Keeping a Record of Rights

20 May

The hardest part of homeschooling (or–schooling at home): learning how to live and work together well.  Anyone who knows me in real life can testify that I am not patient at all, about anything.  Secondly, it’s hard for me to breathe with my house this messy.  Both of those things continually rage against me, as we’re living in here together, perpetually, with no breaks.  

But impatience and filth are not my biggest challenge.  The solitary thing that puts me on my back at the end of any given day is the endless chastisement, re-directions, reminders, and corrective training.  Over time it builds up.  It feels like my words are all negative, all the time.  It absolutely takes its toll on the children; and before long, it feels like I am the one who is actually failing at everything.    

I have felt desperate, thinking, “Oh my GOSH!  I never see any good in them!”

Love keeps no record of wrongs, and this seems like a paradox for parents raising wayward children.  For years, I’ve earnestly prayed for the gift of encouragement, especially within my own family, which should be automatic, considering how much I love these people!

We know what we want it to be, but neither they nor we can keep it together long enough to rise out of the cycle of negativity.  It can feel we are stuck in the same place day after day.

My family has found a simple but concise practice to counteract some of the negative, critical talk that inevitably permeates our daily speech. 

As much as possible, I try to keep a running “record of rights.” 

I jot down anything good I have observed from each child over the past day or days: their kind words spoken, their helpful actions, loving gestures, and taking initiative.  I look for instances they produced any of the fruits of the Spirit!  I try to record as many occurrences I can think of, and God brings many to mind. 

Some days I just have one for each person.  If it has been a while, I think back over the past week or so, and I record five or six per person.  At the end of the day, usually at the dinner table, my husband or I read the list aloud.  Every child receives a round of applause and a decent dose of positive affirmation. 

They are tremendously pleased to be acknowledged and thanked for the good things they have done. 

What an aroma of grace over our family!  For one thing, it verifies that I am, in fact, encouraging and seeing the good in my kids.  And it warms my heart toward them when it’s beginning to grow cold.  It infuses reassurance, approval, and praise into each of our relationships. 

Kids adore the recognition.  Because they know there’s potential for commendation, this is also a great way to foster in them a habit of thinking, “Have I done something good for someone else today?”  (Then again, they should do it whether anyone notices or not.  Different lesson.)

Encouragement is a gift of the spirit and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is within reach. This builds a framework for just how to intentionally and quantifiably give this gift. 

Try it out!  The fruit of this will multiply in your home and out your front door as everyone in the family has their spirits lifted—they will be filled enough to potentially fill others.  It models and demonstrates the art of encouragement in just a few minutes per week.  It will brighten the spirit in your home…and, you can lay your head on your pillow at night knowing that not everything you say to them is negative or critical!

We are all doing our best!!  Stay safe, and continue your pursuit of spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional wellness!

Let’s keep track of everything good,

The Other Guys. Best movie ever.

5 Creative Systems To Awesomize your Family Life

30 Apr

Peek behind the curtain: even though I have 5 kids I don’t absolutely love my life like this. 

I have become known “Leigh-with-five-kids.”  This was especially true when we were living in England.  Let me tell you, it’s not the exact identity I had in mind for myself!  When I wake up in the morning, I find myself just as astounded as everyone else that we had 5 kids!!  I gotta dig DEEP before I can move through yet another day with all of them.  I do love them (but not all of them all at the same time).  There is always one or two hindering my tranquility at any given moment. 

The days are hard, but not impossible.  In order to minimize the impact, we have been forced to develop a few coping mechanisms.  I mean, systems.  I probably have hundreds of systems at this point…and they really do improve daily life.  

Even if you don’t have a large family, these quick-fixes might help streamline your hectic life also.

I *was* going to start with the classic trash-bag-as-food-storage hack.  But I changed my mind.  This one is probably a stretch for outsiders, not relatable at all, or makes the impression that I am a maniac.  In my defense: have you ever made a salad so big that it outgrew every bowl you own, and won’t even fit in your upside down Rubbermaid cake keeper?  A-ha!  Thank you, 13-gallon trash bag, you are the unsung hero of the large family!  They have so many uses–I always travel with 2 or 3 of them.  Below you will behold the greatest feat it has ever accomplished:

Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad has never looked more appealing. 

