6th Annual Spring Clean Challenge 2014

Spring Clean Challenge @ AVirtuousWoman.org

I have been so blessed by sunshine these last couple of weeks. Oh, how good and gracious our Heavenly Father is! Spring comes and the bitter cold of winter is like a forgotten memory.

And with Spring comes the desire to air out, clean, and freshen our homes after a long winter of closed windows and cold feet.

We’re going to get started April 21, 2014… so if you’re looking to get your heart and home clean, get ready!

We will have discussion here on Weekdays (Monday – Friday). You can report your progress, discuss questions you have, or share insights you have discovered.

What area of your home needs to most work?

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Letting Go of Expectations

Letting Go of Expectations @ AVirtuousWoman.org

If you haven’t already, you might want to read:

Life is a series of choices. Each day we wake up and choose to do what we do. Okay, so sometimes not everything that happens is within our ability to choose. No one chooses to have a flat tire or an overflowed toilet.

For a long time I was frustrated – and I’m not sure frustrated is a strong enough word – that my life was out of my control. It often seems like our family – because of extenuating circumstances beyond our control – moves from crisis to crisis. It’s one thing after another, after another.

We have a large extended family who often need my help or my husband’s help. And when I say often – I’m talking on a near daily basis. My husband and I are stable and able to take care of ourselves and others. We have family members who have struggled financially, who aren’t able to drive, who have major health problems, and more. And everyone of them 14 people to be exact} relies on us for something – and all those somethings require the one thing that is most important – our time.

Up until last year my husband and I were the sole caretakers for his 88 year old MIL, his 88 year old step father, his 87 year old Uncle, and his 61 year old brother who was terminally and mentally ill. Not one of these precious people could drive a car and everyone of them had doctor’s appointments – often two hours away on almost a weekly basis.

And every time Uncle Kenneth is home alone I would have to go and sit with him – 2 to 3 times a week for anywhere between 4 – 8 hours a day because he can’t be left alone.

Add on top of that two grown and married kids who live close to us who have struggled to  make ends meet and only have one car each. I am often responsible for driving the wives to doctor’s appointments or helping with other needs including babysitting grand kids a few times a week.

Add on top of that, the crisis after crisis that some unnamed family members have gone through – sometimes because of just plain bad luck and other times because of just poor choices – which required either my husband or I to help in some way – sometimes on a weekly basis.

Add on top of that the three churches my husband pastors… and the fact that I am a homeschooling mom with three horses, three dogs, and two cats {and numerous other animals over the years}. Add onto all of that – I’m responsible for maintaining the household chores, laundry, cooking, and day to day cleaning.

And then there’s A Virtuous Woman which I’ve been running since 2001 – that alone is just about a full time job!

Not to mention the fact that all of the holidays and any other special occasion is held at my house… and I cook for 20 family members on a regular basis.

I don’t think any of that description of my life really does it justice! I’m telling you – I’ve been exhausted caring for so many people for so many years with no real relief in sight.

Mykal’s brother died two years ago. And last year his step father passed away. Things changed a little since then. I no longer have to take care of his brother Steve’s medication daily. And Mykal no longer has to drive the two of them to doctor’s appointments each week among other things – and we think about them everyday. We miss them! But we are still soooo busy caring for everyone else.

So… maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with all of this.

About a year ago I began telling people I could no longer do certain things. And I’ve learned to say no to a lot. Not because I don’t want to help or that I don’t care – but my plate has been too full for too long. I went through some serious burn out. And I lost my joy.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important when everything seems important.

One day last summer I got out my journal and I wrote down a list of boundaries. It was a detailed list. By writing that list I learned what was important to me and where I drew the line. You see, sometimes because I’m nice and I love people – I allow them to take advantage of me. It was a real problem.

I read an article last summer that changed my life. I can’t remember now where, but it said something to this effect:

People take advantage of us when we fail to tell the truth in love.

So for instance, maybe someone would ask me to do something, but I honestly did not have time, but because I’m nice and because I love these people, I would panic in my head, put a smile on my face, and agree.

What I should have done was lovingly explain that I honestly did not have time in my already overflowing schedule. Because by doing more and more and more – I just felt more stress and more unhappiness.

So, back to my point: Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important when everything seems important.

So I had to make some decisions – what was really important to me. What was it God wanted me to do with my time?

I decided that my home, my husband, and my children were my top priorities. Everything else was secondary.

Now obviously, I still have a 89 year old MIL who has not been doing well at all over the last few months. I still have my husband’s uncle who needs care and I have to cook for everyday. And I still have grand kids who I have to babysit several times a week all day long so their parents can make some money – and they cannot afford a babysitter.

