Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seven Secrets To Family Harmony

Here we are at The Back Door--the way IN and OUT for family and close friends.

Access to and from the garden, backyard, barn and chicken coop, the driveway or garage via this friendly portal.    Makes a certain noise when someone we love arrives or leaves.   Decorated with a variety of grimy prints around the doorknob perhaps.

What makes The Back Door of your home so important that I'd start a blog series here?

The Back Door is where your family often starts and ends a busy day.  The hubster heads to work and kids to the school bus via this door.    And they come home here, too.   It's where home begins for most of us.  And when we head off, it's often the last of H.O.M.E. for awhile, too.

For many of us, leaving home is fraught with last-minute racing around, trying to get our stuff together and chicklets trying to get THEIR stuff together (or not!).

Is it a mad dash as the hubster is heading out?   Are you often LATE because someone couldn't find the keys, a permission slip, the sunglasses or GPS?

Chasing stuff down at the last minute.  Great!  Now we'll be late! Helping the kids turns into yelling at the kids.  "Get. Your. Lunch.  Now!"  Which of course involves tears or huffiness and i.r.r.i.t.a.t.i.o.n!  Lovely.  Now we're all miserable.   Perfect!

No.  That's NOT how we want things to go as they head off to work or school.

The Back Door is i.m.p.o.r.t.a.n.t. and it affects our family harmony.

Seven Ways to Improve Family Harmony  

Organize things so that you and the hub and the chicklets CAN get out of the house, on the road, on time.   No tears.  No yelling.   No irritation.  Try these seven tips:

1.   Clear a landing zone near the door.   Use countertop or a table next to the door.  Set things out that need to go with you (or the chicks or the hub).   Lunch boxes.  Coupons for shopping.   Wallets.   Add a tray or shallow basket to keep the mail in one place.  Maybe the GPS.

2.   Hang a key rack near the door.   Avoid those thrilling and heart-stopping last-minute key-hunts.     Hang your sunglasses here, too.   And the dog's leash.

3.   Set up a bench or stool nearby.   Great place to set back-packs, purses, bags.   Line up boots and shoes underneath.

4.  Add a cork- or magnetic board.    Schedules and permission slips.   Post reminders and notes.  Shopping lists with coupons.  Hang a memo-pad & pen here.   Mail that's ready to go out to the mailbox.   Programs and calendars.   Use a chalkboard to leave messages or post shopping lists.

5.  Rig up a charging station on a counter.   Hand-held mobile devices, iPods.  Easy-to-find on the way out the door.     Get one with a small drawer for keeping postage stamps or letter openers.

6.  Hang a coat rack even if you have a closet there.   Hang cloth shopping bags after unloading, ready to go back to the car on your way out the next time.  Your apron.  Train the kids to hang their backpacks here, too.

7.  Set a wicker laundry basket on the bench or on the floor.   Toss in mittens, driving gloves and hats.  Garden gloves.  Sun-hats.  Scarves & mufflers.   Sunscreen.   Bibs.

As much as we want our Front Door to project a warm welcome to our guests who enter there, how much more should the dear ones who come and go via the Back Door feel blessed and loved?  

"Finally, [sisters], good-by.  
Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, 
be of one mind, live in peace.  
And the God of peace will be with you.  
Greet one another with a holy kiss.  
All the saints send their greetings."
2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV

Next up:  The Laundry Room . . . whiter whites and brighter brights.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How Much Can You Get Done in 2 Minutes & 30 Seconds?

Do you ever challenge yourself?    

I don't mean mind-boggling challenges like "solve the problems in the Middle East" and I don't mean financial challenges like "get my checkbook to balance to the nearest penny" and I don't mean waist-whittling challenges like "do a 30-second plank without my arms trembling like a little girl."   

Nope.  I mean FUN challenges, the sense of accomplishment!   Like the thrill of wishing for Spring and five minutes later seeing a robin in the front yard!   Or racing to get the pots-n-pans washed before The Amazing Race" tv program starts!

Yep.  Now you know.   I'm a speed demon.  I love games like Boggle and The 5-Second Rule and trying to beat my record at Sudoku.   

