love-tank

Keeping Their Love Tank Full

My favorite part of being a mother is being able to be a memory maker.  I love being able to show my children things for the very first time, and then being able to take them to their favorite places over and over again. I can remember when I took Julia (now 10) to the library for story time for the very first time. She was only 6 months old, but she was one of those babies that was so observant and always had to be face out so she could “see the world”.  She sat there on my lap mesmerized by the teacher, the songs, the stories and the other children in the room.  It was at that moment I knew this was going to be one of “her places,” and I was so excited that I had been the one to take her.

I have four children, Julia (10), Mark (8), Micah (4), and Amelia (3). We have raised all of them in a Christian home. For the past 10 years, I have stayed home with little ones. I was the one in the morning to make breakfast, and then take them out somewhere to have an adventure. We filled our week with playdates, MOPS meetings (Mothers of Preschoolers), BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), swim lessons, library story time, or a homeschool co-op. We were always making memories together and doing things outside of the home because I am the type of person who loves a busy schedule and being out and about with other people.

I would often find that in the car on the ride home from somewhere or at night time, even after a very full day of seeing Mommy all day and spending time together, my children would crave extra attention from me. So I would read an extra book to Amelia even if I already read 3, or hear a long story about something from my Julia “the talker”, or I would find Mark showing me another magic trick, and I would see Micah jumping down yet another group of stairs to show me how he was a super hero. I realized that just because they were with me all day did not mean they got me all day.

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I might be like you…I love to take pictures, I love to catch up with friends through texting, I like to surf Facebook, so even though I may have been with my kids maybe they weren’t getting all of me. Even though my body was there, my kids picked up on the feeling of mommy being distracted with planning another MOPS meeting, or checking on a friend, or trying to stage the perfect shot of my kids.

Each of us has a love tank.

Our children have love tanks.

It’s an imaginary tank that is either full or empty depending on how much we have shown them or given them the love that they need to get them through the day.

One of my favorite things to do is go apple picking. When we head to the orchards we are given a brown bag and a huge red bucket to fill. I like to picture a love tank like a big red bucket next to each child.  Some days their buckets are full. Some days they are overflowing. Some days they are half full, and sometimes they are empty.

I would say that all of us have great intentions as parents. We love our kids and we want to give them what they need emotionally. But we, too, have love tanks. We have needs. We have responsibilities and the more kids you have the more buckets you need to fill. And let’s not forget our spouses have love tanks too.

There in lies the difficulty.

There is lies the balancing act.

How do we fill our spouses love tank, our children’s love tank, and also manage our own?

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This was something that was so much easier for me personally as a stay at home mom. I had TIME each day to really pray and think about ways I could bless my kids and meet their individual needs. I had time to plan date nights with John and arrange babysitters for the kids.

But when my life changed on September 3rd of this year and I got a full time job as a principal at a Christian school, the balancing act of keeping everyone’s love tank full (and my own) became more complicated.

Sometimes children will act out to get their love tanks full.

When my son Micah (4) isn’t getting what he needs from us, he will act up negatively just to get our attention. He will jump on the furniture. He will bother his siblings. He will become whiny. All because he needs extra love, and he will do just about anything to get it.

Gary Chapman wrote an amazing book called The Five Love Languages. This book is awesome because it gives you 5 ways people respond to love:

1. Quality Time
2. Words of Affirmation
3. Acts of Service
4. Gifts
5. Physical Touch

My husband and I read the book during our premarital counseling. John is a “words of affirmation” and “physical touch” kind of guy. When I am complimenting him and encouraging him, he feels really connected, respected, and loved by me. He also loves physical displays of affection (and I am so not that person…I am super shy), so I have learned to get past myself and my preferences to show my hubby love.

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My love tank is full when I have “quality time” and “acts of service.”  When everyone in the house is helping out on chore day, or offers to help vacuum my van or take out the trash, it is like my bucket is OVERFLOWING.  When John takes the day off work so we all can spend quality time going to Cape May, visiting a zoo, or watching a family movie, I just adore that.
We apply these same 5 love languages to our children. It’s actually fun to think about and see which child has which love language… and then the really fun part is “filling their tank” with what they need.

I’ve noticed that at night time right before bed, if my child doesn’t have a full tank, bed time is harder. It forces me to think about the day, think about that child, and ask myself:

Did I hug them today?
Did I tell them I love them?
Did I say I was proud of them?
Did I help them with their homework?
Did I really even talk to them?

Sometimes we don’t mean to but we get so busy shuffling our children from one place to the next- school, taekwondo, bath time, bed time- that we forget to really see them, care for them, and meet their deep needs, not just their immediate physical needs of clothes, food, and shelter.

Keeping their love tank full now is so important because as they grow older, if we consistently neglect their emotional needs of love, quality time, words of affirmation, etc., I fear they may look to other people/things to fill it.

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When I was growing up both my parents worked full time jobs in NYC. I barely saw them except for the weekends. My parents didn’t sit with us when we ate dinner. They cooked and then went upstairs to their room, and we were left to eat and clean up alone. I was put in public school and day care until they came home. This wasn’t because they didn’t love me. I’m sure they did.  But this left me feeling resentful and lonely, and I always felt a deep desire to be loved differently than what I was getting at home.

I always told myself that when I grew up, married, and had kids I would do it differently.  I would make time for my kids. I think that is why homeschooling was such a great option for us for so long. I was a stay at home mom, and I enjoyed teaching my kids at home and being with them.

