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Keeping Their Love Tank Full

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

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

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

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

Each of us has a love tank.

Our children have love tanks.

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

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

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

There in lies the difficulty.

There is lies the balancing act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Redemption of the Picture-Perfect Moment

With Halloween over and the Christmas season beginning basically the next day, it means I have to mentally prepare myself now for the supposed “picture-perfect moment.”

For all you Dads out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Everybody is having a great time, the kids are content and you finally have a moment to sit and relax. Out of nowhere, you hear the words, “Alright! Time for a picture!”

If I’m your typical guy, I gladly volunteer to take the picture of everybody else. If I get stuck in the photo, I reluctantly give a half-hearted smile and rush to get it over with leaving everyone a little frustrated.

But what if you could redeem the picture-perfect moment? What if there was a way to take the typical guy response and transform it into a moment for the purposeful dad?

Here are three things to help you get through the infamous picture-perfect moment.

  1. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Mentally prepare ahead of time knowing you will have to take some pictures as a family. Be proactive and be ready to take the picture. Ask your wife ahead of time when the photo will happen so you can plan accordingly.
  1. Smile and have fun with it! If everybody smiled, posed and participated for the picture, it would literally be over in less than 90 seconds. Have fun with it! Think of something fun to say that’ll make the kids laugh. Tickle your wife (after the good picture was taken!) and have a blast with your family. Don’t let a picture get you down or ruin the rest of the day. Let the kids see you having fun… this may even condition your kids to be okay with taking pictures!
  1. Think about the picture-perfect future. This last one is the most important one.

In the age of social media, I originally titled this post, “The Curse of the Picture-Perfect Moment.” I feel like almost anything we do has someone’s smartphone capturing the moment rather than being in the moment. The five minutes following are spent on creating the right caption with the perfect filter. Then, I realized it really isn’t a curse after all.

Just a couple weeks ago, I pulled up old pictures on my phone and my 4-year-old daughter started looking at them with me. She would laugh and look at specific photos more than others. Anytime Halloween costumes came by, she would snicker and talk about how much she loved her outfit that year.

As we continued looking at pictures of our family, (you know, those picture-perfect moments that drove me nuts at the time?), my daughter looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I love our family!” Does she remember what we did that day? Probably not. Does she see our family having fun together? Absolutely.

Redemption! It all made sense now. She now associates those pictures with the love for our family and the time we spent together. All because of a “picture-perfect moment.”

That’s when I discovered my purposeful dad perspective on pictures.

The pictures weren’t for benefit in the present. The pictures were meant for the picture-perfect future. A future looking back on the past and remembering the good times we had as a family.

And that’s why, as a Purposeful Dad, I choose to be a part of the picture-perfect moment.

This post is a part of the Purposeful Dad series. If you know someone you can encourage with this post, feel free to share!

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Worth More than Rubies | Proverbs 31 Series

My mother’s favorite passage of scripture when it came to teaching my sister and me about being women of God was Proverbs 31:10-31.  I am always amazed at how we can read the same passages of scripture in different seasons throughout our lives and have it speak to us in various ways as we pass from one stage to another.

At one time in our lives, these verses were just preparation verses for the kind of women and wives we were to be. We were able to put some of the verses into practice that dealt with our character and relationships with society in general, but the verses that dealt with husbands and children needed to be waited on until God brought us into that time.

The verse I have been reflecting on for the last week has been Proverbs 31:10, “An excellent wife who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (NIV) I love the King James Version of this verse, “Who can find a virtuous woman? because her worth is far above rubies.” Rubies are a beautiful, rare gem, making them extremely valuable.

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How can we as women be rubies?

My Mom used to say, “You can walk outside and find rocks and pebbles anywhere, but you can’t just walk outside and find a ruby.” A ruby must be searched for and does not come cheaply.

For unmarried women, this speaks to character. Are you the kind of woman that is a carbon copy of the others around you, or are you someone that sees yourself as being valuable to God and therefore to others as well? Do you conduct yourself with dignity and modesty? In other words, are you living in a way that will not leave you with regret tomorrow or even later in life?

For married women, the question becomes, how can I be an excellent wife? What changes do I need to make to achieve excellence? I am forever working on the last two questions.

If we are ever to grow spiritually, or just in general, we need to constantly ask ourselves those questions. If we don’t, we will stay in a state of status quo and become stagnant as a woman or wife. If we ever believe that we have achieved excellence, we will come across as being prideful and arrogant.

