Tag Archives: Family

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!

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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.)

Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

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Teaching The Gospel to My Children: Part 3

Missed the first 2 posts? Check them out here: Part 1, and here, Part 2.

One of the hardest things about teaching your children the gospel is that, unlike an adult who has never heard of Christ, they don’t always have that “Ah HA!” Lightbulb moment where the gospel makes all kinds of sense, and they just respond then and THERE!
Mostly it is a slow and laborious process where we teach it to them over and over and over and OVER again. It begins with us understanding their sin nature, and more importantly, that they understand their own sin nature. It is harder to tell a 2 year old who is in a state of 24/7 denial, that they are sinners, than it is to tell a remorseful 5 year old, who has only recently discovered that their actions have consequences. Often, difficult, and heartbreaking ones.

But we never know when their heart is tender, so we must preach the gospel to them

Every.

Single.

Day.

But how can we do this? At one point I thought “My kids will get tired of me beginning each morning with a recitation of Bible stuff they need to know.”
It isn’t as literal as all that. Best time to teach the gospel to your child? When their heart is soft, and their conscience is pricked, and if your children are as inherently sinful as mine, it will happen daily. At least. Not to say that every child is sorry every time they take their sister’s cookie, but that, in a moment, with the proper instruction, they will be sorry. And not in a mean “YOU’LL be SORRY!” kind of way either.
Here, let me tell you a story.
My daughter, Emma, is a sweet little girl. She loves others with a deep heartfelt kind of love. She is unique in every way, and the way she looks at the world is, well, different, but it is exactly what makes her so special and lovable. One Sunday, when she was particularly happy to be attending church, we sat in our pew, and the service commenced as normal. We sang together, she colored on her bulletin, and the children’s service was lovely. As soon as the children re-entered our pew, to settle in for the sermon, there was a scuffle over something tiny. I forget what, probably a patch of neutral pew that had a… ahem… territory dispute? Emma was upset, so she asked to move. I let her move. She sat next to Sarah, when another dispute arose. She asked to sit with Daddy, and I promptly moved her. Within 30 seconds, she was crying, loudly, to sit with Sarah again. At 5, she understands to be quiet, calm, and respectful during church. I took this moment to remind her that she is expected to, and often does a fine job of, sitting beautifully, coloring quietly. Today, She did not.
“I WANT to sit with SARAH. NOW!”
I told her to calm down, and just sit beside Daddy, the sermon was beginning, and handed her her coloring materials. This would not do. A hiss arose from beside me:
“NO. I will NOT sit here! I want SARAH!”
Uh oh. A no had escaped her lips. I will calmly deal with many things, but when my children say no to a direct instruction that is not only understandable, and normal, but within the scripture’s scope (think of others as higher than yourself = be quiet in church, please.  Or: Be gracious in your speech= do not hiss at Mom.) all bets are off.
I informed Emma, this would not do, and we left the service.

It wasn’t calm, pleasant, or easy. She cried, and cried some more, about how she wanted to sit with Sarah. She yelled at me, she hissed at me, she said some not very nice things. But we sat, in the van, while I nursed Isaiah. After a long time, must’ve been only 10 minutes, but it seemed an eternity, she began to calm down.  She was still crying, that she hadn’t gotten her way, but she was beginning to see that she had done wrong.
“Emma, what did you do, that I had to leave the service with you?”
“I was being loud. And I disobeyed you. I was bad.”
Tender heart. Tender soul.
Cue the gospel. The tender heart is there, the remorse is there. Repentance is a real, tangible thing in this moment.
This was my springboard. In the 5 minutes we had left, my sad, remorseful little girl had a firsthand lesson on unconditional love, sin as separation from God, repentance and what it means, and how Jesus can wash away our sin, because of God’s plan.
This can be as simple, or as elaborate as your child needs, but the simplest terms, for the littlest ones are this:

  1. You did wrong. (You took your brother’s toy, stealing is wrong.)
  2. Are you sorry?
  3. Then say you are sorry. (To God first for breaking his law. Then to your brother, and I)
  4. Jesus took your eternal punishment. (God is not angry with you anymore,  because Jesus died on the cross to pay for stealing.)
  5. God forgives you, and he loves you even more than Mommy does. He can change your heart, if you believe that Jesus died and rose again to “win” against sin.

