Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- Some practical parenting tips

Foundational to godly parenting is building a home around the Scriptures, using the Bible to guide your thinking, habits, and techniques. Sometimes it is still difficult to know what this should really look like when lived out in your home.

Part of the challenge lies in the uniqueness of each home and parent. What works for me might not for someone else. We will all have a different hierarchy of values that we want stressed in our homes and impressed on our children. We all have areas of strength and weakness and our parenting game plans will reflect that.

I wanted to share some practical ways that we handle some specific hot spots with our kids, but with the understanding that these are not universal truths. We believe these practices do not contradict Scripture, but they are not legislated by it either. Love, discipline, training, nurturing, and mentoring will find a place in every home, but will look different in each one.

God has blessed you with the children He chose for you, and He chose you to parent your children through His strength and leading. We need to prayerfully consider how to shape and grow our home to benefit our children, while recognizing that our home will not look exactly like any other home that we visit or read about.

With that backdrop, I wanted to share some details from our home (over a few posts) in the areas of sharing, Scripture in discipline, and other day to day practices.


I cannot remember now where I read it, but we have moved away from stressing the concept of sharing too much in our home. As adults we don't "share" too much. I don't generally loan out my car or refrigerator. I usually read my Bible, not my husband's. I don't wear my neighbor's clothes or use her pots and pans on a regular basis.

Picture this: The church service wraps up and families rush out to the parking lot to claim "their" car. Whoever gets there first, gets it. If someone else takes your car, you should refrain from feeling hurt or disappointed because you should "share" it. Not very realistic, eh? So, we do not work that way with our kids either. What's theirs is theirs.

While we don't stress "sharing" per se. We do stress responsibility and generosity. Most of the material possessions in our house belong to a specific person. They bought or received it as a gift for them personally.

We don't assume that they must always leave that item out for general use by other family members. We do assume that we all hold loosely to this physical world and desire to use what God has entrusted to our care with responsibility and stewardship. We also will respect what belongs to someone else and find contentment with what is ours.

These are huge lessons to learn, ones I still learn alongside them some days. We encourage them to show love, and help them find joy in giving and stepping away from selfishness. At the same time, it is sometimes foolish to let others borrow an expensive or difficult to replace item. Being a good steward at times does mean refraining from letting someone borrow something that belongs to us. Learning to say 'no' is a hard lesson, too, for some of us (uh, I mean them).

Interesting example in the Little House series that we just heard recently. Almanzo had some seed wheat that he did not let anyone know about even though the rest of the town faced starvation. That was his choice. It was his. But, he also recognized his responsibility for his neighbor's well being and willingly put himself in harm's way to search out other wheat for the town to survive off of as he realized that even if he gave his seed wheat it could not keep the town alive until spring. That was a great teaching moment.

Some exceptions --

~Teaching generosity: we encourage our kids to let others use their toys frequently. They still have say over it, but since all we have comes from God, we don't really have a right to hold it too tightly. We don't force it, but they generally do what is right and let others use something. Sometimes if they really struggle with this we will encourage them to let someone else use a toy for a short time (set the timer and supervise the play time to make sure nothing breaks). This can help ease them into giving more freely and finding the joy in it.

~Respecting special toys: often a child has a special toy that has high sentimental value. We respect their right to keep that out of access to others. They will still often share these at times, but we keep them put in a special place reserved for their toys.

~Growing out of toys: sometimes even when they generally practice generosity it is difficult to let go permanently when they have grown out of something. This is a time when we need to talk gently about entrusting all we have to God. Sometimes they need to learn the difficult practice of letting go. Now, they must release this object to their parents to do as we see fit (pass it on to a younger sibling or another family), but someday God may ask them to let go. This is a time to help them begin wrestling through those tough decisions on a practical level. Not easy, but a lot less painful now than in adulthood.

Holding loosely to fun material goods is always a challenge. I realize that I need to set the example here and actively seek out opportunities to do so, talking about it the whole way. Sharing those footprints as I seek to follow Him. Step by Step, every day a little closer to where we should be.

Sorting Laundry

Folding laundry has grown into almost a full time job in our house as our kids grow. Everyone pitches in to get it all washed and put away each day.

Blake, 11, puts it in the washer, moves it to the dryer, and then brings it back for sorting. Paige, Faith, and Brooke help me fold and everyone puts their own clothes away, even Nathan (3).

A couple methods that make this run more smoothly, aside from assigned tasks, involve marking the clothing and sorting as we fold.

When clothing first arrives in our home we try it on to make sure it fits, and then it gets marked to designate who it belongs to. In our house, the boys are not really an issue because with 8 years between them we don't ever mix up their clothing.

The girls are another story. All two years apart and sometimes barely a size apart, I found myself spending a lot of time looking at clothing sizes while folding and sorting. I started to lose appreciation for matching outfits.

Then we wrote initials on the tags. The 'P' somehow morphed into an 'F' and then we rounded that into a 'B' as the article of clothing made its way through the girls.

