Motivating Children to Cook and Bake

Busy mother’s know how easy it is to do everything themselves and keep out the “help.” How many mother’s use their dinnertime prep to allow their children to sit in front of the television?

I think everyone should know how to cook. Cooking is a life skill that is essential to thriving. By learning to cook a healthy, balanced meal, a person can keep his or her body nourished. If one is prone to buy prepared food or restaurant food, cooking will save money as well. Many also find cooking to be a creative outlet and relieve the stresses of life.

Cooking is also an important for ministering tool. Food blesses people in a way little else can. When I was an undergrad taking a cooking an meal management class, a young man was in my class. He did not know a thing about cooking, but wanted to learn so he could help our his wife someday. I loved that sacrificial perspective. And think more people who find themselves uneasy in the kitchen, need to humble themselves and learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen simply to enhance ministry opportunities.

I believe everyone is able to learn to cook. Cooking does not have to be of gourmet caliber. I am afraid the television has ruined our standards of what makes a fine meal. If one can learn to create a delicious plate of vegetables and meat, cooking has happened. In fact, simple meals are preferred by most of the population. People find such comfort it an unintimidating bowl of chicken and rice.

Baking is a little more complicated in my opinion because it involves a bit more chemistry than cooking, but baking is usually the preference of children’s kitchen activities. Children love to mix flours and powders. They love to sample the interesting ingredients. Children especially love to get messy, gooey, and sticky as they touch dough and powders.

So, as a busy mother, how am I inspiring my children to enjoy cooking and baking?

  1. Cultivate habits of keeping children close while working in the kitchen. Children need to know they have a place beside mother in the kitchen. They learn that as infants strapped to their mother’s chest while she works. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen while they hang on mother’s pant leg while she scurries to make supper. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen as they pull up a stool and stir ingredients into a bowl. The kitchen becomes connected to warmth, comfort, and home very quickly to a child who spends his or her time beside mother there, day after day.
  2. Allow time to include children in meal prep and baking. Kitchen work will move at a slower pace if children are involved. I confess it is not convenient to have children underfoot while I work in the kitchen, but the point in having children was not for convenience. If I allow a little extra time by starting dinner early or give myself grace to eat a little later, I can include the little dears into the cooking experience.
  3. Learn to cherish the messes made by little “helping” hands. If I embrace the blessing of flour on the floor, sticky fingers being licked, eggshells in the cookies, and splatters around the pot I find joy in my heart instead of frustration as I work alongside my little ones in the kitchen. It is all a matter of what I choose to see as beautiful in that moment.
  4. Let them enjoy have choices of what they bake and cook. All of my children have favorite foods. If I am making one of those particular things, I will often ask if they want to help me. For Thanksgiving, each child gets to make his or her favorite pie. For Christmas, I let the children choose a couple cookies to help me bake for our neighbors. As I am menu planning for the week or the month, I will often ask the children for meal ideas and they can help me cook the meals they choose.
  5. Be around to guide, but don’t micromanage. As my children get older, they are more and more independent in the kitchen. My older children can make lunch on days I have no time…scrambled eggs, noodles, sandwiches, and toast are a few easy lunch items they put together. I will never forget the blessing it was one morning a couple months ago to wake up to the smell of eggs toast, and hot coffee made independently, and unprompted by my three girls! Micromanaging my kitchen would make my children feel as though they have no place there. So, I am careful to say “yes” as often as possible to their kitchen endeavors. I wan them to feel that it is their kitchen too!
  6. Show cleanup is part of cooking. Cleanup is usually the least fun portion of cooking for both adults and children. I like to teach my children to clean as they go. It really helps not have a mountain of work after the food has been cooked. When they are very young, I help them out. I do not want the cleanup to discourage them from working in the kitchen. But as a child is more capable, I insist the cleanup be done by her. I so not want to cultivate habits of leaving messes for others, in the kitchen or anywhere else.
  7. Utilize, don’t stifle a child’s natural curiosity in the kitchen. Children have a natural interest in tastes, smells, and textures of what is found in the kitchen. I am not saying I want my children burying their hands in my container of flour, but I do my best to allow them to use their senses while they cook. To enjoy and learn, it is essential that they know the ingredients they are using, so yes, there is a lot of tasting, smelling, and touching going on as we cook!
  8. Create a kitchen environment for each child’s best experience. I enjoy listening to classical harp music while cooking, but I have a daughter who prefers stories, and a son who prefers toddler songs. I allow the child helping me to have his or her pick of listening material or conversation with mom while cooking or baking. I think it helps each child take ownership of the kitchen and have a sense of belonging while he or she works.
  9. Keep the cooking to one child at a time. I have mistakenly included too many children at once in my cooking work. Then I cannot remember if the baking powder was added in, or if both scoops of sugar were included… It messes things up a bit. Our kitchen is also a small one and there isn’t room for many people in it at once. We often take turns in our house, just to keep the food turning out alright. One child can help with vegetables for dinner and another prep meat for roasting. It can be divided up easily and in shifts. Oh the joy each child takes when “their” dish is enjoyed at dinner.
  10. Purpose to teach children to make age-appropriate dishes. When a child is at a certain maturity, he or she can be taught to use knives, turn on the stove, put cookies into the oven, and such. Only a mother will know when each of her children is ready to move on to the next step.

