because making home beautiful matters…a $50 giveaway

As many of you know, we are currently between homes.  Drifters.  Gypsies.  A well-loved “homeless” family.  But once upon a time, I was a modern-day homemaker with walls to decorate and shelves to fill and cupboards to stock.  Lord willing, one day soon we will find the home He has waiting for us and I will once again take up my favorite role.

In the meantime, I’m learning many lessons and unlearning many bad habits such as lack of patience, selfish desire, wanting my way (and wanting it now!!) among others.  I do so hope and pray I’m a quick learner.

A few weeks before the move that led to the last move (if you’re confused, don’t worry…so are we) I was contacted by a sweetheart from WiseDecor.  She asked if I’d be willing to review their product and then share it with my readers.  I was more than happy to oblige, having no idea what was just over the horizon.  The poor lady doubtless regrets ever contacting me as I’ve been nothing but a headache and my review is months late.  But I will say this…

The products this company produces are top-rate!  And they WILL be gracing the walls of my soon-to-be-by-the-grace-of-God-home.

The following are some samples from the website:

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The customer service is terrific.  The design options are seemingly endless.  The quality is impeccable.  The finished products are gorgeous!!  And no, she didn’t bribe me to say so.  She simply waited patiently for me to get around to sharing the truth.  Here are a few more samples…

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And now WiseDecor is offering a $50 credit to the randomly generated winner of the giveaway you’ll find below.  Just click to enter…no catch and no gimmicks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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probably we should be bored a little more often

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Don’t worry, I’m not going to thump you over the head with all the reasons you should get rid of (or use drastically less of) the television, computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc.  Okay, so maybe I am.  A little.

I’m not anti-electronics and I’m not going to climb onto my roof and start screaming about the evils of technology.  Because technology is not inherently evil.  It would be ridiculous for me to pretend I thought it was considering I’m tapping out this post on my laptop and will publish it through an electronic transmission at the touch of a button.  Pretty cool, if you ask me.

That said, abuse of any kind is not good and we, as a society, absolutely and totally abuse technology.  Period. The end.

Well, it’s not really the end, I guess, because I’m just getting started.

I’m going to be honest and to be honest, I’d have to admit that sometimes honesty isn’t my favorite thing.  Like when I’m having to rat myself out.  Like I’m about to do.  Here goes.

In our home we have 2 laptops, 1 desktop, 5 iPad minis, 1 iPad, 2 iPods and 3 cell phones.  Oy, I think I need a minute after throwing that out there.  Even I think that sounds ridiculous.  In my defense, however:

  • The iPad mini’s were gifted to our 5 oldest children as a means to enhance their homeschool experience.  They are able to download books and other learning tools using this electronic resource.
  • The iPad (of regular size) belongs to my hard-working husband who uses it for his schooling.  He’s a career firefighter but he’s also working toward his Fire Science degree.
  • The desktop is my husband’s and it actually doesn’t really work too well.
  • One of the laptops belongs to me and the other belongs to our oldest son who uses it for his online academy.
  • The iPods were gifts several years ago from doting grandparents because our teenagers had not yet been permitted to have phones.   It was a nice compromise.
  • The cell phones belong to my husband, myself and our oldest, who is nearing 17.

Now that I’ve so nicely defended myself allow me to throw myself under the bus.  There is no question that electronics abuse is an ongoing struggle in our home.  No matter what the intended use of each one of those gadgets mentioned might have been, there is temptation lying right outside the realm of intended use.  Lots and lots of temptation.

Here are some guidelines we are implementing:

  • No electronics between the hours of 9am and 3:30pm, which are our school hours.
  • If schoolwork is completed before 3:30pm, as it is for many of the children, you still may not use the electronics.
  • If you are bored during the hours of the electronics ban, find something creative to do.  Read, craft, climb a tree, ride a bike, make a fort, be a kid.
  • Electronics are to be shut down at 9pm if you are one of the children still up at that hour.  This does NOT mean we will expect or allow their faces to be glued to the screen between the hours of 3:30-9pm.  Moderation.
  • All electronics are to be placed on the office desk for overnight storage.

Frankly, I’d love for my kids not to own a single device.  If we could go back, we’d do things differently.  But since the horse is already out of the gate, we’ve decided the best path is to train them (and ourselves) to practice self-control.  One day they will be on their own with full access to all the technology they want.  We want them to be prepared for that onslaught so we’re walking this path with them while they are yet in the fold.

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When I think back on my own childhood, I remember scraped knees and dirty fingernails.  I have fond memories of my favorite doll and my make-believe family, of which I was the matriarch.  I remember playing ball and riding bikes and laughing.

But mostly I remember that I didn’t spend time staring at a screen.

My imagination was fully engaged and if I lacked for something to play, I could always find something to read.  That is what I want for my kids.  For them to know how to work hard, play well and live life.

I want them to know reality from the photoshopped lies and glossed-over deceptions fed to them from most every online portal.  I want them to know boredom so they can hear that sweet voice of Jesus that often calls in a whisper.