Another homeschool mom suggested a more efficient method of marking that we have switched to and it has sped up our laundry folding. We put a small dot corresponding to which girl wears the clothing (oldest - one, second- two, third- three, etc.) Paige's clothing gets one simple dot with the permanent marker near the top of the tag, Faith's has two, and Brooke's three. New clothing is marked accordingly, and as clothing is grown out of we simply add a dot to the tag and it gets put away for the next child.

The dot is clearly visible without having to search or unfold tags to read a size:

Clothing without tags (even underwear and socks) can be subtly marked for easy sorting also:

Then, while folding laundry we stay in one central area, usually my bed, but in this case, the couch. Each child's clothing goes in a row together. Then they can come and carry their laundry to their room and into the proper drawers.

It only takes about 10 minutes to fold a large load of laundry and with everyone having their own job, I don't feel like I have a laundry monster to worry about any more.

I forgot that this was supposed to be a backwards edition of Works for Me Wednesday, but going along with the laundry theme . . . two issues we face with laundry are items left in pockets and remembering to pre-treat stains.

Does anyone have any reminder tools, habits or routines that help take care of these dilemmas? Cleaning gum and crayon out of the dryer are no fun! And, that blueberry smoothie hardly ever comes out after the heat sets it in. Any tips (on preventing these scenarios, rather than dealing with the fallout)?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Verse of the Week -- Proverbs 6:23

I could not imagine parenting my children without the Bible. People have written many informative, helpful books about the subject, but without the authority and stability of the Word of God I simply could not manage.

Take this morning for example. I started the day right with my quiet time, putting on His armor, fully aware that I walked in His strength. Before our school day even began I could not believe the glaring faults in my children's habits (and hence, in my own consistent training of them). They played instead of worked, they neglected tasks, they ignored responsibilities, and argued about who should take care of an unassigned chore. I felt my frustration growing. And then I paused.

Less than two hours earlier I had basked in His presence and surrendered the day to Him. What kind of offering did I bring that included these thoughts and as of yet unsaid words. Mentally I redressed in His armor. His soothing peace in control once again. I called the children to the school room for Bible time. It couldn't wait.

We had to put into practice the truth of Proverbs 6:23, "For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." It was not time for my nagging or overreacting. It was time for His word to flush out the impurities, in all of us.

Every trouble that we face, can find peace from His Word. Every sin that we must conquer, victory is in those pages. Every habit that needs breaking, finds strength right there. Every darkness trembles at the exposing light of the Scriptures. We hold the answers, we just need to remember to turn to them.

I Corinthians 10:13 offers an almost unbelievable promise about the love and power of God in the face of temptation. It encourages us with the fact that we don't face anything new, and God gives us a way out even in the midst of temptation. We can stand up under it, because He said so.

The conversation that followed was not easy. We confronted the growing critical spirit in our household. Critical of each other, our responsibilities, our expectations, ourselves. Satan was on the move, and we needed to stand up together. Nothing could direct us aside from Scripture. His law lights the way we should travel. The instruction, discipline, and admonishing of Scripture spoke all we needed to hear. In those words we would find the way of life.

We stopped and did something that I have never done with my kids collectively, we got on our knees together and prayed for 15 minutes. It seemed too short to me, but maybe too long for my kids. It set the bar for the day though. We recognized our enemy, our goal, and our marching orders.

The rest of the morning provided ample opportunity to lovingly point out the subtle workings of this critical spirit. We all wanted to get rid of it, recognized its risks. It is a dangerous houseguest. For now he may just be in a closet, but I pray that through the continued work of the Holy Spirit, we will kick him out entirely.

For the commandment is a lamp;
and the law is light;
and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.

~Proverbs 6:23~

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- March 27

Making friends at the Touch A Tractor event

We enjoyed a lively week with lots of light-bulb school moments and lots of relationship building. I am currently blogging about the parent-child relationship, and it always amuses me how God loves to hammer away at a subject that comes to the forefront of my thinking.

Last week we relaxed and took a little "Spring Break." This week we hit the books again. I feel relatively set for the rest of the school year, which is nice because the pace has picked up for outside activities.

Some of what we found to keep us busy this week aside from our week 26 of school work (I can't believe we have just 10 weeks of school left this year!):

Some kids play with video games, cell phones or cameras when bored, Blake prefers to take them apart. This broken camera kept him busy for an afternoon of running errands.

Friday we spent the afternoon at the Touch A Tractor event at the local farm bureau:
Little tractors to play with

Little bit bigger tractors to ride on

And . . .
The really big boys to climb up on!

The tires were HUGE!

Nathan could not get enough of the tractors, levers, pedals, climbing, etc. The perfect playground, with lots of supervision . . .

The kids came up with this art project on their own. They simply draw an empty shape made of straight lines and then fill it in to look like something. Funny how they transformed them. This would be fun to draw and exchange with a partner to color in as well.

Our grand finale for the week, Faith lost a tooth that has threatened to fall out for the last two weeks. Finally! She has a place to put her straw when she drinks now.

