Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Truth About Valentine's in My House {Valentine Marriage Challenge--Week 4}

How does Valentine's week unfold in your household? Are your expectations high, hoping your husband will amaze you with precious jewels and gorgeous flowers? You know, just like the commercials? I can hear them in my mind, "Every kiss begins with K!" Well, I will share with you what Valentine's Day is like in my home.

But first, let's start with what the challenge is for this week: reclaim the "passion" that is meant specifically for a husband and his wife. As I mentioned last week, it is a sweet gift from our Heavenly Father, meant to be enjoyed under the covering of marriage, by husband and wife.

At any time, any of us can get stuck in the daily norms and routines of life . . . and the passion begins to fade. Let's make some sparks fly, on purpose! Light a little love fire in your marriage! Plan to be available to your husband this week. Make him feel special, regardless of what he may or may not do for you, especially on Valentine's Day.

Now, here we go. . .confession time!!

Early on in my marriage, for several years, I was always disappointed on Valentine's Day. I expected flowers or jewelry or balloons and candy or sweet smelling perfume, coupled with a nice dinner out (yes, all of these things). These were the automatic, ingrained expectations I brought to our marriage. Any time my husband didn't deliver to the extent I felt he should, you know--something worthy of bragging about to my friends--I would pout and be unappreciative. What a slap in the face to a good man, a very good man!

Fast forward some years of being a wife and learning my husband, I realized my error. What I learned about my husband is that he'd rather not sum up our love for each other on one day out of the year, which just has to be represented by things, certain things. Instead, his perspective was that we should love each other deeply and intentionally and be appreciative all year long. Talk about a lesson learned!

Understanding his point of view has helped me keep my expectations realistic. That doesn't mean that my husband is a cold, loveless, or thoughtless man. He's quite the opposite. But I understand how falling victim to the commercialism that surrounds this holiday (and many others) can prompt me to make him feel unappreciated. So, I started to intentionally look for the little things he does to declare his love for me on a daily basis, rather than waiting for a few days out of the year. And guess what my friends? He declares it often and sincerely.

No, I don't receive flowers every day and I don't have a jewelry box full of diamonds. What I do have is a husband, a man of God, who loves me deeply and is never ashamed of that.

So, what about Valentine's Day? Well, it's more like a regular day for us, with just a few extras. We do something small for each other: a card that says EXACTLY what we mean, not just a card in order to "check the box"; a surprise of something that's our absolute favorite: strawberries, a favorite meal, a sweet love song. I've come to treasure these moments so much! Now, if he ever wanted to throw in a night out on the town or some pretty jewelry, I'm sure I would accept. However, I'm no longer holding him to an expectation that is not realistic for my marriage. Instead I am embracing the gift I already have. . . the gift that is my husband.

Happy Valentine's Day!

{{Repost from 2/12/13, Valentine's Challenge}} 

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Count Your Blessings Day

I'm quite late in getting this post up--real life is happening around here! However, I think it's still worth sharing.

At the close of every year, and the beginning of a new one, my family tends to struggle with getting back into our regular routine. With the excitement and joy Christmas brings, and my husband taking extended time off work, it is just a really special time for our family. Well, this time around was no different. We wished it could last forever. . .

During the Christmas break, we continued 2 subjects and a read-aloud, but that was nothing compared to our regular homeschool routine. The day we started back, I could see it in my kids' eyes: longing for "easy-breezy" days. And, I could feel the ache in my own heart. At this point, I thought, "How can we lighten the mood around here?" Well...

Remembering God's blessings from the past can bless us in the here and now. It warms our hearts to recount God's faithfulness, His generosity, an His kindness. It causes us to be thankful all over again. I wanted to teach my kids that even though it was time to move on to the next thing, it doesn't erase all the fun we had and the blessings God gave. So, I told them it was Count Your Blessings Day.

I had the kids take out their Art journals and I told them to write, draw, color, cut and paste the things about the Christmas break they were grateful for. Then the next thing you know, the project expanded and they began to list things that they were just thankful for in general. And while they worked, I sang: "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done!"

Sounds cheesy? Perhaps. A bit corny? Yep. Was it effective? Absolutely! It helped us to shake off the grumps and regain a right perspective. Anytime we find ourselves in a slump, or if there's a tinge of ungratefulness in the air, I'll announce another "Count Your Blessings Day" to help get us back on track.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

When God Shows Himself Strong

I was any-day-now pregnant with my 6th child, lots of pain and fatigue setting in. My 1 year old was scheduled to have surgery 2 weeks out from my due date. And, to mix things up a bit, my 2 year old began displaying seizure-like behavior*, seemingly out of the clear blue sky. . .OVERWHELMED!

I'm talking urgent care visits, unplanned doctors appointments, regularly scheduled doctors appointments, a hospital trip, a call to poison control...There I was literally in labor, needing to get to the hospital, while on the phone with the pediatrician, trying to understand her assessment of my little boy's condition. I thought I would go out of my mind, stress was high, and I couldn't understand spiritually what was going on in the physical.


In the middle of all that, a problem left unresolved far too long bubbled up, uninvited in our home... Some time ago, one family member had disowned my husband as an outsider--no longer a part of the family at large, where that person is concerned. My husband and I moved forward in agreement and had a resolve in our own hearts. Other family members did not see eye-to-eye with us. So, the trickle down effect of those choices showed up in the most unexpected way--an explosion of emotion, lacking gentleness, running wild and unchecked--right in the middle of all that was going with a new baby and 2 ailing toddlers, while older children were watching. I was in a vulnerable place and I needed help badly. This was when I learned the hard truth of this Scripture:


I distinctly remember hearing that Scripture as a child and wondering how that could be, at least the first part of the verse anyway....

But then, I ended up without the help I thought I'd have to deal with the changes in my family life. Even before the explosion, though, I realized that attention was divided, goals were not the same, vision not held in common....and I recalled that verse above, asking God if this was what it meant, how it felt.

So, my husband did not hesitate to protect the atmosphere in our home. I gained a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, THEREFORE, WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, LET NOT MAN SEPARATE (Mark 10:9)....That this word isn't just about divorce, but it is for the day-to-day, for the way we live and interact as husband and wife. If something, anything, is creating a wedge between my husband and me, then I can't be tied to it and I have to let it go, no matter what it is....that includes family members. Painful, not ideal, not pretty, not well-received, not respected by all, but necessary, completely necessary . . because it brought peace again, it settled my children's hearts; I'm thankful for that.

Summer 2014 was harsh, rugged, jagged and crooked. It was multifaceted, multi-layered and so very deep. I'm still dealing with its effects, still working on healing wounds, still praying for bridges to be mended, still understanding the spiritual, still digesting it all.

But as we know, our God does all things well. And, while I don't know all of the reasons why, the glimpses He has allowed me to see make me want to shout aloud with praise.

Know this: When I was weak, God showed Himself strong.

He held us up, He sheltered us, He knit my husband's heart closer to mine, and mine closer to his. The Lord sustained us and provided our daily bread. Our family life was sweetened by leaning on Jesus and one another. We stumbled our way through a path God had laid for us. Stumbling, but He didn't let us fall. Things felt broken, but we didn't fall apart. We gained some grit, some endurance, and spent countless hours working through the rough places together.

These are ties that bind and bring unity as a family. God's strength is the glue that held us together.
Bless His name.

By speaking of our trials and how the Lord brought us over, we become victorious and bring glory to His name. I've prayed that this post encourages you to dig deep and hold fast to God. The evil one's job is to tempt you into thinking that you are all alone, that you are isolated in your hard times. Maybe your struggle is way different from mine; maybe it is exactly the same. No matter what, God's promise is to be with us wherever we go, even until the end of time. (Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:20). You are not alone.

Cling to Him, chase after Him, cry out to Him.


*The pediatrician discovered that my son had a super weird reaction to Benadryl. He is fine now and, needless to say, every drop went straight into the trash!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Cheer {Video}

We were "Face Timing" with my parents to wish them a merry Christmas.

The kids surprised them with a few performances, thrown together at the last I recorded it...with my husband watching the kids from the background, while "reading" a talking over each other, my parents talking and laughing, and a bad camera angle at the end. Lol

Here it is, my family unedited and unscripted.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have been making my own laundry soap for a while now. I started off with this recipe, boiling soap and what not. I remember feeling thrilled to make something like this on my own, and desperately wanting to do something different, anything counter-cultural to enhance my family life.

In the end, the whole soap boiling and cooling and pouring was too time consuming and I lost my gusto. . .

Until I spent some time on Pinterest, and I found this recipe. It has the same basic ingredients as the first one, with a few extras. But most importantly, it is a dry, powder detergent. That means no boiling!!! Oh, and it works great, too!

This is what I use:
  • 1 box of Borax
  • 1 box of Washing Soda
  • 1 4lb. box of Baking Soda
  • 1 3-5lb tub of Oxyclean (I've used Sun brand, too)
  • 2 bars of  Fels Naptha (I've used Zote, too, but prefer the other)
  • 1 or 2 containers of Purex Crystals (pick how much or how little of the fragrance that works for your family)
Before combining everything, the soap bars need to be grated, of course. You can do this the old fashioned way with a hand-held grater. Or, you can use a mighty food processor, which will give you a much finer grate. (If using kitchen gadgets in this way strikes you as odd, just remember that it's soap and you can rinse it off!) Also, if you like Zote, it comes in flakes, thus eliminating the need to grate the soap.

When you combine it, do not just dump everything in together. Instead, mix a little bit of each ingredient together in layers at a time. I mix mine in a 5-6 gallon bucket and then store it in the Oxyclean containers I've saved over time.

It works great and lasts for a long time. I use just about 2-4 Tbs. per load, depending on the dirt factor of my laundry load. I haven't calculated what it costs per load. However, I can tell you that the cost for all the ingredients is about $30 and I only make it about once per year. Not bad, huh?

This is how I make mine, but please be sure to check out the original recipe for tips, pics and more!
Ladies, I hope you find this to be a useful way to bless your families and save money, too!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Day's Grace at a Time

There's been a bit of silence on the blog here for quite some time, huh? I've missed writing here and the interaction with friends and sisters in Christ. I've noticed that this happens during my busy seasons. And, no complaints, but I'm certainly in the midst of one.

The Lord is ordering my steps and showing me things that I did not know. He's faithful like that. So, I've had to respond to His call and turn inward, buckle down and really focus on where He's placed me.

My home life.
Having more children does that, centers the focus on the home.
Having the strength to love a husband does it, too.
Homemaking....making a home.

God is showing me anew how to look well over the ways of my household, showing me how to live that out as our family grows and changes, the path I should take...
Day by day, bit by bit...
I find myself calling upon His name, crying out to Him over this home of mine, and those that live here.

The Lord is helping me to let go of things I was never meant to carry, yet seek Him out in the tasks that are mine to do. I'm learning some hard truths, while enjoying some abundant blessings along the way.

Blessings along the way...not anything exceptionally profound by the world's standards. But, when I add them up--abundant. When I look at the spiritual gain--abundant. When the Lord allows me a glimpse of what will be laid up for my children--abundant. . .God is great.

So great is He that in all His splendor and majesty, He takes time to see about me, to walk me through my highs and lows, to listen to me cry again and again: "Lord, I can't do this without You!" He knows this and He shows Himself strong, even in the small places...our God is so great.

Just working my way through, a day's grace at a time.

And He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, 
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, 
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
-2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why I'm Not Afraid Anymore: A Letter to My Baby Girl

Dear Sweet Girl,

I can't believe you are 5 months old already! I was looking into your sweet face the other day, just reflecting on your days with us. I felt so silly because I remember being afraid when I found out you were coming. (I mentioned it to you once before.) Yes, I was afraid, not because you were you, not because of you at all. I was so happy and blessed to know you were coming. But, I was afraid of what people would say about you, about me, about our family. Words hurt.

My mother always said, "Who cares what people think?!" Well, up goes my hand! I'll be flat out honest, and say, "I do! I care what people think about me." Probably a bit more than I should, though. (And if more people were honest, they'd have their hands raised, too.) So, that was my fear. What will people say now?
Be strong and of good courage,
do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you.
-Deuteronomy 31:6

With six kids in tow, your mom has become a walking anomaly in this world. Apparently, having more than 2 children is not what's up these days. Anymore than that and people think you've lost your mind. Obviously, Mommy didn't get that memo. Not only do people think I've lost my mind, but they have no shame in questioning the blessing that you and your siblings are.

Then, to top it all off, your older brothers are just 15 months apart, and there are just 14 months between you and the last one. So, you see, people have had A LOT to say about our family. And, for the most part, it's always directed at me--negatively. So, I began to focus on the negative. What will be said at the doctor's office, the grocery store, the post office, the library, at a restaurant, or any other place the people happen to notice that you were on the way?

I remember, sweet girl, that I was just about ready to let the evil one steal my joy.

I had been through the Scriptures, searching for comfort. I already read the passage below about a thousand times and I couldn't seem to find the peace I once had:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord
The fruit of the womb is a reward. 
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, 
So are the children of one’s youth. 
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; 
They shall not be ashamed, 
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
-Psalm 127:3-5

But, for some reason God showed me this same Scripture again, just in a different translation. It was a glorious revelation:

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb His generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
-Psalm 127:3-5

Oh, this Word gave me power and it strengthened me where I was weak. It also chastened me for ever allowing people to make me doubt or waver over the beauty God was pouring into our lives: the fruit of the womb His generous legacy!

Sweet girl, you are the one God chose to help Mommy not to fear what man says about the gifts God gives. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! He chose you, little one, to help Mommy maintain my focus on the Kingdom work at hand.

It's not about avoiding the staring, probing eyes and the dropped jaws when we all walk into a room. It's not about telling people that we are not, in fact, a clan, a gang, a day care, a baseball team, a children's choir, or a reality show, but a real, flesh and blood family. It's not about catching an attitude when the 1 millionth person asks, in disbelief, if all 6 of you are my children. God has already taken care of all of that--because my enemies don't stand a chance against me.

It's about our family showing the love of Christ, even when we don't get that in return. It's about Mommy remembering that although you may see people attack us for being large, more importantly, you all are watching the way I respond. It's about your Daddy and me raising you all for His glory. It is about believing God, that I am who He says I am, and that He's equipped me to do what He's called me to.

It's about going where He's asked me to go, without fear. (The song on my lips these days: Where He leads me, I will follow. . . I'll go with Him all the way.)

So, when I find myself as the only Mama in the place with 6 kids in the middle of the day, I embrace it. I welcome it. Someone needs to know that it is a wonderful thing to accept the children God gives as gifts. Someone needs to know that the appropriate response when God gives a gift is: thank You. Someone needs to know that being seen in public with all of your children is nothing to be ashamed of. Someone needs to know that you can absolutely love every child in your care. Someone needs to know that it is an honor to diligently raise a family for the Lord. Someone needs to just see something different so the Lord can speak to their hearts. Someone needs to know that they should not be afraid to follow the Lord.

Thank you for what you've taught me, baby girl. The Lord has used you already in a mighty way.
Love, Mommy

Fear not, for I am with you; 
Be not dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, 
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. 
-Isaiah 41:10

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