back-to-school

4 Simple Back to School Ideas and Traditions

Back to school time comes with so much excitement and anticipation, but sometimes, also, with a feeling of dread and anxiety.

For some, new classes, new teachers, new clothes, new friends, and a brand new year to grow and learn are reasons to wake up ready to go on the first day of school, while for other kids, those same reasons bring anxiety levels to a breaking point.

Going from 3rd to 4th grade was a bit of a transition for Addie (we homeschool using Classical Conversations). She knew the work load was going to increase as would the difficulty, so she was not particularly thrilled to start school this year. Ian, on the other hand, was starting Kindergarten- seriously, what’s not to love about Kindergarten! He couldn’t wait to start school!

I found that these four ideas, which have become traditions for us, help bring a sense of excitement to the first week of school. And, yes, we allow ourselves a week to celebrate.

Photo

back-to-school

I have always taken a photo of the first day of school (like every mother out there!), but this was the first time I printed out signs for it. It will be neat (and heartbreaking) to put Ian’s “First Day of Kindergarten” and “First Day of 12th Grade” photos side by side one day.

We took these photos the day before we began school (because it was Sunday and we were already dressed up) so we wouldn’t take any time away from our actual first day of school.

If you want a copy of these signs for yourself, you can find them here at Homeschooling’ Mama.

Questionnaire

I love the idea of asking kids the same questions year after year. What better way to see their growth than by how their answers change!

back-to-school

This year, I scoured the internet looking for a few questions that the kids could answer, and I posted Ian’s answers on Facebook. These are the questions I chose to ask them:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite show?
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?

Every year, I will ask those same questions. And I am sure that every year the answers will change in some way.

Special dinner

back-to-school

One night during “Back to school” week we make an effort to either go out to dinner or have food brought in. It gives everyone something to look forward to (including Mom), and time around the table always lends itself to opportunities for great conversations.

Special breakfast

My son goes to sleep asking “What’s for breakfast?”

Knowing how important it is for kids to have a great breakfast (especially on the first day of school), I try to make breakfast something they will really enjoy. Some years, I have made their toast look like a bear with cream cheese, a few banana slices, and raisins. but this year we went with cinnamon rolls… because I know it’s a family favorite.

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However you choose to celebrate the first day or week of school, be sure to only take on what is comfortable and doable for you and your situation. Then, sit back and know you have added a brick to the foundation of love in your children’s hearts.

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Teach Your Child to Read

Do you have a young child at home who you would like to give an advantage to by giving him a head start in reading before he heads off to Kindergarten? Do you have a struggling young reader who you would love to help over the summer so she can tackle the new school year in the fall with confidence? Are you homeschooling and teaching your child to read for the very first time?

Yeah, me, too!

I had never taught anyone how to read before. As a 4th and then 5th grade teacher at a private Christian school, my job was to teach reading comprehension, get my students thinking about the moral implications of the day’s reading selections, and develop critical thinking skills in my students while reading a passage.

My mother had taught me how to read by the time I was two and a half years old using SRA DISTAR by Siegfried Englemann, which my father’s cousin, a New York public school teacher, had given her because her school was throwing it out. I remember the spiral bound books and games my mother would play with me using the books.

Right before Addie turned one, I saw a commercial for the Your Baby Can Read series. I bought it, and faithfully sat with Addie every day to watch the videos, play the games, look through the books, and review with the flash cards. Within 6 months, she did learn to recognize what each card said, but she was unable to translate her knowledge outside of the cards, videos, and books. (The series is now called Your Baby Can Learn.)

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We began watching the LeapFrog: Letter Factory and in no time at all Addie began recognizing her letters and the sounds they made. By the time we began Kindergarten, she could read small words. The curriculum we were using at the time (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools) had a reading program that required a lot of writing. She became frustrated, and reading became a dreaded subject for us both.

 

Mid year, I switched her over to A Handbook for Reading, Phonics Textbook (A Beka Book Reading Program) which gave her the phonics foundation she needed. The pages had colors and fun pictures and the words were grouped in easy to read sections. But she still had no confidence in picking up a book and reading it.

Frustrated with reading and having passed my self-imposed timeline for teaching my daughter how to read, I began asking my father if he remembered which reading program my mother had used with me. After a few phone calls and emails back and forth he remembered the initials SRA. I began researching and discovered that the program my mother used for me was still around, just under a different name- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I ordered it and began working with Addie as soon as it came in.

