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Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments


GETTING REAL

Those squeeze fruit pouches for babies: love them and hate them; especially after your foot unknowingly finds a half finished one on the floor.

Kids’ toothpaste seems to be getting low. You find out your son wanted to try it out as hair gel.

Kids down their food like industrial vacuum cleaners and dash away from the table insisting they are “stuffed”. Mom: “Are you SURE?” Kids: “Yes! Yes!” Mom: “You’re going to be hungry in 10 minutes…” Kids: “Nuh-uh! We’re SO FULL!” Ten minutes later: “Moooooom…what can we have to eat?”

You’re in a meal-planning slump so you browse through your old pinterest food pins. “Oh we haven’t done this one in a LONG time! I’ll make that one,” you say as you find something that looks appealing. Note to self: make notes or DELETE those pins you’ve tried; there was a reason you hadn’t made that meal in so long!

Spring has arrived! The moment you construct that new raised bed you’ve been planning one your outdoor cats be like “oh, how thoughtful of the human to give me such a large new toilet.”

You find a cereal bowl and spoon in the trash can. It’s not broken; someone just wasn’t thinking and threw it away. As you’re about to holler to the kids, “ok! Who threw a bowl away?” you recollect it may have been you as you cleaned the kitchen last night in a semi-zombie state.

Sunshine is glorious but now you can see the million sticky handprints on the windows.

Small socks clogging the drum in the washing machine.

RECEIVING GRACE

Glad you put down your phone when the kids yell “mom! Watch me!”

The sight of a small child still unfolding from sleep. Love that she still trails around her blanket. Curr-click. Heart photo to remember.

Giving in and letting the toddler help with dinner because they really want to just spend time with you.

Glancing out the window to see a big brother cheering a little sister as she balances on her bike.

Seeing your children delight in being around each other.

A repentant heart in a child and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Friends who message you to say, “I prayed for you!”

God’s gentle reminder in the middle of my worry-storm of everything little thing I want to accomplish and everything thing I want to teach my kids that all I really need is to know Him and out of that will flow all He has called me to do.

 

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

KEEPING IT REAL

  • The Baby grabs your coffee off the table and onto your lap.
  • You make oatmeal for dinner.
  • You buy a Costco pack of paper plates to combat the mass of unwashed dishes cluttering the kitchen. After a week of using paper plates you admit it’s pretty cool…
  • The alarm bleeps in your ear. You are faced with two options: sleeping another 10 minutes or getting up to exercise. Bwahahahaha!!
  • The three year old asks to help setting the table. You hand her the pizza cutter with a caution that it’s a little sharp. She grabs it, turns heel and races into the next room screaming, “watch out! It’s SHARP!”
  • The cool thing about being eternally sleep-deprived is that you can drink caffeine any time to the day and still fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow.
  • Gathering the kids for a group Bible story is sometimes like trying to rake leaves while the wind is blowing.
  • When you ask the kids to describe what you just read, they stare blankly for a moment then start spouting appropriate-sounding answers like, “God?” “Jesus?”

GRACE MOMENTS

  • God is good. The only reason for grace throughout the day.
  • Friendship is a gift. Friendship that is tested with fire and revives stronger is priceless.
  • Your husband takes two whole days at home so you can attend the church’s women’s retreat.
  • You overhear one of your children encouraging another with a verse from the Bible.
  • No matter how empty the fridge appears, with a little imagination there always seems to be something you can make!
  • Some books are like old friends. You share one such book with your kids and delight to find them as captivated by it as you were.
  • A simple school lesson sparks a question in the children which turns into an opportunity to dive deeper into the subject which ignites a fire in their souls.
  • At the end of the day, it’s not about doing it all, it’s about being faithful to just do the next thing.

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

SaveSave

SaveSave

A Brief Morning Prayer

A Brief Morning Prayer

In the quiet of this morning, when anything at all seems possible, secure my heart and my thoughts for you, Oh Lord.

My plans, my expectations must fall apart before your sovereign plan; give me open hands and an open heart.

When tiny feet sound on the stair, signaling the end of the stillness (and hot coffee!), give me your love for them. May the fullness of my hands cause my heart to burst with reasons to give you glory.

Let me never cease to pray for the children you have entrusted to me; make them sharpened arrows for your kingdom.

