A Word from the Lord
About a year and a half ago, the Lord gave me a word: Deliberate.
Little did I realize how much this word then would change my life.
At the time, I was working nearly full-time off the farm for an international shipping company (think brown). While I loved my work, I was quite burnt out and longed to play a more active role on our farm. I grew up on a small dairy and missed being outside and getting dirty. I truly felt God had called me to be a full-time farm wife, but that is not where I was at.
As God would have it, I was able to leave my corporate job when my mother in law fell ill due to chronic hereditary disease. She would have to undergo dialysis treatments 3 days a week, and she was no longer able to maintain the bookkeeping for the farm (she is doing much better now).
At first, it was great- I was so excited to be home with my kids and husband and be able to help. The first several months of my switch I was quite busy getting things back on track with the bookkeeping, as some of it had gotten behind due to my mother-in-law’s deteriorating condition. After harvest things slowed down on the farm, but then that “deliberate” word crept in again.
I am also an artist, and in November of last year, I felt the Lord to nudge me to become very deliberate with my art business. I had always felt that God wired me to run a business, whether it was the farm, a horse business (I trained horses for many years), or with my art. As He would have it, its been all 3 over time. I had hoped that my art could be supplemental income for our family, while doing something that I loved. I feel that God’s goodness is most readily seen in the beauty of farm/ranch life, and I love to capture that and share it with others. But I didn’t have a decent space to create. So, I set to work putting together an in-home studio/office.
I worked all winter and spring in my new space creating art. But by this summer, I had hit a brick wall. Somehow, I was living the life that I always wanted, but I was completely miserable. How on earth did that happen? I had fallen into a bad bout of depression. While I continued to help on the farm, I was not creating any art. I was feeling very disconnected and overwhelmed.
It took some time, a lot of prayers, and “soul searching” to figure out what was going on. That’s when that word crept in again- deliberate. I realized that the reason that I was burnt out doing what I loved was that, for the rest of my life, I was not being deliberate- I was just trying to stay afloat.
For one, I had too many things demanding my attention and not enough time. (Don’t we all??) I had too many “must-do” things in my life that were taking up my precious time and energy from the things I “want to” do. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one to shirk off my responsibilities. Quite the opposite-I am actually maybe too responsible, and can often get bogged down in the “important stuff” and not take enough time for the fun stuff. I think most farm/ranch wives are the same- the work comes first and play comes second. I needed to figure out how to create balance. Ways to manage the things I NEED to do while leaving time for the things I WANT to do.
The first step was to take a look at things in my life that I wanted to be doing. Those things that get put off until tomorrow because there are too many demands for today- Household repairs that can wait, visiting family members that are in nursing homes or just far away, writing letters or notes of encouragement, taking impromptu trips to the park with my kids, and the list goes on. With those things in mind, I began to get a visual of the person that I wanted to become, and that I felt God leading me to become.
After much prayer about how to go about it, here are some things I did to get things on track:
Prioritize: I needed to make a list of things that were important to me to get done. Growing spiritually, farm work, having the money to do the things we would like to do or buy, having time to actually enjoy my kids (instead of just play referee), having time to create art, cooking healthy meals, keeping up with housework, etc. That list gave me a starting point to break down those goals into smaller goals, that I can break down into daily achievable steps. Small steps add up. As the old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Plan to Plan-This may sound silly, but I take a day a week (usually Sunday) to work out everything I have to do for the week. (I use a day planner, but that is totally up to you.) If you are like me, I would buy a planner but never stuck with using it. I finally figured out that it was because I hadn’t found the right style planner. I recently switched to block scheduling and LOVE it! (You homeschool moms know what I am talking about!) I also make my own, so it’s totally customized to my lifestyle, and I made it cute, so it’s fun to use.
Budget: I get it, it’s HARD. When I left my corporate job, my income got cut by more than half. That made me realize that we had acquired some really bad spending habits. Budgeting, especially with a farm/ranch operation, is very hard. Unexpected expenses come up ALL THE TIME. Equipment breakdowns, water lines freeze, natural disasters, you name it. Those are simply unavoidable. But the house hold budget can usually be fairly predictable. Make decisions on how much you want to spend in certain areas and stick to it. This may force you to be creatively frugal, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Schedule Cleaning: One of my goals was to have my house maintained most of the time. I sometimes have art clients stop by our home and I wanted to make sure it was fairly orderly. So, I put together a schedule. I have some things I do daily; laundry, dishes, and making the bed.
