The Heart of a Child

It never fails, every year at Christmastime, I am humbled by my children. I know some people get tired of hearing mothers “brag” about their kids, but there are definitely times when we are entitled to bragging rights, and I feel this is one of them.

Each year, when I request Christmas lists from my kids, I am blessed by their precious little hearts.

Here are the lists I received this year – word for word.

    Taylor’s Christmas List

0 CDs Kids Worship
1 Radio that works with CDs
2 Sneakers (hers are worn out)
3 Stroller for my baby dolls
4 To Obey

And to
be
nice, kind and most important one is number 4 to obey. Please help me with that. Love,Tay

    Ryan’s Christmas List

Lego City things
Bey Blades
Baseball Cards

    Garrett’s List

pillow
sleeping bag
blanket
alarm clock

When I received Garrett’s list, I said ” Hey bud, you have pillows, a sleeping bag and lots of blankets, why are they on your list?” His reply was “Yeah, I don’t really need anything, but an alarm clock.”

    Darren’s List

1 Capo
2 music stand
3 mp3 player ( note he didn’t ask for an iPod)
4 Hunter’s safety course with Dad

    Justin’s list

new drawstring backpack
paint ball/air soft stuff

As the kids get older, their lists tend to get more complicated and pricey. I am so proud of my two older boys. Justin and Darren are highly deprived compared to today’s “normal” middle schoolers, or so the world would say. They don’t have cell phones, iPods, laptops or any of the things most kids have today. They don’t have an xbox, a Playstation and a ds. We don’t have TV. They don’t spend hours playing video games or texting friends. Although they would like to have some of these things, they are respectful of our decisions and appreciate and understand the reasons we don’t allow them to have everything their little hearts desire.

If you read my blog “Giving and Thanksgiving”, you know that we received an unexpected check in the mail last week and are planning to give it away. With everything that was in me, I did NOT want to let go of it. When we talked to the kids about this money, I told them how difficult it was for me to accept that God wanted us to give this money away. It is a great learning moment when kids see that their parents are imperfect and they can confess their shortcomings and struggles. We asked them if they had some ideas of what we should do with the money, and they did. They came up with two ideas. One was take gifts to a nursing home, the other was a children’s hospital. We didn’t mention either of these, they came up with them on their own. What big hearts they have!! In the end, they decided that they would like to buy gifts for the kids at the hospital. I have called twice, but haven’t gotten any response. I’m hoping this will work out. I know it will bless their hearts. I’m so proud of my amazing children and their desire to help others!

We as parents are supposed to be teaching our children, but so often, I learn from them. We have set guidelines for our children and expect them to abide by them, however many times, we don’t live up to these expectations ourselves. Example: I don’t like the kids to listen to secular music. I believe it fills their heads with garbage, yet there are times when the kids aren’t around and I turn the radio to a secular station. Do I think that I am somehow above the negative influence of secular music? Of course not! Why then, do I do this? Why would I watch a movie that I don’t want my 13-year-old to watch? Do I feel I am above being influenced by secular culture? Do I put others before myself, others outside of my family?

Let’s humble ourselves before our children and before God. Mark 10:15 says “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

God, soften my heart and open eyes. I long to have a child-like faith. Thank you so much for blessing me with five wonderful children. I give them all to you. Continue to fill their hearts with a strong love and compassion for others and a desire to be kingdom builders. I know You have great things in store for them. Give me strength and wisdom as I raise them for You!! Each day is a new challenge. Give me courage to rise above the day-to-day battles and overcome the challenges you have set before me. Give me a contented heart so that I may have true joy in this life You have given me.

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December Resolutions

Family: Pursue Peace

☐ Remember I love them and they are mine.
☐ Remember they love me.
☐ Show them my love.
☐ Let it go.
☐ Don’t harbor hurt feelings.
☐ Touch base once a week.
☐ Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11

Occasionally we have moments when we don’t want to claim our family. There is something they do that embarrasses us and we would rather not be associated with them. This month my resolution is to focus on the good qualities and attributes of my family, from my grandma all the way to my kids. Occasionally we need to remind ourselves why we love them. For this reason, my first resolution is to remember I love them and they are mine.

The people we love the most are the ones that hurt us most and vice versa. Not they we intentionally hurt each other, but when someone you love disappoints you, it hurts. If a friend or acquaintance disappoints us, it’s much easier to let it go because we don’t have as much invested in that relationship. When family members hurt us, it’s easy to feel unloved regardless of the fact that we KNOW they love us. My second resolution is to remember they love me.

