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Homemaking Rhythms with Jenn Darnold

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Jenn Darnold's home is adorned with memories of intentional homemaking. Marbles and remembrance stones are displayed in jars, each one linked to a special memory or a reminder to speak life and truth to one another.

As a homemaker, Jenn has embraced simplicity and rhythms that work for her family and home. This has given her mental, physical and emotional space to keep her focus on the "why" of homemaking.

Over the years, Jen has learned to zoom out and remember that "home is a gift and a place of provision where people's spiritual, emotional and physical needs are being met."

Click on the link below to hear more of Jenn's story of home.


Allison 0:01

Have you established rhythms in your homemaking life? At first glance rhythms, also known as routines, can seem restrictive, but the opposite is actually true. Today's Homemaker Portrait explores how having set times and seasons and our homemaking frees our minds to remain focused on the "why" of practicing The Art of Home.

Hello, homemakers, and welcome to season three of The Art of Home Podcast, where we are exploring how homemakers cultivate a place to belong. I'm your host, Allison Weeks. I'm a wife,a mom,and I've been practicing the art of home for over 29 years.

Thank you so much for tuning into The Art of Home today. We are thrilled to have you with us as we present another Homemaker Portrait. That's what we're calling this type of episode now as we are making exciting plans to add some new types of episodes to the podcast in 2022! We're still going to be doing the homemaker stories that you have come to know and love. And we will round out our content with other offerings that also focus on inspiring and encouraging you in your practice of The Art of Home. Now that's just a little teaser, we will have more information coming on that in the very near future.

In today's episode, I'm chatting with my friend Jenn Darnold, about her practice of The Art of Home. Throughout our conversation, we kept coming back to the idea of establishing rhythms to keep things simple and focused on the why of home. Rhythms are all around and even within us. The sun, moon and stars, the weather the tides, even the beating of our own hearts remind us that we were made to live and thrive in the context of rhythms. Without rhythms we tend to flit from one thing to the next, never landing long enough to make an impact or complete our endeavors. Without rhythms, we are easily distracted and derailed in our practice of the art of home. Rhythms are like guardrails, keeping you from ending up in the ditches of distraction or overwhelm. Over the years, Jenn has learned how rhythms allow her to keep moving forward toward the goal of her homemaking; to cultivate "a place of provision where people's spiritual, emotional and physical needs are being met." So whether you're filling up the bird feeders or cleaning out the car, settle into a rhythm as you enjoy Jenn's story of home.

Alright, I'm here with my friend Jenn. And Jenn, before we go back to the beginning of your story of home, why don't you tell us just a little bit about who you are today.

Jenn 2:41

Wonderful. Thanks, Allison. So my husband, Lee, and I, we've been married about 24 years. And we have two sons. Our oldest is starting his sophomore year in college at Baylor University in Waco. And our youngest is embarking on his senior year of high school, starting all of the college application process, figuring out what's next for him. And I currently serve full time with a ministry helping with their leadership development efforts.

Allison 3:15

Okay, do you have any hobbies?

Jenn 3:18

You know, in this season of life, probably my main hobby is reading. I love to read. And so I actually probably have more books at any given time than I can get to. But if I can sneak away and get some reading time, okay, fills me up.

Allison 3:33

You're a girl after my own heart. I am a big reader. Do you read fiction, nonfiction? Both?

Jenn 3:39

I read. I don't read a whole lot of fiction. And I think that's just my personality bent. So, you'll find me, if you look at my current list of titles, it's a lot of leadership books, because that feeds into my ministry work a lot of books about you know, theology or different things or biographies. Usually on a practical reading.

Allison 4:04

Okay,I'm gonna put you on the spot here just a little bit. What's your favorite biography that you've ever read?

Jenn 4:09

Oh, that's a big question. I think one of the ones from recent years that I loved was Chuck Colson book about just the transformation in his life and what happened going from the Watergate scandal to starting prison ministry. I just, I like stories about life change.

Allison 4:33

Yeah, that was that was a dramatic life change.

Jenn 4:35

Yes. Yeah. Good choice. All right. So let's go back to the beginning. When did you first become a homemaker?

I think that's a great question. I think initially, I thought I would answer, "Well in 1997 when I got married," but as I thought more about it, I really think it's earlier than that probably about 1991, early 90s when I first moved into a my first apartment off campus with a friend. Because all of a sudden there, we had to do grocery shopping and cook and we could host parties at our home. And so really, that was probably the first time I was on my own. No mom or grandma helping take care of things.

Allison 5:19

Yes. And I love that you point that out because a homemaker is anyone who has their own space that they cultivate and take care of. So I mean, technically, you could be a homemaker, even if you just rent a room in somebody's house. So even as a teenager, this comes up a lot in our conversations on this show, letting our kids sort of decorate their own space so that they feel comfortable there. They do their own little homemaking in their room.

Jenn 5:47

Well, yeah, cuz home isn't just for married couples with kids. I think we all have homes, whether you're single, married, not married, kids, no kids. It's the place where you reside. And, and there's so much value and in that in how you create that space, yeah.

Allison 6:06

Did you have any skills when you first started homemaking? Or were you just kind of thrown into the deep end?

