My Top 15 Posts for 2015

My top 15 posts of 2015. Some good stuff here!
I intended to publish this post a week ago, but we’ve been migrating this site to a new server, and the process made it completely inaccessible for about four days. Sorry about that!

The good news is, the task is done now. The bad news is, I was not able to migrate any of my WordPress subscribers. So if you fall into that category, you will have to resubscribe if you’d like to continue receiving my posts by email.

When looking back at the Loving Life at Home posts that racked up the most views in 2015, my top five list looks virtually identical to the five top posts from 2014. The order has just been shuffled a little:

  1. 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband
  2. 5 Must-Read Books for Women Who Think
  3. A Sure-Fire Way to Wipe Out Whining
  4. Pray for Your Husband from Head to Toe
  5. Pray for Your Children from Head to Toe

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Interestingly, not a single one of those five posts were written in the past year. I have to scroll down a bit to get to anything more current, but if I consider only posts published in the past 12 months, my top ten list looks like this:

  1. 7 Ways to Ruin Your Marriage
  2. 7 Ways to Ruin Your Marriage

    Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Kerenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That may be true, but most unhappy marriages have at least one of these seven destructive habits in common. If you want your marriage to thrive, you’ll need to ditch these bad behaviors.

  3. The A-to-Z Guide for Building a Better Marriage
  4. How to Have a Happy Marriage: An A-to-Z Guide

    Putting these principles into practice is the best way I know to spell success for you and your spouse. Attend to these areas, and your marriage will do better than survive. It will flourish.

  5. A Tale of Three Babies
  6. A Tale of Three Babies -- Powerful article!

    A true story of three precious little babies and the difficult decisions their parents faced regarding their births. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

  7. 7 Smart Reasons to Save Sex for Marriage
  8. 7 Smart Reasons to Save Sex for Marriage

    In a culture that glamorizes and encourages premarital sex, this post provides sound advice young people need to hear more often.

  9. Postponing Motherhood… at What Cost
  10. Postponing Motherhood... at What Cost?

    Here’s another important message you won’t hear from mainstream media — hormonal contraceptives carry a much bigger price tag than many women realize. How long can you afford to ignore the risks?

  11. Cultivating Contentment
  12. Cultivating Contentment

    Contentment is not something you should postpone for a more convenient time. If you are ever going to experience it, you must actively cultivate it. This subtle shift in thinking can do wonders for your overall level of happiness and satisfaction in life.

  13. A Prayer for the Sick
  14. A Prayer for the Sick

    If you’ve ever been asked to pray for somebody with a life-threatening illness and have hardly known where to start, this post is for you. Packed with Scripture, it’s an appropriate prayer for anybody who is sick.

  15. Q&A: What If My Drive is Stronger than His?
  16. What if my sex drive is stronger than his?

    I’m hearing from more and more wives who are dealing with the problem of a disinterested spouse these days. How is a Christian woman to respond?

  17. Virginity: Is It Really Worth Saving?
  18. Is Virginity Really Worth Saving?

    Instead of looking to societal norms to answer this question, let’s see what the Word of God has to say about it.

  19. Q&A: I Feel Like I’m Living with Jekyll & Hyde
  20. Living in Peace with Jekyll & Hyde

    Husbands can be difficult at times (as can wives). Here’s a strategy for living at peace with them, even in the midst of their foulest moods.

If you find anything on this list that resonates with you, would you please do me a favor and share it via Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter? In the meantime, I plan to continue blogging as time allows, addressing the topics my readers seem to care about most: marriage, motherhood, feminism, prayer, and Christian living.

Best wishes for a blessed 2016!

Top 14 Posts for 2014

Loving Life at Home

My husband loves to keep tabs on my blog stats. He tracks the numbers far more faithfully than I do. What follows is a listing of my most-viewed posts of 2014 (one of which was a reblog of something he’d posted over at All Truth is God’s Truth).

These top 14 include articles on marriage, parenting, homemaking, and feminism, with a few free printables thrown in for good measure. Each one solidly grounded in Scripture and designed to help your family thrive as you serve one another in love.

I hope you’ll enjoy this round up, whether you’ve read these posts before or are seeing them for the first time.

14. Housekeeping Matters: 5 Habits that Help

Housekeeping Matters - 5 Habits that Help
Although our families certainly benefit when we keep a tidy home, our faithfulness in this area is ultimately a service to God. God holds us accountable for everything entrusted to our care (including our home), and He expects us to use it in a way that blesses those around us and glorifies Him.