Often we think of how we want others to treat us and have high expectations for others and yet don’t hold ourselves to the same standard. Resolution three is to show my love.

Resolutions four and five go hand in hand. Let it go and don’t harbor hurt feelings. This is not easy. When someone hurts you it’s hard to let it go and it’s even harder to leave it there. We tend to hold on to things. Even if we have apparently forgiven someone for hurting us, it’s easy down the road to pull that back out and dwell on it. This month I want to examine my heart and ensure that I am not harboring past hurts and that I really let them go for good.

I am embarrassed to say that I have gone months at a time without talking to my brothers or having any contact at all. To maintain my innocence I acknowledge that they don’t call me either, so I shouldn’t feel bad. In the end, I still end up feeling guilty. Touching base once a week will allow me to build stronger relationships with my family.

It’s easy to allow little things to hinder a relationship. It’s hard to let go of hurt feelings. This month my resolutions are meant to remind me to encourage and build up my family. Friends come and go, but your family is yours for life.

Giving and Thanksgiving

This month I worked on having a grateful heart. I was blessed, during our family’s devotion time, by the children’s hearts of thanksgiving. This month has gone well and I have felt as though my resolutions were completed.

UNTIL…Yesterday we unexpectedly received a check in the mail. I was excited, thinking of how I could use it towards Christmas. It was not an extremely large amount, but would definitely help out. This morning I began thinking about the little things, or not so little, that God has done for our family this month. Providing when we needed it, allowing “issues” to fix themselves, and then giving us this money for Christmas. I was thinking about how awesome He is and how grateful I am for His provisions and His hand in our lives. The things that we tend to take for granted are truly God’s handiwork.

Just as quick as these thoughts arrived, new ones entered my mind. But these were more than just thoughts, this was a strong conviction that flooded my heart. “Give it away.” Are you kidding me!?! We need this! I need to think of my family! I don’t want to give it away! I struggled with God. I tried negotiating with Him, but the conviction continued to get stronger. So, what do I do? I try to reason with myself. “Give and you will receive.” If I give this away, God will give back to me. As if I am entitled to something in return.

One of my resolutions this month was to give without feeling prideful. This was not the problem today. Instead, I was fighting the act of giving altogether. I don’t want to give it away. I want it for myself, for my family. I called Hunter to get his insight and he said “Sounds like we need to give it away.” I was nearly in tears when I called him. I was struggling with it THAT much. Why was I feeling so selfish? Why would God ask me to do this? I know there are people who give to others, having faith that God will provide for them, but it’s not feeling like faith to me. I haven’t agreed to this with a willing heart. How can God possibly bless that?!?

After talking with Hunter and allowing the shock of this mission to wear off, I am feeling at peace with it. I’m sure it will greatly bless our hearts to give to others that are truly in need this Christmas season. That’s what it’s all about.

God, Thank you for softening my heart today and for opening my eyes to the desires of Your heart. I long to have a heart like Yours. Thank you for all You have done and continue to do for our family! Thank you for the gift of Your Son, it makes the gift we are giving seem insignificant. You gave Your Son for me and yet I struggle with this small task. Forgive me for my selfishness, and open my heart and my eyes to the peace and love found in You! You are the giver of life and everything we know and hold dear! Thank you, God, for the grace and mercy that You pour out on us! Your love is unfathomable.

On to the next stage…

It doesn’t seem like long ago, my parents were sitting me down and talking to me about being cautious to not make hasty decisions. They wanted me to use the things they had taught me, to make wise decisions regarding my life choices. I remember feeling as though they could never understand what I was thinking or feeling. At sixteen years old, those conversations never ended fast enough.

Now, I have a teenager of my own, a wonderful thirteen year old son whom I am proud of. He is kind and caring, and is always thoughtful of others. He’s a friend to the underdog and stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. He’s a hard worker and a great athlete. He has grown to be a wonderful young man. And yet with all of these great qualities, he is still a normal teenager who struggles to make the right decisions.

Last night for the first time, I felt what my parents must have felt nearly 15 years ago. As we were talking with him about the choices that he is making, his eyes were glazed over. As soon as I saw it, I quit talking. I knew that nothing I could say at that point would have any effect on him. He didn’t say it, but it was written all over his face. “Are you kidding me? Are we really having this conversation? You have no idea how I feel or what I am thinking. Can we be done yet so I can go to bed?” There’s no way to express how I felt at that moment, knowing that we have arrived at the point where it’s time to let him make his own choices and suffer the consequences. We can guide him, but ultimately he has to make his own decisions. We have sown the seeds and now it’s time to watch them take root.

I struggle when thinking about how he will respond in different situations, feeling as though if he makes a poor choice it reflects directly on me, that I have not done a good job parenting. And yet I think about the poor choices I made as a teenager and don’t think of it as being a parenting issue at all. We like to think that if we do everything right, our children will turn out okay. We may cling to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” We can be great parents and there is still a chance our children will stray from the path they know is right.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting. We are all going to make mistakes. There are many areas that we question ourselves as parents. Did I make the right decision? Maybe I overreacted. Was I too hard on him? Was I too easy on him? And the list goes on. We only get one chance. We can’t dwell on the mistakes we have made. We need to acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.

No matter what choices our children make, if we give them to God, we can find peace and comfort in Him.

God, I have done my best to raise my children in a way that is pleasing to you. I have not been perfect, I have made many mistakes. God, I give you Justin. He is my son, but ultimately he is Your child. You know the desires of his heart, God. Bless him, raise him up as a man of God who is willing to take the narrow path for You. Give him courage to stand up for You when faced with difficult circumstances. Give him strength to make wise choices that will be pleasing to you, give him a hunger for righteousness and a thirst for salvation through Your Son. God, give him a passion for Your Word and give Hunter and I strength and wisdom as we continue on this parenting journey. Give us peace in times of chaos. Bless our home, God. In Your Name, Amen.

November Resolutions

I am late posting this months resolutions, but it is none the less important in my heart.

Gratitude: Thankfulness and Giving

☐Thank God for everyday.
☐Give to others without feeling prideful.
☐Be content.
☐Teach the children to truly have thankful hearts.
☐Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Life doesn’t slow down. With all of the activities and responsibilities that we have, sometimes it’s hard to remember everything we have to be thankful for. A heart of gratitude is something we should carry always, but in the every day grind of life, sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle. This month I want to truly focus on having a grateful heart and giving to others.

This is a great song. It’s audio only.
watch?v=3K5rzgVt5iY

“Growing Love”

Do you ever feel like you have so much to do, you don’t know which way is up and the things you need to do aren’t the things you want to do and the things you want to do aren’t even things you REALLY want to do and the things you REALLY want to do always seem to get swept under the rug??

October was one of those months for me. I feel as though my month of “growing love” wasn’t very successful. Week one was good, but the following two weeks were tough. For no apparent reason, it was a difficult couple of weeks. I was feeling pretty discouraged. Week four was better and although I feel as though October was a bust, November has been a great month so far. So in the end, although I couldn’t see the progress at the time, maybe we did “grow love”.

It’s amazing how much smoother our lives run when we are on the same page. With all the demands of life, it’s hard to take time alone and invest in your marriage. There are other things in life that can take the back burner. Continue growing love and it will grow and strengthen your family. When mom and dad are connected and have the same goals, the family will reap the benefits.

I will move on keeping in mind my September and October goals and add my November resolutions. The journey continues.

September – Get Energized ✓
But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:5

October – Grow Love ✓
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22

November – Gratitude
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Finding Pure Joy: October Resolutions

October
Marriage: Growing Love ♥

☐ Pray for Hunter everyday.
☐ Take a walk in his shoes.
☐ Give words of affirmation.
☐ Don’t interrupt.
☐ Communicate clearer.
☐ Reiterate to the children that Dad will always come first.
☐ Have date night at least twice a month.
☐ Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22

Marriage takes work. You get out of it, what you put in it. When we invest in our marriage things go so much smoother than when we let the busyness of life allow us to get disconnected. Everyone in the house is happier when mom and dad are on the same page.

My theme song for the month of October will be Steven Curtis Chapman \"All About Love\"

Finding Pure Joy: Weeks 3 and 4

Weeks 3 and 4 flew by! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time goes by. I have continued to make progress in my endeavor. I have conquered many of my September resolutions, yet there are still a couple that I need to work harder to accomplish. Choosing healthy has been a difficult task for me to defeat. With the busyness of life, it takes real commitment and self-discipline to stay on task in this area. I will continue to work on tackling this in the coming month.

I still have a lot of decluttering to do. The plan was to work in one area each week. This happened only one week (I still feel good about my book shelves). I have been focusing a lot of time on other things, and not as much time on the clutter. In October, I will make an effort to manage my time better, and make time for both things.

In the end, the first month of my journey was good. I feel as though I have accomplished getting energized in my heart and home. The health part not so much, but that’s okay, it will come with time and more effort. I will continue to work on these things and add new resolutions for the month of October.

My focus in October is Marriage: Growing Love.

How to Save on Groceries

Who doesn’t like saving money? I am always excited to find new ways to save. Over the past two years, I have really worked hard to find ways to cut back and save some money. Since I don’t work, this is a way that I can “contribute” to our financial well-being.

When I really started to investigate different ways to cut back on our expenses, there was one that stood out. It was the easiest place to start and reaped the fastest benefits. One thing that will never change is that we have to eat. Groceries are so expensive! Here are some things that I have found to work to save on groceries for our family. I’d love to hear what works for you!

✍ Make a menu. I like to make a menu for a month at a time. This is what works for me, but weekly might work best for you. It’s not my favorite thing to do, so I’d rather do it once month rather than once a week. I sit down with my menu calendar and my calendar that homes all of the families activities. This way I know that I need a quick dinner on nights that there are sporting events, or a crock pot meal on a night after I had a day of running errands. I make a menu for breakfast and dinner. I usually make a general menu, more of a list, for lunches, we switch it up a little each week. Lunch meat, cheese, yogurt, fruit, juice, and a snack. I buy enough to last the week. There are several benefits to making a menu.
✎ You won’t have to come up with last-minute meal ideas.
✎ The kids will know what to expect.
✎ It’s a great asset to making your grocery list.

✍ Avoid processed foods. I make as much as I can from scratch. This way, you know what you’re eating and you save a lot of money.

✍ Avoid disposable things and use re-useable instead. I bought each of the kids a sandwich box, a juice bottle and I have various size small containers to pack lunch snacks in. I used to only use Tupperware, but my kids have a hard time getting the seals on and off, so I started using Ziploc containers instead. They aren’t as expensive and if they leave their lunch box at school all weekend, you don’t feel as bad throwing out the rotten container when it cost 50¢ as opposed to the $4 Tupperware container.

✍ Avoid individually wrapped items. Individualized snacks might be convenient, but they are overpriced. Instead of buying a large package of individual chips, I buy a bag of pretzels for $1.19 and put them in containers. I don’t buy juice boxes, I buy a large jug of juice and put it in individual juice bottles. It almost always costs less to divide things up yourself, than to buy it already done. You pay a lot for a little bit of convenience.

✍ Set a grocery budget. Don’t go over. Adjust your list to fit your budget not vice versa.

✍ Make a list! Never go grocery shopping without a list! It’s so easy to go to the store and spend a ton of money, get home and wonder what you’re going to have for dinner. Use your menu to make your list. When I make my grocery list, I get my menu down and the first things to go on my list are the items that I will need for the meals I have planned. Don’t forget to add your lunch items. During the week anytime I run out of a staple item, it gets written on my dry erase board that hangs by my refrigerator. These things will go on your list. When I have completed my list, I go over it and make sure I need everything on my list. I usually end up crossing a few things off that I will not need that week. Keep your list within your budget!
**DO NOT buy anything that is not on the list!

✍ Watch the sale flyers. Make sure you watch the sale flyers for items that you regularly use. Sign up for the store shopper card to ensure you get the sale price. Keep in mind the things you will need for your menu for the month. If it’s on sale and you will need it next week for breakfast, buy it ahead of time if you can.

✍ Use coupons. I never used to use coupons. I always thought “what’s a dollar here and there?”. Was I ever wrong! I have learned to save a ton of money using coupons. We get the Sunday paper just for the coupons. If Wishbone salad dressing is on sale for 2/$3 and you have a 75¢ off 2 coupon, you can get 2 bottles for $1.50. Most grocery stores double coupons. So that 75¢ coupon just turned into $1.50. I am not a pro yet, but I usually save 50% using coupons matched up with sales. Make sure you know your stores coupon policy. I could say so much more, but there is a lot of info available from people who are far better at couponing than I. There a lot of great blogs to help you get started couponing. Here are some that I have used.

http://coupondivas.com/
http://couponing101.com/
http://thekrazycouponlady.com/

✍ Aldi. Three years ago had you told me that I would be shopping at Aldi, I wouldn’t have believed you. I had an ideal of what I thought Aldi was like. After reading the book

    The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bill in Half

by Stephanie Nelson, I decided to give Aldi a try. It turns out Aldi is great! I don’t buy everything there, but I will try anything once and I have learned what to buy there and what items I would rather get somewhere else. Aldi is a great place to buy breads, cheese, butter, chips, sugar, flour, fruits and vegetables, just to list a few. Take a quarter for your cart and your own bags.
Aldi doesn’t accept coupons. They accept cash and debit cards.

