You may be wondering what this business about the Ebenezer is all about and what it has to do with my Anti-Procrastination challenge today.
In the Bible, an Ebenezer was a stone of remembrance. In I Samuel 7:12, Samuel set up a stone “and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” In Joshua 4, the Israelites were commanded to take 12 stones out of the Jordan river (one for each tribe) and set them up when they reached the opposite shore. The purpose of these stones was to serve as a memorial to the children of Israel that would remind them and their children of God's power and deliverance all the way from their leaving Egypt until the point when they reached the Promised Land.
I believe that we as Christians should set up “Ebenezer stones” as reminders for ourselves and for our children of how powerful our God is and how He cares for us. When discouraging times come, we can look at those memorials and remember what God has done for us in times past. It is so encouraging to look back and remember specific prayers that received specific answers. God has done miracles large and small on our family's behalf. I don't want to forget those things. I don't want my children to be ignorant of those things either.
“Ebenezer stones” for me come in the form of a journal. I like to keep track of things we're going through and how God overcomes those situations. There are so many times that God has obviously been at work in certain situations. If I don't write them down they will go unnoticed and forgotten throughout the rest of history. If I do write them down, I can look back on them and be blessed. I can show my children what a big God their Mommy and Daddy serve and teach them that they can trust Him too.
My journaling lately, though, has been sporadic at best. The more kids I have it seems the harder it is to fit it in. But I have to make time for it. God commanded the children of Israel to set up those stones because He did not want them to forget who He is and what He had done. He doesn't want me to forget either.
I may not be able to spend an extensive amount of time every day, but when the Lord has worked in my life in a specific way, I'm going to make it a point to find the time to write it down.
If you're a Christian, I believe you should be keeping a memorial of God's working in your life too. (If you don't know for sure that you're a Christian and on your way to heaven, please don't let this day pass without making sure you know! You can find out here or email me for more information.)
Your “Ebenezer” may look a little different than mine. Maybe it will simply be a prayer list on which you record the specific answers that God gives you. Maybe it will be a detailed journal. Maybe it will be an index card file on which you write down one line a day of God's blessings, answers to prayer, or what He has taught you.
Whatever you decide – make the time! Not only will it be a blessing to you personally and be a tool for you to teach your children, but ultimately, as God said in Joshua 4, “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.”
If you didn't read part one, you can read it here.
Before I go any further, I want to make sure a few things are clear:
1. I am not in any way saying that sewing or doing crafts is a wrong use of your time. They're a natural part of being a homemaker.
2. I am not indicating that you haven't used your time wisely if your house isn't immaculate 100% of the time. A stay-at-home wife or mom knows that you can clean and clean and clean, but because you live there, there are always new messes being made!
3. My husband is not a domineering ogre whom I tremble before if the house is messed up or he doesn't have a hot dinner on the table when he gets home. In fact, he normally doesn't say a word even when the house looks its worst, and most of the time he simply pitches in to help without being asked. The reason I'm embarrassed when he sees the house dirty is because it's evidence of my lack of discipline. I'm ashamed of my sin, not of the dirty house. If I've been using my time wisely all day, it doesn't bother me for him to walk in to a mess. He understands that there are three little people who require a lot of attention (and who make a lot of messes behind my back!)
So, how do I determine when my house is “clean enough” to start on some other project with a good conscience?
I'm not saying this is what all women need to do in their home, but I know this is what I need to keep my own home a scene of inviting serenity.
I've narrowed it down to two simple things:
First, nothing needs to be done if there are dirty dishes undone. There's just nothing that screams filth to me so much as dirty dishes on the counter. The rest of the house can be entirely clean, but if there are dishes out, the whole place looks like a dump. When you walk in our back door, you're looking straight across the kitchen at the sink. What you see there makes or breaks your mood as soon as you walk into the house. So my first strategy is, no other projects until the dishes are done. That's all I ask of myself.
Second, extra things need to have a time limit. I will determine how long is a reasonable amount of time to work on a project before I need to turn my focus back over to my kids and other housework. I will set a timer, and when it goes off, it's time to put away the project until later. I am a very determined person, which most of the time is a good thing. However, there are times when I get so focused on conquering something, that I lose all track of time and lots of things go undone and little people get ignored. My sewing machine was being rebellious the other day, and I was not giving in until I broke its will. That's fine and dandy, except for the fact that I almost made us late for church, left the kitchen an ugly mess, the kids were left to themselves for too long, and nobody got to eat dinner.
As a homemaker, my basic priorities are, in this order – my Lord, my husband, and my children. If something, even a domestic project, is robbing my time from those three groups, it is wrong for me to spend time doing it. Was it wrong for me to sew the other day? No. Was it wrong for me spend hours doing it when other, more important things were being neglected? Yes. Having a timer set would have brought me back to the reality of how much time I was spending.
So those, my friends, are my two very easy ways to make sure I'm doing the things I'm supposed to be doing while making sure I can find time to get to the extra projects too.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you in finding that balance between doing the extras while making sure to keep your priorities in order!
