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The Pen is Mightier than the Phone (If you are a paper planner, anyway!)


Last week while cleaning at our rental house, I had a little accident and smashed my pinky finger on my right hand, which is also my dominant hand. As my poor little finger is still a long way from being fully healed and used as usual, I am finding all sorts of tasks more challenging than normal. Everything from opening jars, to washing dishes, from tying shoelaces to writing a sentence—it all is a lot harder without the use of one little bitty hurt finger!

The inability to write properly with a pen or pencil has been one of the most annoying challenges I have had to deal with this week. I did not realize how crucial the curling under of the little finger is to being able to hold a pencil and form letters! It has been a real frustration at times because I am a paper planner as opposed to a digital planner. I just cannot think as clearly about my day unless I write some things down physically on paper, and when that was not possible, I found myself floundering without a good plan. For example, the first day after my injury, I wanted to write a to do list, but instead I had to type up a note on my phone. I kept forgetting I had the list there and wondered what I needed to be doing all day. Another day I sat down to make a meal plan and grocery list. I simply could not do that digitally, so I made a spidery, somewhat painful attempt at writing my meal plan out as usual. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked! Later in the week I needed to do a brain dump and also had some school planning to do. I knew that there was no way I could write fast enough to do a good brain dump, so I ended up typing it out instead. I got it done, but I did not feel the same sense of relief that I do when I actually write everything out with paper and pen. Today my hand was feeling good enough that I was able to transfer some of my thoughts from the screen to the notebook, and that helped clarify my thoughts a lot.

This experience has really reinforced for me the need to give myself the time and blank paper space to go ahead and be the analog planner that I naturally am. I already knew from trial and error that I do better with paper planning overall, even though I still do keep a digital calendar up to date (mostly to keep in communication with my digital planner husband!), and I also use a note-keeping app or two occasionally. But after having been in a good routine with my Happy Planner and various composition notebooks, this week of being forced to use digital notes and lists was surprisingly inefficient for me. So once this little finger of mine is all better, I look forward to getting back in the analog planner groove again with gusto!

How about you? Are you a digital planner? Or do you prefer paper planning like me? Or maybe you like a combination of both! If you don’t have any idea what works best for you, one of my favorite bloggers and organization gurus, Mystie Winkler has a fabulous little tool to help you find out what planning style suits you best, as well as TONS of amazingly helpful resources over at Simplified Organization. (And if you use my affiliate link to purchase any of her courses, if helps me cover the costs of running this website, so thank you!)

Faithful with the Small Things

 

Do you ever wonder if what you are doing really matters, if the mundane tasks of everyday motherhood and married life are really of any eternal consequence? I do. Sometimes I get to looking around at women who have big, visible ministries with nation, even international platforms. I see them making a big impact on the lives of thousands of women through speaking, writing, singing, teaching, etc. Then I look at the sink full of dishes and hear my toddler dumping a bin of legos in the other room while her brother yells at her to stop, and I think, “Is this it? Does this repetitive, monotonous work of child training and housework and homeschooling really make much of a difference at all in the world?”

A radical life for Christ is not always visible to outside eyes.  ~Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life

Yes, I have chosen this role as a wife and mother, and I do feel called to stay at home and teach my children full time, but there is still that nagging little voice that tells me that this is not enough, that I should be doing more, or doing better, at the very least. After all, I have a Bible college training and a degree. I could be teaching more than basic math facts and proper table manners. But then, there is another small voice that speaks to my hearts, this time gently and softly, and He says, “This is what I have for you to do right now. Do it well. Love these children. Teach them with humility and diligence. Love and support your husband, encouraging him daily. Be faithful in these seemingly small things, my child. They matter to me.”

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  ~‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am reminded then that it is not about what the world sees, or what even the modern church sees, as successful ministry. It is about being obedient and faithful in what He gives me to do today, and every day. It is about being willing to do whatever He leads me to do, great or small. It is not about being seen or being recognized for what I do.

It’s not about the size of the serve. It’s the willingness to do what he asks.  ~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

My role as a wife and mother is about being Jesus’ hands and feet to my family. My ministry is like that of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It is not glamorous or even well-respected in society. It is dirty and tiring and mundane. But I have the opportunity to show my children the love and grace of God in how I discipline and serve and teach them each day. And if these two precious little souls are the only two I ever can reach with the gospel of Christ, then so be it. I am following the Shepherd who went looking for the one that was lost and rejoiced greatly when it was found.

