Saturday, April 22, 2017

Snuggle Me Timbers and Snug-a-Bugs! Why I will never feel guilty again about napping...

My Sweet Girl,

I can't tell you enough how blessed I feel for having you and your brothers in my life.  Just as with them, from the day you were born, we've always had a thing going, you and I.

You're my lady..
..we're best girls..
and we always will be, 
no matter the age or time in our lives.  

Yesterday, when I woke up with you from yet another one of our delicious snug-a-bugs (or snuggle me timbers!, as you also like me to say), I was feeling tremendously guilty.  One look around our insanely chaotic and cluttered house, and I was immediately reprimanding myself for having taken the time to sleep...
...but then I realized, it is just so SO much more than that.

We've been snuggling together from the time you were 4 months old and even before that, really...you'd always refused our repeated offers for the crib in favor of our arms...

...and I'm so incredibly grateful that you did!

I realized yesterday though, that these naps we get to take together each day...they're coming to a close...pretty soon, once the Fall is here...these afternoon naps will pretty much be a thing of the past...

I know too, from experience with your big brother, that once kindergarten hits, your life will begin to fast forward at a pace that your dad and I will both struggle to be comfortable with.

Not only will naps become a thing of the past but also those middle of the night snuggles you give when you sneak into our bed and, along with it, so many of your wonderful little girl traits and habits.


  
I love you so much, Baby Girl (you know you'll be my baby girl for always!).

I love how you both love and need to be where I am at all times.  I love that you run back for a kiss at preschool if we didn't get a proper one...I love that you want me by your bedside as you fall asleep, and I love how you run out to me in the living room when you wake up and realize I'm not there.

Where I am, you need to be...
and I am so humbled and honored by that...
I am both completely undeserving 
and completely at a loss for words over your love for me.   

So yes, yesterday as I awoke from our nap, I did feel guilty, but I assure you that I never will again.  Life and time is too short.  Fall is approaching, and there is so much excitement awaiting you there, but I know too, that my heart and my arms will ache for just one more of these times with you.

You really are growing up, and this Fall is a huge deal on so many levels...I'm so proud of you, and I love you more than words could ever say.  I just hope so much that one day, you'll remember all these deep and meaningful moments we've shared along the path of your childhood, and I hope that you'll carry them with you always and pass them on to your own, because my heart,...my heart will never forget.

I get it now, that it is so much more than a nap...
It is a sweetness and a love that I will hold onto for the rest of my life...

So I will snuggle with complete abandon, My Girl...these napping days are winding down and I just will never be ready to open my arms and let you go...




Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Bliss of Living A "Bottom of the Coffee Pot" Kind of Life

We are a "bottom of the coffee pot" kind of family.  

Photo by Jim Lost At Sea via FreeImages
Doesn't really sound like the kind of label anyone would want to wear, but I'm especially proud of this one...

Every Wednesday night, my family and I rush across town to our church.  It's group night there, and all of our activities begin promptly at 6:30.

I've seriously tried everything I can think of to get us there on time (including dinner in the car!), but no matter what I do, we are always late.  For the last 2 months, each and every Wednesday, my family and I arrive after everything has already started.  Week after week, without fail, we sheepishly check in our younger two while my eyes dart around, quickly scoping out the scene to see whether there could possibly be another family arriving after us.

A little camaraderie, perhaps?
Usually, there is not.  
It's just us.  

Last night, we were especially late.

After hurrying to get the kids to their rooms, my husband and I dashed to the coffee table, hoping for a little caffeine to keep our minds alert and our eyes open after putting in a hard day's work.

Once again, I held our cups while my husband tipped the coffee urn forward, each of us hoping for enough to fill our containers!  While laughing at the fact that here we are, once again, tipping that pot, hoping for the parts of the coffee that no one really wants, it dawned on me:

This is where I want to be, tipping the pot with my husband.  
We work so hard.  
We try our best.  
We're giving this life everything we've got for our King.  

Right now, it's true, we're a "bottom of the coffee pot" kind of family, but I know that neither of us would trade it in for the world.  Some day, when our kids are grown and life slows down, I'm sure we'll be receiving first fruits from that coffee pot, while some other family comes lagging behind for their burnt drops of coffee, but I'm in absolutely no hurry for it.

I drink in full my burnt coffee, knowing that I have got the best of it all...with my life and heart for my God, and my mission and purpose for Him and my family.

Thank You, Lord, for the bottom of the pot coffee that my husband and I drink from on the regular.  I pray, Oh Lord, that we will always be grateful for these cups You have us drink from, and that we never ever forget the precious reasons we drink from this particular part of the well.  Thank You for our blessings, Lord.  They are worth every precious bit of burnt coffee we pour into our cups...because of You, that burnt coffee tastes like the sweetest, richest flavor of all.  Praise You, my King.  I love You with all that I am.  
In Jesus'  Precious Name, Amen.

