How To Create A Schedule (Or Rhythm) For Your Week + Giveaway

schedule

This guest post was written by the first “mommy blogger” I fell in love with, during my first fragile months as a new mom. Her name is Jeanne Harrison from Loving My Lot and I am so honored to have her share some “real-life” wisdom with us when it comes to creating a schedule. 

How To Create A Schedule (Or Rhythm) For Your Week

Several years ago, I had some medical students over for dinner. Sometime during the evening while everyone was milling around the kitchen, one of them noticed my weekly schedule up on the fridge. Let me just say—it was a masterpiece. Color-coded, broken into thirty-minute increments, with all aspects of my life present and accounted for.

The medical student exclaimed, “Hey, look! We just learned about this in our psych rotation. It’s called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!”

Okay. So it was a little over the top. That schedule lived on my fridge for months. In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t follow it. That was my dirty little secret. But it was just too pretty to take down. I loved everything it represented. Order, rhythm, accomplishment, purpose.

When Rebekah asked me to blog about how to create a schedule for her homemaking series, I felt those same words bubble up inside of me. Yes! I thought. Creating a schedule is so worthwhile, especially for a SAHM whose days are a blank canvas before her. But where do you even start? How do you know which activities to choose and which to cut? And how do you make sure the schedule you create is one you can actually live out? I want to suggest three principles that can help answer those questions.

1. The first is this: build your schedule around your priorities. It may seem obvious, but it doesn’t happen by accident. What happens by accident is we build our schedule around what’s “got to get done,” and then we groan in frustration when a friend’s crisis interrupts grocery day. Or we build our schedule around all the things we “wish we could do” until we’ve got ten thousand commitments and not enough sanity to fulfill them. Or we don’t build any schedule at all, and we fly by the seat of our pants until we collapse into bed on Friday and wonder why we didn’t spend any time with the kids this week.

We need to start with our priorities. What do we value the most? What needs to be lifted off the bottom of our schedule, dusted off, and placed back on top? Is it a commitment to grow in our relationship with God? Is it a thriving, healthy marriage? Enough time (and sanity) to invest richly in our kids? Meaningful connections with friends? Evangelistic encounters with lost people?

For me, the answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes to all of the above. Those five values are among my top priorities. So as I evaluate my schedule, I need to ask myself: Are these values “showing up” in my minutes? And if they’re not, how can I reorder my schedule so that they are? Let me give you an example. Because my husband is a pastor, he’s off work on Friday and Saturday. One of the ways I try to build my schedule around my family is by busting my tail on Thursday. I make sure the laundry’s done and the pantry’s stocked, so that I’m all theirs over the weekend. Friday morning is sacred. While the girls are at school, I commit to nothing except spending time with my husband. Some days I’m helping him get things done at work, and other days we’re sipping coffee on the back deck. But barring extraordinary circumstances, I don’t schedule anyone or anything for Friday mornings. I build my schedule around my priorities.

The beautiful thing about orienting your schedule around your priorities, is it prevents the schedule from enslaving you. So what if little Lucy interrupts “dishwashing time” to talk about what’s troubling her? She trumps dishes. Your values drive your schedule. Not vice versa. As you build your schedule around the things that matter the most to you, you’ll begin to recognize which commitments need to go. But hold on just a second! Before you cross off everything “fun and relaxing” in light of more noble pursuits, let me share my second piece of advice.

2. Don’t forget to factor in time for yourself. Pouring into every person and animal that crosses your threshold while starving yourself, isn’t noble; it’s foolish. We need a little blank space in our lives. We need room to breathe, and rest, and take care of ourselves. It will make us such better wives, and moms, and servants of Christ!

So what do you enjoy? What re-charges those batteries? Reading? Watching a favorite show? Baking, blogging, jogging, scrapbooking…factor a little of that into your schedule, and guard it! Don’t feel guilty for saying, “Sorry, I have a prior commitment Tuesday evening.” You don’t have to tell them that the commitment is with Pandora and your bathtub. It still counts! It’s a valid commitment. You know why? Because you count! You are a valid person, and you’re worth investing in.

3. Finally, don’t be such a stickler. It sounds backwards, but I believe we’re more likely to maintain a schedule in the long run, if we give ourselves the freedom to scrap it every now and then. The pursuit of perfection always leads to burnout. (Hello, pretty little schedule on the fridge!) Order your chores so that they serve your family. Plan your week so that you’re investing in the Kingdom. Carve out margin for yourself. But also give yourself the grace to say, “I couldn’t stick to it this week. I’ll start over again next week.”

