Category Archives: The Quest for a Happy Haven

Be Still, Say No, and Know that He is God

I’m taking a different approach to today’s Quest for a Happy Haven post. I’m sharing part of my story to finding true happiness through simplicity in my life. I am not in any way saying that my story is the standard all should follow to be in God’s will. Each of us have different callings, and this just happens to be mine for this season. I pray that you are encouraged and that you’ll share your own story so that others can be encouraged to say no to whatever distracts them from having a haven for their family.

I used to believe that being busy meant I was being productive. Working more hours in a day meant I was not only fighting off laziness but making a bigger difference in others’ lives.

Then one life choice started a chain of other decisions that have left me with no choice but to be still and say no. It’s because of all of these no’s, however, that I’ve begun to really appreciate the verse that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

The original choice was to become a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I knew it would take sacrifice, but in those pre-baby, twinkly-eyed perceptions of what our future would look like, we had no idea that the sacrifice would mean more than giving up going out to eat whenever we felt the urge. Here are some of the things that distracted us from embracing a simple life.

Moving from two cars to one. Oh, how I took for granted the convenience that comes with being able to get into my car whenever I felt like it to head wherever I wanted to go. On the positive side, I also had no idea how much money I would save by learning to be resourceful and find entertainment in my back yard rather than coming across temptations for impulse purchases when we were able to drive around town. It’s also created a lifestyle that is oblivious to the deadline-driven world outside our four walls. (Insert contented sigh.)

Saying no to cable television. I used to believe that TV was the ultimate form of relaxation, but now I see how much richer and rewarding our nights are since we are a family that plays hide-and-seek, reads books, and laughs together. Movie nights complete with popcorn are special rather than expected, and it’s helped me know that saying “no” to something I didn’t want to give up has brought my family happiness.

Saying no to buying things I used to consider essential. As humbling as it has been for me to wear clothes that aren’t quite as stylish as I want them to be, to make myself put off a haircut, and reject my desire to try out coloring my hair, it’s made me a better person. I have not handled this area with patience and contentment each step of the way, but I’ve come to understand that I am so rich. In addition to a phenomenal, loving family, I’m blessed with a fully-furnished home, a stocked kitchen, and way more than one pair of shoes. Compared to countless people around the world, and even in my own country, I have so much more than they dream of having. I have learned to value inward beauty more than outward trends as I have the opportunity to hug my little guy who could care less what I’m wearing or how askew my ponytail is.

Saying no (for a season) to extravagant financial giving and saving. I didn’t want to accept this one, but I’ve learned that not having a large amount of income requires us to be resourceful. It requires us to slow down and find time to invest in people rather than stocks. I’ve become keenly aware of needs around me, even within my home, because I don’t have enough money to distract me from focusing on hearts. We look forward to the day when we are able to give more financially to those in need, and I am confident that day will come. In the meantime, as a family, we try to prioritize taking time to make other people’s lives brighter by showing Jesus to them in the little things, and we would have never realized how rewarding this was if we had not learned to take the time to notice. Now I have enough evidence to believe without question that extravagant giving does not always have to be financial, nor should it be.

Our list continues to grow as we face new challenges and decisions each day, but I can honestly say that I am grateful for the simple life that my family has come to cherish. I’ve come to a place where I want this for my son more than I want the newest toys, a calendar full of play dates and outings every day of the week, or big vacations each summer. Our life is beautiful because we’ve learned that saying no has given us a freedom with which deadlines just can’t compete.

Now that I’ve learned the power that comes from choosing a slower way of life, I can’t wait to read Little House on the Freeway by Dr. Tim Kimmel. This book suggests “101 Ways to Give Rest to Your Family” and brings to light the reasons families will be better because they said no to busyness. (I am not an affiliate of this book’s sale.)

What “no’s” in your life have made your life simpler and more rewarding? I’d love to hear about them!

Have you missed one of the other posts in The Quest for the Happy Haven series? Here they are!
The Quest for a Happy Haven
5 Steps Toward Getting Your House in Order
10 Minute Clean-up Challenge

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

The Quest for a Happy Haven: 10 Minute Clean-up Challenge

I have come to realize that one of the reasons I sometimes find my house in complete disarray is because I let the collective mess overwhelm me. I look around and I think, “No way can I get all of this under control in one short hour while my 2 year old naps” (or pretends to nap or refuses to nap – depending on the day.)

So I go escape to the computer and I try to get productive with my ever-growing list of things I need to write. When I hear the tell-tale voice of a little boy calling for me to come rescue him from the clutches of his bed, I glance around at a house that is still a mess, and I feel the stress start to build as I realize the post I’d worked so hard on was going to have to be completely rewritten and none of my to-dos were crossed off my list.

In order to live in a happy haven, those of us who are the designated home-makers have to find balance in when to prioritize cleaning, other obligations, and relaxation. As much as I like cleaning once I get started, it’s the getting started that is difficult for me. When I don’t get started, feelings of failure begin to take over as I realize that I am just not being productive with my time in that sweet hour of the afternoon where all mothers of young children are supposed to perform miracles.

