April 30, 2013

An Opposite World

So, as I mentioned last week we have been extremely busy.  Instead of writing a blog post of my own this week I wanted to point each of you to a "must read" that I think will encourage (and may even convict) many of you.  Happy reading friends!

April 22, 2013

Delight in the Lord and Rejoice in the Interruptions

Life is crazy!  Crazy busy that is!  Doesn’t there just seems like there is always something to do, somewhere to go, and someone to see?   For an extreme extrovert like me, I usually thrive in this kind of environment.  But, for every party we host, for every function we attend and for all the people we visit, a to-do list evolves and tasks begin to intrude upon the time I can spend with my husband and children.  The dishes and laundry do not disappear during the busy seasons of life.  Children still need to be feed, toilets still need to be scrubbed, diapers still need to be changed; groceries still need to be bought.  The little things don’t just go away when you are busy.  Things still need to be done even when you are planning a birthday party or having a yard sale.  The necessities of life will vie for your time even when family is in town visiting, you’re throwing a baby shower, or when you suddenly have a funeral to attend.

The month of April has been this kind of busy season for us.  With that said, I just wanted to take a moment to boast in our loving God who has shown me more grace than I can even begin to describe in the midst of our crazy schedule. I am thankful that even though I’ve had much less sleep then what I think I need, He has ordained circumstances so that I have had some amazingly awesome quiet times.  I have been studying Philippians to prepare for an upcoming bible study and the things the Spirit has been teaching and convicting me of have been so rich.

In addition, I am thankful for the interruptions I’ve had recently.    Yes, you read that correctly, I did say interruptions.  A few months back a dear friend of mine asked for a group of us ladies to pray that she would be willing to be inconvenienced.  Wow, What a great prayer, I thought.    Willing to be inconvenienced.  Hmmm, oh to think on all the times that my heart responds in frustration (anger) when I am interrupted in the middle of a conversation, a project, or let’s be honest even in the middle of a shower. When my plan or even just my comfort is compromised I am so easily tempted to react in a way that dishonors the Lord.  So, all that to say, recently, despite the jammed packed schedule and my endless to-do list I am realizing that I AM thankful for the interruptions I’ve had (most of the time).  Knowing my personality and I can confidently say that this is not of myself, but genuinely a gift from the Lord. 

I am thankful that God is currently giving me the grace to stop writing this blog post to help Addi redress her doll who’s shirt just won’t go back on right.  In the past few days he has given me the wisdom and discernment to stop folding laundry long enough to transform a bed sheet into a parachute, to sword fight with my “pirates” using the wooden spoon I was placing in the drawer from the dishwasher, to march in a parade around our living room, to play in the dirt on a sunny day, to scoop up my kids in my arms and dance to a silly song they’ve made up, to genuinely enjoy in the little things of life and the magnificent blessings God has poured out on me. 

Time goes by much too quickly, especially when we fill it with tons of events and activities.  So, this week no matter what else you have going on, I want to encourage you first to delight in the Lord.  Make time to be in the Word and in prayer.  Secondly, rejoice in the interruptions.  Turn all those little “inconveniences” into memories you will cherish forever.

April 15, 2013

Mommy Guilt

This week I have to joy of introducing my friend Charlotte.  Charlotte, and her family were part of my church for several years (her husband lead our small group for awhile) but about a year ago they moved to another state.  I'm thankful that we can still keep in touch and love one another through prayer, email, and the occasional phone call.

Hi!  My name is Charlotte, and I am mommy to two precious little girls.  My oldest is Cara (3).  She is a wonderful little ball of energy.  I am entertained daily by her incredible imagination.  She is challenging and strong willed, but she is a blast!  My youngest is Anna (8 months).  There is a word that I think describes her very well: sweet.  She is such a calm, happy little girl. I love watching her discover the world around her.  These two ladies are a source of indescribable joy for me. 

 I LOVE being a mommy.  Now, this is not to say there are not days where I want to cry and pull my hair out, but I see being a mommy to these two little ladies as a gift and a calling.  And aside from being a helpmate to my hubby, I see being a mom as my primary ministry.  I have two precious charges in my care who do not know Jesus.  It is my desperate plea daily that God would awaken their souls to newness of life.  I pray they would love Jesus with their whole beings.  So my goal is to point their hearts to our Rescuer, our Savior, our Lord.  But as any mom can tell you, there are a million things that can happen in any given day to distract us from this high goal.  And personally, I have found that mommy guilt is one of the biggest traps I so easily fall into.

