Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Toddler Training

A life with small children has many different seasons: fun, tiresome, encouraging, overwhelming, and frustrating. Life in general comes at us in different seasons. We have seasons of great passion, deep love, grief, angst, and turmoil. No two days in the life of a believer are the same. One thing is constant, the present, constant love of our Father. I find my understanding of that unchangeable love is wavering, even as He is not. Our understanding certainly is.

Proverbs 16:3,21&22
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it....

I often notice, as mothers, when we get into a particularly difficult season with one of our children, we are quick to share the struggle our child is having with other mothers. We tell of our frustrations with the behaviours and we often vent of our struggles dealing with a particularly hard season. Most often the responses I hear to these struggling mothers is, "oh honey, I can top that," or, "oh, it's normal, just give it time."

As women who depend on the Lord, I see in scripture that our responses to one another should be much more directed to the heart of our fellow mom. "So friend, did how did your heart react to that behavior?" Or, "How did your heart deal with the heart of your child?" Even more simply, "How can I help you think and pray through this tough season with your child?"

Titus 2
....teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

TEACH....TRAIN, not, "Oh I've so been there"...

Not preach, hound, judge, hurt. Train, teach....that the word of God may not be reviled. Do we use scripture as a weapon. Or do our children see the good works in us (even when frustrated) and then long themselves to be self-controlled and pure?

It is hard to be the one in a group that says, "before we fault our children, how about we take some time to look at our own hardened, possibly angry hearts." Not easy to do, but it could be the thing that brings us out of our slump with our little ones.

So how is your heart today? Have you given yourself even a moment to examine it before disciplining your child. Take the time, you will not regret it. If needed, go to your child and apologize for ways you have used your hard heart to punish your child.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Managing Money

This is the area we have much room for growth. The question is, are we seeking to grow? I believe we are. Last week I mentioned how Jason and I are writing everything down. We have been very careful to put everything down. It has been eye opening. If you have never done this, I would highly suggest it. Just for one week, we found so many places we spent money but never took notice of it.

For instance, we usually put somewhere between eight to ten dollars every Wednesday for dinner at church. We are getting to where our eaters are bigger and we actually need to increase this number. It's an amount we are happy to spend; we love dinner with our church family on Wednesday. It was just never listed in our budget. So we found forty dollars we spend that we hadn't put in our budget.

I was right last week. The quick trips to the store really do add up for us. I'm going to have to work on this.

For this week, saving money will come from sticking around the house. We have been so so busy lately I don't think it will be much of a sacrifice to do this. We have more than enough to have a family come over to our house for dinner and games if we choose. But a weekend without running around will be so helpful to our budget.

This week I also have the job of figuring out our taxes. It's not too difficult, but always an education for me. Jason has also reworked the number of dependents he claims. We hadn't done that since the birth of Harper. It was time.

Slow and steady wins the race. We are getting there. Our goals for the year. Actually, for before Jason graduates from seminary the May after this one.

Be completely debt free except for our rental home
No car payments
Increase our emergency fund
Retirement started
College started
Increase our giving

After this month, I think I will have a clearer picture of when that will happen. I will be grateful to be out of graduate school debt free. I know we can do it. It will just take some sacrifice on our parts.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Portrait of a Saint

Some faiths have the idea of a saint confused. As per scripture, a saint is someone who trusts in Christ for their salvation, follows Him in their days, and desires to be more like Jesus. It has nothing to do with perfection. Mostly, it's submission and an understanding of our own need for Christ in their daily lives.

So if you are asking, yes, I do consider myself a saint. Sounds prideful right? Not at all. It truly only comes from my own knowledge of what scripture says about those who believe in Christ. It has nothing to do with the "work" I do for church, others, or my family, it is only by the work of Christ on the cross that I can call myself such a word.

Trust me, it's not something I tell people often. But it's not something I'm embarrassed of either. He saved me, He accomplished it, He works in my heart, He has done every bit of the work. Nothing in me made me worthy, made me better; of myself, I'm dead in my sin. Only with Christ am I made alive to righteousness. That out of the way, portrait of my favorite living saint.......can you even begin to guess?

Not too difficult, it's Jason. The husband I never deserved, but by God's abundant grace was led to in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. The gifts I see in Jason are endless, but I want to focus on the things of Jason's faith that have deepened mine.

Jason has a gentleness that is rarely seen in men. To me, it makes him the strongest man I know. He doesn't need to raise his voice, use his muscle, or control to make his point. His soft heart has done much to change the hard places in my heart.

