Friday, March 18, 2011

Bumper Pads for Adults

Today's practical tip is nothing new, if you've read or heard other time management material. Sometimes referred to as adding a cushion or margin to your day, let's think of it today's tip as "bumper pads."

When someone welcomes a new baby to the home, they often set up a lovely nursery. One of the components is a crib that is lined with soft, pillow like material called bumper pads. This is meant to protect the baby from getting caught in the rails of the crib, and provide a soft barrier from the hardness of the wood.

We need bumper pads in our lives, too. To manage time well and stay organized, you need to strategically place bumper pads in your day, that will absorb the inevitable interruptions and distractions that can hit the day hard. Here are some practical ways you can add bumper pads to your day:

Add at least 10 minutes to any drive time/commuting you expect to do (more, depending on where you live.) This will help with traffic jams, detours, etc. If you live 30 minutes away from most places you need to go, plan for a 40 minute drive.

  • Cut your to-do list by at least 25% after you write it out for the day. Put the lesser-priority  list in a different spot that you can go to if you happen to have an extremely productive day and want to do more. 
  • Overestimate how long a task will take. If it usually takes you 15 minutes to fold laundry, allow for 20 to 30.
  • Expect, and plan for, interruptions. I'll write more about techniques for this at another time, but watch for "pattern interruptions" such as visits, phone calls, coworker chats, and the like that tend to happen frequently, and determine a plan to avoid them from throwing your entire day off track.

Speaking of patterns, do you see one here? It comes down to "expect less." We expect way too much of ourselves in terms of what we can get done in a day. It is not healthy to continue to have such demands on our minds and souls. Prayerfully consider what are realistic expectations for the day, keeping your relationship with God as highest priority. He will guide you if you ask for wisdom. (James 1:5)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Housekeeping According to the Gospel

Today I welcome a brother in Christ, Rick Thomas, as a guest to our blog. Rick published this piece last week at Competent Counseling, and I thought it would be so valuable on our blog as well. So with his permission, here it is!

In the beginning God spoke. When He did, the world began to take shape. The Creator brought form and order out of chaos and disorder. This is what God does. He steps into dysfunction and transforms it into function.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said… – Genesis 1:2-3 (ESV)
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 (ESV)
Perhaps you have been affected similarly. Perhaps God spoke His Word into your soul and your chaos began to be reshaped by the hand of the Almighty. God takes us just as we are, but He does not leave us just as we are. It does not matter where we come from, what we have done, or how disoriented our lives may have been. When the Creator speaks, we change. The Holy Spirit takes the seed of His Word and plants it in our hearts and we are wonderfully reborn from above.
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. – 1 Peter 1:23 (ESV)
One of the privileges of being born again is that we can now do what we could never do before: we can imitate God. Prior to God speaking into our chaos and transforming us by His mighty power, we were His disoriented aliens and enemies. Now we are His friends (John 15:15) and we have the joy-filled privilege ofputting Him on display everywhere we go.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. – Ephesians 5:1 (ESV)

A Haven of Rest

One of the many ways we can model the power of the Gospel in our lives is by how we present our home to others. Think about this for a moment. Many of the people we have into our home come from frenetic, busy, and noisy places. Some (not all) of these people live in a steady state of chaos. Maybe their own homes are chaotic. Maybe the husband and wife are at each other’s throats. Maybe they are struggling with rebellious children or some other relational breakdown.

Others are loving and serving God, but their lives are incredibly fast-paced. Whether they are serving God or whether their lives are breaking down in ways that they can’t seem to get a handle on, there is one common denominator: there is little rest for the weary.

Therefore, when we have people into our home, we want them to feel and experience something different than what they just came from. We want them to be able to relax. We want to provide for them a brief moment in their lives where they can separate themselves from the noise of their lives.
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. – Mark 6:30-31 (ESV)
Perhaps you have been in a chaotic home that is mostly in disarray. If so, you have probably felt a tension or an inability to relax. The clutter and the noise kept you on edge and after you left you felt as though you needed a break. In such a home the “lord” of the home needs to not only speak up, but he needs to step up and lead by example. He needs to bring his home in line with the Gospel. Chaos does not represent Christ.

A Few Tips to Think About

  • It’s a family affair - I am not making a case for the husband to berate his wife about her lack of taking care of the home. If anything, I am making a case for the husband to lead in his home. His home, good or bad, is a reflection of his leadership, good or bad.
  • The anal retentive – There are some people who are so anal about their homes, that though their homes may be spotless, everyone in the home is tense, fearful, and generally worn out. You will know if a clean home is an idol by how you respond when it is not clean.
  • It ain’t about you - I’ve seen some wives who go into near panic attack when they think of someone coming over and their house is not clean. This is not the Gospel either. Quite simply, it is sin. If you are overly concerned with how your home reflects on you, then you are self-centered rather than other-centered.
  • It’s not about money – It does not matter about the quality of the furniture. It’s about the Gospel. God saves people from every imaginable background. The poor and the rich can become a Christian. It’s not about what you have, but who you are and how you represent your Master.
  • The process and the result should be the same – If the process to clean the house is chaotic and angry, then the Gospel has been missed. Yes, it is a privilege to enjoy a well-ordered home. It is also a privilege and joy to make a home well-ordered.
  • It’s about the Master of the house – Though your home is a reflection of you, you are a reflection of your Master. Your home is an extension of your beliefs. The Gospel is comprehensive. It should be affecting every area of your life and how you think about and respond to all of these areas.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed - The transformative work of the Gospel is a work-in-progress. Progressive sanctification is just that: it is progressive. As the old hymn goes, “He’s still work’in on me.” Don’t sweat it. Be thankful you can even think these thoughts. Most people in our world do not give the Gospel one iota of thought as to how it can reshape their lives.