The lessons are designed to be 20 minutes long- perfect for little ones who have short attention spans. Each lesson covers more than just reading. Children are taught to sound out words by “saying it slow” and then reading words by “saying it fast.” They also learn the concept of rhymes and how to make up rhyming words through daily oral exercises. They are also taught how to write the letters they are learning to sound out in each given lesson. Sound blends like “th” and “ch” are visually attached to teach children how the sound works.

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Lessons are taken in small steps. For example, the first two lessons only teach the sounds for “m” and “s”. The type for the sounds to be read is nice and large making reading less intimidating for children. (That had been Addie’s biggest issue. She would only read books that had large type in them because she was afraid of reading small type words.)

As the book progressed, I found myself splitting lessons in half. They could be a bit intense the further into the book you journeyed. I had to remind myself that the goal was for my daughter to be able to read with confidence and understanding- not finish the book in 100 days.

One particular thing I loved about the book was that as we reached the last quarter of the book, the type gradually became smaller as the stories became longer. Addie never noticed the size change.

The evidence that she could finally read above her grade level with confidence and speed came one evening as I was preparing to review her Awana verses with her. I opened up to what I thought was a new verse, and she responded, “Oh, I already know that verse.” She then began reciting it to me complete with reference. I asked how she had learned it, and her answer was, “I read it, Mom.”

Within a few months of completing Teach Your Child to Read, she picked up our copy of Now We Are Six and read it in two days. I wasn’t sure about her understanding of the book, but when she told me about the poems she was reading, I knew she understood.

We have used a combination of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, and The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer for Ian (the 5 year old entering Kindergarten this fall). I noticed that going to the same book day after day causes his interest to wane, so we change it up often to keep his enthusiasm up.

At this point in our reading journey, having enough books on hand is my biggest challenge.

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Dear Newlyweds, Be “Ring Polishers”

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3 NIV

Dirty dishes, soapy residue, cleaning chemicals, lotion, Playdoh, and sand…. My wedding band (the most precious piece of jewelry I own) has been through it all.

I remember the night I received the first half of it… It was our private engagement at a very special restaurant called Berns’ Steakhouse, in our own privately enclosed booth of the Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

It was Valentines Day 2010.. And I had a feeling this would be the night my amazing boyfriend would propose to me… (But, of course, I didn’t let on that I knew. )

Yes, I was aware from my own inquisitive probes that he had already requested permission from my dad to marry me… And with him having previously asked me to look at rings for ideas as to my preference, I knew it was only a matter of time before we would be engaged.

Jim was not content, though, with my preference in a ring. To him, the one I chose was just “plain vanilla” and he wanted it to be way better and have “sprinkles” as well.

That evening as we sat across the table (with me awaiting my Macadamia nut ice cream and Jim his creme brulee dessert), Jim got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

He pulled out the most beautiful ring, which he had personally chosen for me- the one with the sprinkles- and, of course, I gladly accepted.

It is a request, I will cherish forever.

That evening at my sister’s home, after Jim had dropped me off…and after all of the excitement of knowing I would soon be Mrs. Adams’… I sat on my bed admiring my ring.

It was beautiful.

When the light hit the diamonds, they sparkled so beautifully every which way.

It was absolutely gorgeous.

And more importantly, it was symbolically the promise that I was now in the process of fully belonging to someone forever.

It’s so amazing how every once in a while the memory and feelings I had from that special evening of admiring my ring alone in my room tend to return to me…

No, it’s not an everyday occurence… But  do you want to know when those memories do reappear?

It typically happens after I’ve cleaned my ring.

Yes, just as smells and songs take people back to certain times or events in their lives, seeing the sparkle in my ring literally brings me back as well.

But you know what…..

The messes of everyday life often get in the way of the sparkle of my engagment ring/wedding band… The dirty dishes, the soapy residue, the sand, the playdoh… All of those things.

It isn’t always easy to see the rainbow of colors that love to glimmer when I turn my ring this way and that on just any given day.

No…It takes a toothbrush and a cleaning agent to get my ring to sparkle again as it once did the day I first received it.

And you know what…. Life in marriage can be that way too.

Work, chores, routines, financial hardships, children, reponsibilites, school, health issues, activities, etc… All of those things are a part of life on this earth, and they can often “fog up” the “sparkle” couples  once knew when their life together first began.