So.  My challenge every morning is to empty the entire dishwasher BEFORE the microwave beeps with my cup of water for tea or coffee.  Two minutes, thirty seconds.  Two racks and a silverware basket.   

Not much quality control happening at that rate, but I figure if I don't catch a smudged glass or gritty bowl when putting away, surely we will when we set the table.   Plus, it's clean grit, right?  It just came out of the dishwasher.  <wink!> 

So there I was this morning, minding my own business.   Emptying the dishwasher, racing the microwave beeper, and with my split-second eagle-eyes noticed that some of my bowls are kind of tomato-y stained. Again.   I thought to myself,  As soon as we get a good sun-shiny day, these bowls are getting a sun-bath on the deck rail.

Now that may seem like a really random route to take:  racing to empty the dishwasher and putting bowls on the deck rail.   But there IS a method to my madness.

You see, in a previous lifetime, I was a Tupperware consultant so I've known this little trick for years, that sunshine will bleach plastic bowls--it only takes a few hours; they look as good as new (unless yours are as elderly as mine then they just look "better").

That thought hadn't even evaporated yet when another popped into my head.   "Aren't you glad you know stuff like that?"

Which THEN made me remember that there was a time in my life when I didn't know that kind of stuff. 

And THAT thought led to me scolding myself soundly for having my blog sit here silent and barely alive for so many months--when in fact I have SO much I want to write and share with you.    

Yes, in less time than it takes to put away four water glasses and three cereal bowls, I had thunk all these thoughts and even lectured myself.   

So, starting today <pause for a crescendo of inspirational music> I'm determined to get back on track with TTF.  And to do so with renewed purpose.   And getting back to my roots of why I wanted to do this blog in the first place.

Older woman teaching a younger woman.   Household affairs.   Tips for home-making and -keeping.    Little tricks you learn along the way either by sheer luck or trial-n-error.  Ways to organize and be efficient.  Loving the hubster and the chicklets.   Keeping busy at home.  A few recipes?  Maybe.   Basic standard operating procedure according to moi (because I'm the boss of this blog).

Yippee!   Nothing fancy, so forget the bells and whistles--just some tips, tricks and wisdom for running your home.  Since the Mind-Meld Machine broke down, we'll have to do it the old-fashioned way:  writing it in words on paper (well, kind of).    Maybe a few printables if I get my act together.   Maybe, okay--definitely some lists.

Since we're family and friends here, meet me at The Back Door tomorrow.   And we'll begin.  

Until then, ponder these words from Proverbs 31 and consider how they "challenge" you to serve the Lord in your home:
"[The wife of noble character] 
speaks with wisdom, 
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.   
She watches over the affairs of her household 
and does not eat the bread of idleness."

I'm serious:  tomorrow.  The Back Door.   Don't be late.

>>>>>You might also like this page from my side bar / tab:   Kitchen Stuff <<<<<

Monday, December 9, 2013

Muddy Waters: Santa vs Savior

Chiming in on the debate over whether or not Christians should perpetuate the notion of Santa Claus.   Here's my opinion and a few examples.  Not meant to be legalistic or an indictment against those who make other choices.   But to offer some choices and insight (I qualify as an "older woman") and perhaps raise your awareness of the consequences of choices you make when your children are young.  

First off, a question:   Why do parents--in particular CHRISTIAN PARENTS--think that the having of "fun" associated with Santa is more important than the understanding of the WONDER of God-come-to-Earth?

My three youngest children grew up knowing their Savior's birth is what we're celebrating in December--and we spent all of Advent in preparation and anticipation, and also into January (6th - Epiphany = Christmas for Gentiles!).  That is to say:  Santa never came to our house.  

TRUE STORY #1:   My youngest daughter knew that Santa was a fairy-tale.   As the Sunday School children were lining up for the children's Christmas Eve service one December 24th evening, my daughter and a little friend were having a discussion.    They were around five or six years old.   The little friend excitedly mentioned that Santa would've visited by the time her family got home after church.   My daughter sweetly told her that Santa wasn't real, that it was a made-up thing.   The little friend was aghast at this news.