We moms are not perfect.  We mess up a million times a day.  We snap at our kids. We can be lazy, preoccupied, ungrateful, unmerciful, critical . . . . You can fill in the blank.  Mothers are sinners.  We will not be perfect.  But that is where scriptures such as Philippians 1:6 come in to play: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  For the Christian mom, the mom who places her full hope in Jesus Christ, we are no longer dead in our sins.  Christ has breathed new life into our hearts.  We are his.  We are clothed in HIS righteousness.  And because we are His, He WILL continually be rooting out sin in our lives.  But moms, this is a GOOD thing.  Very good.  He is stripping away what causes death and cultivating what brings forth life.  He is as a Father with his children, disciplining us for our good and His glory.  But sometimes we are very quick to wallow in our sin.  We see the sin, we grieve over it, and we sit there, powerless, in it.  All we can see is how we messed up.  It paralyzes us.  We are overrun by guilt.  Moms, this should not be!!!  When God the Father looks at us He does not see our sin any longer.  He sees His Son, the perfect Lamb---the ONLY acceptable sacrifice.  Moms, there is therefore now NO condemnation for us in Jesus!  God is continuing a GOOD work in us!  That is freedom, ladies, and we should walk in it!  When we turn from our sins and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to be the mothers God has called us to be, our children will see and be pointed to the sufficiency of the cross.  This has impact for eternity.  If they see their moms just sitting in guilt, this will also have an impact on them.  If we live as if we are condemned, we are saying our sins are too big for our God.  We certainly don’t want to communicate that to our children!

Then there is another area of guilt: when we feel guilty for things we have no business feeling guilty for.  This can happen when we compare ourselves to other moms.  We look at what that mom over there is doing with her kids and feel we need to be doing the same thing.  Dangerous ground to be treading, mommies!  You see, God has created each of us differently with different gifts and abilities.  You are not called to be doing what that mom over there is doing.  You are called to use the gifts God has given you to raise your kids to know and fear God.  That doesn’t mean we don’t learn from other moms.  Titus speaks of older women training younger women.  We NEED other moms to encourage us, give advice, cheer us on.  I have learned so much from other mothers.  Indeed, I would not have much of a clue about godly parenting if not for the example of other women in my life.  But we are not to try to be these other moms. 

But in addition to trying to be like other moms, I also have my own ideals.  I can feel like a pole-vaulter.  I am looking at the bar high up in the air.  I want to not just clear it but to soar ever so gracefully over it.  So I get ready, I race towards that high bar, I plunge my pole into the ground, my body soars into the air, I can see that bar . . . but I miss—I don’t even get close.  My body plummets back down to the ground, and I land flat on my back.  I stare, looking back up at that high bar that seems a million miles away, and despair washes over me.  I cannot reach that high bar no matter how hard I try. So I sit in my guilt.  I feel guilty for not reaching all these lofty goals I set for myself.  I feel guilty for not reaching my version of a perfect momma.  But, I am learning that my version of a perfect momma and God’s version of a perfect momma are rarely the same. 

I was talking to a dear (and very wise) friend the other day.  I was sharing with her how I had been struggling so much with guilt.  And she shared with me some very wise counsel.  So friends, if you are like me and struggle with guilt, read carefully.  Joy and guilt cannot coexist.  If I am so busy feeling guilty about everything, my girls are not going to have a joy-filled momma.  This is HUGE, ladies.  We all see how our children pick up on our attitudes.  If we are living under the weight of guilt, it is like we are carrying around a boulder on our backs.  We are so busy trying to live under the weight of this rock that very little of our energy is focused on being a mommy that shows our children the beauty of the Gospel.  In Matthew 11:30, Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  We are not meant to be carrying a boulder.  Instead, we are to be focused on the truths and promises of His Word, and we are to be walking in these promises. We are to be meditating on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith who gives us everything we need for life and godliness.  Ladies, we are clothed in Jesus.  When God looks at us, He sees the shed blood of His Son covering us.  Jesus’s blood is strong enough to cover all our failures, and He is powerful enough to transform us into the moms He calls us to be.  It is not about us, girls.  It is about Jesus.  And that brings JOY.  And when we are living in this joy, our children will see.  They will see what the Gospel is truly all about—sinners made perfect through Jesus’s atoning blood.  And that, my friends, is the best news we will ever hear.  That is what brings joy indescribable.  And that is what we hope for our children.  To know Jesus and to walk in this joy.  So, sweet sisters, don’t sit in guilt.  Live a life that adores, treasures, and finds its rest in Jesus.  This is what we want our kids to see and know.  This is what will have an impact for eternity.

