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All Posts by MaryEllen

One Simple Way to Get More Out of Your Bible Reading

Have you ever arrived at the end of a chapter in your Bible reading and realized, “I don't remember one single thing I just read”?

I do that all the time!

My mind gets so preoccupied with remembering everything I need to do that I'm reading the words but not really processing them.

Or sometimes I'm just flat out tired and my brain isn't exactly functioning very well.

One simple way to get more out of your Bible Reading

Here's a tip to help you focus better as you read your Bible:

Read out loud.

It feels a little awkward at first, but once you start it's easy to keep going.

It amazes me how much easier it is to focus on what the verses mean.  And quite often, even on days where I don't feel like my brain is fried but I'm just having a little trouble understanding the passage, it suddenly makes more sense once I read it out loud.

Reading your Bible out loud also works well if you have little ones clamoring for your attention.  You get your time in God's Word, and they get to benefit from hearing you read it too.

Oh, and one last thing.  You can use this tip for prayer too!  When  you're falling asleep, just start praying out loud and you won't have that problem any more!

Would you like to be more intentional about spending time in the Bible and prayer?

I've put together a 7 day email challenge where I share how to keep a spiritual journal, how to study the Bible, and how to have a more meaningful prayer life.

Care to join me?  Just click the button below!

 

The Hard Lesson Every Mother Needs to Learn

The words cut me like a dagger.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”

(Isn't that what God's word is supposed to do?  It's sharper than any two-edged sword.  Amazing that it does what God said it would do.)

 

As I read those words I knew exactly what God what telling me.  And I could do nothing other than to bow my head and say, “Yes, Lord.  You're right.  I haven't been very long suffering or kind to my children lately.”

Biblical Motherhood advice

 

Oh, I'm very familiar with I Corinthians 13.  I know that it's saying that it's pointless for a person to do great things to spread the gospel if they don't have Christ-like love for people while they're doing them.  Then it goes on to describe exactly what Christ-like love is.

It starts with the words, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”

Ouch!

The reason that hurts so much is because I was hit with the realization that spreading the gospel isn't something that just happens “out there somewhere.”

Spreading the gospel starts at home with my own children.

And if I'm not being long suffering and kind with my children, all my efforts to spread the gospel to my children are pointless.

“But, Lord, it's so hard!  My physical issues make it seem impossible to be longsuffering some days.  My anxiety and stress levels are through the roof, especially when the kids seem determined to get on my every last nerve!”  (Read: Why your physical health affects your ability to be a gentle parent.)

“My precious child.  This is my will for you, and I will not require anything of you that I will not give you the strength to do.” (Philippians 4:13)

All I can do at this point is to humbly thank God for his living Word. It shines a light into the dark corners of my heart to point out where I'm wrong.  And it gives me hope that I can do right through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So today I'm asking him to give me the strength to be long suffering and kind with my children.

And I know he will.

 

 

This post is part of the Parenting with Gentleness series.

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Simplified: Focusing on Quick Wins

When it comes to spring cleaning, I do not have a week or even a whole day to dedicate to scrubbing every nook and cranny of my house.  With 5 small children underfoot, there's only so much I can do.  There are diapers to be changed, boo-boos to be kissed, and mouths to feed (5,897 times a day.)

As a busy mom, I try to focus my spring cleaning efforts on what I call “quick wins”.

What is a spring cleaning quick win?

I look for things that I can do in about 5 minutes or less that will make the biggest difference in how clean that area is.  That's it!

 

When Babbleboxx asked if they could send me a box of spring cleaning items to try, I readily agreed, knowing that I'd be able to use these tools for my 5 minute “quick win” sessions!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Single Edition Media.

Spring cleaning products

 

Laundry Room Cabinet

You know how the little drips from laundry detergents and stain removers make the shelves where they sit get all gunky and slimy?  Cleaning this area can be a quick win for you!

Have you ever used shelf liner anywhere in your house?  Well, there's a new kid in town that takes things to a new level when it comes to shelf liners.

My laundry room shelves were experiencing gunk overload, so I knew I needed to do a quick win on them.  Babbleboxx had sent me a roll of Duck Smooth Top Easy Liner with Clorox, so I used that to line the shelves of my laundry room cabinet.

Duck Smooth top antimicrobial shelf liner

Apparently, shelf liner is no longer plain old shelf liner.  Duck Easy Liner now has a Clorox antimicrobial coating embedded into it to help prevent mold and mildew growth.

