Monday, May 28, 2018

Unsung Heroes

The day began with a parade to honor those who are often times forgotten.  The children waved their banners high and when the weathered men walked by, in heavy, starched suits standing proud in the 80 degree sun... we applauded.  I don't know what it must've been like to watch a friend fall on the beach at Normandy or have a brother become a POW. I cannot imagine the heartache of serving your country, taking in the horrors of war, and returning home to criticism.  I don't know what nightmares plague our soldiers as they transition from being in active service to being a civilian again. I have no clue what it is like to have my husband or wife serve actively while I pray for them to safely return home, and in the meantime keep everything rolling smoothly in their absence. I haven't had to miss a child's birthday or Christmas, a wedding anniversary, or the passing of a parent because I am stationed overseas. I cannot imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes.

 I want to hear the stories of these valiant heroes and yet, I don't know if I am strong enough to handle the reality they may share with me.

  I thank God for the men and women who so bravely served, I thank Him for all of those who are serving now to keep us safe, and for those who have died so I can freely enjoy the liberties that come with living in the United States of America.

We teach our children about Memorial Day because we want them to know that freedom is not free.  It comes at a great price and should not be taken for granted.  I want them to know why they can wave their flags in peace at a parade, undisturbed. I want them to know why we thank a man in uniform while we are out at Walmart or buy a soldier in front of us his meal at the restaurant.

For now, my children do not know the sound of  wailing sirens, piercing gunfire, or rumbling tanks and for that, I am so very grateful.

 I want my children to appreciate the man sitting silently in the corner of the nursing home, his legs rendered useless, confined to a wheelchair.  I want them to listen as he tells his story of being a pilot during the war and admire the brave soul that is now a dim flicker inside of lonely man, living his last days out in a place where no one knows his story.  A man who cannot remember what he had for breakfast but he remembers the names of those he served with and those who gave their lives for our freedom.

As a Mom I awoke this morning to the sound of birds chirping and I had the security of knowing my babies were tucked safely in their beds.  I knew we would all awake and enjoy a day with Daddy, celebrating family and freedom.  It is easy to take it for granted when the tanks are not outside your window and the mortar shells are not raining down on your city.  

I had a little taste of what it must be like to have your safety stripped from you.  We recently had a murderer loose near our home and there was a huge police force looking for this person.  While the manhunt was underway we had to take precautions.  We did not play outside.  We kept the doors locked at all times and activities were cancelled that would normally take place if such a threat was not afoot.  Everywhere we went there were men in uniform with guns at their side.  We were stopped at road blocks and asked questions.  Helicopters flew over our property and I held my children a little bit closer. I was thankful for the men and women who were working day and night to keep us safe and it helped me to sleep easier knowing that the good guys were out there.  My children had never seen anything like it before but it was a good life lesson that there are bad guys out there. It was a lesson in realizing that life is not guaranteed to be safe and it can all change in a moment.  It was a reminder that every day, there are people putting their lives on the line to protect us.  Their service often goes unnoticed because we don't think about it... we live in a quiet town that is relatively safe. The protection of our military and police  is a constant, a given, that somewhere out there today there is someone safeguarding our city, our state, our country... whether we know them by name or not.  Whether we agree with everything our country stands for or not.  They still serve and protect, no matter what people believe or say or do. These men and women defend everyone's freedoms, even the freedoms of those who protest them.  They are our unsung heroes and today I just want to say "thank you for your sacrifice".


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Joy in the Unexpected

Elderly Woman, B&W image by Chalmers Butterfield from Wikimedia Commons

I saw her across the room, sitting alone at a table.  Her mind distracted as she gazed out the large lobby window that overlooked the garden on the hotel grounds.  Her hair cut short and permed, dyed an Irish red.  Her skin wrinkled by years gone by, a rosy hue adorned her cheeks.  A wonderful blue cardigan brought out the blue of her eyes and as I walked past her table I just had to say "hello".  Her gaze moved from the garden and as our eyes met, she smiled.  As we chatted I discovered we both lived in the same state, not far from each other as a matter of fact.  She was spending the winter at the hotel so she did not have to upkeep her home during the cold winter months that often brought snow storms and power outages.  Her husband passed away several years ago and she had the opportunity to stay in a senior living home but she did not want to "spend her last years waiting to die", she wanted to live where there would be people to talk to, especially children for they brought so much joy to her heart.  So, she discovered that for a reduced fee, the hotel would allow her to stay the winter.  She told me how pleasant the staff was and how they looked out for her.  She pointed out the walking path on the hotel grounds that connected to several other areas where one could stretch their legs.  She told of a book store that she enjoyed frequenting that was just down the road a piece and how she had no need for a vehicle because the local shuttle would bring her anywhere within a two mile radius without charge.  Fortunately all of her needs were provided for in such a short distance = a grocery store, the book store, and a mall where she could people watch and walk on a rainy day.

In the short time we had connected I felt such a deep affection for her.  She was a fascinating, beautiful woman of ninety years old but her spirit was much younger.  My only regret is that I had not lingered longer, she was such a treasure.

When our time came to an end she tenderly touched my arm and thanked me for taking the time to stop and say "hi".  She said "it can get lonely at times, that's the hardest part, but when people like you stop, it brightens my day."  And to think... I almost ignored that still small voice tugging on my heart.  What a shame if I had not stopped, it was such a gift that was given to me to enjoy listening to the heart of another, the giving and receiving of love in such an unexpected way.

Life is made up of so many wonderful little moments like my experience above.  May you find joy in the most unexpected of ways today my dear readers.

With love,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Noticing the Good

Dirty dishes are on the counter, Nerf bullets are scattered here and there (there must have been a Nerf War while I was out grocery shopping), a stack of school books are on the table.  The living room door creaks open and joyful shouts cry out "Momma's home, Momma's home!"  I am embraced, kissed and tugged on.  Everyone begs to help with the groceries.  My two year old drags bags across the floor and to the fridge... canned goods find their way onto the second shelf next to the eggs.  Little Miss lugs the water jugs to the pantry... along with the milk and someone has opened the tomatoes and started snacking.  I cannot help but laugh.  This is my life.  It is big and loud and messy and fun and beautiful all at the same time.

I set the kids up with a snack while I relocate the canned goods to the pantry and place the milk in the refrigerator.  Thank you Lord for this life.

In the midst of the chaos and the mundane is this sweet fullness that comes from having a large family. 

Oh the days with six children in our home are not always easy.  There are sleepless nights, lingering illnesses, sibling squabbles, Mommy temper tantrums, and the struggle just to get through the daily routine.  However, someone is always laughing in this house, even in the midst of the craziness.  I derive great  joy in watching the children play and create together, seeing them gathered around me listening intently as I read from Charlotte's Web, The Bible, or Little Men; watching their faces light up as they giggle and hand me the fifth drawing they made for me that day, gazing out the window as they sled down the hill or have a snowball fight.  This is what I was created for... to raise up these beautiful babes of mine to love and honor the Lord and serve their fellow man.  It is a trying and tiring task but also one that brings joy unparalleled, one that will have rewards far beyond this temporal life.  And how many times do I miss it?  How many times do I blow it?

Maybe I am overtired and so I over react at an incident dissolving a child into tears within a matter of seconds because I speak harshly over something trivial.  There have been times where I ignore what is going on and then when it cannot be ignored any longer I get upset when the blame lies with me for not being available in the beginning.

Far too often I think we do not see our children as little humans, with their own identities and souls. We need to remember that there is an eternal significance to everything we are doing.  Their souls and ours will go on for eternity so what we say and do now, in this life, is important... it has an everlasting impact.

I start supper and watch the children as they set the table and do a quick tidy before dinner.  They are doing what is asked of them and doing it happily.  I stop to praise them... and they smile and stand a little straighter.  Maybe that is what we all need, just a little more understanding and more praise in a world that seems to rush by us, not noticing the good but often focusing on the bad.

It's time for a perspective shift.  Try it today... rather than focusing on Johnny spilling the milk, Susie not picking up her toys, or the food that Timmy left on the side of his plate notice what they did do. 

 "Wow Johnny.  Thank you for trying to pour yourself a cup of milk.  You are becoming such a big boy.  Here, let me help you clean that up." 