I know, simple, but every time your child disobeys, is a perfect time to bring them straight to God. The first offense is not against me for disobedience of house rules (stealing) Or even their brother for stealing. Their first offense is to a holy God, who hates sin, and justly, must discipline us for sinning.

Bring them straight to his feet to apologize there first. When they are at ease with their conscience, then to you, and then their sibling.

Teaching them the gospel is a 4 step process. 1. Sin separates me from God,  2. I know MY sin is deserving of God’s anger. 3. God has a way to forgive me. (Jesus) 4. I need to ask for his help, and believe (have faith) he can, and will change my heart.

But how do I know my child is saved? Well. You don’t. Hard to hear, but I can’t tell you how many times my children have walked through this with me. I figure, I will know they are saved when their behavior begins changing to reflect a change in their heart. When the Holy Spirit works in there, and it is clear to them, without my prompting, that they cannot earn salvation on their own, but that it is a gift of grace, through faith. Meanwhile, my job is to teach them: Sin separates, God loves, Jesus died and rose again, to “win”, we must repent, and believe.

Most importantly, we must model the gospel for them. Pray with them, Pray for them, show them your response to God and the gospel. Every. Single. Day.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I don’t even play one on TV, check what I’ve said here against God’s Word. Go with God’s word, every time. It is right when I am wrong. And if you find scripture that conflicts with what I’ve written here, please share.

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 1

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Heavy statement, I know. But when we say “Oh, just let them play, they’re only children!” we do our children a disservice.
Disclaimer: I am FAR from perfect on this issue myself. This is just as much a Series aimed at me, as it is to anyone. This does not mean I’m opposed to play either, just that I’m opposed to play without a purpose, or play without discernment.

So why do I think this? Let’s unpack this statement.

Hairdresser

The girls playing “Hair Salon”

Firstly, as an Early Childhood major, I’ve read a LOT of expert opinions on play. “Play is the child’s work” is the prevailing opinion in the early childhood world. I’ve studied all sorts of things, mostly stating that play is something we ought not to limit, guide, or contain. But that we should feed children’s ability to play by listening, repeating back, and providing materials, encouragement, or opportunity.
This is built upon the idea of a “blank slate.” That every child is born perfect, and only sullied by their environment. This presupposition leads us to let the child direct the play, and follow along, allowing their pure spirit to teach themselves. We are only there to facilitate experimentation. Any kind of negative response is only limiting them, and any wrongdoing on their part is because we are deficient as teachers, parents, adults. I used to believe this wholeheartedly, and constantly found myself puzzled because I was doing everything right, so WHY did the children in my care persist in doing wrong? I felt like such a failure, and I ran out of tools quickly. I just couldn’t keep a perfect enough environment to produce a perfect child. It took a long time for me to say: “This isn’t right.”

Why? I knew scripture says this:
Psalm 51:5 ESV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Romans 3:23 ESV “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 5:12 ESV “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

We are born with a sin nature. Children are born with sin in their hearts. As Proverbs says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” We need to avoid this child led form of play because it is giving free reign to the natural sin in their hearts, without turning them from it.

