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Why i write about the good stuff

Writing only the good stuff

**The following is not a plea for pity.  The note I received from a reader was kindly written and received without offense.  I’m sharing a snippet of it here, with permission, because I believe it’s worth addressing.**

Here is what she said:

“While I believe you have a knack for writing, I’m bothered that your stories always have a happy ending.  What about those of us who don’t get to the happy part for any number of reasons?  What you mean for encouragement is somehow discouraging to me since life in my home rarely looks like what it seems to in yours.”

Herein lies the danger of the internet.  We only see what we’re shown.  You only read what I write.

You can’t possibly know how very real my life is.  You couldn’t begin to imagine how different it probably is in my home than it appears in my feed.  You can’t know because I don’t come here to saddle you with my burdens but to encourage you in yours.

Because, yes, real life is filled with failures.  It’s full of falling downs and not wanting to get back ups.  It’s all part of the revised plan and has been since sin was first introduced.

We’re all wading through the same mud.  It’s deep and it’s slippery and it doesn’t even have to be raining for us to suddenly realize we’re knee-deep in a heap of it.

If you took an honest peek in my home you’d find toddlers having meltdowns, girls spouting tears for no conceivable reason, boys with way too much testosterone, teens with mood swings to rival any PMS out there, and a baby who clearly believes it’s child abuse if he’s not being held.  Every single day carries its own struggles and trials and moments where I want to throw in the towel.  Some days even find me melting in my own tears as I lament to my husband how we’re ruining our children.

Graceful mothering at its best, right?  Obviously, no.  But there’s more to the story.  And if we stop reading we’ll never get to the good stuff.

Sadly, we’re so much better at wallowing in the bad stuff.

I use this space to write largely of the victories because that is where my heart thrives and grows.  When I slow down enough to take notice of how God is at work, my faith sprouts and begins to blossom.  Enduring the rough patches is simply the process of weeding out snares before they can take root.  And if I’m faithful to weed, dirty and sweaty as the job may be, I can count on Him to water and provide the light necessary for good growth.

But if I’m so busy moaning about the weeds they’ll never get weeded.

Not long ago my daughter wrote me a note that said…I’m becoming a jerk and I don’t know what to do. I’m no different than any other mother in that I don’t want to hear my little girl is becoming a jerk.   But the Lord was giving her a glimpse of her own soiled character and injecting her with a desire for change.  That, my friends, is a victory.  And it’s the kind of victory that opens the door to more victories.

I can choose to stew over the fact that my little girl is hyper-sensitive or too quick to cry or a bit hard on her younger sister.  Or I can choose to celebrate the fact that she is seeking after change.  That her heart yearns for cleansing.  That she’s reaching the age at which she has begun to be responsible for her own spiritual condition.

Totally worth celebrating and absolutely counts as a victory.

We all smell suspiciously of mud on occasion.  Whether it’s the art of parenting or marrying or working or resting, we tend to make a mess of it on our own.  Because it was never, ever meant to be done on our own anyway.  Keep reading your story looking for the good stuff and He’ll keep writing it until you find your happy ending, at last!

And please don’t ever be discouraged by anything I write.  Take heart knowing it takes a whole lot of yuck to get to the yum in this house, too.

Let me tell you a story about a very stubborn woman (that would be me!)

Stubborn Woman

I haven’t had much to say around here lately.  I’d like to claim it’s because I’ve been otherwise occupied, but it would be a lie.  Actually, maybe it wouldn’t.  I have been fully occupied by bitterness.

I’ll start at the beginning.  Don’t worry, I’ll edit so it doesn’t get too long.

We moved about 3 1/2 months ago into a house just a town over from the Walton’s Mountain home.  The house wasn’t aesthetically pleasing but it was on a well, could be heated by wood and sat on 15 acres.  This added up to a huge savings in utility expense and a great outdoor space for our active kiddos.

Only we quickly learned the well water was a wreck.  It stunk (let me be clear, it still stinks!!), tasted horrible and discolored our belongings.  It was a dream come true.  I know, I know.  Sarcasm-liness is notnext to godliness.  It’s something I’ve been begging the Lord to help me work on.

We asked the landlord if something might be done about the water situation.  We were (and still are) having to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes.  And apparently our children are a very rare, pale and skinny breed of water buffalo.  Who knew?  The expense was adding up.

The landlord came by with a sandwich baggie and collected a sample from the sink.  She assured me while she was there, that she believed the water to be just fine and that all it likely needed was bleach poured into the well.  This is called a shock.  Believe me, I was shocked.

After two weeks and no word on the sample, we called and asked about it.  She wouldn’t disclose the findings but instructed that we needed to shock the well.  We have our flaws but we’re generally obedient and so we did.

The stink changed to a different kind of stink and our belongings weren’t being as badly discolored.  However, our kids started getting a rash when exposed to the water for more than a few minutes.  This, by the way, is an excellent excuse for a child looking to get out of doing kitchen duty or looking to avoid bathing. We have children of both kinds.

However, being slow to connect the dots between the bleach and the rashes, we shocked the well again two weeks later after being instructed to do so, since the effects of the first had worn off.  I believe I failed to mention that each shock process leaves us without water for 24 hours or more.  I don’t have to tell you how much fun that is with 9 people living here.

Anyway, after the second time we finally made the connection to the bleach being added to the well causing the rashes.  I’m not even going to lie…I was pretty much livid.  I’d struggled through 3 months of dealing with gross water that we weren’t warned about and now this?

Skipping over some details that would bring no glory to God, I’ll just say we received a very unfavorable response to our written request for something to be done about the undisclosed water situation or for our rent to be adjusted to make provision for the additional expense and hardship of dealing with it .  Things swiftly spun out of control as the landlord became more volatile by the day and within little more than a week we were informed we were being evicted

We were being evicted for asking for clean, usable water in our rental house.  Unbelievable.

After our attempts to talk through our differences was met with flat denial, we finally contracted legal counsel in order to protect ourselves from an unjust lawsuit.  That meeting was on Monday of this week.  We’d been beaten (figuratively speaking), badgered, bullied and threatened.  We were exhausted, stressed and angry.

Did I mention we were angry?  Because we were.  But that brings me to this morning.

I woke around 4 am, just before my husband had to leave for his shift at the station.  We’d been dealt another blow last night and we’d had enough.  After talking briefly and saying goodbye, I sat down to my Bible study.  Comfortable with the knowledge that in just a few hours we were contacting our attorney to let her know we would not be caving to the landlord’s demands and that we’d be filing a countersuit if she chose to pursue it, I opened my Bible.

As God would have it, though it wasn’t in the study plan for today, I read 1 Peter 3:9.

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. (KJV)

I began to waver.  Was it possible we were wrong?

We weren’t wrong about the water, of that I was certain.  Whether it was considered a health hazard or not, it was not clean or usable and that is a basic right of a tenant.  At the very least we had the right to be warned of those conditions before being bound by a lease.  What could we be wrong about?

Determined to assure myself of our rightness, I dared to type into the google search bar the following:  is it ever right for a Christian to sue?

And up popped good ol’ John Piper with a video, not just on lawsuits, but offering an example of people who had bought a house with undisclosed issues.  I’m not even terribly familiar with Piper but I nearly cried watching the video because it was so very much like God was speaking directly to me.  Wait a minute, let me rephrase that.  God was speaking to me as He lead my morning study into areas I hadn’t intended.  And I felt Him asking, “Why aren’t you willing to be wronged?”

My husband called when he reached work and we talked about it. He agreed that we needed to proceed as Christ would have us rather than as our emotions were beginning to lead.

We will not be having this go through the courts.  We will pack our belongings and move all 9 plus 1 of us out of here.  We will leave the house in excellent, better than we found it condition.  We won’t stand and fight for a home that can’t meet our needs anyway.  We surrender.  We’re over here waving the white flag.  Not because we’re weak but because He is strong.

He’s strong enough to find us a new home and provide us with the money we need to secure it.  He’s strong enough to help us through a separation as the children and I likely head to another state to stay with family as my husband remains here for work.  He’s strong enough to get me through the rest of this pregnancy even under such circumstances.

But mostly, He’s strong enough to use this situation to work for good in the life of a woman who may not know Him.  And He’s strong enough to help us walk away, pride in check and heads held high as we extend forgiveness and trust that He has a plan.  A really, really good one.

This is the prayer I wrote in my journal this morning.  I share in case any of you are needing to be emptied of pride or bitterness.

Dear Lord,

I am a prideful, sinful woman.  I am filled with a bitterness I don’t even recognize.  I anger easily and want my way.  Subdue me.  Save me from myself.  Give me a desire to be more, better.  Equip me with a heart for that which is right and empty me of this darkness that has me chasing down my rights.  Help me learn to be willing to be wronged and teach me to be able to return evil with kindness.  Thank you for not discarding me, as I do others when I can’t find the good in them.  Amen.

How to be good guests as a large family –or any family–

Perhaps you’ve picked up on the fact that it’s generally unpopular to have more than 2 or 3 children.  Maybe you’ve noticed that one handful is considered a little crazy but once you start working on that second handful (or beyond) you’re most likely thought insane.

I’ve noticed it, too.

