Category Archives: Miscellaneous Musings

John 15 is for Mamas

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John 15 is for Mamas

John 15 is for Mamas (and everyone, really, but Mamas, take heart.)

I was thinking this morning, admittedly envious, of my sister’s ability to enjoy Israel for Christmas, for New Years. Amazing pictures are coming back of her fantastic exploits. Digging in cisterns to find preserved tiles and pottery that have laid like hidden treasure for millenia. Rings, of untold ancient beauty that were unearthed, tried on, enjoyed, and then handed over, like the treasures they are, to be shared with all.

I have to admit to suffering from the green monster of jealousy at times, seeing my sister’s “carefree life”. She is 32, single, and has enjoyed a bit of freedom and financial security, and a stable career. She is not held down by a husband whom she must please, or children she must care for. She has the ability to serve in a variety of ways in her church and community, and has been the enthusiastic participant of many ministry endeavors, from missions trips to playing piano faithfully in her church, to sponsoring needy children, and taking jaunts around the world periodically. From my standpoint the grass is periodically greener, although she will tell you, her life is not without its own difficulties, and struggles.

In stark contrast, I am at home. Changing diapers. Wiping noses. solving bickering, tattling, and finding lost toys. The excitement of my life pretty much is a mastered recipe, or bundling up in 30 seconds or less to help my husband get his car out of a ditch JUST in time for him to make it to work for 5:30am.  Yes. I live on the… ahem. WILD SIDE.  I am just THAT exciting.
And yes, I chose this. Eyes wide open. I had a chance to have “it all” a career, a husband, children, school. Having it all was having nothing, really. I was unhappy trying to have both things, Motherhood, AND what my sister has. Stretched in so many directions. Unable to enjoy or really throw myself into anything, because no matter which I was doing at the moment (Mom, wife, career, school) I was always wishing I could do another.

So, I felt jealous. How come she gets to have all of the fun, do all of the travel, and I’m ordained by God to wipe noses? I felt a bit defeated. I will NEVER travel, will I? *panic* I’ll die having only seen a package of WIPES, and a smelly diaper pail! My longest travel will be the 5 miles I drive to babysit my nephews! My most exciting adventure will be shattering a hip trying to sled with the kids in the backyard!
But this popped into my head:
“Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

John 15 isn’t just about Jesus discussing his future. He is giving us a command. To follow his example and lay our lives down. God has called me to lay down my life for my family. That, in my case, means giving up on many things I once thought I would have. Things I still want sometimes. My sacrifice is nowhere near as dear as Christ’s, but, meagre as it is, it is an honor to sacrifice this life to teach my children about him.

Mamas, John 15 is for YOU. Read it, the WHOLE thing, and think about what God has called you to do? How God has called you to love.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
This is NOT something we’ve been told to go and do alone, God has provided us with the victory in Christ to do what we would not, could not do alone!
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:8-11)
That our joy may be FULL! We have full joy in doing what God has planned for our lives! And I DO have full joy in my children. Why do I feel discontent? Because I’ve allowed myself to think that if only *I* could plan my life, I could come up with something better than what God has ordained for me.
But I’m wrong.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs
3:3-8)

Mamas, as you lay down your life for your children daily, remember where God has placed you is important Kingdom work. What we do has generational and eternal significance. I am working to obey God in shaping the next generations of my family. God has placed me in a job where I must proclaim the gospel daily. What I do may impact how my grandchildren are raised, and if my great grandchildren are working to advance the Kingdom. Though it may seem mundane, it is these ordinary things that shape my children’s knowledge of God. Charles Spurgeon said:
“Yet I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom, on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scripture to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm, or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord. Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember, on one occasion, her praying thus: “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.”

Take heart Mamas, in laying down your life for your children, what you are doing, although it seems like lowly hard work, you are doing something precious, vastly important, and lasting. Soldier on Mama.

And as for my sister, I will endeavor to enjoy her exploits with contentment in the ones God has given me, and to rejoice with her as she enjoys the one that God has given her.
And I shall hope, that when the hard dirty work of these early years is done, that I will be blessed with many new ways to serve God.  I will remember the example of women before me who served without expectation of returns, or adventures, but laying down their lives selflessly for their children in imitation of our great Savior.

God Bless Mamas. May he keep you, and hold you up as you go about the difficult work of Motherhood.

Reformation Day! (Free Printable Coloring Book: Ages 2-5)

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Reformation Day! (Free Printable Coloring Book: Ages 2-5)

