Household Chores

IMG_3365“Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:40 NIV

My mother was a great housekeeper. Even after she went to work full-time, everything stayed neat and clean (except my room). I’m not sure when she found time to get it all done – I don’t think my sister or I ever helped. It was only after I got married that I discovered my mom did things I didn’t know even needed to be done…

The first apartment Grant and I lived in was about the size of a postage stamp – perfect for someone with zero domestic abilities. Sweeping and dusting took about three minutes, so that was easy, and the dishwasher kept our cups and plates clean – if I remembered to turn it on. Laundry was more of a challenge because we didn’t have a washing machine and I hated going to the laundromat. But the biggest issue I faced was a problem with the toilet. A dark fuzzy “ring” appeared out of nowhere…right IN our toilet bowl. With each passing week it kept growing thicker and thicker – no matter how many times I flushed. Pretty gross, huh? I get to plead the Fifth here…nobody ever told me you actually had to clean a toilet!

As soon as the children were old enough to walk, they were assigned chores. Grant and I were determined to teach them how to sweep, mop, dust, do laundry and yes…even clean the toilets. The kids grumbled and complained and accused us of breaking child labor laws, but we needed the help and they needed to learn…it was a mutually beneficial arrangement for all of us.

There is great value in teaching children to keep things clean and neat. Studies indicate people waste an average of 55 minutes a day looking for things they didn’t put away. That equates to two wasted weeks out of each year! A little neatness goes a long way – and helps us be better stewards of the time God gives us on this earth!

Identify household chores your children can help with. Make a chore chart and enlist the help of everyone in the family to share in the day-to-day household responsibilities. It will make your home a nicer place to live, and your children will be well-prepared when the time comes for them to leave your nest and set up a place of their own.

Prayer: God, sometimes it’s easier to do things myself than to train my children to help…even though I know they need to learn. Give me the patience and grace to follow through with my job as their teacher. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bring Back the Dinner Table


“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another.” 1 Peter 4:8a NAS

Ask any of my kids about their dad’s recipe for lemon pepper gravy and it will bring back an unforgettable memory…

One evening Grant decided to cook a big “sit-down” meal consisting of chicken fried chicken with all the trimmings. When it came time to season the gravy, there was no pepper, so he used the closest substitute – Lemon Pepper (and a lot of it). The smell of the meal had everyone salivating and we couldn’t get our plates filled quick enough. Mashed potatoes and gravy were a family favorite and Grant had cooked enough for an army. After a short prayer of thanks, we dove in like a pack of starving wolves.

This meal would have made Erma Bombeck feel right at home. Where she grew up, gravy was considered a beverage. Only this beverage had something seriously wrong with it. I remember looking around the table as I struggled to swallow my first bite. Was it as bad as I thought, or was it just me? The answer came quickly – my four gagging children began spitting their food back on the plates. It was worse than awful. It was disgusting! Grant felt so bad. The Lemon Pepper ruined the gravy which was covering everything else…we left it all on the table, packed up in the Suburban and headed for the nearest restaurant. After we’d had a chance to wash the taste from our mouths with decent food, we had quite a laugh. From that day on, Lemon Pepper has been banned from the Rutledge kitchen.

In today’s busy lives, parents find themselves spending hours in the car chauffeuring between spots, school, work, dancing lessons, PTA meetings, church…the list is endless. Drive-through fast food has become the simplest meal of choice to accommodate over-crowded schedules.


Put your foot on the breaks and STOP! For at least a few minutes every day, bring your family together to reconnect. Turn the TV and all electronic devices off. Don’t answer the phone. Sit down face to face and learn to enjoy one another’s company. Sharing a family meal daily isn’t about what you eat…it’s about the fellowship and bonding that occurs in the process. When you place a high enough priority on family meal-time to make it happen, it sends the message to your entire family…they are important…and they are loved.

Prayer: God, busyness has become a lifestyle for me. Help me to prioritize my life so family comes first. I don’t want to come to the end of my life and realize I don’t really “know” the children I gave birth to. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Stick With It

Sticker Boy

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7 NIV 

I’ve learned the secret to popularity…at least where my young grandchildren are concerned. Simply put, it’s called stickers…lots and lots of stickers. I’m amazed how long a book of stickers can provide entertainment and how many stickers can actually fit onto a squatty, diaper-clad body! They are a toddler’s treasure, both unique and special in the way they can be worn…a stick-on trophy of sorts. The greatest fun seems to be in the actual “sticking” of them…

When Luke was only two, I watched him derive absolute pleasure in first selecting, then meticulously removing stickers from a 100-page sticker book to place on his “decorated” tummy. Some of the stickers were difficult to peel off and the exercise in dexterity awarded him with a great sense of success and accomplishment. With each new sticker the two of us celebrated with cheering, hand claps and high fives. If time had allowed, his whole body might have been covered. Be assured my sticker stash will never run dry!

