reflect-the-sun

Reflect the Son

This article was originally published in Strong and Courageous Women magazine issue 3. You can subscribe to Strong and Courageous Women here.

We live in a dark world. The moral compass of our culture and country is changing direction. In this dark world, we need to raise up a generation who will be a light in the darkness, just as the moon shines in the darkness of night.

In science this past year, my daughter and I learned about astronomy. The sun, moon, Earth, planets, rotations, revolutions, orbits, and galaxies.

During one of our classes, I was hit with something I have always known, something that is so elementary, but something that impacted me more as a parent than it ever did when I was a student.

The moon does not produce its own light. It reflects the light of the sun. Without the light of the sun, the moon would not shine at all. However, nothing else in space reflects the light of the moon.

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And it hit me.

In a manner of speaking, I am the moon.

I cannot produce my own light. My job is to reflect Jesus. And how often do I forget that no one is supposed to reflect me?

Yet, that was a burden I was placing on my children all the time, and sometimes still do.

I would tell them that their behavior reflected the kind of mother I am. I would tell them their behavior was supposed to make me look good.

Now do not get me wrong. I have great kids. They are very good, but they are kids, which means there is always going to be a level of unpredictability involved when we leave the house.

Yes, it’s important for my children to behave in public. The should behave in a manner that is above reproach.

But they are not supposed to reflect me. They are supposed to reflect Jesus. My light is not strong enough, it never will be.

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Their behavior is not to bring me glory. It is to glorify their Heavenly Father, not their earthly mother.

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our children need to know that as believers in Jesus, our behavior needs to reflect the One who lives in us. We need to shine with kindness, love, obedience, gentleness, and respect for others.

My job is to bring them into the presence of Jesus. The more they are in front of the Son, the brighter their light will shine for Him. The more I bring them into His presence, the more their moral compass will align to His, and the choices they make will reflect Him. The more they stand before Him, the brighter their light will shine in the darkness.

The way the moon shines in the darkness, I want my children to shine in this darkened world.

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book list 2017

My To Read List for 2017

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I love books.

I was the kid who read a couple of chapter books a week for fun, the teenager who waited for the newest installment of the Left Behind series and finished it in two days (before I had any real responsibilities).

As an adult, wife, and mother, my time to read is not nearly as much as I would like, but I still manage to read a good number of books each year. One way I manage that is by having a mandatory 30 minutes of silent reading time scheduled in our day.

I have an unrealistic amount of books on my “to read” list this year, but I do have a few that are on my “must read” list. Here they are in no particular order:

The Lifegiving Home and 12-Month Guided Journal by Sally & Sarah Clarkson This was on my Amazon Wishlist, and I was so thrilled to get it on Christmas morning. My goal has always been to create a home that was a haven, safe place, and provided an environment of love and learning. Because I do not believe in living a status quo life or being comfortable in a rut, I am  always looking for ways to tweak and improve our home life.

Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America by Glenn Beck In the fall, our Classical Conversations studies will be focusing on American history. What better way for my children to learn about history than for them to see me learning along side them.

to read 2017

Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup I am currently reading another book by Ruth Soukup, so I thought I would read the book named after her blog and learn what she has to share about living well without spending a lot.

The Smart Parent by Gary Ezzo When I was pregnant with Addie, I read Gary Ezzo’s book On Becoming BabyWiseAlthough the idea of sleep training can be controversial, we had great success with our kids and putting them to bed. Since he is a Christian counselor with a Biblical perspective on child-training, I’m interested in reading this book.

Night by Elie Wiesel Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel passed away this year. His book, Night, opened the eyes of many to the horrors of the Holocaust. As a homeschool mom teaching my children using the classical method, original sources are a huge part of learning. I began reading the preface as soon as I received it and am already hooked.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth I loved Mr. Rogers as a child. Although I knew he was a believer and even a pastor, I would love to know more of this gentle man and how his faith in Jesus affected his influence on children.

to read 2017

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford We live in such a digital age. Between texts, phone calls, and checking my social media accounts, I’m sure I can learn something important about being more hand free than I am. Ironically, this book is an e-book that I have to read from my hand-held device…

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Shauna Niequist  I just love Shauna Niequist! After listening to the audio book version of her book Present Over Perfect this year, she has become one of my favorite authors. And since part of this blog has to do with sharing our stories with our readers, I look forward to learning more of how my story can help others.