Cook One Day for the Month Experiment

As a result of needful mental and physical therapy for one of my daughter’s the start of the year, my school days increased in time by a couple hours. As a result, January dinners consisted of late meals, rotisserie chickens, occasional food delivery and semi-toxic packaged foods. It was expensive, unhealthy, and untimely, and I knew something had to change in the progressing months ahead.

Years ago, my mother got into once-a-month-cooking. We bought all our groceries, except produce and milk, for the entire month and planned a rough menu for the month. I remember helping my mom cook and freeze all that food. The idea of having all the meals prepped for each day sounded lovely….just pop it in the oven and bake. So, I began planning for the first round in February.

Honestly, I am still undecided on whether once a month cooking is going to be a long term effort or not. I just cooked up our monthly meals for March and so as I am heading into our second month of prepped food, I jotted down some thoughts on the subject so far.

Health: Stepping away from quick, store-bought meals is certainly a step in the healthy direction. As I prep the monthly menu, I am also able to incorporate a better balance and plan meals that use whole, real foods and pair easily with any veggies I have on the side. I can also prep meals to freeze that do no contain sugar or unhealthy carbs. So, I do feel there is an aspect about freezer cooking that gets the healthy planning and prep done and ready to go.

Quality: A drawback of freezer cooking is the loss of fresh. I can still roast a side of broccoli to go with the lemon pepper chicken or toss a salad to go with the Alfredo, so it isn’t that we do not eat anything fresh. However all the main dishes which are protein based are frozen. And there is no getting around the fact that once anything has been frozen its quality, flavor and nutrients do go down. So, I am mindful that there is a loss in the quality of the food I cook from the freezer.

On the flip-side, I do a lot of meat marinating. It was so successful last month, I doubled the marinades. Meat that has been marinated for a day is incredible, and the marinade helps break down the toughness of the meat. I rarely think long enough ahead to thaw chicken, marinate it, and then cooking it up. But, marinating fresh chicken and freezing it gets all that work done and the meat is ready to grill, fry, or bake. We noticed the long term marination in the freezer turns out excellent meat once cooked up.

Time: An absolute time saver, but not without a transition in how the time is spent. After cooking all the food for a month, my weekly grocery trip is cut down to grabbing a few gallons of milk and some produce. So, my shop time is definably less than if I went out weekly.

What takes the most time is planning the menu, I look at store sales the first of the month, figure what recipes I will make, then add needed items to my grocery list. I print out a list of all the recipes and ingredients I have purchased for a quick daily reference. The grocery shopping trip is a good morning too as I hop from store to store to gather the ingredients needed.

The longest day is the cooking day. Last month it took me an entire day to make all the food, but I did include lasagna and sweet and sour chicken on that month’s list which is a huge money and time bomb. This month, I was able to get all the prep done by noon. So, the type of meal I choose seems to make a big difference in the prep and cook time.