Yes, I have served them dinner out of a trash bag.  Anyone?  Just Me?  I am not saying show up to the company potluck with a trashbag-salad slung over your shoulder…but come on.  This does do in a pinch. 

If you are still reading…perhaps the next five things will be more realistic to put into play.


When we travel, these are an absolute must.  They keep me from breaking out into impulsive violence while we are trying to enjoy our mandatory vacation.  Nothing makes you regret having 40% more kids than all your friends, then by spending a week in a small room bestrewn with 7 people’s laundry.

Amazon Basics Packing Cubes


Enter packing cubes.  Each person gets one for the entirety of the trip.  They contain ½ week of clothing.  The cube contains 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, 4 socks/undies, 1 sweatshirt and PJs.  They will be wearing another entire outfit.  I shove the packing cube inside a regular backpack, and everyone effortlessly carries their own crap.  We do laundry once or twice while on the trip.  It is so simple.  It also keeps our accommodations very tidy.

I pack like this for short and long trips.  I even packed in cubes for our 2-month PCS from Hawaii to England!  The seven of us moved abroad with just two and a half suitcases!  These things streamline everything and minimize loss.  It also minimizes laundry, because it forces us to wear things twice (or 3x) whenever possible.  You know, most kids want to wear the same three things over and over anyway.

For a 5-day trip to Paris, I packed all of this for 6 people…

stuffed into these four backpacks


When you have a family of seven, the laundry is utterly bananas.  I don’t need to paint the picture. 

Actually, I will:

Do you remember that trash monster, in Fraggle Rock…it lived above the Fraggles’ underground construction site?  Yeah.  Think of that.  Our trash monster is loaded with all sorts of fearsome finds.  It is like an active trauma scene: still-steaming workout clothes, dripping-wet bath towels, trousers covered in english manure-mud…and it’s peppered by seven people’s worth of soiled underpants.  You know its bad when my own hallowed clothing has actually been stained by the laundry pile itself!!!!!  I think you get the picture.  Don’t be jealous.

I spend a lot of time with this…pile.  And don’t forget the amount of time it takes to sort it once it’s clean.  But I learned a little secret from Heidi St. John:

Quit folding

I know what you are thinking.  I would have never even CONSIDERED the thought of not folding my laundry either.  I would have thought it would only increase our chaos.  But then I remembered:

No one keeps the clothes folded.  It’s all scrambled up once it hits their dressers.  True confession: I don’t keep mine folded either.  Whether it’s balled up in a drawer or hanging in my closet, I end up ironing almost everything anyway.  

I am never folding again, and neither are you.  As the clean clothing emerges, you just effortlessly stuff it into the person’s basket.  Done.  Folding laundry: an inconsequential, futile, unproductive, fruitless use of time.  I lost hours of my life folding for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Note: I do fold our socks, my type-A hubby’s clothing for him, as well as the linens. 

I do fold my linens and my husband’s stuff–because I love him. ❤


When first lived in Hawaii, I blissfully invested in lush, beautiful, fluffy beach towels.  The instant I laid out them out, they were wet, salty, and embedded with flour-consistency sand.  And heavy.  They never really dried, and the sand never shook completely out.  I quickly realized that the crappiest towels make the best beach towels because they dry so fast and are easy to clean. 

The same thing applies to the kids’ bath towels.  When the towels are cheap and chintzy, who could care that they were used to sop up mess of an overflowed toilet, to clean up nail polish spills, or wipe off rugby cleats?  Save the plush towels for yourself and guests, and equip your kids with the thinnest, cheapest, lamest towels that money can buy…even better if you can get them for free!  Think one step up from paper towels.  They dry fast even when they are balled up on the floor, and they’re easier to maintain overall.

Next time you see an ad selling towels in the dollar store, and you think to yourself, “who is buying their towels at the dollar store?” The answer is you.  You are.  

Downside: the kids constantly go after the nice guest towels; they must be guarded with my life, and that’s another challenge altogether.

If you simply can not bring yourself to buy crappy towels, but you want the benefits of light weight and quick dry time, then you can invest in Turkish towels…which have the same exact benefits of the chea-pass towels, but at a much higher price point.  Wowsers, they are so much cuter too, and can be used as a beach wrap to boot. 

the posh version of “threadbare towels” are called Turkish towels, and they are great–but no need to waste your money on them for the kids. (But these are a wonderful gift idea!!)


Assign your kids the chores that YOU despise doing.  Those are their burdens now.  Stop giving them the jobs you can do with your eyes closed. 