I’ve heard all the jokes.  I’ve endured the stares.  I’ve filed away the advice.  I’ve tuned out the lectures.

Dinner with house guests

But then I started to think.  Do we give people a reason to think twice before inviting us to their home? Probably we have.  But there are some things we do in order to avoid giving them reason to fear us.  Here are a few:

  • Bring something.  If you are invited for a meal, ask what you can bring.  Most of the time, you’ll be given an idea for a small something that will tie nicely in with the meal plan.  It’s fine to bring something extra but do try to bring the suggested item.  Bringing flowers never hurt either.  Or chocolate.
  • Bring enough.  If you are asked to provide the drinks and there will be 12 people present, don’t bring one bottle of juicy-juice.  Select something everyone is likely to enjoy and bring plenty.  If you are joining in a potluck, a good rule of thumb is to bring enough for your family, plus 4.  Another good rule of thumb is to warn your family against piling their plates until they resemble pig troughs.  Just a suggestion.
  • Don’t show up looking like the People of Walmart.  We all have our casual comfies we tend to wear around the house.  But in most cases, those just aren’t going to fit the bill for visiting.  Pull out the good stuff.  If you’re like me and don’t have much of the good stuff, wear your best appropriate for the situation clothing and throw on your very best smile.  It’s called accessorizing and it’s free.
  • Don’t act like you live there.  Be comfortable and at ease but don’t take the place over.  Don’t raid the fridge or dig through the cupboards.  Don’t let your kids wander around, breaking into bedrooms and tearing out toys.  You don’t live there.  Neither do your kids.  Wait to be invited to partake of food or play.  And for the sake of all that’s good, do not go into the bathroom and lock the door for an hour in order to hide from your kids.  Wait until your home to do that.
  • Clean up after yourselves.  If you sleep in a bed, make it.  If you have a glass of water, don’t leave it lying around.  If your kids play with toys, be sure they clean them up.  And not by shoving them under the couch.  Obviously, but seriously.  I won’t tell you why I felt the need to add that part.
  • Help with the meals.  You are extra people creating extra work.  A hostess assumes the responsibility of seeing to the needs of her guests.  A guest should assume the responsibility of making sure that doesn’t become a burden on the hostess.
  • Maintain a measure of quiet.  No hostess wants her guests stressed over every peep little Johnny makes.  But neither does she want her guests to allow little Johnny to shriek, scream and wail with abandon for hours on end.  Use good judgement and step in when necessary.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome.  As much as our families and friends love us, they also love the routine of their days. Plan ahead of time how long your visit will be, ensure it’s suitable for your hosts and then stick to it.  If you ever hope for a follow-up invite, do not pass over this important rule.
  • Be gracious.  Period.

We need to ban together and create a new perception of family, big or small.  And we need to be sure we aren’t feeding the negative vibe being thrown off by those not sold on the idea that it’s okay to have a handful.  Or two.

What am I missing?  Add your thoughts in the comments.

How to write so people read what you’re writing (& the link-up)

One of the most common afflictions the just-getting-started blogger experiences is the feeling that nobody is paying attention when they write.  And I can tell you from experience, it’s discouraging when you pour yourself out only to end up feeling like nobody much cares.

I don’t have the corner on the market by any stretch.  I could show you my daily or weekly stats and some of you would want to know more while many others would ask themselves why I’m writing a post with this title in the first place.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Here’s my best advice…

Blogging tips

1. Write what you know.  And write it well.  Meaning proofread for grammatical mishaps and spelling errors.

2. Don’t post every day.  In most cases (there are exceptions, as with everything) it’ll only hurt your traffic.  People are busy and even if they are subscribed to your blog, they can rarely cyber-visit you on a daily basis.  Too much content leaves some of your best content buried under the filler.

3. Use a conversational tone.  Blogging is generally a rather casual form of writing.  And blog readers are typically in a casual reading frame of mind.  Make them feel like they’re chatting with an old friend and they might even show up with cocoa and donuts next time.

4. Write what you live and live what you write.  Broken down, this simply means to be a live-er first and a writer second.  That way you’ll almost always have something fresh to write about and it won’t reek of fraud.

5. Utilize the link-ups.  It can be slow going at first. But every time your blog gets seen you have planted a little seed.  Keep planting.

6. Use titles that accurately represent the post content.  I love a catchy title but I find people are much more likely to swing by if I stick with those which give a true glimpse of what they’ll find if they visit the post.

7.  Make your blog sticky.  Add relevant older links into your new posts, giving readers an opportunity to visit your previous writings.  Consider it free advertising.

8. Be friendly.  Making friends with other bloggers will enhance your blogging experience exponentially.  Probably isn’t a bad idea to be friendly with your readers, either. ;)

9. Give it to God.  All of it.  Even the parts of it you really, really, really want to control.

Any thoughts?  Questions?  Additional ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

Things I wish I knew before I married

Nothing like flying blind, you know?  Bumping along the road toward marital bliss seems so, well, blissful.  Until it isn’t because it won’t be.

Marriage is hard sometimes, plain and simple.

Newly wed couple

And therein lies the problem.  Or at the very least, part of the problem.  We expect what isn’t and what is totally isn’t what we were expecting.  Confused?  If not, then you’re probably already married.

There are things I wish I knew about men, husbands, before I ever uttered that little word yes.  I still would have said it, mind you, but I would have known better just exactly what I was saying.  Because I would have been saying a whole lot of things I never saw coming.  Like, perhaps…

  • Yes, I will marry your need to internalize.  And I will respect that you think best when you’re left to think until you’ve thought it all through.  I won’t barge in and demand answers you’re not ready to give.
  • Yes, I will marry your desire to be close.  And I’ll cherish the fact that you chose me to be close to.  It doesn’t mean I’ll never have moments where I just want to scream “hands off” to all the grasping hands that chase me through my busy days, but it does mean I’ll think before I scream.  Because if I do that, I’ll never scream at all since I’ll realize how blessed I am to have little hands to need me and your big ones to pursue me.
  • Yes, I will marry your concern over finances.  And I’ll walk beside you as we learn to make them stretch.  I’ll use your hard-earned money with care and caution and will control needless spending that results in extra hours at work.  I will not buy stress and then attempt to make you think it was a good purchase.  I will seek to honor your desire to provide well for our family and not make it harder for you to accomplish than this fast-paced world has already made it.
  • Yes, I will marry your preference to see your clothing hung according to style.  Never mind that my side of the closet will likely always be an explosion of disorganized pieces.  I can and will sacrifice those few extra seconds so that when you walk to the closet and look for something to wear, your mind isn’t assaulted by what you find.
  • Yes, I will marry your inability to multi-task as a mother must.  You are not a mother.  I will be grateful for every free-will offering  you drop into the treasury of our marriage as you seek to lighten my load in the best way you know how.  Sometimes I might laugh a little because you are just so cute trying to fill my role.  But always that laughter will be shared and not slung.
  • Yes, I will marry your need to talk about work.  It’s a part of who you are.  It’s the space in your life you rent out in order to meet our needs.  And it matters.  I care even when I don’t understand entirely.
  • Yes, I will marry your love of trucks.  I may never, ever grasp what you see in them.  I might not get how you can point them out time and again and still be thrilled by what you see.  Nope, I probably never will but I can certainly allow you your frivolous passions.
  • Yes, I will marry your flaws.  All of them.  I won’t promise to love them but I will promise to love you.  I’ll take a step back when they threaten to overwhelm me and I’ll attempt to see you as He does. ..A man with faults but also with a thirst for that which is right.  I won’t try to fix you but I will leave room for Him to work when He decides the time is right.  And I’ll also leave room for Him to fix me since I know all too well how very broken I am.

Wedding bouquet

Because marriage is more than flowery words and warm, fuzzy feelings.  Marriage is choosing to love right through the hard stuff.  It’s making allowance for late bills and unexpected expenses.  For doctor’s visits with a sick child and rocking all night while they burn with fever.  For making mistakes and saying the wrong things and forgiving when you have every reason not to.  For spaghetti splatters and to-do lists that never get done.  For loving with a smile or a hug when there’s no energy for words.

And for saying yes when saying no would be easier.

Tips to Reclaim and Maintain Your Home

Maintaining your home

Our plates are full, right?  Life in this modern day just feels busy even when we go to great lengths to un-busy ourselves.  The last thing we need is to feel guilty that our homes aren’t clean enough.  It isn’t even important in the overall scheme of things.

Or is it?

Think for just a second and try to recall if you’ve ever heard somebody sit in there own home and mutter, “Ack, this place is so organized I can’t think.  All this neat and tidy-ness is just too much…I gotta get out of here.”  Probably not.  But you may have heard, “I cannot stand this clutter.  I try to clean one room and the kids go behind me and destroy it again.  I don’t know why I even bother!”

And let me tell you, the kind of stress brought forth by living in a messy house is the kind of stress that will affect you.  Your kids.  Your husband.  Even if you make excuses like I’m too busy playing with the kids to be bothered or There are more important things in life than a clean house.

Because, you see, playing with the kids is right and good.  Spending time with people is so much more important than spending time on things.  So save yourself.  It’s not as hard as you might think.

