When Conversation Becomes Gossip

When_Conversation_Becomes_GossipLet’s face it; we aren’t going to like everyone we meet. In fact, there are some people we are going to dislike. We don’t agree with everyone’s choices, some people flat-out confuse us, and others are just obnoxious. When possible, it might be best to keep our opinions to ourselves and bite our tongues.

There are times when someone’s actions or habits demand a response. Someone says something or acts in such a way and we feel the need to explain to our children, sharing the worldview or character traits which brought about such behavior. However, generally speaking, when we make comments on how others live their lives, what we are really doing is gossiping. We don’t like how someone did something and feel the need to give our own opinions. We can’t believe so-and-so had the nerve to do thus and so; so we spout off about their actions. We aren’t looking to make moral evaluations and warn our children of future dangers, we are being mean and unkind.

Our children learn from watching us; what they see us do and say. If we are being unkind toward others, they will begin to copy the model set before them and develop the bad habit of gossiping about others. They will learn to be critical, judgemental, unkind, bitter, and lack grace. While I highly advise using life experiences as teaching tools, we need to be sure we are evaluating for the sake of character training and not merely being critical. Pointing out unwise decisions helps our children make sound future choices. Condemning people with our words teaches nothing except unkindness.

Let us be careful with the way we choose to speak about people, both in private and in front of our kids. Let us speak with grace and mercy, dealing with others as Christ has dealt with us.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
~ Ephesians 4:29

Your Turn!: We were always taught, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Do you agree with the sentiment? Please share your thoughts.

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When Big Summer Plans Amount to Something Small

Big_Summer_Plans_Amount_to_SmallMy children long to know what we’re doing this summer. A grand adventure seems to be called for. All of their friends have announced their fantastic plans: vacations to exotic locations, camping with other friends, road trips, and more. These all sound wonderful, but with a work schedule which doesn’t let up and a budget which cannot afford such luxuries, our big summer plans are going to amount to something small.

Truthfully, this breaks my heart. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want these things for our children or myself. Like most parents, I would love to give these experiences to my littles and explore the world with them. Unfortunately, that’s just not where we’re at. So what can I do? Begin with prayer, and ask the Lord to lead.

Start with a Heart of Gratitude Unfulfilled desire can easily lead to a heart filled with bitterness and anger over what we don’t have. Instead, we need to choose look around us and be thankful for all we’ve been given. We have a lovely home, good food to eat, too much clothing, and plenty to keep us occupied right where we are. It’s good to have goals, but we must remember to be content with what God has given us already and be thankful for all He continually provides.

Plan for the Future If there is something important we wish to aim for, then we should also be willing to do the work needed to make it happen. Vacation trips don’t just fall in our laps. So, we’re researching, planning, and minimizing to make these happen in the future. Some of our goals are more easily attained while others might take years to accomplish. With a visual guide and plan in place, everyone becomes excited to see progress and help with cutting back.

Turn Off and Tune Out the Buzz If Instagram squares start causing discontent and Facebook posts bring us down, it might be time to remove ourselves from the action for a little while. These feeds can be lovely sources for ideas, but when inspiration becomes frustration we need a break.

Make the Most of Right Now Traveling to Europe isn’t in the cards right now, but there is plenty of opportunity for adventure all around us. Even when budgets are on a budget, there are still many ways to take advantage of the season. With a little creativity, planning, and a Google search or two, we could be having all kinds of fun.

Remember, Sometimes Small Amounts to Something Big While we’d all love grand adventures, it also helps to remember the little things in life which add up to big memories. Roasting marshmallows over a fire pit we built ourselves, sleeping in tents in the living room, homemade ice cream, free concerts, library events, kitten cuddles, and so much more. These aren’t far away adventures, to be sure, but grand none-the-less. I can’t provide exotic locations every summer – okay, not even every third summer – but I can take each day and make it memorable in its own way.

The desire for adventure remains. Through prayer, planning, and the Lord’s leading, perhaps one day we’ll get there. In the mean time, I’ll continue to keep my eyes focused on what the Lord has already provided and be grateful for each new day. Because the truth is, a grand adventure awaits the moment I open my eyes. I just have to be open to the possibilities and live each day with thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

Your Turn!: If you could plan one grand adventure this summer, what would it be?

