How I’m Using a Planner to Get Back Into a Routine After Summer

This summer, I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve scaled back my menu planning to as simple as possible, I’ve been taking it easy here on the blog, and I’ve left some of my home organizing projects for later. It’s been wonderful enjoying summer playing with my toddlers, spending time with my husband, and with my nose in some fabulous books.

But. I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. I think it’s imperative to take some time off now and then to relax, enjoy those baby cuddles, and sit on the couch for a few hours and read. But. There’s something about an organized schedule that can actually give you so much freedom.

How I'm Using a planner to get back into a routine

While there is such a thing as being so scheduled that you are ruled by your day planner and get frazzled if one thing gets off – there is also such a thing as living in complete chaos from a totally unorganized schedule!

Living in the Middle

I’ve learned throughout the years, that there has to be a happy medium – between stressed out and frazzled mom who lets her schedule rule her life and the stressed out and frazzled mom who lives moment to moment in total and pure chaos because there is no structure what so ever.

Maybe it’s because I’m a messy at heart (although I suspect most women need to live more in this happy middle ground) but for most of my time, I need to walk this balance of order and scheduling in my life while at the same time leaving room for the messiness that is life sometimes and spontaneity (especially with little kids).

Summer has been a wonderful time to throw out the schedule all together and just enjoy life out in the sunshine but as the new school year approaches, Bible studies are starting up again, new Sunday school classes start, and most of us have to start sticking to new schedules and routines…it’s time to get back into the swing of things. 

Getting Back into the Swing of Routine

So this month, I’m getting back into the swing of my routine – and I’m so excited to get some schedule back in my life! If you just need to get back into routine, or get ready for school to start, here are some tips on how to use a planner to get back into a routine.

Sue Hooley, author of my very favorite planner, shares her secrets for creating a manageable back to school routine. As a busy mother of five kids (ages 21 to 5 years old), Sue has plenty of awesome advice to share with me on how she manages a household and how using a daily planner is an essential step in effective homemaking.

Develop a Solid Morning Routine

A good morning routine can really help get your morning off to a good start. It’s amazing how productive I am when my morning is started off right! When sharing about her kids chore routines, Sue shares, “I make one schedule for the summer and another one for the school months (I try not to have jobs that exceed 20 minutes for school mornings)”. Here is a sample of what Sue’s schedule looks like for summer. I just love that the five year old has pictures for his chores.

Summer Chore Chart JPEG


Plan Ahead

If your kids are starting school again soon (whether public school, private, or homeschool) planning ahead gets especially important. As I share in my video below, I use my planner as my primary meal planner. I track breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and any hospitality meals I have.

This allows me to plan ahead and make breakfasts and lunches once a month and freeze them or do them over the weekend. It really helps me to free up time during my busy week and I imagine that when we are homeschooling, having pre-prepared food will really help take the pressure off our days.

Write Down Everything

Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with all the different things that I have to handle each week, that I  am going to drop the ball on something and forget to do it. I try to combat this with writing everything down in my planner.

I’ve written meal plans, shopping lists, to-do lists and more on different pieces of paper or in different notebooks and I end up losing during the week! How helpful is that? With one central planner, I can keep all of these things in one handy place that I can take with me in my purse to the store or where ever I need to go.

Having a planner with all of this helps me to feel like I have my homemaking command center all in one place! 

My absolute favorite planner, the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner, is on sale right now for $12.98!! And while supplies last, when you buy the 2015 edition of the planner, you get 2014′s FREE! This means each planner is less then $6.50. And you have five months left to use the 2014 planner.

See What’s Inside

I’ve shared about this planner before, and I’ve had a lot of people ask exactly why I like it so much. So I dove into the planner and shared each section! Leave me a comment if you have any questions. (Also, here are my tips for using a planner and homemaking)

A Song in the Night: A Lesson from Depression

Songs in the Night

For many years it seemed as though every September brought about a cycle of depression, some great tragedy or crisis would happen and I would fall down into the trap for many months, unable to get myself out of the its grasp. This began in high school and cycled around until after I was married when I had both of my sons and I experienced Postpartum Depression (PPD). Even last week when we realized our finances were in a bad way from some weird circumstances and we still had a week until the next paycheck, I became very low.