It was so quick and easy to cut the liner down to size and put it on the shelf, but it made a noticeable difference in how clean the shelf looked.  (The “quick wins” are my absolute favorite when it comes to spring cleaning!)

I really liked the smooth top.  Those sticky-feeling shelf liners have their place for other things, but when you need to slide laundry products in and out all day long, they can get annoying.  The smooth top makes it so nice.  Plus, the smooth top makes it easy to wipe down if something gets spilled on it.  (The underside is still sticky so that it stays on the shelf without sliding around.)  It's water-resistant too, which is a good thing, since I'm using it in the laundry room.  And finally, if I ever needed too, I could toss it into the wash (yes – it's machine washable!)

All these factors made it the perfect choice for this job.

Duck Smooth Top Antimicrobial shelf liner

Do you have a spring cleaning job where Duck Smooth Top Easy Liner would be helpful?

You can purchase it in either white or taupe, and it comes in both 12” x 10’ and 20” x 6’ sizes.

Download a coupon right here!

 

Water Stained Wood

You wouldn't think removing water stains from wood would be a quick win.  I wouldn't anyway.

My husband's night stand had gotten some pretty ugly water stains.  It was one of those things where I was going to research “how to get water stains out of wood” — someday.  I just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

But since Babbleboxx had included a bottle of TriNova Wood Cleaner and Conditioner in the spring cleaning kit they sent me, I thought, “Why not?  It can't hurt to try.”

TriNova Wood Cleaner

Wow!  I honestly did not think it would get the stains out!  I thought it would clean any surface residue and shine it up a bit, but I was shocked that it took the water stains right out!

 

If you have a lot of wood surfaces in your house, you can use TriNova Wood Cleaner and Conditioner for any of them, such as furniture, cabinets, or hardwood floors.

I really loved this product so much more than I expected to.  It doesn't leave any kind of residue; it just made the wood feel so smooth.  (And of course it took out those stains!)  I will DEFINITELY be using this often to keep my wood surfaces shiny and clean.

You can pick up TriNova Wood Cleaner from Amazon right here.  Through April 30, 2017, you can use the coupon code Babble20 to get an extra 20% off.

 

Dirty Fabric

Another area that I wouldn't necessarily have thought would be a quick win certainly ended up that way with the right tools for the job.

I was walking through the kitchen and I noticed how horribly dirty the fabric on our island stools had become.  (Note to self: when there are kids in the house, only purchase hard surfaces for anything that goes in the kitchen.)

(Wow – that's embarrassing!)

I was trying to figure out what I could use to clean it, and I thought, “Well, Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is supposed to be all-purpose.  I wouldn't normally think to use it on fabric, but let's just see what happens.  At this point, I certainly can't make that stool any worse.”

Look!

It's all-purpose all right.

I've used the bottle of Simple Green for tons of little quick-win jobs since then – mopping the floor, wiping down baseboards, anything that looks dirty really.  I LOVE having all-purpose cleaner around!  (And I love that Simple Green is non-toxic too.)

Simple Green is a concentrated cleaner, meaning that you should dilute it for most jobs because it's just way too powerful for what you need.  Diluting it means that one bottle goes a LONG way, making it very cost-effective.

 But when you have a really tough job, you can use it straight, and it will do your cleaning for you without the need for much elbow grease from you.

I also received a bottle of Simple Green Stone Cleaner and Polish, which I didn't try because I don't have surfaces in my house that called for it.  I'm sure it does just as good of a job as the all-purpose cleaner, though.

You can find more information about both products on the Simple Green website, along with LOTS of ideas for how to use them.  You can also grab a coupon for $1.75 off (that's a good coupon!) right here.

Dirty Dishes

I know what you're thinking.  “Why are you including dirty dishes in a list of spring cleaning quick wins?”

So, here's my philosophy.  Every day is spring cleaning day – not just a day or a week sometime in the spring.  Anything that needs to be cleaned, big or small, well…it needs to be cleaned.

And you know what I really like to neglect?  It's when there's a pot in which I overcooked the food and now it is going to be really hard to wash.  So then I let it sit there “to soak”, but when I come back it's not any easier to wash.

I have two choices at this point.  1. I can dig in and just get the job done or 2. I can continue to let it sit there soaking.

The job needs to get done!  But scrubbing a pot with burned-on food is not an easy task, and it's not going to be a quick win!

