An Autumn Celebration!

Strewn toys, sweet drawings on my refrigerator, empty treat trays, decorations (that aren’t placed just so anymore), and frosting bowls with finger trails in them. Signs of a day well spent.

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Micaiah wanted to celebrate this beautiful harvest season. “A fall party!!” he kept saying.

He planned games, made decorations and wrote his own invitations complete with a handprint turkey.

He was kind enough to let Adriel choose and make treat recipes (with help from Grandma of course).

We practiced welcoming guests, taking coats and offering beverages.

I am one proud mama. I set out one decoration and helped a few mothers understand what the mysterious turkey card meant that their child brought home. Grandmas helped with the cookies. Other than that, this was a kid-thrown fling. How cool is that?!

It was a time of enjoying friends and showing love.

Blessed, I feel. (How Yoda was that? Sorry)

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The Why: Time Edition

The it the second post since in which I’ve started writing out why we do things the way we do. People who know us are probably thinking, “You mean, the hard way?” …maaaaybeee…

Anyways, I’m mostly recording this for my own sake. It helps me to remember why Nic and I have structured our lives the way we have, and you dear friends (I accidentally originally typed fiends, which made me giggle) just happen to subscribe to the journal of alphabet soup that explodes out of my brain now and then.

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So first I talked about food, which was super easy. Even if people have an opinion, I think it would be difficult to find a good reason for expecting me to do something differently. It was low risk. I likey.

Buuuut, now on how we use our time. A wee bit more touchy when you live sub-level to a multi-lense cellular magnification device.

What does our life even look like? First the how:

Daily, our life looks a wee bit different from many families. First, Nic works when and where it suits him. This means, while he has a lot of work to do, he gets to remain involved in a lot of our daily lives. Most days he and I are up earlier than the kids (more on that later) so we can spend time with Jesus, spend time with each other and then discuss our day.

Sometime Nic eats breakfast with us (yay for us!). Either way, we usually get some things done around here and then he gets to “work”. He heads to the church office, the “office” (aka his standing desk in the garage) or sometimes a coffee shop depending on what needs done.

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While he works for a few hours, the kids and I get our day started. This usually looks like breakfast, clothes and the like, and then slave labor chores. While I finish  absolutely necessary household duties (such as the rolling hills of dirty dishes or the vast mountain of laundry) the kids are supposed to be playing.

Our kids don’t usually get out of bed until 8 or 9 or maybe later for Micaiah. So between the aforementioned tasks and whatever life throws at us, that usually brings us to much time.

The afternoon brings naps (praise Jesus) and “structured” (kind of, I mean structured for me) school with Micaiah. This usually looks like some reading and discussion before I get him started on whatever activities he might be doing on his own.

We eat dinner early, around 5.

Then, we get ready for our evening which may involve guests for dinner, Bible study or outreach night with some teenagers or other miscellaneous activities. Our “free” evenings are few and far-between.

In the late evening we do more chores, a little cleaning up, get ready for bed and the next day. Besides normal bedtime stuff (like teeth brushing) we read a Bible story and pray with our children. Lately Nic has been doing this with the older kids while I finish straightening some things and then put Eloise to bed.

My day goes much better Everyone’s day goes better if I can just wake up to a cleanish floor and orderly throw pillows and blankets on the couch. A clean counter is nice, but I mostly just do it to keep the pests away. I can get from my room to my spot on the couch without seeing the kitchen, so if it weren’t for the gross factor of having a dirty kitchen I wouldn’t worry about until breakfast time. Weird? Maybe. But orderly pillows make for a sane mother in this house.

Mop, girl, mop!

Mop, girl, mop!

Also, if there is more “stuff” on the floor then I feel like I can pick up before Eloise needs to be in bed, I sweep it into a pile and pretend I don’t see it in the morning. Then, I assign that chore ASAP to one of my beautiful children. I don’t even know how the stuff gets there, it’s insane what accumulates in one day. Someday I’ll take a picture for you, then you’ll know were really friends.

Now to the why:

Much of the way we disciple others happens in the evenings: Bible studies, meals, sports etc. So we’ve always put our kids to bed later than the average family. The result has been kind of cool. Our children all get the amount of sleep they need. They just start and end later than many other families. The flexibility of homeschooling means that we can continue this as long as it works for us, not worrying about kids who need to be up to catch a bus or drive to school.