Adam and Eve aren't the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

Adam and Eve aren’t the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

This is why I think that allowing them to play without a purpose, without guidance, and without goals isn’t the best we can give them. We teach them to make their own rules, morals, goals, and outcomes. Under it all, we’re telling them that to trust, obey, submit, and to learn from others mistakes is wrong, that experience is king and the source of true wisdom, and to disregard rules is right and good. The underlying truth we communicate frequently is that nobody really loves you enough to want what is best for you. Selfishness is the only way to survive, and thrive. We teach them to “follow your heart” “Do what is best for YOU” and to “get rid of anything or anyone that doesn’t serve YOU.”
I think that after 2 generations of this approach to child rearing we are seeing a society that is making its own laws, its own morals, and disregarding authority, except the individual authority of man. And I don’t think it is too much of a leap to say that a lot of our gleeful declarations of “Don’t be afraid to break ALL the rules!” in nursery school are now finding purchase in the hearts of young people, who “call evil, good, and good, evil.”
“But studies show…!”
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditi
cutefilleron, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
As Christians, our authority isn’t the philosophy of fallible men, but God’s wisdom. Proverbs says the beginning of wisdom is the Fear of the Lord. Paul says that “ALL scripture is profitable for reproof and instruction in righteousness.” We know where to go if we need to know what to teach our children, and how to raise them.
I always have to bite my tongue when someone says: “Too bad they don’t come with an instruction manual!” Oh but they do! In God’s Word! Who better to look to on how to raise, train, and teach them, then their creator?

(Want to know where I’m going with this? Check out Part 2)

The Great American Discontent

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I have been struggling lately. As a Mom of many children, having to make financial sacrifices daily, and living in a standard very different from the American Norm, I’ve been comfortable. I knew there would be no single bedrooms, everyone would share. I knew we would not eat out often, I knew that we would face snippets of cut corners here and there in large family life. It just is the reality, that in the America that has 2.5 children per household, our life would be far out of the norm. Hand Me Downs galore, shared bedrooms, a “restaurant meal” that I didn’t cook meaning pre made pizza from walmart, or a crock pot meal somebody else delivered. I KNEW this would be the case.

But then things looked even ‘worse’ than I’d imagined. God has given me a hard working husband who puts everything on the line at his job. He works so hard that when he comes home, there is nothing left of him. Does this mean he gets a promotion as reward for his labor? No. He isn’t the extroverted type who can “lead” or be “manager material.” As a result of this, I’ve had to let go of my dreams of “one day” things getting easier. The more real this became to me, the more I mourned the loss of a future I’d expected. A future with a larger home to fit all of our incoming children, with a more comfortable means, where the day to day struggle of meeting the bills is no longer a constant anxiety, and where my friends stop saying “One day, things will get better.” because they already HAD gotten better. I even tell myself sometimes, “One day, things will get better.”

But I don’t think they will. So I sat down last night and cried over that. Cried that my husband works so hard with so little reward for his efforts. Cried that other people seem to have it better than we do, and cried because I felt God owes me a blessing.
Then I realized. God owes me NOTHING. Nothing.
I am a sinner. saved by grace. How can I expect anything? How can I expect things to “get better?” Is my problem my husband’s humble job, and our meagre budget that just squeaks by each year? Or is my problem my attitude?
I read Proverbs 5 today and something hit me squarely between the eyes.

Drink water from your own cistern,

flowing water from your own well.

Should your springs be scattered abroad,

streams of water in the streets?

Let them be for yourself alone,

and not for strangers with you.

Let your fountain be blessed,

and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;

be intoxicated always in her love.

Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman

and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,

and he ponders all his paths.

The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,

and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

He dies for lack of discipline,

and because of his great folly he is led astray.
(Proverbs 5:15-23, ESV)

I always hurried through this chapter, thinking “it doesn’t apply to me. He is obviously talking to a man.”  But I saw something today. A principle, one I have NOT learned. Why am I looking to other places for happiness? For comfort? Why do I think my life would be so much better if my husband only earned a little more money and we could live comfortably like other people. There it is: “like other people.” I need to be drinking from my own well. Not looking around at everyone else’s.  My problem isn’t this lowly situation we’re in, it is my discontent in it. My assumption that things are hard because we don’t have what I want, or what other people have, or think we ought to have.
I looked at it in a different way after reading this chapter. Are we really so poor? No. Not really. Our home is in good repair, we have indoor plumbing, clean water, plenty of food, working electricity, and 2 cars. We are RICH. Monetarily, we are SO blessed! SO SO VERY blessed! No one in this home suffers from a medical condition that cannot be treated, if we only had money. No one in this home is starving, or deprived. Why am I ordering my thinking and my life on the AMERICAN DREAM? The American dream doesn’t matter. The American idea of what we should own, do, pay for, and have, isn’t important. Here I am inwardly despising my husband because he isn’t going after what Everyone else thinks we ought to have. I’m listening to the wrong crowd. So now is my challenge. Time to stop being so discontented, and to enjoy, be thankful and grateful for what we DO have, and to rejoice in it! To be GLAD for where God has placed us. I will replace my “We don’t have…” with “Thank you LORD!”
So much for the Great American Discontent. Time to rejoice evermore.

How to: Save On Groceries

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I know, this is totally an exciting topic that everyone is dying to dive into. But seriously, my husband has made an art of this! On average we spend $60-$100 for two weeks worth of groceries for our family of 6. He has a lot of *trade* secrets that help us to make our budget, and eat fairly well. I have some as well, being the cook, on how to make food last throughout the week, while giving everyone plenty to eat.

First, a few qualifiers, our youngest, Isaiah, isn’t eating food yet, and our three daughters, Sarah, Emma, and Ava eat about the equivalent of 1 1/2 adults. Sometimes of 2 adults. Depends on what the meal is. (Emma generally can eat more than I do!) So we are pretty much paying for the food of 4-5 adults, depending on the appetites that week. Our budget does fluctuate because sometimes we just don’t find fabulous deals, and sometimes we do. On some weeks, we don’t buy any food because we do some modest stockpiling. No, we are *not* the family with scads of shelves in the basement and enough food to survive Armageddon, our pantry does get empty too! And no, we do *not* empty the sale shelf on a regular basis. We do try to leave some good deals for other folks too. But we do get more than one when there is a great deal. Our rule of thumb is this: If it won’t be used fast enough, if it would spoil before we could use it, we won’t buy it. We buy enough to last our family until the next time we go shopping, and then a little bit more for the nonperishable pantry stockers. This comes in handy for our own needs, or if someone else is in need, we have some to spare immediately.

For all of you folks out there who prefer organic items, and have special dietary needs, portions of this list may help you, but I will tell you, when someone in our home has a dietary issue (it has happened!) our entire grocery budget goes downhill fast. We aren’t picky, we just eat what is on sale, unless someone is sick and needs a particular type of food or foods to help recover.
Stomato and garlichopping tips: (This is my husband’s set of secrets! I love a man who can do a killer shopping trip! I don’t do any grocery shopping unless it is the emergency kind!)

  • Buy reduced. We can’t say it enough! Reduced everything! The dented can? Still good. Buy it.
  • Note what pantry staple items are never on sale, buy those (2 at a time) every time you go to the store. This way you get quite a nice pile without spending a lot all of the sudden when you are out of these pantry staples. My husband does this with kidney beans (we eat them a lot, cheap and nutritious!) and tomato paste. (Same thing, I use it for everything from chili to veg. soup, to spaghetti sauce. One can at 30-something cents can make an entire meal tastier!)
  • Don’t do brand names. Coupons can save you a lot, but generally we have found it is cheaper to buy at Aldi than to coupon brand names at Wal-Mart. There are exceptions to this rule, but not always.
  • Buy local. You save more in fuel. Some staples cost the same no matter where you go. So buying milk up the street when you are getting low is a lot cheaper than going to Wal-Mart 20 minutes away and then buying a ton of food because you went hungry.
  • Don’t shop hungry. You buy more.
  • DO buy reduced fruits and veggies. Yes, the nutrition isn’t as fabulous, but they are great for soups and stews.
  • Have your own Garden. What you pick, you don’t have to buy.
  • Buy pantry staples on sale, get multiples. When he finds flour, or sugar on sale, he will buy 2-3 bags. I package them and keep them in the pantry. This usually gets us to the next sale for the same pantry items that are staples. This doesn’t mean he gets more than I can package, but he does get more than he would if I were out and needed enough to complete a recipe.freezer-bag
  • Skip the snacks! You don’t need them, they aren’t healthy for you. We rarely buy beverages, chips, pretzels, breakfast bars, or any kind of prepackaged food really. I cook a lot from scratch, so it isn’t necessary. We drink water, and if necessary, I make home made soda or Gatorade.
  • ALWAYS look in the pantry/fridge before you shop. You save a lot of money this way. It keeps you from buying things you don’t need, and then having them spoil.
  • Go (semi) vegetarian! Beans, Eggs, tuna etc are all an excellent protein cheaper than meat.
  • Don’t shop at big box stores, or specialty stores. Hunt the deals, then stick with them. We like Aldi, Produce Junction, etc. In your neighborhood it might be something else, Like Wegmans or Costco, I don’t know, but do sniff out the deals, and then keep shopping there.
  • Plan your shopping. Try to minimize trips to the store by going when you know there is a sale, with a list of items. try not to do mini trips when you need something. Do once every two weeks, and limit yourself to trips for staples in between if absolutely needed (like a gallon of milk.) This saves money by reducing unnecessary expenses. Example: You go every two weeks and buy a bag of apples, 10 pounds of meat, 2 gallons of milk, 1 5lb bag of onions, and a 10 lb bag of potatoes, 2 cans of kidney beans, and listed items going short/on sale, like flour, or sugar, or noodles.  This is cheaper than going on Monday to buy chicken breast, rice, and veggies (in small amounts) then on Tuesday for steak, potatoes, cheese, and sour cream, etc. When you buy your cravings, instead of sticking to staples, you spend more than if you buy your staples, and make food based on what is in your kitchen.