Sticking with things is a characteristic children need to be taught. It’s easy to want to give up when things stop being fun or circumstances become difficult. But giving up is seldom the right answer. Sticking with things fosters problem-solving, develops tenacity, strengthens perseverance, salvages relationships and gives rise to dependability.

Take quitting seriously and don’t allow it to become a pattern. Walk alongside your child during tough times so they don’t feel alone, but teach them, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. The rewards of going the extra mile and trying a little (or a lot) harder will almost always exceed the pain experienced in the process. Know that your child’s life-long foundation of stability is rooted in learning how and when to stick with things instead of giving up!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, protect my children from the temptation to give up when their lives, jobs or relationships become difficult. Give them wisdom as they deal with problems, and develop in them the courage and self-discipline to never give up on people, on life, or on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Dreams and Plans

DJ Basketball

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

I don’t think parents ever find out ALL the things their kids did when they were left home alone, but it is a bit easier when they leave clues behind (or above, as is the case in this story)…

We’d recently moved into our house in Abilene after gutting and remodeling everything from floor to ceiling. It was a fun project the entire family worked on for months. One evening I was sitting in the den reading and noticed something out of the corner of my eye…a huge “blob” on the tallest part of our freshly painted white cathedral ceiling. Suspecting foul play, Grant and I summonsed our four kids for interrogation. At first, nobody was willing to confess or tattle, but after a little coercion (don’t worry, no Geneva Convention rules were broken), we learned the truth. And the truth was better than almost anything any of them could have made up!

5-year-old Drew was the culprit. It started with the Mexican food we’d left with the kids for supper – before Grant and I went out for the evening. Drew looked at the bean burrito in this hands and then up at our high ceiling, and for some random reason, wondered who would be tall enough to scrape beans off the ceiling. Why, it would be his favorite basketball player, Michael Jordan, of course! It’s still not clear exactly how he managed to get the beans to stick to the ceiling…but at least we know why. He wanted to meet “Air Jordan” and this was his plan of action!

A study of the Bible shows how God used extraordinary means to accomplish His plans when He needed to…a talking donkey, a world-wide flood, a human-swallowing fish…the list goes on and on. God has a plan for each of our lives – and it’s a good plan. If you think you can come up with a better one on your own, just remember that’s how Satan deceived Eve. Also, when we follow God’s direction and live by His rules, He doesn’t have to go to great extremes to get our attention…

Many Bible stories make good talking points for teaching about choices and consequences. Help your children understand why they should choose to do the right thing…instead of insisting, “do it because I say so”. Guide them early to seek God’s plan and walk in His will, not because they have to, but because they get to.

Prayer: God, I can think of countless times I’ve forged ahead with my own plans and fallen flat on my face. Your ways are so much better than mine. Help my children desire and seek Your plan for their lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

SR Nametag on Mouth

“My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.” Job 33:3 NIV 

If I worked on the production line in heaven, I would ask God to put a safety valve on people’s tongues to shut it off when their brain gets too heated. Why? Because when people get hot-headed, the overflow of their frustration and emotion often comes billowing out of their mouth in the form of mean and hurtful words.

I’ve often used an object lesson with children to illustrate this concept. Several students are chosen to take part in a race. At the sound of my whistle, each contestant tries to be the first to squeeze all the toothpaste from their tube. Lively music plays in the background while classmates cheer them on. Just when someone thinks they’ve won, I explain the race is only halfway over. Next, they must put the toothpaste back in the tube! They quickly realize it can’t be done. The point is…what flows out so easily is absolutely impossible to put back in.

Words that are spoken can never be taken back. Their effect can last a lifetime. When I was a little girl, my mom used to cut my bangs. Evidently I didn’t sit still for her and the result wasn’t pretty. As we walked along a sidewalk one day, a woman looked at me and said to her companion, “…that poor little girl”. Those words were spoken over fifty years ago, but I still remember today how they made me feel. It was embarrassing, humiliating and unnecessary.

