Kindness– in Muddy Puddles and Broken Teacups

black combat boot

He was mumbling unhappily as he hiked few yards behind my family on a trail to the falls at Yosemite National Park. His wife, a few feet behind him was doing her best to encourage him.

Then he stepped in a puddle. His shoes got wet and he released a slurry of words I did not yet understand at eleven years old. He was mad at himself for stepping into the puddle. He was mad at the puddle for being there. His wife looked at the puddle and sweetly placed her dry feet into the oozing, wet mud.

“Oh that is an easy puddle to miss.” She said. “See I stepped into it too.”

His attitude cooled slightly, and as our family slowed they passed on by us up the hill…both with wet feet.

My mother often reminded us of that story and  noted the kindness of that cranky man’s wife in her attempt to cool his nerves.

“Then there was the time that Mrs. Grover Cleveland attempted to engage a tongue-tied guest in conversation by seizing on the nearest thing at hand, an antique cup of the thinnest china. ‘

We’re so very pleased to have these; they’re quite rare and we’re using them for the first time today,’ she is supposed to have said.

‘Really?’ asked the distraught guest, picking up his cup and nervously crushing it in his hand.

‘Oh don’t worry about it,’ said the hostess., ‘They’re terribly fragile–see?’ She smashed hers. (Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior p. 7)

As a teenager, I checked out etiquette books at the library and read them repeatedly. I found etiquette fascinating. In college, I took several classes on etiquette and manners including meal etiquette and business etiquette. They were some of my favorite classes. 

Etiquette is a culture’s code on what is considered polite or rude. What is rude and what is polite is always changing as culture changes. The essence of etiquette is can be summed up as knowing how to treat others in your culture with love, respect, and dignity. The better etiquette a person has, the better human he or she is.

I will note, that one does not have to make a life-study of etiquette to have superb manners. What makes good etiquette is simply thoughtful kindness. Selfish people are incapable of good manners, and may use politeness only as a means to an end, not as a standard of kindness.

For some reason, many in our culture equivalate etiquette with fancy, rich, snobby people. This conception of etiquette is completely mistaken. Good etiquette is not stiff. It is certainly never snobby. And it is just as essential for the poor as for the wealthy.

Etiquette is the epidemy of selflessness. We might know that we are to live selflessly, but for those who do not automatically know how to be kind in every situation, etiquette provides us with various guidelines of what selflessness looks like.

Selflessness keeps its appointments and does not keep other’s waiting. Selflessness chews with it’s mouth shut. Selflessness says “please” and “thank-you.” Selflessness does not gossip. Selflessness does not dominate a conversation. Selflessness does not overstay its welcome. Selflessness does not talk with a mouth full of food. Selflessness does not embarrass others. Selflessness is dependable, kind, and gentle. Selflessness steps in muddy puddles and breaks fine china.

Etiquette is invaluable to our humanity. During the Holocausts, Jews were animalized. They were not seen as human, but as animals and were treated as such by being herded, beaten, worked, and killed. Jewish authors have often stated how much they missed culture. In the movie “The Pianist” we see a glimpse of the animalized Jews hungering to feel human again as they listened to music. 

Etiquette, (or should I say, selflessness) gives humanity its culture and is key to setting us apart us from all the other creatures God made.

The Japanese culture is a culture that is very respectful of other humans. The Japanese heritage runs deep into respect and honor, both the giving of honor and the keeping of honor. I am not familiar with all world cultures, but Japan certainly values good manners, and as a result, all humans in Japan are valued.

In Japan abortion regulations are very strict. Instead of being disregarded with age, as is common in American culture, the elderly become more and more honored with age. Education and culture are deeply valued. Meals are prepared and eaten with thought. Time with people is not hurried. People are important in the Japanese culture. Where etiquette is valued, people are valued. And where people are valued, good etiquette is also valued.

The careless spirit of our American culture does sadden me a bit. Not so much that we as a whole undervalue good manners, but that the root of our undervalue of courtesy is due to a lack of value and respect for each other.

People are not worth our time. Time with our family, is not more valuable that work, school and soccer schedules. Our busy lives proceed being on time and keeping our appointments. People and events are not worth our dressing appropriately. Responding to phone-calls, texts, and e-mails must fit into our busy timeline. Thank you notes…what are they? I could truly rant all day on the pains of poor etiquette in American culture.

But the greatest pain is that we consider poor etiquette acceptable, normal and even admirable. A mockery is made of our humanity as we gradually allow me, myself, and I to be the only thing that matters.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” 2 Timothy 3:1-3

Some Lessons From Grandma

I have been praying for my grandma a lot this past week as she has been wrestling with a bit of bronchitis. As a result, I have been reminded of so many ways she has impacted my life.

My Grandmother has a body that has lived ninety-six years. Her mind on the other hand is as young and energetic as a twenty-three-year-old.

She has lived through the Great Depression, World War I, and everything in-between now, and 1925. She is an incredible woman, with stamina that would take any woman to ninety-six!

My grandmother is a jack-of-all trades, and if she doesn’t know how to do something, she will find out how. She is a researcher, remember, thinker, and as curious as Albert Einstein.

The first impact that comes to mind would be music. Music is my grandmother’s great passion. I started taking piano lessons from her when I was five. She was a perfectionist. I was not. She felt all music should be played exactly as it was written. I liked to make up other parts in a piece (generally because I was too lazy to figure out the right notes in a cord). Grandma knew that though. She gave me finger drills and scales each lesson. She felt the fingering had to be spot on. I had no trouble crossing my ring finger over my index finger as needed. Grandma had her work cut out for her.

I wish I could say I came around to a more precise method of piano playing, but alas, to this day, my sight reading is week and my fingers want to play whatever my brain invents. And very sadly, I still have poor fingering and timing.

But Grandma’s efforts were not a loss. From her, I gained a deep appreciation for music and am determined to pass that on to my children as a life skill. In fact, music is deeply valued by all Grandma’s children and grandchildren as a result of her fervor and encouragement for it.

Education is something else my Grandmother deeply valued. Her father was the principle of the local public school. He held a Master’s Degree in the 1900’s. My grandmother also got a collage degree. For  woman in the 1940’s a college degree was a rare feat. All Grandma’s children and grandchildren also attended college, most of us with graduate degrees.

Education was priceless to Grandma and that value has been passed down from generation to generation. To this day, I am already preparing my children’s hearts to gain an education beyond high school. I truly believe in the value of having a tool or two in one’s belt. Education is a huge life asset even if one never uses the exact skill set he or she attended college to get. College acts like a springboard to greater opportunities. Much more is learned by receiving a college education than a paper degree too. It is rare anyone with a degree ever regrets getting one, but I have heard many regrets from those who did or could not take that path.

Just yesterday, my mother told me of little children in Africa walking miles to school. They sometimes encounter dangers on the way, and often go without food. In our culture of mostly free, easy schooling, it is inevitable that children grow up bemoaning their learning and not thinking of education as a privilege. The whole book of Proverbs speaks of the value of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Education is a great treasure and I know my Grandma sees it as that.

Grandma’s love for education does not stop with formal schooling, she has taught me to never be satisfied with what I know. To her, life is one big education. Grandma is incredibly curious. She wants to know everything about everything. Even at ninety-six she has an i-pad and likes to look up, this, and that. Her life is full of rabbit trails of knowledge.

As a child this made her a favorite person in my life. She was always interested in what I had to say, what I made, and anything that interested me. Everything is so interesting to her. I find my heart pricked if my mind is too occupied to soak in my children’s Lego builds or hear them tell of their dream from the night.

Just like my Grandma, I like to take learning detours with my children. At Grandma’s house we would see a bird at her feeder, even a familiar one like a cardinal, and she would go get her bird book and read us all about it. Later that week, she would drop by an article from the National Geographic. If we see something interesting, we stop and learn more about it. Learning was a constant in her world.

Grandma’s fascination with nature still brings my distracted heart back to earth. Nature is often far too neglected in our busy world. The Charlotte Mason method of education I have chosen focuses a lot on noticing nature in children’s younger years. From admiring little beetles under logs to taking long frolics in the meadow. Nature is truly a gift we have on earth to enjoy. All of my children have various fascinations with aspects of God’s creation. It is such a simple way to point each one to their Creator. Just look what an amazing animal God made! Look how the beautiful a tree is when it is dying! Our God has power over this thunder storm. We love nature, because it points our hearts to the creator.