As Halloween sneaks up on us, my blogosphere and facebook are erupting with different takes on how families are choosing to meet this Holiday. Some are abstaining entirely. Some are “taking it back” and some are saying: “It is just harmless fun, we just skip the scary costumes.”
Here is a peek into our home; we don’t really celebrate Halloween, we are in a culture saturated by it, and so our children are exposed to it, but not intentionally. My personal take on Halloween is that it is a holiday that glorifies death, sin, and gore, and no matter of cute costumes can take that away. I’m not a fan of it, and our children do not trick or treat.
When it comes down to it, my 7 year old stated our thinking well:
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)
I LOVE that her response to things that scared her, and gave her pause was to quote scripture. I know that we will be looking into the context of that verse, because as great as that little soundbyte is, the verses surrounding it are rich with wisdom and truth as well.
We choose to respond to our culture’s celebration of death and sin with love and self control. I don’t think it is about one or more things we do to abstain from Halloween, so much as it is how we react to it internally. Do we respond with the power of truth, with Christ’s love, and do we use self control?  Halloween is a time where we have an ability to share the gospel more often, and to be a witness with each person who asks the children:
“What will you wear for trick or treat?”
The way we often are able to do that is usually more than a bit amusing as well. I have to admit that watching my children learn to speak of their faith is a sweet experience that has all the more ability to catch folks off guard by the earnestness and sincerity of how they speak.
Take the dentist’s office on Monday:
Hygienist: So, what are you wearing for your costume for Halloween?
Emma: Oh I don’t wear a costume for Halloween. I get to be a Princess every DAY!
Hygienist: (confused) Oh, you don’t celebrate Halloween? I’m sorry…
Emma: No, we don’t celebrate Halloween, we celebrate REFORMATION DAY! And we have a FEAST! And we talk about Marfin Lufer. *giggles*

This usually leads into a discussion from all of the children on who “Marfin Lufer” is and why the Reformation was important, with the adult looking on curiously. If the opportunity arises, it can become a really interesting way to spread the gospel. If the person is a christian, it can become a thought provoking discussion. This is one of those cases where we are “ready with an answer” and we let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

So, however you choose to celebrate this controversial holiday, this post will serve to introduce you (or your littles, more accurately!) to another Holiday, one that is entirely overshadowed by Halloween.

Reformation Day!
A bunch of ladies on facebook were having a discussion one day, and we all lamented the lack of material for littles (2-5 years old) to educate them on Reformation Day. So, being the DIY homeschooler that I am, I got to work making material!
But, being the impetuous impulsive seat of the pants woman that I am, I gave myself only a few days to do it, in between diaper changes, nursing sessions, meal prep and clean up, and a really awful cut from the food processor. (it fought back, and I lost.) Making this group of coloring pages and the corresponding read aloud text for Mamas was a fun experience for me.  I didn’t get to make as many pages as I would have liked. Nor did I have the option to make it quite in the form I’d hoped. I am hoping it can still be useful!
Without further ado:
The FREE Printable History of Martin Luther and Reformation Day Coloring Pages for 2-5 year olds!
(Don’t mind the unwieldy title…)
MARFINLUFERClick to Download and Print (in chronological order):
Martin Luther Learns Page 1
Martin Luther And His Horse Page 2
Martin Luther Becomes a Monk Page 3
Martin studies the Bible Page 4  
God’s Plan Page 5
Man counting money Page 6
Nailing ThesesPage 7
To the Glory of God The End Page 8

Feel free to let me know if this content was useful for you!

Happy Reformation Day!

In Response- A Baby Story

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I thought longBABYFEET ISAIAH and hard about this particular post, and was quite inspired by Life In A Shoe’s Q & A post today, and the digging I did through her linked posts, particularly her Quiverfull, and Quiverfull follow up posts. I thought she handled a controversial subject with class, and honesty. And since I have a similar subject on my heart and mind, I shall forge on, and attempt to write with a sensitive heart, to the thoughts and feelings of others, while expressing my own.

So, Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook:
empowerment

There is a story behind why this photo is so important to me, and why I felt the need to share it on my facebook page.

I have felt a renewed passion for the Pro Life Cause since the Gosnell Trial.  In this high stakes case, I was reminded of my past, and what it very easily could have been.
I was a teen pregnancy. My husband and I got pregnant, after our engagement. I will never forget the anxiety of anticipating the responses of my family and friends. I was 18 at the time. I was staring at a future with no job, no health insurance (My Dad’s had discontinued me, and I had the choice to buy a VERY expensive COBRA plan.) and single motherhood.I did go to a pregnancy center, because I was scared. What made things more difficult was the fact that I knew the woman who was counseling there, and she knew my Mother. I was terrified she would tell her. But, I had a negative pregnancy test, and after a stern talking to, and a reassurance that she would stick with their confidentiality rules, I left.
A week later, I had a positive home test at a friend’s house. We prepared to tell my parents the news. I was terrified. I will never forget their faces. My Dad’s jaw dropped. My Mother’s face went white. They couldn’t speak. I could see the anger brewing in my Dad, bubbling silently. We left as quickly as we could, knowing that my Dad had to leave for a weekend camping trip. Unbeknownst to all of us, God had a pretty awesome plan for all of us in this timing. My Father ended up meeting a friend of a friend who came along. And when he shared what had happened prior to leaving, this man shared about his past as an unexpected and inconvenient baby. He encouraged my Father to support me, and my then boyfriend, to do the right thing. He reminded my Dad of the blessing that was already present in the life of this child. He told my Dad that good CAN come of such a situation.
All of us knew at this point, from the very beginning, that abortion just wasn’t an option. All of the anxiety, the fear, the uncertainty, it didn’t matter, this baby had a right to life.

