Tag Archives: Proverbs

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.

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.

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.”

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

The Seasons Of Friendship

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My My sister Miki and IDad explained the doctrine of the trinity to me by telling me about the many relationships he juggled. He told me God is one God, but three persons, and then he’d say: “You know, I’m your Dad, and I’m my Mom’s son, and I’m your Uncle’s brother. See? I’m three people, but I’m still one person. Each person is different.” He wasn’t eloquent, but he taught a good lesson. Each person was a different way of relating. As a Father, he related to us in authority. In teaching and guidance, and in placing rules and boundaries. As a son, he related in obedience and respect. He loved his Mother, respected her, obeyed her, when it was his role to do so. As a brother he related in friendship, companionship, and a sense of understanding, compassion. This gave me such a deep understanding of the trinity, and how God operates in three persons. I really appreciate my Dad’s wisdom in this particular teaching.

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My twin and I, at our very best

His wisdom extended to other things too, in this case. As a Mom of 4, I am also juggling a variety of relationships, and at this season in my life, it feels as if some of those balls are going to drop. I’ve gone through periods of anxiety and frustration, feeling as if my friendships are suffering, my family is suffering, and I am suffering, all because I just can’t figure out how to spread myself thin enough to cover everyone. I’ve learned though, through one of my truest friends, that I don’t HAVE to cover everyone. Friendship has its seasons.

First, lets define a friend in the Biblical sense. According to Proverbs “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” I always assumed as a child that that must automatically mean you spend more time with them. As an adult, my perspective has changed drastically. I’ve learned that friendship is a relationship that puts others before self, that to find good friends, one ought to seek wisdom in their friends.

That our companions influence us, and that there are Biblical examples of friendship that does stick closer than a Brother (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi… etc.)

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My little sister and I engaging in the normal silliness.

A friend is someone who loves you more than they love themselves. They understand you, and cherish you.

In my life I have lived in fear of losing friendships. But in losing friends, I learned that a friend I lost was one I never really had. There are some friendships that can survive the seasons we all go through, and those are the ones worth cultivating, sticking with. They are few and far between. I am blessed that in these types of friends, I am not truly short.

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My husband, the best friend I’ve ever had. ❤

Friendship does have its seasons though. Marriage is the only friendship in which each season is always experienced (or ought to be) side by side and arm in arm with that friend. My husband has been through everything that I have been through. And I have joined him in his triumphs and tragedies as well. We have a friendship that transcends all others.

Family is similar to marriage, in that you are linked for life. It is a rare and tragic thing for living family members to be so separated, that they do not share in the general hills and valleys of life’. As for my other friends, I have learned that sometimes friendship is like the tide, it ebbs and flows. At one point I feared this cycle, thinking I would lose my friend. I have since found that what maintains our friendship in this ebb and flow is an understanding of permanence, and commitment. No matter what season I have been in with certain friends, the friendship itself remains strong, and is something I can always count on.
Friendship can go from the warm summer of everything going just as it ought, with plenty of things in common, and time to spend together, to a winter where time and opportunity just seem scarce. Do not think you have lost your friendship just because you and your friend have little in common at the moment, just love each other, and you will have that summer again.

Right now, as a Mom, I am in a season where friendship, of all kinds, takes a backseat to marriage and family. I can’t always drop all four of my children to go on a bike ride with a friend. Or take all of them along on a shopping trip. It requires careful planning, and a miracle of sorts for me to have special time alone with my adult friends. I have friends who despite the strong bond of friendship, we have little in common as far as life goes. I want to encourage other Moms, just because your friend of YEARS has no children yet, does not mean you cannot maintain your deep connection with her. Persevere. This is a season. It will ebb and flow with each one. I still go to my friend, Brooke, to cry, talk, ask advice, and whether or not she and I are in the same place right now, I always find her to be a good friend with plenty to think on, because she is that friend who always points me right back to scripture. She is wise, because her wisdom comes from fearing God, and that is what will make her a good friend no matter what season of life either of us are in. She reminds me of that verse in Proverbs: “As iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s character.” Proverbs 27:17