13. Recipe for a Happy Marriage

Recipe for a Happy Marriage
Building a happy marriage is an ongoing process. It’s not something you can power through once, then check off your to-do list. There’s no propping your feet up and saying, “That’s done. Now I can move on to a different project.”

12. A Husband’s Duty: To Love His Wife

A Husband's Duty: To Love His Wife
Not only did my husband write this post, but more importantly, he lives it. Feel free to read it, print it, share it with your spouse, but please don’t wait for your husband to make the first move. Your demonstrating sincere respect for him will make it easier for him to feel genuine love towards you, and vice versa.

11. The #1 Rule for Building a Happy Marriage

#1 Rule for Marriage
Treat your spouse as you wish to be treated. The Golden Rule: that’s the key to crafting a built-to-last, happily-ever-after sort of marriage. It’s a great principle to live by. How can you put this age-old advice into practice, starting today?

10. 7 Reasons to Prioritize Sex in Marriage

7 Reasons to Prioritize Sex in Marriage
This handy chart details just a few of the myriad benefits available to couples who choose not to neglect marital intimacy. I addressed this post to women in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5 (and because women have historically required a little more convincing then men to make this aspect of marriage a priority).

9. What Shall I Wear?

What Shall I Wear?
A woman’s worth is based on infinitely more than what she looks like. But to say that our appearance does not matter most is not to imply that it does not matter at all.

8. 15 Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living

Benefits of Big Family Living
Life as the mother of many has been every bit as blissful as I imagined. Sure, there have been lots of unexpected challenges, but there have also been plenty of unanticipated rewards. This post lists 15 of my favorites.

7. Turn Your Thinking Around

Turn Your Thinking Around
If you’ve bought into society’s low view of marriage, it’s time to rethink your stance. This post will help you do just that!

6. Pray for Your Children from Head to Toe

Pray for Your Children
This is a free printable prayer guide to help you carry your children daily to the Throne of Grace, with lots of Scripture verses to pray over them once you’re there.

5. A Sure-Fire Way to Wipe Out Whining

Wipe Out Whining
We do our children no favors by letting them get away with bad behaviors such as constant whining and complaining. Here are some strategies to help them kick the habit in a hurry.

4. 25 Ways to Raise Capable, Confident Children

25 Ways to Raise Capable, Confident Children
Four of our twelve children are now grown and gone. Of course, we’ve made lots of mistakes (that’s another post for another day), but by the abundant grace of God (and by following the great example that our own parents modeled for us), there are many things we’ve done right — things we want to make sure we continue to do as we train up the remaining eight children still under our care. This post details 25 of them.

3. 5 Must-Read Books for Women Who Think

Must Read Books for Women
Here are five highly-recommended books that give readers a fresh look at feminism. We’ve watched this post climb steadily up the ranks over the past twelve months. It has actually edged “25 Ways to Communicate Respect” out of its long-held #1 position for the month of December, although it’s only #3 for the year.

2. Pray for Your Husband from Head to Toe

Pray for Your Husband from Head to Toe
Another free printable guide — this one will help you cover your husband with prayer from head to toe.

1. 25 Ways to Communicate Respect

25 Ways to Communicate Respect
Not only has this article maintained its status as my all-time most popular post, but it was also turned into a 30-Day Challenge by Revive Our Hearts ministry this year, and the book I wrote by the same title won a 2014 Book of the Year award from Christian Small Press Association. Obviously, communicating respect is something women care about, and this post provides lots of great suggestions for doing so in ways most husbands find meaningful.

So that’s the scoop on my most popular posts of 2014. I hope you’ve enjoyed my walk down memory lane.

New Devotionals for a New Year

10 Things Your Teenager Hates

10 Things Your Teenager Hates (Are you making any of these mistakes?) | http://lovinglifeathome.comThere’s no doubt about it.

Navigating life with a teenager at home can be a little tricky.

All those hormones raging through the bloodstream will sometimes have you walking on eggshells.

(Of course, teens might say the same thing about living with a menopausal mother, but that’s another post for another day.)

No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. And it is sometimes necessary for us to make decisions that won’t necessarily be popular with our kids.

But if we can somehow manage to avoid the biggies — if we can refrain from doing these things our teens hate most — then our homes might be much happier, both during the teen years and beyond.