Reclaiming Your Home

During the pioneer era families could pile all their belongings on the back of a covered wagon while still leaving room for children to travel  in it.  They were minimalists by necessity.  We can be minimalists by choice.  It shouldn’t be necessary to rent the largest u-haul available and then still have stuff left over.  Even with a large family.

Here are some simple ways to reduce your load.  Inhale deeply and exhale slowly.  You can do this.

  • Start by learning to fit in your house.  Got a tiny home?  Perfect.  That puts you ahead of the game.  Go into your kitchen and really consider what you need and what is just taking up space.  How many baking dishes do you use at a time?  If you’ve got 10 and you only ever employ 2 simultaneously, donate the other 8.  Likewise, go through each item in your kitchen and weed out the excess.  And then move onto the next room.  Be brutal.  It’s the kind of pain that feels good in the end.
  • Tackle the toys.  Kids these days tend to have an abundance of them but often they only actually play with a select few.  Enlist the support of each child and have them choose their very favorites.  Explain to them how important it is to learn to take care of their belongings and how much easier a task that is when there are fewer of them.  Encourage them to consider sharing the non-favorites with children who have little.  Maybe some things they could even sell to earn a bit of extra money.  Either way, don’t be brutal here.  Give them a chance to make the right decisions.  I’ve had my children come to me a week or so later with a bag full of things they decided they didn’t need after all.
  • Books.  Oh boy.  This is where things get touchy.  People are very protective of their books.  And if there is one item I’d be more reluctant to push somebody to part with, it would be this.  Even so, most of us have books lining our shelves that we never touch and that have no meaning to us.  We keep them because they’re so pretty.  Or they smell so good.  Seriously.  We have some strange reasons for clinging to books we never look at.  Coerce yourself to part ways with those.  Reward yourself with chocolate.
  • Decorative items, better known as knick-knacks.  Ahhh, why do we do this to ourselves?  We clutter our shelves and those beautiful bookcases with little trinkets, many of which are meaningless and of zero value.  The take up space and most are just visual clutter.  You would be amazed at how much more neat and organized a home looks without so many of these.  Of course, I’m not telling you to get rid of your great-grandmother’s China doll.  I’m just trying to help you take a look at your possessions through new eyes so you can begin to fit in your home.
  • Clothing.  Don’t even get me started here.  I’ll bite my tongue and just say to pare down.  Weed out.  Get rid of.  Donate.  But don’t keep clothes that don’t (or shouldn’t) get worn.  I have a limited wardrobe and a tight budget and even I have too much.  PS.  You don’t have to wash, dry or put away clothing you don’t have.
  • What about those items that are stored away?  Good question.  What about them?  Why are you keeping them?  I know there are all sorts of reasons for hanging onto something you never use but most of them aren’t good ones.  If you have a good reason, don’t let me stand in your way.  But if your good reason-less, get it out of there.

Maintaining Your Home

By standard deduction less stuff equals less work.  It also means less stress, clutter and mess.  It means when the kids go behind you after you clean a room, there won’t be nearly so much damage they can do.  Even so, their are maintenance dues that will need to be paid and it works best if you pay them often.  Like daily.

  • If you use it put it back.  That’s pretty elementary but it’s also invaluable.  Requiring it of yourself makes it so much easier to require it of your children.
  • Assign jobs.  Or chores.  Or whatever you want to call them (we call them zones and I share about ours here) but lay out your expectations.  Train your children (and yourself) how to do each task well and then hold them accountable for the responsibility they’ve been given.  Again, a pretty basic and time-honored concept but many of us are missing this crucial step.
  • Don’t bring more clutter into your home.  Are you a yard saler or a thrift shopper?  This can be very economical.  But it also can contribute to the problem.  Make a pact with yourself that you will not purchase (or grab just because it’s free) any item that will not carry its own weight.  If you know you will serve the item more than it will serve you, back away slowly with your hands up.
  • Do the dishes after the meal.  Sounds like a given, huh?  I’m throwing it out there in case you needed to be reminded that dirty dishes take less time when you do them before the food crusts on.  We don’t have a dishwasher but we divide up kitchen duty amongst ourselves so nobody burns out.
  • Clean your fridge.  This just makes having to open that door so much less scary.  Here is an excellent tutorial if you feel a bit paralyzed by the thought of doing this thoroughly.
  • Make your beds.  The simple action of doing so spawns various other little actions that result in the whole room being tidier.
  • Assign certain bigger jobs for specific days.  Like for instance, scrub the floors on Wednesday.  Or wash the windows on Friday.  Obviously, you’ll know which jobs don’t need done everyday but would benefit from having an assigned day to get completed.  I’m a total rebel and if I say I’m going to wipe down the baseboards on Tuesday, I’ll end up doing it on Monday.  So don’t fret…your house can be maintained even if following a schedule isn’t your gift.
  • Do laundry every day.  I’m a big believer in this.  However, I also find myself to be a big believer in letting the clean clothes sit in baskets.  Anyone know of an article to help someone with a problem like mine?

So let me say it again…a clean, tidy, organized home is not the most important thing in this life.  Not even close.  But it is important.  You aren’t me (Hey, I saw you hit your knees in gratitude!) and won’t manage your home, kids and clutter in the same way I do and that’s perfectly fine.  Just be sure you manage it so it doesn’t manage you.

Got tips or tricks?  Please share!

Why I Celebrate Christmas {even as a Christian}

Kids with Santa Claus

You know, the thing about opinions is that everyone is entitled to their own.  And the thing about perspective is that it can shift in the fragment of a moment.  I have both an opinion and a perspective and they have colored my Christmas experience in various hues throughout the years.

Growing up, money was a precious commodity that didn’t come easily.  We had enough, but sometimes just barely.  We lived through winters with little heat in our home.  Sometimes there was none at all.  We survived.  And every year when Christmas rolled around, somehow gifts managed to be arranged under a tree for us.  The season wasn’t about Jesus back then.  Not for us, anyway.  But it was about love.

When I married and had children of my own, Christmas evolved for me.  My perspective shifted a bit.  It was no longer about getting gifts, but giving them.  Living on a modest income with little leftover, random gifts just didn’t happen.  And because my childhood was filled with memories of being “loved on” each Christmas, no matter how hard the times, I wanted to share one day out of the year with my kids where they felt a little pampered.  Spoiled even.  Still, Christmas wasn’t really about Jesus.  Not for us.  We sang the songs and read the stories, but all that was just to add to the experience.  This life is a journey, right?  Well, my journey has been a slow one.

I’m not sure when it happened or why.  But very gradually the God I was getting to know began to seem real.  And that manger scene…it became something more than a sweet story.  The “Christmas Story” was no longer about an untouchable girl named Mary traveling with her betrothed to a far off city where she gave birth to the Christ child in the crudest of places.

It became about the very One who spoke me into existence, coming here to save me.  Me.  ME.  The same girl who never really needed Him.  The girl who was too tired or busy or grumpy to take time to go out to meet Him.  The girl who’d been carried through every rough patch in life and then secretly gave herself credit for being strong, brave and true.  I was none of things and He knew it.  Yet He came for me anyway.

Christmas had been re-birthed in the heart of a very grateful young mother.  One who’d caught a glimpse of her nothingness.

I still give gifts at Christmas.  I still have a tree and lights and cookies.  And I know the date on which we celebrate isn’t His actual birthday and that we were never told to commemorate the occasion.  I know there’s a less-than-lovely history associated with December 25 but I also know He knows that isn’t what I’m celebrating at all.

I’m embracing a season where the world is a little softer.  I smile when I see cars lined up to travel slowly through a humble, little park to see lights that have been arranged by careful hands.  I listen to my own kids squeal as those lights twinkle.  I revel in the wonder of strangers being kind without provocation.  There’s just something in the air and they feel it and it changes them.  I delight to hear a small group of men on the back of a float singing praise to the King during the town parade…and I’m warmed as I hear the onlookers shout their approval!  That just doesn’t happen everyday.  Especially not in a nation who fancies itself offended at the mention of His name.

So you see, I still have an opinion about Christmas though my perspective has changed.  Some might say I’m letting the world seep into my view.  And I have absolute respect for those who feel led by a different perspective.  I simply say that if we each allow ourselves to be led by that Star, our paths may look different but we’ll end up in the right place.  And that, after all, is what matters!

Do you celebrate Christmas?  Why or why not?

DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE! {Slaying the ((Screaming Mom)) Dragon}

Mom screaming at kids using megaphone

Well now, if you’ve been parenting long enough for the newness to have worn off you’ve likely been there.  I know I have.  People call them all sorts of things in jest:  ankle biters, curtain climbers, monsters, little heathens.  I like to call them children.  And I try to call them softly, though it’s a decision and not a natural tendency.

Because if we’re going to talk straight, most of us would admit it’s easier to just yell.  Skipping right over all that calling for the heart mumbo jumbo just gets the job done a little quicker.  They’ll be time for mending bridges later.  Like when they’re really sleepy.  Or sick.

But seriously, how often do we stop to consider the way we’d respond if a person in authority over us was to resort to bullying or screaming to elicit a particular response from us?