Teach your children the importance of speaking well of others. It’s a lesson we should ALL take to heart…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And if you THINK it, but it’s not nice, ask God for the grace to see people and circumstances through His loving and forgiving eyes. Ask for your thoughts to become like His thoughts.

Prayer: God, give me the self-control to speak only words of kindness to others. Keep me from lashing out in anger or saying things I have to apologize for later. Help my children learn how to speak kindly or remain silent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Fish Story


“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 NIV

Everyone needs to have an aquarium at least once in their child-rearing lifetime. In the early 80’s, Grant brought home a 20-gallon tank stocked with a half-dozen goldfish, and our short lives as fish caretakers began. We went through the usual life and death experiences you would expect, from the excitement of watching fish eggs hatch into fish “babies”, to the disappointment of finding one of our pets floating lifelessly on top of the water. We named the fish, celebrated their birthdays and had funerals for them when they died. The aquarium provided us with many teachable moments about the miracle and delicacy of life.

One day, my 3-year-old decided playing with our fish would be much more fun than watching them…so he went fishing…without permission. When I “caught” him, he’d already pulled every fish out of the aquarium and was cheering them on as they flopped helplessly back and forth on the cabinet. I still remember how hard it was, getting those slimy, squirmy and probably frightened fish back in the tank. To my surprise, they survived their near-death experience and we all had a good laugh.

I’ve often thought about Drew pulling those fish out so he could play with them. Watching them and having them watch him wasn’t enough. He wanted to touch them, to be with them…to have a real relationship with them. In his innocent effort to be their friend, he simply reached across the barriers of a glass wall and made it happen.

As parents, we must reach across the barriers of life’s busyness to have relationship with our children. Watching isn’t enough. The true measure of our love will not be measured by the words we speak to them, but by the time we take being with them.

Schedule regular family times where your children know they have your undivided attention. Talk, listen, laugh, play, hug and get to know one another. The younger they are when you start, the easier it is to keep the lines of communication open as they grow.

Prayer: Father, I get so overwhelmed with my responsibilities and find myself taking the people I love for granted. Help me redeem the time and be the parent You want me to be. Order my steps each day and give me wisdom to put the right things first. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Awe & Wonder


“How many are Your works, O Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.” Psalm 103:24 NIV

My children should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of times they were able to ask “why?” in a 24-hour period. It was usually more a game to see how long it would take to annoy me, than inquisitiveness on their part. But I was actually pretty good at coming up with answers.

Asking questions is one of the ways children learn. We would all be smarter if we could learn to harness the sense of wonder we were born with. In far too many cases, impatient adults and misguided teachers crowd the wonder right out of kids with their “color in the lines” expectations and unrealistic “kids should be seen and not heart” philosophy.

Kids need to be challenged to wonder more. They need to be guided in experiences that create awe at the miracles of God’s creation. Our heavenly Father has placed us in a world created by incredible imagination…at every turn, if we take the time to look, we can see the work of His mighty hands. When children are taught first to notice and then to respect the world we live in, they can’t help but recognize Who God is…and believe!

Start when your children are young. As an example, instead of just remarking how beautiful the sky appears when the sun is going down, help your children wonder about the Creator of the sunset. After all, somebody did have to put it there! You might say, “I wonder what God was thinking when He painted all those colors on the horizon. Do you think He used a giant artist’s palette, or maybe He splashed colors on the angels and told them to fly across the sky…” What fun it will be to imagine God painting a sunset for us to enjoy!

Prayer: God, the beauty of Your creation is all around us. Help me to teach my children Who You are, and to never take Your great world and Your many miracles…for granted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Weedle Words

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV

When God got a hold of my heart, He also lassoed my vocabulary. Four-letter words I’d once used on a regular basis just didn’t seem appropriate anymore. God didn’t even have to wash my mouth out with soap…

Some words weren’t on my “forbidden” list, but they still sounded crass and unladylike…like the word for expelling gas. With a house full of kids, this particular topic came up (and out) on a regular basis, so I devised a more acceptable and polite word for our family to use…”weedle”. Just say the word a few times…weedle, weedle, weedle…it’s a fun word to say…and even funnier when you know its secret meaning.

