Purpose-Driven Goals for Our Home

Purpose-Driven Goals for Our Home
This time last year I was on my knees regularly praying for a larger home. We were already tight on space with our family of four in a two bedroom apartment. With the kids growing and baby 3 on the way, we decided we needed to move but couldn't afford much more than we were already paying for rent.

So, I got on my knees and prayed about it. Pretty specifically, I might add. I wanted some sort of porch (for me) and yard space (for the kids), Daniel wanted a garage, and we needed three bedrooms to accommodate our soon-to-be family of five. I even tapped into my inner Katie Davis (author of Kisses from Katie) praying with conviction that as God provided for her, He would do the same for me.

Her experience isn't as fresh in my mind anymore, so don't hold me to the details. Katie had been in Uganda and needed a new place to stay. Originally she wasn't looking for much. Anything with low rent and room to eat and sleep would do. God led her to a space much larger than she needed. Running water, multiple rooms, and even a deal with the landlord for affordable rent.

God blessed her so she could be a blessing to others. Beyond the work she was doing in the community to feed the hungry and help children go to school, over time that home was filled with girls, 13 of whom were adopted as her own daughters.

She is doing an amazing work in Uganda and it's pretty ridiculous that I'd compare my life with hers.

But however different our lives seem, I believe in God's working and presence in America, too. Part of me has longed to abandon all and serve elsewhere where the need is more dire, but that doesn't seem to be my story. My story is one of courageousness at home. Sometimes reluctant and laced with pity-parties, but God is patient.

And in that story God is writing in my life and in our home, I believe He also has a way to bless us that we might be a blessing to others. In a way that brings Him glory.

The start of that was answering my prayers and giving us every last detail on that home wish list. Jesus said "ask and you shall receive." I asked, and we received.

We got everything: garage, front porch and back patio, a little yard space (more than if we ended up with an interior unit), three bedrooms, even a basement, for only $85/month more than our smaller, more limited apartment.

One day I will laugh about how much I mention our tight budget. God has proven it doesn't limit Him. Boy has God blessed us!

Now that the season of moving and having a baby has settled a bit, I'm back on my knees again. This time asking God how He might lead us to be a blessing. To bring Him glory as we live courageously at home. To not be selfish with His love, but recognize our mission in this season.

That's where our home goals come in.

Usually I dream about the white space I want to create by getting rid of stuff, and I think about the simple decor that will help me feel at peace. Nesting in my home is usually all about me. Daniel and the kids don't really seem to care what things look like.

(Okay, I have to give them a little credit. Daniel and Brylee are pretty good at noticing and complimenting when I hang pictures, and they all seem to like when I keep things clean.)

Point is: It's time to not be so selfish with these blessings. If I'm really going to be courageous at home and for my family, then it's time I get prayerful and purposeful about that.

The Spirit is moving. I still don't know all of the details, but it's better that way, isn't it? I think so. It leaves room for the wonder of faith and the glory that is God's when He writes the story.

The pieces that I see come out as goals for our home. Not what to get rid of or what to hang where. But the real purpose of these spaces for our family and for our mission.

Purpose-Driven Home Goals

Ultimately it's about opening our doors to use this home to love others and closing our doors to pursue the meticulous work of training our arrows all for God's glory.

Following are a few ways I see that playing out.

Opening Our Doors...

...for Girls Nights

Some seasons we have lots of these close together, and other seasons they get really spread out. Starting next month I'll be hosting one each month. Hopefully other girls will still host too, but at a minimum I'll be opening our home to the girls monthly. I plan to spend the beginning little bit in a more intentional sharing and praying together, then go into our usual catching up and girl talk.

...for Small Groups

Hosting a small group has been on my mind and actual lists since childhood. Well, the current form has been impressing my conscience at least since Daniel and I got married. And I have yet to act on it. I hesitate knowing who, how, and what. But this seems to be the year to stop hesitating.