My grandmother bought all of our children subscriptions to various National Geographic publications for years. She send my children articles on bugs, butterflies, and weather. She will give us old calendars with beautiful photographs of animals and birds. It is funny to see how her passion is being passed on to each generation.

Grandma savors everything and doesn’t hurry herself through life. I do not think I will ever have the skill of noticing details like my Grandmother does, but I think of her often in our world of glossing over generalizations. It is tempting to be fast, to skip over things, to see an image as a whole, and miss the whole point because the point of things is often seen in the details that we miss.

In our rush through life, there stands my Grandma, back by exhibit one, reading through all the information, gazing intently at the art and noticing every color. We rush through our meals and gobble up dessert. But there is Grandma, still sitting at the table, enjoying each morsel of her first helping. We hurry out on a walk, and loose Grandma. She is back at the first mile looking up in the trees with her binoculars.

We rush through life so quickly, I am afraid we will never get quite as much out of it as my grandmother who savors, notices, and is content to let the time pass without hurrying. Much could be learned by my soul if I  slow down taste the food I eat and listen to the people I am with.

Grandma knows how to be frugal. Living through the depression and a World War must have made a huge impact on my Grandmother. To this day she saves everything. She keeps the wax paper our of cereal boxes. Plastics bags are washed and reused. A paper napkin is used for more than just one meal. Handkerchiefs are still her preference to tissues. Grandma is careful not to be wasteful to the point her attics contain piles of brown paper bags, newspapers, empty milk boxes, and egg cartons. There may be a use for it someday.

Frugality is a lost art. This past year, some of us experienced the slight taste of valuing what we would normally waste, as paper products and some food items were scarce. It was short lived and we have returned back to our comforts, but for a time, we might have held a few things more carefully than we generally do. I admit to being a busy, rather wasteful person. Compared to my Grandmother, I ought to be ashamed. I am so busy, taking the time to wash a Ziploc bag crosses my mind, then leaves. I also do not like the clutter of various stored objects being set aside for later use. But as time goes on, I am seeing it as poor stewardship and a huge lack of gratitude. I need to find a good balance of frugality of time and resources and I know I could do better with both.

My grandmother is an incredible person the more I think about it. We all leave legacies to generations after us. The core life values my Grandma has instilled in her legacy are incredible, and have shaped our thinking, decisions, and paths for generations to come. I am grateful to still have a living Grandmother, and grateful for the valuable role she has played in my life!

For the Keeping of Christmas

Every year, I find myself re-evaluating how are family practices the Advent season. One might say I am on a mission to make it a deeper and more meaningful celebration each year. I am vigilant to see that the reason we celebrate this season does not get misplaced among the wrapping paper, Christmas cards, and cookies.

Materialism is a struggle for most Christians in the United States. We all are considered “rich” by much of the world’s population. Yet, in our minds, we are not, as we barely make ends meet each month, drowning in puddles of debt and desire.

Other than income tax returns, Christmas can be one of the most materialistic events of the year. I do not want my children to love Christmas because of what toy they are hoping to own by the end of the day. Priceless, eternal moments will be forever lost if that becomes the case.

I want our celebration of this Advent season to be a process of traditions that set our hearts to praise to our Father and stand in awe at the incarnation of our Savior. Our omnipotent God putting Himself in a human body! What an event worth a grand celebration by all of us who partake of the extreme grace that brought Him here!

I deeply embrace celebrating Christmas because of what that moment in time signifies to us under the law of grace. I do desire it to be an exciting and anticipated season in my life and in the lives of my family! I want it to be a time we set aside to reflect and rejoice. Our King has come to earth! It is certainly no small deal.

I am further motivated in my resolve to magnify this season by creating pointed traditions and practices as I study Scripture. Leviticus 23 has been particularly inspirational to me this year. Leviticus describes in detail feasts and sacred days ordained long ago by God for His people.

Feasting is a Biblical form of remembrance and worship: Leviticus 23 describes seven holy seasons that the Israelites were to keep. God wanted them to set aside those specific days or even weeks to reflect on Him in a certain way.

The first sacred day listed in Leviticus 23 is the Sabbath. The second, is Passover. There is also the Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. Other days have been added to the Jewish holidays since then, such as Purim as a result of Esther’s faith.

Each one of those sacred days is for a multi-faceted purpose. First, there is a human need to holding sacred days as part of building and proclaiming our faith. Days to celebrate important events in our faith helps us, ever so forgetful souls, to remember the God we worship as we spend time in celebrating a specific aspect of Him, such as God the Creator, God the Redeemer, or God the Provider.

Second, holy days mark ones faith not only to his or her own heart, but serves as a testimony to other’s of the faith held true. As Christians, our holy days are especially sweet guideposts as we celebrate events that are valuable to our faith-in particular the gospel, those set-apart days remind us of the unearthly kingdom of which we partake. How beautifully days such as Christmas proclaim that our kingdom is of another realm and the events that mark that realm supersede the world we dwell in now.

Third, Holy days help us to spend time to ponder and focus on different aspects of God. For instance, in our celebration of His incarnation we are reminded of the value of the gospel and the longing for its coming. Our hearts are also brought into worship of God as we amaze our souls with specific aspects of His grace.

Fourth, there is an amazing connection many of those ancient feasts have to the gospel. The Passover is incredible illustration. Jewish people have had the gospel plugged into their calendars since they left Egypt! Every holy-day we celebrate as Christians is pertinent to the gospel. At Christmas, we can revel in the fact that the gospel has come. Good Friday and Easter bring us to rejoice in the precious blood that covers us.

Traditions are a Biblical form of remembrance and worship: Back in Leviticus, it is clear that many specific traditions are given by God for the celebration of each feast. Often “rest” is noted as part of the feast. Specific foods are also required at each feast. Offerings are seem to be a regular part of the festivities as well. The feast days were meant to be different than other days, they are special…set apart…holy.

Traditions have long been a part of Jewish culture, but tradition is a very simple way for us humans to celebrate on purpose and with order. Traditions help guide us into faithfulness. They are not evil, despite the bad rapport they get of causing us to become mindless to what is important as we thoughtlessly go through motions. Traditions of faith actually have the opposite effect, if in fact, there is yet a heartbeat within a soul.

Our church celebrates the Lord’s supper every time we meet for worship. It is a tradition. Yes, it can be said that the frequency of sharing the Lord’s supper weekly can make it mundane and common instead of the sweet and savored moment it is. But truly, traditions that relate to ones faith can only be taken for granted if the heart of a person has already become neutral to it. The tradition is not at fault for a person’s lack of heart. Truly if a soul is filled with praise and love of God, such a tradition as the Lord’s supper is never in danger of becoming dull, but will be met with depth of heart and worship week after week.

Traditions are essential to the upkeep of our faith and can be pointedly powerful to stir our hearts in worship to God for the Great things He has done! Traditions are not a man made part of life and celebrations, but a God ordained necessity to the thriving of our souls and purposeful exultation of God.

Christ’s Birth is a major Biblical Event well worth our time to Celebrate. A previous post, Reclaiming Christmas, discusses more in depth with reflections on the book of Luke. Christmas is an incredible joyous event. And like little unborn John, we ought to leap as our souls ponder the incarnation of God.

Most Christians are not of Jewish blood and do not hold to the Jewish calendar of feasts. IN fact other than the Lord’s supper, very few traditions of the Christian faith are held. Even Christmas is often kept more as a family holiday that a sacred holy day.

As I find myself in growing awe of the grace poured out on my soul. I have been challenged year after year that the celebration of Christmas in our home should be more of a sacred event than a holiday filled with empty traditions. I am learning how to use the foods we eat, the gifts we give, the fellowship we hold, and the rest we have as an act of worship and rejoicing. I also seek to add wonderful advent readings and traditions year after year.

Christ’s incarnation is certainly an event we should purpose to celebrate daily, and even as a season we set aside to build MEANINGFUL traditions that could include worship in songs, Scripture readings, candles, advent calendars, rest from regular work, special foods and offerings and gifts as a celebration of our fullness of what He has done.

As a caution if indeed my intent is to set aside the Christmas season solely as a holy celebration of our King’s coming to earth, then I should most certainly prune out any pagan aspect of the sacred day we are creating. Nothing could downplay or be contradictory to our celebration of Christ’s birth, than if I should combine our celebration with gospel contradicting, worldly traditions such as, yes I am naming one, Santa. Certainly the Israelite nation would have destroyed the depth of meaning of their sacred feasts if they chose to include traditions of the pagan people around them. I cannot assume I can keep a day sacred and blend it with elements contrary to the gospel I hold so dearly.