And thus began the journey of 2 years, where my husband and I fought for a blessing. My parents, my friends, my family, all fought for one too. People in my Parent’s church barred my Dad from leadership because of my sin.

Wedding

Sarah, Allen, and I at our wedding.

I will never forget the hurt in my best friend’s voice when I called her. But she stood beside me through it all, despite the loss of a future we’d dreamed of. All of the normal dreams of college age girls with their lives before them. She lost that to the reality of my early Motherhood. I lost that normal young adult beginning, and jumped right into tough adulthood. So did my husband.

Initially I fought for a job that could provide something more than the COBRA I managed to get initially, and at a lower cost. My husband was in college, and to finish his degree we delayed our wedding, and lived with our parents for 2 more years. I will be ever grateful for their sacrifice on our behalf, and for our daughter. Without their support, we would have been homeless. It wasn’t easy for anyone.
2 years after we told our parents we were pregnant, we were able to get married, and to secure an apartment. Then we dealt with the baggage of having began our relationship as husband and wife with all of this past trailing behind.

The point I’m making is that in no way was it ever easy. But we knew that because of the choices we made, we had to give this precious little girl a chance at life. However hard the beginning was. And yes, we STILL have baggage from all of this. This kind of sin DOES cause lifelong changes. Even for our daughter. I still don’t know how we will handle the day when she asks us, as a teenager, why we didn’t wait.

Was it hard? Yep. Do I regret one moment of our journey onward? Absolutely not. I know that we made the right choice, difficult as it was. Does it define me?weddingbandw To a point. What defines me more is the fact that we chose what we did because of Christ’s influence on our lives, however faint it was then, in our estimation. He was working in ways we did not know. But I do know this. I COULD have had an abortion. There, but for the Grace of God, go I. The only reason I didn’t? God’s divine mercy and grace. The only thing that kept me from that was him. Not me. God. By his sovereign will, it did not occur. I do know women who have had abortions, and I do know that they have told me of the forgiveness and mercy they receive despite their choices. God hasn’t rejected them entirely. After all, didn’t he use Moses after he murdered the Egyptian? Or Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul, the biggest apologist of the New Testament, and missionary who spread the gospel to Europe? Paul knew that it wasn’t him, but Christ in him, who accomplished those things. God can redeem us from our past, and use us for his Glory, and he can forgive us in the process. His Word speaks so awesomely of how he forgives, and I know he has forgiven me of my past.

Ava and Mommy

Ava and Mommy, roughly 2 years ago.

So why all of this? And why the title: In Response? Because after I posted that picture, I think that a relative of mine was hurt, and angry, by what I had said. To her I say, I love you, and I am sorry if I hurt you.
This story is why I posted that photo. And do not think I think less of you for disagreeing with what I put on my facebook wall. I love you anyway.
I post what I do on there, and on here, because it is part of who I am. It is part of my journey of sanctification. God has done amazing things in my life, and how CAN I stand silent? I just can’t. I don’t wish to hurt people, but sometimes, when we speak out loud about what we feel most passionate about, it can strike a chord in someone’s heart, and yes, it can hurt.

I post what I do to encourage, not to hurt. To say, No matter what your choices past, God has a future. I resisted that future for years. I ran away from it. Told him to buzz off. And the more I ran away from it, the more discontent, angry, hurt, and awful I felt.

Saraheemaawards

Sarah and Emma with their AWANA awards

Especially when someone told me God’s Word. Boy did it rub me the wrong way! I can’t convince anyone of his power, his grace, his mercy, and for all I know, this will anger some folks even further. But it isn’t my job to change the transparency of what God is doing here in my heart, my home. It is my job to keep living, aligning every area of life with his Word. The rest is up to him. How he uses it. As a result of our past, my husband and I felt convicted by God’s Word. EVERY child is a blessing, and we will take each one given to us, and we will love them, and nurture them, and teach them his word. And we know this will, and has, offended some. Pictures on facebook notwithstanding. Our lives have, by their very nature, become a declaration of God’s work in them.

twodudesISAIAH

The two Dudes, Allen and Isaiah.

Now, that does NOT mean we are perfect, or that we speak for God in any way. We still sin, we still make wrong choices, and have not arrived in any way. Not until we go to Heaven will we have “arrived” And even then, that will be by God’s Grace. I am sorry if my sin has hurt you.

I also have come to realize that the more God works, the more others will respond to what he does. Some with wonder, with anger, with hate, with love, or with a searching heart. I can’t control their response. I can point them one way. To God. Read his word, see what he says, and discuss your heart with him, anger, searching, whatever is on it.

With Love,
Liz

Teaching Character

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gaurd your heart  My Dad spent a large portion of my childhood trying to convince me that Proverbs was worth reading. I found it dull, and discombobulated. As an adult, I see it in an entirely different light. As a homeschooling parent, I routinely avoid character training curriculum, because who needs to buy one when God has provided us with a fabulous one, courtesy of Proverbs?
I remember hearing a quote along the line of ‘If my child knows academics better than Proverbs, we have focused on the wrong things.”
I believe this quote is wise, because I know in my life, I use Proverbs far more than I use any of the concepts I learned in all of those math lessons I was  subjected to  given the pleasure of learning.

