Happy Anniversary to Us!

Happy_Anniversary

Forgive me for keeping it especially short and sweet, but I’m too busy enjoying this special day. Today, my husband and I are celebrating our eighteenth wedding anniversary!

Wow; I don’t know where all the years have gone. It seems like just yesterday we were getting married and then having our first baby. Eighteen years later, we have four kids and have been homeschooling for over fifteen. While the journey hasn’t always been a breeze, it has been rewarding and memorable.

For all the years we have been blessed, may we be truly thankful. For all the Lord continues to do in our marriage and through our family, may we be appreciative. The Lord has been good.

Your Turn!: How many years have you been married?

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When Silence is Golden

When_Silence_is_GoldenA friend once commented that my house is frequently a “quiet zone”, meaning I don’t have constant noise running in the background. I don’t know that I had ever thought of this before, but she’s absolutely correct!

It’s not that we don’t listen to music or never have the television on while doing something else, it just isn’t a regular in our world. I doubt there was a lot of thought put into the decision, it just seemed like the natural course of events. The more I think on the topic, I confess there are some valid reasons for having our home be a “quiet zone”.

My children are easily distracted by outside noise (and so am I). One of the few downsides to being OCD, is that my brain functions on all cylinders all the time. Having additional noise entering my ears is overkill. My kids tend to function the same way. While we are homeschooling, we tend to keep the external noises to a minimum. Having a “quiet zone” during formal learning helps my kids’ brains to function better and focus on the task at hand.

My children use their own creativity. My children are very creative. They invent stories, write plays, internalize their lessons through play, and create their own games. If media was constantly being put in front of them or pumped into their heads, I wonder how much time they would spend being imaginative.

My children make their own noise! With four children running around my house (and frequently more), I don’t know that additional commotion is necessary. Even when they aren’t running around just being loud, they are often singing on their own or playing some type of instrument. Again, if music or television were constantly available, I wonder how much of their own noise I would be missing. I enjoy hearing them!

Yes, my family does listen to music. Yes, we do watch movies. It just isn’t round-the-clock. Our “quiet zone” of a house is the perfect place for us; where we can let our imaginations do the talking and our creativity soar.

Trust me, there are days (especially since my guy has recently rediscovered his love for his awesome electric guitar) that the sounds never seem to stop. There are times when my children purposefully pull out their favorite CD’s and spend the afternoon lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling. Even more frequently are the moments when we all get up and groove to a family favorite which happens to be playing on some device. Over all though, our house is pretty quiet. Which, to this mom, is golden!

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.”
~ Psalm 62:1

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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Reading Books Before Watching Movies

Reading_Books_Before_Watching_MoviesWith the coming release of Murder on the Orient Express, a household policy is being resurrected. Before we can watch the movie, we need to read the book. Thus, as a family, we will be hunting down a copy from the local library and indulging in this ageless story.

While the kids will occasionally groan and complain about our movie/book policy, I believe they understand its importance. If they were to watch the movie first, it is highly doubtful the book would ever be read. Now that they “know the story”, why should they bother with spending hours reading it? If they read the books first, they will have a better understanding of the story and often appreciate the movie even more. There are no details that have been cut or unnecessary additions, it is enjoyed as the author intended.

While on occasion our children have liked the movie just as much as the book, I have yet to hear that they enjoy a movie more. They have always appreciated the books much more than the films.

In the past, one fun way we have helped encourage our children to read through their books is to reward them with a “special viewing” of the corresponding film. Once the book has been finished, the movie is rented and they are allowed to stay up later than the other kids and watch the film with mom and dad. Each child, in turn, is allowed the same privilege once a book has been completed. We have done this with the Narnia series, Bridge to Tarabithia, City of Ember, The Hunger Games, and several others!

Our children not only breeze through these books, but we then have the opportunity to critically think about each selection. How did the movie compare to the book? Which similarities or differences were noticed? Was there a lesson to be learned? While reading the books has been an essential part of our lives, watching the movies has definitely added something to our learning.

While I am sure we have neglected a few books along the way, we have been very faithful to our book policy. When we come across a new movie for our amusement, the question always arises, “Do we read the book before watching the film?” But, yes, of course!

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”
~Psalm 101:3

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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Why “Hanging Out” Isn’t an Option

Why_Hanging_Out_Isn't_an_OptionI find great pleasure in watching my children interact with their friends. It is a beautiful thing to see their relationships bloom. We enjoy having others over to play, bake, or do some learning. We also enjoy special outings together. If there is one thing we don’t allow our children to do, it is to simply “hang out”.