Light bulb moments:

- Love of homeschool-- I talked to Blake about plans for the future and asked if he still enjoyed homeschooling. His one complaint . . . no "real" P.E. class most days (meaning, team sports in a gymnasium with at least a dozen other sweaty kids his age). Other than that, he says he doesn't really have a desire to be in a traditional school. He recognizes the freedom he has to work at his own pace, which is generally much faster than a regular class would go. That's good to hear.

- Brooke -- reading is flying along. She is my first child to really grasp reading before seven years old. My older kids could read, but it was a slow process and didn't really start clicking until almost eight when they seemed to quickly jump three grades. Brooke enjoys it and really wants to read anything she can begin to figure out.

- Piano -- Faith has finally grasped some of the concepts in note reading and sits to play her couple songs often throughout each day.

Favorite moments of the week:

- Watching kids revel in their own creativity. Blake invented a new game called "Squocky" -- hockey played with the hands while squatting. I think I like the name better than the game. :-)

- The warmer weather (yeah! Although we have more snow in the forecast for tonight) has brought them out of doors, digging for buried treasure, oil, or China, whichever comes first.

Challenges faced:

- Pre-teen attitudes: Not overwhelming or frequent, but those subtle murmurings of disrespect that seem so out of character. I know I need to keep on them while still nurturing the relationship.

- Schedule busyness as we head into baseball season. We are in a good place, so I am not overly concerned, but as our weekends fill up it makes the weeks a little less organized as well.

Favorite passages in our books :

Another tough-to-pick-a-favorite week. We wrapped up The Hiding Place, which was of course incredible. Now we have started Amy Carmichael (love the story about her brown eyes -- "Isn't 'no' an answer, too?" God prompted her disappointed heart). I need to remember that sometimes, too.

- Started Robin Hood by Howard Pyle with my second grader. She loves it. It reminds me of an older Disney movie, starts with death, but aside from that shows promise.

- Blake started reading Galileo and the Magic Numbers. Well written and creates vivid word pictures. And, I'm glad I didn't have to buy it (it was not less than $40 anywhere I found it), rather I learned how to use the World Cat at our library to order books from just about any library in the country from the comfort of my own home.

More Weekly Wrap Up

Friday, March 27, 2009

Giveaway winners

I just pulled the numbers, with the help of Random.org, for the To Train Up a Child giveaway and these are the winners:

- Courtney
- Sam at sustainstheweary
- Jennym

I am excited to share this helpful book with you and hope you enjoy it. You should be receiving an email from me if you have not already.

Thank you all for participating and sharing the news. I have been enjoying this focus on my relationship with my children. I pray that you have as well and will continue to read along.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- Passing along our faith

At the end of each day I pray that my children have grown a little more. That they have learned more of God's love for them, and that my own interactions with them have given them a little boost toward that knowledge.

More important than anything else I pass along to my children is a faith in Jesus Christ. More important than character, academics, values, and priorities is the life-altering belief that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, triumphant over death and sin.

I need to seek every opportunity to share this with them. I know I can always do more, so I am never content with what we have already implemented in this area, but these are some choices we have made to ensure this critical topic remains at the core of our family teaching:

- We have a set Bible time to start our school day. We pray (for our own needs, for our friends, and for missionary efforts around the world), memorize a verse together, read from the Bible, talk about the passage, sing, and read from a Christian biography. This sometimes runs long, but we always manage to fit everything else in. However, I know that if I saved it for later I would be tempted to skip parts because it doesn't have to get done, to meet state standards.

- Encourage kids to read the Bible on their own. This is a little newer to the plan. I want it to be a habit, but I want them to have a desire for it as well. If they do it because they have to, I have a feeling that the power of the Word can still work. :-) So, hopefully it will become a desire. They also have various AWANA involvements that have them in the Bible and memorizing.

- Pray when needs arise. Right now we have a fellow homeschool friend who's son is in critical condition in his battle with a brain tumor. When a new update comes through we stop and pray. We don't know the future, but we know we can rest in God's strength, and we can lift up this family as they walk this bumpy trail. I want prayer to become an instant reflex for my kids, not a last resort.

- Look for tender hearts. Sometimes we just don't want to hear it. Other times, we hunger to hear more. I try to stay attentive to my kids' attitudes when deciding how much "preaching" to do. When I sense a heart that is still healing from a recent wound, I keep my words few. When their eyes and arms reach out to me for reassurance, I point them to the One that loves them even more and our interaction lengthens.

There is so much more that could be said on this topic which I can just crack the shell of in a blog post. If you desire greater depth in this aspect of parenthood I would encourage you to read one of these books: Shepherding a Child's Heart, Entrusted with a Child's Heart, Power of a Praying Parent, or The Mission of Motherhood. The Mom's Corner this month shared some more interesting ideas on incorporating Scripture into those recurring sibling arguments as well. I pray that God would lead you with wisdom and His great love as you pass on the truth of the Scriptures to your children.

