have a bathable pet, bathe him and clean his collar.
i) check the condition of your pet's sleeping area. Wash what needs washing; toss waht needs tossing
j) If you have a cat with a litter box or if you use one of those new dog training mats, wasth them thoroughly.
k) Organize pet records. Store your vet's number in a handy place. Make note if there is an all-night emergency vet in your area and jot down that number, as well.
l) If you plan to travel with your pet this year, find out what you will need and have that ready. This especially applies if you will be either flying with your pet or moving it to a new home.

The Character of a Keeper at Home -- Virtuous, worthy, excellent, able

So far, we've been reviewing some basic concepts that will help us prepare to be women of greater excellence in the home. It's interesting that the word which is translated in various versions of English language Bibles as worthy, virtuous, or excellent is used at least three times in the OT to describe women:

Our first example is what Boaz said to Ruth in Ruth 3:11: And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest, for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.

Proverbs 12:4 says, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

And, of course, Proverbs 31:10 says, "Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies."

Gesenius' Lexicon says that the word translated as virtuous in these instances comes from the Hebrew word "chayil"חַיִל

Chayil can mean strength, power, and might (especially of an army) or valor. It also means ability, virtue, uprightness, integrity, or fitness. It can also symbolize the strength of a tree as measured by its fruits.

In the case of the Proverbs 31 woman, chayil is used in the sense of virtue and capability. It describes a woman who is able and capable, fit for her tasks, full of good character and integrity, and with the moral and physical strength to be faithful to her work.

King Lemuel's mother is urging him to marry a woman who is prepared to be an excellent wife. Chayil can describe an army that is battle-ready. Thus, she instructs her son to find a wife who is noble and trained in the skills and virtues she will need to be the wife of a noble and worthy man.

We know from other verses in the Bible that a woman's strength must be combined with gentleness and a quiet and surrendered spirit. She is not to be chayil in the sense of being warlike or combative. She does endeavor, however, to be a faithful, noble, virtuous wife who meets her life's work in the home with quiet strength and dignity.

We can look at the list of virtues and abilities possessed by the worthy woman and faint from the awesomeness of the role we play as keepers of the home. Here's an important thing to remember. The worthy woman derives her strength and dignity from the Lord. We do not become chayil on our own power, but as we daily submit to and depend on God to help us.

In the culture of the virtuous woman, young girls did receive training that prepared them to be wives, mothers, and keepers of the home. Today, many women do not receive the training they need before setting up their apartment as a single or getting married or having children or learning how to turn their skills into at-home businesses, if applicable. Thus, many start out with great dreams for their adult life, but flounder when they find that they don't know how to train children or manage a household or love a husband or stay within a budget or trust God in the trials and emergencies of life. I believe that's one reason why so many women find themselves to be unhappy in the home. No one enjoys a career for which they are ill-trained.

The great thing is that we don't have to stay in our untrained state. We have so many avenues for learning available to us: God's training of us, the scriptures, the example of other women who are excellent in the home, books, courses, and Internet sites written by women who offer home keeping advice. The more we learn how to fulfill our roles well, the happier we'll be.

Even if you did receive a good foundation before getting married, you should continue growing as a chayil woman. Most careers have continuing education programs for managers. We begin with whatever foundation we have received, and we build on that. The woman whose foundation was solid to begin with will make faster progress, but even those of us with weaker foundations will be able to learn and apply what we need to learn in order to be happy and effective.

One question we need to ask ourselves is "Are we bringing up chayil daughters?" Are our daughters capable and ready for the domestic side of adult life? Even if a daughter chooses a career outside the home, her life will be richer if she possesses skills in keeping with those of the woman in Proverbs 31. Her life will also be enriched if she has a heart like the worthy woman.

Again, the skills it takes to manage a modern household will not look exactly like those needed by the worthy woman in her day. For example, most of us won't need to grow a vineyard in order to obtain nourishing fluids and medicine for our family. But, we can have the same heart as the worthy woman did, along with training in the skills that we do need.

For both boys and girls, education is not complete if they do not know how to love the Lord, how to grow in faith and godliness with integrity, and how to build a home life. Though academics and being prepared for a job is important, training in faith and in godly living is even more crucial. Teaching our children to be prepared for a whole and complete life -- not just to go after success in one career path -- is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

Happy Home Keeping!