  1. Disapproval
  2. Your teenager hates to disappoint you. Whether he acts like it or not, he is hungry for your affirmation and approval. He needs to know that your love for him is unconditional. Yes, he’ll make mistakes. And yes, those mistakes may need to be addressed. But they’ll need to be addressed in a way that communicates your love for him and your confidence in his ability to do better.

  3. Lectures
  4. Your teenager hates being lectured. Sure, she still needs your counsel and correction from time to time, but it will fall on deaf ears if you deliver it in a spirit of anger or condescension. Don’t talk down to your teen or use sweeping generalizations. Make your point clearly, but don’t belabor it. Always and only speak the truth in love.

  5. Hypocrisy
  6. Do you use one voice for company and phone calls, but another for your family? Is the person you seem to be at work and church and out in the community the same person your spouse and children see at home every day? Teens are especially sensitive to discrepancies in this area. They are watching you, examining you, constantly observing whether your talk matches your walk. Be genuine and sincere. Live a life of integrity. Apologize and seek forgiveness from your family when you fail. Otherwise, you risk having your teen reject not only you, but everything you allegedly stand for.

  7. Micro-Management
  8. Don’t be a hovering, helicopter parent who tries to dictate your teen’s every move. The older she gets, the more important it is for her to take responsibility for making her own choices and decisions. This is a healthy part of growing up. Sometimes she may do things in a different way than you would do them, but in most cases, that is alright. God never intended for your teen to be an exact replica of you. She is wonderfully unique. Give her some freedom to be herself. When you try to control every detail of her life, it sends your teen the message that you think she’s either incompetent or untrustworthy.

  9. Passivity
  10. As much as your teen dislikes it when you’re controlling, the opposite extreme is just as bad. There must be a balance. Your teen still needs you to remain involved, to be available, to hold him accountable. When he pushes the limits, he’s just testing to make sure they’re still in place, the way you might push against the doors of your house each night to make sure they are properly latched. You should expand his boundaries a bit as he grows, but you shouldn’t remove them altogether. Whether consciously or not, your teen takes comfort in knowing that you care enough to keep tabs on him.

  11. Manipulation
  12. Your teen hates guilt trips. If you want or need her to do something for you, please just come out and say so. Don’t expect her to read your mind or try to guilt trip her into doing what you want. Be straightforward in your requests and sincerely grateful for her cooperation.

  13. Comparisons
  14. Your teen may tolerate positive comparisons to people he admires, but he hates to be compared negatively to anyone. Let him stand or fall on his own merit. There’s no reason to drag anybody else into it. If a comparison must be made, let it be in comparing your teen to his younger self and noting the growth, maturity, and progress he’s made.

  15. Discord
  16. This may seem counterintuitive, given how prone she is to argue sometimes, but your teenager hates strife. She especially hates to hear her parents fighting. There is enough turmoil in the world — don’t add to it by being at odds with your spouse. Let your home be a haven of rest, a peaceful oasis where your children can relax, recharge, and take refuge from worldly cares in full confidence of your commitment not only to them, but to one another, as well.

  17. Inflexibility
  18. Avoid letting “no” become your knee-jerk response. Don’t get locked into doing things a certain way, just because that’s how you’ve always done them. Be willing to think outside the box and weigh all the options, especially when making decisions that affect your teen. Attempt to see things from his perspective. Sympathize. Remember what it was like to be a teen yourself. And if your erstwhile dreams, ideals, and love for adventure have been snuffed out in the passing years, do your best to rekindle them — for your own sake as much as for his.

  19. Uncertainty
  20. Remember the verse about not being anxious for tomorrow, because each day has enough troubles of its own? This is especially true for our teenagers. Our kids face so many uncertainties during these years — Will I pass my test? Will I make the team? Will I get into college? Will I ever find love? — they don’t need parents heaping their own worries on top of what’s already there. Remain calm. Don’t overreact. Pray for your teen, point him to the solid Rock, anchor him there when the storms roll in, and assure him the sun will soon come out again.

What other things does your teen hate? Is there anything else you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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5 Lessons I Learned by Losing a Diamond

5 Lessons I Learned when I Lost My Diamond (and where to look if you lose yours) from lovinglifeathome.comLast month, I lost the diamond out of my wedding ring — an irreplaceable family heirloom. It made me feel sick when I glanced down at my hand while dining in a local restaurant and noticed it missing, for how long, I didn’t know.