Photo by AA via FreeImages

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Doing the Bible With Play Dough: Jonah

I know, I know...When I first started this series, I swore I'd post a new play dough story each week, and already, I have not.  Unforeseen circumstances with my back and three sick kids sort of rewrote that story, but we're here now, so let's get started!

Materials:

Play dough - Like last time, you can buy it, or make your own.  Whichever works best for you!  We seem to have a lifetime supply of the stuff and won't be making ours anytime soon, but I'd love to know how that recipe works out for you, if you try it!



Bible - This week's story comes from Jonah.  This one is four chapters long.  Now, before you go cringing at the thought, let me assure you that these chapters are short, and this story is so fun to visualize, which makes it easy to keep their attention the whole time!

All I basically said was that God wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah but Jonah said no.

Yes, we're using the Jedi men again...this likely won't be the last you see of them!
We used the mold for Jonah and two other guys for the boat!

He gets on a ship heading in the opposite direction.  (For this, we just used any container that mildly represented a boat and put all three of our play dough men inside.)

A huge storm comes. (Here, I let my daughter rock the boat all around.)
Jonah knows that the storm is his fault.

He tells the people to throw him overboard to calm the storm.
See...nothing extravagant here...just enough to get the point across.
Their imaginations will take care of the rest!
The storm immediately calms.  (Depending on your child's attention span, an important tidbit you can add here is that, when the storm calms, the remaining men on the boat realize how powerful God is and turn their lives to Him.)

Jonah sinks.

But a GIANT fish comes along and swallows him up.


I'm assuming Jonah's was a little more intimidating...

He stays there for 3 days.


Once he prays and tells God that he is sorry, God has the giant fish swim to shore and spit him up.
God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah and this time Jonah says yes.
The people in Ninevah hear what Jonah has to say, change their ways and ask God to forgive them.

I skipped the very last part for my daughter.  You know, the part where Jonah gets really mad that God had compassion on them.  I didn't want the first part of the story to get lost over the confusion she'd likely have with Jonah's reaction, so I just left it for when she is a little older.  

So that's it!  I think the most important thing to remember when you are doing these with your own child is to keep it simple (for the both of you):  The creations do not have to be extravagant and the story should be as short and to the point as possible.  You, of course, know your child better than I, but I find over here at this house, the shorter and to the point I am, the better she retains what I'm saying!

Oh, also...and this is a BIG one for us.  Make sure to have some fun making other creations as well!  Before our Jonah reenactment began, I let my daughter have a free-for-all with the play dough.  
Then we paused for the Jonah story and then picked back up with the free-for-all once again!



So, I hope you guys have so much fun with this one!  If you take any pictures of your Jonah story (or other play dough creations), send them my way, and I'll be sure to add them to my post!

Missed the first play dough story?  You can catch it here!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

He Will Leave You Not Alone


I'm not going to write very much today...I just don't have it in me to, really. 

Today was hard. Brutal hard. My back, after months without severe injury or pain, took a "revisit" to a most agonizing place. 

I'd like to think I've handled it better than in times past, and in many ways, I think I have...but I know in so many other ways still, I've many miles yet to complete in what God is trying to form within me. 

One thing before I go:  As I realized with dread what had happened, I immediately began to pray...but I did not pray very well.  It was rushed, my words were all jumbled together, and I'm pretty sure I just said the same thing over again. 

Once the shock of my situation had settled, I remember thinking, "Man, I wish I had gone to God better."  I was disappointed...but just as quickly as I had begun to dwell on it, this came to mind:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans 8:26 NIV

See, I really didn't do it wrong. God wants us to trust Him...to go to Him. 

I did that today, even though I likely spoke gibberish. I went to Him and, in response, He took care of the rest. 

What have you been waiting to go to God about?  Are you worried you won't find the right words?  

Just like me, if you go to Him, He will most certainly take care of the rest. 

Praise You, Lord, for Your everlasting kindness. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for praying on my behalf when I just did not know how to. I love You, Father. Thank You for working Your good through an otherwise intolerable situation. In Jesus' most precious name. Amen. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Doing The Bible With Play Dough: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

I'm just going to get this right out in the open:

Yes, 
I am doing a series
on teaching kids about the Bible through play dough.

No, 
I do not have even the slightest of talents 
in the art of play dough creations!

Even still, I'm just so excited about the idea (thank you, children's church group!), and I'm super encouraged by my daughter's reception of it!

During the series, we'll be studying a new story from the Bible each week and reenacting it via play dough.  (So, if you've got any stories you'd like to see unfold, let me know!)

Materials:

Play dough - We used store bought, because, as you can see, we have A LOT!  If you're looking for a homemade recipe though, here's one that I pinned from Living Well Mom.  I haven't tried it yet myself, but it looks very simple!