Prepari63933_179254385434638_120861161273961_594105_1792248_nng/Cooking tips: (This is MY set of secrets! Combined with my husband’s set, it makes for even more savings.)

  • Cook right away. My husband brings home meat they sold that day because it WAS the sell by date. Before you get squeamish, here is the secret. I cook it THAT day, or the day after. This prolongs the preservation of the meat. If he gets a LOT (once he brought home roughly 15 lbs of hamburger.) I cook it as plainly as possible (I fried it with onions) and then pack it into 1 and 2 lb baggies and freeze it. This makes for an easy “frozen” dinner later. Pop out a baggie of meat, fry it up in a pan, add spaghetti sauce and boil some noodles. VOILA! in 15 minutes you have a meal that costed pennies on the dollar. I love using these as prep for times when I know cooking will be hard. Like weeks I am canning, or when I’m coming up on a due date for a new baby. For hamburger you can use the meat for anything from tacos, to shepherd’s pie, vegetable soup starter, spaghetti, lasagna,  onion gravy starter, Beef Stroganoff, the list is endless.
  • Cook from scratch. It really is cheaper. Generally I find baking bread from scratch is comparable, and sometimes storebought bread on sale is cheaper, but literally 9.9 times out of ten, it is ALWAYS cheaper to make an entire meal from scratch, especially if a home garden is involved. There are other things too, which are cheaper to make from scratch, such as Home made Gatorade, Home cleaning products, etc.
  • Preserve right away. If you have meat or fruits or veggies which you can’t cook now (no time, or whatever) pack them up to freeze. My husband keeps freezer baggies on hand so I can package food however I need to to preserve it. I will take a pack of 8 chicken breasts, and separate it into 2 or 3 portions, and freeze them that way. The same goes for reduced fruits and veggies. clean them up same day or next day, and then freeze or can them. I like to freeze berries, and use them all year in scones and muffins, I also like to clean and freeze bell peppers, as they come in handy in all types of dishes.
  • Substitute. If you find that it is cheaper to make your own baking powder, then do it! I often will use milk in recipes, but I’ll half it with water to limit the calories and the cost. 1/2 c. of milk in cornbread? Nope! I do 1/4 c. of water, 1/4. c of milk. Most recipes it does not affect. Also, if you want to eat a particular thing, find a recipe that uses ingredients already in your pantry. I try to skip recipes that have expensive or exotic ingredients in them. Generally I can find a simpler version that tastes just as good, but doesn’t require a special trip to the store.
  • Stretch the meat. Using beans, peanut butter, eggs, etc, find ways to make meat go longer. Don’t make everyone two hamburgers, Make enough other foods that one will do. Baked beans, salad, potatoes, etc. Fill up on the other foods, preferably fruits and veggies. Don’t rely on a meat heavy diet. It isn’t the healthiest, or the cheapest. Be creative in finding ways to use your meat as a base, not a main food.
  • Reduce the sugar. IF you are making a recipe, easy way to make it cheaper AND healthier is to reduce the sugar. Eventually you find it DOES taste better that way anyway! canning
  • Find a cheaper, healthier, version. Like ice cream? Cool, buy a ton of bananas reduced. Peel them, freeze them, then when you want ice cream, toss those babies (still frozen!) in a blender with a smidge of yogurt or milk, and some chocolate syrup or fruit for flavoring. No sugar required. Cheap ice cream. Healthier too.
  • Portion control. I know, sounds awful doesn’t it? We have 3 meals a day, and 2-3 snack times. Snacks are generally fresh fruit or veggies. Can be a handful of frozen blueberries on a hot summer day, or a muffin on a cold winter day. But most of the time it is carrot sticks, or apple slices with PB or something like that.  This kind of self discipline is good for the waistline, AND the wallet.
  • Limit waste! Use all your leftovers (I try to use them up in lunches, this keeps them from languishing in the back of the fridge!) And re use what you can, or use all parts of a fruit or veggie. I know, it sounds crazy, but we try to use all parts of a food if we can. If we have lemons, we use the juice, and then use the rinds to make our cleaning vinegar smell nice! If we have an empty jar of pickles, we put a fresh cucumber in there for some crunchy no cook pickles! (I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than once though!)
  •  Limit your condiments. Keep it simple. Using ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and relish, white vinegar, and olive oil we can pretty much cover anything. We do get some salad dressings from time to time, but we do a lot of home made ones!
  • Keep a lot of fresh fruits and veggies handy, and always have a steady supply of onions, garlic, and salt to make broths and stews from scratch.
  • Don’t experiment without a recipe. No matter how much you think you know how to make something, taste, taste, and taste again. Follow the recipe, and make sure you know what you are doing! This reduces nasty food that nobody likes. Same with keeping on track with your baked goods. If you know you’ll be distracted, don’t bake, it isn’t worth a ruined panful of biscuits that burned!