Expense: Here is where I am loosing. Since I only purchase meats on sale, I would buy chicken breasts at .99lb instead of 1.39. When I cook one time for the month, I must use the sales that are going the week leading up to my cook day. After that, I must ignore all other sales for the month because I simply have no money left in our grocery budget. So, either I restrict my menu to whatever is on sale, or I buy items that are not on sale to make the recipes I want. In order to make this work for me, I have been doing a little of both. So, the toll on the grocery budget is showing.

Stress: I must say, the trying to figure out what to cook and then making dinner late in the evening after a long day is stressful. It doesn’t help that the children tend to hang around and groan of their hungry tummies in the process. However, menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking for a month is also a bit of a stress. The first weekend I attempted this monthly cooking experiment was very stress riddled, but I had a lot of unknowns going into it. The second time around was a huge improvement. So, I think long run, having a day set aside to cook is far easier on a busy momma than cramming dinner making into the end of a long day.

I did notice however, that our family did not eat all of the meals I prepped for last month, so some of those meals I am rolling over into this month. So, in a few more months, I may not notice the injury to the grocery budget as I continue to roll over meals.

Hospitality: I love having ready meals in the freezer! It makes me feel free to invite folks over without wondering what to make for them. We have plenty of options ready to go. I also can take a meal over to anyone in need at any time. It is set and ready for me to bake for them or for them to pop in their own oven. Having meals in the freezer is a huge asset to any home-maker, much more if there is a whole month of food in in the freezer.

Will I continue monthly cooking? For a while, yes. I am curious how our grocery budget will accommodate this new method of cooking, so if I find it unaffordable, I may alter my menu planning. But for now, it is a profitable experiment.

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 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.


“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.




My Mini Wardrobe: Two Years Later

I started creating my mini wardrobe nearly two years ago and thought it was time to give an update on my thoughts about it after seasons have passed. My first post on my minimal wardrobe was over a year ago. So it is time for an update.

I was inspired to pare down my mismatched, ill-fitting, poorly planned wardrobe after reading the book Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott.

I went through my entire wardrobe and donated or sold pretty much all of it. I had a lot of clothes that I had nothing to wear with, did not fit, or flatter me, were outdated, and simply items I did not like. I found it amazing how little of what hung in my closet that I actually wore.

I began cultivating a wardrobe consisting of about ten basic items, I leaned heavily on French fashion. Breton striped shirts, white jeans, and red, white, and blue as my core colors. I settled on ballet flats, espadrilles, a pair of oxford shoes, and healed boots for my feet. I wore scarves as a daily accessory.

As seasons changed, it did not take me long to realize the practicality of what I wore was also vital in my life.

Some beautiful French staples that didn’t work for me:

Scarves quickly proved to be annoying as I am constantly wiping floors due to people messes. The scarf would dribble and dabble in soapy water, and get in my way as I bent down so often throughout the day. A scarf out on the town is perfectly nice, but since my life is spent 95% at home…scarves ended up being constantly removed until I gave up on them.

I also invested in a really nice white blouse. I loved it, but found it impossible button to keep clean, and it would often wait a while on a hanger before I had time to iron it. The upkeep of a white blouse in my life was also out of the question.

Blazers and sports jackets have never suited me. I feel stiff and unnatural wearing them. But I did give them a shot. I love the look of a brown wool plaid blazer with a warm wool skirt, leather gloves, and tall boots in the autumn….jeans will work too. I also like a blazer with jeans. Mixing the casual and dressy create the perfect blend for all occasions. But on me? I found myself constantly shedding a blazer throughout the day, simply because I find it constricting as I work. Eventually, I never even tried to put on a blazer and just gravitated to my favorite black cashmere sweater…over and over.

Espadrilles were bad news for my feet and also very unpractical for my daily life. I bought two pair of beautiful and good quality espadrille shoes for the summer. A black pair by Andre Assus and a beige pair by Kanna from Spain. The hard soles of the espadrilles were very uncomfortable and hard on my back after a day of wear. I also find my life in the summer involves walks in the woods, pushing little folks on the swing, and time both in and out of doors. Making espadrilles wear out and become dirty very quickly. Espadrilles also are a heavy shoe and I found them too stiff for my daily work. So, I bought a nice pair of Clark sandals and wore them for the rest of the summer, shelving my espadrilles.