Until…I tried out the Scrub Daddy.Scrub Daddy

 

Let me be honest.  I kind of groaned when I saw the Scrub Daddy in the box because I was thinking about how much I hate doing dishes.  It didn't look like a fun or unique “spring cleaning” task, but it just meant I'd be doing boring old dishes.

But when I made myself try it out, I was like, “Ohhh.  I like this thing.”

The Scrub Daddy turned getting that crusty pot off my counter into a spring cleaning quick win!

No joke – this guy doesn't scratch my non-stick pots!!  I can bust through that crud in a flash without babying my pots!

 

Here's how it works: When it's cold it's stiff and hard so you can do tough scrubbing jobs.  When it's warm, it gets soft so you can just use it for regular old dish washing.

And here's what else I like – the Scrub Daddy doesn't get all slimy and nasty like regular sponges that you leave sitting in your sink too long.  It rinses right off and dries out nicely.  You can pop it into the dishwasher if it does need a deeper cleaning.

I received Scrub Daddy's counterpart, Scrub Mommy, too, which has the scrubby part on one side and a more spongy part on the other side.

You can check out the Scrub Daddy (and the Scrub Mommy) right here.

 

More Spring Cleaning Quick Win Ideas:

If you're wanting to try to accomplish a few quick wins throughout the day, here are more things you can do:

  • Clean out the silverware drawer
  • Wash a window or two
  • Organize a book shelf
  • Wipe down light switches and door knobs
  • Pour baking soda and vinegar down your drains to clean them
  • Take outdated papers off the refrigerator
  • Clean off one refrigerator or pantry shelf
  • Wipe down the backs of kitchen chairs (they get nasty if you have kids!)
  • Dust the tops of windowills and door frames
  • Clean out your junk drawer

 

 

Happy cleaning!

Why I Don’t Do Bible Journaling (And What I Do Instead)

Pitfalls of Bible Journaling

I've noticed a trend lately when it comes to Bible journaling.  People are drawing and coloring in their Bible, purchasing fancy Bible coloring books, or searching online for printable Bible journals.

I'm not saying these things are wrong, but be careful that you do not get swept up into doing these things just because they are trendy or because a blogger somewhere created a printable worksheet for you to fill in, so that must be how you're “supposed” to do Bible journaling.

Why I Don't Do Bible Journaling and What I do Instead | Imperfect Homemaker

Bible artwork or spiritual journal worksheets printed from the internet can be helpful if that's truly how you learn and solidify in your heart what God is teaching you.

But you also need to be careful that those things don't end up watering down your spiritual life or becoming a superficial replacement for the Holy Spirit's work in your heart.

I fear that in some cases, Bible journaling becomes a replacement for studying God's Word.  I have no problem whatsoever with someone using art as an expression of worship or as a way to meditate on Scripture.  Some of the Scripture illustrations I have seen online are absolutely beautiful.  But when Bible journaling begins stealing your time from really digging into the Word and studying it in-depth, then it is time to reconsider its worth.

For myself, I do not do Bible journaling because I would get pretty much nothing out of it spiritually.  I am not artistically talented whatsoever, and for that reason I don't really enjoy it. If I tried to draw illustrations of the verses in the Bible, I would not be thinking about the verse one bit.  I would be concentrating on coloring in the lines, not meditating on whatever verse I was trying to color.  If I tried to strengthen my spiritual walk in this way, it would be like eating a package of Oreos and hoping that it would improve my physical health.

Similarly, if I were to print a spiritual journal worksheet from the internet and try to fill it out, the questions on it might not contain whatever the Holy Spirit had been teaching me.  I would be doing myself a great disservice by ignoring what he wanted me to meditate on and forcing myself to meditate on something completely different.

In a day when “Bible journaling” seems to be synonymous with creating cute illustrations in your Bible or writing on pre-made worksheets, remember that it doesn't have to be that way — and it shouldn't if it's not truly strengthening your relationship with the Lord.

 

What I do instead of Bible Journaling

Rather than spending my time creating colorful illustrations (again, not wrong, just be careful!) I keep a simple spiritual journal with a notebook and pen.

It serves as a record of my walk with the Lord and it helps me delve deeper into God's Word.

How do you start a spiritual journal?

To start a spiritual journal, all you need is a notebook and a pen.

Inside, you can write down things like:

  • What you learned from your time in God's word that day
  • Answers to prayer
  • Ways that God has blessed you
  • Temptations you have been facing and prayer for God's help to overcome them; Scriptures to help you fight that temptation
  • Burdens you are carrying and requesting God's intervention

Whatever is on your heart, simply write it down!  There is not a right way and a wrong way to keep a spiritual journal.  (That means that if art is an effective way for you to record your thoughts, go for it!)