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

“By the grace of God I am what I am…”

KEEPING IT REAL

  • Your brain is serenaded 24/7 by the strains of the latest favorite animated movie soundtrack.
  • There’s a sticky spot on the table in which you keep setting your book or your hand.
  • Why even bother wearing socks in the house; there are puddles EVERYWHERE.
  • The undone laundry is the towel load. That night, two children throw up…and there are NO towels.
  • Nice weather keeps the kids outside for hours…and hours…even though there is still work they need to do, it’s ok if they don’t come inside quite yet…
  • Motivation strikes: it’s work-out time! Barely a minute in, the toddler decides to literally drape herself over you as you attempt a floor routine.
  • A child spills her smoothie into the shag rug. Just to prove how dumb you are, you clean up the mess then give her more smoothie which she immediately spills again in the same spot.
  • All the matching socks are on a walk-about. There’s nothing for it but to wear mismatching socks and YOU DON’T CARE.

 

GRACE MOMENTS

  • A friend brings you dinner when your husband is out of town.
  • Friends volunteer to watch your herd so you can run errands and get a coffee ALONE.
  • You get to experience real love and support from your church family.
  • Optimism: mountains of laundry equals a well-provided for family with lots of little people to love.
  • Your oldest says, “hey mom, I can watch the smaller kids so you can have some quiet time.”
  • Your kids are sick but still a friend offers to come help out even though she might catch it!
  • Once in a while, your big children still want to snuggle.
  • Remembering Ephesians 2:8-9.

 

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

 

 

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

Just a few of the things God has done in my busy life this week! 🙂

KEEPING IT REAL

  • You have the house to yourself for a few hours. Looking forward to some rare alone time, you think of all the many things you’d like to do knowing you won’t have time for all of them. You start straightening the house while you try to decide on just one or two things, only to suddenly realize everyone just pulled up in the driveway and you’ve spent the whole time cleaning (like you do every day). Lesson: next time have a list of “alone-time activities/projects”!
  • Finally, the house is vacuumed! The kids bring home paper bags filled with popcorn. The toddler runs around shaking a bag upside down yelling, “it’s snowing, mommy!”
  • There is no cream in the fridge for your coffee…and you were JUST at the store.
  • You tell all your friends that your baby is sleeping through the night. That evening, she stops sleeping through the night.
  • The toddler gets loose without a diaper and pees somewhere on a floor covered with Legos.
  • You catch your four-year-old running out of the house in only a swimsuit because apparently, any sunshine at all qualifies as swimsuit weather even when it is 35 degrees and still icy outside.
  • Your daughter stares at the top of your head then declares, “mom, your hair is turning gray!”

GRACE MOMENTS

  • You discover an unopened bar of your favorite chocolate in the pantry.
  • Every morning your oldest son gives you a hug the minute he sees you and says, “I love you.”
  • You get to hold a brand-new baby and marvel at the miraculous handiwork of God.
  • You witness the answer to a prayer you started long ago.
  • You read a passage of Scripture you’ve read before but glean a deeper understanding of it.
  • You’re able to still have peace and a sense of joy even when things are not the way you planned.

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

 

Pregnancy update: Week 39

Pregnancy update: Week 39

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Aside from having a slightly larger belly and needing to hike up my maternity jeans twice as many times a day, nothing else has changed from last week. Well, maybe baby is a tad less-active than before due to her growing size but otherwise, not much else.

And I don’t expect anything to happen until after her due date. So with that in mind, I’m keeping my expectations in check, loving each moment, and taking advantage of the last times I have with each of my five and of course with my sweetheart before our world drastically changes once again!

This last week, I’ve found myself hitting the snooze button on my alarm more often than usual. It feels very unconscious and I think my body is reminding me I really do need a bit more rest as it gears up for delivery. I’m trying to go with the flow and not mind the missing quiet time first thing in the morning as I know it is just for a season. I try making up for it later in the morning after the kids have been fed.

There have been some sweet moments during the mornings I’ve risen late, right as I’ve gotten my first cup of red raspberry brew tea in hand. I hear tiny footsteps in the hall. Usually it’s Little Joy, already beaming away, wanting to cuddle with her mama and asking to read her Bible while it’s just the two of us. Or it’s my second son, swathed in his fleece blanket, curling up into a lump on the carpet near my feet; still unfolding from sleep.

