Making the Most of Your
Chapter 4 "Establishing a Routine"
“Instead, you ought to say,
‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and
also do this or that.’"
Having a plan and setting a routine for going about your day is important in every home. With more outside activities, more children, or more responsibilities that you and/or your children have, an established routine becomes all the more necessary. If you set certain times for getting up, going to bed, meal times, and do the same tasks in the same order every day; you will spend less time to do just about everything, leaving you time to do more than you do now, or giving you time to simply relax. And when you have children, by having a well-defined routine, you will spend less time giving new directions, you will have well-trained and well-behaved children, and this will help them to accomplish much more every day.
She rises! Proverbs 31:15 tells us, “She rises while it is yet night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidens.” Though the “Proverbs 31 woman” actually refers to the guidelines that a mother gave her son to find a precious wife, and it is not a measuring stick to see if we are making it as a wife, we can glean much from the wisdom that is found in these verses in Proverbs.
Just recently, we moved to a neighborhood, and one of our pastors lives around the corner. To my shock, my young children came home one day from visiting them to exclaim that they had a maid! Their mom is much younger than I am, with their oldest being the same age as my youngest child. When I went up to visit one day, I told her how from the first day I read the verse in Proverbs 31 about “giving a portion to her maidens,” I had been praying and believing that some day I would have just one maid to wake up and feed! Now here she was with a maid, for whom she couldn’t possibly have prayed for as long as I had!
After our lighthearted laughter, I told her that I guess the Lord is not going to give me one so that I can encourage women who also will never have one. If you are in the U.S.A., there is a good chance that you do not have domestic help, but I was surprised how many other women around the world are blessed with live-in or daily help (it makes me think of moving out of the country someday, especially when I have fewer little helpers, my children, who help to keep my home running well and cleaned from top to bottom. So God did give me the desires of my heart, lots of children, and I would rather have them around than any hired help.
As you read through this chapter, you may be saying, “Well, my children are too young to help” or “I only have two children.” Firstly, I too, at one time, had only small, young children. Yet, I will tell you honestly that if you take the time by investing in their future (and yours), by training them to do whatever they can at a young age, you will reap great rewards later. By the time a child is walking, he or she can be encouraged to bring things to you and to put away their toys. If you invest time, effort, and your enthusiasm to get your children to “help” (even if it wouldn’t take you a fraction of the time), each time your patience works for you, you are investing into both your futures.
Having said that, let me also explain that with a home that is de-cluttered and run well, if you have just a few children or if they are young, you will have less of a mess to deal with. In our home that topped out at nine (currently there are 6 children living at home), we have more dishes, more laundry, and more people to leave things lying around. But I also have that much more help to do everything if I take time to train them.
With young children who are trained properly with some sort of routine, you will find that there really is not that much mess other than their toys lying around—but I will touch on that method later which, if followed, will basically eliminate this mess from your life!
Establish bedtime routines for yourself and for your children; things that you do in the same way, in the same order, each and every night. Next, establish a routine for getting up. Pray about something that will make getting up worth the effort. A lot of adults wake to a nice hot cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate while reading their Bible and/or praying. While vacationing in Florida, for me, a freshly squeezed orange juice is a nice change. As I said, pray about something that will encourage you to jump out of bed (or at least not to keep hitting the snooze button) and do the same for your children. On Fridays, for as far back as I can remember, we have had “Sugar Cereal Day”—that’s one day, at least, that my children don’t sleep in or fail to jump out of bed!
If you leave for work, and/or your children leave for school, then create a routine for getting out of the door quickly and efficiently. Thinking and planning ahead, and then doing it religiously is what makes your life run smoothly. Variety is “the spice of life,” but too much variety makes life too spicy and unbearable!
Every morning, I check my menu for the day that I have planned and written out the night before. I prepare breakfast and begin preparing or laying out the ingredients for lunch and dinner. However, previously when we lived so far from a grocery store, on a farm, most of our meat and other items were stored in one of our deep freezers. So if I waited, even until morning to check my menu, the meat would not be thawed, especially during the winter months. So that’s when I began to check my menu the night before. However, the monthly menu is also in a later chapter, so for now, the time to decide, “What’s for dinner?” needs to be right after dinner or no later than before you go to bed at night.
Let me take a detour here in our sample routines to teach you a couple of things that will help you. If you use frozen meat, make sure you work it into your routine to check your menu (basically, what you will have for meals the next day) the night before. If you use fresh meat, then making your meal plan must be made no later than first thing in the morning.
Don’t do what most women do and wait until when you should be making dinner to figure out what you are going to have, only to find out that you are missing ingredients, and then run out to get that one ingredient (picking up a few more things that you don’t need because you are hungry) only to have dinner late—again! Or worse, they run to get fast food. The statistics today show that Americans eat fast food for 40% of their meals, and this is the reason why this exact percentage of Americans are over-weight and unhealthy!! Even if you don’t care about convenience, your family’s health (or your health) is at stake when this is the routine in your home.