 "Susie, the fort you made for your dollies is so neat.  Can you tell me about it?"

"Timmy, thank you for tasting your peas even though you don't like them.  You did a great job eating your pork chop and apples."

Same goes for you Momma... rather than noticing the load of laundry you didn't get to fold notice the smiles on your children's faces because you read them a story instead, or rather than sighing over the sink of dirty dishes that you just don't have the energy to wash look at the satisfied faces around you because you made yet another meal.  Instead of seeing the stretch marks and tired eyes, see the strength that brought forth life and continues to sustain it even in the midst of long days  and sometimes long nights.  You are strong, you are capable, and you are loved... keep up the good work and know I am right here with you, cheering you on.

What are some ways you notice the good in your world?  Please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you. :)



Friday, October 14, 2016

Freedom from Striving

The leaves are changing as the air becomes cooler.  The brilliant hues of gold, orange and red light up our back field and I thank the Lord for bringing us to this place here in the country.  Here I have poured out my heart and soul, I have wept in the fields and looked up to the heavens frantically searching for the one who knows me... and He has answered.  He has been here all along but I haven't truly felt a deep, lasting connection until we came to this place, this haven for my heart.  I have felt connected off and on over the years but never something so intimate as what He has brought me to these past three years.

He has made all things new.  He moved us away from the old ways - our home in the city, our belonging to a large church, and the community we had being in the midst of town, and took us here.  Just a few miles from where we were and yet so much changed.

He gave us this home which has brought a level of peace that is indescribable... safe places for my children to play and my heart to rest easy, beautiful land to remind me of His providence.  He brought us to a place of Home Fellowship that I cannot even begin to explain how that has wrecked me... in a good way.  Everything I have known about my walk with the Lord has been tipped on it's head and I feel like I am a new creation.

I have been saved since I was seven, I have always loved the Lord but I haven't felt this close to him ever.  For years and years my walk has been work based.  I have been living a life in hopes to please God (and please others).  All the while striving, doing, trying to be all God (and others) wants me to be.  If I continue to work on myself then I will get closer to God.  It is kind of like a formula.  With the Lord I figured well, the more I can do, the more I can serve, the closer I will get to Him.  It is the same with my relationships with others.  The more I do, the more I serve, the more I pour out, the more they will love me and accept me.  Right?  Doesn't that make sense?

I like rules, lists to follow... it helps me know where I rate.  If I obey the rules and check off the lists then I am successful, if not , I have failed and failure is not an option.  It's only recently I have learned how damaging that thinking is.  The fact is that, I am not perfect and I will fail, however, God does not turn His back from me when I fail.  God never turns away.   Instead, he extends a scarred hand and helps me up.  He listens to my heart as I apologize and then He shows me a better way, a way where I can succeed, reminding me that when I stumble, He is there to pick me up.  He does not remove His love from me when I fail, I think that is monumental.  He tells me that we are in this together, He and I, seeing my sin for what it is and working together on it... it's not all about me, working alone, trying to get it right.  When I try to do it on my own, I fail.  I think it is a common trapping for humanity, to feel good enough, to think we have to obtain a form of perfection in order to earn love from one another and from God and to think we have to go it alone.  It is a brilliant lie from the devil that keeps us distracted from the truth.

There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more.  There is nothing we can do to make us more righteous in His sight.  We are all sinners, saved by Grace.  His grace is a gift to us.  It was not given out of obligation, or as a reward for something that we have done or will do.  It is a gift of perfect love.  it is a gift, given to everyone, but we have to make the choice to receive that gift.

Trying to be perfect is exhausting not to mention impossible but it was my goal for so long because if I was perfect, or so I thought, then I was loved, then there was peace....  However, I found out that it did not matter how good I was, pain still happened, and being good enough could not fix it.  I tried being the perfect Christian,  the perfect daughter, the perfect friend... I did not want to lose love. I burnt out.

I have learned that I can never please enough and it all ends up being about my striving, my effort, my ability to make something happen.
I haven't trusted who God says I am.  He tells me that:

I am enough!  

He tells me that I am worthy, I am godly, I am a saint, I am righteous and NOTHING I can do can ever make me MORE godly or MORE righteous... its all about what HE did for me not what I can do for Him.  Crazy!  I am sure you guys already have been kicked in the head by that truth but call me slow because I am just jumping onto this freedom train now.

So as I step out into this new found freedom, this crazy love, I am overwhelmed by His grace.  My value is in living out of who God says I am.  He paid an infinite price to redeem me and give me a new identity and the way I can show Him I value this identity is to trust what He says about me is true.

Butterfly by TanoyPhoto, on Flickr
I have always seen myself as the caterpillar but never the butterfly.  The caterpillar's makeup, it's DNA,  is a butterfly.  It looks nothing like a butterfly on the outside,  but inside it is wired completely like a butterfly.  (stay with me)  The caterpillar matures into what is already true about it!  Scolding a caterpillar for not being more like a butterfly is pointless.  He already is a butterfly, he just hasn't matured completely.  He is on a journey.  So it is with us... with me.  God has given us the DNA of godliness, we are saints, we are righteous.  Nothing we do will make us more righteous than we already are.  We may be the caterpillar right now as we journey towards becoming more and more like Christ but eventually, we will come out on the other side of the process as a butterfly.   Is that crazy cool or what?  My mind is blown by this realization.

I have thought I could achieve godliness by striving  and gain love and acceptance by serving.  All I need to do is work a little harder... me... my effort, my work, my doing.  Trusting in my own self instead of God.

Then the light bulb went on: My relationship with Him is not about how little I have sinned or how much I have served but how much I let Him love me.

It is not about my self effort... it is about allowing God to live His life THROUGH me.  We work together.  Him in me.

I was not operating out of the truth that I am already godly...  I was striving to BE godly.  But God has brought me to the wilderness to mature me and to show me I am already godly. I am already the butterfly.  Now I need to live like that. My works based relationship with God put the responsibility on my own resources but when I live out of a grace based relationship then the responsibility is on the resources of God.  And his resources are limitless!

I always thought that God was interested in changing me but He already HAS.  He wants me to believe that I AM changed so he can get on with the process of maturing me into WHO I ALREADY AM.  If I am not trusting Him then I will still be trying to change myself on my own, in hopes of becoming godly, rather than accepting His gift, His truth, that says I am already godly because He is dwelling in me.  His spirit is at work in me making me a new creation as I mature into the image of Christ.  Are you following me?  I know this is crazy and deep (maybe it is not as revolutionary for you because you haven't been chained down by a works based theology but whoa... I'm still reeling).  

I know this was a mouthful but I wanted to share with you what the Lord is doing in my life and the incredible freedom I am experiencing as I bask in His love for me and press on towards His glory. 

I love you all!

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2

FREEDOM! (in my best Braveheart voice).

 - Dawna - 

(To be inspired more check out the book True Faced by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch.  Many of the above concepts came from this book and have rocked my world.)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Why We Homeschool

We are a family who home schools.  When Mr. Wonderful and I were courting he let me know that if we were blessed with children that his desire was for them to be home schooled.  My reply was:
"No problem Mr. Adorable.  I will follow you to the ends of the earth."

Well, fast forward seventeen years and six kids later and this home schooling thing is tough with a capital T.  However, anything worth having is not easy.

So, why DO we home school?
(none of the links below are affiliate links, meaning I do not make money from them.  They are just to help you see what I am talking about in case you are interested.)

* We want to give our children a learning environment where they can pursue their passions and learn at their own pace.
In a home school setting I can modify our lessons for each child. If one is struggling then I can give them more attention in the area that is difficult or if one is advanced, we can master the material and move on.   As the teacher of my children, I truly know my students and  what makes them tick, so I can invest in their passions.

When we read about  Medieval Knights and my son did not stop donning a cape and knight helmet.  Well, I let him go with it.  We grabbed every book we could find and dove into the world of chivalry, dragons, damsels in distress, and the Knights of the Round Table.  We would read around candle light, had a jousting match and ended our days of discovery with a Medieval Feast. When you teach to your child's passions,  I can assure you that your child will remember what he/she loves.  My son still talks about his Medieval Feast.  :)

It has benefited us greatly to know what our children's learning styles are and to make sure we are teaching to that style. We have visual learners, kinetic learners, and auditory learners.  We have those who like to be more social and others who prefer to be by themselves.  Knowing how my children  learn helps me to teach to fit their needs.

Cathy Duffy has a wonderful book called 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and it has an overview of learning styles and teaching styles that is invaluable.  She goes on to outline some major curricula and what learning style they fall under.  Your local library should have a copy for you to check out.  I find it a valuable resource in our home and review it every few years to help focus my attention in case anyone's learning style has changed.

* We want to instill in our children the morals and values that are rapidly declining in our culture.  

Common courtesy, opening the door for a lady, saying "please" and "thank you", addressing adults as Mr. and Mrs./Ms. , helping with chores, and other manners are becoming increasingly scarce.  The lack of respect is palpable in today's culture.  There are things we want our children to know and value and by teaching them in our home they are not influenced by the outside world at such young, tender ages before they are weathered and strong.

*We teach to the heart first.

 We value those things in our children's lives that will transcend this world and enter the eternal.  Their spirits will last for all eternity so I want to make sure their spirits are just as strong, if not stronger, than their intellect.  Mind, body and spirit is all connected but we often forget that.  We need to be training up our children in each of these areas so they will be ready to face the world and it's challenges when they leave our nests.

A  child can be intellectual and be a jerk.  It is our desire to raise children who respect their fellow man, who have compassion towards others, who lavish love on those around them whether they are deserving of it or not. We want them to exhibit the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in their lives for it would not matter how smart you are, if you do not have love or compassion, people will not want to follow you or be with you.  Good leaders lead by example whether you are leading a group of soldiers, rallying together fellow athletes, engaging co-workers to attempt something challenging, or leading the children entrusted to your care.  We need to instill in their hearts good things so they will overflow into the lives of others and make a difference in their own world and beyond.  What we are doing now does not just impact our own little family, it will impact generations to come!  Which is why being a parent is a pretty big deal.

* We do not want our children to be placed into a box.  No two children are alike and likewise children have different learning styles.  You cannot fit them in a box and expect wonder and passion for learning to survive after 12 or 13 years of conformity. 

Think of your children as seedlings in a garden.  We plant them into tilled soil that we have worked hard to prepare.  The ground is soft and warm and we plant our fragile seedlings into that soil hoping they will take root and grow strong.  In a home environment we tend the garden regularly because it is right before us, easily accessible and we  love our little plants.  We weed around them and make sure they are receiving enough water. If they get crowded by other plants we can move them to where it is best for them to thrive.  The goal is to establish well rooted plants that will grow and bear an abundance of fruit.  Because I have an intimate relationship with the plants in my garden, I can tell if one needs some tender care, or if one needs pruning to bring about more fruit.  I am the gardener and I know that which is entrusted to me.

  If we take that same little seedling and transplant it into the cold, hard ground of a traditional institution, it may still survive, but it will not grow as strong as it would have in it's original environment.  It will be planted with thirty or forty  other plants all close together.  Weeds may choke out the other plants robbing them of soil moisture, nutrients and affecting their maturity, other plants may sprout up faster and steal the much needed sunlight from your little plant, causing your plant to be stunted.   Your young plant might need some extra water or fertilizer but it might not be his day to receive this much needed extra attention so he needs to wait, all the while he starts to wither.  It is not the gardener's fault... he has been given an enormous task of tending to so many plants at one time.  His job is to have them each produce fruit.  It doesn't matter how much fruit, he just needs one berry from each plant to have done his job.  He has to stick to a boxed curriculum and teach to the standard - everyone needs to fit into the box he has been given and if they don't then he must conform them to the mold so at the end of the year all of his little plants are in the box he was given at the beginning of the year, ready to be shipped off to the next level.  It does not matter if some are taller than others and have produced an abundance of fruit, or if some are suffering from blight or aphids, as long as they have each produced one fruit, then they can be boxed up with the rest and moved on to the next level.

It is hard in a system that is designed as "one size fits all" to cultivate curiosity and wonder.  You have to move on at the same pace as everyone else... there is no stopping and lingering over topics that interest you, there is no slowing down if one child is not grasping the information, and there is no speeding up for those who have already mastered these facts.