Sadly in our day and age, though, rather than taking the time to “polish”, give better attention to the marriage and find the sparkle once again, couples these days sometimes choose to sling their own “mud” on the “ring”. They begin taking each other for granted and begin showing signs of disrepect toward each other both in private as well as in public. They unfortunately have lost the value they once placed on each other and may even venture as far as to toss away “the ring” in search of the “sparkle” in a new relationship.

You don’t have to look very far to see this.

In fact, the cashier’s aisle at the grocery store is just one proof of this. It’s a relationship graveyard.

No, it’s not enough anymore these days to just have magazines dedicated to fictional Soap Opera dramas. Rather… Beside these you will find very REAL  ones that expose the lives and broken relationships of the most beautiful people in entertainment.

The tragedy and ugliness of broken relationships is shared all over magazine racks and online.

I don’t which behind-the-scene “exclusive” interviews are true or not. And it doesn’t matter. The sad reality is….Another beautiful relationship  that should have lasted “bites the dust”….

Whatever happened to “In sickness and in health? Till death do us part? Before God and this company of witnesses?”

Were these vows meant to be merely poetic lines shared with the “hopes” that they would be kept?

No.

These vows were meant to be upheld.

And yet couples need to be reminded at the very start of their marriage that throughout their life together…

Through the mundane…

Through the hardships of life…

Through thick and thin…

It is each spouse’s job to be a “ring polisher”… 

Yes, there will be days when the excitement of being newlyweds subsides and everyday life kicks in…

When there’s laundry to be done…

When the bills pile high…

When the car breaks down…

When there’s an unexpected job loss…

When you have a noisy house filled with little people…

And a floor littered with toys …

When the date nights grow fewer because things have become tighter  financially…

In all of the clutter and fog of life…

Remember to clean your ring.

The sparkle is still there…

But throughout the marriage it takes faithfulness, love, and a strong commitment to God and each other to continually keep that sparkle shining at its brightest.

No diamond ring ever gets tossed when it loses its sparkle… Rather, one who values his/her ring will take the time to get it polished and cleaned in the most gentle and effective ways.

And You, Dear Newlyweds… Must always remember that.

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Here’s a small slideshow that I made back in 2010 of our engagement. If you click the link, it will take you back to that special day with us! http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4455774e6a41334d6a6b3d0d0a&blogview=true

 

 

Living wiith Sincerity

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (KJV)

A W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life is the kind of life I believe the Lord wants us to live.

“What does that even mean?” you ask.

Simply this. “What you see is what you get.”

So, often it can be easy to show one face in public and another at home. One face in front of others and then another when we walk away.

We all want to look good… Don’t get me wrong. Putting one’s best foot forward is always a good thing.

In fact, we should all strive for that.

The only problem is… Sometimes, I think we feel that once we are no longer in the presence of others, we have the freedom to be different from how we just represented ourselves to be.

Of course there are always going to be people we just simply don’t mesh with and situations where it takes God’s grace to wear a smile when inside we feel just the opposite.

And yet, I believe the Lord is calling us to live above that… To be a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G kind of person.

As I look back, I remember a day when I knew I was going to be having someone over our home that I really struggled internally with. In times like these, the tendency is to build up all kinds of scenarios of what might happen during your time together. Or you find yourself focusing on all of the things that you don’t like in the other person. (Can I be real for a minute?)

But you know what….  I remember that on this one particular day, before the guest arrived, God spoke a verse into my heart. I absolutely know without a doubt it was from God because it came to my mind in a translated version of the Bible I don’t normally used in my personal Bible time.

The verse that came to mind was from Romans 12:9, and it said, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”

(As I said before, believe me, it had to be the Holy Spirit speaking that into my heart because I don’t usually use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version, which is where the verse is translated that way.)

Another version, the New International Version (NIV) translates the same verse as “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)

And that’s what W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G living is… Sincerity. Genuineness.

As followers of Jesus, God wants our lives to be true reflections of Him, reflecting his heart and His attitudes towards others in our interactions with them…not only when we are in their presence, but also when we walk away.

No…He doesn’t expect us to put on a face that we wouldn’t normally wear. But what He does want is to so transform our hearts and lives so that who He is and His kinds of responses are what supernaturally flows out of us by His power.

How is this possible? You ask.

Well, if you reflect on the verses shared at the beginning of this post, it’s vital that as Christians we live in the Light.

While it’s true that others may only be able to see one side when we are in their presence, God wants our lives to be the same everywhere we go.

Everywhere we go our lives are open books.

And while we may be able to hide some things from others…

Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father.

And anything we do want to hide must be brought out into the open for God to clean away and change.

Because, you know what…. Those hidden things… At some point, they’ll come out anyway. (Luke 8:17) And on top of that, it is those hidden things that bring us the most bondage.

And God has called us to Freedom.

Am I still a work in progress in living a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life? You bet I am.

But the more I allow the Lord to work in my heart, and realize the freedom living in the Light brings, the more joy I will experience and the more I will live the kind of sincere and genuine life Jesus has called me to….

…The kind of life that pleases God and is a genuine blessing to others.

Make 2017 a Year of No Regrets

Regret is a joy thief that hijacks your present and also your future.

It keeps you ever-grieving over the past and incapable of moving forward into a brighter tomorrow.

Rather than making the progress you’d like to see, regret keeps you circling the same mountain again and again…wishing for change but not seeing much at all.

And instead of seeing “failures” to meet your own expectations as mere “potholes” along the journey, you set up camp within them, defining yourself by your setbacks.

We all have expectations for ourselves.

For some, it’s living a healthier lifestyle and getting in shape…. For others, it’s following a better daily routine and becoming more organized… And for others, it’s giving more attention to the people and things that matter most…. The list could go on and on…

We all have goals and areas we want to work on….

And these are all good things.

But, hey! “No biggie” on meeting these goals…

The New Year is approaching, and our New Years’ resolutions will be the cure to everything we want to see different in our lives, right?

Everything will be better on January 1st… when the “magical” refresh button is pushed and change finally becomes possible.

Um….The only thing is…

Let’s be honest…

What typically happens to us when…

…After two weeks into the New Year of dieting, we cave into eating that delicious looking gourmet donut that was calling our name in the break room?

Or…

…We procrastinate too long on a project we promised ourselves we’d finish right away?

Or…

…We miss an opportunity to express love to our family or friends because we allowed ourselves to become distracted with things that were less important?

Then what?

I’ll tell you, because I know…

We beat ourselves up and define ourselves by our failures.

“I’m so undisciplined,” we tell ourselves.

“I just can’t get my act together,” we sigh.

If you’re anything like I know I’ve been, we subconsciously label ourselves based on our failures to meet our own expectations…

And so the cycle continues….

Because… “As a man” (or woman) “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)

In our minds we have labeled ourselves based on our inabilities to fulfill the expectations we have of ourselves, and what’s even worse is that when we do see someone else who meets the expectations we have for ourselves, we rank ourselves lower, causing us to lose even more joy and perpetuating the cycle of defeat.

If this sounds familiar at all to you…I have some refreshing news for you.

There is hope.

And it doesn’t have to wait until January 1st to be experienced….

Because…. “His mercies are new every morning”… (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV)

No, the Lord doesn’t want us to continue defining ourselves by our failures to meet our expectations.

He so lovingly and faithfully offers us a clean slate every day…if we choose to accept it. 

We can start each day to move forward little by little with His help and strength.

And thankfully, this doesn’t have to wait for the New Year… (Although I know we often enjoy the “newness” of a completely brand new calendar where the details of life have yet to be written.)

But, here begs the question… Will there be days in this New Year of 2017, where I will feel displeased with the decisions that I’ve made? When I eat the slice of cake and bowl of ice cream that I “promised” myself I wouldn’t or when I fail to keep the daily routine I’ve made for myself?

Yes, I’m sure there may be days like this…although I do aspire to be more disciplined in my choices.

And yet, while I continue to hold high expectations for myself, something I feel the Lord speaking into my heart as this year comes to an end is this…

When you fail to meet your own expectations, rather than camping out in regret, and allowing it to undue your day… keep moving forward.

Don’t stay there. Don’t dwell on the short coming. Press on.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to live in the joy and freedom His Son came to abundantly give us (John 10:10), and we have His mercy, grace, and love to rest and run to at every moment. (Hebrews 4:16)

Neither my successes nor my failures are what defines who I am.

I belong to God, and I am His forever. 