 

What are the benefits of keeping a spiritual journal?

When you keep a spiritual journal, you are creating a record of your walk with God.

When he teaches you something through his word, it is much easier to remember it if you write it down.

When he answers specific prayers, you will have a record of his power in your life.  Over time, you learn to trust him more because you can remember the goodness and power he has displayed on your behalf in the past.

When you're feeling discouraged, reading your spiritual journal will remind you of all that God has done for you and for your family.

You'll be reminded of spiritual growth and encouraged to continue drawing even closer to God.

And one of the biggest benefits of spiritual journaling I have found in my own life is that it draws out the thoughts I couldn't quite seem to form inside my head.  Maybe I've felt uneasy or burdened and didn't quite know why.  Writing down what I'm feeling helps me to gain clarity as to what it is that's troubling me.  Then I can search the Scriptures and pray more specifically about my problems.  Sometimes God gives me the solution right away.  The answer is often Scriptures I already knew well, but before I wrote down my thoughts I was unable to see the problem clearly enough to apply them.  Sometimes I see a need that I should add to my long-term prayer list and begin praying fervently about it and waiting on God to answer specifically.

 

Spiritual Journaling Challenge

Would you like to get into the habit of keeping a spiritual journal?  Why not join me for a 7 day challenge?  You'll receive daily emails with tips and encouragement for recording your walk with God.

No coloring sheets, no pre-written prompts, no fill-in-the-blanks.

This will be just you and God.

Maybe you've never tried keeping a spiritual journal before.  Maybe you've kept one in the past and gotten out of the habit in the midst of life's busyness.

Jumpstart your habit by joining the challenge below!

 

How I Organize A Small House: My 5 Best Tips

As a member of the Wayfair Homemakers blogging team, I was given the opportunity to share a sponsored post with with a spring cleaning theme. One of the things I know the most about is how to organize a small house (because I live in one!)  I hope these organizing tips will help you get your own house spruced up this spring!

 

We live in a very small house, especially for having 5 children.  Though we would love to live somewhere with a little more space, we are content with what God has provided and we enjoy coming up with creative ways to organize a small house.  As crowded as it is, I think we have some great solutions that help to maximize our space.

 

Here are my 5 best tips for organizing a small house:

How I organize a small house

 

 

1.Use the space under the bed.

There is a lot of space under the bed, so it's a great place to store things.  Some ideas for things you can store under the bed are:

  • Shoes
  • Kids' toys
  • Gift wrapping supplies
  • Exercise equipment (weights, steps, etc.)
  • Suitcases (bonus – you can store other things INSIDE the suitcases too!)
  • Out-of-season clothing

50 Quart Underbed Buckle Up Box

50 Quart Underbed Buckle Up Box

 

Regular Price:$17.99

See More Storage Boxes, Bins, Baskets & Buckets

 

 

 

2. Use the walls.

You can find a lot of storage and organization space on your walls!  All you need is some strategically placed cabinets.  Using the space on your walls frees up floor space and keeps your small home from feeling so crowded.

Our homeschool room has a vintage feel to it, and I would LOVE this cabinet in there!

Alphabet Wall Cabinet

Alphabet Wall Cabinet

 

Regular Price:$35.99

See More Cabinets & Chests

 

 

 

3. Use baskets and bins.

One of the simplest tips I have learned is to use baskets and bins a lot!  It gives you a place for all of those “I need to keep this around, but I don't have a good place to put it” items where they won't be sitting and causing an eyesore.

I use baskets or bins for:

  • Random game pieces that I know we'll need later
  • Kids' papers that I have to keep long enough for them to forget about before I can get rid of them. 🙂
  • Random pieces or parts that I know go to something, but I don't want to throw away because I know I will end up needing it as soon as I throw it away
  • Kids' school papers that I need to grade or correct
  • And SO MUCH MORE

Split Rattique™ Storage Tote

Split Rattique™ Storage Tote

 

Regular Price:$39.99

See More Storage Boxes, Bins, Baskets & Buckets

 

 

4. Use stackable storage.

If you can stack things, you are multiplying how much you can fit into a space.  Now, the BEST way to keep a small house organized is to minimize how much you are trying to fit into it in the first place.  Declutter, declutter, declutter.  And then declutter some more!  BUT…there are still things that we all need to keep, and we have to have a place to put them.  Stack it up, and you'll be able to fit more in your space!