When you want kids to stop doing something, it usually works better to redirect their behavior than to jut say “don’t”. In this case, I gave them a funny word to replace the one I didn’t want them to say. In the broader sense, changing what flows out of your child’s mouth begins with redirecting what regularly enters in through their ears. Kids think of and repeat the words they hear…at home, in their music, on TV and from their friends. Don’t use words you wouldn’t want them repeating in front of your grandmother or your pastor.

Prayer: God, I want every word spoken by my children to be pleasing to You. Protect their impressionable minds from foul and perverse language. Help me be a good example for them to follow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Surviving the Bullies

1964 4th grWhen I went to school in the 60’s, there were no rules to protect kids against classroom bullies. We had three categories of kids: the cool ones, the uncool ones, and those who somehow flew under the radar and escaped all the drama. For most of my elementary years, I was in the uncool category…awkward and lanky, uneven bangs, a nose too big for my face…lots of things for people to laugh at and make fun of.

The cool kids maintained their status by “putting down” the uncool kids. They teased and talked about us with made-up stories and pulled mean pranks on us. I even had a 5th grade teacher in Houston who was chummy with the cool girls and said mean things about me (in front of me) to the other girls!

Did it hurt my feelings? Of course it did. Did I ever show it? Not on your life. I stuffed those feelings way down in my socks and pretended I didn’t hear or didn’t care. It never occurred to me to tell an adult or my parents because it was my “normal”. I thought I had to accept it. To this day, I’m not sure how successful adult intervention would have been. When kids want to bully another child, they will always find a way.

Despite being bullied, always being chosen last and not being invited to the popular kids’ birthday parties, I grew up secure and confident with my self-esteem intact. How? I had the best home life a child could ask for. Little did my parents know how emotionally beat up I was at school. But when I came home, they treated me exactly the opposite. They lifted me up. They made me feel special. They took time to listen to my ideas, my dreams and my stories. They nurtured and admired my talents and showed me unconditional love. I knew by the way they treated me that I was important to them…and I chose to believe their opinion of me rather than the opinion of the school bullies.

A wise man once told me it takes seven compliments to soften the sting of one negative comment. Whether your child is ever bullied or not, remember to look for the good things in their life and tell them you’ve noticed. Make it your goal to fill the positive side of their emotional bank and offset anything the world may throw at them!

Stay Off the Fence!

Luke Fence

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.” Proverbs 4:24 NIV

In the late 80’s, we turned a dreary unused parking lot behind our downtown church in Abilene into a lovely courtyard and children’s playground with tall, modular slides and climbing equipment for the boys and girls to play on. A beautiful ten-foot brick wall securely enclosed the entire area, preventing children from running into the nearby busy street.

One Wednesday night as Grant and I sat in Fellowship Hall visiting with friends, our 5-year-old son Drew slipped out the back door, down the stairs and onto the playground to play – alone. Thankfully, a few minutes later, one of the dads saw him and quickly rushed to rescue him from certain disaster. Drew, our “climber”, had crawled over the upper peak of the tornado slide and somehow (it still makes me catch my breath) maneuvered himself to the TOP of the brick wall, and was walking it like a tight rope. I’m glad he was down and safe before I knew what had happened!

As a child and teenager, I was guilty of a different kind of fence walking. Many times when an adult gave me a rule, I’d feel challenged to see just how close I could get to the line of demarcation, without crossing over and breaking the rule. Often I walked on the line because I was only told I couldn’t cross the line. With one wrong move, my reckless attitude could have been as dangerous as if Drew had taken a wrong step on that playground wall!

The very first rule God gave Adam and Eve in the garden was that they could not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were told not to even touch it (Gen.3:3). The closer we get to sin, the easier it is for temptation to win us over. The devil is alive and well, whispering “the grass is greener on the other side”. When you try to walk the non-existent line between good and evil, it’s easy to lose your balance and fall in!

Children are curious…or ornery like I was, and naturally want to get close to things that are forbidden. The reality is, your authority won’t always be enough to keep them safely under your umbrella of protection. Keep the lines of communication open. Stay involved in their lives – even when they try to push you out. Know who their friends are. Get to know the parents of their friends. Monitor their activities. Stand your ground and never compromise principles. Pray without ceasing. Love them unconditionally. And for those times they make it to the top of the fence anyway…be close enough to help catch them when they fall.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for protecting me when I  made bad choices as a teenager. Please keep my children safe and help me know how to guide them without pushing them into rebellion. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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