He chose me. He loves me. And He has great purposes for my life. (1 Peter 2:9 & John 3:16)

It was the Lord that started the good work in me, and He promises to be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6) No, I won’t stay where I am forever. My life is always forward moving, because I have Him in it.

It is Him working in my life that causes me to “will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

So, as I yield myself to Him and follow His leading, I know I will arrive at my desired destination.

And as for regret….?

That’s something I don’t want to carry into the New Year. Instead, I want to carry God’s mercy and grace everywhere I go, running to Him when I fail and allowing Him to pick me back up again so that I  can once again stand and move forward into all that He has planned and purposed for my life.

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16 NASB)

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 KJV)

Grocery Store Meltdowns & the Opportunities They Offer

Others “May”…You May Not

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Don’t ask me the situations…..

I won’t even remember the specifics.

What I will recall from these times after being hurt by others during my teen to younger adult years, though, is my dad pulling a book from his library shelf and opening to a chapter with the following quote:

“Others ‘May’… You May Not.”

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No…It wasn’t always an easy pill to swallow or the lesson you wanted to hear at the time…

Especially not when you’re “needing support”…(or so you think).

No, in these moments, you want validation for wanting to respond in a reactionary way to others.

No…It’s in these times you want someone in your “corner”.

Someone to say, “You’re right and they’re wrong. It’s okay. Go ahead and give that sarcastic and witty comeback response that will knock them off their feet.” (Not that I’ve ever been good at comeback responses anyway… It’s usually more like a delayed comeback response…… And in my head, no less, long after the fact..)

But no. Instead of support and validation for reactions I may have felt were justified, what did I hear instead?

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

A beautiful quote right?

Ummmm….? Let me think about that one for a bit….

To me…? In that moment…?

No.

But to God?  Um…. Yes.

To God… It was beautiful… (1 Peter 3:4)

And afterall, that’s really all that matters anyway, right?

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Now in mid-life, looking back at this important lesson my dad reminded me of during my younger years, I stand very appreciative…

…Because rather than adding fuel to my fire, he instead steered me in a direction that I would need to grow and mature… not only as an adult interacting with others but more importantly as a Christian.

And I would learn more from this lesson than if my momentary feelings had gained his support. In fact, as I said earlier…I can’t even remember the specifics of the situations in which I had been hurt, but I still remember to this day the “take-away”.

In this life, people will hurt, offend, and reject. They will be rude, sarcastic, and unkind….

And you know what?

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect at applying this lesson in my own life.

I still struggle at times… Especially when others don’t respond in ways I hoped they would.

And yet, what is it that God asks of me during these times?

To do what is right… No. Matter. What.

Yes.

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

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Here’s what the Bible has to say specifically regarding this point…

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39 NIV

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9 NIV

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:7-8 NIV

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” Romans 12:17 NIV

Oh…It’s so easy to want to shelve it out as easily as others have given to us at times, and yet as Christians we are called to be different.

We are called to follow a different path.

A path that dies to “self” and lives for God, truly representing the Savior we boldy claim to follow, not only through our words but also by our actions…

And even more importantly from our hearts.

If the thought of living like this is still hard to swallow, consider the following example from the life of Jesus…

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:33-34 NIV

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Can you imagine how Jesus was feeling as He watched the people around Him?

He came to be their Rescue. Their Help. Their Hope. Their Peace.  Their bridge back to a right relationship with God.

The angels announced “good tidings of great joy for all people” at His birth. (Luke 2:10) His life, death, and resurrection would change and restore any person who came to God through Him. And not only would those who turned to Him find their lives changed and healed, but He also promised an eternity with God through faith in Him.

The words He taught, the miracles He did…. All He ever did was good. There was no reason for any of this.

And yet, here He is on the cross watching the faces of those who are glad to see him hanging there, hearing the mockery of those watching, and observing as people cast lots to see who will get to keep his clothes.

But what message do Jesus’ actions speak from the cross?

Do good, love, and forgive no matter what others do or have done.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14 NIV

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re the one on the receiving end of pain, hurt, and rudeness…

And yet, Jesus left us a perfect example to follow.

An easy one?

…No. Not on our own.

But thankfully…We’re not on our own.

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Jesus has given those of us who have place our trust in Him His Holy Spirit to indwell us. And the more we yield ourselves to Him and His leading, the more we will be able to respond in ways that Jesus would in times of conflict.

