Tag Archives: Work

Balance: Free Yourself

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionHebrews 12:1 says, “Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, our leader.” TLB

I like this picture of running a well-paced race with nothing holding me down, all my training pushing me toward Jesus at the finish line.

However, so many days as I try to keep my eyes on Jesus, everything else crowds in and shoves him out of my vision. I end up struggling to just stay on my feet, let alone finish the race. So much slows me down.

In February I discovered an online Mom’s Night Out webinar each month held by Susan Seay. Please check it out if you’re a mom at any stage of life. She shares so much godly wisdom from her heart. As I listened to her teaching on spring-cleaning our hearts and homes, she said something that resonated with me.

“Clutter is the sign of a delayed decision.”

Hello! The reason I’ve struggled my entire life to establish good habits with my chores and routine and even my stuff. I care more about being with people and being comfortable than I do about making those little daily decisions to take care of seemingly insignificant tasks. That’s my excuse. Yours might be different.clutter free yourself hebrews 12 elizabeth cravillion

As the oldest in my family, I thought housekeeping would come easily for me. But I found I hated all the “mundane” household chores. And keeping things tidy has never been my strong suit. Last year we moved into a lovely rental home where we have a lot of redecorating and renovating liberty and my list of household projects began to accumulate.

So by this spring, I felt completely overwhelmed. My kitchen was always piled too high with dishes. Our home was always messy (beyond what the kids created). And I couldn’t stop thinking about all the jobs that needed to be done.

When I realized the heart of my struggle, something as simple as putting things off, I began to slowly change. For years I’d been saying, “It’ll do,” to a myriad of things, far beyond household chores, that clouded my mind. But living a mediocre life isn’t good enough. I want to be at peace! By taking two extra seconds to hang up the shirt instead of throwing it on the floor, and twenty extra minutes a day to do a dishwasher load, and making a list of projects to slowly chip away at, I began freeing myself of the negativity filling my brain.

Have you ever made a list of all the negative thoughts that plague you? What slows you down every day? What decisions are you delaying?

Maybe it’s stuff you need to release emotionally. Maybe it’s people you need to forgive. Maybe it’s circumstances you need to surrender.

See, by doing my dishes daily, my messy kitchen rarely even crosses my mind, even when there are stacks to scrub. To turn off that mental track stuck on repeat, decide to release that frustration to God. Seriously, let it go. Make the needed change.

One day I was whining to Nate about my stress over the dishes and he said, “Why don’t you just try doing the dishes once a day and see how it goes?” So I did. And it was amazing. And I’m never going back.

Just do it. This is about more than physical clutter. It will clear your heart. And maybe even your kitchen counter.

Balance: Not What I Think it Looks Like

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionA favorite blogger of mine, Lisa Jo Baker, has been doing a 10-day challenge with herself to get back into regular blogging. I’ve decided I’m going to do half of that and blog for 5 days in the next week to stretch my mental muscles and prove to myself I’m capable of thinking about more than potty training or dish washing.

My  3-month goal this January was to become more organized and to streamline my routines. By the end of March I was feeling empowered and confident. I decluttered our home and my mind. We were creating good family habits. For the first time in my marriage I was beginning to feel like I ruled my housework and my schedule, instead of vice versa.

Then I got really sick. And pregnant. Enter my season of waiting and healing. I thought it would last all summer, but by the time second trimester snuck up on me, suddenly it was only mid-summer and I had energy to spare.

(Physical energy, I should say. Do you have any idea how much mental stamina it takes to grow a baby while parenting two toddlers? I didn’t – ha! It’s no joke. The blank mind. The forget-why-I-came-in-the-room brain. The after the kids’ bedtime zone out time. The “Is it only 10 am? Can someone please fast forward this day to nap time or we may end up watching PBS for the next 3 hours” thoughts.)

Once upon a time I had an unbelievable drive to get things done. Senior year of college I took 15 credits a semester (including two Biblical language classes), I headed up my church Sunday school program, led a Bible study, worked 3 part-time jobs, dated Nate, planned and designed our DIY wedding, and mentored several students.