So often God has spoken to me in small ways during the darkness of depression…

Depression is a spiritual battle. An event or trigger will happen and I believe Satan takes advantage of what he knows to be an emotional, physical, or spiritual low that we are having so he begins shooting fiery darts at our heart with all types of lies. This topic is relevant to the significant role of keeping our home because sometimes the weight of depression will render us useless to the roles we are responsible to fulfill. Dishes pile to the ceiling, floors become ridiculously cluttered, our daily routine is shot because our hearts are hurting. Our husband and children can suffer while we desire to sleep our problems away or escape to get away from them by any means necessary.

I remember during one of my great bouts with depression standing in our song service at church with just a dead feeling in my center and while I was moving my lips to the songs there was no song within my heart. I just could not open the gates of my heart to rejoice because my spirit was so heavy. My song never returned until God began to minister to my heart songs in the night.

The song of His love in my dark hours of night in my life began to sound quietly to me while…

  • I read my Bible. At the time I could only process a little bit, so I read in the Psalms, sometimes the same Psalm over and over until it soothed my soul, like a balm.
  • I spoke to Him in the desperate pleas of my heart in prayer to hear His voice and to know His will another song would come. The notes of His presence would sing of His love and acceptance of me as His child. He would also remind me of His sufferings through His sweet songs.
  • Listening to a certain Christian CD over and over and over, I began to understand the truth of God’s work in my life. In this CD God sang to me that He would help me and that He was all I needed.
  • I read a book by Barbara Johnson called Where Does A Mother Go To Resign? God sang to me in the pages as I read of a mother’s suffering of losing a son, having her husband in a horrible accident, and another son leave to go into the homosexual lifestyle. Her cures boiled down to what God was doing in my life, although she attended Christian counseling what helped bring her out was godly music and listening to good preaching tapes from her pastor.
  • Continuing to attend church faithfully. I never quit going to church because there was no song in my heart (although I was tempted) but as I continued to be faithful to God and His house, He sang beautiful songs to me through every message, comforting me, guiding me, leading me through the depression until there was a new song in my heart for Him and a renewed love to serve my family.

Barbara Johnson said that during her depression she lay in the bed counting the flowers on the wallpaper and described how her teeth itched because of the stress she was going through. Depression symptoms can be very real and very debilitating but they are an outward manifestation of the inward spiritual battle. I would encourage you before that you turn for anti-depressants, to turn to God first in these ways.

  1. Your Bible reading.
  2. Your prayers.
  3. Your music. Listen to godly music that will encourage you to look to God and comfort your heart.
  4. Your input. Reading and being around people that will fill your soul with godly encouragement.
  5. Your church attendance. Two important factors come from faithful church attendance: Encouragement from fellow believers, and listening to the messages from God’s Word.
  6. Your thought life. Do not believe the devil’s lies about your self-worth or any other message he is trying to make you believe about God or even those around you. Counter these lies with the truth of Scripture. Memorize and quote God’s Word when you are in your darkest hours.
  7. Your speech. If you’re dwelling on the negative because you are down, often you will say things that you would not normally say. Guard your mouth so that you do not hurt the people that love you and are trying to help you. Praise God for He inhabits our praise.

God’s silence in the nights of our lives does not equal despair that is why He sings to us His songs in the night. His songs, by whatever means He sings them, give us a genuine realization that our situations are not in fact hopeless, but filled with hope.  If you are battling your own depression please remember these words from Corrie Ten Boom’s sister, Betsie said it wonderfully when she said, “No matter how deep our darkness…He is deeper still.” There is hope!

