No Condemnation (at least not from the chore list): on choosing kindness and still keeping the house clean

fridge chore chart no condemnation

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Luke 6:45

Today, I’m sharing a tool I use in my house to keep up with the cleaning and organization. How is this relevant to my writing? Because I think the way I go about my small, daily tasks is an outflow of my heart just as much as my words are.

Keeping up with my house is an area where I struggle with a lot of condemnation. I don’t tend to see the successes; I see the failures, the not-enoughs, the comparison with others, the perfect Pinterest boards. Anyone else in the same boat?

A few months ago, I read through Emily Ley’s awesome book, Grace Not Perfection.

grace not perfection

One of my biggest take-aways was her challenge to be careful of how I am speaking to my own heart. If harsh criticism isn’t effective at motivating other people, it’s not effective when I turn it on myself, and it endangers my interactions with others, even when they’re not the target.

Ultimately, I can want to be a kind and patient and gentle person, but my treatment of other people flows out of the thoughts of my heart. If those thoughts are constantly irritable, critical and harsh, that tends to be what spills out on others. I can’t be one person toward myself and another toward everyone else. Who I am on the inside will show up on the outside, no matter what my goals are. 

Emily Ley quoted Galatians 5:13-14:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use that freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

She went on to say, “If I loved and nurtured my neighbor (or my children) the same way I care for myself sometimes, I wouldn’t be doing any of them a whole lot of good.”

The statement floored me. I am the exact same.

As I mulled it over, the concept formed into a question:

If I spoke to another person the way I’m speaking to myself right now, would it be loving?

This question is something God has been using to help me sort through how I speak to myself. It helps me discern which thoughts are from Him and which aren’t.

I’ve started to see that, a lot of the time, I am exaggerated, cruel and thoughtless in the way I describe myself, talk to myself, and even in the way I try to spur myself forward. I tend to think that I need to be harsh, that I need to beat myself up, that I need to be afraid of some terrible result, in order to be motivated; but that thinking is not honoring to Him.

beat myself up

Our hearts are designed to receive gentleness and respond to encouragement. Confidence and the willingness to try are nurtured, not beat into people. And I am no different.

If, instead, I am kind, gracious, and loving toward myself when facing a struggle or a failure, I perform better than when I am hard on myself, plus I have that same encouragement to offer toward others when they need it. Anger and disappointment with myself leave me drained, but I am finding that choosing kindness toward my own heart is one of the most loving things I can do for other people, because it produces the emotional margin I need to pour into them.

kind words

So maybe the first step in “serving them with humility” is to tend to the unkindness on the inside. It is pride that fuels my relentless demands and exaggerated reactions. It is pride that screams “I expected so much more of you!!!” But Christ calls me to humility, and humility accepts grace.

The way God deals with me and the way He asks me to deal with others is not harsh or critical. So if that’s how I’m speaking to myself, it’s not because I’m following His lead. Little by little I’m starting to see that God does not ask me to treat anyone like that, not even myself.

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Colossians 4:6

Don’t use foul and abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Ephesians 4:29

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth…

2 Timothy 2:24-25

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things.

1 John 3:20

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

For from His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.

John 1:16

…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…

2 Corinthians 10:5


After pondering these verses, I started asking myself:

When you speak to yourself, are you unkind? Are you abusive? Is it helpful?

I realized that I need to consider more than just fear tactics to get myself to do the right things.

I thought about when others have come graciously alongside and encouraged me and I realized, I HAVE FULL PERMISSION to treat my heart the same way. But I DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION to leave grace out of the conversation, even in my own thoughts. 

So I looked for a baby step I could take to make this practical.

baby step.jpg

I reflected on my normal patterns of thinking and I realized I am harshest with myself when it came to my marriage and my house. These arenas, closest and most familiar to me, are the areas where I have the highest expectations for myself and where I deal out the most hurtful words.

I tried to think of a simple outward adjustment I could make that would remind me to be inwardly kind, and I landed on my chore list.

I found that, in my normal routine, I jot down a bajillion errands, chores and tasks I need to get to on a piece of paper, I get through as many as I can, and at the end of the day, all I can focus on is the unfinished list. Especially because I typically work on a rotating schedule with 24-hour shifts, Wednesday chores would get pushed to Thursday and Thursday would get overwhelming.

