On Wednesdays here at Home Sanctuary, we try to do a little something together to create order at home. "Order" is our theme song. Often, it doesn't take much effort to make a huge difference in how we feel about things.
Now, it doesn't take a super secret agent to figure out where "KAOS" has been at work at our house. Just take a look at our bathroom counters. Between the toothpaste, hairspray, makeup and curling irons, some mornings it's difficult to even SEE the counters. And that's with NO KIDS in the house. #SAD!
Let's do a Small Thing today!
Let's "Get Smart" in the bathrooms and clear off those counter tops.
You could take your arm and do a clean sweep of everything into a drawer and be done with it, or you could whip out your handy cleaners and gadgets to do a more thorough job of actually cleaning. You'll probably enjoy the latter action for a lot longer, but I've used the first method many times and even that gives you some satisfaction.
You might even enlist some Junior Agents, if you have some around, to do some spraying and wiping. They can be a bit trigger happy, but they are often eager for a top secret assignment if given the right tools and a time limit.
Clean bathroom counters make me feel really, really smart. And just a little sexy. ;)
How about you? What's the strangest thing you found on your bathroom counter today? We can use the Cone of Silence while you share....
It's hard to trust God when you're facing financial stress.
Maybe you know what I'm talking about because you've been there, too.
I had the opportunity to chat with Mary DeMuth on her podcast, "ReStory," to talk about how God re-shapes our stories in surprising ways.
Our conversation centered around the financial stress we faced during the Great Recession of 2008 and beyond, and how we made it through that time. It's been a long a difficult road for a couple of Creatives who thought we knew what we were supposed to be doing...and expected great "blessing" in the form of material success.
I invite you to listen to Mary's podcast - my story is here:
And then be sure and subscribe to the ReStory Podcast to be encouraged by Mary's extraordinary guests. I love that each one tells their story in their own unique way...how God continually reshapes us and writes NEW stories for our lives.
How is your story being reshaped? Are you in a time of uncertainty and doubt? I hope you'll be encouraged today, that no matter what you're facing, God is still at work to make something beautiful happen.
Hi everyone! This is Lauren, Rachel Anne's daughter, and I'm continuing my series on Tips for Beautiful Sleep. I loved reading your comments on my last post and have felt so encouraged by your own tips and experiences with sleep issues. Thank you for your kind words!
"I looked to the Lord when I was in trouble. I put out my hand at night, and it did not get tired. My soul would not be comforted... You keep my eyes from closing. I am so troubled that I cannot speak...
I remember my song in the night.
I think with my heart. And my spirit asks questions."
Psalm 77:1-2; 4; 6
It's funny how in the dark of night, things seem so big and scary. When the last lamp is turned off and the world goes black, our minds may not find peace, but worry. In those lonely hours that drag on and on, what do you turn to in order to find comfort?
Maybe you make lists in your mind of things to do the next day. You might sit up and read a book or read on your phone.
Those are simple ways to help relieve stress before nodding off to sleep and I have certainly done them on many occasions.
Something that helps me rest and relax at bedtime is to listen.
On the nights when my mind can't seem to grasp on to any one thought or can't be pushed over the edge into restful sleep, I love to listen to various music and spoken word to calm my mind. Just like the psalmist, I turn to songs in the night.
In my quest to find solutions for better sleep, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite go-to things to listen to.
Scripture Lullabies: Hidden In My Heart
My mom, Rachel Anne, told me about these albums this past year and I have really enjoyed every single song. Through cinematic music that includes an orchestra, piano, and gentle vocalists, the Scripture Lullabies songs are written straight from the Bible. The words of truth wash over me in the evenings, as well as while I'm driving around in my van with my two (loud) young girls.
I have found so much comfort in these beautiful songs and I have even given away many copies to friends because I think everyone should own them!
The song entitled "Beatitudes" is one of my favorites and has helped me memorize this precious portion of scripture. Give it a listen below:
Scripture Narration from YouVersion Bible App
I love reading scripture when I can't sleep. I will usually read it on my very dim phone (you can learn my tricks for dimming your iPhone on my last post) but frequently, I like to listen to someone read it.
The YouVersion bible app has a feature that allows you to simply push "play" and a narrator will read a portion of scripture. You can find out more about it here.