How I strive to build an intentional traditions for the celebration of the sacred event in time I have chosen to celebrate. Such tools as food, gifts, rest, fellowship, song, and traditions can be pointed arrows to hold my heart and the hearts of those within my circle in awe of what God has done. The end purpose being to aid souls in deeper worship of our Savior.

Christmas is after all, essentially, an incredible celebration of the coming of the gospel! Rejoice!

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” Mt. 1:21.

The Ministry of Touch in the Home

Photo by Linnea Herner on

Touch connects us to our surroundings. Touch is what makes everything real. Thomas, a disciple of Jesus refused to believe that Jesus was truly alive until he saw and touched his Master. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe'” John 20:25. So many things we hear about are far less real to us until we see and touch them. Touch is how we experience reality. We humans are strongly connected to the physical world through our sense of touch.

Have you ever sat on your foot and realized you have cut off the circulation to it? Although you can see it, it is very difficult to orient where your foot is in the world. Yes, it is still attached to your leg, but it feels unfamiliar and awkward. It nearly impossible to even to take a step until the nerves in the foot have recovered. It is times like those that we realize how important our sense of touch is! Without feeling, we cannot even connect to the floor.

Some people struggle more than others with where they are in relation to the world. And some people struggle more at different times in their lives.

People who struggle with connection to the world are many and it is good for us who minister with our homes to be aware of people who might be in extra need of tenderness as they are in our home.

Older folk are weaker in body and have slower reflexes, balance, and a nervous system that is often concentrated on bodily pain. For many older folks, connecting to surroundings is crucial to keep from stumbling. They also live in a sense of feeling misunderstood, and disconnected with others as their mental and physical states slows down. It is needful for us to have things for older folks to grab onto..handrails on steps, a bar by the toilet and in the shower (especially if we have long term or frequent elderly folks staying in our home). For short term older visitors, such accommodations may not be necessary, but we should be conscious of placement during seating. I have found a chair with two arms is often easier for an older person to get out of, rather than a plush sofa. So, we could kindly direct our frail guests to the safer furniture in the room if they should prefer it. When my aging parents come to visit, my Daddy often prefers sitting on the floor to a sofa, it is less painful on his back and easier to get up from. Sometimes, elderly folk need a firm mattress because they cannot get out of a bed where they sink in too far. It is good just to be mindful of the things our weaker friends and family may find helpful to grab or rest.

Other people who may struggle with bodily awareness in this world is anyone who struggles with a physical or mental condition. Nerves can simply be wired inside the body in a way that causes weakness, numbness, discomfort, dizziness, uncoordinated, and mental strain. Various nerve re-wires can occur in multitudes of ways, sometimes before birth, from an injury, disease, hormonal imbalances, medications, or even high amounts of stress. We should be sensitive toward those in our home who might need a little extra physical connection, or a little less physical connection. This isn’t always easy to know with new friends, but it is something we should learn about others quickly so we can adequately minister to their souls in our home as best as we are able.

All children struggle exponentially more than most adults with their connection to the world because a child is not only continually growing, but still developing bodily awareness. No wonder a child will stumble and fall countless times a day. As a keeper of the home, showing grace over accidents is invaluable. Milk spills, bowls break, and ankles twist when a person’s height increases an inch over a month’s time. It is also crucial that I reach out to these little souls who are still developing a spiritual awareness and wrap my arms around them. They need snuggles, kisses, and hugs to thrive in their lives and to feel not only my love poured out on them, but learn to connect better to God as they experience the unconditional, sacrificial love of another real human being holding them tight.

As a wife, making a point to reach out to my husband in touch is crucial. As a married couple, we are sharing the most amazing connection a human can have with another. We are one person. It is hard for either of us to feel like one beating heart, if our hands never hold each others hand. We married folk need to be physically close…we pass each other in the hall and connect with a kiss.  I have incredible power to minister and bless the soul of my husband by simply stroking his hair. He can calm my troubles soul with a long, understanding hug. Physical touch has a powerful way of binding souls together, and love language or not, touch is absolutely essential in marriage.

The sense of touch is essential to all humans. I believe people who did not grow up in a nurturing home, truly struggle all their lives with relationships. Relationships and people are not real because through childhood a person had little to no hands on connection with a person who loves them…no snuggles, no hugs and kisses, no pats on the back or brushing away of tears. No wonder relationships seem unreal… disconnected. Those who live alone may go for weeks, even months without ever connecting with another human through touch. I was told by a dear friend who ministers in nursing homes, that the elderly are particularly left untouched, and a hug means more to them than life itself. Those of us mothers who are surrounded by young children in constant need of affection can easily take for granted the connection we have to other people.

As part of developing a nurturing environment in the home for soul to find rest and joy in God, I find touch is crucial. Contact with other humans is not the only aspect of touch that should be considered. I noted a few ways I like to consider the affects the sense of touch might have in our home as I continually seek to use the home as a tool to minister to the soul and bring souls into a place of worship and deeper understanding of their loving Father.

Human Touch is probably the most important form of touch in our home. Why does a child in distress run to his Mama? Yes, a verbal consolation may take place, but what is really needed is a spot on Mama’s lap and Mama’s arms wrapped around his sobbing body. He needs touch to help heal his sad heart feel better, and he knows it. We don’t really try hard to connect with our children with snuggles, hugs, and kisses. It has always come very naturally for both myself and my husband. Honestly, I can’t stop kissing those sweet chubby cheeks! But I do notice that if I am having a busy day, I am less prone to try to reach out to my children’s emotional needs through a cuddle. It is hard for any mother to jump into affection when her mind is busy checking lists. So, I am certainly working on being aware of my children’s needs even when stress is high in our home.

A hug, a pat on the shoulder does so much to bring comfort to souls. A touch says, “I acknowledge you are real and what you are going through is real.” A touch says, “I see you.” A touch says, “I am here, I am a human with you.” A touch says, “you are not alone.” The power of human contact has been studied extensively. It is incredible the affect it has on the development of a new-born. Touching people brings people together in a way that nothing else can do. People need to connect with each other through the physical world of touch. Touch allows us Christians to open gentle pathways with other humans from this real physical world of senses, to the real world of eternity that cannot even be imagined.

When we have guests over we make a point to connect with them, a handshake for the guys and a shoulder hug for us women is a typical greeting in our culture. It welcomes our friends and makes them felt “seen” as well as provides that connection to them in our home. Without it, they might feel a little lost. There have been times I have missed that moment in our greeting and felt a discomfort as our guests try to feel out where there place is in our home. When there are large groups or several families gathering, it is easy to let greetings slide as people come and go and I get caught up in the kitchen or another conversation. This is an area I am still working on, but certainly I am trying to purpose to greet each guest…even each child (Little Who’s Are People Too) as they come in the doors of our home.
Creature affections are probably the next best thing to human affection. We have a sweet outdoor cat. I know many folks find their spirits are greatly soothed by simply petting a cat. A puppy will probably be in our future. Part of the reason for a dog in our home would be for touch. A good dog will invite touch and acknowledges others by showing unbiased affection through the sense of touch. Animals are great at soothing our souls and providing companionship and someone to talk to for those who live alone. Yes, they can be maintenance, but very often, it is worth the time and expense for the way a creature can be a blessing in the home. I have couple friends who have had a serious head injury. As a result, their doctor prescribed a pet to help relieve stress and help them recover. The main reason a doctor prescribes a therapy animal is touch. By coming into contact with another living creature, stress is relived and nerves are soothed. Touch is very grounding.

Heat and Cold should be set comfortably. I find as I grow older, my body temperature changes. Babies and elderly folks tend to need the house a little warmer than the average individual. When we have guests with very young or of grey hair, I make sure to add extra blankets to the bed, or at least point our guests to where they can get one. Keeping the house comfortable, not too hot or cold is helpful as we converse with others, it is one less distraction we and those we converse with have as we fellowship.

Warmth can also be a very sweet feature in the cold of winter. The warmth of a fireplace or a soft robe or blanket. Helping our friends and family members snuggle and find rest in tje warmth of the home can bring some treasured chats over cups of warm cocoa.

Cold, of course is welcomed in the heat of summer. Iced lemonade, a soft breeze through an open window, or ice-cream in a cone…I find offsetting the season with colder treats somehow brings balance.

