How to Crisis Clean

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clean a disaster

I know what you’re thinking. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to crisis clean. We would have habits and routines and the house would never be completely out of control!

I completely agree. However, when we’re completely honest, most of us have had times where our homes were completely out of control. My son got the stomach bug last winter, and that was one of those times for me. I dropped everything else to take care of him. That was good and the right thing to do, but my home needed some serious help when he was better.

I had kept all of the sheets clean, but other than that? Oh man. Toys on the floor, dishes piled all over the counters, unsorted mail on the table…you get the idea.

Honestly, sometimes our homes are out of control because of laziness. I’ve been there. When we’ve lost control, a sense of overwhelm hits us as soon as we walk in the door. When my home has been in that state, it’s not a place of rest any more. It’s a place of stress that makes me feel frazzled.

But we don’t have to live this way. By doing a few basic tasks, we can make a huge impact on our homes…and on our sanity.

How to Crisis Clean:

Throw away trash. Hopefully everything made it into the trash can during the crisis. If it didn’t, dealing with trash is the best way to start. Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step plan for getting one’s finances in order is designed to give you a psychological “win” quickly. He suggests saving $1,000 in an emergency fund before you do anything else. When you feel you’ve been successful at one step, it gives you motivation to continue. Dealing with the trash first is the same principle.

Catch up on your dishes. It’s okay if you have to run the dishwasher more than once in one day. When I have it together, we don’t need to run it more than once a day because we have a small family. But life happens.

While the dishwasher is running, sweep your kitchen and wipe the counters.

Run one load of laundry. It starts with one load. I generally do one load a day. Depending on how long the crisis lasted, you might need to do more to get back on track. It’s okay. I wash all of my sheets, towels, and bathroom rugs after we’ve been sick.

Clean the sink and the toilet. In my opinion, these are the highest priority areas in your bathroom. The sink tends to collect hair, toothpaste remnants, and other gross things. We won’t go into detail about the toilet. If you have little boys, the floor around the toilet is also high priority.

Your house won’t be 100% perfectly clean just from these things, but it will be better. Better is good. Especially when you’re coming out of a crisis.

To download a printable checklist to help you get out of crisis mode in your home, click the button below.

The One Thing You Need for This Summer

 

get a bikini body

This post contains affiliate links. I also received a copy of this book for free for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own. See full disclosure here. 

I remember the first time my body image took a hit. It was nearly 15 years ago, but I still remember it vividly. I was at Awana one Wednesday night in 4th grade. As the other girls chattered, I quietly washed my hands. One girl had gotten her ears pierced recently, so everyone was pulling their hair back and showing off their earrings.

I did not have pierced ears, but I subconsciously pushed my hair behind my ears so it would be out of my face.

Laura, you have such little ears! Look at her ears, they’re TINY!

I pulled my hair back over my now red ears and tried to maintain a sense of dignity as I walked out of the church bathroom.

Now, this was a really stupid incident that probably shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. And you know what? I didn’t get my ears pierced because I was so self-conscious about them and I thought earrings would draw more attention to their weird size.

Would you like to know how long it took me to get over that? EIGHT YEARS. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

I attended a Christian university. Among the freshmen, perhaps the most infamous course was “women’s evangelism.” I personally did not take this course, but one of my friends did. And it drove her insane.

“I am a BEAUTIFUL creation of GOD!” she told me in a sing-song tone. “We have to say that at the beginning of every class. Just ugh.”

After a while, my friend started saying “I am a depraved wretch saved only by the grace of God.” (She’s a rebel like that).

While I dodged the bullet of taking that particular class, the ideas presented are fairly common in Christian culture.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Everyone is beautiful in their own way.

Every woman who regularly attends church has heard those two things approximately 872439 times. And if they’re like me, they tuned out on the subject around age 14.

Compared to Who? by Heather Creekmore takes a different approach to these issues. Instead of telling the reader that she just needs more self-esteem, she deals with the root cause of body image issues: idolatry.

“I didn’t realize how my body image issues kept me bound and, truthfully, dead. I couldn’t experience the freedom of new life in Christ because I was held captive to the belief my answer was in fixing my appearance. I tried to justify myself by making my ouside pretty enough to earn acceptance. It’s been my experience that a lot of self-named “good girls” like me never ventured into obvious rebellion, yet still engage in a desperate search or worth, value, and joy in ways contrary to God’s plan.” – Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who, p. 75

Buckle your seatbealts, friends. It’s a convicting ride.