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The Read-Aloud Dilemma

Read_Aloud_Dilemma“Do we really have to sit here and listen, Mom? Please!” Four anxious faces stare back at me, waiting for my answer. Our current read-aloud story is supposed to be Robin Hood. The plan was to progress through the book together, taking in the beauty of the words and having an open discussion of ideas. Instead, my kids are hoping I’ll see things their way and the torture will end. We have a read-aloud dilemma and this mama’s praying for a solution.

Our stand-off might leave you with the impression our children dislike books in general. Let me assure you this is not true. Our children read an average of 100-150 books per week. Reading is not the issue. Reading aloud is not necessarily the issue either. We read our history and science lessons together daily and enjoy the experience. So what is the problem?

The Dilemma – The simple fact is reading aloud takes time. We need to be sitting down all together and work through the literature at a pace which will, on average, suit the entire family. This is difficult when you have children in a wide age range and some of your children are exceptionally fast readers. Reading aloud can additionally be challenged by children who naturally have shorter attention spans. Time dedicated for reading together might need to be short, and those children who are steeped in the read might balk at having to stop for the sake of other siblings.

While our children are all willing, and happy, to sit through read-alouds which directly pertain to our “learning day”, when it comes to fictional reads, all patience flies out the window. It seems we need a compromise.

The Compromise – I have reading lists which I’d like our children to work through, literature which would be of benefit or add beauty to their learning adventure. Rather than make them suffer through reading it as a group, these books are provided for them to read at their own pace. Often, our girls breeze through them quickly. My youngest and I slowly meander through his list with dedication, adding fun side trips to encourage a love of reading.

Outside our regular learning routine and during devotions, reading aloud as a family is generally done in the car! Those long drives to nature walks and field trips are the perfect opportunity to pop in a good audio book and enjoy a story. We can also pass around a novel, taking turns reading the book to the group.

The Discussion – As each of our children work through their reads, Mom is sure to keep an eye on progress and engage them in dialogue. We talk about favorite characters, lessons learned, world views, selections which we all found rather dull, passages which were beautiful beyond words, gentleman which were anything but, ladies who needed stiffer backbones, places we wish we could visit, and so much more. We laugh, groan, and sniffle together. As a few of us start in, the rest inevitably chime in with their thoughts or are encouraged to read faster in order to join in the conversation.

One key point I should probably highlight is that all assigned and highly recommended reads handed to our children are books I have read myself. Either I read them before handing them over or have read them in the past. If I am going to have an intelligent conversation with my children about key ideas and plot points, it would behoove me to know what they’re reading. As a side note, I would personally feel a hypocrite if I required my children to read something I had no intention of working through myself. My children take note of this and it makes an impression upon their hearts.

Now, four smiling faces urge me to, “Start the next story, please!” Happy voices remind everyone about our last read, while anxiously waiting to hear what is coming. We all settle in for the drive, and our minds are taken on a journey to another place even as our bodies are being transported on another adventure. Our read-aloud time is no longer a dilemma, but a delight.

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned;”
~ II Timothy 3:14-15

Your Turn!: How has your family dedicated time for reading aloud?

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Why is Prayer a Last Resort?

Why_Is_Prayer_Last_ResortThere seems to be a trend amongst parents commenting on our recent blog posts. Prayer is something we all agree needs to happen, but is often not the first thought which comes to mind when a situation arises. Why do we use prayer as a last resort, when we could be accessing the most incredible resource available?

In our home, the Lord has shown us some unique ways in which to incorporate prayer into daily life. Join us as we review how prayer should not be the last thought which crosses our minds, but the first.

I need to be praying for each child individually. I pray for my children; all the time. At times, I will even pray for a specific child. What I don’t normally do is pray for a specific child all day long. The Lord is prompting me to do just that. Become a prayer warrior for each child individually.

