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936Pennies Faith Motherhood Parenting

For When I Fear I Am Screwing Up My Child’s Faith

July 8, 2015

 

It’s been a rough one– this morning.

 

Our early hours have been infected by their bickering and I’m worn from raising my voice and speaking their middle names. It’s not even time for mid-morning snacks, and I am ready for bedtime prayers.

My Bible lays open on my lap next to the nursing baby. I need it so desperately right now. My spirit aches for its words of peace to reach deep and calm my angst. Yet every time I look down to read I am distracted by another quarrel needing to be refereed, or I’m poked in the eye by a toddler.

I’ve had enough, and I issue a mandatory reading time. They grab their books of choice, and plop down on opposite sides of the living room.

 

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I lower my gaze back down to my Bible and begin to speed read, unsure of how long their attention will last on the pages. That’s when his little voice breaks my concentration, “Jesus died, Mama? Just like in your Bible?”

I glance at the children’s Bible in his hand, opened to a page bearing Jesus’ broken body hanging on a tree.

“Yes Babe,” His question tears me away from my own reading. “He had to die. Do you remember why?”

“Because He loves us.” he replies.

I smile.

“Yes, but now He is alive again!” I keep the conversation going.

His brow furrows as he sorts it out in his mind. “He is in Heaven now?” he asks me.

“Yes. And if we ask Him to be our friend forever, then when we die a long, long time from now, we get to go be with Him in Heaven with Him!”

“But Mama…” he begins to respond.

And this is when his voice cracks and his bottom lip begins to quiver.

“I don’t want to die.”

No matter the circumstance or context, when for the first time words of their own death pass from the lips of your child, your own heart stops beating for a moment or two.

 

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When I’ve read it in the Word, “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have,” I never foresaw it falling into this scenario.

My boy and his inquisitiveness, how do I satisfy his curiosity while “rightly handling the word of truth.”? {2 Timothy 2:15}

 

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We are in the garden one afternoon when I find myself grappling for a sufficient answer to yet another one of his queries. My toes brush green shoots freshly emerged from the soil. We are checking on the strawberry patch. No berries yet.

He looks up at me with blue eyes glinting in the sunlight from behind those impossibly long lashes; the ones that all the old ladies swoon over. “Is Jesus in the garden?”

The question seems silly, but I know he’s serious; and I know there is a world of curiosity and confusion lying beneath the surface of his inquiry.

 

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“Yes Honey,” I begin to thread together an answer, praying that it might fit into the empty spaces of his fledgling perceptions. “Jesus is in the garden. He’s everywhere really.”

This question is part of a series that he’s been asking me lately. Is Jesus in my closet? Is Jesus at church? And when he hears the laundry machine thump-thumping our clothes around from downstairs, Is Jesus in the basement?

And finally, recently, he’s been asking me if Jesus is in our hearts. This one catches me by surprise the first time he asks it. Why do these questions always seem to sneak up on me? “Yes,” I explained to him, “Jesus lives in our hearts when we ask Him to come in and be our friend forever.”

 

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I see him mull over these huge Biblical truths in his tiny realm of understanding. He rolls these thoughts around in his mind as he continues with his play. I wonder if I’ve explained it sufficiently, or if I’ve only left him more confused. 

It’s not these questions of “Where is Jesus?” that most challenge me. It’s when he begins to tie loose ends together and come to his own conclusions.

 

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One day as we are walking out the front door to the car, he wanders toward the road– too close to it for my comfort. I pull him near and explain the dangers of going in the road, that he could be hit by a car and die. I scour my brain for more words to help him grasp the severity of this.

“You could die and be gone, like the bugs when you step on them.” “Oh ok.” He tells me, and climbs into his carseat. Again I ask myself if my explanation was sufficient; if it will be enough to keep him away from the road.

On another afternoon not long after, he spots a gentleman crossing the road. “Oh Mama, he needs to be careful, or he’ll get dead!”

He’s been curious about death lately.

 

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He has also had a preoccupation with what Heaven is like, and if we will go there.

I see his thread of thoughts beginning to weave together into a fabric of faith. And I worry as to whether I’m giving him the tools he needs in order to understand these truths I swear he’s too young to grasp.

Sometimes I am afraid to answer his questions. I forget that when they handed me my firstborn son under the glowing lights of that laboring room, they not only handed me the title of Mama, but also the titles of Teacher and Guide alongside of my husband.

 

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“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11:19

Maybe it’s as simple as that. Maybe it’s as easy as keeping these conversations going, spurring them on by pulling out the children’s Bible, and sharing them in a way that excites and engages them—through story. Maybe it only takes making them a normal part of the conversation permeating our home.

Perhaps if I just keep answering his questions while drowning my words in prayer, the pieces will come together in his young mind to form a portrait of grace and gospel.

 

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One morning I come across this passage and it stops me. My eyes discontinue their scroll down the page and linger on hope inked onto thin paper. I absorb them into my soul as I copy them down on a page in the journal I keep for my firstborn.

My son, this is my prayer for you:

‘Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’ 1 Peter 1:8-9″

Perhaps this is the beauty of “childlike faith”, that my son can believe without seeing. That he has questions, but still he accepts that which yet holds an element of mystery. That he understands far less about Jesus and grace and the gospel than I do, yet he can pray simple prayers full of faith; ones unhindered by his questions. He knows without a doubt that Jesus loves us and keeps us safe, and that is enough for him. Maybe It is I who have a thing or two to learn from his faith.

And maybe– just maybe– it is ok if my humble explanations only leave him with more questions, because I never want him to stop asking. Because when he asks those questions, it forces me to pursue the answers. And in this way, he is teaching me.

 

 

Family Marriage Parenting

An Open Letter To My Boys About Why Daddy Comes First

June 21, 2015

 

To my boys:

 

There’s something very important that I need you to know. I need you not only to hear it in my words, but to see it in my actions; to sense it in the ebb and flow of our home and life.

That guy you tackle hard when he walks through the door every evening, and bear hug tight during bedtime prayers? He’ not only your hero. He’s mine, too. And He’s also my first love.

 

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Please don’t ever think that I say this because I don’t love you enough. No my sons, I say this precisely because I love you so impossibly much. And I know that when I put your father first, I am not only loving him to the best of my ability, I am loving you to the best of my ability, too.

