We love buying farm fresh produce, but let’s be real, Roger and I are both busy, and another thing… we don’t live on a farm. So, we decided to grow a few things in our own garden, well, actually it is a planter on the back patio, but for us, we felt like urban farmers.
Every day we went out to check on our little garden. As the leaves grew and little buds formed we enjoyed the daily routine of caring for our thriving plants and looked forward to the day when we could enjoy the fruit of our labor, literally.
It was a wonderful day in the Lipp Household when we plucked our first tomato off the vine.
How funny that we can get so intent on growing a vegetable, and yet how easy it is to get distracted from growing something much more valuable, our marriage.
It is so easy to focus on the mountain of little things that feel urgent on a day to day basis, but make it a priority to balance them out with what is truly important.
Busy happens, we need to recapture some of the fun things that drew us to our spouse. Whether it is a date-night, a simple gesture of kindness, or spending time with other couples, shake up the routine.
Just like our tomato took time and patience, we need to nurture a healthy relationship with our spouse. We didn’t flood our little “garden” once and walk away, hoping it would fend for itself. We made it a daily routine to make sure it was thriving.
There are seasons in life, but whether you have been married for a few years or a few decades, we can all benefit from savoring simple moments with the one we vowed to love, honor, and cherish.
How about you? Maybe you could use some fun and fresh ideas to nurture your relationship?
Join me as I visit with Focus on the Family on how to add some pep into your marriage.
“Isn’t this day supposed to be about ME?” I remember saying those words one frustrated Mother’s Day years ago to a husband who just woke from a nap and kids who were fighting. Sometimes Mother’s Day doesn’t feel like a celebration of mom to MOM. Yes, you could look at it as a holiday created to sell greeting cards. But there’s something about this day that makes you want to feel honored or at the very least, recognized and given a much-needed break.
Maybe you’ve uttered those words to your family in frustration. Or perhaps you relish the fact that on this one day, they are going to knock your socks off with pampering and you are not going to have to think about anything heavy.
And then you see her. The single mom in your church. Huh. Who is making sure she has a great mother’s day? And the guilt starts to whisper that you really should do something but, I mean, really, it’s your ONE day. Squirm.
Clutter Free is about clearing clutter from a lot of areas of your life including your heart and mind. And seeing a mom who needs some help shouldn’t come with a side of guilt. Yes, you still get to enjoy your day. But if you truly want to bless her too, I’ve got two amazingly simple ways:
Remind her kids they need to do something.
Or, simply tell her you see the amazing job she’s doing as a mom on her own.
Told you they were simple.
Remind Her Kids
The first Mother’s Day after my husband died, I expected to wake up to just another day of doing everything for my kids. They were a little older but let’s face it, kids often need to be reminded. So imagine my surprise when my girls, ages 12 and almost-6 surprised me with scrambled eggs, toast, and tea on a pretty platter in bed. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
I didn’t need a huge gift. I couldn’t afford to take the kids out to lunch. But the fact that they remembered me was enough to make my Mother’s Day special.
Maybe her kids just need to be reminded to do something for mom on this day. Or perhaps they need some suggestions. If you have the means, giving them a gift certificate to take the family out for dinner is great too. Or, help the kids buy her flowers or something simple. These material things are super nice however I think most moms want to feel appreciated and remembered on this day more than anything. So do what you can.
Be Her Cheerleader
Maybe you don’t know her kids well enough to be the bossy grown-up who asks what they are planning. If not, simply telling her you see all she does and you think she’s rockin’ it is another great blessing.
Being a single parent is incredibly tough. It takes lots of creativity and energy to be all things that your kids need on top of provider and caretaker of the home. Telling a single mom you think she’s doing an amazing job at it is another way to bless her on this day to celebrate moms. Simple and free, this encouragement might come at a time when she’s had a rough day or just be a delightful surprise.
So when God places that single mom in your path as Mother’s Day approaches, don’t feel guilty that you want to enjoy your holiday. That’s self-care and you, fellow mom, have earned a day, too. Instead, ask God how you can best help this single mom.
Jenn Buell is a writer, speaker, radio DJ and widowed mom of four kids who lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. She loves using her superpower of encouragement to cheer on other Christian single moms through her blog and podcast, “Right There With You.” You can connect with Jenn at JennBuell.com.
Paper piles covering every flat surface, even though I created a file system for them.
Love is not easily angered.
How many times do I have to remind him there is a container for the chips?
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
These are the thoughts and frustrations that run through my mind every time my husband’s messy tendencies conflict with my organized ways. You would think that after 25 years of marriage I’d be used to it.
When I married Clint I knew what I was getting into. I didn’t marry him for his organizational skills, but rather for his sense of humor, good looks, and kind ways. Plus, I was certain being married to me would cure him of his disorganization.
I was wrong.
Our polar opposite personalities and different ways of keeping things in order clashed from the get-go. We struggled and fought. In the end, I had to learn how to balance my orderly style with his not-so-organized ways.
Love Paves the Way
It wasn’t easy, but hope and LOVE made all the difference.
LOVE paves the way
Since our marriage was a relationship grounded in God, it seemed like the best place for me to search for answers in dealing with my disorganized spouse would be God’s Word. I was certain that I would find the evidence I needed to change Clint to my tidy way of living.
Once again, I was wrong.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes, “ Love is patient, love is kind … it keeps no record of wrong.” I wonder if Paul knew how desperately some “Odd Couples” would need to hear those words in order to live as one.
Rather than give me the weapons I was looking for, God’s Word showed me how to express LOVE to Clint in ways that would honor him, our marriage, and our home.
