Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Renewal for what matters most...

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 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 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. 

And then...
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.



  1. I too am looking to slow down and be more aware. I have a question for you. How do I transfer a pattern onto fabric? As you may have guessed I have not done a lot of stitchery.

  2. It sounds like you are headed in the best direction for you and your loved ones, my prayers go out that you find all you seek. Thank you for this blog, it has given me quite a bit to ponder on. Take care dear Jenny, for you are very precious too.

  3. Jane, have a look at this blog post -
    Enjoy stitching!

    1. Thank you Jenny. Appreciate your help very much.

  4. Happy 2018 Jenny! Thank you for sharing this with us - once again your words spoke to my heart! I know with prayer you will find the best path for the coming year and I wish you and your family a year ahead filled with love, laughter, happiness and peace!

    PS - much love and prayers for your girl Blossom!

  5. Jenny, it has been too muggy here to do too much lately but I did receive Sheila Walsh's new book in the mail just after I had been to our local library and borrowed out three of her books. LOL! So guess what I have been doing in the hottest part of the day. I don't know how you cope with the humidity in Townsille. It just wears me out. All the best with your planning for the year and I look forward to seeing your first batch of soap :-)

  6. Exactly the reminder that I needed! Thank you for sharing your thoughts--I am a homeschooling mama, our oldest has fledged this past Fall and I am struggling with the new "normal." But I still have little sister at home, homeschooling in 7th grade this year,nand want to become better organized sobI can give her the best that I can--while not forgetting my precious hubby, of course! And somewhere, in all of busy life, I find myself getting lost in the shuffle, so I need to plan time for ME as well!

  7. Great post Jenny! You always have a way of saying and explaining it so that it makes sense. I always seem to feel guilty of not doing enough, not because someone says so - quite the opposite, but it seems it was part of our upbringing. Thank you again for your post - very timely! Enjoy your day!

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I will read this again and take your wise advice. I am still adjusting to the loss of my husband just 6 months ago. I feel the need to have some organization and time for me to rest my heart and thoughts.

  9. So much I would love to respond to this ray of sunshine blog this morning. But for now, I say thank you :-)
    And we are still praying for Blossom! And I can't seem to fix the box that says I am unknown. That's not right. I just read Spurgeon's notes on Jacob and he couldn't even expound on "I am with you". They are too full. God knows who we are. That is big. Bigger than j can even comprehend. So this is Donna in Texas. Not unknown :-)

  10. It sure sounds like you are getting it 'right' these days! I want to experiment more in the kitchen with healthy recipes and I truly want to be more productive. It's amazing that as we age, how much more the importance of 'time' becomes. I love your new clock... beautiful!

  11. Thank you, Jenny. I definitely think you have a God given gift for writing, and I am thankful you share from your heart about living the gentle domestic life. I have some of the same desires to improve my use of time, and to be a better planner. I also have similar struggles with running about, doing the next urgent task, without contemplating if it is the most important one. I have also used this new year to focus on improving our household budget, and simplifying.

    Thank you for all you do, you are such a blessing to so many. Much love to you and your family.

  12. Thank you for todays post. I too need to get myself on track... Too much craziness the past few months. I have got to get on schedule again and back to eating healthier as I have fallen off the wagon the past 3 months .... And I need to get on a much stricter budget as I have much less to spend and will be worse with much needed repairs to this old home. Windows must be replaced they are 24 years old. and not insulated and most do not even open. Most do not have any screens. Our heating and cooling cost are astronomical. Replacing the windows will help with making the home more energy efficient. Also should cut down on some of the dust and allergens that get into our home. Which hopefully will help with my severe allergy's. I also need to find time to get a lil walking into my daily routine. And have healthier snacks as well.... So my life needs to be overhauled...And the other biggie is I need to get my house cleaned out and organized. Hugs to you today and each...