Overhearing this exchange, I quickly pulled my daughter aside and whispered that it wasn't her job to tell her little friend about this.   There was nothing we could do to fix the situation, and the little friend soothed her ruffled feathers by stating that when she got home from church that evening, Santa would too have visited their house.   I told her mother as soon as church dismissed, and hear later that this was no more than a blip on the radar.  

TRUE STORY #2 (which took place many years prior to True Story #1):   I grew up loving the Lord and knowing Jesus' birthday was what we were celebrating on December 25th.  After all, my family attended and I LOVED the Wednesday evening Advent church services which focused on Christ's birth.   The Advent Wreath and lighting one more candle each week was exciting!  Every Saturday morning throughout the month of December, we Sunday School children rehearsed for the service we would lead on Christmas Eve--every recitation and every song memorized BY HEART!   And when the big tree went up in church--oh man!--the anticipation was almost too much!   All of this, to my little girl heart, signaled the arrival of--Yes!  You guessed it!--Santa!!!  Oh, and as an after-thought, Jesus who was born in Bethlehem.

Santa came to my childhood home on Christmas Eve every year, while we were at church.   And so, while I loved our little Christmas Eve services where we children recited the whole Christmas story (from memory!) and sang all those lovely carols and loved the candles and the banners and the marching in and out--oh my dear!--my sinful little-girl-heart was MUCH MORE interested in getting DONE with the program (if only those little kids would line up quicker so we could get DONE sooner!!!), getting the bag of fruit and ribbon & raspberry CANDY from the usher when we marched out, and urging Daddy to drive home as fast as conditions allowed, so that me and my five brothers could get IN the house and SEE what Santa had brought.  

I wasn't a greedy, selfish little girl.   Indeed.   I was (and still am!) the oldest of six children born within an eight-year span to an average American couple.   Simply put, we didn't get presents at other times in the year.   My parents had enough money to pay the bills and not much else.   We weren't starving or poor or needy, but we did NOT ever get gifts at other times of the year.  So Christmas in my childhood years was a HUGE deal to me.  It didn't matter that me and my five brothers always knew we were going to get some new replacement underwear and socks and brown work gloves and new knit hats & mittens, we would also get a nice present, too.   And we spent all of December anticipating THAT!

That was how I saw it as a child--and I would bet I was like probably 99.9% of other American children in Christian homes then and now, where Santa was/is the deliverer of gifts on Christmas.   I'm sure my parents thought they did a fine job of telling us about Jesus's impending arrival, in fact I even knew at a rather young age, that December 25th wasn't "really" Jesus's birthday, but a date that some church guys a really long time ago decided on.   But whatever.   The important part is that (from what I remember) Ma & Pa perpetuated the myth of Santa!   Yes, it was fun!   Yes, it was delicious to anticipate!   Santa's watching to see if I was being good or bad.   Up on the roof-top.  

Sure, I could recite all of Luke 2 from memory (still can!).   And just as I could sing from memory all about mangers and angels and shepherds and silent nights and the little town of Bethlehem, I could also recite "Twas the Night Before Christmas," knew all the reindeer names, and could easily sing about Rudolph, Frosty, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all 12 verses of the Twelve Days of Christmas.   In my little childhood brain, Jesus was a side issue (he was born!) and Santa was the real deal (he brought presents:   visible, real, wrapped presents!).

In my little girl world, I knew that Jesus was more important than Santa Claus, because Jesus IS God after all and all that dying on Easter business was very serious, too--my parents had made that clear.  But I still thought Santa was the cool guy for bringing presents.  

Then the conflicting stories at school, from kids who said there was no Santa (horrors!?!!) and others who said Jesus brought the presents.  (What?)   Well, none of that lined up with what my parents were saying or telling me.  

And it didn't make sense with what little I knew from the Bible either (because at that point, as a six- or seven-year old, my Bible knowledge was basically limited to the highlights of  "Sunday School stories").    How did Baby Jesus bring me presents?   I had five little brothers; I'd seen first hand how helpless they were as babies.   How could a baby get down a chimney?   OR carry a bag with presents?  And how could a BABY know anything when I'd seen that all they could do was eat, sleep and poop their diapers?   It didn't make sense that Baby Jesus brought presents.  

