December 28, 2013

2014-Less and More

I've been mulling over what word I want to use for 2014 and came up with 2: less and more.  I know that seems like two odd words to put together, but here is what's been going through my mind:

Father, in 2014, help me to have:
Less distraction and More time in Your word.
Less time with technology and More intentional non-school time with the kids.
Less time wasted doing nothing and More time making our house a home.
Less sitting on the couch, eating junk food and More exercise and eating nutritious foods, not so that I look better, but so that I am healthier and will be around for my family longer (hopefully).
Less time worrying about what I look like in the mirror and More time working on the inside and becoming more like Christ.
Less time doing all the "extra" things and More time spent with friends and family doing the IMPORTANT things.
Less time focused on myself (what I want) and More time focused on serving others in His name.
Less time thinking the house is too messy for others to see and More time spent gathering around the table with guests who become family.
Less time thinking of all the things on my to-do list and More time enjoying life and all the amazing blessings God has given me.
Less time yelling, crying, and asking "why" and More time listening, loving, speaking gently, and listing gifts.

Lord, I know that my year of being intentional wasn't perfect, but I saw so many changes and blessings in my life as a result.  As I look ahead into 2014, help me to see where I need less me, less temporal and more You.  Then, Lord, give me boldness to take the steps I need to take to remove anything that doesn't glorify or point others to You.  Give me a joyous heart and lifestyle so that others can see it's about You, not the circumstances.  Lord, move in ways only You can!  I turn 2014 over to You and look forward to all the amazing things I'll be able to see You do in my life, Kevin's life, our kid's lives, and in the lives of all those around us.

December 26, 2013

Of Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, and Admitting My Opinion Doesn't Matter

I am afraid that I inadvertently hurt some feelings with a facebook status on Christmas day.  I hope that most people know me well enough to know that I honestly didn't intend to offend anyone or brag about what we were doing.  I was honestly very overwhelmed when I woke up on Christmas day with the awesomeness of the Truth that God is with us. If I offended you with my facebook post, I am truly sorry and I hope that it will not cause harm to our friendship.  I have a sweet friend who is on a plane today headed to meet her son, after more than a year of waiting and hoping and praying and trusting.  As I woke up the day before she boarded a plane to bring her son home, I was overwhelmed with the thought of the people of Israel, waiting for centuries for their promised Messiah, and the knowledge that HE'S HERE!  I could hardly keep the tears from falling as I sat there in the dark, everyone else still sleeping.  I was genuinely grateful that I didn't need to interrupt that feeling and thought process to show my kids what "Santa" brought them.  This year just seemed so much more special to us as we looked ahead to celebrating Christmas.

Now, I do not think that you are a sinner or bad parent for doing Santa with your kids.  We watch movies and read books that have Santa in them, but we have talked about the fact he is not real, but based on a real person who loved Jesus and wanted to follow His example of loving others with all he had.  No presents in our house come from Santa (initially because of laziness and just not wanting to go to all the trouble, now for other reasons).  For our family, this was the right decision.  Admittedly, I am a little jealous of the families that are able to honor Christ, celebrate His birth to the fullest, and include Santa in a way that still points to Christ.  But, I know that we are not that family.  I like to think that I multi-task well, but the truth is, I really don't.  I know that there's no way I could do Santa and Jesus and truly give Jesus the honor that He is due.  I know many others that can do that and I wish, at many times, that I could be like them.  Also, my children, like their mother, tend to be pretty inward focused and we have to work very hard against that.  I know that not all children struggle with this.  I have no been creative enough to figure out how to do Santa and not make it all about them. Maybe I am just not creative enough.

I'll go ahead and admit now that we also don't do the Tooth Fairy.  This is a direct result of the fact that we don't do Santa.  We though that if we weren't going to pretend Santa was real, it would be silly to pretend that the Tooth Fairy is real.  Fortunately, we have some friends at church that gave us a fun Tooth Fairy replacement idea and now it's a fun game for all of us!

But, the biggest thing I want to say here is that what I think about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or anything else, doesn't really matter to others, or it shouldn't.  We are doing what we feel God has asked us to do.  It may not be the same thing He has asked you to do.  I don't condemn anyone who celebrates differently, just as I don't condemn those who are being obedient and not homeschooling.  The most important thing for you and me to do is to OBEY.  Sometimes that's hard and lonely and makes you feel left out.  But I encourage you to do it anyway.  It's always the best option, even if it doesn't feel like it.  Even if it makes you different from everyone else in your family, church, or community.  If it's what God has asked you do to .  Do it!

I pray that God will strengthen all of us to step out boldly in obedience in all areas of life, no matter the sacrifice involved.  I know that's what I am praying for myself, a changed heart that desires Christ and obedience to Him in all things.  To think of Him before I think of the cost.  To be an example of faith and love and trust and obedience to Him that will point my children to Him in all things.  Sometimes I'll get it right, sometimes I'll have to ask for forgiveness from Him and my children and try again.  But I pray that I will always keep striving to be like Him!

December 25, 2013

The War Within Me

Ok, so really, I have many wars within me....and today has been no exception.  But, today, in the midst of Christmas and presents and saying no to Santa (maybe if I get brave enough one day that will another blog topic) and spending time with family God really hit me with my need to hand my children's souls over to Him...and leave them there.

E has had a rough day today.  He loves to be around other kids, especially boys, but when this happens he becomes almost a completely different person.  He forgets all rules, thinks nothing of the others around him, and just does whatever he wants.  Which, of course, usually lands him in trouble.  Again, today was no exception.  After being spoken to several times about his poor choices and selfish attitude, I was done.  He was sent upstairs to our room until he could change his attitude.  He was up there so long he fell asleep.

I felt so hopeless.  I just wanted to collapse on the bed and cry.  I couldn't help but start comparing my little man and his bad behavior to all the little ones I know his age who, to me on the outside, seem so together, nice, and always obedient.  I actually wanted to just ask God if it was ever going to be possible for his little heart to change.  What was I going to do with the thought that he would never change, never seek God, never want to know anything more about Christ?  (Drama queen much?!?!)

Then, I went over and picked him up. I held him while he slept.  My heart melted.  I immediately asked God to forgive me for doubting that God could change his heart.  I was reminded that the saving of his soul, the calling of this little one, is not up to me. The Spirit will do the work.  Now, I do have some work I need to do so he can know as much Truth as possible, but teaching and praying is the end of what I can do (though both are big things).  The rest is God.  I cannot give up hope.  God can change any heart at any time.  What a comforting and hope-filled thought!

Lord, draw my children to You.  Show me how to teach them and pray for them.  Show me how to trust their souls to You.  Do mighty things in their hearts and lives!

December 13, 2013

Ruth and Esther

As I was doing my Advent devotional today (which was about Ruth), I was struck by something.  There are only two books of the Bible named after women, and both of those books seem so different from many of the others.  The book of Ruth just seems so mundane.  Nothing extraordinary or miraculous (at first glance.)  The book of Esther is one of the few in the Bible that doesn't even mention God's name.  Without an understanding of the sovereignty of God it seems He's not even in the book (but we know better, don't we?)  And I was really struck by how much that is so like women, or well, at least this woman.  We look at things and compare them to something else and what we have, where we are, always seems so much less, so much more mundane and nothing special than what everyone else has.  It's easy to look at our lives in comparison to someone else's and think, "God is doing so much there, why isn't He doing anything here?"  It's so easy to get lost in the everyday dishes, work, laundry, and mess that we don't see the hand of God guiding each moment, giving us gift after gift, and setting things in place just "so" in order that He may be glorified.

Both of these books seem that way to, when you only read them once or just glance through them to get that reading plan finished.  But, both books scream of God's sovereignty, wisdom, provision, and love for us.  Do we really think that Ruth "just happened" to end up in the field of the ONLY man who could be her kinsman-redeemer?  Do we really miss that amazing picture of what Christ came to do for us?  Do we see length God went to in order to bring His son to rescue and redeem His people?  Do we miss how clearly God shows us that any and all are welcome, even a Moabite widow?  Do we miss that the Son of God came from that line of Ruth and Boaz?  How could we say there is nothing miraculous in this story?  The same way we miss the miracles all around us everyday.  We miss it when all we see is a sink of dirty dishes, clothes piled next to the laundry basket, a workload we don't even want to think about, and a calendar that barely leaves time to breathe, let alone spend time with our Creator.  I am as guilty as any when it comes to this.  Do we know how much of a miracle it is that any of us can even have children?  What a miracle it is that we wake up each morning?  Everything around us is a miraculous gift from a Creator who loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine.

