I've discovered three things recently that have knocked my socks off with their "wowness" factor by either making a project (or dinnertime) way easier than it would've otherwise been, or by just simply saving me time and effort. These three little gadgets have made such an impact on my domestic life, that I just HAD to take a moment to share them with you! I cannot wait for you to be as equally impressed!
Up first... Steel Wool.
So, it all started when I bought a rusty old cast iron skillet for $5 at a favorite thrift store. I looked up how to restore/refinish it on Pinterest, and it called for a couple of items including...steel wool. I headed to the Dollar Store, bought a pack of steel wool "balls" in a three-pack (for $1!) and began the de-rusting, de-greasing, and de-junking of my new skillet. After letting the pan soak in oven cleaner for a few days, I grabbed one of the steel wool balls and began to scour the pan (I had never used steel wool before because I'd always shied away from the shiny balls of scratchy metal coils afraid of what they might do to any surface they touched) something miraculous happened: with hardly any effort or "elbow grease" the gunk was literally melting off the pan! I pulled a few cookie sheets and baking dishes out of the drawer that had been covered in layers of black "tar" (grease drippings, burnt marinades, etc.) that hadn't even budged under the pressure of my blue scouring sponges or the heat of my dishwasher, just to see what would happen, and I almost passed out: the black stuff just scrubbed right off...good as new! This opened a whole new world of cleaning power to me! I felt invincible! Suddenly, things that I had never been able to get really clean seemed do-able! I boiled some water in my tea kettle, poured a thin layer of the steaming hot water onto the surface of my stove, let it sit for a minute or two, and then rubbed those stubborn crusty stains right off! My stove looked cleaner than it had in...forever! I was thrilled! Those little metal balls have become my best friend in the kitchen! In fact, my old blue scouring sponges now make me laugh just a little. Sure, they might soap up the dishes, or wipe off the counter well, but when it comes to getting tough gunk off of anything...steel wool is the way to go. (But do make sure to test any new surface before scouring away as steel wool can scratch some surfaces)
Secret Weapon #2: A Painting Edger
A few months ago I decided to paint our laundry room. We've lived in this house for almost 8 years, and although we've painted most of the walls in our home, the laundry room had remained a stained up, yucky off-white color, riddled with unused nail holes and lots of scratches. It had bothered me for years, and it was time to do something about it. I picked out a lovely purplish grey color (unappetizingly called "Wet Concrete"), took the time to tape the molding and light switches, and began to paint. Usually my husband has done most of the paint work, but this project was all me. And amazingly, I got most of it done! But although I had rolled the paint nearly up to the ceiling (or as close as I could comfortably get without actually hitting the roller ONTO the ceiling), there was about a 2 inch strip of white paint at the very top that still needed painted. And for a few months, that's how it sat. And I started to wonder if I was ever going to finish it. Because once you lose your painting groove, it's hard to get it back. And honestly, I just didn't know how to DO that part! Do I tape the entire ceiling? Do I do it by hand with a tiny brush! How painstaking! I don't have time for that! I was mentioning my unfinished painting woes to a friend (a friend who happens to be a domestic goddess - seriously, Martha Stewart would be impressed with what this girl's got going on) and she nonchalantly explained to me the secret weapon of painting: a $2.97 red plastic painting edger, conveniently located in the painting section of your local hardware store. She explained to me the beautiful simplicity of this tool. It's a little plastic square, with a flat brush/sponge on the back, and wheels on one side. You gently set this miracle worker, brush side down, into your paint, (don't push it down, just rest it gently on the top of your paint so it gets a nice thin coat on the brush), then position it with the wheels against the wall or area you DON'T want painted (so for me, I had the wheels against the ceiling), and just glide it along! I started in one corner, went along that wall, re-dipped, went along the next wall, re-dipped, finished the third wall...and the fourth. I had finished the entire room - with a PERFECT straight edged line - in less than five minutes!!! In fact, it worked so well that I realized I may never have to mess with that silly blue tape again! This thing is so great (and covers a good 3-4'' of space) that you can literally paint the main area without taping anything and then just go around the edges with this handy tool to finish everything up! And less than THREE DOLLARS, folks! It's a no-brainer!
And finally, the easy dinner solution: Pre-packaged, vacuum-packed, Organic Sourdough loaves from Costco.