I had several inspiring posts in my mind to write today. I was feeling so creative and organized. I had so much I wanted to share with you all about my latest homeschooling ideas, recipes, and homemaking tips.
Then real life stepped in.
I went to bed last night with the house a mess like it usually is on Sunday nights. That wasn't going to be a big problem, though. I was going to knock that out in a jiffy. My alarm was set for 6:30 am, and I was all geared up to get up early, get the cleaning knocked out, and spend the rest of the day having fun with the kids.
My well-laid plans were not to be, however. This morning I woke up with a start, rolled over, and saw that it was 11 o'clock! Upon closer inspection, I saw that my alarm clock was turned off. One of two things must have happened, and both are entirely possible. Either I turned the alarm off in my sleep when it went off this morning, or my sweet husband knew I needed more sleep after a long weekend and turned it off for me.
But 11 o'clock! I doubt he would have expected me to sleep that long! By the time I nursed the baby and got everybody dressed and fed, it was already noon. I still had two baskets full of laundry that needed to be folded and a sink full of dirty dishes that had to be done before I could even think about some of the other things I was hoping to do today.
Little people were nagging at me to get them a drink, read them a book, take them potty, etc. My oldest was bickering with his sister, and they both were resisting my commands to help me fold the clothes. Instead they decided to use the upside-down laundry basket as a trampoline, which did not withstand the weight of a 35 pound boy and now needs to be replaced.
The baby had a diaper blowout, didn't want anything I tried to feed him, and continued to cry because he was hungry.
The noise level combined with what felt like crisis after crisis rendered my home a scene of mass chaos.
The kids are quietly napping now, and I slipped away for a few moments to recharge and get ready for a second round.
I wanted to get upset today. I wanted to pout and stew and whine because my day was far from picture-perfect.
But I knew I couldn't do that. The Lord has already worked in my heart about what my attitude should be on days like this. I get frustrated when my children seem to forget the lessons I'm trying to teach them; why should I act the same way as God's child?
No, instead I will be thankful for the Holy Spirit's reminders. I will be thankful that he gives me the grace I need for whatever each day may hold. I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and rely on Him instead of myself. When things seem out of control, I will remember Psalm 61:2 – “When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Real life is not always pretty, but the beauty of it is that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. (II Cor. 12:9)
This day didn't take God by surprise, and through Him I will have every ounce of strength I need to get things back into order.
As I rise from my time of rest, I can continue on, knowing that He is with me and cares about even such trivial things as a messy house.
Friend, when those “real life days” hit you, and everything doesn't go as planned, don't get upset. Just submit yourself to the Lord, trust in Him, and continue on through His strength.
This Anti-Procrastination challenge has ended up being a bigger challenge than I thought it would be! My original intent was just to be able to tackle things around the house that kept getting put off. But it has turned into so much more than that.
I've become trained to listen to myself (either audibly or mentally) saying phrases like, “Later”; “I can't because…”; “When ___ happens, I'll do ____.” When I hear those, I can now recognize that I am making an excuse to procrastinate about something. And you know what? I was doing it a lot more than I realized!
At first I was adding things to my list like crazy, but after a while I started tuning in to something a little deeper than just cleaning or organizing. This Anti-Procrastination challenge is turning from a challenge that's not so much about what I need to do, but about what I need to be.
My thinking is receiving an overhaul. The excuses that have been so subtly lurking in the background of my thoughts are coming more clearly to the forefront, and I'm recognizing things that have been holding me back from being who I ought to be. This is not a result of my own efforts in the challenge, but rather a result of being yielded to the Holy Spirit of God.
You see, whenever I hear those excuses whispering in my ear, trying to convince me to procrastinate yet again, I have a choice. I have a choice to either let the excuses win and allow what really amounts to laziness take over or to get up and get to work! Something that in my mind is simple – such as determining whether to wash the dishes before bed or waiting until morning because I'm too tired – becomes not a matter of household cleanliness, but a matter of a clean heart before God. Committing to a year of letting go of excuses has helped me see other things that I need to change…now.
I started exercising, and that was a huge step in the right direction. But there was (and is!) a whole lot more that God needed to get me to change. What about my mothering? I needed to stop saying, “I need to do better about teaching my children God's Word,” and just start doing it! What about my witnessing? I needed to stop telling myself “I need to do better about handing out tracts,” and just start doing it! Every day, as God shows me things in his Word, the result in my life ought not to be an attitude of mental assent, but an immediate doing! (James 1:22-25 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.)
I want to be transformed by the power of the living God! But that is only going to happen when the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart is met with a response of action rather than assent!
I am excited to continue my Anti-Procrastination Challenge not just throughout the rest of the year, but throughout the rest of my life. Don't get me wrong; we'll still be working on getting things done in the house, but I hope that like me, you're beginning to see how much work needs to be done in the heart!
What about you? Have you been making excuses without even realizing it? Have you been agreeing with what the Lord speaks to you about, but not actually putting it into action? Use the Anti-Procrastination challenge to help you change not just what you do, but who you are.