  13. I do so love this post sweetheart, I too used to love to plan our homeschool days, incorporating lesson plans, field trips, chores, down time - and I miss it. Maybe I should get a planner. Or three. :)

  14. Jenny, your posts always hit home with me. I also need to slow down and enjoy life. I continue striving to do this. I plan to make a list of things I would like to get done this year. I have several sewing and embroidery projects I would like to see finished but I also need to make time to be a better, healthier cook for myself and my husband, spend more quality time with him and spend more quality with my Yorkie and Maltese. They need attention, playtime and loving, too. I'm sure there are a lot of other things I need to work on and I know more prayer needs to top the list. Jenny, we will all understand if you don't post often and don't pass along more designs. You can't do it all. Bless you, Jenny.

  15. Bless you Jenny! Your words are just as sweet as your creations. I spend lots of design time on the computer and subscribe to many blogs but I have to be honest: yours is the only one I actually read! Your love of family, your peeps (that would be us), writing, creating cooking and stitching are all a blessing and a delight. However, I have come to realize that it's your love for Jesus that moves me and makes me want to be a better and more appreciative servant of our precious King. You are "the virtuous woman" personified and your gentle example is a gift of encouragement to all of us who long to live the gentle domestic life. We love you Jenny!!! May 2018 be the best year of your life!

  16. I did the same thing when I retired from working. Over time I lost my self discipline, I can't pinpoint when for where, it just happened. I seem to have the necessity to fill empty spots. Anyway last July (close enough) I had to step back and take a break. Searching my heart and mind, asking what am I doing. Priorities were mess up as well. I just stopped. I prayed a lot and got into the Word much deeper and grew my relationship with the Lord. I can't tell you how many joyous occasions were missed by my busyness. Oh I was there, but either me or my mind was just too busy to enjoy the moment. You don't know how many times you have help me stop long enough just to take a deep breath.
    And I know others too. I read the comments.
    I shared your link on my blog on Dec. 31st if you would care to read it. My first post since July 2017.
    Hugs and Prayers to you and yours

  17. Jenny, Thank you for this post. I love reading what you write as it usually mirrors what I'm pondering and praying about. This one is filled with a great deal of food for thought.

  18. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful post. x

  19. Hello Jenny; I have enjoyed reading your post very much. I have never been a planner, yet this year, I do believe that the Lord is telling me that this is a method that I must begin using. Plus, organization is another key element in my path this new year. Especially, with beginning to learn how to live the Gentle Domestic Life. Your guidance, which are just your posts revealing your own life and thoughts, are so appreciated! Thank You Jenny for sharing and I wish you the best in accomplishing all of your "goals" for the New Year! I also wish to especially Thank You and give you the biggest and longest HUG for continuing to pray for me and every other person that you know who they are and helping us so much with your prayers and just your Christian Sisterly Strength and Guidance! Love You Bless You Brenda

  20. Thank you for the example of planning. I have a tendency to drift along, doing what I must when I must, but I know I waste too much time, especially on the computer!! Right now there is no energy for anything but computer and napping...dratted flu came to visit!

  21. Thank you dear Jenny ... your timing today was - as always - absolutely perfect. I can see by reading some of the comments left here that we are all in need of a gentle reminder. I am about to make some big changes in my life & have invested in a new Tilda diary & a planner. Bless you for your timely words today my friend Xxx

  22. Thanks for this gentle push. I've had prioritizing questions swirling around in my head for quite some time and hope to be able to set aside some time away from the busyness of homeschooling, homemaking, and trying to start an Etsy business to solidify. You have helped me push that time higher on the swirling list.

  23. Again I say thank you Jenny for your heartfelt words. A gentle reminder for us all.

  24. It seems your gentle words needed to be read by many............such sweetness.

  25. The start of a new year is a good time to reflect and plan. I’ve been scribbling areas on which I wish to focus this year. I’ve decided that my word for the year will be Focus. I wish to feel calm and to acieve that I need to focus on what I am doing and what needs to be done without getting distracted. Hopefully I will see a big improvement by this time next year.

  26. Jenny, I love reading your posts. You always put what's in my heart into such lovely words. Thank you for the kind reminder.

  27. What a challenging post. I really need to plan my free time better. It seems my job has taken over my life and I come home exhausted so nothing gets done at home. I am going to take up your challenge and think about your questions this week.