We were strolling down the bread aisle at Costco a few months ago, and on one of the end caps, they had something new: a three pack bundle of Organic Sourdough bread loaves. The bundle of three separately packaged loaves was about $7. A little over $2 per loaf, but they were good sized loaves, so we figured it was worth it. Because the best part: they are sealed in air-tight packaging that has had all the oxygen pulled out which means these loaves don't last just days (like the ones we usually buy fresh from the bakery only to find them hard and dried out if not used up the next day), they don't even last weeks...these bad boys last up to several MONTHS. Fresh bread, at your fingertips, for MONTHS. No more having to call Robert on his way home to have him pick up a loaf of bread (such a hassle for one item!), no, now I have fresh bread on hand for every meal! I simply cut open a package, pop the loaf into the oven for 8 minutes to warm it up, and voila! Like I baked it myself! Perfect with soup, and the next day I slice up what's left and use it to make the best french toast you've ever tasted. So now when we go to Costco, I usually buy two or even three bundles knowing that I can use them as-needed and that they won't go bad for MONTHS! And they're amazingly delicious, too! Win, win!
So. Those three little things have literally revolutionized my ability to clean, paint, and make dinner. Less fuss, less money, and way more convenience. It truly is amazing how sometimes just having the right tool really makes the job easier. You can get all three of those things for about $10 TOTAL, and if time is money, then it's most likely the best $10 you'll ever spend.
Let me know which "tool" works best for you! And if I come across any other miracle workers...I'll be sure to let you know!
I dream about the day I'll have an old farmhouse on a piece of land where our kids can run around, we can have chickens roaming free, laundry drying on a clothesline in the warm, summer, sun, and where each morning I can shuffle into the kitchen, brew the coffee, and make fried eggs with gifts bestowed to us from our very own pretty hens. I have every intention of being a homesteader: learning how to sew (more than a simple pillowcase or Christmas stocking), how to can and preserve my own foods (grown by me, of course!), even learn how to milk my own cows and goats, pluck and cook my own chicken, and how to knit, among other farmy domestic affairs. The thought of bright early mornings, roosters crowing, warm wool sweaters, and duties around the home and garden that keep us happily busy from sun-up till sun-down makes my heart pound. I just love the very thought of it.
But for now...we live in a 3 bedroom house, in a cookie-cutter neighborhood, with houses on each side, so close, I'm pretty sure our neighbors can hear not only what we're saying, but even what we're thinking. I also find myself routinely embarrassed when I haphazardly stumble to my kitchen window half asleep and realize I've left my nursing tank open or when I pass by my bedroom window while getting ready for bed and realize I have no pants on and my "bedroom-side" neighbor (a young single lady, thankfully) is sitting in her living room having to see me - yet again - practically naked. Actually, she's probably seen me completely naked. Oh, hello neighbor! Poor gal. I just don't think about these things when I'm (breast)feeding babies and chasing toddlers and trying to get a million things done at once. See - a house on my own land with no neighbors in earshot (or sight) would benefit quite a few people actually! Our yard is nice; we've made quite a few improvements over the years that have really made it feel more comfortable including a bigger deck, raised garden beds (that my loving husband built himself), a taller, nicer fence to give us more privacy, and this year we added a huge patio umbrella and a covered patio swing to give us shade so we could enjoy eating all of our summer dinners outside. It helps, but it doesn't change the fact that our yard is a rather small square of grass, bordered by an alleyway and lots and lots of other houses. Standing on my back deck I can literally see into about 4 or 5 other people's homes. And when they're out in their garages, I can also hear almost every single word they say. Again, my apologies to my neighbors for the squealing, screaming, and dog barking that must seem to be on constant surround sound from our yard.
