by Kristin Bonham

Have you ever made arrangements to have people over and your day didn’t go the way you planned?  You were late getting home and the clean up you thought you would have time for didn’t happen.  You end up running around throwing things in closets and cabinets to straighten up.  For me, everything gets piled up on the washer and dryer.  I mean a huge pile!  It’s pretty ridiculous.  I pray no one opens the laundry room door because while my house looks orderly and clean on the surface, behind that door is a mess!

One of my biggest struggles is keeping my relationships and responsibilities in the right order in my life.  While I have good intentions, what ends up happening is I look like I have it all together on the outside but I fall into bed replaying all the things I missed or people I didn’t spend enough time with.  

Years ago, I heard a question posed to a woman in leadership, ”How do you keep your priorities balanced?  God, Husband, Kids, Work, Ministry, Friends, etc…?”  Her answer was simple: “If I keep God in first place in my life, everything else will be brought to my attention when it needs attention.” 

She wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t have a plan to spend time on our important relationships and responsibilities.  She was saying that when we make our relationship with God our first priority and we invite Him into our schedule each day, He leads us.  If something needs some extra attention, He will prompt us and help us make the time.

So how do I put God first?  I think it starts with inviting God to be in charge of each day.  Trusting that He can use anything that happens to bring me closer to Him and show me where He is working. My relationship with Him will grow.  Instead of reading a few verses in my bible, I might read a chapter.  I’ll find myself praying and inviting Him to direct my steps when decisions need to be made. When things go different than I planned, I look to Him to help me figure it out and I don’t get rattled as easily when I know He is in control.

When my need to appear like everything is perfect falls away, I get to be the “real” me.  My family and friends will see my flaws and I’m not afraid to admit that I can’t do it all.  I need God to help me every day and my day goes so much better when I start it with Him!

Kristin is the women’s ministry director for Grace Family Church.  She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby, and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them.  Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

by Leslee Stewart

I’m someone who loves shortcuts. Just ask my husband. He likes driving the main streets, while I love traveling through neighborhoods and back roads, especially if it means I might shave a minute or two off my arrival time.

And nothing is as great as shortcuts that make life at home a little easier. A friend of mine posted this list on her facebook page, and I immediately started using a few of them at home (personally, I love the apple/rubberband idea). Try a few for yourself, and see if you, too, can shave (or save) a little extra time from your daily routine.

25 Clever Ideas to Make Life Easier (source: Ange’s Web-Log)

1. Hull strawberries easily using a straw.
Clever ideas: hull strawberries with a straw

2. Rubbing a walnut over scratches in your furniture will disguise dings and scrapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Remove crayon masterpieces from your TV or computer screen with WD40 (also works on walls)

Clever ideas: WD40 for cleaning crayon off TV screens

4. Stop cut apples browning in your child’s lunch box by securing with a rubber band.

Clever ideas: keep a cut apple from going brown

5. Overhaul your linen cupboard – store bedlinen sets inside one of their own pillowcases and there will be no more hunting through piles for a match.

Clever ideas: store bedlinen sets inside their pillowcases

6. Pump up the volume by placing your iPhone / iPod in a bowl – the concave shape amplifies the music.

Clever ideas: bowl as iPhone sound amplifier

7. Re-use a wet-wipes container to store plastic bags.

Cleaver ideas: wet wipe dispenser as plastic bag storage

8. Add this item to your beach bag. Baby powder gets sand off your skin easily.

Clever ideas: baby powder to remove sand from feet

9. Attach a velcro strip to the wall to store soft toys.

Clever ideas: velcro strip on wall to hold soft toys

10. Look up! Use wire to make a space to store gift wrap rolls against the ceiling, rather than cluttering up the floor.

Clever ideas: gift wrap storage on cupboard ceiling

11. Gotcha! Find tiny lost items like earrings by putting a stocking over the vacuum hose.

Clever idea: stocking over vacuum to pick up lost items

12. Make an instant cupcake carrier by cutting crosses into a box lid.

Clever idea: box lid cupcake holder

13. For those who can’t stand the scrunching and bunching: how to perfectly fold a fitted sheet.

Clever idea: how to fold a fitted sheet

14. Forever losing your bathroom essentials? Use magnetic strips to store bobby pins (and tweezers and clippers) behind a vanity door.

