Ideals and Expectations

There are a few areas in my life that really frustrate and upset me. I have only just realized that all these areas have something in common---they are simply unmet expectations! It was an eye opener to realize this.
(In this post I will not explain the details like I usually do to get the point across, since they involve other people. I will just generalize it.)
Do you have ideals/expectations?
 The ideal of how your life will turn out
The ideal upbringing
The ideal of who you will marry
The ideal of what your husband will be like
The ideal marriage
The ideal family
The ideal of being able to get pregnant
The ideal house
The ideal income
The ideal church
The ideal health
The ideal children
The ideal school or home school

I think we all have ideals and expectations of how we want these things to be. But since we live in a fallen imperfect world with imperfect people, these things can turn out much different than what we want. As a result, we can get very frustrated, upset, bitter and angry when these areas do not measure up to our expectations.
I have been praying about my specific areas and how to deal with them.
 How do I not let them determine my mood and joy?
I found some answers.
1)Pray about them.
 We don't need to be blind to other people's faults that affect us, but complaining doesn't help. Praying does! We can pray for God to change the person or the situation. We should also pray for God to change us. We're not perfect either and sometimes we are part of the problem.
2)Accept the facts.
The fact is life is hard and nothing and nobody in life is perfect. We all make mistakes in spite of our best intentions. This is sometimes hard for a perfectionist like me to accept!
3) Do what you can.
There is not always anything we can do, but sometimes there is. Sometimes we need to have courage and speak up in love. Sometimes we need to make new habits etc.
2)Be thankful.
In each of my areas, there are MANY things to be thankful for. There are far more positives than negatives. If I pray about the negatives and then focus on the positives, I will be much happier!


Learning to Give

I have just one more story to share! I'm a little hesitant to share it, but a few weeks ago I was looking for stories like this because I desperately needed the encouragement. Thankfully I found some! So I'm only sharing my story to encourage you and to prove that God is real and that He does indeed keep His promises.
In my last story I shared how the month of March was very stressful financially. Well, in the thick of this I learned to tithe!
Before then I had just left that up to my husband as he manages the majority of our money. (I just manage the money that I use--like groceries, clothes etc.)
Do you ever have the fear that if you give something away you won't have enough left for yourself?
I definitely had this fear, and God convicted me about it. But to start giving away 10 percent when we were so tight? It seemed a bit ridiculous!
But after our tightest week, I decided to start putting aside ten percent of all money that came into my (household) bank account. I will add that I was already having less put into this account so that we had more to put into The Little Haven. So you can understand my doubts and fears. I made this decision with much fear and trembling and after a few weeks of thinking and praying about it!
I wrote these three verses in my journal and decided to put them to the test.

Proverbs 3:9-10  Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. 

Malachi 3:10  Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 

Luke 6:38  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 

The Biblical principle is not "Give and you will run out." It's Give and it will be given unto you!" There are many stories in the Bible that prove this truth. And yet I still have trouble believing it sometimes.
As I shared in my last story, God provided amazingly the money we needed for the building.
A few days ago, I went to check the mail and I found a fat envelope from an anonymous person. When I opened it, out fell $500 worth of gift vouchers. $300 worth was for Countdown, the supermarket I shop from!
Wow! I actually cried! Those Countdown vouchers had huge significance for me. It was God's confirmation that his promises and principles are true! 
Those vouchers were more than triple what I had tithed!