Hoodwinked: Ten Myths that Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk Let’s face it, we all live our motherhood lives based on myths we believe are true. My friend Amanda had read this a while back, and every time she shared a snippet of what she had read, I knew this was a book I needed to read.

Raising Uncommon Kids: 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids by Sami Cone I want my children to be world changers. World changers are uncommon. As I read God’s Word, God shows me what I need to do in my own life and for my husband and children. I also love reading what God has shown others that I can also benefit from.

to read 2017

What’s It Like to Be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow When I first was married, I read a book by Linda Dillow recommended to me by my mother. It was wonderful, especially as a newlywed wanting to be the best wife I could be for my husband. Now after 12.5 years, I still want to be the best wife I can be.

Raising a Modern Day Joseph by Larry Fowler Joseph was taken from his parents early in his life, yet he never lost the faith his father had taught him. As a mother, my desire is that my children follow and serve the Lord whether I am standing right next to them or if they are spending time with a friend. Larry Fowler is one of the founders of the AWANA program, a ministry my own children are a part of, designed to teach and instill God’s Word in children around the world.

Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley Since I have gotten married, I have not read much in the way of novels. But… I found this book by Michael Landon Jr., son of the late Michael Landon of Bonanza and Little House fame, and I am excited to read it. Michael Landon Jr. is a professing Christian and is the creator of the Love Comes Softly television series based on the books by Janet Oke. If I like this book, I may just have to read the other two in the series.

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey In the summer, I love reading books that will inspire me in the teaching of my children in our homeschool. This is one of the books recommended by Classical Conversations.

to read 2017

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman What is it that you were created to do? What was I created to do? I love how the author simply sums up the purpose of her book on the back cover- “Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify–in a million little ways.”

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lisa TerKeurst There are so many things pulling for our attention. We say yes to so many good things that sometimes we have to say no to the best things. I know I am guilty of that! I look forward to getting some courage from this book to say no to the good so I am available to say yes to the best.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp This will most likely be one of my first books this year. Ann Voskamp has skipped the bucket list and asked herself how she could find joy in the midst of the everyday. Perfect for my word for 2017!

Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen This is another inspirational book encouraging us to take the passions God has given us and use them to glorify Him and bless others.

to read 2017

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs How many of us feel that we are not living life with everything we have? Is it because fear is holding us back in some way? as a coffee lover, I love that each chapter begins with the name and city/state of the coffee shop she wrote that chapter in.

God’s Word must always be our first book to glean and gain understanding from, but I do believe that God gives insights to others to share. Everything we read needs to be filtered through the Word. As long as what we read lines up with His Word, I believe we can learn tremendously from those books.

What is on your to read list for 2017? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Is there an author who you really enjoy? Feel free to share in the comments.

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what to do with kids Christmas break

Things to Do with Your Kids This Christmas Break

It will be here before you know it…

Christmas break!

And I just heard it…. the cheer of little ones embracing their upcoming freedom, and the gasp from moms who are looking for ways to fill their children’s time for the duration of the break.

If you are going away for some of the break, then half of your battle is already won, since leaving home is an adventure all its own and comes with its own entertainment for young ones. But if you are staying home during your break, then filling the hours of your days is a daunting challenge.

Because I homeschool my children, I am always looking for ways to keep my kids on their toes after our schoolwork is done with fun, meaningful activities that I can plan and prepare for the night before. They are not stress inducing activities or even complicated in their preparation, but my children feel as though they have been thought of and have even expressed their appreciation of these planned times.

what to do with kids Christmas break

Each activity comes with a time limit so the activity is ended before boredom sets in and leaves anticipation for the activity to be repeated in the future.

We do not do all of these activities each day. This is just a list that I use to choose from when planning our day.