My own relationship with the book of Proverbs as an adult is quite different than as a child. I read it daily, in conjunction with the date. I have found that by reading it with my children, each day, each Proverb holds a practical application of God’s Word that develops a new character trait worthy of cultivation. This week, a few gems jumped out at me.

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3, ESV)
This one from yesterday is my theme Proverb, for life. I constantly open my mouth wide!  I jump in haste to say things because I feel the burning urge to share what I am thinking. I can’t say how mWelsprings of lifeany times this has gotten me into all sorts of trouble. When we read this proverb yesterday, my daughter and I both looked at each other, convicted by its words. I know that we are our children’s parents, and not their friends, but in some ways, friendship and accountability fosters open honesty in parent/child relationships. When Sarah and I both feel convicted by something, we act together. We agreed to challenge each other on this matter, both of us knowing firsthand the destruction that follows wide lips.

Today, we were convicted, but I was encouraged:

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:26-27

The Fear of the Lord is mentioned so much in Proverbs, as the beginning of wisdom, the basis for prosperity, happiness, all sorts of things. Fearing God, being righteous, these things add to our lives. This was a wonderful follow up to yesterday’s Wellspringsoflifebookburning conviction. We have hope in God. That hope is not just in a non tangible spiritual relationship, but in the fact that here, now, Christ reigns. This spiritual healing, grace, and forgiveness extends to the real now. To the tangible world. The Fear of the Lord affects me tangibly. It orders my steps, it keeps my paths straight, it gives prosperity, life, in short, good things.

We can find hope in God, his Word, his principles, in his mercy and Grace, because he begins his work here and now, and it affects every area of our lives for the better. It not only helps us, but our children as well. I can’t tell you how many times an argument has been stopped short by: “A Fool gives full vent to his anger.”  We want to be wise, righteous, blessed. And Proverbs wisely reminds us that when our heart is in the right place, our lives will follow, tangibly. “Above all else, guard your heart, For out of it are the wellsprings of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Motherhood is Humbling

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There is nothing like the ahumilitypostavabandwrrival of a new baby to set your world spinning around and around until you are forced to realize: Motherhood is humbling.

My first jolt back to that reality was seeing my postpartum pictures. Cute kid, but who is that awful looking lady holding him?! Ack! THAT IS ME?! Yuck.

But there were more substantial reminders that while managing three kids had become a piece of cake for this Mama, God is NOT done with me yet! Sanctification continues.

I found the most humbling moments in these two experiences:
The other day one of my daughters had been especially exasperating in a new set of behavioral difficulties. I was frustrated, and at the end of my rope. Having a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, but adjustment or no, there was no excuse for her behavior! I was having a hard time reining her in. So I asked for advice from Moms I knew, My Mom, etc, and even some Mommybloggers. (Shout out to 4 Moms, 35+ Kids!) I still made no progress in helping her to curb her disrespectful behavior. I was getting rolling eyes, talking back, and exasperated rude responses. Then one day, this very child walks in while I was putting 2 of her younger siblings to sleep. She wanted to show me something she made. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and respond with “Well what is it? I’m putting your sister and brother down for a nap!”

Yikes.

It was me. How could I expect her to stop a behavior that I wasn’t even recognizing, let alone dealing with in myself? What a humbling moment. I felt awful instantly. I apologized to her and told her to please come back later.  It wasn’t a while until I was able to confess my full sins to her. It takes a lot to tell your child you’ve been wrong. I started half a dozen times only to put it off. Another sin of mine, pride, was staring me right in the face. Motherhood is truly humbling.

Then, yesterday, my husbaIsaiahnd called me on his lunch break, telling me “I forgot to pay some bills! And I never deposited that check… Could you handle it for me?” I was excited to show my husband I was getting back in my super prepped Mommy groove, and I could handle an emergency. Of COURSE I could handle it! “It” required a trip to the bank, and a trip to another bank to pay both bills. No problem, this was a piece of cake with 3 kids! Should be nothing with 4!
Wrong. Oh so wrong.

Instead: I grabbed some PB and J and…. uhm, what else is there? Carrots. Ok… whipped everyone into (semi decent) shape, and headed off into the sunset, wipes on hand for the inevitable peanut butter faces. We started the whole adventure off with an incident in the parking lot. Someone made a break for a puddle in a high traffic area, and I began the whole outing with a screech: “DON’T run there!”
There ended up being no cars in the parking lot, and the child in question responded instantly, and went back to her “spot”, never having been in any real danger,  and so all was fine, but I think this was the first indicator I was in over my head.  Before I had to juggle a toddler and an infant in exiting the car, she never would have even dreamed of making a move for that puddle.
Inside both banks the children ran around in circles or bounced nervously on the chairs while I signed papers. During the rest of our errands there was a lot of angst in the back seat, with everyone hitting the naptime wall, including me. We went home, nobody the worse for wear, but my pride having taken a few fatal blows, the whole drive home was dominated by Isaiah’s expressions of discomfort and disapproval after our long afternoon in the minivan hopping from place to place.