In God’s economy, the thousands are just as important as the few.
The few are just as important as the one.
The one is why He came.
Because He cares.
~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

Maybe someday the Lord will add to my ministry and enlarge my circle of influence to extend beyond my family or even my local church. But for now I need to learn to be faithful in the small things, so that when He wants to give me bigger things, I will be strong and prepared to handle them well. I pray I will learn to be His obedient and gracious servant, to be a reflection of Christ in both the monotonous and the monumental tasks He sends my way.

For more information on authors mentioned in this post, see Sally Clarkson’s website, her book Own Your Life, or Suzanne Eller’s website and her book Come With Me. (Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you click through them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commision, at no extra expense to you. This helps support the blog, so thank you for your help!)

How I Save Money on Kids’ Clothes: Consignment Sales

A few posts back I wrote about how I save money on my kids’ clothes by creating seasonal capsule wardrobes for them. Another of my tried and true methods for not breaking the bank when buying children’s clothing is to buy gently used clothing rather than brand new items. And my current favorite way to do this is by shopping consignment sales! If you have not tried shopping consignment sales, you are missing out, let me tell you!

A few years ago, I really did mot know what all the fuss was about our local kids consignment sale. I figured it was just a glorified garage sale, so I just skipped it. But then one year I decided to just give it a try, both selling and buying. I had such a great experience that I hate the fact that I am missing out on it this fall because of our move! (But you can count on me finding a sale to shop in our new area!) So, why do I love to shop consignment when it comes to kids’ clothes? Let me count the ways!

  1. One night of shopping, and boom! I have finished my clothes shopping for the season. Seriously, I go in there with my handy dandy Kids’ Capsule Wardrobe checklist, sift through the racks to find what I need, and at the end of the night, I have pretty much everything on my list! I have found that it is getting harder to find everything for my boy because he is getting to that age in which there is just less of a selection, at least at the sale I have been shopping. And sometimes I need to buy brand new shoes because the used ones can be pretty roughed up. (But I ALWAYS get shoes on clearance unless I cannot possibly avoid it. They are just overpriced otherwise, in my opinion.)
  2. I can often find cute name brand clothes that I could not normally afford for a fraction of the price. Gap, Gymboree, and even more select boutique style clothes are often easy to find at consignment sales, and they are usually in great shape. I especially like shopping for Christmas and Easter dresses for my little girl because they have usually been worn so few times that they are practically brand new! And at around $2-4 per dress on discount night, I can buy a couple and still not spend half what I would shopping a department store clearance rack!
  3. I shop the discount night to get an even better bargain! Most consignment sales have one or more time slots in which you can get as much as 50% off everything! Some sellers may choose not to give a discount or to offer a lower discount, so that is something to watch for as you check tags before buying. But I try to buy as much that is the lowest discounted price as possible. Often, if you are a volunteer helper at the sale or are a seller, you get an early bird pass to shop the discount sale first and snatch up the beat deals before the general public.
  4. I can also sell our gently used kids items and make back a part, if not all, of the money I spend shopping the sale! This was probably the thing that got me hooked on consignment sales the most. Every time I have sold items, I have been able to make enough to cover the cost of that season’s clothing. Often, I had one or two bigger ticket items along with all the clothes, like my son’s old train table and a barely used stroller. These help make a bigger contribution to the total profits! It is work to label everything and get it set up at the sale, but in my experience it was totally worth the effort. And it was much easier than having a full-on yard sale on my own!

I could go on and tell you a few pointers I have learned about buying and selling at consignment sales, but I think I will save that for another post. For now, I want to hear from you! Have you shopped consignment sales for kids clothing? Did you love it, or hate it? What is the best deal you have snagged shopping consignment?

The Comforts of Home: Thoughts on home, heaven and the local church

As I write this, I am sitting at a plastic folding table, surrounded by moving boxes in the middle of our new dining room. Last night as I was making cornbread from a mix I had brought from our other house. As I set everything up, I realized that the one thing I was missing for the process was a mixing bowl! Thankfully, I had brought the mix in a large Mason jar, so I simply stirred all the ingredients together in the jar! We don’t have any of our living room or bedroom furniture moved into our rental house yet, so there is nothing to sit on except the floor or folding chairs. I want to unpack some boxes, but without any bookshelves for books or dressers for clothes or bins for kids’ toys, it is hard to really do much of that. Moving over the long term is an adventure, and we are making the very best of it, but at times I do miss the ease of having all my belongs and my family in the same place at the same time. You could say that I miss the comforts of home.

