Tag Archives: Christian

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.

Week 4 of Advent Printables!

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Week 4 of Advent Printables!

If you missed weeks one, two, or three, feel free to click on the links to catch up!

Our last week is a short one: only 3 days of coloring pages! On the last day, Christmas, I hope you all will join me in reading Luke 2 with our families to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
I also skipped the activities, music, and art altogether, because if you are like me, you are doing a TON of last minute gift wrapping, shopping, and/or other activities! Enjoy these last few coloring pages, and the blog will return to regular programming in the New Year. That being said, I do have another exciting project in the works for the future, but one I will take a LOT more care and time creating. Perhaps I will try my hand at an E-book or curriculum package. Time will tell.
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Without further ado: The coloring pages.

Day 22-Dec 22
Day 23-Dec 23
Day 24- Dec 24
Day 25- Dec 25 – Read Luke 2 aloud with your family, using your own nativity figurines as players on the stage! Get the kids involved, give everyone a character to act out as you read aloud (and hopefully they are able to recite with you!)

Before we all dive into the last few days of our Christmas prep, I want to end this series with this thought: Slow down a minute and think about Christ’s incarnation, and how this is an integral part of the gospel. How does this affect me today? My children? I know this horse has been beaten dead, but what are we doing as we celebrate Christmas? Every day I am reminded by what my children see as my priorities by what comes out of their mouths. “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” I am giving an example to my children on what Christmas should be focused on. Enjoy this Holiday with your children for what it truly is.
Peace on Earth is a phrase so overused by everyone without much meaning, but it is  beginning to have a different meaning for me now. At some point it was an ambiguous thought. But it is not any more. Peace on Earth? How can that be possible this Christmas when it seems as if our world is changing its ideas of peace, love, joy, hope, and Jesus? Christ did not come to institute an earthly Kingdom *right now* he came to save that which was lost. This does not mean he is not King (He is!) or that he can’t have a material change on the world around us (He can!) But it does mean that the peace on earth begins with the gospel. Because without the gospel, we have no peace. The Holy Spirit brings about regeneration in men’s hearts, and changes men’s lives, and through this, we can see “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Remember too, that God has the power to bring this about, and he did 2000 years ago, starting with one small baby in his Mother’s womb. I am encouraged by the account in Luke 1 of Mary’s submission to some very scary circumstances, that only got harder as she became older. I am amazed by God’s planning and working, even while Jesus was yet in the womb. I am blown away by how God prepared the way for Jesus, using John the Baptist, giving him the Holy Spirit while he was even yet in the womb (Luke 1:15.) God can and will accomplish all his Holy Will, and this Christmas, I am remembering how he did that very thing 2000 years ago, is doing it today, and will accomplish all his holy will tomorrow as well. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Take comfort in the beauty of the incarnation, Christ becoming sin for us, who knew no sin, and taking upon him our own sins. Peace comes when we recognize God’s Sovereignty, his plan, and  submit to it. From our own hearts, to training and preparing our children as well. Keep it up Dear Mama, God can accomplish all his holy will!

Merry Christmas!

Advent Free Printables Week 3

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Hey all and welcome to week three! If you missed week 1 and week 2 of our Luke 2 Advent coloring pages, feel free to check them out!

This week was really my favorite to draw because this is where we get to the meat of the story, the angels telling the Shepherds, the Shepherds becoming the very first to not only see Jesus, but also to tell others about him. Their response isn’t just overwhelming personally, but something they can’t HELP sharing! Also, the response of those who hear the story. It doesn’t say whether they all immediately fall down and worship him, or acknowledge the truth of the story by passing it on, etc. This account simply states: “They wondered at what they had heard.” The hardest part of passing on what we know about God’s plan for mankind, and about a proper response to his Word, is knowing that we might only see wonder. Perhaps joyful wonder, maybe incredulous wonder, or perhaps, sneering wonder. We’ll see the wonder! But as Paul wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD gave the increase!”

Remember, as we get into the thick of this season, dear Mama, and as we have chances a plenty to not only tell our little ones about this precious story of incarnation, and the Word becoming flesh, but to tell others too, remember that we can’t always see what happens once that wonder wears off. We can’t guarantee that our declaration of Christ’s gift will end the way we imagine, and that that soul will come to know Christ, but we can know that God will accomplish his plan.