They must have figured out that lots of people want to gently fall asleep to scripture because you can even set the narration to read for a set amount of time like 15, 30, or 60 minutes and then automatically turn off.
I usually will listen to the Psalms or Proverbs at night when I'm trying to go to sleep. I find that listening to a gentle voice gives my mind something to think about beside my own worries about going to sleep. You can download the free app here.
Relaxation Tracks and Guided Meditation
When I was a child and had trouble going to sleep, my mom and dad would help me by guiding me through relaxing each part of body. Their soft words would drift over me as they would say, "Now, Lauren, think about the muscles around your eyes. Let those muscles relax as you take a deep breath."
It's amazing how much more relaxed you can be when someone is reminding you to relax! I have found that listening to breathing exercises and guided meditations help me get in a peaceful mindset at bed time.
Sometimes I listen to them while going to sleep, or will play one if I've been lying awake and begin to feel anxious.
Here's an example of a breathing exercise. You can find many tracks similar to this on Youtube or iTunes.
I also like the 10-minute track called "Inviting Deep, Restful Sleep" from Minute Meditations. The narrator simply helps you imagine your body being tucked into bed with a heavy blanket that slowly pulls up over you. Super cozy!
Finding a soothing, calm voice to guide you through relaxation can be very beneficial in quieting your mind and body when you feel keyed up.
I hope these songs and spoken words help comfort you when you have trouble resting and going to sleep.
What other kinds of music or songs do you like for relaxation and sleep? I'd love to hear from you!
Just in time for Valentines Day, my friend Dawn Camp's newest book is here! The Heart of Marriage is a gorgeous compilation of writings on marriage from today's top writers and bloggers. I love that there are many voices, perspectives, and seasons of life reflected in its pages. Reading it makes me appreciate my marriage in a new way.
I was honored to be part of the book with a piece I wrote about Valentines Day....from the perspective of someone who has shared over 30 of them through the years. Our "celebrations" often look like us catching each other's eyes in the bathroom mirror at 10 pm and saying, "Oh yeah...Happy Valentines Day, Babe. Sorry I forgot." LOL
To be honest, there have been a couple of years that I've cried my eyes out over the disappointments of the day, having wished for flowers, chocolates and a romantic dinner, only to have a chaotic dinner at home with noisy children and a pile of dishes to do, and there have been many that have been pure sweetness, and lots that were all about making sure our kids felt loved.
Mostly, the day is for honoring our relationship by remembering how our love has both weathered storms and blossomed in the sweet times.
I've learned that love is less about flowers and chocolates, and more about changing diapers, paying bills, and simply being there for the other person, no matter what.
Maybe that doesn't sound romantic, but I've come to see that there are ebbs and flows in our relationship. The love we share just sometimes looks a lot like everyday life, and that's okay. And yes, the sparks still fly, and my man still makes my heart beat faster. After so many years together, I still feel lucky that we found each other.
Instead of waiting for someone to give you something special tomorrow, I hope you'll pick up a copy of The Heart of Marriage for yourself! It's a perfect way to reignite that spark of romance, and see your everyday life together as something special. I know we can all use that from time to time!
This book also makes a great gift for a new bride, for an anniversary, or a wedding. I will be giving it as a shower gift to a friend who is getting married this spring.
And, Happy Valentine's Day from me to you! Thank you for being part of my life here each week...I love and appreciate you.
You know, back when all my kids were home, I used to daydream about how clean my house would be after they left.
No more bins filled with backpacks, shoes, and rotting lunch bags by the back door.
No more laundry on the floor.
No more stuff that needs moving from the couch before I could sit down.
Floors would be spotless.
Bathrooms would be sparkling.
Everything would be in its place.
(Insert laughter here)
That was the dream, anyway.
The thing I forgot to take into account is the fact that I would still be living here.
Me, the Original Messmaker.
And without kids to set an example for, let's just say sometimes it's hard to get motivated to clean up.
Yes, it is nice that the back door chaos of backpacks, shoes and moldy ham sandwiches no longer exists.
But now there is no one to point a finger at when I see things left out.
Yes, those five pairs of shoes by the door are mine.