“Others ‘May’… You May Not…”

Why not?

Because we follow a different way… A path that was marked out by our Savior, showing us by His own life how we are to respond even when others treat us wrong.

others may

Comparison: A Recipe for Unrest

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There are days when I feel so joyful and proud of the job I’ve been doing, with God’s help, as a mom….

And then there are days when I stumble across an impressive video on social media of young elementary school aged prodigies playing violins and woodwind instruments like miniature professional musicians and begin second guessing myself on how well I’m doing compared to these children’s moms.

Oh… Days before this, I was so proud of the fact that I had taken my son for a fun time of play at a local bounce house, that we had enjoyed a great time together on the playground, that he had helped me make muffins one afternoon, and that he had even helped me make a veggie-fruit “juice” one morning…

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But now….?

No.

Instead of celebrating all we have been able to do together, I begin doubting myself and the job I’m doing as a mom…

And all this because I set my eyes on someone else’s level of parenting.

So now in this moment I allow myself to believe that who I am and what I’ve been doing as a mom just simply isn’t “good enough” compared to these other parents…

(Okay…So, my little guy’s only two and a half, but still…. You know where I’m coming from.)

Whether it’s things like these that drive you to comparison or not, I’m almost 100% sure there are things in your life that have a way of pushing your own comparison buttons as well.

And it can happen across so many spectrums… Not just in mothering.

For example… Have you ever found yourself so joyful in one moment- content with your possessions, your home, and your way of life….

And then your joy suddenly comes to an abrupt halt after visiting the newest community of model homes?

You return to your own home later that afternoon wondering, “How long were we planning on living in this house, again?”

Oh, if only things were bigger…more elaborate, more spacious, and new… Right?  (Hmmm….)

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Joy goes out the window along with contentment as we allow comparison and discontent to set in.

On another specturm, perhaps you’re a working mom. You feel proud of all you’ve accomplished and are doing to help your family make ends meet. God gave you a great job, and things are going well. You’re able to contribute to the family’s needs and help put food on the table.

But… Any time you scroll through social media and see your stay-at-home mommy friend, you find yourself comparing yourself to her, feeling as though your life should in some way mirror hers. “Maybe I’m not doing that good of a job as a mom…compared to her,” you think to yourself.

Oh, how comparison beats us down.

Or put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps you’re the stay-at-home mom, viewing the working mom and her family. You see all that she’s accomplished outside of the home, all her family can afford, and all of the places they can go because both parents are working.

So you also begin to doubt yourself, wondering whether you’re doing a “good enough” job staying home with your children and daily managing the chores in your home. Am I as successful as  her?

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Yes, you often feel fulfilled in your role as a stay-at-home mom, but  every so often when you catch a glimpse of the grass “on the other side”, comparing what she’s accomplished in the workplace  or what she is able to afford compared to you and your family, those “happy and contented feelings” begin to evade you.

Comparison will always leave you feeling “down” and “discontent” or “less than”.

I could go on and on…

Moms of public school children doubting themselves as they compare themselves to homeschooling moms…

Moms who wish to lose a few pounds comparing themselves to women who are more fit…

The opportunities for comparison are endless…

And yet, this was never the kind of life God intended for us to have as moms- always looking at some other woman as the standard and either seeing how little we measured up or defending ourselves to prove we were “enough” or “better” in some way compared to “her”.

No, my Friends. Comparison is the enemy of contentment, peace, and rest.

And if you want to know the truth… God wants you to stop comparing yourself to others.

A great Bible verse that reminds us of this fact is 2 Corinthians 10:12 which states, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

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Comparison is a losing battle.

It will either cause you to lose heart or feel “beneath” someone else, or it will cause you to feel prideful and “better” than someone else.

Comparison does not in any way foster comradery but competition. (And unless you are looking to win a legitimate prize, it would be best to avoid it at all costs.)

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe it is important to learn from those we admire and desire to emulate. I’m not suggesting we plateau and fail to make efforts for improvement or positive change. We most certainly should work towards goals in our lives that will help us, our children, and our families find success.

However, the important thing to remember is that comparison should never be the driving force.

Instead, when desiring success and positive change, we should be willing to ask God for the wisdom and help to accomplish and be everything He intended and planned for us to do and be in this life. 

