We are Saved by Christ, not Organization

We are Saved by Christ, not Organization

I am a fairly organized person.

I’m not sure I was born organized (my mom probably just sprayed coffee out of her nose reading that line!). True confesion: I could roll out of bed without changing elevation because of the clothes piled up on my dorm room floor.

I don’t know when the organized gene or virus took over, but somewhere along the way, I became pretty organized. So much so that sometimes I forget to have fun, to be spontaneous, to just enjoy life. And then my inner rebel breaks out and I struggle to put her back in place by adding more structure and grappling for control. It’s not pretty.

I like the way having a place for everything and everything in its place serves life. I don’t like serving all that placement.

Right now I am preparing for a mission trip to Spain. I leave in just over a week and I’m trying not to panic.

I don’t really have “places” for all the emotions and tasks and details and plans required to go on this trip. There are so many things out of my control, I have to take them one at a time as they arise. This doesn’t sit well with the whole “organized” thing. So I’ve been struggling with lists of things to do, to prepare, to be… and no where in there have I really been preparing for this trip.

Oh, I have my passport, I’ve gotten my vaccinations/immunizations. I have airline tickets, power converters, suitcases, childcare, funding, and travel sized shampoos (thanks to the thoughtfulness of my traveling companion!)

I also have a list of posts to finish and schedule so CultivateGrace can continue to publish while I’m gone, a list of cards and gifts I need to get mailed before I leave, menu plans and grocery lists and school materials to order. I have rearranged doctors appointments, made time to spend with friends, built a bike rack (I’m not really sure why I felt this was urgent before heading out…), prepared for houseguests, and even planned for a certain little girl’s seventh birthday which happens to be on Wednesday!!!

The thing is, there is no way I can do everything on those lists. At least, there is no way I can do everything there is to do on those lists well. And you’ll notice, “spiritual preparation” hasn’t shown up yet.

Since I strongly believe relationships are the core of the gospel (relationship with God through Christ first, then with people), and I am going to Spain to share the gospel, I woke this morning to the uncomfortable conviction that I really need to prioritize bike racks and blog posts behind time in the word and time with my family.

So, the posts I have drafted about Charleston and the ongoing racism we cultivate (which is breaking my heart!) and organizing the linen closet and bathroom will just have to be tidied up after Spain. Even the new series on the the acrostics of Relational Wisdom and the James Bible study will have to wait. As will the upcoming move from CultivateGrace.org to a new website (definitely more about that AFTER Spain…!) and all the details that have to happen to make this major transition happen.

So before I resume “radio silence” I’d like to encourage you to stop in the midst of your mess or your organization and make sure you are prioritizing the gospel. Does the order you bring speak life? What about the mess? One of my favorite Father’s Day pictures on Facebook yesterday was of a man I knew in high school covered in mud with his dad – both adults, saturated with mud from head to toe. Sometimes getting dirty and living messy is speaking life. Let’s not forget that! At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how quickly we can find our keys if we have found Christ sufficient while we looked. Organization doesn’t save us, Jesus does.

saved by Christ

Do we live like we are saved by Christ? Let’s ponder that for a bit, and Lord willing, I’ll see you in August!

9 Tips for Using the Food in your Pantry {Part 4 in the Organizing Your Pantry Series}

9 Tips for Using the Food in your Pantry {Part 4 in the Organizing Your Pantry Series}

Now that you’ve Found the Pantry You Didn’t Have and spent time deciding What to Put in the Pantry and Organizing it, how do you make sure none of that neatly organized food goes to waste? Isn’t that the ultimate problem with having staples on hand? Here are nine tips for actually using the food in your pantry.

Pantry Inventory

1. Start by making an inventory. Post the list with check boxes for when people take items out of the pantry. (ProTip: if you hang a white board you can list your staples in permanent marker and use dry erase markers for the check marks, then you can simply erase the marks when you re-stock. Permanent marker will come off of a white board by tracing over the lines with a dry erase marker followed by Windex and a paper towel, if you ever need to change the list.)

When you shop, be sure to rotate your “stock” when you unload the new groceries. Oldest items should always be in the front, so they get used first. (No, you really won’t remember to grab a can from the back. Take the extra 30 seconds to do it right every time you put away groceries.)

Once per quarter, double check your inventory. It’s a great time to plan a week of use-up-the-food-on-hand meals, which does double duty of refreshing inventory and giving your grocery budget a break.

On a regular basis:

Make your shopping list

Shop from pantry first – marking things off list as you go

While you are “shopping” check pantry for items to replenish and add them to your list

Watch for sales and/or big box stores for bulk purchases of items you use regularly

Don’t buy specialty items in bulk unless they don’t ever expire AND you have room in the pantry (or if the sale/bulk price is lower than the price of a smaller amount, but then buy it and give away the excess)

Be sure everyone knows to let you know when they open/use the last of anything in the pantry. We have an electronic list and all of our children who cook plus my husband and I have access to the list to add things as needed. We always put the date added in parenthesis after adding it so the shopper knows it’s a recent addition. You can do this on paper, in a to-do app, in a shopping app, on the calendar – but make sure it’s someplace to which everyone has access.