This is because our home and our family thrives best when Mommy and Daddy’s relationship is given its proper place of utmost importance.

When Mommy and Daddy are working together as a team, you thrive. I’m not just saying this, I’ve seen it. 

 

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I’ve seen how your confidence builds when you see Daddy and I hug, and how you smile securely when my hand is nested within your father’s grasp. I know at times you’ve contested Daddy and I leaving on date nights without you, but I’ve also observed how your behavior and character flourish when you see Daddy and I spending time together.

I’ve seen how when Daddy kindly explains to you that, “This is Mommy and Daddy’s time to sit together.” Or, “Mommy comes first”, that you don’t pout, or even look hurt. No, rather your eyes hold a certain contentment, one built of safety and security. You’ve never complained about the fact that we give you an early bedtime, because you understand that Mommy and Daddy need their time alone in the evening.

 

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I’ve seen that when we’re on a family walk, and I choose to walk next to Daddy with my arm looped through his, rather than run up ahead with you, you don’t sulk, but rather your stride grows more confident.

I need you to understand that I choose to place Daddy first because one of my greatest hopes is that one day you will have a healthy, thriving marriage. I put Daddy first because I want you to one day choose a wife who will, after God, place you first. Ultimately I know that if this happens, that your children—my grandchildren—will also flourish in a healthy home. I want to model to you how to build a strong friendship with your wife that will last long after your own kids are grown and moved on to their own families.

I know that everyday you see me choose to love and serve your Daddy, that you observe the model of a healthy marriage; one that puts the other first, and seeks the other’s best above our own.

 

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I choose to put your Daddy first because I know that when I do this, your foundation becomes all the more secure. You see that Mommy and Daddy have a strong friendship and commitment; one that won’t erode with time or tension; one you will never need to question the strength of. You rest secure, and that is a gift I want to give you; I can do that by placing your Daddy first.

I need you to see that when I slipped that wedding band around your Daddy’s finger, when you were yet a distant dream, I was also making a commitment to you; one that could only be held up by me keeping your Daddy first in my heart.

I need you to see all of these things because once upon a time Daddy’s parents and my parents showed us what a healthy marriage looked like. They still do. And we are all the better for it. I want that for you, too.

 

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My boys, the biggest reason I place your Daddy first is this:  God has commanded me to do so, and for a very good reason. God is the one who decided what family is and how it would work. He masterfully crafted it, and He understood that when a Mommy and Daddy love, serve, and place each other first, everything works better.

The whole family thrives—and that is exactly what I want for us.

 

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I want to thank you, my sons. You have showed so much maturity already in your young years in understanding why Mommy and Daddy place each other first. You’ve never complained or taken offense. Instead, you have returned the gift by showing us that our commitment to keeping a healthy marriage is well worth the effort. You have showed us your appreciation for a strong and healthy home, one where Mommy and Daddy’s relationship comes first. You’ve confirmed that when I choose to put your Daddy first, it’s not only what you need, but exactly what you want, too.

 

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936Pennies Faith Family Motherhood Parenting

To Every Mother With A Newborn {A Season Begging For Grace}

May 6, 2015

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Thirteen days ago I walked into my doctor’s office for a routine ultrasound, only to be sent straight to labor and delivery, and to welcome my son into the world three weeks early.

I hadn’t packed my hospital bag. I hadn’t washed the car seat cover. We didn’t own a single newborn diaper. His going home outfit was lost in a pile of unfolded laundry…somewhere….

Things were not exactly as I had planned. 

With something so unpredictable as childbirth, things often don’t go according to plan.

That is why this time of bringing a newborn home– it is a season that begs for grace.

 

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With a single cry this tiny new human departs from your body, and tethers himself forever to your soul.

One gaze into those deep pools of dark blue eyes–it changes everything.

It forever changes you.

This babe is born, and you are born all new.

Then it seems as quickly as this tiny being entered the world, you are signing discharge papers, strapping scrawny arms through car seat straps, and fumbling your own broken body out the hospital doors.

And no matter whether you have made this transition before, or this is your first time, this one thing never fails:  the feeling of shock as you pull away from the hospital and head towards home, glancing back to the car seat every 45 seconds to make sure your infant is still breathing.

 

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Those first days, those first weeks, those first months–they stretch before you with so much promise, beauty, fear, questions, unknowns, uncertainty, fatigue, and discovery.

The newborn days are a puzzle; an intimate game of mother and child figuring each other out. And this game–this season of such beauty–it begs for grace.

 

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It begs for grace in those first days to sit. To allow your broken body to heal as others take on your usual roles and serve you instead.

Grace to forget all of those tasks on the “before baby arrives” list that never got checked off.

Grace for a sink of dirty dishes and piles of dirty laundry.

Grace for patient hours spent in the dance of mother and child learning to breastfeed.

Grace for too many cups of coffee.

 

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Grace to be tired. Very tired. And to not feel guilty about it.

Grace to nap.

Grace to be on the receiving end of any and all help offered.

 

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This season begs for the grace to allow the days to fall exactly as they desire to; to be whatever they wish–unrushed, unstructured, and unforced.

Grace to put off shedding the baby weight, and to enjoy the cupcakes brought over by friends.

Grace to make time for reflection, for prayer, for reading, for simply processing this incredible thing that has taken place.

And grace for ordering takeout. Again.

 

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This is a time of grace to get little crossed off the to-do list. Or to get nothing crossed off the to-do list. Or to just not write a to-do list.

Grace to view this not as a season for “survival mode”, but rather a season to take slow and savor.

Grace to wish for nothing more, for nothing less, but to embrace each moment for all it has to give and teach.

Grace to set everything aside, and to gaze at this beautiful thing you’ve created, and to memorize his face.

 

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All of these appeals for grace–your soul is begging for them.

And so you, Mama of a newborn, here’s the truth: it is you who must give this grace

You must give it to yourself.

All of these grace requests, you are the one who decides whether or not they are granted. Because you are the one holding yourself to expectations.

So let it go.

Glean life from the example of Christ, who has given you all grace, and decide to give yourself a little bit of grace as well.

