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

 

 

keeping-christmas-simple

How to Keep Christmas Simple

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I am a huge fan of Christmas!

HUGE!

I love the feeling in the air, the decorations, the lights, the glitter, the way stores are decorated (in December… NOT September), and giving to my family.

But how many years did I go into the Christmas season with gusto and grand ideas only to burn myself out mid-December? Pretty much every year.

Each year I go into the Christmas season with the idea that this is going to be the best Christmas ever!

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I figure out how many fun Christmas related activities we can fit into our schedule, and I cram all of our days and weekends with something to do.

My kids end up tired.

I end up frustrated that no one appreciates the effort I put into making this the best Christmas ever.

And then we are ready for Christmas to be over and done with and to move into the New Year.

But not this year…

I have always been a fan of simple living, of not making things more complicated than necessary, of believing that less is more. But Christmastime has never reflected that.

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This year, we don’t have to see every Christmas pageant in our county.

This year, we don’t have to attend every Christmas party or activity.

This year, we don’t have to plan to do something Christmas related every night.

This year, we don’t have to have an advent calendar that involves a ton of extra gifts for me to purchase, wrap, and remember to distribute each day.

Instead…

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This year, we’ll stay home more evenings than we go out and watch the old Christmas cartoons I grew up watching like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and the Little Drummer Boy. And because I homeschool my kids, we can stay up as late as we want to watch these shows and sleep as long as we need to the next morning.

This year we will delight in the simple joy of finding our little monkey pal, Melk, in the mornings and learn something about the character of God.

This year, we will limit the parties we go to, and, if bringing an exchange gift is necessary, we’ll bring something simple but sweet.

This year, if there isn’t a Christmas moment on the calendar, we won’t make one up just for the sake of it. We’ll just carry on as usual.

This year, we will make paper chains and countdown to Christmas the old fashioned way.

Because…

Satan’s mission has always been to destroy what God has created- to interfere with the message that God loved us and sent his Son (Awana Cubbies key verse). How are we supposed to stop and reflect on the purpose of Christmas Day if, during the time of the year that we are supposed to remember and recognize the giving of God’s gift to us, we get so busy and distracted and we keep our kids running from one activity to another?

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, rather than focusing on the “show” of Christmas, I want to focus on the message. That God loved His creation and gave us a gift, the most precious gift He could give- His Son.

Trendy wrapping paper with a perfect bow was not the wrapping of this gift. Strips of cloth were the wrappings of this gift.

His surroundings were not Pinterest worthy. A barn with hay and animals was the setting for His birth.

Those who came to see him that night did not come with $5 gifts for a gift exchange. They came with empty hands, but sincere hearts.

I want our Christmas to reflect those ideals.

So here is your Christmas challenge…

Before you are swept up in the tinsel and show of Christmas…

Before you are knee deep in the quicksand of activities and parties…

Before you find yourself drowning in receipts and wrapping paper…

Take an hour one evening to think through what you want your Christmas to look like.

Figure out your non-negotiable calendar items.

Next, determine in advance how many activities you will be a part of.

Decide how many $5 dollar exchange gifts your budget will allow for.

For your sanity to be kept in tact, set in stone how many evenings you need to stay home each week.

Establish your gift giving list early and stick to it.

And then, sit back and enjoy this Christmas with your family and closest friends.

simple Christmas

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…

playground-purposeful-moms

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….)

home

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?

comparison

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

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The Lesson from the Termite’s Nest

Song of Solomon 2:15- Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

A few years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise. One of our stops was Playa de Carmen, Mexico.

As we walked for what seemed like forever to the bus that would take us to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Brian and I noticed that all of the trees were painted white from the ground to part of the way up the trunk.

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At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as we drove through the city, we noticed that EVERY tree had been whitewashed. I just chalked it up to “that’s just how they do it here” and didn’t think anything else of it.

Until……

We finally reached our destination a little more than an hour later. As were walking the mile and a half from where our bus dropped us off to the entrance of the ruins, Tour Guide Juan stopped us and had us look over into the trees.