Jenn 6:11

Yeah, I think a little of both. I think in some areas, there were skills and others-definitely not. But I think just growing up in a home where my mom had me help her, you know, with things. And my mom was a school teacher, and my grandmother came over every morning made us breakfast, she helped keep our house up with our house and would make dinner. So kinda had watched two women who has, you know, care for our home. And so I learned things from them. And then also, I was in Girl Scouts when I was little. And I feel like we did a lot of like learning practical life skills. Sure, through Girl Scouts, too, but it's different. I mean, when you're in elementary school, learning those things versus young adult and having to do them for real.

Allison 7:00

Yeah. So yeah, all those little patches that you have to earn the little sewing patch and the little cooking patch.

Jenn 7:05

Yeah, that the sewing patch was probably like my highest point and sewing in my life was was getting that patch I haven't developed since then.

Allison 7:15

Oh, well, that's okay. Which skill was the steepest learning curve for you? In homemaking?

Jenn 7:21

You know, I think for me, it was just how to organize it all. Like, I feel like especially once I got married, and then kids came around, and I remember feeling a little overwhelmed of how does this all fit together? Like there's all these tasks that need to be done. And I don't know how you get to them all. So I went through a lot of searching and just asking friends, like how do you organize your day? Like how do you organize your week of things to get done in the home. And that was really helpful for me to to come up with some sort of schedule or plan that would work for me. And it was interesting, because I used to work full time in the accounting world and then went part time when my sons were born. And I really had a steeper curve, once I was home, not working as much to try to figure out how to fit it all together.

Allison 8:19

I wonder that's interesting. Because was it that because now you had this before, when you were working, you had a limited amount of time with which to get it all done. And so you had to sort of force yourself to be very regimented. So then when you came home, now you have this vaster, vaster, that's not a word. But now you have this vast amount of time? [Yes]. In comparison.

Jenn 8:40

Yeah. And I think more I think when I was working, before kids came along, there was less to do because kids weren't in the picture. And I had to kind of pick and choose, right, you know, these key things have to get done. But when kids came in the picture, and I had that time, but it was just a lot of figuring out how to make sure things got done [Yeah], the key things [Yeah].

Allison 9:05

So that goes right into our next segment, which is all about balance and resource management and challenges and expectations. And you said you did work outside the home. That and I'm sorry, was that before the kids came?

Jenn 9:18

That was before before kids came, I worked outside the home and then when my firstborn came along, I went part time. But I had a lot of help. I had both grandma's came for a day to be at the house kind of like what I had growing up, the grandmas would come and help with laundry and help with cooking and. But then the second boy came along and the plan didn't work so well anymore. And I retired at that time and the grandmas kind of got released from helping as much and that's that's probably when too I had to figure out more how to [right] to keep a schedule. And as I talked to friends, one of the things that helped me and this is just the way my maybe my accounting brain works is I had to have order. And so I started setting up like Monday in our house is known as clean sheet day. And so the sheets are washed on Mondays, because if I don't do that I forget and I don't remember how long has it been since these have been washed. And so when I kind of got on a schedule and knew Tuesday was grocery shopping day, Wednesday was this day, and it didn't always work out like that. But it helped me bring some peace, as I knew when things were gonna get done [right].

Allison 10:39

It brings peace in in the moment when it gets done, and then actually moving forward, because it kind of helps, it's almost like pillars to just sort of help build the rest of your schedule around. [Yes] You know, so I know I need to set aside time on Tuesday because I have to go to the grocery store or go pick up the order nowadays. Or on this day, this is my bathroom cleaning day. So I need to make sure I have a little chunk of time set aside.

Jenn 11:01

Well, yeah, and that was that was another piece of it, too, was just learning that it was okay to like schedule things related to my what I needed to get done in the home into my calendar, just like anything else [right]. And I don't know why that was a struggle at first. But I was I remember being at, I went to a moms of boys group back in the day, because I did not know how to parent boys. And I remember one of the older mentor moms, there talking about how she did her calendar. And she said, You can't look at just the day at hand and see, oh, I have space this day, I can do this. It helps to look at your whole week, zoom out, look at your whole week, look at your whole month. And she said it's okay to protect time just for you. And just for your family and schedule that like you would other things. And that was a big aha. Like, if I don't build in time to know, okay, Monday mornings, I can't jump into other things right away because I need to get the sheets going or other things. It just helped me have some rhythm to what was going on.

Allison 12:06

Yes, I think rhythm is a really good word to describe that. When your kids started to get older, did you ever go back into accounting work?

Jenn 12:14

There was definitely times, the nice thing that we've seen about my accounting degree is there were times where maybe it would help our family finances for me to work a little so I could could pick up some contract work or do other things. And so there were seasons where I picked up more work. We when when our boys entered elementary school, we made the choice to send them to private school. And we never thought we were going to do that. But it's where we were led. And so at that season, it was going to help for me to get to work more you know to help with the finances for that. And they were in school so I felt like I had more time. So I was able to do work from home accounting work that I could do in between dropping them off at school and picking them up. And so it's kind of ebbed and flowed, [right] and then as they hit probably upper elementary middle school, I started being called to be more involved with ministry. And that became more full time as as the boys got older. And my accounting work has as I've retired, basically from that as the ministry work was ramping up [okay].

Allison 12:36

Was that a challenge for you when you started? Now you're now you were at a place where you had to also balance the work of the home with the side work of accounting, even doing it in your home? Maybe that had some unique challenges?