Bible - This week's story comes from Daniel 3.  It's a huge plus to have read the story prior to trying to recreate it with your kids.  I have found that, while I certainly do read straight from the Bible to my daughter, her attention stays with me a lot better if I can give her an excited and animated summary instead. 

This all is really very easy.

I told my girl a 30-second version of the story first, and then suggested different things we could make with the play dough. 

We went for the obvious and started with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.



And, of course, don't forget the angel!  
Why, yes!  Shadrach does look just like a jedi!
(Hey, you work with what you've got!)
My daughter was amazed by this part - that there was a fourth "person" in the flames with them.  

Over the years, we have collected a ton of play dough tools.  We just fished around and found what would fit with our story.  If you don't happen to have any tools, you could always just make the flames yourself...Even if you're challenged like I am, simply making blobs of orange and red for the fire will do just fine..if your kids are anything like mine, they'll just love the fact that you got the play dough out!

Once everything was all set, I told my daughter the story once more, but this time I used the figures we had made.  When we got to the part about their hands being bound, I squooshed their hands together.  When we got to the part that they were walking around freely in the fire, I just pulled their hands back apart.  You get the idea..


So there you have it!  Our first Bible reenactment via play dough!  Despite my lack of play dough know-how, my daughter absolutely loved this project!  She actually said in the middle of it all that "this was the best day ever!", so really, a chance to teach my child about God AND a chance to do it in an exciting way for her is really a complete win-win in my book!

We'll be doing these reenactments each week, so be sure to check back in!  Got any play dough reenactments that you guys have done at your house?  Send those pictures my way!  I'd love to see!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yogi, or Not Yogi? That is the question...

Ugh, being convicted can be so, SO hard...especially when it involves something that you love!

You might recall that I have had some issues with my back over this past year.  (In case you missed it, you can find it here and here)

2016 was a tough one physically, for me.  Once so strong and hardcore athletic, I found myself floundering in my new injury and all of the limitations it carried with it.  I went to physical therapy a couple times, a chiropractor a couples times (multiplied by 10!), and a back specialist, but nothing seemed to help me...

Then yoga resurfaced into my life...

Image by Aaron Neifer via FreeImages
I'd done it over the years here and there, but starting this past Fall, I picked it up again and really became attached to it.  I was astounded by the way my back began to heal and I felt...I mean, I really and truly felt, that God had led me here to help me heal and grow strong again.

...but then it happened...

...My oldest and I were doing a Bible devotional the other night, and the topic was:  "Is it wrong for a Christian to do yoga?"

In my head, I immediately knew the answer..."Of course not!"  Now, I knew already that yoga was rooted in a religion that I did not align myself with, but I felt with all of my heart that, if I kept my head out of that end of things and just did the poses for my back, I was totally fine...

...but then, yes, the video...

It was only two minutes long, but it stuck in my head like an unwanted thorn in my side.
I couldn't believe this guy was telling me 
that yoga was not okay for a Christian to do.  
How could something so beneficial for me 
not be something God was in agreement with?  

I tried to write the guy off, proclaiming this was a "gray area" and that if you do the poses with the right intentions in your heart for God that it was just fine....Needless to say, the devotional time with my son was a complete wash.
I'm not sure he got much out of all the confusion that ensued on my part,

but I'm starting to see now that 
the devotional was never meant for him. 
It was meant for me.

To backtrack, a couple of weeks prior to this devotional incident, I was starting to feel a pull from God when I was doing yoga.  It wasn't anything huge...just a little-by-little thing.  I was doing yoga videos off of an app on my phone, but something just wasn't right with some of the things they were saying and I could feel it.  Foolishly, I pushed on through, because I was nearly done with my session (or whatever other justification I could conjure up!).

Back to the video though, that thing got into my head and it just wouldn't go.  I mean, I actually started to feel a little mad at the guy for what he'd said.

He was altering my whole plan for my back 
and, to be honest, 
I just plain love yoga!  

I always feel so great and peaceful afterwards, and it always relieves my back.

I prayed about all of this a lot, and I also went to the internet...

First I went to my trusted source...(I love Got Questions?)...
They didn't support my cause either.

Next, I outright Googled it.  That obviously was no help.  I mean, let's be honest, you can find support for any side of any conflict that there ever could be on Google.

Despite two strikes against me with the devotional and my trusted source, I was back to square one, still hunting for someone with Christian roots to give me that "green light" I was wanting!

Fast forward to my women's group:  I tell my group leader the situation, complete with how it heals my back (I mean, that has to give me a pass...right?!), and asked for her input.  As it turns out, she too was very into yoga for a time but then felt convicted and quit the practice all together!

Great.