He continued, “Did you notice that all of the trees in Playa de Carmen were whitewashed from the ground to halfway up the trunk? There is a reason for that. You all know termites eat wood, but something happens to their bodies when we take a mixture of limestone and water and paint our trees. As the termites begin climbing up a whitewashed tree, the temperature of their bodies rises and they burn up. If we didn’t whitewash our trees in Playa de Carmen, you would see termite mounds like this one everywhere.”

We went on into the ruins and I forgot all about the termites, whitewashed trees, and the vendors we would have to push through a second time as we made our way back to our bus.

lesson-termites-nest

As we were leaving the ruins, I saw this termite nest (pictured above) and something hit me. With all of the green around, the tree hosting this nest had no healthy foliage on it. The tree itself could not grow while something was sucking the life out of it. It could only die.

Our homes, families, and lives are living things. Satan wants to destroy those things. If he came with a hack saw, motorized saw, or ax, we would recognize him immediately and protect those things that are so precious to us.

Instead he comes into our lives as a termite- something so tiny that we would not even notice it or recognize the harm it could do (overly busy schedule, television, Internet, food, harmful relationships, etc.). He comes as a termite that doesn’t mind how long it will take to suck the life out of us. He comes in the form of a thousand little things that slowly drain our will, desire, and ability to fight back. Before you know it, there is no life left in you.

We need a whitewash!

We need to take preventative measures before those little termites even have a chance to climb into our lives.

We need to set time alone for ourselves with the Lord and His Word.
We need to set boundaries.
We need to learn to say “no” to things that take our time away from what is important.
We need to invest time in our marriages and children.
We need to let go of the desire to have more and be content with what we already have.
We need to be willing to let go of some of our material possessions that bog us down.

It is possible to remove the termites once they have made a nest, but it is hard work and, in some cases, can be costly. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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That day, Brian and I made some wonderful memories at the Mayan ruins, saw some amazing structures that have lasted a thousand years, saw the bluest water on the coast of Tulum, and took some amazing photos.

But I think the one thing that will never leave my heart from that day was the lesson I learned while looking at a termite’s nest.

I pray I never forget what it looks like. I want it to be a constant reminder to me that I need to keep my “tree” whitewashed.

This post was originally featured on my previous blog The Joy of Homemaking.

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

 

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.

raising a great boy

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.

raising a great boy

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

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Celebrate the Ordinary Days- Fall Edition

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September is here and with it comes the anticipation of all things fall. Sweaters, boots, leaves changing colors, and pumpkin flavored everything…. yes, fall is coming.

Here in Florida, we can only imagine what the rest of the world experiences for fall. We live vicariously through Pinterest photos and Hallmark movies and imagine the crisp feel of the air on Thanksgiving.

However, there are so many delightful, ordinary days sprinkled into the months of September through December that it doesn’t matter if our leaves actually turn color and fall in January. We can still enjoy these days along with everyone else who live in the perfect fall climates further north.

Here are some of my upcoming favorite ordinary days (this list is by no means extensive) and how I plan to recognize them in splendid ways or just acknowledge them in passing. After all, that is the beauty of ordinary days.

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September 22- First Day of Fall (We celebrate this day by decorating for the season of fall, not a particular holiday.)

September 23- Native American Day (I have several books about Squanto and Sacajawea that we read at this time)

September 29- Coffee Day (no explanation needed…)

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October 4- Taco Day (Tacos for dinner!)

October 10- Columbus Day (This year we are going to make this Christopher Columbus themed craft.)

October 15- Sweetest Day (Enjoy a sweet treat.)

October 17- Boss’s Day (A good day to show our children how to respect the ones who sign our paychecks.)

October 24- United Nations Day (We will take some time to learn about this organization.)

October 28- National Chocolate Day (Watch the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)

October 31- Reformation Day (We will be “nailing” the 95 Thesis to our door using tape on the back of the papers and my son’s plastic hammer and learning the Five Solas.)

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November 3- Sandwich Day (This will be easy to celebrate…)

November 8- Election Day (Take your kids with you as you place your vote… and explain to your children that a secret ballot means they are not to announce your choice of candidate to everyone in your voting precinct.)

November 11- Veteran’s Day (Several state parks in our area offer free entrance on this day in exchange for supplies to be made care packages to be sent to our troops- a more than reasonable trade. Find out if any state parks in your area offer this service to you.)

November 15- America Recycles Day (Take note of what you and your children are currently doing to help preserve our environment, and decide what changes could be made to help even further.)

November 24- Thanksgiving

November 26- Small Business Saturday (Look into small businesses in your area that could use a boost during the holiday season.)

November 27- First Day of Advent (Begin celebrating the advent of Jesus and the Christmas season.)

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December 4- Cookie Day (Bake a batch or more of cookies. Package them to be given as gifts for your neighbors, friends, and teachers.

December 7- Pearl Harbor Day (Take some time to reflect on the impact this event had on our country 75 years ago.)

December 15- Bill of Rights Day (Review what the Bill of Rights are and show them Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the Four Freedoms.)

December 20- Last Day of Fall (Get ready! Christmas is around the corner!)

Let’s make fall’s ordinary days a memorable time for our families. 

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Building Monuments

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God loves a good celebration. So much so that He instituted times when His people came together to rejoice with food and symbols to represent what the celebration was for.

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But the celebrations were not meant to be frivolous. They were not meant to be commercialized. These celebrations were meant to be spiritual monuments for the people to look back and remember God’s goodness to them as they made the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. These celebrations were to mark specific moments in time when God showed His provision, protection, love, and mercy to His stubborn, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:13). These celebrations were to contain lessons that would be passed down from generation to generation so there would never be a generation who did not know the Lord or the things He had done (Judges 2:10).

As I think of my own life, I can remember distinct moments where God showed His hand of provision, protection, love, and mercy on my journey from childhood into adulthood.

He provided a piano for me when my parents could not afford to buy one. (In fact, my family nor I have ever had to buy a piano, but we have almost always had one in our home or access to one since I was 11 years old.)

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He provided the money needed for me to attend college through scholarships, generous gifts from others, and some savings my father had intentionally put aside without the need for college loans.

He protected us from an oncoming tornado when I was 7 years old and caused that tornado to completely turn around and head in a different direction.

His love and mercy allowed my mother to know she would have a granddaughter before she passed away.

His goodness provided for our children so much that we can look at their rooms and count on one hand what we have had to actually purchase for them.

I want these memories to be monuments for my children to see, for them to reflect back on when times get rough in their lives, when they are unsure how the end of the story will turn out. I want to retell these stories to my children so they will not forget them, and so they will have stories to pass down to future generations of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

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As I thought of our personal monuments, I realized that underneath the debris of our calendar holidays, there are beautiful monuments for us to refer back to when the going gets rough.

When you pull away the tinsel, the lights, the wrapping paper, the wish lists, and the empty boxes, there is a stable with a sleeping Baby who was given as the greatest Gift humanity has ever received. During those times when we feel that we have nothing, that hope is lost, that life is for those in high position and not for us, that Baby stands as a monument saying, “I was given to you.”

Hidden under the very last strand of shredded, plastic, green grass, eggs, and bunnies is a cross of raw wood that is stained with blood. When we visit that monument we are reminded of how very loved we are- so much that someone was willing to die in our place to carry our burden, and reap the punishment for what we sowed.

Some monuments are built as reminders to us of principles in God’s Word.

Buried under the flowers, chocolate, cards, and paper hearts is a man who, as tradition tells us, defied an emperor in order to keep those in his flock from breaking God’s law.

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Journey past the rainbows, the leprechauns, the pots of gold, and shamrocks and you will find a young English boy, kidnapped by pirates, and taken to Ireland to be a slave. Despite his circumstances he prayed to God one hundred times a day, escaped his captors, and eventually went back to Ireland as a missionary to reach the people he had grown to love for Christ.