...for Feeding Friends and Family

We've got the extended family part kind of figured out. It's so wonderful to live in the same town and for our kids to play with cousins and be close to grandparents. Just like childhood, these happen to be the people always there even if we go a couple weeks between seeing each other. We could get more intentional with our meals (i.e., in our homes rather than at restaurants). And we could also improve on our planning ahead to make space for our friends.

...for Our Neighbors

This one makes me Gulp with a capital g. If girls nights and time with family and friends has its hang-ups, then neighbors are a challenge all their own. These are people who I don't know or barely see or may not have any common interests with. It may not happen this year, but I'm still praying over it. Praying over them. I long to love my literal neighbors no matter how much that downright scares me.

Closing Our Doors...

...for Family Rhythms

Those family dinners where we talk about highs and lows and where we see Jesus working and those bedtime reading times and evening prayers and everything in between. These are the times that are really molding our kids and who they will become. These rhythms are important and are easy to overlook with how routine they become. But they're perfect opportunities for the important conversations and the life-giving words we can speak into their lives. Even the little things about personal hygiene and feeding our bodies well happens in the rhythms.

...for Tough Conversations

It's starting to sink in that what I don't tell my kids, others will. I always wanted to be that mom that stayed on top of "the talks" to the point that it was an ongoing conversation that happened from toddler years until young adulthood and covered all of the important things. Then, my daughter turned 7--when did that happen?! We still try to have the important talks. Having time at home just our family makes room to safely and comfortably have these tough conversations.

...for Rejuvenation

I'm an introvert and need need need quality time at home alone or at least with a little quiet. Even if my kids aren't the same level of introvert, I still want them to know home is always a place to let down, relax, and recoup for whatever is facing them out in the world.

When I focus on these goals and pray about God's leading in and through our home, it really puts the more trivial stuff into perspective. It's no longer such a big deal that I don't love the collage I put over the sofa. It doesn't matter much if things are a little more eclectic than I'd like or if pictures of our home are share-worthy on Pinterest.

What matters is the people being ministered to. Is our kitchen being used to nourish our family daily as well as feed others? Is our living room providing space to rest from a stressful week as well as foster life-giving conversations? Are we holding our home loosely allowing God to use it for His purposes?

That's where I really want to be. At home in God's purpose.


also read:
simplifying home checklist
this world is not my home
courageous at home

Thoughts on Bible Reading

Thoughts on Reading Through the Bible

I might be the most clueless Bible reader. Being a Bible scholar seems nice enough, but relationship tends to get in my way of that. I'd rather spend my devotional time in stillness than anything reminiscent of cramming for a midterm exam. A little more heart of Mary and a little less stress of Martha. As maybe it should be, especially for us beginners.

There is a time and a calling for Bible scholars. For me and the majority of my life, I'm not that person. That doesn't exclude me from getting in the Word and reading all of it, even the parts that seem heavy or beyond comprehension.

I've tried reading through the Bible many times over my life. I usually get off track, the little check marks in my index stacking up in front of some of the same books, while the books that make me feel uneasy remain check-less (and thus, unread). Last year I finally did it--I finally officially went through the entire Bible, every chapter and verse digested. And the habit keeps going.

Below I'm sharing what I've learned in this ongoing routine in hopes it somehow encourages you in your Bible-reading journey.

What I've Learned Reading Through The Bible

1. Have a plan and follow it loosely.

A plan takes the guesswork out of what to read next. When even simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning or deciding what's for dinner can lend to decision fatigue, following a plan can be the difference of keeping going versus getting hung up on what to read next.

There are lots of "read through the Bible in a year" plans. There's one in the back of some Bibles, plenty on the YouVersion Bible app, and a new one by She Reads Truth. That, however, is not my thing. It doesn't leave room for a sick day when I'm only up long enough to throw up, or a "be still" day when my heart's desire is to dwell on a healing passage.