Because that tiny little face gazing up at you, suckling life from your own body, waking you at every hour of the night–it’ll be over before you know it, this precious season.

And nothing–absolutely nothing–should steal the beauty of this season away from you. Especially something as insignificant as a pile of unfolded laundry.

 

 

Faith Family Motherhood Parenting Pregnancy

What 32 Hours of Labor Taught Me About The Insufficiency Of Words

April 25, 2015

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I have been avoiding writing.

 

For one, I’ve been busy and exhausted from frantically finishing up last minute projects as our third son’s due date approached. But I’ve also been avoiding writing because I have been afraid.

I have been afraid to do the beauty of life an injustice by trying to bound it by words.

There’s just too much awe. Too much opportunity. Too much in this life that we never deserve yet God gives anyways—and how do I dare try to stick that in a cage barred by vocabulary and imagery? What could ever depict such beauty except the experience of the beauty itself?

I have been disappointed by the insufficiency of words.

 

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This is how I feel today, more so than ever before, after a whirlwind three days of facing head on great shock, fear, emotion, and beauty.

It began on Thursday morning. My husband’s family is in town visiting this week, and I invited his mom along to my weekly ultrasound.

Although I have never had any issues with my pregnancies or deliveries, because of my Addison’s Disease I am treated as a high-risk pregnancy patient. This time around the doctor decided weekly ultrasounds would be best, to keep an eye on baby’s “practice breathing”, fluids, and other essential functions and developments.

We had only had monthly ultrasounds with our other boys, and this seemed as a bit of an inconvenience. When you already have an almost-four year old and almost-two-year-old at home, it’s difficult to adjust home and work schedules to accommodate yet another weekly appointment.

Little did we know that these “inconvenient appointments” would save our son’s life.

 

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Within just a minute of the ultrasound technician placing the warm gel and ultrasound wand onto my swollen belly, I knew something did not look right. “Have you been leaking fluid?” She asked me. Every tech had asked me this same question for the past 6 ultrasounds. I was used to it.

“I don’t think so. I’ve been paying close attention, but haven’t noticed anything.” My fluid had been low for 6 weeks. It was still in the average range, but on the low end at 9cm. Anything below 8cm was dangerous.

The technician did not divert her gaze from the screen as she spoke, “I can only find 4 centimeters of fluid. I’m calling your doctor.”

 

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With that she walked out of the dark ultrasound room. I held my hand out to my mother-in-law who grabbed it and said one of the most wonderful prayers for me and my baby, a prayer I’ll never forget.

Within two hours I was admitted to labor and delivery. Within another two hours I was induced. Having never experienced labor like this, I had no idea what to expect, or how long it might take. Never would I have guessed that 32 hours of labor spanned between that moment and when I would finally hold my son.

My body was simply not yet ready to deliver this baby, and so things moved slowly. Very slowly. The morning after they induced I was still only at 1cm dilation, and contractions were very mild. It just goes to show that nature does not want to be forced.

I undressed myself in the bathroom to shower and glanced at my pregnant body in the mirror. For months I had seen this body as huge. As unattractive. As something needing to be quickly fixed once this baby boy was out.

But today I looked small. Very small. Too small to be delivering a baby into the world.

I lathered and rinsed and returned to the hospital bed to wait. And wait. And wait.

 

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Every time a new nurse would come in she would comment on how small my belly was, and that this was going to be a “tiny one”.

They would explain to me the risks and possible complications of delivering a baby pre-term. Possible respiratory issues. Possible blood sugar problems. Possible feeding troubles. And always the possibility of him needing to stay in the NICU. Away from me.

He wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. But he had to come out.

He likely would not have made it another three weeks. And had my doctor not been tracking him week by week on ultrasound, we would not have known that he was no longer producing amniotic fluid, or that he needed to be evacuated.

We could have lost him.

 

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And here is where I cannot do justice to the beauty of life with words. Because God and His mercy is far bigger than anything I could ever type out on a laptop or pen on paper. Through 32 hours of unexpected pre-term labor, I have come to see beauty in a whole new way. Beauty by way of mercy. Beauty most undeserved.

It took 31 brutally slow hours from induction until I progressed to 5cm of dilation. It then took one hour to progress from 5cm to 10cm.

For 31 hours I had tried my best to convince this little boy that he needed to come out. And now with him pushing ever so urgently against my body, it was all I could do to convince him to stay put for 20 more minutes until the doctor could arrive to deliver him.

I breathed hard into each contraction, doing all I could to focus on NOT letting him out. I told myself I could last five more contractions. The doctor walked through the door with one to spare.

With only a few minutes of pushing, my son entered the world. He cried beautifully as he came out. They placed him directly onto my bare chest, waiting a blissful minute to cut his chord, allowing it to pulse just an extra moment of life from my body to his. He was a perfect mess of birth and shock. I was a perfect mess of relief and hope.

 

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They measured his tiny body—5 pounds and 9 ounces of perfection, and handed him back to me. He fed. And I entered again back into that blissful and unspeakably beautiful phase of life that is being a nursing mother.

I stared down at him, and I still can’t stop even now, a day after. I can’t stop staring. And I can’t stop thanking God—for all that I don’t deserve, for all that I can never explain, for all of the beauty of life that I can only ever butcher with the attempts of putting it to words.

I know my words have done little to express the beauty I have witness in the past 72 hours. But that’s ok. They are a story told by a mother running off four hours of sleep in the past three days, with no energy or conviction to make them perfect—because it’s not about the words. 

 

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These words are simply the raw reflections of a mother who just witnessed a very big God bring her son safely into the world.

They are the unfiltered and imperfect words typed out first draft and without edit—a simple story of beauty that could never be held by story. As I stare over at my precious sleeping son not even a day old–the words fade to nothing–completely insufficient is all they are.

However, as insufficient as they are–these words are what I know. They are what I have to sort through my thoughts, emotions, and experience of these past 3 days; to dig a little deeper into the beauty God has graced me with. And so they are what I will continue to use. Because we should never cease to at least try to share the beauty God allows us to be a part of.