Please hear me out, I am not saying teachers are bad.  Teachers are a blessing however the school system has come a long way of what it used to be.  It used to be a place of knowledge and discovery.  A place where wonder came alive but now we just try to get them through the hoops so they can score well on the test, forget the material and move on to the next subject.  Children are not retaining information like they used to.  We teach to test and then most of what is taught is forgotten.  Why?  Because children do not learn best in a lecture environment.  They need a variety of learning approaches and small groups to discuss and sharpen one another.  It is the same way we learn.  Would you prefer to sit in a lecture for an hour and a half (or longer) staring at the back of someone's head while taking notes and then move on to the next lecture at the sound of a bell, or would you rather learn the same thing by a hands on activity, reading a relevant, engaging book on the topic and then discussing it with friends over a great cup of coffee?    We will talk more about how we homeschool in a different post but for now... we will continue with the whys.  :)

* We want our children to have the freedom to be children.

The school bus goes by here at 6:30 in the morning and does not come back  until 3pm and later.  The average school day in the US is about six and a half hours.  That does not include travel time or extracurricular activities.  Some parents don't see their children until bed time because their kids are involved in dance and other activities.  So, that means, on average:
a) someone else is influencing your child for roughly 1200+ hours/school year or 33+ hours a week.
b) during those 33 hours a week how much time does your child get to be a child?  Are they able to climb trees, play tag, draw, curl up and read a book uninterrupted, explore their passion of tinkering with broken electronics, play dolls, build with Legos, play in the dirt...?

We no longer protect our children's childhood, we prepare them for adulthood.  With the rise of two income families in the 1970's and increase in the divorce rate, children's lives were altered.  Increase in television/internet/video games has only led to a decrease in adult supervision.  What used to be unheard of (children drinking, doing drugs, exposed to sexually explicit material or having sex) is now becoming the norm.

 Annie Hermann puts it like this: 
''Innocence, once considered the right of children, may be seen as simply the absence of weight and burden. Maturity, meanwhile, may be defined as the capacity to carry a burden successfully. But if you are given the heavy burden of knowledge before you have the capacity to deal with it -and knowledge is burdensome, because it requires mental and psychological work to deal with it - the results may be those distressing signs parents and teachers are observing among children today: confusion, fear, feelings of incompetence. Children grow up not really able to deal with difficulties, and they learn that the best way to deal with problems is to escape, through drugs or drink or whatever. "(New York Times "The Loss of Childhood" 1989)

Children should be able to enjoy play, imagination, pursuit of adventure.  Children and adults are not equal and children do not prosper when they are treated as equal.  Our children need to know that they are unique and special and that they are made up differently than adults.  They do not need to know all that adults know... they should be protected under adult supervision.  It is not to say we should shelter them from everything, but we should strive to preserve their innocence, their childhood, for as long as possible because once it is gone, there is no getting it back.

* Healthy Socialization
"It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
Frederick Douglass

In a world where we hear about bullying, peer pressure, gangs, violence, abuse, drugs, etc., we desire to give our children something better.  

We did not think it would be healthy for our children to be around 30 people of the same age day in and day out.  It does not teach diversity.  You end up being like those around you and a bunch of 8 year olds are probably not the best influence on your 8 year old, every single day. It is fine for peer connection or a birthday party but they are not going to have the benefit of learning from various age groups when we segregate them by their birthday and grade level.  

   Whether we are running errands, attending co op, going to choir or drama class that is offered to a variety of grades, visiting the nursing home, being a part of 4H, serving in the community, being on the local sports team, etc... we are getting a lot of socialization in any given week.  The primary way our children learn how to be social is from nurturing adults rather than their peers, who are still learning themselves.  We as parents give our children the skills to interact with other people and we can also protect them from those who would cause them harm.  

  Homeschooling has actually given us more opportunities for regular interaction with a variety of ages in an array of settings whether we are attending a ball, throwing a game day, meeting up with friends at the museum, going on a hike as a family, or cheering for one of our kids on the soccer field... each day brings something that has us interact and grow closer with our family, friends, and/or community.

