When I was a stay at home mum and homeschooling my children through their primary and high school years, I enjoyed (more than you'd believe) the planning of curriculum, lessons, social activities, housework, meal menus and living on a tight budget.
Each new term was a fresh round of refining, simplifying, organising (my favourite thing to do at any time) and preparing for the next 10 week block of teaching my kids educational, life and spiritual lessons.
On weekends my husband always had an adventure in store for us so we'd pack a picnic, cameras, camping chairs and the dogs before heading north, south, east or west depending on where in Australia we lived at the time. We'd explore the outback or the coast and never looked at our watches because the time didn't matter.
As a family everyone had their chores so I had daily help with the dishes, washing, vacuuming, mopping, and shopping - and even when there were grumbles, the chores still got done. Life was really well balanced because we pulled together and made time for fun along side our day to day responsibilities.
Elefantz Designs took off about two years before my last child (Blossom) graduated from homeschool so there were extra responsibilities on my shoulders and I was just managing to stay on top of everything.
When there were no more lessons to plan and no children left to teach, I put that extra time into designing and began an online magazine, 'Elefantz Home', which ran for 2 1/2 years.
I did this with my husband's blessing and encouragement so we made a decision that he'd be in charge of all outdoor things, maintaining the cars and doing the evening dishes, and the remainder of the indoor homemaking responsibilities plus all the cooking (he cannot cook) were mine but he'd come running to help if I needed him.
Win win - homemaking and designing stitcheries (by the grace of God) became my focus but the busier I became with Elefantz the less time I had to give elsewhere and I didn't like it so I closed my magazine....and that's when when an "aha" moment in late 2014 began to take hold of my heart and the stirrings to commit to a life of gentle domesticity took hold.
In my heart there is a gentle rest in living this type of life, but there is also a busy battle between homemaking and business time which wears me out mentally if it gets out of balance. So I've been praying about it, wanting to 'see' where I was going wrong before a new year began. And then another 'aha' moment...
I'm a do-er and always have a task in hand or a purpose to fulfill, and I'm happy that way because its natural to my personality, but as I reflected on the past few years I've come to realise that those planning skills so easily embraced during the homeschooling years have year by year become less evident in my day to day home and business life. Hence the unbalance.
So when I opened my planners on January 1st - confession, I now have three, one for business, one for personal health and homemaking, and one for Bible study and prayer needs - I decided it was time to really think hard about what I do and why I do it, how to bring balance to all the main areas of my life - relational, spiritual, health, financial, homemaking, blogging and business, and also to consider what new things I'd like to pursue in 2018 for sheer delight.
Here's a few I'm pondering and praying about...
* things from last year that I need to remove from my life
* things that I need to continue with or grow
* new skills I'd love to learn
* creating more time for living the gentle domestic life
* putting together a sensible and streamlined (less hours) weekly business timetable for Elefantz Designs
* making a weekly menu/grocery list that suits our taste, budget and health requirements
* creating a doable weekly housekeeping plan
* planning a wiser/thriftier budget and a better savings plan for our home deposit
* making gifts through the year
* writing letters or cards to encourage others
* addressing all our health requirements with an action plan (I booked a mammogram today as it was well overdue!)
* a regular 30 minute nap or rest most afternoons
* praying specifically about what God would have me do next
* create mornings of hospitality for other women at my home, even though I'm an introvert
* be more gracious and kind, mindful of my words and their effect on others during times of stress and pain
* saving to bring a dear daughter and her child up here for a holiday this year
....and I could go on.
It will take me another week to finish my lists, divide them into their various planners and expand on each one so they are concrete objectives in my mind and not 'ideas' that float in and out. And through this I want my spirit to be open to God's leading so I don't take a wrong path or overload myself.
This year I shall simplify and that will only happen if I look with honest eyes at what is before me now, what needs to go, and what can be improved upon. Maybe you're a planner or list maker too? Maybe you're not. I don't think it matters in the big scheme of things how you simplify your life, as long as you do it the best way for 'you' so that you really do it.