Some household tasks just seem to happen, and I accomplish those mindlessly.  For instance, laundry.  I am OCD about my trash monster, so no one can come near it.  Loading/unloading the dishwasher just happens for me.  Also, I effortlessly do quite a bit of vacuuming, probably because of the enchanting and glorious white noise that obscures my surroundings. 

I don’t make them do anything that I automatically seem to do. 

However, I happily burden the kids with every bit of grunt work.  The worst jobs of all.  The stuff I never get around to.  I’m talking baseboards, cleaning out from under beds (even mine), mopping, vacuuming stairs, tidying the front and back stoops…this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Insider secrets:

  1. Have them clean your laundry room.  This is the best kid chore of all.  Nothing is more refreshing than walking into a sparkling clean utility room…after all, I spend a great deal of time in there not-folding the kids’ clothes. 
  2. Skip the mop bucket altogether.  Make them wash the floors Cinderella-style, with Windex and paper towels.  This is the most efficient method.  Sloppy mops and buckets just create so much more work and mess, IMO.  It is so fast, and much easier for the kids to do without too much of your oversight.

 You can create your own set of housekeepers–they are guaranteed to get it right!  

Now, just how you get your kids to do these jobs well is another article altogether.


One of the chief complaints of most parents is the total lack of privacy.  I have great news.  Kids after a certain age do NOT bother you if there is any risk whatsoever of seeing you naked.  On the contrary, they actually run for their lives. 

All you have to do is shout, “I’M NAKED” and you have bought yourself 20 minutes of privacy, minimum

This amazing parenting hack does not start working until the children are age six or seven, however.  So, in our case, 40% are still not phased by parental nudity in the least.  I guess we have another three years or so before we are entirely home free. 

If you have a 5-year-old, try shouting this at them, just to test the water and see where they are at.  Your 5-year-old may have early-onset nudaphobia, and you are golden. 🙂


There you have it.  All these little systems have been wonderful breakthroughs for us!  Don’t parent for 14 years before you adopt some of these.  All of this is free chicken for everyone!!  We are all in this together.  Anyone else have any must-share parenting hacks to save you time, eliminate hassle, or buy you some privacy?  Don’t hold out on us!




When God’s Sovereignty Feels Mean

21 Apr

A friend of mine recently asked me to be a guest speaker for her Bible study group.  They’re in a series on the attributes of God, and my assigned attribute was sovereignty.  Since I was in the middle of an international move, I shot her a text on the fly, “yeah NP.”

Later, I took some time to think it through and I realized—oh DANG.  The entire concept of the sovereignty of God is… touchy.  I don’t think my friend realized the cosmic irony for ME to be talking about sovereignty, because I have been been stalled out on “God! You have no idea what you’re doing!” for quite a while.

Sovereignty.  God is the ruler of the Universe, and is free to do whatever he wants. He is in complete control over everything that happens here on Earth. God’s will is the final cause of all things.

Hmph.  Well, that kind of divine sovereignty feels fantastic when paired with all the good stuff.  Health, wealth, success, comfort.  Of course He loves to make all that happen for us!  God’s sovereignty is easy to receive, very comforting, and preaches real well off of this podium.

But what about the bad stuff?  Where is He in all of that?

Some of us have been through some things.  You know what I am talking about.  Those things live just under the surface of our paper-thin facade, and the associated pain drips continually through our veins.  And when you hold the bad things up next to the concept that God is sovereign over everything, it makes you want to back away from Him very, very slowly.

It’s painful to accept the sovereignty of God when you despise what has gone on in your life.  It hurts.  It feels like He has been disloyal to you and indifferent about your joy.  Worse, it seems He is disinterested in the health of your heart and mind.

A couple of years ago, I was hurt—deeply.  Not in my marriage, and it wasn’t disease or the death of a loved one.  Honestly though, it stood fourth in line behind those three.  We can call it a house of cards that came tumbling down.  At first, it was easy to point fingers at exact people who caused this.  But over time, my anger grew, the pain ballooned, and slowly the wires got crossed.  I started pointing my finger right past the culprits.  I pointed it straight through…to God.

My flow of thoughts went:

They didn’t cause this…God caused this…because He could have prevented it and didn’t…He actually wanted this to happen…sovereignty is cruel.