Leather jackets can look smashing and chic when paired with pretty much anything. So, I bought one. But friends, it just wasn’t me. I felt unnatural and not myself when wearing it, even though I got a business cut instead of a biker design. I found I never gravitated toward wearing it, and it hung lonely in my closet. So, I sold it last year and have not missed it at all.

Silk…I will try to wear silk again later in life. I love silk, even a touch of it gives any outfit instant luxury. I however, cannot keep up with its care. It spots easily, even with just water. It melts under a hot iron. Silk should not be cleaned by any other method than the dry cleaners, and that only on rare occasion. I have hand washed a silk blouse from time to time to save money, but know from my textile classes, that I am damaging the delicate fibers and slowly dissolving the strands of silk with each washing. Silk simply doesn’t work into my hands-on lifestyle right now.

My journey into chic French classics was not in vain. I discovered a few sticking traits in my wardrobe that I love to wear every day. And I certainly received an education concerning what doesn’t work.

What I held onto in my journey into the chic French classics?

A matching wardrobe! Everything in my wardrobe works with each other. I don’t go shopping without an idea what I need. And I don’t desire to buy clothes that won’t work with what I already own. I have a wardrobe pallet of black, grey, white, navy, and blush pink right now. I like the soft, muted tones.

A good quality purse! I love my patent, cherry red, Burberry purse. It might not be Chanel, but it is well made, and it’s size is adjustable, so suits my needs when I go out. Yes, I only own one purse. I bought it on Poshmark used for several hundred dollars. But it was in amazing condition and would have been an impossible purchase for me at it’s original price tag. I am hoping my Burberry purse will last me until my children are grown. Then I will look for something a little smaller and perhaps in a more finesse design. But that will all be when I am no longer packing items for my children on a regular basis, and have sippy cups, diapers, books, and crayons to tote on the go.

Breton striped shirts have always been a style I gravitated toward. I own two from Boden. One is navy and white stripe and the other is grey and navy stripe. I also bought them used on Poshmark, but am comfortable paying $20 for a great quality shirt and getting snot on it, than if I got the same shirt new for $75.

Cashmere is a recent discovery of softness. I love the cozy warmth a cashmere sweater brings. I seek out middle-of the road cashmere. So farm I have yet to buy a sweater from Naadam or Everlane, but they would be a brand I would gravitate toward. I found a really nice Elizabeth and James black cashmere cardigan on E-bay. I got it cheap because a button was broken. But it probably would have cost several hundered new. My other two cashmere sweaters are from L.L. Bean. One is a blush pink hoodie and the other is an oversize taupe with a turtleneck. Older J.Crew cashmere also has a good reputation, but the newer cashmere is not as fine. I would not buy cheap cashmere from Pure Collection, Gap, Charter Club, or Banana Republic. I would imagine any cashmere sold under a fast fashion label would be thin, would pill, and would itch a little.

Simplicity is something that I love about French fashion. I do believe over-accessorizing simply looks gaudy. I do not need a necklace and a scarf. I do not need sunglasses and a hat. I do not need a watch and a bracelet. One piece of jewelry is ample for any look. I need simplicity in my life, and the French have licensed me to do so.

Mixing casual and dressy pieces to complete the perfect look. Dresses with sneakers, blazers with jeans, silk with denim, skirts with a graphic T-shirt…are all examples of well thought out looks that ultimately provide balance. Not that every outfit must be contrasted in that way, but I find it helpful to keep in mind that dressy and casual can be mixed instead of living in their own quarters.

It is hard in our culture, but I am walking away from Polyester…ok… to be perfectly honest, I do have three polyester dresses in my closet at present, but they are moving out soon. I got a couple for my birthday and absolutely love the prints, but due to the fast fashion and cheapness of the garments, I do not expect them to a long life in my closet. Polyester, is essentially a fine plastic filament. It is like wearing a plastic bag for clothing. It does not allow the skin to breath and so can cause body orders to incur. It seems like an unhealthy fabric to be wearing. It is also extremely cheap. So, other than some experimental breathable Polyester that has just hit the market, (it won’t be in shops I can afford for some time), ALL clothing made with polyester is cheap, no matter how much it cost. I cannot tell you how many shops I have been saddened to see beautiful garments made with the plastic. It immediately puts the entire brand in the mode of fast, cheap, fashion…even if the price tags don’t read that. Someone is making a killing. As I am writing, I see a need to expound on fabrics more, but that is for another post.