I’d work at my list like crazy, living for the sweet moment I could cross off the final to-do. But for one reason or another (usually my hyper-optimistic idea of what I can possibly get done in one day), there were always items left on the list. And in those items, I read condemnation.

to do list

It didn’t matter if I had been up all night flying patients, or if I’d gotten sick, or I’d completed a huge project that took a larger chunk of time, I would berate myself for what I hadn’t managed to get done, and I would walk away discouraged. 

But when I applied the challenge to be encouraging and kind in my thoughts to this area, when I decided to talk to myself the way I would to a human being with feelings who may need some encouragement, I realized something I hadn’t been taking stock of:

The housework is never done, and it’s not because I’m failing.

It’s a cycle of tasks and chores that require constant upkeep because they endure constant use. Nothing’s inherently wrong because it’s time to change the sheets again. It just means time has passed since the last time.

I decided, at least in the area of housework, to make it easier on myself to have right thought patterns.  If I wanted to encourage someone I loved to be faithful with housework without making them feel bad about what they hadn’t gotten to, I decided I would just structure each job as an accomplishment in and of itself rather than making a totally finished list the goal.

Hence, I nixed the list and drew a circle. (Ok fine, a square, because those are easier to cut out of paper, but you get the idea).

chore chart snip

I put a happy quote from Emily Ley’s book in the middle, set up the chores as a cycle, and added a magnet to the fridge so that I could move it around the circle-square whenever I had the time and energy to tackle one of the jobs. It was a way to stay semi-regular with the cleaning and keep it on a rotation without provoking criticism if I had a day where I didn’t get to the chores.

At least for me, it made a huge difference. That little change was life-giving, tangible grace. It was just one small adjustment, but it was a daily way I could replace a distraction that spoke of my failure with a reminder His grace, His goodness, His strength.

It is one way I can agree with Him and say

“Today, there is no condemnation.” 

Sometimes, something as simple as changing the chore chart can be spiritual, because it’s a step where I am taking God at His word. And I think doing that, little by little, in even the most daily things, is how I start to trust Him with the rest of life.




Feel free to print, copy, modify, etc!

I would love to hear about the baby steps that have been helpful for you!

chore chart snip



Come Boldly, Messy Heart: on hearing hard things and coming back for more

messy heart

“For the word of God is alive and powerful…it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.”

-Hebrews 4:12-13


I was reflecting this week on the difference between reading the Bible to become an expert on what it says, and giving my heart motives over to its scrutiny in real time. There is an important contrast between seeking mastery and seeking to hear from the Master.

It’s easy to decide in the time crunch of the many things on my agenda that since I grew up hearing what the Bible says, I can get by on what I already know. But I’m learning that I need to hear from God on this day, too, rather than living on left-over lessons. I can assume that I’ve woken up with my priorities in order and that my actions are being driven by the right reasons, but that’s rarely the case. Honestly, I am in dangerous territory when I cease to be wary of my own heart, when I feel I do not need the help of God’s word to understand myself and the world afresh.

The word of God exposes my innermost thoughts and desires for what they really are. It lays things plain and bare and shows me when I am using the word “responsibility” to cover up that I’m really just worrying and when I have substituted “busy” for “faithful.” I can memorize the Word of God and still live a life that is sorely lacking in love. What happens when I rely on just my memory instead of making time for fresh truth? I remember what suits me at the time. I do what looks right on the outside, but I am driven by selfish ambition.

“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:2

At least in my life, this is pattern: when I decide I understand the Bible well enough for now and leave behind a regular quiet time, pride is at work. I give the right answers. I tolerate others, but I don’t love them. I love me and I go after whatever I want, instead of giving myself away. I forget my calling, I forget to love, I forget my God, and that forgetfulness shows up in my irritable, impatient reactions. I can hide how I feel, but it sucks the joy from my day.

Just like regular financial giving is a way of taking my trust off of my money and putting it back on God as my provider; regular quiet time is a way of taking my trust off of my own understanding, and putting it back on His guidance. It is a way of humbling myself by asking Him to show me what it is I DON’T know and DON’T see, even in my own heart. (Psalm 139:23-24)

I cannot safely decide I know exactly what God thinks or how he would have me handle a situation without asking Him again. His ways are “past finding out” and his judgments are “unsearchable.” (Romans 11:33)  That is why I am told to:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all of your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

I may be familiar with scriptural principles, but that is not the same as a daily, living relationship where I am guided step by step.