Jenn 13:44

Yeah, I think I think for me to fit it all together for caring for the boys and really wanting to be intentional about relationship building with them, I had to let go of how things were going to work maybe in the home. And so I'm pretty simple when it comes to to most of what I do for the home. If it's decorating, meal prep, anything like that, I don't get filled up by it. And so I'm not one who's going to be looking for hours on Pinterest or on blogs to find a great new recipe. I'll stick to my tried and true simple to get everyone fed but and so I don't spend maybe as much time you know, on that, or, or things like decorating the home is not my favorite thing to do. And so a lot of our decorations have been the same over the years. And so I think I think keeping that end of things simple allowed me to just spend the time whether it was the part time accounting work, or now the more full time ministry work, it helped me have that balance because something had to get.

Allison 14:58

Exactly yeah, that's a really great point, we can't do all the things. [Right] And that's great that you recognized, Hey, you know, decorating and, and complex meal preparation is just not my thing. Like you said it. What did you say it didn't fill you up?

Jenn 15:12

Right. It's not a passion of mine. And I saw and maybe it's especially like having boys. Yeah, they just didn't care a whole lot [just feed them something]. Yeah. And it's interesting because even even the simple things that were done just to, to, you know, kind of survive some of the crazy years with everything. I'm now hearing as my boys are older, how much they latched on to these things and have memories of those things. And, you know, we would do something simple, like pies for holiday, we'd have like a pie contest. And Lee and one of the boys would always make this chocolate pie and the other boy and I would make the lemon pie and we use the premade graham cracker crus. It was a simple like four ingredient recipe. But they loved those pies, you know, and they didn't really know the difference that it wasn't a homemade crust. And I'm sure that homemade crust would have been delightful and I love my friends who love doing that. But for us, we've just kept it simple.

Allison 16:19

That's great. That's really good advice. Let's talk a little bit about expectations. How well did the day to day reality of keeping a home full time match any expectations you might have had about what it was going to look like?

Jenn 16:34

That's a great question. I think I probably had some warped expectations. Growing up with basically two women running our home with my mom, we had my grandma, they got a lot done [I'm sure] between the two of them. And so when it was on me and my family, I was like wait, and I did have some help from the grandmas early on. But when they were gone and I was on my own, I think I had to, to get past kind of being overwhelmed by the volume of stuff. And my personality is very achievement oriented and very task oriented. And so I zoomed in on the details and love getting things done. I'm one of those that will add an item to a checklist so I can cross it off. And I don't always zoom out to like see big picture. And so I think my expectations early on, I would think about just getting things done and keeping the house clean, making sure people are fed. And at that time hadn't really zoomed out to see the importance of home like the why, like, what's the heart behind this and that our home is a gift. And it's a place of provision where people's spiritual and emotional and physical needs are being met. And this work I'm doing which seems like toil because it's never ending and that was a discouragement I think I had to get past that the laundry just doesn't end. I can't check it off my checklist and be done forever with it. Like it's always there or the the dirty dishes or the dusty, you know. And so I think I had to go through a process of just learning to zoom out and kind of think about the why behind it, which I think brought more delight into the work than just oh my goodness, I've got to do this again today.

Allison 18:36

Yeah, exactly. That's a great perspective. What about challenges? Were there any special challenges that you faced in your homemaking journey? And how did you learn to manage those?

Jenn 18:47

You know, I think just I think like early in marriage, I would think just Lee and I settling in to who was going to do what, and not maybe expecting that we're going to do everything, every chore together all the time. Like every night cleaning dishes, we're going to be there the sink doing it together. And I think just settling into those kind of roles. Not that we don't help each other out at times. But I went down a trip, a trip down memory lane preparing for our time together today and looked back. Lee and I took a marriage equipping class before we got married. 13 weeks, probably the best thing we did to start our marriage strong. And one of the exercises was like expectations for the home. And we had to go through at the time and say who was going to do this and that. And I didn't realize how helpful that would be it's kind of funny looking at it now because not everything has played out in reality like he was going to commit to take always taking out the trash all the time. Well, he's not here when the trash needs to go out. So that's been me. But I think I think overcoming that challenge of just who does what, how is going to be done, it was nice to get past that and kind of settled, that every time he's out in the yard doing stuff, he's not expecting me to always be right there. And every time I'm doing things inside, we kind of that's how we divided things up. He's kind of the outside guy, I'm more the inside person. And it helped me kind of settle that, hey, this is my territory. This is my lane. I want to ask him when I need help, and he's happy to help. But I'm not going to get resentful if he's sitting on the couch after a long day of work and I'm still working on dishes. And so I think in the early years of marriage, it was just settling in [Right] to that.

Allison 20:43

Was it hard for you when you came home? Like, retired from your job is what you said. Was it difficult for you to make that transition? Were there, you know, visions you had of what that was going to look like and or even letting go of your career that you had as an accountant?

