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Choosing Purpose

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After several hours of contractions, pain that has been severely dulled by anesthetics, and delivery, you are handed a tiny bundle wrapped in hospital issued blankets. In that instant you determine that you are going to be the best mother you can be- you find your purpose.

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For some, finding their purpose as a mother means losing themselves as a person. When the children grow up and leave, this mother feels that she no longer has a purpose.

Being a purposeful mom or influencer has nothing to do with where you spend 40 hours of your week. It has everything to do with the goals you set for yourself and your family and the steps you take to reach that goal.

Purpose for us means mothering with a desired result, a goal to shoot for. Mothering with determination and resoluteness.

 

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For me, being a purposeful mom means thinking about all of the facets that make me who I am as bullseye targets. Each action is an arrow. The bullseye is my goal. What do I need to do to hit my target?

  • Prayer- “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that  build it.” Ps. 127:1. I can attempt to be purposeful, but unless I invite the Lord into my endeavor, those efforts will be in vain.
  • Practice- The old saying practice makes perfect is true even in purposeful mothering. Sometimes my decisions won’t hit my target. Sometimes I will hit the target but not the bullseye. The more  decisions I make, the more practice I get at making decisions that will get me closer to my desired end result.
  • Time- No one becomes an expert overnight. It takes practice over time to be able to hit the target at almost every attempt. Being patient is crucial to learning to be a purposeful mom… something I have to work on daily.

The idea of Purposeful Mothering sounds great, but what does it look like in real life? One evening, I sat down with a cup of coffee (I always do my best thinking with coffee in hand) and wrote out all of the most important aspects of my life and what I needed to do to be more intentional in them. Here is the outline I came up with.

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  1. My relationship with the Lord- Find a time and place that will give me uninterrupted time to spend in Bible reading an prayer.
  2. My relationship with my husband- I need to pray for him, spend time with him without the kids around, and care for his needs.
  3. My relationship with my children- I need to pray for them, spend focused time with them, and spend time training them and their hearts in the Lord.
  4. Our relationship with money- Make wise choices with our money, care for the belongings we already have, continue to stay out debt, and use our money to further the kingdom of God.
  5. Taking care of myself- Make time for annual check ups, make time for daily exercise, read six to eight books each year for myself, and purpose to eat healthier foods.
  6. Taking care of our home- Create doable routines and schedules for our family, be alert to what comes into our home, and keep the stuff to a minimum.

Being purposeful means that this list will change over time as I become aware of other needs within these categories (which means in the future, you can expect to see an update to this post).

Being purposeful means I am going to need to stay alert to the needs of my family, because they are ever changing.

Being purposeful means I will need to stay alert to my own needs because if I don’t I will not be available to care for the needs of my family.

The more purposeful I am, the more my family will see it, and being purposeful will not just be “Mom’s thing” it will become the way of life for our family.

What Being a Purposeful Mom Means to Me

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Purposeful Moms… Wow! What a title.

To be completely honest with you, the thought of co-authoring a blog by the name “Purposeful Moms” was a bit scary for me.

Would writing for this blog mean I would be putting myself out there as a perfect mom? A better mom than everyone else? A mom who had all the answers about parenting?

I sure hope NOT! Whoa, Buddy….. If those were the qualifications, I would shut my computer down right now…!

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And….ZAP!

(Ok. Imagine yourself now sitting in silence as my computer screen goes black and the clicking of the keys stops….Yes, and even more, hear me moan as I fall to the ground in utter dismay that I don’t meet any of those qualifications.)

“Wait a minute, though!” I jolt as my thoughts are interrupted. “No, of course, that’s not the intent or direction of this blog!”

With renewed energy, I throw my shoulders back, dust off my favorite workout pants, raise my fist in triumph….And once again power up my computer. Yes, Friends, I can actually do this! (Okay, okay… So, I didn’t really fall on the floor. But you get where I’m going with this…)

What if being a purposeful mom is not as complicated and impossible as that?

What if it’s just about my willingness to follow God’s leading in my life, as He teaches me how to be a better mom to my son, a better wife to my husband, a better friend to those around me, and most importantly a better follower of Jesus.

What if it’s not necessarily about showing you “what to do“, but simply sharing with you how God is working in me…. to help me become more intentional and focused in my daily life?

And what if… maybe in the process, I can extend some encouragement to other moms along the way, and pass along some ideas and thoughts that I have found helpful in my own journey?

