Answering the Mommy Questions, #2: Seven Tips for Organization

How can a mother stay organized? To be honest, if a spotlessly clean house, well-run household, and organized homeschool plan was a prerequisite for writing this post, I would NOT qualify!!! I want you to know that I am a mommy just like you, daily needing God's grace (His divine influence on my heart) as I seek to glorify God and be more like Him while experiencing daily struggles, failures, trials, and temptations.

Whether living life at home or on the road in a bus, our family is so far from perfect, yet we strive to love, forgive, and encourage each other as we do life together (even when it is messy) for Him.

This post will answer questions you submitted on "how to manage a larger family," "how to keep things running smoothly," "how to carve out a little time for yourself when you are a homeschool mom," "strategies for scheduling tips and tricks on laundry, cleaning, grading school, etc.," "ways to deal with discouragement when the daily schedule/schooling/household duties pile up," "how to manage time well (especially pertaining to social media)," and "methods for maintaining a peaceful, unhurried attitude."

1. Seek God First

The framework for a happy, peaceful, and organized home is built on the foundation of prayer and Bible reading as you daily seek God's face, pray, repent, and humbly ask for wisdom and strength to live for Him. This time with God is also an antidote for discouragement, weariness in well doing, and weakness. While many good books, some very helpful systems,* and advice from godly mentors are beneficial, nothing can replace your time with God.

John 15:5 assures, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Make that time with God the most important priority in you life.  

If you find that you are too tired in the morning or don't have enough hours in your day, then prayerfully reevaluate you life to see what can be eliminated so that you have time for God. A good place to start is to prayerfully consider if you can eliminate social media and/or spend less time using the internet and your phone. Let’s face it, most of us can waste minutes/hours a day using electronic devices. I have found it helpful to keep my phone in a predertemined place with a special ringer for my husband’s calls so I don’t feel the need to answer the phone or check messages.  

You may also consider simplifying food prep (freezer meals, minimal desserts, and menu planning), putting systems in place for running your household, and assigning chores to your children. I have found that at times my husband can see areas that need to be eliminated or changed better than I can. Sometimes being in the middle of a situation keeps me from seeing the obvious problem. Marlin has the advantage of seeing my life from a different point of view. Making the changes necessary so that you can consistently begin your day with God will be worth every sacrifice!

2. Build with Obedience

After pouring the concrete foundation of personal time with God, raise the structural beams by teaching your children to cheerfully obey you. Having to repeat yourself and having children who are constantly disobeying you is a sure way to destroy peace in your home, rob you of precious time everyday, and keep life chaotic on a daily basis. 

3. Establish Routines

I have found that routines are an essential way to get organized. Find routines for bedtime, wake up, meal, laundry, cleaning, homeschool, grocery shopping, reading aloud, family devotions, and more.  When the children were little, our bedtime routine consisted of bathing (when necessary), changing into night clothes, brushing teeth, drinks, stories, and singing. The morning routine included getting dressed, drinking water, individual Bible reading and prayer, and chores. Cleaning was done mostly on a weekly basis with different children being responsible for particular areas for months at a time.  Cleaning a specific area for a longer period of time helped them become proficient in a special area. 

For homeschooling when I had a baby, toddlers, and multiple grades, I used MOTH to set up individual times for Math, Phonics, English, Reading, doing puzzles or reading aloud to toddlers, and a nap and/or feeding time for the baby.  For me, this schedule was the key to successfully homeschooling with many young children. The children liked knowing what was expected of them and when they should do it. 

For many years, I read aloud to the children right after lunch. I know I wouldn't have read the many, many books that I was able to read to them if I hadn't set a specific time for reading. 

Doing laundry successfully meant simplifying wardrobes (the truth is that the less clothes you have the less laundry you will have!!!), having the children help, and doing it only 2-3 days a week. Family devotions was and still is a part of our morning breakfast.  Having routines in my day helps me stay on track and get more accomplished. It also enables me to live by my priorities instead of by my circumstances. I find that when distractions or unexpected events come into my life, it is easier to get back on track if I have established routines in my life.

Please note that my idea of routine is an order of the day not always a certain time in which an activity must happen. For example, we might decide to have breakfast at 8 every morning but if my husband wants to start planting at 7 am we will eat breakfast earlier so we can eat with him. Or if a family is passing through and can have lunch with us, we might not read aloud that day. Or if the garden needs weeding we will postpone our music practice.

Our goal is to have routines that help us to be productive but that also allow us to put relationships before production.  To "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" helps us have God's perspective on life. This mind set gives us the freedom to prayerfully say yes to activities even if they derail our routine for an occasional hour or a day or even a week. As in all of life, we need truth and grace to operate in a way that will glorify God.

4. Eliminate Outside Activities

The core of motherhood is in the home. While you need to get groceries, you will go to church, and there will be activities with family and friends, make your time at home a priority. I remember that a lot of my frustration as a mother with young children resulted from overly tired children who were kept up late from evening activities, my own exhaustion from trying to do too much, and a chaotic, unorganized house that resulted from being out of the house too many hours in a week. Especially when the children are young, stay at home so you can work on consistent training and routines. 