Clever idea: magnetic bobbypin storage

15. A tip for packing. Store shoes inside shower caps to stop dirty soles rubbing on your clothes. And you can find them in just about every hotel!

Clever idea: use shower caps to hold shoes when packing

16. A muffin pan becomes a craft caddy. Magnets hold the plastic cups down to make them tip-resistant.

Clever idea: muffin pan craft storage

17. Bread tags make the perfect-sized cord labels.

Clever idea: bread tags as cable labels

18. Bake cupcakes directly in ice-cream cones – so much more fun and easier for kids to eat.

Clever idea: cook cupcakes in ice cream cones

19. Microwave your own popcorn in a plain brown paper bag. Much healthier and cheaper than the packet stuff.

Clever idea: microwave your own popcorn in a plain paper bag

20. Brilliant space-saver: install a tension rod to hang your spray bottles. Genius!

Clever idea: use a tension rod to hang spray bottles

21. Win friends at breakfast with this heart-shaped egg tutorial. Aww shucks!

Clever idea: how to make heart-shaped eggs

22. Turn your muffin pan upside down, bake cookie-dough over the top and voila – you have cookie bowls for fruit or ice-cream. Click here for recipe.

Clever idea: use upside-down muffic pan to make cookie bowls

23. Freeze Aloe Vera in ice-cube trays for soothing sunburn relief.

Clever idea: freeze aloe vera lotion for soothing burns

24. Gutter garden: Create a window-box veggie patch using guttering.

Clever idea: gutter veggie garden

25. Use egg cartons to separate and store your Christmas decorations.

Clever idea: egg cartons for Christmas ornament storage

 

All month long, we’re talking about ways to find order and balance in today’s busy world. As today’s story explains, true balance can only begin when you surrender your heart to God and allow him to order your steps.

by Kim Weizycki

I remember, when I was about 18, in the checkout line at Publix, and being asked by the checker if I was, “saved.” “Saved from what?” I asked. When she began to share the Gospel with me, I was offended. I was only buying groceries and certainly didn’t want to hear about what a sinner I was and how I needed “saving.”

Over the next many years my co-worker and very good friend, would frequently talk about her church, God, salvation, and how following God’s principles according to the Bible would be life changing for me—in many good ways. I didn’t really understand a lot of it, and we had many friendly debates over the topics she presented. I was living the way “everyone else” was living: cohabitation, in credit card debt, partying every weekend, flirtatious, harboring resentment, and putting myself and my wants first.

Years later I married my boyfriend and after a personal tragedy, we started pondering the idea of going to a church. We had been invited many times by a neighbor and since we had just started a family, and knew we wanted to raise our kids differently, we decided one weekend to go. At that first service, December 2, 2000, 10 years after being asked at Publix if I had been saved, I declared to God that I recognized I needed a Savior and acknowledged that his Son was, according to the scriptures, the only way.

From that day forward, I had a desire to learn more. My husband and I made a decision that attending church every week, NO EXCUSES, was priority. Almost immediately we signed up for small groups, I served in the nursery, and he auditioned for the worship team. We had a desire to surround ourselves with people from whom we could learn and be accountable. Through the weekly sermons and a commitment to weekly bible study, which included daily reading, we began to see our lives become more orderly: our opinions of “worldly living” changed when we saw the dangers and risks for what they were, we began living within our means, were more careful of our word choices, began prioritizing our marriage and family,  repented of dangerous habits and practices, began a practice of forgiving when we were offended or asking forgiveness when we offend, and started serving with our time and treasure.  Making a choice to live this way, as my friend told me years before, would be life changing—for the better.