My favorite part of the book was when Heather contrasted the modern concept of self-esteem with what the Bible actually says about loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. While I have grown up in the church and have heard countless discussions about self-esteem, Compared to Who gave me some ideas that I had never heard.

When we battle body image, there is a root issue at work. When we say things like “Oh my goodness, you’re so skinny! I hate you,” we’re committing the sin of envy. When we covet what another has, we are sinning. When we think that being thin would be that ONE THING that would make us happy, we’re making that one thing an idol: something that we serve instead of God.

Friend, if you claim Christ as your Savior, if you say you are saved, I want you to ask yourself, honestly, if you’ve really allowed Him to rescue all of you. Do you believe He can help you with your body image issues? Do you believe He can replace your affections with a greater affection for Him? Do you believe that you can find true and transcendent joy and peace in Him alone, or do you still think that maybe one of your idols will deliver? – Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who, p. 119

Until we’re honest with ourselves about our sin, we will never be free from the shackles of the comparison trap.

The key distinctive of Compared to Who is a focus on the root issues paired with an emphasis on Scriptural truths that point the reader towards the Lord and how He would want us to live. At the same time, it’s not confusing or technical. I would recommend this book for Christian women of all ages. Moms of teens may want to preview, since there is a mention of sex towards the end of the book.

Compared to Who is being released TODAY, June 13th, 2017. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, and wherever Christian books are sold. To learn more about the author, Heather Creekmore, check out her blog at comparedtowho.me.

                   

Married By His Grace

The Not-So-Sweet Facts about Sugar

This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

Sugar has virtually no nutritional value, yet it is added to thousands of products. According to the University of California San Francisco, added sugar is present in 74% of the packaged foods in your grocery store.  This isn’t just added sugar in obvious places like puddings or ice cream. Added sugar is present in breads, ketchup, yogurt, and even the organic salsa at my favorite grocery store. Many people are consuming far more sugar than they think they are because a large portion of the sugar is hidden.

“Healthy” Foods Still Have Sugar

Even products which are marketed as being healthier aren’t immune from this phenomenon. I recently picked up a box of Almond and Coconut Fruit Nut bars at my local Aldi, only to find that cane sugar was the second ingredient. You could argue that cane sugar might be better than its GMO counterparts, but cane sugar still spikes the blood sugar. When a person’s blood sugar spikes and crashes repeatedly, insulin resistance can develop.

Insulin Resistance Causes Health Problems

Insulin resistance is a condition that tends to lead to type 2 diabetes. Scientists have not established the precise cause of insulin resistance, but we know that lifestyle factors may help. What we do know is that being insulin resistant makes it more difficult for your body to maintain normal levels of glucose and insulin on its own. For a better and more scientific explanation, see this article from the National Institute of Diabetes and and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.  Please keep in mind that I’m not a medical professional. 🙂

Check Your Labels!

Label reading isn’t just for people with allergies. The ingredients are listed in order of amount from greatest to least. Therefore, if sugar is the second ingredient, it’s likely that there is a substantial amount of sugar in the food. Nutrition labels also list the number of grams of sugar per serving. Personally, I don’t stress out if it’s only 1 gram per serving.

Sugar goes by many names – and none of them are really great for you. There are at least 61 different names for sugar that appear on food labels. Some of the most common are sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (check out your labels – this is in everything!), dextrose, and maltodextrin.

In the 1980s, eating a low-fat diet became popular. Many packaged low-fat products became available, such as yogurt. However, removing the fat tends to leave the food with a worse taste than its full-fat counterpart. In response, food manufacturers began putting more added sugar in the low-fat versions of food. It’s understandable, but now we have products like Yoplait original strawberry yogurt, which has almost no fat…but 26 grams of sugar in a 6 ounce container.  That’s more grams than a Twinkie.

We are not called to live with a spirit of fear, but we are called to be discerning. I don’t believe that there is any one diet that is perfect for all people. Someone who is active and has a high metabolism like my husband needs more carbs than someone who is diabetic can handle. Even so, most people benefit from lowering the amount of sugar in their diet. I hope this information has been helpful!

Motherhood in Light of Eternity {Motherhood Matters Series: Part Five}

The following post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here.

motherhood in light of eternity

This is the final installment of the Motherhood Matters series.