It’s not the most profound advice, but this is where I’ve landed over the past few years. If you came over for dinner tomorrow, you wouldn’t find a schedule on my fridge. But there is one in my brain. There is a rhythm and order to my life—imperfect and sometimes messy—but there just the same! And by God’s grace, this schedule reflects my values more than it has in the past. And by God’s grace, it includes taking care of myself. And by God’s grace, it’s allowed to be a work in progress. Just like me.


This guest post was written by author/blogger Jeanne Harrison of Loving My Lot. To read more her posts go to her blog, or check out her newly released book “Loving My Lot.”

Enter the contest to win it for FREE! (I seriously LOVE this book, and if I could afford to buy it for all my mom-friends and sisters..I would.;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

[Join the discussion on the Free Spirit Homemaker Series: How To Maintain Your Home, Without Losing Your Soul! Check out these posts if you missed them: What Is The Purpose Of Homemaking?, Why Free-Spirits Are Naturally Terrible Homemakers, and Introducing The Free-Spirit Homemaker Series . Share your own thoughts in the comment section, or visit my Barren to Beautiful Facebook page.]

Does Infertility Affect Friendships?

friendship

“So…do you guys think you might, I mean, someday, ever want to have kids?” My friend asks me as we play with her toddler on the floor. I see the curve of her belly, pregnant with their second. She doesn’t know we’ve actually been trying for over a year—with no success of conceiving. She doesn’t know I actually ache to be in her shoes. Swollen feet and all. “Oh, yeah,” I say, “We definitely want kids.” And I roll the ball to her toddler, trying to act as natural as possible.

Inside, I have no idea if I will be able to have kids. And I wonder if she knows, we’re trying. I wonder if she knows I would be a mom by now, if I could. And that as disheveled and chaotic as she feels, and as unattractive as she thinks she looks, with her postpartum curves—she actually looks incredibly beautiful to me. But I don’t know how to say this. Not today. 

My friend is sweet, and doesn’t press further. And I feel relieved when she doesn’t.

***

I was completely blindsided by it: infertility. I remember so naively waiting those two minutes for that first pregnancy test, feeling so sure it would be positive. I envisioned us jumping up and down in celebration. But instead, we just stood there. “Maybe it will just take a little while,” my husband said. “Yeah,” I tried to shrug off the disappointment, “Maybe.”

But month after month of trying to conceive, my period came back. And months turned into years of waiting. And crying. And praying. And wondering…

What was wrong with us?

All of our friends were on babies #2 and #3, but we could not get pregnant with one. As our friends’ families grew with new babies—it was just still just the two of us. As our friends traded in their cars for SUV’s and minivans, and turned offices into nurseries—we would walk by our extra bedrooms and pray God would fill them someday. Somehow.

Sometimes it felt like the world kept rushing past us, while we just stayed still, frozen in time. Waiting for God to move.

Now looking back on those years of waiting, I see God was moving the whole time. In fact, He did some of His best work in us during those years. And He did it, before I ever got pregnant. He opened my eyes to see. And instead of seeing my life as a barren wasteland of disappointment, I saw Him. I saw His beauty–and that though my womb was barren, my soul didn’t have to be. He began to make me alive in Him and began to birth something in me that would change the way I see forever.  (You can read more about my infertility story here.)

But what about in the meantime? How does infertility affect friendships between women? And if you are already a mom, how should you approach a friend who is possibly unable to conceive?

I can’t speak for other women—I only know my own experience with infertility—but here are a few ways women who are already mothers can honor their “childless” friends, whether they are “childless” by choice, singleness, or infertility.

1. Realize the Mommy Club can be slightly exclusive. Being a mom now for two and a half years, I have grown to love the Mommy Club. I love swapping labor stories, poop stories, and tantrum stories with other other moms, just to know I’m not alone in this. Motherhood is an incredible bond between women (even women who are just passing by in the grocery store!) But the “Mommy Club,” as wonderful as it is, can be a little exclusive at times to non-mothers, especially in the Church. And this often happens quite innocently. All the moms are laughing and going on and on, swapping war-stories from the mommy trenches, and raving about the best butt paste, and the non-mother has nothing to contribute except, “I babysat in high school once.” (Cricket, cricket.)

