Finding Contentment in Your Homemaking {Part One}

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Paris Byrum of Nourishing a Life in Christ. She is sharing a personal testimony about how she learned about contentment.

finding contentment

A huge part of homemaking is contentment. This is so very hard in a #firstworldproblems culture. With Pinterest at our finger tips, it’s often easy to become covetous of what we do not have or what we are not. A heart of unbelief leads to a heart of discontentment. Regardless, if we claim Christ as our savior, we are called and even commanded to be content in everything we do, are given and in our circumstances.

A Look into My Past
Looking back on my homemaking career, I have unfortunately learned the hard way of what contentment looks like. About 6 years ago, my husband had made the decision for us to move into a 5th wheel trailer in hopes to save enough money to purchase a home in the future. At this time I had one baby, and sold many things so that we could be comfortable in our new small space.

During the summer, and the “honeymoon” stage of it, it felt like an adventure! It was fun, new, and exciting. After about 6 months, and winter setting in with a new pregnancy, this fun was starting to wear off. Friends started to feel uncomfortable in my small space and getting the wood stove to start was difficult on super cold nights.

These cold nights were where my cold heart began. Bitterness was setting in.

“If only I had forced heat…”

“I wish we had a instant hot water heater…”

“I want more space!”

“I can’t wait until we move into a house…”

This was my attitude for 4 long years. In the midst of homemaking, I gave every excuse as to why I could not enjoy my life at this moment or why I could not keep up on the laundry or fill in the blank. I complained about virtually everything, even though I justified on why I complained by comparing what I didn’t have to others.

It was a very difficult time in my life, and it was because I was looking and focusing on the wrong thing. At this point in my life I was not saved and it was difficult for me to understand that this was a worldly way to respond to my circumstances. I needed Christ to transform my heart!

In the race of faith, it is crucial to remember that our contentment is not determined by our circumstances. We often want to blame circumstances for our discontent, but that’s barking up the wrong tree. Contentment is determined by what we believe. And our belief is fueled by what we’re seeing. So if you need to lay aside the weight (Hebrews 12:1) of discontentment today – the sinful kind that stems from disappointment and leads to grumbling – begin by looking at what you’re looking at. – Jon Bloom

Looking to Christ
To analyze my heart looking back, my focus was far from Christ. It was on the next thing of a new house, and my unbelief caused me to sin further.

Though many of you may not have lived in a trailer with 3 children ages 2 and under with 90 square feet of walking space for 4 years, I am sure you have had circumstances that were less than ideal and were discontent in the midst of it. When we strive to win the race and press towards the prize, (Philippians 3:14) our focus is vastly different then what it is on when we are discontent.

Here are a few practical steps to get back in the race:
Stop. We must stop the complaining, stop what is in the abundance of our hearts, and stop letting our eyes offend us. What does this look like? Deleting Pinterest? Praying and catching your tongue? Asking your husband for accountability?
Look. What are you wanting? Were you idolizing something? Where were your eyes gazing upon?
Think. We must renew our minds if we want to overcome the sin of discontentment in our homemaking. Our thought patterns affect our outcomes. If we are thinking on things that are is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable (Philippians 4:8) and our hope is in Christ and not in our circumstances, we can effectively fight off discontentment.

About the Author: Hello, my name is Paris Byrum. I am a Christ follower, a wife to a great husband for 8 years and a mama to four littles. I am a lover of all things creative & seek to encourage others to run the race and live a life to glorify God. Come visit me at Nourishing a Life in Christ if you like what you read here.

A note from Laura: Part Two will be released next week. In the meantime, you can also find Paris on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Living out Your Priorities

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living out your priorities

Lots of tasks fight for our attention every day. We can’t do it all. In light of that reality, we have to start setting priorities. But how do we decide what is or is not a priority?

Crystal Paine runs the well-known site Money Saving Mom. She is married, has three children, and runs a successful business. If anyone is busy, it would be Crystal. In 2014, she released a book called Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. She recommends taking the time to sit down and figure out what your priorities are, and then to spend your energy on things that support those priorities.

My list went like this:

  1. Following God and growing as a Christian
  2. Being a good wife
  3. Being a good mother
  4. Being a good steward of my home
  5. Blogging

It’s a pretty standard list. After I wrote it, I realized that to evaluate how well I was doing in these areas, I would have to dig deeper. Sure, I said I wanted to grow in my faith, but what specific things was I doing to work towards that?

After giving it some thought, I wrote out specific action items under each priority.

Following God and growing as a Christian

Being a good wife

  • Wake up with my husband each day and spend time with him before he goes to work
  • Speak honoring words about my husband to others

Being a good mother

  • Pray for my son every day
  • Read to him every day

Being a good steward of my home

Blogging

  • Work on creating great content and reaching more women who need encouragement

goals

Goals are good, but they are worthless without action. I decided to write out a sample schedule of a typical day to see what areas take up most of my time. If something that’s a lower priority is taking up a disproportionate amount of time, then that needs to change.