Children thrive on knowing that they are important to mommy and daddy. They love systematic methods of doing everyday life. They become confident in knowing what is expected of them. If you make routines your servant, you will find the freedom to decide to change the pace for one day so you can enjoy an unexpected, warm fall day or go to the library just for fun.

I rarely, if ever, leave the house for just groceries. I combine grocery shopping, a date with my husband, going to Walmart, stopping at the Post Office or library, and other errands into an afternoon or evening. When we are at home, I rarely leave the house before lunch. Since mornings are the best quality hours of my day, I strive to invest them in my highest priorities.

5. Begin Your Morning in the Evening 

Many years ago, someone shared this timeless wisdom, “the morning begins in the evening”, with me. It really is true.  If you want to wake up in the morning an hour before your children, go to bed soon after they do.** Putting your children to bed early can give you uninterrupted time with your husband plus an earlier bedtime for you. 

For one week, try turning all electronic devices and the tv off by 6 or 7 at night. Use the time to read to your children, talk to your husband, read a book, or play a family game. Planning your evening will help you to be more successful with your morning routines. Beginning your morning in the evening can be life changing!

6. Prioritize Mommy Time 

Finding a quiet, uninterrupted time to rest, read, excercise, or have a date with your husband may seem at times like it is nearly impossible, but it is well worth the effort. With a little bit of planning, you can synchronize the baby and toddler’s naps with roomtime (in which each child plays in a room by himself for 1/2-1 hour) for your younger children so you can have some quiet quality time. I would suggest turning your phone off and focusing on reading a book that will encourage you or doing a quick workout or maybe even taking a nap. 

Going on a date with your husband may take a bit more planning. Find a babysitter you can trust so you can go on a date or plan a have a special dessert together in your living room after you put the children to bed. Be creative, purposeful, and intentional to make this happen. If you establish early bedtimes, put daily routines in place, and decrease social media, it will be much easier to find the time you need for “mommy time”.  

Just keep in mind that "mommy time" should not be following the path of least resistance. Catching up on Instagram, Facebook, etc., watching a Netflix, or reading books without inspiring content will not leave you feeling refreshed and ready to jump back into the duties of motherhood. Be intentional about how you spend those few minutes or an hour that you schedule in your day so that these special times will equip, refresh, and encourage you for the monumental task of motherhood.

7. Pray for Wisdom

I saved the very best tip for last. This tip will help you to be more organized, have peace in your home, deal with discouragement, and manage a large family. It has brought much peace, joy, and organization to our home but don't expect to see it in the next New Your Times best seller. It is found in James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." 

Do not underestimate the power of asking God for prayer. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked God for wisdom in everything from motivating my children to get their homeschool work done, packing for a trip, finding time for a personal retreat, knowing how and when to connect with my children, and much more. God is always faithful!


Never forget how much you need God. Begin everyday with God, train your children in obedience, establish routines, eliminate outside activities, begin your morning in the evening, intentionally find times of refreshment, and pray for wisdom.

"The eternal God is the refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27

*MANAGERS OF THEIR HOMES-the book I found helpful in putting together a daily routine for our children when we first started to homeschool. You can find it at titus2.com
**Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per day, while 4-12 year olds need 10-12 hours.  And though they usually don’t know it, growing teens need more than 8 hours of sleep, especially when they go through a rapid growing phase. Even most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep.


Build Your Family This September with These Two Life-Changing Events!

On Labor Day, September 3, you are invited to join us at our farm for the 16th Annual Turning Hearts Celebration! At our farm, you will be able to partake in fellowship with like-minded families from across the U.S, enjoy hay rides in the country, play football and volleyball, listen to toe-tapping bluegrass, and be inspired to live out the truth. 

Directly after Turning Hearts, you can join us for one of two weeks of Homeschool Family Camp to strengthen and encourage your family! The first camp runs from September 4-9 and the second camp from September 10-15. The camp is located in the rolling hills of Northeast Iowa.

We are thrilled about this year's theme: "Except The Lord Build The House" Building Godly Generations by God's Blueprint." Email chelsyrenee91@gmail.com for more information! We would love to see you there! 

You can view the recap of last year's Family Camp here.


There's Another Grandbaby on the Way!!

Yes, yes...we have exciting news of another grand baby to join the ever-growing Bontrager tribe!!

One evening as Mother and Chelsy were Face Timing, Chelsy said she really wanted to just "say hello" to "EVERYONE!".  Allison received the message and went to round up the troops. Pretty soon everyone had gathered, and not only Chelsy, but John as well, were on the other end of the phone with big smiles to say hello to all of us. :) After a few words of greeting, they were suddenly giving us the best news......."We're having a BABY!!!" 

We couldn't believe our ears!!!  Smiles, shouts, and happy tears abounded. We were and are so excited for another little baby to be joining our big family, and to see John and Chelsy become parents. 

