Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Quiet Nursery

I read a beautiful post by the wonderful and inspiring Sally Clarkson today that reminded me of a short devotional my neighbor had sent me a few months ago.  The gist of both of these pieces reminded me that if there are children or people in general around there will be some sort of sign of this life (messes, noises, etc.).  They both conclude that it is better to have the messes and noises, which are a sign of the life within, rather than the orderliness and/or silence which indicate the absence of this life.  I am here to tell you that both kinds of signs of life are abundant here at Abundant Life Ranch!!  We have almost daily construction of forts of one kind or another.  We have projects, both finished and unfinished, as signs of a busy home schooling family of many.  There are crumbs to be found often throughout our house, even though the "rule" is that food stays in the kitchen area.  Books are everywhere...  As I am striving to live more simply, I am more keenly aware of all of these things around.

Both pieces I read mention the proverb: "Where there are no oxen, the crib (trough) is clean." In the short piece my neighbor sent me to read, the author writes, "A home in which everything is in apple-pie order is not of necessity a matter for congratulation.  The rooms are silent; there are no signs of childish romp and revelry.  In the nursery, the toys are all in their proper places; everything is orderly and shipshape; all is spick and span.  But the father and mother are heartbroken; their child is dead."  (F. W. Borham,The Last Milestone: Essays by F. W. Borham).  He later continues: "Let every minister be thankful that his study needs tidying; let every barrister be thankful for the confusion in his office; let every carpenter be thankful for the shavings on the floor; let every mother be thankful for the tumult in the nursery; let every farmer be thankful that the crib needs cleaning out.  It all goes to show that there is something doing."  Boy, does this resonate with me!!  The author does go on to raise this to the spiritual plane, and conclude that we should be wary of the day when our conscience ceases to cry out to us that there is cleaning to be done as well.  That is where I stand with my newly renewed commitment to declutter and make our home more peaceful.  I am so very thankful for all the mess-makers in my home, and the signs of the blessings that surround us.  I am so thankful that my nursery isn't quiet, and that it won't be for decades to come!

 "...I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10

Friday, May 25, 2012

Creating a Family Purpose Statement

Before leaving for Disney I had spent 1/2 faithfully every day decluttering, and I finished the kitchen cabinets that wouldn't close!  It is so nice to open those two cabinet doors and see it nicely organized and ready to be easily accessed.  I bought a pot lid holder to keep in there and it fits great, keeping pot lids accessible yet put neatly away.  I have a growing pile of things to give to Goodwill as well as another area for garage sale/Craigslist items.  I love the feeling of ridding the house of unnecessary items and freeing up space!  I truly believe that all the stuff can weigh me down and cause me to feel defeated.  It has been relatively easy so far to spend just 1/2 hour per day evaluating what I have in these cabinets (and other areas as well) and getting rid of things.  I am still struggling to give things up that I "may need just in case," but I've been making progress.

Last night I spent 1/2 hour working on the shoe rack/coat rack by the back door.  This is one of those areas that can get out of control quickly/  I would have thought it would take me a lot longer to clean out that area, but I was finished in exactly 1/2 hour!

Here is what it looked like before:  Pretty horrible, isn't it??  This is humbling for me to post, but it's so good for me as well.  :)

And here is after:

Much better!!  Pretty good for 1/2 hour of work.  Not perfect, I know, but how could it be with 11 people's stuff store there??  What I love about doing this is that I set my timer for 1/2 hour, and when it goes off, I'm done, even if I'm "in the middle" of something.  I put it away and save it for later.  I have oftentimes said I don't have time to decluttter, etc., but the truth is that I do, but I waste a lot of time thinking of how little time I have instead of just digging in and doing it for a change.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have also been spending time daily thinking about and praying through some questions to help us come up with our family purpose statement.  I'm hoping to get Todd to think about these things as well so that we can develop our family vision/purpose statement together. After all, what good is a purpose statement if my hubby isn't in on it?!

We have in the past stated our purpose to be this: The Erdner Family exists to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, and to make disciples for His kingdom." I think the new statement will basically be this with a few additions to be a little more specific and help us line up our choices of activities.

 Here are some things I am thinking about to compare notes with my husband. These questions come from Tsh Oxenreider's book _Organized Simplicity_.

1. What are some strengths of each member of the family? I'm thinking talking is one of the gifts shared by everyone in this family,  :)

2.Collectively, we are at our best when... Playing games as a family. Camping together as a family, having people over for dinner and/or to ride the horses.  Doing things together, like working on a project.

3. Collectively, we are at our worst when we...are in a hurry, everyone is thinking only of themselves, or if we are bored.

4.  If we had a completely free day, how would we spend it?  Go to the pool, play soccer in the yard, go for tractor rides with the younger kids, maybe a walk for the whole family.