Enjoy!
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Music Content: Hymn study- O Come O Come Emmanuel

Art Content:
This painting is by Cima da Conegliano (1459-1517)
Cima Painting
The Coloring Pages:
Day 15- Dec 15,  Luke 2:13

Day 16- Dec 16, Luke 2:14

Day 17- Dec 17, Luke 2:15

Day 18- Dec 18, Luke 2:16

Day 19- Dec 19, Luke 2:17

Day 20- Dec 20, Luke 2:18

Day 21- Dec 21, Review: Luke 2:13-18

Craft:
As we get closer, and our time is filled with parties, wrapping gifts, last minute shopping, and lots of other fun, I’ll trim down the crafts. I’m including one recipe, and one craft this week.

This week’s craft is fun, but involved. I was able to do it with my 2 yo, 4 yo, and 6 yo, but there was a lot of supervision and obedience required. Everyone had to be careful of hot items, and obey limits, rules, and boundaries.
That being said, it was a wonderful exercise in trust, patience, and obedience. And, it makes a great gift for anyone.


Sand Candles:
Materials:
(Easily found at Hobby Lobby, A.C. Moore, or Michael’s. I bought all these materials using a coupon for less than $15. We made enough candles to give to all on our Christmas List.)

Wicks
Wax Block
Scent Oil
Glitter
Seashells

Instructions:
 Fill a deep box full of sand. Using a cup, press into the sand to make cup shaped indentations. Make them as deep as you wish your candle to be.  Press the wick down into the bottom of the indentations. Into the sand of the indentation, press seashells, or sprinkle glitter etc. Pour hot wax into the indentation. (melt wax using a double boiler, or if you don’t have one, use the redneck version: a metal mixing bowl placed on top of a pot of boiling water.) Allow to cool until wax is hard. Pull candles out of sand, dust sand off, and Voila!

Recipe:

Edible Glitter Berries

I found the original on an Australian website, but the measurements were ahem… Australian, and so I adapted the recipe to my American tastes, and measurements.

1 Clam Shell of Strawberries
1 pack of white chocolate melts
1 container of green sugar sprinkles (the sparkly crystal kind.)

Melt white chocolate in mocrowave. Using short increments, stir in between until chocolate is fully melted. Place sprinkles in bowl for dipping.

Dip berries in chocolate. Dip berries/white chocolate in crystal sprinkles. Place on wax paper in fridge to cool and harden.  (Approx. 15 minutes.)

An Announcement!

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An Announcement!

I was completely overwhelmed by the response for the Reformation Day Coloring Book Printable. I have to admit to being so overwhelmed I haven’t posted since, mostly because, how DO you follow that up? So many people downloaded it, and I did NOT expect that!  I was honored and completely blown away.
But today I saw something on another blog, a free unit study, that got my juices flowing! It wasn’t at all related to the subject matter I am considering tackling, but it occurred to me, that printable pages aren’t the only thing I can share with you! I can share a lot of the things my children and I do! Hopefully you find it as useful/fun as we do!

Thanksgiving tends to center around one week, and is mostly tangible activities, baking pies, cooking foods, gathering to thank God, and enjoy one another’s company. It is such a family centered Holiday, that most of the reading/writing etc that my children do is directly recipe related. I tend to drop my computer around this time. I won’t be doing any online activities for Thanksgiving, not because it isn’t a big Holiday in our home, (it IS!) but because we don’t do that kind of celebrating around here. Thanksgiving is about relating, praying, thanking. It isn’t about coloring, reading, etc. I enjoy it best working, using a rolling pin, mixing a batter, tasting something together, wiping flour covered cupboards down in a rush before the guests come! Then, the coma in an armchair, snuggling and napping. Thanksgiving is quiet reflection in the rewards of hard work, and the blessings God provides in that medium.

Christmas on the other hand… It is a WHOLE month around here! We celebrate it from the time we get up on Black Friday until sometime late January! Ok… more than a month? But we don’t do the shopping, the lists, etc. We try to center it around 2 things, Christ, and showing love to one another. We try to do activities that benefit those around us. (Food drives, donating clothing, etc.) We spend a large amount of time painting, sewing, baking, making gifts for one another. There is a lot of quiet down time with a cup of tea or cocoa in hand. Plenty of time to color and relax in between the parties, and singing, and time just to sit around the fire together, feeling warm. Coloring, now that happens during this season!
So without further ado, I announce that I am going to make a free Advent Printable! We like our Christmas to be Christ Centered, and I am often dismayed by the amount of Santa and gift centric coloring books that are all over the place. I want my children to focus on the most important part of the season. Jesus.

I have many fond memories of when I was a child, and my parents had similar goals in celebrating Christmas. My Mother had us memorize Luke 2. Every Christmas morning, we would gather around the nativity, and recite it together, each of us (there were 6!) taking on a particular character, or group of characters, and reciting that precious passage of scripture and acting it out. MANY fond memories center around this tradition.


So this printable will have the goal of within one month (during Advent), teaching your child how to memorize a large passage, such as Luke 2. It will be geared to the younger group as well, ages 2-7. There may be optional activities for Moms to use. I am not sure how this will be posted, my thought it is may be posted one day at a time, or one week at a time, so you can print out a week ahead of time, and plan on having the materials for the activities on hand. Many of the activities will contain a measure of my own childhood memories, and what I wish to pass on to my children.

Let me know if you’d be interested in this activity, and how you’d prefer to see it made available to you. I will be making it anyway, even if there is no feedback, if only for my children. I am not crazy about candy centered Advent calenders, or a series of unrelated and non-chronological scripture readings. I want to make something that will give them a lifetime of perspective on Christmas. Something they will carry forever. Luke 2 is an excellent way to do that.  I will never forget the memories, year after year, of reciting that passage.

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!

Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 2

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 2

Haven’t read Part 1? Check it out here: Where I realize that my children can’t be kept from sin, but they must be taught how to respond to sin.

Knowing my children have a sin nature, from the moment they are conceived, is an important part of teaching them the gospel. The first part of understanding the gospel is seeing that we are indeed sinners in need of a Savior.

I often get very frustrated with modern parenting that operates from a standpoint of the idea that the child is a blank slate. They are sinless, and if we can juuuuuust get things right, they’ll improve the human race. This thought, however innocuous it might seem, at its core sees man as a Savior. Not Jesus. It assumes the if the children can be raised properly, man can save itself. And I am ashamed that I used to believe this, wholeheartedly.

“But I don’t believe THAT!”  I had once said to myself. In word, I didn’t, but I was inadvertently teaching my kids this. When we discipline our children, we tell them a LOT about themselves, ourselves, and their relationship to God. I am far far FAR from a perfect parent, and I have a lot of mistakes to undo in this area.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Take for instance, a popular cartoon, Daniel the Tiger. I recently watched an episode with my children on “sharing.” There were lots of pretty songs about sharing blocks, and how we’ll all be happy if we just share! But the premise of the episode was clear, and repeated over and over and over again. Share, because if you do, it’ll feel GOOD.
Sounds great, right?
Nope. Not so right. Without realizing it, we often teach our children that doing good feels good. And that We ought to do good for the sake of feeling good, or if there is something in it for us.

But is this scriptural? Is doing good about feeling good, or is it about something bigger?
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Jesus is clear here, doing good is about giving God glory, not fulfilling our own desires. At its heart, selfishness is the root of all sin, putting ME first, making ME God. It is at odds with Jesus’ own commands.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)

I used to say this kind of thing to my child:
“If you share with Emma now, she’ll share with you later! Or, what about a trade! You give her what she wants, and she’ll give you something you want!”
We are teaching children that good is only worth it, and is only good, if they feel good.
But this is a selfish premise, we are feeding our children’s selfish sin nature. We are teaching them that their feelings, their wants, are more important than what God says is right. We teach them that feelings, and their satisfaction, ARE God.
And, crazy as this sounds, I was also feeding my own sin nature. I mean, it is MUCH easier to have Ava bribed into stopping the crying. Hand everyone the toy they want, and nobody gets hurt, right? Well… sort of. There is that moment where Ava’s selfish desire can NEVER be sated, because it isn’t about the toy, it is about ME, about how I feel, or what I want.
See what I was doing here? By feeding this selfish nature, I was feeding a beast, one that just got bigger, badder, and all around worse. For the convenience of today (less screaming) we are sabotaging the character of tomorrow, and losing a very important teachable moment to share the gospel.