Earth and nature are very important to touch. I love to see my children run barefoot through the grass. It seems so natural…real. There are studies on the subject of connection to the earth with our bodies. One of my favorite author’s, Charlotte Mason, notes that it is important for children to run and play outdoors as much as possible. Besides blossoming their imagination and love for learning, being outdoors helps children to develop coordination, strong bones and muscles, and learn where they are in relation to the world, simply by placing their feet on the ground for hours a day. . . or up a tree… Grounding brings confidence, peace, and ease. We need to touch earth, plant something, walk in bare-feet, picnic on the grass… I find touch essential to my soul. I personally need to take the time to connect with the rest of the creation God made. I need to take time to feel the wind blow across my face, the warm sun hit my back, the wet morning grass lick my feet, and mud ooze between my toes. A homemaker can garden, plant things, play with children in bar feet, picnic, and make time for enjoying the feel of all God made and sharing that with others. We grownups need to rejoice in the earth God made, just as much as a child does. It makes my heart fill with awe as though God Himself is reaching out and touching me through His Creation. 

Touch is the gospel. Touch is humanity. Touch is God coming to us in a human form. Touch is God healing our souls.

The Ministry of Scents of the Home

I have always been rather sensitive about smells. When I was pregnant, those sensitivities would escalate to the point I wanted to crawl out of my skin to even take out the trash. Once when I was pregnant, we had dead possum under our porch. The horrible smell leached into our basement and then into the entire house. I found it unbearable to the point I packed up the children and left the house for the day. When my sweet husband came home and saw my distress, he removed the porch floorboards and shoveled out the rotting possum. Then he poured bleach over the entire area. Without the consuming horrid smell, my heart was again at peace.

Smell has a greater affect on our hearts than we realize. Potent, stifling smells can be very stressful and make us want to run as far away as we can. Warm, welcoming smells of stewing applesauce and fresh bread, vanilla and spices, or even a clean, crisp lemon scent can set a tone that makes our hearts be at peace and want to stay a while.

Within the home, creating inviting scents and working to keep unpleasant odors under control is therefore essential in preparing a platform for ministry to happen within our walls. The sense of smell, is therefore a wonderful tool I can use in my pursuit of creating a home environment the welcomes spiritual growth and joy in God.

Pay attention to the smells of the home. So often we become accustomed to smells within our walls, that other people might find foreign or uncomfortable. As much as I enjoy fish, I am careful to chose the nights I will cook it. If I am expecting company after dinner, fish will not be on the menu. Although it does not have an odor I find appalling, for many people, the smell of fish is extremely potent and unpleasant.

Animals that live in the home can also make a home smell. It is important to keep indoor dwelling creatures clean and the places they hang out washed and freshened regularly. We do not have an indoor cat, but have kept ours indoors during certain stages of his life so I know that if there is a cat in the house, the kitty littler should be in a room that is tucked away from the rest of the living space…a laundry room, sun-room, or closet where a door can be shut on the ever present odor.

There various are smells that are built into the walls of our home and therefore a constant that we must work to mask or continually re-eliminate. We lived in an old farmhouse for a few years and it always had a very musty smell. In the room above the wet basement, was a den with wood paneling on every wall. I found rubbing that wood paneling down with a mixture of cinnamon oil and coconut oil made the house smell fabulous for weeks.

Carpets and walls may hold in smell from ourselves or even previous dwellers. while fresh paint often takes care of the walls, carpets can be far more difficult to deodorize. Despite the wide market of products on the market, the smell will keep coming back. I recently invested in a carpet cleaner for our current home and it has made a big difference in freshening up the carpets on occasion. Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and left overnight can be helpful. But powdered products are awfully hard on the vacuum cleaner, so they shouldn’t be used except in extreme cases. For me, just keeping a regular carpet cleaning is the best move. I have sprinkled peppermint or lavender oil on the car carpets and car-seats from time to time. That doesn’t eliminate bad orders, but can cover them up in a natural and pleasant way.

If at all possible use natural scents in the home. This is an area that is still in progress for me. I love to burn candles, but finding candles that are safe to breath hasn’t always been a priority because of the cost and accessibility. But after having a guest with sensitivities to a candle I burned, I will at least do my best to burn a naturally scented candle when we have visitors.

I already clean with natural products as I discussed in the post, Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural. Cleaning products are certainly a vital area we homemakers need to watch. Many products we use daily and  weekly, are not only toxic to breathe, but can cause severe allergic reactions to some people. I want a home that has air as safe to breathe as I can am able to create.

Chemical scents are often loaded into laundry as well. Guests with allergies would be unable to stay with us if I wasn’t careful about the products I use in laundry. My husband is also one of those who is sensitive to laundry softeners. So, if I must include softener in my laundry, I am careful to get one that is natural and hypoallergenic…yes…and unscented. But laundry doesn’t have to be boring. A few drops of lavender oil on a rag can brighten up the smell of hot clean clothes tossing in the dryer. I also LOVE a laundry line. Read about that more in my Laundry on the Line post. Nothing has a more amazing scent than line dried sheets and clothing!

I am very opinionated on the subject of plug-ins and sprays that are made to make a room smell good. They can be incredibly overpowering and in fact even though they might not stink like a dead possum, they make many folks…like me…gag. I find the artificial smells overpowering and believe many others do as well. Instead a diffuser with a favorite blend of essential oils, a few spices in a pot of simmering water (or mini crock pot), a naturally scented vanilla candle, fresh flowers, potted plants, or even a batch of freshly baked bread can make a home smell incredible without concern of causing anyone discomfort.

Cleanliness is vital to maintaining a home without bad odors. One of the most effective ways to keep a home smelling pleasant is simply to keep it clean. Some of the most notorious bad smells in the home are poopy diapers, kitty litter, and un-emptied trash cans.

My children collect trash throughout every room in the house on a daily basis. I empty those baskets in the kitchen trash, and take it out to the trash bins outside. Baby diapers get wrapped tightly in a special bag to lock in the smells, or they get put in a diaper bin. Kitty litter should be changed daily to prevent it from any odor. I already discussed carpets, but carpets and wood can absorb smells.

Wood is like skin, when it is warm and humid it opens up and releases all those lovely or less lovely smells. Wood floors and paneling can be cleaned with a gentle soap and water (I favor Murphy’s oil). Then the wood can be nourished with a simple blend of a cheap oil like sunflower oil and a few drops of an essential oil. I like to rub oil into the wood just after it has been cleaned with warm water.

Dust has a smell. Have you ever turned on a heater the first brisk day of fall and smelled the dust getting hot? Well, imagine a layer of dust on blinds, furniture, or framework. Being faithful at wiping off the dust can be very helpful in keeping a room smelling fresh.

Appliances can hold odors as well…dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines need to be cleaned as well. Appliances should all work without producing any bad odors. For tips on how I clean, check out how I use baking soda and vinegar in my home in My Household Friend: Baking Soda and The Role of White Vinegar in My Home. And just a thought…if you have a vacuum cleaner that has a dusty smell even after it has been emptied, it is time to ditch it and get a new vacuum. A vacuum cleaner should function without any smell.

Fresh air is a wonderful way to keep a home smelling good. Open the windows in the spring and fall can really help air out the house and keep fresh air rotating. The smell of fresh air naturally soothes my mind and a the smells of flowers, soil, and trees give my heart thoughts of God’s goodness.

Prepare for bad smells. The bathroom is a place where bad smells occur. It is a great idea to keep a plan on hand to mask unpleasantries to noses. A bathroom spray or a match are very effective and should be kept available for guests as well as ourselves to use as needed. When we have guests, keeping a candle burning in the bathroom is an easy way to remove the potential of embarrassing smells. If possible one should also make sure there is a way for air to circulate within a bathroom by keeping a vent or window open a crack at all times.

Bad odors can also occur in the kitchen. Even kept clean, a fridge can breed odor. A box of baking soda is a helpful odor absorbing product to keep in freezers and refrigerators. I simply punch a few holes in the top of my baking soda box and put the whole box in the back of the refrigerator and freezer. The kitchen trash should be emptied daily. Our trash is emptied more like 2-3 times a day. Burnt foods should be disposed of outdoors as quickly as possible. If you are planning to do a project inside the house that will involve paints or chemicals, plan those projects on warmer days if possible so windows can be opened for ventilation.

The sense of smell enhances all of our other senses. Because of smell, food has taste, flowers have freshness, and a walk in the woods is so refreshing. Smell is like salt to our sense of sight, hearing, touch, and taste…perhaps it could be lived without, but life is far better with a sense of smell! As a homemaker, I certainly try to put smell to good use to enhance the overall flavor of my home into a place that nurtures our souls and opens pathways for our heart to rejoice in our Creator.