April 10, 2013

Easter Fun

My husband and I want to be very careful about making sure our family focuses on the real meaning of Easter and the significance of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.  But, as I'm sure you are all aware, Easter in our culture has become focused around many other things including candy, the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, baby animals, and anything and everything pastel.  We want to guard closely the hearts and minds of our children, but we also want to make sure that we don't remove them from the world that we desperately hope they will be laboring for Christ in. 

Ten days before Easter we read the entire story of Easter (from the time of Jesus's entrance into Jersulem on Palm Sunday until his assention to Heaven).  Each day we read from either a different children's bible or from a different translation of the Bible.  We read from the Beginner's Bible (New Testament) - by Zonderkids, The Beginner's Bible - by Karyn Henley, The Jesus Story Book Bible-  by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and the ESV, NIV, and NASB translations.

By the time Easter Sunday came around Addilyn was so excited she was shouting at her brother, "Josiah! Jesus is ALIVE!  Jesus is ALIVE!"  Oh, the joy that overwhelmed my heart in that moment was beyond description.  However, by the time we got to church her phrase had changed and now she was telling everyone, "Jesus is higher."  I'm not sure if this was because we sang Hosanna in the Highest or spoke about how Jesus had risen, but either way she just had to tell everyone "Jesus is higher!"  What a funny two year old.  All this to say, despite my lack of motivation, God used His word to penetrate my kids heart and I loved it!!!  Other activities for we did this week just for fun were:

Resurrection Rolls
Resurrection Rolls are the perfect treat to make with your little ones to share the meaning of Easter.  One of my sweet neighbors knew I was feeling a little burnt out from preparing  lessons but knew I really wanted to celebrate the true meaning of Easter.  She not only brought me all the supplies for this activity, but also supplies to make a crown of thorns with crackers, peanut butter, and pretzels (but I don't have any pictures from that activity). Anyway, here are the ingredients and directions.
  • One can of crescent roll dough
  • 8 large marshmallows (or one for each roll you’ll be making)
  • Melted butter
  • Cinnamon sugar

Read John 19 while the oven is preheating to 350.

Unroll the crescent rolls and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Explain that this is like the cloth they wrapped Jesus in.

Give your child a marshmallow and explain that it represents Jesus,
all white and pure because He was without sin.

Roll the marshmallows in the melted butter.
This symbolizes the embalming oils.

Roll the marshmallows in the cinnamon sugar.
This is like the spices used to prepare his body for burial.

Wrap the marshmallow in the crescent roll cloth, pinching the dough together securely. This represents how they wrapped Jesus’ body.
Put the rolls in the oven (symbolizing the tomb) and bake for 12 minutes.
 While the rolls are baking, read John 20:1-18.

Open the tomb and remove the rolls. When they’re cool enough to handle, break one open and discover what happened to the marshmallow.
Happy Easter!

City Easter Egg Hunt

Egg hunt and other plastic egg games at our house!

YMCA Easter craft party!

YMCA Easter egg hunt.

Neighborhood Egg Hunt

We hid eggs all over our yard and invited all the neighborhood kids to come hunt.  Josiah was a GREAT egg-hider.

And, just for fun, I thought I would share some pictures from last year.  Here is a picture of my sweet Addi-girl using the holes in a plastic egg to add glitter to her paint sample egg garland we had made.

And here she is making her tissue and contact paper cross (that hung in her bedroom window until October).  Ha ha!

April 8, 2013

Knowing God- the best methodology out there!

Hey everyone!  This morning I have the pleasure of introducing to you one of the most Jesus-loving and intentional friends I know, Kari.  In everything she does, she has a biblical basis for it.  She always is trying to discern how God is working within every detail of her life.  She humbly sets a great example for those of us who were not raised in that type of culture but long to set that example for our own children.

Hello all! I am so thankful to have this opportunity to share. My name is Kari. I have a little man, Titus, who is 6 yrs. old, and two daughters, Eliana (4 1/2 yrs going on 17) and Leala (who just turned 3 and is just happy to be here). :) My two princesses stay busy spinning in tutus and playing "house" in which their story lines usually involve rescuing and caring for orphans from a distant land. In the midst of all that precious  playtime come selfishness, fits, and tears :). My first born has a super sensitive heart toward the things of God and would tell you his role as a man is "to protect and provide." He loves learning, legos, listening to the Bible, and loves his friends and family. Since Titus has hit age 6, though, we have begun to shift our understanding of how we discipline and train Titus. Not all of his mishaps these days are out of "defiance" like they used to be when he was 5 and under. A lot of his mishaps recently are from a simple lack of character. Ex. He is jumping around being goofy, trying to get attention, and in the process he knocks his sister in the head with his knight sword. Or he doesn't knock anyone with anything but we notice he is being overly silly with the purpose to get all eyes on him. Or he responds to a simple dilemma with lots of emotional crying. Titus has entered a new age and stage in life. He understands "respect and authority" and generally seeks to honor God in how he relates to adults. But, new things are happening...New attitudes, new ideas, new struggles, new emotions, and new hurts. This is the background that God is using to shape me in my recent views of child training. 

There is a lot that Mommies can learn and share with others in regards to methods of child training. Yet methods often change and flex even as we assess each of our own children's needs that correspond to their ages/stages. The One who never changes is the "method" (per se) that I want to write about today. 

The most helpful place I can ever point a Mommy to is God Himself. One God, who exists in three persons- the Father, Son, and Spirit, whom we have been created to enjoy intimately. There are so many times as a Mom that I literally put my hands in my face during my kids squabbles and just cry out to God for help. Both kids are being selfish, neither wants to consider the other, pointing them to a Scripture proves ineffective to work sorrow or true change, and when i try the Christian hedonism route- "but THIS would make you most happy"...they both plainly declare, "then I don't WANT to be happy." (Cross arms and pout). 

Well, they are right. My children were born into a world of sin where even their own hearts don't desire God. God is the only One who desires God, and God is the only One who causes us to desire Him. For "there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God." Romans 3:10-11In and of themselves, they are right...they DON'T want to be happy. 

Hmmm...options now. I could simply discuss the issue privately instructing what sin each one needs to "put off" or what righteousness to "put on" instead, spank each one for being sinful toward each other, pray for restitution and forgiveness, reaffirm their acceptance as my son or daughter, and afterwards simply put away the game they were playing that was so tempting to them. OR I could do all of that but make them go back and work out a way to play the game peacefully. I could just realize that everyone is tired and put everyone to bed early....show mercy with no spankings, but game over. Or I could choose a host of other approaches. 

Yet, at this point in the day, with this particular squabble, I realized by the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit, that using those "methods" today wasn't going to be a tutor to bring them to Christ. The way this day had gone, I didn't feel like those usual methods would effect true repentance or heart change with my two older children, and that's what we ultimately desire as parents, heart change, right? 

Sigh. The life of a mom- "what do I do?" I called my  husband at work for his godly and wise ideas, and he didn't  pick up. Thus, the question remained, "What do I do?" as children are sitting in front of me already dictating to me the consequences they DON'T want. 

In these moments there often isn't a book answer. Thankfully God gives us many of these moments so we can't take pride in thinking we have it all figured out. Yes, we should study the Scriptures and have resources to know how to train and discipline our children. Yes, we should read books by godly authors and sift through their logic to discern if their methods are reflective of God's heart. Yes, we should be diligent to enact the things we learn with raising our children to teach them to love God and love others. Yes, we should refuse to coast and just "do what our parents did" with no thought or seeking the Scriptures.  As the Scriptures say, "let everyone be convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:5. John Piper just asserted in a sermon I listened to that "we need more convictions" in the church "not less!" Yes. Yes. Yes. 

And YES, you will have moments still when none of these methods work or moments when you look at your child and realize that the stage he/she is in at this very moment is...different. And though you may have had resources and felt confident when he was 5yrs old, a logical and yet sensitive 6 yr old is now looking you in the eyes, and you feel resource-less. And those are the moments I write about today. 

I feel the difference in my heart in parenting when I have had a week where I have really walked by the Spirit because I have been close to God through His Word and prayer. Those are the weeks where I really realize my desperate need for God. When that kind of humility drives my "parenting ship," the results are helpful, encouraging, and fruitful. I STILL may not know how to handle a fit or a disagreement, but I am ok with not knowing because I know that God is ultimately their heart changer, not me. 