Granted, that was a little extreme, but that’s how most of my life has looked in varying degrees, with little burnout. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back – just to emphasize that God gave me this capacity to juggle many plates at one time and thrive doing it.

seek peace pursue it find balance elizabeth cravillionSo when he called me to a season of sickness and weakness when I got pregnant with Charles 4 years ago, I floundered like a fish out of water, but came to accept his leading. He has spent the last few years redefining for me what it means to be a Christ-follower in real life, and showing me that it can include times of quietness and inactivity. In essence, that I don’t have to act like Superwoman for him to love me – he treasures me just as I am.

I wonder if somewhere, sometime, I asked him to teach me balance, because in one word, that is how I would describe my entire married life. Over the past 8 months, I’ve been discovering some beautiful truths about balance. I’d love to share them with you in a short series. Because once upon a time I thought balance meant doing 50 things well. But it might not be. I know a little more of how multi-faceted it is and how refreshing a life spent pursuing peace can truly be.

Will you join me?

More Posts here:
Balance: Just Because I Can
Balance: Free Yourself
Balance: Looking Beyond Today
Balance: Recognizing Your Season


The Strength in God’s Truth

Lately I’ve felt like I’m facing mountains. In my job. In motherhood. In ministry. In college we had this saying, “The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” But what about the days that you take one step forward, two steps back? Stuff keeps building and becomes overwhelming.

Recently in church God reminded me of a huge project in the Old Testament that seemed impossible to the people working on it.

After years of watching them worship false gods, God allowed his people to be conquered and exiled to Babylon. Eventually, their captors allowed them to return to their land, but when they got there, they found destruction and desolation. Most importantly, the city walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the temple of God was completely destroyed.

Zerubbabel (Zer-oob-baw-BEL) was one of the main leaders in charge of rebuilding the temple. It was a huge pile of rubble that needed to be rebuilt, brick by brick. You can read the story in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

temple ruins jerusalem zerubbabel god's wordThe job overwhelmed the people. Rebuilding the once-beautiful temple wasn’t an easy task. Then on top of that challenge, some of their enemies started demoralizing them. They wrecked havoc and the Jews eventually gave up the work.

With a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building. So the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia. Ezra 4:23-24

Then, Ezra records,

“At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.”

So check out how God’s word fits together. If we take a break from the historical book of Ezra and head over to the books of prophecy, Haggai and Zechariah, we can read behind the scenes. What did these prophets have to say?

Among other things, Zechariah said this:

“This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”
Zechariah 4:6-7

Immediately after the prophets relayed God’s message to Zerubbabel, the people began building again. God’s truth empowered them to keep going even when their job seemed impossible.

The truth is that God gives us the strength to do what he calls us to do. There’s a popular religious saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Catchy, but unfortunately not Biblical.

Over and over again in the Bible we read about people who couldn’t face their enemies on their own. The job was too big. The enemy too strong. God lets us get into these places to give us the chance to turn to him for help.

We often face more than we can handle. So we cry out to God. And God says,

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:27

Like Zechariah told Zerubbabel, it’s not by our force or strength, but by the power of God’s Spirit that the work gets done. Even those mountains that seem impossible to climb. God blesses us when we depend on him.

Softening Hardened Hearts {31 Days}

I started cleaning houses when I was 16, mostly for elderly people. Today my story is about the grumpiest person I’ve ever known, and the most endearing.

Ruth lived in a little house that had stepped straight out of 1970. It had barely aged a day, probably because it never saw the sunlight, tucked behind heavy dark drapes.

Her wizened body was stooped from osteoporosis. She hobbled around her house, determined to do everything possible herself. She had reached her limit though when it came to things like vacuuming and changing her bed sheets, so she reluctantly decided to hire a housekeeper.

I can’t tell you how many times she told me how much she hated people. She complained every time she opened her mouth. Nothing was good enough. Everyone was conspiring against everything. Every week she’d tell me such grouchy stories that when I left her house I’d sit in my car busting a gut laughing.

“Once we had an infestation of pigeons in the neighborhood. One of the guys would go shoot them when they roosted in his garage. It was against the law but none of us turned him in because we hated the pigeons so much.”

But for some reason, Ruth loved me. I became the only person in her life that could do anything right. I helped her with her housework and let her do what she could on her own. It took us about half an hour to change her sheets together. I used to share devotionals that I wrote with her and tell her little things about God. I believe the light of Christ in me attracted her.

I cleaned for her about 4 years before she passed away. She told me once, “I hate people, but I like you.” She recommended me to several friends, including her wonderful, darling neighbors. Little positive comments started coming out of her mouth more as we worked together.