The Ministry of Taste in the Home

Food thought a very temporal and tangible substance has incredible spiritual implications and is essential to the life of the body, and theretofore the life of the soul within the body. The sense of taste, is therefore an essential ministry we homemakers need to study for use in our home.

Foods served in each home very much reflect the culture and lifestyle of that home. As the post, Ministering Through Physical Senses in the Home describes, there is no right or wrong on the matter, we each will make foods we serve based upon our upbringing, who we married, allergies, time constraints, nutritional needs and eating habits, as well as our level of joy and comfort in cooking.

In biblical times eating was not only treasured during fellowship with others, but various foods and feasts held specific symbolism. Our constant need for physical nourishment is symbolic of our need for constant spiritual nourishment. Taste can open up incredible pathways for our spirits to be nourished.

Food provides opportunities for fellowship and spiritual conversations with our own family as well as with friends and un-churched folks. How often our own family has lingered around a dinner table as we discuss a topic of our faith. Or in small group, food is an avenue that allows us to ponder our faith and lives together as we share a snack together after Bible study. Food slows us down and gives us a reason to linger a moment with others. Even a simple cup of tea is all that is needed to pause in life, to be still, alone or shared with others.

I try to keep a balance of eating habits in our home. Taste has so many intricate affects and meets various needs from celebration, to nutrition, and to prayer. All should be included thoughtfully through the patterns of home-making.

On a daily basis, I serve the best food I can afford that will enrich the bodies of my family. Wholesome food helps us think clearly and have energy to serve others. I find if I am not eating balanced meals and snacks, my mental clarity and physical stamina plummet. I go into more depth about how my faith affects impacts healthy eating habits in the post:  Pursuing Health for God’s Glory. Someone once told me that it is those who are sick who eat the healthiest diets. It is because the sick are the ones who are who realize the value nutrients bring their bodies because the sick hunger for healing so their souls can engage in life without the restrictions their body presents. One should not wait until our bodies malfunction before beginning healthy eating practices. Each day is the time to nourish our body, so we can be as physically fit as possible for us. Yes, that level of health will vary from person to person depending on the body God has given us and its age. Regardless, it is our responsibility to maintain properly, just like our car, our house, and our children. We must care for our bodies the best we know how to do. Food should be eaten with others in mind, not for our temporary selfish comfort.

I make it a priority in our home to share the tastes of our home with others. When I share the tastes of our home, I am essentially sharing the goodness God has poured upon us, with others. I LOVE doing that! I like to keep casseroles, bread, and soups in my freezer at all times. It is so easy to grab a few items and deliver them to whomever the Lord lays on my heart at any given moment. If I have nothing adequate prepared, I have a small list of “go to” comfort dishes to take to folks. We once had a sweet neighbor, and I enjoyed setting aside a portion of the food I made to tun over to her. I also love having others in our home to share food around our table and fellowship! My point is that we must find ways we can share the tastes of our home with others. So often we wait too long for opportunistic to pop up instead of making our own opportunities. Sharing food with others can be done on a weekly basis without too much effort. We can run some cookies to our neighbors, take a jar of home-made soup to a sick family we know, invite folks over for a meal, run a surprise dinner over to the single working mom across the street…with food in our hands, we can intrude into others lives with ease. For those who want to learn more about how to minister with food, I do include more practical tips about sharing food in the post: Sharing Meals With Others.

I like to use food as a tool of showing God’s goodness to hurting hearts. Food can provide a level of comfort. Eating food for the comfort it brings is not entirely evil. There are seasons in our lives where we draw comfort from silence, music, a walk in nature, or a cuddle with a furry creature by the fire. God has made an incredible world full of little things that bring us joy. Now, God is certainly the source of eternal, lasting comfort. Truths from Scripture will provide our souls with the kind of comfort that heals our wounds. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” II Corinthians 1:3-4. Food can be an incredible tool that can help us reflect on God, His goodness, and blessing. Sometimes a meal from the past brings comfort as we are reminded of sweet memories and blessings the Lord has given us in the years before. Sometimes a meal taken to a hurting soul provides comfort as that meal is eaten with thoughts of not facing trials alone and God’s sustaining grace through each moment. Food shared with hurting souls can be such a beautiful picture of the table prepared for us by our Loving Shepherd. If I know my husband has had a rough day at work, I will often choose to cook something comforting, a favorite casserole or meat and potatoes dish, I can ease the stress of his day by preparing a meal that will bring rest to his soul. Food, like no other sense, can aid in helping souls see the many blessings in their lives and praise God for His goodness. 

Food can serve as a means of celebration. A dear friend of mine once pulled me aside as I struggled over the enormous amounts of sugar being fed to my children during Christmas. She kindly reminded me that throughout the history of Israel, various feasts were encouraged to help the people remember the faithfulness of God. The Passover is one such feast and every item in the Passover meal is symbolic for s And as Christians, we should embrace seasons of feasting with grace, not guilt. Certain foods are customary in our home for specific holidays. As a home-maker, I can use those foods in ways that will help my children remember the holiday and remember the goodness of God as we make and enjoy Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, and cinnamon rolls. Those are not every-day foods, but ones reserved for a day of worship and joy in our God. It is not enjoyed in vain. Now, there are traditions others in our family hold to certain feasting days, we are not all the same, and we can change some of our traditions into healthier versions if we so desire. Now, feasting does not mean gluttony. I will note here that gluttony and feasting are different. Feasting is a heart enjoying in gratitude for God’s blessing. Gluttony is over-indulging in food with a thankless, mindless greed. Gluttony is always a sin, and has nothing to do with how much a person weighs, but about the greedy heart of the thankless eater.

The absence of food is also important when we homemakers set aside time to fast. I am a firm believer in the art of fasting and prayer. I have seen the Lord work amazing things when I have set aside my physical hungers in my desperation to see the Lord work. My heart in prayer with even more fervency than on a full stomach. As my body feels the pangs of hunger the hunger fills my prayers. For those who have not taken a time to fast, it is well worth the effort. Yes, it takes discipline, but it is amazing to me how the physical cravings can be flipped into spiritual cries from my soul. I have a friend who would set aside Sunday’s to fast and pray. Another who fasts every Wednesday for his children. One day doesn’t make me hungry enough to bring my soul into fervent prayer. I often prefer to do a week to three week increment. It isn’t always going completely without food either, sometimes limiting myself to bone broth or a simple vegetable soup once a day keeps me hungry, but also gives me enough energy to keep up with my children for that time. Recently, Esther has come to mind and her request to Mordecai that he and all Israel fast and pray with her before she went to see the king. “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16. The people of Nineveh also fasted and prayed fervently as described in Jonah 3:5-8. Desperate people will fast and pray. Are we not desperate? Fasting is not practiced by many Christians. It is almost as though we are awkward even talking about it. Many people don’t even know what it means to fast. Most of us simply don’t make time for it in our lives. We fear the discomfort we will have from fasting more than the spiritual discomfort we experience. Fasting should not be something we are self-conscious about as Christians. It should be a way of life. But as Jesus reminds us, we are not to tote it about pridefully either. It is not a badge of honor, it is a humbling, serious, prayerful experience we should make plans to embrace in our lives.

Regular meal times are invaluable. In our own home, I guard mealtimes. We have a dining room, which I love. That is where we sit down every evening together to eat dinner. I try to keep meals “on the go” to a bare minimum and plan our schedules around dinner-time. It is a time our family can re-group, fellowship with each others, and well…learn how to love others by practicing good manners. Our sit down dinners vary in formality depending upon the meal and time I have in the day to prepare dinner. But we always sit together. My husband’s evening work hours are always different depending upon meetings and sometimes traffic. So, we do have a later dinner hour than most. On rare occasions I will feed the children early, but in general we wait until he is home so we can enjoy dinner together. The family dinner table is not something required in Scripture. It is very much a personal endeavor as a home-maker to connect the lives of everyone inside the home for one short period in the day. It also enables me to make sure balanced eating habits are maintained. I believe it is an important time for my children to share their day with their busy Daddy too. Maintaining dinnertime is a way I have found that, whether they know it or not, ministers to the souls of my husband and children.

I love being able to use tastes to minister to not only my own soul, but everyone I can! Food is truly a versatile toll of ministry like no other. I do believe how I use taste in the home is an evolving process, and will continue to grow and change through the years as  I continue to taste the goodness from the table of my heavenly Father!

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Ps. 34:8

The Ministry of Sound in the Home

Sound is probably the most important human sense.