* I would like to apologize, I am working on another post about depression on my own personal blog where I discuss depression as also being a medical condition. I am sorry for seeming insensitive to people with the problem of a physical nature. Yes, if you are struggling with depression go and see a doctor and have blood testing done to try and find out if something is going wrong in your body. Hormones and the thyroid have been the cause of many depression diagnosis in women. I, however, do not believe that every single depression that everyone deals with is medical. Spiritual depression does exist and I believe these remedies will help.

5 Verses to Memorize for When You Don’t Feel Motivated

By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer

My journey to becoming a gospel-centered homemaker has been a long and rocky road. And it’s far from over.

Bible Verses for Motivation to Work Hard

You see, my natural-born tendency is to be idle and lazy. Disorder hasn’t always bothered me as much as, perhaps, it should have.

Growing up, my room was messy as could be, and many of the concepts of a clean, well-run home were lost on me, despite my mother’s best efforts.

Today, as a woman with a home and family of my own, I see the value and godliness of keeping it in order. This not only serves my family, providing a higher quality of life, but it also opens the door to abundant hospitality.

To say I’ve had to dig deep for the motivation to work hard at home would be an understatement.

In fact, I haven’t found that motivation internally at all.

Instead my motivation has come through memorizing and meditating on God’s words.

There are a few Bible verses that have stood out in my mind as being particularly helpful on this journey. There are the following:

5 Verses for When You Don’t Feel Motivated

Colossians 3:23

This is the verse I come back to more than any other when struggling for motivation to work hard in my home.

Taking a step back and gaining this broader perspective motivates me like nothing else.

I can either waste the present moment by giving in to my sinful, idle nature, or I can work hard for God’s glory and pleasure and make it count. By doing every task unto God, doing things like folding laundry, washing dishes, and scrubbing toilets can become holy activities.

Titus 2: 4-5

Titus 2:4-5

Working diligently at home is undeniably tied to self-control. We can make endless excuses for ourselves, or we can discipline our lives in such a way that the word of God may be praised as a result. We can put the interests of our friends and family above our own by working at home even when we don’t particularly want to.

Proverbs 14:23

This verse articulates the inherent logic of work, something of which my flesh needs frequent reminding.

Titus 3:14

The proverbs 31 woman has taught me much about the value and beauty of hard work. She is truly wise and dignified, and within these character traits there is no room for laziness. She is so productive that her own husband and children rise to bless her.

Titus 3:14

Proverbs 31:27

Our lives are made up of moments, strung together by time. This moment must be seized, and our lives disciplined today, for these moments to compile into truly productive wholes.

No woman should be more motivated to maintain her home than those who identify themselves as the Body of Christ. Our mission in this world is serious and urgent. There is not time for laziness!
Do you, like me, struggle with motivation to work hard at home?

If so, please take the first step to choose and memorize one or more of the verses listed above this week.

To find free printable versions of these verse cards, click here.

Hiding God’s word in our hearts, and submitting to His guidance, has power to bear unimaginable fruit and bring unimaginable change like nothing else.

What’s your favorite verse to meditate on while doing housework or chores?


Simple Steps to Decluttering your Home

A big lesson I’ve had to learn when it comes to household management, is to keep things simple. This seems to go against my very nature as a pack rack, but learning how to declutter and keep a simpler household is an essential ingredient in staying on top of my house during these busy years as a young mom.

A big lesson I've had to learn when it comes to household management, is to keep things simple.  Here are some simple ways you can begin decluttering your home!

Welcome to the next part of our online book study of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. It’s not too late to jump in and join the fun! You can read the introduction and see the full schedule of topics for the next 10 weeks. Or jump in with today’s discussion!

Before we moved into our first house, we were living in less than 800 sq ft for the four of us. We had just moved to a new area and were thankful to have found a place to rent that was allowing us to save money! But we felt like we were living in the midst of clutter piles. No matter how often I cleaned, kept up on the laundry, and did the dishes, it felt like we were living in filth.