I get around that by choosing a plan, but ignoring the dates. Following it, but not throwing in the towel if when I "get behind" a day or two. I'm all too familiar with the guilt of not keeping up. Everything changed when I finally accepted I likely wouldn't stay perfectly with the plan. And that is okay.

My personal "plan" is to read two chapters from the beginning of the Bible (randomly from the Old Testament or in order from Genesis), read a chapter from Psalm (and eventually Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs), and read a chapter from the New Testament. This isn't an exact science and doesn't end all at the same time. It does, however, seem to compliment nicely while being flexible and not too much reading for most days.

2. Do more than read.

Devotional time isn't just about reading God's Word, although that's definitely important. This will look different for each person. I pray and journal and just sit and listen through the silence. I sometimes compare the texts in different translations or identify my own life in the story. I sometimes talk about a text with my husband or a friend, or I ask one of those Bible scholar types what it means. I sometimes write a text down and memorize it throughout the week, and I sometimes share it (online or in a note) with someone who might need it, too.

Reading is just the start. I'm still figuring out all of the ways it comes to life in my life.

3. Put together the pieces of the bigger story.

I'm always in awe at how much the stories are entwined. I'll read about Abraham in Genesis then see the same reference in Psalm and Acts all on the same day of reading. It happens over and over, because it's all telling the same story. The story of a lost people in need of a Savior. The story of an innocent babe born solely to bring that hope and be that Savior. The story of a weak and incapable people inheriting their Savior's power and life.

It's one story throughout the Bible and one story throughout our lives, and it's amazing and humbling and so many things that the Bible doesn't even contain all the brilliance that is God and His salvation-in-action.

What distractions are getting in your way of reading the Bible? Intentionally delay them until after you've had your time in the Word.

4. Create "quiet time" when the quiet is lacking.

I'm all too familiar with the struggle to find quiet time when there seems to be little time that's actually quiet. Our third baby and I are still in a difficult season of waking up throughout the night and just when it seems we're getting past it, he starts a new phase with teething or sickness. Waking up early for the quiet isn't happening, though if that's a solution for you--awesome! Join the HelloMornings community for encouragement and community around that.

For the rest of us, quiet time may not be all that quiet. My devotional time happens while my baby plays beside me and my preschooler does his "devotional time" on my phone playing on The Bible App for Kids by YouVersion. Depending on the age of the kids, this might also be a good time to get them a variety of Bible picture books or a series of Bible cartoons for them to watch a little while you read.

For those who don't stay at home, you might consider working the time into your breakfast, lunch period, or those awake moments before flipping on the TV in the evening. When you list out your priorities, if relationship with God is in the top, then start rearranging your day to treat it that way.

5. Get in the Word before getting online.

Last summer we had a discussion about actively making Jesus a priority in our lives. Someone made the point that we usually grab our phones as soon as we get up (I have my morning alarm set on mine), which often leads to a quick scroll and checking our accounts starting our day distracted. That was me, and when I started my days that way it tended to continue all throughout the day.

Shortly after that I decided to not get on my phone until I've had time with Jesus in His Word. There were days I resisted getting on until after noon when I could finally snag a few moments with Jesus. Over time, it's grown into a habit that I am so thankful for. Giving Jesus my attention before my phone is a huge symbol of giving Him all of me. It may sound silly when I put it that way, but there's a lot of truth there. What distractions are getting in your way? Intentionally delay them until after you've had your time in the Word.

6. (Cue Dori from Finding Nemo) Just keep reading, reading, reading.

One of my recurring struggles with reading the Bible in the past was deciding where to start. Reading through the Bible was great because I had a basic plan and knew what to read next--no time wasted playing Bible roulette dropping open the book and seeing where it landed.

When I finished "officially" reading through the entire Bible (it took about eighteen months), I resorted to my same old habit thinking, "That was great. What now?"

I spent some time going slow and dwelling a week or more at a time on smaller passages. Which was so great, especially in a season of chaos that I needed slow and rest and intentional pauses.