Express Love to Your Spouse
Learn your spouse’s organizing style. Organizing isn’t one-size-fits all. In fact, each of us has our own way of keeping order. As much as I wanted Clint to be organized like me, he had his own style.
Once I recognized his style – no lidded containers, simple in function, and everything in view – it made it easier for me to create order for both of us. By honoring who he was, and how God created him, I was able to find a balance both of us could work with.
A marriage is made up of two unique individuals. I needed to stop trying to make him just like me and appreciate the man he was.
Offer to compromise. In a perfect world, everyone would be organized. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and often times those we love are not as organized as we’d like them to be.
While we could insist they do things our way, God reminded me that love is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5). That’s where compromise comes in.
Rather than demand that every inch of the house be in perfect order, here are a few compromises I suggested:
• Offering one or two “messy zones” that he is free to keep as he pleases.
• Determining together which spaces in the house should be clutter-free and which everyone has to make an effort to keep orderly.
• Setting terms for dealing with unwanted stuff – agreeing to declutter twice a year with a goal of getting rid of at least 50 items.
Compromise is never easy, but it’s a necessary component of marriage and the organizing journey.
Verbalize your feelings, but don’t nag. While it can be frustrating to see the piles and chaos that disorganized spouses can leave in their wake, constantly pointing out those tendencies will not bring order to your home.
Statements such as, “Why can’t you put the chips back where they belong?” or “You always leave your socks on the floor” don’t exactly convey loving sentiments. Rather, statements like these that can put your spouse on the defensive and make you sound like a quarrelsome wife (Prov. 19:13, 21:9, 25:24).
Instead of bringing up his organizational shortcomings, why not try statements such as:
• “Honey, did you know that there is a basket specifically for the chips in the pantry?” or
• “It really bothers me when you leave your socks on the floor all the time. Could you pick them up more often and place them in the hamper?”
Words Have Power
Our words have the power of life and death and a gentle answer can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1). They might just lead to order too.
Exemplify. It’s unlikely that your nagging or anger will be what brings your spouse to the light of organized living. I’ve learned from personal experience that setting the example first has more influence and impact than words or fights could ever have.
Truly, actions speak louder than words (1 Peter 3:1). Over time my consistent organized ways and habits eventually began to rub off on my husband. In the past few years I’ve seen Clint become more orderly – he makes to-do lists on a regular basis, he purges his clothes before we go shopping, and I’ve even caught him using my label maker!
I can’t say that he’s organized with everything, but he’s definitely not the same man I married all those years ago. Sometimes the best thing a wife can do is be the example for her spouse, even in the little things.
Early in our marriage, I questioned whether two people on different ends of the organizing spectrum could make it work under one roof. I was certain that he was the one who needed to change. Eventually, I realized that the only person I can change is myself.
While our home isn’t perfectly organized, the truth of God’s Word, the hope that things could change, and a lot of LOVE have allowed us to have a home that’s as clutter-free as can be.
How could LOVE make a difference with your not-so-organized spouse?
Liana George is an organizer, writer, and speaker. Her mission is to inspire others in transforming their chaos into an organized lifestyle. Liana is married to Clint and together they have two adult daughters. When Liana isn’t organizing something you can find her curled up with a good book, watching/playing tennis, or planning her next dive adventure. You can visit her website at bygeorgeorganizing.com.
I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.
The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.
I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.
I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.
It was just that we could only see the mess.
It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.
How to clear out the surprising clutter
As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.
My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.
Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
Once upon a time I thought if I could make enough spreadsheets, post enough lists, or structure my planner enough, then I could build the scaffolding for smooth, meaningful days. I imagined days where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control could just spill right out of my heart.
Turns out “fruit” doesn’t grow on spreadsheets. Nothing against lists, mind you. But through God’s gentle teaching over the past several years, I’ve embraced the natural rhythm of days and grace in the midst of busyness.
It’s a beautifully confounding idea that the miraculous is often present in the mundane. A moment setting aside a scrambling schedule in order to kneel down, look a little one in the eye, and just listen to what is on their heart, is worth all the crossed-off lists in the world.
In short, I’m learning that the “small” can be momentous. That the moments make the days. And that it’s the humblest things that make life the richest.
How a jar can unify your family
Take for example the idea of a simple jar and a few pebbles. What if these everyday things could help unify your family throughout the day? What if it weaved hearts together? Here’s what I propose:
1) Find a jar, bowl or vase.
2) Obtain a group of pebbles, glass gems (as you might use in a fish tank or for the game Mancala), or other memento—one style or color for each person in the family. Even just a slip of paper with each person’s name written on it would do the trick.
3) Each morning every person takes a pebble of another person’s chosen color. Slip it into a pocket, lunch box, brief case, purse, pencil box or backpack. Gather before parting ways for the day to talk about prayer requests for the day.
4) Throughout the day, whenever that person comes across the pebble, it’s a prompt to say a quick prayer for the person it represents, and whatever they might be facing in their day.
5) At the end of the day, take a moment to go around and debrief about the day. Each person asks the person whose pebble they drew how their day was. Then let them know how or when they were prayed for.
6) Finally, deposit each of those traveling gems into your chosen jar. Over time, the intermingled pebbles (or other items) serve as a visual reminder of how cherished each person has been in thought and prayer.
A message in a bottle
In my research for the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, I’ve come across some incredible stories of objects and messages in simple vessels. This is just one way to make a living message of your own and create a beautiful tradition.
For a chance to win one of five copies of that book, tell us in the comments: What is one simple but important message you would love your family to carry in their hearts each day?
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of Truth, and spinner of hope-filled tales. She spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family, who love a good blanket fort and a stack of read-alouds. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale, a contributing author to the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, and enjoys connecting with her readers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.