December 11, 2014

We Don't Do "Family Devotions"

You know those cute book covers where you see the children quietly gathered around the father, Bible open on his lap, maybe a fire lit in the fireplace? Mother is sitting nearby with a contented smile on her face.

We don’t do family devotions like that.

Hats off to you, if it's happening in your family. Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with sitting around and reading the Bible as a family.

But we don’t gather around the family Bible together and all listen quietly while Dad reads.

Does this mean our family is void of Bible teaching in our home? Absolutely not. In fact, some of our very worst moments as a family have been when we’ve force fed our children Scripture in the evenings. Now, there have been seasons when everyone receives it well, and it's nice... but normally my attempts feel fairly forced.

It has taken me, a fairly idealistic wife and mother, a few years to realize that reality is rarely the way it’s portrayed in books and paintings. You might be saying "Duh..." right now, but it took me a bit longer.  :)  The endless stream of family devotional ideas you can glean from all around (not all bad, by the way) can seem just that – endless. And it was essential for me to realize that the devil wants to discourage me by having me believe this idea that we are somehow doing our children wrong, or failing, if our families don’t look like this certain way.

A little while back I was challenged and encouraged by a friend who shared about a book she was reading that was mainly about being authentic in front of our kids. Growing children up in an environment where they are seeing Mom and Dad’s relationship with Jesus alive, not just hearing about it. I think we all want to see authenticity in the people we are around. Hypocrisy is a huge complaint un-churched people have against “christians” and part of it is due to their experience with those said-christians. They have heard the preach, but maybe haven’t seen it in action. How will our children feel if we are preaching to them, but they aren't seeing Jesus transform our own lives, daily?

In our home, we are talking about Christ. We are talking about grace and love. We are talking about our sin problems. We are sharing the Word of Truth with each other as Bible memory is rehearsed daily. But I have long given up the picturesque scene of children on parents’ laps listening to the Bible being read. Currently, in our house, it’s just not working like that.

I have stopped believing this “If Only….” form of a lie. Because that’s basically what it was for me: "If only we had regular family devotions, we would be so much closer as a family, or the kids would be so much better behaved".. or whatever your “if only” reason might be.

We are free from this. Our family devotions do not look like they do in the books, and that’s okay. We are loving our children, training them in real-life situations throughout the day, and living beside them speaking the Word into their hearts.

November 13, 2014

Coconut Banana Muffins

These are yummy! As I think about ways to help my kids bake with me in the kitchen, it's a real challenge, because I rarely follow recipes. I'm always adding, taking away, or changing completely. This was one of those times, and these moist, fluffy, coconut muffins were born.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together:
½ Cup butter melted
½ Cup sugar
2 eggs
2 mashed bananas
In a separate bowl:
1 Cup all-purpose Flour
1 Cup coconut flour**
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
Combine dry into wet ingredients. Add ¼ cup of milk. You want the batter to be “spoonable”, but not like cookie-dough.
Into greased muffin tins, fill 9 of them almost full.
Bake for 15 minutes, check doneness with a toothpick, and bake an addition 5 minutes if needed.
Carefully remove muffins from tin immediately, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

**You can make your own coconut flour by placing dried shredded coconut into your blender and pulverizing it until it's powdery. Or you can use leftover coconut flesh you may have after making coconut milk.

August 10, 2014

Motivator to Memorize

I am always motivated to try and find new ways to get my kids memorizing verses. One of our favorites, is to sing songs about Bible verses! My kids probably don't realize how many scriptures they actually know from memory just from learning simple songs. The best resources we have found for Bible verse songs are from:

Over the past several months we've tried to sort out an allowance system, or a way for the kids to earn money. They aren't yet at an age to really learn to manage money, but they are all eager to buy stuff and have choices of their own in that regard. We have tried giving out money for extra jobs, we have tried regular allowance... this actually just ended up giving me a headache, because every single time I would head out grocery shopping everybody wanted to spend every little bit of money they had.. and because they never saved it, candy was their only affordable option.

So......... I have now combined Bible memorization with a type of money-earning bonus. Except it's not real money.

Our AWANA days have followed us all the way to Madagascar! Unfortunately, we have no such program here. But we do regular memory work as part of our homeschool, and I wanted to add an extra motivator by giving the kids a type of record book to keep track of their verses.

By completing sections in their books they can earn "shares" which they can spend at Mommy's store on a special pre-determined day during the month. This eliminates the constant desire to spend right away every time we venture out to a store together. At my store they can buy movie vouchers, e-book vouchers, ice-cream tickets, small treats, and little toys. They anticipate "store day" and are eagerly studying their sections to earn shares.

The children also earn shares by volunteering to do normal jobs around the house. By volunteering, they are showing initiative, it also cuts down on the mommy-nag.

My 3-year old is also included. He wanted his own book, and he is earning stickers for practicing his verses with me, and he's is also rewarded with shares after "passing" sections.

