5 Unexpected Results of Creating a Toy Rotation

toy rotation

My son's toys used to live in the corner of our family room ...one big pile in an overflowing basket, threatening to take over the house at any given moment.  It was daunting to me and to Lewis.  He wasn't playing with toys, he was scattering them.  He was discontentedly flinging one for another, searching for something to satisfy him, only to find a cluttered floor and nothing to play with (did he learn this from my closet?).  As soon as we got out of survival mode with the babies, I told myself, something was going to change.

The perfect solution seemed to be a toy rotation.  I was desperate to get the toys that were threatening to overtake our house (and drive me crazy) under some form of control.  I also wanted to start teaching Lewis self-control, resourcefulness, and contentment.  So on my first day in ages where I was without all 3 boys for more than a short hour, I tackled the project.  I won't go into detail about how to create a toy rotation.  Go to Pinterest.  Go to Google.  The instructions and tutorials are many.  Basically, you just get containers, fill them with toys, and then only pull out one or two containers at a time.  

The first day we were on a toy rotation, I expected magic to happen.  I pictured a humble happy toddler with hands outstretched, excited to open his one treasure box.  Instead,   I had an unsatisfied toddler clinging to my legs wanting me to entertain him after he played with his box for 3 minutes and spread a toy to every room of the house.  

toy roation

We've been at this toy rotation thing for almost two weeks now, and here are some of the initial unexpected results:

1.  I've realized that all toys are not created equal.
We don't have very many toys that do anything besides light up and make noise...something that doesn't entertain Lewis for more than a few minutes.  Children need toys they can manipulate, explore, take apart, put together, and play pretend with.  Also, I think many of our toys aren't age appropriate.  They are either left overs from the baby stage, or they are too advanced for a toddler to do anything with (other than throw them, that is).  While I was strategic about organizing our toys and only giving him a few at a time, I didn't realize that I needed to be strategic about what type of toys we have.  For the next phase of this project, I want to significantly decrease the number of short-lived entertainment toys and keep a smaller amount of really good toys that can last through many stages of development.
2.  I've realized that bad habits are hard to break.
When I was on bed rest and had newborn twins, I used the TV and the iPad frequently to keep Lewis from destroying the house, getting hurt, or otherwise making it impossible for me to tend to the babies.  This was necessary for survival for a while, but it created some dependencies and bad habits for him that I'm having to undo.  He hasn't really learned how to play well with the toys he has without the TV or iPad to entertain him.  This is just going to take time and consistency on my part.  He isn't ruined for life (by any means), but it's just something I didn't realize I was going to have to deal with later.  Also, teaching a toddler to entertain themselves and make-do with what they have (not always whining for more, more, more) just takes time in general.  It doesn't come naturally.  I keep telling myself to have the end goal in mind and know that it might get worse before it gets better.
3.  I'm feeling less overwhelmed about cleaning the house.
The toy rotation has been wonderful for my sanity.  It's not overwhelming to clean up toys anymore because they all have a place, and it takes very little time.  Also, because Lewis doesn't have access to everything at one time, I don't ever have to look over at a room and think, "oh man, that entire room is destroyed".  
4.  Lewis is learning to clean-up.
The other day, without me asking him first, my 19 month old put all of his cars in his tub and carried it to the storage location and then grabbed another box.  I was in shock.  I thought it would be months before he got the concept "only one box at a time".  It turns out that this is a fairly concrete and easy concept for a toddler, and when there are only a few things to pick-up at one time, he actually attempts it on his own.  
5.  I'm feeling empowered as a mother to be intentional and teach important skills to my child.
I'm not always the most intentional mommy...I'm more of a "go with the flow"type.  This isn't inherently bad, but sometimes it becomes an excuse and I get lazy about training.  If Brad and I want Lewis to be a man of character (with lots of God's help and grace) it's our responsibility to teach him certain habits.  This toy rotation has been a lesson for all of us.  I've had to be disciplined and not let Lewis change boxes every 5 minutes because he's bored and he thinks the grass is greener on the other side.  Lewis had to learn to wait, and make-do with what he has.  He and I are growing in our relationship, and have endured lots of teachable moments that will hopefully produce fruit as he gets older.  Even taking this little step of creating a toy rotation has reminded me that Brad and I are the parents, we are the authority, and it's our job to teach and train Lewis.