Now, this doesn’t mean you should drop your mom fellowship time. (Not at all!)  It’s just something to be aware of, so that you can love, and include, and value the woman who is not a mother, just as much as the one who is. And in order to do this, we as moms have to, “Look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

2. Include Your Non-Mom Friends. I think many moms assume that “non-moms” would never want to come to a play date, or meet up at the mall when your kids are present.  But I loved when my friends would include me in things like this, without the prerequisite of being a mom. I’m so thankful for friends that invited me into their daily life at home with kids because this helped me see what it was like to be a mom, and made me desire to be a mom.

Although motherhood is a strong bond, it’s not the only bond women can have. For Christians hopefully there is a bond even stronger than motherhood, and that is being a part of God’s kingdom together. Being a daughter of God connects me to every other female in the body of Christ—whether she’s two, or twenty-two, or sixty-two. It’s a sisterhood that began long before I ever conceived my daughter. And it’s one that will need to exist while I raise my daughter, and long after she has a family of her own.

3. Be Sensitive In Approaching The Topic Of Infertility. If you are already a mom and curiously wondering if, or when your childless friend will ever have children, try to be patient. I never minded at all if someone asked, “Do you think you ever want to have kids?” It was what happened beyond that question. The moment you ask, “Well, are you trying?” You are pawing at a box she might not want opened—or hasn’t initiated opening, anyway. For your friend who is battling infertility, it might feel to her like you are going through her underwear drawer. It might feel like you are saying, “So..when are you gonna have kids? Are you having sex, or what? What birth control are you using? How long have you been off of it? Is he still wearing a condom? How’s your man’s sperm count? Is everything working down there with you two? Are you guys having enough sex?” (Whoa.) No, thanks.

Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Or your friendship. You may get the information you want, but you’ll damage the friendship. I think that the woman that is comfortable talking about her infertility, will talk about it. So let her bring it up.

And if she does share intimate details with you, honor her in that. Be very careful not to gossip about anything she shares with you. (That means not telling anybody she hasn’t specifically told you to tell.) This comes down to simply loving your infertile friends, being patient with them, and learning how to honor them and uphold their privacy through the process.

4. Be Exceedingly Thankful To Be A Mom.  It’s especially difficult for women who could never conceive, or lost every child in miscarriage to hear women gripe and complain about being a mom. It’s true that motherhood has intense challenges, sleepless nights, and can at times make you feel like you are totally losing it. But, for the Christian, we are called to battle back with joy and gratitude and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Complaining and grumbling not only steals your joy and darkens your perspective, but it can make the hearts of others ache, too. So be joyful in your mothering, knowing that others are watching and listening. You might be afraid that if you “enjoy” your motherhood too much in front of “childless” women, you will cause them pain. However, I think the opposite is true. Your grumbling causes them pain, not your joy. So be exceedingly joyful in your motherhood, and if, or when they get to enter motherhood they will be more likely to be joyful in it, too.

5. Be Available For Your Infertile Friends.  The longer a woman, or couple experiences infertility, the more likely they will be to open up about it. And if they open up to you, give them the encouragement they need. Pray for them, comfort them with Scripture, and remind them that God is lovingly leading their life together. We were very private about our struggle with infertility, but the few people we did open up to provided such a source of comfort and strength to us during the process.

Infertility Doesn’t Have To Break A Friendship
As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to love each other. The seasons of our lives don’t always line up perfectly with each other. And although some friendships may drift while others thrive, let’s let it be because of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And not because of the anger, bitterness, and jealousy of an infertile couple. Let’s not let friendships be broken by prying questions, or gossip, or because we were too selfish to look past ourselves.

I think something really beautiful happens when people from different seasons of life are both vulnerable and strengthening to each other. Titus 2 talks about how within the body of Christ we all need each other.  So, wherever you are at, whether you are in a house filled with the cries and screams of little children, or you are praying desperately for a miracle in your womb, or you are a grandmother, or you are a single person who is traveling the globe, let’s love each other. Because before any of us were mothers, we were daughters. We were sisters. We were children, born into the Kingdom of God and saved by the blood and mercy of Jesus Christ. The One whom we love, and live for.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).


This post was first published on Loving My Lot as a guest post I wrote for author/blogger Jeanne Harrison. Be sure to check out Jeanne’s other posts, like Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming, and her new blog turned book, “Loving My Lot”, which you can purchase by clicking on the picture link below!