Working moms just have to be more creative when it comes to filling our children’s love tanks. We may not have as much time as stay at home moms, but that doesn’t mean we care any less. Now that I am a working mom, when we are in the car, I use that time to really talk to my kids and pray with them. This doesn’t always happen, but being intentional about it helps. Our nighttime routine is longer because I know my kids need face to face time with me. I know they need that extra book (quality time).  I know they need to be tickled (physical touch). I know they need to hear me say, “I’m so proud of you!” (words of affirmation) as I go through their take home folders and see the work they accomplished throughout the school week.  Sometimes they need a trip to Target and some alone time with Mom/Day (gifts).

And I am also learning that it is ok to tell people what you need!  It’s actually healthy.  Instead of expecting your hubby or your kids to read your mind, tell them you could really use help with your car (acts of service) or folding laundry. I tell my kids I really miss them and just want to watch a family movie and snuggle (quality time).  It has helped our family connect on a deeper level to just be honest about what we need from each other instead of being mad or sad when we don’t get it.

Keeping our family’s love tank full is challenging. But when you ask God to help you, He really does give you creative ways to love on the people He has blessed you with, and He also fills your tank at the same time!

Kristi is a full time wife, mother of four, and principal of a Christian elementary school. You can read more about Kristi and her beautiful family at her blog Keeping Up With Kristi.

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purposeful-dad

Four Tips to Becoming a Purposeful Dad

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I thought it would only be appropriate to encourage the dads out there who may be reading this! When Suzette and Faye began the blog, I remember thinking, “I sure hope I can be a purposeful Dad to my girls!”

This post is a starting point for me to become a ‘purposeful dad.’ I am nowhere near perfect and still have a lot to learn, but here are four tips this Father’s Day I’d love to share with other dads out there who may be struggling on this fatherhood journey, especially when it comes to being intentional with your children.

1. Turn everyday tasks into family tasks. You know you’re going to have to go to the grocery store at some point. You know you’re going to have to get an oil change. There are things you’re going to have to do around the house or errands that have to be run. Instead of getting stressed or frustrated when you have to take the extra time to do those things (especially if it’s on your day off), turn it into family time!

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I have turned our grocery trips into daddy-daughter time. I block off at least an hour and a half. We all get ready and head to the grocery store. First stop? The Deli. Most grocery store delis hand out a free cookie to the kids. Now my girls get a little treat, make a memory with dad AND they stay busy while I get to work on that grocery list. Don’t forget to take a selfie! Side note: this is also a good way to give my wife a break at home!

2. Look them in the eyes. The past week and a half have been absolutely crazy for our family. From church activities, to officiating a wedding in Louisiana, to preaching at a camp… all while trying to answer work emails and spend time with my in-laws while they were in town for the week at our house! I was exhausted. Of course, I would love to come home and “veg.” As a dad, I realized my kids needed ‘dad time.’ Take the moments that you do have with your kids and look them in the eyes, tell them you love them and make them feel like nothing else matters when you’re with them.

Fortunately, I was able to put them to bed one night last week. As I put them to bed, I spent time with each child. I’m talking maybe five minutes each. All I did was look them in the eyes and just talk to them! No phone. No TV. No toys. Just me and my child. I looked them in the eyes and made them feel like they were the most important person in the world for the next five minutes. My time had been short with them, but the quality of time spent with them was high engagement and lots of eye contact.

3. Watch your screen time. This is one that goes hand-in-hand with the above mentioned. Quality time with my kids involves looking them in the eyes… and not at my phone. I found an article that showed me how to check the amount of time spent on each app on my phone. I always tell myself that I am “so busy” and don’t have enough time. And yet, when I checked to see how much time I was spending on my phone with social media apps or email, I felt terrible! How could I be okay with spending four hours on Facebook in the last seven days but not spend four minutes playing a tea party with my girls!

I realize our world is almost to the point where we can use our phone or apps for almost anything we do, so I know that having your phone always on you is just a normal routine for most people. I try to push myself to leave my phone in another room (on purpose) when I play with my girls. I also have turned off all email and social media notifications. Don’t be afraid to turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ button on your phone for “phone-free playtime.” My wife has also been a HUGE help in reminding me to be present when I am home and not staring at a screen (including the TV!).

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4. Pray for your wife and kids. Whether you’re the dad that stays at home and your wife works or you go to work and your wife stays with the kids, don’t forget that the most important “bread-winner” of the family is the one praying for your family. As you lead your family, be sure to lead them spiritually as well. Pray for your wife and kids. Be the father God has called you to be.

One of the ways I remember to pray for my wife and kids is by picking a day of the week to pray for them. That way I know, if it’s Monday, it’s time to pray for my wife and kids. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar. In the evenings, I lead my family in a short prayer time where I lead the prayer. I pray for the salvation of my kids and that our family and marriage would honor God. My kids will hear me and see me pray for my family. It doesn’t happen every night of the week, but our goal is to do it almost every night!

I realize it’s tough being a dad! I still have so much to learn. There are tough days being the dad and spiritual leader of my family. I continue to push myself to be a better dad each day and follow the example of my Heavenly Father. What an honor it is to be a guest blogger this Father’s Day weekend. I hope and pray this can be a starting point for you to become a “purposeful dad.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Josh Waugh is the Associate Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Susie, have been married five years and have two beautiful daughters: Bella Grace (3) and Juliette (2). Suzette and Josh served at a church in Florida together for a season! You can follow Josh on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and blogs over at www.joshwaugh.com.

purposeful-dad

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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