Up next . . . Rules and Boundaries

For earlier posts in this series: Introduction, Looking in the mirror, suiting up for battle, the unpredictability of the journey, and the joy of parenting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- The Joy of Relationship

Over the Years I have taught in various Bible clubs, Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Schools and have noticed something about relationships and credibility. At some point, we would usually have a purely social activity -- a picnic, an outing, a party. Fun, lighthearted times of laughter together. The day after, we met with an entirely different group of kids.

We would greet each other like long lost buddies, excitedly reliving the day before. And, as we settled into the Bible teaching they listened with a focus that we could not have forced or scared into them two days previously even if we tried.

What had changed? Nothing, and everything. In order to impact a child's life, your own child or any child, you must have a relationship to build credibility for your message.

Think about your childhood memories and the ones that linger usually give a glimpse at your relationships. Memories aren't usually about a cake, a car, a trip, or a holiday, they are about the relationships behind those things, the emotions that we experienced with other people in our lives. We need to constantly build positive experiences to help kids have an openness to us and to continually remind us why we love our kids so much.

The days can pass too quickly with only conversations about schoolwork and chores. If we speak only in commands, we have missed out.

Some ways that have worked for us to cultivate joyful relationships with our kids:

- Designated family time -- Tuesday night game night and Thursday night pizza and a movie. We all look forward to these each week and build great memories and times of togetherness.

- Bedtime -- My favorite time of day. We spend time with each of our children one-on-one in their beds. Each has different rituals of snuggles and good-nights, nose rubs, prayers, tickles, stories, memory verses, and always conversation. It takes us more than an hour usually to finish saying good-night to all our kids, but I wouldn't trade those minutes for the world.

- One-on-one -- I spend a set time each weekend with my 9 year old daughter. She seems to get lost in the shuffle the easiest and I needed a scheduled time with her -- it has been wonderful! Other times I pull one in to help with chores or cooking alongside me. When shopping we will try to take a child along to get some special time together. Snatching those little moments throughout each day.

- Take a breath -- Sometimes just stopping for a moment to look changes my perspective. I love my kids, I know I do, but sometimes I forget to remember it. Just look. Their cute smile, sweet expressions, tender action, spirited laugh, inventive playfulness, whatever it is that draws you to them. Take a minute to look and love them all the more.

- Say "Yes" -- This has stuck with me ever since reading The Strong Family by Charles Swindoll in college. If you can't think of a good reason to say 'no' then say 'yes.' They have such great ideas and I need to remember not to get hung up on my adult, excessive practicality and enjoy life with them. Build that fort, read that book, stop at the park for a few minutes. It does not need to take long, just do it!

- Be silly -- We love to turn up the music and dance together. Brooke and Nathan love spinning around in my arms to our worship music at bedtime. We also like to talk with various accents now and then. Sometimes a pirate, sometimes a friendly Southern drawl, sometimes a British lady, and sometimes a foreign language, or even a made up one. It lightens the mood and always captures a smile.

If we keep our joy and love growing it will help in the rest of our parenting endeavors, like the most important task we have -- sharing our faith with our kids (more to come . . .)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- The Unpredictable Journey

When I first stared into those grey-blue eyes and noticed the whisps of red hair on his newborn head, I breathed a sign of relief that it was "over." Little did I know that it had only just begun.

The journey that started that day never gets dull and is not for the faint of heart. We attempted to prepare. We practiced through borrowing other people's children, attended classes, read books, and talked of our dreams and expectations.

Parenting does not compare to any other life experience. You can't study for it like a test; can't rehearse for it like a play; can't practice for it like a sport; and can't get a do-over when it goes sour. When you realize you aren't quite ready for what it is throwing at you, you are already five minutes too late to regroup.

Not to say we come at it with no hope and no resources. It is a journey we walk with choices, wrong turns, shady paths, and stormy skies. We learn from others and from our own experience, but we never know for sure what we will encounter around the next bend.

We will make mistakes. We will need to ask forgiveness. God will forgive us, and often our kids have an incredible soft spot for a sincere apology as well.

Over the next few weeks I plan to share some of what we have learned and implemented in our home with our kids. We have learned both from mistakes and successes and found incredible joy in parenting each, unique child God has blessed us with. That joy is key and that is where we will start, next time . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Verse of the week - Ephesians 6:10-12

While in high school I spent most of my summers on mission trips and the training and experiences I gained have left deep impressions on my intellect and my faith. During "Boot Camp" I remember a particular teaching on the Devil's D's. I don't remember exactly which ones they included, but they warned us about coming struggles we would experience with Doubt, Depression, Discouragement, Disappointment and other 'D' words. Powerful, flaming arrows that I feel the heat of often even today. Satan is an amazingly accurate archer, with a set of arrows that seem individually crafted for each one of us. Fortunately, God provides the defense and counter attack weapons we need.

As I look especially at my role as mother, I sometimes struggle with self-defeating thoughts. The ever-elusive super-mom image taunts me. Why we even listen to such foolishness I don't know, but Scripture gives us our response.

