Sending Our Children Out to Sea

It had been a few thousand years since He had unrolled the sea and made passage for His children. But the simple truth is when we don’t see with our eyes, we tend to not fully comprehend. 

The evening Jesus suggested that He and His disciples get into a ship and pass to the other side, none of the disciples were thinking of the Red Sea and the One Who controlled it. Their minds were full of the teaching of the day or perhaps the meal on the other side of the sea. As fishermen by trade, they respected the sea but did not fear it. Until a storm rose suddenly and the waves began sloshing into their ship.They turned in desperation for a word from the Master, only to find Him sound asleep.

The disciples didn’t take long to wake the Master. Full panic had set in, and they were convinced they were about to be swept to a watery grave. Their words, driven by fear, sound ludicrous to us: “Master, don’t you care we’re about to die?!”

The panic-stricken Israelites had asked a similar question of Moses by the Red Sea, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you’ve brought us to this wilderness to die?!” An angry army or a violent sea seem to elicit the same response. And Jesus’ words as He stood to His feet in the boat crazily tipping, echoed those of Moses’ answer: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…..The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Except Jesus told the sea to stand still, then turned to ask the disciples why they were so afraid.

One would think now that they had seen Jesus’ power, they would never forget His mastery over the sea. But what we see, we tend to easily forget.

It was only a short time later when Jesus sent the disciples away in a ship without Him. Perhaps it was loaded with the 12 baskets of fragments from the dinner party they’d just thrown spontaneously for 5,000 men and their families. He told the disciples to meet Him on the other side of the sea. After He waved them off, He slipped into a secluded mountain spot to talk to His Father. Around 3 in the morning, he saw them rowing hard against the rough winds. They still hadn’t made it to the other side, and even their expertise as fishermen wasn’t gaining them any ground (er, knots?).

Jesus decided to walk by and check on them. The last time, they’d seen Him in the boat with them and still feared death. This time, they saw Him and imagined a ghost. Who (or what) else would be able to walk on the surface of water? Again, He told them not to be afraid and as soon as He entered the ship, the wind stopped.

I remember those nights when I put each of my babies in their cribs for the first time and slipped out of the room. Up to that point, they had been in a little bassinet next to my bed. I had easily woken at each rustling of sheets or at the first signs of a whimper. I could hear them as they took each breath which gave me hope I’d know immediately if they stopped taking one. But now, I would only hear an actual cry from the next room. I wouldn’t be there for every little sound. They were old enough to sleep through most of the night (usually). They didn’t need my attendance to every breath, even if they still needed me near.

As a homeschooling mom, I’ve never had that first day of kindergarten experience of waving to my child as she gets on the bus. So, when my daughter attended a short class about animals at about age 7, I shed a few tears as I dropped her off. She cheerily walked in….and out…of the class a bit later, but I felt a little lost letting her go.

Sometimes as parents, we feel like we’re sending our children out to rough seas. From the first time they sleep in their own crib until the day they move into their own apartments, it’s a process of letting go. We watch them wobble on the two wheels of a bike, willing them not to fall, but picking them up when they do. We bite our lip as they drive away on four wheels, praying they don’t wreck, but showing up with the police when they do. From every first to every last, our hearts tear and heal in what feels like rapid succession.

I want to disciple my children like Christ did with the group of followers He had. But there is one major difference. He could control the seas, and I cannot. So, what value do these stories have for me as a parent?

  • Jesus stayed near. In the first incident, Jesus stayed right there in the boat with them. He didn’t let them on their own too soon. I can be there for my babies when they skin a knee or for my teens when their heart is broken. I can stay in the boat until they can handle it a bit better on their own. Then, I can stay near, even if it’s a phone call away.
  • Jesus held them up in prayer. Jesus saw their toiling and their hard work. He felt compassion for them, but His prayers are what kept them as they struggled against the waves. That is the thing I can do….must do….for my kids. Even when they are out of my reach, and I cannot intervene in the situation they struggle against, I can pray.

No, I cannot control the sea for them. But I know the One Who Can. And from my secluded spiritual mountain, I pour my heart out to Him and see Him walking right beside them, waiting, until they need Him to slip into the boat.

My Scripture Word for 2019

This will be the fifth year I choose a word for the year to guide me as I grow and learn and try to achieve a few goals. Here are the words I’ve chosen the last four years:

2018: Renovate
2017: Habits
2016: Build
2015: Cherish

Since God worked on me much differently than I expected this last year, I began to pray about His word for me. I have felt this word on my heart for the last few months. My word is taken from Matthew 6:33:

“SEEK ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

I realized that whatever goals I want to reach, they will be added to me if I seek Him first. When I began to pray about how to truly SEEK Him, another verse came to my mind, Luke 10:27:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart; and with all they soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and they neighbor as thyself.”

From these two verses, I decided to set these goals for my year:

I will SEEK and love God with all my…..