I need to be praying for them on a specific day. If I don’t set myself up on a routine, I can forget what I am supposed to be doing and fail to accomplish what the Lord has set before me. I need to pick a day and dedicate that day to each of my children. For example: Trinity is going to be Mondays, Noel will be Tuesdays, and so forth. This way I form a routine and don’t leave things up to my memory or chance. It is scheduled and therefore it will get done.

I need to be praying for specific things. Each of our children have specific needs and
areas the Lord is showing me needs prayer. Through this dedicated prayer time, I need to be lifting these before the Lord. Here are some of the areas of my children’s lives about which the Lord is prompting me to pray:

  • Their walk with Him. (Never assume our children are saved or walking right with God.)
  • Their relationship with me. (That our relationship would stay strong and God-centered.)
  • Their relationship with their siblings. (That they would speak with love and kindness, putting the other person first.)
  • Their current struggles. (That the Lord would give them wisdom to know what to do, patience to help them work through it, and grace to understand we all fall short.)
  • Their maturity. (That Lord would grow them and make them sober-minded.)
  • Their future. (That the Lord would make their paths in life clear. That they would always serve Him and bring Him honor.)
  • Their future spouses. (That the Lord would be working in that other person’s life. Directing them and protecting them.)

I  need to be praying for my marriage. One of the best things we can ever do for our children is have a loving marriage that is Christ centered. Our children will learn more about life, love, and forgiveness from us, than from anywhere else. Praying for my marriage is essential.

I need to be praying for my husband. Praying for my husband is not the same as praying for my marriage. Praying for my marriage is important, but so is specifically praying for my man. He has his own struggles, dreams, and needs. Those too need to be lifted before the Lord.

I need to be praying for my outside ministries. We serve in a lot of different areas. In order to best serve those ministries, it’s extremely important to be in constant communication with God. If I am not in prayer, I risk overburdening myself and disobedience to the Lord. I need to constantly remember that He is the one leading those ministries. I am only there to help, which I cannot do if I am not listening to Him speak.

I need to find creative ways and times to pray. Through the experience of others, the Lord is also showing me creative ways to pray throughout my day. I tend to be very busy, so it helps if I can pray while I attend to the responsibilities He has put before me. Here are some ways that the Lord has opened up some time for prayer.

  • I pray while washing dishes. (Lord clean the heart of —–. Make them pure before you.)
  • I pray when I cook. (Lord feed —–‘s mind and spirit. That they would hunger for you.)
  • I pray when I clean. (Lord remove anything from —-‘s life that doesn’t need to be there. Help them to be organized and have a clean heart.)
  • I pray while I fold laundry. (Socks: Lord keep their feet on your path. Shirt: Lord touch their hearts. Etc…)
See, this could go on forever. There are many ways we can find in which to be creative about our prayer times; we just need to look for the opportunities.

I have begun to notice that as my children grow older and life seems to get more complex, I have a tendency to take on the struggles of life instead of leaving them where they belong; at the feet of Christ. My family belongs to the Lord. When I humble myself and give them over to God, I can have peace knowing that He is in control. Will you join me in spending dedicated time in prayer for our families? Trust me, you won’t regret it.

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
~ Psalm 145:18

Your Turn!: Do you have a tendency to use prayer as a last resort? What helps you remember to use prayer first and not last?

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If It’s Not Perfect…

If_It's_Not_PerfectOrganization seems to be a prevailing struggle in life. We juggle bills, work, marriage, kids, school, and more; all while trying to maintain some sense of sanity. We do our best to make sure everything gets done and, hopefully, done on time. Amidst the balancing act, sometimes we can become frustrated and give up. We become overwhelmed by the amount of work that lays before us. The ideal of perfection is just out of our reach and so rather than trying something, we do nothing. Because after all, “If it’s not perfect, I won’t do it!”

Within the world of homeschooling, I wonder how often we deal with this dilemma? If I can’t keep our house perfect, I choose to just let it go. If I can’t organize my closet in the most perfect way, I just won’t bother. After all, if I can’t have it just so… well, I won’t do it. Sometimes it can seem pointless and daunting to start a task and not have it be everything we envisioned. However, I wonder if there isn’t a lesson to be learned here.