Stay tuned for news of this little one making his/her arrival, come January 2019! 
(you can visit Chelsy's blog for more pictures + details)
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children."
Isaiah 54:13


Join Us On September 3!

The 16th Annual Turning Hearts Celebration is right around the corner! We would be honored if you and your family would join us at our farm in 2 1/2 weeks, on Labor Day, September 3.

This year's celebration is one your family will not want to miss!

On September 3rd, you can partake in fellowship with like-minded families from across the U.S, experience our Iowa farm, enjoy hay rides in the country, play football and volleyball, listen to toe-tapping bluegrass, and be inspired to live out the truth.

Flip Benham baptizing Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade


Our speaker, Flip Benham, is the father of dynamic duo Jason and David Benham, two battle-tried warriors who continue to stand strong in the face of adversity. 

Mr. Benham is the founder of Operation Save America. His passion can be summed up in the following words:

Operation Save America unashamedly takes up the cause of preborn children in the name of Jesus Christ. We employ only biblical principles. The Bible is our foundation, the Cross of Christ our strategy and the repentance of the Church of Jesus Christ our goal. As the Church changes her heart toward unborn children, God Himself will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and bring healing to our land.  

We believe that Jesus Christ is the only answer to the multiple maladies savaging our nation. It is upon our active repentance in the streets of our cities that the Gospel is visibly lived out. We become to the church, to our city, and to our nation living parables rightly representing God’s heart toward His helpless children. Abortion is preeminently a Gospel issue. The cross of Christ the only solution.


In his first session, at 1:30pm, "Raising Daniels in Today's Lion's Den," you will hear how he raised his sons Jason and David to be courageous warriors in today's culture. 

In his second session, at 6:45pm, "Leading Jane Roe to Christ," you will hear how he led Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade, to the Lord.

Football on the field

Hay Rides

At Turning Hearts Celebration, everyone from the oldest to youngest can learn something!

Make sure to bring your entire family on Labor Day, September 3rd, to be 
uplifted, challenged, inspired, and equipped.

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." --Malachi 4:6


Summer Tour Week 8

Week 8 of the Summer Tour was stocked with concerts, fellowship, and family memories from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and finally to home in Iowa!
We enjoyed touring the Museum of the Bible and singing a few songs while there.
Reconnecting with old friends is always a treat.
Rebecca manages to hone her horticultural skills, even while on tour. She acquired these 
plants on the trip, and then watered and cared for them.

Fine conversation always tastes best when savored in the context of food and often 
continues to nourish after the physical sustenance has departed. 
The smiling sisters.
And finally, these two cherubs waited anxiously for their uncles, aunts, and grandparents to return. Or rather, should we say, their uncles, aunts, and grandparents couldn't wait to see them?!


Home Sweet Home!

Hello friends! This is Chelsy blogging for the family today! I am currently on the home farm spending the week with my family-my husband had a trip on which I was unable to go, and so instead I came to Iowa and quite literally jumped out + surprised my family when they arrived home on Monday. =) It was a very fun "operation surprise" and  completely successful!

I've been enjoying helping with the typical "coming home" craze, and participating in the various family activities. Everyone is THRILLED to be home on the farm again! 

First on the list of priorities for the family was SEEING AND HOLDING THOSE GRANDBABIES! Monday night found everyone here (including Grandma + Joe) gathered up at Joshua + Cassidy's for a grand welcome home party. Cassidy served "breakfast for dinner" and it was such a lovely evening of yummy food, tour stories, and various music highlight videos. Joe recorded several of the family's concerts while he was with them and apparently one night Hudson got the hiccups during "Jesus Paid It All". Joe cut out everyone else's vocals and played for us a "Hudson Hiccup Solo" that had us absolutely in stitches!! 
Seeing my parents as GRANDPARENTS is beyond incredible! 
Above, Dad + Mom meeting Jubilee. What an angel girl!
Such a cherub!
(Wallace, not Denver. Haha!)
These siblings arrived "first" at Josh + Cassidy's so they wouldn't have to share Wallace with as many people.
I was privileged to be enlisted to make the biscuits + gravy for the gang. So fun to cook up an exorbitant amount for all these farm kids! 
The tribe.
The Spread
Love this so much!
I'd say grandparenthood is looking really good on these two!
Sleeping darlings...
Game time! One of our family favorites is "Take One". We are very serious and studious when we play this, as you can tell by the expressions in this photo. =)
Tuesday evening found the fam out at our campsite enjoying a relaxed evening + cookout. 
Such special times with the sisters!
Dad's latest project is rebuilding this old bridge on some of our land.
It is going to be beautiful when it is completed! 
And of course...the days are filled with all those things we are too busy to photograph, such as farm work, daily chores, gathering in garden produce, music lessons + practice, errands, canning, and all those "home" things. 
As always, it is so good to be back on the farm, getting sweaty + dirty and enjoying the country life!