Moments like those won’t last long. Even if I’m feeling huge and tired, I remember I need to make the most of these times. I look at my two oldest and even though they are just eight and seven, they are rapidly becoming the “bigger” kids. Some days I wonder who swapped out my first-born son for the skinny, string-bean-limbed boy sticking out the ends of his cuffs who showed up at the dining room table. He is nearly the same height suddenly as his older sister. He just wants one-on-one time to talk, usually in detail about something he’s building with Lego, or have someone spend the time searching with him through mountains of bricks to find that one small piece he needs.

And last week, I said no to an afternoon nap for me, and went out to pick red huckleberries with my oldest girl. Always the kid wanting to be “doing something”, it was a good time to just be together, beating through the soggy brush, letting conversations come and go at her own speed.

My mind is completely blown away at times over the monumental task of parenting. I feel so inept; so inadequate especially with so many very different little human beings that have been put in my care. And for the changes each one goes through…often happening so much faster than I ever feel prepared! More lately than not, God has reminded me that not only do I need to daily seek Him for basic survival of motherhood, but I need to be asking for wisdom. It seems like a no-brainer to ask for wisdom in parenting, but I don’t think I’ve before been so aware of my need to simply…ask. With all humility, I want to come to Him acknowledging my needs. I may not have an entire people group to lead like King Solomon when he asked God for wisdom, but in a way, I do have a little kingdom that I desperately desire to raise with no missed opportunities to love, nurture, and show by example the ultimate love of God.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

 

Family Trip Saga – Part 3

Family Trip Saga – Part 3

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Saying goodbye can be hard.

That morning when you wake up and know that your job is packing everyone up and leaving those you love isn’t fun.

There would be a return to normality soon, and it would be nice to sleep in our own bed and in our own room without five extra bodies. There were things to look forward to back home for the rest of the summer, but the parting was bitter-sweet.

I cried when it was time for hugs and had that empty feeling that comes with the end of a good visit, knowing it could be a long time before it happens again.

Bathroom stops, hugs, tears, prayers, kids in the car, more bathroom stops, then we were off.

“Mom, can I have the iPad?”

“No, let’s wait until we’ve been on the road longer.”

“Mommy, I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?”

“We just ate breakfast; let’s wait a bit.”

Silence. I pulled out some knitting. For a brief moment, we traveled with no conversation; the weight of our departure still sat heavily on me and on my husband.

“Mom, may we please listen to an Adventures in Odyssey?”

“Oh, ok…”

It started to rain. Not a bad time for rain. Maybe it would help to clean off the spattering of insect carnage all over the front of the new car.

As was typical, there was road construction along the way. Every time the car stopped, Little Sprite began to wiggle and fuss, hoping it was time to get out. She must have been so bored, being still too small for a front-facing car seat. Our oldest who was sitting beside her helped out greatly to entertain her whenever this happened.

We entered Canada with little trouble. Some of the roads during this stretch rise and dip crazily and bump along because of the frost heaves and boy, could this pregnant mama feel those!

By the kids’ bedtime, we had reached Destruction Bay where we found a motel for the night. Rather than spend more money on food, we pulled out the last of the cheese, crackers and summer sausage from our cooler, making an easy dinner from that.

We stayed up just long enough to watch “Charlotte’s Web” with kids who’d all napped along the road before attempting to sleep ourselves.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed the next morning. Actually, the fact that I still claimed a side of the bed after that restless night was a miracle. The room had become stuffy and too warm with all the little bodies in it. I struggled to get myself and the kids ready, feeling acutely the lack of sleep. My sweetheart took our oldest girl and brought back breakfast from the restaurant before loading up the car. I felt a twinge of guilt for the attitude I was already having when I saw my breakfast contained sautéed mushrooms; a treat he knows only I enjoy.

There was fighting between half the kids as we buckled in and tears from Little Sprite as soon as she realized she was going back into the car seat. Oh, there were still many miles before we could stop again… My husband told everyone to hush and we prayed for God to help us with our attitudes and bless the remainder of our trip.