Years earlier, my husband’s grandmother had taken the diamond off her own finger as soon as Doug announced his intention to marry me. She reached over, patted me on the knee with a twinkle in her eye and said, “Then we’d better go get the ring sized.”

Nanny and Poppy drove us to Taylor Brothers that very morning, then Doug “officially” proposed on bended knee in their living room as soon as the ring came back from the jewelers.

A rare antique cut, the diamond had been in my husband’s family for over 120 years when it was given to me (and almost 150 years when I lost it two weeks ago).

As soon as I realized it was gone, I called my mother and asked her to pray that it would be found. I also posted a prayer request on Facebook, where I received an incredible amount of encouragement from friends there, many of whom had lost-diamond stories of their own to tell:

  • One of my friends lost her ring at Walmart, and some good Samaritan turned it in.
  • Another friend had found her lost diamond two years later, in the mouth of a whale in a pop-up book that was on its way to Goodwill!
  • Someone else lost a custom-cut, heart-shaped diamond IN THE OCEAN while honeymooning in the Caribbean. If that isn’t about as hopeless as it gets, I don’t know what is. Yet her husband spotted it wedged in the crevice of a rock on the beach almost two weeks later, the day before they were scheduled to fly home.

Even friends who hadn’t lost diamonds promised to pray and gave great suggestions for searching:

  • Hunt in the dark with a flashlight
  • Empty the vacuum bag
  • Check your dryer lint trap, sink bin, clothes closet
  • Thoroughly search the car
  • Make sure it’s not caught in your broom fibers

Of course, I thought of a few more places to search on my own:

  • In the bed linens (maybe it fell out in my sleep?)
  • Under couch cushions (no diamond, but I did find several pennies and ink pens)
  • In the fishbowl (I emptied out all the decorative rocks in the bottom and searched one by one)
  • In the flower beds (I’d spent a couple of hours there, trimming back ivy and azaleas the day before)
  • In the garbage disposal (It’s a cramped, slimy job, but the peace of mind was worth it)

Unfortunately, my diamond didn’t surface through any of that, but I kept praying, kept hoping, kept looking….

I also did a little therapeutic writing. I began a (not-yet-published) post about a diamond I lost forty-two years ago and the lessons I learned through the experience. (Watch for that story soon. It still makes me cry every time I tell it.) And I wondered what lessons God might be trying to teach me this time around. Here are a few I’ve identified thus far:

  1. The insufficiency of good intentions:
  2. My house has been in need of a deep cleaning for some time now. It has been on my to-do list for months, yet I lacked motivation to follow through with the job. In the past two weeks, however, I’ve cleaned out closets, organized drawers, scrubbed counters and cabinet fronts, dusted baseboards, defrosted my freezer, vacuumed under furniture, and culled through, sorted, and put away all manner of misplaced miscellany. My lost diamond provided just the boost I needed, as I’ve always considered systematic cleaning to be the fastest, most effective way to find things.

    The lesson, I think, is that we should go ahead and do the thing we know we need to do, instead of waiting until something drastic drives us to it. (James 4:17) Let’s reduce our stress levels before we have the heart attack. Let’s invest in our marriage before the divorce papers are served. Let’s get in shape before our health fails. Let’s make memories with our children before they grow up and leave home.

  3. The value of hope:
  4. My big-hearted husband was completely unfazed by the fact I had lost this priceless heirloom. Being the think-outside-the-box sort of guy he is, he took me straightaway to the jewelers, ready and willing to trade in what was left of my wedding set for something entirely new and different — and more than a little surprised that this idea was not met with more enthusiasm on my part.

    But thankfully, thankfully, the jeweler convinced him to wait. “You’re going to find it,” he assured us. “Give it a few days. I’ll bet that diamond will wink at you. When it does, you can bring it back in, and we’ll repair it for you.”

    Isn’t hope an amazing thing? It gives us peace when we’re troubled, strength when we’re weary, and courage when we’re frightened. That jeweler’s confidence, together with the testimonies of so many friends whose lost stones had been miraculously restored, served to buoy my faith that I’d eventually find mine, too. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

  5. The heart of God:
  6. The Bible tells us that Jesus “came to seek and save that which was lost.”(Luke 19:10) Only, He wasn’t searching for something as insignificant as an inanimate rock. Oh, no! He’d set his sights on eternal souls — Christ came to redeem you and me.