We need to be patient. Nothing starts off just right the first time and not everything can be done right when we want it. We need to learn to wait for the Lord’s timing. (Romans 5:4)

We need to plan.  We can’t expect our lives to become organized and less chaotic simply by wishing it to be true. A well laid plan will help us to reach our goals and give us a starting point. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

We need to take baby steps. Remember when your kids first learned to crawl and then walk? We didn’t expect them to immediately jump right up and then start running. We knew that little steps had to be taken in between. Why do we often forget that when it comes to other areas of life?

We need to be diligent. A well laid plan isn’t going to get accomplished on its own. We need to make sure that we are striving towards the end goal. (Proverbs 13:4)

As I struggle with my own perfectionism, I have found it helpful to remember these steps. I need to seek the Lord and wait upon His timing. When the Lord is ready for the project to be done, it will get done. While I am waiting, I need to formulate a plan to get the job done. When the Lord says, “GO!” I need to be ready to take those first steps and then be diligent about moving forward. I also need to remember that I might not get it right the first time. As the old adage goes, “Try, try again.”

I need to give up the ideal of perfection, for the beauty of progress. Remembering that every step forward is a step toward my final goal. While I haven’t achieved it yet, I am closer than I was yesterday and even closer than I was a month ago. Some of my goals I will achieve quickly, like organizing my junk drawer. Others will take years, like getting a new kitchen. Either way, with patience, a plan, movement, and diligence; our goals will be accomplished.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. ”
~ Philippians 3:12

📢 Chime In!: Do you struggle with this same problem? Do want to give in when your house isn’t as perfect as you’d like? How do you focus on progress and not perfection?

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A Hot Topic

A_Hot_TopicRaising our girls, we are very particular about teaching them to be mindful of their modesty. Their dresses (or skirts) can’t be much higher than their knees, they are advised on how much skin they show, and their swimsuits  always cover their bodies fully. It wasn’t until my son, however, that the issue of male modesty became a hot topic. Why is it that women have to be so concerned with covering themselves, but men do not? Why can they parade their bodies for the world to see, while we are told to cover up? In my opinion, they shouldn’t!

When I first had my son, I talked about this issue with other moms who had boys. The first and foremost answer I got was this: “Well, men are visual and women aren’t. So, they don’t have to worry about stumbling women.” Friends, I am here to tell you that is not true.

Perhaps it is the generation I grew up in or perhaps it is my personal temptation, who knows? What I do know is that the above statement does not apply to me. I am very visual. I like looking at my guy’s manly chest and his rippling muscles. (Because he has them; thank you, Lord).

In fact, when you look at society as a whole, we are pushing our daughters towards this mentality. Look at the majority of magazines, news ads, and talk shows encouraging us to ogle men. We are taught to be open about our interest and drool whenever possible.

Now, back to my original statement, if we are so concerned with our young women not being “pieces of meat” for men to gaze upon; why do we care so little for our young men? Shouldn’t they be taught to respect their bodies and keep them under wraps?

My daughters wear two piece bathing suits which look similar to shorts and t-shirts; they are UV protectant and cover them from their shoulders down to mid-thigh. When my son was old enough to get in the pool with us, at about a year old, it seemed only right he be taught the same principle. He too wears a two piece short and shirt outfit which protects and covers.

I am very grateful our homeschool PSP is of the same mindset. When we have beach days, the boys are told to wear surf shirts or body suits. The girls are not allowed to wear two piece bathing suits, and if they do, they are made to cover up with a dark-colored shirt. It is a blessing to be surrounded by people who are like-minded.

Modesty is a hot topic and one which shouldn’t only apply to girls. Our young men need to not only respect the ladies around them, but respect themselves.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
I Corinthians 6:19-20

📢 Chime In!: Do you have sons? Is their modesty an issue in your household?

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The Three Gates: Helpful Tips for Watching What We Say

Three_GatesIn our home, we have a list of things  we try not to say. While this does seem to help with keeping the peace, it doesn’t cover everything. In order to better help us manage our tongues, we have also begun practicing “The Three Gates”.

If the words we are about to speak do not “pass through” these three gates, they should never be spoken.

Gate One… Truth: Words should not be carelessly thrown around because we are upset or being emotional. We need to think carefully about our conversations and make sure we are speaking the truth. (Zech. 8:16)

Gate Two… Necessity: Yes, the words may be true; this doesn’t mean they have to be spoken. Weigh your words carefully, once said you can’t take them back. (Psalm 37:30)

Gate Three….Kindness: If the words are true and necessary, speak with a measure of kindness. Taking the extra step to ensure our words are kind, helps keep the lines of communication open. (Eph. 4:32)

With the placement of these three “gates” in our home, we are learning to become edifying and gracious. We are taking time to think about what we say, with the intention of maintaining our relationships.

Throughout our homeschooling day, we are constantly afforded the opportunity to grow our character. Using these three “gates” has helped us tremendously. We are all learning to speak with truth, correct timing, and love.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”
~ Proverbs 25:11

📢 Chime In!: Do you have a set of “gates” your words must pass through before they are spoken?

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Grace Abused

Grace_AbusedI hate having to discipline my children. I don’t know of a single parent who actually enjoys this aspect of life. However, I realize it is important in raising children up properly. Our children need to know there are immediate consequences for poor choices. They need to understand that obedience, temperance and respect are essential.

Early on, my husband and I read a wonderful book about training up our children in the ways of the Lord. This book helped us understand what the Bible had to say about raising children. It was also instrumental in helping us decide the best manner of training and discipling, as well as the difference between the two. We have used the principles in this book for the last several years and have always found them to be sound and true.

Unfortunately, as of late, I have found myself to be lacking. Far too often we are repeating ourselves in order to be obeyed. Far too often the children are asking why they need to do something, instead of doing it. Far too often we are allowing them to be disrespectful and blaming it on those “teen” years. Mommy is starting to feel tired, irritated, and frazzled.

Recently, it hit a point where I realized who was at fault… ME! I was using grace as an excuse to be lazy. I was justifying my lack of action by thinking that giving them more of an opportunity to obey would make them want to obey. I thought if I extended grace, they would rise to the occasion, be grateful, and quick to obey next time. Well, that certainly wasn’t happening. I was only giving them more opportunity to disobey. I was slowly, but surely, getting more irritated with not being obeyed the first time. I was becoming more and more disrespected because my children were being allowed to get away with it.

After a few bouts of disobedience and disrespect from the kids, I knew this needed to come to an end. I called all of my babies into the front room and sat them down. I sincerely and thoroughly apologized for not being more patient and kind. I apologized for not doing my job; namely training them immediately. I explained that my God-given responsibility was to teach them to be respectful adults who feared the Lord. I explained that in order to do my job I needed to be training them, and I was no longer going to tolerate disobedience under the guise of grace.

Afterwards, I knew we needed to come up with a better plan of encouragement. Not only did I need to be training them more, but we also needed to be keeping each other in line with God’s will and His Word. What better way to do this than prayer? Together we came up with the plan that whenever we see someone starting to get out of line, we will immediately stop them and pray with them. This works for Mommy too! If Mommy is getting frustrated, the kids have been encouraged to walk right up to me and say, “Mommy let me pray for you.”

Through prayer and a return to training, I know our home will be one filled with joy, peace, and love. I have confidence in knowing the Lord is helping me to raise our children with wisdom and patience. I can proceed into our upcoming school year, knowing that our learning will be more easily accomplished without the challenge of disobedience. Now I know that when grace is offered, it is because it is truly meant and that it is not laziness masked by grace abused.

“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!”
~ Romans 6:1-2

Your Turn!: When do you become aware grace is being abused?

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The Dream

The_DreamJust like Mr. Martin Luther King Jr., I too have a dream. It might not seem as grand as his. No one but me and God might know it exists. But it’s there. Deeply rooted in who I am, extending to every fiber of my being. My dream is a beautiful one, but dangerous. For my dream, like all dreams, is not reality. And if I’m not careful, my unfulfilled dream can quickly cause a great deal of trouble.