 

Photo Credit: D’Attoma Studios

My 7 Most Influential Reads of 2014

What we read or meditate on deeply affects how we think and ultimately, who we become. As the year ends, I’ve been thinking about what reads have most shaped me over the last year. The following is a list and brief explanation of some of the most perspective-changing books or blog posts I have read this past year. (I would love to hear what books or blog posts have most influenced you this past year! Please share in the comment section!)

1. The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

A great read if you need help loving sinners (and realizing you are one.)

IMG_0706This book was single-handedly THE most influential read of the year for me. Because: it demolished my pride. And showed me my desperate need for Jesus. It’s a short simple book based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. What I most enjoyed is that the book is written for the (moral/rule-keeping/law-oriented) “older brother,” more than the (rebellious/prodigal/stray sheep) “younger brother.” I had no idea how closely I would identify with the “older brother.” But the more I read of his pride and arrogance and anger, I couldn’t help but whisper, “That’s me, that’s me.” I also felt more love, and mercy, and grace for the “younger brother” figures in my life, and saw them in a totally new light. I saw us as being not so different from each other, really quite the same, because we both are desperate for Jesus. A favorite quote: “The gospel is distinct: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.”

 

2. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A great read if you want to see God everywhere, and see His hand in all things. 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/636/62057002/files/2014/12/img_0707.jpgThis was some of the best writing (in a Christian book) I have read in…well, ever. Voskamp writes beautiful, poetic prose–but there is a heartbeat behind it too. This book is about being radically grateful for your everyday, messy, chaotic, seemingly train-wreck life. Voskamp was dared to come up with 1,000 things she was thankful for, and in the process, she takes her readers on her journey of her transformation. To be honest, I was annoyed with it at first. It seemed too sticky-sweet to me. But the further I read, I found out, this is the secret to joy–and there is no other way to get it. Readers are challenged to start their own joy-journey of making a list to one thousand. (I’m only on #86) but I can testify to the power and release of joy in naming the gifts God has given me. If you want to slow time down, be happier, and cherish the life and people God has given you, I suggest reading this book, and actually taking the challenge. It could literally change your life. It’s beginning to change mine.

3. Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming by Jeanne Harrison, Loving My Lot

A great read if you are a new or experienced mom who needs to stop comparing with other moms and permission to be yourself. 
jealousy2This was the blog post that first welcomed me into motherhood (and blogging) as I know it. It is an honest, and hilarious account of one woman’s attempt to try to keep up with all the other mom’s. I first read it when my daughter was just months old, and it just made something break in me. I could suddenly breathe. (I was set free by a blog post. Hallelujah!) But it’s true, a giant weight was lifted off of me, and I could suddenly be myself, and start to enjoy motherhood as the woman God created me to be, and not as the one I thought I needed to be, because “she” was.

4. The Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins

A great read if you want to shirk your household duties, get lost in a futuristic world and become perplexed over the realities of where our culture is heading if we don’t pay attention. 
hunger gamesI think it must have been in response to reading #3 that I even picked this up at my library, and gave myself permission to enjoy something that was…for once, fiction. I was so gripped by this story that I burnt every meal for a week (my husband can testify) and became so consumed with thinking about it, I was even dreaming about it. (I admit, it was slightly dangerous for me, and turned me into a horrible home-maker.) And yet, it also opened up my eyes to life outside my home and my imagination of what our culture could be like someday. It is an intense story, if you don’t know it, and I believe is meant to show us a picture of what our world could become. It certainly shaped my outlook on the culture and vanity and excess we have in our country.

5. “Ten Big, Daily Reminders” by Matt Reagan @ Desiring God

A great read (daily) if you need to need help remembering what is true and not being swept away by your emotions or circumstances.

full_ten-big-daily-reminders

Sometimes I lose my bearings. I am a small-picture person, and I quickly lose sight of God and the big picture. Going through this list tremendously helps me get my focus back on God and reality. It’s just ten simple truths that give me solid framework for how to think, and help direct my thoughts away from fear, anxiety, or distraction. I can’t tell you how this has set me free from self-pity, expectations, and joylessness. Reading this list, (especially #5), made me realize I don’t deserve any of the blessings I have, not one. Thank you God!