    That sense of urgency I felt about finding my lost diamond? The concern that it might be lost forever? The determination to stay alert to any sign of its whereabouts? How is it that I can retain such focus when it’s a shiny little stone in question, but am often oblivious to the infinitely more valuable treasures all around me? Those lost sheep Christ came to save. People are more important than things, and the way I live my life should reflect that fact.

  7. The importance of checking those prongs:
  8. This wasn’t the first time I’ve lost that diamond. It also fell out fourteen years ago while our family was on a 2500-mile road trip. That time, it was miraculously recovered a week later by one of our children — subsequently dubbed “Diamond Dave” — who spotted it under the back seat of our Suburban amid broken crayons and cracker crumbs at a pit stop in Virginia.

    The stone was originally set with four prongs (which held up remarkably well considering all the scrubbing, painting, kneading, and digging I’d done with that diamond on my hand); however, we decided to remount with six, assuming that would be sufficient to keep it safe. Obviously, it wasn’t. Had I been smart about it, I would have taken my rings back to the jeweler more routinely, so he could inspect the prongs and make sure everything was still secure.

    A similar thing sometimes happens in our spiritual walk. We get baptized in infancy or pray a prayer in childhood and mistakenly believe our future is secure because of it — regardless of how we’ve lived our lives since. We know that God saves us by grace through faith, and not because of any works done on our part (Ephesians 2:8-9), yet we are still called to bear fruit, and that fruit will only come when we are in close communion with the God who produces it. (John 15:1-8) If we are smart about it, we will check in with Him routinely, allowing Him to inspect us, prune us, and keep us secure in Christ.

  9. The power of prayer:
  10. Isn’t it amazing that through prayer, we have the privilege of conversing with the Creator of the Universe? I am so blessed to have so many friends and family members who are willing to pray with and for me, even about the little stuff. And I am so grateful to serve a God who promises that when we pray, He will hear and answer (Matthew 7:7-8). Sometimes He answers right away. Sometimes He asks us to wait. With respect to my diamond, it was enough for me to know that God knew exactly where it was (even if I didn’t), that He could keep it safe, and that He would give it back to me if doing so would be for my good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)

As it turns out, between all the prayers and all the cleaning, my diamond finally did resurface. Praise the LORD! It had evidently fallen out in our bathroom where it rolled under a cabinet and into a small gap in the grout between the tile and the wall (there’s one more place to check if you ever lose yours!). I’d already swept the bathroom several times in search of the lost stone, but because our pastor’s family was coming for dinner Saturday night, I decided to lay down on my stomach to scrub those hard-to-reach tiles by hand. I still couldn’t see it, but the diamond was there all the same, safe and sound, just waiting for my fingers to dislodge it from its hiding place.

Now, isn’t that a happy ending?

15 Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living

The Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living | Loving Life at HomeI love children and have wanted a bunch of them for as long as I can remember.

Not surprisingly, this fact significantly narrowed the field of potential marriage partners back when I was in college.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” an interested classmate might venture.

“That depends,” I’d answer matter-of-factly. “How many kids do you plan to have when you get married?”

Subtlety has never my strong suit.

This line of questioning quickly scared off most would-be suitors, but I didn’t want to risk falling in love with someone who didn’t share my desire for a big family.

So I held out… and my patience eventually paid off. Mr. Right finally showed up a few weeks before graduation.

Not only was he interested (in me!), but he gave the desired response to all of my questions — and didn’t seem intimidated by my asking them.

The rest, as they say, is history: I married him 16 months later, got pregnant two weeks into our honeymoon, and spent the following quarter of a century either pregnant or nursing (or both).

Life as the mother of many has been every bit as blissful as I imagined. Sure, there have been lots of unexpected challenges, but there have also been plenty of unanticipated rewards. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Expanded Options
  2. There are so many beautiful names with wonderful meanings out there, it’s difficult to narrow down the list of favorites and pick only one. Having a big family completely solves that quandary — you can use them all! (Or in our case, almost all — we’re still hoping for a Hannah).

  3. Boredom Busters
  4. There is never a dull moment in a home filled with children, and there is always somebody to play with. Neighbors and schoolmates will come and go, but siblings are friends you can keep for life.