 

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936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

Why Maybe It’s Ok That We Don’t Cherish Every Moment

April 2, 2015

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I woke this morning weary bodied from a night of fitful rest,

 

and heavy hearted after receiving heart-wrenching news from a dear friend. Some days us mothers wake up completely unprepared for another go at speaking life, inspiring dreams, calming fears, and navigating tantrums.

Because sometimes we feel as though the life has been sucked right out of us.

And our own dreams seem so out of reach.

And our own fears roar loud.

And we just want to put down the dish rag and throw a tantrum ourselves.

 

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I groggily find my way through the morning. I sip at my iced latte as if it is the only connection I still have to my sanity. 

That iced latte, it’s the one I tell myself I deserve. The one I’m supposed to enjoy in peace and quiet every afternoon while my young ones sleep restfully.

Only today they don’t.

In fact, they wail. From both ends of the house.

The big one cries of cars he could not bring to bed because he screamed at mama. And he hurt my heart. So no– no cars today, little man.

The little one’s tears come from teeth painfully protruding through his gums. I pick him up, cradle him, gently kiss his forehead. He whimpers.

“Amazing grace..” I sing softly, “…The Lord has promised good to me…His word my hope secures” I sing it mostly to myself.

 

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Finally quiet comes, but only once I agree to let them nap in the same room, something we haven’t yet allowed because we know it will guarantee that nap time won’t take place.

But I need quiet.

My soul needs quiet.

So I lay a weary, diaper-bottomed toddler down into the crib. The big one watches me from his own bed, his eyes red and puffy. A smile spreads across his tear-streaked face. No cars, but his baby brother will suffice.

I return to my latte. I contemplate sleep myself. But there are words to be written, thoughts to be sorted through, dinner to be planned. Always more to do.

 

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They say that as parents we should cherish every moment. But when we are in the throngs of tantrums, mess, and incomprehensible exhaustion; when we are entangled by our uncertainties and fears–we just don’t. We don’t cherish every moment.

And I’m beginning to see that it’s ok. It’s normal.

You don’t celebrate the battle, after all; you celebrate the victory.

The rainbow after the treacherous storm.

The smile, soft kiss, and “I love you, mama”, after the tears.

You fight strong and hard and patiently and graciously and lovingly and wisely–and then you celebrate the victory.

 

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You cherish the beauty that is interwoven throughout the threads of raising these little ones.

Sometimes it’s difficult to detect it–this beauty. But it is there for the finding, around every corner, and within every nook. It is there, and it breathes life back into our souls.

I see it in his face lit up with wonder as he runs across the lawn holding a golden treasure of petals; “Mama!” he exclaims, “I found a Dandelion!” He cradles it carefully between dirt-dusted fingers, the first one of the year.

I see it in the spring’s first fruit flies intruding into my kitchen as I slice the tender flesh of bright red strawberries for him, because they are his favorite.

I see it as I rake fall’s leaves from the garden to reveal spring soil ready to birth new life, and my boys busy themselves with tractors and trucks beside me.

 

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I hear it in his voice one night, only minutes after he turns to bed.

His voice is urgent, I run—afraid something is wrong—but then I hear it, his excitement, and oh how excited he is!

“Come quick!!” He yells. “Deer! Deer!” We open his door to a dark room, lit only by street lamps creeping their way through the window as he holds the drapes back. “Deer!” He points excitedly to the yard, where we can just make out the outline of 4 doe cautiously making their way across our yard.

We hoist him out of bed, lift his groggy brother from the crib, and stand them side-by-side in the windowsill as we all watch the deer in silence.

Beauty–I tell you. It is there for the finding.

 

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I see it in their eyes. Every single day. This beauty defined by discovery, grace, love, learning, growing, overcoming, and simply being.

They know beauty. And in this way they are the teachers, and I am the student.

This is motherhood’s dance. All that is chaotic and busy and exhausting and terrifying—all of it graciously held together by beauty. It is a beauty that grants the power to calm my most unthinkable fears, and breathes the courage into my soul that I need each day to carry on bravely.

It’s all worth it. It is all a gift. It is all grace.

And this beauty carries us onward.

 

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Cost of Real Food Energy Gluten Free How to Motherhood Parenting Real Food

For When You Get That “Elmer’s Glue Feeling” {How to Beat The Afternoon Energy Slump}

March 19, 2015

 

We’ve been on the receiving end of some wide-eyed stares from strangers lately.

 

At 31 weeks pregnant, I’m beyond the awkward, “Is she pregnant?” glances, and have moved on to strangers excitedly asking me, “Oh, is this your first?”

 

“No,” I smile, “This will be our third boy….in under four years.”

 

This is where their eyes grow wide. Mine too, if I’m honest. 

 

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Whether you’re on baby number 1, 3, or 7–Parenting introduces you to a whole new level of fatigue.

 

No matter how you slice it, organize it, or color-code it…there is always the unexpected. Always the unpredictable. Always the unprecedented. Always the undiscovered territory involved in navigating children day by day, hour by hour, and imperfect moment by moment.

It can get a bit…untidy. And busy. And hectic. And exhausting.

 

And trust me—I know exhausted.

 

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My mom has always called it the “Elmer’s Glue Feeling”; you know the one—when you’re exhausted and groggy and feel like you’re moving as slow as glue.

Most afternoons, after I lay my toddler down for his nap, and then tuck in my three-year-old after four “One more time” visits to the potty—I head straight for our espresso machine; which I still swear is the greatest piece of baby equipment we ever invested in.

Whispering a prayer for lengthy naptimes, I sink down into the recliner with my iced latte and Girl Scout cookies—the ones I stashed in the basement freezer willing myself to stop compulsive snacking on. They lasted down there all of two days.

I settle in and allow the silence to embrace me, always aware that it could end at any abrupt moment.

 

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Whether you stay at home, work from home, or work all day out of the home and then return to the work of keeping house and raising babies—being a parent demands enough to rob even the energizer bunny of his get-up-and-go.

And intentional parenting– Parenting that calls us to rise above ourselves and grow, nourish, teach, and guide these little ones to abundant life? Well, that will demand everything of you. Plus some.

Most days we just do the best we can, and pray to Jesus that He’ll fill in the gaps—oh, and that He’ll move someone’s heart to open a coffee shop that delivers to your doorstep. Freaky Fast.

 

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Me: 1, Elmer: 0

 

As a work-from-home mom, many of my days are marked by coffee– and naps when I should be working, or eradicating the dust colony that’s taking our ceiling fan captive. However, I have discovered one game-changing daily practice that is lending me that extra boost of energy right when I need it.

Not only is it helping me trudge through the “Afternoon Slump”, when my energy reserves are all but extinct; but it is also helping me in my mission of nourishing my sons with plenty of fruits and vegetables each day.

My son, the one who curls up his nose in protest at the sight of any vegetable on his dinner plate, he eagerly helps me count out baby carrots, and place a handful of fresh spinach into our smoothie each day.

 

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He counts them out, “One, two, three”…. And as he places each carrot ever so carefully into the blender, he turns to tell me,

 

“Mama! Carrots make our eyes healthy so we can see outside!”

 

This from the child who has broken records with how long he can keep a halved cherry tomato in his mouth all while refusing to swallow the dreaded morsel, lest it contaminate his body. It can get dramatic around here.

 

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Over the past couple of years, we’ve honed this smoothie making business down to a science to craft delicious, nourishing, cheap smoothies.

It’ll take a little bit of experimenting on your own to find what flavors best suit your tastes, and what ingredients fit your budget; but I encourage you to give this a try if you’re looking for an extra boost of energy and nourishment for your days.

 

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First—a few tips for keeping smoothies cheap

 

  • Avoid using fresh fruit. I know, that sounds absurd. But fresh fruit gets pretty pricey if you’re making big smoothies every day. Instead, opt for fresh, cheap vegetables like organic spinach and carrots, always a banana, and then use frozen fruit.
  • If you have a Costco, they carry very affordable frozen organic fruit. Otherwise, you can freeze bananas (peel them first). Always try to use frozen fruit instead of ice—ice offers no nutrients and takes up a lot of space.
  • For liquid, milk is ok if it is organic and whole, but that can get pricey. We prefer to use homemade kombucha, unsweetened tea, or 100% juice not from concentrate.
  • Skip the fancy equipment. We use a $25 blender we bought from Target over a year ago. We use it every day, and it still works great. And when (not if) it breaks, we will return to Target and buy another $25 blender.

 

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I’ll include a detailed recipe below, but here is what ingredients we typically put into our smoothies, and why:

 

  • Kombucha tea (homemade or store-bought) for probiotics and energy
  • Fresh vegetables, such as organic spinach and carrots for extra nutrients and energy, and they’re cheap!
  • One banana to make it creamy and add some flavor
  • Frozen fruit for nutrients, flavor, and to make it cold
  • Pure vitamin C powder to fight off colds and other sickness

 

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Sometimes parenting can leave you feeling like you’re trudging through an entire pool of Elmer’s glue—getting no where fast.

 

But the truth is—as exhausting as this can all be—it’s worth it.

 

Every fatigued moment is a blessing, because these little ones are growing–and so am I. Even on those days where I’m plodding through an ocean of Elmer’s glue—we’re getting somewhere.

And thankfully, with a hefty dose of coffee, fresh smoothies, and prayer—we’re enjoying every exhausting bit of the journey!

 

Fast and Cheap Energy Boosting Smoothies

Yield: 1 tall glass, + 2 sippy cups worth

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup liquid (Kombucha, unsweetened tea, 100% juice not from concentrate, or organic whole milk)
  • 1/3 cup organic, plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • 6-8 organic baby carrots
  • 1 small handful organic fresh baby spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/2 cups organic frozen fruit
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 2 Tbs ground flax seeds
  • (optional) pure vitamin C powder

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in order, blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add additional liquid or frozen fruit if you want it thinner or thicker.

Notes

A note on the vitamin C powder: I won't recommend a specific dose. We "Mega dose" on vitamin C regularly, as we're convinced it is one reason we rarely get sick. Do your own research to find what dose you're comfortable with, although there is no harm in too much vitamin C.

http://erynlynum.com/for-when-you-get-that-elmers-glue-feeling/

Book Review Motherhood Parenting Time Management

For Any Mom Who Feels Like She’s Drowning {Say Goodbye To Survival Mode}

February 26, 2015

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He walked in to find me curled up in the fetal position in our armchair—crying.

 

Through sobs I spoke of backache, children jumping on me, impossible fatigue, endless demands, and poop—lots and lots of poop.

Only I may have used a different word for poop.

I heard comedian Jim Gaffigan comment once on what it was like when he and his wife had their fourth child. He sad it was like you’re drowning—and then someone hands you a baby.

I’ve felt a little bit like that lately. Maybe you have too.

 

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It doesn’t take four kids. It doesn’t even take three. Maybe you’ve just brought home your first little one, and you already feel like you’re gasping for breath, hardly staying afloat above the surface of the waves.

Motherhood is demanding.

It is impossibly difficult, everyday challenging, and tragically humbling—because it shows us our inability to handle it all—at least not with eloquence and poise.

Because really, who of us are managing this motherhood gig with Pinterest perfection?

 

At times we can all feel like we’ve switched gears into survival mode.

 

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I challenged myself to read 20 books this year. Minimum. And not any 20 books, but 20 books that would challenge me as a follower of Christ, as a wife, as a mother, and as a writer—20 books that would challenge and inspire me to do life better.

And I could not have begun the year with a better book than this:

 

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

by Crystal Paine (MoneySavingMom.com)

 

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We all know that in this season of raising kids at home, the weather can change rapidly. 

It seems that in just a moment we can go from floating on a cruise ship while sipping a cold iced tea, to flailing beneath the waves of too much stuff, too many appointments, and too little time.

We all have those moments, those days, those weeks—even those years—when there is just too much to handle.

And we are unsure of how to best move forward—so we stay stuck.

Perhaps it’s not an overwhelming sense of “How do I handle it all?!” that keeps us stagnant. Maybe instead, you’re asking this question:

“How do I handle it all in the best way?

 

Maybe we are afraid to move forward in life—to pursue that dream on our hearts—because we don’t know the best route, and we are afraid to take a wrong step. So we refuse to take any step.

 

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Say Goodbye To Survival Mode is composed of both purposeful hope and practical application.

It helps you first to identify your passions, and what you believe you are called to, and then to use those passions to determine your best priorities in life–what you should focus on.

And then it guides you through how to set up goals and daily strategies to see those priorities nurtured.

 

Here are a few things this book helped me to discover:

 

  • I don’t have to do it all
  • I should not do it all
  • How to identify what matters most in my life, and prioritize those things daily so that I live a life on purpose
  • How to set realistic, attainable, and intentional goals
  • How to strategically work towards meeting those goals every single day
  • How to create and stick to a plan for managing my time, home, money, and meal planning
  • And that for those days when you feel like a failure, or like you just can’t get ahead–there is grace for those days. Beautiful, life-changing grace.

This is so much more than a how-to book. It helped me look beyond strategy and methods, and to the motivation behind them–to what drives me; and what God has called me to.

 

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There is no better time than now to pick up this book.

Perhaps you began this year with new resolve, resolutions, and virtuous goals. But now we’re two months in to the new year– and you’ve lost some gusto, and the waves are gaining power and threatening to overwhelm.

The grocery budget went over. The bathroom floor hasn’t been mopped in….well let’s not go there. The child caught a cold, and no one has slept through the night in days. Life with young ones at home is unpredictable and messy. Magnificently messy.

It’s a beautiful thing–and a very arduous thing; this mapping out of how to do life best while our kids are young and at home; how to manage it all with grace and beauty.

Now is the time to regroup; to refocus on what is really important, and pursue those things first. Now is the time to resurface above those waging waves and take a breath of fresh air. Let this book get you started. 

 


 

Just a note:

I’m not getting compensated for this endorsement, or paid when you click this link. In fact, Crystal doesn’t either. All of her proceeds from the book are donated to Compassion International!

I just think that when a treasure like this is discovered–it needs to be shared. Order Crystal Paine’s book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, here

936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

We Are Throwing Away 171 Weeks Of Our Children’s Lives {6 Questions To Redeem That Time}

February 19, 2015

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We hadn’t made it one hundred yards from the car when his whining began.

 

The chill was hardly grim; I actually found it refreshing as the sun shone strong, unhindered by the small, fluffy streaks of condensation barely obscuring the bright blue sky.

Yet he scrunched his face in discomfort and complained about his chilly hands. He gets it from me; his strong aversion to the cold.

I turned and jogged back towards the car, pregnant belly dancing up and down as I navigated the dirt path. I grabbed an extra camera lens from the back seat, and Daddy’s hat for the cold child.

He looked like a hoodlum as I pulled it down over his soft white curls. He smiled big as he turned to grasp the leash of his loyal black labrador, and bounded through the field in search of adventure.

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It is days like these that bring back into focus the purpose of parenthood–

 

–why we pour everything we have, and all that we are, into carefully navigating these children through their first 18 years of life.

 

We have 936 weeks with them.

 

These 936 weeks are represented by a jar of 936 pennies on my shelf. Each week I take one out.

Each week I am met face to face with the reality that time is relentless, unforgiving–

–and overflowing with potential.

 

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It is why we came on this hike today; because time is short and they are worth all of the beauty that we can pack into those 936 weeks.

 

Yet we, as parents of today’s society, are throwing away 171 weeks of our children’s lives.

 

Thinking in terms of that penny jar, it is the most expensive $1.71 we will ever toss out the window.

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The Kaiser Family Foundation performed one of the most extensive research projects looking into the time today’s average child, from age 8 to 18, spends in front of some form of media screen.

Their findings were startling; we are giving up 45 hours a week of our children’s lives to technology and screen time.

This fixation with screens doesn’t just begin at age eight. From birth until they turn eight, children are spending an average of 30 additional waking weeks engaged with media screens.

 

It all adds up to 171 waking weeks of their childhood spent in front of a screen.

 

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Picture that glass jar containing 936 pennies, each representing one week you have with your child.

Now imagine removing 171 of those shiny pennies, and instead of investing them in something great and beautiful that will set your child up for an abundant life, simply tossing them away.

171 pennies of the 936 we have—gone. Worthless. Without cause or intention.

We are doing this.

We are throwing away the time.

 

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It erases beauty, disintegrates intention, and extinguishes purpose—it renders us powerless; this time we are surrendering to the screens so pervasively coming to power in our society; and littering our children’s worlds.

We are throwing away time to worthless pursuits.

And what for? What is the gain?

 

More importantly….what is being lost?

 

In a society where research is showing that almost one-third of children have a television in their own bedroom by age three, how can we expect to build meaningful relationships during these 936 short weeks?

 

Screens are stealing childhoods.

 

Televisions, iPads, Smart Phones, video games–they are robbing legacies, and we must be brave enough to parent against the flow of society in order to redeem the time and create something of eternal value with it.

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I am not against technology.

As a writer, blogger, and web designer, I have a great appreciation for what today’s technology is allowing us to accomplish.

I am also the mom of two-going-on-three boys. I understand the refreshing power that can be found in allowing my children to watch an episode of Daniel Tiger while I regroup with a cup of coffee and a book.

However, as a parent, I am also terrified of today’s technology-laden world.

I see clearly that too much is being given up to the allure and convenience of screens; and we, as parents, have both the responsibility and the power to fight back and redeem childhoods.

 

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Perhaps your own child doesn’t spend nearly the average of 6 and a half hours a day in front of a screen.

Or maybe you, like I, have fallen into the temptation to set them in front of a program (or 3…) in the name of getting things checked off our to-do list.

The book Growing Up Social points out,

 

In terms of how much screen time you allow your child, only you can decide how much is too much.

 

In our home, it is a constant balancing act; and I know it always will be.

We are again and again brought back to these key questions in order to keep ourselves in check with how much, and for what purposes, we are allowing our children to have “screen time”.

 

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6 Key Questions To ask Before Turning On a Screen

 

  • “Is technology bringing our family closer together, or driving our family apart?” (Growing Up Social, Chapman and Pellicane)
  • Do my children act as if an hour in front of a screen is a gift, or something they are entitled to?
  • What is this program teaching my child about character and virtues?
  • Is this program consistent with our family and life values? If not, then it is not on course with how we want to invest our 936 weeks with our children. Turn it off.
  • Have we read books or played outside first, before turning on a screen?