And what about the book of Esther?  I have a hard time reading that book and not seeing God's fingerprints all over it, but don't I fail to see God's fingerprints in my life everyday? I constantly think He's not there, not listening, not working, not moving.  But is He?  Yes!  He is always in control, even when I don't see it or feel it.  I cannot doubt that when I look back and see His fingerprints, so I must believe His fingerprints are there right now, too, even though I cannot see them, yet.

There's really nothing deep or theological here, I just thought it was so amazing that our God knows us so well.  He gave us two books, named after women, that totally fit the way women think and feel...well, at least fit the way I think and feel.  I never really thought about it until this morning and it was just another reason to praise my God.  Lord, thank You for Your word.  Thank You for knowing us and loving us, despite our sin.  Thank You for showing me that You are always in control and You are moving at all times, even when I don't see it!  Thank You for reminding me that there are miracles happening all around me, everyday, if I would only take the time to see them.

December 09, 2013

Thinking of 2014

As 2013 comes to a close I feel like my brain is a big, jumbled mess.  Emotions are high, sleep is low, and my brain is no longer functioning!  I am still baffled as to how it's already almost halfway through December. Wasn't 2013 just beginning like last week?  Where has the time gone? It's hard not to be contemplative at this time of year; what did I accomplish this year, did I even come close to living out that word I chose for 2013 ("intentional"), what do I want next year to look like, what changes to I want to make as the new year dawns?

I've been thinking about my "theme" or "word" for 2014...and just like my jumbled brain, so many things have come to mind:
---"LESS"  This was one of the first words that came to mind as I began to think about next year.  Less stress.  Less chaos.  Less mess.  Less distractions.  Less schedule.  Less saying no to fun times with the kids. Less screen time.  Less being glued to the phone.
---"SAY NO"  Learn to say to things that will interfere with my most important roles (for this season): wife and mother.  Learn to say no in a nice, loving way.  Learn to say no because sometimes, it's the best thing for all involved.
---"SLOW DOWN"  Take some time to just enjoy the moments, big and small.  Slow down and see the people around me.  Slow down and seize each teachable moment.  Slow down and see God's hand, even where I think it couldn't possibly be there.
---"BE STILL" Simply be still....and know that He is God, that He is here, that His hand is in all things, that all is Grace, that I am not the one in control.

As you can see, there are lots of words, though they are all leaning in one direction.  Still seeking God's direction for the new year.  I am looking forward to seeing all that He will do in my heart, my children's lives, my marriage, our little family, our church, and our community in the next year.  I look forward to learning more about and practicing Sabbath rest, individually and as a family.  I know that we need more of that in this house.

Have you been thinking about your "word" for 2014?  What will it be?

November 07, 2013

A Little Help From My Friends

I wanted to let you know about an opportunity to help put shoes on the feet of people in Africa, while also providing work for women there, who make the shoes.

As most of you probably know, I hosted a Sole Hope shoe cutting party for my 35th birthday last month.  Sole Hope sent us patterns, we used old jeans and recycled milk cartons to cut out all the pieces that it takes to make the shoes.  These pieces will then be sent to Sole Hope where the women in Africa will be paid to make shoes out of them.  These shoes will be handed to adults and children once they have had the jiggers removed from their feet in hopes that the horrible diseases these bugs cause can be lowered.  Lowering the rate of these foot-related diseases dramatically improves the quality of life for those receiving the shoes.  Check out the pics from my party:






Here is my request: Sole Hope asks that those who host a party send a $10 donation for each pair of shoes that will be made from the patterns they cut out.  My hope was that we would end up with 10 pairs of shoes by the end of the night.  I was blown away when we completed 30 PAIRS OF SHOES!!!!  I am so excited!  Though, this does present me with a dilemma...the cost I need to send with the shoes is more than I was expecting or budgeting for.  The first 20 pairs of shoes have been covered thanks to the ladies who attended the party, monetary gifts I received for my birthday, and donations from some amazing people.  So, I still need the money for the other 10 pairs of shoes.  Would you be willing to donate just $10 for to help a pair of shoes make their way onto the feet of someone in Africa?  If you are willing, drop me an email or Facebook message and I'll get you the information you need to make out a check and my mailing address (if you're from out of town) so I can send the money in with the shoes. 

I feel so blessed to be part of this amazing ministry.  It is so much fun to sit and cut out these patterns.  I look forward to being able to do this as a family in the next few years (the kids are still a bit young to be able to do it correctly, yet.)  Thank you in advance to those who will participate.  We will never truly know the impact these shoes will have on lives there in Africa, from the ladies who will make the shoes, those who will give out the shoes, to those who will receive the shoes.  I just know God will do amazing things!

November 06, 2013

A Little Bit of Follow-Up and a Whole Lot of Randomness

I have to admit, I didn't take the 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor to the full 40 days.  I did take it all the way through the month of October and, while I wasn't as strict with it as the author was, it did open my eyes about some things:
-I am so used to having food whenever I want in pretty much any amount I want, so it didn't take long for me to be hungry.  And no matter how hungry I was, I couldn't help but realize it was nothing compared the hunger people around the world feel.  My last meal was, at the most, 4 or so hours before, but their last meal could have been days ago.  I can't even imagine that kind of hunger.
-It helped me to see why people might do unsavory things to get food when they are that hungry, particularly if their children were that hungry.  I would never want my child to feel that way and I don't know what I would do if we were in that situation.  My heart was broken at the thought of families without enough food.  Again, I just can't even imagine.
-Though I didn't have as much money left over in my grocery budget as I was hoping, I did have enough left over to buy quite a few groceries to donate to our church's food pantry.  Shortly before I went to the store, I saw a blog someone shared on Facebook about food pantries.  It was a blog encouraging people to really think about what they donate.  Don't just go through your pantry and toss out whatever your family decided they didn't like.  Be intentional.  Shop for the food pantry as if you were shopping for your own family.  You can really show love and care by the food choices that you give others when you donate.  This really touched me and I tried very hard to do just that.  I tried to imagine trying to get a nice fall meal together, or maybe even a Thanksgiving dinner.  I tried to get as many healthy options as I could and I truly tried to shop as if I were shopping for my own family.  My children even helped pick out items they would enjoy so we could send some things kids would enjoy, as well.  I feel so blessed that I was able to have the extra money to do something like this, and all I had to do was eat a little less and stick to what was already in my pantry.  I have been blessed far beyond measure and I feel even more blessed to be able to share.  Lord, thank You for opening my eyes to the humiliation and pain and despair lack of food causes.  Thank You for the humbleness it brought me to feel hungry.  Thank You for allowing me to help others by this gift of food.  Show me how to be more consistent and intentional with this ministry of our church.  Please bless those who receive this food and use it to draw their families to You.

I love good television and movies.  I love actors who are amazing at non-verbal communication.  I love watching theatre/movies/TV that have me laughing one minutes and crying the next.  I love the power that acting holds.  I love that even 5 minutes of great acting can change your mood, change the course of your whole day, and spur you on to bigger and better things.  I love that a good book can do the same thing.  I love that a piece of music has such great influence in a heart.  I love that a beautiful painting or piece of art can move the heart of the old and young.  The arts are amazing!  I love that my sweet Sophie loves to draw, create, talk in silly accents, dance to any kind of music, gets into radio dramas, and loves movies.  I love that I can take a stage, completely change who I am, and I hold the hearts and minds of all in the audience in the palm of my hand.  What a great responsibility!  No wonder God used parables and eccentric prophets to tell His message to His people.  (I cannot wait to see Steel Magnolias next week at HLGU!  Sabrina, thanks for always doing such high-quality productions.  I love watching them, I love helping with them, I love hearing others talk about how great they were!  You are doing great things and, yes, I am a bit jealous you get to be right at the heart!)

Lord, move in amazing ways in my heart and in my family.  Give us all a hunger and thirst for You and Your word that cannot be quenched.  Help me to see each teachable moment, seize them, and point my children always to You.  Help me to be more consistent with my time in the Word.  Lord, help me to be a woman of prayer at all times.  Show me how to truly pray without ceasing.  Lord, make me more like You each day in all I do so that others see only You when they look at me.

October 24, 2013

Pure Randomness!