And for the record, that’s exactly what I want for myself, too!  How about you?

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Join me on Thursday when I’ll share the online and social media parameters we have for our children at various ages.

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lessons from my ‘ugly’ house

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The day was sunny and bright.  Just the thing after a long, snow-filled winter and a disastrous move from one home to another.  I stretched myself out in the hammock my husband had taken the time to so carefully string between two trees for me.  Closing my eyes I found my mind filled with the past few months.

And even more than the warm sunshine on my face, I felt shame.

I had met with trials in the previous weeks and, lying there under that blue sky, I realized just how miserably I had failed.  Shame and remorse coursed through me.

I shifted in the hammock so I could see the place from which the happy voices of my children floated in the air as they played in the field.  The field adjacent to the house I didn’t want to be living in.  The house with wood floors that needed to be refinished, the dining room that had once been a carport and the great room that just never managed to feel great to me.  And don’t even get me started on the iron-laced water.  Truly, you don’t want to get me started on that.  The rental house we had moved into in an effort to save money was draining us in more ways than could be counted in dollars and cents.

Oh, how I’ve hated this house.  And oh, how that hatred has seeped into every corner of my life without my realizing it.

I felt hot tears sting my eyes and roll down my cheeks as the full impact of my attitude hit me.

A house is just walls. Bricks and mortar erected to offer shelter from the seasons.  Houses don’t define us and we do ourselves an injustice to allow them to dictate our joy.  Ask me how I know.

I looked around me again and saw some of the kids playing ball while a few others jumped on the trampoline.  I had watched just the day before as my littlest boys chattered excitedly to each other as they explored the edge of the woods lining the 15 acre property.  I saw happiness in those sweet faces.  I saw an eagerness to accept this new adventure with wide open arms rather than a critic’s eye.

I saw Jesus walking through that field waiting for me to realize He’s right here.  Not in that house or those woods, but in this moment.  Every moment.  Even the ones we wish away.

I didn’t leave my swinging oasis that day in love with my house.  But I did leave in love with my life.  Again.

I don’t know what season of life you are in.  I don’t know what you’re struggling with or how difficult it is to capture the contentment He is calling you to.  What I do know is this:  Jesus is there.  Right there with you.  And that, my friends, is the only thing that really matters!

 

Note:  I am fully aware that my battle with contentment in regards to my new home sounds ridiculous compared to the struggles many face daily.  I am not trying to compare my situation to one that is truly serious.  But no matter what, or where we find ourselves, the answer is the same.  Jesus.

 

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hope for the mediocre mom

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Because that would be me and if there’s one thing I need, it is hope.  Oh, how I need hope.

The online world is pretty one dimensional so in case you’ve never picked up on how dire my case is, allow me to take just a moment to give you the CliffNotes version of my mediocrity…

  • I’ve cooked 3 meals in the past two months.  Three.  Exactly three.
  • They weren’t great meals.  In my defense, I’ve been battling pregnancy sickness.
  • When filling out a form recently, I had to ask several of my children what grade they were in.
  • I’m not known for my exceptional skill as a laundress.  I’ll leave it at that.
  • I’ve never seen a real problem with cold cereal on occasion.  Even if that occasion spans the three meals of the day.
  • Dry cereal also works just fine in a pinch, if you ask me.  Just don’t ask my kids.
  • It is not humanly possible to keep my fridge stocked with milk.  It just isn’t.  Hence, the dry cereal.
  • Homeschooling sometimes looks an awful lot like, well, I dunno what it looks like.  I can tell you that sometimes it just ain’t purty.
  • I was always opposed to locking myself in the bathroom to cry.  Then I had kids.
  • I once told my toddler that a chocolate milkshake was my medicine.  I honestly didn’t feel too badly about it since I wasn’t lying.
  • My bedroom closet.  Um, yeah…next topic.
  • Yesterday I slept till 9.  My toddlers got up at 7:30.  I’m eternally grateful for teenagers who love me.
  • I had my first five children within 6 years.  I don’t remember much from those 6 years.
  • My husband adores me.  I always knew there was something a little off about that guy. ;)

Okay, I’m going to stop there.  You probably get the idea.  I’ve never been nominated for Mother of the Year.  In fact, I’m pretty sure one year I even saw someone glance my way and snicker as they were discussing nominees for the award.  Whatever.

But here’s the thing…I’ve grown.  The Lord saw fit to reach a loving hand out and make me able to prepare an edible casserole and serve it with homemade bread and a side of greens.  That, in and of itself, is a homemaking miracle considering I came into marriage not realizing food was actually prepared in a kitchen.  I grew up thinking you bought it frozen and just used that large room to heat it.  See how far I’ve come?  The kids may get excited when my teenage son is in the kitchen instead of me but his cinnamon rolls don’t hold a candle to mine, so there’s that.  I’m clinging to that, by the way.