I took a special needs psychology course in college and was challenged to go out in public for several hours without the use of one of my senses. I choose to go without sight. I believed sight would be the most difficult sense to go without and wanted to experience what it would be like not to see.

So, I put band-aids and sunglasses over my eyes and had a friend drive me to the grocery store and then a restaurant for dinner. I thought not having sight would be far more challenging than it was. I was surprised that I could navigate my way through the store using my senses of sound and touch. I was able to pick out items I needed. I even dropped coins and pick them up. I managed to find my credit card in my purse to pay. I also enjoyed a splendid lunch with my friend.

After experiencing a sightless adventures, I became extra grateful for my other senses, especially my hearing.  I could engage in conversation with my friend, hear cars, conversation, enjoy music, and even sense the closeness of objects because of my reliance hearing. Had it not have been for my ears, I would have been at a terrible loss. I also would have felt completely alone and isolated. I learned that day that not being able to hear would be far more depressing than not being able to see.

Have you ever noticed while watching a movie how the music is truly what engages your emotions during the plot? Watching a movie in silence would not have near the affect as even listening to the soundtrack with closed eyes! The music gives away more of the plot in a movie than the visual affects. We can tell a scary event is occurring simply by the change in music. Romantic portions of a movie have certain notes, as well as the heart pounding rush of a man on the run. The music sets the tone for what we see and feel throughout a plot. Movies that are extremely successful are also known for their amazing soundtracks.

Stores also know the power of sound. The music played in Fresh Market sets a tone of elegance and leisure while a store like Best Buy monopolizes on the latest hits to emphasize the modern tone of their store. Restaurants often play music that will either speed people up on their eating experience, or cause them to relax and slow down a bit. What sounds we hear in various places are not put there haphazardly, but with careful thought to the impact those sound will have on our psychology. 

In the home, sound is also a crucial player in ministering to our souls. Just like the sights of our home must be thought out as discussed in The Ministry of Sight in the Home, so it is important for us homemakers to set the auditory atmosphere in our home. As a Christian, I strive to have sound in my home that allow the soul to be free and at ease to seek God, I also try to eliminate sounds that are disturbing. I find there is more chaos in obnoxious, incoherent, mixtures of sounds than in the chaos of what I see visually. Although sounds in the home, especially with lots of children, can be sometimes difficult to manage, my husband and I work on keeping excessive loudness down inside the home and maintaining peaceful and nurturing audio in conversation and entertainment.

There are a few basic steps I have taken to ensure control what is heard in our home. 

Maintain volume guidelines. This is crucial for every home, but extra difficult the more little people that live in a home. I do believe the volume does have to flex a bit according to the size of the home and the size of the family. We instruct our children to use quieter and keep their volume down while inside the house, but do allow a lot more vocal exuberance when they are outdoors. I have little tolerance for squabbling and whining and fits are simply not tolerated. I have often sent an incessantly fussy child to his or her room with instructions not to return until he or she is done fussing and pleasant to be around again. If that fails, the child in question has signed himself or herself up for an afternoon nap. Sometimes, extreme grumpiness is a result of a poor night sleep or overstimulates the day before, or even the first clue a child isn’t feeling well. A nap has altered many a bad emotional course in our home. Hey…it even works for me!

Build a quiet time into each day. I have built in an hour-two hour quiet time in every day. It is a moment of quiet for myself as well as for each of my children. Even little ones need a social break. Children under five spend the quiet time in their rooms, usually napping. If napping days are past, quiet play is permitted. Each child older than five plays alone and quietly for the one to two hours, usually after lunch I ask each child to pick a spot where he or she is going to be for quiet time. And they gather coloring, toys, or books, art supplies, and nestle in that spot for an hour or so, no TV or electronic devices are permitted. On occasion I will allow quiet group play, like play-doh at the kitchen table or even outdoor play, but the children are not allowed to bother me except for emergencies. They know this quiet time is important for them and to me as well. I can study Scripture, pray, write, take a nap if needed, make phone calls, or catch up on housework. This quiet moment in the day is gold to me. 

Don’t mix too many various sounds. I have a one thing at a time policy for many things in our home. The children play with one toy at a time and pick it up before moving on to another. If I allow nature to take its course, toy after toy would be pulled out, every room would be a disaster by the end of the day. By keeping a “one-toy-out-at-a-time” policy, this does not happen. Sounds are the same way. We do not practice piano while the stereo is on, one will be turned off before engaging in the next sound. 

Allow noise in designated times and places. Yelling and shouting is for outdoors in our home. I do not give the children volume regulations when they play outside, unless they are going out before 9 a.m. of course. There are also certain toys that are specifically outdoor toys…horns and whistles to name two. If those toys are played in the house, I take them away for a while. I am strict about this rule because the volume of noise from a whistle or horn would overwhelm our home. Most battery powered toys today are not as obnoxious as I remember as a child, however musical instruments can border on obnoxious if played with inexperienced hands. I feel it is important for children to explore musical instruments, so do not disband them in the house. We have bells, a recorder and a piano, but all three are not engaged simultaneously. And very often a time limit is imposed for the exceptionally loud “concerts.”

Listen to music and podcasts that draw our hearts into worship and growth in our walk with God, not pull us away from Him or distract us from finding our complete satisfaction and joy in God. I have my favorite podcasting friends I love to listen to on a regular basis. But, I also find worship music and classical music to be my “go-to’s” for daily listening. Those genres minister to my soul more than any other type of music. I admit that Mozart plays in our home the most. I love the intelligent calm my soul receives from listening to Mozart. I find myself able to think better than any other genre. Not everyone is wired the same, so certainly there is plenty of room  for various tastes and needs. My husband can stomach news and weather broadcasts and keeps up on them without too much aggravation. I find the bias and irrelevance too frustrating for my heart and do not keep up with listening to news or political events. This does not mean I am apathetic, but that I simply am very choosy about what I put in my brain. I prefer to read news from selected sources rather than listen to it. I also do not want my children to listen to the news until they are old enough to discern truth from fiction and recognize methods of propaganda. So, we don’t watch or listen to news in our home. Regardless of what we choose to listen to in our home, it should be something we spend time considering and don’t thoughtlessly let our ears hear voices that could impact our souls.

Don’t underestimate the power of silence. Silence is a very wonderful indulgence for our ears. How easy it is to have noise constantly pouring into our souls from our ears, it can be very difficult to “be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 if we don’t embrace quiet in our lives. As a camp counselor one summer, part of my training was to go out into the woods at night. Woods in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night truly limits ones sense of sight, and I was taught to embrace the sounds of the night. How rarely we actually listen to the world around us! Crickets, bugs crawling on dry leaves, sticks falling from a tree, and the slight rustle of leaves in the breeze… all of what our ears hear points to our amazing Creator and can draw our hearts to worship. Sometimes, only in silence can a soul actually hear what it was made to hear.

Fighting and arguing should be moved from quickly. Scripture commands us in Romans 12:8 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are a family of sinners, living in a sinful fallen world, so yes, there are times when the sounds in our home are not beautiful. My children do squabble. They do say hurtful things to each other. They can be very cranky and argumentative. My goal is to nip it quickly. It takes two to disagree, so I usually find the perpetrators and try to discern the reason for the quarrel. Very often, pointing them to Christ is all it takes to re-align their thoughts. “Does what you are doing and saying bring God glory?” Then a hug between the two offenders accompanied with an apology ensues. Giggles often follow as the two try to over-hug. But I do believe humor is a great mood adjuster…making my children partake in a tickle fight or game of making funny faces is very helpful in getting them to change mental directions. I do not want to ignore their squabbles no mater how trifle they seem to me. Disagreements are normal, but it is important to teach children how to handle those situations and how to move past that moment of pain and back into friendship. I do realize not every child is wired to adjust his or her attitude on a dime, but as parents who know our children, we can certainly find ways that work for each of our children, to help them respond in biblical ways to squabbles and hurts. This takes time…years in fact, but it is essential to cultivate in little hearts. Way too many adults have no idea how to handle conflict correctly, leading to broken relationships, divorce, and un-Christlike Christian testimonies. As the post His Grandma Shocked Me describes, it is essential for our grown-up hearts to learn and practice quick make-ups that finish with a dash of warmth. Bitterness, grudges, the silent treatment are immature and godless responses to disagreements and hurts in children just as much as in adults.