Levi Jeans are truly the best. I find the fit and make of classic Levi’s to be the best jean. I don’t wear any other brand. Levi’s wear out into a beautiful distressed look too. Some jeans simply look worn out. But Levi’s tend to look like they were made that way. I have three pair of jeans. A dark skinny Levi, a light distressed skinny Levi, and a dark boot-cut Levi.

A little black dress is a favorite of mine, even though it is not a truly a French staple. Other than my two cheap polyester dresses, I currently own two other dresses…both black. One is made by Boden. It fits and flatters beautifully. I bought it on E bay for under thirty dollars. The other dress I have is a fancy Swiss Dot black dress made by Anthropologie…yes, cheap, poly fabric, but the cut flatters me and I typically wear it for the times I dress up. I am going to hang onto that dress until I can find a suitable quality replacement.

And that is my mini wardrobe going on over a year and a half now. I am so grateful for the time it has saved me and the lessons I have learned by owning a minimal item wardrobe. I have more fun being creative with my clothes than I used to. I also feel sharp in each outfit I own and don’t have to wonder if it looks good on me. Everything in my closet fits! And moving to better quality items had opened my eyes to the value of buying something beautiful that will last for generations. If I care for my sweaters, they are perhaps something my daughters can enjoy wearing someday. My Burberry purse will probably withstand ten more years of life and I can still sell it for a good bit to put toward another great handbag. My feet don’t hurt from poorly made shoes. My jeans fit and flatter, even if I gain ten pounds. I love mixing and matching my clothes! I never ask myself…”Does this shirt go with my sweater? Because everything does! I am very happy with my choice to own a mini wardrobe.

Smart Phone: Friend or Foe?

I got my first cell-phone when I was dating my husband in 2007. It has been a little over ten years since I have owned a cell. It has become so much a part of my life, I cannot remember how I managed without it. A smart phone, is truly more than a phone, it is my brain. But as I have trended through the years with a cell-phone, I have realized that it can be a useful tool in my hands, or a tool that is destructive. Like everything in my life, I weigh it in the balance of value.

My perspective on my phone is that it is a tool. It is a tool for my housekeeping, children’s education, Spiritual growth, necessary calls, and building relationships. I have rules as to how I use my phone. And I ALWAYS stick to them.

My phone never comes between me and real people. I purpose to ignore it, even silence it, when we have family or friends visiting, we are spending time together as a family, or I am on a date with my husband. I don’t look at it during a conversation unless I tell the person I am with what I am doing and it pertains to our conversation. I do not answer a call or text when I am with someone, with the exception of my husband or babysitter if I am not with him at the time.

I do not use my phone for entertainment. I do not have games, movies, or apps on my phone. I don’t use it to kill time. I don’t have time to kill time. If I am sitting still with my phone, I am texting a friend, working on a grocery list, or shopping online for something we need…like recently house-hunting. Soon…Christmas gift shopping. But I spend time on my phone only when I purposed to do so. Generally Sunday mornings are very calm in our homes and I have an hour of quiet before we go to church. Saturday’s are also a little different from weekdays and I may spend time working on something on my phone. So, I do use my phone, but it is purposed. Last night, I was finalizing my grocery list, which I had been working on little by little throughout the day. I didn’t get it done until my husband and I sat down together after the children were in bed.

If an app is becoming a time sponge, I delete it from my phone. As I try to keep eternity in perspective, random phone browsing becomes a frivolous task. There are loads of great ideas out there, but if I am not purposeful in my pursuit of knowledge, it becomes useless noise in my life. I have found a lot of apps were more of a distraction to my home than a blessing. How silly to tell my child, “I am trying to find some great ideas about how to home-school,” instead of taking that time to read her a book? She doesn’t need a lot of eye-candy to learn, just love and MY TIME. I have simplified my pursuit of information by choosing only to look up something if there is a need. And even then, I try to go to books before the internet. I find books to be a more reliable source of information and less consuming than a phone. I have deleted great apps like Pinterest, Facebook, and Zulily. Because they are simply taking too much of my precious time from the eternal pursuits that are most precious.