That leads me to his patience. He certainly can get ruffled and frustrated, but after being married to Jason for over ten years, I will tell you it is rare. Where I am often the one to point out flaws, character misjudgements, and mistakes; Jason is patient to let the Holy Spirit be the one to do the changing in the hearts of those around him.

Many come to Jason with their burdens because they know he will tell them the truth tempered with a lot of love and truth of scripture. He has been called into some very difficult situations, and the grace the Lord has given him has humbled me immensely. He takes his studies seriously because he knows they will be used to the benefit of others he comes in contact with in his ministry. Not for the pride of being smart, but for the deepening of his own faith to encourage others he comes in contact with daily.

I'm not trying to say my husband is perfect, but he listens and is willing to be changed by the Lord. He knew from a young age that he would spend his life in service to the Lord. He fought that call at different moments of his life, but he never would forsake the Lord. I have seen hearts changed and deepened by knowing Jason. I see it everyday in my own home. I love the father my children are blessed with to show them the unconditional love of Christ. I don't think I will ever come to the end of what the Lord has to teach me through the life of my husband.

Many nights Jason and I end our day in bed reading our books side by side. If I turn out the lights before him I often tell him I love him. Then I go on to tell him how much I really like him. He is my very best friend and I really like the man that he is. I like his humor, I like his intelligence, I like how he treats those around him, I like his kind heart, and I love Jesus who thought to make a man like him.
Thank you Jesus for seeing fit to put us together. How could I ever have turned the head of such a hunky, kind-hearted, godly man? May I ever be grateful! Does he sound too good to be true? That's what I think all the time! How did such a wretch like me get the attention of such a beautiful wretch like him?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Week in food

Every week when I'm making my list I do an inventory of the food we already have. I make sure that I have a daddy meal if Jason needs to help me out cooking, and I also take into account nights we are going to be entertaining. This week we are having some friends and their children coming in from Illinois (Juli and Joel Adams). I can't wait, but I need to be ready.

Here is the week in food at my house. Starting from yesterday.

Oatmeal and fruit
Cereal and banana bread
Pancakes (Ella's speciality)
Oatmeal/dried fruit and banana bread
Cereal and toast
Banana bread and yogurt
Cheesy eggs and toast

Black bean tacos
Roast and potatoes
Pb&j and fruit

Church meal
Shrimp fried rice
hot dogs and mac and cheese (date night for us)
Tomato dill soup and grilled cheese
Hummus and homemade pita
Potato soup, ham and cheese rolls, salad and PB cookies (bunco night)

Fruit (oranges mostly)
Crackers and cheese spread

With all of my meals, I slice up available fruit, open my apple sauce that we canned, or add a vegetable. I don't list them because it wouldn't be accurate. I struggle with the main dishes, but the sides come easy for me. Maybe this will help you think through what you are cooking. It really does help get things going. I save so much on our budget by writing it out before I go to the grocery.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Already off track

Wednesday is for my week in food. I did my meal plan, grocery shopping and everything, but I wanted to do this today instead. I took this from Megan at Halfpint House. Do it if you'd like. Bold the things you have done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain.

9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo...sorry to all that heard, but it was the fifth grade.
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29 Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33 Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41 Sung karaoke (define "sung")
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45 Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
opps I just erased 53 and 54
55. Been in a movie (do home movies count?)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60 Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64 Donated blood, platelets, or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66 Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67 Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79 Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Toddler Training

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be;
let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander-Lord, I feel it-prone to leave the God I love:
here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

This beautiful verse comes from one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Almost every time I come to this stanza I come to tears. I am so prone to wander, so easily distracted by myself, so easily frustrated by my circumstances. It certainly happens in a nano-second when it comes to parenting. One minute can be bliss and the next you find an entire box of Cheerios on the kitchen floor.

The parenting of toddlers is a very high calling. Before when I was "employed" there were many witnesses to my behaviour. Many encourager's of the time and effort I spent "working." Now, mostly my children, my husband and the Lord are my only witnesses. The high calling comes in the stewardship of the hearts of our children and the watchfulness of our own sinful hearts without an audience.

Ask yourself today, would you act like that in a "work" environment with others watching? If you were evaluated what would be said of you actions towards those you are to "manage"? Would those in your care know your heart of love for them? Parenting is much harder than employment, I don't care what your occupation. It's the hardest work I have ever done and the most rewarding as well. But we rarely take time to evaluate ourselves. We just live some days to get to the end of it. I think the Lord has much more for us in our parenting years than that!