Still searching for my godly influences to throw me a bone here, I went to one final person who also agreed that any postures created to worship pagan gods were no postures for a Christian at all.

Ugh...like I said...conviction, right?  
God wasn't letting me get away from this!

That night, I dreamed that I was searching for the answer, and I woke up this morning with my quest still fresh in my mind.

Surely Christian yoga could be my answer, right?
Wrong.  

Everything just goes back to the root of the matter.  
These yoga postures were created for worship of other gods.  
There's no other way to slice it.  

I was being convicted...and more and more deeply by the second.

I realized that I was holding onto yoga and was shaping my perception in such a way that would allow me to keep it...
...but the kicker was this...

What if, when I got to Heaven, Jesus asked me:  
"...but why...why if you love me so much, 
did you choose to be a part of a practice 
that does not honor or worship me at all?"  

And then I thought of my daughter...
...my sidekick both in the house and on the yoga mat.

So maybe I might not be misled amid the roots of yoga, but what about her?

What if I became the reason she pressed on with yoga even after God called her away from it...
What if I was her "green light" that told her this was the way to go?

Even if I did not follow the beliefs behind yoga, 
what if she did?  
What if I lost her to this, 
and it was because of the example I set?

Even the idea of this is enough to bring me to my knees.

I've realized, quitting yoga isn't harmful, but sticking with it actually could be...

I don't want to get to Heaven and have Jesus ask me 
why I had led my children down the wrong path...

I mean seriously, why would I be willing to jeopardize their faith by putting questions in their heart about what faith and loyalty to God really looks like?

How do I explain to my kids 
that sometimes it's okay 
to intertwine themselves with things rooted in darkness?  
I mean, is that really the lesson I'm looking to give?  

How dangerous and slippery a road is that when they then take these same lessons and apply it to their own lives and their own situations!

No.  Thank.  You.

It's not worth it.  None of it is worth it.

I have everything to gain 
by quitting yoga 
and everything to lose 
by sticking with it.

I no longer believe that God has healed my back through yoga.
I believe that He healed my back despite it.

I know that, in my obedience to Him, He will not leave me stranded.
He will not leave my back to suffer, but even if it does ail once more, my heart and my soul are free, and I know that I am able to be the teacher to my kids that I long to be.

They will be able to look one day at a situation they are in and hopefully apply the lessons of my choice here to whatever circumstance they find themselves to be in.  Oh yes, they might still make the wrong choice, but because of my choice here today, in regards to yoga, hopefully, just hopefully, that will anchor them in and make all the difference in the steps they take thereafter.

So now to the heart of the matter:

Yogi, or not Yogi?  
That was my question.
and NOT yogi 
has finally become my answer.

It may have seemed harmless to me on the surface, but I realize now that I had far far too much to lose by staying.

Lord Jesus, take me deeper now than I have ever been before with You.  Thank You for clearing my path and for helping me to establish the paths for my children.  Thank You for Your gentle yet powerful insistence, Holy Spirit.  Thank You for Your patience.  And thank You, Father, for loving me so much that You never leave me alone.  You surround me with Your presence in Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Thank You for Your forgiveness...for the reward I have felt since making this choice for You.  I will praise You and rejoice in Your Holy Name forever.  In Christ's Name, Amen.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Get Your Child to Do Chores

For any parent who has ever tried to get their kids to do chores, you know the struggle that often comes with it.

If you're anything like me, the hassle alone might have been temptation enough to cut them loose from the whole chore thing altogether.  I mean after all, sometimes it's just easier (and more peaceful) to do it ourselves, right?!

I admit, I am guilty of this...
Judge me if you want to, but when we got knee-deep into the holidays this year, there was just no way that I wanted to deal with the aggravation of it all, so liberate them (and myself) I did!

With it now February, I've got my head on as straight as it will go and am ready to fire up those chores once again.  To avoid the debacle that was last time, however, I've come up with a new way to assign chores.

While the kids still have the responsibility of their own rooms to keep clean, I'm trying something a little more outside-the-box for them.

I've selected a handful of chores that desperately need attention around here and have written each down on a piece of paper.



Every Sunday, each kid will be selecting two chores from the bag (yes, that's a Reindeer food bag...I'm hoping that instead of attracting Santa and his sled, we can maybe attract a little cleanliness!)

They will be responsible for their two chores (and their room) for that entire week.

Once the week is done, they can toss those chores back in the bag and select new ones for the week to come!

See, I'm loving this because there is nothing rigid in place.  If they are hating their chore, they just need to persevere through the week before they choose a new one in its place.  Also, I can add or take away chores from the bag at any time.  

So that's it...
...That's the plan around here.

We start tomorrow.
I'm sure there will be complaining, but it wouldn't be our house if there wasn't!

What about you?  What helps your kids stay on task with their chores?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below.