There aren't many things sweeter than hearing little ones speak God's Word by heart

July 16, 2014

Looking Up (Revisited)

This is a post I wrote almost 2 years ago, and it's still so applicable for me this day. In it, I said I was learning to look above the messes... that things were getting easier... I will say today, almost 2 years later, that I'm still learning to look up (focus on Christ rather than the nitty-gritty of life), and things still don't feel so easy. I don't know what my frustration has to do with more---how truly irritating individual situations can be, or the fact that I still struggle with being irritated by these sorts of things.   :)  

All I can pray now is, after messing up over and over and over, losing my cool over pointless things in my house, perhaps causing my kids to feel less than they really are to me, or not showing them enough how much they're loved, 

"Jesus, thank you for your grace! 
They are in your hands. They have to be, because mine are slippery and clumsy."

So the post from almost 2 years ago revisited.......

"Usually, my house looks lived-in. I have never been one for the house magazines and home decorating. There's nothing wrong with making your house beautiful, mind you. There are days when I wish I had the 'eye' for it. But, alas, I don't think that's my niche.

Often, I allow my living space to affect my "mind-space", if you will. Example, if my home was cluttered and untidy, my mind felt the same. If physical things were misplaced and disorganized around me, it was mentally exhausting to try making plans for anything.

I find life is just easier when I'm organized. For example, getting ready for an outing is obviously more difficult when things are just scattered everywhere. It's one thing to grab my purse on my way out, but when I'm caught wondering where I placed the keys last, things can get a little tense! "Why can't I find my keys at the exact moment I want to go somewhere?!" I've often shouted. So as much as I desire everything to be put in its place, I'm no expert at it myself. It would take me a short novel probably, to write about how I got over my need to having everything "organized" and tidy. In a nutshell? I'll try.

Rob and I married young. He was 23, and I was 21. We bought our fixer-upper house 9 months into our marriage and began a 6-year long renovation. Yes 6 years. This was no redecorating folks. He lifted the house 3 feet, doubled its square-footage with 3 more bedrooms (1 with an ensuite bathroom), a playroom, and garage, plus he rebuilt the kitchen and another bathroom and laundry room. Except for the priceless help of precious friends from time to time, he did the majority of the work himself without hiring trades. Living in the middle of a major renovation like this raged war on our relationship countless times. And, I had 4 babies during 5 of those years. When all I wanted to do was "nest" for the new little one, we were bashing down another wall, or vacuuming up drywall dustagain. (And let me just say for the record, drywall dust is awful stuff to clean up). I groan with ladies who lament about these things! I did not have a place for everything, and keeping everything looking tidy and Better Homes & Gardens ready was a far away dream. Cooking in an unfinished kitchen whilst competing with power tools and screws and plumbing materials on the counter was my reality. If renovations didn't help change my compulsive need to be organized and tidy... having kids helped push me even more in that direction. We are trying to train good habits of cleanliness and tidiness into our children. But a 3 year old can only clean so much. My 6-year old is learning the value of being organized however--after she loses art work, or special treasures, only to leave them on the floor for someone else to pick up. "Find a special spot for those things." I often hear myself say. Tripping over toys, or random socks taken off after the morning chill has worn off... or a discarded tea-towel once used as a super-hero cape earlier, are not really frustrations to me as much anymore. Yes, I still get into a dither (to put it lightly) sometimes about getting everybody to help tidy up. But I don't feel so tired now when I am in my house among what some people may think is chaos if they walked in.

Today I realized I have started to look "up". Yes, above the scatterings on the floor. I remember there was a time when all I could focus on were odds and ends strewn all over the floor. But I don't notice it near as often anymore. I find myself looking up above the mess.

Looking Up. 

When I was pondering this more today, I thought to myself, "Yes, I am looking up, physically. I am not so focused on what's going on down there... on the floor. What about spiritually? Am I looking up spiritually? Looking above and beyond the nitty gritty of daily life spent with small children? During those lonely, or frustrating, or disappointing times, am I looking up to my Heavenly Father?"  "

July 10, 2014

To Give You a Hope and a Future

Life doesn’t seem to be going the way people around me expected it would go, or even the way I would expect for them. Living abroad is forcing us to recognize, or remember, that life is even less in our control than we realized at first, and completely in God’s. Circumstances often play a large part in showing us His will; sometimes dramatically, sometimes gently. And even when circumstances seem to take a change for the worse, it’s all in His plan. We must not become weary or discouraged. If our plans have had to change, what we were doing according to His will was not in vain, even if the job doesn’t feel or seem finished to us. We are comforted in remembering that God knows the plan of our lives. God promises us prosperity, and not harm. But we can’t get tripped up in expectations of what this prosperity or  harm may mean for our lives. Prosperity may not be the newest car, or endless funds in the bank account. Nor may it mean perfect health all our days, the children or spouse we always dreamed for, or the perfect job. But we do know that prosperity in God’s economy can mean a peaceful relationship with Him on earth—forgiveness of sin, and comfort in difficulties. Prosperity in hope. We don’t need to become discouraged in our circumstances when life seems as though it is spinning out of control, or taking a turn we never would have imagined for our friends our ourselves, because we know that it’s in God’s hands. We know He has promised us a greater hope than our finite circumstances, which is glory with Christ forever one day.

