Posts tagged work
Teaching Your Kids To Bring Order To Their Chaos

Years and years ago we lived in a big yellow house on a hill, with a 5 acre horse stable right behind it. With two girls already madly in love with horses, this was a dream location! Every window on the back of our house overlooked our neighbor’s barn and an arena where our daughters spent every free moment. When we moved there Matthew was one, Elizabeth eight, Rebekah eleven, and John Mark thirteen. We luxuriated in all the space this new home afforded, with storage closets tucked under the eaves and twice as may kitchen cupboards as our previous home.

And somehow, somewhere along the way, we started storing stuff in all those closets and cupboards. Lots of stuff.

I went to garage sales and found stuff, then to the dollar store, where I stocked up on stuff. I bought books for the kids at the grocery store for $3.99— such a deal!

Cheap stuff, unnecessary stuff, too much stuff.

At Christmas we filled stockings with stuff, grandparents sent stuff, friends stopped by with stuff. And before long all that stuff started to back up into our living space like a clogged drain choked with excess… stuff!

Between buying organizers to store all that stuff, then clearing up clutter and putting stuff away, my days had become one long chasing after the chaos all that stuff created.

You know what I’m talking about? Does that describe your home?

Are you ready to exchange all that for a sense of order and cleanliness that doesn’t come at the cost of your relationship with your kids? Unfortunately, I too often sacrificed niceness on the alter of perfection.  I wish I could say I was always patient and kind, but if my kids read this they'll call me out! And though I struggled and too often failed, I've learned some things along the way I wish I'd known at the start. Here are...

 10 Ways To Teach Your Kids (And Yourself!) How To Bring Order Out Of Chaos.

 #1. Reduce the amount of stuff

Where does this strange compulsion to accumulate and collect come from? Is it from the Spirit of God? I don’t think so. Is it from my flesh? Yes! that greedy, grasping, heedless part of me that craves stuff. So why do we keep it? Why spend money on plastic bins and organizers and shelves and systems to store all that stuff? Why indoctrinate our children in our greedy inclination to gather more stuff?

#2. Set a limit on stuff

You’ve helped your kids edit their possessions down to just what they love, what they pull out several times a week, what they actually use. Now it’s time to be clear that if they get something new, and they want to keep it, something old has to be given away.

In other words: this much and no more!

#3. Give your kids responsibility for their stuff

Instead of being the chief keeper and cleaner and put away-er of your children’s stuff, give them that job title. Make each person over the age of three responsible to clean it up and pick it up and put it away where it belongs.

#4. Incorporate ‘Once-Throughs’ into your daily routine.

When my kids were little, every night before bed the whole crew made sure every thing was picked up and put away. School papers, shoes, toys, every odd bit and piece had to be put away. Then, after breakfast, another once-through that included beds made and clothes picked up. One more once-through before dinner enabled our home to stay reasonably tidy.

Whenever I failed to keep this routine running, I inevitably defaulted into that annoyed, unfriendly my-kids-are-driving-me-bonkers mode.

#5. Train your kids to focus and notice stuff.

The child who can stand on the edges of his mess and evaluate what needs to happen in what order, is already way ahead in management skills! But most kids do not learn this automatically— they need to be patiently taken through the process of a quick and thorough clean up of toys and clothes and towels and last week’s lunch.

#6. Give your kids daily chores.

By training your children to have a daily work routine, you are preparing them for real life. In the real world no one steps in to do our job for us when we don’t feel like it. In real life something not-good happens to us when we drop the ball on one of our responsibilities.

#7. Institute periodic family workdays.

Something about cleaning out your closet while mom is cleaning out hers just takes away some of your child’s reluctance. We’re in this together! Or getting the whole family to chip in for a spring yard clean up, or window washing, or tidying up the garage. Teach your children that we work as a team, everyone contributing, everyone sticking with it until the job is completed.

#8. Whistle while you work!

This, of course, starts with mom. No barking orders (gosh, my kids hated that!), or getting mad (after all, it’s your job to stay on top of it by wise management), or grumbling (I can’t believe this mess!). Instead, teach yourself and everyone in your family to enjoy the sense of achievement that a clean up or a project can bring. Make sure they step back and admire their work- and that you step up to cheer them on.

This, for me, was a big fail. If I had it to do over again…

#9 Work before play

It’s a whole lot easier to get your kids to clean up and do their chores before they get involved in playing than it is to interrupt their creative play. But I still use this phrase to motivate me when I’m just not feeling in the mood to get something done.

After I work on this project for 2 hours, I can enjoy a break for tea and read a book for a while…

#10 Teach your kids how to break big projects into small steps

Some of us are not born knowing instinctively how to tackle projects. We don’t see those logical steps that lead to the finish line. Which may be why your child doesn’t even try.