When this whole thing went down in my life, I just could not reconcile it with the continual thought, “Why would God want this to happen?!!”

I essentially kept telling God, “This is not loving of you.”  Then He essentially told me, “You’re right.  And the BAD THING…that was not me.”  But I got stuck there.

The domino effects of my calamity caused my pain to grow exponentially over the course of the subsequent years.  So many dominoes kept falling, to the point that I actually told God that I thought He was mean, and I didn’t even like His earth.  Yeah.  I said that.  To God.**  


I stood behind the 1,000-year-old church behind my house in England, and I told Him that He was mean. **

I think the Lord allows us just to feel our feelings.  Throughout our lives, our humanity and our spirituality clash.  They will continue to clash until completeness comes.  Even though I said those horrible things to God, He mercifully stayed nearby. After I felt everything…a lot…I became quieter and less distracted.  Then, I did hear something:

You don’t feel peace with sovereignty because you don’t have the right view of sin.  You don’t perceive sin properly.  You don’t cower to its magnitude, its enormity, or its capacity.  Until you have the right view of SIN, you will not feel safe with the Lord’s SOVEREIGNTY.

We cannot reasonably categorize all the bad that has happened without having the right view of sin.  Sin absolutely trashed the world.  All these bad things going on were not His plan.  His plan was perfection, paradise, health, longevity, serenity, love, fellowship, communion.

None of this…none of the atrocities that have happened to me or you or anyone throughout human history should have happened. 

Most importantly, God did not “want” this to happen.
But He can do something with it.

He isn’t sitting up there happy this happened so He can pay you back for the bad things you’ve done, or to give an angel the wings it earned, or to remind you continually that you deserve it and it could always be worse.  No.  The world He created had none of this.  God did not want these bad things to happen, and He certainly did not cause them to happen—because He is only Love.  

Yes, He allows it, because he doesn’t change the nature of sin’s impact.  And He isn’t going to crack open the world every time some effect of sin is about to touch our lives.  None of us get out of these dreadful effects…not even the Messiah himself. Let’s not forget that He was the victim of the worst sin ever to be committed in human history.  We humans obliterated him.  The Messiah came to instruct us how to love one another and live our best life…and we tore Him to pieces.

Jesus knew it was coming.  Still, he double-checked with the Father by essentially asking God whether or not He knew what He was doing!  So it’s okay to ask.  It’s okay to hate your circumstances.  It’s okay to grieve and writhe, and question. But it’s not okay to blame God for the sweeping consequences of sin.  It is not God’s fault that we chronically forget the actual source of all pain, and that none of us under the sun, not even Christ Himself, get a free pass. 

Actually: Yes we do!!  We all get a free pass!! He did crack the world open!  He reached in.  He began the restoration of humanity through the first cosmic domino, a complete undoing of sin’s permanence: the resurrection of Christ and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 

That’s sovereignty. 

Sovereignty is when despite our best efforts as humanity to kill His Messiah, we could not undo His plan of healing, resurrection, and restoration.

Just as God resurrected Christ and restored him, He will, in his timing, restore the dead places in your life both now and in the world to come.  

This restoration is where the notion of His sovereignty feels safe, loving, and healing.


It is in the nature of God to bring restoration to us, at all costs.
Good will overcome, He will see to that.  


Out of the awful, non sensical, outrageously unfair crap that happens, he brings restoration to our heart, mind, and soul.  That’s sovereignty OVER the bad things.  We must be watchful for how He resurrects that bit of death in our lives.  In a lot of ways, this is a matter of humility.  Are we willing to wait for it, see it, and accept it?  It requires willingness to let go of the bad thing, place it in His hands, and allow Him to convert it into something good. 

I am guilty of saying I don’t want to be used as a testimony of His goodness…I don’t want this sad thing to be part of my story, even if it brings good at some point.  I only want the atrocity to never have happened, for the pain to go away, and for the bad stuff to come untrue.    Actually, I get to have that too, on the other side.  This is the opposite of mean.

I am starting to see some good things.




**Testimonial: I guess I was expecting some kind of catharsis; or that I was going to feel so relieved to get that all off my chest.  Unfortunately, this kind of rage had no escape and only continued burning and festering.  It went nowhere.  So, yelling at God does not, in fact, release the steam valve.  If anything, it was more exasperating to be on the other side of that outburst and feel no reprieve whatsoever.

%d bloggers like this: