pray

For This I Pray

 

Raising children is an enormous responsibility.

There are books a million on how to raise them, methods that may or may not work, milestones that must be achieved, and activities we feel are necessities in the hopes that we have done everything we can to give our kids the best childhood experience.

Yet so many times we forget the one thing that will do the most good. The one thing that doesn’t cost a dime, but the investment brings back a huge return. The one thing we are all capable of doing regardless of income or status.

Prayer.

I can remember my mother taking her Bible with her into her bedroom in the middle of the day, locking the door behind her, and hearing her pray for her marriage, daughters, family, and situations in her life. She would spend time crying before the Lord, pouring herself out before him, and then emerge with a confidence that her Lord had all of her most loved people and her deepest concerns in His hands.

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Between homeschooling us, helping our father in his ministry at the church, assisting him in counseling others, leading a weekly women’s Bible study, discipling women individually in our home, and being a wife and mother, one would wonder how she had the time to stop in the midst of the busyness to pray.

“If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” -Wanda E. Brunstetter

But prayer, communication with God, was a priority to her. In retrospect, I doubt she would have been able to accomplish all she did in her days if she didn’t take the time to stop and pray. And I am so eternally thankful that she did.

She prayed for us.

She prayed for our future husbands when we were single.

She prayed for my marriage after my wedding, and she continued to pray for my husband.

She prayed for God’s direction in my life.

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I cannot say that I stop in the middle of my day like she did, but because of her example, I find myself in constant communication with the Lord.

While I’m hanging or folding laundry, washing dishes, cooking dinner, cleaning a bathroom, or ever showering, I tell God everything about my day, children, husband, responsibilities and life. He already knows about all of it, but verbally talking to Him takes the heaviness of responsibility off of my shoulders and places them into His more than capable hands.

As I pray for my children specifically, this has become the prayer of my heart. I don’t want to leave their futures to chance. Instead, I prayerfully lay their futures at His feet as I take them to Him daily.

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For this I pray…

I pray that you grow to follow the Lord… and that I am a good example to you both.

I pray that you come to know the Lord personally and that you ask Jesus into your heart at an early age.

I pray that God always pours His blessings upon you and grants you favor in everything you do.

I pray that you become like Joseph, full of integrity and everything you touch will be blessed.

I pray that you are like Abraham and are considered a friend of God.

I pray that you are like Daniel, displaying wisdom and courage in every situation.

I pray that you are like David, and become a woman and man after God’s own heart.

I pray that you are like Esther and find favor with those in authority over you and that you do great things one day.

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I pray that you are like Moses, great leaders and yet known as the humblest of all.

I pray that you can make a request like Jabez and that God will grant you what you request.

I pray that God covers you with His hand, hedge, and shield of protection at all times.

I pray that your hearts always be softened to the Lord and that you are always able to hear His voice.

I pray that the voices of God and your parents are heard louder than the voices of those around you who may speak negatively in your direction.

I pray that you grow up to be like Jesus- kind, compassionate, wise, gentle, ready to give an answer, pure, in a deep relationship with our Heavenly Father- and that you grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.

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faith

Faith the Size of a Tie

I was 26. And single.

All of the people in my circle were in a relationship, engaged, or married with children on the way.

And then there was me.

The oldest in our Sunday school class.

Single.

I would go home from church, saddened because, as wonderful as my family was, I felt that empty feeling that comes when you know you are missing your other half, but you don’t even know who that other half is. I didn’t have that special someone that was made just for me.

Then one day as I was shopping at Bealls (a Florida only franchise), I happened to walk past the men’s ties.

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And that is when God put a thought in my heart.

Buy one.

I questioned the thought.

“For who?”

And I felt God tell my heart, Buy one, have it gift wrapped at the back counter, and put it in your closet until the right time.

As far as I knew, there was no one that I currently knew who the tie could possibly be for (I did know this guy named Brian… my friend… the one I practiced talking to guys with since I knew nothing about talking to guys… but I never imagined the tie would be for him…).

But I obeyed.

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I had faith the size of a tie that one day there would be a man made just for me who would wear that tie.

I had faith the size of a tie that God had not forgotten about me. Faith that He was ready with pen in hand to write my love story.

I had faith the size of a tie that my turn would come, and I would have my very own love story to tell.

When we feel that we have been forgotten…

When we are saddened that we are the only ones in our circle who have not reached a particular milestone…

When we see those around us enjoying the gifts we are so fervently praying for…

We need to have faith.