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I know I will never achieve perfection, but I can strive for excellence in everything I do:

  • laundry… and it keeps coming.
  • housekeeping… do you ever feel like you are putting beads on a string without a knot on the end?
  • childrearing… so rewarding, but so demanding if you are choosing to be a proactive parent.
  • cooking… no burned meals.
  • gardening… sigh… that’s just not my thing, but I can keep the Lantana cut back and the bushes looking neat and in order.
  • grocery shopping… keep those coupons coming!

How will you strive for excellence in the place God has put you for now?

Years ago, I heard a lesson which discussed how everything we do can be an act of worship to God. The teacher brought up all of the mundane, everyday chores and responsibilities we as adults, spouses, and/or parents have- mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, washing the laundry, going to work- and how our view of them needs to change.

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We need to see these everyday tasks as an act of reverent worship to God. 

When we look at our homes and the things we do for the people inside them as an act of worship to the Lord, our attitude and outlook changes. We are no longer doing these things because we have to. We begin doing them as a way to honor the Lord.

When we change the focus of Who we are working for, it will automatically change our attitudes towards our homes, husbands, and children to one of worship and excellence.

Excellence in caring for the homes that God has provided for us.

Excellence in caring for the husband He has blessed us with.

Excellence in raising and caring for the children He has entrusted to us.

Dear woman, as you think about this verse today and throughout the week, I would encourage you to think of yourself as a ruby, a treasure, a woman of great value and allow that to be reflected in everything you put your hands to do.

During this series, I am going to challenge you to memorize the entire section of Proverbs 31:10-31. We will only memorize one verse per week, making this challenge doable for us. It will also give us something to meditate on as we ask God to refocus our hearts to become the woman He wants us to be.

This week, memorize Proverbs 31:10.

You can read the other posts in this series here.

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purposeful-dad

Four Tips to Becoming a Purposeful Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Father’s Day!

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

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bible-books-for-kids

10 of Our Favorite Bible Books and Devotionals for Kids

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

We live in a state of moral decline- a society where there is no absolute truth. A society that has blurred the lines between right and wrong. A world where we have shaved the corners off the truth so much in an effort to give the truth without hurt that it no longer resembles itself.

But, dear parents, we can change that.

And it starts in our homes with the children God has given us.

Experts recommend that we as parents read to our children for a minimum of 20 minutes each day.  What if we, as mommas (and dads), took even a portion of those 20 minutes and used them to read God’s Word to our children?

10 minutes each day for 6 days would mean that you could spend an entire hour reading God’s Word with your children in less than a week. Now if we assume that you could read to your children 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for 52 weeks (approximately 1 year), you will have spent 52 hours teaching God’s Word to those most precious to you.

Those readings can lead to amazing conversations between you and your child. Those conversations can lead to strong  foundations in faith being laid, personal convictions being shared, understanding the whys of their beliefs, and Biblical principles of behavior can be taught.

We cannot change the moral decline of our nation on our own, but God can use us as we start setting the next generation on the right track here at home.

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When Do I read to them?

We try to have a devotional time together (the kids and me) in the morning before we begin our day, but sometimes mornings are a rush to get out of the house. Brian has also wanted to be an active part in the spiritual training of our children, especially Ian, and mornings don’t work for him at all. So we have begun taking some time in the evenings- he reads to and teaches Ian, and I read to and teach Addie.

There is no right or wrong time to read God’s Word with your children. You only need to find a time that works within the four walls of your home with your people.

Where do I start?

Over the years I have come across so many wonderful children’s Bibles, devotionals, or Bible story books, which I have used with my own children. Although this list does not come close to covering all of the books we have used, these books featured in this list are some of my favorites.

The List

Both of my children began with the See with Me Bible: The Bible Told in Pictures by Dennis Jones. Each story is told through illustrations, not words. After reading through the See with Me Bible with them a couple of times, my children were able to retell the Bible stories on their own. This then became the Bible they used to start them in the practice of personal morning devotions.

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Currently, Life Lessons from the Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop and Susan Henson is the devotional Addie and I are using in the evenings. We have already read the book together, and this devotional serves as a companion. The devotionals begin with salvation and move on to moral purity and purity in our relationships. An important lesson to teach early and repeat often.

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Although we have not begun this one with Ian yet, Life Lessons from the Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop and Susan Henson is the male equivalent of The Princess and the Kiss. We have read the accompanying book to him multiple times, and we will continue to do so before the time comes to begin this Bible study with him. This study deals with keeping God’s Word front and center in the lives of our sons in order to keep them from temptation. 