  5. Conversation Starters
  6. Big families invite all sorts of inquiries: “Are all these kids yours?” “Don’t you know what causes that?” “Are you going to have any more?” “Do I need to buy you a TV?” In our experience, most of the people asking such questions aren’t trying to be rude — they’re genuinely curious — so we answer as graciously and amicably as we possibly can. What a great way to meet people!

  7. Group Discounts
  8. A really big family can qualify for discounted group admission rates without even trying. And do we ever get our money’s worth on those annual zoo and museum memberships — especially the ones that offer reciprocal benefits at sister sites!

  9. A Deeper Admiration
  10. The love and affection I felt for my husband as a spouse, great though it was, increased manifold when he became the father of my children. I still enjoy watching him teach and train and interact with our preschoolers, adolescents, teens, and adult children, but there is something so specially endearing about the way he cuddles and cootchy-coos our babies, it makes me glad that for so long we’ve had one in the house to draw that tenderness out of him.

  11. Household Help
  12. A wise man once observed, “Many hands make light labor.” He was right. Of course, many hands make bigger messes to begin with, but when everyone pitches in to help clean up, household chores are knocked out in short order, and kids learn responsibility and other important life skills from an early age.

  13. No PMS
  14. Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can literally go for years without having a monthly cycle. I’m not gonna lie — that has really been nice.

  15. Pick Your Sport
  16. Depending on the size of your family, you can field your own basketball team. Or volleyball. Or baseball. Or soccer. The physical exercise does a body good, and the games give ample opportunity to practice good sportsmanship among other players who are held to the same standard.

  17. Social Security
  18. Contrary to what “Zero Population Growth” proponents will tell you, demographic declines are causing deeply troubling problems for societies worldwide, which is why many countries (Germany, Japan, and Austrailia, to name just a few) are now actually paying people to procreate. Big families are simply ahead of the curve.

  19. Youthful Beauty
  20. While pregnancy keeps you looking young (think thick, glossy hair and glowing complexion), the children themselves keep you feeling young. It’s a wonderful thing to see the world through the eyes of a child, so filled with awe and excitement over each new discovery. Their energy, enthusiasm, and laughter are infectious.

  21. One Less Excuse
  22. Being open to pregnancy allows couples to enjoy intimacy as God intended. No frantic search for a misplaced diaphragm. No mad dash to the drugstore when you run out of condoms. No having to compensate for the fact that the Pill completely decimates a woman’s libido. Just blessed spontaneity (although regularly scheduling time for said spontaneity is highly recommended).

  23. No Sour Milk
  24. In a house full of kids (especially teenaged boys), food seldom lasts long enough to go bad. That’s a plus! You can buy in bulk without fear of spoilage. And as an added bonus, dinner conversation never drags with so many different personalities contributing to it.

  25. Built-In Babysitters
  26. Our kids absolutely love babies and are always clamoring to hold our newest addition. As a result, they can all handle infants very comfortably and capably — experience that will come in handy someday when they start having kids of their own. As an added bonus, our big guys have discovered that nothing attracts attention from the opposite sex more effectively than toting around a new baby brother or sister (otherwise known as a “chick magnet”).

  27. Best Foot Forward
  28. Not only do children help refine their parents’ character qualities, but they polish one another, as well. Siblings have a way of knocking off one another’s rough edges, so they’re less likely to make fools of themselves in public. Corny jokes and lame pranks can be tested (then reworked as needed or altogether abandoned) at home, where the stakes are lower and the audience more forgiving.

  29. Empty Nest Postponed
  30. When you are blessed with many children, you don’t have to give up all your favorite things about one stage of life to enjoy all the great things about the next. You’ll still have little ones at home to cuddle even after first ones move away. That’s a happy distraction during what would otherwise be a bittersweet time. Also, studies show that the older a couple is when their last child leaves home, the more likely their marriage will survive the transition.

I could go on (and on and on), but I’ll stop there. What are your favorite things about having children? Do you plan to have any more? Don’t you know what causes that? Do I need to buy you a TV?