Why? We had way too much stuff for that space. In hind sight, we should have put more of our stuff in storage and just lived off of the necessities but we didn’t know how long we would stay in that house. Then we moved into our first house and didn’t have enough furniture to furnish it all (what a huge difference)!

But now that we’ve lived in our new house for over six months, I’m beginning to see clutter piles pop up again. It’s a funny thing, if you have space, you fill it!!

But the more stuff we bring into the house, the more I have to keep up on it. The more toys the twins have, the more time I have to spend every day cleaning it all up. The more clothes we all have, the more time we have to spend doing laundry and hanging it all up (and picking it up off the ground again and again when I forget to hang it up and it sits in the clean laundry basket for a week). Not that that ever happens…

Minimizing Clutter

Now, I’m not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination. I am a thrift store shopper who loves to find a new tea set for 50% off, an adorable dress for $3, and a full sand box with a lid for $12. I love bargains, DIY thrift store projects, and vintage kitchen items.

A big lesson I've had to learn when it comes to household management, is to keep things simple.  Here are some simple ways you can begin decluttering your home!

My habits tend to lean more towards a pack rack than a minimalist. And I think that’s why this lesson is so hard for me to learn. I have a hard time passing up a good deal and almost never buy things brand new (except for books. I love books). But if I’m going to learn how to stay on top of housework during this phase of my life with little kids, I need to learn how to declutter and throw things out! 

“You know one surefire way to add more time and order to your life? Get rid of excess stuff…I truly believe that the less you have, the less time you spend on upkeep, maintenance, and cleaning. Either you control the clutter or the clutter will control you”. – Crystal Paine, page 143

Tackle One Thing at a Time

I’m a busy mom who doesn’t have time to take large chunks of my day or week to overhaul my entire house and declutter it. Before I had kids, I could have set aside some time to do a few large projects. But now, I have to work with the time I have. A half hour here or there. A nap time. Some time in the evening.

So in my effort to declutter my home, I’m taking it slow and going one room at a time. My main priority to start was my living room/kitchen/dining room (as this is open and really just one big room). I’ve worked on getting things into their proper place, emptying junk drawers, and getting rid of extra cups, utensils and other things that create clutter in this main room.

This has really helped! Now everything has a place. It’s so much easier to put things away when everything has a place. Then there isn’t a chance for clutter to pile up! A Slob Comes Clean container concept has really helped me be able to do this!

Has it Been Used in the Last 3 Months?

The wonderful thing about moving twice within six months and having a lot of your “extra” stuff in storage – you realize how much junk you have!! As we moved into our new house, I started bringing all my boxes in from storage and unpacking them. As I came across kitchen box after kitchen box, I realized how many coffee mugs, cups, spatulas and other extra stuff that I had in storage that I hadn’t missed in nearly six months.

This helped give me better clarity as to what I really need, the stuff that isn’t a necessity but that I love (like fancy tea cups), and what is really and truly just clutter! 

I challenge you to go through all your cupboards (starting in your kitchen) and pull out everything! Get it all out and start putting away those things that are necessities first. The things you use and reach for everyday. Then start putting away the things that you simply love (even if you don’t use them as often).

Then take a hard look at what is left over. Do you really need any of it? If not, then take heart that you can donate it to a thrift store or hospice. As a thrifty pack rat, I have a really hard time throwing things away because one day we might need it and I’m far too thrifty to throw things out! So take advantage of your local thrift stores and know that someone else might need the exact thing you are giving away!

Since I am NOT an expert on this topic (and am really learning how to declutter my life) here are some fabulous resources to help you:

Read More In This Series:

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode Online Book Study!

3 Ways to Respond to Conflict

Our culture today {largely through TV and movies but also through pop-psychology} has taught us many things about how to fight. We are taught to be selfish. To look out for #1. Women are taught to not take anything from men…

And yet, those “fighting styles” that are touted to be the “secrets to a happy family” are far from good advice. The only place we can look too for true advice and how to lead our families is in Scripture. From the pages of Scripture we get pictures of three different “ways” to fight. Once we understand these styles and how we fight, we can begin to repair the damage done by conflict.