I think the work without an audience is the most important we will ever do. No, I know it is. It is worth taking the time each day to evaluate our own hearts. Are they wandering? Are they hearts of anger? Do we need to begin today with repentance? Not for the performance, but for the souls of our children. What could ever be more worthy our time in examining our hearts than that.

Remember the encouraging word from James.... Come near to God and he will come near to you. Though we may wander, He never does.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Meaningful Management

Monday is for looking at the finance part of my job. It's complicated, it's frustrating, and it's very, very important. Often in our society I find that this area of our lives is extremely private, but a place of hidden heartbreak. I think of myself as fairly transparent, but when it comes to finances, not only do I avoid talking about it, I avoid dealing with it. Not anymore. I'm going to use this forum to sort through the mess, praise the Lord in His provision, and take responsibility for what we spend.

We have always lived simply. From our earliest time together, Jason and I had the goal of living on a single income. We have had our bumps in the road, but mostly, we have met that goal. The Lord has always, always provided for us in obvious and unique ways. I have certainly struggled with my faith in this area of my life. I remember once in a Bible study on finances someone told us to write down realistic needs and pray that God would provide for them. I actually left the room to "go to the bathroom." Where I cried and cried. I realized I didn't believe in the Lord in this area of my life.

My faith in this area has increased as well as my stewardship of our finances. About two years ago, I asked Jason if I could manage our money. I realized I was the consumer in the house and I didn't really understand our expenses. He took a step of faith and let me. Many bumps along the way, but I'm still managing our money under the authority of Jason. We make decisions together, but I now understand better the expenses of our family.

That said, this Saturday Jason and I went on a budget date for the year. I highly suggest it. We went for lunch without the kids so we would be alert and ready to think numbers. Someone gave us a gift card to a restaurant and we spread out our bills and budget and ate and talked. It was great, but I left a bit tired and overwhelmed.

As we spent our time trying to figure out our expenses, we realized we aren't exactly sure where all our money goes every month. We wrote down every bill paid, estimated food, entertainment, and gas, but we still could not see dollar for dollar where it is all going.

So our assignment to ourselves this month is simply.....write everything down.

This will give us a better look at what our expenses really are. It won't be easy, but I think we have many expenses we don't even notice. I think the largest for our family will be all the quick trips to the grocery. Stay posted, we'll see where it's all going soon enough.

Next week, tackling debt!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Order in the Blog

Okay, okay, I'm back. I have missed writing and reading around my favorite spots. I'm ready for a little more normality in my days, and time spent writing out my thoughts. This morning I decided to put myself on a little bit of a schedule. I know my head tips to the right...as I only have a right brain in my head, but I thought giving myself some direction would help. So, from here on out I will be writing on different subjects everyday. Here is my first trial schedule. Let me know what you think. Certainly, I will interject my own ideas off the subject if they interest me.

Monday Managing our Budget
Tuesday Toddler Tips
Wednesday Week in Food
Thursday Portrait of a Saint
Friday Faith and encouragement

These are topics I think on often, and writing about them will keep me more organized. Jason and I are going on a lunch date tomorrow to do our budget for the the year. We have some ambitious goals that we hope to achieve before he graduates from seminary. I will share our ideas and tips to saving money here on Monday.

Tuesday is obvious. Tips to help in the training of our littles.

Wednesday is the day I make our weekly meal schedule. It's the day that the groceries put out adds, and I take time to plan out meals and company we plan to host through the week. Wednesday is nice because we eat at church. It's my night off (if I'm not doing the meal), so it's a good day for grocery shopping. I will also share the ways I work to save on the bill (an ever increasing challenge with rising food prices).

Thursday will be a day where I highlight the lives and faith of people who love Jesus and encourage me to do the same. From everyday friends to authors and Bible characters, I hope to shed light of the many faces that love Jesus in meaningful ways.

Friday ends the week on faith and thoughts about Jesus. I hope you will visit and leave input on the days that interest you. The new year excites me, and I eagerly await what the Lord has for our family.

If anyone is interested....I am on the lookout for a boy name. We don't ever know if we are having a boy or a girl, but we are at a total loss for a boy name.
A place to find encouragement to love your little ones, your husbands and those you come in contact with daily. Two does not have to be terrible. These are years to grow not simply get through!