    What type of planners do you use?

  28. I'm worn out just reading your list Jenny. You are so organised with all those planners.

    I used to be like that when I worked full time but once I retired planners went out of the window. I am very organised when I do my tours for Great Rail Journeys & have lists of what I need to do and when, they always get done. Also when I do the churches' newsletters I have strict deadlines & meet them.
    However at home I just don't worry about things anymore. I'm getting lazy in my old age. I have little wooden sign in the kitchen that says "Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow" & I'm afraid that's exactly what I do nowadays. It definitely relieves the stress. I'm glad you build in a 30 minute nap to help you relax Jenny you will need it.

  29. I DID make an overall plan! And I'm making myself accountable for at least 8 hours of the day instead of letting time slip away. I want to know what I did in those 8 hours, which I sometimes don't, so I'm writing it down, getting a baseline, planning what those 8 hours will become tomorrow, and so on. I want some hours of service, some hours of sewing, some hours of working and some hours of caring for home and health. Those don't ALL have to fit in the 8 accountable hours, but all of them will find a place in there now and then, at least. I've actually cooked twice this week and it's only Wednesday! LOL

  30. Thank you for the lovely post, Jenny! I have been thinking and praying the past several days about how to get back to my simple gentle life after having the interruption of my sweet hubby's health issues. Right now life is consumed with rehab for 6 hours a day and running back and forth between home and rehab facility while trying to implement some sort of normal for my children. I really need someone to come along beside me and just direct my path for the next 2 or 3 intense months. I have the Lord to do so. He invites us to ask for wisdom and He will give it liberally. So, that is my focus. Wisdom to get through this so that I can get back to "the simple life" that I miss so desperately. My husband and I set up a large vision board before life came to a grinding halt. I wheel him in front of it on the way to the bathroom and we look and dream and continue to hope together for "gentle domesticity" to be a part of our lives once again.

    Bless you!

  31. Thank you Jenny, for your wonderful words that always bring me peace xo

  32. That was lovely, Jenny! I've done something similar over the last couple of days. Since the kids have been on holidays I have been doing more cooking and quite enjoying it. So I've redone my schedule for when term starts again, and included more time for leisurely cooking!
    God bless you and your family!

  33. Thank you, Jenny, for this post. It is just what I needed to read as we begin 2018. Just when I think I have a handle on everything, I throw a monkey wrench into the mix. After retiring, I decided to take on a part-time job near my home, at the local senior center, where I used to quilt, but now that I'm employed there I can't participate in any of the activities I enjoyed the past year.since joining. I'm the youngest senior there at age 61, but now I'm juggling again! I need to 'simplify" my days and look at my time management. I need time each day to quilt and work at our business. Which we are getting ready to launch our website. If the online business takes off, then the job must go! So many plans, so little time. Thank you for your inspiration. I'm sure God will lead me where he wants me to go. Blessings to you in this New Year!!

  34. I'd love to see inside of your planners. I always set a goal/mindset to use one, I even have several new ones never touched, but I find it difficult too get them to a place that works for me. I need to be more productive this year and I need a way to track what needs to be done, (painting, online classes, sewing, quilting, stitichimg, clearing out my extensive UFO's). I'm forever looking for the "perfect" planning system for myself.

  35. Hello Jenny, I'm in Atlanta and in less than three weeks I will be retiring after 47 years of working non-stop, except for 2 six-week periods after having 2 babies. Now that my children are on their own with their own families, it will be just me and my DH.

    I am struggling to figure out what I will do with my days to make them be more fulfilling and meaningful. Working behind a desk for so long, I know I need to get more exercise and I will have the time for that, but I also love to stitch and quilt.

    How would you suggest I tackle organizing my day so I get the most out of it and still not feel too busy?

    I love your posts and your designs. Thanks you for sharing your thoughts.


  36. I LOVE your clock.
    Happy New Year, Jenny.

  37. Wise words on the need to be intentional to live the lives that God has called us to. Yes, I'm a planner and that is something that I need to get done for this year. But between everything that I have due the next 6 weeks, it may be a bit before it is totally done, especially since a spanner was thrown into the works yesterday. (found out that the place I rent is going up for sale.) But I know that one of the things I need to remember is that God is in control of all, and I can trust Him to always bring about the best for me.