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What would Jesus Do? by Helen Haidle is an oldie but a goodie. We have been working our way through it in the mornings for a couple of months now. Each very short chapter leaves off with a question or two of personal reflection and a verse. Sometimes the reference to the passage alluded to in the story is put at the very end of the chapter. When it is, we spend the time to look it up.

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Addie has been using Veggie Tales: 365 Bedtime Devos for Girls as her personal devotions in the mornings. This devotional in designed to take your daughter through an entire year. It is done very much in the style of Our Daily Bread with a verse, a small application, and a prayer. It is a great way to get little girls started on having their own quiet time. There is also a boy’s version of this devotional.

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The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones has to be one of my absolute favorite Bible books for children. From Genesis through the New Testament, the author shows how the story of redemption and salvation is found throughout each account, all pointing to Jesus. Beautiful written and beautifully illustrated, this storybook Bible is a must have for every child’s library.

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My Big Book of Bible Stories: Bible Stories! Favorite Bible Stories Kids Will Want to Read Again and Again!  by Phil A. Smouse is a rhyming Bible storybook. The cartoon-y illustrations are engaging for little eyes, and the rhymes are fun to read. Read here for a more in-depth review.

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 My First Hands-On Bible by Group Publishing and Tyndale is a series of excerpts teaching children the main Sunday-school Bible accounts using the New Living Translation. Sprinkled among the verses are little handprints. These handprints indicate a hands-on activity for the children to do which makes the account come alive and more memorable to little ones. None of the activities are labor intensive for Mom or Dad (one might be to count all of the stars in the illustration or march around the room). Both of my children have loved this Bible. I like that we are reading Scripture with fun activities mixed in.

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Around the time that Ian came along, Brian took over the evening Bible reading for Addie. He used the Little Girls Bible for Fathers and Daughters by Carolyn Larsen. The format is laid out beautifully and it allows for a father and daughter to connect over stories from his childhood. I remember Brian reading the topic ahead of time so he could think about which story he wanted to share. Each story from dad relates to the lesson taught in the day’s devotional. There are many others in this series- mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and fathers and sons.

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If you have read any of my reviews on the Love Letters from God series, you know I am a big Glenys Nellist fan.  Each of her four “Love Letters” books takes children through a beautifully written retelling of a Bible story or Bible character. Each story comes with a beautifully written “letter from God” which is actually Scripture that has been paraphrased and put together in a letter form. Each page is beautifully illustrated and endearing.

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Teaching our children about the Lord is not as hard as it sounds. If you commit to ten minutes a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for the next 10 years, you will have put 520 hours of Biblical truth into your children, and they can turn this world upside down! (Acts 17:6)

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evening-routine

Year of the Purposeful Woman: The Evening Routine

Do you ever wake up in the morning wishing you had gotten some of your tasks done the night before?

It is so easy to have that hindsight regret. But by establishing an evening routine, you can easily avoid having rough mornings and instead set sail into your day smoothly.

Establishing an evening routine is not as easy as it sounds. You’re tired. You’ve just completed a long day. You want to put your feet up and just rest.

But by disciplining yourself to establish and stick with your evening routine, in time, your evenings will be something you look forward to and not dread.

My evening consists of two things that help set the stage for my day- planning and setting up.

Planning entails looking over the calendar/planner and seeing what my day will consist of and having a mental idea of what dinner will be and how early I will need to prepare or start it.

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A good day starts the night before

There are several reasons why planning the night before is key to having a good day.

  1. You are too tired to be unrealistic– You have just completed your day. You are too tired to make unrealistic demands of yourself. Keep your “must do’s” limited to three items that can realistically be done with the amount of time your day will afford you.
  2. When you wake up you know what to expect… for the most part. Do you have a dentist appointment scheduled for your kids? Is there an important meeting you need to be at? Is tomorrow a day you can just relax and stay home? Having looked at your calendar the night before gives you a heads up on what to expect the next day. But keep in mind that the best laid plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice. A call from school. An emergency doctor’s appointment. You son jumping on the bed… (true story…)

Going over your plan for tomorrow is not enough to make your day run smoothly, though. By doing some of the leg work in the evening, you will save yourself some steps in the morning.