My husband and I are both only children (I have a few step-siblings, but they were older teenagers when our parents married, and not really living at home). We both grew up eating out a lot, shopping a lot, traveling a lot, and just generally doing a lot of life away from home. As adults, those have been hard habits to break. Even having triplets didn't slow us down! We boat, we fly, we camp, we road-trip. We shop and eat out way too much. Basically, we've been trying to maintain a lifestyle that just isn't really practical with four young children. It's "do-able", but it's hard. And people get grumpy. And everyone gets tired. So Robert and I started talking about it and we realized that it's really hard to parent well on-the-go. Nap times get missed, children get in trouble for doing things that aren't really "wrong" just socially unacceptable in the grown-up situation we've forced them into or from the fact that they've been in a car too long or on a plane too long, or are just generally tired of having to act like little adults seated quietly at a restaurant table rather than being able to just run around or make a little noise! I'm not saying it's wrong to teach children how to behave well in these situations (ours are surprisingly well-trained and practically bred for such events - ha!), but that maybe these situations shouldn't be the norm of their lives. At least that's what we've decided for us. And because we are hoping the Lord chooses to bless us with more children, it's probably better that we begin to accept and embrace this reality before even more little people are added to the brood!
Surprisingly, though, I feel a sense of calm and even excitement about spending more time at home. It doesn't mean we won't ever travel or eat out, but that the majority of our life, our free-time, our meal times, will be spent together...at home. Where the kids can run and play and be kids, and where rather than trying to parent in difficult, shifting situations, there will be a certain consistency to our schedules and routines. We have chosen to home-school our children, and even that is better done when our lives are lived, you guessed it: at home rather than constantly "busy" with too many activities here and there, too many errands, too many nights out. Only by establishing a norm of "home-ness" can we really commit to setting aside the proper time and attention to sitting down and learning our lessons. I've spent my whole life filling my days with activities and errands and "doing, doing, doing" and now I feel like I'm at a place in my life that I just want to be home. Slow mornings, time to deep clean different parts of the house. Time to swing on our new patio swing with the kids and enjoy the few months of warm sunshine we enjoy each year here in the high desert. Time to snuggle each child, share a conversation or a story. Less rush. Less stuff. Less "doing" and more living. I want to cultivate in our children a love for the simple things, things that honor God and build relationship: a walk to the park, tending the garden, visiting an elderly neighbor, spending time singing songs together as a family. It's a new pace for us, and I'm excited about its possibilities.
I hope that one day our homesteading will be in the more traditional sense, on land, living a more self-sustainable lifestyle with room to romp and roam. But for now, I will be content with our tiny yard, our (super) close neighbors, and our gaggle of giggling children...right here...at home.
My husband and I are reading a most excellent book about the trinity, Delighting in the Trinity, An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember, and have always known and accepted the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as an integral part of my faith, but this book is bringing to light aspects of what that truly means in ways I had never before pondered or understood. As we approach Father's Day, understanding God as "Father" seems of great and timely importance. And the way Reeves unfolds this personhood of God is truly beautiful. What was God doing before Creation? Have you ever wondered about that? God has existed forever. He was not created. He IS. He WAS. He ALWAYS HAS BEEN. Our minds (being limited to time and space) can't even truly comprehend what that means. We have no experience of "forever". But if we even try to imagine that He has existed - forever - then we must wonder...what did He do for forever before He created the Earth??? I was actually thinking about this recently and totally confused myself trying to figure it out. I know that when the Bible begins, in Genesis 1:1-2, we "meet" God for the very first time. At the conception of creation: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." God proceeds to separate light from darkness, to form water and land, to produce vegetation, the sun, moon, and stars, to create creatures of the sea, air, and land, and finally, He makes man (and woman). Beautifully, we see the trinity revealed even here, so early in scripture, as God talks of himself in the plural form:
"Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." Genesis 1:26.
So what was He doing in this "forever" before He created Earth??? He was the Father, and He spent eternity loving His Son.
"And that is the God revealed by Jesus Christ. Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his son. The most foundational thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that he is Father. Again and again, the Scriptures equate the terms God and Father (Ex 4:22, Is 1:2, Jer 31:9, Hos 11:1, Deut 1:31, Deut 8:5, Ps 103:13, Jer 3:19, Jer 3:4, Deut 32:6, Mal 1:6, Is 63:16, Is 64:8, John 20:17, Rom 15:6, I Pet 1:3, I Cor 1:3, Heb 12:7) Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly...He is Father. All the way down. Thus all that he does he does as Father. That is who he is. He creates as a Father and he rules as a Father...For if, before all things, God was eternally a Father, then this God is an inherently outgoing, life-giving God. He did not give life for the first time when he decided to create; from eternity he has been life giving." (Delighting in the Trinity, pp. 21-24)
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (I John 4:7-8).