  38. Hugs and peace to you Jenny as you take care of yourself and loved ones and inspire us to do the same. I bought a Quilt Shop 2 years ago and have been on an ever increasing treadmill ever since. It's all good and beautiful and I am certainly blessed but we must take time to be still enough to hear where God is leading us. Thank you for injecting fresh air and inspiration into to our hearts and souls by being so honest, true to self and an example of strength and faith!

  39. Thank you so much for this post and sharing your, life with us. I needed this. mary in Az

  40. As I read your post, I was reminded of a verse from a sermon many years ago. It is
    1 Corinthians 14:40, "Let all things be done decently and in order." (KJV) My Bible has a reference back to verse 33 of this same chapter, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, ..." There is much to learn from these two verses. It sounds to me as if you are already on the right track.

  41. Jenny My always inspire me. This post was great and I Thank you. Now can you share what pineapple & apricot boiled fruit cake id? I like the sound of it.

  42. Thank you so very much for these words of wisdom and reflection. I am a planner and it makes my days go so much better. I now have sheep since my children have grown and have their own families.

    I am also a child of God, who is looking for a good Bible study group This is the first time I've seen your blog. I am signing up for regular posts.

  43. Hello Jenny, I've thoroughly enjoyed these posts on goals and organisation, on Bible study (love those designs the best) and domestic bliss. It's means a lot to me as I seem (due to ill-health) to have lost my normal life completely. My faith keeps me going but I feel I lose much every day. You cheer me on. God bless you and please do keep it up. Regards Mandy

  44. While you are thinking how to best care for your business, husband, family and friends, you're helping all of us to ensure we're being who God wants us to be. Thank you for taking care of us too. It sure seems like blogging is an excellent tool for you to evangelize to others.

  45. I alaways love reading your blog. You put everything in prospective. Hears to a great 2018 and lots of mindfulness.

  46. Thankyou Jenny for the reminder of the other things I forget to focus on in my lists. I need to find a kind of balance again. I'm interested to hear about your homeschooling experiences and also your brain injury experiences as I too am a sufferer/survivor, if you'd care to email me sometime when you have dare time xx

  47. Hi Julie (Holahan) :-)
    I honestly cannot answer your question because day to day home life, responsibilities and a working life are different for everyone. I'm in the process of working through my own set of priorities by the grace of God, and they will look different to yours.
    The one thing I can suggest though, is to start by removing what is not necessary. Only when that has been done can you see what should stay in your life.

  48. I love this. Lovely writing as always Jenny. I could so easily envision you starting to sing while doing the dishes. It made my heart lighter for you and your happiness and I started to tear up. Thank you for sharing these personal tidbits with us. They mean so much to me and I know they must to others as well. Have a blessed and joyful day!

    1. Kudos to you, Jenny, for seeking just the right balance in life. Your writing flows in such a delightful way, it it easy to read quite lengthy bits of it and still want more! It's not often I find a blogger who gives the credit to God, and does it in such a gentle, intelligent way. Lately I have been so worn out by the godlessness of this world, your words were like a balm to me. I too take solace in creative things that bring me joy (I am a visual artist and consummate crafter--right now my "thing" is building miniatures) and in my close relationship with our Lord. I love, love, love the Mother Theresa quote you posted about doing dishes! Made me smile. I live in the heartland of the USA, somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis, so right now it is frigid winter here but we are enjoying a brilliant sunny day today--so healing! I imagine you must be in the middle of a hot summer? May God continue to bless you and your loved ones in all your efforts, and fill you up every time you need it! Love in Christ, Marjie

  49. I enjoyed reading about your life because it is relaxing and informative to me. Bless you with many graces for all you do for others in your sharing of yourself.

  50. Reading this article was a “God-wink”. I was looking for something completely unrelated on Pinterest and came upon this. This speaks so loudly to me today. Thank you. Thank you for the wake up call!


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