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I have many types of friends, with whom I can socialize while our children get together and have fun. I have a few friends going through the same season of life as I, and I find that comforting, challenging even.  We call and write one another to keep each other honest, to encourage each other. One such friend and I have thousands of emails under our belts with subjects such as “How do you handle an earache with your baby?” or “What do you feel God’s Word has to say about what media we expose our kids to?” or “How much chocolate did you eat today? I’ve had 3 bars already. It is a 3 chocolate bar kind of day…”  All I have to do is tell her I’m starting potty training this week, and I know she will be praying right on target, and maybe have some practical hands on advice. This is a woman who introduced me to the feared cloth diapers. And she was totally right! They aren’t nearly that bad. They are actually kind of easy if you know what you are doing, and baby is much more comfortable! Well worth the money saved! Jenny knows just what I need to hear because she has been there. She knows when I need some encouragement, some prayer, or someone to understand just what I am going through. She reminds me of another proverb: “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Prov. 25:20)

Friendship is not something we can control, or try to. It is a gift. And while we have it, we ought to cherish it by being a good friend. The most important thing I have learned is to have good friends you must BE a good friend. And that starts with thinking about how God has treated you. Loved you. He has forgiven you, loved you when you were unlovable. I know that as a friend, I have caused pain to my friends, whether I set out to, or not. Be the kind of friend you want to have, and be understanding with your friends when you are both in a season where it is hard to keep up with each other.
“A man who has friends must show himself to be friendly, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

With God, ALL Things Are Possible

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Isaiahpost4I considered a long time ago whether or not to write this story on the blog, but there were a few impediments. Mostly my pride. I thought if this story was public, folks might think less of our decision to allow God to determine our family size. They might think we were foolish, and that in choosing to leave our future up to God, we’d asked for trouble. But after speaking to a friend today, that last vestige of pride was strongly assaulted. If we are to give glory to God, sometimes that means allowing others to see that despite our own shortcomings, he works, incredibly, and as Paul says in Ephesians 3:20, he works abundantly more than we ask, or think, and the glory is his.

This story begins long before it begins, after Ava was born, my husband and I felt that we should take God’s Word seriously in raising our children. We felt that the practical side of that was quitting my job, and staying home to homeschool them. But we didn’t know that we could financially swing that. My husband doesn’t have a job that is impressive, or earns a lot of money. He is a “laborer” of sorts, doing hard work in a warehouse. He isn’t a manager, or even a supervisor. He just works, and works hard. We were well off with both of us working, and had saved up some money. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. We were comfortable. But we knew, that we were living life on our own power, and that despite our convictions about how we felt God was leading our family, we just couldn’t see God providing for us so radically. But, with the encouragement of a friend, and constant reminders of how we were ignoring our convictions, we took the plunge. We had no clue God would provide, but we knew he would. Our mantra was: If we were in obedience to him, he would take care of meeting our needs. Little did we know how very much he would test our faith in that regard.

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First day of school.

Once I had quit my job, I went to my daughter’s school, where we had enrolled her for her kindergarten year, to pull her from enrollment. There was no way we could afford private school, even a Christian one. But amazingly, God had provided for us to transition to homeschooling as gently as possible. I walked in that office to pull her, and walked out with a ministry position. The Principal of the school needed a teacher, and I needed to be able to pay tuition. That year was wonderful. I ended up in the perfect job for our family, in the kindergarten room, teaching little ones. I could bring all three of my little girls, and earn enough money to keep our finances even. During that year God provided an opportunity for us to use our modest savings to purchase a house to rent, and earn income from, thinking it would help us to maintain our finances once I became a homeschooling Mom.

At the end of our wonderful year at the school, we choose to move forward with homeschooling. We had been further provided for, by a series of little jobs for me, helping out ladies who needed housecleaning.  Then, by the end of that summer, we found out I was pregnant! We were excited about this new chapter of our lives, and the excitement was doubled in finding out our newest family member, Isaiah, was a boy. This pregnancy, however, was a bit harder than the previous three. I was exhausted, and my body couldn’t keep up with all that I needed to accomplish. Going from three children to 4 was daunting, and the home we had bought to rent, ended up being a loss for the first 8 months. Between that, and my eventual inability to keep up with the house and cleaning jobs, it was a tough time financially. We had no clue how we would be able to get all of the things for our new baby, and our first boy. God provided the little stuff, a new car seat, many Moms who passed on boy’s clothing, and a few faithful friends who threw me a “sprinkle” (instead of a full blown baby shower) to help prep us for Isaiah’s needs. The one big purchase  that had us worried was a minivan.

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Ye Olde Jetta in the background. Ye olde stick and popped tire in the front!

