Mastering Your Day with Elizabeth Riley
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, I'm Elizabeth Riley. I am married to Jeremiah and we have two boys, Matthew and Abraham. I love living simply and purposefully. And I love being a wife and a mother. We home school, which is an exciting new path for our family. I believe God is in the details of our lives, and that seemingly little things matter to Him. As I share a little of our life and daily routine, I hope to hear ideas of what works well for you.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake up around 6:00 so that I can pray, study scriptures, write, read, and ponder. Three days a week I try to do half hour workouts in the morning. Then I get dressed.
Over the past few weeks I have been working on simplifying my getting-ready routine. Even though many days I'm at home all day, I feel best when I fix myself up a little. I discovered showering at night saves me loads of time in the morning. It sounds silly, but showering at night was a break-through discovery for me. Sometimes seemingly small changes in routine yield big results.
We do morning devotional at breakfast then schoolwork and lessons. After lunch and during naptime, I read with my older son. I catch up on whatever or whoever needs attention and fix dinner. Around 5:30/6:00 we sit down to eat dinner together, clean up, read scriptures as a family, pray together, play a little, then put the kids to bed. At night I spend time talking with my husband. I also read, plan, and occasionally work on creative projects or prepare lessons and ideas for school and church. Sometimes I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that I just go to bed early.
Of course my days include toilet learning messes, little boy tantrums, and other commitments. Real life means unexpected things occur daily.
When do you have your scripture study and how do you make sure it gets done?
My morning scripture study is my lifeline; it's my personal time with the Lord. I study by topic—usually with a question in mind. If I make scripture study a priority, my mind is clearer and I’m able to prioritize, make decisions better and recognize God’s hand in my life, which helps me to live more joyfully and with greater purpose! I leave my scriptures open on the kitchen table, so my children see them.
Sometimes unexpected things come up such as staying up much of the night with a little one who is sick, or nursing a baby, and feeling utterly exhausted when 6:00 a.m. rolls around. During those times, I do my best to adjust and fit it in some other time during the day. Seeing the open scriptures on the table is a great reminder to me to take time to delve into them on a busy, exhausting day.
Also, young children have a natural knack for memorizing. I give my older son scriptures to memorize, and it's one of the most wonderful things in the world to listen to him share a verse with a great deal of accomplishment. Hearing him speak God's words fills my soul.
What do you do to handle a particularly stressful day?
It depends on the source of the stress. If it’s a stressful day because my kids are acting out a bit, then I sit down and read aloud. Something about reading aloud, along with special snuggles, fulfills the attention gap and soothes any frustration I may be feeling.
During this time of year, we have some grey-feeling January days, and maybe we just need to turn on some music and dance! My kids love it, and it's pretty much the best thing in the world when my little boy comes up and asks me to dance.
Sometimes I feel stressed because I have unrealistic expectations about what I'm actually able to accomplish in a day. To head off this stress, I've been working on simplifying my life by discovering the things that are important to me and letting go of the things I can do without.
What are your daily essentials? (The few things you feel you need each day in order to function)
Time to think and write
Clean kitchen/clean sink
Time to talk with my husband
A little creative space
At least a little moment out of doors
What is the most important part of your day as a family?
Dinnertime is the most important time of day for my family. A while back I read something about the importance of family dinnertime, and it resonated with me. More than physical nourishment, I want my family dinnertime to be a central part of our family culture. It’s a time for us to connect, talk about the day, share ideas, ask questions, laugh, learn manners, and talk about how we see God’s hand in our daily lives.
Preparing dinner is also a great time to involve children—I hope to create with my children memories of fixing dinner together and enjoying great conversations (those are some of the simplest and sweetest memories I have with my own dear mom).
How do you go about keeping your house clean?
I’m not perfect at this, but I function a ton better (and my family does too) when we have a tidy/clean home environment—so I do my best. A key thing for me is making sure the dishes are done throughout the day and the sink is clean. With home school activities and curious little ones, messes happen often in our home. I try not to get too worked up about making messes while we're in the middle of something, but when we finish the activity, we try to clean as we go.
Laundry is my nemesis, but I find if I wash and fold 1-2 batches a day, it stays under control. I also try to involve my children in tidying and cleaning. My four-year-old can dust and vacuum the stairs and the sofa like a champ and tidy his own room.
How do you make sure God is at the focus?
This is incredibly important to me. In my morning prayer, I always pray to know how to prioritize my day, how to help my children, and how to understand their unique needs. I believe God reveals Himself to me in both spectacular and simple ways, such as a home school activity that opens up a new idea for me or helps me gain better insight. God always hears us, and He pours out blessings of insight and discernment as we look to Him for guidance and move forward in faith.
My husband and I work very hard to safeguard our home from influences that distract us from the things of God. We rarely watch TV or movies, and when we do we are very selective. My children entertain themselves and use their imaginations all throughout the day. We've found that our children are happier and our home feels better when we use screen time sparingly and judiciously. This may not be the solution for everybody, but it works wonderfully for our family.
We do our best to recognize God’s hand in the details of our lives—and promptly thank Him. We talk about where things come from—Heavenly Father blesses us with food and with rain and sunshine to grow it. He blesses Daddy with work to earn money so we can buy the things we need. Everything we have and are and hope to be comes from Him.
How do you keep a strong relationship with your spouse?
Dates. We love going on dates together! Sometimes it’s difficult to get away, but we try to whenever we have the opportunity. Also we love talking even if it’s not out and away from the kids. Usually that happens after the kids are sleeping, but making time to talk daily is important for us. In addition, I feel that praying together as a couple at night adds strength and unity to our relationship.
How do you facilitate regular discussions of Christ in your home?
Each morning at breakfast we hold our family devotional. We sing a song and I tell the boys a scripture story. I also make sure I bear a very brief testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and how much they love us. Sometimes our devotional is very brief because I can tell the kids’ attention is on something else. Also, I have my children tell the story back to me in their own words. Since we home school I have opportunities throughout the day to weave in discussions of Christ and His gospel—especially when we’re out in nature.
How do you hold yourself accountable to God?
I love this question! I feel like I could be more thorough in applying this in my life. My prayer right before bedtime is my time of daily accounting (and repenting).
How do you balance all of your roles?
I think every woman balances many roles in her life—and it’s not easy. Over the last several months, I've been simplifying my life. I want to live wholeheartedly instead of just feeling busy all of the time. It’s easy to be involved in many good things—sometimes at the cost of neglecting the most important things. And I’m learning it’s okay to say “no.” For me, that’s difficult. I want to be involved in every good thing—but that’s not realistic, nor is it smart. With the Lord’s help, I identify priorities in my life by asking myself these questions:
What is most important for me to focus on at this point in my life?
What do I feel God calling me to do during this season?
In my daily activities, what items could I eliminate?
Anything else you want to share?
I am learning to measure my days differently than I previously measured them. It’s not about checking items off my list necessarily. Did I do what the Lord wanted me to do today? Even if some things are left undone, if my answer to that question is “yes, I did my best,” then I call the day a success.
Elizabeth is a wife and homeschooling mom who loves simple family life and embracing beauty, poetry, and divine purpose in daily things. She writes at raisingrileys.com, and you can connect with her on Instagram @elizhriley and @scripturelight.