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19 Ways to Boost Productivity

Do you start every new year like I do, with a long list of things you want to accomplish in the following twelve months? Wouldn’t you love to look back on 2014 next December, having actually completed a large portion of that list? What follows are nineteen habits that can help those dreams become a reality:

19 Ways to Boost Productivity | Loving Life at Home

  1. Stop procrastinating.

    We tend to over-estimate the time required to do a dreaded task, and under-estimate the amount of work we can accomplish in incremental units. Stop putting it off and just do it. (James 4:17)

  2. Make a schedule.

    This needn’t be rigid and inflexible, just a barebones game plan for your day, a general idea of what you plan to do and when you plan to do it. As Alan Lakein so sensibly observed, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (Proverbs 16:9)

  3. Eat breakfast.

    Never skip the most important meal of the day, as it will provide the energy you need to greet the day’s responsibilities with vim and vigor. Be sure to include complex carbohydrates, for staying power that will carry you till lunchtime. (John 21:12)

  4. Exercise regularly.

    Aerobic exercise increases your energy reserves, so get your heart pumping. You’ll expend a little effort upfront, but you’ll build your endurance and ward off fatigue in the long run. (1 Timothy 4:8)

  5. Preserve margin.

    Don’t pack your schedule so full that you leave yourself no time to rest and reflect and recharge. Such times of relaxation are vital to our health and well-being, which is the whole concept behind Sabbath observation. Margin also leaves room for unexpected interruptions and unforeseen emergencies. (Exodus 34:21)

  6. Review your goals.

    Zig Ziglar once said, “Don’t count the stuff you do, do the stuff that counts.” Make sure the goals you’re pursuing line up with your core priorities and values. Remind yourself of these things often, and stay focused on what’s really important. (Philippians 3:13-14)

  7. Work fresh.

    If you’re a morning person, get up early and tackle important tasks then. If you do better in the evening after little ones are in bed and the house is quiet, then be a productive night owl. When your energy starts to sag, take a break (or take a nap). Go for a jog, grab a cup of tea, or catch forty winks, then return to work with renewed vitality and clear thinking. (Proverbs 31:15-18)

  8. Rethink perfectionism.

    Perfectionism is often at odds with productivity. In fact, sometimes perfectionism can be downright paralyzing. I’m all for pursuing excellence, but some of our responsibilities warrant less attention to detail than others. We must tend to trivial tasks quickly and efficiently if we want to have the time and energy we’ll need to do our most important work well. (Matthew 23:23)

  9. Put On Some Music.

    For physical labor, tune into something upbeat and energizing; if you’re doing mental work, try something calming and classical. Listening to music in the OR improves surgeons’ job performance, and the same principle may hold true for you. (2 Chronicles 5:13)

  10. Forgive those who wrong you.

    Don’t harbor bitterness or nurse grudges. You’ll waste a lot of valuable time perseverating over past offenses. Fully forgive offenders: just let it go and move on. (Colossians 3:13)

  11. Turn off the T.V.

    The average American watches five hours of television a day. If you fall into that category, flip the switch. You can pack a lot of productivity into five hours a day. When you’re on your deathbed, I guarantee you won’t be lamenting, “Why, oh why, didn’t I ever watch that last season of Survivor?” (Psalm 101:3)

  12. Work offline.

    I don’t know about you, but I find it terribly distracting when I’m trying to work to receive a constant stream of bells, whistles, dings, and other alerts notifying me about new emails, texts, tweets, and Facebook messages. I make a lot more progress on my writing when I turn off the wireless connection to do it. Likewise, anytime I need to focus on a task at hand (like schooling my children) with minimal interruptions, I leave my iPhone on my nightstand, my laptop on my desk, and let the answering machine deal with any calls that come across the land line. (Hebrews 12:1)

  13. Brainstorm.

    Got a problem? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. If something isn’t working, try a new approach. Don’t just keep doing what you’ve always done, expecting better results next time. (Wasn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity?) What are you trying to accomplish? How can you make it happen? Unleash your creativity. Dream big. Then come up with a plan to accomplish those dreams. (Proverbs 16:1)

  14. Set a timer.

    Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that needs to be done? Break it down into manageable chunks. Set a timer for ten (or twenty or thirty) minutes, delve in with gusto, and see how much you can knock out before the buzzer sounds. (Proverbs 13:4)

  15. Work ahead.

    If looming deadlines stress you out, pace yourself. Start early and give yourself plenty of time to finish the task without rushing. My sister has successfully used this strategy since grade school, and I’ve seldom ever seen her flustered. (Luke 14:28-30)