Yes, those two coffee cups, three water bottles, four hair bands, two books, a phone charger and receipt from Walmart on the nightstand are ALL MINE.
As are the socks, sweatpants and T-shirt on the floor, which I ripped off my body in the middle of a night sweat.
This is my life, people.
So how do I motivate myself to clean up this "empty nest?"
First, I go back to a Daily Routine. This really takes care of 90% of my problems.
Daily Routines (or Minimum Maintenance) make it possible to survive on the least amount of effort, and reaps huge dividends in mental peace. When things are tidy, I just feel better.
I cannot over-emphasize the magic of a Daily Routine.
What remains then, is the Nitty Gritty of tubs, toilets, floors and things that require a bit of work. Generally, and I'm not proud of this, I put these chores off as long as possible. Which brings me to...
Second: What works is a super simple Weekly Schedule - Waay modified from my crazy busy days as a Work-From-Home-Mom. I've written extensively on this in years past.
But here is what I'm currently rolling with. It's not heavy-duty, but it's enough for right now.
Monday: trash cans, floors
Thursday: kitchen (fridge, stove etc.)
Friday: porch, glass door, living room
I really don't like to clean on Saturdays, so it's my lop-over day to catch up on the stuff I didn't get to during the week. Since I still work from the house, I can't always stick to the schedule - knowing I can do it on Saturday helps me stay sane.
What this "schedule" does is help me to not procrastinate, and it releases me from the burden of feeling that I have to get everything done all at once. I can do my Chore of the Day and then move on. I'm always ready to "move on!"
So, why talk about cleaning at "this stage of life?"
Because this is the part that many of us have been waiting for: to pursue dreams, find our passions, and remember the things we always said we would do.
Clutter and chaos get in the way of being the best we can be.
Don't let the mess keep you from growing, blooming and becoming. Value yourself enough to create a beautiful space for your soul to breathe free.
Make your empty nest your sanctuary with a Daily Routine and a simple schedule.
How about you? Do you struggle to keep things clean, even after the kids have grown up? How can a simple weekly schedule help you see your way clear?
"We should be rigorous in judging ourselves, and gracious in judging others." ~John Wesley
Lately, I've been thinking about the art of being gracious.
It feels a little old-fashiony and quaint, doesn't it? Graciousness doesn't seem like a trait that gets a whole lot of play in today's world.
But I'd love to see it make a comeback.
I think graciousness gets mistaken for weakness sometimes because it doesn't ever push itself on anyone. It gets overlooked because recipients of its gentle charm often don't even realize they've been "graced."
A gracious winner compliments the opponent who lost. One who is gracious in losing accepts defeat without making excuses or blaming.
A gracious host thinks of the comfort of her guests.
A gracious conversationalist is one who listens, asks questions, and does not need to have the last word.
I really miss it in public discourse these days.
I've heard it said that we judge others by their actions, while we judge ourselves by our intent.
I do think that's true. Even (or maybe especially) in marriage, it's easy for me to judge the actions of my spouse ("you didn't take out the trash") while excusing myself because of my intentions ("I didn't mean to forget your birthday").
I quickly judge others for things like political and religious views, without actually engaging in a dialogue or trying to see things from another perspective. It's all too easy to dismiss the other side as "wrong," rather than do the hard work of gracious consideration of another opinion.
Imagine how our relationships with our spouses, children, co-workers, neighbors and friends would be impacted positively with just a little more graciousness?
Imagine how our country could begin to heal some of the deep divides with graciousness toward those we disagree with?
Imagine how our children would respond if they saw adults modelling graciousness and common courtesy?
Here again, it's my default setting to think that it's "everyone else" who needs to be more gracious, while I myself am quite impeccable in my own demeanor. That time I lost my temper or had to have the last word? I certainly didn't mean to be abrasive. And I was only telling the truth, right?
Ouch. See what I mean?
Today, I resolve to be gracious toward others, and "rigorous in judging myself."
Then, perhaps Colossians 4:6 will be a reality: Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Good gracious! It starts with me.
This week, I found something I never knew I needed, but immediately fell in love with:
Remote controlled flameless candles.
These things are THE BOMB! Oh man.