5.  What are practical ways we can serve each other?  Chores for everyone in the household!  Pray for one another.

6.  What are practical ways we can serve others outside our family?  Practicing hospitality.  Service project like meals on wheels, Little Helping Hands, etc.  Signing up to bring meals to those who need them for various reasons.

7.  Name three things we could do better as a family:  thinking of others first, going above the call of duty, taking the initiative.

 8.  What would people say today about our family as a whole?  I think most people would say we are a fun, LOUD family with convictions.  Most people who know us would say we are a family who enjoys having people over for fun, casual times, and that we make just about anyone feel welcome and at home.

9.  What would we like people to say about our family as a whole in thirty years?  We would like for them to say that we are a family in which all the members love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength and that we are all walking with and serving Him!

10.  If our home could be filled with one emotion, what emotion would that emotion be? Love/Joy

11.  List three adjectives we would like people to use to describe our home environment.  Warm, Welcoming, Christ-centered/Spirit-filled

12.  If we could name one principle from which we would like our family to operate, what would it be?  Honor with Grace

13.  What are the top four priorities we want out family to value?  Loving God, practicing hospitality, serving others (community, etc.), sharing the gospel

14.  What is the main purpose of our home?  To be a vessel for the work of Christ in and through us.

15.  What is the secondary purpose of our home?  Fun place to live and grow a family, and have people over (our enjoyment and the enjoyment of others)

16.  What is the individual purpose in life of each member of our family?  To know God and make Him known.

17.  What is one way we are unique as a family?  One way?  Ha!!  We are a big, happy family with a very unique, casual way of life.  We certainly go against the mainstream culture!

18.  Describe the status of our family in ten years:  Financially: debt-free, but with lots of college age children?? Intellectually: homeschooling, college kids, still discussing stuff Emotionally: stable, relying on God, so joyful Relationally with each other: love, strong bonds as a family Communally in our environment:  nature important, on the farm Physically: healthy, vegan, exercise  Spiritually: strong relationships with the LORD! He is our LIFE!!

19.  Where is your family in 10 years?  Still homeschooling, close, kids adults still happy to come home.  Home is the haven.

20.  What is the purpose of life? To know God and make Him known!!

I'm excited to watch how this may unfold into a family statement.  Do you have a personal or family purpose statement you would be wiling to share on my page?  Share it here or on FB.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A "Disney Magical Moment"

We had a wonderful time at Disney, even though if we go again in the future, I would want to stay for more days and drive our own vehicle.  We did it all, but felt pretty rushed the whole time.  As with any vacation, we had highs and we had lows.  The lowest low was the second day, when my mom fell and had to get stitches on her forehead.  She was fine, and they took really good care of her, which was great.  They also gave free fast passes to me and all the kids so we could choose one ride to not have to wait in a long line for and without having to get the fast pass and wait for a specific time.  That was so nice.  They also gave us 6 free ice creams to use that day whenever we liked at any of the places that sold ice cream.

So, the children and I braved the Magic Kingdom all by ourselves for most of that day.  As the afternoon grew hotter and hotter, we decided to use our ice cream voucher.  But there was a slight problem--I couldn't find it!!!  As we stood there fumbling around looking for it, I became rather upset as I thought I had lost it!  I prayed out loud with the kids, and then Enoch volunteered to look one more time in my belt pack.  He came ip with it almost immediately!  Praise the Lord!!  Just after we found it, we were approached by a few members of the Disney "cast members" who said they were from Bambi's forest and that the woodland creatures there had made a special treat but couldn't find anyone there who could eat it, because the animals like berries and such.  (haha!  :))They asked us if we thought we could use a treat.  Of course, the kids exclaimed "Yes!" Then one of the cast members lowered a little sign he had been hiding the treat behind and there was an enormous ice cream sundae waiting for us!  They gave us 7 spoons and we went to town on that sundae!!

It was such a bright moment, and the Lord blessed us so much with that moment.  It was great fun for the kids, and a delicious sundae, and we were able to save our voucher for later in the evening.  Perfect!  My mother rejoined us that evening, and she got to have the ice cream with us as we walked around and rode some rides with the kids.  It was one of those moments when I felt God tell me He was watching me and knew exactly what was going on, and that He was with us!  What a blessing that was!

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taking the week off!

My organizing and simplifying adventures are on hold this week as I get the fun privilege of taking my younger children to Disney World! We had miles to use and a grandma who lives in FL so we can get lower price passes. We arrived last night after a smooth journey which involved a change of planes and terminals in Atlanta. It wasn't bad at all. The children behaved so well. I was very proud of them and received many compliments on how well-behaved they were. I will post when we return home. I've been working on developing my ideas for our family purpose statement and I'm looking forward to working with my husband to develop it together. I will share all of that when I'm back in the swing in Texas! Blessings!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What I'm Really Like

First of all, to all the mothers out there: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!  May you be blessed as you seek to glorify God in this high calling to which we have been called!  You are an example of Christ's self-sacrificing love!