I love that the Hebrew day traditionally began in the evening. The way I spend the end of my day, drastically effects the next one. So I to do my best to prepare for a good day.

I didn't even know a "felfie" was a thing. But here we are taking a farm animal selfie.

Because we like to “do things the hard way”. We do a lot of working at home. I prefer things handmade, done ourselves and of course, beautiful. I’ve encountered some questioning on this one. When we moved here, I explained to the nice people on the board and search committee and then the congregation that we want people in our home. We do ministry at home. This was different from both our communities tendencies and the previous youth pastor & family. (Please read as different, not better. I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s…ok I’ve digressed :) So, I think they didn’t believe me.

Three years later, (yes three, gotta love slow moving change where the roads are dirt) it’s finally actually working like that. For a while, even I was wondering why I didn’t go to this or that. But remaining homeward oriented has paid off. Young mothers, unbelieving neighbors, employees from the business across the street, people who know people on the aforementioned list, and completely random people who know this is a parsonage are all among the many visitors we get in any given week.

A walk.

A talk.

A cup of coffee or tea.

It starts differently, but inevitably some need whether emotional, physical or spiritual, mine or theirs is always met.

It’s beautiful.

And it’s just one of the many dreams that have come true for me lately. See, fairy tales do happen: in the way of good and perfect gifts from God.

Again, working at home allows us to be available to people and gives us a unique opportunity to show people we care by setting our work down or involving them in it.

As a socially awkward (awkward is such a fittingly awkward looking word!) introvert, it would be a bad idea for me to be leading on up front situations. And as a creative person it doesn’t work out well if I take on administrative roles. By that I mean that I’m fine through the whole process and everyone else is panicking.

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We’re all gifted differently. Women are different from men and different from each other. We continue to try to evaluate things (read: I occasionally overanalyze things) to ensure that we’re honoring the Lord, our brothers and sisters in Christ and our community with our time. It’s a lot to balance.

Let’s just say I’m super-dee-duper thankful for grace.

Our big “thing”

I read. A lot.

I clearly remember my parents coming home from a parent-teacher conference with grim looks on their faces only to report that I was a book worm. Apparently my teacher (one of the best out there btw) had to tell them that I was even reading when I wasn’t supposed to be, zooming through books faster than I could get them from the library.

Today, I’ve moved on from Nancy Drew (most days!) and try to read things that will grow me as a believer, wife and mother. I often seek out books and blogs and articles to help me parent and homeschool “right.” It’s almost as if I feel like there’s a perfect combination that, if I could just narrow it down, equals a recipe for perfect children. Of course, to write that it seems ridiculous, but that’s the reality of my strivings.

11169793_10103099164671053_774557601831639369_nI’ve developed a sort of way I go about things (always being adjusted slightly) that seems good to me. In all of my likes and dislikes I’ve found resources that I turn to.

Montessori preschool, waldorf play, reggio amelia too, building independence, Bible-based discipline, classical homeschool, sustainable/whole foods. And there is a blog and book or ten about all of them! But as I look at families who seem to have any one of those “down,” I can’t help but wonder about something. If waldorf is our thing, or interest-lead learning or even classical schooling, where does Jesus fit? I mean really, should Jesus just “fit?”

I asked my husband about this about a year ago when I was expecting Eloise. None of those things equal Godly offspring. Only God’s grace can do that. 

So how do I make our “thing” Jesus. When people look at our blog, Facebook pages even our home and our family, I want them to see Jesus. Do they see wooden toys? Children studying Greek? Or do they see the love of Jesus? The peace of God?

Since I’ve started thinking about this a couple of things have changed:

I’ve loosened up on a few things. Learning to depend on God’s grace means I don’t have to strive for perfection AND I don’t have to worry about what other people think.

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I’m slowly learning to see things more through my children’s eyes. This means more fun, more yes answers and less teacher-voice (at which my son’s eyes automatically roll anyway). It also means more discipline. I’ve seen a look of contempt come from some of my friends’ older daughters toward their mothers. When two women live in the same house, some amount of conflict is inevitable. But one thing I think would prevent some of this is good discipline early on. God’s authority, God’s grace. If they get that, they’ll be just fine.

We’ve been more intentional in our Bible study. We had already done a Bible story before bed, but now we try to make it more enjoyable for our children all ages and in different ways. Family Bible study should be something they look forward to, right?

Also, I’ve been keeping my children with me in service. The baby is the only one I’ll occasionally pass off.IMG_1212 Not only do I want them to learn to sit in church (quietly obviously…one day. Sigh.) but I want them to learn to listen and participate. (Side-note: one of the biggest obstacles we see in Christian teens is that once they’re given their own youth pastor, they’re no longer taught to learn from the main pastor. They’re only required to sit still and keep quiet.)

I’m sure there are more ways, maybe even some I don’t notice. (I hope!) These are just some things I’ve been wrestling with, and this happens to be where I share them. I’d love to hear your take on Jesus being the center. Here’s a verse I’ll leave you with today, one my wise and wonderful husband brought excitedly to me a while back:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring
Malachi 2:15

 

I Need People

I remember the first time I came across the word hermit. I was about eight and came across it in a book. I’ll admit, the first thing that came to mind was Kermit the Frog. Secondly, the appropriately named crab. Not knowing how either of these applied to the man in the story, I asked someone. They described someone living alone, venturing out for necessities only when absolutely necessary. I think I heard angels sing as I pictured a cabin by a stream in a mossy wood where no one would find me unless I wanted them to. I could grow my own food and visit with the deer and hedgehogs. My life goal in third grade was to become a hermit.

Obviously, I am an introvert.

Today, I have an ever-growing family and my house is often full of teenagers, neighborhood kids and whoever else the hubby drags welcomes in. (He, obviously, is an extrovert.) I’m happy that my hermit dreams didn’t come true; not that I don’t day dream of my cabin in the woods on a regular basis. With the various people in and out of our days and weeks, I’ve noticed something about my self and it really set me to thinking.

It’s difficult to admit, but I noticed that I interact with my children differently when people are around: in both good ways and bad. The first thing I noticed is that I can encounter something incredibly frustrating, at home: my frustration will usually show at the very least but sometimes I’ll be impatient and snappy. The same thing can happen out and about and somehow I manage to scrape up the patience to remain calm and kind as I deal with the situation.

Unfortunately es, I was raised to care a little too much about what people think. But it’s more than that.

When we are alone, unwatched and unchecked it is easier to lose a battle against sin. On the other hand, it is easier to live in the freedom from our sin nature when we other believers around us who are on the same journey.

We were made for community. Christ didn’t leave us with a pep-talk about making it on our own and standing in our own strength. He left us the Holy Spirit and a body of believers, each member having different strengths and weaknesses. How well our Creator knows us and how gracious he is to us! We need the visual reminder of our accountability and the consequences of our actions.

The fact that my patience and mercy amidst their treachery points my children toward Christ should be enough to help me operate that way. But is it? Not always. Sometimes encouragement, understanding and even a swift kick from other Christian moms is just what it takes.

I see my parenting more clearly in the eyes of other gracious parents. Likewise, if I’m transparent about my marriage, I’m more likely to see areas in which I can care for it better. If I’m close enough to my believing neighbor, she’ll see ways in which I waste time and I’ll have to think twice before I do certain activities. The same goes for homeschooling, finances, homemaking. The more other believers are a part of my life, the more I’ll be forced to think about whether my actions are useful for furthering the Kingdom of God. I’ve even considered whether it would be worth the sanctification process for us to live in a multi-family situation, but that’s a conversation for another day.

I guess what I’m saying is that all of our fences and independence in this modern world we live in have done us no favors.  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” If our eyes had as little contact with our ears and our legs as most Christians do with others, we wouldn’t get anywhere or accomplish much of anything. We’d be a train wreck! And so it with the body of Christ. We need each other.The difference is that with Christ as the head on our shoulders, the Victory belongs to Him despite our stumbling!

Our American Idols: 3 Ways You Can Do Your Children A Favor

What is most important to you?

I’m finding more and more that people say, “family.” If it wouldn’t hurt feelings, I would tell you specifically how I’ve seen the effects of this is the lives of people around me. My husband and I are passionate about pouring into the lives of young people in order to see them grow into Godly adults. As I look around at the twenties, teenagers and younger, I see devastating results of their parents lives revolving around them.

Sadly, parents are often unaware of how God designed their unique children because they have an ideal in their mind and they treat their young ones as if their children should be exactly what their parents imagine them to be. I struggle with this myself and battle daily to figure out what makes my children tick and encourage them in those directions. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I fail.

I’ve been pregnant four times in the last 6 years. I have the privilege of raising three of those children and hopefully some more. Each one of them is so unique and by God’s grace they can do beautiful things to further His Kingdom. But that may not happen if I make them the center of my world. We do our children no favors when we live like this. Here are some things I’ve seen and steps I’d love for you to join me in taking to love our children better and to the glory of God.

When people make their children their number one priority, they often fail to discipline properly. I frequently see either a fear of making their children dislike them or a tendency to micromanage their children’s behavior for fear that they might appear to be bad children. Both of these model how to fear man, not God. I tend to struggle with the second, but I’m constantly reminded in my Bible reading that it is vital to help my children understand God as their authority, sin as their illness and grace as their cure. This is the goal of discipline. I must try my best to 1. Discipline consistently according to God’s standard of right and wrong (no more, no less) and do it in grace.

When a child is the most important thing in the world to you, they’ll copy you in one distinct way. If your Creator is not your number one priority, it won’t be theirs either. At least not at first. Your idols can easily become their idols. God is great and gracious. Many in my generation are slowly figuring out how to reprioritize now that we look back and see how things didn’t work out for our parents. I’m sure we’ll look back and see how we could have done better, but I pray regularly for God’s grace to get me through this adventure with children who serve him! Sports, friends, looking just right, family, work…the list of firsts goes on. But one thing I can tell you is that very few of the young people that we spend time with have any sort of understanding of a Christ-centered life. Reading, praying and serving are often simple inconveniences in their “Christian” life. I desire to 2. Model for my children what it looks like to live for Christ.

Finally, when we treat our kids like they’re the center of the universe, they grow up acting like they are. It sounds a little simple and a little crazy at the same time. I’m sure there aren’t many people who consciously think this, but a great many act like it. When parents do everything they can for their children out of “love” they rob their children of experience, work ethic and humility. Have you noticed it too? Every teacher, coach, boss, parent (everyone) should work to make their life “better.” I so badly want to 3. Help my children develop a Biblical, eternal worldview.

As someone who hears what tweens, teenagers and young adults are saying when you, their parents, are not around, please (I’m begging you and joining you) teach your child:

What God’s grace is all about,

God’s Word and

How to serve others.

 

 

On Mothering: My convictions

Disclaimer: As I share some of my parenting philosophies, please understand that I’m not determining that other methods are wrong. I simple have found this to be right for us, for now!

I have said all along that I personally think that I don’t like either end of the parenting spectrum. This is why:

I feel like Attachment Parenting lends toward a lack of healthy independence when children are ready because parents tend to go all the way. I like many things about it but I personally think people miss opportunities to move to the next step. Do you know what I mean? For example, wearing a baby is a beautiful thing and something that people have done for centuries, which matters very much to me. I think many people wear their children to often for to long and their children often miss out on developing some independence and skills. I hope I’m being clear here. I’m just not comfortable with the extent of dependence and pace of skill development in the all-in AP families I know.

On the other hand, I think that detached or cry it out or Ferber (whatever!) methods are convenient so that children fit into our busy Western lifestyle. I personally feel like it’s a little severe to expect infant to quickly adjust to life in this fast-paced culture. What it comes down to is that I feel selfish demanding a rigid schedule and such from my little one. My pastor said it wisely when he described an idol we have in our western culture. It has as face. We hang it on our wall and refer to it frequently. We completely arrange our lives around it. The clock can rule our lives and I tend to want to rebel. In fact, the only clock displayed in my house is the one on my stove. I just refuse to rush around like crazy! While I do try and teach children to respect others by being punctual etc, I feel that a lack of rigidity in our schedule has created more flexible, easy-going children: even little miss screams-a-lot.

Whew! It is so difficult to open myself up for criticism by writing all of this down. But I’m beginning to feel a certain freedom in remembering that it is the Lord and His grace that makes my house stand and the only one I need to please with my parenting!

On Mothering: Part Two

Soaking Cold! As my son would say.

Soaking Cold! As my son would say.

If you missed Part One, you can find it here.

Several months have gone by since I wrote that post. Even after I wrote with such resolution, I still went through huge concerns regarding how I should be doing bed time, nursing and other infancy stage questions. I wanted to share with you some specific things that have come up and how things are turning to be just fine – of course!