CONSIDER for a moment:   we do our children --especially if we are calling ourselves Christian--a GREAT disservice by muddy-ing the waters with Santa Claus.   It breaks my heart to see young Christian parents rushing around to all these "secular" events (checklist:  take kids to get picture with Santa Claus; attend annual community tree-lighting, for example) and totally MISSING the opportunity to read various Bible scripture verses having to do with Jesus' birth and boyhood and so many of the prophecies.  

Your children believe what you tell them or lead them to believe (up until about age 11 or so).   You really ARE muddy-ing the waters of their understanding when you introduce a fairy-tale (like Santa) side-by-side with Christ.   Little ones in particular are very "concrete" in their understanding of things unexplainable.   Black and white.   Pause now and consider which one is more "visible" (and therefore more "real") to a child:   the red-garbed, white-bearded Santa ho-ho-ho'ing at the mall or the baby Jesus in your ceramic nativity scene?

It's MUCH easier to "believe" in something you can see, touch, feel, hear.   You know that, yourself!   Have you ever fondled a corner of fabric to measure its weight?   Or said, "you have to see this!"?  Seeing is believing.  Thomas--one of Christ's disciples--was a firm believer in that policy!   Children are believers in what they can see, touch, feel and hear, too.

And children are MADE to trust their parents.   So if a parent says, "Santa Claus will bring presents," a little one will believe that's the truth.    And if you later amend that to "Santa brings presents but Jesus is the REAL reason" or you inject "Jesus brings the true gifts" your child will take you at your word, but parents please UNDERSTAND this fact:   because the REAL presents are under the tree--Santa is going to get the credit, and whatever you said about Jesus is--sure, whatever you say, Mom.

My dear friends.   Please consider this:   Satan is having a heyday as we dilute our celebration of the MAGNIFICENCE of Christ's birth by "dashing through the snow" and "Rudolph's red nose" and "Frosty's escapades around town."   Satan enjoys our false busy-ness with baking and making and taking, because anything that keeps us from reading God's Word and knowing Him is a victory for Satan.   Muddy waters?  How lovely.    

We profess to care so much about making Christmas "fun" for them, meanwhile our children have NO or very little comprehension of the Old Testament pointing to the coming Savior--prophecies galore!   Satan is clapping his sticky paws with glee when we snuggle up with our little ones and make a big "tradition" out of watching "Home Alone" and "The Grinch" while our Bible languishes in a dusty heap somewhere on a shelf.  

Many times I've heard moms say "we read Luke 2 on Christmas morning"....and I wonder, did you read all the prophecies that lead up to Luke 2 and Matthew 1 and John 1--and show your children the stroke of God's pen throughout the sweep of history?   Or is reading Luke 2 just a little check mark on a long Christmas To-Do List?   Whew!   That's done.   Let's eat Christmas cookies and drink eggnog now.  

Parents!   Do NOT discount the ability of even very young children to be in absolute AWE of the simplicity and majesty of the "Christmas Story."   Children are MUCH more cognizant--even before they can speak coherently--of the spoken word than most parents will give them credit for, thus parents vastly ignore the "sponge-like" ability children have for soaking up EVERYTHING in their world.   And if some of the details of the Christmas Story go over little ones' heads, that's okay.   Someday the details will soak in and make sense.   Just like they do when you're an adult and something "dawns" on you.

Since when is having "fun" the central purpose or activity of our lives as Christians?   Most mothers wouldn't dream of feeding their children a full bowl of sugar and calling it a meal!  Yet how many will present their children with Santa, arrival via chimney, gift deliveries at midnight and yet fail to point out the much more SIGNIFICANT arrival of GOD IN THE FLESH and the way that one birth changed the course of history (past, present and future) and our eternity?

The "magic" and "fun" of Santa Claus compared to the "majesty" and "sacrifice" of God-With-Us.   Magic is an illusion.  Fun is fleeting.    

Eternal consequences actually hang on the God With Us.  


As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.