I now do this instead:
“I’m sorry, but that is Emma’s property, you may not have it unless she says yes.”
Oh good. There is an out, Emma could say yes!
But Emma says “No.”

Uh oh. Cue the tantrum.

Yes, this does mean more work for me, but which is more important, an easy, fun, confrontationless time with my child, or teaching them right from wrong? Teaching them to follow Christ’s commands: To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, your mind, and your soul, and your neighbor as yourself? Christ neatly summed up all the laws in the Old Testament in this little nugget. My job is not to teach my children to love themselves (selfishness) But to love God, and those made in his image, more than self.

In part 3, we’ll get into how this kind of teachable moment often does lead children straight to the gospel.

Teaching the Gospel to my Children: Part 1

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Teaching the Gospel to my Children: Part 1

My children are not sinless. Would that it were so, but they are not. And if there is anything I’ve learned as a Mom, it is that my job is not to keep my children from sin, but to teach them how to respond to it.

Some days, I feel so frustrated, as if I’m banging my head against a wall. Why can’t they just STOP SINNING?! But then I realize, I am no better child to my Heavenly Father. I often find myself doing things I don’t want to do, and in the midst of sin saying to myself. “Whoops. I shouldn’t have done that…” I struggle with many sins, the worst of my vices being laziness. It is tempting to waste my time in trivial pursuits of pleasure, rather than keeping tabs on the mundane reality of Motherhood and Homeschooling. I’d much rather lay in bed all day, reading a book, than doing canning and related food prep, changing diapers, reading lessons, vacuuming carpets, mopping floors, and decluttering, making supper, baking snacks from scratch, or any of the other sundry chores I may need to finish in one day’s time.  I do my best, but some times I find myself failing miserably, easily distracted by the procrastinator’s best friend, facebook.
Some days, I’m spot on, finishing the things I ought to, on time, well done, and I have a cozy, warm, clean, and good smelling home waiting for my husband when he gets home from work. Other days, not so much. So if I, an adult, still cannot completely avoid sin, despite the fact that I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt I will be happier when I do right, how can I expect this of my children?

I don’t know why you don’t just do as I say. You’d be much happier if you stopped doing this wrong!”

I hear these words, or similar ones coming out of my mouth sometimes, or lingering in my heart, and I cringe. I think of that parable, the one of the man who owed a debt to the King that he could never repay. The King released him of his debt, but when the man went on his way, and another man who owed him a paltry sum was passing by, and the first man demanded this paltry debt be repaid. No mercy for the man who owed him so little, he pressed hard for the money. The King heard of this, and brought him back, angry that although GREAT mercy had just been showed to him, he could not show a small amount of mercy to another man.

I am that man. My children owe me nothing. In comparison to the debt I owe to Christ, they owe me crumbs. And yet, I demand payment, and I demand it now.

I have learned, that I cannot demand that they stop sinning. And to do so only frustrates me, and frustrates them. And as Ephesians 6 points out, we are responsible to God, and not an authority for our own gain, or agenda. Frustrating our children is not in our job description. Teaching them, guiding them, nurturing them IS. Our job is not to eradicate sin, or to keep them away from it, but rather to respond to sin rightly. I do my children no favors when I demand a sinless life from them, and I do them even worse when I shelter them from sin, assuming it is only acquired from bad music, bad company, bad atmosphere, or whatever else troubles me. I can stand beside them, as they meet sin head on, and model for them how to respond to it.

This requires so much more integrity than merely trying to isolate them from sin. In isolating them from sin, I take the blame off of them, and off of myself. In being aware of their sin nature, I admit there is a sin nature in me. This takes an uncomfortable amount of humility.