6. Six Lessons In Good Listening by David Mathis @ Desiring God

A great read if you need to become a better listener, spouse, or friend. 
full_six-lessons-in-good-listeningThis is about how to listen well to people. Because when you listen well, you know how to love better, and speak better, too. I printed it out and highlighted all through this one. And then I realized I was actually a horrible listener. It made me start to think about what my marriage, and relationships would look like, if I really listened more carefully. I plan to take this one into the new year, as one of my goals is to be a better friend. And to listen well.

7. My First World Problems by Sasha @ MomLife Now

A great read if you haven’t thought about life outside America for awhile. 
img_20931I didn’t realize how powerful this was the first time I read it. But days, weeks, and even months later, I still find myself thinking of the message: Am I complaining about a “first world” problem, when there are millions suffering in much worse conditions? I am sure there is much written on this subject, but this was the first that made me start to really think. Now, when I begin to open my mouth about a problem with my cell phone, or that the grocery store was out of the toothpaste I like, this little voice comes back: “Is this a first world problem?”


Okay, now what what reads have most influenced, or changed your perspective this year? Anything you plan on reading this coming year? I would love to hear! (And I’m sure other readers would be glad for the referrals as well.)

Happy New Year and Happy Reading! May this year’s reading, whether fact or fiction, book or blog, or anything else you put before your eyes, shape you more and more into the image of Jesus. And may your eyes open further to His light, and your heart move closer to His warmth.

Love,

Rebekah

“May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing in Your sight. O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

When Writing is Seeing

“You can talk to God this way,” she said, then handed me a black composition journal and a new pen as we sat in Sunday School class. I did not know the power then, of what she had given me, of what was in my hands. Of words.

That words have life-giving power.

Since I was twelve, I have been scribbling down my thoughts, prayers, dreams, and nightmares in a journal. From junior high gel pens to more grown-up Barnes & Noble types…I cannot count how much I have written or how many journals I have gone through. Stacks.

Writing is how I engage with God. Pour out my heart. Get my bearings. But more than anything: to see. 

To see, is a beautiful gift. And when I stop writing, I stop seeing.  Stop looking for God, stop listening for Him. I go blind so quickly to all He is doing, all He has given me, all He is calling me to.

But to write, is to see. And to see, is to see Christ, high and lifted up.

Here at Barren to Beautiful, the goal is to listen and look for God’s beauty permeating through all of our current life. To see beyond the barrenness, the empty, the want. To put our gaze on Christ, the opener of our eyes. So that we will not walk away empty, or thirsty–but full. And satisfied in God.

I was recently featured by a beautiful blogger named Sasha at MomLife Now. She is one of my dear blogging friends who often helps me to see the glory all around me. She has this incredible ability to magnify small mundane moments into take-your-breath-away sacred ones. She is a true writer who becomes still enough to hear, to see the beauty. It’s amazing how reading about her world, actually makes me love mine more. You can check out a favorite, “Forever My Passion” here or by clicking the photo below.

Part of participating in this blog hop is to feature another blog you simply love.

I am thrilled to point you to Jeanne Harrison at Loving My Lot, the first blogger I ever fell head-over-heels for. Her blog, Loving My Lot, is all about embracing. Embracing Jesus. Your kids. Your husband. Your world currently. However glamorous (or unglamorous) it may seem.

If you want a refreshingly honest voice on the real issues today’s women/mother’s/wives face: read her blog. I have read many books written for today’s Christian women, and I have yet to find a voice this clear, piercing, and genuine (and might I add…enjoyable?).  I stumbled upon her as a new mom, with her post Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming, but was hooked ever since. She is like a really wise friend, who is not afraid to (hilariously and humbly) tell it like it is. And yet with wisdom, hope, and joy point you toward Christ. She offers everything from book reviews to topics like fearful parenting, romancing your husband, and being intentional with your kids and even practical advice on developing a schedule and taking care of your home. Her words are a continual joy and strength to me. And reading her words have helped me not only embrace, but enjoy what God has given me.

Dear sisters, wherever you are today, whether you are blind to the blessings, or gratefully aware of them: choose to see, and to keep seeing. Whether it’s reading, or writing. Whatever it takes. Listen closely.

You have a God who is speaking. Who can open eyes that are blind. Ears that are deaf. With His words. Words that create worlds. Words that heal wounds. Words that have life-giving power.

Words that help you see.