We only have to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

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It doesn’t have to be big faith. A mustard seed is small. A mustard seed is 2-3 millimeters in diameter, but Jesus tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

The contrast in size is so great. A tiny seed. A giant mountain. Yet God does not require the size of our faith to match the challenge. Sometimes our faith is only the size of a mustard seed. But as we see God move each mountain we encounter, the size of our faith grows.

What are you needing faith for?

Faith that one day God will bring the right man into your life.

Faith that one day your arms will hold the baby your heart has dreamed of.

Faith that one day your entire family will worship together- at home and in God’s house.

Faith that one day you will turn the key and open the front door to a home you can call your own.

Your faith may be the size of onesie, a hymnal, or a set of brand new kitchen towels.

In my case, faith was the size of a tie.

A maroon and gold colored tie that I pulled down from the top shelf in my closet one beautiful day in October of 2003- the day after Brian asked my parents for my hand.

What size is your faith?

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Needs: Theirs, Mine, and (H)ours

Imagine that you are running a 5K.

You’ve set a steady pace for yourself and you’re doing well. You haven’t spent too much energy, and if things keep going along the way they are you will finish this race with enough energy to pump your arms in the air as you collapse across the finish line.

Suddenly, a hurdle is thrown in your path. You can either keep your pace and expect to run right through it (with horrible results) or you can pick up momentum, leap, and then resume your steady pace. Another hurdle may or may not be thrown in your path, but you never know.

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As a woman, you know that this 5K race is one you run every single day. Some days there are obstacles/hurdles that suddenly appear at any given point and on others days the path couldn’t be clearer while you are trying to reach the finish line in this race of life.

If you are a work-outside-the-home-mom, that hurdle might be the call from school telling you that you have a sick child that needs to be picked up. For the stay-at-home-mom, that hurdle could be the dreaded crayon incident that occurs while you are homeschooling your older child and sends you scrambling for some type of cleaner while saying “no, no, no” and trying to keep your cool at the same time (if it sounds like I know something about crayons on surfaces other than paper….. I do).

There are always going to be little things that come up during your day. Your children and your spouse need you and quite often need something of you. You have needs, too! And there are only so many hours in the day.

 

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So how do you keep from getting derailed but instead ending your day with a semblence of peace?

1. Put God first

It goes without saying. When you put The Lord first in your day, even if it is just having a prayer time with Him first thing in the morning, you are, in escence, handing your day to Him. It could not be in better hands than that.

2. Evaluate your responsibilities for the day

Make a list of what you and your family need to do, and then check it twice! Do you really need to get everything on that list done? What can be eliminated? Is your list overreaching what is even humanly possible to do on any given day?

3. Evaluate what your family’s needs/desires/wants are

If you have small children, mommy/child playtime is high on their list of needs/wants. Keep that in mind. What does your husband want? A nice dinner, a particular favorite meal, couple time? Keep his needs in mind. What do you need/want? A hot cup of tea or coffee during naptime, a chance to put your feet up for half and hour? Keep you in mind, too.

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4. Break up your day into thirds

On a sheet of paper (or open a page on a digital notebook), write down morning, afternoon, and evening.

Then take your list of responsibilities and your family’s needs/wants and fit them within the three parts of your day.

For example, my list yesterday looked like this:

Morning- devotions and prayer, exercice, dress, quick clean, 2 loads laundry, and homeschool.

Afternoon- fold laundry, blog, , begin purging Ian’s room, prep dinner, read, and play games with the kids.

Evening- watch a movie with the family, quick clean, layout clothes for tomorrow (me and kids), pack Ian’s lunch, pack Brian’s lunch, pack Addie’s back pack and lunch, clean the kitchen, and prepare for Classical Conversations Community Day.

For me as a goal oriented person, I like knowing that one of my “things-to-do” is to stop, sit, and play or interact with my kids in a fun way without thinking about what I have to do next.

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I do get “me time”, also. As long as all of the kids’ responsibilities are completed by 2:00 in the afternoon, they have a designated technology time that allows me to sit with a cup of coffee while I read or take care of my online things. For me, that is relaxing.

By getting everything done by the time the kids go to bed in the evening allows me to be available to spend quality time with my husband.

Not having an excessive amount of things on my to-do list means that when hurdles suddenly get thrown in my path during my daily race, I have time to adjust my speed, pray, leap, and keep running.

It’s a new day, Ladies! Lace up those running shoes and let’s hit the pavement at a steady pace today!

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a great boy

Make Him a Great Boy

This week has been all about this little boy. He turned five, which made me realize that he is one step further from being that roly-poly baby and one step closer to one day being a man.