Just imagine Jane in the workplace.  Her boss isn’t terribly patient.  But he’s okay with that because he’s just accepted the fact that patience isn’t a quality the Lord meted out to him in great measure.  Why try to rewrite the script when you can utilize the strengths you do have?  And so when he notices Jane is off her game one morning, he just goes with what comes naturally and lays into her.

“Hurry up, would you?  I told you I needed that portfolio by 10am and it’s five after.  You’re making me late and that really makes me mad.  I want you to have it completed and in my hand in 10 seconds or…DON’T YOU GIVE ME THAT LOOK!  Don’t you know it’s me who writes your paycheck?  You should just be grateful you have a job.  No, no, I don’t want to hear about your mother dying or your little boy who is sick again.  You think I haven’t noticed how you’ve drained your bank of sick time?  There is simply no excuse.  You’re down to five seconds, by the way.  5..4..3……”

Beaten down and battered, Jane might manage to get that portfolio into her taskmasters hand before he finishes his countdown but the whole situation is still a bust.  He’s killed a little part of her that will be very hard to resurrect.  And it’s the part of her that wants to please him for the sake of pleasing him.  The part that puts forth her best effort out of respect and the desire to do what is right and good.  He has, however, kindled a fire under her inner rebel and that fire will rage with each subsequent verbal thrashing.

What we do to our children when we resort to yelling for discipline is very much the same.  They might obey, but not likely and not well.  Or at the very least, not for the right reasons.

But wait, I see you over there rolling your eyes.  Another self-righteous mom telling me I need to stop yelling at my kids.  Blah, blah, blah.  Why won’t somebody tell me how to stop yelling.  I come from a long line of yellers.  If a body were to believe in generational sins, this would surely be one of them!

I get it.  Honest, I do.  I’d have to admit I’m a yeller by nature.  Maybe even by genetics.  Who knows.  But really, who cares?  It matters not so much why but what I’m going to do about it.  And here’s what I do.

I start my day in the Word and in prayer.  No, not everyday.  I’m human and there are days I oversleep or just don’t get up because I can’t seem to force myself.  God doesn’t abandon me on those days but He does ask that I make the effort.  Even a nursing mother can have quiet time with the Lord as she gives suck to her babe.  He doesn’t command a certain posture and He hears the most exhausted and desperate plea.

So I resolutely march into battle (which looks an awful lot like my kitchen) and go face to face with the enemy as he tries to seize my children.  And believe me, there are many, many times in a day where I have to remind myself it really is the enemy I’m fighting and not my precious children.  And because I have zero respect for satan I wouldn’t mind a bit giving him a good tongue lashing.  But I have to remember…always remember…those words will first hit the delicate souls who have been placed in my care.  And so I lower my voice.  Or sometimes I don’t speak at all.

If you can’t be trusted in the moment, take that moment captive in prayer.  Speak not until you’ve been subdued.

Yes, this means my children sometimes don’t get the message immediately.  But usually I will ask them to come sit and I let them wait until it’s safe for me to talk.  If your children haven’t yet been trained to respond to a command like “sit” and they’re slightly out-of-control, don’t despair.  Hope is not lost.  Still, don’t speak–don’t utter a single word–until you can do so in a calm voice that speaks to the heartrather than screaming at the habit.  Behaviors don’t change.  People do.

That first step is the same as the second and every step thereafter.  You train yourself to run to the Lord first and tend to your child after.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

The battle won’t be won in a day.  It might not be won in a year.  But each isolated victory where self (and screaming) is subdued is a stepping stone in the right direction.  And each one of those steps will bring about a true heart change in your child that would never happen otherwise.

Take heart.  You are truly NOT alone.  There are countless screaming moms out there determined to slay the same dragon.  Let’s walk through the Refiner’s Fire together…and let’s bring our children with us.

________________________

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And That’s Why We Choose To Homeschool

Homeschool

You might be surprised to learn I don’t think I’m better than those of you who don’t homeschool.  I don’t fancy myself a godlier mother or one who loves her kids more.  Fact is, I’m simply following in the path I believe the Lord has laid before me.  And while it’s human nature to want to believe we’re the authority on whatever we’re passionate about, I have just enough wisdom to know I’m the authority on pretty much nothing.

And I’ll be honest, I’ve come across some arrogant, self-righteous homeschoolers who’ve left a bad taste in my mouth.  I almost didn’t homeschool because I was so afraid of being lumped in with them.  But fear is never a good reason for not doing something.  Especially something you feel that God is leading you to.

I quickly learned a few things…

  1. All homeschoolers aren’t arrogant.  In fact, most aren’t.
  2. All non-homeschoolers aren’t anti-homeschooling.  I’ve met very few who are.
  3. Homeschooling does not, in and of itself, save your children.
  4. Non-homeschooling does not, in and of itself, destroy your children.

Because here’s the thing:  We’re all kind of a mess in one sense or another.  We’re all in need of a Savior to save us because we just aren’t capable of doing that ourselves.

I homeschool (understand I’m using the word I because I’m the one writing this article but homeschooling is a family affair and my husband and I decided together) because I’m not loving what I’m seeing out there.  As parents, we control the climate of our home but we don’t have that same liberty at a school.  And to be honest, I don’t have the energy or wherewithal to de-program my kids, day after day.

Here’s a few fast facts about my journey…

  • I’m not a good homeschooler.  Just being honest here.  I don’t function well on a schedule.  I despise clutter.  And guess what?  Homeschooling requires a little of both most days.  I just take a deep breath and pretend it doesn’t bother me.  Sometimes it even doesn’t.
  • I’m not organized.  At least not in the way a good teacher might be.  I’ve never sat down at the beginning of the year and written out plans.  I barely have plans at the beginning of the week.  I’m happy if I have a plan at the beginning of the day.  The only reason we don’t sink is because the Lord has blessed me with the ability to perform under fire.  Okay, the real reason we don’t sink is because He makes sure we don’t.  Believe me, without Him we’re sunk.
  • I don’t have time.  Good grief, how could I?  I’m keeping a home and preparing meals and chasing toddlers and crying for a nap.  Yes, sometimes I actually cry for it.  (Yesterday I even got one!)  It just isn’t possible to squeeze enough hours into the day to cover homeschooling 5 unique, individual children with any dignity.  Or is it?  Again, only by the grace of God.  He multiplied the bread and fishes and He does the same with the time I’m willing to dedicate to that which He’s set before me.
  • I’m not a good student.  For truly, I’m just not.  I cheated my way through high school (kids, hide your eyes!) and rarely turned in a math assignment I had completed myself.  For the record, I didn’t cheat on tests.  I tried once and felt so guilty I went and told the teacher.  I’m not sure why I felt it necessary to tell you that, but I feel better now that I have.  I don’t have the gift of retention I see others have.  Others, in this case, being my husband.  He can read it and know it and it just sticks.  I’m not jealous, though.  Honest.

So you see, I don’t homeschool because I’m a natural-born teacher.  (Hang on just a second while my kids stop shrieking in laughter at the thought.)

I homeschool because He’s asked me to.  Right now, in this season of inadequacy and doubt.  There’s nothing at all like embarking on a journey it just seems you weren’t designed for to remind you clearly of your need.  And my need is great.

But so is my love and my desire to raise up children who know and love their Lord.  If we get to the end of this experience and my children are a little less schooled than their peers but they know Jesus intimately and chase after Him with fervor, I will consider it a job well done.  Even when it wasn’t.  And all because of Him!

And That’s Why I’ve Got More Children Than You Think I Should

Setting to know your twins

Wait a sec, let’s start out with a little honesty here.  I actually have more children than I thought I should have, too, so I’m not casting stones.  I’m just throwing back the curtain to expose a few myths that have polluted my childbearing years with guilt and regret.

I began my journey into motherhood 16 years ago this month.  But wait, that’s not true either.  My first child was born 16 years ago and was delivered one day after his due date which means my journey really began 16 years and 9 months ago.  Goodness, where does the time go?

Anyway, my point is I’ve spent more than a decade and a half being drilled on all the reasons why I should stop having children.  Or to be more accurate, I’ve been schooled on all the logic of why I should have stopped several children ago.  It’s good to be enlightened, you know, on the many means of prevention available in this modern-day.  Because any woman worth her salt simply refuses to have more children than is seemly.  Or than can fit nicely into the comfortable lifestyle of choice. And any man with a shred of decency will offer himself up to be surgically altered for the sake of ending the madness.

Unless, of course, you dare to be one of those rebels who believes God still plays a role in the process of conception.  You know, one of the radicals contributing to the overpopulation of the Earth?

Or maybe it’s possible some of them were swept away by the sense of “logic” imposed upon them and tried for all they were worth to keep their family size at a minimum only to have those efforts thwarted.  Because that would be me.

I’ve cried over seeing two pinks lines.  And I’ve done it more than once.  I was a good girl, after all, and swallowed that little pill and went faithfully for that dreadful shot.  Not at the same time, mind you, but neither was effective.  Both landed me with positive pregnancy tests.

And so I’ve lived out my adult life, listening to the jokes and jabs and trying to just laugh right along.  What other choice do I have? Because yes, I know what causes that and yes, I have my hands full andyes, we have other hobbies and no, we’re not trying to get our own TV show.