The challenge?  I avoid reading the Bible sometimes, even when I know I need it. Here’s my guess as to why: regular time reading God’s Word usually shows me something I’m doing wrong. For once, I would just like to hear that I’m getting something right! So I look for likes on facebook and kudos at work and I set aside my Bible for “later,” because I may need it, but I need to feel accepted and approved of more.

But in Hebrews, the statement that the Word of God reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart and that all is laid bare before Him is followed by the reassurance that He is gracious and understanding toward weakness (verses 15-16). He tells me He’ll point out my issues, but THEN He tells me to come to Him boldly for help and He will give it!  I am not being called to the principal’s office, I am being pulled into a huddle with the coach. And His words hold warm approval even as they spur me forward to trust Him for new things.

I do not need to fear or avoid the sharp words of God, I need to fear what I become when I harden toward what they say, when I stop listening, when I think I understand things well enough on my own, and when I run out into the world desperate for the precious acceptance that He has already given me in Christ.

I have a God who sees all things, to Him only I am accountable. I do not have to measure up to the expectations of anyone else.

I do not have to have it put together, nice and neat and perfect. I am not accountable to the pressures that demand I shove down what’s on the inside and make everything look good. I do not need the facebook reassurance, because I am accountable to the God who dares me to bare what is inside to Him and promises that He will be kind to me in my vulnerability. 

This is what that God asks of me in Hebrews chapter 4:

  1. Hear my voice.
  2. Let my words inform you on the inner workings of your own heart.
  3. See me as the kind High Priest I am toward you, rather than turning away from my correction.

He does not reveal my sin to crush me, but to show me new areas where He can give me hope and grace. He does not make me aware of my weaknesses to discourage me, but to help me see the new territory where His strength will make all the difference.



Teach my heart to seek your words, to listen to them and soften toward what they say, even when it’s hard to hear. You are understanding toward even my biggest weaknesses, and you instruct the messiest of hearts to come boldly, for you have made them clean. 




Think Carefully: on disappointment, unmet expectations, and a guarded heart

think carefully

And so, dear brothers and sisters…think carefully about this Jesus

Every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God…and we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ…

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day…so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God…

Who was it that rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice?…we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.”

Hebrews 3, excerpts


Think carefully.

Be careful.

Make sure.

Warn each other.


Because this is what is at stake: I may not experience God’s rest if I am so caught up in doubting Him that I refuse to do what He tells me.

If I follow my heart when it begins to question God, I forfeit my chance of rest.

I’ve seen it in my own life. Often, when I am most restless and full of angst, there is a train of thought I can follow back to some disappointment or unmet expectation where my heart decided God was wrong. I don’t even always realize I decided that. Often I just reacted to the situation, I was hurt, I was frustrated, and I stopped being careful with the thoughts of my heart. I let my hope and confidence fall and started to wonder if God cared, why would He let this happen? I stopped being careful to be content and I landed in the painful restlessness of a soul that is so caught up in its circumstances it has lost sight of its Savior.

How do I stop it from happening? How do I face the hard stuff of life and feel it in all its unfairness and still resist the tendency to turn away from God and harden against Him?

“…think carefully about this Jesus.” (verse 1)

“…keep our courage and remains confident in our hope in Christ.” (verse 6)

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

I have got to realize when I have lost my confidence. I must learn to discern when I have placed it in something other than Him: my hard work, my bank account, my job, my friends, my personality, whatever shape it takes. Confidence that has fallen on something other than Christ is lost confidence, and it will sink me.

God is the builder who is crafting good things in me, but He does not build where my heart resists him. He has said He will shape me until I look like Christ, but He will wait for a heart that once again places its confidence in Him.

To build before that point would result in a shaky foundation

But if I trust in His word, He will build rest in my life.

If I think carefully about this Jesus, my heart will find the encouragement it needs.



Teach me to be cautious of my own heart. How quickly it disagrees with you and turns away in a huff, not realizing what it costs to take my eyes off of you.

I need you, how I need you. Help me see when my gaze has drifted and make it my daily task to think carefully about this Jesus.

He was a stumbling block for many, but great loss awaited those who let that stumbling be the barrier that kept them away.


“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Psalm 34:8


“God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. “

Hebrews 4:1

Don’t Live In Dread: instructions with some assembly required

some assembly require

“The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,

‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.

He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe…’ “

Isaiah 8:11-14


I love this reminder that I have been given a directive in the way I deal with fear.