 

Wayfair Basics Stackable Kitchen Cabinet Organizer

Wayfair Basics Stackable Kitchen Cabinet Organizer

 

Regular Price:$28.99

See More Cabinet Organization

 

5. Sometimes bigger is better.

In our kitchen we used to have a small baker's rack where we kept the microwave and some dishes and what-not.  Then my amazing husband custom built me a HUGE cabinet that filled the entire wall.  I was fearful that it would make the kitchen feel smaller having that large piece of furniture in there, but I was wrong!  Having a floor-to-ceiling piece of furniture made the room feel BIGGER, and of course the big bonus was that I had TONS more storage space too!

We ended up doing the same thing in the bathroom, and even though the room is tiny, the large piece of furniture actually makes the room feel bigger and gives me so much more space to store all of our toiletries and towels.

(The bathroom is so small that I had to go into the hallway to back up far enough to take a picture of the cabinet!)

small bathroom organization

 

This cabinet has been the best thing!  Mom, dad, and the kids have their separate bins with their toiletries and “hair fixing stuff”.  The middle section holds our rolled up towels (when they're clean – ha!) The bottom left cabinet holds the laundry hamper, and the bottom right holds the trash can.  It just keeps everything looking so neat and streamlined instead of a chaotic hodge-podge of random articles everywhere.

If you don't have a handy-man husband, or if you'd just rather do things the easy way :), Wayfair has a large selection of cabinets and chests.  You should be able to find something there that meets your needs.

 

If you need more inspiration for organizing a small house, I've created an idea board on Wayfair with all kinds of smart storage solutions that will help maximize the space in your small house.

 

 

It is possible to organize a small house!  You just need to make sure you reduce what you have to the bare minimum and take advantage of all of the spaces that often go unused.

 

To the Mom Whose Kids Are Wiggly in Church

“Your kids sit so still during church!  Mine are so wiggly!” she told me after church.

In my typical fashion, I couldn't think of anything non-dorky to say in the moment, but after the fact I thought of all the things I could have said to encourage this other mom.

 

Instead of making a lame joke, here's what I wish I would have told this sweet mom:

 

When your kids won't sit still in church | encouragement for Christian moms

 

First, thank you.  I sincerely appreciate the compliment.
I'm sure you know as well as any other mom how it feels to work day in and day out to teach your children all the things they need to know and feel like you're not getting anywhere.  It's lovely when someone with an outside perspective can step in and let you know that you actually are getting somewhere.

 

Also, don't worry about your wiggly kids because I'm going to tell you a little secret. When you commented on how still my kids were, what you didn't know was that I had already finger-motioned my youngest child up to where I was at the piano three times before the service so I could tell him to calm down.  What you didn't see was how many times he really did wiggle during the service.  What you didn't hear were my whispered admonitions to my older children to open their Bibles and stop daydreaming.

I'm sure I would have noticed if your children were a distraction during the service.  They weren't.

I wish I could tell you that I have some kind of fancy routine where I sit them down at home and have church practice sessions.  Or that I always review with them before we go to church exactly what is expected of them.  Or that I always remember to follow through with talking to them after we get home about any ridiculous stunts they tried to pull during church.

But I'm just a normal mom.  A mom who tries to give my kids a heads up about how they need to behave but forgets to do it a lot too.  A mom who has whispered, “Sit up and pay attention” more times than she can count.  A mom who has a hard time paying attention during every single service because a little guy wants on my lap.  Or off my lap.  Or back on.

And my kids?  Oh, I think they're pretty super, but I guess they're pretty normal too.  They have a hard time sitting still just like all kids do.  They have to be reminded of things countless times before they actually start remembering to do them.

No, mama.  Don't you worry a bit about your wiggly kids.  It takes so much patience and repetition to teach kids to sit still in church.  But as they get older and start understanding what the pastor is saying a little better, it will get easier.  Keep teaching.  Keep reminding.  Keep insisting that they pay attention, even when they can't fully understand all that's being said.  Eventually it will stick.  But for now, you're doing fine.  It feels so much worse when you are the one responsible for making sure they don't turn around and make silly faces at the lady behind them or get ink on their dress from the pen you let them use or announce very loudly that they need to go potty.

But in reality you're doing great and so are they.

 

Other resources you may find helpful:

Church listening pages

Kids sermon notes

 

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