To begin to teach my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, I MUST admit one thing first:
I am a sinner. I gave birth to sinners, and the only answer to that sin is the gospel.

How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

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How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

Disclaimer:
I am far from perfect. I mean, I can barely keep myself from pilfering my kid’s chocolate stashes, and even then, a piece or two goes missing on my most stressful days. Anything I write here is first written because I NEEDED to find out how scripture addresses my shortcomings. So here is a glimpse of my dirty laundry.  This isn’t a matter of me peering into your junk closet, so much as it is an airing out of mine.

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

So before I even begin listing ways to keep yourself from going batty, I have to say the number one way to maintain sanity in the midst of Motherhood is to get in God’s Word.
I often think if I can just talk to someone over 3 ft. tall, I could have a little sanity rub off on me. Or if I could just get a run in, I could regain some sanity.Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. More often than not I am disappointed. I need something to talk about with another grown up, and frankly, they’re not all that into how many diapers I can change one handed while pouring milk and solving a math problem. Running does me no good if I have nothing to think about. A blank mind drives me even more crazy! First and foremost, sanity begins with wisdom, and wisdom comes by hearing the Word of God. So before you try any of these *tricks* Get a little time to read, listen to, or reflect on God’s Word. It is the one way I often forget, but most need to get some sanity when I’m ready to lose a marble, or 12.

  1. Clean something. Half the time the reason I’m unhinged is because the mess without is contributing to the mess within. Start at your feet, as my Mom says, you will be surprised how quickly a determined attitude, a large trash bag, and a tote of clorox wipes can make it a LOT better!
  2. Take the kids for a walk. A little sunshine never hurt anybody, and this is a free, and easy way to get out of your house, and your head! Plus it is a good relationship builder if your kids are driving you NUTS.
  3. Lower your expectations. Being a perfectionist doesn’t make you more perfect, only more stressed. Check your expectations first with scripture, then with reality. Ex: My children are overly energetic, and I’m tired and headachey. Scriptural expectation: obedience. My expectation: absolute quiet. So where should I fall on this? Perhaps giving them an instruction that allows for quieter activities, and expects obedience. I can’t expect them to sit, hands folded, absolutely still until I’m satisfied. I’ll get a bigger headache just trying to maintain an impossible standard of behavior. I *can* expect them to eat a snack together, read or color, and find a quiet activity if those don’t suit them.
  4. Work first, play later. I know, the last thing you want to do when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and insane, is work. But I think better, feel better, AM better when I’ve got my work done. Sitting down and selfishly goofing off while obsessing about all the work I HAVE to do only stresses me out more. Don’t procrastinate. DO. You’ll cherish your free time much more!
  5. Pamper yourself, just a smidge. This is not a blank check for selfishness, just a reminder that a little bit of niceness goes a long way. When I want to pamper myself, I plug in my fragrance plug. The sweet spicy scents that I like help me to focus, calm down, and move on. Doesn’t hurt either when my house smells awful, like children gone wild.
  6. Ambiance.  Make your home a HOME. Pop something easy, sweet, warm and spicy in the oven, and something warm and savory in the crock pot. My favorites are Beef Stew and Apple Crisp. Both are easy, and take 10 minutes prep, tops. Beyond that, put on some soothing music, and have a cup of tea.
  7. Manage your emotions, Mama! Angry? I used to play music to suit my mood, but I found that angry music only feeds my selfish anger.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.” If you are angry, don’t sin in your anger. Take a moment, why are you angry? Is it because the kids forgot to flush the toilet AGAIN? Count to ten, breathe, quote a Proverb, (Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.) and then call a family meeting to address the issue. There. Done. Manage your emotions. Don’t let them control you, because by giving them free rein, you are allowing yourself to be deceived. “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” This only leads to more sin, which will, naturally, destroy peace and joy in your home.
  8. BREATHE! “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  Take a minute before you act in anger, frustration, or whatever else. Don’t plod on into a bad situation you know is only going to get worse. Ex: I was tempted to lose it when I found out the girls slathered glue all over the playroom in the five minutes it took me to put Isaiah down for a nap. I looked, confiscated the rest of the glue, and walked away. I took the girls up to the bathroom, calmly cleaned them up, and went back to washing dishes, as I had been prior to nap. Once I was cool, calm, and collected, I peeled the dry glue off of the plastic surfaces, and told the girls the new glue rules. I didn’t tell them the new glue hiding place though. That is my secret to keep! There. Unpleasant frustration sidestepped. Breathe Mama!
  9. Be Busy/Get Bored. Whatever you have too much of, balance it! We’ve found a nice happy medium (until the next crisis comes along.) We have a few ministries we’re involved in that suit our family budget, schedule, and schooling goals. We also leave days where we can chill, explore books, backyard, garden, and just BE. Just say no if you are overstretched. Nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you do everything. And nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you don’t do everything. Your responsibility isn’t to impress the world, but to love your husband, love your children, keep your home. (Titus 2) DO that, and nothing more, and nothing less. If it doesn’t fit into that ministry (and really, that is a LOT of leeway!) don’t do it.
    Example: We’ve found meals ministry to be easy, fun, and helpful. The children enjoy making the meal for another family in need. We’ve also found a local ministry that we count as a school day, it involves a morning outside in the sun, harvesting food, enjoying nature, and then a park/play time afterward with the other homeschooling families we’ve met there while ministering.
  10. Last but not least: PRAY. Pray without ceasing. Rejoice Evermore. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