I don’t look up health information on my phone. This rule is one I had to adopt a few years ago as I realized how often I had misdiagnosed myself or the children through Web MD. Put in a list of symptoms and one can diagnose themselves with anything from terminal cancer to a bug bite. The loads of information on health bred a heart of fear in me. It does me no good to know too much about what I don’t know for certain. I rely on articles, books, and real people for my medical information. That includes my knowledge on health and nutrition. I don’t read posts from Dr. Axe anymore. But I will check out stacks of books at our local library and have read some fantastic and very helpful books.

My phone is not attached to my body. I usually put it on the kitchen counter, and it stays there pretty much all day. I don’t carry it around the house with me, unless, I am going to be spending time pressing Jim’s shirts. Then, I will listen to podcasts or something to fill my head with good thoughts.

How I use my phone:

I use my phone to aid in my housekeeping. I create my grocery lists on my phone as I discussed in my post: My Modern Shopping Techniques. I also use my phone to purchase a lot online. I find I can score great deals and have it shipped to my door for less than I can drive and purchase an item locally. I also buy used clothes on E-Bay and Poshmark for myself and family. I use a note app to make to-do lists and plan menus. I also make a list of errands in order for shopping day.

I purpose my phone to be used for my Spiritual edification. I listen to several preaching podcasts daily. I also keep the ESV Bible app on my phone.

Of course I use my phone for necessary calls. Setting up appointments, ordering a birthday cake, calling for information about insurance…. We all have those business, un-fun calls to make. And that is certainly a necessary use of my phone.

My phone is also for building relationships. Other than texting my husband daily, I text or call family members and friends. I make a point to keep up with people by using my phone. I text pictures of my children to their grandparents. When someone asks me to pray for them, or I volunteer to pray for a concern someone has, I like to touch base on occasion and see what God is doing in their lives. I also text to simply see how an old friend is doing. I also try to judge why I am texting. Very often, a phone call is more personal and clear than a text, so I try to be cautious about over-texting and making sure I am calling people as needed. I had a friend from church who is praying for me randomly call me last week to see how I was doing. It was refreshing to get a personal call. It meant more to me to hear her voice and we got a lot of conversation in five minutes that could have never fit in five minutes of texting so beautifully. Honestly, an old-fashioned phone call is lovely. I have discovered that although texting might seem convenient and un-intrusive, most people want their lives to be intruded upon.

So my phone is a wonderful tool for many things of eternal value. But it’s use does have its place. I don’t want to miss out on creating or savoring a moment with my loved ones in the room because I am on my phone. Very often, my phone can wait. And I have never regretted putting it down to pull build railroads on the floor with my children.

My Modern Shopping Techniques


My mother created a grocery spreadsheet on her computer. She spent time every other week going through her list on the computer and marking down everything we needed to buy. She wrote items in short hand to save space and time. She did not coupon or shop sales. She loves getting everything in one store and getting it done efficiently. My mother is a goal oriented shopper.

Then I come along, and I am a little of both mother and grandmother. My shopping methods have changed throughout the years. I am certain most woman find that to be the case. When it was just me and my husband, we often got groceries together and there was not the concern for budget and time or even nutrition that children bring into the picture. Now that I have four children, time, budget, and nutrition have become the basis of my meal planning, grocery lists, and shopping trips. I also consider the stress factor. Taking four children in and out of a car, missing nap times, or being gone during lunch, all play a role. So I try to keep life simple, and as stress free as possible. I keep our errands down to one or two stops, and no more. I often plan to buy or bring a snack for the children to eat in the car as we journey. (Note: I plan the treats, we don’t get to the store and beg for this and that. We either already have something in the car, or I told them they could pick out a pretzel at Lidl or get a box of goldfish crackers at Aldi). I also combine shopping trips on days we are already doing something like a doctor’s appointment. That saves us the hassle of going out more than once a week. We don’t get fast-food lunches while out. That is costly. If I know we are not going to make it home by lunch, I pack them something. They love it, and so do I.