Then, I break out the other things I need to do into daily things. I try to group them so I work in the same room, or use the same cleaning tools in one day. For example, the kitchen floor and bathroom floors get cleaned on the same day because I already know I will have the mop out. This makes it easy to decide what needs to be done each day and uses up less brainpower than worrying about what I should be doing. It also keeps me from taking a day a week to binge clean, instead of spending time with my kids. (Oh, and the kids get cleaning chores too!)
Meal Plan: Yes, I said it. Let me be honest. I really dislike meal planning. But the benefits outweigh my distaste for it, so I did it. There are lots of options for meal planning too- weekly email blogs, Pinterest ideas, etc. I have found that sometimes I have to just say ‘ok this is what we are doing this week’ and go with it.
I meal plan as much as I can from what I already have on hand (we raise our own beef, often get chicken from my mom, and occasionally raise a hog for butcher, and have a large family garden), so most of the time I can put whole meals together without needing to go to the store at all, or only buying the absolute bare minimum. While we are only 10 min from town, this is is especially helpful of you live a long way from the store and only go shipping once a month or so. (I am sure you ladies are pros at meal planning!)
No major meal decision making for the rest of the week. Whew. I do allow some flexibility in my meal plans and often do “plan overs” to use up extra ingredients. I also pre-prep when I have spare time which helps later in the week when it’s time to make that meal. This also helps me stay on budget.
Declutter: I have found that physical clutter is mental clutter for me, some things just had to go. I got the kids involved and they have learned to make good decisions on what things to keep, toss, and donate. (What a great skill for them to learn now!)
It’s amazing how much better you feel when your life has less physical clutter. Then we can make sure the things we WANTED to keep had a place and they were easy to get to. No more searching for lost shoes and favorite toys!
Fill In: With this basic framework in place, I now fill in all the other stuff I have or want to do for the week, whether that is farm work, art work, errands, appointments, church or prayer/Bible reading time, or kid’s activities. Remember that list of priorities? Now is the time to go back to it. Look at what things you do not already have on schedule and break them down into steps and fill in.
Give Yourself Grace: We are not perfect, only our heavenly Father is! Keep that in mind when you are bogged down and overwhelmed. There will be days where you don’t get your to-do list done. THAT’S OK! Sometimes the “lesser work” just has to get put off until another day. I still have to binge clean when I have had a really full week.
Get Help: I know for some of you that’s easier said than done. My sister in laws and I lean on each other pretty heavily at times to juggle kids and things we need to get done. I know not everyone has that, and even if they do, sometimes it is still hard to stay motivated. Here are a few other things that I have found to be helpful to keep my stress level down and stay focused:
These few tips are helping me get to where I want to go, and I hope they help you too. Once you have solid routines in place, stick to them until they become habit! Once they become habit, you think about them less, and they become less stressful.
About our Guest Blogger, Amanda:
Amanda is a 4th generation farmer married to a 3rd generation farmer. They farm with her husband’s family in east-central Indiana; which includes his dad and stepmom, his two brothers and their wives, kiddos, and a handful of employees.
She and her husband, Thomas, have two sons, Joseph (9) and Joshua (5), who love farm boy life. Their operation is very diverse. They have row crops where they raise soybeans, corn, wheat, and hay.
They also do a lot of custom baling. They have beef cattle; a cow/calf operation, and feeder-finish cattle. They also operate a feed and farm supply store right on the farm.
Her role on the farm can be anything from bookkeeping, operating equipment, farm taxi, and running their feed store, and the occasional cattle work. She is also an artist, and stay busy with original and custom artwork year-round. She loves God’s gift of farm life and enjoying sharing it with my family, and capturing it in my artwork.
You can find her on Instagram (@theartistfarmwife and @amandagriffeyfineart). On Facebook, Amanda Murray Griffey or Amanda Griffey Fine Art. I also have a blog (The Colorful Life of the Artist Farmwife) on my website www.amandagriffeyfineart.com.