Purposeful-Moms-Blog-Parenting-MotherhoodI’m still a work in progress as a wife, a mom….and a woman in general. And I daily need the wisdom and love of Jesus to guide me… To transform me… To help me have the kinds of attitudes and actions that will cause Him to shine more and more in my life and, in turn, help me to be more of a blessing to those around me.

To me, that’s what being a purposeful mom looks like….Not simply going through the motions or even striving in my own efforts to be a “perfect” mom. (That can actually be quite frustrating and exhausting.)

Instead, it’s about me allowing God to teach me and work in my heart, as He helps me live and love more genuinely and intentionally, so that I can reflect His heart more and more to those around me.

Am I Beautiful?

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Ok, tell me I’m wrong… But do you ever feel as a woman like there’s just something more you need to be or have different in your life before you can officially say you “feel” beautiful?

Oh…. Maybe it’s your hair, your skin’s condition, your weight, your teeth, your nose…

…Achievements you want to attain…

…Your personality that you’d love to change…

Perhaps you want to be more outgoing or, on the other hand, more refined…

Regardless of what it is, though…

There’s just that one other thing you need in your life that will finally give you permission to check off that last little box on your mental “I-finally-feel-beautiful” checklist.

Oh, trust me, I have my little boxes as well.

And while I am working on those areas, and honestly believe we all should work on being the best version of ourselves we can be…

Somehow I’m absolutely convinced that checking that last little box off isn’t going to be what ultimately convinces me.

You want to know how I know…?

…Because I’ve checked off that box once before… and for some odd reason… I still didn’t feel as though it was good enough to be checked.

Furthermore…even though I checked off that last little box, another box appeared for something else making me still feel inferior.

Yes, we all should have goals in life.

We all should do the things possible to make ourselves feel outwardly beautiful. There are definitely things we can all do to improve ourselves, and we should do our best to work on them. Goals are definitely important to our overall feelings of well-being.

But one thing that saddens me is that many women simply cannot give themselves permission to feel beautiful until they’ve reached the end of their goal….

And yet at the same time, I think somewhere deep inside we all long to feel beautiful and have someone to tell us we are… before we can be “fully” convinced for ourselves.

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In some sense I think that’s one reason why “selfies” have become such a popular phenomenon these days. (…And, no, I don’t claim to be an expert in “selfie” psychology.)

But somehow as I see multiple selfies within a short period of time, something inside of me says, “Women want to know they’re beautiful. They want confirmation that what they see in the mirror really is true and visible to others.”

They simply want affirmation.

How do I know this?

Um…Because just a few years ago that  was me too.

Don’t get me wrong. I do take selfies every now and then (many of which never get seen), but I definitely have stopped posting them as frequently.

Why?

Well, for a few reasons…

For one, God helped me understand the deeper reason “why” I was needing to share my selfies so much.

He began to heal my heart of my need to “request” that affirmation from others.

And more importantly, He also began to show me that my purpose in life is not to highlight myself but Him.

Have I arrived at a place where I can officially say I don’t ever desire that affirmation from outside sources?

Well….. Unfortunately, I have not. I’m still a work in progress. But, trust me, God’s working on me….

Of course there are definitely still days when I want someone to tell me I’m beautiful because (even though I may think so at times myself) I think it’s still in us to just want that extra affirmation from the outside. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves and get confirmation about it, right?

But you know what…?

Even that affirmation is never enough. We all still end up needing more………..the next day, the next week, and on and on it goes.

Why is it that the compliments just don’t stick or keep us in a place where we remain fully convinced that we are?

Maybe, it’s because our definition of beauty is flawed…

If you want to know the real scoop about beauty…..

Outward beauty is temporary… Look at the godly great grandmother in her 80’s who’s lived a full life but now looks nothing like her younger self. But here she is… smiling in her hospital bed surrounded by three generations of family members. They treasure her dearly for the joy she’s been in life and will always be grateful for the godly legacy she’s leaving behind.

Beauty isn’t the mark of our value… Look at the military servicemen and women whose faces are almost unrecognizable after surviving a hit by explosives. They risk their own lives to preserve our freedom and safety….and return to short-lived recognition followed by lifelong injuries and scars.

Beauty is “vain”… A focus on beauty so often makes life all about “us”. And thank God our eyes are situated inside of our sculls rather than outside our heads because, in this day and age- if it were the other way around- I’m sure many of us would stare at ourselves all day to see how good we looked.

But most importantly… Something beauty was never meant to be… is the main focus of our lives or the measure of our success in life.

It was never meant to define us, to show us who we are as women, or to show us how much we are worth.

It was never meant to be the deciding factor as to whether we were worth being loved or not.

It was never meant for any of that.

And ultimately… Beauty fades…

But you know what… Beauty can be a really AWESOME word when redefined.

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And if it’s true that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, God’s eyes have a really awesome perspective of what true beauty really is…. And it’s not limited by our weight, the straightness of our teeth or whether we’re having a good or bad hair day… Not any of that.

According to God, true beauty springs out of who we are on the inside… This is what truly gives us permission to feel beautiful…

And, you know… Another cool thing…. Is that the beauty of those inner qualities never fades like outward “beauty” so often does.

Our Heavenly Father’s definition of beauty is not limited by the numbers on the scale, how we look in the mirror, or how others have treated us.

…Because true beauty is not determined by those surface standards but by a different and more purposeful set of qualities.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.”                                         Proverbs 31:30-31 NASB

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 NLT

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

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Celebrate the Ordinary Days

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Making ordinary days special for my family has always been a goal for me.  In fact, one of my goals when I first became a mom was to make life wonderful for my family. Not just the big days, but more importantly, the little days- the days that no one else but us would see and know about.

Then I began noticing that there were “special” days everywhere. National Popcorn Day. National Donut Day. National Hot Dog Day. And my personal favorite, National Coffee Day!

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I like that  there are special days because it makes ordinary days just a bit more special. I am the mom who makes the popcorn, gets the free donuts (with the purchase of a beverage…. and then my donut is not so free anymore), makes hot dogs on that particular night, and takes her kids out in the pouring rain to get the coffee (because coffee makes my world go around).

Yet, those were not the only special days that I wanted to create for my family.

I wanted to make the ordinary days special- the special days that do not show up on the calendar.

I wanted to purposefully plan to make a regular Tuesday special by planning ahead a simple but memorable activity for my kids to look back on.

I wanted to plan ahead for a special time for my husband and I to enjoy after the kids had gone to bed.

So I did.

I began thinking about ways to make some of our ordinary days special. These are just a few ideas to get you started on making ordinary days special for your family.

  • Donut Day- Get your donut and then read your littles the book If You Give a Dog a Donut while you eat your donuts.
  • Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day- It is so much fun to dress up for your lunch or dinner! Pull out the paint, the old t-shirts, and some construction paper and make an event of going to your local Chick-Fil-A. special-days
  • American Girl Girl of the Year movie premier- If your little girl is a fan of AG like mine is, the date of the movie premier can turn an ordinary day into something special. We tend to make a girly afternoon of it. I pull out my nail polishes, curlers, hair straightener, curling iron, and then I paint my daughter’s nails and do her hair. She picks out a cute outfit complete with as many accessories as she wants, and we watch the movie together.
  • Beach Day- One benefit of living in Florida is the nearness and accessibility to beaches. The surf and sand have a way of making any ordinary day special. Pack a light lunch such as fruits, cheese sticks, pretzels, trail mix, plenty of water, and sunscreen and let them play. Sometimes we bring beach toys, sometimes we don’t.  ordinary-days
  • National Puppy Day- Do you have a dog? We don’t. But we can still celebrate National Puppy Day by going to a pet store and playing with the puppies.
  • Ring in the Olympics- There are so many ways to make the Olympics a special time for our families. We make our own torch, and, during the opening ceremonies, we have our very own torch relay. This time around, we have also chosen a particular sport to follow (gymnastics) and particular athlete to root for (Gabby Douglas). special-days
  • Cookie Day- As a little girl, every year, our mom would take one day around Christmas to do nothing but bake cookies. One year, we baked 500 cookies. Then we gave those cookies to others in our church as gifts.
  • First Day of Each Season- It doesn’t have to be anything special, but commemorating the first day of each season can make that day special. For the first day of spring, we love going to Rita’s for a free ice. On the first day of fall, we decorate our home for fall- adding autumn colored leaves to our arrangements and decorative greenery, pulling out our previously made fall crafts, and even some of our Thanksgiving items. For the first day of summer we enjoy going to the beach, and on the first day of winter, we typically celebrate Snowman Day (mentioned below).
  • Snowman Day- Here in Florida, my kids can only dream of snow, so snowmen are an impossibility for us…. or are they? We made an entire day based on snowmen, complete with homemade snowman shirts, snowman shaped pizza, have a “snowball fight” made of crumpled paper towels, and then collecting all of our paper owls on white garbage bags to build a snowman. You can see more of our first Snowman Day in this Smilebox slideshow.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make an ordinary day more than just a day.

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Going Outside… On Purpose

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The chapter “The Discipline of Simplicity” from the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster has been one that has made me think in a purposeful, intentional way, such as learning to enjoy things without owning them.

Another lesson from this chapter was to develop a deeper appreciation for creation- a hard one for me to follow through on sometimes.

Okay, so let’s just lay it out here.

I don’t have a green thumb.

I don’t like to get hot and sweaty.

I can’t stand the feel of dirt on me.

I (and my hair) do not fair well in the Florida humidity.

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So now that that is out in the open, I am also willing to admit that

  • I do love hanging my laundry on the line
  • I love watching my kids discover the beauty of uninhibited running outside
  • I love the idea of growing beautiful flowers in my front yard
  • I dream of growing a vegetable garden in our backyard
  • I love going to a nearby beach and letting my children play in the surf and sand to their hearts content

Every year in the spring, I get this feeling. The one that reminds you that the earth is a beautiful place. The one that causes you to take deep breaths of air and fill up your lungs with fresh oxygen… not the recycled stuff from inside.

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The feeling that I need to appreciate God’s creation more than I do.

Why am I so afraid of my children getting dirty? (Let’s be honest, laundry and extra cleaning.)

Why do I not want to get in the dirt myself? (The time it takes for an extra shower and then washing the hair and blow drying the hair…. you get it, right?)

Yet, there are so many wonders to be discovered in God’s creation.

In childhood, what is the ultimate simplicity?

Going outside and playing with whatever you can find.

When kept inside, my children find themselves in need of something to do for entertainment. That is when the crayons, coloring books, toys, and even my furniture and pots and pans come out. This in turn gives us the added chore of having to clean everything up.

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When my children are outdoors, God has provided everything they need for entertainment

  • plants (weeds count) to look at, pick, and to learn the art of gardening
  • large open areas for running without worry that anyone will run into a sharp corner
  • insects and bugs to catch (and because bugs do not stay still, the entertainment lasts quite a while)

Addie is definitely an outdoor girl.

Ian is totally an outside boy.

Mommy tends to be a let’s-find-something-safe-to-do-inside kind of girl.

Yet I am learning that there is definitely something freeing, calming, and peaceful about just being outside.

When I hang my laundry, it is then that God puts dreams and aspirations in my heart.

When I am outside, I find myself praying and praising more.

When I am outside, I smile more.

When my children are outside, there is a refreshment that comes over them that they cannot get from being inside.

When my children have a good play outside, they rest much more easily at night.

I am trying to develop a deeper appreciation for God’s creation.

Because developing a deeper appreciation for God’s creation is a step towards simplicity.

I originally posted this article at The Joy of Homemaking.

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Finding Stability in an Unpredictable World

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On June 24, 2016,  the New York Stock Exchange dropped a full 600 points by the day’s end as a result of the shocking news that the UK decided to leave the European Union.

A vast amount of money lost in just one day due to a totally unforseen decision by Great Britain which the news media dubbed the “Brexit”.

People frantically made calls to their financial firms in hopes of protecting their investments… (I know because my husband works in the industry.)

The news these days is so often filled with bad news…

Terrible tragedies and shootings occurring with so many unsuspecting individuals losing their lives…

A family lost at sea…

A toddler losing his life at Disney…

Twists and turns abound…

Health issues… Relational issues… Natural disasters…

Life can seem so unpredictable at times.

The grief that people are experiencing these days can be so heartbreaking, as you watch the news and see what’s going on…

Oh…. You can bury your head in the sand and avoid the news stations, but believe me, I know from personal experience that the news will find it’s way to you one way or another…

And if you’re not careful, you can begin to get discouraged and even fearful as you go through life.

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If only Earth was a little more like Heaven… Right?

Oh, so many often like to think that this is it….that this is all there is…

…And oh how often we try to make Earth our “heaven”.

But you know what, it isn’t. This world is tainted by evil.