The dream is me always smiling. I stand in my kitchen watching over my children while we homeschool happily. I am always dressed to perfection, and own a spectacular apron which personifies the glory of homemaking. There are fresh-baked cookies in the oven ready for my family to devour. We get through our lessons with little fuss, anxious to continue exploring. We play games together, cook together, and we are constantly encouraging each other.

The reality is I don’t smile as much as I probably could, or should. While I’m usually with my kiddos, there are some schools days which have us all pulling our hair out. The apron I do own is usually forgotten, and my clothes are evidence of this fact. Lessons aren’t working as planned. Particular subjects are a challenge to the day. We’re all craving cookies, but mom is on a ridiculously tight budget and can’t find five minutes to bake, even if she could find chocolate chips in the cupboard. By the time we’re done schooling, we’re all needing a few moments of space and relaxation.

While I jest, and over-exaggerate just a tad, there is nothing wrong with the dream. We all need something to aspire to. Nor is there anything horrible in our reality. We all have hard days. The danger lies in my inability to separate what I’d like to be from what God calls me to be. God is not asking me to be what anyone else thinks I ought to look like; not even myself. God calls me to be faithful.

There are days I get lost in the dream. This isn’t the life I imagined! Why can’t I seem to be the mom I want to be? Why isn’t our homeschool day as I envisioned? My day is so clouded by my dream, I fail to see the beauty in my reality. No, the day isn’t perfect, but it is mine and it is a joy. If only I would look past what I wanted and see how God has blessed.

I am sure there is a dream in each of us. A dream of what type of parent we want to be; what our marriages would look like; and how our homeschooling year would flow. Our dreams are special, ideals we are reaching towards. But in the struggle to obtain, let us rejoice in the reality in which we live.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
~ I Timothy 6:6-7

Your Turn!: What is your dream?

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The Next Five Minutes…

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

~ Matthew 6:34

The_Next_Five_MinutesI can’t breathe. A pounding fills my ears. Taking another single step requires a momentous effort. Truth be told, I don’t know if I can do this. Life has overwhelmed me; I am drowning in a sea of heartache and worry. Just the thought of tomorrow causes panic.

As a Christian, we are reminded God is control of our tomorrows and we need worry for nothing. But what if tomorrow seems like an eternity away? It is today’s struggles overcoming our resolve to trust in the Lord and His strength. We aren’t worried about what is coming down the road. What’s standing in front of us is mean, ugly, and ready to devour.

My sweet friend, I’ve been there. In those moments I’ve cried out to the Lord, asking for His wisdom and strength. I’ve questioned my ability to conquer the challenge before me and come through to the other side. The Lord’s response was an unexpected one, “My child. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about later today. Just pray, and focus on the next five minutes.”

The Lord knows me well. He knows my desire to see the bigger picture. He understands my weakness of seeking control; my foolish belief that if I could behold what’s coming down the road, and how long the battle will rage on, I would better endure the struggle I am facing. Thus He blinds me to these things, knowing greater comfort comes in trusting Him. He asks me to trust Him in the now.

The next five minutes are all that need hold my focus. For the next five minutes I am asked to breathe, pray, and be faithful. Five minutes. Not my tomorrow; not even the hours which fill my today. Just the next five minutes. I only need to hold for the next five.

When my five minutes have passed? “Again,” the Lord reminds me. “Be faithful in the next five minutes.” Before long, five minutes have turned into an hour; which has turned into ten. The day passes, and another begins.

In those five minutes, the Lord speaks to my heart; calming my fears and reminding me of Who is in control. I cannot change my tomorrow. I cannot change what is beyond my realm of influence. But, my God can. God is not asking me to face my giants alone. He is merely asking me to be faithful, no matter where He takes me. Filled with understanding, He does not ask me to look at all my days to come, and trust. He knows my limits. He asks me to trust Him now. In the here and now. In the next five minutes. And, should the Lord decide my journey is at an end… My reward will be trusting and waking in His presence.

For five minutes I can hold. For five minutes seems so small. I need only to trust and obey.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

~ Philippians 4:6-7

Your Turn!: Are you in the midst of a struggle, how can we pray for you?

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