Heart: By preparing myself emotionally for each day with an early rising time.
Soul: By spending time each morning in fervent prayer.
Mind: By completing a reading plan in the Word and books as a refresher  of my doctrinal beliefs.
Strength: By glorifying Him with optimal health in my physical body.
And my neighbor as myself: By living a life of hospitality.

I’m not sure where all the Lord will lead me this year, but I want to always be seeking after Him. What about you? Have you chosen a word for the year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

10 Ways 2018 Renovated Me

Just about a year ago, I had big plans to renovate my life. As often happens, things didn’t go quite the way I planned. My health and home are still the same. Our school year is going better, but not yet optimal. Instead of me working hard to renovate my environment, I felt the Holy Spirit gently working on renovating me. Which means the outside others see is much the same, but inside – the real me – has been rearranged a bit. Renovating sometimes takes things away to make room for something better.

Here are just a few of the ways 2018 renovated me:

  1. Our basement flooded again. With no warning, no rain and a city that still doesn’t want to take responsibility, our basement flooded again (like it did in 2016) We started our year again with a shop vac and soaked carpet, inevitably losing a few things despite our precautions from the last flood.
  2. We reached out to our church traditions beyond just our church. Life is messy, and we spent quite a few years recovering from losses by just keeping to ourselves. We attended our church, but we didn’t do much outside it. This year, we decided to venture out and meet more people from our Wesleyan Methodist church tradition. We went to the IHConvention in Dayton, Ohio. We went and participated fully in our church camp. We met some new people and were blessed by them as well as catching up with old friends.
  3. My firstborn turned 16 and towards independence. In my family, reaching 16 was always a big milestone. We met both sides of the family for a birthday party to celebrate. I’ve enjoyed watching Jessica grow this year. It’s bittersweet because she’s nearer leaving home than entering it. However, I’ve enjoyed seeing her spend time with friends, explore new interests and take on new responsibilities. I’m very proud of who she is and who she is becoming.
  4. I lost my car but kept my babies. When all of the details are settled and the story is fully mine to share, I may write a post about the miracle of our car accident. We are still waiting on a car, but I’m so very glad to be alive and much more glad that all of my children are safe as well.
  5. My little brother moved away. After living in the same house for 15 years and within 15 minutes of each other for the next 23, my brother moved out of state this year. He is one of my best buddies, and I won’t deny that it was a little tough. I’m happy for him and his family in their new ventures. But I sure do miss them!
  6. We were handed unexpected ministry opportunities. For all my life, I’ve been content to help out once a month or so in a Sunday School class. In July, I was handed a class all of my own. It now has 6 lovely little girls in it, and we’re trying to expand to include more children. I’ve been so blessed to be with them each week. I also was asked to read and evaluate missionary books. This is something I haven’t done much. I’m a voracious reader, but I have never read a lot of missionary stories. It has stretched me in a good way, and I’m enjoying working with others to find quality reading material. Our family was asked to fill in for a cancellation at a regional IHConvention in Arkansas. It was such a blessed experience for us. We met wonderful people and got to sing for Jesus (even though I almost lost my voice that very week) and travel to places we never would have gone otherwise.
  7. My second child became a teenager and about a foot taller. I’m exaggerating a bit on the foot taller, but it is amazing how quick they grow! Becoming a teen is also a big milestone in our family, so we met family again and celebrated. It is interesting to see Jeffery grow in different ways as he can stay home alone now for short periods and go to friends’ houses without me, is teaching himself guitar and takes over all the yard work. I’m proud of who he is and who he is becoming as well.
  8. We did some really neat things. Some of our favorite moments this year were firsts. Two of the kids participated in a Bake-Off with our co-op. We went to a coffee shop and just hung out together for one of our family nights. Jeff and I stayed in a lovely little cabin with a hot tub and visited a Swiss restaurant. Our family spent a day out on a pontoon boat fishing. I played the piano at a lovely home for older people and at the wedding of a sweet former piano student. We watched fireworks on Labor Day. Jessica got to go along with me and my mom to a women’s retreat. We got to see The President’s Own Marine Band perform in a town near us.
  9. God refined my reading hobby. I know this is incredibly nerdy, but I read 110 books this year. Half of those were fiction and 20 of them I only read parts of or scanned. The rest were devotional books, personal growth books, biography/memoir and missionary books. I read more fiction this year than I have in quite a few years. A few of the books had some things in them that made me uncomfortable. I skipped over those parts, but I feel like God spoke to me to be more careful with my reading. I will be a bit more intentional with my reading in general in the coming year.
    Here are my top ten favorites from this year:
    Raising Passionate Jesus Followers by Phil and Diane Comer – The parenting book I wish I had when my children were small. Very practical.
    Radical Righteousness by Wallace Thornton – A very comprehensive history of my church tradition.
    The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield – A refreshing testimony and helpful to me in reaching out to those caught in the confusion our modern culture introduces about sin and lifestyles.
    Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala – Very encouraging and inspiring and convicting…I wrote many quotes from this one.
    If I Run Series by Terri Blackstock – Most interesting fiction series I read this year.
    The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin – Convicting as I realize the work I must do in my own neighborhood.
    Bruchko by Bruce Olson – If only all missionaries had this kind of dedication to their work and the ability to write their story this well!
    Atomic Habits by James Clear – The best book on building habits I’ve read. A little bit of science, but mostly practical help.
  10. We learned we may not be 100% introverts after all. Yes, all of us love to be home, and we charge up best within our own walls. However, we’ve had park days and coffee dates. We’ve had family and friends over, and we threw a few parties. We’ve had game nights, stayed in people’s homes and had people stay in ours. We hope to expand in our hospitality a bit in 2019, but still make plenty of time for quiet evenings. 🙂