As most mothers do, I want my son to grow up to be a great man. I want him to do great things. I want him to influence many. I want him to live his faith out loud. But then one day I came across this quote by an unknown author.

“Don’t wait to make your son a great man- make him great boy.”

I don’t have to wait for someday to come along. I can start now in the midst of 5T clothes that are getting to be too small and Ninja Turtle action figures to help him grow into a great boy who will in turn grow into a great man.

raising a great boy

As daunting as growing a great boy into a man sounds, it is possible. Although I am a mother who is knee deep in raising children and am by no means an expert on how to raise children, there is one thing I do know. If I follow God’s Word in bringing up my children, I cannot go wrong. 

While trying to raise a great boy, I decided to look to what God said about the one Boy who grew up perfectly- His own Son.

Luke 2: 52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

If you think about it, those are the four areas we as parents should focus on when bringing up great boys (and girls).

Wisdom- “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7  

Wisdom is knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. I want to raise a little boy who knows the difference between right and wrong according to God’s Word (not society’s definition) and then allows his actions to be dictated by just judgment.

I don’t what him thinking that “smarts” equal wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two entirely different areas of growth. Before knowledge comes into play, I want my son to be wise. Wisdom comes from a heart that seeks after God, knowledge comes from the head.

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Stature- “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

As important as it is for my son to grow physically, one thing I want him to remember for himself and for others is that what we look like on the outside is not what matters most. I want him to learn to view others and himself the way God does- by looking at the heart.

I don’t want him to value people based on the brand of clothes they wear. I want him to value their hearts. I don’t want him to like others solely by their looks. I want him to like them for their personalities. I don’t want him to be wowed by the pretty girl that shows up in youth group (Lord help me!). I want him to see her for the young woman that she is based on how she treats those around her. I don’t want him basing his self-worth on what he sees in the mirror. I want him to know he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

Favor with God- “For whoso findeth me (wisdom) findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” Proverbs 8:35

We receive wisdom from reading God’s Word, but when our boys are small (before they can read), they can only hear God’s Word if we are willing to read it to them. Daily Bible reading and teaching is something we value in our home. My son will only know how to please God by learning it directly from His Word, and I have the privilege of bringing him into the presence of God each time we stop what we are doing to read God’s Word.

Right now, since my son is small, we are learning how God wants us to behave, act in faith, and show courage by reading about the great heroes in the Bible. He was amazed when God sent ravens to bring Elijah meat at the brook, he smiled from ear to ear as God answered Elijah’s prayer with fire from Heaven, and he loved hearing how David brought down Goliath with a small stone.

Our sons will learn wisdom by learning the lessons from the men and women they read about in the Bible. And as they learn wisdom, they will please God when their actions line up with his Word.

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In favor with man- “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

We all want children that others want to be around. When people see my children, I want their instinctive reaction to be joy, not dread.

What qualities are found in children we all want to be around?

Behaviors such as being kind (Eph. 4:32), obeying and honoring parents (Eph. 6:1), and respecting authority (Romans 13) are all qualities that will endear our sons to others. Being a hard worker (Exodus 20:9), honest (Eph. 4:25), and a man of integrity (Proverbs 11:3) will bring him favor with his future employers.

My 5 year old is growing into a great boy. One day, that great boy will be a great man. But for now, I’ll enjoy every bit of the boy stage with all of the dinosaurs, cars, transformers, and legos that come with it. And as I wake up day after day to raise my great children, I will cling to Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

raising a great boy

Bins Are a Mama’s Best Friend: Helping Your Child Get Organized

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“A place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s a well known saying that seems to state the obvious regarding organization, but a mama- like me- can really avoid a lot of early gray hairs popping up by heeding this popular phrase.

And while it’s definitely a piece  of advice we as adults do well to obey, we might mutually agree that it isn’t always as easy for a two year old, like my son, to follow through and do…

Or is it? 

I’m the type of person who feels that my job isn’t done unless everything is pretty much back in its place. 

Messes make me restless.

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I’m the kind of person who, if I have a pile of dishes in the sink at night or if it’s bedtime and toys are left everywhere, I just don’t feel like my job is done. I personally don’t feel like I’ve officially earned the right to “flop”(our family’s word for just kicking back and relaxing).

If “what goes up must come down”, what comes out of place must go back in place too… at least before I feel I have the right to relax.  

And since that is just how I’m wired, I find that it’s  also important to teach my son to know where things belong, so that as he grows, he can follow through in being organized as well.

No, I’m not saying that he has to be just like me, but it certainly helps a mama out if I teach my son to do the things that will make life a little easier for everyone…while also teaching him personal responsibility.