 

Perhaps one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves as parents is this one:

  • What is being sacrificed for this screen time; what is the tradeoff?

 

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The other day I allowed my children to watch an hour of television while I finished making dinner. When I told them it was time to be done, my three-year-old began to protest.

I quickly reminded him that I had told him a few minutes ago that it was almost time to be done. He said, “Ok”, and the two of them jumped down from the couch and immediately began playing with toy trucks.

A few minutes later, my son yelled over to me, “Mom! I’m having fun playing with trucks!”

Shortly after, some argument ensued about whose truck was whose. I let them be, and within a moment, Zeke was apologizing to his little brother, and peaceful play resumed.

These are areas of socialization and relationship building that they can’t learn from Curious George—they can only learn these character strengths as they see them modeled in our home, and as they practice them face-to-face.

 

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Things don’t always run this smoothly when it comes time to turn off the television, but this is quickly becoming the normal response in our home as we practice authority and boundaries regarding screen time.

Instances like these show me that TV has not turned into an entitlement in our home.

 

It is a priviledge, and it is controlled by us, the parents—not our children.

 

There are a whole lot of things we still don’t “have right” in this parenting gig; we fail in more ways than one every day.

However, we understand too clearly the dangers of living life at the whims of technology. That is why this area of screen time is one area where we remain steadfast and focused on instilling boundaries, and running our home and life consistently with our family values.

Their childhoods and our family legacy are at stake, and those are not things we are willing to leave up to chance.

 

 


Sources:

Growing Up Social, Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets To Raiisng Healthy Sons, Meg Meeker

 

Numbers derived from:

Generation M2 Media In The Lives Of 8 – 18 Year Olds, Kaiser Family Foundation

Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, Commensensemedia.org

http://www.sleepforkids.org/html/uskids.html

Family Motherhood Parenting Snacks

The Lost The Art Of Storytelling – What Exactly We Have Given Up

February 4, 2015

 

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How a Mystical Journey Changed The Course Of My Own Journey

 

As a child, many of my evenings were steeped in fables and magical tales. I don’t remember the journey of the mystical creatures; their goals, hopes, dreams, or struggles. I don’t even recall what they looked like, or how their adversaries threatened them along the way. I can’t recollect the voices they spoke in, although I know they were many–and that they captivated me.

What I do recall, with vivid clarity, is my father.

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He was the many voices of those characters, bringing their fables to life as he told them to us evening after evening. My brother, sister, and I would sit huddled together on the couch under blankets, my gray tabby cat reverberating with “puuuuuuurs” softly under my palm as I listened intently.

We sat completely entranced, taking in a whole new make believe world as my father read to us chapters from The Hobbit.

My father’s decision to sit down with his kids for an hour, contorting his vocal chords into silly voices, and opening up to us a whole new world; that investment of his time altered the course of who we could become.

 

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As I was growing up, my parents would regularly walk us into Barnes’ and Noble, tell us we could each pick out three books, and set us loose. They made the decision to invest in our minds through books, over expensive toys–another choice that changed the course of my life.

Our bookshelves abounded; and so did our imaginations.

It wasn’t until nearly twenty years later, when I would begin putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard—when I myself would become a writer of stories, that I realized with unsettled nerves how drastically story telling and reading has transformed over the last two decades.

 

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The Drastic Change In Storytelling

 

It came with my first guest blog experience; an invitation to write for another blogger. The instructions included a word count, a limit—something I had not before considered for importance in my own blogging. With this instruction came an explanation:

 

“People don’t read any more, they scan.”

 

These words would become painfully clear to me over the next few years, as I sought to discover my voice in the online writing community. I would key out story after story, developing thought into narrative, digging deep into my past and daily experience for significance, truth, lesson, and sharing those with the online world—only to have them skimmed over.

 

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Is This Really Advancement in Knowledge?

 

It is both a brilliant contribution and obscenity—the amount of information we have available to us today in the form of words. From the internet we are afforded endless amounts of information, and each day we take in absurd amounts of it.

The online community has caught on to the overwhelming power of information, and found ways to make it more palatable—Twitter, with word limits of 140 characters, blogging in short sentences and paragraphs that would redden the face of a decent English teacher, and RSS feeds to deliver hundreds of those blogs to us everyday in a shortened, excerpt fashion.

 

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Each of these tools and more have made it possible for us to scan through endless amounts of reports, advice, articles, and senseless entertainment every single day.

But how much are we actually taking in, and what of it holds any value and worth for our lives?

It is a gift, to have at our disposal so much knowledge. However, this gift has been clouded by an unbelievable amount of “fluff”.

It has left our souls longing for one thing– a beautiful part of history that we have lost among the condensing of words—story telling.

 

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The Unlimited Potential Of a Story 

 

If there is one thing I have learned in blogging, it is that most readers will not read a blog post in its entirety if it is longer than 500 words.

If there is one thing I have learned in writing, it is that a story worth being read can rarely be crafted in anything less than 1,000 words. This leaves us storytellers at a great loss.

There is so much truth to be found in stories—so many lessons wrapped up in the imagery of narration.

It is the first reason I write—because writing helps me to read my own story—to look at my life and squint my eyes at every turn, thoroughly seeking each detail of a moment for what there is to be found; to be gleaned; to be learned before moving on.

When we skim through life, passing over the details while looking for the next big plot—we miss the living of life. We surrender our own story and all of its power.

 

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Storytelling – An Ageless Gift 

 

This is how we are teaching our children to read. Sure, they go to school and learn the fundamentals of the alphabet, then pairings of letters, and then on to grammar and punctuation. But then they sit, staring at the glow of those screens, skimming through blurbs, snippets, and fragments of words; all the while their patience for the length of a story is dwindling.

This is why I urge you to fight back, and to preserve the gift of storytelling in your home.

It is why I exhort you that if your child is a toddler, sit down and read them a story.

And why I entreat you, if your child is of elementary age, sit down and read them a story.

Or why I beseech you, if your child is in high school, sit down and read them a story.

And why I admonish you, if your child is an adult, sit down and read them a story.