Jenn 21:01

Yeah, it was definitely a transition. And I think I remember thinking, wow, I was really competent at my accounting role, and did well in my career. And I got home and I didn't feel very competent. And there were just more failures. And I was like, wait a sec, like, I'm used to being high achieving and, and doing things well. And I remember one day, I think it was changing someone's diaper, just almost in tears, like, I'm better in my corporate role than I am at this because it was just all so new. And I was trying to figure out things and wanted to do them the right, now I know there's not really always a right way. But I was one where it was time for my kids first bath. And I had the notes from the parenting class at the hospital about how to properly give a bath. And that's with the firstborn, you know, and then you realize, okay, you're not going to hurt your kid by giving them a bath the other way. But it just, it was a bit of a transition, just settle, into a whole new frontier, where I didn't have experience. And then also quickly realized, hey, just because I'm home, raising my kids does not mean there's a beautiful dinner, like beautifully decorated with the house perfectly cleaned up every night. And I had to kind of let go of those expectations. Because Lee definitely wasn't putting those expectations on me. It was more me of Oh, I'm not working now. So this should be just magical every evening, and it didn't end up like that.

Allison 21:55

That's a good realization to come to. So do you remember when when was the point where you kind of felt like, okay, I feel like I have some competency in this new role now?

Jenn 22:51

I would say it was a year or two. You know, after that transition from working, I was working part time to be completely at home, I think probably a year or two, where the amount of help we were having from the grandmas was kind of decreasing to where it was really me. And I think I finally got to a place, it was still chaotic in that season of life, but I had rhythms, I had structures. I had realized, you know what boundaries that were going to be good for me were. That I'm not going to maybe cook like my friends cooking, or I'm not going to decorate my home or have dinner parties that look like hers. Because that's not me. And it just took some discovery time to to realize what was going to work for our family. And it was okay if that look different than the family that we were doing life with fromfrom church.

Allison 23:51

Absolutely. That's such a good point. Because comparison can just be a huge trap for anybody but particularly as homemakers. And even in this day and age for the younger women who are just starting their home making journey and they have Instagram and they have Pinterest and all of those things that say it should look like this. [Yes] And that's just not realistic.

Jenn 24:11

I'm very grateful that I didn't start my homemaking journey as a mom and wife today. I think there would have been those challenges of just guilt. Like my my thing doesn't look like this or, I mean, there's so many ideas out there that I think I might have been overwhelmed by so many choices. Whereas I didn't have the internet as a resource, and so my my options to go to for advice and ideas was a much smaller group of moms from my Sunday school class at church or from a mom's mentoring group that I was in. So there weren't as many ideas to have to wade through.

Allison 24:57

Yeah, exactly. And then really what we should be doing with those relationships is sharpening one another and encouraging one another and learning from one another rather than doing the comparison thing.

Jenn 25:07

Exactly,exactly. And as we've moved on in life and things have gotten busier, we also we hire help like where we need to, you know, and so we're in a season right now where Lee travels a bunch. And so getting help cleaning the pool was a way that we could get things done. And still

Allison 25:33

Yeah. And that's actually very applicable to what we were just talking about, you know, how do we get it all done? How do we establish these rhythms in our homes? Because the other temptation, one of the other temptations that we have to deal with as homemakers is I have to do this all by myself. [right] And I can't have somebody come and help me with x, or Y, or Z. Sometimes budget constraints, you know, you just have to find a way to make it work, because you can't afford to bring in help in a particular area, or you can't afford to send the dry cleaning out, or whatever. But one of the things we want to encourage here is listen to these homemaker stories, right, and then go find someone in your community that you can sort of latch on to, and partner with, whether it's an older woman or a peer or both actually would be great to learn from the older women to partner with them and partner with your peers and help one another out.

Jenn 26:31

Absolutely. I think there's so much value in that. And I think that's how we learn from others. And I think for everyone, just to realize that their family is going to have a unique rhythm and things that are important to them. And so Lee and I knew early on in marriage, having a clean house was super important to us. And it's not always clean, clean. But when I started, as I was working, and then went into pretty much that full time ministry work, in order to have the clean house that was super important to us that's an area where we chose to allocate budget dollars to get help. So we've had people who come help, like do deep cleans on our house. There's other things that aren't as important to us and so we might not allocate budget. Or there's certain things that we enjoy doing that we do ourselves. And there's definitely been seasons along the way where there was no budget for any kind of help and we did it all, you know. So it's definitely been a journey.

Allison 27:37

Yeah. And just being intentional about sitting down and saying what is important to our family? And what is it that we're willing to invest in, whether it's our own sweat, and time or allocating budget funds, because that's important to us. And then what's not important and that that will help bring some balance into your rhythm.

We're going to talk about hospitality for a little bit now. We want to cultivate an atmosphere of belonging for the people who live here, obviously. And then the people who visit here, who come in and out of these doors. How do you in your family show hospitality towards one another, maybe through memories, or traditions or fun things that you've done or relationship building type activities?