Although each person is built differently and we may not all have that inner craving to be super organized (and I’m not saying I always am), if we do happen to be around someone who prefers organization, we do well to be a blessing on our end by arranging the environment to meet that desired expectation…

Which is one reason why… I….Love…..Bins.

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While it didn’t just occur to me overnight, I’m learning that as long as I designate a place for something and continue to follow through in making that place the object’s “home”, it is much easier for my toddler to also identify that location as the designated place.

So what does this look like in my home? Well, upon walking into my son’s room, the first thing you’d probably notice is the large 16-cubby shelving unit that we purchased at IKEA. (Love that place! And I think every teacher I’m friends with does as well.)

It’s on this unit thatyou’ll find an assortment of things that range from blocks to trucks to a couple of stuffed toys…  (And this arrangement may change over time as we reorganize, rearrange, and weed out toys.)

But…..What I love the most about  this organization unit… are the bins that hide and store all of the little toys my son enjoys playing with. No, not everything has to be front and center in the room or have its own special place on the shelf. Some things can simply be categorized and tossed in a container with other similar objects.

If you notice in the picture, there are a total of eight bins on the unit. The four red bins were cheaply picked up at the local Dollar Tree (for $1 each) and the bottom blue bins were purchased at a slightly higher cost from the Container Store (for $14.99 each). This simply goes to show that it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot if you’re in the market to purchase a few items to help you organize your child’s room. Our Dollar Tree bins have worked just as well as our Container Store bins.

Organization-Ideas-for-Moms-Storage-Bins-Ikea

In the blue bins, you’ll find one holding books, another two containing Mega Blocks, and a fourth housing play food mixed with toy kitchen items.

In the red bins, you’ll find another kind of assortment, such as: small animals in one bin, cars and small vehicles in another, coloring books and sticker books in a third, and various kinds of sports balls in the fourth (This arrangement has actually changed since I first wrote this post, but my son has definitely come to recognize where certain toys belong. Over time you tweak things to make the organization process fit even more to your lifestyle. For example, I recently decided to have books lining the entire top shelf rather than storing them in bins below.)

Organization-Ideas-for-Moms-Purposeful-Moms

In having this kind of set-up, where everything basically has a categorized “home”, I’ve been finding that my son is more equipped to help me during clean up time…something that will at first take more intention to teach but which definitely gets easier over time.

Yes, it’s usually so much easier for us moms to quickly pick up the mess of toys, and in the past and on occasion at times I still may. But while it’s true that I can quickly get the job done….Always doing this for my son doesn’t serve in helping him learn personal responsibilty for himself, which is something we need to begin teaching our children now while they are young so that it doesn’t become more of a challenge later. 

Now that my son is two and a half, though, I’m pleased to say that he has begun to get much better at cleaning up. Yes, I still have to tell him to clean up, but it’s become more of a game for him. I’ll say, “Show me (how you can clean up)!” and then leave him to it. Shortly after, he’ll come out and say “You got to see this!” As I’m going to his room, he’ll go and hide and then I’ll make a big deal about how amazing it is. He loves that…and making a big deal about it is worth the time and effort because I love the fact that he is learning how to clean up for himself.

When you first start teaching your little one to clean up, they’ll definitely need help. A big mess can be overwhelming to a little person for sure. But I noticed that by asking my son “where” things go or holding a specific object for him to put away that the task became a little more do-able. Providing simple step by step help is  always much better when teaching a toddler than giving general commands. 

For me, being purposeful in having a place for belongings as well as intentionally giving easy directions to help my son learn to participate in the cleaning process is an important key to helping things run a bit more smoothly in my home.

No, a clean and organized child’s room doesn’t happen by accident. But with God’s help, patience, continued effort and practice, I’m expecting my son to learn important skills like this that will help him not only learn personal responsibilty but also foster a well-deserved sense of pride after the task of cleaning up is finished.

Yes, it’s definitely something I need to continue working on if I want it to become a personal habit in my son, but I do look forward to one day seeing it become so much a part of his nature as we continue to work on it, with God’s help, that he won’t need reminders from Mom when he’s a teenager.

Organization-Ideas-for-Moms-Storage-Bins

Don’t Wait for Others to Include You- Take the Initiative

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Regardless of our current stage in life, we all want acceptance. We see others we’d like to associate with and wish for someone to include us…for someone to draw us in…for someone to simply invite us to be part of “the group”.

Oh… We may be a few years older and wiser at this stage in life. And although we’re no longer in elementary school or high school- just the same- those feelings we experienced during our younger years have sure enough carried over into adulthood.