What if my son was never intended to be a professional instrumentalist like the children in the video? What if he was meant to be a professional tennis player? A coach? A businessman? Or a pastor?

If my eyes are on someone else’s parenting, I may end up steering my son in the wrong direction.

But if my eyes are on the One who created me, my husband, and my son…

The One who has the best in store for us and who knows the best ways to help us reach the goals He has in store for us…

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Then I can rest in the assurance that He will give us the wisdom and direction we need in life…and as parents. And I wil also be able to live in confidence knowing He will direct us to those instrumental individuals that can come along side to offer the wise counsel and advice that will help us in our journey.

This is the kind of life, I’d rather live…

My eyes confidently looking to the  One who holds my future rather than comparing myself to others who are also learning and still growing in their journey through this life as well.

comparison and unrest

Tactics to Thwart the Cheerleader in Us All

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Insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement…

Oh….It’s an ugly band of bullies, each one with its own strategy to keep us locked away in our own little boxes… away from genunine friendship and true confidence.

We were created by God for relationship. And aside from the most important relationships we have as women- with God, our husband, our children, and our families…

We also desperately need good friends in our lives who will be there to pray for us, to give us good advice, a kind word, a listening ear, someone to identify with, and a cheerleader to encourage us along life’s journey.

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But have you ever stopped and wondered why it is that women seem to have so much conflict with each other? (Okay, well… Maybe you’re not one of these women… But just think about women in general and how they can respond to each other at times.)

Unfortunately, we all have the ability at one time or another to allow ourselves to be badgered by insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, and judgement when it comes to others.

But if you really stop and think about it…Perhaps, it’s for the very reasons listed above- showing how beautifully good relationships can affect our lives- that this happens…

Yes, insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement are tactics from the devil to thwart the good that God wants to give us through relationships with others.

Yes, friends, healthy relationships with others- if left without threat- could actually help us become stronger and more encouraged in our roles as wives, mothers, and followers of Jesus.

And while those feelings may not always be visible above the surface in our words or actions, they can be seen in more subtle ways in our lives via our thoughts and attitudes.

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For example, when we see someone else who looks the way we wished we looked, achieves something we wished we could, or acquires something we wished we had- although we may not say anything outright against her- have you ever found yourself either feeling badly about yourself or maybe envious of her?

I know I have. (Gasp!!!)

I know…Shocking, isn’t it? Lol. But, rest easy… God’s working on me, and He’s helping  me to learn more and more how to line up my heart and feelings with His…one reason why I’m writing this post.

You see, something I’m learning is that, instead of allowing those ugly feelings to go unchecked, God wants my heart to be filled with His love towards others.

He wants me to reflect who He is to those around me. That’s what a “Christ-ian” is afterall, isn’t it? A follower of Christ!

So it just makes sense that our heart and our thoughts towards each other should ilne up with His, right?

tactics to thwart the cheerleader

I think the following Bible verse sums this up pretty well…

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”                       Philippians 2:5 NIV

Would Jesus be jealous of someone else’s success? Resentful? Absolutely NOT! And that’s how we are supposed to be as well, if we truly belong to Him and wear His name.

No, it’s just not “okay” to allow those ugly feelings to remain and fester in our hearts. Rather, they must be brought back to God in repentance, and we need to ask His help to move forward with the right kinds of attitudes that He wants us to have.

God created each of us and loves us all so much, and what He wants is for us to be a blessing, support, and cheerleader for others… to be a tangible demonstration of His love in the world.

And when we choose to follow His heart and have His mindset… not only are we doing others good, but we’re doing ourselves a whole lot of good as well….

…Because instead of beating ourselves up for not being where others have arrived, allowing seeds of resentment to grow, or allowing a sour attitude to ruin us on the inside, we’re instead choosing to focus on someone else’s good and trusting God to make all things beautiful in our very own lives as well in His perfect timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Just think about it. What if we lived in a world where we didn’t envy each other?

A world where we didn’t feel as if we were “less than” everytime we saw someone who had a little more sparkle than us?

Or, on the other hand, what if we didn’t look down on others who maybe didn’t have as much as we do?

In that kind of world, we would all be there for each other. We would all be cheerleaders on the bleachers of life spurring each other on rather than jeering because we found some flaw or were resentful of the other’s success.