So I’ve decided to take some baby steps and move on past the sinful thoughts of guilt and as well as the sin of sitting in a pit of mediocre while getting nothing productive done. I can accept a somewhat-messy house if I’m 100% at peace with the fact that I have all of my priorities in the right order.

Quite frankly, I sometimes use my blog as an excuse to avoid the jobs that I know need done. While there are sometimes deadlines that do take priority over how clean my kitchen is, often times I sneak in a few extra minutes of Facebook time because I want to give myself a break before I get started on the piles at hand, and that mindset is just not taking me anywhere.

So, I’ve been working to adopt a personal challenge. I am not the originator of the idea, and sadly I’m not sure who is, but I do know that I’ve caught glimpses of discussions about it on Money Saving Mom and Blogging with Amy. For 10 minutes each day, I am tackling one mess at a time to slowly conquer the collective mess that I sometimes feel that I dwell in.

Want to join me? I could use some accountability! Here’s what you need to do.

1. Choose an area of your home that you want to tidy up. Often times for me, it’s the kitchen/dining area. Over the course of the morning, it can get crazy in there with dishes, toys, mail, and a myriad of other random things.

2. Pick out some music and crank it up! On the days where my son is having “quiet time” rather than nap time, I need to listen to something other than him carrying on in the other room. As much as I love him, we both need a break from each other.

3. Set your timer for 10 minutes and get busy! Moms and teachers use this trick of turning cleaning into a game on our kids all of the time. Why not make cleaning up a game for ourselves as well? For some reason, racing against the timer to unload my dishwasher gets me all excited, and I do kind of feel like I’m having some good old competitive fun.

If you need some extra motivation, take before and after pictures. I did the other day when my kitchen was extra crazy after freezer cooking all morning. For me, the blurry camera-phone pics of my clean counter tops are like the stickers I used to give my students when they did a good job answering a question. Here’s what 10 minutes got me!

Also, I discovered that after 10 minutes when I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to, I was already in the cleaning mode, so I set my timer for another 10 minutes and finished conquering what I had already started.

I haven’t been flawless in getting this completed every day since I’ve started, but I have discovered that my attitude is changing, and my house is more picked up when my husband gets home from work for the day.

Now it’s time for you to talk! 1) What tips and tricks have you found helpful in keeping your house more in order throughout the day? 2) Are you up for joining me on this challenge? Be sure to leave a comment, send an email, or post on the Facebook page your thoughts on this topic!

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

5 Steps Toward Getting Your House in Order

If you missed the first post in the series, you can read it here.

Before we can get into any of the overwhelming number of ideas that are out there to make our homes better places, we have to set some personal ground rules for ourselves. If you’re anything like me, new ideas only work when I have made peace in my heart about what I’m doing and have firmly established a pure and positive motive to get it done.

Here are five tips that I continually go through in what I believe is a constant effort to maintain a happy heart. I’m convinced that a happy heart equals a happy home.

1. Stop comparing and be content. I can feel okay about how my house is looking and then I’ll come across a distraction. To name a few: a conversation with someone else about how she has to have things in order all of the time; a blog filled with pictures of neatly organized rooms, drawers, and closets; or a picture of the perfect craft room. I never even realized how much I wanted a craft room until I started seeing so many pictures of them.

If I’m motivated to change my home solely on the fact that I have to somehow measure up to other people’s standards thanks to my choice to dwell on the comparison, I’m not going to live in a joyful haven. You see, a haven is a refuge from the outside world. My attempts to have a house that is as good as others’ taint the atmosphere of my home. I’m not putting my family first: I’m putting my selfishness and insecurities at the forefront.

In the list of things that God commanded us to abstain from coveting in the ten commandments, I find it intriguing that the very first thing He mentions is this, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” (Exodus 20:17a)

If that’s not a clear enough command, check out Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.”

Once I’ve worked through the sin of coveting in my life, it’s time to take action. I have this ugly tendency to spiral once I realize how messed up I am. Instead of spiraling and allowing myself, and subsequently my home, to sit dormant in a sad state, I have to move on to the next thing on my list.

2. Come up with a plan of action. Once I’ve put aside my coveting, I am now willing to admit that I need both help and inspiration. This is when I start observing what other women do to combat a problem area that I have in my home. I evaluate how that would work in my home with my personality and the personalities of my family and determine if I can adopt a modified version of the solution.

The Internet also  offers thousands of resources within seconds. I love being able to look at other people’s ideas with a heart that is focused on bettering my family rather than condemning myself for not having it all together. When I have my heart tuned into this perspective, I can be inspired rather than defeated.

3. Set realistic goals. Once I’ve found a couple of ideas that I think might work, I write them out and establish a game plan of how to make it happen.