Now, I have always loved candles, and I regularly light them around the house. I like to have candles going in the morning when I have my devotions, and usually have one on my desk during the day. I buy tea lights in bulk, and have lighters stashed all over the house. Nothing beats the flickering flame for adding warmth and a true sanctuary feeling for me!
Quite unexpectedly, I stumbled into Candle Innovation 2.0.
I found these at HomeGoods while shopping for something else. HomeGoods is dangerous that way.
I've used battery operated candles before and have always disliked the fake flames. But when I saw these, I hoped they would work for some wall sconces I have.
They came in sets of three, so I had to buy two sets. Each set came with a remote control (one remote can control all sets) and can be turned on and off with a click of a button.
....FROM ACROSS THE ROOM!!!!!!!
And because the "flame" is set low in the candle, they look absolutely realistic.
I put the two "leftover" candles on my dining room table, then went back for another set of three for my bedroom.
With the remote next to my bed, it's easy to turn them on and off without even getting up. They give a soft, romantic glow...although in full disclosure they've been best used to set the mood for sleep during the time it takes me to transition into sleeping mode. I like to read for at least a few minutes with my ipad (light turned waay down, thanks to Lauren's sleeping tips last week) and the candlelight in the room is perfect.
No more worrying about burning the house down by a forgotten candle.
I found other styles available online through Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and several other places. I will be buying more sets in the tall vanilla style for my (windy) outdoor seating areas, and for inside my fireplace in the living room. (I have candle holders set inside the fireplace for when I want to have a little glow without having a real fire.)
The key is making sure the "flame" is low enough in the candle so you can't see that it's not real. Source: Lights.com
Several of the sets have timers that you can set so they light automatically for a certain number of hours and then turn off. I think that's worth an extra few dollars.
For someone who isn't a "gadget girl," these have been a delightful discovery.
Have you made a recent "beautiful find?" I'd love to hear about it!
Now....go light a candle! You can never go wrong with a little candlelight to create a warm atmosphere and welcoming "sanctuary!"
We sang "This is My Father's World" in church yesterday. The opening chords of the song immediately took me back to the first time I heard it sung by a children's choir at a Lutheran summer camp in Minnesota. Their sweet voices sang in a simple two-part harmony, and sitting in that warm evening camp meeting, I thought it was the most beautiful hymn ever written.
The lyrics still bring tears to my eyes.
He shines in all that's fair.
Yes, He does.
I rest me in the thought.
Deep breath. Yes, I do.
God is the ruler yet.
Yes, He still is.
There is something reassuring about knowing that this is all His, don't you agree?
No fear, just peace in His care.
Today, let's listen for the music of the spheres. And then, simply rest in the thought: His hand the wonders wrought.
To help you out, here is Fernando Ortega's rendition of This is My Father's World. It's well worth a few minutes to start your week with a peaceful perspective.
This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
Maltbie Babcock, 1901
What can you do today to experience the wonder of God's creation? How will you rest in Him?
Today I'm welcoming my oldest daughter Lauren to the blog as a guest contributor! Lauren is a creative (graphic and web) designer, besides being a wife and a mom to two of my darling granddaughters named Ivy and Hazel. :) I've asked her to write several posts on sleep for us, as this is an area I know many of us sometimes struggle in, and it's one she knows quite well. First, she'll tell us a bit about her story, then share two unique tips for getting better sleep.
My sleep problems began the year I became a mother. And no, it wasn’t because of the precious little girl needing to be fed a few times throughout the night. While my daughter, Ivy, and sweet husband, Robert, slept soundly through the night, I would lie awake for hours trying to go to sleep.
What began as the typical new-mom response when a baby wakes up (you know the kind - “Quick! Get the baby!” and associated adrenaline rush) turned into a challenging way of life for years.
Insomnia has been something I have struggled with for almost four years. At it’s worst, I’d get less than four hours of sleep most nights for a month or more. There were days when the thought of the impending night would loom over me, making me sick with worry as the evening came to a close.
The nights never seemed to end and I’d finally greet the day - sometimes, without even an hour of sleep - only to face the next 12 hours of caring for Ivy and as well as my second daughter, Hazel. It was extremely frustrating not being able to fall asleep or have a reason for this problem. I wasn’t ever particularly worried or stressed about anything specific. My mind would not “shut off” while the hours ticked by.