Yelling and shouting is for outdoor play and emergencies…that includes Mommy and Daddy. There are occasions for shouting and yelling like: “Stop running into the road!” But very often, I try to keep that sort of volume for emergencies. In our home, we have utilized technology to help keep yelling and shouting to a minimum. We have Amazon Echo in almost every room of our home and find that to be an excellent venue for announcements and intercom chats. I can call children to dinner from my kitchen, without raising my voice. My husband can drop in the children’s rooms and tell them to be quiet at bedtime. It has worked out quite well for us. If I must address a child, firmness is my mode of conversation over volume. I know there can be some very long frustrating days for parents, but to keep an atmosphere of peace and godliness, both my husband and I do our best use firm, serious voices instead of loud, angry voices in addressing those situations that must be dealt with sternly. I want my children to pay attention when I yell, and if I am always yelling, they will quickly learn that it doesn’t matter. so, if I do raise my voice, it is for a matter of upmost urgency and they all look right at me with wide eyes. 

Oh how crucial it is for a home-maker to have mastery over the sounds in her home! Chaos in the ears goes straight to the soul. We can cultivate such beautiful environments for spiritual growth, godly focus, and worship if we purpose what sounds echo throughout the walls of our home. 

The Ministry of Sight in the Home

Sight is a wonderful sense. There is so much we can behold with our eyes that points to our Creator.

Hearts that find joy and complete satisfaction in God will see everything through wide eyes of amazement in God. I try to cultivate sights in our home that will enrich our amazed hearts. What we see with our eyes, can draw us closer to God and bring us to worship. The sights around us can also aid our hearts to be at rest and allow us to focus on God without distraction. What we see around us has great power to point us to be in wonder of our Heavenly Father.

The contrary is also true that various sights can cause our soul to be troubled. Certain sights can be a distraction from our focus on God. Some things we see with our eyes can give us fear, stress, and anger. There are even sights can be utterly dangerous to our souls if we succumb to temptation through what we see and choose to sin. I try to think through everything in my home…books, wall decor, entertainment, and even order. I want to evaluate the visual affect each room will have on the soul. I want to purpose to use what is seen in our home to draw our souls to Christ and keep us from distraction that would fix our eyes on anything but Christ.

As discussed in: Ministering Through Physical Senses in the Home, The culture of the home does determine a lot about how each person’s home looks. Not everyone is naturally neat and clean. Not everyone has the same taste in decor and style. Not everyone has an eye for beauty in the home. In fact, even if we are good at something, there is always someone who is better at it than we are. Since we are all different, we all have areas in our lives that we need to cultivate and grow, in order to better serve the Lord. Not to be discouraging, but like all areas in our lives, the path of growth in homemaking is endless. It is essential however, that we are on the path of continual learning and changing, and improving our home environment. I have found that the Lord does show me ways I need to grow in my ministry of homemaking. But it is most certainly very important that as makers of homes, we seek ways to purposefully cultivate the inside view of our homes to a place that enhances the light in our soul.

Neat and Clean: I know some people struggle with order more than others, but I cannot impress enough how crucial it is to maintain the home in an orderly way. The standard and ease of order will look different for a woman in her sixties compared to a young mother with three toddlers. But we should all do our best to have patterns of cleanliness and order in the home. If not for our own sake, we must strive for neatness for God and for others.

Sometimes people, I would be one, who get stressed just looking around a home in disarray. I see work to be done and my heart does not feel at peace. My husband also breaths easier when he looks about the house and it is in order. Somehow messes breed a sense of chaos in us. I do not want that feeling in my home, so the solution is to pick it up and teach my children how to pick up after themselves…certainly a work in progress. There are those, who are at peace with mess. That is a good thing, but that does not mean the mess should be left because one is at peace with it.

Our home is not about us, but about God. The home is a tool God has entrusted to our care. If everything was just about us, we could do as we please, but the point is that our lives are about God, as is our home. We need to treat it with respect for the One who placed the home under our care. We can minister to souls with our home in good order.

If I think of chaotic noise, for instance simultaneously a trumpet being practiced in one room, the stereo playing rock and roll playing loudly while children squeal and dance, and a blender on in the kitchen… the chaos of sound can be very disturbing to the soul and prevent the soul from being still and knowing God. Visual chaos has the same affect as visual sound on the soul. Just like we need audio quiet, we need visual quiet to aid in the stilling our souls. Order is primary, but so is simplicity. Too much going on visually can take place in a neat and clean room that simply is filled with too much stuff. Like five Mozart sonatas playing simultaneously. Only one is needed, too much of even a good thing is chaos. So, decreasing clutter is also vital in maintaining the visual peace in our homes. Note: Many books have been written on the subject, but I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s Book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Although I do not embrace all of the concepts in her book, many of the principles in the book are truly life changing.

Scripture on the walls of every room: I absolutely love Scripture verses everywhere in my home. My mother always had Scripture posted on the walls of our home as we grew up, and I have found it invaluable. My mother would write out verses on 3×5 cards and tape them around light switches. I will paint verses on canvas, buy prints with Scripture, or yes, I do stick verses around on 3×5 cards as needed. My goal is to have Scripture in every room of our house. I see Scripture as of primary importance as seek to keep it close by. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God commands the Israelite’s to value it and keep it before them:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Psalm 119 also emphasizes the importance of God’s Word over and over. As a home-maker who desires God above all, I like Scripture to be in every room. It is good to have it always in sight for pondering.

Reminders of God’s Goodness: Wedding pictures, family pictures, and sentimental keepsakes can be helpful to remind us of how blessed we are. I also have enjoyed keeping a chalkboard on the wall in our kitchen to write down various things we are thankful for. It is so much easier to complain than to see the world through eyes of gratitude. And to keep our heart fixed on God and His goodness, I like to see and point out the sentimental reminders of the goodness of God in our lives…yearly photo books with images of what God did in a year, a clay vase my late Grandpa made, beautiful paintings of nature, and family photos on the walls…all point my heart to remember how good and gracious God is to me in my undeserving state. He has given me these temporal earthly blessings of family, material goods, and creation so that I might glorify Him. Putting those things on display in my home is a good thing.

Visual Calm: Although I do not embrace the new age belief of the energy of Feng Shui, I do love the concepts I have learned from books on the subject. Creating open, free spaces is truly an art I can utilize effectively in my home to give visual ease to the eyes.  I am not naturally gifted in home decorating despite classes on the subject. I have to play around with a room for a while before settling on wall hangings, window treatments, and furniture arrangements. I do find having a flow of online and library resources is helpful in my quest to bring more visual harmony to each room of my home. It is very much an area I feel is important to press on in my learning.  Simple touches like candles, a crackling fire. fresh flowers, open windows, natural light, and empty spaces are helpful creating an atmosphere that welcomes growth, fellowship, worship, rest, and healing for the soul.

Wholesome entertainment and books: Having wholesome viewing and reading material easily accessible is also a valuable  asset in our home. My husband and I carefully consider the viewing material we allow our children and we are also careful to choose books that enhance, and do not degrade the work of God. Now this topic can be stretched into its own post. But in short synopses, we do our best to choose material that will draw our hearts closer to the Lord and do not cause our hearts to be tempted. Although sin is most certainly from the heart, I do believe that our eyes do play a first hand role in allowing our hearts to be tempted. It isn’t completely unavoidable, but, it is most certainly something I have more control to curb inside the walls of our home than anywhere else. I have notes to indulge in this topic further in the future. 

For now, those five little concepts are my primary goals for visually preparing a space for Spiritual rest and growth as well as setting up guideposts that point to the Lord in our home. By thoughtfully arranging the sights of the home, it is possible to create an atmosphere that welcomes our soul to worship, rest, and focus on the Lord. I am absolutely learning more about how to do that best in our home. And always adapting as I learn. I welcome any further thoughts on this subject.


How COVID-19 Sparks My Gratitude

It is easy to become bitter, fearful, complain, stress, and simply be frustrated during this unfolding corona drama in history. I began a list of things that make me grateful for this experience. I know there are hundreds more bullets that could be added to this ongoing list, so please post your thoughts below!