Travel through the fields of cornucopias, feathers, black and white garb, and gaze upon the monuments of a small band of pilgrims who are celebrating what only the hand of God could have brought about and done.

I want the “holidays” to be more than just a stressful time filled with rushed trips to the stores, receipts, and commercialism.

I want these days to be “holy days”- days that turn our focus to God and His goodness towards humanity.

I want my children to visit these monuments yearly, not with the expectation of temporary trinkets they may receive, but with the expectation of receiving the long-lasting gift of hope these monuments stand for.

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One of my favorite books is Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s book, A Homemade Year. In it, she lists dates that are significant to the history of the Christian Church at large- spiritual monuments. Days that I usually breeze by as I go about my year have a spiritual significance and lesson to teach me and my children. Days that I would have scheduled a doctor’s appointment or a library trip were monuments meant to turn our hearts towards the Lord.

Many of these dates are not on our calendars.

They are probably not even on the radars of marketers.

But these dates are there, and they are a gift. Not just to me, but to my family as well. They are days that I have an opportunity to use as monuments for my family. Monuments with a beautiful history that my family can look back to and remember God’s goodness in the past and His promised faithfulness in the future.

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The Beauty of Ordinary Days

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I have grown to love July 5 through Labor Day weekend.

There is nothing special about those days, nothing flashy, nothing that takes our breath away.

As much as I love holidays and making those days special for my family, there is something about those two months in the summer that has become precious to me.

They’re ordinary.

For me, these are the slow days.

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The days when we don’t have to leave the house… or we can if we choose to.

These are the days when trips to the beach with a picnic lunch are for more than a tan. They are refreshing to the soul.

These are the days that bring us peace before the storm of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

These are the days that Pinterest has not affected… yet. There are no articles on how to make these days spectacular, to decorate your home for them, or to throw elaborate parties for them.

These are the days of solitude. The days when we stay close to our immediate family before schedules pick up and send us flying in different directions. Days when we stay home without the worry of letting others down.

These are the days when our children can play to their hearts’ content without the pressure of being rushed here and there.

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But it was not always this way for me. As Jerusalem Jackson Greer says in her book, A Homemade Year, “Embracing the ordinary is something I had to learn.”

I had fallen into the pattern of thinking that I wasn’t giving my children everything they deserve. I felt that keeping them busy, always with something to do, somewhere to go, or someone to see, was going to give them the best childhood experience I could offer.

Then one day, my four year old asked what we were doing that day. I listed what I had planned, so proud of myself that I was giving him so many experiences. He looked at me and said, “But I want to stay home.”

It never occurred to me that my children didn’t need or want all of these experiences.

We began to cut back our activities significantly. “Less is more,” as my husband always says. No more trips to the summer movies. No more library classes. No summer art classes at a local craft store.

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Instead, we filled our time seeing family, going to the beach, and swimming at my sister’s community pool.

We watched Netflix.

Happy messes were made and left for a day or two (anyone who knows me knows this was a huge step for me).

We colored… I colored, too.

The ordinary, the mundane became beautiful.

And I saw why God instituted the day of rest (Genesis 2:2-3).

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Life is busy. There are schedules to keep, appointments to be made, work deadlines, school events, and it doesn’t ever seem to end. Unless we make a point of taking a time to rest, to refresh ourselves, to bring quiet to our souls, and give ourselves space to hear from God.

As it turns out, our summer was not boring, and when special days came up (like an unexpected trip to Legoland for one of the kids), they were extraordinary!

As the school year picks up, my heart feels a tinge of sadness. I know that schedules will resume, activities will find their way onto the calendar, and life will start chugging along at a rapid pace again.

But I have learned over this summer, that I can limit the appointments, the activities, the busyness, and we can continue to enjoy ordinary days throughout the year.

Caution: Mom Under Construction

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