How could God be love if He was just one person? There must be another - an object of His love. And that "other" has for eternity been his son. First, he was Father to the Son. Now, he is Father to all who call upon His name through the Son. And that beautiful, all-powerful, life-giving love that was once (and for all eternity) for his Son, is now also for us. Can you wrap your mind around that kind of love???
So on this Father's Day, while it is good and lovely to honor our earthly fathers and celebrate our husbands, take hold also of the beautiful truth that the triune God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) is our perfect, loving, Father.
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." I John 4:9
A theme that keeps coming up for me this week as I read other blogs, journals, talk with friends, and do my "She Reads Truth" Bible Study on the book of Nehemiah is work. What has been interesting to me is how over and over again, the same message regarding work has emerged: Your simple job is a holy job. You don't need to go do something "radical" (in today's globally mission-minded sense) to be "working" for Christ. Whatever you are doing, right now, right where you're at is being used for holy purposes, and is therefore "radical" just by your obedience to get the work done.
In The Message (a paraphrased version of the Bible), Eugene Peterson states in the introduction to the book of Nehemiah: "It is common for us to refer to the work of pastors, priests, and missionaries, as "sacred," and that of lawyers, farmers, and engineers, as "secular." It is also wrong. Work, by its very nature, is holy. The biblical story is dominated by people who have jobs in gardening, shepherding, the military, politics, carpentry, tent making, homemaking, fishing, and more..."
In Nehemiah chapter 3 there is a list...a long list of the many helpers that helped repair the walls of Jerusalem. Name after name after name appears and then, next to each name, the job each person helped to complete. Chapter 3:15 states:"Shallun the son of Col-Hozeh, leader of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate; he built it, covered it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah by the King’s Garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David." The description seems tedious and insignificant, especially after reading so many other names and jobs listed beforehand. But day 4 of the "She Reads Truth" study in Nehemiah had this to say about his "insignificant" work:
Can I tell you a little secret about one of these builders that may shed some light for us? Did you notice Shallum, in verse 15? He’s just one of the dozens listed, but he repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah. No biggie, right? Well, it is actually a huge deal. It’s one man, sacrificing his time and effort to rebuild his community because of the larger vision at stake. But there’s more to the story there.
In John 9, they’re calling this pool “Siloam,” but don’t be confused – it’s the very same one. This time, we’re there hundreds of years later with Jesus – as He heals a blind man, declaring His divinity in miracle form. Then in Acts 3, in the very same place, Peter heals a man who has never walked. THIS is an important place, right?
Could it be that the section of the wall God has given you is important for your sanctification and His Glory today, but that He might also have an eternal plan for the work you’re doing?
My job right now is being a full-time, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother to four young children. I spend a lot of time slicing fruit, folding laundry, wiping bottoms, and breaking up fights. In other people's eyes, it is a much less glamorous or praise-worthy job than say a fireman who rescues people from burning buildings, or a surgeon who saves life after life on an operating table. But who really knows the eternal impact of my job?! Who will my children become? And their children? And their children's children? And if I don't do my job well, meet their physical and emotional needs, train them up in the truth, and teach them about the Lord, how could that affect all of those future generations?! My obedience and commitment to doing my job well truly does matter. Neglecting my job or failing to recognize its eternal purposes is like tossing a lit match into a dry field. Who knows how far that fire will spread or the (generational) destruction that may come from such a seemingly tiny spark? Sometimes we feel like we need to be "out there" making a difference. But we can be obedient to Christ in any job, even at home: "God sanctifies our work. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Hey! I do that everyday! Who knew that I could be completing the corporal works of mercy right in my own home?" (from the article "Asking for a drink", Soul Gardening, A Mother's Journal). As a mother, your acts of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked,) may right now just be referring to your very own children, but the truth is, they are His children. And ultimately, what you do for them, you do for Christ. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40. Your work is important. Your work is holy. It has eternal purposes and affects eternal souls. No matter what your current job is, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." Colossians 3:23. Because hundreds of years from now, miracles may happen at your wall.