Just some randomness swimming in my head:

-Duck Dynasty is really funny!
-We started learning about the Middle Ages this week.  We are going to LOVE this!  So far we're still in the Dark Ages, but it's been really fun.  We've learned about life for the poor and wealthy at the time and about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  We've read lots of fun books and even watched a few fun movies/documentaries.  Looking forward to the rest of the year as we look at this time in history.
-I've switched things up a bit with the fast.  I am still doing my best to avoid snacking (and I must say, until now I had no idea how much snacking I do in a day!!!), but I am back to eating lunch.  I feel a bit guilty about it, but not eating lunch, combined with not snacking, was giving me headaches.  So, I decided it was probably best for everyone for me to eat at least a little for lunch. I have been feeling much better, but I feel a bit guilty that I couldn't handle an afternoon of not feeling well because of a lack of food when there are so many out there that live with that day in and day out, without a choice.  When the headache comes, they can't run to the fridge or the pantry.  As hungry as I think I am, it's nothing compared to what many children feel constantly.  I can't even last one day!  Of course, this just also points me to God's sovereignty, yet again, that He put me in a time and place where I am not living that way.  Lord, help me to find the balance of giving to others what they need, yet living the life You have called me to here.
-I love Christmas music!  Seriously, it is some of the best, most well-written music and should be listened to and sung all year long!  (OK, not like Jingle Bells, but those good, Scripturally-based songs.)  Our Name That Tune game with Christmas music in Family Quest tonight was so fun.  I think we'll be making the switch to Christmas music now!
-I am so thankful that I have a husband who loves me so much and knows me so well! What a blessing that is to me.  And he's such a great daddy to our children, too.  So blessed!
-When you return to kettlebell class for the first time in 2 weeks, you'll be really sore the next day.  Even when it was "just" a core workout.  The backs. The legs. The abs. All sore! But I am telling myself it's worth it!
-If you have a daughter, you should read Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl by Dannah Gresh.  So good!
-Sophie has really been enjoying painting and drawing pictures lately.  I love to see what she comes up with each time.  She's so creative!  She's now writing a fairy tale and I love how into it and detailed she is being with it.  It's fun to watch her creativity at work!
-Ethan is becoming more and more boy each day.  Some days I love that, but some days I just think it's too much!  But, he's always a blessing and I am loving that he now just comes up at random times during the day just give me a hug and a kiss.  I know those days won't last forever, so I am trying to cherish them now.
-Hoping to get out and buy the things for our shoeboxes this weekend.  This is the one thing all 4 of us look forward to every year.  The kids really have fun choosing items for their box (though they always pick more than will fit) and they even enjoy paying for some of the items with their own money.
-I am so proud of all the things Sophie is remembering with school this year.  Most of the time she can answer the questions faster than I can...and many times I have to check the answer keys (especially history) because I am not sure what the answer is!  I am loving this time we have doing school together.  It is so fun watching E learn to read and S learn multiplication and doing it all together.  I have no idea if this will be a permanent thing for us or not, but I am enjoying it while it lasts!
-I have to admit that I really struggle with having a consistent time in the word on my own.  I just haven't been able to get that "perfect" time just all figured out.  Once the kids are up, I feel like my duty lies with them, so if I haven't gotten it done before then, it probably won't happen.  I am thankful for fall because they always seem to sleep later in the fall and most of the time our schedule allows us to be flexible and I can let them sleep.  I appreciate the prayers as I struggle with this and strive to make this a priority because I need it to be and the kids need to see that it is!
-I have really enjoyed children's choir this year.  I hope it's been as fun and meaningful to the students as it has been for me!
-I have also really enjoyed Family Quest this year.  I think it's really been kicked up a notch and we are learning some really fun things! I am constantly amazed by the things our kids can do if we just get over the whole "they're too young" mentality and give them the Word.  They may not "get" it all now, and they don't have to, but the number of times E or S have brought something back up weeks or months after we talked about it is astounding.  It is even happening now with the sermons, since they are staying in the service with us.  God is so good and faithful!
-I love having my kids with me in the worship service, both for the songs and the speaking.  During the first night of our missions conference my kids weren't with me during worship and it honestly felt weird not to have them by my side.  E doesn't ever really sing, but there's always a word in each song that he will lean over and ask what it means and we get to have a great conversation right there in the pew.  Same thing with the sermon.  I love seeing how Sophie's mind works as she draws pictures and takes her version of notes while Bro. Jeff talks.  I just love it!  I honestly think everyone needs to give it a try, at least once a month.  Each week I've been asking the children's choir kids to tell me something from the service, a song or something from the sermon, (and yes, I do give them candy if they can tell me something), and every week all but one or two of them can do it.  Some weeks even kids from the pre-K choir can tell me something.  I love it!  Lord, thank You for these blessings You've given me in my children.  Help me to be a better example of true, heart-felt, Spirit-guided worship all week long. Not just on Sunday mornings.  Help me to live a life of obedience and love to You!

October 11, 2013

Fasting Fail

I must admit, today was a fasting fail.  I have tried to justify it to myself that I was on the road, not at home, with others who aren't fasting, and because I knew tomorrow was going to be a long, emotional day....but really...if I am going to be honest...it's just because I chose not to use self-control, because I decided to put my wants ahead of anything else, and I chose not to fast today.  I chose to ignore the nagging thought of children half-way around the world barely getting enough in their one meal today as I continually lifted food (that I didn't need and when I wasn't even hungry) to my mouth.  I chose to ignore the impulse to put down the chips, though I was eating them for the second time today, and pray for those around the world who would go to bed hungry this evening so they could give what meager food they had to their children in hopes they would live just one more day.  As I guzzled tea, hot chocolate, and soda, I pushed away the thoughts of those who would have to walk a day's journey (and usually it's children who do this task, meaning that they are missing out on an education in order to do this for their families) just to get enough clean water for their family for the day...not to mention all those who have no option for clean water and get more and more sick from drinking the dirty water that is their only option.  I am frustrated and angry with myself.  I am sick at my selfishness.  I am even more frustrated as I sit here and still contemplate excuses that will make me feel better about myself, even in this dismal failure of a day.  How will my children learn selflessness when all they see in me is selfishness and pride?  How will they learn self-control and self-discipline when all they see from me is laziness?  How will they learn to serve others and be giving if all they see from me is self-serving and no giving unless I am getting something in return?  Lord, help me!  Mold me!  Shape me!  Renew me!  Fill me with Your Spirit that those around me, especially my children see You and only You.  Lord, move my heart!  Fill it with You and remove the selfishness, pride, and laziness.  Remove any need for glory or fame that is not directed at You alone.  Let my children see You in all I do and say.  Lord, give me Your strength to complete this fast so that I may know You more, rely on you more, trust You more, and give more that Your name may be known throughout the world!

October 10, 2013

Lessons Learned While Eating Less

Well, I've been fasting from lunch and snacks for a little over a week now, along with drinking only water (though each Sunday is a feast day where all fasting is suspended), and here are a few things I've learned/realized:

--I snack way more than I ever realized.
--Without all the extra sugar from all the snacks I am not eating, I am way more tired! 
--I really haven't missed lunch as much as I thought I would...until about 3:00 p.m. when I am "starving" and dinner is still at least 2 hours away.
--Leftovers aren't as bad as my mind makes me think they are.
--It's really not as hard as I thought it would be to drink only water...but it sure does increase the amount of trips to the bathroom in a day.  I also really take the easy access I have to clean water for granted.  I do not see it as the gift that it truly is...like ever.
--The hardest time of day not to snack is 9 p.m.
--As I have been looking around trying to decide where to give money to help feed others and provide clean water I realize just how many people are working to do both of these things.  There is plenty to go around, it's just that those of us with excess need to wake up and start sharing!
--I am grumpy when I am hungry.  I am grumpy when I am tired.  There have been some very unpleasant days for all of us!
--I am so much more blessed than I deserve.  I have no idea why God placed me here, with plenty of food, clean water, air conditioning, heat, clothes, etc, and not somewhere else to be stuck in poverty and a slave to someone just so I can feed my children.  I need to drop to my knees in praise and gratitude each day just for this alone, not to mention all the other reasons He deserves my praise and gratitude.  Lord, change me forever through this fast.  Move my heart to do big things for those in need because they are Your creation, You love them, and You have commanded that I love and care for them.  Don't let my motivation be good feelings or pats on the back from others, let my motivation be love for you and the things You love.  Let my children see this in me and let it transform their minds and hearts.  Somehow help this to cause them to see their need for you to be their Lord, Master, and Savior. Use our family to share Your love to those in need and those who are hurting, both here and around the world.

October 04, 2013

The First Few Days

Well, the 40 Days has started!  OK, it will actually be 46 because there will be Feast Days on Sundays included. (I am already looking forward to those days!)

Day 1:
Well, I learned today that without food I am very grumpy!  I am still eating breakfast and dinner, but fasting through lunch and attempting to fast from snacking.  Now, by no means was I starving, or really even the hungriest I have ever been, but I was a GRUMP!!!!  I never realized how much snacking I do in a day.  It really made me think of the thousands of people all over the world that can barely afford to eat one meal a day, let alone buying snacks to just munch on because I am bored or tired or anything but hungry. (And as God would have it, the portion that Sophie and I were reading today in our The Care and Keeping of You book was talking about being healthy in what and how we eat, including only eating when we are actually hungry.) My poor children today!  Praying that tomorrow will go a little better. 

My prayer time during lunch today was so good.  It was so nice to stop in the middle of the day and pause to talk to my Creator. (I was doing that twice a day, but haven't been so great at keeping that up.  I should get back to it.  It changed my whole day.)  Based on the events of last night and today, I spent today's prayer time praying for our country and its leaders. That was kind of hard to do today, but I am just so tired of hearing all the blaming and finger pointing, but I know that scripture tells us that God sets up kings and deposes them.  He is sovereign over all, so regardless of what happens, I can trust Him!

Can't wait until tomorrow to start the devotionals that go with this journey. (In order for the fest day devotionals to land on Sunday, you have to start doing them on a Wednesday.)

Day 2:
We started the devotional today.  Each day also includes a story of a person in an impoverished country.  Over breakfast we prayed for Irene and her home country of Uganda.  That is also what I prayed for during lunch.  May God bring healing, peace, and His Truth to the many people in need in that country!

Again today I was surprised by how much I just wanted to eat something, even though I wasn't hungry at all.  I am not sure I ever realized before how much I eat just because I am bored, or tired, or sad.  I also never realized how much food I actually have in the house!  One of the things I am going to try and do this month is make better use of what is already in the house.  I am so bad at thinking that there's "nothing to eat", so I run off to the store and get something else, and what I do have just sits there, untouched, and goes to waste.  And there are so many who would give anything to have that food.  We may be having some interesting things this month, but I am really putting forth an effort to use what we have already in our possession. 

Day 3:
Today was a real struggle.  Not totally sure why, but lots of guilt today.  I felt like everything I ate was just a reminder of how little someone else has.  Several times I wanted to grab a snack, but then would think of all the people around that world that don't even have the smallest, simplest snack as an option.  When they are hungry, it could be 24 hours or more before there's more food to eat.  And even then, it won't be enough to satisfy their hunger.  Yet, here I am, eating until I am so full I could puke at practically every meal and munching on things all day, not because I am hungry, but because it just gives me something to do.  How selfish and silly of me.  Do you know how much money we could save and be using elsewhere if we just stopped purchasing snacks for Kevin and I? I could probably feed an entire orphanage somewhere for a month just on what I would save in a week!  Sickening! 

A real test of my will happens tomorrow.  We're having lunch together as a group at our homeschool classes tomorrow.  Can I handle seeing everyone else eating and I'm not? (Yeah, I didn't plan that real well, timing wise, did I!?) I am thankful there will be lots of time for discussion and fellowship to take my mind off of things! 

Of course, I am very excited for Sunday, our first feast day!  We'll be celebrating it with some college students from church as they join us for lunch!  We're all excited!!!!!

Today I prayed for Ruth in Haiti.  There are days when there just isn't enough food for their family, so one or more of them must go without.  Can you imagine?  Lord, thank You for the amazing abundance You have given us.  Show us how to love like You using all this "stuff" (money, food, things, etc.) to care for Your amazing creation.

Day 4:
Lunch today was not as difficult as I thought it would be!  Snack time however!  It's not that is was hard to make it through snack time, it just showed me, once again, how much I eat without even thinking about it.  As I was placing the snacks on each plate I can't even count how many times I almost grabbed a pretzel for just a bite.  I even almost had a glass of apple juice without even thinking about it.  I am also finding that I am trying to create the silliest rules to make the snacking that I want to do "OK."

Today I am prayed for clean water in India.  This is a huge issue there and around the world.  Continue to pray that clean water will become a reality to the many who don't have it now.

Lord, thank you for the abundance You have given our family.  Help each of us to think before just eating something and use that as a moment to pour out praise and thanks to You!

September 30, 2013

The Winds of Change

Well, my 35th birthday just a few weeks away.  How did this happen?  Where has the time gone? (I am sure my parents are thinking the same thing!)

Lots of new things coming up this month!  Not only am I turning another year older, I am taking on the challenge of spending the next 40 days focusing on the poor.  I have no idea what God will do with this time, but I am praying that He will change the hearts and lives of my little family.  This will be hard for me, not just because I love food, but also because I tend to become very legalistic about things.  It will be hard for me not to do this with this challenge.  I am praying that God uses this time to help me cherish meal times, the amazing variety He has given us in food, the clean water that I take for granted, and the opportunity to help others out of our abundance.  I pray that through this our children see what an amazing Creator we have and how much He has blessed us.

Another new thing that has recently started is that I have temporarily stepped out of band and choir.  This was a very difficult decision reached through months of prayer and tears with Kevin and close friends.  There are two main reasons for this: 1) I really felt the need to sit with my children during worship.  I have been feeling the need to do this for some time, but just wasn't quite ready to make the step.  2) Our Sunday mornings have been so hectic that by the time we get to church it is nearly impossible to worship.  This also made it harder for the kids to focus.  Now that the kids and I don't have to be at church as early we have plenty of time for breakfast and even to read the Bible together before we go.  A pleasant by-product of this is the opportunity to do more drama at church, which I have really been missing.  God is blessing this decision so far and I look forward to seeing how God will use this new season of life. (Of course, I do miss band and choir!)

Lord, take this new season of life and use it to transform my family.  Change my heart and the heart of my children.  Mold us to be more like You each day!

September 21, 2013

A Prayer for Change That Lasts

We just finished celebrating our dear friend's daughter's birthday party.  I was so blessed as they chose to use her birthday as an opportunity to give to those in need.  Each child there was able to make a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  Rather than presents, everyone brought gifts that could be put in shoeboxes.  It was hard not to cry because I was just so touched, mainly because her sweet daughter seemed so excited to use her birthday for others.

I so want my children to be that way.  I want my children to want to use what they have to encourage others, help them to be able to live, and to share the Gospel with them.  Some days, it just seems like that will never happen.  When we were talking about this birthday party and what we would be doing, E's response was, "What are we going to do for my birthday?  What presents do you think I will get."  He just missed it.  Sophie is much the same way.  They both seem so stuck in thinking more of themselves than they think of others.  Oh, how I want to pass it off on their ages or just that it's a phase and when they'll get older they'll "get it".  I just can't really believe that's true.  They can know better now.  They can choose better now.  They can love others better now.

So, where's the block?  What's holding them back from loving others more than themselves?  I know that a huge part of it is that they are lost and I can't expect them to act like they aren't.  But, I have seen plenty of children who aren't saved put others first time and time again.  I have seen them love the least of these more than many adults who claim to be Christians.  I can only come to the humiliating and humbling conclusion that a big part of the problem is that they aren't seeing me model this for them enough.  I must find a way to make it more real for me so that it can be more real for them.  Right now I just want to pack them up take them around the world to see how people really live, to see the physical need that is just missing here in the US.  I know this is not feasible right now. So, what do I do?  I am choosing to battle through prayer for the hearts and souls of my children.

Starting in Oct. (on a small scale) we'll be doing 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor as we seek to better understand the way people live here in the US and around the world.  It will also help us to see the many blessings the Lord has lavished upon us.  I am praying that as we do this, God will show us other ways that we can pouring out more of ourselves in order to serve others and share Christ with them...including ways that I can do more of that for my children and husband. 

In Oct. I will be fasting from lunch and using that time to pray for my children (which is not what was originally planned), specifically that God will soften their hearts to their need for Him and need to put self last.  Selfishness is a huge battle in our house, and not just for the kids (yeah, it's a pretty big battle for me, too!)  I want it to leave and not return!  Only Christ in us can make it happen!  So, if you think of us in Oct., say a prayer that God will make some lasting changes in us and in our house!

Lord, use the month of October to show our family how much we need You.  Use this time to show us that You are worthy to be praised simply because You are God.  Open our eyes and our hearts to our need for You in our lives, every day, in every area.  Pour Your spirit of conviction on us in areas where we are not yielding to You, even Sophie and Ethan.  Show them their need for Your salvation and redemption in their young lives.  Use the scriptures we are memorizing from James to show all 4 of us that we can turn to You for anything and You will give generously that Your name might be known.  Use those verses to remind us that if we love You and want to follow You, then we will leave our comfort zone and love on those You have created, whether physically, financially, or spiritually.  We will love others sacrificially so that they may see Your love for them through Your death on the cross.  Break the fear that so often catches me in its grip.  Help me to be Your hands and feet to my children and husband that our family might be Your hands and feet to our community and world.  Lord, make permanent changes in all of us over the next month that we might trust You more, love You more, declare You more, and look more like You to all who see us.

September 18, 2013

Guilt, Insecurity, Comparison

Not sure about you, but those three things can just demolish a person.  And in a week like this, when headaches are strong, sleep escapes me, and my emotions run high, it is so easy for these three things to rule and reign in my mind.  When I am tired and emotional I put up little to no fight against the things Satan throws my way, these three being some of the worst.  (Please know that the following post is not written to incite pity or compliments or anything like that, just to share my heart and my struggles this week in hopes of encouraging others.)