After all, when I was not yet able to ride a bicycle or navigate the bunny ears of my shoe laces, my father sat me down and read me a story of small Hobbit creatures in a make believe land. And it changed my life forever.

 

Discovering Their World 

 

As I was finishing up this blog post this morning, my husband poked his head into the study. “Come here, quickly” he said with a gleam in his eyes. I followed his lead over to our boys’ room, and peaked in. Here is what I found: 

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There they sat together, hunched over with blankets draped over shoulders, warming their feet by the air vent; my eldest was reading to his little brother. “This one says ‘RAAAAAWR!'”; he pointed to an alligator.

They read because I read to them. I read to them because my parents read to me. I read to them not only because it opens up a whole new world to them–but it opens also a new world to me–their world.

 

Homemade Spelt Alphabet Crackers

 

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Homemade Spelt Alphabet Crackers

Ingredients

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • herbs and seasoning of choice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 -1 cup water

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine all dry ingredients then add in olive oil and slowly add in water until mixture is no longer dry and you can form the dough into a ball.
  2. Roll the dough out on parchment paper (either between two pieces or with a floured rolling pin).
  3. Cut the dough into your desired size of crackers. Feel free to do different shapes. And bake from 20-35 minutes (all depends on the thickness). Pull the crackers out just as they are starting to crisp up as they will continue to crisp once out of the oven.Watch closely to prevent burning.

Notes

http://erynlynum.com/the-lost-the-art-of-storytelling/

Family Motherhood Parenting

The Gift Of Responsibility Over Luxury – 3 Insights We Gleaned Through Giving Our 1-Year-Old Chores

January 25, 2015

Gift of chores

 

About That Time He Toasted The Diaper

 

When our first son was about a year and a half old, we decided to experiment with the idea of giving him chores.

We delegated to him the task of throwing out his new baby brother’s soiled diapers. All went well and smoothly, until the day I walked into the kitchen to find a used diaper wadded up and sitting inside of our toaster oven—with the toaster turned on.

 I promise–I don’t make this stuff up.

 

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Giving young children chores doesn’t always go smoothly, like in the incident of the toasted diaper. However, if our concern was with these tasks being carried out in a timely and efficient matter, we would do them ourselves. Handing these jobs off to young children takes time, instruction, and a boat load of patience!

Don’t worry—the toasted diaper is not the discovery that we were blown away by that I refer to in the title of this post.

Rather, we have been blown away by 3 important insights we have gleaned through giving our children chores at the young age of one.

 

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1. We Don’t Realize How Capable Our Children Are Until We Give Them a Chance To Show Us

 

As soon as our second son could walk, the task of diaper disposal was passed on to him—perhaps because he couldn’t reach the toaster oven quite yet.

We were surprised when he took on this new responsibility with full vigor. Not only did he throw out all of the dirty diapers, but he also scanned the floor for any pieces of trash, and deposited them into the garbage can!

When we decided to give our children a chance to show us their capabilities, we got to watch as they began taking ownership of their responsibilities in the home, and their specific roles.

This is because teaching our children through responsibility helps develop their sense of worth as they realize they are valuable contributors to the home.

As Nancy Sleethe puts it in her book, Almost Amish,

 

Everyone is a citizen of the family and each person plays a meaningful role…Chores are an indispensable aid in helping our children become good spouses, parents, and servants of God.

 

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2. Our House Is Actually Much Cleaner!

 

This is not something I expected. I did not anticipate our home to be cleaner by employing extra help to clean it– not when the help was coming from those who are much more interested in naming dust bunnies than eradicating them.

However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how efficient the boys have been in their new tasks!

Our three-year-old old is responsible for picking up all of his toys in the living room and his bedroom before bedtime. At first, I was very hesitant to give him this responsibility.

Yes—I looked forward to his help in cleaning up the clutter. However, I did not look forward to his bedtime being delayed by the twenty minutes I anticipated it would take him to accomplish the task.

To remedy the situation, I packed away half of the boys’ toys, and threw out any that were broken, unused, or had missing pieces. I figured that if the amount of their toys was overwhelming me, it certainly had to be overwhelming my three-year-old.

They now have one basket of toys in the living room, and one basket of toys in their bedroom. That is it.

And guess what–it worked! Not only is our home staying MUCH cleaner throughout the day, but our three-year-old can now easily manage picking up all of his toys before bedtime.

 

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3.  Our Children Are Learning The Values Of Hard Work and Team Work

 

Crystal Paine says it in her book, Say Goodbye To Survival Mode,

 

We have found that modeling hard work, practicing servanthood, and having them work alongside us from an early age have been great teaching tools.

 

In coaching my children about responsibsility, I begin by working alongside of them; walking them through how to thoroughly carry out a job to completion. As we work together, I sprinkle in conversations about being a hard worker, and how great it is to work as a team.

The other day, as my three-year-old put his puzzle pieces back into their bag, he asked me for help.

As I bent down beside him and began scooping pieces into the bag, he turned to me and said, “We work as a team, Mom!”

That was all the confirmation I needed that this area of child rearing—of training them to respect hard work, be diligent, and work as a team—is well worth the the extra investment of my time and energy.

 

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Raising Hard Workers

 

Please don’t think for a moment that my children are perfectly obedient, that my home is always spotless, or that I am always patient when teaching my children about being responsible—you would be sorely mistaken.

However, day by day—with each morning a new opportunity—we set out to train our children the value of hard work by patiently instructing them and working alongside of them. As we do, we are seeing them develop before our very eyes into the men we pray for them to be– men who work heartily to take care of their families and be faithful to God.

 

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What Might Your Child Be Capable Of?

 

I challenge you to give it a shot. If you have been hesitant to give your young children chores, or simply don’t know where to start, begin by recognizing a few tasks they may be capable of.

Make those tasks more manageable, say by packing away excess toys so that they can keep their own room clean without becoming overwhelmed. After all, a greater gift than luxury is responsibility; it’s a gift that will bless them for a lifetime.

Next, walk your children through those tasks, patiently and gracefully, until they become proficient at them. Finally, hand those tasks off to them. Give them the gift of being a valuable contributor and a team player in your home.

As you guide those little hands and instruct those little hearts, you might just be blown away by what your children show you!

 

 

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