At Home:

  • Silent reading (30 minutes)- My son who recently turned 5 has been doing this for a while now and can sit for the duration of the time. He cannot read a full book at this point, but he is a pro at looking at pictures and even doing some picture search books.
  • Read aloud (30 minutes)- This does require Mom’s involvement, but that’s okay! Choose books that are related to the season you are in (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.). Having a book basket helps with this. This would also be a great time to begin a classic or novel with them (we have read the Winnie the Pooh collection together).  You will be amazed at how their understanding and communication skills grow with this simple activity. During this time, I pull out the blocks and perler beads and my children quietly create while they listen.
  • Color/Draw (20-30 minutes)- Coloring and drawing is an important childhood skill that our kids need in order to develop fine motor skills among other things. [source]

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Play-doh (20-30 minutes)- Kids love play-doh, and moms can easily use this time for some therapy. Squishing play-doh is relaxing and has the ability to keep kids entertained without any effort on our part.
  • Bake cookies (30 minutes)- This one requires a little bit of work, but there is no hard and fast rule that you have to make your cookies from scratch (we don’t always). Kids love the process of mixing and seeing their work turn into something they can actually eat.
  • Play games (30-45 minutes)- This is a fun one! Grab all of those you have hidden away in a closet and play a few. Depending on ability, the games may even get a bit competitive. A few of our favorites are Shopkins Uno, Candyland, Dominoes, Go Fish, Sorry, Guess Who, and Connect Four.
  • Watch a show (30-120 minutes)- This activity is great when Mom just needs to sit with a cup of coffee in a quiet room for a bit. Pull out a video (your children’s ages and attention spans will dictate the length of your movie), put your feet up, and enjoy the quiet. If your children know that movie time only comes at a specific time of the day, they will appreciate that time even more.
  • Play outside (30-60 minutes)- This is the stuff of childhood and the maker of good naps for little ones. Fresh air, sunshine, and the ability to run unrestricted are all great for a child’s well-being and also is important for Mom. Pull out the bicycles, roller skates, scooters, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk or let them enjoy your personal jungle gym. No matter what they do, it will be a win for everyone. Need more ideas? 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen is a great book with 365 outdoor ideas.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Video games (30-60 minutes)- Kids enjoy video games and technology is the wave of the future, but that doesn’t mean our kids should have unlimited access to it. Schedule time for your kiddos to play some of their video games. By scheduling time for this activity, your kids won’t spend too much time in front of a screen, they won’t tire of their games too quickly, and video game time will become a very special time for them.
  • Free play (1-2 hours)- Free play is so important for children.  Not only does it give them the ability to decide for themselves what they want to play, but it gives them a chance to pull out the toys and stretch their imaginations. And with Christmas just around the corner, it will give them a chance to really play with their new toys.

Quick trips

Sometimes, you just need to leave the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot or be out all day. Here are a few ideas for taking quick trips that don’t involve shopping or stores. Don’t forget to schedule in travel time.

  • Library (1 hour)- Libraries are so much more than warehouses for books. They are now being upgraded with play areas, puzzles, learning games, and story time. Take advantage of these amenities that your library has to offer and spend an hour in a quiet but fun atmosphere.
  • Local park (30-60 minutes)- If you don’t have a swing set, your local park is guaranteed to have a great jungle gym (take proper safety precautions). From playground equipment and open areas for unhindered running to walking paths and  bike trails, your park has much to offer that a backyard can’t. Pack a lunch and make your adventure last a little longer.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Donut/ice cream run (30 minutes)- Have the kids been really good for you on a particular day? Why not treat them to a donut shop or Ice cream shop run? Encourage their good behavior with a small treat and a quick adventure outside of the house.
  • Visit a friend (1-2 hours for littles 3-4 hours for bigs)- I am a firm believer that visits with friends need to fall into a reasonable time frame, especially if you are spending time in their home with little ones. Your visit has time to end on a good note before little ones begin to get too antsy.
  • Bounce house or kids gym (1-2 hours)- Do you live in an area that has a bounce house or kids gym? Take advantage of these. Purchase a membership if it is something that can be used quite often by your family. This is a great way to fill a couple of hours of your day, give your kids ample space to exert plenty of energy, and give you a fun place to escape to on rainy days when a park visit wold not be possible.

What are some other ways you can inexpensively provide meaningful activities for your children during a school break? Feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Grocery Store Meltdowns & the Opportunities They Offer

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Dear Mom: Don’t Give Up

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Mom, sometimes you may feel that what you are doing does not make much of a difference.

But don’t give up.

You may feel that you are constantly repeating the same thing to your child without seeing any results.

But don’t give up.

You may get tired of teaching your child what God’s Word says because it doesn’t seem that anything you are saying is sticking.

But don’t give up.

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Why?

Because when you least expect it, when you are in the middle of something completely unrelated to the lesson you have been trying to teach, when you are in a place where you cannot even fully appreciate the moment…..

it will happen.