For now, this has been a good thing for our house and I'm looking forward to continuing it and getting better at it in the future.  

Do you use a toy rotation?  How has it impacted your family?

New "Twin" Mom Confessions on Oakland Avenue

What (or who) is the biggest safety threat for our twins?
What causes me to sneak around in dark rooms and sprint through the house?
What makes me want to have twins again?

Well, you'll have to head over to  Oakland Avenue to find out!
Today I'm honored to be a guest blogger, sharing nine new "twin" mom confessions that might surprise you!  Be sure to check out her whole "New Mom Confessions" series as well, because she's a hilarious and heartfelt writer, especially when it comes to motherhood.  (plus, Laura is my sister-in-law and she's awesome and my nephew is adorable.)

Second order of business - I took the leap and created a "From the Jensens" Facebook Page.  If you read this blog regularly and want to see updates, interact about posts, and see other articles that I share, please go "like" the page.  Also, keep in mind that you have to interact with the page from time-to-time in order for it to show up consistently on your news feed!  Have a great Thursday!

Fashion Theology - Clothing used for mission and ministry

Mission-minded clothing
Before we had our own children (and shortly after we started attending our church here in Ames), Brad and I began helping with the weekly children's ministry.  Our responsibility was to teach about famous missionaries, but mostly, we just learned a lot.  It was eye opening to hear some of the missionary's stories and inspiring to see how they allowed their lives to be used to spread the gospel.  Amy Carmichael was one missionary who stood out to me in particular.  (I can't take the time to recount her whole story here, but would encourage you to google her.)

The thing that stuck with me as we studied her life, was her strategic use of clothing in evangelism.  When Amy moved from Ireland to India, she struggled to connect with a new culture of women.  After sensing that the women weren't responding to her as a foreigner, she traded in her Irish clothing for traditional Indian wear and dyed her skin dark with coffee.  When the Indian women saw her respectfully wearing the cultural dress, they soon began to listen to what she had to say about Jesus.  After this, Amy was able to from a group of women that ministered to others called, "The Starry Cluster".  She also started a fellowship that rescued children from being prostituted in temples.

Her clothes, used thoughtfully for the sake of the kingdom, were a turning point in her ability to minster to others and share the gospel.

Isn't this a beautiful picture of how clothes can be used for mission and ministry?

My friend, Sam just recently posted a picture of her necklace on Instagram - it's from the Noonday Collection.  She remarked that she likes when people ask her about her jewelry so she can tell them the backstory of the company, which has roots in faith, adoption, and providing for those in need. (mission-minded fashion choices right there, folks)

We know of another couple ministering in Chicago to refugees, and they have chosen to modify their dress at times to respect the religious and cultural preferences of those around them, removing another barrier to sharing Jesus.  In fact, any Christian in a mission field might wear clothes that fit into their vocational industry or peer group in an effort to nullify the potential distraction of their appearance.

The reverse is also possible in some scenarios.  Sometimes followers of Christ choose to dress contrary to the culture for the sake of  mission, to make a statement that they are part of a different kingdom.  At times, it might be the right thing for us to forgo a particular trend or clothing style because it doesn't reflect biblical truth or holiness.  I just saw an article about Candice Cameron Bure, who is choosing to wear modest costumes on the show, "Dancing With the Stars".  This offers her an opportunity to share her faith with others as they see her being "in but not of the world".

The point being - in all cases, our clothes can be a tool that we use intentionally.

Clothing for my mission field
This is encouraging, and I'm starting to consider my own choices of clothing and how I can make them purposeful for the sake of evangelism.  God is showing me that the culture around me matters.  I don't maintain an image so that others would consider me "fashionable" but I might do it so that clothing becomes a non-issue among my peers.  I don't forgo a trendy pair of pants simply because I can't find a shirt to pair them with, but I might decide to say no because they are immodest and don't accurately reflect my faith.