I’m looking forward to 2019 and the opportunities it brings. I want to grow in many ways, expected and unexpected. I’ll share about my Word for the Year in a few days. Enjoy your New Year!

The Ultimate Goal of Parenting (Book Review)

I became a mother 16 years ago and my youngest child is now 7. It feels strange to type those numbers. I suppose that means I’ve experienced birth, babyhood, the toddler and the preschool stage four times. I have put two children through elementary school and one through middle school. Since we homeschool, I have now finished kindergarten a total of 5 times. And, I’m in the middle of high school once again with a whole different kind of peer pressure than I experienced nearly 20 years ago.

I have read shelves full of books on parenting since I first purchased What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Some of them contained horrible training advice. In my zeal, I followed some of it to the point of tears and exhaustion (theirs and mine). Some of it led to complete frustration because it simply wasn’t Biblical or practical. I have probably tried just about every parenting philosophy espoused by Christians at some point.

I believe the Bible is the only infallible Book. Any true parenting help must come from the One Who gave us our children. I began to lay aside books and rely more on the Book, regardless of its silence on issues like potty training and the benefits of organic snacks for toddlers.

I can count on one hand the amount of books I would recommend to a new mother regarding parenting, probably with a few fingers left.  When I was given a new parenting book to review, I was intrigued by the title, but frankly didn’t expect much new content after all the books I’ve read. However, as I progressed in the book, I realized it was one I wish I would have had from the beginning.

Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting is a dose of encouragement and practical help. Phil and Diane Comer, the authors, are veteran parents who have raised four children now happily married and serving God. The first thing that refreshed me while reading this book is the simple (but not easy) one goal in parenting they espouse:

To partner with God in intentionally raising sons and daughters who grow up to become passionate Jesus followers. The goal is children who love God with passion and love people on purpose.

That is exactly what I want for my children!

The Comers use the metaphor of building a house to describe raising a child. They show how each stage of parenting is like a stage of building. We lay the foundation for the first five years of our child’s life. We “frame” the house during the next six years. In the teenage years, we install the functional systems. We are doing the finishing work up until they are 22 years of age. The authors conclude the book with excellent advice on how to open the door of the finished house and let them go as well.

I found this book to be a delightful blend of inspiration, practical instruction and conviction. I see plenty of things I could have done better in my children’s younger years. Many of the things I learned the hard way are mentioned in a gentle manner. Each section even has a one page summary to help remind the reader of the main point of that section. While I still believe the Bible to be the only infallible authority on child training, I can recommend this one as a practical, encouraging resource. I’m sure I will return to the last sections of the book many more times as we navigate through the teen and letting go years.

How A Christian Should View Money (Book Review)

Money. The word evokes different emotions for different people. Some fear it. Others desire it. Many misunderstand it. In Christian circles, we get a lot of mixed messages about money. Some Christians don’t talk about it at all because they view money as evil. Others talk about it a lot because they are obsessed with it. It sometimes seems that the world at large either wants to show others how rich they are or how poor they are.

The sad truth about using money as a status symbol or the lack of it for a spiritual status symbol is that we are missing out on one of God’s gifts for us. God doesn’t want us to worship money, waste money or fear money. He wants us to use it as one of His gifts and for His glory and the advance of His Kingdom.

There are some great financial resources available from a Christian perspective. I’m glad that people are talking about God’s plan for finances. However, few books truly bring God’s principles into the world of personal finance.

Emily G. Stroud, president and owner of Stroud Financial Management, Inc. and a Chartered Financial Analyst, is also a wife, mother and Christian. In her new book, she shares her vision for a financially educated Christian community. Emily’s book includes basic information for those just starting out managing their finances as well as helpful advice for those approaching retirement. She explains some overwhelming and complicated topics in simple language for all of us. Best of all, she draws her advice from the pages of Scripture and expertly applies it to modern issues surrounding money.

Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move From Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control  covers many of the questions Christians have about finding wise financial counsel, how to create a budget, principles for giving, debt management and how to shop for insurance and investments. Just as she seeks to build personal relationships with her clients, Emily approaches her readers as friends she  wishes to encourage.

I recommend this book as a primer on financial issues for the Christian who seeks to please the Lord with her finances. It is a great resource to have on my shelf. I know I will refer to it in the future as I face financial decisions in different seasons.

Fine Print: I received this book from Handlebar Publishing at no cost with no obligation. All opinions are my own.

Renovating January

My word for this year is “Renovate”. Drawing from several different definitions, my working definition is: “to restore to a former better state of active, healthy, well-balanced growth”. The main areas I’m trying to renovate are my health, my home and our homeschool. I didn’t have a specific area in mind for January, but about halfway through I realized that I was focusing on new routines.

Here are a few things that are working for us that may give you some ideas as well:

Daily Time Blocks
You’ve heard over and over to keep routines instead of schedules. I agree that any attempts to start promptly at a certain time or do math at a certain time have backfired on us. However, as a working homeschool mom, I have specific appointment times to follow in the afternoon. So, our schedule is divided into time blocks of 2 or 3 hours except for that afternoon work time. It rarely works perfectly, but this keeps us on track most of the time on the days we are home.

Morning Time – Everyone is responsible to get dressed, have personal devotions, do morning chores, prepare and eat their breakfast before school. Cereal, freezer waffles and bagels with assorted flavors of cream cheese make it easy for anyone to help themselves. If they want something hot, my older son makes eggs for himself and any brother who wants them. As for chores, they each have one or two simple chores in the morning involving emptying trash, taking laundry to the laundry room or unloading the dishwasher.

School Time – Since it always feels we’re behind on school work, I’m trying to work one hour straight on each group of subjects. For example, the first hour, we do our Bible and History since those are linked together in the curriculum we use. I also work on handwriting with the younger ones since we are often copying our Scripture. The second hour everyone works on math and each of them take turns with piano practice to give them a short break. The third hour, we do Language Arts which includes Grammar and Writing for everyone as well as Literature for the older two and Spelling for the younger ones. If there is extra time or it’s a longer school day, I do Science and Reading with the two younger ones.

Lunch Time – We eat lunch and clean up the kitchen and school room as well as do the daily housekeeping chores such as sweeping the downstairs. I also try to include some active free time before we get into the afternoon. This month the active time has usually been shoveling the front walk and playing in the snow.

Afternoon Time – Because I teach piano lessons three afternoons a week, this is our longest time block. The older kids finish up any school work from the morning as well as Science and Spanish for my highschooler. On the day I don’t teach, we do science experiments and extra school projects as well as my own kids’ piano lessons. Once school work is done, they have quiet free time. This can be anything from reading and building LEGO projects to video games and recording YouTube videos.

Dinner Time – This time block includes making, eating and cleaning up dinner. I also try to prepare everything for the next day after dinner. I gather materials for co-op or my piano lessons outside the house or library books, pack lunches, lay out my clothes and check that the boys have clothes ready. I check the menu and thaw out anything needed for the next day’s meals as well as scan the recipe so I remember what time I actually have to have it in the crockpot or oven.

Evening – We have a general weekly schedule for our evenings. When we’re home a few nights a week, we spend time together as a family or have a date night. Sometimes Jeff or I may take one of the kids out, or we’ll go out or I’ll meet a friend or family member for coffee.

Bed Time – After our evening plans are over, we do baths and staggered bedtimes. Every birthday, a child gets to stay up a little later and accepts a new responsibility. Since we don’t get a super early start in the morning, the kids’ times are 9:15, 9:30, 10:00 and 11:00. I usually hang around my room and check e-mail, read or write. Then, they come in one at a time and hug me good night, we pray together and catch up on anything that’s on their mind before they go to bed. Sometimes I’ll read to the younger boys. Since my last two are a teenager and an almost-teen, our chat times are sometimes extended. So, my bed time is quite flexible. 🙂 When the last one is in bed, I get my bath and read for awhile before going to sleep.

Weekly Routines
On each day, I have a general housekeeping chore if it’s a home day or an errand chore if it’s an “away” day. I do laundry three days a week when we’re home and do an errand in the area where we are on errand days. For example, I grocery shop after our co-op and I run to the library or pharmacy before my piano lessons I teach at another site during my daughter’s Spanish class. I also have an evening routine of paying bills one evening, grading and filing another evening and Bible study at church another evening. I do my main cleaning on Saturday unless we will be away all day. Any letter writing or extra reading or other restful kind of things, I do on Sunday afternoon or evening.

Monthly Meal Planning
2018 Planner

When I saw that my favorite planner (above is affiliate link because I just really love it!) comes with a free menu planner download, I decided to try it. I copied down our projected meals for December and January and it’s working well so far. I write them down in my planner on a weekly basis in case I have to tweak anything, but I don’t have to try to figure out what to make at that point. I just have to put the meals into the appropriate places and make a shopping list.

I love a simple app called “Errands” for my to do list. I put things in it as I think of them, put a date on them and don’t have to think about them until I look at my to do list for that day. It has a great option to place notes on any checklist item, and I can make the notes a checklist as well. I keep one to do item open called Shopping List and add to it as I run out of things or when I make my weekly shopping list on Saturday. I order as much as I can from WalMart ahead of time so I can just pick it up after co-op without going into the store. I also shop at Aldi if WalMart doesn’t carry an item or if it’s a lot more expensive there.

Monthly Calendar
In order to be intentional about my personal renovating project, I try to get the important (but not usually urgent) things on the calendar ahead of time. If it’s not on the calendar, it probably won’t happen. I decide what books I want to read that month and reserve them at the library. I look at any birthdays coming up and plan parties and gifts and if I need to send a card. I schedule a date with my husband so I can arrange child care ahead of time. I try to get 1 or two kid dates on the calendar as well as coffee with a friend. The young moms at church have a Ladies’ Night once a month, so I try to check on that date and get it scheduled to make sure I don’t have a conflict. I also try to schedule one or two special family fun evenings or days. I also look at any appointments or events for church, work or extended family so I can plan ahead for them. I choose which area of my home I want to focus on decluttering and deep cleaning on my regular cleaning day. This month it was the basement, which (in)conveniently flooded the first week of January so I got a big chunk of that done all at once!

January Highlights
Family Nights – 3
Date Nights – 2
Coffee Time – Ladies’ Night and Coffee with Jerry
Special Events – Jeff’s siblings visited for the weekend

Things I Still Need To Work On:
While scheduling and routines seem to be going generally well, I need to improve on making kid dates happen and getting an earlier start on our school day. Both of these things are easy to procrastinate, and they are both very valuable. I’ll be adding these habits to my February renovating.

 

Sensing God In Our Difficult Mothering Seasons

Hey Mama!

I see you in the grocery store, frazzled, with eyes about to spill over and join your toddler’s ugly cry.  I feel your angst as you Google symptoms at midnight, trying to decide whether your child’s raspy breathing calls for a visit to ER or the application of more Vick’s VapoRub. I hear you sobbing on the bathroom floor because you can’t. take. another. minute.

I see you break up the 25th fight of the day while you’re still making breakfast.  I feel your breath catch as your son hurtles down the driveway on his skateboard and feel it release when he successfully makes the turn. I hear your 2,567th reminder for him to brush his teeth.

I see you blinking back tears at your teen’s thoughtless remark to you. I feel your anger rise at that friend’s hurtful remark to your teen. I hear your long discussions into the wee hours with a teen who wouldn’t be raised from bed this morning.

Yeah, I can sense along with you. It’s one of those things we share…this messy life called motherhood that both drains us and fills us in a strange paradox. If you are in an overwhelmed season right now, can I share a few things that get me through the tough times?

Look for the Little Joys
I know some days don’t seem to hold much joy, but I promise, it’s there if you open your eyes and heart to it. The feel of a tiny hand in yours as you walk the store aisles….the mischievous grin flashing as he runs to the tallest slide….the soft smell of baby shampoo lingering on wispy locks…..the “squeezy” hugs from chubby little arms….sideways hugs from an awkward, growing boy….quick good-bye hugs from a teenage daughter….the mixed-up words, corny jokes, and  teenage quips that make you guffaw out loud. Yeah, the joys are there, but you have to look underneath the stinky laundry and attitudes. And you have to reach them by stepping over the piled-up toys and emotions.

 

Listen for the Loudest Sirens
When you feel overwhelmed and like nothing is going right, stop and listen. Which problems are calling the loudest? Is it your baby’s sleepless nights, your toddler’s temper tantrums, your preschooler’s messiness, your middle schooler’s disrespect or your teen’s withdrawing from the family? Pick one, and bring it to the Lord. Ask Him for wisdom and focus all your energy on that one thing that is giving you the most day-to-day grief. Still not sure? It’s the thing you are most tempted to complain about, snap at your children about or cry into your pillow about. (And it may even drive you to end a sentence with a preposition.)

Love with Abandon
The Bible tells us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He cares more about our children than we do. And, He cares about us and our mothering. He wants to help us prepare ourselves to love Him and our families. Oddly enough, this often begins with caring for ourselves. No, not a self-serving, “you deserve the best” kind of care. But preparing ourselves to truly love without holding back.

  • Spiritually ~ “With all our soul”
    You already know you need to meet with God daily and as early in the day as possible. But, I know your little ones hear the crackle of your sheets moving when you toss them back to get out of bed. Or they keep you up every hour so an early rising time seems like a form of torture. So, it’s not perfect, but grab a Bible and maybe a journal or cup of coffee. Do it anyway. Some mornings you’ll get in a verse, sometimes a chapter, and sometimes you’ll be able to pray uninterrupted for 10 minutes. If your child comes into the room, just pull him up beside you and read together. Give him a special toy he only sees when you’re having devotions and let him play beside you while you pray. Invite her into the process. Place Bible verses near the kitchen sink to meditate on as you do dishes. Pray while rocking a baby at 2 A.M. Set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour and stop to give thanks for something God is doing right that moment. I know it’s hard, but your day will be so much better when you are equipped spiritually. Trust me. We cannot make it without this preparation.

  • Emotionally ~ “With all our heart”
    Why is it that we pour ourselves out emotionally, to the breaking point, and think we’re doing a good thing for our kids? It’s easy to miss until we start getting grumpy, snapping at our husbands, crying over things that don’t matter or reaching some other breaking point that makes everyone in our house miserable.  It’s so much better to build little pockets of time into our days that recharge us emotionally. Bubble baths, creating art, listening to music, hobbies, an evening away at a coffee shop, writing, going for a walk–anything that helps you relax and leaves you feeling recharged and ready to care for your children in a sweeter, calmer way. I know they feel like indulgences. But, we’re not going to neglect our children to do them. We’re going to show them that we are real people, too, and we need time outs sometimes just like they do. It may be 5 minutes here and there if you have needy babies and toddlers. It may be before they wake up or after they go to bed or during their naps. It may be while waiting for them to come out of one of their extracurricular activities. Enlist the help of your husband, your mom or a friend. To meet the onslaught of our children’s emotions whether they are petulant two-year-olds or sensitive teens, we must be prepared emotionally ourselves.

  • Intellectually ~ “With all our mind”
    Yes, I’ve heard the jokes about “mom brain”. And, I have wholeheartedly believed them to be true, at times. Moms have told me, “I don’t have time to read a book or have intelligent conversations.” I understand some seasons don’t leave much time for this, but Jesus does tell us to love Him and others with all our minds. We must never stop learning about God, how to parent well, new things about the world around us and whatever other truths stimulate us to growing intellectually. Read books while the children sleep or play. Listen to audio books or podcasts or sermons while cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or getting ready in the morning. Take an occasional class or attend a seminar. Someday the “mom brain fog” will clear (I hope!), and we want to have something left to offer our Lord.

  • Physically ~ “With all our strength”
    I see you rolling your eyes at me already. You think I’m going to suggest that you work out every day. Most of us only move our bodies when we’re trying to meet a weight loss goal. I have certainly been guilty of this. Yet, the benefits of strengthening ourselves physically extend beyond losing a few pounds. Going on a hike can be a great opportunity to talk with your children or take time to pray. Exercising to praise music is a wonderful way to boost yourself emotionally. Those audio books and podcasts can teach you while you’re running or lifting weights. One of our fond homeschooling memories is a day when we had experienced meltdown after meltdown regarding school work and a myriad of behavioral issues. I packed everyone into the car and drove to a nearby lake. It took a few times of walking around the lake, but by the time we arrived back home, we were all in better spirits.

Whether I see you, hear you or feel with you in motherhood or not, God is always there beside you. His Presence makes each day beautiful and bearable. He sees you smiling at your child with love. He hears you singing sweet lullabies with His Name in them. He feels with you every pain, every joy, every failure and most of all, the overwhelming love.

Best and Worst Reads of 2017

Reading was a big part of my goals this year. I reported on quite a few of my books in my habits lists and my entire reading list is here. My goal was 100 books and I am ending December with 75. Not too bad for an average homeschooling, homeworking, homekeeping mom of 4.

Why Read?
Reading is a habit of many people who have done great things for God or in business. Great writers read to hone their craft. Great businessmen read to learn new things. Great preachers are remembered because someone wrote their sermons and study in book form (i.e. Paul the Apostle). While I’m not on my way to being a great writer or a millionaire, reading helps me to grow, learn new things about God, the world around me and myself.

How To Find Time To Read
If I share my goal with most people, they act as if reading is an indulgence and say they don’t have time to read. It’s a hobby and my main way to learn new things (besides sermons and podcasts). So, I make it a priority. While they are more efficient, I do not like audio books or reading on an e-reader unless that’s the only way to read a book I like. My method of getting through so many books is reading a chapter of a devotional book after reading my Bible, reading a personal growth book in between piano lessons if a student misses or is late, reading on long car trips and reading after the kids go to bed at night. I learned early in my marriage and parenting that picking up a book in daytime hours without clear boundaries turns me into the literary equivalent of the stereotypical mom bingeing on soap operas and bonbons.

Worst Books I Read This Year
It may seem silly to report on the worst books of the year. I included every book I read or scanned (as far as I know) in my reading list. After reading or scanning them, I realized I would not recommend some of them AT ALL and some I would only recommend with great disclaimers for the few sprinkled quote gems within them. The following are the books in that category. That is not to say I agree or recommend all the others 100%, but these stand out as having disappointed me on some level. All of them were extremely well-written by talented authors, so I am only speaking about being disappointed in the content.  

Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity by Matthew Paul Turner
My comments are here.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My comments are here.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg
My comments are here.

Tools for Titans by Tim Ferriss
This is a book I copied many quotes from but need to offer some serious reservations about recommending. Tim Ferriss is known in the entrepreneurial world as something of a celebrity. I have read a few of his previous books and knew that his spiritual beliefs and moral practices are much different than mine. I expected this book to be more about the habits and rituals of successful people. It contained much of that, hence the copying of quotes. However, I was a bit appalled at his promotion of psychedelic drug use and other practices I find offensive.

Top Ten Books I Read This Year
Choosing just 10 best books will be difficult, but this post is already becoming a book itself. I read many good, helpful things this year that I was able to apply to my life. Here are the best in each category. If I’ve already made comments on the book, I linked to my original post.

Business
Thou Shall Prosper (Daniel Lapin) and Giving it All Away (David Green)
Homeschooling
Teaching From Rest (Sarah MacKenzie)
Fiction
One Last Thing (Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue)
Devotional
Questions Jesus Asks (Israel Wayne)
Biography
Katharina & Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk (Michelle DeRusha)
Parenting
Mom, I Hate My Life (Sharon Hersh) – This was such a practical book on how to help teenage daughters with their emotions. The author speaks from a mostly Christian perspective. It encouraged some great discussions between my daughter and I as well as helped me to be more understanding about some baffling interactions we had.

Why I Didn’t Rebel (Rebecca Lindenbach) – This book listed commonalities between families whose children didn’t rebel and some commonalities between those families whose children did rebel from the faith. It gave a lot of helpful advice on how to adjust our parenting practice for the greatest goal of leading our children to Heaven.

Marriage
For Better or For Work (Meg Hirshberg) – While it would be of minimal help for the average couple, this book addressed some of the humorous details and struggles of being married to an entrepreneur. Working at home together has strengthened our marriage in many ways. However, I appreciated someone addressing the little nagging things that can tear down marriages while building a business. It was a good reminder to keep communication clear and expectations low in the early stages of overlapping into each other’s space, scheduling and money concerns and loss of privacy that can come from mixing home life and customers. Reading the story of the humble beginnings of Stonyfield Yogurt as told by the founder’s wife was inspirational for our business and our marriage.

Food and Health
Thin Side Out (Josie Spinardi) – I’ve tried to learn and practice more intuitive, non-dieting eating practices this year. While I didn’t make great strides with weight loss, my emotional and mental health in the areas of food and exercise has improved. I am going to hone in more on the nutritional and physical aspects this year. This book was a good bridge between the two and offers many helpful practices for becoming truly healthy in every aspect.

Your Turn: What did you read in 2017? Do you have any good books to recommend for 2018? I’ve already started my list here. Happy Reading in the coming year!

Book Review: Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

Many years ago I picked up a book, thinking it was about organization and time management. I remember being surprised by the subject matter. I also recall the spiritual nature of what I thought was to be a practical book. So, when I received a message from Handlebar Publishing, asking if I wanted to review the revised and updated version, I agreed. By way of disclaimer, I did receive a copy of the book at no charge but received no other compensation for my review. All opinions are my own.

I found myself a bit torn as I read this book. It was originally written in 1984 and updated for 2017. I  wrote down many useful quotes from the book as I read. Other references disturbed me as they were slightly ambiguous. I was almost finished with the book when I decided to research the author a bit. I found that his response to two major incidents in his life since the first writing differ greatly from my personal value system and what I believe to be Biblical truth. However, I am doing my best to be unbiased and review the content only.

The premise of the book can be summarized by the quote by Ezra Pound on the inside of the front cover: “If a (person) has not order within him,  He cannot spread order about him.” Pastor MacDonald maintains that our private world is the world of our spirit/soul and must be cared for first before we can order any other part of our lives.

Some of the lessons I gleaned from this book:

  1. A person with an ordered private world is called, not driven. Drivenness isn’t always a good thing. If MacDonald is correct, it almost never is. He says, “…an inner life fraught with unresolved drives will not be able to hear clearly the voice of Christ when He calls. The noise and pain of stress will be too great.” I never want to get so busy and focused on achieving my goals that I crowd out His voice.
  2. A person with an ordered private world doesn’t hold on to their work as their own or feed on the praise of anyone but God. He writes, “Called people never assume ownership of their work or the people of that work.” He also speaks of John the Baptist and his rise to fame and subsequent fall when he was beheaded for his stand. “If there was a moment when the crowd’s praise became thunderous, the voice of God from within John was even louder.”
  3. A person with an ordered private world is cautious about social media. This quote led me to reevaluate my time online and, practically, to delete a lot of unnecessary items on my accounts: “Social networking….too often cheapens the art of conversation, destroys people through electronic gossip, and oversaturates us with a Niagara of information.”
  4. A person with an ordered private world focuses on the relationship with God rather than external busyness. Speaking of saints of another era, MacDonald writes, “They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence.” He also quotes Bridget Herman about them, “Their sainthood lay in their habit of referring the smallest actions to God.”
  5. A person with an ordered private world is careful about friendships and leisure time. The author gives criteria for choosing Godly friends and defines the difference between rest and leisure. He warns, “Leisure and amusement may be enjoyable, but they are to the private world of the individual like cotton candy to the digestive system.”