At the moment of decision, your child will repeat verbatim the truths you have been teaching him.

Your child will recognize a lie and rebuff it with the truths you have shared.

Your child will stand up for what they know is right when you are not around, and you will only know because someone else will tell you.

God knows when we need those breakthrough moments. Those are the moments that keep us going. He uses those moments to remind us that we are more than the grocery shopper, launderer, housekeeper, and cook on top of other responsibilities and titles we may hold. He uses those moments to remind us that we have an important roll in molding the hearts of our children.

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These moments do not happen in an instant. They happen after Mom has repeated herself so many times, she can say the lines in her sleep. And when Mom thinks there is no point in repeating herself one more time, her moment happens.

And that moment is the shot in the arm she needs to say the words one more time, to speak truth to her children again, and to remind them of what God says in His word. That moment fills her tank with hope that her words are not in vain and her efforts are not for naught. That moment opens her eyes to the realization that her actions have not gone unnoticed. Her labors of love have been received for what they were.

You moment will happen, Mom….

Just don’t give up.

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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?

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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.)

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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.

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The Perfect Bedtime Book for Little Ones

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

I began reading to my children from the time I brought them home from the hospital. I looked for as many Bible story board books as I could find, and rotated through them. I loved the board books that were gifted to us as well that taught my children about colors, animals, and first words. I grew to love my collection of board books, and I was thankful that the pages were strong enough to survive my two children

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My son will be five next week, and recently I discovered that he prefers board books over “paper” books. During our silent reading times, he gravitates to the board books I pull out. At the library, he ignores the rows of brightly illustrated picture books and sits in front of the board book shelf.

When I received my copy of Snuggle Time Psalms by Glenys Nellist in the mail, I’m not sure who was more excited- Ian or me.

I asked Ian what his favorite things about Snuggle Time Psalms were- “the pictures and hard pages.”

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My favorites about Snuggle Time Psalms are:

  1. The message– As the title suggests, each page begins with one verse from a Psalm. After the verse is a rhyme that perfectly explains to a child what the verse means. The rhymes are written using terms that speak to children where they are. Words like teddy bear and airplanes make the meaning of the Psalms relevant to toddlers and preschoolers and puts the verse in terms they can understand.
  2. The author– Glenys Nellist has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her writing style has such a gentleness that I have found the way I read her books to my son affected by it. When you pick up any one of Glenys’s books, you’ll find that you cannot  read them quickly. They cause you to pause time, to slow down, and savor the moment with your little one. I have even been known to pick up her books and read them to myself when I need a pause in my day. As a mom, I love that my son always asks for “one more” as we read through Snuggle Time Psalms.
  3. The illustrations– I have always been a huge fan of great illustrations. For little ones who can’t read or are still learning how, illustrations are how they “read” a book. Cee Biscoe has a gift. She can make her illustrations come alive while giving them a gentleness to match the words on the page. They are calming, beautiful, and endearing.

If you are looking for a board book that will survive your toddler/preschooler’s love for reading and will also give them a solid Biblical foundation, Snuggle Time Psalms is a perfect book to bring your children into the presence of the Lord from the comfort of their mother’s lap.

Publisher: Zonderkidz Year: 2016 Pages: 30 pages ISBN: 978-0310749257 Retail Price: $9.99

You can read my reviews of Glenys Nellist’s other bookstall these locations: Snuggle Time Prayers and Love Letters From God.

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Balancing High Expectations with Love This School Year

(Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.)

As a new school year begins, kids are excited to return to their classrooms, meet their new teachers and begin another season of learning.

Yes, “new” is always fun and exciting! Well…. for most children at the start of the school year at least.

But what do we do as parents when the excitement or “newness” wears off, like it so often does with most things?

When homework becomes drudgery and begins to interfere with the things our children would rather be doing instead?

When excellence in effort begins to diminish and work returns home disorganized and messy?

When an hour’s worth of homework becomes a never ending evening of pain that feels more like a root canal than spelling practice?

Where tears are spilt and impatience flares?

What do you do?

Might I suggest….

Balance it all with love.

Balancing high expectations with love this school year post for parents

As a third grade teacher for a little over ten years, I remember one year feeling quite frustrated with a particular class I had… And although I had been enthusatic and passionate about my career in education, this particular year I was  beginning to lose my joy in teaching.