In our era of technology, shopping itself is undergoing a transition from my mother and grandmother’s generations. Online shopping and smartphones both play a huge role in my shopping lists and purchases. I find I can easily check out deals from various stores with the store apps. I also can see if an online order would be advantageous.

In our current location, I have found Aldi generally has the best quality for the best prices ON FOOD. I also like the fact that the store is small, and I can get through it quickly with my cart loaded with children. We also have Lidl and Walmart where I seek out deals. Target and CVS also come into play and I typically get PAPER GOOD, DIAPERS, and WASHING SUPPLIES from those two stores.

How I make a Grocery List


I use the Walmart grocery pick-up app. Many Walmart stores offer free pick-up. By using the grocery app, I can create a list and use it to quickly compare prices at other stores.


A day or two before we get groceries, I browse ads from local grocery stores, in particular, Aldi and Lidl. Aldi and Lidl have comparable prices, but Aldi is far superior in quality. Lidl however does come up with some surprisingly good produce and meat deals. So I watch them both. I will plan my shopping trip by going to the store that has the best deals for the weekend. On a rare occasion that may include a couple of stores, usually one to get the majority of groceries and another to run in and stock up on a Coupons? particular deal.

Using my Walmart list, I shop through Aldi. Since the Walmart app lists a price for each item, I can see my shopping total and easily compare between Walmart and any other store. For instance, I can see that a gallon of whole milk is $3.29 at Walmart, while I am at Aldi, they are selling a gallon of milk for $2.98. So, I pick up the milk at Aldi for $2.98, and delete it from my Walmart list. Sometimes an item is cheaper at Walmart than Aldi. For instance, a pound of butter is about $2.50 at Aldi, however, if I purchase the two pack at Walmart the butter is only $1.99 a pound. So I leave that on my list and will get it at Walmart. Whatever is left at the end of my trip to Aldi, I get at Walmart. I will either send my order to our Wal-Mart pick-up store and go pick it up at a later date, or run by a store and get those items that day. It depends on the day.

Coupons? I don’t clip coupons anymore. I used to be an avid coupon shopper, but coupons seem to continually decrease in value. I also kept finding that I would get the paper only to clip out one coupon. I simply don’t most items promoted on coupons. I don’t purchase many cleaning products, I don’t buy a lot of prepared food, and name brands are still more costly than generic even with a coupon added. Besides, Aldi doesn’t accept coupons, and I like the simplicity of that. I do use coupon on apps like Target and Lidl. This past week Lidl had a coupon for a pound of pure maple syrup at 50% off. Target has a cartwheel feature on their store app, they also have coupons that can be printed. CVS and Walgreens also have apps with coupons. CVS allows me to send coupons to my store card.

My shopping rules:

  1. Don’t by name brand items-generally I have found various store brands to be equal in quality and much more reasonable in price than a name brand. The white kitchen trash bags in Target’s Up and Up brand are superior in quality to the similar versions in Glad or Hefty. Most of the food we eat is created from a staple product in my kitchen. It is economical and healthy.
  2. Stick to Staples. Like my mini wardrobe, staple items in the kitchen are the building blocks for any meal. I can create a lot more variety with a box of macaroni or a package of jasmine rice than I can with a box of mac’n cheese and seasoned rice. I can do anything with a whole chicken, Asian, Mexican, Roasting, Soup, Strogenoff, Thai, African, Sweet and Sour…but a pre-seasoned or rotisserie chicken is what is it…nothing more.
  3. If something is added to the list, take something off the list. I have a budget for the month for groceries. I divide that amount up per week, and stick to it. Generally, my goal is to even purchase items below my weekly allotment, because I know there will always be an item I run out of before expected to purchase it. Like milk, tissues, diapers, or dish soap. In an effort to keep myself under the grocery bill allotment for the week, I do not buy items that are not on my list. This works great if my children ask me if they can pick up a box of cereal or something else that catches their eye. I just tell them “it is not on the list.” For some reason, that works. If it is not on the list, we don’t buy it. I do give myself room for a few exceptions though. If there is an item I choose to purchase that is not on my list, I substitute it for an item on my list. For instance, if I get to the store and find the peaches are at an amazing price and they look fabulous, I will pick up peaches, and remove the apples from my list. It doesn’t always work out that the items are of equal value, but I do my best to keep my budget balance, by allowing little room for a drastic price change.
  4. Remove any non-essentials from the list before going shopping. I often create a list of all the items we need on my Wal-Mart list. Then as I shop, I ask myself if it is something we can live without for another week, or it is something we need now? It is amazing how many items are either luxury items and can wait…especially if it is the end of the month when my grocery well is about dry. I will even pass up sales of items I do not truly need. It is cheaper not to buy at all than to buy an item on sale.
  5. Don’t habitually make-unplanned shopping trips. Those spur of the moment trips to the store, even to grab one needed item. They not only take valuable time, but always cost more than a planned trip. For instance, if I need a gallon of milk, and I run into a store, I am often going to choose a store that is an easy in and out, and will pay more for that gallon of milk than is reasonable. I inevitably will be lured into purchasing a couple other items on my way through the store. Even if those extra items are on sale, that trip still cost me more than it should have. So, planning is essential to avoid spur of the moment excursions to the store. I need to know how much milk we go through in a week so I can get it at once and not have to run out before my scheduled shopping trip to get more. Menu planning, grocery planning, and a little time spent in knowing where the best prices can be found are essential to a good grocery trip. Yesterday was Wednesday, I usually get groceries toward the end of each week, but we had simply run out of milk. I either purchased too little or we used more than expected, so I needed to get more milk. Instead of just running out to get milk, I planned my entire shopping trip early. We got everything we would need for the next week and a half.
  6. Know prices. I pay attention to prices. I know the prices of staples our family uses. When we moved from the mid-west to the east, I immediately knew my groceries would cost more here, because the milk at Aldi cost more in The South than in the Mid-West. It is hard to know a good deal on apples if I don’t even know the regular price per pound. So, I have a mental idea of prices and can spot a good deal when I see one, not just because a grocery store tells me it is a good deal either. What might be a good deal at one store, might be the regular price at another store.
  7. Easy on the meat. Meat and cheese are generally some of the most expensive grocery items. I generally purchase meat that is under a dollar a pound. To do that, I wait for sales, and usually only buy certain cuts or uncut meat like whole birds. Whole Chickens are .89 a pound at our Aldi. And who says turkey has to wait until Thanksgiving? A turkey can be priced below a dollar a pound and be a great poultry buy. Often there are sales on chicken breasts, legs, and thighs and when they dip below a dollar a pound, I stock up. I do splurge on beef and buy organic ground beef from Aldi (I have my reasons). I try to make the ground beef last a month or more and use ground turkey for most of our ground meat needs. I generally save the beef for company.
  8. I do the Prep myself. I do not buy foods that have been cut, shredded, or prepared for me. Not only do I find those items to be low quality, but more expensive as well. For instance, pre-shredded cheese might be convenient, but it lacks the creaminess of the cheese I shred myself. I find it to be dry, and it is coated with cornstarch to prevent it sticking in the bag. It doesn’t cook up or melt the same as the cheese I shred myself. I can buy a 32 ounce block of cheese for $7 and shred it my food processor when we get home. It is far cheaper and tastier than the pre-shredded cheese. The same thought goes for produce and meat. Produce looses nutrients when it is cut as well, so I am doing my family a favor by cutting it as we need it. I do not buy the little carrots pre-cut. Not only are they serious choking hazards, but far more expensive than a pound of organic carrots for .99. I can cut them into sticks myself.

And that is pretty much my philosophy and methods of getting food and essentials for our home. I imagine it will change through time. And I also don’t believe it is the best method for everyone. My grandmother would find my method of shopping very unsuitable for one person. And larger family may find buying bulk foods from Costco or Sams to be the most effective method of getting groceries. I do hold to the fact that planning is essential for any effective shopping trip and I also believe, no matter the size of the grocery budget, we are to be wise stewards. A large or non-existent grocery budget does not permit us Christians the freedom to spend carelessly. We are also held accountable for our time. I don’t believe we should over-obsess in the process of getting groceries. It can become materialism if we are obsessed with the best deals and always printing coupons. So, again, moderation is essential to biblical living.