In January I decided to take a break from Facebook as part of my New Year's Resolutions to simplify my life. Amazingly (for me) I actually did go three entire months without ever logging in. Then, just a few weeks ago, I thought, "Oh, I'll just start sending one or two photos from Instagram to Facebook for all of my non-Instagram friends to see." That led (of course) to comments, and messages, and once again being lured into the Facebook trap. One of the main reasons I initially left Facebook was because I was just so tired of reading and seeing lies. Tired of reading about all the ways this world has forsaken the Truth. Tired of people reveling in their sin. And I'm one of those people that can't just "see" that stuff. My beliefs force me to confront those lies. To speak the truth in love. But sadly, Facebook doesn't want to hear it. I'd quote a Bible verse or share a Biblical view on something and immediately be labeled "aggressive", "condescending", "hurtful", "intolerant" or "ignorant." Now even though it was disheartening to be called names by people who I know are unbelievers, the worst part is that most of these comments came from people I grew up with, went to Christian school with, and who profess to be Christians.
Same sex marriage was the hot topic last night. And I had "Christian" after "Christian" telling me that I was being hurtful by calling it a perversion or a sin. I was told that it was okay for me to have my own "opinion", but not to ever, EVER try to convince anyone that my opinion was in fact truth or the only way to interpret things.
But the Bible says it is a sin, and that we are born in sin. In Genesis 19, and Leviticus 18:22, and Leviticus 20:13, and I Kings 14 and 15, and Romans 1:18-32, and I Corinthians 6:9-11, and I Timothy 1:8-10, and Jude 7. Homosexual sex, like any other form of sexual immorality (or sexual contact outside of a God-defined marriage) is a sin. It may not be a popular viewpoint today, but it is what the Bible teaches. And if you believe that the Bible is God-inspired, infallible, and supremely authoritative, then you cannot ignore these passages.
God designed marriage in the garden of Eden between a man and a woman. Marriage is a physical representation of Christ's relationship to His bride, the Church. It is also meant to be a union that produces children. Genesis 1:27-28, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Again, to Noah, God says in Genesis 9:7, "And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
What our culture is trying to do, is "divorce" marriage from its God-given function. Even without same-sex marriage, culturally we have lost the beauty of what God intended marriage to be, of what it was designed to represent. Marriage has become all about "me", about "my rights", and "my happiness" about "equality". And that is why divorce, broken homes, and now same-sex marriage is rampant, even in the church. There is a lie in our culture that "Jesus loves everyone and everything." That Jesus would never tell someone what to do or ask them to stop sinning. That is not the truth. Jesus said to sinners: "Go now and leave your life of sin." John 8:11. Jesus was perfect. He was Holy. He was God. And a holy, perfect, God cannot love sin. In fact, Jesus' message was so radical, so UN-popular, that it got him crucified. He didn't come to condone sin, He came to die for it. It was SIN that nailed him to that cross. And it was real love.
The truth though, is that Jesus died for EVERY type of sin. Anger, murder, pride, lying, stealing, and every single type of sexual immorality (lust, adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, rape, etc.). But for Christ's blood to atone for your sin, you have to confess it. You have to acknowledge sin as sin! If it isn't sin, then Christ didn't need to die for it, and you don't need a Savior. Romans 3:23 states that: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
And Romans 3:11-18 reveal what our sin looks like: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 6:23 teaches us about the consequences of sin: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
And how do we obtain that gift? "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved... Foreveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9, 13 Christ died for our sins. Every single type, and every single one. If we confess our sin and our need for a savior, and if we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are free from sin and will have eternal life. (John 3:16). But if we let a secular worldview or even what is "legal" influence what we believe is "right" or "wrong" instead of what the Bible SAYS is right and wrong, we make ourselves vulnerable to believing that we are without sin. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." I John 1:8.
Tonight I have again decided to leave Facebook. This time for good. And this time, it isn't just to simplify my life. It isn't even to avoid conflict with people who think differently than me. I can handle that even though I don't like it. No, this time I am leaving Facebook because I don't believe that the amount of time I spend reading about the world's lies and sin and trying to argue the truth should outweigh the time I spend focusing on Christ.
Philippians 4:8 says:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Those aren't the things on Facebook. So I am done.
The ironic truth is that I wasn't arguing my points to shame people or judge people or in any way claim to be better than the worst sinner on Earth. I am that sinner. It was my sin - MY SIN - that nailed my king to that cross. He died for me. My pride. My lies. My anger. My lust. I just desperately want others to see that without Christ, there is only death. Physical death and spiritual death. And the only true "equality" is the fact that we are all equal in our sin at the foot of the cross.