✍ Don’t be committed to one store. I usually go to four or five different stores when I go grocery shopping. They are all in the same town. I don’t go driving all over creation. I like to get my meat from Wegmans. They have good consistent low prices, but they don’t typically have big sales. Price Chopper usually has good sales, so I go there for whatever I need that is on sale. I try to avoid Walmart only because it is so easy to spend money there, but there are some things that you can get for a better price. Just be sure you stick to the list. It might take a little bit longer, but if you have the time, I would suggest shopping around.

I would love to hear ways that you have cut back on your grocery bill. Let me know what works for you!

Finding Pure Joy: Week 2

God has a way of getting your attention, doesn’t He? Just when you think you have it all figured out, He throws you a curve ball to let you know who is really in control. The true test of our faith, is how we handle these things.

Week one didn’t go as I had planned. I considered it to be a complete failure. When I looked closer, I realized that even though the week didn’t go the way I wanted it to, God had His hand in it. Although I didn’t complete everything on my agenda, He gave me a new agenda that I did complete.

Week two went pretty well. There were of course some unexpected events but, all in all, it was a good week. I managed to get up on time every morning. My goal is to be in bed by 10 p.m., and I’ve been getting there between 10 -10:30, which isn’t too bad. Hopefully this week I will conquer that.

Choosing healthy is proving to be a daunting task. This week, I plan to make an extra effort in this area.

The house has been kept tidy. You notice I use the word tidy and not clean. Our house is very seldom what I would call clean. Even though I am home all day, I still can’t seem to get that “clean house” thing down. But it is tidy.

I really started with the decluttering this week. I tackled the hall closet upstairs. Our upstairs consists of four bedrooms for the kids, and a closet. We haven’t really used it since we lived here, and we’ve been here over four years now. It has housed old paint and whatever else the kids have chosen to shove in there. The doors to the closet were in bad shape, they were slat doors and a good number of the slats were missing. In order to clean the closet, I took the doors off. After I got the doors off and looked at things a little, I thought, wow I should just use this as shelving, without the doors. But what should I put there? I got side tracked to help Garrett and Ryan clean their room. While doing this, I realized they have entirely too many books for their poor book shelf. I immediately knew what I was going to use that closet for. Now instead of a closet, I have built-in bookshelves. It’s a central location for all of the kids, so there’s no fussing over who’s book is who’s and why it’s in that room and not someone else’s. All of the books can be easily accessed by everyone. There is even enough shelving that I have room for games on the top shelf. It’s ridiculous how excited I am about this small change, but it feels great to have that cleaned out and functional!

My daily quiet time this week was eye opening. I tried to sit down and really dive into the Word, but it wasn’t working for me. I don’t think that’s what God had in store for me this week. Instead of reading and meditating on the Word, I was quiet before God. When I tried to pray, I couldn’t find the words, so I just let Him speak to me. He already knows my heart, I needed to be still and listen to what He was trying to say to me.

Yesterday in church, we had a guest speaker. He brought a great message. It was along the same lines that our Pastor preached on the week before. It was a message I needed to hear again. It’s amazing how God works it out.

I have always been involved in some type of ministry or another. Many times I have had my plate full and overflowing. For the past two years, I’ve pretty much just been going to church. We have been attending our church for nearly two years and yet we still are not connected. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why. Do we have something stamped across our heads that says “beware”. Why can’t we seem to fit in? Why can’t we build some relationships? This has really been bothering me. Why God? Why can’t we connect?

Over the past month, this has been weighing heavy on my heart. Recently, my eyes have been opened. We have been waiting for other people to take the initiative. Hunter and I are both quiet, (until we get to know people, then watch out!) and we are both uncomfortable in new situations. We aren’t bold and aggressive when it comes to new things, even little things. God is bigger than that! He’s bigger than my anxiety over how to dress for praise night or where to park at the church picnic. He’s bigger than my fear of what people think of me. I often have thoughts and ideas, but i’m afraid to speak up, because I don’t want to sound like an idiot. God is so much bigger than that. I can’t remember a time in my adult life when it has taken me this long to get connected.

Just last night Hunter and I were talking, and we’re done with this! We’re ready to take the initiative and be bold! We are trusting in God to give us new boldness for Him. Thank you so much, God, for quieting my heart, our hearts, to hear the things you have for us.

Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

It’s amazing the way God can speak to us, if we only quiet our heart enough to hear him. I encourage you in the coming week, to be still before God and really seek Him and listen to what He is trying to say to you. He was saying to me, “I am in control. You can’t do this on your own. Trust in me and I will make all things new.”