Part One: Motherhood and the Gospel

Part Two: Focusing on Truth

Part Three: When Things Don’t Go Our Way

Part Four: Finding Your Value as a Person

I awoke to my cheerful alarm, grabbed my computer and my coffee, and sat down to write. As soon as I opened my browser, I heard my baby.

“MAMAAAAAAA!” he shrieked in his distinctive 10 month old voice.

Maybe he’ll go back to sleep, I thought. He usually sleeps more than an hour later than this.

Nope. After a few attempts at soothing, I saw the futility of my efforts and recognized that he was indeed up for the day. I had hoped to write an entire blog post. I hadn’t written a single word.

Such incidents happen regularly around my home. On the day that this particular episode happened, he also refused to nap when it was nap time.  I confess that sometimes I don’t think joyful thoughts when things don’t go as planned. A lot of women struggle with feeling as if their work doesn’t matter. Personally, I have a hard time with the fact that I do the exact same things over and over, and they never stay done. There is always another diaper or another dish.

The feeling of monotony leads to a feeling of futility or worthlessness. By its very nature, staying home with a baby is isolating. I’m blessed to have a mom friend who I text often. She lives in another state, but she understands what I tell her.

I recently heard a friend say that she feels like mothering just isn’t enough. I think we all relate to that at some point, whether we admit it to others or not. Moms get tired!

How shall then shall we stay motivated? How do we focus on what matters when it seems impossible?

As I was doing housework one day, a phrase popped into my mind: Motherhood in light of eternity.

What does that mean? It means focusing on the end of the story. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said “Begin with the end in mind.” His quote is generally used in a business context, but it applies to mothering as well.

The fact of the matter is this: the only thing that I will take into eternity is my family, if they are saved. Each moment with my son is an opportunity for discipleship. When I read his story Bible to him, I’m planting the seeds of knowledge about God. When I pick up a Cheerio off of the floor for the millionth time, I’m showing him love. When I pray over him after I put him in his crib for the night, I’m asking God to show me how to parent him (believe me, I need the help).

I did some cool things before I entered the season of marriage and motherhood. I was ranked second in speaker points at a national debate tournament. I interned in Washington, DC. I graduated summa cum laude from college. I worked at a job that I loved. I’m proud of these things and the effort that went into them, and that isn’t inherently bad. As cool as they are though, they do not matter as much as the soul I’m shaping now.

I want my son to follow God, even when it’s scary. I want my son to be in a Scripture saturated home. I want my son to remember a mom who was filled with joy, even in the midst of the mundane.

And that is what ultimately matters.

but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15b KJV

I’m linking up to Salt & Light. 

Why You Need Community (And How to Find It)

you need community

Every woman needs community.

Allow me to preface this post with a confession: I’m not good at this. I’m awkward. I’m the wrong age. I can be a little unconventional. I move all the time.

With all that said, I think finding community is worth the effort. I hear over and over again from readers that they feel lonely, and that’s a pretty natural feeling when you’re alone with little children most of the time. Little children are lovely, but they can’t carry on adult conversations.

If you crave friendships with other adult women, you are not being selfish. Let me shout this from the rooftops!

I used to feel guilty about wanting to socialize, but it’s really not frivolous. I tend to feel badly about leaving my toddler with my husband for a couple of hours so I can go to a ladies’ event at church. Which is really kind of ridiculous if you think about it. He’s with his dad. He’s going to survive.

Another common stumbling block is exhaustion. We are run ragged to the point that going to one. more. thing. just feels like too much to bear. There are times to say yes and there are times to say no, but most moms need at least one chance to get out of the house per week to stay sane.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s good.

Sunday school Our church has a class for young married couples that we’ve really enjoyed. The class occasionally gets together outside of church time. We try to attend these events when we can.

Small groups – On Sunday nights, we do a large group teaching time, and then a small group discussion time. As an introvert, I’m so bad at small groups. My comfort zone is to sit in a large lecture-style meeting and then leave without chatting with anyone. (Terrible, but true.)

However, when I force myself to overcome the awkwardness and contribute to the discussion, I find that I get to know others on a deeper level. Deep relationships are good for the soul.

Service opportunities – This was hard for me when my son was tiny and not staying in nursery consistently yet. Even now, I feel somewhat limited in what I can do. I hope to get plugged in with Awana next year, but in the mean time I take meals to people. While it seems like a little thing, a warm meal can encourage those who are dealing with loss, a health issue, or some other challenge.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ – Galatians 6:2 ESV

MOPS – MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to in the future. I’ve heard great things about it!