My Disclaimer: This list is to help you better budget your money, and work with a little. As I’ve said in the past, we are far from rich, and live off of very little. If I had a nickel for every time someone squeals: “You guys work with THAT little?” We wouldn’t be so tightly budgeted! But we live this way because it enables me to stay home with the children. We buy what we can afford, no more, and very little less sometimes. We depend on God to provide our needs, knowing that any day, a disaster can, and has happened. We do not have a lot of “surplus” in the way of finances.
Every family, large or small, goes through tough financial times. We have had times of need, where we didn’t know where we would have enough money to buy the next bunch of groceries. It doesn’t happen all the time to us,  but it has happened in the past. Know that whether or not you have the money to buy that next meal, God will provide, somehow.  This doesn’t mean we should spend irresponsibily and assume God will give our children food. Scripture says it is worse to evade your responsibility to provide for your family, than it is to not believe in God. (I Timothy 5:8)

This does mean that if we are doing all we should, and can do to provide for our family, and yet some surprise happens (a totaled car, a roof to replace, a surprise expense.) that God has his hand on us. God WILL come through.

If you have all of your needs met, and you see a family in need, be the hands that help. Step up. Buy them a box of groceries, pass them the extra potatoes your family just can’t eat before they spoil. People have done that for us. We never got to a point of asking for help, because help came before we could ask. I know in the future, as we see families in need, when we have blessings to share, they will be passed on, not just because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end, but because it is what we ought to do.  BE the person who gives. This isn’t the responsibility of society, of our state, or our country. In other words, it isn’t *someone else’s* responsibility. It is OUR responsibility. WE should step forward to help the people we know and love in our own church and community.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.  Proverbs 19:17

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ … Matthew 25:35-40

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31