Parenting is Hard

Parenting is Hard

Maybe it’s just me, and being in a phase of life with young-ish kids, friends having babies, etc., but it seems like often when women get together we swap labor stories like vets sharing their war exploits. There’s something comforting about shared experience, not because it changes anything, but because it connects us.

Labor is a lot of work. Really.

During labor, it seems like it’ll never end. At least, I have always had to remind myself labor is really not that long in the grand scheme of things. It’s hard to remember, when relentless contractions keep coming, that at the end of the struggle is a life. A life a little less connected to you than when you started.

Labor does end. The baby does come. And at the end of this laboring, you embrace the little bundle and see those little hands wrapped around your finger. I wouldn’t give up any of my kids – even the ones delivered directly to heaven – to avoid that struggle or pain.

I’m starting to think these parenting years are a lot like labor. You know, the whole days-crawl-but-years-fly thing. Sometimes words like those are more helpful than others.

I feel it though.

There are so many days that the phases I am in seem impossibly long and I can’t imagine getting through it.

Sometimes it seems like this is all there is or ever will be.

Mountains of laundry, scraped knees, bickering children, endless requests for the same. exact. book., days of doll house and stimulating conversations about boogers, chalk drawings on the sidewalk, another ham sandwich, pee everywhere, raging teen hormones, praying at bedtime, hunger and nap strikes, morning hugs amidst the breakfast rush, all followed by more laundry…

Parenting is a struggle. Somebody has to say it.

Parenting is hard because there is this constant tension of delight with how they grow, wistfulness of letting go, and the agony of the process.

Parenting is Hard

It is hard to remember, when you are staring down a three-year old who thinks maintaining eye contact means they can continue to disobey and you won’t notice, that at the end of this struggle is a life. A life a little less connected to you than when you started.

It is hard to simultaneously celebrate milestones, while realizing meeting it draws us one step closer to the end. It is thrilling to see those first steps, but a little sad when they don’t want you to carry them anymore. As exciting as it is to lose the last baby tooth, it’s a little heart wrenching, too. It is hard to endure the days that crawl by parking hot wheels (by color, by body style, by number of doors, by make and model, by who gave them to us, in order of favorites…), only to look up at and see your child in line for a driver’s license.

The end is rushing upon me, just like labor, with one significant difference: at the end of this laboring, I will not be holding those precious fingers for the first time, but letting them go.

6 Steps to an Organized Pantry {Part 3 in the Organizing Your Pantry Series}

6 Steps to an Organized Pantry {Part 3 in the Organizing Your Pantry Series}

So, you’ve found your pantry and decided what to put into it, now the real fun begins! Let’s organize it!

First, let’s take a page from the grocery store book. Stores arrange their shelves from top to bottom based upon what they want you to see. When it comes to your pantry, you want to be sure the middle shelves are filled with the things you use most often. There’s no need to bend down low or get a stool to reach up high for regularly used items.

6 steps to organized pantry

1. Place rarely used items in the harder-to-reach places.

  • On the top shelf of our pantry sit serving dishes (platters, punch bowls, large baskets, etc.), large vases for entertaining, roasting pans, and canning supplies – things I only use periodically.  I also have a box up there of items we only use at Christmas which we may need to use before the Christmas bins come down from the attic.
  • Use saran wrap, old t-shirts, or pillow cases to cover the tops of open dishes to keep dust off.

2. Use the floor for heavy items and/or things you want your kids to reach.

  • Large baskets hold unopened bags of chips, boxes of crackers, and bags/boxes of cereal. (once we open a package, it has a home in the kitchen cabinets – no one wants to invite pests into the pantry!)
  • Large bottles of juice, sodas for entertaining, and cases of bottled water.
  • Rolls of paper towels.
  • Milk Crates full of snack packs or drink pouches/boxes.

3. Group remaining items: Again, think grocery store. 

  • Baking items and spices usually make sense together. Flour, sugars, oils, pudding mixes, dressing mixes, dip mixes,
  • Canned goods – veggies, tomato products, ingredient soups, soups you’ll eat, canned milk for recipes, canned juices. There are lots of organizers for canned goods which may help contain them. We just set them on the shelves like the grocery store – oldest cans to the front.
  • Dried foods – rice, potato flakes, pasta, beans
  • Fruit
  • Breakfast foods – toaster pastries, smoothie mixes, protein bars, you get the idea
  • Beverages
  • Party supplies – paper plates, napkins, cups, plasticware
  • Food storage items – plastic bags, extra rolls of plastic wrap, foil, wax paper, freezer paper, vacuum-sealer bags, disposable containers for delivering meals
  • Trash bags of various sizes for all the cans in your home

4. Set your shelves and arrange contents. Remember to put frequently used items in prime locations.

  • Canned goods are typically around the same height. Depending upon the width of your pantry, set a number of shelves at can height, with a little room to slide cans in and out easily.
  • Baking items tend to be a little taller – so set that shelf with enough clearance to move bags and boxes easily.
  • Dried foods are similarly sized to baking items, so maybe they share a shelf
  • Party supplies are bulky, but generally light weight. Put them on a spacious, high shelf.
  • If you have a lot of large bottles on the floor, perhaps part of the shelf above the bottles could contain other beverages – canned drinks, drink mixes, cocoa mix, coffee, chocolate syrup.