Too often I just let guilt eat at me.  Most of the time it's not even over things that make any sense or should even affect me.  I can't even being to calculate the amount of time in a day I spend feeling guilty about things,  Then of course, there are those things that seem right to feel guilty about, but you just don't know how to change or do things differently: guilty that I spent 45 minutes folding laundry when I could have been outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather with the kids, guilty that I cleaned out the dishwasher instead of eating breakfast with the kids to start our day.  Both things need to be done, so how do I make it all happen?  I must remember to daily lay it all down at His feet and allow Him to lead and guide all I do.  I must remember not to just react and do things purely based on feelings, which are so often misleading and confusing. 

Another thing I really struggle with is insecurity.  That annoying little junior high girl just never goes away, does she?  She's always feeling left out, alone, and not good enough, no matter what.  Why is she so hard to get rid of?  Why doesn't she just go away when we move past junior high?  Why must I always give in to that feeling of not being good enough, feeling like I am not wanted for who I am but what I can do, that so many just see me as the one that comes along with Kevin or Sophie or Ethan?  Why must I always feel like others are hanging out and becoming best friends without me?  Why must I always feel like my identity comes from what I do and those around me rather than from the One who created me and gave His life up for me?  Lord, help me focus!  Help me to have clear eyes that focus on you, not me.  Lord, help me to see how this insecurity affects not only me, but my husband and children.  Help me to let go of this need and desire to be something special or particular to please this world, but to chase after the things of God with a passion and desire that draws others to You, as well.  Help me to lay aside this insecurity so that I can be the wife and mother that You desire me to be so that my family can run after You radically and wholeheartedly.

I must agree with Theodore Roosevelt that comparison is the thief of joy!  I find myself constantly comparing everything in my life with the lives of others.  Yet, when I do this, I have no idea what is really happening in someone else's life or home.  I have no idea if things are even as they seem on the other end.  Why do I consistently do this?  I know it only ends in sorrow and hurt, yet I do it time and time again.  I compare my home, my children, my cleaning skills, my schooling, everything!  Lord, help me to see that comparison is of no use in the Kingdom!  The only comparison that brings about anything good is my sin to Your holiness, which leads to acknowledging all that You've done to save and redeem me and leads me to praise You for all You are.  Lord, draw me to You.  Lord, help conquer and control my mind and emotions that I may be Yours alone, devoted to the things of You and seeking to lead others to You in all I say and do. 

September 11, 2013

40 Days of Solidarity With The Poor

As part of my month of giving in October, we'll be doing 40 days of solidarity with the poor (on a slightly smaller scale than the book suggests) in order to spend less on food and give the extra money to a group that helps feed or provide clean water to those in need around the world.  I am thinking we'll go with Compassion International.  We toured there this summer and we were just blown away by all the amazing work they do in so many countries.

We won't be going down to one meal a day, as many of the poor are forced to do, mainly because that's not all that healthy, especially for the kids.  We will be doing our best to eat like the poor, both in the US and around the world.  Some nights we'll be doing $5 meals (huge thanks to Jessica Bonvillian for coming up with those for me) and some nights we'll pick a country and eat some of the things the poor in that country would eat.  I am going eat just breakfast and dinner and fast for lunch to pray for those in need and how our family can be part of the solution for the many, both in the US and around the world, who suffer from lack of food and clean water.  I will be drinking only water for the whole month (so, those of you who see me, you may have to remind me of this!)

Every Sunday is a celebration day.  This is to remind us that, as Christians, each Sunday is to be a taste of the greatest day on our calendar: Easter.  We are called to live lives of joy, not merely constant sorrow.  These feasting days are a reminder of that.  I was also challenged to invite someone to lunch each Sunday of the month (mainly because she knew that would be WAY out of my comfort zone.)  I am trying to embrace that challenge and face it head on, but I'll admit, it's not easy for me!

Here are some quotes from Chris Seay's book A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor that really hit home with me. I can't wait to embark on this challenge.  There is a short devotion and story of some one's life, along with a way to pray, for each day to help get us through and see the truth of what those living in poverty around the world go through each day.  Lord, mold us and change us as we see the truth of poverty.  Make us more joyful and aware of even the smallest blessings each day.  Open our eyes and hearts to how we can help and give more of ourselves to those in need, both across the street and on the other side of the globe!

"God changes the world through humility and service."
"As we learn to march in step with our Savior, we find that our swagger gives way to a lowly and humble way of walking."
"We have allowed our love of freedom to become and excuse to live a life marked by self-absorbed consumerism."
"We often see ourselves most clearly in our children."  (Can I get a resounding AMEN?!?!?)
"The fact that God sustains our lives by a gift from His hand should cause us to stop everything and offer a sincere thanks, but so often we do not."
"The time has come to see the food set before us as manna--our miraculous provision for the day.  Certainly, if you haven't grown it, gathered it, transported it, frozen it, or packaged it, it is a miracle that it makes it to your table.  Avocados from Mexico become guacamole on a table in Minnesota in December?  Amazing."
"Feast days are a time for us to relax our fast and enjoy the extravagant grace of our Father."
"Ask God to transform your character in ways that lead you to be a person of humble strength like Jesus."
"Our goal is that our desires no longer drive our lives."
"Prepare for the unexpected."
"As we step into the wilderness, we will have to face many fears.  The world's economy drives people by fear.  God's way is to bring people comfort in grace and love.  May we lay down our desires and seek the heart of God...May He use this time to start and complete wholeness in our mind, body, and spirit...Be courageous, step out in faith, lay yourself down for 40 days, and see what rises in your life."

September 05, 2013

James-Week 1

We finished our first week of James!  We took this week off to learn and study the month's Family Quest verse, which we will do every month, so this will take us awhile!  I am excited to say that we all memorized the verse!!!  I'll admit that I am not sure any of us will be able to quote the whole book at one time when we're done, but I pray that God will bless the time and effort we put into studying and memorizing His word.  I pray that as my children grow older they will remember these words and put them into practice.  More than anything, I pray that God will use the scriptures they memorize to reveal to them their need for a relationship with Him!

I am so thankful this week for a sovereign God who reveals just how sovereign He is in even the smallest ways.  I was so blessed this week as our family got to see God weaving His scripture and history together as part of what we were learning in James was laid out in our history lessons.  In James, we saw that the Jews were persecuted for their beliefs and scattered by that persecution.  In history, we looked at both those doing the persecuting and those being persecuted.  We were able to see just what it meant and cost those early believers for their faith in Christ.  It was a joy to spend time in prayer for those Christians still persecuted today. 

Lord, thank You for leading and guiding.  This is not an easy road (and we've already lost the first page of one of our memory "books"), but You were evident in each day's learning, both in scripture and other areas.  Thank You for confirming not just the James study, but the decision to homeschool this week, as well.  Thank You for calling me to hard things so that You might be honored, glorified, and known deeper.

September 04, 2013

....And the Mother of the Year Award Goes to....

NOT ME! 

Yeah, so in case you thought our house was nothing but roses and sunshine, let me assure, friend, it is not!  Today was just one of those days!!!!  E, who was sick the first part of the week, was just so whiny and fussy about e-ver-y-thing today.  Seriously.  If something was said or done that wasn't exactly the way he wanted it, out came the tears and whining.  I think he got more spankings today than he's ever had in one day in his whole life.  I just couldn't deal with it. 

On Wednesdays I help out (and I use that term loosely) with a new ministry our church has started at an apartment complex across the street.  The kids go with me and get to enjoy some time with friends, make new friends, and play fun games.  Today, however, E's whininess (is that even a word?) was at a whole new level!  I had to spank him there twice and set him apart from the rest of the group...then a spider (daddy long legs) came within a 100 feet of him and he wouldn't stop screaming...I was prepared to just let him stay there and let the spider have him, but Mr. Jeremy was nice enough to move the spider. 

Church tonight was no different.  We've been working on his Family Quest memory verse all week.  He said it to me perfectly more than once today.  We get to church and...nothing.  He just doesn't want to say it...but he wants the candy...which he can't have without saying the verse.  Thaaaaat's right, another meltdown.  When Kevin walked in I am pretty sure my words to him were, "I am done with him today.  He's yours now."  Yeah, I was that mom.

