Thursday, March 14, 2013

Making a To-Don’t List

By Shelly Burke

This week was “paper week”—I spent every spare moment when I wasn’t at work or a meeting finding and writing articles for the April issue of the “Nebraska Family Times.” I love doing this, but by the time the deadline rolls around I’m usually very ready to do something away from the computer. Today I planned to clean my office—a long overdue task and one I needed to get done so Morgan would have a place to sleep next week when she’s home on spring break.

I started out eagerly anticipating getting things organized and arranged—who doesn’t like to walk into a clean office? But after a good start I’d thrown away the obvious trash and filed a few things and…not much else. I found myself listlessly moving papers around and going from the pile on the floor to the pile on the desk to a pile on the chair, shuffling things around…and just not accomplishing much of anything. I finally realized that I didn’t have the alertness (I’m fighting the cold bug that’s been going around) or organizational skills to clean my office today. I decided it was time to make a “to-don’t” list.

I started making “to-don’t” lists when Cody and Morgan were toddlers and I was frustrated during a several-week period in which they passed strep throat and earaches back and forth several times. I’m a list-maker, and take great satisfaction in writing out and then crossing off what needs to be done on any particular day. The weeks in which they were sick it seemed that almost every day my to-do list was pre-empted by doctor visits, coaxing medication down the throats of reluctant children, and trying to get some extra rest myself.  I was frustrated by my seeming lack of accomplishing anything.  

During a cuddle session in the middle of the night (I got my first earache as an adult several years ago—and now I know why kids cry when they have earaches!) I was thinking about all I wanted to accomplish the next day but now-- as I knew I would be making yet another trip to the doctor’s office-- clearly wouldn’t. Then I had a brain storm. Instead of fretting over the un-done things on my “to-do” list I would make a “to-DON’T” list!

That long ago night my “to-don’t” list included “make supper”—I decided I’d get take-out pizza after I took Cody to the doctor. “Pay bills” could wait another day, as could “vacuum” (OK, that waited another three days or so). I had to do some laundry, but instead of washing all the winter coats before I packed them away, I’d just do a few loads of the essentials.

With a sense of satisfaction I realized that by making a “to-don’t” list I’d reprioritized and I’d get the urgent tasks done and have time to do the most important thing—take care of my sick kids.  

Below are two pictures. One is the picture I took and e-mailed to Morgan, of the office “before” I started working. I expected to, several hours later, e-mail her another picture of a spotless, immaculate, well-organized office...but…you can see by the “after” picture that in several hours I didn’t get much done.

Office "before" 
Office "after" 

I posted the pictures on Facebook, laughing at myself, and one friend commented that it was like a challenge in which you’re asked to find the differences between the two pictures. About the only difference you’ll find in these two pictures is that in the “after” picture the wastebasket has a few more things in it, and a few piles are…well…re-arranged. Kind of.

But although I put “clean office” on my “to-don’t” list for the day, I did get a few other things done. I proofread the “Nebraska Family Times” and it’s ready to be printed next week. I got outside on this beautiful day. I wrote this blog post! And I did the most important thing first thing this morning—I spent some time with God and in His Word.

So next time a change of plans or emergency intrudes on your day, or you don’t feel alert enough to open the refrigerator, let alone reorganize your kitchen, or your kids need you…or you just need a break—make a “to-don’t” list, and feel the accomplishment of at least crossing the things off your list that you’re not going to do on that day.

And don’t worry Morgan…I will clean my office tomorrow so you’ll have a place to sleep next week!

“I perceived that there is nothing better for man than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and 
take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
                Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

What differences can you spot in the two pictures above? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hope for When Darkness Threatens

By Donna Pyle

(This devotion was reprinted in the March issue of the Nebraska Family Times. If you would like to read more to “inspire, encourage and motivate you on your Christian walk,” request a
FREE sample issue of the Nebraska Family Times
 by e-mailing your address to or calling (402) 750-3496.)

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky boasts a specific claim to fame: it's the world's longest known cave system. Containing more than 390 explored miles, early cave guide Stephen Bishop called it a "grand, gloomy and peculiar place."

Twenty years ago, I visited this amazing labyrinth. An adventurous person by nature, I signed up to experience a cave excursion first hand.