* We want to spend these precious years with our children.  The days are long but the years are short and we don't want to miss out on them.
We only have our children in our home for a short while. We do not want to take that time for granted because as we all know, it goes by WAY too fast.  The more time I have with my children the stronger our relationship will be.  I don't want to give my children away during the best hours of the day when they are happy.  It is so much fun to be able to be together and lift one another up, play games, enjoy the outdoors, learn side by side and further our relationships with one another.  It's truly beautiful.  Yes, there will be hard moments and hard days but at the end of this life I will not be pining away about how hard it was to be home with my children all the time.  I will be thankful for these formative years and the memories we are able to build and share with one another.  

So that is why we do what we do.  In the near future I will share about how we homeschool.

Have a blessed Autumn!


Monday, February 22, 2016

5 Tips to Keeping Your Home Tidy

I like order and enjoy a tidy home.  However, I don't like things sterile.  My house echoes the fact that I have a large family, one with lots of littles.  We can keep our homes in order even in the midst of toddlers and teens by practicing a few daily habits.  Here are my five top tips for keeping things tidy.

1. Make the bed!

It is amazing how clean a room looks when the bed is made.  Once your feet hit the floor in the morning, take two minutes and make your bed.  It gives you a sense of accomplishment and starts your day off right.  Teach your children to do the same.  Put covers/bedding on their beds that are easy for them to pull up and over the pillow.  One Mom I know lets her younger ones use sleeping bags on top of their beds for easy bed making.  :)

2. Contain It!
We have a variety of containers throughout our house in areas where they are most needed.  Collapsible containers from The Christmas Tree shop, stacked on a shelf, provide a wonderful spot for toys. At $1 a piece they are easy on the pocket book and come in a variety of colors that are easy on the eyes.  :)   Wicker baskets, tins, photo boxes... there are so many options.  We use containers in the kitchen to keep utensils together and produce within view.  We use baskets in the living areas to corral the kids toys so they are not all over the floor and are within easy reach so the kids can pick up in no time at all.  We label the containers so the children, and guests, know where items belong.  Example: Label a basket "Cars" or "Candles" depending what the item is you are containing.
Having a place for your items is so helpful.

It has also been awesome to have a container for paper.  We have a hot spot on our counter that seems to collect paper and such.  By putting a pretty box with a lid in that area I can corral all the paper and then go through it on the weekend when I pay the bills.  That way nothing is misplaced/lost and it stays out of sight.  The children even know what to do with paper when they are helping tidy... they just put it in the box.  :)

3. Keep counters clear.
This one is easier said than done in our home.  Our kitchen is the first room you walk into in our abode and we have little counter space.  It is easy for dishes to stack up, papers to collect, and all manner of trinkets to find their way to the counter.  To help with this I keep an empty dishpan under the sink to collect dishes that cannot go immediately into the dishwasher.  I also have the children scan the counters periodically for items that they have placed there.  If I find items that belong to them then they go into a holding  basket for a week unless they earn them back.  I find it much easier to cook dinner and remain to have a sense of accomplishment if my counters are clear.

*Another tip: I keep my dish drying rack off the counter when it is empty so it does not take up such valuable space.  I have a spot for it nearby but it would also fit under my sink if needed or on top of the refrigerator.

4. Have set times during the day where you tidy.

This is not a deep cleaning, this is a quick, efficient tidy.  We set the timer for 15 minutes and we all work together to do a tidy two to three times a day; before school, before Daddy gets home and before bed.  I assign everyone a zone (living room, dining area, kitchen...) and they just pick up what is in that room that needs to be taken care of.  It is really helpful and when we work as a team it is amazing how fast it goes.  We often beat the clock by 5 or more minutes.  Play music to keep the mood light.