  1. Our children seem to be spared from this virus. Very few children under eighteen even contract the virus, and if they do, the get a mild case and recover quickly!
  2. We live in a scientific age! One hundred years ago, such a virus would have seemed hopeless. But with every day scientists across the world are closer to confirming vaccinations and medication to treat the virus.
  3. COVID-19 has begun in medically advanced countries and not a third world nation where the death toll would be far more expansive due to lack of intervention and science. And it could have gone undetected for much longer than it did too!
  4. The reconnecting of family is happening. In countries where families are divided, both parents work, where life never stops, where people are loosing touch with reality…something too microscopic for the human eye to see has put a stop to everything. Families are resting, staying home, eating together at home, and getting a much needed diversion from their absorbing schedules. This time at home is good for our generation.
  5. Seeing such an emphasis on uncertainty is where our minds should always rest, allowing us as Christians to depend fully on God for our future. When He is in control and we are not…that is the very best place to be.
  6. Lessons in frugality are already working out in our home as I have restricted our milk supply to the toddler. The other children can stick to water for a season. It is good for us to learn how to be less wasteful with food and possessions.
  7. Neighbors are connecting! If you live in a neighborhood like us, you may have already noticed that people being home and in a crisis together has caused a bit more conversations between those next door and us. Walls are coming down because we are all in this mess together.
  8. What an opportunity for us Christians to shine! We can share fearless, God dependent living with those around us who are terrified. I have already had a couple opportunities. One was at my daughter’s ballet lesson last week, when one of the other mother’s struck up a conversation about how scared she was. I was able to share with her how I knew how she felt, and I had a few moments of fear initially, but I was able to walk through my fears by resting in God’s sovereignty and reading facts…and forbidding my ears to absorb the fear based media. Fear breeds fear. And it is best to simply block our ears to fear by seeing our hearts on biblical truths! It is also a good time to meet the needs of those around us. Who knows, maybe there is someone in our neighborhood who did not stock up on toilet paper. Yes, that was supposed to be funny…
  9. Spring is here! What better time for a virus to pop out than in the grey cold of winter? Many people will be able to plant and grow food if needs be. Also, the magic of sunshine will do much to prevent cabin fever from causing depression. We can go for walks, garden, or simply picnic in our own yards!
  10. A renewed hunger for fellowship is coming! Yes, after a season of being unable to meet together as Christians, I grantee attending church will be a lot more meaningful in the future. And those who are challenged through this experience will be seeking truth.
  11. Our idolatry to comfort is being threatened. What are people so afraid of during this crisis? Is it death? Is it hunger? Is it poverty? I perceive the loss of comfort is more important to most people than life itself! Watching the hoarding that is taking place, I have observed that people don’t want to be without special foods, toilet paper, or easy meals! Honestly, four turkeys, some carrots, celery, and rice would easily provide a family of six lunch and dinner for an entire month…tack on a few pounds of oats and perhaps cinnamon, and there is breakfast. But that is not the way of our comfort driven society. For us Christians, it is a true test of our affection for comfort. This is so good for us!
  12. God is sovereign and always will sovereign in every chaotic event. Perhaps He is using this time to provoke obstinate hearts to think about Him? Death has a way of causing people to consider their life and its purpose. God is always in control, not us.

So let me ask you? What would you add to this list? What gratitude has entered your mind during this season of uncertainty?

“I am Not Afraid. I was Made For This” Joan of Arc

I was teaching my children a Bible lesson about Nehemiah last week and found my own heart convicted as I re-told the story to my children.

Nehemiah 2:11b “…And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem…” God took hold of Nehemiah’s heart and Nehemiah committed to do what God had moved him to do, which was re-build the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah lived in Babylon and had to ask permission from Xerxes, the king of Babylon to go build the walls. God worked in Xerxes heart, and he agreed to let Nehemiah go and build.

God enabled and prepared Nehemiah to do exactly what Nehemiah was meant to do. God surrounded Nehemiah with people to help him in doing the work ahead of him. Even the heart of the king of Babylon was prepared to help Nehemiah do God’s will.  Like the famous quote from Joan of Ark: “I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me; and if the soldiers come, I have God, my Lord, who will know how to clear the route that leads to messier the Dauphin. It was for this that I was born!” more simply stated: “I am not afraid; I was made for this.”

We are each a Nehemiah. God has given each of us walls to build, and we are each made and placed here on earth for a divine purpose. Whatever lies ahead, is what God has created us to walk through. He has equipped us with all that we need to do what He has given each of us to do. He will even turn hearts toward or against us as He is fit to bring about His purpose.

There is much comfort in God’s sovereignty….knowing that nothing is by chance…even my life. For me, although there is much I do not know about my purpose in this time and place, I do know what God has laid on my heart to do.

Jews recently celebrated Purim at the end of February. It is a holiday that is completely about God’s sovereignty over the hearts of people and events during the reign of King Xerxes. The book of Esther describes the events in detail. I love the wisdom given to Esther by her cousin Mordecai, when Esther struggled with going to see King Xerxes on behalf of the Jews. Mordecai gently reminded Esther of God’s sovereignty in Esther 4:14 “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Oh to rest in that thought!

God has placed me here in this time, in this place, in this family, with this husband, children, and church…for such a time as this. God has given me the task of living out the gospel in my home, church, neighborhood…basically, in whatever circumstances He has placed me. That, leaning into grace, must be played out in my soul daily. Since, God has also placed me in a specific place in time, spot on the map, marriage to a certain man, mother of four souls, church, and neighborhood. This is the place and time and people I am called to live out the gospel.

And then, there is the state of my own soul. I am called to be a disciple of Christ…to follow Him.. .to rest in His sovereign grace for the continued sanctification of my heart. With that as the foundation for my actions, anything that distracts me from that calling is sin (Nehemiah 6:13).

Like Nehemiah, as I set about to do what God has called me to do, adversaries of God will appose me. The adversaries of God, play on my emotional, human weaknesses to gain foothold in my lives, with the ultimate goal of distracting, stalling, and preventing me from doing the work that has been “put into my heart to do.”

Ammonites, Sanballat and Tobiah felt threatened by the work Nehemiah had been sent by God and his king to do. They and did their best to prevent Nehemiah from building those walls. At first, Sanballat and Tobiah used harsh, unhappy complaints and untrue accusations. When the complaints and lies failed, Sanballat and Tobiah attempted to use fear to deceive Nehemiah into hiding.

I have since pondered the debilitating affect of distractions. There are ever so many! What distractions do I embrace? Is it fear? Do I run and hide, or arm myself as I I continue the work God has set for me to do? What is the enemy using in my life to bring fear, to prevent me from building the walls of my home? From pursuing faithfully in the task the Lord has given me to do? From listening to the calling God has laid on my heart? Lies….always lies…

I Peter 5:8 warns us of the dangers of lack of discernment and distractions. “Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” EHV. Let me indulge this Biblical illustration from nature a bit. A Lion is a very skilled hunter. The lion is a large, loud creature, except when he is prowling. Anyone who has watched a nature documentary has seen a lion go into a stealth, hunting mode. He watches, and waits patiently…eyes slowly studying his prey. The lion seeks out the easiest targets, the young…weak…old…those separated from the herd, the unprotected, distracted, and those who are too engrossed in an activity to be alert….those who lack the wisdom to discern danger.

For a time, part of my calling is to protect four young, and weak little lambs. For me, as the mother, not to be on watchful guard against adversaries, puts my young at great risk. I am also to be alert for my own safety. Staying close to the herd, means being close to other Christians. The Shepherd watches over the herd carefully, and being near Him is also of upmost importance.

Back to Nehemiah… his discernment of the attempted deceit of the enemy is admirable. I believe he was able to make a wise decision because of his confidence in God and what God had called him to do. Instead of running to hide, Nehemiah armed himself and his men and continued to build the walls, ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:18a , Nehemiah 4:21 “So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. I also said to the people at that time, ‘Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.’ So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.” 

But even though he was armed, Nehemiah’s enemies were bent on preventing his work from continuing. They made up lies and attempted to drive fear into his heart. Sanballat hoped fear would weaken Nehemiah’s judgement and he would run to hide!

Nehemiah 6:9 “For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” Recognizing lies that are meant to distracts us from the task. Nehemiah 6:10-14 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.’ But I said, ‘Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.’ And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.” Nehemiah 6:19 “Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

So like many other followers of Christ, I find myself constantly distracted from the work God has set before me to do. Sometimes those distractions take place completely in my head as I allow my mind to dwell on thoughts that are untrue or out of my control. Other times, it is a text message, a piece of news…I have found even good things can be completely wrong if that is not what God has tasked me to do! Like Nehemiah, I pray for discernment and wisdom as I am constantly bombarded by the enemy with distractions, fears, and lies that would consume my soul and make me unable to fulfill what God desires I do! I also need to be fully committed, and confident of God’s calling in my life. I will be easily swayed if I am unsure about what God has for me to do. It is possible to be confident in each of our callings. We might not be an apostle like Paul. But we can certainly have the same confidence as we rest in God’s sovereign alignment of circumstances, people, and locations where we are.