Then, I started at it again. Reading through the Bible, four chapters a day (two from the Old Testament, one from the middle song books, one from the New Testament). This time from a translation different from my go-to Bible. Still journaling and praying and pausing when necessary to ask someone what it means or dwell on a text.

The point isn't to rush through the Bible. Although if you haven't done that yet, that might be one place to start. But it's definitely not the end. The Bible is timeless reading. What we get from reading it last year may be different than what we'll get it from this year. It always has what we need--encouragement for our struggles, light on a change we need to make, direction for a decision, and His love for us.

There are some great Bible studies on You Version or done by people like Beth Moore when you're ready for diving a little deeper into stories, passages, or topics. Just don't let deciding "what next" keep you from simply getting in the Word. Don't worry about finishing it by the end of the year; just start.

Then keep reading, reading, reading.


also read:
Christian Meditation
It Is Between Me and God
Memorize Scripture

Looking and Feeling Awake

"I'm so exhausted I could cry."

Those are the words that take over my mind when I've woken up with a stuffy-nosed, teeth-breaking baby every hour or two throughout the night. Those words could also be followed up with, "I'm so exhausted, I can't cry." It's a very frustrating and pointless cycle I find myself in when I'm on consecutive days of sleepless nights.

The good thing about being on Baby Three is I've learned a thing or two about dealing with sleeplessness. I still get tired and we still have pizza too often. But I feel more aware of life happening all around me and less overcome by exhaustion. There are ways to sneak in some faux rest, or at least look a little more rested. There are also ways to help maintain, or even restore, sanity.

Ideas for a Season of Sleeplessness

Whether you're sleeplessness is infant-induced or some other life-happening, here is my round-up of ideas to make the most of those missing ZZZzzzzs.

1 | Suck it up, princess.

There's an ecard that reads: "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance... The five stages of waking up." It's funny because, when we're missing sleep, it's true. The longer we spend in one of those first four stages (pushing snooze over and over, being grumpy, pleading with husband to take a sick day, sulking), the harder it is to recover from our lack of sleep. Getting to the last stage, acceptance, as quickly as we can will give us the best shot at making the most of our groggy day. Suck it up princess, morning comes whether or not we got sleep.

2 | Brighten your eyes, and look the part.

I've read tips like putting two spoons in the freezer at night, then holding them under your eyes (where those pesky bags are likely to show up). Ain't nobody got time for that. Splashing my face with cold water may not do much for those bags, but it sure helps me wake up. I follow that up with a light liquid concealer and apply generously around the eyes. It's my "mom war paint." Brightening the eyes with concealer, and a little light eye shadow helps make me look a lot more alert. There are other ways to look put-together, which can make us feel put-together.

3 | Eat good food. Drink water. Stay healthy.

We can be more energized by fueling ourselves with good foods: Whole grains, low sugar (particularly when not eating the whole fruit), unprocessed, greens, etc. Life fuels life: Food that was once alive is a natural source for energizing human life. Water is cleansing, hydrating, and another necessary part of staying healthy.

This is all important because when we're lacking on sleep our immunity is down and we're more prone to illness, which will of course only lead to more sleeplessness. We need to stay healthy, especially when we're lacking on sleep.

4 | Drink coffee or other caffeine sparingly.

I've never been much of a coffee drinker, and certainly not a coffee-promoter. I acquired a diluted taste for it in college (read: must be sweetened and milked down), and only in the last couple months started making it myself and drinking it most days. Caffeine is addictive, can be damaging to our health, and generally comes in equally unhealthy forms (i.e., lots of sugar). That's the disclaimer. The reason I bring it up: It's currently part of my solution for surviving.

I can't sit around the house all day like I did with our last sleepless baby and his 3-year-old sister. I now have to be up before 7, getting our big girl out the door for school, and running errands with the younger two. Caffeine on those days helps me get it all done. I'm sure I'll visit this topic again to re-address that addictive and damaging side when I'm getting more sleep at night. Until then, I'll be drinking a cup most mornings.