Stressed but Blessed

The month of March was a very stressful month for us!
About 9 months ago, my husband brought a little shop in the middle of town to renovate and make into an outreach for the community. He has been working on it ever since. But the end of March was when we needed to pay most of the money to the owner. When we first brought the building, the bank couldn't guarantee that they would lend us the money, so there was a bit of risk involved.
Anyway, when it came to March the bank decided to not lend us any money at all, and we were a little stuck. Only a few people knew about it.
Around the middle of the month, the stress started to get to me--the stress of trying to stretch our money, the mountain of money we needed, and the possibility of having to sell our house and start all over again.
One night at the end of a very busy and physically exhausting week, I came to the end of myself.
I felt like the disciples must have felt when they found themselves in the middle of a frightening storm and Jesus was fast asleep in the boat.
As I was in the shower I cried out to God and asked for His help.
I told Him I felt like I was in a storm and I was scared and needed to feel His presence.
When I came out, I lay on our bed and opened up my favourite devotional. The first thing I read was "Wit's End." It was a poem about how God is there for us when we come to our wit's end. Naturally it caught my attention since that's exactly where I was!
The poem was based on a verse in Psalms. So I decided to look up the verse and read the passage. I was surprised at what I read.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. 
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (I had just done that in the shower. Now God had a promise to fulfill.)
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. (I was just telling God I felt like I was in a storm.)
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. (This phrase really hit me, because we have named the building, The Little Haven!)
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:27-31
Nothing was solved that night, but I had peace and joy. God had confirmed to me that everything was in His hands.
During the last week of March, two cheques came in the mail as donations for the building. The first one was for $60,000. The second one was for $30,000. These two cheques covered most of the cost!
Wow!! One cheque for such a large amount? Amazing. 
But two cheques? Unbelievable!
Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5
So, while I've been having a break from blogging, this story is just too good not to share!Talk about a very stressed but truly blessed month!


Reduce, Wash and Reuse

Dishes and Washing are two areas that can really get overwhelming. So this tip "Reduce, Wash and Reuse" works well for these areas.

I went through my linen cupboard and found sheets I didn't even know I had! Most of them were just sitting there growing dusty. I realized we had way more towels than we use. So I kept what is necessary and donated the rest.
When I have so many towels, I can let lazy and just pull more out instead of keeping on top of the washing. Then I get overwhelmed when the washing turns into a mountain. I also sorted through my bibs, tea towels and cloths. I got rid of a whole heap of them a few months ago and haven't missed any of them yet. That drawer is not jam packed anymore and doesn't annoy me every time I open it! 
The same tip applies to clothes, since they make up much of our laundry pile. Having less clothes (especially kids clothes, since they like to wear their favorites all the time!) motivates me to keep on top of the washing.

I don't have a dishwasher, so maybe this tip doesn't apply if you do. I don't know. But it's certainly made a huge difference in my kitchen and to my sanity! I haven't donated any plates and bowls yet, because we do need a certain amount to be able to have visitors. But this is what I did. I took all the plates etc. out and only put back what the 6 of us need in a day. That's 6 dinner plates (the kids use the same size plate for dinner and lunch), 6 bowls and 2 lunch plates. It sounds extreme, but now I wash dishes a bit more often and I don't get overwhelmed! I also only kept the cutlery we really need in the drawer, which forces me to rewash instead of pulling out more. This has made such a difference with baking and cooking. There is always dishes at the end, but if you wash and reuse (clean as you go), it is much less overwhelming.  I simply put the extra plates, bowls and cutlery into a different cupboard in the kitchen. They are still there for when visitors come or when I really need them, but most of the time they are not needed. I really thought my husband would think I was getting a bit extreme with this one, but he just said, "You're getting wiser every day!"
Maybe I am a bit extreme sometimes, but he can see that it makes me keep on top of things a lot better. It helps me not procrastinate and be lazy. It also helps me to be less dependent on him for help! Other comments he has given me about all the changes I've made is "You're finally learning!" or "Why did it take you this long to learn???" 


Menu Planning

Do you enjoy menu planning? If you do menu plan, that is!
I love having my week's dinners planned, but I find the actual planning part very overwhelming. So this is another area I have tried to simplify.
I wrote down a list of 20 of our regular/favorite simple meals/meats.