I still have kids I have to homeschool and a house I have to take care of. And really a million other things that come up on a weekly basis that need my attention.

But I say no when I need to. To whatever needs come up.

I give myself permission to have days where I do nothing more than snuggle in the bed with my kids or read a book when I feel I need rest. And I don’t feel guilty for resting.

And probably the biggest relief to me has been that I let go of my expectations. One of my biggest – and I mean this was HUGE – frustrations was that I homeschool and there was so much chaos – that I did not create – from other family members pulling on my time – that the last several years I could not have my kids on a schedule for school and we couldn’t get into a good routine.

I like routine. I really, really, like routine. It helps me plan and organize my day.

So, we would do school whenever we could find time during the day – often in the evenings. And it drove me crazy because in my mind that’s not what our homeschool {our life} was supposed to look like.

I wanted the perfect life and none of this stuff that was beyond my control fit into that ideal image.

Since I let go of my expectations – I’ve learned to live. Live fully in the moment. Embracing imperfection. Finding joy in the moment instead of the culminations of days, weeks, months, and years. I’ve been set free.

I’ve let go of the stress. Really, I’ve stopped trying to control things. I don’t stress over when we do school. We get it done – just not in a traditional way. I don’t stress over the house cleaning schedule because it eventually gets done – just to need doing again tomorrow. I don’t stress over grumpy days. I don’t stress over busy days.

At least most of the time.

I only have this one life. ONE LIFE. I don’t get a do over! So it’s my choice to live THIS LIFE full of joy in the moment.

Do you need to let go of expectations?

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Set Free {Day 31}

Set Free from the Bondage of Shame, Guilt, and Perfectionism @ AVirtuousWoman.org

31 Days of Calm in My Chaos

I’ve learned a lot about myself over these last few weeks. So much more than I ever thought. Much of what I’ve learned has been a progression of things God has been showing me over the last few years.

My life has been forever changed. He’s opened my eyes to so many new ways of looking at life. I was in search of peace and calm – and I found so much more!

If you’ve joined me in this 31 Day journey, I hope you’ve learned some profound truths too!

For so many years I carried shame and guilt around with me like it was the price of my sin. I’ll never forget the morning Jesus spoke to me and laid it on my heart that He had forgiven me years before – the first time I asked! I felt such relief!

The Bible says, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Mich 7:19

God does not remind us of our sins, our failures, over and over again to torment us. Satan does that! It’s Satan who wants us to feel shame and guilt and unworthiness. He wants you to believe deep down inside that there is no real hope for you. He wants to hold your guilt over your head so that you feel shame every time you look in the mirror.

Christ doesn’t do that. When we come to Him with a sincere and repentant heart, he casts our sins into the ocean and he doesn’t go looking for them later.

That gift of salvation, freedom from my past, was given to me so many years ago, and yet, while I was set free from my past sin, I allowed my quest for the “perfect life” to again drown me in a sea of failures and regrets.

I needed to not only be set free from my past but set free from my present.

Because this present moment is the only moment I really have. This present moment is the life I’m living. I can make plans for the future, but only God knows if those plans will ever come into fruition. I really only have this moment.

And so, I’ve been set free. I am free to live in this moment with peace and wild joy. And like I said the other day:

My life is not ruined by one day or one moment. I can still smile.

And amazingly enough, I don’t feel overwhelmed by life any more. That terrible burn out that I’ve gone through over the last few years – it’s gone. Because I’m free. I’ve learned to say no to those things that do not add goodness to my life. And I don’t feel guilty when I tell people I can’t do something – however good – because I realize and fully accept that God does not expect me to do something just because it’s good. I’ve learned to set boundaries.

I no longer have unrealistic expectation of myself – or my loved ones. I don’t expect them to be perfect. I love them unconditionally. I accept with peace that sometimes people are grumpy and that’s okay. Ideally no one would ever be grumpy – but it happens! And when it does, it’s not a reflection on my life as a whole. It’s just one moment in time – one small moment that when compared to all of the good things that happen day in and day out – doesn’t really matter all that much.

I’m okay with not always having a neat home – because our home is where real life happens. It’s where the things that matter have a purpose. It’s where the people that matter have a place to share. It’s where grief, sorrow, joy, and happiness have the most meaning and can be fully expressed.

I am still on a mission to get more organized and I do want to continue renovating our home so that it’s a pleasant space for my family – but it’s not the end of the world if it takes years to reach my goals instead of weeks or months. God loves me for me. I don’t have to prove to Him or anyone else that I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love because I am His.

Have you been set free?

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