So I'm challenging myself to ask some critical questions:
  • How does my clothing reflect my faith?
  • How am I strategically using my clothing for the sake of evangelism and ministry?
  • Are there some things I should start or stop wearing that would make me a better reflection of Jesus?
In my primary mission field (specifically, my home as I minister to my husband and children) I'm realizing that this might practically mean:
  • being more conscious about modeling modesty for my sons (they are looking to mommy to see how Godly women should dress)
  • having an attitude that doesn't place so much time and value on shopping (my kiddos don't need to have a mom who's constantly shopping online or leaving to go to the mall)
  • respecting my husband by honoring his preferences in the way I dress (if he doesn't think it looks good on me...why wear it?)
  • making a daily effort to look put together for my husband (less yoga pants & messy buns - more presentable clothing)
I am still seeking to understand what this might mean for my general mission field - in "the world".

What might God be calling you to do differently?
How do you dress for your "mission field"?

You might have missed:

Encouragement Worth Sharing

Fist off, I've been humbled at the response to the Fashion Theology series thus far.  Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.  Each and every note and personal conversation was so uplifting and really affirmed the importance of this topic.  When I sat down to write several of these posts, I was tempted to fear how they might come across, especially since it required me to be venerable and honest about my own struggles.  Thank you for handling them so graciously, and for being eager to read more.  There are several more posts in the works for this series, so be on the look out for them in the coming weeks!

19 months old, and already pretty sure he doesn't need mommy as much as he used to...
Has Failure Become a Virtue? - Jen Wilkin
I thought this was a good follow-up to some posts I shared previously...Again, touching on the trend among Christians of "ecstatic failureism" and wearing our sin as a proud badge to bask in grace.  I don't know how to do this perfectly, but somehow I think it's important to strike a balance between genuinely confessing and owning our sin while also not flaunting or making light of it.  Let's hold fast to what is good and encourage one another, stirring each other up to good works and looking first and Christ instead of bonding over conversations about how bad we all are.

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12
Make sure you aren't having an "anxiety mom" type of day before you read this article.  Take several deep breaths, and go in telling yourself, "my child will not be ruined forever if I let them use handheld devices".  With this mindset, go forth and read this post.  I had to talk myself down from the "all devices are now banned" cliff after reading this for the first time.  While I think that there is truth in each of these ten reasons, I do not think that the implications are quite as "doomsday" as this article asserts.  With that being said, I needed a little kick in the pants like this to help remind me that boundaries and wisdom related to screen time is important and it's definitely not the BEST thing for my child's development to fall back on the iPad and TV consistently.  My parenting needs to be intentional, especially in this area.

Crazy Busy - A book by Kevin DeYoung
I've only read a few chapters of this book (in fact, I don't even own it), but the three that I read were extremely convicting and practical.  Mr. DeYoung has a critically important outlook on parenting, using the internet 24/7, and just generally feeling pressure to always have a full schedule.  If you are feeling a little overwhelmed with your to-do list and your responsibilities, this is probably a book for you.  Sometime, I would like to add this to my bookshelf (...when I'm less busy).

Making the "Terrible" Twos Terrific! - A book by John Rosemond
The first two books my pediatrician recommended, we loved.  They completely altered the course of our parenting styles when it came to babies (see - Happiest Baby on the Block and Healthy Sleep, Happy Twins).  So when she recommended a book for getting through the next 12-18 months, I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle app.  Within a few hours of being home from the doctor's office, I was through 34 pages and was taking vigorous notes.  This book, while not written from a directly Christian perspective, is really following biblical principles for children and family.  It takes a practical look at what to expect behaviorally from a 2-3 year old, why they are acting the way they are, and some ideas of how to handle it.  It's a fast read, and I've already made changes in the way I'm speaking to Lewis, picking out his toys, childproofing our house, and choosing discipline.  God is using this book to give me the confidence I need to make it through this season and move from Lew's "take care of my every need" mommy to his authority figure and superior.  A change that needs to happen so he can learn to obey us and develop many of the character traits we want him to have as a man.