Jenn 28:21

Yeah,I think we've always tried to be intentional about making our home, just a refuge and a place of rest where everyone feels valued. And so during different seasons of life, it's looked differently. But I would say like, when the boys were younger, we did something we called them like, they were family nights, Darnold family nights. And again, in my kind of spirit of keeping things simple, we just always did the same thing. So we had pizza, we had rainbow sherbert for dessert. And we did some sort of activity those nights. And we got these workbooks from a group called heritage builders. And so they had these fun exercises for kids that had a meaning and purpose and message and it was so simple, it was easy to put on. We had the workbooks. I would kind of find one, buy the supplies, flag it to show Lee. But our boys still have so many memories of those because it was an intentional time set aside. The fact that I ordered pizza and picked up some rainbow sherbert kept it easy. But we just wanted those times together as a family. And so you know it didn't last forever. As they got older there was you know, other interest, but we definitely tried to do things simple like birthdays. I have a little container of birthday decorations and so they're the same each time. Someone will get a banner up above the kitchen counter, they'll get some party hats, I make pancakes with the number that they're turning on there and they have a special plate, you know. And so that's kind of our birthday ritual. And it keeps it simple for me too, where every year I'm not, oh, what's the latest way to recognize my kid's birthday. And so we try to make a big deal out of birthdays. We also do, we just have tried to start little traditions like we had a season that was hard back with the great recession in 2007. And so as we came out of that time, we didn't want to forget what what we went through. And so we have an annual night each year where we remember God's faithfulness during that time and what he carried us through and we call it the Darnold Family Feast of Tabernacles. And we read a little sheet that talks about all the ways people helped our family at that time. And so, again, just simple, but it's a tradition that we just wanted to connect our family together through.

Allison 31:13

That's awesome. Those are awesome activities to do. And I love that you've let yourself off the hook. You pick up a pizza, and you pick up some sherbert. And it doesn't have to be homemade, it's just simple. Just keep it simple. And it's more about the the intentionality of creating that memory that, again, that rhythm word keeps coming up. I really like that. I would love to talk about your marble jar.

Jenn 31:38

Yeah. So I am one, I always say I'm not creative. Others would say that I am. But I'm not always the one to like, first generate an idea. But I have no problem borrowing ideas from others. And so there's a parenting app that I used to follow that had great ideas like you would plug in your kid's specific age and where they were in high school. And it gives you some intentional things, conversations to have with them. And I think it was from that app that I got this idea. And what they were encouraging parents to do is to get a marble jar for their high school aged kid, and to put a marble in for every week that the kid had until high school graduation. Instead, I started my boys' junior year is when I did it. And so in the kitchen, in a prominent place, there's the marble jar with a marble for each week. And then every Sunday, I take out a marble and the parenting app encourage you to just speak life giving words to your kid that day to be intentional about it-not that I don't other days of the week. But the marble just helps you remember it. And so with my oldest son, we got to where there was one marble left in the jar, and we were getting ready to drive him to college to move into the dorm. And there were a lot of tears taking out that last marble. But it was neat for him to see too, because he knew it was his time to fly, you know, as that marble came out and he was excited and ready. And so when we got home from moving him into college, we've filled the marble jar backup for my youngest and he knew, so he's kind of had fun watching it. I think as I get teary eyed they get excited as the marbles go down. But it's just been a nice visual to me to remember the time is short.

Allison 33:41

Yes, absolutely. That is such a wonderful idea. Thank you for sharing that with us. So now what about hospitality to other people, the people that don't live inside these four walls?

Jenn 33:52

Yes, that has been something that has been a mission for our family that we have felt called to you. And I feel like on my side of the family I grew up with the rich legacy of that. If I think back to my grandmother on my mom's side, she was known for her parties, she would host for people and having people over and I think back before it was probably called a supper club. Like she had a supper club group and I knew those people and they were at her house. And she she was a mess. Her kitchen was always crazy, like but she didn't care because she got to have people over. And then when I moved into elementary school, my grandmother ended up living 10 minutes from us, and so she would hold what our family calls cookie bakes at her house and we didn't really bake the cookies. I don't know why they were called cookie bakes. But she would have them made and we get would get to invite friends over and we would decorate the cookies and we'd have little coffee tins that we would decorate to take them home in. And it became a big deal to get to come to one of these cookie bakes. So when my boys were elementary age, my mom started hosting the same cookie bakes for them. And in my family, we grew up always having, we were the house to go to at Christmas. All my aunts and uncles and cousins would come over, my mom would host a big Christmas open house. And with my mom being a high school teacher, we had students at of the house a lot. So I think I just grew up with that mentality of larger gatherings. And so for our family, we've always wanted to be a place like where kids could gather, especially as our kids got older. And we started a ministry when we lived in Philadelphia. So we're native Texans, but spent about six years living on the east coast. And we birthed this idea from friends, we had watched do it in Dallas, Fort Worth. But we started a ministry that we called Man Up, and we had the ninth grade boys come over, and they would be fed because that was a big deal. They would learn some sort of man skill, which really a lot of the skills were just life skills that certainly women need to know too. But it might be like car care, or grooming, or how to do plumbing in the house or how to paint a shed. And then there'd be a message and my husband would do a devotion at the end. And so it was important to us to invite the whole grade, and my boys were at a school small enough that it wasn't hundreds and hundreds of kids. And so we ended up doing the Man Up ministry for four years straight between the two boys both in Philadelphia. And here. And so we were like, et's invite the whole grade to this. And that was important to us. We also have just wanted our home to be open, I was sharing with you that we have a group of college students that come into town, they're in San Antonio on a leadership trip from Texas a&m, and they bring a charter bus to our house and get to hear about life after college. And so we have to move all the furniture out when that group comes. It probably maxes out how many [how many people?] there's probably about 60 or so, when they come for that. We do a lot of like larger scale gatherings. But we also like to do, my street I live on we have a book club and so we hadn't met in a year and a half right with COVID and we all missed each other and I just threw it out there as like Hey, who's ready to start back book club. And we didn't read,we don't always read a book. But it's you know, community gathering. It was so great. People stayed for hours. Swapping stories about the recent ice storm and just catching up and just to see the laughter, joy. And I kept it simple. I kept the snack simple. It was more important to get people here in community.