On New Year's Day after I wrote the blog post about the first block of my BOM I had plans to frame a design and start stitching another, but an odd thing happened.
I was about to make coffee and some lunch for my beloved when I realised there hadn't been a lot of healthy food prep done lately...in fact after Christmas Day I was doing the bare minimum, and that's not what I ever want to do when it comes to looking after my husband and living this wonderful gentle domestic life.
I'd allowed myself to become so busy with business, research and re-organising the living area after packing up the Christmas tree and decorations that the lovely rhythm of work in the kitchen, which was so natural to me, had slowly faded from view.
So I put aside my unnecessary plans, went grocery shopping and came home to prepare healthy and delicious fare...
I made a pineapple & apricot boiled fruit cake for morning teas, a fresh supply of vegetable juice, dozens of protein balls for afternoon pick-me-ups, delicious hummus (heavy on the parsley) to snack with seaweed rice crackers, a huge bowl of chicken and veggie pasta salad, and big glasses of blackberry, cherry, spinach, date and banana smoothies.
Mr E occasionally came out of his office (where he is doing an online course to further his education qualifications) asking if I needed help. I declined with a smile but could tell he was rather pleased with what he could see and smell.
After all was made I felt quite exhausted and ready for a nap, but my heart was light and I began to sing as I did the dishes, overcome with a renewed sense of why living a gentle domestic life is a priority I cannot allow to slip away. There's simply too much goodness in it, too much satisfaction. too many simple and wonderful reasons for choosing it as a way of life and allowing it to be an act of love towards those in my care.
I'm sure a few of you reading this will say, Jenny, you don't have to blog so much (that happens a lot when people hear I'm running low on health or time), but writing is far more joyous to me than stitching, and I've written all my life so I think it's a gift from God and I want to use it to His glory and to bring encouragement, grace and joy to you who read these rambling thoughts of mine.
Truly, it can sound and seem like I do a lot, and that's true...but it's taking too long because I lost my plan, my routines and my ability to schedule after homeschooling ended and now I'm ready to bring everything in line again.
Already in my mind I can see where time is wasted or I'm doing double duty, and I'm excited to work this out and free up time to live...to live this most wonderful gentle domestic life to it's fullest.
So I may be missing in action for a few days while I prepare more healthy meals which my husband needs, and work on those planners at my desk.
Fortunately Mr E took me to Officeworks this morning to restock my stationary needs so my desk will also get an overhaul and may look somewhat different this time next week.
He even bought me a gorgeous clock so I can be mindful of the precious hours given me each day and to 'spend' them wisely.
Are you looking to simplify your life?
Has life 'run away' from your control and it seems you're not coming up for air or smelling the roses as often as you should?
(every day is as often as you should, not once in a while)
What strategies do you have for bringing life back into line?
Will you take the next week to reflect on the past year and write down the areas you are over-committed in, the things that need to go, the time wasters you can do without and strategies for freeing up precious time that can be used to greater value elsewhere.
Write down what brings you joy, who you would like to spend more time with, what things you'd like to try this year for sheer delight, what you can do for yourself to add personal confidence (for me this is a home pedicure, shaved legs and a trip to the hairdresser for a trim), what meets your loved one's needs and draws them closer, how you can find joy in the ordinary and delight in a gentler domestic and working life.
In fact write down things that matter to you and plan how you can enjoy them.
But perhaps you have it all together, and your life is a well worn rhythm of a time for everything and everything in it's place? Bless you. I have hopes for that. xx
Again, I have rambled! You're ever so lovely to have wandered along the journey of my words thus far and I thank you precious one.
Yes, precious, you are indeed very precious and I'm praying for you today, that you have clarity to see where you need to bring change, courage to follow through, and JOY in living a gentle domestic life.