OK. So now I have been faithfully spending 1/2 hour per day (no more, no less) on officially decluttering and organizing our home for the last 6 days.  The large cabinet by the back door that wouldn't shut as of last Monday is now nicely organized with every single thing I haven't ever used or that I have rarely used either thrown out, in a give away pile, or in a stack to be readied for a garage sale.  This is all wonderful.  I love it when things are neat and organized.  I actually *used* to be a perfectionist, but then God blessed me with 9 children to cure me of that illness!

I love these looks:



I mean, those looks make me feel all happy inside!  Love it, wish it could be my house or closet!

I think it might be time for a little reality check, though.  What am I really like?  Most of you who know me know that I am a free spirit.  I'm the creative type--the kind of homeschooling mom who loves to get out supplies (or things that aren't supposed to be supplies) to let the kids run with their imaginations, no matter how large the mess they may create.  "We can clean up later" is usually my motto.  And we usually do clean up later to where it is "good enough."  I let go of "perfect" a long time ago!  It is so funny to me when strangers (or even acquaintances who don't know me well) tell me I must be so organized and have everything so "together." Obviously this notion is due to the sheer number of children we have.  Somehow the fact that I have 9 children makes me organized.  If just the fact that I have a large family could make our home be neat and organized, that would be lovely.  Unfortunately in our case, almost the opposite is true, especially if you add in the free-spirited, creative mama along with 4 creative, social and exuberant girls and 5 rambunctious, rough-n-tumble, Lego-building, mud-lovin' boys as well!  If you were to stop in at our house at most times, you would find the very lived-in look!  Usually at least the dishes are done and the counters and table are cleaned and the floor is swept, unless we are in the middle of a project (which is a lot of the time!).  But there are probably toys and homeschooling materials around the room, just about everywhere you look!

I recently ran across a prayer journal of mine from when Todd and I were just starting our family.  I laughed out loud when I read the prayers I had written regarding getting the house organized and decluttered.  It seems as though this is an ongoing theme in my life.  This time, however, I am really hoping to be extremely committed to actually getting rid of the things that are weighing me down, instead of just moving them around.  That is one of the ways in which I have "decluttered" in the past.

So far, on my new decluttering adventure, I have purged several things I have bought or been given for my kitchen and then never used, including one of three crockpots (I still have 2 more, but I regularly use both), a Food Saver used maybe once in our marriage, cookie cutters I've never used, canning supplies, a meat coating set from Pampered Chef (we are going almost Vegan these days, so don't need that!), and various other rarely or never used items that were clogging up that cabinet!  I'm trying really hard to go ahead and get the stuff out, even if I think I *might* use it in the future or imagine myself magically starting to use something I've never used in many many years.  It's most likely I won't use them and they'll just remain as clutter.

I am sure that as always I will need to make decluttering a habit if I want things to remain simple and fairly organized. This definitely goes against my nature in many ways, but I have  a renewed excitement for simplifying!  I am looking at things differently, keeping in mind that I also have a busy household with 9 children ages 14 and under, so I can't be too hard on myself.  At the same time, I can't use the large family as an excuse to let things go by the wayside either. All the stuff, the "too much stuff," reminds me of one of my favorite verses in Scripture:

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

It is so easy to get tangled in stuff, to get distracted by things (possessions) and schedules, so that we lose our focus on The Most Important Thing--Christ and our relationship with Him.

I'm praying my journey helps me continue to free myself up, untangle myself so that I may focus on the Truly Important!  May you be blessed as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 1: Tackling the cupboard that wouldn't close!!

I'm only just starting out, and I realize that this is going to be much harder than I thought!!

Well, even though I didn't really know where to start (there are tons of places that deserved the honor), I decided the kitchen was probably the best place.  I spend lots of time in the kitchen, and I'm usually balancing a baby on my hip while there!  So I definitely need a simpler kitchen, where everything is easy enough to access--at least those things I use most.  I would like to get things to where I can even grab most things with one hand (while balancing that baby, of course)!  I decided to begin with a cabinet that was just out of control.  We couldn't even get it to close completely.  Here it is from the outside (gaping open):

This is what it looked like inside (I can barely stand to share this!):

My biggest problem with decluttering is that I just plain don't like giving things up!  I am not a child of the Great Depression, but sometimes I sure act like I am!!  I love to keep things "just in case."  That will hopefully be ending now!  I opened up the cupboard by the back door, and I'm almost embarrassed to share the pictures!  It was jam packed full of things, some of which I do actually use, but many of which I couldn't even tell you what their functions were!  Here is what I found: On three shelves, I found a Cuisinart food processor with all the accessories, one large crockpot, many various casserole dishes, baby bottles and pumping supplies, rice steamer and steamer insert (which I have never used), plates, platters, cookie sheets, strainers, cutting boards, along with random items like a set of jar thongs to use while making jam (which I also have never used), and many more items.  Here are some pictures.  I don't want to take more space writing what was in there.