The main concern, then, became sleep itself. The anxiety stacked up like a wall that I could never seem to climb over into restful sleep.
I’ve tried many remedies and my quest for better sleep is still ongoing. I recently emerged from a months-long bout of insomnia that peaked around Thanksgiving and recently is showing signs of retreating again.
Since I've had to become a student of sleep issues, I want to pass a long some things that I've learned. You’ve probably heard of many common remedies like taking a warm bath or drinking chamomile tea. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve that you may have not considered trying. In this series of blog posts, I’ll be sharing some tips to help you get better sleep.
Today, I want to talk to you about light and darkness.
Dim the lights and device screens in the evening.
Did you know that humans are extremely sensitive to light? In fact, various wavelengths of light (remember learning about that in school?) affect the level of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles. When you are exposed to light - especially blue light wavelengths - melatonin levels are low. As the day gets darker and the sun goes down, melatonin rises to help you fall asleep, get deeper rest, and wake with alertness. However, artificial light hinders your body's ability to produce more melatonin before you go to bed. That’s why looking at screens in the evening or in bed is so bad for sleep.
Start by dimming all the lights in your home a few hours before bed. I usually just keep one or two lamps on in the living room. If you need to turn on a light during the night, use very low watt lightbulbs and avoid looking at your phone. And if you like to read in bed, use a dim reading light.
You can also take charge of your devices by dimming the blue light emitted from their screens.
But what about the TV screen? There’s an accessory that will help.
And by accessory, I mean eyeglasses. Because most flat screen TVs are very bright and don’t have the ability to dim the blue light, you can wear orange-tinted glasses to offset the blue. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a little extreme.” And yes, the pair of glasses I own are not cool-looking by any means!
But out of all the remedies I have tried, wearing the glasses in the evenings have made the biggest difference!
I wear these dorky lenses in the evenings beginning a few hours before bed. They are the deepest orange lenses you can get and they block all blue light, even from standard light bulbs. You can find much more attractive lenses online, but these were less than $10 and were a cheap experiment to see if it helped. When I wear the glasses, I can feel my eyes and brain relax, and I’m actually more sleepy by the time I go to bed. I believe that by incorporating these glasses into my evening routine I was able to finally get relief from weeks of sleeplessness.
I've got many more tips to share with you in the coming weeks.
I'll share things like my favorite things to listen to to promote relaxation before bed, other natural remedies, and my experience in getting professional help for my health and sleep issues.
Every now and then, I come across something I can't pass up sharing with you. The "Conquer Your Clutter Super Bundle" is just such a thing. In full disclosure this is an affiliate link, which means I earn a percentage from each sale, but please know that I only share products or services that I personally use or think you might benefit from, friend to friend.
That said, please read on, because this is a good one.
This is for all of us who waste time looking for shoes, need help planning meals, or can't find that important document (cough, cough, that's me).
There's a great group of organizing gurus — regular people who’ve found practical solutions to their everyday struggles, who are sharing their best tips and tactics with us in all the areas we find most challenging. They've put together a huge bundle of resources to help us.
You sort of need to see it to understand it all (I've listed the individual resources below), but the package includes 38 digital products on topics like how to organize your photos, decluttering, family systems, meal planning, time management, and much more. All together, it’s worth over $650.
It also comes with two brilliant bonus offers worth over $40:
Besides being incredibly helpful and inspiring, one of the things I like best about the bundle is the price. By offering the bundle for a short time only, they’re able to give you access to over $650 worth of amazing products for a sweet 95% off.
Here’s how it works:
The most important detail, though, is that this bundle is available for just 6 days. After Monday night, January 30th, the sale ends and you’d have to buy all of these products individually.
If you're interested, click HERE to learn more or buy the bundle.
There's a full money-back happiness guarantee, just in case it's not what you were looking for.
Here's a list of the individual resources that are included, along with their value:
Cleaning & Chores
Managing Your Time
Organizing Paperwork & Digital Files
Pretty cool! I'm personally going to use the section on organizing paperwork and digital files, because Lord knows I need it. Many of the other products don't apply to my current season of life, but the value is such that I can just use what I need and still get my money's worth.
I'd love to hear what specific areas you're working on in your life! Is this something you'd find helpful?