To me, Ruth’s softening proves that God’s word and Jesus’ love really can change hearts. I don’t know that Ruth ever trusted Christ, but I’m thankful God gave me the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to her in a small way.

Strength in God’s Comfort {31 Days}

When I was 11, my mom had twin boys. She had prayed for them, and God answered, “Yes.” Those twins are number 6 and 7 in our family of 9 kids where I’m the oldest. They just moved away from home this year for school. Of all my siblings, these two are the first to give me that “I’m getting old” feeling.

That’s because when the twins were born, and in the next couple of years, I grew up.

My mom homeschooled us and she always ran a ship-shape schedule. I love to get things accomplished. I love to learn. I love predictability. And comfort. Probably all from Mom.

Peter and John rocked that peaceful world. Routine vanished. Education fell to the wayside of feeding screaming babies and Mom and Dad keeping their own sanity. And I freaked a little bit. My brother Dave was in seventh heaven – no school! But for some unexplainable reason I needed to get back to school so I picked up my books and started teaching myself.

Just hanging out with the babies and reading. A normal sight.

Just hanging out with the babies and reading. A normal sight.

I started pitching in with more housework. Helping do more laundry – particularly cloth diapers…loads and loads of them. Dave and I both changed diapers for the first time and got paid a dime for a wet one, a quarter for a stinky one (guess who made more money?). At New Years Eve when Mom was too sick with the flu to make our annual gingerbread cookies, I dug out the cookbook and made them myself. I don’t think we decorated many, but I couldn’t’ let the tradition go.

Fast forward two years and Mom was expecting another baby. The twins were almost two. Mom was tired a lot (no duh!) and a lot more chores fell to me.

After long summer days that finished with me corralling the twins and giving them baths (no easy task!), I would go upstairs and write letters or write in my diary and cry my eyes out. I missed my friends and felt frustrated that so much was expected of me.

But that summer God drew near to me in the most precious way. He spoke to me through Matthew 11:28-29,

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.

God comforted me every night, “I’m with you. I’ll give you rest. You’re not alone. I see you. I love you. Thank you for serving me.”

I didn’t recognize it then, but God was laying foundation in my heart for a life of following him. He proved to me that he was real and that he loved me, strengthening me.

I love my brothers. I don’t think now that Mom was unfair. Sometimes life is just hard. But God is near to the heavy-hearted and the weary. So glad he was near to me.

Working Long Summer Days Away {31 Days}

It’s strange how things you despised as a child you miss as an adult.

Farm kids celebrating the last day of school - the being of summer "workation" as we used to call it

Farm kids celebrating the last day of school – the being of summer “workation” as we used to call it

Growing up on a farm was no picnic. We moved from Florida to Kansas when I was 8 years old. We’d only been on the farm a year when my dad started investing in livestock. My brother Dave and I went from city slickers to farm hands pretty darn fast. Collecting eggs, bottle-feeding calves and piglets, butchering beef, feeding goats and more. We sold a pig we raised and split the money to start our first savings accounts. $53.13 each.

And then the garden. One summer we canned 200 quarts of green beans and brought more to the farmer’s market in town. My mom used to say that even if the garden didn’t produce anything, she’d still have it just to teach us to work.

But we hated the work as kids. We’d wake up Saturday mornings hoping against hope that just this once, Dad wouldn’t say, “Great! No school today means you can help ME with some chores!” Splitting wood, and throwing it in the bin was one of our least favorites. We used to bale hay and toss the square bales on the trailer and then stack them in the barn. I did benefit from those chores in the short run – I could beat every boy in the homeschool group at arm wrestling.

But in the long run, I consider myself so blessed that my parents taught me to work. Some days they probably felt like they quoted Scripture verses about work to us until they were blue in the face. Probably the most effective was 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” If you want the benefits that come from hard work – for example, food – you work for it.

And now I honestly miss that back-breaking work (Except chasing cows. That you can keep.). I miss hours of mulching the garden with my siblings. I miss mowing for hours. I miss my stomach growling after 6 hours driving the tractor that only a good meal with sweet iced tea could satisfy.

Knowing that God gave us hard work to do blesses it in a way. Like he gave Adam and Eve the job of caring for the Garden of Eden, it’s our responsibility to work and to take care of our own garden plot, so to speak.

What are some of your memories of working as a kid?