The first thing you need to know is that I’m pregnant for the fourth time! This was the root of many of my insecurities. My daughter has pretty much always nursed to sleep. I tried to nurse until I knew she’d be full and then lay her down drowsy. After six or seven times at 3 in the morning, I realized that I was about to become dangerously frustrated with my newborn and I brought her to bed with me.

All along, she could not self-soothe within any reasonable amount of time. I continued to try as she got older, even zonked out she would some times wake up and not go to sleep unless she nursed. I know there are probably some moms (or at least I imagine you’re out there) saying that I just didn’t have the tenacity; she needed to learn to soothe herself and I didn’t give her the chance. Let me help you understand this. It’s the same in the car. If she was tired she would cry scream like she was dying. Sometimes I would stop, but other times we just couldn’t. Knowing that she was fed and changed we would just keep driving. This baby (who fusses for about 3 seconds and goes straight to screaming bloody murder) has screamed for almost an hour and a half. Usually even then she didn’t fall asleep, but when she did she would still be gasping for air as if she was till crying. You know, those quick inhales like she’s sobbing. Talk about heart breaking, not to mention making this very spontaneous, adventurous momma never want to take another road trip again!

I began to wonder if she was ever going to go to sleep without nursing. How was I going to move her from a sidecar-crib to a floor bed of her own. I didn’t mind the idea of tandem nursing, especially for the health benefits. But I did not want her to be so dependent on me with our next blessing comes. Even when I had six months time, I was concerned as to whether everything would work out. I was already a little stressed about the chaos that would be if I didn’t “fix” this.

Our family took a little trip for my husband to take a class at a nearby college (I live in a big state, so nearby is often several hundred miles.) I had the privilege of spending time with a mother whom I respect, possibly more than any other young mom I know. She was complementing me on how “chill” I was with my firstborn. I admitted that I was just to young to know about all the parenting methods and cultural expectations and I just did was I thought was right. Pair that with a super-easy going baby and what’s not to be chill about?! By the time my daughter came around I was aware that there are certain “ways” and she was one of those “high-needs” (oh, how I hate these labels) babies. I admitted to my friend that there were so many things I said I would not do that I caved and did, just because it was what worked. She didn’t know this, but as I used the example of bringing my baby to bed with me, it killed me to admit it to her. She has so much resolve and seems so comfortable in the way her and her husband have chosen to do things. While I know she doesn’t have it all together, I still feared what she thought of me in a number of ways. Even the idea that she may read this and find out that my daughter’s crib is right next to my bed gives me some butterflies in my tummy!

As usual, fear of man led me to stress quite a bit about it all again. My daughter got sick after that trip and so of course then she was waking up several times a night (by that I mean a good six times or more) and nursing. It all seemed kind of hopeless. “If I was only more like her (out of town mommy-buddy), I wouldn’t be in this mess.” I kept telling myself I had done something wrong along the way.

To make a long story shorter, here’s what happened next. My husband and I knew it was time for us to make an adjustment. I tried to ignore how my super-mom friends do things and ask myself what I believe about Biblical parenting. Find the extended version here, but basically I am for healthy independence but I’m all about helping my children make the adjustments at their own pace. Yes, I could sing my son a song and lay him down at one month old and he would sleep all night long. With my daughter, it’s been very different. One day, during my much-needed alone time she got tired early. My husband walked with her until she was pretty much asleep then laid her in the crib and rubbed her back while she fussed herself to sleep. He did this nap and night time for several days and then I took a stab at it. Sometimes with me she still wants to nurse and it takes longer/more fussing than it would for my husband. She has gotten better and better at self-soothing. Very soon we’ll be able to lay her down and leave her with just as little trouble. After our trip I said I would let her cry it out if that’s what she needed to learn, but that it was only fair to try and help her learn. It’s so encouraging to see how far we’ve come!

In the last post I mentioned pleasing the Lord and not being lazy. If I had only followed my own advice. I just need to show my children Christ-like qualities: patience AND discipline, kindness AND healthy boundaries. This Psalm has been so many things in recent months so I’ll share it in closing with you today:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
 Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127

Chores/Responsibility Chart Download

Happy chicken eggs

I looked high and low for a chores type chart for my son. He is 3 and totally capable of doing many things by himself, but he and I both need a reminder and incentive to keep us on track. … Continue reading