Allison 38:07

Yes, that is wonderful. I'm a big fan of book clubs. I've been in a couple over the years. I'm in one right now. Actually. It's a virtual club. So it's with people all over the place, my mom, my stepmom, some friends, my aunts. And so we're working our way through classics. [Oh, that sounds great.] Because these are the kind of books that you're not going to normally pick. Oh, I think I'm gonna read, you know, David Copperfield, which is one that took us a couple of months to get through that this summer. But to go through that journey with other others. And that's what I love about the group is we do a zoom meet at the end of the month to talk about the book. And it's just really fun. And when I've been in community book clubs before where we actually met in person, these were people that I probably would have never gravitated towards naturally. But we just came together under that common love of reading and formed some relationships that were lasting, and really meaningful.

Jenn 39:05

I think what I love about hosting things is in just being willing to open up our home because I think a lot of it is just willingness. Willingness to create a space for people to come is just the community aspect for it and getting to hear what's going truly going on with people. Like in the book club a few weeks ago for our street, we found out about a neighbor going through a pretty big health challenge. And just driving by people's homes or maybe waving while they're out walking, you don't get to know truly what's going on in people's lives. And I think back to some of the times we hosted Man Up and there might have been a boy here whose dad had passed away the year before, or a boy who just didn't feel connected at school. But it was the one night of the month that he was invited. Something that everyone was invited to. And so we've really tried to have that mindset with hospitality. It's interesting. Speaking of hospitality, just having to consider and respect the different personality types within my family, because I'm probably the most extroverted. So if it were up to me, every weekend, we would have a dinner party, large gathering, and I'm alone in that with our family. Hospitality is important to them. But I have to understand Lee, who, like this week, for example, he's traveled all week. He lands at eight o'clock tonight and so, I'm already thinking about this evening how to create a space for him to rest and refresh after being gone. Where I'm kind of ready to go out because I've been home all week with him on the road. But I need to give him space. I'll probably have dinner here. Go pick up food to have here for him. My oldest loved large scale gatherings for lots of friends. We hosted a dinner before their Christmas ball senior year, and we got to decorate and do photo booths. We had probably 30 kids here. But for my youngest, he's very much an introvert. And that's not fun for him. So I will suggest, hey, can we have a big group of guys and girls over? And all he wants are his five or six tight buddies. So I've had to adjust hospitality for him. I just tried to make, when his five or six tight group guys are here, try to make it really special for them. Like I know what drink they like. I know what their food preferences are. And it's funny with that group. They love Rice Krispies, homemade Rice Krispie treats and [who doesn't?]. I guess they've been raised on like the prepackaged ones. And so I make sure at all times I have marshmallows and rice krispies here because I never know when that group will land here. Yeah, but if they're here, you see me whipping them up, and they think they're the best thing ever. I was like boys, I'm just following the recipe onn the back. [They are the best thing ever]. I have to watch myself when I make them. But just trying to make them feel that this is a space they want to come to and it's a simple way just having the rice crispy materials on hand for them.

Allison 42:34

Yeah, being prepared and then being aware of what's meaningful for each person. It's a really great hospitality skill.

We will get back to Jen's story in just a few minutes. Right now it's time for historical homemaker hints. This is the part of the podcast where we highlight some of the helpful and not so helpful hints doled out to homemakers throughout history. Today's hints come from the 1898 publication, The Art of Homemaking in City and Country in Mansion in Cottage by Margaret E. Sangster. From the chapter entitled order and system, Margaret advises the following. Every sensible person knows that the affairs of life are carried on to much better advantage when they are managed with a certain regard to routine than when the duties of the day are left to accident, especially in the beginning of housekeeping. It is a good plan to regulate the various dates according to system to have certain days for certain work, and as a rule, not to vary much in the schedule laid down.

I agree wholeheartedly Margaret! Rhythms are so crucial to a successful practice of the art of home. We thrive with rhythms; of work of rest of play, and creativity. Rhythms help us decrease mental clutter and avoid decision fatigue by setting up a framework of necessary housework around which we can build the rest of our schedule. Rather than flying by the seat of our pants and having to decide every single week when we're going to do what housework, we just need to make the decision once. Establish a basic rhythm of housework and stick to it, tweaking as necessary based on seasons and circumstances. While my housework schedules have changed over the years, I've always tried to establish regular rhythms to make sure the basics were getting done. I have daily rhythms and I have weekly rhythms. Currently my weekly housework rhythm is as follows. I clean on Monday, I do laundry, ironing, mending anything related to clothing on Tuesdays. I grocery shop on Wednesdays, or I pick it up curbside. I wash sheets on Thursday, and I tend to my plants and tidy my porches on Fridays. I do larger projects or catch up on Saturday. This rhythm does not cover every single task on my to do list but it usually ensures that the basics are going to done, and frees up my mind to think about other aspects of my practice in the art of home.