Sophie had a pretty good day....until after church.  Mind you, it was after 9 p.m. (we have choir/orchestra and band practice on Wednesday nights, so it's a pretty late night for us), so I know she was tired.  And she is growing, so I know the pain she is having is totally real.  But, seriously people, I wish I had video of the drama queen crying going on.  Only Justin, Jill, and Mikayla were able to witness it in it's full glory.  Y'all, she came over to me JUST FINE...no tears, no sad face, JUST FINE.  Then her she screwed up her face and the loudest, most dramatic, ugly cry I have ever heard or seen came out of my sweet little girl, "MY LEGS!!!!!"  I couldn't do anything but stand there and laugh...and laugh...and laugh.  Seriously, I just couldn't stop.  And the more I laughed, the louder and uglier she cried.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to compose myself to even speak to her.  Those three non-child having adults in the room must have thought I was horrible.  But, after a day of whining and it was so late, that's all I could do. I really did feel bad for her, but, I just couldn't help it.

So, if you see my FB posts and blogs and think that all is well and great and peachy keen because I keep listing thanks or whatever, just know, life in my house gets crazy and frustrating and loud and messy and much like life in your house (I obviously paid no attention to the comma lesson Sophie had yesterday).  It's days like these I praise the Lord that I have children with the ability to whine.  I praise Him that my children are healthy enough to have growing pains.  I praise Him that I have the ability to have the hubby take the kids for awhile so I can just breathe and be away from the noise.  I must force myself to see the blessings in all these frustrations.  Or, as Ann Voskamp says, I must see these moments as the ugly beautiful.  Lord, thank You for the ugly beautiful!

August 29, 2013

What School Looks Like in Our House

So, now that I've shared with you how I hope to turn October into a month all about others, I'll write a post that's all about me (OK, my family, too!)

There is no typical day in our house.  If Larinee Dennis or Tomi Lowes or Courney Janes or Jess Corkern or the other myriad of amazing teachers I know ever came to observe a day of school for us, they would run screaming after the first 5 minutes and probably never allow me to write another Family Quest lesson or teach anywhere ever again!!!  Ok, it may not be that bad, but it's pretty close.

See, I have a problem.  (Admitting it is the first step, right?) When there is a schedule, I follow it to a tee!  I mean, no deviation is allowed, by me or anyone else.  Times are set in stone and I live by the mantra "10 minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable." (Though my husband would probably tell you I think an hour early is on time!)  When I have a schedule, everyone in the house is miserable because I just can't bring myself to loosen up with it.  It's a sickness, it really is.

So, the first year of homeschooling was pretty hard on both Sophie and I because I had a schedule for school and there was no messing with the schedule.  It's amazing either one of us survived, really. The second year I loosened up and instead of having a schedule with times included, it was just the order in which the subjects would be done everyday.  Yeah, that wasn't any better.  Don't get me wrong, we had some great days and I did loosen up and go with the flow much more, but it still was pretty frustrating most days.  I mean, one of the perks of homeschooling is that you are more free to go and do things, see people, and just enjoy the world around you and the amazing family God has given you, right?  Well, there wasn't a lot of that happening because I was still refusing to let go of the "schedule."

This year, things are changing.  I am working really hard at being flexible with the hope that God will open more doors for the kids and I (and Kevin when his schedule allows) to serve others, even if that means during the day or what would normally be school hours.  To do this, I have a new system, one that will most likely make you cringe.  Each child has their own weekly binder divided by subject:




 
 
On Saturday or Sunday I go through the lessons that are coming up that week, make a list of whatever supplies we will need, and pull out all worksheets to place them in the binder under the appropriate subject.  The binder is basically what I want to accomplish before the week is over, however that has to happen.  I try not to do school on Fridays, so we do our best to get it all done in 4 days.  Of course, lots of things come up, but I think it will work.  We've been doing school for 2 weeks and both weeks have gone well using this format.
 
Of course, each day looks a little different.  I try to be up by 6:30 (which is sleeping in for most of you, but I have tried to be up before that, and it isn't a good idea for anyone involved, trust me!)  I start with prayer and devotion time.  I let the kids wake up on their own (that's best for all involved, too!)  While I wait for them to get up, I take care of the dishwasher or laundry or whatever I can that isn't too noisy.  Once the kids are up, I get them breakfast (admittedly, it's usually cereal or toast, occasionally eggs or bacon or something much more "domestic".)  Once that's done, E gets in the shower while Sophie makes her bed and does her quiet time.  When he's done, then Sophie gets in.  She showers, gets dressed and practices her piano.  While she is doing all that, I do all of E's school with him.  (He just works better without her around.)  Once done with her piano, Sophie heads downstairs and we start school with her.  I usually let her choose what she wants to do first.  E just plays, either upstairs or in his room, while she does school.  Once her individual work is done, then I do science and history with both of them together.  I try to get all of this done before lunch, if possible.  I'll admit, sometimes we only accomplish that because I push lunch off until we're done. That's what snacks are for, right?
 
Of course, in between each lesson, I have E stand up and jump, or run to the TV and back, or do somersaults, whatever I can to let him get some energy out so he can get focused again on what we need to do.  Sophie gets about 5 minutes between each lesson to play, jump rope, go outside, whatever she wants.  That helps both of us to stay focused and not get frustrated. I usually give them 45 minutes to an hour for lunch, then it's to their rooms for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Sophie has to spend 30 minutes reading on her own or out loud to E.  For the rest of the time they can play, as long as they do so upstairs and quietly. That's usually the time I fold laundry or do the cleaning downstairs.  Another confession, that's sometimes the time I take a nap.  Yes, a nap.  Some days, that is just a necessity if we all still want to be alive at the end of the day! After that, who knows what we will do for the day.  Sometimes we read books, other times we run errands or meet up with friends or take a walk.
 
I am sure that was more info than you cared to know, but there you go, anyway!  Praying that God will use this new "schedule" to both enhance our learning and allow us to serve more.  Lord, mold our hearts to be more like yours.  Use what they are learning in school to draw them to You and to help them see that Your hand is in everything, from creation to math to the words we use.  Draw their hearts to You through all we do and in spite of our shortcomings!
 
Here are just a few more shots of our school area and what we're up to this year:
 Sophie's spelling/vocabulary work
 E's daily calendar notebook
 Did I mention I have given up writing out lesson plans?  Well, I have...so here's what I do...I have a notebook handy where I write down what we're doing as we do it, then I enter it all into the computer at the end of the day.  Yeah, not an education major, can you tell?
 This is Sophie's shelf.  I am using the suggestion from the book The Well-Trained Mind to keep their completed work in labeled binders that I can pull out at any time to see the progress they've made or review anything we've studied.
 E's shelf.

August 27, 2013

A Big, Crazy, Wild Idea

Ok, so that's pretty much what all my ideas are (so sorry for all of you that get drug along with me!)  Anyway, as most of you probably know (or maybe not), I turn 35 this year (shocking, I know!  My amazingly young looks probably had you fooled!)  Anywho, I've really been thinking and praying about how I can start off this new year of life in a way that means more, that gives more, and looks more to others than myself.  How can I use this "momentous" occasion to model God's love, grace, and servanthood to my children and others around me.

Then I had a crazy idea: what if I "celebrate" for the entire month?  But, instead of celebrating me, I want to make it a month of sacrifice for me that results in gifts for others.  But, how to do this?  I have thought of two ways that I am praying about how to put into effect for my birthday.

The first is to host a shoe cutting party for Sole Hope (check them out here: http://www.solehope.com/who-we-are/ and here: http://www.solehope.com/get-involved/ and here: http://letsgivetoday.com/sole-hope-shoe-cutting-parties/).  Not quite sure just how to organize this, yet, but I can't wait to do it!  Should it be just a few friends and their hubbies?  Just a few close ladies?  Should I invite lots of ladies and make it a girl's night out so we can make more shoes?  I just don't know.  My heart wants to think BIG and make it a church-wide ladies event, but my brain knows that sometimes my heart gets ahead of me and I need to slow down and take baby steps first!  So, I am praying about the best way to do this. 
I also want to take the month of October (though I know it will take about a week longer than the month) to do the 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor (http://chrisseay.net/).  We would take the month of October and eat like the poorest people in the world, do a devotion each day that will draw us closer to God and share the story of someone from one of those places, and at the end of the month we donate the money that we didn't spend on groceries to a group that feeds the poor.  Now, don't worry, while I will most likely be going as far as possibly only eating one meal a day (dinner), the children will not be doing that.  Our dinner each night will be something from one of the poorest countries, but they will still get a normal breakfast and lunch.  The point isn't to make ourselves ill, but to try and truly understand how people around the world live, to see the blessings we have lavished on us each day, and seek how we can use what God has given us to love others. 

I would also like to take each day, using two "extra", intentional prayer times each day to pray for the people in the countries we will be eating like on that particular day.

This all seems so overwhelming, yet so exciting for me.  Kevin was supportive, which is such a blessing!  He knows just what I need from him in terms of support and reigning in.  Thank You Lord, for a husband who balances me so well!  We'll be doing lots of talking, praying, and planning between now and October and I can't wait to update you throughout October with how things are going!  Thank You in advance for prayers  about this crazy idea and how God will use it in our family to draw our children to Him and change all of our hearts to be more like His!