A Note About Children

Children have an invaluable role to play in the daily upkeep of a home.
  • Their training to model the Gospel should begin by the time they are walking upright. Yes, they, too, are a work-in-progress. Therefore you want to start young. The primary way they can model the Gospel is the same way you can model the Gospel: serving others. Children need to learn from you what serving looks like and they should be learning this at a very young age.
  • Children should be pitching in and helping very early. If they don’t learn it from you, then it will be a challenge for them to learn it after they are married. If a child rightly understands the Gospel then he/she will see it as a privilege and opportunity to come alongside mom in the general upkeep of the home.
  • When guests are over, a Gospel-centered child will know that the next couple of hours are not about him/her. It’s about the guests. The Gospel is distinctly others-centered. Therefore, the child should be equipped and envisioned on how to make it not about him/her. This would mean they would not inappropriately interrupt or be so noisy that the attention is drawn away from what God may be doing (or desires to do) in the lives of the guests.
Our family goal is for people to come to our home to relax. If our home replicates the effects of the Gospel, then no matter what kind of “chaos” comes through our door, the Gospel begins to have an immediate affect on them. Our hope is that by the time they leave, they feel like they have pulled away from life for a brief moment and were refreshed in God. Part of that “refreshing” is the environment of our home.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nope, didn't do it

No. Didn't do it. I admit it. I wasn't organized enough to get Tuesday's scheduled blog post up. I'm hoping to provide posts on Tuesdays and Fridays but sometimes it won't happen. And, that's OK!

It's OK when you don't get through your entire to-do list just the way you want to. We often make the lists too big anyhow. 

I hope to be back on Friday with some more tips. In the meantime, I would like to share an uplifting testimonial I received from someone who took my Getting Organized class:

Thank you so much for a wonderful series on organization.  You have accomplished what nobody else has been able to accomplish with me....keeping me motivated to stick to these ideas.  I am a creative thinker and very impulsive;  it is not in my nature to stick with things for a long period of time.  Not only did I stick with these 12 steps to peace, but I looked forward to each week and never missed a class.  God is reaching into the heart of the matter with me by using you as a motivator.  Again, thank you for leaving your work and home each week to teach us what wonderful peace God has in store for each of us in this class.
I am looking so forward to your class on time management.
Gena, South Carolina

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Getting Organized is an Opportunity to Serve Others with Less Stress

In 1 Peter 4:9, we are encouraged to show hospitality without grumbling. That's an interesting verse, isn't it? Shouldn't it go without saying that serving others in a hospitable way should be a joy? Well, think again.

The last time you had plans for company to come over, how were you feeling in the days/hours prior to their arrival? Scattered? In control? Exhausted? Like hiding? I know that for us, sometimes having company over is, sadly, the best catalyst for getting our home in order. It can be exhausting to prepare the house. That is unfortunate because it would be better to do some touch up and be rested and emotionally ready for our guests.

Maybe Peter realized, or observed, that reaching out to others does take work. Hospitality doesn't come easy, and perhaps people were complaining about it.

The Bible certainly encourages us to be in a position of helping others. In Acts 16, Lydia urged Paul and his ministry team to stay at her house. I think Lydia could do that because she was prepared for guests, and managed her household well. In Proverbs 31,we see a portrait of a woman who manages life well and is prepared to serve others.

So, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being "very prepared," how do you feel you would be if I was making an unexpected visit to you tomorrow?

One way to prepare wisely is to consider the "Triangle Zone." Draw a triangle, and note the three rooms or common areas your guests are likely to be during their visit. (For example, kitchen, guest room, living room.) Note also the traffic pattern they will take from spot to spot. Then, concentrate your organizing/cleaning efforts on those three spots initially. (If you have time, you can then do the lesser traveled areas.) In other words, you don't need your master bedroom to be spotless if your guests will remain in the dining room most of the night.

It should probably go without saying, but a bathroom the guests will use should be in the center of that triangle.

Here's a key thought: if the bathroom and kitchen are appropriately cleaned, you will go a long way toward being ready. Guests will likely be far more patient with a little dust or pile of clutter in the den than they would be with an unsanitary rest room or kitchen.

Another thought: neat and clean can be just a pleasant as sophisticated decorating. Sometimes we put a lot of money and effort into decorating when simplicity and a touch of say, holiday, accent look just as nice.

The bottom line is that getting organized will help you reduce mental clutter which keeps us tense in regard to hospitality, and grumbling such as Peter referenced. Wouldn't you rather look forward to serving others in your home?

On Friday's "practical tips" post, we'll look at some more ways to easily be prepared for guests! I welcome your comments!