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Some ideas for setting up your day can be some or all of the following:

  1. Lay out clothes for you and the kids- By laying out the clothes down to the socks and shoes, I know that we have everything we need in the morning. Have you ever spent ten minutes looking for that one lost shoe in the back of your daughter’s closet? So have I, which is why I began laying every item out. The time and sanity it saved us on busy mornings was priceless.
  2. Quick clean (make sure the main part of your home is in order/ not a time for deep cleaning)– Taking a few minutes to pick up your main living area will go far in your attitude in the morning.
  3. Clean the kitchen (dishes in dishwasher, counters wiped down)– I love waking up to a cleaned up kitchen. Admittedly there is usually a coffee mug or two in the sink and a pot from my husband making popcorn as a snack, but otherwise, clear counters and a dishwasher filled with clean dishes greet me in the morning. Waking up to clean yesterday’s mess is no fun for anyone, so take a few minutes before putting your feet up to make your kitchen greet you with a smile.
  4. Prep the coffee pot- The sound of a nice, hot pot of coffee percolating in the morning is enough to make anyone smile before they even open their eyes. For me, a mom who has learned to hear every sound in the house while asleep, waking up to the sound of my coffee pot is so much nicer than hearing the annoying BEEP BEEP of the alarm. And because it has such a soft sound, it doesn’t wake my husband at all. It is also helpful on those busy mornings when we all need to be out of the house by 8 o’clock to not have to remember to do one more thing and make the coffee.
  5. Prep all lunches- Are you making sandwiches for lunch? Is it something that won’t leave the bread soggy? Can you set all lunch box snacks on the counter or in the boxes for easy packing in the morning?

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Mornings are hard. Having an evening routine can make your morning easier. Be sure to give yourself time and extra grace as you work on establishing a routine that works for you and yours. You will be glad you did.

To read more in this series:

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books

Books For the Purposeful Mom

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It was time for the kids’ dental checkup and cleaning. We sat in the crowded waiting room- daughter at my side, son on my lap.

Because I have gotten through a few books from my list to read this year and am currently on my next book, Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, I was encouraged and determined not to take out my phone to check my texts, Facebook, or Instagram feeds.

Instead, we just sat there. Me with my daughter at my side and son on my lap.

But then it dawned on me. I might as well just pull out my phone. I’m not interacting with my children at all! The only difference between me and every other parent in this room is that  I don’t have my phone in hand.

Our first influence as believers should always be God’s Word, the Bible, but he also has given others wisdom to share with us- not inspired wisdom, but useful wisdom. Because of the books I have chosen to read this year, my thoughts and actions have lined up more towards being  purposeful. I have gathered fantastic ideas that I keep in my mommy-mental arsenal that I can reach for at a moment’s notice.

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“I spy something red,” I said.

Both kids went from a slightly slumped position to sitting at attention, giving the room an instant visual scan.

“Is it on the wall?”

“Yes,” I answered, fixing my eyes on the beach ball painted in the center of the beach mural on the accent wall.

For 30 minutes, we played “I Spy.” We laughed that we had looked past the green sign that had been spied on the glass door to the green walls beyond, groaned at not being able to see the obvious orange piece of paper on the floor, and called a “give up” when we thought we named everything in a given color.

If you are looking for a book or two to help you be a more purposeful mom, here are some of my personal recommendations.

Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! by Rachel Macy Stafford.

books I have been able to relate to every word Rachel has written, and I am finding myself laying my phone down for longer periods of time. In this world of technology we live in, it is important for us to be reminded of the value of the real over the virtual.

On of the best things about Rachel is her ability to make her time with her two daughters meaningful while being a full-time working wife and mother.

Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford.

booksThe sequel to Hands Free Mama, is next on my list. Since I was given a bookstore gift card for Christmas, I knew this had to be added to my “Must Read List” this year.

Rachel also has a brand new book out, Only Love Today, which I cannot wait to get my hands on.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.

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This book really moved me in a way that many books haven’t. When you find yourself always being pulled in different directions, it can be hard to be present in anything you do. Shauna is very real about her own personal situation and how pulled and frazzled she felt, and what she needed to do in order to be present with her family instead of saying “yes” to every opportunity that came her way.

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner.

booksOur time is always being taken away from us. Whether we work outside of the home or we are stay-at-home-moms, everyone wants to get their hands on any little bit of spare time we have. We feel like we are always on the go and there is never any time for us to just stop, slow down, and put our feet up. After hearing Erin Loechner speak about her book on a podcast, I knew I needed to add this book to my “Must Read List.”

Erin wrote this book, not as someone who has found the formula and has arrived, but as someone who recognized how fast life was going and decided to chronicle her journey to slow down.

The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson.

booksSally Clarkson goes through the calendar year and gives moms ideas to focus on each month. Not necessarily how to make each holiday “the best one ever,” but how to focus on one aspect of each family member’s needs one month at a time and how to make home feel like home each month.