  16. Harness adrenaline.

    If you work well under pressure, capitalize on that fact. Tack as many extras onto your “to do” list as you can think of, then race the clock to see how many you can finish before time is up. I do this whenever we host a party. My “must do’s” (send invites, clean house, prepare food) are invariably followed by a slew of “want to’s” (paint kitchen, redo landscaping, sew curtains, clean attic). I never finish everything on the extended list before the guests arrive, but I usually accomplish far more than those few items on my short list. (Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 3:20-21)

  17. Multi-task wisely.

    Sometimes doing two things at once is smart and efficient: If you have a long daily commute, it makes good sense to listen audio-books or language tapes while driving. If you’re facing a long wait at the doctor’s office, by all means bring along a book to read or some knitting to do or some papers to grade. At other times, however, multi-tasking is foolish, dangerous, or just plain rude: Texting while driving? Not smart. Checking stocks in the middle of church services? Don’t do it. Perusing Facebook during family dinners? Think again. Pocket your phone and connect with the people seated around your table instead. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

  18. Be Polite.

    Show kindness and consideration to everyone. Be as helpful to others as possible. Be generous with your time and money. It may sound counterintuitive, but showing uncommon courtesy is not only right and good from an ethical standpoint, it is also smart and savvy from an efficiency standpoint. Sure, it requires a little extra time and effort upfront, but it pays off in the long run. When you are terse and rude and cold toward others, not only are they disinclined to help you, but they’ll often work actively against you. You will be thwarted at every step, and everything you try to accomplish will be undermined by your own insolence. By contrast, when you are warm and caring and helpful toward others, that kindness will neither go unnoticed nor unrewarded. What goes around, comes around. We reap what we sow. (Proverbs 19:17; 2 Corinthians 9:6)

  19. Say a prayer.

    Although I’m ending my list with this, prayer should really be our starting point. Martin Luther’s approach to an unusually busy day was not to skimp on his quiet time with the Lord, but to extend it: “I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” He knew his only hope for accomplishing everything on his agenda was divine empowerment. I don’t think in all my life I’ve ever spent three continuous hours on my knees, but I can testify that my days do go more smoothly, and far more gets done by the end of them, when I begin my mornings with Bible study and prayer. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Those are my tips for being more productive. What helpful hints would you add to this list?

A Mother’s Job Description

A Mother's Job Description - 4 Habits that Will Help You Raise Happy Children| Loving Life at HomeIt’s really something we all should be doing. But when I came across this verse in my Bible reading a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me that 1 Thessalonians 5:14 provides a particularly apt job description for mothers:

“We urge you [to] admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Doesn’t that about sum it up? Aren’t these the very things that God calls and expects a mother to do each and every day?

  1. Admonish the unruly

    Children of all ages can act a little headstrong and ill-behaved from time to time. When they do, a mother should stand ready to admonish them — not out of anger or irritation or exasperation, but out of love, always keeping her children’s best interest at heart. She must correct, counsel, and caution them against continuing in that vein. To do otherwise is to be guilty of negligence.

    “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)

  2. Encourage the fainthearted

    Growing up is hard work, and children need a lot of motivation and morale-boosting. As a mother, we should be our child’s first and best cheerleader, offering a healthy balance of enthusiasm and empathy. We should view every day as a new opportunity to invest in our children’s inner lives and to inspire them to greatness.

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

  3. Help the weak

    Women are nurturers by nature. Helping the weak is what we do. This is especially evident when it comes to mothering. But we must be mindful to help in a way that doesn’t perpetuate weakness, but builds strength. Our goal is not to raise big children, but mature, responsible adults. We help our kids best when we teach them to help themselves and empower them to help others.

    “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

  4. Be patient with everyone

    Be patient. With everyone. Did you notice the exception clause? Neither did I. The Bible doesn’t say we should be patient with everyone except the toddler who’s pitching a fit or the teen who’s copping an attitude or the son who’s begging to play on the computer after you’ve already told him “no” ten times. Neither is impatience excused if we’re dog-tired or running late or stressed out or stuck in traffic. No, our goal — even when admonishing the unruly (see #1) — is to maintain patience at all times, toward all people, in all circumstances. Period.

    “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

While these four principles sound simple enough, it’s a challenge to live by them consistently, isn’t it? Yet the latter part of this passage provides a clue as to how we might do so. It bids us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

This, I believe, is the secret to success in parenting (or any other endeavor): Stay positive and stay on your knees. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. That is key.

So what sort of things would you add to the list on a mother’s job description? Did any of those requirements throw you for a loop when you first became a mother?