5 | Drink an Emergen-C. Or take vitamins.

Vitamin Bs, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are all energy-inducing and mood-boosting. Emergen-C powder is high in these and can be healthier and more lasting than caffeine. If you're not up for the "magical powder," then do your own reading or ask a professional to find out which vitamins to take and how much to supplement daily.

6 | Take a mid-day break. Get your blood moving.

Naps aren't always an option, and not everyone finds the same value in taking a nap. There are even different types of naps and results from each. I used to do the napping thing, but quit because interrupted naps were more frustrating to me than sleepless nights. Now, I try to work in a few minutes of rest. This can be a short stretching session, a little eyes closed meditating, or a few minutes with my legs up against a wall. That last one is something done in yoga and talked about on Oprah years ago (so it must be true), that roughly 8 minutes with your legs up against the wall can rejuvenate you the same as getting a full sleep cycle. Whether or not that's true, I've done it many times in my sleepiest and have left the session feeling a little more rested and a little more ready to finish the day well. Concentrated slow, deep breaths, eyes closed, and body in a relaxed position seem to be key.

Getting your blood moving is likely part of the success of putting your legs up against the wall. You're taking a break and you're encouraging blood to cycle throughout your body. You might also try a 4-minute tabata workout, or just do some jumping jacks or go for a quick walk.

7 | Stop whining.

It's clear, this is what I preach to myself, right? I'm harder on myself than I would be on you. As mentioned above, "I'm so exhausted I could cry" are the words that consume my thoughts when I'm not getting sleep. Obviously, that's not really helpful. When I notice myself thinking this, I try to replace it with something more positive or energizing. Basically recreating what I'm choosing to believe. Even something as simple and un-profound as repeating "I am awake" can do the trick. If nothing else, it at least stops the self-defeating thought cycle. Reading something life-giving (like my morning devotional time) does the same.

8 | Incorporate the senses.

When I'm really trying to feel awake, alert, energized, I make that happen with all of my senses. Sniffing something like peppermint, citrus, or cloves through diffusing essential oil or a candle; and turning on some peppy or upbeat music (like New Shoes by Paolo Nutini or Happy by Pherrell Williams).

It works for the opposite purpose, too. When ready for a mid-day break or winding down at the end of the day, use lavendar or other calming scents, and play some soothing music.

9 | Be safe. Make good choices.

I have read about sleeplessness inhibiting thought-process in a similar way that consuming alcohol inhibits it. It can slow reactions and cause things like driving to be dangerous. Drunks stumble over a line thinking they're fine, and sleepless people everywhere commute to work and school without thinking of the safety issue. We should be brave enough to ask for help or, when we can, waiting until we've gotten some rest. We can incorporate the help of that caffeine when necessary. We should avoid important decisions and discussions when we're exhausted--we're less likely to be irritable and irrational that way. Let's not be naive about the dangers of going without sleep, and make good choices with that in mind.

10 | Address the issue. Embrace the season.

If possible, and when sleeplessness is ongoing, we need to address the issue. Are we drinking caffeine too late in the day, or does our babe need help learning to sleep more than two hours at a time? (Babies need sleep as much as we do, and their ongoing sleep-disruption can cause problems for their growth and development.) If there's something we can do, then we should address the sleep issue.

Whether it's temporary or ongoing, let's wake up and embrace the season. We may not exactly "enjoy" it (like so many people tell us to do), but we can certainly slow down to notice life happening all around us. To find the little things to appreciate. Sure, acknowledging the challenges, but not being overcome by them.

Bonus | Sleep when baby sleeps. Clean when baby cleans.

Ha ha. Just kidding :) That's another meme I saw: If I should sleep when baby sleeps, should I clean when baby cleans, and cook when baby cooks? If all else fails, at least we can find a little humor in the situation.

Sleeplessness will not keep us from living.


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