Instead of falling into this obese and unhealthy category, just begin right now by figuring out what you are having for dinner either in the morning, or even better, the night before (especially if you freeze your meats). In an upcoming chapter, I will help you to create a month’s menu (not cook ahead for a month, but just a menu, so that you “know” what you are going to have and to “know” that you have the ingredients before you start making it) and a shopping list to match your menu. This small investment of your time, I promise, will radically change your life and take the dread out of meals and grocery shopping! Everything I do is simple. Each method just takes a small investment of your time, but lasts for years to create a smooth running home and life!! Now back to our routines.
After I check my menu, I write the menu for the day on a marker board for my family to view. I stopped doing this for a while, and then I realized that it helped me, as well as my family, to know what was on the menu. The reason I started doing it was to cut down on that question we moms hate to answer—“What’s for dinner?” It also helps my daughters to know whether they will be making up some cookie batter for dessert, or baking bread. For me to write the next day’s menu on the marker board is to stay ahead rather than fall behind. What a great feeling!
If you are a busy mom, you might want to use a crock-pot as much as you can, so that your dinner is ready on time. My neighbor who invited me to speak to all her friends and neighbors about meal planning, told me she is up to three crock-pot recipes a week. She is one of the moms I know who used to be part of that American culture of eating out as much as five nights a week!! In addition to eliminating the temptation to eat out, a crock-pot makes your house smell wonderful all day! I used to set the table for dinner after breakfast. Then we began home-schooling at the table, so I would set it after school. When we lived on the farm, we had a formal dining room; so, the table is set immediately after we ate dinner to be ready for the next day. Do whatever works for your family, and as your family changes, change your routine for setting the table.
The point to this principle is to set the table immediately after clearing the dinner dishes (as we do since we have a formal dining room), after your breakfast or lunch dishes, or after you finish home schooling if you home school at your table. Just don’t wait until you are trying to get the meal prepared, as most people do, to clear and to set your table.
My best friend since eighth grade lives in a very tiny place with her husband and two children. Although I realize that it is very tiny, I could not believe that they just push “stuff” aside so that just one person can sit at the table. If your table is your “catch all,” please just run out and get some sort of bucket or basket to house your junk while you eat a nice meal at the table. You and your family deserve to have a nice meal together, and that doesn’t mean in front of the television!
Most young people, who come for dinner, comment on the fact that our family sits down and we eat most of our meals together. Our eating together didn’t change after the divorce. In fact, what did change was the number of guests that we have over almost daily for dinner or for Saturday breakfast. When I found out that my husband was divorcing me again, I was determined to look for the blessings in everything and to take full advantage of each situation. Meals were one of them. My ex-husband was always concerned about money, but I know that God supplies ALL of our needs and He always encourages us to give! If you are having trouble with financial woes, then please read my book online The Poverty Mentality. If it is the divorce that is causing you trouble, read my book Facing Divorce. These are available for free online.
Food from afar. Currently, I “bring food from afar” once a week for my fresh ingredients, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy from a local grocery store. My major shopping is also done just once a week after I plan my meals for the month. When we lived on the farm (and were first blessed with a deep freezer), I shopped only once a month. Do whatever works for your situation and for your family. Make your fresh food and meal shopping part of your routine.
When we moved to our farm, almost all of our meat was raised on our land and butchered. We had several months of meat in our meat freezer to choose from and to work our menu around. The rest of our once-a-month shopping needs were done in “the big city” at Sam’s, a discount warehouse, which was an hour away and “in town” at Wal-Mart, which was about half an hour away.
I tried several times to do all my shopping on one day, but not even our 15-passenger van could hold all the food with only one helper and me. I was also exhausted from two hours of driving, shopping, and then having to put it all away. After much prayer, I divided the shopping into two days once a month. We were also blessed with three pantries on our farm, but even if you don’t have this blessing, you can store a lot in your garage where we store our overflow like paper products.
Then the cloud moved, and so did we! Now we live close to a city, just 5 minutes away from a huge super Wal-Mart and a 15-minutes drive to Sam’s. We moved into a larger home, but it has a much smaller kitchen, and has no pantry. This meant that I had to revert back to shopping once a week, and for a while, my daughters did all the shopping for me!
My guess is that God wants many examples to make this book helpful to all of you, so He keeps the cloud moving in my life!
If you like to save money (or your husband has put you on a budget), shop at the discount bakery stores. There used to be several discount bakeries when we lived in Florida, and each had its own specialties. So, ask around to see if these are available in your area.
