The Great Balancing Act

Sometimes I need to remember what God has taught me in the past. And today, it’s a reminder about balance and making decisions that work best for today, no matter how task- and schedule-oriented I may be. So, instead of writing something new today, I’m going to share with you an article I wrote for Family Magazine last year – one God brought back to my attention this morning to give me the “past lessons” reminder that I needed for today.

Working and Homeschooling: The Great Balancing Act

Homeschooling was once a venture primarily tackled by stay-at-home moms who had no intention of working for income, whether inside or outside the home. Working homeschool moms were relatively rare. But, as homeschooling grows in popularity, more homes experience the juggling act that comes from trying to combine employment and homeschooling.

Every situation is unique. Some children need more attention than others. Some parents work from home while others work outside the home. Some jobs fit into a solid routine; others require flexibility. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all response when a desperate mother asks for help balancing work and school. But shared experience and wisdom from other work-at-home moms can still offer valuable assistance.

Here are some tips I have gleaned from fellow work-at-home moms:

Click here to read the rest of this article at

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My Way is Okay

I believe I’ve mentioned once or twice that I am a tiny bit OCD. I have never been extreme, but I do like the bed to be made a certain way. I like the dishwasher to be organized to maximize efficiency. I like pictures to be straight on the walls, cans to be lined up in the cabinets (although they don’t have to all have the labels facing the same direction), and some symmetry to exist in furniture placement.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t even notice many of these things. He is so observant when it comes to the needs of others. He can pick up on gaps in information or read between the lines in ways my brain cannot even begin to process. But, a wrinkle in the bedspread, towels or clothes folded in haphazards manners, or a streak on the windshield does not even merit a second glance.

I decided long ago that my OCD needed to take a chill pill, and I needed to be okay with the imperfections that might typically drive me nuts. It is really okay. Really, really.

But, I missed one important fact when I decided to reign in my perfectionism. I forgot that God made me that way. I forgot that it is part of who I am. And I forgot that it is not all bad. I allowed myself to feel embarrassed because I do like things to be just so. And I would try my hardest to ignore things instead of fixing them.

Getting over my obsessions is a good thing, especially if it means that my husband does not feel constantly criticized because he doesn’t do things “my way.” But, if I stifle who God created me to be, there is no way I can truly walk in the Spirit, exhibiting His fruit in my life, and allowing Him to use me to the fullest.

And I also cannot be the wife He created me to be.

Now, let’s turn this around a little bit and consider our spouses. Who has God made them to be? What are their natural tendencies? What do we stifle in their personalities by simply making their way of doing things seem inferior to ours? How often do we complain instead of rejoicing over the fact that they see the world a little differently?

Better yet, let’s consider this: How can we encourage our spouses today to be who God made them to be? How can we express ourselves and our own personality quirks without demeaning our spouses? How can we both bend a little to come together even in our differences? And, most importantly, how can we use our differences to work together for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

We are different by design. But, God created us to be compatible in our differences. He did not join us together with our spouses with the idea of one personality changing to be like the other. He intended for us to meld our unique characteristics into one new creature.

And that, my friends, is why my way really is okay. And so is his.

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Paying Attention to the Hordes

Not too long ago, I awoke to legs that itched horribly. They were covered in more mosquito bites than I’d had in a very long time. I couldn’t even remember how I got them. I don’t recall being surrounded by a swarm or batting away while they bit. Yet, there were the bites.

The funny thing about this is that we had just moved from mosquito country. I cannot describe how many mosquitoes there are in Almyra. Most people don’t believe the stories unless they have been there. It’s not just a dawn and dusk thing. It’s all day and night. Garages filled with thousands of mosquitoes (we had two ceiling fans and two floor fans running constantly in our garage just so we could get in and out of our vehicles). Doors entirely unusable if there wasn’t something rigged to repel the pesky bugs. Fat frogs everywhere.

The thing about living in the middle of mosquito country, though, is that we were constantly aware of the threat. We actively fought mosquitoes daily.

Now, though, we’re in a new location. The mosquitoes aren’t nearly as bad. They don’t visibly swarm us. They don’t cover our windows or swarm our garage. So, it becomes easy to forget about them until it’s too late and we are covered with bites.

Spiritual struggles are often like the mosquito contrast. When we’re constantly and heavily hammered by temptations, struggles, or challenges, we build our big fortresses against those difficulties. We are on guard. Fighting becomes the norm, and our senses are aware. As a result, the casualties are few.

But when the issues are mild, we often forget to build our defenses until after we face the consequences of an attack. We wake up one morning to find ourselves beaten down in failure or overwhelmed by the consequences of sin. We are more miserable than we ever had been when surrounded by struggles.

One evidence of spiritual growth is an increase in our vigilance no matter what surrounds us. We actively and intentionally center our energy on Christ at all times, not just in the tough times. The result is that our guard is always high, whether the threat is great or small.