I had been at that place most of us go to when we’ve been “successful” in our christian walk. We begin to (erroneously) assume our hard work is paying off. But we forget
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:20, ESV)
We begin to trust in the law alone, and forget the all important work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, our home. Without God’s all consuming work in us, the law does nothing.  As I’ve heard said before (I think Rushdoony said it) ” The law does not justify, it sanctifies.” I had forgotten that truth, and began to feel as if I had conquered my sinful nature, and was fully capable of addressing my children’s shortcomings as well. But I’m not sufficient on my own. If anything, my knowledge of the law should inform me of how very deficient I am, and how much I need God’s righteousness. (Romans 7:7)

And so armed with this new dose of humility, I am reminded of many things. Firstly, without God’s Word, change is impossible, and without the Holy Spirit, lasting, sincere change is a lost cause. Time to get back to the Word of God with a humbled spirit.

humilitypostmomandemmasnuggling  To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:2-7, ESV)

I can’t make my chilhumilitypostsarahemmadren wise on my own, I can’t make my children well behaved on my own, and I can’t cause them to be their best, but I can introduce them to the God who sanctifies me daily, changes me as only he can, and provides me with the wisdom to meet many things head on. I can’t claim any of that goodness for myself, but I can lead them straight to the wisdom from God’s Word that does not return void. I can obey God’s command (Duet. 6) and teach them daily as I walk with Christ. And I can trust in his ability to bring lasting change to their hearts, minds, and lives. In the end, my failure riddled parenting isn’t enough for them, but the sufficiency of scripture in informing their wisdom and decisions, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives is something I can trust in to overcome my own sins and shortcomings.

Being a Proverbs 31 Woman- A Challenge

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Lately, I’ve learned more about the Proverbs 31 woman, and how much more I have to go to match up to those standards! First, lets look at who she is:

The Woman Who Fears the Lord: Proverbs 31:10-31

An excellent wife who can find?Proverbs-31-30-1024x680

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant;

she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength

and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household,

for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

She makes bed coverings for herself;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates

when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them;

she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the gates.

 

You know what sticks out to me the most in this whole passage? This lady is NOT lazy! This is something I deal with daily, especially when I struggle physically. I do not want to work hard. I want to wait til I feel like it. But when I feel at my worst, I don’t feel like it! Well, God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes, whether we feel like it or not, he nudges us into a season of sanctification. A little trial by fire, if you will. We’ve been in one. Just recently. One that has given me an appreciation for the Proverbs 31 woman, and a taste of success in this particular arena. Not total success, mind you. Just a taste, but enough to have me wanting more. Just when we lose our guts and determination to hold fast to a set of ideals, God reminds us of where he had us heading to begin with, and gives us encouragement and strength to keep it going.

So what is our “trial by fire”? A rental property. One might not refer to it as that on average, but it is a growing experience of the most telling kind. In becoming a Landlord you learn skills like: Working hard, discernment, wisdom, how to read people, frugality, and realistic expectations. Just as I was nearing the (difficult, and physically demanding) 9 month of pregnancy, our current tenant gives us his notice to leave. This tenant’s leaving is a joyful thing, not because he was awful, but because it signals a positive change in his life, and a chance for us to finish the updates we put on hold to allow him emergency tenancy in a difficult situation. The unfortunate trial by fire began with the timing. I was NOT willing to get up on a daily basis, and traipse, 3 children in tow, a half hour drive to paint, hammer, clean and work all day, 9 months pregnant. No Siree. That doesn’t even cover my husband’s list of things to do, all things I was incapable of doing. Things like grouting a tub, installing a new bathroom sink, installing new flooring, carpentry, that kind of stuff.

But desperation, and financial needs have an effect on you that normal life doesn’t. The work HAD to be done in ONE month. Otherwise, we would be stretched too thin, paying two mortgages with no direct rental income. We had enough saved to make it 1 month. But not enough to make it 2. And so, I painted, I cleaned, I hammered. A friend, and my parents stepped forward to lighten the load, but boy did we ALL work. My thanks go out to them for their support. Mothers all around knowing that I was struggling to begin with, and now was saddled with this urgent responsibility, stepped forward to provide meals (Thank you to everyone who did that! Bless you!) At the end of a day that I had sat on a stool painting a door frame, or polishing a banister, etc. I was too exhausted to even bother cooking, those meals kept us going.