I had a few chatty kids and- at the time- I just didn’t feel as if they were giving the attention, focus, and behavior I felt was needed to have a “good year”. It was- I guess- a bit overwhelming to me as well, because my focus on these students gave me a sense that the “whole” class was just a mess.

As a teacher you can begin to feel somewhat justified in feeling frustrated during times like these because of the way your students are acting, despite your efforts. Oh… And you can certainly feel justified in handing out consequences pretty quickly in times like these as well.

But you know what… That’s not how God wanted me to respond…

And I remember one day, He totally shifted my perspective…

Yes, He certainly did!

And it was a much needed shift that totally remade my year.

So, what happened so drastically to reshift my perspective and give me a great year?

Well…. The Lord began to open my eyes to the students who actually “were” paying attention, and He inspired me to begin majorly highlighting them verbally in front of the class when I needed the class to “come back” to me.

When things began to get chatty, I would all of a sudden start naming the students I saw behaving appropriately, and it was totally amazing!!! You could see how everyone else started to follow suit so that they could get recognized as well. Yes, friends, love and a positive outlook took over as opposed to stress, pressure and a focus on negativity.

It was a miracle!!!! 

Furthermore, something God also opened my eyes to was the fact that I also needed to change my preferred style of teaching a bit to accomodate the students who enjoyed talking more… So, it actually helped me grow as a teacher too! (Yes, many times it’s not simply about changing others’ attitudes or actions, but it’s about God changing us in the process as well…. Something we don’t often like to hear, but it’s so true.)

Balancing High Expectations with Love this school year

No, our children are not going to always give us the responses we want from them…and so often it’s so easy to fall into the trap of highlighting the negative…

“Stop acting  that way… Sit down… You’re not doing your work. Pay attention! Why don’t you ever clean your room or your desk?”

We often highlight the negative things our kids do with our words… Don’t we.

And while it may at times produce the result we want… I’d like to suggest a more effective way of achieving the responses we would like to see while still holding high expectations for our children.

It’s something God has helped me learn over the years and something I can always continue working on, as I raise my own little one.

Balance your high expectations with love, highlighting your child’s positive behaviors and alllowing the Lord to use your words and actions to inspire them to continue following the path you want them to be on.

Instead of saying, “Johnny, you’ve been sitting at the table all night doing your homework. You have to get your work done, or your teacher won’t be happy!” (Or whatever other phrase you normally use….)

Why not instead say something like… “Johnny, I know this is hard work, and sometimes it’s not all that fun. But I want you to know I am SO proud of you for working so hard. Remember when you did that paper last year and we thought you’d never get through it… You did it, right? I’m SO proud of you! And I know you can do this too! How about we step away from it for fifteen minutes? Then, we’ll come back to it and get it done together.”

Try it out and see!

Afterall, there’s no reason why you need to add to the chaos of the moment by pulling your hair out when there’s something positive you can do to redirect your child in following through with the task.
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Our children are still little people with hearts that can be wounded by our harsh words spoken “in the moment”, hardened by stubborness because they’re tired and just not motivated to follow through, and yet softened and encouraged to press on when they see your patience, love and admiration.

Children truly want the caring adults in their lives to be proud of them and will do what they can to reach the expectations we set for them. And yet it is our repsonsibilty to continually give them positive reasons for striving to meet our expectations… Expectations that will ultimately have long term benefits in their lives.

(Hey, and as adults, we don’t simply go to work everyday just because we’re always just so excited to get up and go, right? We have reasons for going beyond just a passion for our career. Don’t we? And the same is true for our kids…)

So, yes! Go ahead and throw in some tangible rewards for your kids during the year for them to work towards and to celebrate their success!

Put their good work on display for all to see. Take them out for a celebratory meal or fun day after a hard test or project that they worked hard on. Give them opportunities to share their successes and their excellent work with you and others. Tuck little notes into their lunchboxes to let them know you are proud of them.

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…Because we understand our children are not learning robots, simply storing and computing information just for the sake of it. They are little human beings with beating hearts longing for our approval and a reason to give their personal best.

And whether it’s sitting behind a desk answering phones in the workplace as adults or studying for a spelling test as a second grader, we all need daily reasons to strive for our personal best.

Let’s all give our children good reasons to pursue excellence and give their personal best throughout the year… setting high expectations that are motivated and inspired by the love they see in our eyes and the words and tones they hear in our voices.

“A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 NET