For the past 5 years we had been carting our little family around in my ’87 Volkswagon Jetta. A faithful car that serves its purpose well, we had grown from 1, to 2, then 3 children! All squeezed into that backseat! But 4 really wouldn’t work, and with our rental property being a loss, and our baby due in March, we planned to use any tax refunds to pay for the van. But when we went van shopping we found that everything was out of our price range, and that prices were due to shoot up in January. A grim prospect knowing how tight our budget was, and how much loss we had suffered over the winter with the rental property. We prayed for months. We cried over it, and eventually we found a cheap minivan at a local used car dealership. We prayed for the price to drop within our price range. But it never did. We honestly were at a loss. How could God provide for such a big need, when everything looked impossible?

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God is Good.

When I was (6 months) pregnant, we went to my a party for my Father In Law (Our rescuer when the tire popped on the Jetta after a particularly wild storm left some nasty branches in the road. The intrepid explorers and subsequent rescue pictured here–>) During this time my husband reconnected with some old friends. He had a wonderful time talking with them, and I spent most of the party taking care of our three children who were having a blast eating, socializing, coloring, and whatever else little girls do! I was present for some of the conversation, but not all of it. During a part of the conversation where Allen was explaining to them some of our recent preparations for Baby Isaiah, the subject of a van came up. Allen spoke about our wish to buy a minivan, and some of our struggles to do so. Somewhere during this conversation it came up that they had a minivan they currently had no use for. Then, later in the conversation, they indicated a leading from the Lord to GIVE the van to us! I was in shock, and assumed I heard them wrong. We parted with them with many typical goodbyes, and on the way home as we discussed what they had said, I was still in denial. I told my husband there was NO way anyone would just GIVE us a van! We dropped the subject, and went about our business. Church the next day, and on  Monday, business as usual.

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Sarah’s Dress

But on Monday, my Mother In Law called. She told me they really, REALLY wanted to GIVE us the van! I couldn’t believe it. I just burst into tears. Here we had been praying and praying, and I just couldn’t believe God would provide so completely, so amazingly. Over the next few weeks we sorted out the details, and before long, the beautiful minivan was ours.

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Emma’s Dress

And This family had selflessly given this van to us, and to make things even more amazing, when we went to pick it up, inside of the van were beautiful new shoes and Christmas dresses, one for each of our daughters! We cried for joy at God’s amazing provision, and the girls happily wore those dresses at Christmas. I still can’t believe how God met our needs, and am thankful for this family, and their generous spirit, and willingness to be a part of that.
To make things even more amazing, not 2 weeks after we had been given this new van, Allen totalled his car, our Volkswagen Rabbit. Because we had the van, and we still had the Jetta, he did not even have to miss a day of work, and our tight finances did not have to stretch to buy him a new car. Now the Jetta is his car, and the van is for family outings.

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Ava’s Dress

This past winter was hard for many many reasons, but the bright spot, the moment that reminded us how much God can provide for ANY need was that Van. When we were in the bleakest moments, finding a new tenant, repairing the rental property, wondering how God would provide for our needs, financial and physical, that van was a HUGE reminder that God does provide.There were times when I wondered if we had done right, and if this season of want would last forever (it didn’t!) or if we had made the wrong choice to take a leap of faith (we know now, we hadn’t) There were times when I felt hopeless, and incapable of doing what we needed. Each of those times of weakness, and failure, God stepped in. There were families bringing meals, folks (in some cases, we don’t even know who) who dropped boxes of food at our door. When things seemed the darkest, and hope seemed impossible, God provided again. From food, to clothing, to a VAN, this past winter, he provided. Isaiah is born now, and I am back to finding ways to supplement our income, and there too, God has provided. Our new tenants are wonderful, and we are finally earning money from the rental property to help our family.

Without getting too heavy handed, I want to encourage other families like us, it may be scary, and at some times you may lie in bed at night, next to your spouse, not only wondering if you’ve done something crazy, and stupid, and even cried together about it, and yet, humilitypostmomandemmasnuggling humilitypostsarahemmaGod doesn’t allow his children to go hungry. He will provide. This testimony, as embarrassing as it seemed at the time. As much as to me, it screamed: I am a FAILURE!  It really doesn’t say that. What it says is, God will provide for his children. He will make a way. Don’t be discouraged if you see that it is impossible to do God’s will. It isn’t. It is never impossible for God, though it may seem impossible to us.

Our new Van!

Our new Van!

Philippians 4:19

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

 

Proverbs 10:3

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

 

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Teaching Character

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

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

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

Today, we were convicted, but I was encouraged:

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

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

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