You can also watch for a double-discounted day when you’ll receive more savings. Most meat departments discount all their meats late at night and you can snatch them up very early the next morning (about 6 AM). Do not fear getting too little sleep—God only warns us about getting too much sleep! I used to plan early morning shopping once a month for meat. It was wonderful to slip out all alone since my husband was there with the children when they were small. Times have changed, now I am a single mom, but I still find shopping very early helps me to beat the crowd and allows me time alone that I enjoy so much.
Family meals. One of the most important tasks as a wife and/or mother is to prepare a nice evening meal that is not hurried or “fast food.” It should be a time that the family looks forward to, and a time set aside each day to talk about the events of the day. Having a dessert, from a piece of fruit to a little mint to something bigger like pudding, cake, or home-made cookies, will help make your meals special. My ex-husband came from a line of Swedes, so dessert became a part of our meals.
Speaking of husbands, make sure that you are not trying to play “mother” with your husband’s eating habits. Even if his doctor has given you strict orders, your husband is not your patient. I honestly would rather have lived with my husband peacefully and in submission to him (to reap the blessings of calling him lord, which I did, see 1 Peter 3:6 if you find this concept horrifying) for a short time, than to live a long and bitter life, which is what will happen if you usurp his authority! If his doctor, his parents, or his boss tries to push you to get above your husband’s authority, smile and tell them that they are talking to the wrong person and to talk to your husband. Now back to this lesson:
To ensure a happy future, I incorporated “baking lessons” into my daughters’ education. I taught my oldest daughter when she was about nine years old, and now her younger sisters do the baking. Baking is the best place to start when teaching your daughters or sons, before they learn to cook.
The men in our family LOVE having fresh, hot cookies or some other baked goodies for dessert! Our family is known for offering freshly-baked cookies when friends come for a visit. This is not how I grew up, but I am so glad that the Lord helped me to change so that this would be a part of my children’s heritage and their own families as well once they marry.
Learning to bake (then cook) is wonderful training for your daughters’ future. What husband wouldn’t be happy with a wife who bakes from scratch! Truly, baking is a special and lost ministry to the church. When we lived on our farm, my daughter baked cookies and pies for many of the pastors in our church. Most of their wives did not bake, so it was a real treat and blessing for their entire family.
Look ahead! Once again, don’t wait until four in the evening when everything is in a crazy state (when the house is a disaster and the baby is just waking up from his nap) to wonder, “What should we have for dinner?” Check your menu just after breakfast, but even better, the night before, especially if you plan to use frozen meat.
Make it easy! Plan your special big meals only occasionally. I only fix a hot, big breakfast on Saturdays for my family. My best recipes are in a later chapter; many have won blue ribbons but are easy to make. When we lived on the farm, it became necessary to fix a big, hot breakfast two to three other mornings during the week. But God is good—my oldest daughter loved to receive the praise of the family, and she would wake early just to make these extra hot meals for me!
Just remember, never be afraid of simplicity to balance your life. I use paper plates on color-coded plate holders for lunches—Oh yes, I believe in energy conservation—mine. And I do care about the environment: our home environment of peace and less strife! However, I also love to treat my family as guests by setting a beautiful table for all our dinners and for our big Saturday breakfast. My family is more special to me than guests and they know it by the way that I take the time to treat them especially well.
Who’s First in the Home?
If you are currently married, please be sure to have the things that your husband has asked you to do at the top of your “To Do List” rather than at the bottom. (This will save a lot of anger or resentment on his side and a lot of hurt feelings on your side!) Our example, Sarah, even called Abraham lord! (See “Wives, Be Subject” in A Wise Woman if you have trouble with this concept!) Therefore, if you are currently married, make it your main goal to put your husband’s request as top priority! Doing this trained me to put my new Husband at the top of my list and I am so blessed today!
What’s the point? Well, many women tell me about their rebellious or disrespectful son or daughter whom they feel they have been cursed with. Normally, children are bred to be rebellious as a result of their parents who are rebellious to their authority. The awesomeness of God is that even though my ex-husband was rebellious, my children are not due to the respect that I gave my husband when I was married, and that now I give to my ex-husband (in a different way, of course) since he is still their father.
My goal is to be an example to all who are watching me, to be a witness of my love for my Lord and Savior, Jesus, who is now truly my Husband! This begins in the home, and even deeper, in my heart. How about you?
Establishing a routine in your life will keep your life running smoothly and efficiently, and will result in you having to do much less instruction and disciplining your children. Your stress level will fade into joy, which will accompany a happier home, children, and husband (if you are married). Take the time to establish a workable routine in your life!
If you are wondering how this will work in your life, with all the variables that go on each week, then the next chapter will give you some suggestions as I share some of my varied schedules with you that may give you ideas that will work for you!
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As an “Older women likewise…teaching what is good, that they may ENCOURAGE the young women…” (Titus 2:3) you will have the opportunity to speak to the younger women who are still single as part of your ministry.