I laid everything out on the floor, and I was amazed at how difficult it was to make myself give things up, even the things that I have never used!   I set a few things aside for our garage sale, pulled the serving dishes and platters out to find a new home, and then restocked the shelves.  Here is what it now looks like on the right hand side of the cabinets:

I will be posting labels with what goes where along with a photo on the door so that anyone who helps with dishes in our home will be able to put things where they belong.  I got that idea from another mom of nine about a year ago, and I'm finally going to try it.  This way, hopefully we will all return things to where they belong in the right position so it stays organized. Yay!!  This was a fun start, and took me just about the whole 30 mintues I had set aside for the decluttering today. I plan to do the left side next.  Also, next up is the challenge to work with Todd and write a family purpose statement.

More on that in my next post.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Yearning to Simplify

I am a busy mama.  That is a given with 9 precious children entrusted to me and my husband to raise, teach, civilize, and equip for life in the world we live in.  But lately, I've been feeling like the pace of our life is becoming frenetic, almost out of control.  It is true that each year the month of May brings recitals, concerts, soccer tournaments, evaluations, along with the push to finish out the Homeschool year.  So maybe I am just feeling the "May frenzy." Maybe not!  This year, our crazy schedule, along with the demands of now having a freshman in high school as well a new baby and more clutter than I can ever remember having in our house, I feel like my world is spinning faster and faster.

I want to slow down. I long to have more lazy times sitting outside watching the little ones play in the sandbox, more time to read to everyone, more time to push them on the swings or go for a long walk.  I am desperate to get rid of stuff and declutter our home and our schedule.  All this has led me to commit myself to spend at least 1/2 hour per day working on the clutter in our home.  I also want to commit to praying each day beginning now through the summer about how we can get rid of the unnecessary clutter in our schedule. I plan to blog about my journey, and hopefully post some before and after pictures, too!

First, a little background.  Our family lives in a rather small (considering the size of our family) home that was actually going to be our garage when we moved to our little ranch.  The original plan was that we would live in the garage for about a year while we built our "dream home." We had a relatively small mortgage on the land we purchased, and we were able to build the garage cash with my husband as the general contractor.  Thankfully, as we were building, we added a few closets and a decent built-in kitchen area along one wall of the open downstairs.  After we moved into the "garage-house," my husband and I decided we would work to become debt-free before building the house. We have lived in our little cozy home for about 5 1/2 years, and I can happily say that we are now debt-free!

Over the years as we were paying off the land and living in our little, rather unconventional house, I have learned to become content despite the lack things that I may have previously thought I could not live without.  Sometimes, I look at our home compared to the homes of all our friends and I am surprised by how different it is in so many ways, but I have come to realize that it's OK.  We have a great little place that we all fit into just fine, and while I could stand to have a bigger kitchen or a master bathroom with a luxurious bathtub or a nice, big laundry room, God has been teaching me contentment.  He has been humbling me as I see my pride if I think about how I wish I had this or that "like most of my friends," as he shows me that pride is found in both exalting myself above others as well as comparing myself (and what I do or don't have) to others.  I have been amazed at how the little improvements we have made inch by inch, baby step by baby step, over the years have made me feel so happy.  I am ecstatic at every improvement we make.  It's actually been really good for my level of contentment, and it has made me really focus on what is truly important in life.  It has also made me think of how many of the things I miss about a "normal" house are luxuries most people in the world will never have.  Our American culture of excess definitely is outside of reality compared to the vast majority of the world.  My "little" house would be considered a mansion to many people around the world.  I am so thankful to God for constantly bringing that to my attention.

Another thing that I am slowly learning, is how to creatively use space in order to organize and fit the possessions of a family of eleven into a smaller home that is lacking closets in most rooms.  In the next few months, I hope to improve in this area in big ways.  I also hope to tackle some of our outdoor spaces--storage shed/feed and tack house, garage (the actual garage we can use as a garage, built a year after we moved), outdoor toys and bicycles. I believe God created us to be orderly and to have order in our lives.  There is order all around us in our world that God created for us.  Of course, I have to balance this with the fact that I have nine children, including 5 boys under the age of 12 (mixed in with 2 girls under that age as well).  I hope to keep my blog posted with my progress in working on clutter in my home and in my life (schedule).  I hope it's an interesting ride.

"Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values.  It's about enjoying the things you love and care about and not about stressing over the things that don't matter.  It's fulfilling; it brings peace; it drips with contentment. Living simply is about being who you were meant to be."
-Tsh Oxenreider, Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living