In the past, unfortunately life looked like this: last minute dinners, shopping with no list, ignored laundry, bathroom floor neglected for weeks, Bible unread for days, car low on petrol and sporadically living pay to pay.
I was busy, but in amongst all of this, I was lazy with my home duties. Ecclesiastes 10:18 states; "Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks."
Perhaps my house was leaking
Do these comments about me, ring any bells with mums who are reading this? This was my story constantly until I had finally had enough. I liked being organised, I liked a clean home, I liked the feeling of being "on top of things", but I never seemed to be able to consistently reach my own goals. Instead, I felt like life was somewhat chaotic. Over the past few years I've been taking some practical steps to bring it back under control.
While working in a bank for five years I watched people waste their money, unaware of what was in their account and what was coming in and going out. Their battle was always trying to find more money to cover the waste, sometimes having to deny themselves their basic needs. I realised that I was allowing my money and my wants to control me. Doing my first budget was alarming.
Somehow my credits weren't matching up with my debits. So I thought, "How can I make more money?" Then I realised the alterations required a new question: "How can I reduce my debts?" This seemed to be the winning question.
As a sole parent, who enjoyed a social life and some delicacies, I had to analyse where my money was being directed. I managed to work it out and aimed to first get rid of my credit card and reduce my car loan debt.
It seemed that suddenly I had a finely-oiled machine of finances, and about eight bank accounts to manage the machine I had created. This has been working splendidly for a number of years now. I am never surprised when a bill comes in - the money is usually there, in its designated account, ready.
I also got rid of the controlling factors like direct debits. These can seriously injure you! I cancelled most of my direct debits and saved up to pay bills off in one hit, or set up weekly transfers in smaller, bite-sized chunks. Now I am in charge! This doesn't mean I don't have those little shopping spree accidents, like moments of emotional spending or treating my 10-year-old to some things in life that he enjoys, because I do. I just know now that I have to cut corners elsewhere to make up for it.
The home has been more of a project. Years of collecting items and furniture, storing and archiving had begun to build up without my knowledge, which eventuated in me feeling surrounded by administration. Piles of paper without a home, boxes with old broken toys, cd's, tapes, videos, interesting items my son had brought home and an abundance of books from when I was young...
Then there were the clothes. Yes, I like clothes, however I don't often buy many new items. I seem to be the person everyone 'hands me down' to... I like that, it keeps my clothing budget down. However, with every new garbage bag dropped at my door, I never seemed to throw out the older items to make room for the new. So, hence the jungle of clothes.
This brings me to my current project- developing a new wardrobe. Today I have been excitedly running around measuring, sorting what needs to be hung or folded, and seeing where I can find a cheap wardrobe system for a bare wall. One storage world company seems to have come to my rescue, and soon my room will be more inviting for a very reasonable price.
I used to be very good at writing the essentials on the shopping list, and then totally blowing out the budget by the time I reached the checkout. Sometimes I would do a drop-in to the local store on the way home from work and grab a handful of items hoping they would constitute a meal.
Recently my sister (who lives in another state) and I have supported one another through the process of menu planning. This has revolutionised our lives. Not only are we eating more healthily, but also the cost of the weekly shopping has decreased and there is more time in the evening to spend with the family.
We have searched the Internet trying to find websites that have a menu plan for seven days or more and also have an option to print out the grocery list from that. There are a few, but not many. We have decided time will have to be put aside for the menu planning.
The life challenge
I have associated some of these issues with the way I sometimes conduct my spiritual walk with God. I keep getting new information, new wisdom, a better understanding, a closer relationship with God, but sometimes I forget to throw out the old ways or the old habits to make room for the new ones. Budgeting helps me become wiser with what God has entrusted to me in the way of finances.
My organisation for reading God's Word (The Bible) sometimes was all too overwhelming, and so I just read a small verse, throwing a prayer to God in the process.... something like, "God please help me to remember that today, amen." This does not make for an enriching process, nor a meaningful exchange between God and His Child (me!).
Most mornings I now try to rise at 6am, grab that morning coffee and sit down with my Bible while there is silence in the house. The air is crisp, everything feels fresh and I am listening to what my creator might be trying to say to me.
The Proverbs 31 woman (verses 15-18):
"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night."
Sometimes I get frustrated at this somewhat model perfect woman in Proverbs. If I had some servant girls, my workload would be a lot less. Life was slightly less corporate in Biblical times however, but I've realised that there are still plenty of adjustments I can make in my own life in order to become more of a Proverbs woman.
Even though this woman might seem frustrating at times, I like that this is an encouraging guide for being organised, wise, humble and sensible with decisions concerning the home and family. She is another example of the pure, righteous life that God desires for us and that we should always be aspiring to - even if it's sometimes difficult in the modern world, we are called to set ourselves apart!