Yes, there is beauty in this world, and yes, there are beautiful and wonderful things to enjoy while we are here, but one thing this Earth is certainly not….is Heaven.

God created this world and everything in it and called it all “good”, but when people were given the choice to either follow God or their own desires…. They decided to listen to  a different voice and chose to follow their own desires.

…And that is very much a picture of what life is still like today. We think God is trying to keep us from something “good” just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, not realizing His directions are actually for our safety and benefit.

And so….We see evil in the world today… sickness, pain, natural disasters… things that are not “good” living right along side things that are.

Yes, we live in a tainted world…

But again, thank God this world is not Heaven…

When Jesus was on Earth He didn’t sugar coat the kind of world we live in or give us fanciful ideas that life would be easy. In fact, He clearly expressed that in this life we would have trouble. (See John 16:33)

And yet He further went on in that very same verse to encourage us that we could have peace in the midst of it and told us to “take heart” because He had overcome the world.

Yes, my friends, Jesus triumphed over evil at the cross, not only disarming the devil and sealing his ultimate defeat, but also in the process providing a way for us to have peace with God in this life as well as preparing a perfect dwelling place for us to be with Him for eternity.

With all of the shootings, terrible tragedies, personal losses, and disease in this world, it can be so easy to fear and lose heart for so many of us…and especially for those going through the grieving process of having been touched by the pain and trouble in this world.

No, tomorrow is not a guarantee for any one of us, although we prefer to imagine so…

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But the words of Jesus (in John chapter 14) serve as another great reminder.

And it is this…. The sure guarantee is that Jesus is preparing a place for those who have placed their trust in Him, and one day we will be with Him in that place where there is no more pain, death, sorrow, or heartache.

Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him….Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’” (John 14:1-4,6,27)

Yes, life can seem unpredictable at times. But when your hope is in Jesus and He is Your Rock, you can rest safely in the peace He gives, knowing every breath your breathe already comes from Him…and He can keep you until the day He is ready to bring you safely home to that perfect place He is preparing for those who have placed their faith in Him.

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Learning to Enjoy Things without Owning Them

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I want my children to have access to as many things as possible that will teach them and help them reach their highest potential. However…..

I do not want to own all of those things.

So how is it possible to give my children the resources they need without feeling the need to purchase it all?

One thing that I remember our mother doing with us as girls was taking a weekly trip to the library. We would walk there (it was a five minute walk from our house) and spend a couple of hours doing school work (we were homeschooled) and looking through the books. We became friends with the librarians and looked forward to our time spent there.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I am now the mother taking her children to the library.

 

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The library has changed a lot since I was a kid- there are now computers, games, puzzles, and cool bean bag chairs for making yourself comfortable  with a good book. There is now story time for children under the school age during the school year and learning class time for all ages during the summer.

The library has thousands of books, that are available to enjoy. Toddlers, children and adults alike can enjoy all of the books free of charge (unless one is late returning these books, then there is a late fee…. speaking of…..).

One of the steps to simplicity found in Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster is learn to enjoy things without owning them.

There are so many books I want my children to enjoy, but it would be impossible for us to buy them all. A library offers access to a plethora of materials for education and entertainment.

Learning to enjoy things without owning them can reach far beyond books. There are parks, beaches, festivals, and other things that can be enjoyed for free or for a nominal price without having to own anything.

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The beauty of learning to find ways of enjoying things without owning them is two-fold. In some cases it teaches patience in waiting your turn before you can enjoy something. It also reduces the amount of stuff brought into your living space which keeps clutter at bay. Clutter is an enemy of simplicity.

I want my children to grow up understanding they do not need to own everything in order to enjoy it.

They do not need to have an extensive video library; they can borrow movies from the library or rent them for a $2.50 at a local kiosk or wait for them to arrive on Netflix. They do not need to download every song they like; they can enjoy Pandora or Spotify free of charge and enjoy their favorite songs and find others like it. They do not need to purchase every book they want to read; they can borrow it from the library.

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What important lessons will this teach them in the long run?

  • Not everything needs to be owned in order for them to enjoy it.
  • To save their money for things they really want or need.
  • To critically think about purchases they do make.
  • Less clutter equals less stress.

How will they learn this lesson?

It starts with me and the example I show them. Children will not learn this lesson on their own. They need to be shown that we can learn to find ways to enjoy things without owning them in order for them to learn how to do the same.

The library is a good place to start.

This post was originally posted here at The Joy of Homemaking.