The Bible sums this idea up well when it tells us:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 ESV

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That’s the kind of world God wants us to live in…And those are the kind of women He wants us to be…

Not selfish or self-seeking, but expressions of God’s love, grace, and encouragement toward each other.

Which is why we should continue to pray to our Father in Heaven, “May YOUR kingdom come. May YOUR will be done…On Earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Life should never be about any of us building a kingdom for ourselves, where we become the focus.

Our lives and any successes we have should be pointing everyone to the One Who loves us all more than anyone ever could, Who gave us more than anyone ever could, and Who can do above and beyond what we could ever ask or think in EVERY life that is yielded to Him. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, Sisters! Let’s pick up our pompoms and totally disarm the devil of those tactics in our lives with God’s power, His love, and His Word.

We’re not in a competition against each other.

We were meant to be each other’s cheerleaders in life…women of impact and influence for the glory of God and the good of each other.

So, let’s cheer loud and strong, not allowing one negative feeling from the band of bullies to have any place in our lives.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”                         1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

 

Hosting Is Where My Heart Is

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Give me a reason to host friends and family in my home for the day…and if I have the availability and the resources, I’m excited and ready for the opportunity.

Hosting a luncheon or special celebratory event is just something I enjoy.

Yes, there is always dusting, some cleaning, and preparation to do before everyone arrives, but to me, there’s nothing like the wonderful sense of satisfaction I feel as I look around and admire a clean and organized home before the first guests arrive.

host-a-house-party

And while I may not have the largest home in the neighborhood, I know that’s not really what matters during these occasions.

What is important to me is that our home resonates with the love and peace of Jesus, so that all who enter feel loved, welcomed, and at home when visiting.

And this is just how it should be.

Recently, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to host a sponsored event in our home through HouseParty.com. This website gives people like me- who enjoy hosting- a reason to have people over beyond just the normal holiday parties and get-togethers.

When checking out the site about two months ago, I noticed that there were open applications for a Peter Pan sponsored Simply Ground peanut butter party. And although I had never done one of these before, I was excited to apply.

Yes, I would create a party centered around peanut butter, asking my guests to all bring in a dish, appetizer, or dessert featuring this delicious, popular ingredient!

food-house-party-simply-ground

While it took a couple of weeks to find out if my application was accepted, once it had been, it was only a matter of time before I received my box of free Peter Pan sponsored party supplies from HouseParty.com!

simply-ground-peanut-butter-house-party-pack Inside of the box, I was so thrilled to find basically everything I would need to decorate, sample, and promote the Simply Ground peanut butter products.

My free party pack included a jar of Simply Ground Original peanut butter spread, a jar of Simply Ground Honey Peanut peanut butter spread, a cutting board, a bag of Simply Ground balloons, silver plastic spoons with the sponsor’s name, small snack cups, a lot of coupons (1 for a free jar of peanut butter and several others for $1.00 off), an apron, and tote bags to give away.

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All that was left to do the morning of the party after the previous day’s cleaning was to decorate the house, set up the food and beverage areas, and cook my main dish of Spicy Peanut Chicken, a recipe I found on the Betty Crocker site via my search engine inquiry.

Prior to the party, I had  thought I would need to have games, putting a little pressure on myself to make it oh-so perfect.  But with all of the regular demands and busyness of life and preparation, I never had time to really get any games together…

And you know what?! No one even seemed to notice.

Everyone just enjoyed sitting and chatting together. It was just beautiful how everyone got along so well together.

Simply ground partyFrom family to friends from church to my sweet neighbor (who helped me perfect my spicy peanut chicken recipe which did not originally include peanut butter), everyone just hit it off.

And that’s one thing I love so much about these kinds of times together. It gives everyone the chance to get know each other…People who probably would never even cross each other’s paths in normal life… And even more so, it gives those of us who do know each other the opportunity to become more than just passing acquaintances, giving us more time to get to know each other on a personal level.

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Yes, hosting is definitely something that brings me a lot of joy.

The ability to share my home and a sweet experience with the wonderful people the Lord has surrounded my life with enables us all to get to know each other better, and we can find so much encouragement from each other during these times as well.

Yes, hosting definitely opens up opportunities for building beautiful relationships with others.

And you’ll quickly realize after get-togethers like this that these were definitely important times worth opening up your home for…

Even if it’s an event simply prompted by an opportunity to sample free and delicious Simply Ground peanut butter!

peanut butter party