August 20, 2013

A Fleeting Glance

Thanks to some friends, we got a hand-me-down swing set shortly before we left for vacation.  This week is really the first time they've been able to use it...and they have loved it!  And it has been great for me.  It's a great break between lessons (not that we've done a full-blown day of school, yet) and gets out some of the energy.

Today as they were playing, I glanced out the window and Sophie was sitting there on the swing singing to herself.  I have no idea what she was singing, I could just see her lips moving.  It transported me back 27 years to 1986.  That was the year I lost my two best friends when their house burnt down and they didn't make it out.  I was devastated and just didn't know what to do.  I spent almost every moment with Georgie and Chantel and they were suddenly gone.  So, I would go sit on the swing almost every afternoon, look up at the sky to find a hole in the clouds, and talk to my two best friends all afternoon.  I shared everything with them that way.  In fact, I am pretty sure they were the first people I told about being saved, sitting right there in that swing, looking up at the clouds.  That was a sweet memory today.

August 13, 2013

Random Thoughts (again)

I can't tell you how many blog posts have come to mind in the two weeks we've been away from home...yet, as you can see, none of them has actually happened!  Some were fun and silly, some were gut-wrenching and heart felt.  All remained in my head...and will probably never see the light of day because they are now lost in the abyss there in my head!  Oh, well!  I suppose that's probably for the best. Anyway, here are some random thoughts from the last two or so weeks:

--I have been so amazed and in awe of the Creator.  I have seen some of His most incredible handiwork since leave Hannibal at the end of July.  We've been in MO, KS, CO, NM, and TX.  Just when I think I've seen the most amazing sight, He gives me one even more amazing.  The skies, mountains, lakes, rivers, and people have been more spectacular than I could have ever imagined.  The pictures I took don't even do it justice.  Lord, thank You for showing Yourself in everything-the sunrise, sunset, majestic mountains, raging rivers, slow streams, servant-hearted people.  I am in awe! 

--I need alone time.  Seriously.  Like, 95% of the time I need to be completely alone and 5% of the time I need people with me.  Which is ironic, because the moment you get married, the option for that gets cut in half.  Then add in a job, and it's even less.  Then add kids and it's virtually non-existent.  When I don't get time to myself, I am an ugly, rude, selfish beast. I think this is why I love social media so much...I can maintain a connection and still not have to be around anyone!  Anyone else out there with me?  And it's been on overdrive since we left...there just hasn't even been a moment to myself.  And it's really starting to show!  The grumpiness has taken over.  I am so thankful to have a husband who understands this and works hard to give me time whenever possible.  Bedtime is a little dose of this each night.  Kevin handles the entire bedtime routine, which takes about 30-45 minutes, and I get that glorious time to myself (sometimes I blog or check facebook or read or clean, whatever I want to do.)  Lord, help me to be able to mold and change and be what my family needs me to be.  Help me to make the most of whatever time you give me, both by myself and with my family.

--I am so ready to start school.  I am really excited about this year.  Our history and science kind of go together and we'll be looking at the Early Church through the end of the Middle Ages, so it's gonna be fun!  I am thinking we'll even tie our Halloween costumes into the theme, too.  E already has a knight costume and I am hoping to get one made for Sophie that would fit that time period, too. We're looking at Earth science and astronomy this year.  Excited to use Apologia science and Mystery of History for the first time this year.  Sophie will also be using Wordly Wise for the first time this year.  I am really hoping she likes it.  Another new one this year will be Writing With Ease.  She is such a great storyteller, but hates writing it out.  I am praying that God changes that in her.  I think she could be a great writer if I could find a way to help her enjoy it more!  I did find a free typing program designed for younger kids online that we will use here and there.  Maybe that will help her enjoy writing, when she can type some.

--Cannot wait for children's choir to start!  Our musical will be in Dec. this year (a change from the usual Mother's Day) and has a service project that goes with it.  I can't wait!!!!!

--I am excited, nervous, conflicted, and many other emotions about having our children with us during the entire worship service each week.  I love having them there with me, even though no week has gone as well as I have hoped.  I pay much more attention when they are with me because I am trying to explain words or think of ways to help apply what we are learning later in the week.  At times they are restless, but I do think they enjoy being there with us.  It really is a blessing to have the whole family together for worship in song and scriptural teaching.  Lord, continue to mold and shape each of us each week as we learn about You with our church family.  Help us to model worship to them everyday so that on Sunday it's not something new, just doing what we always do, now with others instead of on our own.  Lead and guide, Lord!

I have enjoyed our time away, but I am ready to be in my own home, on my own schedule, with my friends and church family.

June 27, 2013

Where Am I?

That's kind of how I feel at the moment.  I feel torn and pushed in so many directions, that I am not always sure just where I am.  My heart longs to be in one place with God, yet I constantly seem to be in another, not sure where I should go or what I should do.  How do I accomplish what my heart so much wants?  How do I become the wife, mother and person that I know God has called me to be?  How do I get from here to there?  Though I find myself "stuck" much of the time, not knowing what to do or where to go, I am thankful for those brief glimpses of proof that I am growing, moving, and "getting it" at times.  Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker or Ann Voskamp I will never be, but that's OK because that is no who God has called me to be.  He has called me to be Heather McSmith, wife, mother, teacher, hard worker, and servant to as many people as I can while on this earth.  Do I have all the answers as to how I am supposed to serve, no, and I don't think that I ever will.  I must remain awake, open, and willing to do whatever He asks whenever He asks.  Here are just some random thoughts on the summer, so far:

--A month without TV was not as difficult for me (or the kids...Kevin was a different story) as I thought.  God allowed me to use that time to study His word, prepare lessons for our church to use in Family Quest, read with my children, and just enjoy uninterrupted time with my husband and children.  I don't think we'll ever go 100% no TV or anything, but we'll be cutting back and using that time to love on each other and others as best we can.

--I am so thankful that though friends may be far away, they are still friends.  I am thankful for Skype so I can see their faces and emails so we can send prayer requests and silly thoughts.  I am thankful for Facebook, which allows me to still feel like a part of their lives.  I am also thankful for all these things when friends who are near go on vacation!!!  I know it probably shouldn't be, but email and Facebook are a lifeline to me, even with friends who live just across town, in this crazy, child-rearing time of my life.  If I didn't have those, I seriously think I would end every day by sitting down and crying!

--I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to home school.  Now, hear me out, I don't think it's for everyone (though I will admit that I wish everyone could home school just for a semester--you'd understand your kids better and you'd be much more sympathetic to their teachers), but it is what God has called us to do at this time.  God has used this to teach me so much!  First, I never even came close to understanding how selfish I am until I started homeschooling.  If a project took too much work on my part, then I just didn't do it.  It didn't matter if it would help the kids learn, I didn't want to take the time.  Yeah, teaching isn't my gift!  Second, I have learned so much about my kids, how they learn, how they think, etc.  I have been able to see God's handiwork in such a different way by being their teacher. (I am sure all you teachers out there have known all these things for awhile.  You get to experience these joys times like 20 everyday!  Of course, you also experience the bad times 20, so I guess it evens out!) What joy it is to watch them read for the first time or figure out a math problem for the first time!  Third, I've learned that if I will just rely on God, I will be far more capable of things than I ever thought possible.  I mean, really, me digging into the Word and history and science and teaching it to someone else?  I never would have dreamed it was possible, so I know it was all from God!  Last, I learned a whole new level of love and respect for those teaching outside of the home.  You guys, seriously, they don't even earn a fraction of what they're worth!  Lesson plans, projects, grading papers, field trips, it's all overwhelming for just 2 students, I have no idea how you do it for 25-30.  And without parental help?  That's amazing!  Hats off to all of you who get up everyday and do all you can to be salt and light in the dark world of public education.  You are warriors on one of the most important battlefields and protecting the most important assets on the planet, and no one gets it.  I know without a shadow of a doubt, I could not do what you do!  (Thankfully, God has not asked me to!)

--So, I have to admit, I sat and cried at the pool the other day.  Kevin was with me and we were talking and I just started crying.  Like weeping and sobbing.  It was a little embarrassing.  I had my sunglasses on, so I'm hoping no one else noticed, but I am guessing they were all just being polite and trying not to stare at the crazy lady!  It made me so thankful for a husband willing to put up with all my craziness, love me anyway, and pour out wisdom when it's most needed.  I was feeling very overwhelmed with insecurity and failure, and he said and did just what I needed at the time.  He is such a gift from God to me.  My heart so desperately wants to look in the eyes of each of those unadoptable orphans and tell them they have a Father who loves them more than they can imagine, I want to hug them, hold their hands, sing with them, laugh with them, just pour into them...but that door just isn't being opened right now.  And I have to admit that it's most likely because I am not even willing to care for the widow down the street.  If I can't do that, why would He trust me with more?  How will my kids every learn to love and sacrifice for others if they don't see it in me?  I don't want to live for me, I want to live for Him, to serve Him and serve and love on His people.  Why is that so hard to do?  Lord, mold me and shape me into the person You desire me to be so that You will receive glory.  Show me how to love those around me.  Show me how to serve those around me selflessly that they might see You through me.  Give me strength and boldness to reach out to my neighbors consistently.  Lord, help!