5. Focus on a zone.
I have divided our home into zones... the kitchen is a zone, bathrooms are a zone, the living room and dining room are each a zone, and the bedrooms are a combined zone.  Each day we have a specific zone that we focus on and we pamper that area of the house.  We look high and low and notice what needs our attention... cobwebs on the ceiling, finger prints on the windows, dust collecting on the baseboards, this is when we tackle that area.  Again, when we all work together it goes by quickly.  I set the timer, each person has their assignment and we get it done.  When the timer dings we are done.  If everything did not get completed that is alright, we can jump in where we left off next week.  This little sanity saver keeps me from doing a spring cleaning each year.  Now, there are days when we miss a zone and that is alright.  Things happen.  I just start off on the day we are on with the assigned zone.  Example: Mondays are bathrooms, Tuesdays we are in the kitchen, Wednesday it is the dining room and sitting area and so on.  If I miss Tuesdays due to unexpected events then I just pick up with the dining room on Wednesday and we will get back to the kitchen the following week.  :)

These small steps have made life with many littles much more manageable.  Is my house Martha Stewart ready, uh, nope... but it is tidy and still says "love lives here".

Now it is your turn.  Please leave a comment below telling us about some of your tips to keeping order in your home.

Cheering you on,

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Freedom of Being Vulnerable

  The wind sweeps across the field as if looking for something precious.  She swirls the snow with force as she mournfully cries.  I shudder and feel her desperation. Day turns to night and in the light of the moon she's still searching, her pleas reach my ears and I cannot help but feel alone.

 I listen to her lament.

 My soul is unsettled.

 Her song fades into the background as I think about my own pain, my own loss; and like the wind, I search futilely for what I could have said or done differently to prevent the heartache.  Back and forth I scan the events that transpired and the words spoken.  They replay in my mind over and over as I drift off into a restless sleep.  Anxiety rises up like a great wave threatening to crash over me and sweep me out into the dark nothingness.  I cry out for help.  My arm reaches up for safety but no one is there.  The wave crashes over me and I succumb to it's force.  I sink deeper and deeper until I can no longer see the light... my body becomes numb, despair engulfs me and then:

PEACE. Be still.

A light so blinding, so brilliantly white, surrounds me.  A warmth pervades my inner most being.  The sadness, the pain, they are still there but are more like a memory, they do not hold the same sting.  I am placed on solid ground , a blanket is about me as I look out over a gray, green sea and again:

PEACE. Be still.

I awake from my dream, the blankets still clutched tight near my chin.  As I think about events in my life I am reminded that it's not me. There are things and relationships that I cannot fix. In fact, I dare say, I cannot truly fix anything.  The fixing is up to God and currently my role is to just be still and to acknowledge that we all have hurts... vulnerable places that the Lord wants to heal.  However, the true healing, lasting peace, can only begin with surrender.

 Today I surrender control, guilt, pride, shame, fear and the bondage that they bring.

I will try to no longer look in the mirror saying "I am not good enough" because that is a lie.  I AM good enough, good enough for God to die for and adore.  I am worthy not in and of myself, I am worthy because He loves me.

And YOU are worthy!!!

I have been on a quest for authenticity for years.  I honestly desire for people to see the real me.  I try to be transparent with those I know, including you my beloved readers.  Sometimes that means I get hurt.  At those times, I have two options:

1. I can sink back into old habits, covering up those areas of my life that others find offensive in order to find approval.
2. I can continue to be who God has called me to be and to not be ashamed, remembering that my value comes from Him and Him alone and not from my relationships, my ministry, or what I do.

 Ever since I was a little girl I have loved people, have longed for deep relationship and have found joy in serving others.  Fast forward 35 years and so much of that little girl still remains.  There have been bumps, bruises and traumas along the way, but each has been a lesson.  A practice to show compassion or a stumbling block to feed my hurt and anger.  I have unfortunately done both.  However I am more aware now.

I am aware of the vulnerable world we live in and how I am susceptible to it and I am grateful.  I am grateful because I now know that through the pain and the hurt there is also joy and healing.  If I were to numb the pain I would also be numbing the joy for you cannot selectively numb emotion.  It is all or nothing.  So although the trials are hard and painful I am grateful for them because they have taught me how to be free and have shown me that I am valued, I am worthy and I am enough.

I stand before the window, the stars are twinkling across the velvet sky.  I pull the blanket around my shoulders and watch the moon cast it's beams across the frozen field.  I'm vulnerable.. exposed... and yet that is okay because I have peace.

Peace in the stillness.

I stop and listen.. the wind has softened.  The frantic searching is over and her wailing has turned to a soft whisper.  She must have found what she was looking for.