We humans are so original with our humor, aren’t we?

And then there are those who are genuinely concerned they are paying for our over-sized family.  Because if you have more than 2.4 children you must surely be incapable of supporting them.  The truth is, that isn’t the truth at all.  Allow me to assure you that the Norton Family is not in the finely printed list of deductions from your monthly paycheck.  You won’t see us rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and you will see that we’re well-loved by family who seem to enjoy filling in many of the little wants that might otherwise go unfilled…but otherwise we take care of our own. {No judgement on those who find themselves in a place where they’re utilizing government programs.  Each situation is unique and I’m only living mine.}

Of course, others are concerned for my health.  And in many ways I understand that.  I’ve had a rough go since the birth of my twins and it’s easy to blame that on too many pregnancies.  But the reality is, the issues I’ve struggled with are common among women who have never conceived at all.  It’s always a bummer when the scapegoat gets away, I know.  And I appreciate the love and concern.  But I’m pretty sure the Lord doesn’t make mistakes.

I don’t have too many children and I won’t even if I were to have more.

So when you see my large white van (ain’t she a beauty?) and the passel of sweet cheeks that emerge from its doors, just know that I’ve got more children than you think I should have because He decided it would be so.

And That’s Why I Hold My Husband’s Hand

Couple holding hands

Left to myself, one might never be able to tell the guy who walks beside me is my husband.  Or at the very least they might struggle to know I actually like him.  But I do.  I really, really do.

It just doesn’t occur to me to touch him much.  Maybe it’s because I’m so busy touching and being touched by my kids.  Or that my hands are so often in the dishwater or laundry basket.  I don’t know what it is except sad.

It’s sad because my husband is the exact opposite of me.  For him, a touch is equal to bliss.  Sheer, unadulterated marital delight.  Stress and worry will melt away when I lay a hand on his arm.  He’s just wired like that which makes for really cheap therapy.  Unless the therapist is distracted, that is.

And if you’ve never met me you couldn’t possibly know just how distracted I really am.  If there are crumbs on the counter (seriously, when are there NOT crumbs on the counter) I’m busy swiping at them.  If there are dishes in the sink, I’m busy trying to remember who’s supposed to be doing them.  If there’s a meal to make, I’m busy scrambling to figure out what it’s going to be.  If there’s laundry to sort, I’m busy hiding from it.

I wasn’t blessed with a personality that calmly waits for the next thing.  Relaxing doesn’t come easy to me.  It’s something I have to consciously force myself to do.  This translates well for me as far as my house being clean but the more important things are sometimes left undone.

For instance, my husband being reminded he is loved.

Most moms go to bed at night wondering if they gave enough of themselves to their kids.  Yeah well, I do that, too.  But I also wake up in the morning worried I’ve barely tossed scraps to the man who loves me beyond reason.

Really, how difficult is it to slow down and truly hug him?  Would it be so hard to put the slotted spoon down for a minute and  let the soup simmer without me?  Who cares if it boils over or scorches the pot so long as my people can see my Jesus in the way I love them?

All questions with a very simple, straight-forward answer and yet I get them wrong all the time.  I whiz by my guy, barely noticing how his dark eyes watch me.  Just waiting.  Always just waiting for his turn.

The priority line up is supposed to look like this:  God, Husband, Family, Home.  That means my husband was intended to trump even the kids.  And definitely the dust, dirt and dishes.  We can argue it but we’ll never win.

And for the love of Pete (whoever he is) why would I prefer the company of housework over that of a handsome, doting, forgiving, long-suffering, back rubbing man who not only makes my life easier but fun to boot?  What’s wrong with me anyway?  Feel free NOT to answer that.

So if when you see me holding his hand, you can know three things for certain:

  1. I love him
  2. He loves me back.
  3. It’s totally worth whatever I stopped doing to free that hand so it could be wrapped in his.

Are you making your husband a priority or is this an area where you struggle?  Have the years passed leaving their mark in complacency and neglect?  It’s never too late so long as there is breath.

Dear Survivor of Sexual Abuse

Survivor

Yes, I’m talking to you.  I know the easier thing is not to talk about it but you and I both know that isn’t the best thing.

You’ve stuffed it down for so long, trying to pretend it no longer touches you.  But the truth is it reaches out gnarled hands and grabs you when you’re least expecting it. It drags you down and leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed.  All you want is to cover up so the scars don’t show and the pain doesn’t creep back in.

You married and pledged to give yourself fully to your husband, yet you cannot. Not always anyway.  There are just times when you erect walls you don’t mean to because you feel powerless without them.  He tries hard to understand and to be patient but his idea of working through it is to chip away at the wall when you really need him to live on the other side of it for a moment.  You just need to catch your breath.

But that isn’t marriage and so you feel guilty. Like you’re a bad wife or, at the very least, an incompetent one.  And so you take a deep breath and let him back in.

But it’s the kind of letting in that is replete with vulnerability.  He feels it and you know he doesn’t quite understand though he desperately wants to.

His love is like a balm and a threat all in the same moment.

Clothing is your shield.  Without clothing you feel shamed, exposed, dirty.  Normal people can handle allowing their husband to see them, yet there is nothing normal about you.  At least that’s what you tell yourself.

And so because you want badly to be what you’ve never been since it happened, you try to be brave without your shield.  But your heart races and your cheeks flush and you feel all over again like a victim.

A victim with your own man.  How terrible is that?

Time passes and you think you might be getting better.  The dreams don’t come as often and when they do you shrug past them more easily.  You don’t feel quite as shy or scared and you’re a little more willing to swing the door wide open for him.

Progress.  Sweet progress.

And then it happens.  Something takes you back there.  Sort of like a sight or a smell that transports you to another time or place from your past.  Only this place is not good.  It’s a black hole and you feel yourself teetering on the edge.

You try to run.  You only need to get away from the hole.  Can’t he see it?  Doesn’t he see the danger you’re in?

You’d never have an affair and you’re fully committed to your marriage.  But there is a third party involved and it’s one who cares nothing for your happiness.

It looks a little like fear but that isn’t it entirely.  It’s more like a rich blend of distrust and guilt and apprehension.  Throw in a thick swirl of the need for absolute control over a situation and you’ve got a caustic brew.

Here’s the thing, my sweet friend.  You are a survivor.  Which means you have the victory.  You walked through the fire and you’re entitled to some scars.  You are okay.

When you feel threatened, tell yourself He sees.  He saw what was happening and cried right along with you.  It’s a sin-sick world but it’s also a battleground.  If He stopped all the bad stuff the battle would ultimately be won on terms considered by some to be unfair.  So He has to stand back and weep as He witnesses our pain.

But He feels every last pang.  He knows the damage runs deep.  Maybe it’s time to stop wishing you were whole or normal and learn to live with the pieces of you that remain.  It’s okay if they don’t always fit as you’d like them to.  And it’s okay if sometimes they feel as if they don’t fit at all.

Time and trust are the healers of all wounds.  Give yourself to your husband as fully as you are able but don’t swim in guilt over something you had no control over.  Guilt is a bondage that, when released from its awful grip, will afford you wings you never dreamed you’d find.

Sincerely,

A fellow sexual abuse survivor

What motherhood is (and what it is not)

Motherhood

Somebody, somewhere breathed life into a few dreadful rumors and they’ve worked an insidious hole through the hearts of mothers everywhere.  To further complicate the matter, we perpetrate the lies by not only allowing ourselves to be poisoned by them, but by infecting others in our path.  It’s time we took a stand, dispelling myths while throwing light on a few elements of truth.

Motherhood is not about you.  Take just a moment to let that sink in and then go back and read it again.  Because it’s not about what you like or don’t like.  It has nothing to do with what you feel like doing or what you wish you could be doing instead.  It’s not even about whether you want to be a mother or not.  If you’ve been so blessed, then it is your calling.  Embrace it because He’s asking you to.  Period.

Motherhood is not a role assigned for your pleasure.  You will not enjoy every aspect of it, nor are you expected to.  We are called to do hard things and being a mother just happens to be among the hardest.  If you should find you do not get excited by laundry or dishes or housework, you are called to do them anyway.  If you shrink back from training your toddlers to obedience and would prefer to let them grow as their carnal natures would have them, you are called to train them anyway.  It’s a calling, not a hobby.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart but the faint of heart can certainly be mothers.  God uses us in our imperfection, not asking that we first arrive at some quintessential place of consistently superior performance.  He uses our weakness to strengthen His weakest.   He tends to shine brightest when we’re a bit dull because it becomes impossibly clear that it’s Him and not us.  If you feel like fainting, go right ahead.  Just first give yourself a little nudge in His direction so He can be the one who catches you.  He’ll get you going again.

Motherhood is messy.  Whoever told you it was supposed to be filled with Kodak moments and tender memories spattered you with lies.  Oh, you’ll find those moments peppered among the scary ones–but only if you’re looking.  Don’t let yourself be swallowed up by the false perception that mothering is supposed to be an exercise in beautiful.  Because honestly, it gets downright ugly at times and only grace and abundant mercy will bring forth that sought-after beauty.  Even so, those beautiful moments drown out the ugly ones.