It's interesting to hear what Margaret considers an acceptable house cleaning rhythm in 1898. "Monday buy time honored custom is in most families devoted to washing. If the housekeeper rises early and has taken the precaution to sort her clothes the night before, putting those which are most soiled into water to soak, keeping the fine and the course things apart, and taking this hardest labor of the house with a cheerful spirit, she will find it a good thing out of the way when Monday's sun goes down. Tuesday is ironing day. Wednesday may be taken for mending and putting in needful stitches before laying away the freshly laundered clothes. Thursday and Friday divide between them washing windows and sweeping and general cleaning. While Saturday is by common consent appropriated to baking enough in the way of bread, pies and cakes being easily prepared then for the wants of an ordinary household. If one must bake twice a week, then Wednesday is the better day for the second campaign of this kind."

Did you catch that friend? An entire DAY was needed for washing! And in that, the well prepared homemaker would have had the foresight to sort the clothing and pre-treat the stains the night before. Then add two more days to fully complete the clothing care routine with ironing, mending and putting away. I know many of you like me have had times when the laundry required all day to get completely caught up. However, that was with the amazing luxury and convenience of a washer and dryer, not wash boards and hand ringers. So next time you're tempted to groan at the pile of dirty clothes awaiting you think of those poor women of old and the toil that was "wash day" and offer a prayer of thanks as you toss those clothes into the wash and press start. Well, that's it for today's historical homemaker hints. As always, please remember this segment is for entertainment purposes only. And I leave it to you, the listener, to determine the safety and soundness of this advice. Now back to Jen's story.

Let's talk a little bit about seasons and homemaking. So how has your role as a homemaker changed over time?

Jenn 47:11

It definitely has changed. And I liked that you used the word season. And that another learning curve for me, just understanding seasons. I think early on in my homemaking journey I would hear these moms at all stages of life talk about different things they were doing. And again, I felt a little overwhelmed. Like am I supposed to be doing all these things at once? And I remember being in a Bible study at a church we were at in Dallas Fort Worth. And they were very intentional with a study they offered for for women about all different parts of being a woman. And one of the key takeaways I had from that study was about seasons of life. And there was actually a chart someone shared from a book that walked through seasons, and it had like possible things you might have in that season or focus on in that season. And for some reason, seeing that helped me relax, like, oh, there will be a time when my kids aren't in the home. And I have more time to even think about this or that. But right now I'm in this very specific season and I'll be intentional here. And so that kind of helped me to realize, because I think especially early on in the journey of motherhood, you just don't see how it's ever going to end, right. And I remember even you know, from day one, the early weeks thinking my kids never gonna sleep. They will never sleep. And I remember my mom who, I talked to my mom most every day, I'd call her about parenting things and recipes, but I would call her at that time just in tears like will he ever sleep? And she kept assuring me. You'll get there. He'll get there. And so and then people start to say enjoy these times, because they'll be in school before you know it. And you're like, I don't know if that's going to happen.

Allison 49:11

And you just want to punch them in the face when they say that.

Jenn 49:14

So yeah, you're like, but it doesn't seem like it's going to end now. And so now having one in college and one we have ... the marble jar's looking thin now. You know, we don't have that many more months with him. So now we're on the edge of a big season shift to empty nester. And so I think the early years of homemaking were very labor intensive. There's so much laundry, so many dirty dishes, sippy cups. Now I kind of see some of that slowing down, especially as our boys got older, and we keep saying we're working them toward emancipation, so we're not going to do as much for you right now. So we've had them doing their own laundry for years and that has cut back somewhat on my laundry and teaching them to cook. Or they're busy and we're not home for family dinners in quite the same way. So some of those things have, I think the day to day like buisiness has started to decrease. So I'm just kind of trying to prepare myself now for this next journey of empty nest. And we had a little taste of it Fourth of July this year, my oldest was working at a summer camp. So he was gone, my youngest got invited to go to the lake with a friend's family. So it just left Lee and I. And it's a first time maybe for a holiday, like a major holiday, we were alone. And it was really fun. We enjoyed each other. But I still put on a little spread and party and put out a few little Fourth of July decorations. Just because it's just the two of us doesn't mean it can be a celebration, with some decorations and typical holiday food.

Allison 51:03

I think that's really important to maintain an atmosphere of celebration and not let go of some of those things just because it's now just you and your husband. That's something I am learning right now.

Jenn 51:14

Yes. But it's such as the shift because so much energy and thrust has been put into the raising kids season. And it's just this transition to the next plac. But it's good. It's a good transition.

Allison 51:32

How are you preparing, do you think for the big transition to the empty nest?

Jenn 51:37

I think I think more like mindset like preparation, that I still want some of the principles that have been important to us over the years, to, to carry through that we're not going to all of a sudden eat out every night. And we know we can eat out more but just to try to start getting my head around still making things special. Still making your home, you know, a refuge. We anticipate that I'll be able to travel with Lee when he goes on work trips. I'm kind of excited about that. I'm having to contain my excitement so my one still at home doesn't think we're ready, like your mom and dad to have a party planned the next few years. But I see too, like we're definitely in the sandwich generation right now where we have aging parents that have needed a lot of help this year. And I always knew this was coming from being around women in a season ahead of me, which was helpful. So it didn't catch me by surprise. But this year, a big thrust for us has been helping clean out Lee's parents home, getting it on the market, getting them moved to assisted living, and then memory care. And so I am grateful as the boys get a little more self sufficient, and they still have plenty of needs. But we do have that time to help care for our aging parents, as well.