I have days where I don’t want to get up.  Days where I don’t want to fill the many roles a mother must.  Times I feel I might need a sedative to deal with all the simultaneous Hey, mama, look at this!  and Watch me’s and Mama, I found a black widow. Can I keep it as a pet?

Yes, I have lots of those days.  But I get up and do it anyway.  I laugh with my kids and sometimes I cry with them.  We play and tease and romp and wrestle.  They fight for the seat next to me and each night finds my cheek covered in kisses, from the little ones all the way to my almost-men.

Because my beautiful children don’t realize I’m mediocre.  To them I am safety, security, a warm smile and unconditional love.  And that, my friends, is nothing short of exceptional….because God made it so while I was busy tallying up my flaws.

Flaws my children keep no record of.

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3 ways to avoid raising youth who toss Christianity

The statistics are staggering.  The reality, heartbreaking.

Well-loved youth, brought up in the faith, are fleeing Christianity without so much as a backward glance.  And the parents who raised them with such expectancy are left to pick up the scattered pieces of hope and vision they once held tight to for their children.

Why?  Why does this happen?  These kids were brought up in youth group.  They were raised on communion bread .  They were baptized, fraternized and sermonized.  So why?

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I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I don’t harbor a deep-seated fear that my own children will pack up their memories and walk off, shaking the dust from their boots as they go.  Because yes, I feel that, too.  But, there are tangible things we can do while raising our kids that drastically reduce the chances of them seeing our faith as an ill-fitting garment of hypocrisy.

Focus on raising God-fearing children, rather than good kids

Seems like the two might go hand-in-hand, right?  Wrong.  We, as parents, need to be shaken from our complacency.  We aren’t assigned the role of raising good kids.  Good kids grow up to be good adults who hold a steady job with a solid income to provide for their wife and the next generation of good kids.  

Godly kids grow up to change the world, one moment at a time.  

The difference is in how they were raised.  Parents raising good kids make excuses, allowances.  They offer indulgences such as, “Oh Johnny really shouldn’t have done that, but he’s young and impulsive.  He’ll grow out of it.”  However, parents of Godly kids seek after the heart, desiring to channel Johnny’s impulsive spirit into a finely tuned asset which ultimately advances the spread of the gospel.

Parents need to stop meeting over coffee to talk about their good kids.  We need to stop viewing our children’s willingness to attend church, youth group, mission trips, and the soup kitchen as sign enough that it is well with their souls.  We need to get serious about wearing out our knees for them, pleading with God for a life-changing transformation to catch hold of their hearts.  

They need conversion, plain and simple.  All that “good kid” jabber is meaningless if Christ isn’t planted firmly in the center of their being.  When conversion takes place, we won’t be left to sit and wonder.  We’ll see it and feel it and know it.  And it’ll change us, too.

 

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

God isn’t interested in lip service.  He wants whole-heart service.  He wants to see the old man thrown off.  Completely off.  This isn’t going to happen while soft-hearted parents are enabling their youth to cling to the fringes of that old man.  

 

Empower them to live for Christ

This means serious changes for most of us.  It means rejecting the notion that kids need to be coddled and pampered and stroked.  It means loving with the kind of love that isn’t about feel-good moments but rather chasing down the demons in their lives and evicting them.  Sometimes this kind of love hurts.  And it may well be the hardest thing you’ll ever be asked to do.

Because parenting isn’t about petting the sins of our children, treating them as though they’re an unwanted guest we hope will leave without ever taking offense.  Honestly, it’s okay to offend sin.  It’s not okay to offend God.  

Don’t mistake me here.  I’m not talking about becoming some Bible bruiser who steamrolls your kid into submission.  I’m talking about bathing them in the Word and pursuing their hearts with an unquenchable voracity.  It means discipling and disciplining with a firmness that’s generously laced with kindness.

There is no room for parental bullying here.  But there’s also no room for parental cowardice.

 

Equip them to make good decisions in a not-so-good world

Our kids will not be prepared for the onslaught of temptation if they have been flying on the coattails of our faith.  They need their own.  There will be no piggy-backing into eternity, and this includes children trying to gain entrance on the merits of their parents.

We paralyze our youth when we live their Christian experience for them.  When we allow them to go through the motions and consider it success that they do not rebel.  Rebellion can be silent, and that’s the deadliest kind.

As young people grow, they need to be equipped with decision-making skills.  They need to learn to snuff out the truth from the Bible, for themselves, and apply what they find there to their own lives.  This can get uncomfortable, though, and many parents see it as weakness to give a child some measure of control over their life.

But when we intentionally and prayerfully release them little by little, rather than letting them fly abruptly from the nest with unpracticed wings, we help them strengthen their own faith.  They find their own convictions while still safely within our fold.  

They learn to own their spiritual walk as dependency gradually shifts from the parents to the Creator.

This is as it should be.

There is no place for extremes if we’re seeking to raise God-fearing children into God-serving adults.  There is only balance, weighed perfectly by He who can set the scales even when we can’t.

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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.

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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.

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