All of us at some point in our marriages and families have responded in unbiblical and destructive ways to conflict. It's why many marriages fall apart and why many families don't speak. But if we turn to the pages of Scripture we can glean the wisdom that was penned so long ago and apply it to our families and marriages.

This post is part of our series on Biblical Peacemaking for Families: Resolving Conflict by God’s Grace! Read the first post in this series here.

All of us at some point in our marriages and families have responded in unbiblical and destructive ways to conflict. It’s why many marriages fall apart and why many families don’t speak. But if we turn to the pages of Scripture we can glean the wisdom that was penned so long ago and apply it to our families and marriages.

3 Ways to  Respond to Conflict

The beautiful thing about Scripture is that God intimately knew who he was writing to – fallen humans with a nature to sin. Because of that he left us stories and examples in the Bible that we can really relate to and learn from. For a more detailed look at each of these three responses, visit The Slippery Slope of Conflict.

The Runner

The first way to respond to conflict is through escape. This type of person simply dreads conflict. They will go to any length to avoid confrontation – even going as far as to sin to avoid conflict.

This brings to mind the husband who gets home late from work (again) and runs out to his garage to fix something as soon as his wife starts asking why he is late and didn’t call. He stays in his garage until he is sure his wife is asleep and slips upstairs thankful that he doesn’t have to bare the questions.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” ~ James 4:1-2

The Fighter

The fighter typically wants to “win” the argument at all costs. As much as they might hate conflict, they also thrive in the moment of conflict and are more concerned with winning then coming to mutual understanding and forgiveness.

From the example above, the wife is a fighter. She corners her husband the second he walks in the door and peppers {or nags} him with questions of why he is home late, why didn’t he call, how could it possibly have taken him so long to get home? Her questions turn into a lecture. The husband escapes to the garage. All the while the wife is thinking up ways she can “get through to him”. She waits up and as soon as she hears the door shut downstairs, she rushes into the hallway to have another “discussion” with her husband. This couple goes to bed, angry and feeling alone.

 ”Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” ~ James 1:19

The Peacemaker

Of course every person will probably not fall into these easy categories. In fact, even within one argument you might transition from one response to another. You might start out trying to flee from the argument but over time you turn and attack!

This is not how Scripture tells us to handle conflict. We are to be selfless in our relationships, mimicking Christ! Here are a fews ways you can be a Peacemaking in the midst of conflict:

1) Overlook the offense

So many conflicts could be avoided all together if he overlook what offended us. This might look like the escape response, but this is truly forgiving and forgetting!

Each little incident in your relationships doesn’t have to be a knock-out fight! Truly forgive the person for the offense and move on.

“The vexation of a fool is known at once,but the prudent ignores an insult.” ~ Proverbs 12:16

2) Discuss the offense

Sometimes conflict must be dealt with, such as in the case of unrepentant sin. Sometimes we must be the ones to confess the wrongs we’ve done {and be ready to do that}! And other times we must lovingly confront another person.

This should never be done out of anger but rather in love for that person and your relationship!

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” ~ Matthew 5:23-24

3) Negotiate 

This is similar to discussing the issues but with negotiating you are resolving to come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

You each share your thoughts and concerns {in a respectful non-angry manner} and discuss what you can do about the situation.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~ Philippians 2:4

If all else fails

The next step in Peacemaking, if the above strategies have failed, is to take this matter to someone else and eventually the church. We model this after Matthew 18:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” ~ Matthew 18: 15-17

I know many of these beginning Peacemaking tips might seem dry…but they are foundational to your understanding of Biblical Peacemaking! To learn more pick up Peacemaking for Families.

Read more in this series:

Biblical Peacemaking for Families Series