Allison 53:01

That's so good that you bring that up because sometimes we would we feel like we've poured out, we've poured out we've poured out so much on our kids. And then now it's time to rest. And it's time to take a break. And it's me time but not so much because there's more work for us to do. Like you said being in that sandwich generation. It's now we get to-we get to, not we have to- but we have an opportunity to turn around and serve those people who poured out into us and raised us at a time that they need us. And it's an honor really.

Jenn 53:35

It's been a lot of work and a lot of extra time figuring things out, but it's an honor. And I've loved that my boys especially that they've gotten to watch their dad care for his parents in such a tender way. And I hope they're taking notes because it will be us one day, you know that it'll be their turn to care for us most likely at some point.

Allison 54:05

Can you give us an example of a difficult transition in your homemaking life from one season to another?

Jenn 54:11

I think so. I think there's definitely been a transition period some have gone smoother than others. And I think a really big transition for me was when our family was called to move away from from Texas. We had a pretty nice setup in the Dallas Fort Worth area in that my parents and Lee's parents were within like 20 minutes from us. So we had a lot of help. We had a lot of support. We had never had to pay for a babysitter. If I was putting on a big party, there was a grandma there like helping me with food prep or watching the boys so I could could get the hospitality ready. And we ended up in 2010 we were called to Northern Virginia, of all places, for work for my husband, and it was very clear that we needed to take that job. And in my mind, I thought I was gonna live in Texas forever have the grandparents right near us. And I wasn't one, I'm not one that looks for change, like my husband thrives on change. And I am like, steady, like, I could do the same thing forever. And so all of a sudden, we land in the Washington, DC area. Our boys were, let's see, they were like, eight, and six, they were pretty young. And they had had a pretty cozy life, you know, before we moved there, and so we ended up in this new place. And it was a lot of hard work to get settled, we didn't know anyone. And I remember, the first time I had to, I had to find a babysitter for the first time ever. And I was terrified, like figuring out who to leave my kids with. And thankfully, it was a great opportunity there to connect with a neighbor whose daughter was awesome. We ended up using her the whole time. But I didn't know which grocery store to use, I just, I had to be patient to kind of start all over. And I had to set new rhythms and, as we talked about before, like rhythms and structure, and somewhat of a schedule is really important for how I operate, and it was all thrown out. And it was like, okay, what's the Virginia schedule going to be? It's a new house, I knew how to take care of the other house. And, and so it took some time, and I had to learn just to give myself some time. But when we look back now, at that time, in Virginia, away from family having to create new rhythms, it's special to us. And it was just the four of us without you know a lot of impact or influence from extended family. And we had so much fun in that season of life. There was so much to see and explore, you know, we would take the metro in to DC and go see one of the Smithsonian's and we would go to the mountains, we'd go to Annapolis and see the Naval Academy. And it was just a special time of really bonding in a way we hadn't before. But it took some time. And then just as we were feeling settled in Virginia, after just two years, we got called to move to Philadelphia, further north. And so there again, new rhythms, new places to figure out how to get our home pulled together. And then you add snow in and having to deal with all the snow. And so now I'm better at transitions. I think now that we've moved different places. I'm like, okay, it takes some time, these things will get figured out, it's a great way to meet people to ask for help. But where where do you go for this? Or that?

Allison 58:09

Yeah, yeah, it's it is an opportunity, we can look at it either as a burden and an obstacle, or we can look at it as an opportunity. And giving yourself grace to say this is going to take a little bit of time, and I can't force a square peg in a round hole by trying to take my rhythm from Texas and apply it in, you know, Virginia. Yeah, it's not going to work. I have to figure something new out. And then also, I love that you pointed out that that's an opportunity to really bond as a family unit. Because you're sort of forced to do that.

Jenn 58:39

Yeah, we just had each other, you know. But I think our family looks back now, and we wouldn't be who we were today without that time on the east coast. And we have special special friendships from that season. And it just added some neat flavor. To our lives.

Allison 58:58

So what is homemaking look like in the season that you're in right now. How are you still challenging yourself to grow and learn as a homemaker?

Jenn 59:06

That's a great question, too. Because it does, it does look different. And I'm home by myself more with a teenager who's with his friends and a husband who travels and so it can look a little different. And I think I'm striving to still be intentional. And I've seen times where, recently where if I got real busy and there were a lot of ministry projects going on, I might kind of forsake some of the things that are really important to keeping our home how we hope. An example of that would be last year we were in a very busy ministry year with reacting to COVID. Our organization was rolling out some strategic planning and it was just a lot of hours each day and Cooper came home one evening and he's like, "Mom I figured you're too busy to cook again tonight. So I stopped at the gas station and got dinner." Oh, and that's where it hit me. Like, oh my goodness, because again, my personality type likes achieving, like doing. I'll just keep doing doing doing and I can forget, oh, yeah, there's people here that need to eat. So the gas station dinner comment kind of woke me up. So I have been trying to be more intentional about getting back to the basic like the the structure that helped when the boys were little of planning the meals for the week, you know, and I've been trying to now because I'm not a chauffeur anymore, I'm not driving the kids around. So I do have more time. I've tried to grow in my cooking knowledge, like not fancy, but just trying new recipes. And so that's been kind of fun because we've found some new favorites.

Allison 1:00:57