When our children were very little we read a parenting book which helped shape the guidelines in our home. One of the many things discussed was the dangers of allowing young adults to “hang out”. Children were highly encouraged to have friends and to be involved in activities, but hanging out wasn’t an option.

What is the purpose in this seemingly ridiculous rule? Idleness leads to trouble. When children have no activity upon which to focus their attention, they are more apt to get into mischief.

Now, I don’t mean to imply I manage all my children’s time or force them into planned activities. What I do mean is that I keep a careful eye on them, helpfully suggesting ideas when things come to a lull.

My children usually know how to keep themselves, and guests, well entertained. However, should there be moments of indecision, that is where we come in. We try to make sure several fun options are available and accessible for just such times. Even when our children have no desire to play, there are plenty of wholesome topics upon which they can focus their attention. Our children very much enjoy getting together with others who share their affection for books and writing. It’s a blessing to occasionally find our kids deep in prayer over one another, encouraging friends and ministering.

The primary goal isn’t for them to always be “busy”, but rather to have a purpose in their activity and discussions. Where there is purposeful fellowship, edification is sure to abound and problems are less likely to arise.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,”
~ Hebrews 10:24

Your Turn!: What is your children’s favorite activity when friends come to call?

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Teens, Tweens, and What That Means

Teens_Tweens_and_What_That_MeansAs our children approach adulthood, I find myself pondering the complexities of raising the next generation. If there is one area of pre-adulthood which confuses me, it is the necessity to label our children as “teens” or “tweens”. It seems it wasn’t so long ago you were either a child, a young adult, or an adult. Now, some might argue it is merely semantics. After all, what should it matter the word we use? Bear with me… I am not so sure I agree.

While sometimes it is perfectly acceptable to use words interchangeably, there are some words which should be handled with a little more care. It isn’t the words themselves that pose a problem, but the mentality behind them.

If my child grows up believing they are just “going through the teen years”, might they become lax in their mentality? Will this give them an excuse for their lack of self-control or their desire to be irresponsible? On the flip side, if I expect my children to act like young adults, perhaps they will rise to the occasion. My kids might feel compelled to act in a manner worthy of being adult. When my children act out, instead of brushing it off and saying, “Oh, well. You know teenagers!”, this is the perfect time to redirect them towards a more mature mannerism.

An excellent piece of advice I received early on in my marriage was that people will – generally – attempt to be the kind of person others perceive them to be. For example, if I am constantly proclaiming my husband to be the best guy on earth, he is going to try to live up to my perception of him. Shouldn’t this principle apply to our children as well?

Instead of expecting them to act as “teens”, I prefer to perceive my children as young adults. Will they always act in an adult-like manner? No, but that is part of their training. Referring to them as young adults and treating them as such will not mature them instantly, but it will direct them towards the end goal. Calling my daughters “young ladies” and my son “young man” continually points them in the direction their lives are to be headed. My children are not growing up to be “teens”, but adults.

As we are embarking on territory previously unexplored and attempting to navigate the sometimes tricky paths to maturity. I find myself constantly observing those parents who have gone before, learning what I can and praying about what should be applied in our own lives and home. Perhaps I am over thinking this a bit – I have a tendency to do that – but somehow this small distinction seems to matter a lot.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
~ I Corinthians 13:11

Your Turn!: Parents of young adults, how do you handle the pre-adult stages?

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Like Me, Please Like Me

Like are, Please Like MeBefore you start thinking this article has anything to do with appreciation of this post or following us on social media, let us put your mind to rest. This issue goes much deeper than superficial likes online. No, we’re discussing the danger of allowing our desire to be liked by people to be put before our desire to be righteous and speaking the truth.

I’d like to tell you I am never bothered by such trivialities as being liked. I would love to say so. But this seems to be one of my personal struggles. I could go through my reasonings. I won’t. They are unimportant. It’s enough to admit this area of weakness and confess the Lord is helping me see things through His eyes.

I like being liked. We don’t know of a single person who doesn’t. But there comes a point when things have gotten out of hand. There, friends, is where danger lies.

As a parent, if approval prevents me from discipling and training according to God’s will because I’m afraid of my children becoming angry or not liking me, I am not doing my job. If I am afraid of speaking truth for fear people will stop following me or be offended, I am not standing for righteousness. If my desire to be liked outweighs my need to do the right thing, something is wrong.

Please understand. When possible, we ought to lead with kindness, gentleness, and love. These can still speak volumes, and should. However they ought never to be used as a scapegoat from doing the right thing.

Ironically, in the long run, by seeking approval I please no one whom I truly care about, especially not the Lord. Alternately, when I live for God’s approval, all else seems insignificant. If I am going to be liked, let’s make it for the right reasons and all for God’s glory.

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
– Proverbs 3:1-4

Your Turn!: Interestingly, my husband doesn’t battle with the need to be liked. Is this a guy/girl thing, do you think?

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Instituting a “No Admittance” Policy

Instituting_a_No_Admittance_PolicySeveral years back, my husband voiced a concern regarding our children and fellowship with visiting friends. It seemed fitting our girls should entertain only other young ladies in their private space and the same with our son. We immediately got on board and encouraged this concept with our children.

While this might seem a silly position to take a stand over, we think it has several important underlying points. Our children are being taught to guard themselves from impropriety. I want my daughters to understand it is improper for a young lady to entertain a young man without anyone else present or without proper guardians. The same goes for my son. Our children are being made to understand the importance of not giving the appearance of evil. They cannot be unjustly accused of wrong doing if they are not allowing a compromising situation to arise.

We introduced the idea of “No Admittance” when our children were very little, helping to make the transition easier. If they became familiar with the rules at a young age, there would be less debate over the issue as they mature.

While at first it was a challenge for them to remember, it quickly became a household habit. Our girls were free to have any visiting young ladies into their room, but if a boy was over the playing stayed in the family room. If an object needed to be retrieved, only our children were allowed to obtain it. As our son grew, he too was encouraged to follow the same rules. He has his guy friends play in his room, but young ladies are not allowed to be in his room with them.

As an added precaution we have also implemented an open door policy. When friends are over, we keep all rooms where fellowship takes place open. This ensures parents can monitor conversation and appropriate behavior, even amongst those of the same-sex. We never want to take for granted our children are safe and on guard against issues.

Visiting friends are made aware of the concept and reassured this is for their children’s safety, as much as our own. Just as we do not wish to put our children in a compromising situation, we do not wish their child to be a party to any wrongdoing.

Instituting a “No Admittance” policy at a young age will prayerfully teach our children important life lessons and prevent indiscretions. May the Lord continually give us wisdom when it comes to safeguarding our children.

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
~1 Thessalonians. 5:22

Your Turn!: What areas of safety has the Lord brought to your attention?

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When Did I Become the Mother of a College Student?

Mother_ofa_College_Student?Becoming a parent was an adventurous adjustment. We quickly followed the first with several children. It was surreal to start teaching elementary school. When not a single child was in preschool, I was overcome with the notion I would never again have babies. Now two are in high school, one in junior high, and another about to follow. The years have passed much too quickly, and I find myself once again in awe of where we are. When in the world did I become the mother of a college student?

Okay so she’s not entirely in college yet, but you understand what I mean. How did the years pass so quickly I have a daughter taking college courses and looking to start a job? It seems just yesterday we were playing at the park, studying baby animals, and practicing our Bible verses. Now we’re hunting for scholarships, balancing schedules, attending Bible conferences, and learning to drive a car.

I’m not going to lie. The closer we come to end of this portion of our adventure, I am prone to become overwhelmed wondering if I’ve done enough. Been enough. At times I cry out to the Lord unsure I’ve got what it takes. There are days this feels overwhelming. But it’s just that. Feels. In truth the Lord has this covered. As we follow His plan, He has given everything we need to make this happen. What He began He will be faithful to see through.

Aside from my brief, personal reminisce I am sure you’re wondering what point I have yet to make. Just this. The years are short. Oh, the days feel long at times. Moments feel an eternity at given points. But, overall, these years of parenting are vapor. Before we know it our kids will be adults.

Even as I watch my children outgrow their skids and beg for new jeans, I want to embrace each second I have left. I don’t want to spend each day so focused on the future I am unable to appreciate the present. So we are purposeful in our time. We look for ways to stay connected amidst the busyness of life. We talk, create memories, laugh at one another, continue to learn about the others in our family, and never assume we have tomorrow.

Some might laugh. After all we still have several years to go, don’t we? And yet the last sixteen flew by so quickly and we don’t have another sixteen to go. We have less than half that. This is no laughing matter. The appreciation of now is vital. The building of today key in maintaining a closeness with my children tomorrow.

Even as I type the Lord uses His words to calm my heart and fill me with His peace. When did I become old enough to have teens? I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s been a lovely – sometimes scary – adventure. I can only imagine what tomorrow brings. Until then I will find the joy in today.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
~ Matthew 6:34

Your Turn!: If you could go back to the beginning of your parenting journey, what advice would you have for yourself?

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The Difference Between Being Good and Behaving

The_Difference_Between_Being_Good_and_BehavingGrowing up, my brother and I were always taught to “be good”. This seemed rational to my way of thinking. It made life easier on my mother, it got me in less trouble, and it earned respect from adults. It wasn’t until I started attending school however, “being good” took on a whole new meaning.

Being good somehow became associated with being a snob or being too good for other people to hang around with. I soon became labeled as the “goodie two shoes” who never used bad language, never wore inappropriate clothing, and had to “ask mommy for permission”. It created quite a dilemma in my young mind. Wasn’t I supposed to be good? Weren’t these kids taught to be good as well?

In time, I gained a few friends. They would later confess they always thought me a snob, until they realized I was just a little shy and didn’t do things like everyone else. We remained friends for the remainder of my schooling.

On occasion I still wonder… Aren’t most children raised to be “good” people? Honestly, I don’t think so.

I think most children these days are taught to behave, not to be good. These are two different things entirely! When we behave, we are acting according to how the situation demands. When we are good, we are doing what is right.

As a parent, I don’t want my children to behave. Yes, you read that correctly! Their behavior should have nothing to do with what society commands or expects, but rather should stem from a moral compass which demands righteousness.

Being good goes far beyond behaving, it is an attitude of the heart. It is a drawing nearer to God. His goodness works in us, shines through us, and goes before us. It is an inner beauty that expresses itself in outward action. When we are good, we will listen to our parents. When we are good, we will respect others and show kindness. When we are good, we will do everything to the best of our ability. When we are good, we will do the right thing.

When we teach our children to simply “behave”, we are failing to teach them the most important lesson of all. Guard your heart. It isn’t just about the outward appearances, but who you are as a person. Being “good” shouldn’t be an act, it should be who you are. At the core of my children’s being, I want them to not only be a “goodie two shoes”, but to wear those shoes with confidence, knowing that they are doing the right thing.

“Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”
~ Psalm 119:65-68

Your Turn!: Speaking of shoes, in a round about way… What are your favorite pair?

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When Did Busyness Become A Badge of Honor?

When_Did_Busyness_Become_A_Badge_of_Honor?As I sat visiting with a friend, I began to notice a distinctive quality to our conversation. After being asked about my oldest daughter’s college classes, we had moved into her work opportunities, then on to the general homeschool calendar. Family activities soon followed. What bothered me wasn’t the current topic so much as the pride which seemed to be creeping into my tone. Our ridiculously over-filled routine had me brimming with pride. When had busyness become a badge of honor?

The Lord used that teachable moment to remind me of something important. It is dangerous to allow our worth and value to be caught up in our routine. We are not more successful because we are busy running around town. A lot of tasks completed does not, in fact, make me more accomplished.  It just makes me more busy.

On the flip side, neither is the notion of doing nothing a badge of honor. I am not a better parent, or closer to my children, because we go nowhere and our calendar is clear. I can equally ignore my children at home as not meet basic needs by being constantly on the go.

The goal is to be content with where God has placed us. To be in the center of His perfect will. At times this will give us a full schedule, while others allow us rest. Neither has anything to do with my ability, and everything to do with God’s goodness.

A good place to start is by doing a heart check. When choosing activities, are we doing so because the Lord has prompted our hearts and moved us in this direction, or because everyone else is doing this and I am worried others will think we are failing to be sufficiently involved? Perhaps I am cramming much into our schedule for fear of missing out. If we refrain from activity, are we judging others for their busy lives while we appreciate a season of peace? Neither course of action is wise. Both lead to a prideful heart unfit for service.

When sharing, I want it to be from a heart so full of Jesus I am overflowing with joy at what He is doing. Even if what He has brought is a season of rest. What is important is not what we have done or not done, but how God is moving through that moment.

May the only thing I glory in be God alone.

But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.”
~ Corinthians 10:17-18

Your Turn!: Where does the Lord have you right now; in a season of rest or activity?

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