Each author definitely has their own distinct style, which I like. Each author speaks from their own experiences, giving them the credibility to speak on their topic. Each author focuses on a different area of focus.  And in their own ways, each author has encouraged me in my journey to be more purposeful with my family.

Are there any books you are reading which have helped you approach life in a more purposeful way?

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For This I Pray

 

Raising children is an enormous responsibility.

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

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

Prayer.

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

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

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

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

She prayed for us.

She prayed for our future husbands when we were single.

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

She prayed for God’s direction in my life.

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

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

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

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For this I pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Potty Training and Weight Loss

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Luke 16:10a NLT

Don’t let the title of this post confuse you. I don’t have a new formula for weight loss that’s connected to the task of potty training  your child…

Yes, I know there are many weight loss fads out there… But, believe me, this is not one of them.

What I have found, however, is a connection between the two that I thought might be of some encouragement to you all.

Potty training was once described to me by another mom I met as “one of the hardest things” she’d ever done. And while it may seem like an exaggerated statement, it’s amazing how many things in life that we can view that way…

I know when it came to the idea of potty training, I could only imagine how difficult it would be.

And so……What did I do?

I. PUT. IT. OFF.

While it was encouraging to know that other moms agreed that boys often take longer to learn to go potty than girls, at a certain point I realized….

It was finally time to stop putting off this responsibility and actually begin intentionally working on it with my son.

“Stay home with your son for three days straight, work on it intensely, and it will be a done deal.”

It’s a strategy that’s worked for many moms and one I’ve heard from some of my amazing mom friends that I respect and admire.

Um…. But there was just one problem…

I’m not the kind of mom who “can” stay at home three days straight and work on it.

I like to go to the gym and run errands most days. It’s just not in my nature to hunker down three days back-to-back for potty training “boot camp”.

So, then… What’s a mom like me to do?

Hm…. I needed a different approach.

But what?

Although we may not always hear an audible voice of God telling us what to do, you want to know something… He does speak to our hearts if we’re listening.

And what I felt He was saying to me was this…

“Just begin working on it when you can. Work on it when you ARE home.” (Basically, “do the possible”.)

Hmmmm….. That I could do!

With this approach, I didn’t have to rearrange my life to mimic someone else’s success story in potty training. I could simply do what was possible for me!

And, you know what! That’s the case with many things in life as well.

Yes, at first glance many things may seem like they will be “the hardest things we’ve ever done.” The tasks ahead seem so BIG and daunting…

And yet, I believe all that the Lord wants from us is a willing heart and for us to simply do what IS POSSIBLE.

Around 2007, I weighed close to 160 pounds…. And oh… how I hate looking at pictures of myself from that time.

But you know, what? I didn’t stay that way.

Why not….?

Because I decided to take the small steps toward seeing change in my life…

I chose to do the possible.

And guess what… I was able to lose about 40 of those pounds by my wedding in 2010. (Maybe, at some point I’ll share a blog post with before and after photos, but not today…You’ll just have to keep reading the blog and stay tuned for that..)

Did the weight drop off suddenly?

It was a process. But little steps led to bigger ones.

I simply started by running around the house for exercise and eating healthier.

Over time, I added in more exericse, and then finally joined a gym where I was able to get some advice and a helpful plan from a trainer.

Yes, it took time and effort to drop the weight I wanted to lose, but little by little the pounds came off.

God gave me the will power and a path for success. Success fed on itself, and seeing my transformation and my dreams become a reality propelled me to continue on.

Oh… We all want the end results. We want our kids to be able to go potty independently, and we would all love to be the best version of ourselves that we know is possible.

But it all has to start somewhere.

No, you don’t have to copy someone else’s path to success…although sometimes, those paths can be of help.

You simply need to have the willingness to say “yes” to the vision God gives you and do what is possible for you day by day.

Will it take time? Yes.

Will it require more intention and dedication? Yes and yes.

But if the change you desire means that much to you… You will take the necessary steps- however small they may be- to achieve the goals and dreams you want to reach.

Yes, friends…. “The hardest things in life” really are possible to achieve.

And it’s following God’s leading, taking those small steps, and remaining faithful in the process that is the best place to begin.

Needs: Theirs, Mine, and (H)ours

Imagine that you are running a 5K.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

1. Put God first

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

2. Evaluate your responsibilities for the day

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

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

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

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4. Break up your day into thirds

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

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

For example, my list yesterday looked like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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