So what does this have to do with my Proverbs 31 journey? I learned: In womanhood, there are NO excuses. Sometimes you just have to woman up, support your husband, and do what is necessary to free him up for the work he must do. He did a lot more than I have, putting in late nights, and then rolling out of bed at 5am the next morning for work. I feel like I haven’t seen him in weeks. Meanwhile, to free him up for his work I had to manage to get my list done, plus manage a tenant search. And let me tell you, THAT is a fun Proverbs 31 woman business opportunity. Instead of considering a field to buy, I was considering a tenant to rent! Despite the discomfort, the (several) labor scares, the frustration, and the silent sense of accomplishment that accompanied my hard work this month, there is also an understanding of WHY the Proverbs 31 woman is so valuable, and why her husband is known in the gates. It has been my driving force this whole month:
Proverbs 14:23
“All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Simple, huh? Now I know there is more to the Proverbs 31 woman than THAT. But, at this point, it is the lesson I needed to learn. Even if I did have to figure out how to paint, hammer, and clean while sitting, and NOT inducing labor! 🙂 Laziness is not something that can, or should be justified by physical limitations. Ladies, as hard as pregnancy, health problems, or anything else is that pushes us down, it cannot keep us there. Hard work returns a profit, and it is hard work whether you do it sitting or not. When you are struggling through an illness, a difficult time in your life, don’t allow the excuse of “I can’t” stop you from being a Proverbs 31 woman. Be creative, because if she is anything other than hard working, it is creative. A Proverbs 31 woman creatively supports her husband.

I do hope this is an encouragement to other Moms struggling through personal difficulties. Desperation does breed some kind of ingenuity, but don’t let it stop there, learn a lesson from the hardest times, and carry it into the good times, because hard work DOES return a profit. Don’t get caught talking about being a Proverbs 31 woman, BE one.

Christmas is coming!?!

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The topic with other Moms that has been canvassed often during playdates and time at the park these past few weeks is Christmas. How we will budget gifts into our already stretched finances? How will we manage the sheer number of gifts for our growing families? What will we buy for those we love? And lastly, how will we instill in our children a love of Christmas, and all it stands for, instead of a love for material items and indulgence in selfish wants? I recently read an excellent Gift Guide blog post on Raising Olives that inspired me! So here I am to write my own post about the impending hurry and bustle of Christmas!

How will we budget gifts?
We are planning on home made gift baskets this year. It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of out gifting the rest of the family, but frankly we can’t afford to, and it is a hollow victory if you do. Expensive doesn’t = good gift. For extended family members etc, we are planning on home made items to cut down cost. Here are some ideas for things you can make yourself for a fraction of the cost of bought items, and then use in a gift basket:

Apple Spice Oatmeal Bread

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Dried Fruit

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Homemade Soaps and Scrubs

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Candles: Can be bought inexpensively, if you look in the right places

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The Baskets, Ribbons, etc to decorate the gift packages can be bought very cheaply at a secondhand store.

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We have a lot of children, and they have a LOT of toys, how do we handle the sheer amount of gifts they bring home?
Firstly, we start by limiting the number of gifts we buy our children. 1 gift per child is plenty, and they enjoy the gift, but still appreciate it, as it doesn’t get lost in a pile of materialism. We also are looking into a great idea that I found on one of my favorite blogs: Large Families on Purpose in her Christmas Uncluttered post: One big gift for the family, such as a zoo membership. I think for us a block set, a family board game or something school related, like a DVD science set would be great, but each family is different!

Secondly, we have many extended family events that we attend and that means more gifts for our children. In some cases, where possible, and when the relationship allows, we have asked family members to try and limit the number of frivolous gifts (such as toys) and to focus on things the girls need, such as clothing, shoes, outerwear, and school items (such as sewing kits, science kits, books, DVDs etc.) We have asked them to limit it to at least 1 toy or piece of jewelry. We ascribe to the view that Christmas is about Jesus, and we often try very hard to limit the number of gifts we *must* buy, as well as the number of gifts we receive. It sounds harsh, and unfeeling, but frankly, in this materialistic society, even if you tell your children what Christmas is truly about, it is easy for a young one to be lost in the flurry of gifts.  We feel to raise them in a tradition that appreciates the few material things we have, rather than being buried in a pile of meaningless stuff, is consistent with Christ’s words in the Bible regarding wealth and material possessions. In the end, they are only things, and we can’t take those to heaven with us!

Thirdly, we try to clean out the toy room, their bedroom, etc prior to Christmas to make room for their new things. Also, *blush* I’m letting out a big secret, if we have multiples of the same toys given to them, we keep them on hand for later, not to be opened immediately. If the child does not want the duplicate, and no return is possible, we put it in our ’emergency gift stash’ to be kept for an event later in which we are either tight on money or time to buy a gift. I know this is a ‘taboo’ idea, and probably very offensive, but with a tight budget, and an overabundance of material items we don’t need, why not? If they don’t get used, or the children prefer, the gift stash gets donated to something like toys for tots or a local children’s home.

What will we buy for our children?

Technically this is answered above, but I’ll reiterate simply: 1 gift per child, and 1 large family gift. We tend to focus on things the girls like AND need. One year it was new dress shoes. Another year it was clothing, another year we gave them DVDs of an educational nature. We try to avoid toys, because they have/receive plenty of those from family members. But we do take pains to buy something that is pleasing to them, as well as useful. We want them to be grateful for what they do have.

Last year we got the children a few DVDs each, and then I made them rag dolls (like in their favorite Little House Book) and Allen built them all a log cabin for the dolls. In the piles and piles of newer better toys, the cabin was lost, and became a very interesting looking toy box. The dolls are still cherished though, when they aren’t being tossed in the bottom of the pile. This has pretty much solidified the belief that it isn’t about competing and “who can get the girls the best gift.” but about what they need, and teaching them that the material doesn’t matter in the light of eternity, which brings us to…

Lastly, how will we instill in our children a love of Christmas, and all it stands for, instead of a love for material items and indulgence in selfish wants?