Passing through the rest of Canada was beautiful. So much green. Towering mountains capped with snow right in our faces, it seemed. Rolling hills partially shrouded in mist. We even saw some wildlife along the way: lots of little brown rabbits darting across the road and even a brown bear grazing beside the guardrail. Since I literally had a captive audience (hehehe) I continued one of our read-aloud books, a story about George Muller which interestingly enough, really intrigued our oldest girl as she urged me to keep going.

Then at some point along that road (and in the middle of a very exciting Adventures in Odyssey) I drifted off to sleep waking up just as we neared the U.S. border in Haines.

We entered cell-range again and I took a minute to catch up on the incoming texts I hadn’t seen before. Once in the heart of the town, we hunted up a snack and COFFEE. We found, oh joy of joys, an Aztec mocha from Mountain Market. Oh my. Yes. Another one, please. Then it was off to pay a visit and drop off some items to my husband’s aunt who lives and runs a business there. As we had a number of hours before we needed to line up the car to board our ferry back home, his aunt recommended a local playground so the kids could run off some energy.

Once we did that, it was back to Mountain Market for more coffee (I know, I know…it had been a long drive, ok?) and another tasty snack before going to check in at the ferry terminal.

I was so thankful for the clear day-no rain. We parked the car and decided to take the kids down to the beach beside the ferry terminal while we waited for our boat to arrive around the corner from Skagway. The kids explored and threw rocks in the water. My husband and I talked about our trip impressions and thoughts of going home.

My thoughts were busy dwelling on the beautiful places we’d seen; the accessibility to much more that we didn’t have in our smaller Southeast location as well as living possibilities. Family was a bonus, of course. And we even felt like with our larger family we “fit in” more with the demographic. I was having lots of “grass is greener on the other side” feelings.

The ferry arrived…an hour late. By now, we knew we wouldn’t make it home until around 11:00 that night. I walked on early with Little Sprite and our oldest so as to secure a location for us all while my husband and the other kids boarded in the car.

The four-hour ferry ride felt like the longest part of the journey to me. We had attitude problems with all the kids and we felt trapped in the small confines of the boat. We snacked, read books, played games, ate dinner, watched movies, and walked, walked, walked with fussy kids. My husband took many more turns walking or taking kids outside for talks than I did. I know he was exhausted too but he tried so hard to keep me from having to get up a lot.

Arms loaded with droopy kids and bags, we finally docked, loaded up in the car and drove home. I felt like crying; I was so worn out. We shoveled everything into the house and then crawled into bed. I was thankful I’d decided to put clean sheets on the bed before leaving! And our neighbor, who’d fed our kitties in our absence, had baked a beautiful loaf of bread and left it on our kitchen counter for us, having noticed our fridge was empty. What a sweet surprise!

As I drifted off, I had a lot to pray about. I was thankful for all of us making it safely home again. I was also thankful for the trip we’d had. And while I was sorry for my attitude of discontent, I realized the trip had awakened, not for the first time, thoughts of moving somewhere else someday and I needed to take some time to analyze those.

I’ve often thought that while living in this world you someday “arrive” and make your home “forever” somewhere and there you will finally feel “settled”. There is a comfort in feeling “settled”. But more and more I realize how temporary it all really is and as believers this world isn’t our home and any attempt to try to satisfy ourselves with making it so is contrary to what God asks of us. I’m sure there will be times again and again, when we have missed being near our families. And there have been times (and will be again, I’m sure) where we are dissatisfied with where we live and feel that by changing our location all our troubles or the dysfunction of people or places around us will vanish. But obviously, changing locations doesn’t solve anything; I’m plenty dysfunctional on my own and there will always be some degree of it wherever we go.

So while the trip was so wonderful and so worth it, I had begun to be discontent and as I prayed I realized that God has us where we are right now for His own purposes. I may have a desire for change but trying to force something without clear direction from Him would be a great mistake. I must be content with where He has placed us. It may be He asks us to drop everything and go one day to someplace totally different or He may ask us to stay put forever. Either way, I don’t want to feel so tethered to one place that I miss His best for us; I want to be able to joyfully obey.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Missed Part 1?

 

 

 

 

Personal Devotion Time for Kids

Personal Devotion Time for Kids

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For a long time now, I’ve been looking for a good method to show my kids how to read their Bibles on their own.

I try to read the Bible aloud every day (a workable time for us has always been breakfast time) so that the kids are hearing God’s word regularly. But how can I nurture a habit for each one of them, especially the smaller ones?