“Pick me to be on your team!” You inwardly yearn, like the last child picked for the kickball game, as you see a group of moms in your church (or at the park) chatting and laughing together like the close knit bunch they are.

Perhaps, you are somewhat shy, though. Or perhaps you’re just a little concerned that you don’t have all the qualities you need to fit in with the group.

Maybe you lack confidence… Or maybe you just don’t see yourself having as much to offer the group as they do…

Whatever the case, to sum it all up, you simply feel insecure in comparison to them, and so you find continual excuses to remain in your own little box… just waiting… hoping… one day they’ll extend the olive branch of friendship your way.

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Oh dear Mama… May I encourage you?

You are so much more than what all of those misperceptions and feelings of insecurity are telling you.

No, maybe, you don’t see yourself as having all of the outward qualities you so admire in these other moms.

Perhaps their style and what they can afford is slightly better than what you feel you have. Maybe they are in better physical shape than you right now. Maybe a few of them even carry themselves with a little more confidence than you do…

But you know what?! You’ve got things going  for you too…And in ways they could also benefit from!

You have the ability to be sincere and kind… You are hospitable and caring… You are compassionate and considerate… All qualities that would make any person an excellent candidate for friendship.

No, you may never be a carbon copy of these other moms, even if you tried…

But then again, God never intended you to be that way anyway. He equipped you with talents, grace, wisdom, and a beautiful personality that is unique to you…and for the benefit of others as well.

And although we are different, we can all learn from each other.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Yes, we can all benefit from each other’s strengths, gaining more strength ourselves as we work together and learn from those who are more skilled in areas where we are weak.

We are beautifully different, and that’s what helps us grow! We all have something to contribute…as we each serve each other as “iron sharpening iron” in our own unique ways.

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Something I’ve learned over the years, both during my high school years as well as during my adult life is this…

Don’t wait for others to include you. Take the initiative! Be the one to make others feel comfortable in their own skin, and in the process you will be a blessing and make many friends as well.

Does it make us feel validated when others do include us? Oh yes. Absolutely!

But the danger in always waiting for others to draw us in is that we limit ourselves, failing to capitalize on great friendships we could have had if only we had taken the steps to reach out and had simply been a friend ourselves.

John 5:1-18 is an account in the Bible that actually reminds me of this scenario. While it is actually the story of Jesus healing a paralytic who was waiting beside a pool for many years, wanting someone to help him get in the pool at the right time for his healing, I believe we can see a parallel in it with regards to our current topic.

You see, the man in the story (who was a paralytic for 38 years) never received help year after year from others… which is where it seems he thought everyone else found their success in getting healed.

“Sir,” the invalid replied,“I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” John 5:7

Like the paralytic, you may sometimes think to yourself… “I just wish someone would invite me into their group. The reason I don’t have great friends is because no one has ever included me. So, here I am on the outside looking in… Just waiting for an invitation. Maybe one day they’ll invite me out for lunch.”

Um… May I encourage you again?

It’s time to allow Jesus to heal the wounds you have on the inside from perhaps past disappointments and unmet expectations, and “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8

Unfortunately, like the paralytic, you may never get the “invitation” you’re waiting for….from people.

But honestly, you shouldn’t be waiting on them to “carry” you into and through a friendship anyway.

What we all really need is a healing touch in our hearts from Jesus, where He causes us to stand up on the inside- giving us the inner confidence and validation we need- and where He also gives us the strength to take the initiative for ourselves.

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” Proverbs 18:24a KJV

When I was growing up, something I remember my mom teaching me which is in line with the above Bible verse was the following statement: “Kindness is always in style.” Such a simple idea but a totally awesome nugget of truth.

Be friendly. Be approachable. Be humble and kind. None of us has arrived and we’re all looking for genuine friends that we can bless and that will be a blessing in our lives as well.

We may come in all shapes and sizes, but each of us comes equipped with a unique personality, talents, experiences, and a life that is created to be a blessing… if we allow the Lord to use our lives such a way.

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No, Dear Friends… Don’t allow inferiority to hold you back from all that God has for you, and especially don’t allow it to keep you from initiating those relationships with others that will end up being a blessing to all involved.

You’re an amazing treasure that God wants to bless and use as a blessing to others….And you- Yes, you- are so worth friending.

So, dare to be bold and take the initiative in forming new friendships.

…It can all start by you simply saying “Hello”.

(P.S. And by the way, dear Mamas…Be sure to teach this to your kids now, so that they don’t wait all of their lives for others to choose them either. Encourage them to also begin taking the initiative in friendships. Being friendly, showing kindness and displaying a genuine interest in others is a great starting point.)

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