What is home? A roof to keep out the rain. Four walls to keep out the wind. Floors to keep out the cold. Yes, but home is more than that.

It is the laugh of a baby, the song of a mother, the strength of a father. Warmth of living hearts, light from happy eyes, kindness, loyalty, comradeship. Home is first school and first church for young ones, where they learn what is right, what is good, and what is kind. Where they go for comfort when they are hurt or sick. Where joy is shared and sorrow eased. Where fathers and mothers are respected and loved. Where children are wanted. Where the simplest food is good enough for kings because it is earned. Where money is not as important as lovingkindness. Where even the tea kettle sings from happiness. That is home. God bless it. ~Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink

When people find out I have five kids, write books, and run a ministry, their first question is always how in the world do I do all that? First of all, let me assure you there are always plenty of things I don't get finished. There are always more items on my to-do list than I ever get done. On top of that, I always underestimate the amount of time it will take to get something accomplished. But I do like having a plan to get things done, I am a good delegator, and I've made peace with the balance between my calling and my responsibilities. That's how I do what I do.

Have a Plan

The first part of a plan is to decide what to say yes to and what to say no to. It is not realistic for me to say yes to everything, so I've learned the great art of saying no. For example, I can only go to my office one day a week. While the ideal thing might be to go to the office five days a week, this is not my season for the office to take the ideal place in my life. Some days my kids are my ideal. Some days a hurting friend is my ideal. Some days my husband is my ideal. Wherever my energies need to be placed, saying no to some things gives me the ability to get intentional with the things I need to say yes to.

Once you get your "no" items out of the way, the next step is to properly schedule the things you've said yes to. We have a rule in our home that each kid can pick one outside activity to participate in. With five kids, this still equals a lot of scheduling, driving, and watching, but this is what we've decided is realistic and fair for our family. I've found it helpful to have a scheduling session with my husband once a quarter to plan out our master family calendar. Then, once each week, Art and I sit down and go over who is responsible for each of the balls being juggled that week.

Communicating ahead of time helps us avoid the pitfalls of anger, frustration, and last-minute debates as to who is running what carpool. We each have a plan. In addition to scheduled activities, the kids also put in their requests for get-togethers with friends and other social events. They know if they don't get their request in before the planning meeting, Mom and Dad have no obligation to make it happen. We not only schedule the kids' activities, but we also plan out time for us to connect. If there is time for a date night, then we write it in on the schedule. If it's a particularly busy week, we might just schedule time for coffee or a movie night at home together.

Finally, we fill in our individual appointments and obligations. This is where I leave space for ministry work, doctor's appointments, orthodontist appointments, and volunteer obligations. It's much easier to know when to schedule these if you have clearly defined white space in your calendar. If there is a special project I need to accomplish, I break it down into bite-sized pieces and assign myself parts of the task each day. Some examples of special projects are a closet that needs to be organized, files that need to be updated, photographs that need to be developed and put in albums, or an area of the house that needs to be dejunked with the excess going to charity. Once all of this is in place, I feel the freedom to plan time for me in my schedule. If I want to have coffee with a friend or go on a girl's night out, I can easily see when it is realistic to make this happen.