--As Kevin and I were talking the other day we really wanted to think of something that we could sacrifice as a family, that would affect all of us, that we could in turn use to help others.  We couldn't think of anything.  Not because we have so little that there was little to give, but because when we started thinking of it, none of it was really a sacrifice.  We wouldn't have to go without food or shelter or clothing or anything of true importance in order to help others, either here or around the world.  We were blown away by how blessed and spoiled we are.  Lord, I don't know why You have chosen to give us so much, but please show us how we can turn around and give it right back to You, to be used for Your Kingdom, so that many may come to know You.

June 21, 2013

Pure Randomness

Yeah, the title pretty much says it all!  My brain feels like it's been going 100 miles an hour lately and so much is happening there that I just can't keep everything straight!

--No TV June is going well, though we have declared a few "special days" and watched a show or two.  Our anniversary was one of those days.  The kids were with grandma, so we said they could watch a movie when they spent the night.  There wasn't anything on at the movie theatre that we both wanted to see, so we decided to watch something at home...and save money at the same time!  We also had a family movie night one night, which was lots of fun!  Today is my nephew's 13th birthday and the kids tried to convince me we should celebrate this special day with some TV, but they failed in their attempts.

--Some days I feel so jealous when I read about and see people headed out all over the world to serve God and others.  I want to join them.  I want my feet in the read earth of Uganda, I want to love on those sweet orphans in Romania, I want to have spas for street children in Haiti, I want to go to the ends of the earth to love on others so they can know the love of Christ.  I want my whole family to go with me.  I want to serve the least of these in forgotten lands as a family.  I want to see my children loving on orphaned children, playing stick ball in the street with the homeless.  But I know that were I to be doing those things right now, it would be disobedience.  Why is that so hard to swallow?  Why is it so hard to be the one who stays here and serves those at home?  Probably because I could serve for a week or two at the ends of the earth, and never see those people again, but here, I must face them everyday.  Here, they must see the real me, cluttered, frazzled, and having no idea what I am doing most of the time.  And I have to be OK with that.  I have to be real, not put on a mask, no fake smile, no half-hearted grins.  Real laughter, real tears, real messes, real aggravations, real joy, real pain, real life.  I do believe that one day this little McSmith tribe (yeah, totally stealing that from Jen Hatmaker) will step on a plane and end up in some distant land, for at least a short time, but I also know that right now, I must be faithful to the call God has given me now: home, family, and those around me where I am right now.  I must be real, sacrificial, loving, and always about my Father's business.  Lord, help me to be diligent in this.  Help me to be satisfied in You, no matter the location or circumstance.  Make me bold for You in my neighborhood.  Help me to love my neighbors as my own family, willing to sacrifice and move mountains on their behalf, regardless of their response or position.

--(Ok, it's been like 2 days since I started writing this post!) I wanted Ethan to lay down and rest with me a bit after swim lessons today.  He would have none of it.  But, he did sweetly say, "You lay down and rest your eyes and I will read you a book.  All at the same time."  So, that's just what he did.  He read me Another Monster at the End of This Book.  I love how much he loves that book!

--So, I haven't totally given up on the Dukan diet, but I am not completely following it either.  Make sense?  I am using it as a guideline and it has really helped my poor eating habits, but I am not being strict about it.  I would still like to lose 5-8 more pounds, but trying not to freak out about it.  We're working on cutting down the amount of sugar and carbs that we eat (the kids, too, though not as much with the carbs for them...they could both stand to add a little weight.)  This is very difficult as Kevin and I both love, love, love bread and pasta.  I could seriously have only those two things at every meal and be pretty happy!  But, even though it's going slowly, it's going well.

--Started the kettle bell class at church again last night after a year of not doing it.  Oh.My.Word!  I could barely move after just the warm up.  And no, I am not exaggerating!  It's going to be good for me, though, so I am looking forward to the next class.

--So proud of my sweet girl today.  I handed her a card and asked her to write a thank you note to her swim teacher.  She wrote a very nice note and then wrote out John 3:16 at the end.  I totally didn't ask her to do that, she did it on her own, because, "Well, his name is John!"  Love that girl!  Lord, grab hold of her heart and change the world with her giving and sweet spirit.

--Anyone else out there struggle with constant guilt?  Over any and everything?  That is me!  I buy my kids a new shirt or a pair of shoes and I feel so guilty, regardless of how much they might need them, because there are so many kids out there who have neither of those things, old or new.  Where's the balance?  I want to live a sacrificial life. I want my kids to live sacrificial lives.  My I also want to love on and provide for my children.  Lord, help me to see the line between need and want, providing and lavishing. 

June 10, 2013

Wnihjignmireogehj---Yeah, That's Sort of How I Feel!

Well, there's a lot going on in my head and not sure if any of it will make it out onto the page.  Yep, it's another post full of nothing but randomness!!!

--Kevin's not here.  I don't sleep well when that's the case.  Add in VBS last week and swim lessons this week.  I am fried!  My brain is toast.  Then add to that all the things I am trying to study and get ready for....ahhhhhh! 

--No TV June has gone really well.  Honestly, most of the time I don't even miss it (Bethany Woods, those were true words when you said that to me before we even started this journey.)  I miss it the most when I sit down to work on the computer or fold laundry.  I like the background noise.  I am rarely even paying attention to it in those times, but it's nice to have the noise in the room with me.  But, without the TV, the kids and I have had much more time for reading books, playing games, playing outside, and even doing some fun earth science lessons.  One thing that I am honestly surprised I haven't really had time for is cleaning the house.  It's a mess.  Seriously, a mess.  I think it's just because I am spending way more time with the kids.  That's a blessing!  But really, there must be some house cleaning tomorrow!  The hubs does not want to return to a pigsty (yes, Lauren, Sara, and Q, feeling some conviction from Titus 2 on that one!)

-God has such a sense of humor.  Or perhaps irony.  Or perhaps I am just loopy and don't know what I am talking about.  Either way, this girl who does not enjoy doing any kind of research or digging into things (there's a reason I love Beth Moore Bible studies--she does all the hard work for me!  Ok, and they are amazing!) is currently digging into scripture for three different things...at.the.same.time!  I am still working on my James devotional (7 of 52 weeks done!!!!), searching through Titus 2 for Veritas Women's Ministry (formerly Ladies in Purple) so we can create our newest conference, and digging through the covenant and it's many aspects, etc. to be able to write some lessons for Family Quest for the 2013-2014 year.  Say what?!?!?!  How did this happen?!?!?!  And that's not the scariest part...I am actually enjoying it (though the pace at which I am doing it would seem to say otherwise).  Who knew?!?!  Could it be that this little girl is actually growing up and growing in the Word?!?  It seems that might actually be possible!

-God totally hit me in the face this week with the realization that I just rush into things without thinking or planning.  That was one thing when it was just me, but I know pull a lot of other people in with me when I do this.  This really hit me this week when I was reading our book for small group about humility.  The author was talking about the prophet Habakuk and his humility (eventually) in his response to wait on the Lord.  And wasn't waiting for good things to happen, he was waiting for destruction to come.  It would be very hard to wait patiently for that!  Anyway, I have been so anxious to get out and do some mission work outside of my comfort zone that I have just jumped in, with no thought or plan.  In one instance, it cost an entire church an amazing opportunity to serve not just those in our neighborhood, but this entire area of MO.  There was a great plan that would have worked almost flawlessly if I had been patient and mature and waited on the Lord.  I feel I have done the same with my desire to get out of the states and get my hands dirty doing His work with those in this world who need this physical help the most.  I just want to go.  I want to pack up my family and hop on a plane and not come back for like a year.  I just want to spend time pouring all I have into the least of these in the least of places.  And I want my husband and children with me each step of the way, to watch them serve and watch them grow and watch the amazing things the Lord does with those who are willing.  But many times I allow this "itch" to take over and stop using logic (I know, hard to believe that I would ever do that!)  Lord, lead and guide.  Give wisdom and patience.  Open the doors, in Your timing, to send us out into Judea, and Samaria, and the ends of the earth as a family to proclaim Your truth.  Lord, move my heart to be OK with Your timing, not mine!  Lord, fill me with Your passion, a passion for the things of You and contentment in You alone!