So… what is salvation, or “being saved?”

Believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who lived a sinless human life and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all the people by dying on the cross. Believing that He rose from the dead after three days to demonstrate His power over sin and death. Believing that He ascended to Heaven and will return again someday to earth to reign as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-5, 14:10-30; Hebrews 4:14-15; I Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 1:3-4; Acts 1:9-11; I Timothy 6:14-15; Titus 2:13 Romans 10:13)

After reading my Bible and praying for God to show me who He is, (because I was doubtful), I believed in my heart that atonement for my sins was the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross. He paid the price for all of us. It is a gift. It can’t be earned. Just received.

I am so thankful for God never giving up on us and using others to lead us to a place of balance in our lives…a place where God is the center of it all.

Kim has been married to Larry Wiezycki for 16 years and they have two boys, ages 9 and 11. When Kim isn’t in church, she can be found teaching curly girls how to take care of their hair, spending way too much time on Facebook or reading real books, and running a 5k here and there.

It’s March and we’re in a spring cleaning mood here at A Beautiful Blog. All month long we’re featuring stories on how to have more order and balance in your life. Today’s post is from Leslee Stewart who has unlocked a new way to simplify dinnertime.

By Leslee Stewart

One of the questions I dread most each day is, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Many times I find myself unprepared for my family’s nighttime meal. The busyness of my day gets in the way and before I know it, it’s 6 p.m., the kids are hungry, my husband is hungry, I’m hungry and our options are cereal or sandwiches. Yuck.

I really like to cook, I just don’t like all the planning and list making that comes with it. But recently I discovered an online tool has revolutionized my meal planning – and my grocery bill. It’s called emeals.com.

Here’s how it works:

You tell emeals.com where you buy groceries (Publix, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, etc.), how many people are in your family (1-2 or 3-6), and what type of meals you prefer (classic, low-fat, low-carb, gluten free, portion controlled, etc.).

Every Wednesday, emeals.com publishes your weekly meal plan – seven meals plus sides – along with an itemized grocery list, including prices per item. The grocery list is organized by food type and lists the corresponding menu number it is to be used with. Total weekly food cost for a small family plan (1-2 people) is about $40-$60/week. Weekly food cost for a large family plan (3-6 people) is about $75-$90/week.

The meals come with easy-to-prepare instructions and are really delicious. My family has feasted on chicken piccata, pumpkin pancakes, beef stew, pulled pork and more. The portions are generous and we almost always have 1 or 2 servings left over. Each week’s menu usually includes one crock-pot meal, a “quick-fix” meal, and a Sunday dinner meal (like a roast you put in the oven in the morning before church and have ready when you return home). I’ve also found it easy to substitute menu items with some of my family’s favorite meals. If there’s something on the menu I don’t think my family will like, I simply cross it off the menu and then cross off the corresponding menu numbers on the grocery list.

The great thing about emeals.com is they do their best to plan meals based on your preferred grocery’s weekly sales. For example, we shop at Publix (who doesn’t love their weekly BOGO sales?!). My weekly meal plan and coordinating grocery list from emeals.com feature many of that week’s BOGO and sale items at Publix.

Emeals.com is a subscription-based service. I chose the Publix, Low-Fat Plan for a family of 3-6 people. For a 3-month subscription it cost $21, including tax. So for $7 a month, I’m getting someone else to do all my meal planning, grocery list making, and price checking.

I have been using emeals.com for about a month. Each week I’ve used the plan my grocery bill has declined. Before emeals.com, I was spending $150-$175/week in groceries. Now my bill averages about $120/week, including buying weekly staples like milk, bread, lunchmeat, juice and extra fruit and veggies. Plus if you add coupons, your savings could be even more each week.

Thanks to emeals.com, at my house, dinner is served.

Learn more at emeals.com.

Leslee Stewart oversees communications for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of Bohemian Rhapsody.