There you have it! May you remain sane through all the spaghetti flinging, broken china, tough spelling lessons, transitionary moments, sibling rivalries, and remember that our strength is in the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

Homeschooling and Dad

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Being a Mom, a homeschooling Mom, whose full time “job” is to raise, teach, and nurture my children, my husband works long hard hours to support this endeavor. This is our first ministry. Training our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

So how, considering these hours, does Dad get in on all the homeschooling fun?
Well, we have a variety of ways, during the weekends he has time to play with them, take them to work alongside him in his endeavors and hobbies (feeding the bunnies, working in the garden/backyard, going grocery shopping, worshiping in church together, doing ministry together etc.)

Despite all of these wonderful things we can do as a family on the weekend, we found that the children missed his input during the week, and by the time he came home, and other concerns took over, we neglected to communicate about our children’s needs, habits, and how he could address them.
So, we’re trying something new.

This is our new behaviors chart. With a bit of duct tape, some dowel rods, and colorful twine (all found around the house.) I used a small portion of my Thirty One home organizer that I had yet to find a use for. (My friend, Emily, is a Thirty One consultant, and this was one of my fabulous hostess perks.)
I taped the dowel rods on, labeled with each child’s name, and when that child disobeys knowingly, or is insubordinate (for instance, if I ask them to put away their toys and they say “No! I won’t!”) I tie a ribbon around the dowel rod. When the dowel rod is full (5 ribbons) Daddy will talk to them when they get home. He might pray with them, instruct them with scripture, come up with a new consequence, and follow up in the following days to be sure the behavior is improving.  Or, if their dowel rod is empty, he might take some time to reward them for that, like a solo trip to the store together, or an hour to play a board game together. Something simple.

Here is what I don’t use a ribbon for, if a child just needs correction, and then follows through immediately. Like so:
Child 1: But I want it!
Child 2: No! You may have it later!
Child 1: *takes toy*
Child 2: *Cries* Don’t steal my things! Please give it back!
Child 1: *is thinking*
Child 2: Mom! I asked her to give it back! She took it!
Me: Did you steal?
Child 1: Yes.
Me: What should you do?
Child 1: Give it back.
Me: Then do what is right.
Child 1: *Gives it back.*

I don’t tie a ribbon for this. It was solved Biblically (as per Matthew 18) and after the whole thing, the child who was offending was disciplined, and expected to apologize. We usually use a form of restitution (Give them a turn with one of your toys for awhile now, plus returning the toy in question.) to discourage stealing. In this case, when confronted, the child immediately did the right thing. Ribbons only get tied when they have to be reminded several times for the same offense, or when they refuse to correct their behavior on their own.