Motherhood is just as much about shaping your own character as it is about shaping theirs.  The consistent and continual surrender of self to the job at hand is like sand paper on a freshly hewn log.  Your rough edges slowly soften as you set aside your own agenda to meet His.  Day after day, week in and week out, He is using your children to draw you to Himself even as He uses you to bring forth your little children.

Motherhood is not just for “mothers”.  Sometimes the Lord chooses not to bless the womb of a woman but still calls her heart to the task of shepherding His floundering lambs.  It may be through foster care, adoption or simply investing in the children around her.  And she may not even want to do it.  But a heart willing to turn from the closed door and enter through the open one is a heart God can and will use for mighty things.  If this is you, brace yourself…your reward is beyond measure.

Somewhere between conception and those first signs of rebellion we start to emotionally check out.  We allow ourselves to think on things like–This job is harder than I expected!  and What happened to that sweet cuddly baby and how did she suddenly turn into this terrifying and opinionated imposter?  and Where’s the receipt?  Because clearly there was a mix-up and I got the wrong child!

Suck it up, MamaBear.  Stop rehearsing all the things that should be different and put your hand to the plow.  He’ll meet you right where you are but you’ve got to be willing to move.  You’ve got to be willing to get your hands dirty and do hard things.  You’ve got to be willing to love when it hurts and hurt when you love.

And you’ve got to be willing to be emptied so he can fill you up!

How on earth did we get here?

How on earth did we get here

I’m itching to write something but honestly, I’ve got nothing.  I’m overwhelmed by the oppressive lack of morality in this world and I feel somewhat numb.  Where is my place?  What is my role?

I’m not a hater, an activist or an alarmist.  I don’t rally behind political agenda (from the right or the left) and I don’t pretend to believe the state of our current affairs can be attributed to any one man or administration.  I haven’t boycotted Walmart because of the magazines in their checkout and I’d probably still buy a latte from Starbucks if I didn’t detest coffee, though they claim not to want the business of Christians.

I guess the truth is, I’m confused.  How did we get here?  How did we get to this place where simply buying groceries gets you caught in the political cross-fire?  I just need milk, for goodness sake.  I don’t want to be supporting abortion by buying it or aiding and abetting the swiftly moving current of moral decline when I walk out with a loaf of bread.

I’m disgusted that we’ve traded in Biblical truth for political correctness.  That there are hidden agendas everywhere making me a supporting party simply because I don’t spend hours trying to figure out what business is supporting what uncouth organization.  I’m raising children.  I’ve got a family to tend to and hearts to win for Jesus.  My plate is full yet I feel strangely empty.

Because while I’m not an activist by nature, I am burning inside to bring healing to the masses.  I don’t honestly want to waste my time trying to take out those screaming for tolerance and women’s rights {and who are simultaneously being intolerant and stepping on the rights of everyone who opposes them}.  I’ve got better things to do.

I want to chase down the hearts that are hurting, confused and scared and offer them a glimmer of hope and life.

I want to wrap my arms around those who have never known a mother’s love.

I want to pass along clothing to someone who needs the warmth.

I want to give food to one who has gone much too long with far too little.

I want to smile at someone nobody else notices.

I want to hold the sweet baby that was to be a victim of abortion and whisper words of encouragement to the brave mother who chose life instead.

I want to break bread with sinners and share my Jesus with them.  It’ll be a well-matched meal since I’m a sinner, too.

I want to get my hands dirty as I minister in the fertile soil of this endangered land.  My goal isn’t to eradicate evil but to rescue those in it’s deadly path.  I don’t want to save the world, or end it by purchasing supplies from the wrong store.  I simply want to be the beautiful hands and feet and heart of God, sweating it out in the field with the lost and dying.

But is that enough?  How do I balance the desire to share His love with my abhorrence for the wickedness that abounds?  How do I meet the need without getting swept away by righteous indignation?  How do YOU do it?

Teaching our Children to be Healthy

Girls eating Apples

From tots to teens, the way we teach our children to eat will likely stick with them the rest of their lives.  We are not merely feeding our kids from day to day, we are training them in their eating habits.

The spiritual well-being of my children is by far the most important thing to me, but I am also passionate about teaching them the way food affects their health.

What is good health?

Most people probably have a different answer for that question.  In my definition, good health would be a body full of energy and vitality without disease or sickness.

For most of us it is impossible not to be sick from time to time, but I feel it is important to seek to be as healthy as possible and teach my girls that there are consequences to poor eating choices.  What our children eat when they are small will be a big determining factor in their health as adults.  We are creating eating habits each and every day.  

Unhealthy foods can lead to acne, weight gain, sleeping problems, hormonal discomforts, depression, anxiety, cancers, disease, etc.

Create Good Eating Habits

Do you let your children eat sugary breakfasts with empty nutrition?  Do they eat a small plate of good food and a large portion of dessert food?  Are their snacks all processed and sugary?  Do they eat ice cream, chips and sugary foods before bed?


It’s important to step back and take note of what type of foods make up the majority of our children’s diets.

To create good eating habits, practice these suggestions:  

  • Fix wholesome breakfasts to start their day off right.
  • Don’t let them get their own food and snacks.  If the choice is up to them, most kids will choose sugary, unhealthy foods to snack on all day.
  • Plan meal and snack times.  Make up plates of fruit, cheese, nuts and vegetables.  Sometimes I’ll have a plate of cheese and crackers and another of raisins and nuts.
  • If you fix plates of healthy foods for meals and snacks, your children will develop a taste for healthier foods.
  • Limit sugary treats.  Offer sweet fruits to help your kids develop a taste for the healthy sweets!  We do enjoy yummy homemade treats, but sugar should not make up the majority of our diet.

Food Additives Can Affect Behavior

Certain food additives have been linked to behavioral problems.  These additives can have a drug-like effect on them.  Read labels and watch for ingredients such as: food coloring, artificial flavoring, MSG, aspartame, sucralose, high fructose corn syrup, BHA, BHT, TBHQ, etc.

How to Train Your Children to Be Healthy

  1. Be a good example by choosing the right foods yourself!  Make sure your children see you eating fresh fruits and vegetables – and enjoying them! :)
  2. Start offering fresh, healthy foods to your children as young as possible.    If they don’t readily consume the broccoli and celery when they are old enough to eat it, keep offering these types of food to them on their plates until they develop a taste for it.  There will be foods that each person just doesn’t like, but our children can learn to not be picky and enjoy a variety of foods.  My 2 year old still isn’t too crazy about most fresh vegetables, but I keep offering them to her and she is learning to like them by watching our enjoyment of them.
  3. Teach them the effects that processed foods and food additives have on their health.
  4. Teach them the importance of good exercise and healthy sunshine.          Most children spend hours outside in the fresh air, especially in the warm months, but the importance of exercise and sunshine is normally forgotten as teenagers and adults. Make sure your kids know the health problems that result from a lack of vitamin D and exercise.
  5. Teach the importance of good sleep.  The older we get, our busy lives can result in not enough sleep.  Lack of sleep, however, can lead to obesity, heart disease, cancer and many other health problems.  It is very important for our bodies to get good rest.
  6. Learn with your kids about the excellent nutritious value of eating wild plants in your yard {and using them for medicine too!}.  A friend and myself recently started an Herb Club for Kids.  We are having so much fun and learning alongside our children!
What are ways you teach your children to be healthy?

What I Learned about Motherhood: A lesson from my 9 year old

Hannah violin lesson

I scurried around, hustling to get the house in order and a decent meal on the table.  We had company coming and I still hadn’t showered.  I rushed from the office to the living room, pushing wildly through the swinging glass door and nearly knocking out one of my toddlers.  Poor little guy looked at me bewildered as I patted him and quickly moved on.

A short time later I was serving up plates at the kitchen counter, when I saw her.  She stood in front of the window with a baby astride each hip.  Seemingly oblivious to the combined weight of her little brothers, she chattered with them about something they saw in the yard.

I watched as she took the time to smile at them, looking straight in their eyes knowing the moment wouldn’t last.  I saw her ease them to the floor and settle in to play, giggling at their antics.  Unhurried and undistracted, she gave herself to them and they loved her for it.

Tickling tummies and tiny toes, reading books and playing trucks…she lived in the moment with them.  For them.  Her mind wasn’t on cleaning up her room, that difficult math assignment or when she could get away for some “Hannah” time.  She simply gave–and by giving she was filled.

Tears filled my eyes as I took it all in.  This beautiful child of mine giving me the gift of perspective.  Teaching me to be governed by my heart and not my to-do list.

In a way it hurt.  Seeing her do it so flawlessly.  What’s wrong with me, that I can’t keep my focus on the part of my job that truly matters?  But then I heard His quiet voice, assuring me He knows I have far greater responsibility than my 9 year old.  Life calls me in so many directions and requires that I be so many things to so many people.  He understands and He was asking me to see myself as He does.  Both the good and the bad.

And He reminded me that while He placed these precious children in my care to raise for His glory, He also put me in their care that they might grow me in ways unfathomable.  They have a role to play in my “upbringing” and they are serving Him well as they fulfill it!

I left that moment with renewed desire to be the mother I saw my young daughter already being.  And by the grace of God, I will let Him change me into “such a one as these”.

The ABCs of Child Training

God has given you an awesome task! When you became a parent, God not only gave you an amazing creation of life, He also gave you the most important responsibility of your life. God has entrusted you with this child and you are now accountable to Him to train, guide, and shepherd this gift according to His ways. He chose YOU for this all important job – thank Him, praise Him! It’s not an easy job – it’s probably the toughest job you’ll ever have – it takes lots of dedication, commitment, and hard work, but your efforts will not go unnoticed and you will reap the reward.

I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers and I am not a child training expert. After 10 years and 7 children, I am still learning, still growing, still changing in regards to child training. I’m simply going to share what I have learned over the past 10 years of parenting from faithful mentors, wise authors, and personal experience with a list I compiled – The ABCs of Child Training.

 

Authority – God has granted us the position of authority over our children on His behalf. God has called us to do this and it is our duty to serve Him in this manner. As parents, we are under God’s authority and we are accountable to God for the obedience and training of our children.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Ephesians 6:1

Bible – The Bible is the only parenting book you need. There are countless books on the market that will tell you all the how-tos of parenting, child-training, and discipline, but the Bible is really all you need to guide you through the journey. It has all the answers you will ever need. Trust it! Trust Him!

Consistency – I’m sure every parent has heard this advice when it comes to child training and discipline – Be Consistent! But it’s true! Make sure your rules are clear and never let your child disobey without dealing with the offense. Also, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page – if there is not consistency and agreement between the two of you, it can create confusion and further disobedience in your child.

Discipline – A part of child training is discipline. God commands us many times in the Bible to correct and discipline our children. Disciplining is an expression of our love.

Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.

Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

Proverbs 13:24 (NLT)

Example – Be an example for your children – model Godly behavior. Children learn a lot more from our actions than they do from our words.

My son, give me your heart,

and let your eyes observe my ways.

Proverbs 23:26 (NKJV)

Follow Through – Don’t give empty threats. Follow through with punishment and discipline – just threatening doesn’t work. It goes hand-in-hand with consistency and will just cause confusion, disobedience, and manipulation of your authority.

God – He is the child training expert. Turn to Him for all your parenting questions.

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds,

and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Matthew 7:8

Humility – We can’t train our children on our own. We need God’s help and His grace. Once we humble ourselves to this fact, we will have great peace and comfort.

God opposes the proud,

but favors the humble.

1 Peter 5:5

Immediate – We are to expect immediate obedience from our children. When our directives are met with delay, that is a form of disobedience and is not acceptable. When a child is told to do something, or not to do something, they are to obey without delay.

Jesus – We need to train our children to be like Jesus – to be Christ-like. They need to shine Christ to this broken world and possess the same character qualities that Jesus Christ did.

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

1Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)

Kids – Your kids are a blessing from God; they are a heritage of the Lord. Heritage from the Hebrew means “an inheritance which is given not according to hereditary rights, but is a gift from the freewill of the donor.” Your children are a gift from God – raise them and train them as such.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb is a reward.

Psalm 127:3

Love – Training our children is a way of expressing our love. Train, discipline, and correct with love, never in anger.

Mentor – Seek out a wise, prayerful, and faithful child training mentor that shares similar views on parenting. Or pray that the Lord will lead you to one. It could be someone in your church, a relative, or even someone you have connected with online. Likewise, if you are a seasoned parent, pray that the Lord places a young parent in your path. A mentor is a wonderful source of encouragement, support, and wisdom during the child training years.

The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior,

not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things –

that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their

children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their

husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Titus 2: 3-5 (NKJV)

Now – You should start child training now, whatever the age of your child! It is never too late to start and it is never too early.

To discipline a child produces wisdom,

but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.

Proverbs 29:15 (NLT)

Obedience – Obedience needs to be expected every time. It is mandatory, not an option for your child. Therefore, you need to correct disobedience every time.

Patience – Child training will require A LOT of this! If it’s something you struggle with, pray about it, and have your spouse pray too.

Quality & Quantity Time – Time is one of the biggest investments we can give our children. The time we spend with our children needs to be of good quality – training them in God’s ways; and we need to do this often!

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Responsibility – Not only is it our responsibility as parents to train our children in the way they should go – God’s way – but we also need to train them to be responsible as well. God places many responsibilities on believers and we need to prepare our children to fulfill and live out these responsibilities as they grow.

Spanking – Spanking is Biblical. When a child disobeys, he needs a spanking. There is a right and wrong way to spank a child – never spank in anger; respect your child’s privacy and dignity; make sure the child understands the offense being punished; only spank on the bottom, and never spank a bare bottom. After the spanking, hug and kiss the child and discuss, once again, why they were punished and that you being obedient to God by giving the punishment.

A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness,

but the physical discipline will drive it far away.

Proverbs 22:15

Train – This is our duty to God – to train our children in His ways. The training of our children should be willful and planned; we need to be committed to it and take every opportunity to educate and train our children. If we do not train our sinful children, they will develop sinful habits throughout life that will be difficult to break.

Train up a child in the way he should go,

and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Understanding – In order to train our children, it is important that we understand the child’s nature. Children are born sinners – we all are. They have a sinful nature; we need to recognize this instead of thinking of our children as innocent little cuties in order to be successful at child training.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world.

Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone,

for everyone sinned.

Romans 5:12 (NLT)

Victory – When we train our children in God’s ways, we will have victory over the enemy. The enemy wants to destroy and the first place he looks to do this is the family unit.

Wisdom – Impart wisdom to your children. Teach them to make wise decisions. Don’t make all their decisions for them; instead, teach them and show them how to make wise choices. As we train our children in the ways of the Lord, we are training them in the ways of wisdom.

My son, pay attention to my wisdom;

lend your ear to my understanding.

Proverbs 5:1

X’s and O’s – Give your children lots of hugs and kisses as you train them – show them love and affection.

You – God chose YOU to train and shepherd your children! What a blessing! He has prepared you for this journey with all the grace, strength, and wisdom you need. No matter where you are in your parenting and child training journey, YOU can do it, with God’s help. He is right there with you every step of the way!

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you.

He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you;

do not fear nor be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8

Zeal – Take on your child training with zeal. Be diligent, be determined, be devoted, be passionate. Also, have a zeal for your relationship with the Lord – your child will pick up on your passion. Be on fire for Him and to serve Him!

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Sarah is the JOYful wife of Jorge, the JOYful mother of 7 blessings – ages 2 months – 10 years, and a JOYful servant to the Most High God. She has been JOYfully homeschooling for 6 years using an eclectic approach – a little of this and a little of that. You can find her blogging at My Joy-Filled Life about the joys of big family living, her faith, homeschooling, homemaking, and whatever the Lord lays on her heart. In her free time (what’s that?), Sarah enjoys baking (but not the clean-up), dabbling in photography, and running. You can also find her on Pinterest and Facebook.

Teaching a Toddler to Memorize Scripture

Currently, we’re teaching our 2-year-old to memorize the Proverbs. Proverbs for Parenting | A Topical Guide for Child Raising From The Book of Proverbs compiled by Barbara Decker has proved to be a handy tool as each of the proverbs are organized into their respective categories.

Spring Garden

If Charity is having a particularly difficult week with anger and temper-tantrums, we can flip to the anger section and choose a few verses from there to work on. If she’s habitually stalling when we ask her to do something, we’ll turn to the chapter on obedience. If she’s having a hard time finding something nice to say to her brother, we’ll memorize a verse on kindness.

There’s nothing difficult or scientific about our method for memorization. For the most part, it’s a simple process of “repeat after me.” This past week, we memorized Proverbs 16:6:

“By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil.”

1. First, I’ll read the verse through and explain any words she might not understand:iniquity, purgeddepart.

2. Then I’ll say the first phrase and ask her to repeat it back to me. I do this several times over with each section of the verse. That way, it gets ingrained in my memory as well as hers!

Mommy: “By mercy and truth…”
Charity: “By mercy and truth…
Mommy: ”Iniquity is purged…”
Charity: “Iniquity is purged…

3.  Once I think she’s familiar with the phrases, we start combining them, two at a time:

Mommy: “By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged…”
Charity: “By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged…
Mommy: “..and by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil.”
Charity: “…and by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil.”

4. Next, I leave out key words, and give her the opportunity to fill them in:

“By ________ and _______, _________ is ________: and _____ the _________ of the _______, men __________ from ______. Proverbs ____ : ____.”

5. Once she’s done the above a few time, we’re down to just a few prompts until she can say it on her own:

“By _____________, iniqu…_______________; and ________________, men ____________________. _________ ___ : ___.”

The whole process takes less than 15 minutes. I’ll randomly review the verse with her several times throughout each day of the week until she can rattle it off and we move onto the next one. A few other things we’ve found helpful to aid in Scripture memorization are:

  • Music. We sing a Psalm from our Church’s Psalter with her before bed time. It’s so fun when she picks it up and is able to sing along with us or recognizes it in a Church service!
  • Regular Review. We try not to forget about a verse once we’ve moved on to a new one. To keep it fresh in her memory, we’ll say the first word of a verse she knows when we’re in the car or at dinner,  and she’ll finish the rest.
  • Consistency. I find this to be the hardest part of all, especially if my morning is rushed by a tight schedule. However, if Charity’s kept in the memorizing mode, it becomes easier for her to catch on. Once she recognizes it as part of our daily routine, she becomes the one who reminds me: “Mommy? Can we do the ‘merry heart is good like medicine’ one?”