If you’ll come alongside and do it with them, teaching and training them how to make lists, how to start, how to backtrack a timeline so they get it done on time… you will save them so much angst in our extremely project-oriented world.


My home is empty of children now, just the two of us in this small space. And I still find myself defaulting back to clean-it-up-only-when-it-drives-me-crazy mode! Back to those once-through’s for me…

From a heart craving a life of order,


P.S. Okay moms— this is your clue. What are you doing to bring order out of the typical chaos that seems to cling to children? How are you managing all that stuff? Send us the ideas in the comments so we can all learn from each other!



Reaching back into my journal from my summer of silence…  


Yesterday I cleaned the garage.  It was a hot, dusty, spider-filled day.

And, as it was my long procrastinated attempt at sorting through my too-much stuff again, I was fairly overwhelmed with decision-making.  I’ve struggled and failed to find a matrix that works for sorting through 36 years worth of accumulation. Throw in a few childhood memories and I’m sunk.

By the time I came inside to de-cobweb my hair and wash off the sweat of a hard summer day’s work, my little cottage was filled with all manner of pretty things stacked in haphazard disarray. My grandmother’s china overflowed a table in the hallway, vintage creamware cluttered the kitchen counter, boxes and boxes of books awaited my attention.

Isn’t that just the way of life? One mess leads to another until cleaning up messes overrides the best of plans… and I think that maxim applies to relationships as much as to garage cleaning…

So when I woke up early this morning with a rare day alone on the agenda I was torn. Should I spend the day studying for that Pastor’s Conference I am speaking at in Uganda? Or… should I play house with all my pretty things and spend my day creating beauty?

I did neither.

Instead I picked up a catalogue and feasted guiltily on pictures of cozy rooms and elegant arrangements. Between sips of steaming tea, I glanced at my Bible and tried to ignore that insistent sense that I really ought to first listen to the One I’ve given my life to.

I wanted to decorate all day… but I was certain that He would tell me to get to work. And so I stalled and sipped tea and wondered where to put what, feeling like a naughty girl ignoring her chore list as if I was ten years old again. Memories of sneaking a few pages of my Nancy Drew mystery instead of dusting my room came flooding back.

Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I tossed the magazine aside and picked up my Bible. How can I call Jesus my Lord and ignore Him as I ready for my day?  With a sigh I opened to where I’d left off the day before, ready to listen yet secretly wishing for the freedom to do what I wanted.

What I read… and heard, made me fall in love with my Father all over again. Because He’s not who I seem to consistently think He is: He’s not a taskmaster cracking the whip or a teacher clucking His tongue at my flakiness. He is not waiting for me to open my Bible so He can show me my chore list.

Yes, I listen for instruction. Of course He often corrects me. And sometimes He calls me to deny what I want to do in order to accomplish what I am called to complete. But that’s not the whole picture, not even close.

Here is where my morning reading took me:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.

You believe in God; believe also in me.

My Father’s house has many rooms:

if that were not so would I have told you

I am going there to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:1-3

I could fairly feel the brush of His Spirit against my soul as I breathed in His truth— He’s not mad at me for wanting to decorate my little cottage on Firwood Road!  In fact, He is spending His holy hours doing the same— preparing a place for me, a place where we can relish intimacy, a place of rest, a place of untangling troubled hearts caught up in self-imposed pressures.

His love wafted over my stringent should’s like the fragrant candle burning on my bedside table. I breathed deep— and smiled.

And so, this morning, before I get up and putter about arranging my pretty things, I want to remind you what I am just now remembering for myself. Because some of us get it wrong sometimes… and we lose peace… we miss His joy and stagger under a load He hasn’t meant for us to carry.  And then we work too hard and feel guilty because we’re crabby and short-tempered and generally hard to live with. (yep, that is me confessing who I’ve been this last week!)

This, then is truth:

Jesus is… a Redeemer lovingly restoring a broken world back to Himself.

He is… a Creator inviting you to play along with Him.

He is… a Maker of Beauty.


From a heart delighting in who He is,


P.S. Are you like me? Do you impose rigid rules on yourself that actually aren’t from the Father? Can you name a few to help us recognize them in ourselves?







When my children were little they had chores.

Somewhere I’d read about the importance of each child participating in the every day tasks of running a household so that they would feel fully at home there. Those assignments were good for their self-esteem, “according to the experts”, and who was I to argue?

So I made lists. And Chore Charts. And we stuck stars next to tasks completed and handed out allowance and pats on the back and lots and lots of praise for a job well done.

Or at least done.