The reason we implemented this is because I am a forgetful Mom. I know, I’m no supermom! I need ways to remember, otherwise it gets lost in the heat of the end of the day. He walks in the door, tells me about his day, I give him the important messages (Aka: The guy called back about those tires you wanted to buy.) and when I finally do get a moment to tell him about our day it is either out of proportion and not accurate (Our day was HORRIBLE! They were naughty all day long!) or an incomplete picture (we went on a field trip. I’m whooped.) This forces me to recognize that one moment in the day does not a bad day make, and provides accountability for the children and myself.
At his suggestion, we also did something else: Posted a child friendly version of the 10 commandments and other scriptural principles that apply when dealing with other people.

Our Ten Commandments and family rules, as per Phillippians 3

Our Ten Commandments and family rules, as per Phillippians 3

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 3

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In Part 1 I wrote about the presuppositions we hold on children and their sin nature, and how this influences our parenting.
In Part 2 I wrote about what scripture says about raising our children.
Here, I have some practical applications in how to train, guide, and love our children on a daily basis, giving them opportunities and ways to work and play in a God honoring manner. These aren’t the only ways to do this, but they are some that have worked beautifully in our home, when I apply them faithfully, because, lets face it, no Mama is perfect! I’m still growing and learning myself, and this is written as much to me, as it is to anyone.

So how can we practically apply scripture in our daily lives training, teaching, and loving our kids?

  • Don’t put your children in the next room to watch TV so you can clean and bake undisturbed (full disclaimer, I STILL struggle with this, and catch myself doing this.) Invite them to bake bread with you, fold laundry with you, make beds with you, wipe sinks while you clean the toilet, sweep the floor while you tidy up. I am NOT talking about slave labor here, but age appropriate training and exposure to the value and satisfaction of work. For instance, my 2 yo uses the dustpan to sweep the dust into the trash after I sweep the whole floor. My 7 yo likes to sweep the whole floor herself. My 2 yo only puts clean silverware away (after I’ve removed all of the sharp stuff, of course.) While my 7 yo usually   does the plates and cups, and my 5 yo usually does the plasticware. Each child has a job that varies based on their abilities.
  • Reward hard work with *positive consequences.* This keeps consequences from becoming a bad word. My 7 yo rushes to finish her school and chores, because she knows once she has done them, she gets to go outside to play, or choose one 1/2 hour show to watch. If she rushes too much, and does them poorly, she knows she will have to work with me to learn how to do them properly. So she doesn’t rush too much. My 2 yo, for instance, only has to complete the chore, I teach her as she goes, and we work together. They know that once work is done, good things come. Things like free play. They also keep their playroom clean now, because, as my 5 yo put it. “It’s no fun to play in a dirty playroom. I can’t find my toys!” They also LOVE to do kitchen chores with me, because a clean sink, a clean counter, and a clean stove means we can BAKE! Baking means…. brownies, muffins, fresh bread, you name it. I always bake enough to meet our needs, plus that initial “taste test” for the hard workers.
  • Don’t overwork your children. Work is not a distasteful thing. Lets not make it one. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it age appropriate. Give them chores they have a stake in, chores like putting their own laundry away.  I have an agreement with my 7 yo. She is expected to help with dishes, laundry, and tidying, because she lives in our home. My flower garden, however, is purely for my pleasure and beauty. If she weeds *MY* flower garden, I pay her money. She has the option to say “no” to that chore, as it is really mine. She also has the option to name payment, within reason.
  • Work CAN BE a natural consequence. I’m not a proponent of work as punishment, but if a child is careless, or downright naughty, I do allow it to be a consequence. For instance, my 7 yo stole $5 from my 5 yo. She worked it off. A single Aunt offered her a “job” folding her laundry. We did one load a week, to the tune of $1 per load, and at the end of 5 weeks, she had worked off her debt and repaid the $5 she stole. That was a natural consequence.

As you train, guide, nurture, and love your children, remember that as God has a purpose for our lives, and as scripture is explicit in giving us good instructions for a productive, happy life, so we as parents should teach our children about our God of order, beauty, and righteousness. We should be an example of the blessings of obedience, and the beauties of grace, and mercy in our own lives.

We are a living example of what God can do in our lives by Grace, and every day is a day to show them firsthand his work in our hearts and homes. Paul said it best in Ephesians 2:8-10 :

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”