My exhortation to Mommies today is simple. It's just two words,"know God." God is the only One in these moments that can help you. Know Father God. Oh, Father God! You delight to give us the kingdom. You patiently endure with us. You discipline us with brokenness in Your own heart. You sing over us while smiling. You give us not only the things we need but the things we want. You lavish and You withhold. You already know the deep places we fear to let others in. You are forever wise and have ALL the answers, yet intentionally do not tell us those answers some days. You are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in goodness and truth. You forgive sin yet never let the guilty go unpunished. Oh Father, we love you. Cause us to know You, Father God. 

Know Jesus. Jesus. (Sigh, pause, and smile.) Our Teacher. Our Lover. Our intercessor. The One whose hands are the lifter of our heads. Our ultimate example of selflessness. The One who came to serve not be served. The humble One who deserved it all yet never demanded it. Our healer. The One who is full of grace and yet simultaneously full of truth...who knows the perfect moment to say the perfect words to that exact person. The One who took my place, took my punishment, and took my condemnation, so I can live like I never did any wrong. Your work on the cross silences my accusers. Wow. My good news. My Lover. My Savior.

Know the Spirit. Mysterious Spirit! Your whispers delight my soul. Your comfort outweighs any other. Your ministry to my soul is unexplainably precious. Your conviction often comes through encouragement. You praise Christ at work in me when the crowd is silent. You work change...softly and tenderly as Jesus calls, You work. You give gifts that enable the body to thrive. You tell me what to do when I feel frozen. You calm my rage and calm my fears. You are a Spirit of peace. With you I am safe, for your purpose is to glorify the Son. Spirit of wind. Spirit of fire. 

Mommies, come, let us return to the Lord! Let us press on to know the Lord! He is our Lord, our God, our Maker! And as we go to the secret places with our God, we will often hear a voice behind us saying, "this is the way to parent, walk in it." And it may look different than what we read in our parenting book that day. And other days we will hear His silence in those difficult parenting moments. Yet, frustration will not result in our hearts, rather a soft smile will spread across our faces. Perhaps that day, it's not about us having a champion parenting moment. Perhaps that day it's not about our kids having the perfect parenting parent. Perhaps God just wants us to see, "wow, that's what I look like when I am selfish." Perhaps God wants us to simply feel humbled by not having all the perfect parenting answers. Perhaps His silence means something amazing that we will never know this side of Heaven. And our hearts will then be kept in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him because we trust in Him. Because we know Him. "Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” -Hosea 6:3

April 4, 2013

Letter of the Week- Letter V

One week closer to the end of the alphabet.  Here's what we did.  Enjoy!

Introducing the letter V!

All sorts of books on vegetables, volcanoes, and anything else we could find that started with the letter v.

V is for volcano!  We used construction paper, crayons, and tissue paper to make a volcano that had lava coming out the top and flowing down the mountain!

I am so thankful for friends who are willing to share their really cool homeschooling stuff.  One of my neighbors, and a mom to three boys, let us borrow a "volcano" that her boys had made.  We added a little baking soda and vinegar to make our own eruption and the kids loved it more than I can even begin to describe.  Check out how excited they are by the expressions on their faces.

V is for Vegetables!!!  We used the top of some celery to paint flowers in our Capital V Vase!

We also went on a field trip to a "Seed Store" as Addi now calls it.  We researched which vegetable seeds would be the most likely to survive in our area and the proper way to plant it.  Now, I in no way, shape or form have a green thumb.  Quite the contrary in fact.  Just about any plant I've ever had, I kill it in record time so I don't know if this activity will actually produce the results I'm hoping for, but I thought we would at least give it a try!

Addi found her lettuce seeds packet.

And then we recruited a few friends to help us plant them.

Hopefully in a few short weeks we will see some vegetables starting to grow!

Letter of the Week - Letter U

Letter U week was unbelievable!  Ha ha.  Click on the link below to view our curriculum and check out our pictures to see some of the fun things we did.

Handwriting practice.

Up, up, up!

A few letter U themed books.

Pointing UP!

Crawling UNDER!

Using an umbrella!

United States of America puzzles!

St. Patrick's Day Fun

My family history definitely includes some Irish heritage (if you could't tell by my red hair).  And even though we are not Catholic, we still enjoy a few St.Patrick's Day crafts and activities.  My sorority was founded on St.Patrick's Day and green is my favorite color which makes this an even more fun holiday for me so why not let the kids have a lot of fun with it too!
Here is Addilyn's Leprechaun Beard.

Who can resist pepper painting when it makes such perfect four leaf clovers?

And of course we had to make something with mint in it.    How about Chocolate Mint Brownies...yes please!

Most fun of all is the annual city parade.  We of course, had a blast!

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