The morning dawned crisp as our huddled group awaited to descend into that strange and wonderful world. The tour guide greeted us, counted heads, and our adventure began. With great care we descended 250 feet below the earth’s surface on steep steps through narrow crevices.

Talk about creepy!

Our leg muscles shook from overexertion as we reached the bottom of the cave. The ground leveled off and we found ourselves in a large, cavernous space lit by electricity. Once the tour guide ensured everyone had descended safely—and after issuing the proper warning—he turned off the lights.

Few words can adequately describe the absolute blackness that engulfed us.

The thick, oppressive darkness felt as if it was literally pressing in on me. My chest felt heavy. My breathing came in short gasps. I blinked my eyes frantically. I put my palm in front of my face, but couldn't see it.

I began to panic and stretching out my arms into the darkness. I needed assurance that I wasn't alone.

The tour guide continuously spoke to us in low, smooth tones to remind us of his presence. After a few minutes when our eyes adjusted to the absence of light, he struck a solitary match.

The effect was astounding.

We could clearly see every person in our group and the cave walls and ceiling. The small light had completely expelled the cavernous darkness.

That experience left an indelible impression on me. It illustrated far better than words where the blackness of sin would have taken mankind had Jesus not freely offered His light in the place of our darkness.

We may panic when dark seasons occur, but God's soothing voice speaks volumes of comfort and assurance to us through His Word: 

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you
nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8
"You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light." 2 Samuel 22:29

If you are walking in a dark season, lean in and trust God. You may be shaking from overexertion. Your chest may feel heavy. Take a deep breath and listen for His gentle whispers reminding you of His presence.

The Lord himself will be your light. The only light Who can expel that darkness completely.

You are NEVER alone.

Reprinted by permission of the author.

Donna has written many Bible studies and loves blogging about faith-based issues on her blog Hydrated Living . You can also read more at Artesian Ministries. She’s also on Facebook at “Donna Pyle” and “Artesian Ministries”.   

Friday, March 1, 2013

Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios

By Lisa Bedford

Review by Shelly Burke, Editor
(This review appeared in the March issue of the "Nebraska Family Times" newspaper. For more information, go to For a FREE sample copy of the "Nebraska Family Times," e-mail your address to:

I think it’s every mom’s greatest desire to protect and care for her family no matter the circumstances. Here in Nebraska we’re more likely to face hardship from a tornado or flood rather than a civil uprising, but author and mom Lisa Bedford provides information to help prepare for the more common events as well as the ones we hope we’ll never have to face—but be ready for after reading Survival Mom.

Survival Mom is a comprehensive guide that includes information ranging from “13 Ways to Prepare for Hyperinflation” to detailed checklists for preparing everyone in the family for evacuation—even grandma and pets. As I was reading the information on preparing for evacuating from home, I thought back to something that happened when I was about eight years old. I woke up in the middle of the night to see one of my gradeschool friends and her family in our home. A train had derailed in town and a hazardous chemical had spilled, and everyone in the town was evacuated (we lived in the country at that time). We can’t anticipate what circumstances might make it necessary to leave town—but we can be prepared.

The prospect of becoming completely prepared for any eventuality can be overwhelming. Bedford makes the task less daunting by outlining “baby steps;” if you’re not ready to store enough food to last your family for several months, begin by stocking up enough to last for two weeks.

Bedford gives plenty of practical information that moms will appreciate, like safety lessons for kids and how to prepare them to react to a medical emergency. She tells moms how they can easily increase their own (and by extension their family’s) safety and security in everyday situations.

Whether you want to begin grinding your own grain or making your own cheese, or just learn how to make your family’s favorite meals with easily-stored food you can then always have on hand, you’ll find the information presented in a way that makes it easy to do just that. Checklists, sample forms, and step-by-step instructions make preparing for any eventuality seem doable rather than overwhelming.

Whether you live with your spouse and kids, an aging parent, or by yourself, after reading Survival Mom you’ll be ready to at least begin to take the steps to be prepared for anything from losing electricity for a few days (or longer) to a natural disaster to a pandemic to a decrease in work hours or loss of a job. Bedford also blogs at