Ephesians 6:10-12 says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

We tend to focus on physical lapses or failures. Dust, cooking, school work, toys, laundry can all get us down at times. Sometimes we get a little deeper to schedules, menus, budgets, manners, knowledge, or even character. But, the battle begins even deeper still . . . wickedness, sin, deception, rebellion, etc.

It is a battle. One we should expect to encounter daily. Forget the woe-is-me over messy rooms, sibling squabbles, or shoddy school work. It's war! Get your armor on and let's get to work.

I would challenge you each day to arm yourself. I love the quote attributed to Martin Luther,I have so much to do that if I didn't spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done." While I don't think we necessarily need three hours a day, we can all pray more, must pray more if we hope to accomplish all God has for us today.

Each morning I have started praying through the armor. I visualize each piece depicted in Ephesians 6:10-20 :

-- the belt of truth
-- the breastplate of righteousness
-- shoes of peace
-- shield of faith
-- helmet of salvation
-- sword of the Spirit (the Word of God)
-- Praying always!

As my faith waivers through the day, I remember that all this armor comes from God's hand. Not from my own fabricating. He offers solid protection from Satan's arrows. I must pray always and keep His armor firmly fastened.

Care to join me on my knees? That's where the battle begins. Let's claim victory in motherhood for His glory and honor!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~Ephesians 6:10-12~

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blog party

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

If you are visiting from the Ultimate Blog Party, welcome! Hope you enjoy your visit and come again soon. And, for my regular readers old and new, hopefully you will enjoy a glimpse at the family and a summary of why and what I do here (or hope to accomplish).

I like using my little cubicle of the blog world to share about God's working in my life as a homeschooling mother of five. Married to an amazing man for 15 1/2 years I look forward to cultivating that relationship for another 40, 50, or so years.

Our adventures include Blake (almost 12) who doesn't like his picture taken, but has an amazing ability to come up with his own science project almost everyday. Typical boy, loves baseball and wrestling on the floor with his siblings.

Paige (9) is my sweet mother in the making. She has a sweet gentle spirit, a passion for the Lord, and powerful observation skills that keep narration conversations lively.

Our cowgirl comes next, Faith (7). Animal lover, goal motivated, generous, and somewhat shy, which surprises me because she was the biggest show off as a toddler and preschooler.

One more princess completes the feminine side of our family at this point . . . Brooke (5). Enjoys anything that her older siblings have found to work on and really loves to work. She tackles ballet with a precision I have never seen in a young girl, and loves folding laundry. Hey, we all have our idiosyncrasies, hers just happen to be useful.

Last, but not least, Nathan (3) keeps us hopping with his energy and giggles. He loves rough and tumble activities, but also has the most snuggles to share and has a long attention span for a good book.

I blog mostly about my faith in Jesus Christ which is the cornerstone of everything else that I do. Each week I post a verse that God has impressed on me and some of the thoughts and challenges that come along with it.

Most of my day I spend homeschooling, so that comes up a lot here as well. I like to share resources, articles, projects, and tips I have found that have worked for us in the hopes that I will inspire and encourage someone else in their journey. Whether you homeschool or not many of these ideas provide the framework for great memory builders with your kids.

Recently I started a series on motherhood and the footprints we share with our children each day.

God has blessed me amazingly and walked with me gently through some trying days as well. I look forward to continuing to share how He is at work in our home and school.

If you didn't know there are great prizes to be won at this year’s Ultimate Blog Party! If I win my my top three picks would be:

If those are already chosen, I wouldn't be too disappointed because any of these would be great, too: 21, 22, 44, 109, 113, 118, 123, 121, 89, 111, 106

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rising to the Challenge of Motherhood

Flowers for Mothers Day- UK 2nd March. by pbrian49

We laughed when people told us as a newly married couple that we should enjoy the relaxed schedule we had at that season in life. Ha! Relaxed? Surely they knew nothing of the demands on our daily schedule. Both in school full time, working part time, add in a variety of ministry involvements and Bible studies, we were busy! These well intentioned people could not possibly know what they were talking about.

Then we had kids.

While our outside the home commitments have dwindled, the constantness of parenthood has stretched our weekly responsibilities. I always have something or someone that needs my attention, direction, affection, or supervision.

It can easily overwhelm, discourage, smother, or frustrate us if we don't first make sure we have a solid grounding. Jesus Christ alone can provide this foundation. My day must begin with Him and my life must depend on Him.

Before we can consider the challenges that come with motherhood, we must first establish ourselves in Him.


- Prayer: Worship God, acknowledge His lead in your life. Pray for your kids, your husband, and yourself.

- Read His Word: Daily, constantly cling to the hope He offers. We don't walk this path alone.

- Find more support and encouragement in relationships that God has placed in your life: First and foremost in your husband, and secondly in other friends, family, and fellow moms.

As we share our footprints with the little blessings that God has added to our home, we must continually set our pace to His. His wisdom will not fail us, His love will not come up short. His strength will press through our weakness.

I would challenge you to check your own heart as we begin to explore areas we can grow as moms. I know I continue to identify growth needs in my own life. I need to work to remove those beams from my line of sight so I can remove the specks I see in my children and prevent them from developing beam-blocked vision. What the beam often blocks is the fact that I harbor the same shortcomings that they do.

God has called me to be a mom right now. My focused energy needs to stay in home and enable me to fill that role to the best of my ability, and to the glory of my heavenly Father. Sometimes, too, I know the right thing to do, but I get lazy and skip essential parenting habits. I look forward to re-energizing my motherhood in the weeks ahead, and I hope you do as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sharing Footprints

Mother & Daughter Bond by honey 77.

Almost twelve years ago we brought home our first little baby from the hospital. After a cesarean section birth due to his breech positioning, we began to wonder what other surprises this baby would bring into our lives. Now, with four more children in our home we have learned that weathering "surprises" is one key to successful parenting.

Some days bring greater challenges than others. And, some bring far more incredible joys than I could have ever imagined. I thank God that He has walked this journey with us, because we must daily tap into His grace, patience, love, justice, and mercy to parent adequately.

Before we even conceived our first child I had gone to visit a high school friend for a week. I marveled at her sweet little girl as I contemplated the growing number of, shall we say, active and independent children in the world. We talked a bit about parenting and she referred me to a book by Michael and Debi Pearl entitled To Train Up a Child.

My husband and I read through this book during that first pregnancy. It helped us get on the same parenting page, reinforced some of the positives we had experienced in our homes growing up, and helped us understand some of the negatives. This book gave us a vision for training our children and a unity of purpose and perspective.

Just a few of the nuggets that I gleaned from this book:

- Leave your emotions out of child training (don't get angry, offended, defensive, etc.)

- Stay consistent (say what you mean and mean what you say)

- Find joy in your children

- Don't overlook attitudes even if a child is externally obedient

This book did not address every parenting situation we have faced, and I don't necessarily agree with the way they handle every situation either. But it did give us a foundation to build from and I have enjoyed the Pearl's website and free online magazine which has often encouraged me to continue parenting with joy, consistency, and a vision.

To kick off this new series focusing on motherhood, I have three of these books to give away. I would love for you to find encouragement in these pages as well. The books I have are the original book with the black and white cover, as opposed to the updated color edition on their website.

From their website:

From successful parents, learn how to train up your children rather than discipline them up. With humor and real-life examples this book shows you how to train your children before the need to discipline arises. Be done with corrective discipline; make them allies rather than adversaries. The stress will be gone and your obedient children will praise you and bring joy and peace into your home. Thousands have testified to the amazing results of these profoundly simple techniques.

Chapter titles include Parental Anger, The Rod, Selective Subjection, Safety Training, Potty Training, Attitude Training, Emotional Control, Bullies, Imitations, and many others.

If you could use a dose of renewed vision or are working to establish a vision for your home you have an opportunity to receive one or two entries in this giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment (if you don't have a blog, make sure to leave your name and/or email so I can contact you).
  2. Blog about it and come back and leave another comment with the link to that post.
This giveaway will end on March 27th and is open to only U.S. addresses, please.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The journey of parenting

Mother & Daughter Bond by honey 77.

As I gear up for a series of posts on various parenting issues, and some encouragement for moms in particular, I have pooled a number of my previous related posts with brief summaries and links to them. I don't want to rewrite what I have already written, but many of you have not read many of these, and I figured I would do the footwork and wade through the sixty or so posts for you and you can read the ones you find relevant.

Here they are, starting with the most recent:

Sibling Rivalry -- Some inspiration that I gleaned from Teri Maxwell's Mom's corner. Includes some tips on dealing with sibling conflict and keeping your own emotions in check while doing so.

I thought I could -- dealing with the afternoon doldrums productively

Hinds Feet -- Encouragement from this Christian classic about the treasure that unfolds before God as we go about our daily, unheralded tasks

Mom's who don't do anything -- Just for fun, Pirates who don't do anything - Mom's edition. For another random mommy post, check out this glimpse into one day's accomplishments, or lack thereof.

Invisible Mother -- another great word of encouragement for the moms that feel invisible. If we are doing our job well, that is just what we will become, like the cathedral builders of yesteryear.

Calvary's Love -- how critical it is that God's love shines through in all we do each day!

Mentoring Moments -- glimpses into tea time with my nine year old, including the introductory post about this time together, this one about obedience with joy; this one about our look at Proverbs 31; another with some odds and ends, and where to find Beautiful Girlhood online for free; and the challenges that come to me as a mother even in mentoring moments.

Marathon -- not about motherhood, but an incredible story of what one father has committed to his son. An incredible inspiration to me every time I hear it.

Matthew 11:28-30 -- Finding rest in God, not a "successful" day of mothering.

Galatians 6:4,5 -- avoiding the comparison game and focusing on the task at hand.

Nehemiah 6:9 -- parenting is God's work, not ours.

The myth of the Teachable Moment -- Every moment is a teachable moment

The role of Wife and Mother -- questions, and some answers, about what a keeper at home looks like to me.

Flower arranging -- The ups and downs of parenting bring more fluid challenges than flower arranging, but it did get me to thinking about the beauty of the bouquet we prepare for our King in our homes over the years. Learning from God's 'parenting' experiences, I realize that we are working with a flawed product, and we aren't perfect ourselves either. Yet, we can please Him with a savor offering through diligence.

One-on-one -- special ways I have employed to spend individual time with each of my children

I did a series a while back on praying for our children and I also posted about how I pray through John 17 at the beginning of each month.

Chores -- Sometimes accomplishing the impossible, but I have shared some of what has worked for us.

Teaching Obedience -- Some of the character training we have done in the area of obedience, in some ways the cornerstone of all other training. I also shared more about some Character training cards that I used here.

Grocery shopping -- Getting it done even with all the kids "helping"

Enjoying the most of each moment -- my very first ever post. Sharing from my heart about balancing motherhood with an eternal perspective at heart.

Well, that narrowed it down a bit. And, it was fun walking through the past year or so through what God has taught me and I have passed along to others.

Hopefully this will whet your appetite for more and encourage you as a mom or parent. I have a number of new posts in the works for this topic that is near and dear to my heart. My relationship with God comes first, my commitment to my husband takes second, and my children come in next, but they still take the bulk of my time and energy each day. I could only make it with a firm grounding in those first two relationships, and motherhood is a continual journey of learning and teaching.

I look forward to sharing more in the weeks ahead! And, stay tuned for info on a giveaway. I have a few copies of To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl that I will be giving away at some point during the series as well. More information to come!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Verse of the week - Ecclesiastes 9:10

Kids know how to get every drop of enjoyment out of an experience. Look at these two. Is there any doubt that they are thoroughly enjoying this simple pleasure of swinging? It reminds me to enjoy life, too. As the saying goes, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.

The Christian walk follows this theorem as well. When we face our Creator, we want to have no doubts about how we lived our lives. I want to stand having given all, every ounce of strength. I will still owe Him more than I could repay, but He is worthy of everything I can possibly lay at His feet.

A preacher on the radio mentioned an interesting take on our theological perspective. Apparently based on a book and now a whole speaking tour, Cat and Dog Theology has a creative foundation. Basically it goes like this . . . we each approach God from either a cat or a dog mentality. Which are you?

Think about the nature of dogs. They think, "My master sure is amazing. He loves me so much. He feeds me, takes care of me, plays with me, looks out for me. He must be God!"

Now think about the nature of cats. They think, "My master brings me food, cleans up after me, gives me everything that I need. I must be something amazing!" (punctuated with a haughty flick of the tail)

So, what is your approach to God? Do you have a 'dog' theology, desiring to eagerly give every ounce of energy to your Master? Or, do you find yourself slipping into the 'cat' perspective at least some of the time, waiting for God to cater to your needs and living as if you somehow deserved His mercy?

God does not rely on me. I rely on Him, even for my very existence. I just sometimes need to remember that. This life is such a brief time and I must spend each bit of my energy in doing the work that He has set about for me to do.

This all brought me to Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

We can't suddenly make up for lost time once we arrive in heaven. Now is the time for action and diligent work. As Henry Martyn, 19th-century missionary to the Muslims said, ‘Let me burn out for God.’

Lord, I want to work diligently for You, holding nothing back. Using every skill, talent, shortcoming, character trait, vision, and eccentricity that you placed in me for Your glory. Help me to live as Moses did, face-to-face in obedience to you, and yet not to offer excuses when You call me to work. If You call me, I know You will give me the strength to do it. I want to work for You with all my might. ~Amen

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
do it with thy might; for there is no work,
nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom,
in the grave, whither thou goest.

~Ecclesiastes 9:10~

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekly wrap up -- March 13

Wow! What a week! Last week I stayed off my computer by choice and enjoyed lots of extra this, among other things:

This week I stayed off the computer by force . . . lots of activities throughout the week and part of a day with our phone and internet down.

Quick sum up of last week . . . We have enjoyed checking out programs offered by local park districts. These are often free or very inexpensive and are great for a short field trip to break up the week.

Some great hand puppets for the kids to play with

The Three Bears exhibit compared the polar bear, the brown bear and the grizzly bear with lots of information about each one.

They had engaging books to read with the kids, height comparison charts,

samples of fur, bones, and scat (fake), and even a Geosafari game to test your knowledge.

We enjoyed some beautiful weather before a dip back into winter this week, and ended the week with snow cones on the porch.

This week the kids finished up their pinewood derby cars for Thursday night's race.

None of them placed, but I thought they turned out really well and they all had lots of fun enjoying the event and seeing all the other cars.

Faith's is the hot dog, Blake's is the car pictured on top.

Paige decorated hers as the US flag

We also hosted the monthly Keeper's Club. My parents led the meeting with a detailed look at seeds and gardening.

My mom enjoys plants and working the soil and shared so much information about seeds, plants, composting, and a variety of other related topics. I saved her notes and will type them up here in the future. Lots of great tips for gardening!

They brought a variety of seed samples for the kids to look at and sort through . . . milk weed, silver dollar plants, beets, carrots, hollyhocks, carrots, dill, chives, and many more. The kids sorted them into milk cartons and labeled them to take with them.

My kids enjoyed showing off their plants --

Blake's avacado

Faith's Stefanotus

And our week-old sprouts for this summer's garden.

We will be taking next week off mostly for our spring break since my husband is off work. We still have co-op on Monday, but other than that we look forward to a relaxing week together.

Check out more weekly wrap ups here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Organize your morning -- keeping it fresh

I had a little extra time tonight, so I decided to put together some tips on starting the morning right, after the theme for the Heart of the Matter carnival for the week. Friday they will post the carnival, so be sure to head over there for lots of great tips on starting your day off on the right foot. Last week they shared about organizing the physical space you homeschool in.

If things stay the same for too long, I get a little bored, and less productive. So, I like to tweak things periodically to keep things moving.

My current schedule is my absolute favorite so far, and I find we have time to get everything done.

After a quick shower, I head right to my Bible. If I stop and do anything else before this it gets shortened or skipped and the rest of the day just stumbles on by. Right now I am reading through the Bible thanks to 66 books, and I daily pray for my husband and kids using Power of a Praying Wife and my prayer calendar.

This biggest help I have found is writing it down. Even if we don't always stay exactly where we should be, we all know the goal, where we are headed, and what comes next. Here was my schedule from the beginning of the year, but I have had a hard time getting up at 6:00 recently so my exercise has resorted to PE time in the afternoon with the kids.

Running a close second for helping my days get started right is my new commitment to stay off of the computer. I don't even turn it on until we start school, and then it is just for studies. IF I get my morning responsibilities done early I check email before school starts, and I have designated blogging and computer times that I am working at sticking with. So far, pretty good. Sometimes things come up and they don't work out, and sometimes things come up that give me some extra time on the computer, but I control my computer not vice versa.

The kids all have their designated morning chores that are clear and, again, written down. I have found a homemade system that we love for keeping them on task at the various chore times throughout the day and makes their expectations clear. In a nutshell, they have chores on index cards that they move to the "done" envelope throughout the day as they finish them. Very hands on and visual.

Keeping it simple, written down, and tweaking as needed has helped us get started each day with enthusiasm and joy! So much comes back to me, setting the tone for the rest of the day by God's strength and my continual submission to Him.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Computer boundaries

After a whole week off of blogging, I have had the opportunity that I needed to set boundaries for this area of my life. Blogging does not control me, it is not a treasure that I need to seek out. It is a tool to share how God is at work in my life. It provides an outlet to encourage others and record special moments. It can never take priority over time with family or serving Christ.

In order to reset my boundaries I felt it necessary to take a week away and remember what I used to do with those few minutes here and there that I now use to steal away to the computer to type, edit, or update blog posts.

This past week I spent more time reading the Bible. I gave and received more hugs and snuggles. I got more sleep. I felt more free. Clearly my priorities had gotten out of whack! Or, as my daughter said, maybe they were in whack. "Whack" sounds more like something I should stay out of.

Blogging isn't evil, just like money isn't. But, the love of it might be, especially if it takes precedence over what God has called me to and created me for.

After stepping back and evaluating how my priorities needed reorganization, I began mulling over my new "Computer Rules."

These will look different for everyone, but this is what works for me:

- The computer stays off in the morning until my Bible time and chores are done. If I finish everything before we start school at 9:00, I can spend a few minutes checking email and other odds and ends.

- I don't turn my computer on on Sundays at all. I started this a few weeks ago and I love it! It does force me to use my time more wisely on Saturday to prepare for the upcoming school week and post my verse of the week if I have it ready, otherwise it waits until Monday. In interest of full disclosure here, I do occasionally check my email on someone else's computer Sunday evening to make sure that I don't miss anything I need to know for co-op first thing Monday. But, checking this on a different computer keeps me from the temptation of, "Oh, I'll just check my Reader real quick, too" or "I should look for a new recipe for _____" or "How many people visited my site this weekend?" etc.

- I established computer hours, with some flexibility. They generally will be 9-10 at night and 3-4 in the afternoon if everything is done in the way of school work by then. And, I will spend a few hours on Saturday as well.

- Turn off the computer during in between times. This is huge in reducing the temptations to jump on for "just a minute."

I am comfortable with these now, although I may find they need tweaking over the weeks ahead. This of course does not include school work which we do on the computer in the school room and I don't generally have access to "my" stuff on that computer.

I have found this "fasting" method helpful when I need to realign my priorities in a variety of areas. Eating habits, TV viewing habits, money spending, etc. can all employ this method. When I want to resume more healthy eating habits I find that spending a week without sweets or breads or whatever temptation is becoming too much the norm gives me a chance to reset my boundaries in that area.

God has everything that I need and sometimes I need a special time away from distractions to really soak up what that means.