After I wrote out my typical day, I color coded each task by category (faith, marriage, motherhood, homemaking, blogging/other).

setting priorities

My schedule should reflect my priorities. I enjoy blogging, but it’s not as important as taking care of my son. I typically work on writing from 6:15-7:00 and then again for an hour during my son’s nap. I try not to work on it while he’s awake.The bulk of my time is going towards taking care of my son and taking care of my home, which makes sense for this season of my life. After I looked at my standard day, I decided that I want to focus on spending more time doing family activities in the evenings.

What are your priorities? How are they reflected in your daily tasks?

Decluttering without the Angst

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decluttering

Some people are naturally organized. Their motto is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Their dishes are always done. They have effective routines in place. When the house is cluttered, it drives them crazy and they feel as if they can’t function.

Drowning in Clutter? (Don’t Grab a Floatie…Drain the Ocean!) by Dana K. White is for the rest of us.

I write a blog about homemaking. Please don’t think this means that I’m a perfect homemaker. I’m a work in progress. When I got married, I knew most of the basics of how to clean, but I struggled with when to clean. A lot of homemaking is doing the same things over and over again. The key here is consistency, and that’s something that has taken me about a year and a half to achieve.

As I worked towards keeping my house under control, I found Dana’s podcast. Ladies, Dana speaks to my soul. I think it might be the fact that we’re both former theatre people. For some reason, creativity and clutter issues seem to go together.

I never had to declutter the amount of stuff that she describes, largely because I discovered her tips early on in my adult life. Even so, her ideas are still helpful when decluttering a small or medium amount of stuff.

My favorite concept from Drowning in Clutter was ditching the Keep Box. Dana frequently says “Keep Boxes are Procrastination Boxes!” I was skeptical of that at first, but trying it revolutionized the way that I declutter. In a perfect world, I would be able to sit down and complete an entire decluttering project without any interruptions or distractions. I don’t live in a perfect world.

Even before I had a baby, I would get distracted by some other project. When I got distracted, I would leave my keep box in the middle of the floor. There it would sit, mocking me and making me trip when I returned to the room later. Sometimes it would sit for days before I quit procrastinating and put the contents away properly.

Using Dana’s method means that each item goes where it needs to go RIGHT NOW. You don’t dump everything on the floor. Instead, you take one item at a time and deal with only that item. Once that item has been handled, you move to the next item.

a slob comes clean

Drowning in Clutter contains numerous other decluttering strategies to help you conquer your clutter. This ebook is unique because it’s written by someone who actually struggles with home management. It’s not a book for people who adore and enjoy cleaning and organizing. If you’re in that camp and just want to take your decluttering to the next level, I would suggest The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo instead.

Drowning in Clutter is only $5.00, and can be purchased by clicking here.

What strategies do you use for decluttering?

Homemaking in Survival Mode

homemaking in survival mode

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We all will have seasons of life where we go into survival mode. Most people are in survival mode to at least some extent right after a new baby is born. A surgery, a busy time at work, or a move can also throw us into a sense of being overwhelmed. (And sometimes, all three of those things happen around the same time…ahhhh!)

My goal is to think of homemaking as something that I do to bring glory to God. As an outworking of that, I really do try to stay on top of things, but sometimes life happens. I have routines, but they fly out the window during a crisis.

For example, April – July 2016 was a time of survival mode. Tigger had colic, I was struggling with health issues of my own, and we moved to another state. If I put the baby in the crib so I could use the restroom, he would scream and be inconsolable for about a half hour. As I’m sure you can imagine, my house did not look that great. We did not starve and we wore clean clothes, but that was about it for a while.

For my type A self, it was hard to accept that I didn’t have it together. “I only have one kid!” I thought. “Some people have seven or eight kids and they manage to cook dinner for real and clean their toilets!” I had to remind myself that this was a season, and that it would pass eventually. After my son outgrew colic, we were able to settle into a better routine.

Here’s how I managed when I was in survival mode:

  • Set priorities. For our family, this was avoiding having to eat out too often. To achieve that, every Saturday my husband would take care of the baby and I would prep freezer meals. Each meal would go in a gallon ziploc bag. Every morning during the week, I would dump a thawed freezer meal into the crockpot and let it cook. We survived off of crockpot dinners for months. I missed “cooking for real,” but it got the job done for that season. It was definitely healthier and cheaper than takeout.
  • Simplify. We used a lot of paper plates for the first month or so after the baby was born. Normally that feels wasteful to me. It’s okay. After a few weeks, we didn’t need them any more.
  • Delegate. I usually do the bulk of the housework in my household, but my husband did a good bit of laundry for a while there when we were in survival mode. I had to accept that I needed help and it was okay. If all else fails, my husband WILL make sure the laundry is done. He’s awesome like that. 😉
  • Let. It. Go. As women, sometimes we look at others and wonder how they do it all. Here’s the secret: they DON’T do it all. We all have to decide what is most important for our families right now.

How do you manage when life gets crazy?