I am glad I revisited this book. While I’m not sure what all the revisions were, I feel like I have spiritually matured since the first reading. I am a bit more cautious about some of the references which could appeal to a group of people wanting to cross present day Christian theology with pagan practices disguised as new psychology. However, I am glad for the lessons learned from the book.

July Habits

July officially marks the second half of the year! Time is moving so quickly. Where I live, we are enjoying warm days and sun.

Here are the mini celebrations from July:

Two baby showers, completed our first-ever online achievement tests, watching fireworks at my sister’s house, Independence Day cookout at my parents’ house, a beautiful family wedding on my husband’s side, a family reunion on my side, a church picnic, library programs and reading awards, an impromptu water balloon fight in the back yard, lunch with my sister-in-love while the kids played, church camp and catching up with a cousin we hadn’t seen for 8 years. 

Now, for my habits progress:

HEALTH

Due to travels and more evening downtime, I read a lot this month. Specific to health, I finished the book I started last month, Devoured by Sophie Egan and Compared to Who by Heather Creekmore. The first spoke more to the trends in American lifestyle as they relate to eating. We are a culture where “You are what you eat” has never been taken so seriously. The second was unexpectedly refreshing in the positive body image space. I read it along with my devotions and found it backed with Scriptural principles instead of a lot of popular mantras. I took walks with my daughter and focused on a peaceful relationship with food rather than obsessing over it or idolizing it.

ARTICLES

One of the books I scanned this month was The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I discovered that my creativity is not as much in music or writing as it would seem at first glance (competency aside, of course). My true vocation and calling has always been to teach. That sounds so much less glamorous than composing a sonata or writing a novel. However, even when I write it is most often to teach others. My own music is mostly hobby while I deal mostly with my students in regards to piano.

Of course, my grandest enterprise is to teach my own children. I scanned again Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. It is a foundational resource for homeschooling. Another little book I read was The Unhurried Homeschooler  by Durenda Wilson, a veteran homeschooling mother of 8. Here are some quotes I jotted down from the book:

“remember….our children have been given to us. With the exception of their Creator, no one knows them better than we do.”

“Learning thrives with gentle encouragement. Learning is snuffed out quickly under pressure.”

“we balance all four elements: head (book learning), hand (training, service), heart (character), and health. By doing this, we give our children a fuller educational experience.”

“Typically, fear is a big part of what causes us to feel hurried or stressed.”

BOOKS

You can view my yearly progress on my reading list. Here are the July summaries I haven’t already mentioned.

A Primary Decision by Dr. Kevin Leman and Jeff Nesbit
This was a fiction book written from an interesting perspective, a Christian psychologist who specializes in studying birth order and a politician very involved in Washington, D.C. I find birth order fascinating so seeing it put into story interested me. I read the first two of this series last year and found this to be a thought-provoking read when studying why we are the way we are.

Intervention by Terri Blackstock
An unplanned fiction book I picked up from the free shelf at the library impacted me as I thought about parents of those struggling with addiction. The suspense was classic Terri Blackstock but the personal angst of the author shone through in the story and brought tears to my eyes a time or two.

Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
This book was recommended to me and turned out to be much more of a devotional book than the practical book I imagined. I read it along with my devotions early in the month and copied quite a few quotes from it. Here are two convicting ones:

“we must understand this, dear mothering readers: delight in the Lord is not something that we can give to our children or disciples. We can only help teach it, suggest it, exemplify it and affirm it. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

“Jesus is having mercy on your kids, for he put a priest in the next bedroom whose prayers ascend like incense before Him as you boldly approach the throne of grace and plead for your children’s souls.”

Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson
This was such a precious book written by Sally and her son who has struggled with mental illnesses such as ADHD and OCD. They each describe what life was like from their unique perspectives. Sally has long been an expert like whom many homeschooling mothers aspire to be. Her honest struggles and learning experiences with parenting an out-of-the-box child were refreshing.

The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk: Katharina and Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha
This was good timing to read this biography of an unlikely couple since this is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Far from a rosy picture, the lives of this couple were filled with hardships. However, I found much in the spirit of Katharina to imitate and in the descriptions of Martin to show that he was just an ordinary man with an extraordinary will.

Color Me Beautiful by Joanne Richmond
Those who know me would think this an odd book for me to read. I picked it up from the free shelf at the library. I don’t wear makeup or color my hair, preferring the natural coloring God gave me. So, the only part of this book that was somewhat helpful for me was diagnosing my color palette as it relates to the clothes I wear. I found that a few of my favorite colors shouldn’t be worn next to my face for me to look my best. While it is nice to know which colors may look best on me, I doubt I will seriously change my wardrobe. This book was only a scan since I had to skip some of the irrelevant parts.

I wish you the best of Augusts as we enter into that pivotal month between the lazy days of summer and back-to-school routines!