5 Reasons I Fear Standing Up to my Kids
And finally, this blog post pierced me to the core.  I can relate to every single reason on this list, and I'm prayerfully pushing past the temptation to be controlled by my toddler and his behavior.  I want to place high value on training him up in the Lord and not letting fear of man (or fear of a 19 month old) dictate my parenting.

What good stuff have you been reading lately?

Fashion Theology - Why did God clothe us?

When I shared "my twelve" and asked for some suggestions about things to cover on this blog in the coming year, fashion was something of interest to a few of my readers.  You must have read my mind, because fashion is something I've wanted to talk about since I started blogging, but it has seemed like a huge topic to tackle.  While I like reading and seeing fashion blogs, I knew "From the Jensens" could never become a place where I regularly chronicled my outfits.

I've been going through a heart change regarding fashion and clothing for a while now.  Part of this journey has involved understanding God's original (and still relevant) purposes and intentions for my clothing as a believer.

Clothing to Cover Us
"Why did God clothe people to begin with?"
Adam and Eve sinned and suddenly found themselves hiding from God in shame.  Their nakedness was exposing; no longer could mankind be un-covered in front of each other or in front of a holy God.  So God, in his mercy and grace, saw their insufficient attempts to cover themselves with fig leaves, and instead shed blood to make clothes for them.  He sacrificed animals, and through death he made clothing to cover Adam and Eve.  One of the first signs pointing to a savior and a final atonement to cover for sin...

Clothes were meant to cover, and inso doing, reveal God's grace and point to the gospel.  The best state Adam and Eve could now exist in was a clothed state.  Only in the context of their marital covenant would it be acceptable to show themselves fully.  Isn't this a physical reflection of a spiritual truth?  That our exposed sins are only acceptable to God as we exist in covenant relationship with Him, clothed in Christ's blood.

But quickly after he created this beautiful picture, clothes became something He never intended them to be.
Clothes were not meant to bring undo attention to ourselves.
Clothes were not meant to cause others to lust.
Clothes were not meant to give us power or stature over others.
Clothes were not meant to consume our time and energy.
Clothes were not meant to replace our inner beauty.
Clothes were not meant to control or to shame.
Clothes were about the gospel.

Clothing to Set us Apart
We present ourselves before others in clothing.  And someday, believers will be presented in the most beautiful clothing ever - robes of righteousness with accessories of crowns for our heads, available to cast at the feet of Jesus.  So before we go any further towards meaningful application, this is one thing we have to savor because it frames the context for everything else.  The conversation about fashion is really a conversation about identity.  In the context of our faith, it is crucial to remember our spiritual clothing and to identify ourselves first and foremost with those clothes.

In the spiritual realm, WHAT YOU WEAR MATTERS.  You can't wear the filthy rags you were born with in front of God and expect to spend eternity with him.  You must put on a new outfit, one provided to you on the basis of what Christ has done.  So rest assured, if you have robes of righteousness, you don't need to feel anxious about keeping up with the latest trend.  The only one whose opinion matters has already been satisfied.  In these robes, God sees you as beautiful.  God sees you as he sees Jesus; gentle, radiant, loving, and wonderful.  There is no need to impress the fleeting thoughts of man, only a need to rest in what Jesus has already done on your behalf.

These new clothes (given on the basis of Christ's blood to those who repent of sin and believe) show that you have access to the kingdom of God.
They make you free from condemnation, God's wrath, and the penalty of sin.
They mark you as an heir to the same inheritance given to King Jesus.
They can't be taken from you or tarnished.
They won't get holes or go out of fashion, they will last for eternity.
Their beauty is unfading and they were bought with the most expensive price.  

Treasuring God's Purpose for Clothing
If you have these robes of righteousness, TREASURE THEM.  They are the only clothes that really matter.  You are identified first and foremost by them.  What you wear on your physical body will rot and fade and burn.  No one will remember it.  But these clothes matter forever.