Roast Chicken
Chicken Drumsticks
Butter Chicken
Korma Chicken
Macaroni and Cheese
Pita Bread
Corned Beef
Pasta Bake
Spaghetti Bolognese
Shepherd's Pie
Fish Pie
Roast beef
Using this simple list is much easier with menu planning. And of course I don't have to stick to it. After writing this list I asked my husband for his favorite meals to make sure I had got them all. He just said, "I like variety and new recipes." For a moment I was overwhelmed again! But then I realized that even with this simple list, there can be much variety and new recipes. For example, macaroni and cheese can be made with bacon, ham, or corned beef. It can be flavored with curry, chicken soup etc. It can be cooked in the oven or just in the pan on the stove. It can have breadcrumbs on top or be without breadcrumbs. It can have vegetables mixed through or vegetables separate. I'm not really one to follow recipes for dinners, but I'm sure there are tons of different recipes for Macaroni  and cheese. And that's only one meal on the list!
There are tons of ways to cook sausages. There are tons of different ways to cook vegetables. But keeping my list basic keeps me from getting overwhelmed.
How do you simplify your meal planning?


When Your Husband is Busy...

This is a post that I have been thinking about for quite a while and couldn't decide whether to go ahead and write it or not! I guess it's because everyone's situation is different and I am only learning myself. I am no pro! But I'm also not how I was five months ago.
For the last five months, my husband has been working on an important project that has gobbled up most of his spare time. Before he started it, he was mostly home in time for dinner, nearly always helped in the evenings with putting the children to bed or washing the dishes and didn't often go out. Yes, I know--I have a great husband! So when he started this project, things changed! I found it difficult and sometimes had a pretty rotten attitude. Since many wives have busy husbands, I would like to share a few things that have helped me.

1) Think about women who see even less of their husbands.
In those first few months I read two books. The first one was Brother Andrew  (a story about a man who smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain). He lived in Holland but traveled often. His wife sometimes didn't see him for weeks at a time. That was simply a cost they had to consider before getting married. Reading that book made me thankful that although my husband is very busy, I see him every day!
Another book I read was about the Bunyan family (John Bunyan was in prison for many years for preaching). Reading this book made me thankful that my husband is living with us and not in prison!
Whatever our situation is, there are always other women who have it more difficult. It always gives me an attitude adjustment to think or read about them!

2) Be thankful.
Count the hours you do have together, not the hours you don't. Count all the things you have to be thankful for and it will help you have a good attitude.

3)Make the most of the time you Do have.
If you have a complaining attitude, you probably won't even enjoy the time you do have with your husband. You may not have much time, but you can make it quality time with a bit of effort on your part. When my husband is home late for dinner, I try to stop what I'm doing and sit down with him and spend that time together. 

4) Learn to be more independent.
My husband doesn't have the time at the moment to do some things he usually does, so I have to try and do them myself. Just because I don't usually do them, doesn't mean I can't! Learn to be more dependent on God.

5)Learn to manage your home better.
Over the last 5 months, as I've shared in other posts, I've really worked at decluttering our house. I've also learned different ways of simplifying and made some new habits. I think it is a mixture of these things and maybe a few others that has helped me have a whole lot more time! I simply don't need my husband's help like I did in the beginning.

6) Free your husband up as much as you can.
I am already busier having a busy husband, but I have tried to free him up as much as I can. For example, in the beginning he tried to quickly wash the dishes every night before he started working. I told him not to bother or he would be busy every moment of the day! It takes a bit of sacrifice on our part, but helping our husband is an important ministry.

7) Make your home a nice place for him to come home to.
This is a difficult one some days. Especially hot exhausting days! And I am not naturally a relaxed person! Sometimes everything turns to custard right before he comes home. But it is my goal to make our home a nice, clean and relaxing place for my husband to come home to. He will want to be home more if home is a pleasant place to be! It is difficult with little children and especially when you are extra busy, but is a good goal to keep in mind.

Pray for your husband and pray for God's help and strength for you. Sometimes having a busy husband forces us to be more dependent on God. Now, that's a good thing!

9) Accept it.
Fighting something just makes it worse. Remember that quote I shared ..."The impatient horse which will not quietly endure his halter only strangles himself in his stalls!" There is a lot of truth in that. Sometimes we can change our situation, but in my case I can't. It's simply something I have to accept.

10) Remember, it's just for a season.
In my situation, at least, the busyness of this project will end soon-- to a certain degree. It won't last forever!