First I tried sitting them all down in the living room before breakfast time, hand each of them a Bible (or picture Bible for my non-readers) and told them we were going to sit for 5-10 minutes reading our Bibles then close in prayer. I would read along with them, usually the passage that would come up later in our family Bible time. I started with 5 minutes and gradually increased the time as the weeks went on.

This approach worked for a little while. But I began to realize I needed a better plan for my oldest kids to follow rather than “just read this chapter and be done”. The youngest kids kept asking questions about the Bible pictures or they just wanted sit in my lap so I could read it to them. Also, the oldest ones would wonder why they had to read the huge “boring” Bible with no pictures while the younger ones got to look at the brightly-colored (and much more interesting-looking) picture Bibles. Sometimes, there would even be a mad dash for the most desired picture Bible and sour attitudes for the less triumphant recipients.

So that plan fizzled out. I did some browsing online for more ideas. I also re-evaluated why encouraging the kids in a personal Bible time was so important.

When it comes to learning how to read, we’ve told our children (sometimes during a storm of frustration over “why do I have to learn to read? It’s so hard!”) is that once they can read, they can begin to read the Bible for themselves. What a marvelous, rich gift it is to possess God’s word and to be able to read it! We realize of course that simply implementing personal devotional time doesn’t by any means guarantee salvation; salvation is from God and I pray daily for the Holy Spirit to convict my children’s hearts. We do know that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrew 4:12). I cannot save my own children, but I am told to guide and encourage them in the pursuit of God (Deut. 11:19).

It was also a good reminder of why I need to be constantly modeling Christ to my kids. Sometimes I need them to see me read my Bible and hear that I am reading it for me every day too.

So I started a new plan.

I gathered four composition books and four Bibles (two of them picture Bibles). Currently, our school age kids are 8, 6, 5, and 3. In the oldests’ books, I wrote out a brief Bible reading assignment followed by one or two questions with spaces for answers. I chose to keep it simple at first so it wouldn’t appear too daunting as we began a new habit. Here’s a sample from my daughter’s Bible journal:
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Eventually, I’m going to lengthen the reading assignment. Also, mix up the question part with “something to think about”, or “give an example/think of a time when you”, or copy a verse they read. Also, I’m going to add a place to encourage a prayer list.

For my non-readers, I chose to stick with the picture Bibles for the time being, especially for the 3-year-old who tends to start talking about cupcakes and unicorns if deprived of something visual for too long. 😉 The purpose of their Bible journals was so that, while they can’t write well yet, they can and do like to draw. Here’s a few examples of their understanding of the creation story:
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As I was getting ready to put it into action, I realized that it would probably (especially at first) eat up quite a bit of time in our mornings. My homeschool schedule goal is to get most of our academics done on the early side of the day. However, I felt convicted that this is what needed to change and trust God to give us time for the rest.

I have daily opportunities to talk about God with my kids, to read about God, teach them songs of praise to God, memorize scripture with them, and pray with them. I am constantly humbled and thankful for the task set before me and I don’t want to look back and say “I wish I’d made that more of a priority”. The academics can wait. The math doesn’t have to be finished yet, we’ll read science later, they’ll catch up on spelling another day.

The first week went well, although my 8-year-old was, at first, intimidated at the thought of doing something new as she always is. Everyone else took the change very cheerfully. By the next week, my oldest was asking to read her Bible (something she has NEVER requested) and confided to her daddy that it was kind of fun. It’s a blessing that she is my early-bird in the morning. She comes downstairs usually as I am at the end of my own devotion time, picks up her Bible and journal and begins on her own. The time between her finishing and the rest of the tribe waking up gives us time to discuss what she read and find application for her. It’s a quiet, precious time that can’t quite be replicated any other time of the day.

I have witnessed some very neat changes in my 6-year-old. He’s always been a more thoughtful, sensitive soul; he internalizes. It’s been exciting to see the ways God is knocking on his heart.

The youngest two relish their Bible time with mommy. They even initiate it themselves, telling me they need to “read their Bibles”, grabbing their books and journals and a handful of colors. I read one story with each of them while they draw. I ask them something about what they heard, talk about how it may apply to their lives, and close in prayer.

I’m still very excited about how this has been working for us. How does Bible time look in your family? What have you found works for kids?