As a daughter of the king, you are set apart.
You are in.
You are worthy.
You are righteous and pure.
Nothing you ever have done or will do will stain your gorgeous robes.  So love, embrace, and be defined by them.  Not by what is in your earthly closet.

You might have missed - Fashion Theology - A New Series

Additional Resources:
The Rebellion of Nudity and the Meaning of Clothing
The Naked Truth About Clothing (audience is teenage girls, but still has some good basic truths)

You might have missed:

Fashion Theology - A New Series

"YOU ARE A JERK!" I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Brad and I were driving back from a trip and several hours in the car had boiled down to this moment.  I was shaking, and couldn't believe what had just come out of my mouth.  My horror was less about our argument at this point, but shock at the level of disrespect I was capable of.  "Is THAT what is in my heart?" I wondered...and the truth of it disgusted me.

What brought this type of anger out of my heart and onto my lips?  What caused me (for the first time ever) to YELL at my husband?  A conversation about what I spend on clothing.

For the first two years of our marriage we had struggled with this un-touchable topic of clothing and our finances.  A silent battle was raging between us every time I brought a bag home and un-clipped a tag.  He was angry.  I was entitled.  It was bad.  There wasn't any dishonesty, debt, or egregious spending...but there was something much deeper going on in our hearts.

Brad had a hard time understanding why I valued new clothes so much, so to compromise, we started to talk about an annual budget to provide boundaries and freedom.  It was a great solution, but when we started talking about the specific numbers, the roof blew off the house.  I couldn't believe the number he expected me to be capped at!  There was no way I could get everything I NEEDED under that amount.  He didn't understand.  I NEEDED those new clothes.

So I yelled at him.

Now, you must know that not long after, I did seek his forgiveness, I did finally agree to the budget number he proposed, and two years later I am so thankful for that moment in the car where it became very clear what I worshiped more than God.

It scared me.  It was the first time it was absolutely clear that this was an idol in my life and at the first sign that someone would knock it down or take it away, I came out swinging.  I wasn't just scared that I couldn't have as many new clothes as I had before, I was scared of losing who I was.  I was scared that my identity would be shattered.

Who is Emily if she isn't fashionable?  Who is Emily if her appearance isn't kept in tip-top shape?  I was truly fearful of this answer.

God, in his great mercy, used this moment of ugliness to draw me to repentance in an area where I had chosen to turn a blind eye for so long, making excuses like, "it's not a sin to want to look nice."  "I don't overspend, I don't run up credit cards, I don't lie...what's the big deal about buying more clothes?"

The issue wasn't the amount that I spent or the fact that I liked clothes - the issue was that...
I wasn't submitting to or respecting my husband
I was storing up treasure on Earth
I was in love with worldliness
I was refusing to give our finances to the Lord and let him fully guide my stewardship
I was putting my hope in my closet
I was investing in my physical beauty more than a gentle and quiet spirit
I was worshiping other gods

Two years later, I can finally testify that God has changed and is still changing my heart in this area.  While I will likely still face temptations for years to come, I'm encouraged as I find it easier and easier to speak truth in moments of weakness.  Where I once thought an abundance of clothing was worth lusting after, I now find the thought of an overstuffed and underused closet to be undesirable.  God is faithfully and slowly causing me to hate this idol.

Let me be clear.  Clothes are not evil in and of themselves.  It isn't a sin to buy new clothes or even to enjoy them.  It isn't a sin to use them in the context of our faith to give glory to God.  It is only becomes sin when clothing and appearances capture our hearts more than Jesus, and we are willing to be disobedient to his commands in order to have what we think we need.

So this is what I want to explore and what I've been mulling over for some time now...the theology of fashion.  Because I believe there is a context in which a biblical woman can use worldly fashion for kingdom purposes and not for the sake of her own image.  I believe that similar to the sin of gluttony, excessive materialism in the area of fashion is an "acceptable sin" among Christian women (myself included).  I hope you will enjoy this series with me as I start to share a few of the things God has taught me so far on this journey to believe something counter-cultural, that we don't need to look a certain way on the outside to be lovely and worthwhile on the inside.  

Next up - Why did God clothe us?


Other posts in this series...
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