Our prayer is that by God’s grace, she will remember these truths for the rest of her life and that they will guide the decisions she makes from here to eternity.

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Jacinda is passionate about sharing the love and grace of Christ and equipping others with the tools to answer His call.  A mother of three, including a ridiculously adorable newborn baby girl, she keeps busy at home but squeezes in time to minister to the Christian homemaking community.  Growing Home is her online nook from which she shares “…a holistic approach about my passion for homemaking, motherhood, whole food cooking, crafting, gardening, and biblical femininity…”.  She can also be found on Facebook where the conversation is always lively, encouraging and inspirational.

From the Toddler to the Teen

She often looked haggardly with dark circles under her eyes and pale-ish skin. Her hair was neatly fixed though never stylish. Clothes were meant more for practicality than beauty or fashion to this woman.

We rarely shared a conversation though we attended the same church and our paths crossed frequently. I was just starting on the journey of motherhood while she had been there many years before. I could have learned so much from her, and in fact, maybe I did.

I’ll never forget our chance meeting in the nursery while I was nursing our newest arrival and my two year old played at my feet. Feeling stressed and somewhat overwhelmed because nursing had never come easy to me, I longed to have someone with more experience than myself to share their wisdom.

The door opened and in she came huffing, puffing, and half dragging two of her children into the nursery. One needed a diaper change and I am not entirely certain what the other one had need of since he was quite solemn for one so young.

Red-faced and almost panting, through clenched teeth she murmured, “You will NEVER want to do what I did! This is crazy. I am 35 years old and have toddlers and teenagers in my house at the same time! Take my word for it; do NOT do what I did.“

I got lost in her mumblings and grumblings, but learned that having toddlers and teenagers in the home at the same time must have been a horrible thing.

The brainwashing of the world’s view of children continued to grow in my mind when a couple of years later child number 3, our “accident”, arrived. I thought I was “done in” for, and was scared to death to become the mama I had been warned about!

Fast forward sixteen years later. Our families have a few similarities. She and I have the same number of children, and yes, there are toddlers and teens in our home.

Together!

At the same time!

There are days I do feel like huffing and puffing at my children, but never do I regret the ages of my children. My only regret is that we limited God’s blessings by taking our fertility in our own hands for so many years.

There is one thing that makes our family different form hers.

Discipline – from the start.

There are many forms of discipline, and we had to take on a few of those forms, but what I mean here is disciplining the children. We learned very early on that to discipline means to train and to disciple. If we were to train our children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), we would first have to discipline ourselves to be a Godly example. Our children learn best by our actions, not our words.

      • We can yell all day long and we might get some immediate responses that we desire, but the child learns nothing positive from it. He will learn that yelling is an acceptable response to anger, or worse, he will learn to cower from the one in whom he should feel complete trust.
      • We can count to three and give the child many chances to obey, but it only conditions them to wait until we get to three before choosing to obey. Many times they try to see if they can get us to count to five (or more). Counting teaches the child we did not mean what we said the first time.
      • We can ignore the child’s behavior hoping they will grow out of it someday, but that does not happen either. The child’s behavior goes from bad to worse. She learns that her bad behavior is acceptable. It will be much harder to un-do the damage that has been done by waiting until she is older hoping she will understand more.
      • We can even do what I call spanking “at” the child. I see many parents who use this form of punishment to try to discipline their children. If you spank “at” your child, you are usually giving them swats that hurt a little, but aggravate more (though you might feel less frustrated afterwards)! Sometimes this will produce temporary effects that make the parent think they are doing a good job. Think again.
      • We can rule with an iron hand one day and let things slide the next. The child learns he cannot trust what you say and lives in fear of the day your rule as a tyrant.

If you spend your energy teaching your children to obey at a young age, you won’t lose your energy trying to keep up with them and trick them into not disobeying!

The part of the story of the tortoise and the hare that says “slow and steady wins the race” could be applied to parenting. It is about the end product. We are not raising children, we are raising adults.

      • Never punish in anger. Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Make the punishment fit the crime. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
      • Speak softly when you are angered. Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Also Proverbs 16:21 “…the sweetness of the lips increases learning”.
      • Teach her what it means to obey and expect her to obey the first time. Ephesians 6:1 “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”
      • Do not ignore bad behavior calling it childishness or immaturity. Take care of it immediately and she will learn what is acceptable and good in the sight of God. Proverbs 29:15 “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” And Proverbs 13:24 “…the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
      • Take time to make each time of discipline a time of training. Pray with your child; show him the Scriptures where he has been wrong. Teach him to memorize the words that God Himself gave to help him become a better person. Proverbs 1:8 “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
      • Start at a very young age. 2 Timothy 3:15 “…and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise…”
      • Be consistent; to the point of being methodical. James 1:8 “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

Having started these practices very early in our parenting years has helped us to have the family we have today. There are many more factors that come into play, but discipline is one of the key elements.

We can now enjoy having toddlers and teens in the house (and one in between)!

Together!

At the same time!

Blessings as you enjoy this parenting journey to its fullest!

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Niki enjoys homeschooling her five children, homemaking, sewing, and creating inspirational art for the home. She has been married for twenty years to her best friend, Steve. They have two precious blessings resting in the arms of Jesus. Their family has enjoyed working together in children’s ministry since 1992 and Niki is currently working towards getting her first children’s book published. She is the blog author of For Journey’s Sake and can also be found on Facebook writing about her passion to mentor and encourage women on their life’s journey.

Encouraging Your Children to Talk to You

River

As parents who have raised one child to adulthood, with two close behind, we have to tell you that communication with us was important in our children’s lives. We learned, often with mistakes along the way, how important it is to have good communication with our children. But in those mistakes, we learned how necessary it is that the lines of communication were open. It was (and still is) significant in our relationship with each of our children, that they know they can come to us and talk about anything. Nothing is too embarrassing or difficult or silly to talk to us about. We have made this very clear to them. So, how do we encourage our children to talk to us?

Build trust! They needed to know that they could trust us with anything they told us. We reassured them that what they said to us, stayed with us. No sharing with family or friends. Their words were precious and to be treated so. We also wanted them to come to us FIRST, next to the Lord, of course. Though they were surrounded by so many other people they adored, it was important they choose their parents to share their concerns with before others. Lastly, in building trust we helped remove any fear of them sharing personal things with us, including sins they might be dealing with…so very important in today’s world. (Galatians 6:6,7)

Have no judgment! We asked our children recently what we did to encourage open communication with us. Our oldest son said, “You didn’t judge.” No one likes to be judged and we are called to “judge not” (Luke 6:37). Whatever they shared with us was received in love and dealt with in love. After all, like us, God offers them forgiveness and we needed to remember that. (Colossians 3:13) Because they felt no judgment, they were more apt to share their hearts and concerns with us…not with their friends, which could be bad news since “folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Proverbs 22:15)

Listen with both ears! One of the areas we worked on much was listening with BOTH ears. That means stopping what we were doing (if we could) and giving our undivided attention. It’s so easy to say, “Hold on” or “Wait a minute.” Yet it is not going to encourage communication between us and our children. Making time to listen intentionally proved we were interested in their lives…all aspects of it. If they don’t have our ears, they will seek others to listen to them, which could be detrimental to them. It is our charge to lead our children “in the way they should go,” and that means we must make a conscious choice to listen to them. One note we have on this: we taught our children not to interrupt if we were in conversation with another person. If they needed our ears, they were to put their hand on our knee (if we were sitting) or on our shoulder (if we were standing) and then wait for us to listen. Even in this, I always acknowledged their action by putting my hand on top of theirs so they knew I knew. I desired to give them my undivided attention while teaching them respect for others who were speaking.

Listen without directing! Now this type of listening is just that…listening. Listening without directing. Sometimes they just want to vent their hearts and feelings. It takes great effort to just listen and not feel like you have to give advice or leading. This type of listening reminds them that they can share what they are experiencing and know that we will “hear” what is being said without always having the answer. We need to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” sometimes. (James 1:19) “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13) Likewise, use this opportunity to end your time together with prayer, taking it to God, demonstrating that even we parents need to seek the Lord for direction.

We are blessed that our children choose to communicate their lives with us. Through the years, we have had heart tugging, smile inducing, and life changing conversations with our children. They have blessed our lives (and sometimes taught us a thing or two) in coming to us with their concerns, questions, and experiences. Our encouragement to you is to start this process early in age…start young!Remember it does matter who your children talk to….let it be you.

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Naomi, a daughter of the King who understands her need of a Savior, is married to a wonderful man and they have three fabulous children. They are blessed to homeschool going on 19 years. She is a photographer who enjoys scrapbooking, reading, quilting, being a wife and mother. She blogs at What Joy Is Mine where she encourages others to seek joy in their every day lives based on Proverbs 17:22 because God is good all the time! You can receive her blog posts via email by subscribing and connect with her on Facebook as well as Twitter.