Ever since we knew where we were moving, we have been researching churches in the area and wondering where God will call us to serve next. We have seen a few different “styles” of churches and are not sure just where we should even begin looking. We know that God has made us with specific gifts and talents to fill a place in His local body of believers, but we don’t know which place that will be yet. I started out asking the Lord to give us, just this once, a place to belong where I could feel comfortable being myself and feel like I fit in, somewhere I could be fed while also serving and being useful, with minimal discomfort of uneasiness. After all, we often refer to the local meeting place of a specific body of believers as our “church home,” so why should we not look to that place as having all the comforts of home a church could offer?

But then the Lord began to gently prick my heart. He reminded me that this world is not my home, and that includes the church. Heaven is my real home, and no matter how blessed and abundant my life here on earth may be, it will never truly satisfy the longing of my heart to be home with the Lord. Only there will I truly enjoy ALL the comforts of home. So while we may search for a place for corporate worship, a place in which our gifts can be useful to the local congregation to serve and uplift, we ought not be seeking comfort. In fact, we should expect discomfort, challenges and difficulty. We should expect to be stretched, to be called out of our comfort zone into deeper waters and tasks beyond our current abilities. This does not necessarily mean we have to go out of our way looking for a local church that does not fit our doctrinal beliefs or practices in a way with which we do not agree. We still ought to hold to our beliefs and gather with others who share those basic tenets of the faith. However, we do need to be willing to go to a place that feels too big or too small, too loud or too quiet, too new or too old, too this or too that, for us to feel totally comfortable. If we sense God calling us to a specific church location, we must follow His lead. He wants to use us for His glory, not for our ease. So I am learning to let go of my wants so that I can be filled with His desires instead. I know that wherever He places us, it will be better than whatever I might choose. I might will be uncomfortable for a time, but I then I will be reminded to look forward to my eternal home even more.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” ‭‭~Philippians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Disconnecting to Reconnect: Taking a step back from our internet habit

Last week we spent our first few nights as a family in our "new" house. It is not anything fancy, and it is not really new at all…just an old brick farm house somewhere in Middle Tennessee. And it is not even ours, since we are only renting this year. But it will be home for a little while, at least, once we get everything moved and can find our bearings. This first trip felt kind of like vacation at a cottage or cabin, where you are working with very limited supplies and furnishings. The difference was that we did not really take a vacation at all. We worked. Hard. There was a lot of dust and dirt on the floors that needed swept and mopped away. There were boxes and other heavy items to be moved into the house. There was carpet to vacuum and shampoo. At the end of each day, we were all hot and sweaty and dirty and tired. We collapsed into our makeshift beds, exhausted, and fell right to sleep.

But do you know what? Even though we physically worked hard, those days were some of the most peaceful and restorative days we have had in a long time. Why? Well, for one thing, we were working as a family toward a common goal. The kids were either busy playing with toys they had not seen for a couple of months, or exploring new spaces in and out of doors, or just watching Mommy and Daddy work. Also, it was a chance to get a taste of our new life and feel freedom from some of the past difficulties in Illinois. There was a sense of adventure, which I think is normal when moving to a new area, but that has been sorely lacking in our lives for a long time.

Also of note, we have no wifi at our rental house. We are going to be changing how we get internet access, and it means we will be much more limited with our online time. Don't worry! I will still be writing and posting here a few times a week, as well as catching up on social media daily. But we got a chance to break from our bad habits of picking up our phones and scrolling through Instagram and Facebook every spare minute of the day. And this was good, very good. It forced us to look around at our surroundings and the people in our family and listen to each other more. It forced us to spend those in between moments actually thinking, resting, listening, looking, talking. . . We were present and making memories rather than posting about what we were doing online. We were paying attention to each other instead of listening to the many voices on social media. Yes, we do still need to use the internet occasionally for work and even for entertainment and education. But we also need to disconnect from all the distractions and noise so that we can reconnect with ourselves and each other.

I know that this is not a new concept and that plenty of people discussed the need to unplug and step away from the virtual rat race, probably since the dawn of the internet age. I have done my own fair share of social media fasts and been offline for vacation plenty of times. But somehow this time was different. Maybe it was because my husband was so intentional about being offline as well, being the huge techie that he is, and noted how much better he felt as a result. Maybe it was because we knew this was a decision we were making to take a step back from our screen time usage as a whole family, not just for a week or even a month, but for the foreseeable future. Whatever the case, disconnecting to reconnect was good for our family, and for me personally. And I look forward to seeing how our family culture changes for the positive as a result!

As I said, though, I am not abandoning this website! I will still be blogging regularly, although maybe not as frequently during the actual moving process because we are traveling back and forth so much right now. But I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on limiting your online time, especially as a couple or family. If you have tried it for an extended period, what kind of affect did it have on you and your family? If you have never intentionally significantly reduced your family's internet usage, what motivation would help you give it a try?