Don’t set yourself or the rest of your family up for failure. You’re getting ready to change habits, and it’s going to require concentration. Since you are involving other people in this change, perhaps it would be wise to implement small portions of the plan at a time. Expecting a complete overhaul of your cleaning routine while completely reorganizing and remodeling three rooms in your house will probably cause more chaos than anyone in your family can handle.

4. Apply and accept grace when mess-ups happen. Having said all of that, you are only human, and so is the rest of your family. No matter how hard you work, something will always come up that will mess with your newly-found groove. In our house, a normal weekend’s activities seem to bring about a huge mess of things.

I used to stress myself out trying to spend quality time with my family while maintaining order. Eventually, I came to a place where I realized that none of us were having as good of a time as we could be. The messes will wait to be cleaned up, but the memories we could be making together while I’m scrambling around (either in real life or in my head) will be missed opportunities. I choose family. The dishes and laundry can wait until Monday.

5. Pray for your home to be blessed and be a blessing. Sadly, I don’t always remember to follow through with this crucial step to maintaining a home that honors God. However, my home is a reflection of my heart, and when my heart is not focused on conversing with God, then my house is not going to be the refuge from sin and sorrow that it could be.

My heart finds such joy in receiving a compliment from guests in our home about how at-ease they feel when they’re here. That’s when I know God has truly blessed my prayer that others will find a portion of His peace and love during their time within the walls of our home. I’ve seen God bless the attitudes and events of our days when I prioritize prayer for our little haven. It always works. Perhaps not in the way I pictured, but generally in a richer way than I would have dreamed.

A happy haven can be cultivated when our hearts and perspectives are clean and healthy. No 30 day challenge, book, magazine, or blog post will truly change our lives. They’re meager tools. The real change comes when we let Jesus fill our hearts, and subsequently our homes, with joy.

What did I miss? What internal steps have you discovered important in your quest to being a happy homemaker? Please be sure to share them in the comments! I love learning from others.

 

 

 

 

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

 

 

The Quest for a Happy Haven

Here’s the deal. I am not an organization queen. I am so unsure of whether or not a paint color or new arrangement of furniture looks good that I get at least 15 different opinions before I commit to it. I currently have playdough stuck in my carpet and don’t know what my dresser looks like without clutter adorning the top of it.

My house is a work in progress, and I’ve found peace in the fact that I will never have an immaculate home. It’s just not who I am, no matter how hard I’ve tried. I much prefer to live in a house that feels like home because it looks and is lived in.

As a stay-at-home mom who rarely has possession of our solitary family vehicle, I don’t get out much. I mean really. I have to explain to my son that there are other places to go besides church, Wal-Mart, and Grandma’s house because he rarely sees anyplace besides those three buildings.

So since we are in this house pretty much all of the time, I think it’s of great importance that all of the members of our family feel comfortable here. I also pray that each guest who enters our home feels cozy and at-ease as well. That goal doesn’t happen without effort.

In the Quest for the Happy Haven series, I plan to address some of the things I’ve learned along the way to make this humble little house we’ve worked to make our home and refuge a place we can take pride in and enjoy.

I’m telling you from the beginning that I do not have it all figured out and I am far  from an expert. If you’re wanting mind-blowing transformation ideas, keep tuning in to HGTV. They know what’s hip, and I do not. I’m just inviting you along to figure out together what does and doesn’t work. Believe me, I could use the help!

One thing I’ve realized is that homes and all that do (or don’t) come with them are an easy means for women to fall into the rut of feeling mediocre. We know about the nooks and crannies no one else does. We know how long it’s been since we last cleaned said nooks and crannies. Oh and let’s not even start on the lack of space! The discontentment only intensifies after seeing a more new, clean, organized, and chic home while picturing our dirty walls and ancient carpet. (Thank you, Pinterest.)

It’s a dangerous game females play called Comparison. I’ve played it far too many times, and I’ve yet to come out a winner. After ending up with a bruised ego enough times, I’ve come to find that God knew exactly what He was talking about in Hebrews 13:5, Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.‘”

So how does one keep from comparing and ultimately coveting without becoming stagnant and unable to improve upon what she has been given by God? It all comes back to balance in our perspective. We must be content with what we have, but when God, Who actually owns all that we have, provides the means for us to take good care of the home with which He’s blessed us, we can’t sit around unwilling to change when necessary. I’m all about embracing the fact that we can be average, as in being willing to relate to others, without being mediocre – unwilling to accept God’s call on our lives to be His exceptional, lovely, and empowered daughters.

I’m so excited to share the resources and practical and frugal tips I’ve discovered along the way in my quest to make my home a haven. I also need your help to make this an awesome series. Come on now: you have your own tricks up your sleeve, and I would love to hear them! Be sure to send me an email (kwesterf@gmail.com) or leave a comment with your own ideas of how to have more than a house you exist in, but rather a home where you can take refuge from the crazy world surrounding it.

Have you entered the giveaway I shared with you on Tuesday? If not, be sure to check it out!

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.