But I didn’t realize that I had chores too. Chores assigned to me by a loving Father who knows I need to belong.

I just thought I had work to do. Too much work. Work that harried and harassed and made me crabby some days.

Work is different than chores. Work is endless and pointless and exhausting and defeating. It’s over and over again without end and without purpose.

Work is getting things done…that have got to be done …that I don’t want to do.

( an original quote from the lazy wisdom of Diane Comer)

But one day I stumbled upon a story about Jesus that changed my mind about all that work.

It’s a story about a man who was born blind. Couldn’t see a thing. And because he was blind he had to beg or die.

He couldn’t work.

That man would have loved a list of things to do. But he just sat by the side of the road, choking on dust, begging for a bite of bread. Pitiful.

And Jesus came along that road with His entourage of disciples and critics and hangers-on. Lots of dust, lots of noise.

And the man must have looked a mess because someone saw him and wanted to know why he had it so bad.

Whose fault was it? His parents? His own?

Right in front of the man whose ears worked fine, they questioned and probed and snickered and said things loud that they should have whispered.

And I think Jesus got a little annoyed at their rudeness.

But I don’t know because He didn’t say. I’m just guessing.

His next words aren’t about blindness and finding fault, but about glory and God and the way He does the most amazing things because He is amazing and bigger than we think and better than we are.

And then He launches into a lecture about doing to this crowd of talkers.

“All of us must quickly carry out

the tasks assigned us

by the One who sent Me,

because there is little time left

before night falls…

and all work comes to an end.”

~Jesus (John 9:4)

Next thing you know, Jesus makes a pack of mud for the blind man’s eyes and gives him an assignment.

“Go wash off the mud.”

And the man did. He did what he was told. Exactly what he was told. And he did it right away. He didn’t argue. He didn’t debate.

He just went and washed.

And that is sometimes- oftentimes- the way God does things.

He gives us a task to do. Something simple. Inglorious. Like scrubbing mud from blinded eyes…

Or getting up at 4 a.m. to open at Starbucks…

Or lacing on running shoes…

Or going to school for what seems like forever…

Or wiping babies bottoms and toddlers tears…

Or embracing broken husbands…

And we get a little dirty, splattered with the everyday stuff.

No glamour. No applause. No fake smiles.

Just mud.

But it’s our task. Yours… mine. And if we don’t do it...

if I won’t do it... it won’t get done.

And that will be the end of a story that should have ended better. Could have ended better, if only I’d obeyed.

I don’t know what your chores are. I haven’t seen the chart He’s constructed or the stars He’s gathered to stick next to your name.

But I do know mine. And they’re different sometimes from the things I’ve put on my list for the day. Different even from what others expect me to do. If I tried to do what everyone else thinks I ought to do I’d just curl up and give up and cry and never try again.

But His list is different. Custom made for me. For now.

I know what He wants me to do so its time to stop talking and go do it.

And I’d better hurry because pretty soon I won’t be able to. Night is falling. He’s getting ready to tuck us into bed and tell us His bedtime story and sooth us with His songs and let us rest there until the real work begins.

And I can hardly wait.

From my heart,





For this is the love of God, That we keep His commandments; And His commandments are not burdensome.

I John 5:3

Yesterday I made my list.

1.  Dust downstairs

2.  Mop kitchen floor

3.  Finish making jam

On and on the list droned the delight right out of my day.

Yet still, I had my list and it needed doing and so I did.

That’s when I saw the little Mobile Man standing at the door of my barn church.

Which started a quiet chuckle… then a laugh…which led to a full blown I love life moment as I imagined Jude or Duke or Mo or maybe it was Sunday, setting that little man there with a whole story to go with him.

And do you know what? That little man changed my whole day.

Children don’t work through lists.

They play—all day long.

And didn’t Jesus gather those play-planning kids into His lap and with twinkling eyes tell His goal-oriented, stress-driven disciples to be just like these little players?

“Like a child”, He said.

And so my list changed in that moment.

1.  Dance through my beautiful, cozy home, swinging a dust rag as I do so it’s all shining tonight when we get to pray over John as he leaves for Zimbabwe…

2.   Swish those sticky places and do a little jig of joy for all the meals prepared and people loved right over this floor…

3.  Create beauty in a jar and imagine the moment of opening in mid-winter…

4.  Discover… play all day!

I wonder if Jesus wasn’t thinking of me that day when He gathered those kids on His lap. Looking down through centuries, past history, at the stressed-out woman writing her list. Grim faced and determined to do it all.

“His commandments are not burdensome”, John said. So why am I so burdened?

Maybe because I need to be just like a child.

Maybe because He has other plans for this day.

Maybe because He wants me to play the day away…

From my heart,