“But I don’t have a _____.” Maybe none of these ideas work for you. Take a few minutes to brainstorm an alternative.

Perhaps the most important reason to cultivate a community is this: it helps us to remember that we aren’t alone in our struggles. In the age of social media, sometimes we get trapped into thinking that everyone else is living a charmed life and we’re really the only ones with problems. However, Instagram doesn’t tell the entire story of one’s life. Nothing better combats that idea than getting to know and speaking with people on a regular basis.

How have you cultivated community in your life? Is it something that comes easily to you?

Finding Your Value as a Person Through Motherhood

A note from Laura: This post was originally written for Chaotic Life of Lauren, which is a blog whose mission is to help busy Christian mothers manage life. Lauren ran a series entitled “Seasons of Motherhood” this month, and I was honored to be included, along with several other bloggers. Motherhood remains the most refining and sanctifying experience of my life, and I thank God for it! I hope this encourages any other type A moms out there, as well as moms who struggle with physical challenges. These things are difficult, but you are not alone.   

My best friend used to lovingly tease me about my perfect planners. I had a plan for everything: when I would eat, when I would study, when I would socialize, when I would do ministry. I carefully crossed off each task and appointment as I completed it. My life was completely under control. I counted down the days until my wedding and smiled to myself as I thought about all the fun things my husband and I would do together.

I liked to say I was a planner, but I was really just a control freak.

And then, six weeks after my wedding, I found out a baby was on the way. Surprise!

Being pregnant threw me for a loop. I was used to being able to accomplish a lot of tasks in a day, but that didn’t happen any more when my “first trimester” nausea and exhaustion lasted through all three trimesters. Occasionally I would have a good day. I would get really excited and try to do as many things as possible, but then the exhaustion would catch up with me and I would be worse than ever.

While I would have never admitted it before, I had been placing a lot of my identity and sense of value in my productivity.

Please visit Chaotic Life of Lauren to read the rest of this post!

How I Made Over My Morning Routine

morning routine

I’ve never really been a morning person, though I can force myself to be when necessary. I have read that many mothers of young children like to get up early so they can have a time of peace and quiet to do their morning routine. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I tried it for a while.

It does not work for my household.

My toddler is quite talented at going to sleep at the same time every night, but he does not get up at the same time every morning. Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes I would wake up and be five minutes into my project when I heard him stirring and needing me. Once that started happening 75% of the time, I failed to see the point of getting up before him.

Additionally, for the first 30 minutes of my day, I seem to move at the pace of a snail. Actually, perhaps the snail would beat me. I’m more of a hare than a tortoise later in the day. How is that for mixing my metaphors? 😉 For me, 30 minutes spent writing during his nap yields far greater results than 30 minutes spent first thing in the morning.

I’ve battled being anemic for about three years, and I just recently found the right level of iron supplements to keep me functional without side effects. When my anemia is not under control, I’m always exhausted and need to sleep more than a normal person.

I’m glad I tried it, because experimenting is one of the best ways to grow as a person. But what works for some won’t work for all, and that is fine.

What really revolutionized my mornings?

Cooking Breakfast Ahead

I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, and it makes my life SO MUCH EASIER. I try to keep a stash of meat and other staples in my freezer for dinners, but applying the concept of working ahead for breakfast was a new thing.

I know some people aren’t really interested in eating first thing in the morning, but I wake up hungry. Ideally, I want to eat something reasonably healthy for breakfast too (i.e. not poptarts).

We do not follow Trim Healthy Mama strictly, but we try to focus on whole foods and still use a lot of THM approved recipes. Some of our favorites are listed below.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal – Briana Thomas – You’re supposed to mix up the ingredients and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight before you bake it, but I’ve never done that and we thought it still tasted fine.

Crustless Quiche – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen – I just recently started liking quiche, but I should’ve given it a chance sooner. Quiches can be customized with whatever add-ins you like.

Trim Healthy Mama Pancakes – I have had great success with freezing these!

Volcano Mudslide Muffin – Trim Healthy Mama – I put the dry ingredients in a snack size ziploc bag. In the morning, dump your bag into a mug, add the wet ingredients, and microwave. I made a lot of these right before my son was born, and my husband really enjoyed having them on hand.

All of these have been great additions to our breakfast repertoire.

What do you do to make your mornings easier?