We try to do this, although it is very hard. We are grateful for all the gifts the girls receive, but the sheer volume of them is overwhelming, and makes it difficult to instill this lesson. Within our home we choose to not focus on the gifts. The girls are encouraged to answer with a request if someone asks them what they would like, but we do discuss this before hand in terms of “what do you need?” vs. “What do you want?” The girls are encouraged to focus on needs, not wants, when making requests to interested parties.

During the Christmas season we spend a lot of time doing things like making food, baking cookies, and we try to participate in a few charitable acts for others. We talk about Saint Nicholas, and how he honored Jesus Birthday by helping those in need. Santa Claus does not come to our house, but Daddy does his job instead, as we remember Saint Nicholas’ wish to honor Jesus birthday with gifts to those who need them. We tie this into our needs vs. wants discussions. We also encourage the children to watch movies and listen to music that honor Jesus’ birthday, as opposed to the romance, magic, and materialism of a commercial Christmas. We do generic winter decorations, and nativity decorations. Other than that, we try to avoid Santa.

Christmas Eve, we attend church, this is a big deal for our family, and we use it as a springboard for Christ as the center of Christmas. Christmas morning we read Luke 2 and act it out with the nativity set, which the children are forbidden to touch any other time! This makes it extra special. Gifts cannot be opened until breakfast is done, we’ve read Luke 2, and cleaned up after Breakfast. Once all of those Christmas morning activities are completed, we open gifts. And that starts a day of running from place to place to open more gifts. Something which we struggle with how to handle, as it only reinforces the idea of Christmas as a material holiday. This is the one thing in which we feel we cannot ‘counteract’ or change. I’d love to spend a quiet Christmas at home, and open gifts with family later, but everyone wants to open gifts with the girls “On Christmas Day” and I haven’t the heart to say no to that. So in this matter, I will gladly take reader advice!

And that is how we handle Christmas. How do you handle Christmas?

Still Getting Into A Routine-Help?

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From the recent shot of our little family above, you can see this school year is already a bit of a challenge. I have the unique joy of teaching Toddler stuff (colors, animals, animal sounds, speaking etc.) which happens all day long in all sorts of organic ways. I also have a Preschooler, and my 1st grader! As we hash out this school year, and find a rhythm, we are encountering a few bumps. Week 2 is yet another chance to smooth things out.  In an effort to ask advice of those of you who know, I’m writing this post, feel free to make a suggestion once you’ve seen what a typical day consists of. Times don’t always jibe, and are very loose, as they shift around our speed for that day. For example, if we wake up at 8:00, everything shifts back an hour.

7:00-8:00 – Waking up. Everyone awakens at a leisurely pace.  I usually Facebook or blog on the laptop in bed during this time, while one by one the girls crawl in to snuggle with me. 🙂 If the girls request it, sometimes they can watch a short movie. Breakfast occurs in here when they want it. Usually cereal or something light.

8:00-9:00 – School work begins! Catechism is first, coupled with a form of family devotions that is more scriptural exegesis on their level than anything else, then we start our Slate exercises (From McGuffy’s) in notebooks.  Emma has a few light ones (I write names of people she knows, she copies them.) Sarah does Slate exercises in earnest right from McGuffy’s. Her handwriting is improving a bit day by day. We usually do subjects in this order:

  • Math
  • McGuffy’s Primer
  • Social studies/history (Right now, that is the Olympics, and related Geography.)

10:00-11:00 – Break time! We eat a snack, Ava gets put down for a nap, and while she goes to sleep, I play Pandora on the computer, and do a bit of Facebooking. (I can’t leave the room, or she won’t sleep! I generally get bored sitting there staring at the wall, on really tough days, I might fall asleep with her, while the girls read books together. Facebook will wait! Naps rule! Haha!)  Once she’s down and out, we get back down to business. Some days this happens earlier than others, and we get back to work well before 11:00. Other days, it is prolonged, because Ava needs to be rocked and held. We work around that.

11:00-12:00 – Back to work!

  • Supplementary reading material (Like Little Bear, or other phonics rich readers from the Library.
  • Science/Health, we’re doing a really cool series from Answers in Genesis on How God forms babies in the womb.  This is an interesting and relevant topic to all of the girls, since they’re very interested in what God is doing with their new sibling!

Ava wakes up at different times each day, and this affects how much housework we do. I like to do certain stuff while she is sleeping, but when she is awake, I can work around her, and let her be my ‘helper’

12:00-1:00 – Lunch break! Everyone eats together, and then we all find something we like to do. The girls might play a bit, usually they play with barbies, or their play kitchen, or maybe they play outside. If Ava is awake we play, if she isn’t, I wait for her to wake up (I might do 10 min of facebook in here, if time allows, but if not, it generally gets ditched.)  and I feed her her lunch.