What Your Mom Friend Needs to Hear

what your mom friend needs to hear

Becoming a stay at home mom is a huge transition. When a woman works in any other capacity, there is validation in the form of a paycheck, and often in the form of words of praise from others. Babies don’t have money, and babies don’t talk.

When a woman completes a project, the project stays done. Then she moves on to the next project. No matter how many times a diaper is changed or a mess is cleaned, it will need to be done again. And again. And again.

There is no external validation, no grades earned for patiently soothing a baby through teething. She never earns a grade or an award from a teacher. There are no honor society inductions, no landing high profile internships.

For a woman who was a high achiever in her educational and career pursuits before children, the change is abrupt and jarring. She loves her baby, but sometimes she vainly attempts to make her child eat for the 72nd time and wonders What am I even doing with my life?

She goes out to eat with her husband and the baby. One holds the baby while the other eats. When it’s her husband’s turn, a stranger approaches the table and tells him what a fabulous father he is for holding the baby.

She smiles politely, but thinks of the countless strangers who have told her she is doing it wrong.

While the specifics of every woman’s situation is different, there is one thing that nearly every mother needs to hear: You’re doing a good job.

There is so much negativity aimed at women in general, and at mothers specifically. We need to encourage each other. One lady at my church encouraged me when I expressed concern about my son’s weight percentile.

“Don’t let them stress you out,” she said. “My kids were around that percentile too and they’re fine.”

It may have seemed like a little thing to her, but to me it was just the balm my weary mama soul needed. He’s going to be okay.

Since I realized the power of a kind word, I’ve been trying to actively recognize other moms. If a child is well behaved when I take care of him in the church nursery, I make sure his mom hears about it. I send uplifting Facebook messages to my mom friends when I know they might be having tough days.

What would happen if we all focused on building up, rather than tearing down?  How can you edify someone around you this week?

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

15 Dairy Free Dinners

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I went dairy free when my son was 12 days old so I could continue to nurse him. At first, finding recipes without dairy was a daunting task. Everything has milk! No butter on my bread! How would I live without cheese? 😉 Eventually, I found my groove and we ate numerous delicious dinners. I also figured out some substitutions. We used a lot of coconut products.

Tigger is 9 months old now, and appears to have finally outgrown his dairy sensitivity (yay!). Over the course of my 8ish months of being dairy free, we tried numerous recipes. This list includes some of my favorites.

Dairy Free Dinners:

1. Peachy Crockpot Chicken – Briana Thomas (Super easy, super good!)

2. Sweet n Sour Chicken – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen

3. Rice and Beans – Briana Thomas (Good option when you need a budget friendly meal.)

4. Paprika Chicken – A Home with Purpose (This one takes some adapting to make it dairy free. I use coconut oil instead of butter and a can of coconut milk instead of the Greek yogurt/sour cream. Coconut milk from a carton doesn’t have the right texture.)

5. Paleo Chicken Salad with Dates and Walnuts – Paleo Running Momma

6. The Perfect Basic Burger – All Recipes

7. Healthy Sweet Potato Fries – Raining Hot Coupons

8. Grilled Lemon Pepper Tilapia – Eating on a Dime (I make this on my George Foreman Grill.)

9. Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas – Cooking Classy

10. Sun-Dried Tomato Creamy Chicken – My Natural Family

11. Paleo/Whole 30 Chicken Tenders – Jay’s Baking Me Crazy (Not budget friendly, but fun for an occasional “treat” meal.)

12. Easy Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole – Pinch of Yum (I just leave off the cheese.)

13. Black Bean Soup – Money Saving Mom

14. Easy Lasagna – Mama Shire

15. Red Bell Pepper Chicken Salad – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen

I previously did a round up of dairy free breakfast recipes, which you can find here.

I hope you enjoy trying some of these recipes. Dairy free can still be delicious!

How to Practice Gratitude

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Since I started bullet journaling, I’ve kept a gratitude log. Every day I write down one thing that makes me feel thankful. Writing down a blessing helps me to keep a proper perspective in my life. Everyone has challenges, but everyone has blessings too.

Most of the things that I wrote down this month were small. I’m thankful for getting groceries before it snowed. I enjoy my Keurig. I love free Kindle books. Others were more major: we were safe in the ice storm, my son has started taking naps more consistently, and I got to host some college friends for a weekend.

Writing down blessings is good, but actually praying and thanking God for them is even better. I’ve been working on trying to be more consistent with prayer. Every good thing we have is from God. It’s so easy to lose sight of that!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Faith of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning – James 1:17

Everything we have is from God. Every breath, every step, every heart beat is evidence of His grace. Do we live like we know that? I know that personally, I fail often. When I do take time to realize this though, I find myself more content. Do I have challenges? Yes. But I also have a loving husband, a sweet son, and a home.

I’ve found that ultimately, gratitude is a habit and a choice. The routine of writing one thing per day helps me to see that even on bad days, I can find something that went well. Even if that something is minor, I should still be thankful. To quote Mrs. Campbell, let us focus on “Goodness, Beauty, and Truth.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. – 1 Chronicles 16:34