God’s plans are not always our plans, or the way we would imagine life to go. But He invites us to be a part of His plan: to be a willing participant in His sovereign will.

Once we are made alive in Christ, truly nothing can harm us. No illness, no persecution, no earthly difficulty. We are always safe in Jesus, because even when our physical bodies are no more, because of Christ’s victory over death we will share in this victory in glory with Him one day.

June 23, 2014

The Dry Season - When God Seems Quiet

Sometimes seasons seem go by where each time my Bible is opened a scripture pops out at me in fresh and amazingly applicable ways. Every need is met by the perfect words of God. It’s really speaking to my soul. God’s words are raining down! His voice couldn’t be more clear in these rainy seasons: I hunger, and am filled, hunger and am filled.

And then there are seasons when silence and more silence seems to be the theme. No longer are the comforting promises of God raining. In fact, it feels more like the middle of a dry season. Those long months of watching dust fly up and around and cover everything. Every surface and crevice becoming dustier, dirtier, thirstier. The plants are waiting; the people are waiting. Waiting for that first wonderful rain! 

And it will come. It’s the cycle of the seasons.

And I start to hear Him again, and the promises are popping out, and the life-giving words of grace in His Word.

The thing is, Scripture hasn’t ceased being relevant or applicable to my life in those dry spells. Sometimes God’s spirit is quieter, forcing me to listen even more carefully. To that “still small voice.” Afterall, He promises to never leave me nor forsake me! God is a missional God. He wants us. He pursues us. He makes Himself known to every one in all creation! It’s part of His grace.

What seems like a dry season, could be the time when God is actually telling me I need to slow down, major on the majors, rather than every little thing I try and control in life, and really truly listen. His quiet season is really the time when He is drawing me in, and patiently waiting for me to listen to the “still small voice.” Rather than expecting to find Him in the big things, He is still there in the small. In each sibling squabble I must pray for wisdom to wade through; He is in each traffic jam, wanting me to slow down and live in step with the Spirit; He is in every “owie,” when I have to stop and comfort the hurting baby. He is in every little interruption, reminding me that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

Lord, thank you for the dry season!

  Linking up here at a Little R & R

May 30, 2014

Go to The Source

It has been nearly a month since a post, and not on purpose, but sort of. For no real reason except lack of inspiration have I neglected writing much of anything. When this happens, you may see recipes or kitchen tips pop up instead!  J

But I have been thinking about the endless resources available to us… whether it be blogs online, online radio, in our local Christian book store, on the (real) radio, even local church programs we may have access to. There is an abundance. Thus my silence on this blog. I don't want to be another distraction--offering a self help tip or whatever. Do we really have to try and feed ourselves anymore? I’m talking about Word-feeding; getting 'spiritual' input into our lives daily. It kind of seems like we don’t have to put too much effort in. There’s so much ready for us to access at a whim--endless blogs on endless topics ready for us to spend our time reading on our laptops, desktops, our mobile phones, our tablets, even our e-readers! 

On the surface it seems pretty easy. Like… it just comes to us and there can be an ongoing supply of spiritual food and encouragement streaming (literally) into our homes. But, I’m getting the impression that it actually isn’t adequate and many moms are really starving for real truth, for real interaction with friends, for truth. Our schedules can look so frantic, at any given season of life—we’re trying to fit it all in. From spending quality time with our kids, to quality time with our husband, and time with the Lord, and fitness, and cooking nutritious meals for our families, and then making sure our kids have an abundant access to great extra-curriculars outside of the home. Phew.. that list makes me exhausted. When a problem arises, it’s easy run to a self-help book or tap into a sermon or blog. When something just isn’t working right in our homes we wonder if a professional answer could be found somewhere in a book we haven’t read yet. Did we do something wrong? Is there another method? A different system? (I love systems.)

What did the Christian moms, wives… women do generations before us? Before this stream of endless information.

They had the Bible.

They knew their Bibles because that’s what they had. They had to depend on it alone.

And are we going to the Source (God, and His Word) first? Or do we jump online or on the phone or into a book looking for our answers?

Do not get the wrong idea here. I'm not suggesting we abandon all books, available teaching, seminars, or friends' advice. But a balance must be found. And hopefully it will slope more towards going to the ultimate source of Truth.

Let's dive into God’s Word for comfort, correction, direction, and wisdom?

PS) This is completely a mini-sermon to myself on the topic… because really, honestly, I do like hearing others’ takes on issues and challenges, and find myself—more often than not—seeking advice from “them” or “they” before Him or He.