I’m learning to be more attentive to the occasional mosquito now that the hordes are gone. I haven’t had a massive outbreak of bites since that morning. I pray my spiritual life is growing even more profoundly, whether the challenge is great or small.

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I Love Your Home

Most of you are probably looking at the title and thinking, “But you’ve never seen my home!” And you’re right. I haven’t. But I love it. Why? Because it’s part of you. It reflects your personality and passions in so many ways.

I used to be ashamed of my home. I’m not a great housekeeper, and I can’t really decorate. If you walk into my home at any given time, there will be clutter. Despite my love for organization, my house will be unorganized. You might arrive on a day when the bathrooms have been cleaned recently or the trash cans emptied. But, it might also have been a few days since either was done. And the fact that housework gets done at all is a testimony to the willingness of my children to participate in household chores.

So, for those who love a spic and span, well-organized house, I’ll give you fair warning: You won’t find that within these doors. But, you’re welcome anyway, because it would give you a chance to get to know my family a little better as you walk in and see the combination of our personalities poured into our living space.

That’s what I’d find in your home, too, isn’t it – personality reflected in your space? And that, my friend, is why I love your home, even if I’ve never seen it.

Recently, my family joined hundreds of other Arkansans for a one-day mission trip to southwest Arkansas. The girls and I, joined by three others, spent four and a half hours prayer walking one portion of Arkadelphia. The thing that stood out to me the most was how closed up all of the houses were. Closed windows. No screen doors – just closed, solid doors. Closed garages, even when the occupants were home. Back yards closed off by privacy fences, such that even if the residents were playing together in the back yard, it was impossible to see.

It brought me face to face with the reality of our culture today: So many of us rarely see the inside of one another’s homes. We rarely get the chance to know one another on that level. And I am as guilty of that as the next person. I live much of my life behind closed doors as well. Although I’m always happy to welcome others into my home, I don’t go out of my way to make sure they know my home is open.

Because our homes reflect our personalities, our closed homes reflect our tendency to close ourselves off from one another. We hole up inside ourselves and hide what we consider to be a mess. We don’t want others to see our clutter – whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. We want to be particular about what we share.

Honestly, as an introvert, it makes me a bit nervous to think of living with an open home, because I need my protected space. And, there will be times when I must close my doors and focus on just my family. But, I want to be more open. I want to welcome others in more readily. I want others to see the real me.

And I want you to know that I love the real you. Yes, I really do love your home!

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Marriage Monday: A Servant’s Attitude

This month in Sunday school, the youth girls at our church are walking through the fruit of the Spirit. In preparation for each lesson, I’ve looked back at Elizabeth George’s book God’s Garden of Grace. I love the way she sees the fruit of the Spirit as three “categories” of growth in grace. Love, joy, and peace represent growth in the attitudes of grace. Patience, kindness, and goodness are the actions of grace. Finally, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control represent the application of grace.

This past week, we discussed the action trio in class, reviewing also the reminder that the attitudes have to be in place first. There is no action if our attitudes are not full of grace!

How often do I ponder that truth in my marriage?

My husband and I are frequently doing for one another. It’s a part of marriage. But what is behind our acts of service to one another? Are the actions habitual or intentional? Are they duty or delight? Are they obligatory or flowing from a peaceful heart of love and joy?

I love my husband dearly, and I really do love doing for him. But, so often I do not apply the attitude of that love to the day-in, day-out living of life. I don’t always approach walking through our morning routine as an outflow of patience, kindness, and goodness. I separate preparing lunch and caring for the normal routine of the home from the spiritual dynamics of our relationship.

But it’s all part of my service to my husband. And it all must be rooted in the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. Yes, even the most mundane, routine service. Even those acts must reflect the Spirit’s faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

My goal this morning was to start the day with that perspective, getting my attitude in place even when I did not want to get up, then letting my actions follow through. And it’s been a really good morning – not just in routine flow, but in our hearts as well. We both noticed it.

How can the fruit of the Spirit shine forth in your marriage this week?

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Able To Aid

Some mornings as I sit down to process through my readings, I get sidetracked. This form of sidetracking isn’t by glancing at e-mails or Facebook, texting with a friend, or anything like that (although I confess that does happen far too often). In this particular instance, I’m referring to getting sidetracked by a verse that isn’t really part of the “point” for the day.

Then again, maybe it is. God has a funny way of doing that.

This week, the distraction was a passing devotional reference to a verse in Hebrews. It’s easy for me to get lazy and just ignore passing references like that, so years ago I determined to be intentional about looking up those references every time. Here’s what I read when I looked up this particular verse:

For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:18 NASB (emphasis mine)

As I read these verses, I realized that I’ve always had an incomplete foundation when it comes to temptation. Had I ever stopped to process my understanding of how we are to biblically handle temptation, I would have realized that my foundation lacked something. But, until this week, I never gave it a second thought.