5. Get creative with storage. Don’t be afraid to look in other departments for storage solutions.

  • Shoe bags with clear plastic pockets hold things like Pam, vinegar, oil, cooking wines, bulk spices
  • hanging shelves contain paper products
  • tool caddy for plastic silverware
  • automotive cup holders to organize stacks of cups
  • picnic basket for table linens
  • soda sorters for canned goods
  • milk crates for recycling grocery bags
  • wire bin to contain canning jars (light weight, easy to see, carry, etc.)
  • baskets to contain bags of rice, beans, etc.
  • silverware trays for small boxes (pudding, jello, onion soup mix, icing)
  • Lazy Susan for bottles of dressing, oil, spices
  • A pamphlet organizer for seasoning envelopes (sloppy joe seasoning, french onion soup mix, italian dressing mix, etc.)
  • A CD or cassette rack for small packets

6. Label. Label. Label. If it’s not labeled you’ve wasted your labor.

  • Labels can be as simple as marker on painter’s tape (which is low-tack, making it easy to remove without residue later and to rearrange as needed)
  • Label makers print crisp, easy-to-read labels. They can be applied directly to the shelf or to a card attached to the shelf.
  • Print labels on card stock and cut apart and attach to the shelves with tape.
  • As you empty shelves, you’ll forget what you stored there if you don’t have a label.
  • Kids, husbands, even visitors can easily stock and/or find items in a well labeled pantry – which means it will stay organized.
  • Labels help you maintain inventory – as you empty a spot, you know to add it to a shopping list.

All this organizing will leave you with a great looking, efficient space, but if you don’t have a good system for using this new space, you will have wasted your time. Tune in next week for tips on using your pantry well!


The Danger of Trying to Keep Up with the Joneses

The Danger of Trying to Keep Up with the Joneses

I am one of those organized and creative people who have the appearance of having it all together. I have a friend who has said to me, “I sometimes stop and think ‘What would Julia do?'” Sometimes she thinks our kids have a much more stable childhood than her kids. The thing is – I’m not naturally a lot of fun. I don’t spontaneously break out the finger paints or bubbles. I schedule unstructured time. Yes, there’s irony in that.

My sweet friend, on the other hand, is such a spontaneous and fun person. Her personality is one of light and freedom and playfulness. Yet she thinks and feels deeply – and has such wisdom and insight! I often think her kids have a more delightful childhood than mine. There are a lot of times I ask myself, “What would she do?”

The trouble I have in asking this question is that it misdirects a true desire to do what will honor Jesus. Instead of comparing myself to him, I start looking at other women and thinking I should be like them. Scripture only ever calls me to be an imitator of Christ – to become more and more Christlike.

In 2 Corinthians 10: 12, Paul writes, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”  [ESV, emphasis mine.]  In context, he’s defending his ministry against those who would discredit him based upon horizontal comparisons.

I do that!

I discredit my own calling and influence by comparing myself – my gifts, talents, personality, appearance, and even my calling – to others.  Horizontal comparison robs me of faith, replacing it with feelings of failure. Comparison leads to condemnation, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The Danger of Trying to Keep Up with the Joneses

This is the danger of trying to keep up with the Joneses.

When I focus on imitating Christ (instead of other Christians), I choose significance over shame. I gain an understanding of what Christ can do in and through me because he created me for these good works (Ephesians 2:10). That’s grace. Grace to dignify me with a specific calling and the gifts necessary to accomplish it. It is grace to meet life with grace.

I want to live grace. I want to become more and more like Christ and like the woman he created me to be – to reflect the character of God rather than the actions of the women I admire.

Living grace starts by seeking to understand who I am uniquely created to be. I must look honestly at the gifts and passions God has given me, the home in which I live, the people with whom I share it, and the resources with which I have to work… all these things inform my understanding of my calling. All these things are unique to me and define the ministry God has given me. It may look a lot different than the ministry God has given to you.

Your gifts, your interests, your house, your neighborhood, your church, your kids, your husband, your income, your extended family… all these are unique to you. God has gifted and placed you with precision. He made you and has called you to different works than he has called me. Maybe today it’s time to stop looking at what and how other women are doing, and start asking, “This is who I am and where God has placed me, how will I live his grace today?”