Fear has always felt non-optional to me. Like an emotion that rises out of nowhere and I didn’t exactly get to stand at a control board and calmly pick out which reaction I would like to have in this moment. Simply telling me “do not fear” doesn’t seem all that helpful.


Maybe it felt that way to the disciples in their storm-tossed boat, at three in the morning, in the thunder, wet with waves, when lightning lit Jesus’ face and He said “Don’t be afraid.”

Excuse me?? Don’t be afraid?? Do you not see my situation? How exactly am I supposed to go about that? Do you want me to just shut down and stop feeling? 

Those would have been my thoughts.

boat storm

But He didn’t ONLY say “Don’t be afraid.” It wasn’t a simple platitude handed without feeling into a situation he didn’t know or understand. It wasn’t a “You’re being ridiculous, there isn’t anything to be afraid of here, so just calm down.”

It was a command followed by these words:

“Take courage. I am here.”

You are facing something that demands courage, because IT IS frightening. But I am here now, so you can have that courage, and it is not empty. It need not be an act.

The one who controls the sea and wind and all the earth is at your side, so though the situation is frightening, DO NOT FEAR.

Perhaps that is more what it means when it says in Isaiah that I am not to live in dread. Not that I cannot acknowledge frightening situations, but that I must not stay, huddled and panicking, in all my fearful thoughts.

I must take courage, because I have the same promise that was extended to weary disciples at three in the morning when they thought they were going under. 

Living in dread is a normal reaction to some of the situations we are asked to face. Who doesn’t know how it feels to have the weight of a problem you can’t solve or a verdict you must wait for hanging over their head? I think I have spent a LOT of time living in dread.

God says dread is normal, but He’s asking us to think abnormally. To factor in something the rest of the world does not.


More and more I am learning that the word of God was intended to be practical and accessible in my life.

So when God says things like “Do not fear.” He means that it’s possible for me here and now. I think that just considering that He meant this for me, too, that somewhere ahead is a point in my growth where I have learned to do this, is a baby step in and of itself.

hope 2

I am starting to understand that God does not mock my pain. He does not dismiss my fear. He steps into it and says, “Take courage. I am here.”

Perhaps “Do not live in dread” is an instruction with some assembly required. And the steps I must take to build that result are this:

1. Look at Him

2. Look at Him

3. Look at Him

See Him, for He is here with me. Make Him holy in my life. Let Him fill my view instead of whatever it is that I find so frightening, and I will find that it is not a challenge for Him.

Jer 32 27

He will keep me safe.

He will help and protect me.

So may I learn, in the daily assault of anxious thoughts and heavy burdens, to step back and make Him holy in my life. To sit down and let Him stand in my life. To gaze upon Him and let Him fill me with awe. To be very selective in what I allow to make me tremble.

For there is only One who is worthy of attention like that.

May I learn to be more and more faithful to seek out time with his words; to tell of my needs and come away resting, for they are known and seen and handled by a capable God.

I am not capable.

I am pregnant. I am sick. I am weak. I cannot work. I cannot stand up for more than one worship song in church.

IV arms

But He takes small, weak people all the time and shelters them and draws them out and teaches them to fiercely love His name. He uses what the world discards to build a kingdom that cannot be shaken. He makes gold the asphalt that paves His streets and invites broken people to walk upon it as royalty. 

He brings down the high and mighty and elevates the lowly, and He whispers into my pitiful, seated worship that this does not depend on me.

Do not worry.

Do not fear.

Reassurances that weave the rhythm of a life that hides in the quiet place of His strength; that forfeits its attempt to be enough on its own.

Do not worry. Do not fear.

Be still. Stand still.

Know Me and see

what I will do

with a life that looks to Me

like you.

sitting in church

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty…

His faithful promises are your armor and protection…

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in the darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday…If you make the Lord your refuge, no evil will conquer you…

…The Lord says:

I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer. I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.”

Psalm 91, excerpts



I face some challenges today that are too much for me. I do not know how to go about them. I do not know how to stay encouraged, how to rest, how not to fear in the midst of them. I am troubled, sick and out of negotiating power. But I am never at the mercy of powerful people or events beyond my control. I am at your mercy. And you give it freely at the foot of the cross.

May I linger and drink it in until my soul quiets before you and my fear lets go and you are once again bigger in my heart than my problems are. 

at the foot of the cross

Help me not to live in dread, for you have freed me from that at a high price,

that I might instead live in awe.