Here’s the foundation I’ve always had:

  • James 1 teaches that temptation is not of God, and I must flee it.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 shows me that God will provide a way of escape from temptation.
  • I still fall to temptation, but the blood of Jesus covers me, and I can come before Him in repentance and receive forgiveness even when I do not take the way of escape.

But, looking at Hebrews 2, there’s something else I was missing. Another crucial truth: I don’t have to run away on my own strength. I don’t have to find the escape with my own clouded vision. Jesus is able (and therefore willing) to come to my aid!

That is so logical. It’s so clear. It’s nothing really new. Yet, how often do I act on it?

I confess, often when I’m struggling against temptation, I feel too weak to even look for the way of escape. But my precious Savior has not left me to do it on my own. He is ready and able to help. I just have to call on Him.

He is my way of escape.

We cannot fight temptation on our own. We do not have the strength. (If we did, we wouldn’t need Christ’s salvation.) Only with the Spirit living within us can we walk through the escape provided. But in the ugliness of our temptation, we don’t feel able or worthy or permitted to call upon the purity that is Jesus Christ.

But oh how opposite from truth that is!

No, we’re not worthy. But even at our best we lack worth. And able? It only takes a plea for help! Oh, and the most glorious part is that we’re not only permitted, we’re invited. Welcomed. Encouraged. Admonished. Instructed. Commanded, even, to call upon Jesus.

And how do we remember that in the throes of temptation? How do we fight the darkness enough to convince ourselves that we can call upon Jesus for aid? By memorizing this verse now (and maybe a few around it – the whole context is powerful!), putting it in our arsenal so the Spirit can bring it to our minds in the moment of weakness.

He is able to come to my aid. Oh what a glorious truth!

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What Works for Me: Flexibility

Just in case you don’t know this about me (which probably means you’re a new reader!), I love organization. To-do lists are my friends. Schedule and routine make me happy. Knowing what to expect gives me security.

And now you can just go ahead and laugh, because we all know how often life allows organization, completed to-do lists, uninterrupted schedules and routines, and fulfilled expectations. It just doesn’t happen.

So, how does a structured person maintain an attitude of flexibility and still stay sane?

Plan for it.

I know. That sounds odd. How do you really plan for flexibility? Well, as I take into account my personality, my family, the needs of homeschooling and ministry, and the typical flow of life in our household, here are some things I’ve discovered:

  1. Planning is good. It really, really is. Believe it or not, our family stays more sane when we have a disrupted plan than when we have no plan. That goes for a menu plan, a school plan, an chore schedule, a typical daily routine, and on and on.

  2. Never plan in ink. Okay, so I do use ink. But it’s erasable. (Frixion pens are my friends!) The point is that I have to plan to be flexible. Plans change. So, in my head, I need to allow opportunity for the change from the very beginning.

    That’s hard. But it’s possible. For instance, I do a lot of my long-term planning on the computer. Right now I’m using My Well Planned Day – a great resource for homeschool and life. If we need to adjust a lesson plan, all I have to do is click to change the date. Same with menu planning. It’s all in there, but it’s flexible.

    Once a week, I put everything on paper for the upcoming week (in erasable ink, of course!). I’ve planned long-term, but I can easily adjust on a week by week – and even day by day – basis.

    Now, I need to go ahead and take a moment to share a couple of things here:

    – As happens with most of the lessons I’ve learned in life, the root of this one is spiritual. You see, I have this tendency to be ruled by my plans or my to-do list. But the Lord wants me to be ruled by none other than Himself. To be centered on Christ, no matter my plans. I have to be open to the Holy Spirit’s nudges throughout the day, and if I’m so stuck to my plans that I HAVE to complete them at all costs, then I’m not being sensitive to the Lord’s leadings. So, He’s had to work hard on me to get me to throw away the ink pens and adopt a more flexible approach to my plans and lists.

    – The second thought is just as important. Being flexible does not excuse me from being reliable. I always need to be ready and willing to receive and extend grace when plans change. But, I also need to honor my commitments, choosing not to use that handy eraser, even when it’s inconvenient or difficult to stick to the plan.

  3. Don’t make a big deal about changes. Yes, I often process through changes verbally with my family. But we don’t make a big deal about it. We just make the changes. It wasn’t always this way for me. There was a time when any change in plan threw me into a tizzy, and I would make it clear that my plans were being disrupted. That only causes tension. It’s so much better to just go with the flow!

There’s so much more to being a flexible planner, but most of the “much more” branches off of those three practices. So, now it’s your turn. How do you handle either being a structure person needing to learn flexibility or a flexible person learning to honor the fact that working with others requires planning?

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