1:00-3:00 -Clean up School work time. If there is anything left to do, we do it here. This is catch all time, especially if it was a tough day. Most days we’re done by this time, and then we do family chores during this time. Maybe fit in some hard core outside play, and work in some PE exercises. (trying to find a way to do yoga more often, it is so relaxing. Unfortunately I haven’t found the magic formula for completing a whole Yoga class with kids.) Generally, when they are done, they find a place to play, (their room more often than not.) and unwind. Ava is my buddy, but the other two find their own fun.

3:00-5:00 Supper prep. My DH usually calls during this time to let us know he’s on his way home. I start supper when he calls, so it is ready when he walks in the door, or close to it. Then we have family dinner together, and get on with the evening!

Exceptions to the Rule:

  • On days I work (clean houses.) We usually have to flip the schedule and be more flexible. This is generally Tuesdays every other week, and Fridays every week. On those days we have to be more creative.  We’re planning on working school into Saturday to make up for any lost time, if needed.
  • When kids are sick! I’m not sure how to handle this? How do you guys? 2 of mine have minor colds right now, and I don’t want to push them, but nobody has a fever either…
  • Daily errands. How do you work in the “whoa we ran out of milk!” or the “Gotta run to the bank…” or when the insurance company calls you to drop off that paper again that they shredded by accident after you disrupted your daily schedule to drop it off yesterday… (true story) I count these as  Social Studies activities, and take time to use them as a teaching moment. We also bring Books on CD in the car, since our History program right now is “Reading” through the Little House books, and discussing the history therein. We listen to it every time we’re in the car. Whatever the day.

In my Young homeschooling Mama fun, I’ve found a ton of other blogs I really enjoy that encourage me and have some excellent practical advice on homeschooling.

On the Subject of Struggles- The Proverbs 31 Woman

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Last night was the culmination of a few months of stress. In order to make it financially, and still be able to homeschool, we’ve had to get creative in earning money.  Taking a cue from the Proverbs 31 woman, I’ve tried to structure that around Spiritual needs (Family devotions, discipleship, nurturing, and raising children to put God as a priority in their life. Teaching them the meaning of Biblical Character.) Marital needs, Family needs (keeping our home, maintaining ministries to others, making academic requirements, and learning necessary skills.) and Church/Community needs (being active in our body of believers, encouraging other Moms in the same boat etc.)  I trust God to provide, and so far he has, but lately we’ve been stretched quite thin in trying to be flexible. Call it growing pains, call it the natural side effect of flexing those muscles, but the past two months have been a literal stretch. And last night, something snapped a bit.  Exhausted, in pain, and trying to cope with all the issues, I had me a pretty long prayer session. I think that this past week, I have stepped over the line, and placed our financial needs first, and stretched a little too far. In seeking God’s face, I had to go back to square one, his Word. As I grow, mature, I realize that the Proverbs 31 woman wasn’t superhuman. She was experienced, and as it says “She fears the Lord.” She looked to him first to inform her choices. My question to you readers is, how do you read this scripture? What strikes you? What do you take from it? How do you handle your burdens, and keep all of those balls in the air? What do you do when you struggle with any, or all of these?

Proverbs 31:10-31 (ESV)

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25  Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

Getting a bit testy, are we?

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This has been a week of tests. Testing our new school year out (we’re starting early to accommodate a one month break for the new baby.) Today I tested out a new recipe. (One of those: Hmmmm if I throw that in…)

Here is the update on the school days.

I’ve been logging our school, so it keeps me honest, and I’m required to meet specific standards. Every day we do Math, Bible, Social Studies(Geography,) Reading, and a bit of Science. Art, Music, etc get rolled into the rest.  I’ve read all sorts of advice. Keep a rigid schedule. Be flexible. Don’t stray from your routine. Don’t expect too much from the little ones by being all structured at the get go. It is all so confusing. I’m trying to find what works for our family.  I’ve tried structure before, and it was too rigid. So we bagged that. Now we’ve got a really loose routine, which is this: squeeze the school in when Ava is napping, and then incorporate what is left into the rest of the day as it suits. Now it is too loose.  I’m struggling to find a happy medium, but I also know it takes time to settle. The moral of the story is: We won’t get it right the first week of school. This blog post is a great way to plead to more experienced mothers for help talk it out while I sort things.

Now, for the recipe!!! 🙂 I adapted this recipe to what I had to use in my kitchen, (you know how bananas are…) and what I felt was healthy, it was fantastic, although, it definitely needed a longer cook time than what the original called for. Here is the result:

                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                Tropical Zucchini Bread  

Let me add that it looks nothing like this stock photo, but unfortunately I cannot bring you a picture of the finished product, as it has been demolished… And I’m too lazy to make more just to photograph it…

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 2 mashed bananas

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. (I use vegetable oil)
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder in a bowl. Beat sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract together in a large mixing bowl, and stir in zucchini, banana and pineapple. Gradually pour in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Mix to evenly combine. Divide batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1- 1 1/2 hour. Working with one loaf at a time, hold the pan on its side and gently tap the sides of the pan against the counter to loosen it. Cover the pan with a cooling rack, and invert it to tip the cake out of the pan and onto the rack.  Allow bread to cool completely.